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PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 6:58 pm 
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The giant German zeppelin Hindenburg, in Lakehurst, New Jersey, in May of 1936. The Olympic rings on the side were promoting the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics.

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At approximately 7:25 p.m. local time, the German zeppelin Hindenburg burst into flames as it nosed toward the mooring post at the Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937. The airship was still some 200 feet above the ground.

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PostPosted: May 20th, 2012, 2:33 pm 
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Kurt Monnington, Luftstreitkräfte (Luftwaffe forerunner) ace, belonging to Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 15 (Jasta 15), and his massive skull emblem painted on his Fokker D.V

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Fokker DR1 of the german pilot Fritz Kempf, showing one of the most noticeable airplane decoration of the WW1 era, stating "KEMPF. Kennscht mi noch?", “KEMPF. Do you remember me?"

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Nieuport Ni 17 "The Knight of Death", flown by Charles Nungesser, France's third highest ranking ace during WW1.

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Despite being a decorated pilot, Nungesser was placed under house arrest on more than one occasion for flying without permission. He disliked strict military discipline and went to Paris to enjoy its many pleasures (such as alcohol and women) as often as possible. He was a leading fighter pilot, whose combat exploits against the Germans were widely publicized in France. Nungesser's rugged good looks, flamboyant personality, and appetite for danger, beautiful women, wine and fast cars made him the embodiment of the stereotypical flying ace. He would sometimes arrive for morning patrol still dressed in the tuxedo he'd worn the night before and even occasionally with a female companion. In contrast to the unsociable but nonetheless top French ace René Fonck, Nungesser was well liked by his comrades.

By the end of the war, a succinct summary of Nungesser's wounds and injuries read: "Skull fracture, brain concussion, internal injuries (multiple), five fractures of the upper jaw, two fractures of lower jaw, piece of anti-aircraft shrapnel imbedded [sic] in right arm, dislocation of knees (left and right), re-dislocation of left knee, bullet wound in mouth, bullet wound in ear, atrophy of tendons in left leg, atrophy of muscles in calf, dislocated clavicle, dislocated wrist, dislocated right ankle, loss of teeth, contusions too numerous to mention."

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PostPosted: May 23rd, 2012, 6:39 am 
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PostPosted: May 29th, 2012, 6:21 pm 
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Hans-Joachim Marseille (13 December 1919 – 30 September 1942), nicknamed the "Star of Africa" for his exceptional service in the North African Campaign as well as his striking good looks and a penchant for decadent and bohemian lifestyle, was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot and flying ace during World War II. Marseille claimed all but seven of his official 158 victories against the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force over North Africa, flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter for his entire combat career. No other pilot claimed as many Western Allied aircraft as Marseille.

Marseille, of French Huguenot ancestry, joined the Luftwaffe in 1938. At the age of 20 he graduated from one of the Luftwaffe's fighter pilot schools just in time to participate in the Battle of Britain, without notable success. A charming person, he had such a busy night life that sometimes he was too tired to be allowed to fly the next morning. As a result of this, his "insubordination"—rumoured to be his penchant for American jazz music, womanising and an overt "playboy" lifestyle—and inability to fly as a wingman, he was transferred to another unit, which relocated to North Africa in April 1941.

At the very beginning of his flying in Africa, Marseille got shot down by a Hurricane flown by a Free French pilot. It made for him a very unimpressive start. He settled in quickly, however, getting used to the very different flying conditions, as compared to those in Europe. Marseille practice dummy attacks on his comrades, seeking ways to shoot quickly and accurately. He insisted on perfecting a deflection shot from any given angle, using different speeds. Standard Jagdwaffe procedure was to apply full throttle all the time. Here Marseille's unorthodox character showed up again. Often he would throttle down to get to an attacking position. During combat he also lowed his flaps, in order to decrease radius of a turn. Eventually, he improved in the game of air combat, developing an instinctive taste for it. Marseille always had to be on the top. He was a very ambitious warrior who wanted to shoot down a lot of aircraft. Flamboyant flyer, he also had a great need for being accepted and appreciated.

With tactics soon perfected, his score rose dramatically. On June 18, 1942 he reached 101 kills, clearly becoming very effective "killing machine" in its highest gear. September 1, 1942 was Marseille's most successful day, destroying 17 enemy aircraft, and September would see him score 54 kills, his most productive month. The 17 enemy aircraft shot down included eight in 10 minutes, as a result of this feat he was presented with a type 82 Volkswagen Kübelwagen by an Italian Regia Aeronautica squadron, on which his Italian comrades had painted "OTTO" (Italian language: otto = eight). This was the most aircraft from Western Allied air forces shot down by a single pilot in one day. Only 29 days later, Marseille was killed in a flying accident, when an engine failure forced him to abandon his fighter. His Staffel, which had been flying a tight formation around him, peeled away to give him the necessary room to manoeuvre. Marseille rolled his aircraft onto its back, the standard procedure for bail out, but due to the smoke and slight disorientation, he failed to notice that the aircraft had entered a steep dive (at an angle of 70-80 degrees) and was now travelling at a considerably faster speed (about 400 mph). He worked his way out of the cockpit and into the rushing air only to be carried backwards by the slipstream, the left side of his chest striking the vertical stabiliser of his fighter, either killing him instantly or rendering him unconscious to the point that he could not deploy his parachute.

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PostPosted: May 29th, 2012, 8:59 pm 
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Ilmari Juutilainen, Finnish Fighter Ace
Juutilainen entered the Finnish military on 9 September 1932 for his compulsory military service, serving as a pilot in the Finnish Air Force starting from 1935. On 1 May 1935, Juutilainen was promoted to sergeant. He was transferred to LeLv 24, operating from Utti, on March 3, 1939. In October 1939, with the situation worsening, the squadron moved to Immola, closer to the Finnish-Soviet frontier. During the Winter War (that broke on 30 November 1939) he flew the Fokker D.XXI. Juutilainen scored his first victory on 19 December 1939, shooting down an Ilyushin DB-3 bomber and damaging two more. At the end of the Winter War, he had achieved one shared and two individual victories. During the Continuation War, he served in 3/LeLv 24, flying a Brewster B-239 "Buffalo". On 21 July 1941, he and five other Buffaloes scrambled to intercept Soviet fighters from 65th ShAP that were strafing Finnish troops near Käkisalmi. During that sortie, he destroyed a Polikarpov I-153 'Chaika', making him an "ace" on the Brewster Buffalo. Few days later, on 1 August, seven fighters under command of Ist Lt Karhunen destroyed six I-16s near Rautjarvi, and Juutilainen (having been promoted to Warrant Officer in the meantime) claimed two of them.

On the morning of 6 February 1942, while reconnoitring the Petrovkiy-Jam region with other LLv 24 pilots, he intercepted seven Tupolev SB bombers escorted by 12 MiG-3s. Juutilainen claimed two SBs. Finnish Air Force's Brewster B-239 formation during the Continuation War. Flying this type of aircraft, Juutilainen scored 34 out of 94 kills.

He later recalled:
I noticed the bombers at 3000 metres, and radioed the boys about them. As we intercepted the Soviet aircraft, I spotted a formation of three SBs heading for a nearby railway line and dived after them. Targeting the aircraft to the left of the formation, my fire set its port wing aflame. The SB crashed next to the railway line. Just as I started after the lead bomber, I observed a MiG fighter closing in on me. In spite of the threat posed by the latter, I managed to hit the bomber in the starboard engine, which poured out smoke and oil. Moments later the aeroplane rolled over to the right and plunged into the forest close to the railway line. Turning my attention to the MiG, which was above me, I managed to shoot at it as we raced towards each other. My aim was good and the fighter started to trail black smoke from the engine. He banked away to the east, losing altitude as it went.

On 27–28 March 1942, 3/LLv 24 moved to Immola in preparation for a Finnish Army offensive on Suursaari, in the Gulf of Finland. Although being grossly outnumbered over the Gulf of Finland, LeLv 24 pilots were more experienced than their Soviet opponents from Red Banner Baltic Fleet. Even when they had the advantage of surprise and height, Soviet pilots did not succeed in shooting down Finnish pilots. On 28 March, WO Juutilainen, in patrol with Sgt Huotari, attacked some "Chaikas" of 11 IAP over the Suurkyla shoreline, at Gogland, and shot down two of them. These air victories took Juutilainen's tally to 22. A month later, on 26 April, he became his unit's first recipient of the Mannerheim Cross.

On 20 September, he took off with Capt Jorma Karhunen and 3/LeLv 24 pilots for a patrol of the Kronstadt-Tolbukhin[disambiguation needed ]-Seiskari region. Near the Estonian coast, they were bounced by ten Soviet fighters. But the Finnish quickly reacted and managed to down three of their opponents. WO Juutilainen was credited with two kills. All in all, Juutilainen scored 34 victories in Brewster B-239, 28 of them (including three triple kills) between 9 July 1941 and 22 November 1942, in his BW-364 "Orange 4".

In 1943, he was transferred to LeLv 34, which used new Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2s. With the Bf 109, he shot down a further 58 enemy planes. He refused an officer commission, fearing it would keep him from flying. His 94th and last victory was a Li-2, the Russian version of the Douglas C-47, shot down on 3 September 1944 over the Karelian Isthmus. After the wars, he served in the air force until 1947. He worked as a professional pilot until 1956, flying people in his De Havilland Moth. His last flight was in 1997, in a double-seated F-18 Hornet of the Finnish Air Force. Juutilainen died on his 85th birthday on 21 February 1999.

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PostPosted: May 30th, 2012, 9:26 am 
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PostPosted: May 31st, 2012, 8:44 am 
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THE FABRIC OF WAR
There are few more martial materials than silk. To the modern reader, that statement may come as a surprise: today the fabrics we associate with the battlefield are ballistic nylon and Kevlar, a hundred years ago, it was broadcloth and braid, but silk has been present on battlefields for over 800 years. Mongolian horsemen wore thin layers of silk, both to stop arrows traveling at slower speeds and facilitate the removal of those arrows that did penetrate the flesh. Napoleonic officers changed into clean silk shirts before battle to prevent fibers of other, rougher fabrics being pulled into wounds by the slow-moving bullets of the day. The cravat, progenitor of modern ties, was named in honour of the Croatian mercenaries who wore colourful silk around their necks. Based purely on these examples, silk’s place on the battlefield is secure, but its most iconic martial use, still enshrined in popular culture, did not appear until the early 20th century: The aviator’s scarf.

If one pictures a pilot of the First or Second World War in one’s head, the image is not complete until a long scarf of either pure white or dark blue with white polka-dotted silk is around his (or her) neck. Pilots took to wearing scarves before the outbreak of the Great War, as they soon discovered that they needed all the help they could get to survive the cold of altitude in their open and un-heated cockpits. Some favoured silk even then, as its tight weave made for an excellent facemask and filter against the exhaust from their engines, channeled directly into their faces by the slipstream. An equal number, however, wrapped their necks in wool (considering the wealth and social statues of some of those early pioneers, very probably their Oxbridge scarves), arguing it was better at sealing out the cold. Thus, in the last golden years of the long Nineteenth Century, silk was seen as merely a preference or an optional extra. It was the guns of August that would change that.

As the First World War evolved, so did the role of aeroplanes. From an effective means of reconnaissance and artillery spotting, they became, with the advent of the interrupter switch, a combat wing all to themselves – the knights of the sky. Because of the very nature of air combat – the most three dimensional of all tactical stations – it became clear to pilots that those who only looked straight ahead and flew in a straight line were dead men. (Remember that parachutes, the other great modern martial use of silk, existed but were not issued to pilots until after the First World War, as it was felt that if they had the opportunity the pilots would bail out rather than try and save the aircraft.) Pilots, therefore, were taught to constantly look in all directions to spot threats. This, when combined with the warm but rough clothes and high collars they wore to combat the aforementioned temperatures, resulted in pilots who were alive but had necks, chins, and faces rubbed raw after every combat mission. The solution was obvious – silk – a fabric woven tightly enough to provide some warmth, but also smooth enough to prevent chafing against the canvas, leather, wool, and shearling of their flight kits. In time, enclosed and heated cockpits and technical advances eliminated the need for silk scarves, and they were worn purely as a badge of honour and a mark of an elite, akin to paratroopers blousing their dress trousers into jump boots and riflemen retaining their distinctive dark green ceremonial uniforms. It is worth remembering, however, that the original purpose of those scarves was to save the lives of the brave young men who trusted their existence to their own skill and a collection of canvas and wooden struts. The same men who, 25 years later, in different planes but still wearing those scarves, the Prime Minister of Great Britain would dub simply “The Few.”
source: military historian Luke Reynolds

IN PHOTO: Edward Vernon Rickenbacker (October 8, 1890 – July 27, 1973), American fighter ace in World War I and Medal of Honor recipient. He was also a race car driver and automotive designer, a government consultant in military matters and a pioneer in air transportation, particularly as the longtime head of Eastern Air Lines.

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PostPosted: May 31st, 2012, 10:41 am 
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Erich Alfred Hartmann (19 April 1922 – 20 September 1993), nicknamed “Bubi” (the hypocoristic form of “young boy”) by his comrades and “The Black Devil” by his Soviet enemies, was a German World War II fighter pilot and is the highest-scoring fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. He claimed 352 aerial victories (of which 345 were won against the Soviet Air Force, and 260 of which were fighters) in 1,404 combat missions. He engaged in aerial combat 825 times while serving with the Luftwaffe. During the course of his career, Hartmann was forced to crash-land his damaged fighter 14 times. This was due to damage received from parts of enemy aircraft he had just shot down or mechanical failure. Hartmann was never shot down or forced to land due to fire from enemy aircraft.

Hartmann flew his first combat mission on 14 October 1942, at the age of 20, as Edmund Roßmann's wingman. When they encountered 10 enemy aircraft below, Hartmann, obsessed by the idea of scoring his first kill, opened full throttle and became separated from Roßmann. He engaged an enemy fighter, but failed to score any hits and nearly collided with it instead. He then ran for cover in low cloud, and his mission subsequently ended with a crash landing after his aircraft ran out of fuel. Hartmann had violated almost every rule of air-to-air combat, and von Bonin sentenced him to three days of working with the ground crew. Twenty-two days later, Hartmann claimed his first kill, an Ilyushin Il-2 of the 7th Guards Ground Attack Aviation Regiment, but, by the end of 1942, he had added only one more kill to his tally. As with many top aces, it took him some time to establish himself as a consistently scoring fighter pilot.

By late August 1943, Hartmann had 90 aerial victories. On 19 August, in combat with Il-2s, his aircraft was damaged by debris, and he was forced to land behind Soviet lines. Hartmann's Geschwaderkommodore, Dietrich Hrabak, had given orders to Hartmann's unit to support the dive bombers of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2, led by the famous Stuka pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel in a counterattack. The situation had changed, and the flight of eight German fighters engaged a mass of Russian Yakovlev Yak-9 and Lavochkin La-5 fighter aircraft that were protecting Il-2 Sturmoviks on a ground-attack mission. Hartmann shot down two enemy aircraft before his fighter was hit by debris and he was forced to make an emergency landing. He then, in accordance with Luftwaffe regulations, attempted to recover the precision board clock. As he was doing so, Soviet ground troops approached. Realising that capture was unavoidable, he faked internal injuries. Hartmann's acting so convinced the Soviets that they put him on a stretcher and placed him on a truck. When Hartmann's Crew Chief, Heinz "Bimmel" Mertens, heard what had happened, he took a rifle and went to search for Hartmann.
Hartmann patiently waited for the right moment to escape, then, using the distraction of the Stukas attack, he attacked the single guard. Hartmann jumped out of the back of the truck and ran into a large field of giant sunflowers. Evading the pursuing soldiers, Hartmann hid and waited for nightfall. In the dark, Hartmann followed a Russian patrol heading west to the front. As he approached the German position, he was challenged by a sentry who fired a shot which passed through his trousers.

In March 1944, he reached 202 kills. By this time, the Soviet pilots were familiar with Hartmann's radio call sign of Karaya 1, and the Soviet Command had put a price of 10,000 rubles on the German pilot's head. Hartmann, for a time, used a black tulip design around the engine cowling near the spinner of his aircraft, so Soviet personnel consequently nicknamed him Cherniy Chort ("Black Devil"). However, Hartmann's opponents were often reluctant to stay and fight if they noticed his personal design. As a result, this aircraft was often allocated to novices, who could fly it in relative safety. On 21 March, it was Hartmann who scored JG 52' 3500th kill of the war.[20] Adversely, the reluctance of the Soviet airmen to fight caused Hartmann's kill rate to drop. Hartmann then had the tulip design removed, and his aircraft painted just like the rest of his unit. Consequently, in the following two months, Hartmann amassed over 50 kills.

On 21 May 1944, Hartmann engaged United States Army Air Forces aircraft in Reichsverteidigung for the first time. While flying "top cover" for another Schwarm, Hartmann attacked a flight of four P-51s over Bucharest, Romania, downing two, while the other two P-51s fell victim to his fellow pilots. On 1 June 1944, Hartmann shot down four P-51s in a single mission over the Ploieşti oil fields. Later that month, during his fifth combat with American pilots, he shot down two more P-51s before being forced to bail out, when eight other P-51s ran his Messerschmitt out of fuel. During the intense manoeuvring, Hartmann managed to line up one of the P-51s at close range, but heard only a "clank" when he fired, as he had run out of ammunition. While he was hanging in his parachute, the P-51s circled above him, and Hartmann wondered if they would take this opportunity to kill him. One of the P-51Bs flown by Lt. Robert J. Goebel of the 308th Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, broke away and headed straight for him. Goebel was making a camera pass to record the bailout and banked away from him only at the last moment, waving at Hartmann as he went by.

Unlike Hans-Joachim Marseille ( http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid= ... 0769132141 ), who was a marksman and expert in the art of deflection shooting, Hartmann was a master of stalk-and-ambush tactics. By his own account, he was convinced that 80% of the pilots he downed did not even realize what hit them. He relied on the powerful engine of his Bf-109 for high-power sweeps and quick approaches, occasionally diving through entire enemy formations to take advantage of the confusion that followed in order to disengage.

His favourite method of attack was to hold fire until extremely close (20 m (66 ft) or less), then unleash a short burst at point-blank range—a technique he learned while flying as wingman of his former commander, Walter Krupinski, who favoured this approach. This technique, as opposed to long-range shooting, allowed him to:
- reveal his position only at the last possible moment
- compensate for the low muzzle velocity of the slower firing 30 mm MK 108 equipping some of the later Bf 109 models (though most of his victories were claimed with Messerschmitts equipped with the high-velocity MG 151 cannon)
- place his shots accurately with minimum waste of ammunition
- prevent the adversary from taking evasive actions
However, firing at close range ran the risk of having to fly through the debris of a damaged or exploding aircraft, thereby damaging his own fighter in the process (much of the damage Hartmann sustained in combat was caused by collision with flying debris). If it was dangerous to dog-fight further he would break off and content himself with one victory. His careful approach was described by himself by the line "See – Decide – Attack – Break": observe the enemy, decide how to proceed with the attack, make the attack, and then disengage to re-evaluate the situation.

He scored his 352nd and last aerial victory on 8 May 1945. He and the remainder of JG 52 surrendered to United States Army forces, which handed Hartmann, his pilots, and ground crew over to the Soviet Union on 24 May, where he was imprisoned in accordance with the Yalta Agreements, which stated that airmen and soldiers fighting Soviet forces had to surrender directly to them. Hartmann and his unit were led by the Americans to a large open-air compound to await the transfer. The number of prisoners grew to 50,000. Living conditions deteriorated, and some American guards turned "a blind eye" to escapes. In some cases, they assisted by providing food and maps.
Soon after being handed over to the Soviet armed forces, Hartmann experienced the following:
"The first thing the Russians did was to separate the German women and girls from the men. What followed was a brutal orgy of rape and debauchery by Red Army soldiers. When the greatly outnumbered Americans tried to intervene, the Russians charged towards them firing into the air and threatening to kill them if they interfered. The raping continued throughout the night. The next day a Russian General arrived at the encampment and immediately ordered a cessation... Later when a few Russians violated the order again and assaulted a German girl, she was asked to identify them from a lineup. There were no formalities, no court martial. The guilty parties were immediately hanged in front of all their comrades. The point was made."

In an attempt to pressure him into service with the Soviet-friendly East German Volksarmee, he was convicted of false war crimes, a conviction posthumously voided by a Russian court as a malicious prosecution. Hartmann was sentenced to 25 years of hard labour and spent 10 years in various Soviet prison camps and gulags until he was released in 1955.

In 1956, Hartmann joined the newly established West German Luftwaffe and became the first Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 71 "Richthofen". Hartmann resigned early from the Bundeswehr in 1970, largely due to his opposition to the F-104 Starfighter deployment in the Bundesluftwaffe, which he considered a fundamentally flawed and unsafe aircraft. Although events subsequently validated his low opinion of the aircraft (282 crashes and 115 German pilots killed on the F-104 in non-combat missions, along with allegations of bribes culminating in the Lockheed scandal), Hartmann's outspoken criticism proved unpopular with his superiors. Hartmann was forced into early retirement in 1970. He died of natural causes on 20 September 1993.

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PostPosted: June 5th, 2012, 5:55 pm 
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PostPosted: June 7th, 2012, 3:25 am 
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One of my favourite planes from WW2, in 2006 they finally built a flying, replica version of it. I have to admit, watching it take off, it must have been pretty impressive to see that plane take off back in 1944-45.

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