The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Friday, December 31, 2021

Happy New Years 2022!!

 I want to Wish all my Readers and Fellow Bloggers a Very Happy New Years and May Gods Blessings Shine upon you and your Family in the New Year.

      The Last one is Definately Me......I have to work again during the Holiday...Hey....Aviation is a 24/7/365 and the Holiday season is a very busy season for us.

30 years ago a 747 went supersonic


 This was that 747 post that I was working on, I heard about this and did some digging and found some information.

Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of an interesting event: a Boeing 747 going supersonic. Reports from 1991 suggest that the aircraft reached a speed of Mach 1.25 while rapidly descending due to a malfunction. While this was never confirmed, this could be the fastest a commercial Queen of the Skies has ever flown.

Evergreen International Airline Boeing 747-200
The 747-100 (not pictured) is capable of withstanding speeds of Mach 0.92,
 just under the sound barrier. Photo: Getty Images

According to This Day In Aviation, 12th December marks the date of a notable event in history. We all know that the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144 were the only commercial aircraft designed to reach supersonic speeds. But what if a Boeing 747 did the same? A serious incident on this day in 1991 could have seen it happen.

The story begins on an Evergreen International Airlines Boeing 747-100, registered N475EV. The aircraft had recently been converted to a freighter for the use of charter operator Evergreen. On 12th December 1991, the plane was flying from Newark to Tokyo, with a stop in Anchorage, when the crew noticed a failure warning on the inertial navigation system

The flight was carrying six crew and cruising at 31,000ft over the province of Ontario. Upon noticing the INS warning, the crew rechecked their instruments and noticed a shocking change. The 747 had banked 90 degrees to the right and was descending at an angle of 30-35 degrees.

This uncontrolled descent caused the aircraft to accelerate rapidly and fall over 10,000 feet before the pilots could regain control. The 747 stabilized at 22,500ft before the crew landed safely in Duluth, Minnesota.

 All eyes were on what caused the 747 to act this way. The answer was a 3x15ft hole in the forward section of the right-wing. The panels from the gaping hole caused damage to the flaps and the horizontal tail sections. However, it was unclear if the hole was a result of, or cause of, the 747s rapid descent.

The result of this rapid descent was the 747-100 exceeding its maximum speed limit of Mach 0.92. Official reports suggest the aircraft reached at least 0.98 Mach during its descent. However, some reports indicate the plane reached speeds as high as Mach 1.25, well beyond the supersonic limit.


Evergreen Boeing 747-200F
Conflicting reports over the years have been unable to confirm whether the 747 went supersonic.

While the NTSB initially did not confirm speeds higher than 0.92, Boeing has made statements to the effect in the past. In the Chicago Times in 1992, a spokesperson said,

“Original flight tests of 747s conducted in 1969 and 1970 took 747-100 models to speeds of Mach 0.99. In addition, Boeing knows one case in which a 747 operated by Evergreen International made an emergency descent at speeds that exceeded Mach 1.”

While aircraft are put through extreme testing during their certification, these are never intended to be actually faced. The 747-100, for instance, was tested up to Mach 0.99, almost breaking the sound barrier. Other 747s, such as Air Force One, have approached the sound barrier but never crossed it. It’s unclear if we will ever know if Evergreen’s 747-100 ever went supersonic, but it sure is one of the closest to do so.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

"Protect Due Process and Innocence Presumption for Michigan School Shooter Parents."

 I clipped this from JPFO,   I remember the Media's rush to crucify the parents before the facts were all in, something that they like to do to support "The Narrative"

Protect Due Process and Innocence Presumption
for Michigan School Shooter Parents

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Facebook: Jennifer and James Crumbley

By Dean Weingarten. Dec 23, 2021
Article Source

As this correspondent reads accounts of the latest media inspired school shooting, there was an obvious theme: blame the parents. Convict them before any evidence is presented in court. Indict them with crimes seldom used in such circumstances. Declare they are fugitives in a "manhunt".

This is all depressingly familiar. The media smells gun control blood in the water. They launch a narrative: all is the fault of the parents. The narrative advances their political agenda and masks their own liability. The Constitutional rights of gun owners, especially of white gun owners, are not considered worthy of protecting. The mother, Jennifer Crumbley, even supported President Trump in 2016!

How dare she!

The Trump-support letter, supposedly a blog post written in November of 2016, is claimed by some to be a hoax. Is it? This correspondent does not know. Time will help clear the confusion.

This correspondent does not know all the details of what happened. No one does at this point. A narrative is being formed and pushed with little fact and little due process. The Michigan prosecutor has announced four counts of involuntary manslaughter charges for each parent, with very little investigation, and lots of publicity. The public is inflamed. The sheriff in the county says this is not the way things are usually done.

Calls for harsh punishment of the Crumbley parents is common on the Internet.

Involuntary manslaughter in Michigan appears to be very close to criminally negligent homicide, generally.

The theory appears to be that it was criminally negligent for the parents to have allowed the 15-year-old to have access to the pistol used, and/or perhaps, not to have taken him from school or to have searched his backpack after being shown a disturbing drawing asking for help and depicting guns, a bullet, and a person shot.

There seems to have been ample reasonable suspicion for the school officials to search the 15 -year-old students backpack. This is enhanced by the fact the parents insisted on leaving the 15-year-old in the school, creating more reason to search the backpack.

The parents knew the 15-year-old lived in their home. They knew they had firearms in their home, including the pistol which was used to murder.

They may or may not have believed it to be secured. There is no statistical evidence laws requiring guns to be secured from teenagers reduce crime.

The details are important. Those who want a disarmed public are using the incident to push for more laws. More laws are almost always the wrong response.

In these tragedies, there is an unfortunate tendency to rush to judgement. It is absolutely part of the rights of parents and the accused to not make statements without counsel being present.

I believe more facts will emerge. A wait of a week or a month is reasonable to allow some shakeout of facts. A trial is the ultimate arbiter, as was seen in the Rittenhouse case. We should be working to dampen trial by Media rather than exacerbating it.

A rush to judgement comes with a high risk of injustice.

Much has been made of the mother texting her son to "Don't do it" after the shooting. It could as easily have been a panicked cry to prevent suicide as anything else.

This mass murder is a terrible tragedy which came extremely close to being prevented, making it all the more forceful. If only.. if only..

There are more forces in play than the Constitutionally protected presence of firearms in our homes. Media contagion is real, and a strong, perhaps dominant thread in school mass murder. Teens in crises see a way to escape life in a manner which will immortalize them in the media.

The more people they kill, the more media attention they get. It is a horrible but obvious way to promote mass killing.

Could slightly different decisions by either the parents or the school have stopped this event before it started? It appears so. Does this rise to the level of negligent homicide? It is far too early to know.

We all need to back off, take a deep breath, and allow for due process and a measured investigation which respects the rights of all concerned.

Put yourself in the position of the parents of the child who killed several other students. It is a horrible position to be in, not withstanding the worse condition of the parents whose children were killed and wounded.

There is no evidence the parents of the murderer condoned or encouraged the killing of innocents. It is not illegal or immoral for parents to buy a teen a pistol and teach them to shoot it.

Parents have always been responsible, at least to some extent, for the conduct of minor children. This is a nightmare for the parents of the killer even as we acknowledge the greater loss of the parents of the victims.

When we feel our emotions rising; when we want to take direct and harsh action; it is the time to step back, call for due process and proper procedure, careful investigation, and measured thought.

To do less is to be controlled by those who use any "crises" to accomplish what they otherwise could not do.

Government by crises is bad government.

The narrative being pushed by the prosecutor and the Media may not be close to reality. We have been deceived several times in recent history. Consider Ferguson Missouri and the fake "hands up, don't shoot" narrative. Consider the attack on innocent George Zimmerman by Trayvon Martin. Consider the Media attempt at lynching Kyle Rittenhouse.

We have not heard the parents side of the story.

It is time to call for calm, legal and responsible investigation, and a cooling period to prevent emotional overreactions when careful thought and consideration is required.


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Three Rules for Avoiding Poverty(Or the Poor House)


  I used to listen to a radio talk show host named Neil Boortz, until he retired a few years ago.  he used to talk many times on his show about the "3 rules for avoiding poverty".  He equated poverty with a mental illness, for barring a mental issue or physical disability you can avoid poverty by following 3 rules.

    Rule number 1. Get an education, any education...make an attempt to better yourself.  Learn all you can while you can, you will be surprised how far it will take you.  When you get an education, even at work, you are making an attempt to improve yourself and things like that are noticed by the bosses and it might open up opportunities.  Learning takes work and you would be surprised how many people are too lazy to continue learning, then they wonder why they no longer earn more and move up.  If you quit learning, you will stagnate and then move backwards because there are people coming up that are hungry and you will find yourself obsolete and unemployed and wondering what happened.

Rule Number 2.  Get a job, any job..work it until you find a better job.  While you are working your job, always look for opportunities to better yourself at work, learn how the process works, make the extra step to learn all facets of the job, become indispensable to your employer.  Or if you really don't like the job, work it hard, learn about it and look for a better job.  You keep working for the better job.  While you are at it, keep on learning so you don't become expendable and replaceable.  Form good work habits, always come to work a bit early.  it doesn't hurt to get ahead of the power curve for your job.  It also shows that you are enthusiastic about your work and that is noticeable.

Rule Number 3  Don't get pregnant.  This rule applies to both girls and guys.  For girls, getting pregnant early unless they are lucky and have a great family structure in place, will be trapped in a cycle of poverty.  Sure they get benefits from the government, but the money they get is just enough to keep them trapped in a continuous cycle.  "Why work when I get money from Uncle Sugar." they sell their dreams and soul for an EBT card.  Once the baby arrives, it will be difficult to continue getting an education to improve themselves and they will be trapped where they are or even slide into a worse situation than they have now.  I remembered this girl in high school, she wanted to get into NASA, and become an astronaut.  She was brilliant and we could see her making it.  But she got pregnant and had to drop out in the 11th grade.  A few years later I was working at Domino's Pizza after graduating high school and a year of college then ran out of money.  I was delivering pizza as I was making ready to join the Army for the G.I. bill so I can go back to school.  Well I was delivering a pizza to a dilapidated trailer and this same girl came to the door.  I immediately recognized her and asked her how it was going.  She told me that she had her baby and was pregnant again.  I then asked her " where is your husband?"  She commented that he was probably at the bar getting drunk.  I continued to make small talk for a few minuted then I left.  I had an epiphany as I was leaving.  Where she is now is the highpoint of her existence.  It is a slide to grinding poverty and obscurity from here and I was a bit bummed.   This rules also works with guys, if you get a girl pregnant, you also are responsible and you will have a 18 year commitment and if you and the girl break up, expect to have child support and possible garnishments to deal with.  Rather than going to school to get a higher education, you have to enter the work force at a lower paying job to make ends meet and your dreams are on hold perhaps indefinitely.
     If you follow these rules and apply a modicum of common sense, you should be able to avoid the lower  parts of the economic ladder.


Tuesday, December 28, 2021

JU-87 Stuka, the Symbol of Nazi Germany Air Superiority





Stuka, The Dive Bomber That Terrified the Allies – Perhaps no weapon was as closely associated with the Nazi German in early in World War II as the Stuka dive bomber, infamous for howling, near-vertical dive attacks on warships, battlefield targets, and defenseless civilian communities like merciless birds of prey.

However, the Stuka’s reputation did not survive the war it helped kick-off as it proved less and less survivable in the face of capable opposition.

The dive bomber was a solution to a timeless challenge in military aviation: how to ensure weapons dropped by fast-moving aircraft land anywhere near a point target like a warship, artillery battery or fortification. Precision was an especially big problem in an era where tactical aircraft could carry only light, unguided bombs.

In the early 1930s, German World War I ace and stuntmen Ernst Udet was impressed by American F11C Goshawk fighters he saw perform steep dive-bombing attacks.  Upon joining the Nazi Party in 1933 he imported two Goshawks for test-flying and insisted the fledgling Luftwaffe develop a specialized dive bomber—an aircraft that could withstand the strain of pulling out of steep dives without smashing into the ground or ripping its wings off


Engineer Hermann Pohlmann of the Junkers company devised a two-seat monoplane with fixed landing gear covered by spiffy ‘spats’ and distinctive inverted gull-wings that helped lift the fuselage high enough off the ground to accommodate its large propeller. In addition to two rifle-caliber machineguns in the wings, the radio operator had a rearward-facing gun to protect against enemy fighters.

Powered by a Jumo 211 engine, the Ju 87 beat out competing models in an aircraft design competition and saw initial combat-testing in the Spanish Civil War in 1938-1939. The Stuka was slow with a maximum speed of 200-240 miles per hour in level flight and had a short combat radius of only 245 miles. It typically carried a single 551-pound bomb under the fuselage (released by a crutch-like dispenser to avoid hitting the propeller) and four 110-pound bombs under the wings.

Stuka pilots spotted targets through a floor window, then rolled their aircraft completely around into a dive as steep as 90 degrees. Underwing dive brakes would extend automatically, controlling diving speed to just over 350 miles per hour, buying the pilot time to line up his attack using controls switched to ‘dive mode’ and lines etched into canopy side to judge his dive angle.

Special propeller-sirens on their landing gear called Trumpets of Jericho produced an infamous howling sound intended to terrorize bystanders on the ground.  However, the sirens were later removed as they reduced speed by 5-10%.

Pilots typically released bombs at just 1,500 feet and then engaged an automated system to yank the Stuka upwards. This was vital, as such dives exerted five to six times the force of gravity on the pilot, constraining blood flow to the brain and causing temporary “grey-outs.”

Even the purpose-built Stuka was not immune to the dangers of this method of attacks. Two weeks prior to the invasion of Poland, thirteen Stukas and their crews were lost in training at Neuhammer when fog caused them to misjudge a dive.

The Luftwaffe fielded 336 Stukas at the onset of World War II and lost only 31 in the Polish campaign. They launched the first strikes of World War II and claimed the first air-to-air kill when a Stuka pounced on a Polish P.11 fighter taking off. When Polish forces counterattacked at the River Bzura with some success, Stukas and Panzers reacted swiftly to crush the threat.

The Ju 87B was the primary early-war model, but there were also folding-wing Ju 87C torpedo/dive bombers for the never-completed carrier Graf Zeppelin, and longer-range Ju 87Rs. 


The Stuka’s precision made it a deadly anti-ship weapon. Stukas sank most of the Polish Navy, crippled two cruisers and destroyed several Allied destroyers and sloops and during the invasion of Norway, and harried vessels evacuating Allied troops at Dunkirk.

Over 400 Stukas served as ‘flying artillery’ in the Battle of France and the Low Countries, helping forward units beyond the reach of artillery support, such as German paratroopers and fast-moving Panzer divisions, by knocking out artillery concentration, heavy British and French tanks units, and fortifications like Belgium’s Ebe- Emael that could impede their advance.

Despite the Stukas’ tactical utility, they were also associated early on with terror attacks on civilians. In 1938, three pre-production Ju-87A models were ‘combat tested’ in Spain by attacking villages of no military value, killing 38 civilians. Over Poland, Stukas obliterated 70% of the buildings in the town of Wielun despite it being devoid of military targets. In France, Stukas notoriously strafed columns of refugees, driving them into the path of Allied columns.

However, dive bombers are extremely slow and vulnerable when pulling out of a dive. Stuka losses were initially tolerable because German fighters had achieved air superiority over their foes.  Even then, roughly 120 Stukas were lost over France and the Low Countries.

The Stuka’s limitations caught up with it during the ensuing Battle of Britain—the campaign to destroy the Royal Air Force in preparation for a German amphibious landing. Stuka units were tasked with knocking out British Chain Home early warning radars, and coastal convoys and airfields.

But the RAF’s modern Spitfire and Hurricane fighters were tough adversaries on their home turf, assisted by radar and the buffer of the English Channel.  In just three weeks in August, the Luftwaffe lost 51 Ju 87s—including 16 in one day. The Stuka had to be withdrawn from the fight.

Battle for the Eastern Front:

Still, the Ju 87 remained successful in theaters where aerial opposition was weak, such as the Balkans, Mediterranean and Russia in 1941-1942. Stukas ravaged Allied forces in Yugoslavia, sank numerous British warships off Crete, destroyed much of the Soviet air force on the ground in June 1941, and blunted counterattacks by heavier Russia tanks. Germany also exported Stukas to allies including Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.

By early 1942 the improved Ju-87D model phased in boasting a more powerful Jumo 211J engine boosting range, speed and bombload. It also featured a streamlined canopy and nose, a twin-barrel MG-81Z tail gun, and additional armor plates. 



To stem the thousands of tanks pouring out of Soviet factories, in 1943 there followed the tank-busting Ju-87G model, armed with a long-barreled 37-millimeter automatic cannon pod under each wing with a magazine of six tungsten high-velocity shells. These could penetrate Allied tanks if they struck the vulnerable top or rear armor.

Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel claimed in his memoire Stuka Pilot to have destroyed 519 tanks, sunk the battleship Marat, and shot down 52 aircraft mostly while flying a Stuka. While Rudel’s claims are surely exaggerated given the tendency for tremendous over-claiming of air-to-ground kills during World War II, another statistic is equally telling: Rudel was shot down or crash landed 32 separate times.

The swan song of the Stuka came in July 1943 at the titanic tank battle at Kursk. Stuka Geschwaders 1, 2 and 3—half equipped with cannons—launched massive airstrikes on Soviet tank units alongside Fw-190 fighter bombers and Hs-129 anti-tank aircraft.

However, Soviet Il-2 Shturmovik bombers also claimed huge successes against German tanks at Kursk. Though superficially similar to the Ju 87, the Shturmovik was more heavily armored and had forward-facing cannons, ad even acquired a reputation for hunting Stukas.

Demise of the Dive Bomber:

Growing Allied air superiority made Stuka operations more and more perilous. Even American fighter pilots seeing their first action shot down dozens of Stukas over North Africa and Italy.

By 1944, the dive-bomber was largely replaced by far more survivable and hard-hitting ‘jabos’: robust, high-speed fighter bombers like the Fw-190F with maximum speeds exceeding 300 or 400 miles per hour.

While their high-speed, low-altitude attacks were not as precise a dive-bombing, late-war fighter bombers had punchier rockets and forward-firing cannons or .50-caliber machineguns to strike point targets and could carry heavier bombs to blast area targets. Most importantly, they weren’t sitting ducks when enemy fighters showed up.

By 1945, the Luftwaffe had only 100 operational Stukas out of around 6,000 built. These continued to harry Russian armies entering Germany, scoring occasional successes due lapses in Soviet air superiority. Only three intact Ju 87s survive today.

The Stuka played an important role in the Wehrmacht’s early campaigns, knocking out obstacles to the relentless advance of German Panzer divisions with precision strikes. But white-knuckle dive-bombing tactics proved a dead end when facing significant aerial opposition. Though the Stuka led a respectable second career as a cannon-armed tank buster, the infamous warplane was doomed to be replaced by more versatile and survivable fighter-bombers.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Monday Music "My Girl" By Chiliwack


 I am continuing my "What songs would I play if Sirius/XM  would let me host a segment for an hour and these are the songs that I could play over and over again 3 or 4 times before continuing to the next song.  I will continue the *Boogaloo* theme after New Years, that poor theme I had started November of 2019 and rode it hard like that little burro that carries the really fat lady down the grand canyon in July and back up again so it is still recharging in the pasture eating grass and grain before use it again.


"My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)" is a song that was performed by the Canadian group Chilliwack. It was released on their 1981 album Wanna Be a Star.
In Canada, the song spent four weeks at number 3. In the United States, it reached number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 19 on the Cash Box Top 100.

The band originated in Vancouver, British Columbia out of the remnants of the C-Span Classics, that changed its name to The Collectors when Henderson joined in 1966. Their psychedelic self-titled debut album yielded the minor hit "Lydia Purple".Their second album was based on the musical score written by the band for a stage play by Canadian playwright George Ryga, Grass and Wild Strawberries.
Chilliwack effectively began with the departure of vocalist Howie Vickers from the Collectors in 1969; however, the band didn't change their name until 1970, to Chilliwack, a Salish term meaning "going back up" and the name of a city east of Vancouver in the Fraser River valley. With lead guitarist Bill Henderson now providing most of the vocals and doing most of the composing, the band released several records that were moderately successful in Canada. Hit singles in Canada included "Lonesome Mary", which entered Cashbox January 22, 1972  "Crazy Talk" and "Fly at Night". The album track "Rain-o", a blues-based composition that appeared in different versions on the Chilliwack debut album and the later Dreams, Dreams, Dreams, was a well-known concert favourite.
Their album Riding High on Goldfish Records (Terry Jacks' Label) contained one of their biggest hits, "Crazy Talk", which was produced by Terry Jacks.
However, Chilliwack had a difficult time sustaining any success because of their constant label changes. The two Collectors albums were on Warner Brothers, and Chilliwack's first five albums were on four different labels in Canada: Parrot, A&M, Goldfish, and Casino Records. When the band finally found relative stability and success with Vancouver's Mushroom Records, with distribution throughout North America, the label went bankrupt so abruptly in 1979 that Chilliwack's third album for the label, Breakdown in Paradise, was barely released.
In 1978, Brian MacLeod (guitar, drums, keyboards) joined the band for the Lights from the Valley album, and Ab Bryant (bass) joined the band for Breakdown in Paradise, with the other members except for Henderson departing. Chilliwack then signed with Solid Gold Records in Canada and Millennium Records in the U.S. as a trio and enjoyed its greatest success with this new lineup, releasing the albums Wanna Be a Star and Opus X. The singles "My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone)" (1981), "I Believe" (1982), and "Whatcha Gonna Do (When I'm Gone)" (1982) were popular both in Canada and in the U.S. Rolling Stone Magazine wrote:
"At their best, Chilliwack was the finest Canadian rock band, outrocking BTO and outwriting Burton Cummings. But a lack of consistency kept it from international success."

Henderson and MacLeod received a Best Producer Juno Award in 1982 for Opus X. However, echoing the Mushroom problems, Millennium Records then collapsed. MacLeod and Bryant left the band soon after, and Chilliwack's last new studio recording was released in 1984 with Henderson as the only continuing member. Henderson continued to tour as Chilliwack with other players until December 1988. In 1989 Henderson went on to form the folk-rock supergroup UHF. Henderson also continued touring with Chilliwack, releasing a new live album in 2003.



Saturday, December 25, 2021

30 years Ago, Premier Gorbachev Resignation signalled the end of the Soviet Union

 I have been very busy, I will post in a day or 2 what has been transpiring, to catch up the blog.


 I still remembered when this happened, I also remembered the coup attempt from the hardliners in August of that same year.  They hastened the end of the Soviet Union.  The Resulting standoff burnished the status of Boris Yeltzin who stood with the citizens against the Army when they tried to seize the White House of Russia when he climbed on a tank and inspired the citizens to stand together and many of the Army also switched allegiance from the Coup leaders.  I remembered watching all of this on TV in a state of shock, it felt like when the wall was coming down in Berlin in 1989 kind of shift politically.  I couldn't believe when the Soviet Union vanished with a whimper, not a bang....the evil Empire was gone.....it felt strange to see, I thought all this good stuff  from the Wall going down, to Germany Unification, to the Gulf War to the Soviet Union peaceably transitioning showing the stable statesmanship would guarantee Bush Senior a second term, but it shows what I know.  Clinton got elected in the 1992 election.


Mikhail Gorbachev
FILE - Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union, signs the decree relinquishing control of nuclear weapons to Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1991. Gorbachev announced his resignation in a live televised address to the nation on Dec. 25, 1991, drawing a line under more than 74 years of Soviet history. By the fall of 1991, however, deepening economic woes and secessionist bids by Soviet republics had made the collapse of the USSR all but inevitable. The failed August 1991 hardliner coup was a major catalyst, dramatically eroding Gorbachev's authority and encouraging more republics to seek independence. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — People strolling across Moscow's snowy Red Square on the evening of Dec. 25, 1991 were surprised to witness one of the 20th century’s most pivotal moments — the Soviet red flag over the Kremlin pulled down and replaced with the Russian Federation's tricolor.

Just minutes earlier, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced his resignation in a live televised address to the nation, concluding 74 years of Soviet history.

In his memoirs, Gorbachev, now 90, bitterly lamented his failure to prevent the USSR's demise, an event that upset the world's balance of power and sowed the seeds of an ongoing tug-of-war between Russia and neighboring Ukraine.

“I still regret that I failed to bring the ship under my command to calm waters, failed to complete reforming the country,” Gorbachev wrote.

Political experts argue to this day whether he could have held onto his position and saved the USSR. Some charge that Gorbachev, who came to power in 1985, could have prevented the Soviet breakup if he had moved more resolutely to modernize the anemic state-controlled economy while keeping tighter controls on the political system.


 Soviet Flag lowered for the last time and the Russian Federation Tricolor is raised.

“The collapse of the Soviet Union was one of those occasions in history that are believed to be unthinkable until they become inevitable,” Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, told The Associated Press. “The Soviet Union, whatever its long-term chances were, was not destined to go down when it did.”

By the fall of 1991, however, deepening economic woes and secessionist bids by Soviet republics had made the collapse all but certain. A failed August 1991 coup by the Communist old guard provided a major catalyst, dramatically eroding Gorbachev’s authority and encouraging more Soviet republics to seek independence.

While Gorbachev desperately tried to negotiate a new “union treaty” between the republics to preserve the USSR, he faced stiff resistance from his arch-rival, Russian Federation leader Boris Yeltsin, who was eager to take over the Kremlin and had backing from other independent-minded heads of Soviet republics.

On Dec. 8, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus met in a hunting lodge, declaring the USSR dead and announcing the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Two weeks later, eight other Soviet republics joined the newly formed alliance, handing Gorbachev a stark choice: step down or try to avert the country's breakup by force.

The Soviet leader analyzed the tough dilemma in his memoirs, noting that an attempt to order the arrest of the republics' leaders could have resulted in a bloodbath amid split loyalties in the military and law enforcement agencies.

“If I had decided to rely on some part of the armed structures, it would have inevitably triggered an acute political conflict fraught with blood and far-reaching negative consequences,” Gorbachev wrote. “I couldn’t do that: I would have stopped being myself."

What would have happened had Gorbachev resorted to force is hard to imagine in retrospect, the Carnegie Center's Trenin observed..

“It might have unleashed bloody events in Moscow and across Russia, maybe across the Soviet Union, or it might have consolidated some things,” he said. “Had he decided to go down that route...there would have been blood on his hands. He would have had to turn into a sort of a dictator, because that would have...done away with his most important element of legacy; that is, not using force in a massive way.”

When the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine declared the Soviet Union defunct, they didn't pay much attention to what would happen to the 4-million-strong Soviet military and its massive nuclear arsenals.

After the Soviet collapse, it took years of U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to persuade Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to hand over to Russia the Soviet nuclear weapons left on their territories — a process finally completed in 1996.

“The leaders of the republics that announced the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991 did not think through all the consequences of what they were doing,” Gorbachev’s aide, Pavel Palazhchenko, told the AP.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose two decades at the helm is longer than Gorbachev and Yeltsin's tenures combined, has famously described the Soviet collapse as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

“The breakup of the Soviet Union was the collapse of a historic Russia,” Putin said in a documentary that aired this month on Russian state television. “We lost 40% of the territory, production capacities and population. We became a different country. What had been built over a millennium was lost to a large extent.”

The Kremlin moved to redraw the post-Soviet borders in 2014, responding to the ouster of Ukraine’s former Moscow-friendly leader by annexing the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula and throwing its weight behind separatist rebels in its neighbor's east.

More than seven years of fighting in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland has killed over 14,000 people. Tensions flared up in recent weeks over a Russian troop buildup near Ukraine that fueled Western fears of an invasion.

Moscow has denied plans for an offensive and sternly urged the U.S. and its allies to provide a binding pledge that NATO wouldn't expand to Ukraine or deploy weapons there — a demand rejected by the West.

Putin and his officials countered the Western argument that Russia doesn't have a say in the alliance's expansion by emphasizing the country's right to protect its core security interests.

“Russia has never pretended to have the right of vote to make decisions for other countries,” Konstantin Kosachev, a deputy speaker of the upper house of Russian parliament, told the AP. “But we have an absolute right of vote to ensure our own interests and security, and to offer our vision of a security environment in the nearby regions."

While Putin has repeatedly denied intentions to rebuild the USSR, he has described Russians and Ukrainians as “one people” over angry protests from Kyiv and charged that Ukraine unfairly inherited historic parts of Russia in the Soviet demise.

The Russian leader further toughened his rhetoric Thursday amid spiraling tensions with the West, blaming Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin for handing Russian lands to Ukraine to “create a country that had never existed before.”


Wednesday, December 22, 2021



     Been way busier than I planned, I have a mostly completed 747 post I am trying to finish., but until then, read the folks on the sidebar.....they are way better than I am, I draw my inspiration from them.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Monday Music "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth" by Bing Crosby and David Bowie



 Well I figured I would run out a Christmas song for Monday Music and I always liked "little Drummer Boy with David Bowie and Bing Crosby.  To me this song plays well with their own music strength and is one of the best known and unusual duets in Music history...Think about it  Bing Crosby, the classic crooner and Ziggie Stardust.   Whodda thunk it?   But they played well together and  created in instant classic.  This song and one other are my favorite Christmas Songs.

"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" (sometimes titled "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth") is a Christmas song with an added counterpoint performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby. "Little Drummer Boy" is a Christmas song written in 1941, while the "Peace on Earth" tune and lyrics, written by Ian Fraser, Larry Grossman, and Alan Kohan, were added to the song specially for Bowie and Crosby's recording.


The track was recorded on September 11, 1977 for Crosby's then-upcoming television special, Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas. The pair exchanged scripted dialogue about what they each do for their family Christmases, before singing "Little Drummer Boy" with a new counterpoint with original lyrics written for the special, "Peace on Earth".
Bowie's appearance has been described as a "surreal" event, undertaken at a time that he was "actively trying to normalise his career" He has since recalled that he only appeared on the show because "I just knew my mother liked him" Buz Kohan was not sure that Crosby knew who Bowie was, but Ian Fraser claimed, "I'm pretty sure he did. Bing was no idiot. If he didn't, his kids sure did."
According to co-writer Ian Fraser, Bowie balked at singing "Little Drummer Boy": "I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?", Fraser recalls Bowie telling him. Fraser, along with songwriter Larry Grossman and the special's scriptwriter, Buz Kohan, then wrote "Peace on Earth" as a counterpoint to "Little Drummer Boy". Crosby performed "Little Drummer Boy", while Bowie sang the new tune "Peace on Earth", which they reportedly performed after less than an hour of rehearsal.
Crosby died on October 14, nearly five weeks after recording the special at Elstree Studios near London; in the U.S., the show aired just over a month later, on November 30, 1977, on CBS. In the United Kingdom, the special first aired on December 24, 1977 on ITV.


The song was available for some years as a bootleg single backed with "Heroes", which Bowie had also performed on the TV special. In 1982, RCA issued the recording as an official single, complete with the dialogue, arbitrarily placing "Fantastic Voyage" from the Lodger album on the B-side. Bowie was unhappy with this move, which further soured his already strained relationship with RCA, and he left the label soon after. The single debuted on the UK singles chart in November 1982, and climbed to position number three on the chart, boosted by a 12" picture disc release. It has since become a perennial on British Christmas compilation albums, with the TV sequence also a regular on UK nostalgia shows.
In the United States, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" became a staple on radio stations during the Christmas season.
On November 9, 2010, Collector's Choice Music released a 7-inch vinyl edition of "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" on red-colored vinyl in the United States. The flip-side of the single contained a Bing Crosby/Ella Fitzgerald duet of the song "White Christmas", recorded in 1953. The single was limited to 2,000 copies.


Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Grumman F4F Wildcat

 I always liked the little Wildcat and the little plane always seemed to get the short shift compared to the Japanese Zero, but with a good pilot, the little Wildcat can more than hold her own.

The Grumman F4F Wildcat was a Rugged, Lethal Tool for the U.S. Navy

By Joseph Frantiska, Jr.

From the time of the Wright brothers, the vast majority of aircraft were biplanes with two wings stacked one above the other. The low-powered engines of the day dictated that the structure be as strong but also as light as possible. The stress and structural integrity would be accommodated by a series of struts and wires. With a virtual forest of struts and wires, the biplane created a lot of drag.

The solution seemed to be a single-wing or “monoplane” configuration, made possible by more powerful engines that could support heavier structures. But how to create a strong monoplane structure?

The answer was the cantilevered, or self-supporting, wing, with all of the supporting members within itself to take the place of the external struts and wires of the biplane configuration. A single large structural element called the main spar runs through the entire wing span, designed to handle this stress by spreading it through the fuselage from one wing tip to the other. To resist these forces, a secondary smaller member called a drag spar is located at a distance behind the main spar.

All of these technological advances brought the day of the carrier biplane fighter to an end. In 1935, the Navy issued a request for proposal to design and build a monoplane fighter to replace the Grumman F3F biplane fighter.

The XF4F-2 was an all-metal monoplane with a cantilever mid-wing weighing 5,535 lbs. Cutting-edge technologies included the NACA 230 airfoil with a maximum speed of 290 mph, a 1,050 hp. Pratt & Whitney R-1830-66 Twin Wasp radial with a single-stage supercharger, and a Hamilton Standard constant-speed propeller.

However, not all aspects of the new fighter were state-of-the-art; the landing gear was lowered or raised by 30 turns of a hand crank. A significant amount of pressure and torque could cause a serious hand injury if one were not careful.

Armament was two .30-caliber machine guns in the fuselage and provisions for two .50-caliber guns in the wings, or one 100-lb. bomb under each wing.

The XF4F-2’s first flight was on September 2, 1937, with Grumman test pilot Robert Hall at the controls. In April 1938, it was flown to the Naval Air Factory in Philadelphia for evaluation. On April 11, the XF4F-2 was undergoing a simulated carrier deck landing when engine failure caused the pilot to make a forced landing in a farm field, which flipped the aircraft onto its back. The pilot was not seriously hurt, but the aircraft had serious damage and was sent back to the factory for repairs.

But the XF4F-2 showed enough promise not to be rejected completely. Grumman used the same fuselage form and landing gear as it developed a new prototype, which was designated the XF4F-3. The fuselage was lengthened as were the wings, which received squared-off tips to improve maneuverability. The wing area was increased, the tail section was redesigned, and the gross weight increased by 600 lb. It was powered by a 1,200 hp. Pratt & Whitney XR-1830-76 radial engine with a two-stage, two-speed supercharger driving a Curtiss Electric propeller.

The first flight was on February 12, 1939, achieving a speed of 333.5 mph at 21,300 feet. Thus, the Navy primary requirement of a 300 mph maximum speed was accomplished. The Navy awarded Grumman a production contract on August 8, 1939, for 54 “Wildcats,” as they were dubbed, with the first to be delivered in February 1940.

A Grumman F4F-3 photographed in early 1942. Although the Wildcat had some performance issues, it could take punishment and dish it out.
A Grumman F4F-3 photographed in early 1942. Although the Wildcat had some performance issues,
 it could take punishment and dish it out.

Several test pilots who flew the Wildcat found it to be a formidable aircraft, despite criticism for its small size and lack of agility. British test pilot Eric “Winkle” Brown and U.S. Navy/Grumman test pilot Corwin “Corky” Meyer weighed in on the Wildcat’s personality in the air: “The design of any combat aircraft involves a measure of compromise and that of the shipboard single-seat fighter perhaps more than most as its success depends particularly heavily on the right balance being struck between the demands of combat and the dictates of the venue in which it is to spend its entire working life.

“A masterpiece in coalescence of the contradictory factors called for in a fighter suited to the naval environment was, in my view, the corpulent but rugged and pugnacious little warplane…which was to establish Grumman’s famed genus Felis.”

About the manual landing-gear retraction system, Corwin “Corky” Meyer had this to say: “It was simple in design, but its operation left a lot to be desired. The crank handle was located on the right side of the cockpit. Thus, the pilot had to remove his left hand from the throttle (and sincerely hope that he had tightened the throttle friction knob before takeoff), grab the control stick, and use his now-free right hand to actuate the landing gear lever to the ‘retract’ position and then complete the strenuous cranking task of 31 turns to raise the gear.”

Production F4F-3s removed the .30-caliber fuselage guns and used four .50-caliber machine guns in the wings with the horizontal stabilizer set higher on the tail. The third and fourth production F4F-3s were fitted with the 1,200 hp. Wright Cyclone R-1820-40 engine and designated the XF4F-5.

The fifth and eighth production F4F-3s were given armor protection and reinforced landing gear. Some early F4F-3s were fitted with automatically deployed flotation bags on the wings in case of a ditching. The idea worked when, on May 17, 1941, Ensign H. E. Tennes of the USS Enterprise’s VF-6 ditched his F4F-3 into San Diego Bay due to landing-gear failure. Shortly thereafter, the flotation system was deleted to save weight, and it was thought that a floating aircraft in a combat area could just as easily be recovered by the enemy.

The Navy was concerned that there might not be enough carriers or land bases to operate its aircraft from in the Pacific Theater. One F4F-3 was fitted with twin “Edo” floats and called the F4F-3S “Wildcatfish.” Its first flight took place on February 28, 1943, piloted by Grumman test pilot F. T. Kurt.

As the war progressed, American industry could more than keep up with the need for carriers, and the Navy Seabee construction battalions could transform jungle into airstrips at a rapid pace. The purpose for the F4F-3S vanished, and with it so did any further development beyond the prototype.

The advances made on the F4F-3 made it attractive to America’s allies, so in 1939, France placed an order for 81 export versions designated as G36As. It differed from the standard F4F-3 in that it was powered by a 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-G205A-2 Cyclone engine, with a single-speed, two-stage supercharger.

The French G-36A version required six wing-mounted 7.5mm Darne machine guns with an OPL 38 gunsight, Radio-Industrie-537 communication equipment, instrumentation based on the metric system, and a throttle that operated in reverse of that of U.S. aircraft.

Folding wings were necessary to stow as many aircraft as possible in the limited hanger deck space on a carrier. The F4F-4 was the first Wildcat to feature a Grumman folding-wing innovation known as the “Sto-Wing.”


Most folding-wing naval aircraft of the time were able to fold their wings via a simple hinge point outboard of the landing gear. However, the Sto-Wing used a compound angle approach that was unique to Grumman aircraft.

The brilliant Leroy Grumman developed the idea by experimenting with a rubber eraser in place of a fuselage and a paperclip in the place of a wing. Attaching the paperclip into the side of the eraser as a wing attached to a fuselage, through trial and error he found the angle where the wing would fold flat against the fuselage. It was so successful that it was later used on Grumman’s F6F Hellcat fighter and TBF Avenger torpedo bomber.

In 1942, Grumman was a busy place, as the company was building not only the Wildcat but the TBF Avenger torpedo bomber, as well as the J2F Duck and J4F Widgeon amphibians. The production capability reached a tipping point when Grumman decided to focus their fighter efforts on the Wildcat’s successor: the more powerful and lethal F6F Hellcat.

The Wildcat’s production was transferred under contract to General Motor’s Eastern Aircraft Division in Linden, New Jersey. The contract called for 1,800 F4F-4s, which were designated the FM-1 (F= fighter, M=General Motors). Of the entire production order, 311 aircraft were delivered to Britain as the Martlet V.

In comparison to the F4F-4, the FM-1 had four .50-caliber wing-mounted guns. A total of 839 FM-1s were delivered to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps by late 1943 before production was halted in favor of the lighter FM-2.

The F4F-7 was a long-range photographic reconnaissance version with a total fuel capacity of to 695 gallons, with 555 gallons in non-folding wings filled with fuel tanks. This gave it the highest loaded weight of all Wildcats at 10,328 lbs. Missions as long as 25 hours and a maximum range of 3,700 miles were possible. Such long flights could be taxing on the pilot, so a Sperry Mark IV automatic pilot was installed.

To aid in pilot visibility, it was fitted with a rounded Plexiglas windscreen, which was put to good use shortly after the F4F-7s initial flight on December 30, 1941, when the Bureau of Aeronautics’ Lt. Cmdr. Andy Jackson flew across the country in 11 hours at an average speed of 165 mph.

A Fairchild F-56 reconnaissance camera replaced the reserve tank and was placed just behind the main fuel tank. The camera was the only item that the pilot could “shoot” targets with, as there was no armament installed to save weight. Pilot armor was also not added as an additional weight-saving measure.

Such a large amount of fuel could pose a problem in a variety of situations, so two emergency fuel dump tubes were located under the rudder.

While orders for this type exceeded 100 units, only 20 were built, and these were converted to F4F-3s. Two F4F-7s were used by the 1st Marine Air Wing at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal. After being destroyed in Japanese air raids, they were replaced by aircraft from Marine Observation Squadron 251 (VMO-251).

A view of Wildcats being prepped inside the hangar deck of the USS Long Island in June 1942. Curtiss SOC-3A scout-observation planes are visible at right.
A view of Wildcats being prepped inside the hangar deck of the USS Long Island in June 1942.
 Curtiss SOC-3A scout-observation planes are visible at right.

Total production of the Wildcat, excluding prototypes, was 7,898 aircraft, with 5,927 produced by General Motors. Production ended in August 1945 with the conclusion of the war in the Pacific.

The Wildcat’s first combat experience came in the Pacific, on December 8, 1941, the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, when Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. A squadron of 12 Wildcats from Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-211 were based on Wake, with four airborne on patrol duty. Due to poor weather, they failed to intercept the 36 Mitsubishi G3M bombers that attacked the airfield on Wake, destroying seven of the eight Wildcats on the ground.

The Wildcat had its revenge three days later, when Japanese ground troops disembarked from ships to invade Wake. Four Wildcats attacked the invasion fleet and aided in sinking a destroyer and forcing the fleet back to sea. When the Japanese force returned on December 22, only two Wildcats were still flying. Wake fell to the Japanese the next day.

The Battle of Midway would be a somewhat more impressive experience for the Wildcat, as its lack of maneuverability against the agile Japanese aircraft was countered by employing an innovative tactic called the “Thach Weave.”

The Thach Weave was an aerial combat tactic developed by U.S. Navy pilot John S. “Jimmy” Thach and named by fellow aviator James H. Flatley soon after the United States entered World War II.

Thach had read an intelligence report published in the September 22, 1941, Fleet Air Tactical Unit Intelligence Bulletin about the Japanese Zero’s amazing agility and climb rate. He commenced to develop tactics to give the slower and less-agile Wildcats an advantage in combat. He developed what he called “Beam Defense Position,” which would become known as the Thach Weave.

It was executed either by two fighter aircraft or by two pairs of fighters in formation. When an enemy selected one fighter as his target (the “bait”), the two elements turned in towards one another. With one aircraft crossing behind the other, they waited to have adequate distance from one another and repeated the crossing maneuver in a weaving fashion. This would bring the enemy aircraft in front of the other element, called the “hook,” which would then fire on the enemy. Positioning was valued over maneuverability. Thach asked Ensign Edward “Butch” O’Hare, the leader of the second section in Thach’s division, to test the idea.

In the test, Wildcats were used as both the enemy aircraft and pairs of “bait” and “hook” aircraft. Thach took off with three other Wildcats as the bait/hook aircraft as O’Hare led four Wildcats in the role of “enemy” aircraft. The bait/hook aircraft had their throttles’ travel restricted to reduce their performance, while the “enemy” aircraft had their throttles unrestricted to create superior performance as in the Zero fighters.

After a series of “attacks,” in every situation Thach’s fighters had either thwarted the attack or got into a position to return fire. O’Hare excitedly commended Thach, “Skipper, it really worked. I couldn’t make any attack without seeing the nose of one of your airplanes pointed at me.”

The first combat test of the tactic was during the Battle of Midway in June 1942, when a squadron of Zeroes attacked Thach’s flight of four Wildcats. Thach’s wingman, Ensign R. Dibb, was the “bait,” and when he was attacked, he turned towards Thach. Thach, in turn, dove under Dibb, firing at the incoming Zero’s underside until its engine was ablaze.

Two Wildcats flown by Lt. Comdr. John S. Thach (foreground) and Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare near Oahu, Hawaii, in April 1942. O’Hare became the Navy’s first fighter “ace,” but was killed in 1943.
Two Wildcats flown by Lt. Comdr. John S. Thach (foreground) and Lieutenant Edward “Butch” O’Hare 
near Oahu, Hawaii, in April 1942. O’Hare became the Navy’s first fighter “ace,” but was killed in 1943.

The maneuver soon found its way into the repertoire of U.S. Navy and U.S. Army Air Corps pilots. Marine Wildcat pilots flying out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal also adopted the tactic.

Celebrated Japanese ace Saburō Sakai described his reaction and that of his fellow pilots when they encountered the Guadalcanal Wildcats using it: “For the first time Lt. Cmdr. Tadashi Nakajima encountered what was to become a famous double-team maneuver on the part of the enemy. Two Wildcats jumped on the commander’s plane. He had no trouble in getting on the tail of an enemy fighter, but never had a chance to fire before the Grumman’s teammate roared at him from the side. Nakajima was raging when he got back to Rabaul; he had been forced to dive and run for safety.”

There were many U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps pilots who became aces in the Wildcat, and they all deserve respect for their gallantry and service. But the exploits of four earned them America’s highest award for valor: the Medal of Honor.

Being a one-man air force was a trait common among a number of pilots who received the MoH, and Wildcat pilot 1st Lt. James Elms Swett was one of them.

Swett was a USMC fighter pilot and was awarded America’s highest military decoration for actions with VMF-221 over Guadalcanal on April 7, 1943. His first combat mission was as leader of a formation of four Wildcats on a combat air patrol over the Russell Islands in the Solomon Islands on April 7, 1943, in anticipation of a large air attack; they were scrambled as 150 Japanese aircraft were reported approaching Ironbottom Sound. Sighting a large formation of Japanese Aichi D3A “Val” dive bombers attacking Tulagi harbor, the fight began.

Swett pounced on three Vals that were diving on the harbor and shot down two. As he was evading the fire of the third Val’s rear gunner, his plane’s left wing was hit by friendly ground fire. He persevered and downed the third Val as he turned toward a second formation of six more Vals.

He repeatedly dove on the formation, downing one Val in each attack with short bursts of his machine guns. After splashing four Vals, he began attacking a fifth when his ammunition was exhausted. The 22-year-old Marine pilot from Seattle, Washington, had performed the extremely rare feat of becoming an ace on his first combat mission, with seven kills—a feat for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Wounded after being hit by enemy fighters, Swett’s ditched his damaged fighter off Florida Island after his oil cooler had been hit, causing his engine to seize; he crashed into the waters of Tulagi harbor.

With his nose broken and his face bleeding from broken Plexiglass, Swett went underwater with his plane but managed to release his harness and bob to the surface. When a Coast Guard boat approached, a crewman shouted, “Are you an American?”

“Damn right I am!” Swett shouted back.

Lt. Comdr. John S. “Jimmy” Thach. He created the “Thach Weave” aerial combat maneuver that gave Wildcat pilots an advantage over the superior Japanese Zero fighters.
Lt. Comdr. John S. “Jimmy” Thach. He created the “Thach Weave” aerial combat maneuver that gave Wildcat pilots an advantage over the superior Japanese Zero fighters.

After being patched up, he would get back in the war. In July 1943, flying a Corsair, Swett was shot down by a Japanese Zero near the island of New Georgia and was rescued by two natives in a canoe.

He later flew from the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill and carried out strikes supporting the Iwo Jima and Okinawa invasions in 1945. He flew a total of 103 missions, was credited with downing 16 Japanese planes and sharing in the destruction of one more, and had another nine “probables” shot down by war’s end.

Swett survived the war and died in 2009 at the age of 88.

A final tribute to the ruggedness of the Wildcat came from Saburo Sakai, who recalled an encounter with the American plane: “I had full confidence in my ability to destroy the Grumman and decided to finish off the enemy fighter with only my 7.7mm machine guns. I turned the 20mm cannon switch to the ‘off’ position, and closed in.

“For some strange reason, even after I had poured about five or six hundred rounds of ammunition directly into the Grumman, the airplane did not fall, but kept on flying. I thought this very odd—it had never happened before—and closed the distance between the two airplanes until I could almost reach out and touch the Grumman.

“To my surprise, the Grumman’s rudder and tail were torn to shreds, looking like an old torn piece of rag. With his plane in such condition, no wonder the pilot was unable to continue fighting! A Zero which had taken that many bullets would have been a ball of fire by now.”

Tough, rugged, and it could give a punch as well as take one—the kitten definitely had claws.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Last Successful Battle of the Germans of WWII


By the end of 1944, the Soviet Red Army had surrounded the Hungarian capital of Budapest and established strong defensive positions running from Esztergom on the Danube to Lake Balaton. On the last day of the year, the provisional government set up by the Soviets in those parts of Hungary occupied by the Red Army threw in its lot with the Allies and declared war on Germany.

Hungary, the last of Hitler’s partners in his European Axis, had deserted him—but not the Hungarian Army. In order to protect the country from the Bolsheviks, whom they feared and hated, what was left of the Hungarian Army continued to fight alongside the Germans.

On New Year’s Day 1945, the only sizable German reserves on the Eastern Front launched an offensive, code-named Konrad, to relieve Budapest and secure the southern Hungarian oil reserves. By January 6, General Herbert Otto Gille’s IV SS Panzer Corps had come within 25 kilometers of the Hungarian capital, but then, in the face of rapidly redeployed Soviet units, the attack stalled. On the same day, the Russians launched an attack across the Gran River, north of the Danube, with the equivalent of two tank divisions and four infantry divisions. Designed to disrupt the German offensive, the attack was successful and had advanced some 50 kilometers by the 8th.

German countermeasures succeeded in halting the attack, and by the 14th the Russians had lost half their gains and some 200 tanks; nevertheless, they still held a sizable bridgehead west of the Gran River.

Red Army troops advance toward Budapest, the capitol of Hungary, in an effort to halt the February 1945 German offensive known as South Wind, an operation designed to block the Soviet advance toward Vienna.
Red Army troops advance toward Budapest, the capitol of Hungary, in an effort to halt the February 
1945 German offensive known as South Wind, an operation designed to block the Soviet advance toward Vienna.

In the meantime, Gille’s IV SS Panzer Corps had renewed its attack on January 10, and, after taking the Soviets completely by surprise, had advanced to within 21 kilometers of Budapest by the 13th. Then, despite Gille’s assurance that he was on the verge of a breakthrough, Headquarters Army Group South inexplicably called a halt.

SS Lieutenant Colonel Fritz Darges, commanding the 5th SS Panzer Division’s Panzer Regiment said later, “The head of our assault unit could see the panorama of the city in their binoculars. We were disappointed and we could not believe the attack was stopped. Our morale was excellent and we knew we could free our comrades the next day.”

Be that as it may, Hitler and the high command had other plans. On January 16, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander of German forces more than 1,000 kilometers away on the Western Front, received the following order: “CinC West is to withdraw the following formations from operations immediately and refit them: I SS Panzer Corps with 1st SS Panzer Division LAH [Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler] and 12th SS Panzer Division HJ [Hitler Youth]; II SS Panzer Corps with 2nd SS Panzer Division DR [Das Reich] and 9th SS Panzer Division. Last day of refitting is 30th January.”

Also at this time Hitler sent his personal adjutant, SS Major Otto Günsche, to warn the Sixth Panzer Army Corps commander, SS General Sepp Dietrich, that within a month he would be required to move his army to the Eastern Front to launch a new offensive designed to secure the vital oil deposits in southern Hungary and perhaps even regain the oil of Rumania. Both Dietrich and General Heinz Guderian, the army group chief of staff, had wanted the Sixth Panzer Army deployed behind the Oder River to protect Berlin and northern Germany, but Hitler would have none of it. The only natural oil deposits in German-controlled territory were those around Nagykanizsa in southern Hungary, and, with Allied air attacks disrupting and often neutralizing the synthetic gasoline production sites for long periods, it was essential to protect them. Without this crude oil, the battle could not be continued. Dietrich and the trusted divisions of the Waffen SS were to be given responsibility for this new offensive, code-named Spring Awakening.

During the winter of 1945, heavy rains on the Eastern Front turned dirt roads into seas of thick mud. Here, SS soldiers struggle to free a motorcycle.
During the winter of 1945, heavy rains on the Eastern Front turned dirt roads into seas of thick mud. Here, SS soldiers struggle to free a motorcycle.

In view of the time needed to refit and move the Sixth Panzer Army to the Eastern Front and secure the ground west of the Danube for the new offensive, Hitler ordered a third attack in Hungary on January 18, using much- larger forces. This was designed primarily to cut off and destroy all Soviet troops north of a line drawn from Lake Balaton, through Székesfehérvar, to Budapest, and secondarily to liberate that city. The Pest garrison had in fact withdrawn across the Danube to the hills of Buda the night before.

Since the Russians had depleted their defenses in this area to meet the previous German attacks in the north, the new offensive was initially very successful. Within three days a large section of the west bank of the Danube had been secured 35 kilometers south of Budapest, and the Germans then turned north and northwest, threatening to link up with other forces attacking in the north and cut off an entire Soviet Front.

By the 26th, however, with their forces in the south only 20 kilometers from Buda and in the north half that distance, the Germans were exhausted, and this was the moment when Marshal Rodion Y. Malinovsky went over to the attack. Although the Germans continued to hold Székesfehérvar and the ground between it and Lake Balaton, by February 3 they were more or less back to their original positions. Buda fell finally on February 14. The siege had lasted 51 days and had cost the Axis over 70,000 men.

Meanwhile, Marshal Georgi Zhukov’s and Marshal Ivan Konev’s offensives in the north had advanced over 150 kilometers; Warsaw, Lodz, and Cracow had fallen, and a Soviet Army had entered East Prussia. The Red Army was now a mere 200 kilometers from Prague and, worst of all for the German people, it had crossed the Oder River and was only 70 kilometers from Berlin.

General Hermann Priess commanded the 1st SS Panzer Division in the Ardennes and Hungary.
General Hermann Priess commanded the 1st SS Panzer Division in the Ardennes and Hungary.

The Germans saw the Soviet bridgehead over the Gran River north of Esztergom as a potential assembly area for a major Red Army thrust toward Vienna, and as such it had to be eliminated before they could launch their own Operation Spring Awakening. Therefore, on February 13, Headquarters Army Group South ordered the commander of the German Eighth Army “to attack, concentrating all available infantry and armored forces, and accepting the consequent weakening of other front sectors, with the newly arrived I SS Panzer Corps…after a short artillery preparation, to thrust from the north, to destroy the enemy in the Gran bridgehead.”

The operation was given the code-name South Wind.

Although the bridgehead had existed for over a month, the Germans had no detailed intelligence of Soviet strength or dispositions within it. The operation order issued on February 13 merely stated that aerial photography and ground observation indicated that the Soviets were in a defensive posture. It also noted that a mechanized division was positioned in the center of the bridgehead, a guards mechanized corps and a guards tank corps “with the attached Sixth Guards Tank Army are probably located in the refitting area east of the Gran.” These units could be expected to reinforce the bridgehead if necessary.

The order added that there were known to be antitank blocking positions, supported by mortars to the west of Bruty, a continuous “fighting trench” running from Obid in the south through Muzla and Gbelce to just south of Bruty. The Parizs canal formed a considerable obstacle due to flooding, and although the roads and tracks were beginning to thaw out, they were not yet soft. Single bridges across the Gran existed at Bina and Kamenin, and there were two more near Nana.

Martin Gross (right), commander of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, discusses tactics with 1st SS Panzer Regiment commander <a href=

In fact, the Soviets were much stronger than the Germans realized. In addition to the guards mechanized corps already mentioned, which provided a centrally located mobile reserve, there were two guards rifle corps in the bridgehead with a total of seven rifle divisions. Five of the rifle divisions were in perimeter defense, while the other two provided second echelon defense in depth. Even if these divisions were below strength, this would still mean that the Germans were up against well over 60,000 men with 100 to 230 tanks and self-propelled tank destroyers, over 100 antitank guns, some 200 heavy mortars, and over 200 guns and howitzers.

Containing the Soviet bridgehead before the opening of the German offensive were three German infantry divisions with one Hungarian infantry division and parts of another, supported by elements of a German panzer division.

The Germans were correct in their appreciation that the Soviet forces were in a defensive posture. Although a new offensive was being planned, this would not take place until mid-March, and in the meantime the troops west of the Gran were clearly vulnerable. The bridgehead was only 20 kilometers deep and 20 kilometers wide and, with a 30 to 40-meter-wide river behind them, it was clearly going to be difficult to reinforce the Soviet troops in the bridgehead or, in the worse case, withdraw them.

From the German point of view, the forthcoming battle was not without its problems. Mounting the main attack from the south across the Danube was obviously out of the question, and an attack from the west would run against the grain of the country. The Germans therefore chose to attack from the north. Even this had its difficulties. The Parizs Canal was a major obstacle due to the early thawing of the winter snows, and in the final stages of the advance the assault force would be compressed into a narrow corridor, less than 10 kilometers wide, by a ridge to the south of Luba and the Danube River.

Members of the 12th SS Panzer Division hitch a ride on a tank as they move through a village on the Eastern Front.
Members of the 12th SS Panzer Division hitch a ride on a tank as they move through a village on the Eastern Front.

Operation South Wind was to be led by Panzer Corps Feldherrnhalle. This corps consisted of three infantry divisions and an armored group of some 25 tanks. Its initial task was to seize the high ground, particularly Point 190, to the south of Svodin, but the villages of Svodin and Bruty were to be taken from the rear and any fighting there was not to be allowed to interfere with the general advance south. SS General Hermann Priess’s I SS Panzer Corps was to follow closely behind the Feldherrnhalle and, after crossing the Parizs Canal, was to capture the ridge running east from Gbelce before pushing on toward the Danube at Sturovo. A reinforced regimental group from the Sixth Army south of the Danube, known as the Hupe Regimental Group, was to establish a bridgehead across the river near Obid in the early phases of the offensive and cooperate with Priess’s men attacking from the north.

The Luftwaffe was tasked with supporting South Wind by attacking known antitank defenses south of Svodin and Bruty and in the Muzla-Luba sector, as well as delaying and destroying any Soviet reinforcements attempting to cross the Gran River.

From February 12-15, I SS Panzer Corps moved to a staging area around Nové-Zamky. Tracked vehicles moved by rail and those with wheels by road. A platoon commander in the 9th SS Panzer Pioneer Company recalled, “Rations were excellent. We learned from the civilian population the various uses of paprika. The people were very friendly. They recounted to us the good old days—Germany, Austria, Hungary. During the evenings we drove to see films in Nové-Zamky.”

Then, on the night of the 16th, the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler (LAH) and the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (HJ) moved again into a final assembly area behind the Feldherrnhalle. The latter’s infantry divisions were located in and around the villages of Ruban, Dubnik, Velk‚ and Kvetna, and the armored group near Farna. This was an ideal place to assemble with rolling hills and plenty of cover.

In readiness for the attack, SS Maj. Gen. Otto Kumm, who had only assumed command of the LAH on February 15, divided the available parts of his division into a Panzergrenadier Group under the command of SS Lt. Col. Max Hansen, Kampfgruppe (KG) Hansen, and a Panzer KG under SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper—soon to become infamous for his part in the “Malmedy Massacre.”

During the winter of 1945, SS units inflicted heavy losses on the Red Army and took back large amounts of territory near the vicinity of the Gran Bridgehead.
During the winter of 1945, SS units inflicted heavy losses on the Red Army and took back large 
amounts of territory near the vicinity of the Gran Bridgehead.

The former consisted of parts of the 1st and 2nd SS Panzergrenadier Regiments, a detachment from the 1st SS Reconnaissance Battalion, the 1st Company of the 1st SS Panzerjäger Battalion, and two 37mm flak batteries. Kampfgruppe Peiper was made up of 25 Panther and 21 Mk IV medium tanks in one panzer battalion under SS Major Werner Poetschke, 19 Tiger IIs of SS Lt. Col. Hein von Westernhagen’s 501st SS Heavy Panzer Battalion, the 3rd SS Mechanized Panzergrenadier Battalion, and part of the 1st SS Panzer Artillery Battalion. According to the divisional chief of staff, Ralf Tiemann, the rest of the division was still in transit to the new battle area when the offensive began.

Hubert Meyer, the chief of staff of the HJ, has stated that the 12th SS Panzer Division was more or less complete for South Wind and fought in its conventional groupings. He claims 38 Mk IVs, 44 Panthers, and 13 Jagdpanzer IVs were operational just before the attack. The only combat unit not mentioned in his account of the Gran bridgehead fighting is the 560th Heavy Panzerjäger Battalion. If, therefore, we exclude this latter unit, we have a figure of 160 operational tanks and Jagdpanzers in I SS Panzer Corps at the beginning of Operation South Wind, only 66 percent of its authorized holdings.

Despite the widespread flooding and poor road conditions caused by the early thaw, Operation South Wind began at 0500 hours on February 17. Leaving high ground on their right flank and with the Gran River on their left, the Germans attacked across open, rolling, agricultural land with few villages and no serious obstacles.

The artillery of I SS Panzer Corps joined in an opening barrage by the guns of Panzer Corps Feldherrnhalle, and in the most critical area of the attack, the center, the Russians were taken by surprise. By 0900 hours the leading elements of the 46th Infantry Division were near Point 190, having penetrated the Soviet defenses between Svodin and Bruty, but there they ran into an antitank screen and a few individual T-34 tanks. After calling for support from the LAH, a successful attack was launched at 1140 hours, and by 1700 hours elements of both the LAH and 46th Infantry Divisions had reached the Parizs Canal in the area of Sarkan only to find the bridges there destroyed.

Driving American halftracks and armed with U.S. American machine guns, Soviet troops roll toward the front, January 1945.
Driving American halftracks and armed with U.S. American machine guns, Soviet troops roll toward the front, January 1945.

A loader in one of Peiper’s tanks later remembered, “Peiper ordered five King Tigers to drive over the hill. What a sight! As on a silver platter, they appeared on the hill and immediately began taking fire from the Russian antitank guns. We saw the shells bounce off the front of the Tigers. That must have been a shock for the Russians, especially since the Tigers destroyed one antitank gun after another.… Peiper immediately gave the order: ‘Panzers—march!’ A hurricane of fire was released as the KG drove over the hill in formation.… The tanks and APCs drove at full speed, firing all barrels.… There was only one thing for the Russians to do—clear out.… KG Peiper suffered no losses.”

During the early part of the night, a small infantry bridgehead was established by KG Hansen, but no vehicles could cross. Nevertheless, it had been a good day for the LAH and its associated 46th Infantry Division. They had broken through the Soviet defenses and advanced nearly 10 kilometers.

On the left flank things did not go nearly so well, and the 211th Infantry Division of the Feldherrnhalle was stopped in front of Bruty by a guards rifle division in fortified positions supported by antitank guns, mortars and artillery.


Similarly on the right flank, the 44th Infantry Division of the Feldherrnhalle ran into strong opposition from the 6th Guards Airborne Division between Strekov and Svodin, and it was only after tanks joined in the attack that further progress could be made. By 1700 hours, Svodin had been captured and the advance continued toward the canal and Vieska.

What of the Hitlerjugend Division? It had followed behind the LAH, and during the afternoon the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment was committed on the right flank of its sister division to secure a crossing of the Parizs Canal. The 1st Battalion of the 26th Regiment managed to make a crossing just to the north of the large village of Gbelce by about 2100 hours, and the 2nd Battalion followed into the shallow bridgehead. Soon after midnight, the 2nd Battalion had reached the road junction 1,500 meters northeast of Gbelce, and both battalions then went firm. A small canal crossing, capable of taking wheeled vehicles, was discovered in the same area. During the night the Russians counterattacked with a battalion of infantry and at least two T-34s, but were beaten off.

The commander of Army Group South, General Otto Wöhler, was anxious that the Soviets should not be allowed to recover their balance and build up a second defensive line to the south of the canal. To prevent this from happening, the Hupe Regimental Group from south of the Danube was ordered to cross the river that same night. This was achieved without opposition.

In the early hours of the 18th, KG Hansen expanded its small bridgehead, and Leibstandarte Pioneers (engineers) were able to bridge the Parizs Canal. Four T-34s were claimed by Hansen’s 6th SS Panzergrenadier Company during this fighting. Mines caused some further delay, but soon after midday the first of Poetschke’s Mk IVs and Panthers crossed the canal, and, despite an air attack by Soviet fighter bombers, by early evening KG Peiper had reached the Gbelce-Nana railway line, 3 kilometers north of Muzla.

 Men of the Waffen SS pick their way through the underbrush of a Hungarian hillside during their winter 1945 offensive.
Men of the Waffen SS pick their way through the underbrush of a Hungarian hillside during their winter 1945 offensive.

Meanwhile, to the west of the LAH, the Feldherrnhalle’s 44th Infantry Division had forced a passage over the Parizs Canal near Vieska, and in the early afternoon its tanks were able cross. Then, in conjunction with the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, a joint attack was launched on Gbelce. The Feldherrnhalle Group was joined by SS Major Hermann Brand’s 3rd SS Mechanized Panzergrenadier Battalion, and they took the western part of the town. The 1st Battalion captured the eastern sector, and the 2nd Battalion went on to secure the high ground 2 kilometers further east. By evening, infantry and armor of the Feldherrnhalle were in possession of Point 129, 3 kilometers south of Gbelce, and in contact with the Leibstandarte.

On the 19th, the weather improved, and at 0530 hours I SS Panzer Corps resumed its attack. KG Hansen of the Leibstandarte was given the task of clearing the enemy from the vine-covered ridge south of Point 250, while KG Peiper resumed its advance on the north side of the Gbelce-Nana railway. It was by no means an easy advance.

SS Lieutenant Rolf Reiser later described the action: “In the early morning our assembly was considerably delayed by

a Russian fighter bomber attack; we suffered the loss of several tanks and wounded.…We set out astride the road with seven tanks of the 1st Company. I advanced … between the road and railway line with the three Panthers of my Platoon.… Ivan attacked our open right flank at short range with tanks from behind the cover of the railway embankment. One of the Panthers … was hit and stalled.… SS Senior Sergeant Strelow, the 3rd Platoon leader, set up to the right of me. Then there was a detonation a short distance away and his tank was ablaze. I drove behind a shed and slowly probed the other side until I had the T-34 broad-side in front of me—no more than 50 meters away.…He burst into flames on the first shot, the turret flew off after the second! Then the Tigers and Panthers of the 2nd Company caught up and joined in the armored battle. Two more enemy tanks were destroyed.”

Farther to the west, SS Captain Hans Siegel’s 2nd SS Panzer Battalion of the Hitlerjugend, with Brand’s 3rd Mechanized SS Panzergrenadier Battalion attached, had formed up during the night to the south of Gbelce protected by the 25th and 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiments. It too advanced at 0530 hours with grenadiers leading the way on both sides of the Sturovo road in case of mines and the tanks on the road itself. Shortly before daybreak, KG Siegel came under artillery and antitank gunfire from Muzla, but a quick attack, led by SS Lieutenant Helmut Gaede’s 1st SS Panzer Company, took the village, and the surrounding area was soon cleared by the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 26th Regiment.

 The German tracked howitzer “Hummel” opens fire on attacking Soviet forces near Budapest.
The German tracked howitzer “Hummel” opens fire on attacking Soviet forces near Budapest.

While the HJ was preparing to resume its advance on Sturovo on the south side of the Muzla-Sturovo road by way of Obid, the division suffered a serious loss. SS Lt. Col. Bernhard “Papa” Krause was killed in a surprise rocket attack. He had been a stalwart of the HJ since its foundation and was revered by all its members.

The advance began again soon after midday, with the HJ moving on Sturovo from the southwest and KG Peiper of the Leibstandarte from the northwest. At about 1300 hours, when they were some 3 kilometers short of Sturovo, the infantry element of KG Peiper, the 3rd SS Mechanized Panzergrenadier Battalion, swung northeast to attack Nana. Poetschke’s Mk IVs and Panthers and von Westernhagen’s Tiger IIs were joined by 20 Sturmgeschutze armored vehicles and infantry of the Hupe Regimental Group from the Obid area for the assault on Sturovo.

In his citation for the oakleaves to Poetschke’s Knight’s Cross, Peiper wrote, “Rushing headlong and firing wildly, his tanks overran the antitank nets in front of Muzla and Sturovo, and after making contact with the Southern Group [Hupe], which had been ferried over the Danube in assault boats … pushed through to Esztergom.”

At the same time, an assault group from an infantry division holding Esztergom crossed the Danube and joined in the attack. The Russians had no chance in this vulnerable corner of their bridgehead, and before last light the men of I SS Panzer Corps were gazing at Esztergom cathedral, standing like a sentinel above the far bank of the mighty Danube. They knew they had completed the hardest part of their task. Nana and Sturovo were in the hands of the Leibstandarte and Hitlerjugend.

A Panzer VI “Tiger II” (King Tiger) takes up position on a cobbled street corner "somewhere in Hungary" during Operation South Wind. The Germans deployed hundreds of tanks, as did the Red Army.
A Panzer VI “Tiger II” (King Tiger) takes up position on a cobbled street corner “somewhere in Hungary”
 during Operation South Wind. The Germans deployed hundreds of tanks, as did the Red Army.

In other relevant actions on February 19, Batorove Kosihy and Buc were occupied by a KG of Army Group South following their evacuation by the Russians, and the 44th Infantry Division of the Feldherrnhalle captured Kravany on the Danube and the forest to its east. In the eastern part of the bridgehead, the 46th Infantry Division, with armored support, had cleared the wooded, hilly area just to the west of Kamenny Most, but, north of the Parizs Canal other elements of the division were repulsed by a Soviet counterattack 2 kilometers short of Kamenin. In the north, Bruty remained firmly in Russian hands.

From the outset of Operation South Wind, the Germans had been worried that the Soviets would attempt to reinforce their bridgehead. They had correctly identified parts of the IV Guards Mechanized Corp in the northern part of the bridgehead, but they were particularly worried about the whereabouts of the Sixth Guards Tank Army, and when aerial reconnaissance reported 3,000 vehicles moving north from the Budapest area, they became alarmed. Orders were issued for immediate night attacks on Kamenny Most and Kamenin. Leaving the bulk of the LAH armored group in Sturovo to replenish ammunition and supplies, the Mk IVs of KG Peiper, with part of the 46th Division, attacked from Nana along the Kamenny Most road. Another part of the 46th Division advanced north of the Parizs Canal on Kamenin. Both attacks failed, and Soviet air superiority and artillery fire from east of the Gran precluded any further attempts during daylight on the 20th.

A two-phase operation was then ordered. In the first phase, the LAH and 46th Infantry Division were to take Kamenny Most in the south of the remaining bridgehead, while the HJ, with support from the 211th Volksgrenadier Division (VGD), was to secure Bruty in the north. In a second and final phase, the twin divisions of I SS Panzer Corps would clear Kamenin and Bina, respectively.

Parts of KGs Peiper and Hansen, with support from the 46th Division, successfully entered Kamenny Most during the night of the 21st, but soon after dawn they were forced on to the defensive by Soviet artillery fire and continuous air attacks.

Rolf Reiser recalled, “Peiper had decided upon a night attack because we were covered by massive fire during the daytime from enemy artillery positions on the raised eastern bank of the Gran.…We rapidly crossed the softly rolling terrain directly under the chain of hills that ran west of the road and railway line.…We turned east … in order to penetrate frontally. Then massive Russian artillery fire was initiated. A curtain of iron and fire hung before us. Flares and tracers illuminated the night and showed us the way to the enemy positions…. We rattled across the railway—then there was a crack and flash of light. We were hit!… We caught fire immediately.… My gunner followed me as the last one out of the turret. We landed in a trench with Ivan, who was as surprised as we were. Armed only with pistols and bare fists, we defended ourselves…. We finished off the Soviets in the cover of the burning tank and the exploding ammunition.”

The assault was resumed with the coming of darkness, and by 2100 hours the last Russians had withdrawn from Kamenny Most.

Meanwhile, during the 20th and 21st, the Hitlerjugend was relieved by the 44th Infantry Division and moved to a new assembly area southeast of Farna in readiness for its assault on Bruty. The I SS Panzer Corps was thus poised for its final battles west of the Gran River. With aerial reconnaissance and other intelligence sources confirming that the IV Guards Mechanized Corps had withdrawn across the Gran and other troop movements toward the river had apparently halted, Hermann Priess and his men had every reason to be confident of success.

Headquarters Army Group South concluded that the Soviets must be expecting a German assault across the Gran. Therefore, defensive positions on the east bank were being prepared with all available reinforcements. In fact, Hitler had forbidden any such assault and demanded that his Leibstandarte Corps be freed as soon as possible for his new offensive, Spring Awakening, in the Lake Balaton area.

German infantry and armored vehicles move through the countryside of Hungary as they attempt to stem the tide of the Russian advance toward their own borders. .
German infantry and armored vehicles move through the countryside of Hungary as they attempt to 
stem the tide of the Russian advance toward their own borders. .

In preparation for its attack on Bruty, the HJ had to rely mainly on aerial reconnaissance and on information provided by the 211th VGD, which had already failed to take the village. This revealed that the area was heavily fortified, with minefields backed by large numbers of machine guns, mortars, and antitank guns in considerable depth. Since the ground was completely open, the decision was made to undertake a night operation.

The preliminary phases of the attack were marred by a number of unfortunate incidents. The 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment, on the right flank, failed to reach its starting line in time for the assault, and, in the darkness, some of Siegel’s tanks failed to recognize the Panzergrenadiers who were leading the attack on the left and opened fire on them. Five men were killed, including a company commander, and another eight wounded. This second disaster alerted the Russians, who opened fire with machine guns and mortars.

Despite these problems, Siegel’s tanks began their attack at about 0445 hours in the wake of a bombardment by artillery, mortars, and rocket launchers. Within minutes, however, the leading tanks ran into a minefield, and several, including Siegel’s, were immobilized. These were repaired under fire, and the tanks then withdrew behind a reverse slope from where they supported the attack of the 9th Mechanized Panzergrenadier Company, led by SS Lieutenant Dieter Schmidt. This company was on the left flank of the attack and outside the minefield. Although some of its APCs floundered in the soft ground of a streambed, the rest managed to break through the defenders and reach the southern edge of the village.

In the meantime, the 25th Regiment had joined in the attack, and together with the other two battalions of Braun’s 26th Regiment took the western and lower sectors of the village.

An SS Sergeant Burdack of the mechanized battalion later described the scene: “The village was choked with enemy vehicles.…Several T-34s and T-43s [light tanks], still inside the village, forced the APCs to take cover.…The Russian tanks, without the protection of infantry, left…in the direction of Bina.”

An SS officer remembered: “Fire from our heavy weapons had badly damaged most of the buildings. Roofs had been stripped off; walls had crumbled. During the pitched battle, civilians came out of the ruins of their houses…unconcerned with what was going on around them…They were obviously happy beyond measure to be liberated again from their ‘liberators.’”

Later that morning, Bruty was finally cleared by the 25th Regiment in conjunction with troops of the 211th VGD who had advanced on the right flank of the HJ and entered the village from the south. Eighty prisoners were taken and a large number of antitank guns and mortars, two undamaged T-34s, and six large caliber howitzers were found in the area. Bruty was in German hands, but the cost had been high—particularly in the 25th Regiment.

In the meantime, in preparation for the assault on Kamenin, elements of KG Peiper had secured the road junction immediately north of Kamenny Most.

A squad of Red Army machine gunners leap from tanks in an effort to halt the German advance. Soviet losses were heavy but Hitler soon called a halt to the successful Operation South Wind to mount another—Operation Spring Awakening—an attempt to secure vital oil reserves in Hungary that proved to be a failure.
A squad of Red Army machine gunners leap from tanks in an effort to halt the German advance.
 Soviet losses were heavy but Hitler soon called a halt to the successful Operation South Wind to mount
 another—Operation Spring Awakening—an attempt to secure vital oil reserves in Hungary that proved to be a failure.

The I SS Panzer Corps spent February 23 preparing for its final assaults on Kamenin and Bina. The Leibstandarte, with elements of the 46th Infantry Division, was to attack the former, and the Hitlerjugend, still with support from the 211th VGD, was to secure Bina and its bridge across the Gran. Intelligence sources indicated that there were elements of two motorized mechanized brigades still in the bridgehead. H-hour was set for 0200 hours on the 24th.

In the HJ sector the most bitter fighting occurred in the area of the railway line which runs north-south just to the west of Bina. This had been heavily fortified, as had some of the flood dikes, but by using the main Kvetna-Bina road as their axis and taking advantage of the gently sloping ground, which dropped some 30 meters down to the village, the tanks and SS Panzergrenadiers soon overcame all resistance. By 0830 hours the village had fallen. The last Russians blew the Gran bridge as they withdrew.

In the southern part of the bridgehead, elements of the 46th Infantry Division moved on Kamenin from the west, while the LAH attacked from due south. The Mk IVs, Panthers, and Tigers of KG Peiper used the main road as their axis and soon encountered a screen of 37 antitank guns sited on the dominating ground to the south of the village. Nevertheless, the attack was pressed home without regard to possible casualties, and the sheer power of the armored assault was too much for the Russians, who abandoned their guns and fled. Panzergrenadiers followed up, and after some bitter house-to-house fighting the defense was broken. By late afternoon, the Gran bridgehead had been eliminated.

The Germans claimed 71 tanks; 179 guns, howitzers, and antitank guns; 537 prisoners; and 2,069 Russian dead in the fighting upto February 22. Of these, Peiper credits Werner Poetschke’s mixed SS Panzer Battalion with 23 T-34s destroyed; 30 Hungarian, Italian-, British-, and German-built tanks captured, and 280 enemy killed. According to a return signed by Fritz Kraemer, the chief of staff of the Sixth Panzer Army, I SS Panzer Corps suffered 2,989 casualties, including 413 killed in the same period and, rather surprisingly, only three Mk IVs, six Panthers, and two Tigers lost or in need of long-term repair. Figures quoted in the histories of the LAH and HJ would indicate that this is a major understatement.

Operation South Wind was, without doubt, a brilliant success. In eight days, I SS Panzer Corps, admittedly with valuable assistance from Panzer Corps Feldherrnhalle, had recaptured over 400 square kilometers of territory, inflicted 8,800 casualties on the Red Army, and cleared seven infantry divisions and a guards mechanized corps from west of the Gran. It is remarkable that such an effective fighting machine could have been produced within a month of the Battle of the Bulge disaster, and it is even more so when one takes into account that many of men involved had received only minimal training.

As Otto Kumm described the Leibstandarte, “The Division was in miserable shape, only a shadow of its former self. After the heavy losses in Normandy and during the Ardennes offensive, it had only recently been refitted with personnel who were poorly trained former members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, labor service and police.”

The performance of both the LAH and the HJ in South Wind can be explained only by superb leadership, high morale and fighting spirit, and a brilliant reinforcement and replacement system. That said, the question arises as to whether this elite SS panzer corps should have been used in this operation at all.

Despite all the measures taken to disguise the arrival of the Sixth Panzer Army on the Hungarian front, units of I SS Panzer Corps were soon detected in the Gran bridgehead operation. Its commitment there, rather than in the northern part of the Eastern Front, and the knowledge that a second SS Panzer Corps had arrived in Hungary, immediately alerted the Soviets to the possibility of a German offensive. It is also obvious that the premature use of the corps interrupted the proper refitting of the two SS panzer divisions and, indeed, actually ensured that their effectiveness in Operation Spring Awakening would be reduced.

Taken together, these facts indicate that the use of I SS Panzer Corps in Operation South Wind was a serious mistake. The chief operations officer of the Sixth Panzer Army, SS Lt. Col. Georg Maier, expressed similar thoughts in his book Drama Between Budapest and Vienna, published in 1975.