Operation Sentinel (1942)

Operation Sentinel (1942)

Operation Sentinel (1942) was a deception plan used to try and mislead Rommel in believing that Egypt was more strongly defended than it really was during his advance into Egypt after the battle of Gazala.

After the battle of Gazala (26 May-14 June 1942) the Eighth Army was forced to retreat back into Egypt, closely followed pursued by Rommel's forces. The retreat was eventually stopped at the First battle of El Alamein (1-27 July 1942), where a combination of General Auchinleck's skilful handling of his forces and Axis exhaustion saw Rommel's advance finally come to a end. Both sides then settled down to wait for reinforcements. Auchinleck expected Rommel to attack as soon as his army had recovered from the advance into Egypt, and wanted to delay him as long as possible. One of the methods he chose was deception. His Director of Camouflage, Major Geoffrey Barkas, had already developed a collection of dummy tanks, trucks and guns, and he was now ordered to rush them west into the area between El Alamein and the Nile Delta.

Within three weeks Barkas had created dummy installations large enough to simulate two full motorised divisions. At its centre were a series of false camps, which included active kitchens and incinerators, to provide signs of activity, dummy trucks, guns and even dummy drivers. A handful of real troops were used to move around the camps, creating new tire tracks and other signs of life. Amongst the dummies in use was a field gun kit, small enough for an entire battery to be carried in a single lorry. The impact of Sentinel is hard to judge, but Rommel didn't launch his next offensive until 31 August (battle of Alam Halfa), by which time the first Allied reinforcements were reaching the front.

Operation Sentinel took place alongside Operation Cascade, a more intelligence led operation that created a whole series of dummy units

After Auchinleck had been replaced by the team of General Alexander and General Montgomery Operation Sentinel was followed by Operation Bertram and Operation Treatment, a pair of linked operations designed to convince Rommel that any offensive in the Western Desert wouldn't start in November, and that it would hit the southern part of the German line, and not the northern end, where Montgomery actually intended to attack. Operation Cascade also continued under Montgomery, and these deception operations probably played a significant part in the Allied victory. The Germans were certainly caught out by the timing of the Allied attack, and kept half of their armour in the south for the first few days of the battle.

Operation Sentinel (1942) - History


Army Aviation

(Updated 12-12-12)

Army Aviation became a separate branch on April 12, 1983, but soldiers had been taking to the air since the days of the observation balloon. Aviation is one of the combat arms branches today, but in the beginning flying was just a method of observation and scouting. During the American Civil War both the North and the South used balloons to direct artillery fire and observe enemy dispositions. This marked the beginning of aerial support for ground forces. The United States also used balloons during the Spanish American War and WWI. However, soon after the first powered flight the airplane quickly replaced balloons for all military purposes.

The Wright brothers flew the first heavier-than-air, engine powered, full size airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. Within a few years, the leadership of the Army began to run tests of the new invention to see if it had any military benefits. During one of these tests, Lt. Thomas Selfridge became the first U.S. soldier killed in an airplane crash. He had been flying with Orville Wright on September 17, 1908 when the mishap occurred. The following year, the Army accepted delivery of "U.S. Army Aeroplane No. 1," built to specification by the Wright brothers, on August 2, 1909. The subsequent October 26 saw the designation of the first two Army aviators, Lieutenants Frederic E. Humphreys and Frank P. Lahm, when each completed their first solo flight.

With approval of Congress, an Aviation Section was created under the U.S. Army Signal Corps on July 18, 1914. The Punitive Expedition to Mexico saw the first tactical usage of Army airplanes when General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing used them for scouting while the expedition chased Pancho Villa's forces in northern Mexico. Nevertheless, the Army only had a few dozen aircraft in the inventory when the First World War began. During WWI, the number of Army aircraft grew to more than 11,000 planes with more than 190,000 aviation personnel in the Army Air Service, created in May 1918.

After WWI, the leadership of the Army Air Service, particularly General William "Billy" Mitchell, argued forcefully for the creating of an independent air force, separate from the ground forces of the Army. That argument was rejected at the time, but it was evident that aviation needed to be considered a combat arm unto itself. Again with the required action of Congress, the Army Air Service was changed to the Army Air Corps on July 1, 1926, with a newly designated "Secretary of War for Air" to manage it. This action put the Air Corps in an equal status with the infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

During the 1930s the top leadership of the Army Air Corps was focusing on the potential for air power to be employed as a strategic asset (in other words, bombing major targets rather than supporting ground units). This concerned ground forces commanders, particularly in the artillery branch that benefited from using light observation aircraft for adjustment of indirect fire. The Army experimented with organic light aircraft in artillery units during maneuvers in 1940 and 1941. The tests of these "Grasshoppers," as the light planes were called, were very successful. Their performance was better than the larger Air Corps planes that had been used previously.

In the meantime, the advance of technology marched on. In January 1938 the War Department disbursed $2 million for research into the possibility of developing rotary wing aircraft. The Army acquired its first real helicopter on November 1, 1941, a Sikorsky YR-4.

On June 6, 1942 the Air Corps was elevated to the Army Air Forces (AAF), which put that component of the Army on the same level with Army Ground Forces. The Field Artillery branch was allowed to keep "organic army aviation" under their control. This meant that light observation aircraft like the L-4 Grasshopper and the L-5 Sentinel and their personnel organic to the artillery battalions and brigades that they worked for. The Department of Air Training was established at the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This date, June 6, 1942 is recognized as the birth date of Army Aviation.

Organic Army Aviation first participated in combat during Operation Torch in November 1942 in North Africa. While the original function of organic Army Aviation was to adjust artillery, during the course of the war, it expanded. During World War II, L-4 Grasshoppers and a few larger L-5 Sentinels were used to adjust artillery fire, gather intelligence, support naval gunfire, conduct medical evacuations (MEDEVAC), and perform other functions like command and control. The expanding mission and close coordination with ground forces was primarily because the aircraft were available to - and often under the command of - the commander on the ground, where the assets of the Army Air Forces were not.

The difference in need, mission, priorities, and philosophy as to the employment of aviation assets caused a great deal of friction between the leaders of the Army Air Forces and Army Ground Forces. It was time to separate the two. The United States Air Force (USAF) became its own branch of service, separate from the United States Army, on September 18, 1947. There continued to be a great deal of friction between the services with suspicion of overlapping areas of responsibility and competition for precious funding. On April 21, 1948, President Eisenhower signed the "Key West Agreement" that provided for the division of assets between the Armed Services. Under the agreement, the Air Force would have control of all strategic air assets as well as most tactical aviation and logistic functions. The Army was allowed to retain aviation assets to be used for reconnaissance and medical evacuation purposes. The Navy could have their own combat air arm to support naval operations, which included combat aircraft to support the Marine Corps. After the adoption of the Key West Agreement, the Army continued to develop its light planes and rotary wing aircraft to support its ground operations. In 1949 the Army established the Warrant Officer Pilot Program to fly new cargo helicopters it was fielding.

The Korean War saw a leap forward in Army Aviation. On January 3, 1951, the first combat medical evacuation by helicopter was conducted - in Korea by 1LT Willis G. Strawn and 1LT Joseph L. Bowler. The H-13 Sioux rotary wing aircraft had been fielded since 1947 and was used for MEDEVAC and command and control operations. The helicopter proved its worth in the rugged terrain of Korea. This recognition of the capabilities of rotary wing aircraft increased the demand for machines and pilots. In 1951 the Army began organizing helicopter transport companies and the fielding of H-19 Chickasaw, albeit in limited numbers due to the competition for the aircraft from the Air Force.

Forward thinking leaders in the Army saw the potential of rotary wing aviation. General James Gavin published an article in April of 1954 titled "Cavalry, and I Don't Mean Horses." In this influential article, Gavin called for the use of helicopters in cavalry operations that would provide the mobility that the Army had lacked in Korea due to the terrain. This was an indicator of a doctrinal push that rapidly expanded Army Aviation into the combat arm it is today. On November 1, 1954 the Army Aviation School was moved from Fort Sill to Fort Rucker, Alabama. The United States Army Aviation Center (USAAVNC) was established there in March 1955.

Under this new doctrine of "air cavalry" the Army saw the need to mount weapons on helicopters to serve as a kind of "aerial artillery." The French Army had seen some success mounting rocket launchers and 20-mm cannon on helicopters during the Algerian War of 1954-1962. Based on this example, the Army began running tests on armament systems for rotary wing aircraft in 1956. Primarily, Colonel Jay D. Vanderpool directed these combat development experiments. Vanderpool also wrote the first doctrinal manuals. This research and development was conducted while the Air Force still theoretically had exclusive responsibility for aerial fire support. Nevertheless, Army commanders felt that the Air Force was not doing enough to prepare to support ground forces and under the Key West Agreement were not allowed to arm their fixed wing aircraft. Therefore, it would seem that competition between the services actually led to the development of armament systems for Army helicopters.

An armed helicopter company was activated in Okinawa in 1962 and later deployed to Thailand and then Vietnam. In Vietnam the new helicopter company flew escort for lift helicopters. There were no mission restrictions on the army aircraft enforced by the Department of Defense, thereby giving implied permission to deploy armed rotary wing aircraft. Also in 1962 the Tactical Mobility Requirements Board was formed. Commonly known as "The Howze Board," this group had been established to develop and test the concept of air mobility. After test exercises, war games, and concentrated study and analysis, the Howze Board recommended that the Army commit itself to organic air mobility through the extensive use of helicopters. The 11th Air Assault Division (Test) put the Board's recommendations into testing from 1963 to 1965. Beginning with their deployment to Vietnam in 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) repeatedly demonstrated the validity of the airmobile concept in combat. On April 6, 1966, the Johnson-McConnell agreement was signed between the Army and the Air Force. The Army gave up its fixed wing tactical airlift aircraft (primarily the DHC-4 Caribou) in exchange for the Air Force relinquishing its claim to most forms of rotary wing aircraft.

Vietnam was truly America's "Helicopter War." The United States' involvement in Vietnam began with Army Aviation operating a fleet of reciprocating engine aircraft. In the early days of the development of air mobility, the UH-1 Iroquois, or Huey was introduced, a modern turbine-powered aircraft with both troop carrier and gunship versions developed specifically with deployment to southeast Asia in mind. Before the end of the Vietnam War, more than 5,000 of these truly versatile aircraft were sent overseas. Also during Vietnam, the OH-6 Cayuse (the "Loach") and the OH-58 Kiowa were fielded as scout aircraft, replacing the OH-13. In 1967, the AH-1G Cobra came online to begin replacing the Huey gunships as an attack aircraft. The U.S. Army's heavy lift helicopter in Vietnam (and ever since) was the tandem rotor Boeing CH-47 Chinook, introduced in 1962. The OV-1 Mohawk and U-21 Ute (Beechcraft King Air) were part of the small fixed wing aircraft inventory flown by the Army.

After United States combat forces left Vietnam, Army Aviation continued to develop and pass major milestones. On June 4, 1974, Fort Rucker graduated the first female Army aviator, 2LT Sally D. Woolfolk (Murphy) from Rotary Wing Flight School. NASA chose Major Robert L. Stewart to be the first Army aviator to become an astronaut in January 1978. The aircraft inventory began to enter the modern era with the delivery of the first UH-60 Blackhawk to Fort Rucker on April 1, 1979. In recognition of the demonstrated increasing importance of aviation in Army doctrine and operations, Aviation became the fifteenth basic branch of the Army on April 12, 1983. Since then, commissioned officer pilots would be branched aviation, fully dedicated to learning its operations and tactics, rather than being temporarily detailed from another branch. The Army began to field the AH-64 Apache in 1984. On May 16, 1990, the 160th Aviation Battalion was reorganized and designated the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). The unit was assigned to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command and signaled the arrival of dedicated aviation assets to special operations.

Since Vietnam and during operations in Grenada, Panama, and the Persian Gulf Army Aviation has played a major role in combat and support operations. An Army aviator fired the first shot of Operation Desert Storm from an Army helicopter. Within a few minutes, two teams of Apaches destroyed two Iraqi radar stations on January 17, 1991. During the next 100 hours of ground combat, Army aviation dominated night operations. The Army can be justly proud of the performance of its aviation assets and personnel during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

In April 1993, attack pilot positions were opened to female aviators. Another milestone was reached when Lieutenant Colonel Nancy J. Currie (formerly Nancy Sherlock), the first female Army aviator to become an astronaut, made her first space flight on June 23, 1993. By 1998 the AH-64D Longbow was arriving at Fort Hood, Texas. In December 2006 the Army accepted its first UH-72A Lakota, a twin-engine light utility helicopter long overdue in the inventory.

The mission of Army Aviation is to find, fix, and destroy the enemy through fire and maneuver and to provide combat, combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) in coordinated operations as an integral member of the combined arms team. Army Aviation has the organic flexibility, versatility, and assets to fulfill a variety of maneuver, CS, and CSS roles and functions. These cover the spectrum of combined arms operations. Aviation can accomplish each of these roles during offensive or defensive operations and also for joint, combined, contingency, or special operations. Since its inception over one hundred years ago, Army Aviation has continued to modernize. With the integration of the AH-64D Longbow, MH-47E, MH-60K, and the UH-72A Lakota, Army Aviation stands on the threshold of a new century more mission capable than ever.

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      Even medical professionals on the front lines saving lives regardless of patient race or identity are in danger because they are Asian. In January of this year an 84-year-old Thai man was pushed to his death in San Francisco. The elderly are especially vulnerable to recent attacks and Asian businesses are being violently vandalized across the country.

      An early response to this current wave of anti-Asian racism came from highly visible Asian leader and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who advised Asian Americans in a Washington Post op-ed to “show our American-ness in ways we never have before,” by helping the country in its time of need. The implication of Yang’s response is for Asian Americans to continue the perpetuation of the model minority myth, the danger of which extols the virtue to suffer in silence. Do not make waves keep your head down. A more recent response came from President Joe Biden, in the form on an executive order he signed days after his inauguration in an attempt to address the situation with directives to federal agencies.

      What Asian Americans (and Asians globally) do need to fight against anti-Asian racism is active allyship from non-Asians. To start with, when Asians (or Black, Indigenous, or persons of color — BIPOC) express experiences of racism, whether witnessed or not, do not dismiss their concerns. BIPOC folks survive racism on a continuous basis and to not believe their lived experiences and fears is a flagrant flaunting of privilege. Asians need non-Asian folks to check in, speak out, stand up, and advocate for them through whatever platforms they have and use. Support of #StopAsianHate does not diminish anti-racism support of Black communities and other marginalized groups.

      Mary Robinson is the assistant director of international programs at Rollins College.

      How bloody would a Moscow attack in 1942 have been?

      The flipside is that the defenses are correspondingly tougher, both quantitatively and qualitatively. That slows the Germans and brings the point of their culmination much closer. And historically, the 40% or so Soviet forces in the general Moscow vicinity were not dealt with IOTL.

      Correction: none of the aspects of the Soviet tactical defenses were actually smashed. They were gnawed through, with the Soviet forces manning them simply falling back to the next position a few hundred meters back. And Soviet tactical defenses in total remained unbroken throughout. Furthermore, while the Allied landing in Sicily led to the offensives cancellation, they had little to do with the operations failure. Indeed, the Germans in the north were stopped dead days before the Sicilian landing and the one in the south was transparently achieving nothing and no closer to a overall breakthrough then it had been at the start by the time the Sicilians landed.

      Because, as in 1941, the Germans never let the Soviets fight them on equal terms. They avoided throwing themselves against where the Soviets were strong and hit them where they were weak. They stopped 2nd Kharkov by slicing through it's poorly defended flanks and got as far as they did in Blau because the Soviets had no prepared defenses in that direction beyond the Mius. The defenses at Stalingrad and the Caucasus were improvised.

      I'm sorry, compared to what the Germans faced further south.

      Don't have my copy of Glantz on hand for the moment, but he discusses it.

      Against different forces under different circumstances, sure. While the Germans will have to deal with the 5th Tank Army IATL, it will be in a frontal assault on the 5th Tanks defenses rather then a mobile defensive battle fending off the 5th Tanks counterattack.

      Sure, ignoring that in doing so, they considerably upset German plans and inflicted losses upon the Germans that would prove to be quite decisive. In other words, they did achieve something.

      Operation Wirbelwind was two months in the future as of the start of Blau and basically will not be occurring under the IATL plan. 3rd Tank would wind up defending Tula in early-July, along with the 64th Army. And while it inflicted heavy losses on those armies in the Sukhnichi salient, it did not destroy, not even to the same degree as the battles further south, them nor (given the mass of replacements the Soviets shipped in) even really affect their quantitative strength (the effect upon qualitative strength is a bit harder to judge given the lack of action until Mars).

      Between the Don and the Mius, the Soviets had nothing beyond the immediate frontline. Sure there were counterattacks to the northern flank, but that's in the region between Orel and Tula. Furthermore, those were counter-attacks whereas IATL those forces are going to be manning the prepared defense lines in that direction along some good terrain features. Their liable to do a better job at that.

      You can basically double that number for what the Germans will wind up facing IATL.

      Deleted member 1487

      It's a fraction of a daily situation map from March 1942. Not sure why you're drawing major conclusions about intel operations from it. As to the roads, the nature of the net from Orel to Tula was known and since all quality highways lead to Moscow, stands to reason there would be some decent ones and of course the rail net.

      And yet they imposed a far more serious delay upon the Germans then the forces further south while inflicting more serious losses upon the Germans then the forces further south managed. Even furthermore, the Soviets were quickly able to make good on their own losses which the Germans could not do. And even furthermore, the Soviet forces actually defending Moscow were better trained and led then even those forces the Soviets committed to Voronezh. I don't know if you could call their degree of training or leadership as "particularly high", but it was nonetheless it was superior to what was historically thrown at the Germans.

      Hell, even saying the Germans took Voronezh is an exaggeration of what they actually achieved. It was fundamentally like Stalingrad: they took most of it but never fully and urban combat would continue in the city throughout the autumn.

      No one is arguing that the Soviets standing to fight caused delays, they just lost, and lost badly without inflicting enough casualties to be more than an inconvenience, while the Soviets imploded and couldn't put together a coherent front lines as their remaining units were either overrun or fled in the race south from Voronezh. The Soviets didn't make good losses like you are implying they slapped together less well equipped, poorly if at all trained men, and inexperienced leaders and threw them into a meat grinder. Soviet losses in the first 3 quarters of 1942 were 1/3rd worse than in the two quarters of 1942 according to Dick in "From Defeat to Victory", though that may be based on the limited accounting of losses in the disasters of 1941 when the reporting system broke down.

      The thing you're apparently not getting is that Stalin did commit a major part of his Moscow reserves to the fighting on the flank of Case Blue, including both of his reserve Tank Armies, the 3rd and 5th, both of which were virtually wiped out in the fighting, the latter in July, the former in August. These 'well trained' formations were wiped out extremely quickly and performed generally very poorly.


      The rail net is indeed the one bright spot: the Orel-Tula-Moscow is a double track one. The roads are another matter: only the direct Orel-Tula-Moscow one was of notable capacity and even it was unpaved. Everything else might as well constituted goat tracks.

      100,000 casualties is anything but "inconvenient" for the German army.

      Which is why a coherent frontline formed on Voronezh and would stay there all the way into Autumn while the Germans were forced to turn in a direction where Soviet forces still were not coherent.

      Yes they did. Their numbers hardly declined at all and the struggle in and around Voronezh would be continuous all the way until the Germans were forced to withdraw from it in the winter of '42-'43.

      Which is why those forces fought the Germans to a standstill along the Don around Voronezh and the Volga around Stalingrad.

      Uh. your saying the losses in the first 9 months of 1942 were a third higher then the first 6 months of 1942 is really a "no shit moment", since all the losses from the latter are included in the former.


      Deleted member 1487

      They didn't really, the Germans overextended themselves the Stalingrad Operation was a flank guard mission and the offensive in the Caucasus was advancing into November.

      Stalin committed a major part of those forces against the Germans in Rzhev and on the flank of Case Blue 3rd and 5th Tank armies were his only Moscow area tank armies, both of which were in reserve, based on what Glantz is showing on his map of Soviet army activations and front line forces in "When Titans Clashed". Both were destroyed, one in July fighting the German 2nd Army around Voronezh, one in August attacking 2nd Panzer Army during Wirbelwind. They were accompanied by a number of regular armies, 3rd Tank by two infantry armies with armor attached. The Germans and Soviets fought all over the front and Stalin didn't keep 40% of his forces idle during the German offensive, especially as his southern forces were smashed to the tune of over 2.2 million casualties.

      Units in defensive positions were destroyed, they largely did not fall back from position to position, new units manned those positions. Whatever word you want to use multiple defensive belts were breached and the forces manning them were largely killed or captured. Zitadel was about destroying Soviet forces in the bulge, which they were not yet remotely done with when the operation was cancelled to pull out forces. The pincer move was stopped in the north first when the Soviets attacked them both frontally and around Orel. As planned the operation was ill conceived, but despite that they were inflicting disproportionate losses on Soviet forces, which matters more to the discussion of what would happen in Moscow in 1942. It took the Soviets actually leaving their defensive positions and counterattacking in the open, at brutal loss rates, to stall the offensive if they try that in 1942. just look what happened their reserves were as deep, as well equipped, as well led, as well organized, as well supplied, or as well trained or experienced, nor had Kursk level defensive positions, which did not hold up to attack well at all. The result of attacking German forces with 1942 Soviet forces in the same way would be a massacre. as it was in 1942 that was considerably worse than in 1943, yet in 1943 it wasn't echelons of Soviet passive defense that stalled out the Germans or really appreciably held them up, it was the constant horribly wasteful counterattacks that put them on the tactical defensive and is anything helped spare the Germans the losses of chewing through layers of defenses to kill Soviet reserves.

      Pardon? They defended against the mass of Soviet offensives in front of Moscow in August-September, then tackled head on their major concentrations of troops in front of Moscow, killing or capturing around 1 million of them. 1941 is replete with German offensive bashing through prepared Soviet defenses and fighting major concentrations of Soviet forces. Even in 1942 when the Soviets tried to strike back against Case Blue on the flanks they were slaughtered by air and artillery repeatedly despite going after the German flanks. Given Soviet defensive doctrine in practice at Kursk, seems like rather than sitting still they'd just burn themselves out counterattack (as per 1941 too) while artillery and air strikes, either in the open or in their prepared positions. Again going by history it was airpower that really smashed Soviet armor, artillery, and defensive positions throughout the defensive/offensive period, at 2nd Kharkov and beyond.

      Again based on what? Stalin committed his reserves from Moscow, specially all his tank forces, against the flank of Case Blue and still got them smashed without appreciable effect.

      In which of his books? I have a few I can check when I get home. Certainly organization was considerably better than in 1941, but wasn't what it was later in 1942 or in 1943.

      What makes you think that given Stalin's penchant for counterattacks? Look at 3rd Tank Army: during the Wirbelwind operations he ordered them to counterattack and they were slaughtered, losing over 500 tanks, that is more than 80% of their starting strength. Why would 5th Tank army be used any differently? Especially as it was stationed on the flank of where I'm suggesting an offensive would be launched from, so they'd be attacking a breakthrough much the same as they did IOTL, just aimed in a different direction.

      They failed in their objective and delaying the Germans didn't really have any substantial operational or strategic effect.

      Why not? They'd want a pinning offensive so Soviet forces don't slip away, plus to shorten the line and tie up Soviet forces in the area. Stalin might well not commit the reserves he did IOTL 3rd Tank Army and 2 infantry armies, but then would allow Wirbelwind to succeed. Without Case Blue as we know it ITTL then 2nd Panzer army could be strengthened as planned, so it could start sooner and actually succeed, even if only distracting Soviet reserves and pinning down Soviet forces.

      Why would 3rd Tank army sit on the defensive? Stalin ordered them to counterattack and seize the initiative just as IOTL 1941-43 in all defensive operations. Which means they get burned up in counterattacks. In terms of reserve infantry armies, they might well sit on the defensive, the question is again do they actually hold up better to air and artillery attacks in fixed positions?

      Soviet forces tried to hold the line repeatedly and failed miserably. There was a pocket at Millerovo, defenders on the Chir River, every attempt to stop them before the Axis forces took up their flank guard positions was a speed bump.

      That 1000 number was not including 3rd and 5th Tank armies, which at least doubled that 1000 number. They faced them IOTL and destroyed most of them.

      In Summer 1942 the Stavka converted all ten airborne corps into guards rifle divisions to bolster Soviet forces in the south. Among them was the 6th Airborne Corps, which became the 40th Guards Rifle Division.

      '..[T]he Stavka still foresaw the necessity of conducting actual airborne operations later during the war. To have [such a force] the Stavka created eight new airborne corps (1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th) in the fall of 1942. Beginning in December 1942, these corps became ten guards airborne divisions (two formed from the 1st Airborne Corps and the three existing separate maneuver airborne brigades).'

      No comment on where they were in July.

      If the Soviets pull out troops from Kalinin Front you're once against strengthening AG-Center and helping reopen their supply lines from the Toropets bulge. So it seems if the Soviets opt to strip out the entire Eastern Front eventually they will have larger forces, but that doesn't acknowledge the transportation issues that would cause or the German response.


      Deleted member 1487


      Thanks. At least that means you should be able to reply to it together with this one.

      Yes they did. Had they not, the Germans would have walked into Baku and Stalingrad, happily whistling all the way, regardless of any other difficulties. The Caucasus Operation stalled out by the end of August. All gains from there on out were local and not something meaningful in a operational-strategic context. Even the one your alluding too, the Odoznikhie drive, saw the Germans routed back to their start position by the first serious Soviet counter-attack thrown against it. This failure was even acknowledged (albiet, in a extremely indirect fashion) by the Germans, as it caused Hitler to seek the taking of Stalingrad at all costs as a ersatz means of making up for the failure to take Grozny.

      But not remotely all. Many were thrown into separate offensives against AGC. Offensives that won't materialize IATL.

      Incorrect. Many of the same units that were manning defensive positions that were ultimately overrun after several days of brutal combat on the 4th were still there on the 12th, manning new positions further back. For example, the 67th Guards Rifle Division on July 4th occupied a stretch of front at the junction of the 47th Panzer and II SS Panzer Corps. 8 days later, it was still fighting from defenses on the junction of the 11th Panzer Division and the Grossdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division.

      Which is why those same forces were able to go over to the offensive when the German offensive ended with only a minor delay.

      Citadel was about destroying Soviet forces via encircling them in a massive pocket. It was not about destroying Soviet forces by grinding through them in a frontal assault. The Germans had not aimed for positional warfare, they just got it because their attempt at maneuver warfare failed basically instantly. Positional warfare is what happens when an attempt at maneuver warfare fails, after all. And even by that criteria, they had clearly already failed in the north (the Soviet counter-offensive there was already underway when the cancellation order came down and was already achieving enough success to basically doom the Orel salient) and the one in the south was quite transparently not getting it done and was on the verge of collapsing from physical exhaustion.

      An offensive which predates the cancellation of Citadel and not only stopped the Germans on the northern face of the Kursk bulge, but also had already broken through their defenses on the northern face of the Orel bulge by the time the cancellation orders came down.

      Using Kursk to show what happens at Moscow in 1942 suggests that the Germans don't ever even see Tula, much less Moscow, regardless of what the loss rate is.

      Soviet loss rates in '43, and '42 for that matter, may have been brutal. but they were never anything the Soviets proved unable to sustain. The same could not be said for the Germans.

      Their reserves were as deep in '42 as they were in '43, perhaps deeper actually, just less well deployed (and all that other stuff). But the salient point is the Germans greatly enhanced this by striking where and in a direction those reserves were not and could not be put in a timely enough matter. The places the Germans struck also did not even have defensive positions even comparable, whereas the Moscow defenses certainly are comparable.

      Except the passive defenses did hold the Germans up long enough for those counterattacks to go off, unlike in 1942 where the Germans were already through the Soviets tactical-operational defenses by the time the reserves engaged.

      And in none of these cases were they fighting the Soviets on equal terms. They always had numerical superiority in these instances, particularly at the key points of contact, in 1941. Overwhelming force is just how the Germans, like literally everyone, fought.

      While air and artillery provided important assistance to German mechanized forces, they could not have halted the Soviet counter-attacks alone.

      Given that it was such counterattacks which ultimately stopped the Germans, then that's probably a good thing.

      In reality, it was the Germans assembling overwhelming force at key points of contact, then outmaneuvering Soviet forces so as to leave them cut off and helpless. Many of the defensive positions fell without a shot being fired as the Soviets were forced to abandon them to avoid being cut-off (or, even more frequently, to break out of already existing pockets). Airpower was there, but it was merely one component and would not have mattered if German ground forces had not been up to the task.

      On actual history. Stalin did not commit all of his tank forces, much less all his reserves, nor did it not have appreciable effect: it was actually decisive in delaying the Germans at Voronezh, forcing Bock to retain the 4th Panzer Army for two weeks, and upset their timetable. It was why Hitler got impatient and changed the plan.

      To the Gates of Stalingrad
      mainly. I'm about to go home myself, so I should be able to start citing it then.

      Timing and the initial German ROA outpacing any such counterattack orders. 5th Tank's initial disposition on the start of Blau has it covering a defense line running along the Mecha, a tributary of the Don, about 75 kilometers behind the front. Assuming the Germans manage the same historical ROA as Blau in your proposed axis of advance (although they might not, as Bryansk front's frontline defenses north and east of Orel were akin to the Western and Kalinin Fronts frontline defenses, whereas the defenses the Germans historically broke through to the south were much weaker), they'd reach it on the second day. IOTL, Stalin ordered the 5th Armies counter-attacks on the 3rd. 2 days later.

      And in fact, the 5th Tank Army was the only reserve formation released with orders to attack. All of the other armies were deployed with orders to defend on a arch running from Tula to Voronezh with the expectation that the Germans would swing north towards Moscow. Only when that failed to materialize and, 7 days later, Stalin accepted that the Germans were going for a southern offensive did he begin to release more reserve armies.

      Their not anywhere on the flank. Their actually in the dead middle of your proposed axis of advance.

      The delay actually had a substantial operational effect, as it horribly upset the German timetable, causing Hitler to get impatient and make try to change around Operation Blau.

      Not at first he didn't. He was expecting the Germans to swing north for Moscow in a similar matter to what you are proposing so he ordered those forces to defend. When the Germans instead moved on Voronezh, only then did he order to the counter-attacks.

      Yes. With one unique exception, those forces held up better to attempted AGC attacks in this period then did their counterparts much further south.

      Ignoring that they did hold the line at Voronezh.

      It actually very much does includes 5th Tank Army, which was already under Bryansk Front's command when Blau began. Remove 5th Tank, and Bryansk Front's AFV numbers drop by half. And of course it excludes 3rd Tank Army, that one was never committed to Voronezh during the summer. 1st and 4th Armies were committed to the bulge in the Don, although IATL their likely to be committed to Moscow.

      The Germans don't have the strength to launch major offensives with more then one Army Group, which was why Blau was so limited compared to Barbarossa to begin with. and indeed, a major reason why it failed. If you want to get Army Group Center strong enough to join in Blau, the only way to do that is to strip out Army Group South which weakens the attack there as well. It also weakens the attempted German counter-offensive . And given the tougher fortifications, forces, and terrain in that direction, the assault is liable to be much slower and costlier for the Germans then it was down south. as indeed was the precisely the case with the historical Wirbelwind. Put bluntly, citing Wirbelwind is effectively citing what would happen with an attack towards Moscow: the Germans spend so much time trying to get through the Soviet prepared defenses that their still bogged down there by the time Soviet reserves counter-attack, which stops the attack altogether.

      Except the fortifications did hold up? I mean, they held up because they were backed up by mobile forces counter-attacking the German flanks. But then that's the point.

      No comment on where they were in July.

      Well, I was tracking them where they were on the day Blau started (June 29th). I'll have to look into where they were when they were converted, but that still shows their there.

      Clearly you did not read what I wrote, here is what I wrote with emphasis added:

      "If the Soviets feel it necessary, they can also bring as many as 6 divisions and 4 brigades down from the Kalinin Front in a timely enough manner without affecting it's frontline strength at all."

      Before any attack on Moscow can take place, the Toropets salient needs to be eliminated, it poses a huge threat to German supply lines, which they will be relying on for a Moscow offensive. The ideal attack against the salient would be a double envelopment , with a main thrust launched from Rzhev/Olenino and a secondary thrust from Demyansk, linking up around Ostakhov. First equivalents to Operations Sedylitz and Hannover need to be launched to secure the Rzhev salient. This could be done in late May without the Case Blue buildup. Securing positions around Demyansk would also happen earlier since this would be the main area of operations. The attack against the Toropets salient would then be able to occur around mid June.

      Clearing the Toropets salient obviously nets a large encirclement of Soviet troops, how many I do not know, but it would fairly large, 5-6 armies. The new line would also be much shorter, freeing up troops for a Moscow offensive. With proper concentration of forces, the Germans could have easily pulled off this operation and still attacked Moscow the next month.

      As for the attack on Moscow, the Tula road is a good path from the South. However, a double envelopment launched from Vyazma and Ulyanovo, following the Oka and Ugra Rivers, and converging around Kaluga, would encircle 6 Soviet Armies. I think the Germans tried something similar to this in 1942. Beginning the offensive with this move would be ideal in my opinion, after which German armor could advance along the Orel-Tula highway towards Moscow. logically there would be an attack to threaten Moscow from the North as well,ideally launched from Rzhev, but this is kind of complicated. The Soviets launched an offensive against Rzhev practically every month of 1942, and this is where most of the forces near Moscow were.

      The defenses around Moscow also were not really a "Defense in Depth". The defensive lines made had significant distance between them. So the initial stages of the battle wouldn't be like Kursk. The Germans would likely break through and encircle a large amount of Soviet defenders south of the Oka River. After this I'd put the odds at 50-50 for each side after this, as the Soviet Army still had an inexperienced officer corps and severe problems in command. The Germans would probably try to encircle Moscow to prevent reinforcement. Whether encircled or not, the city itself would have to be taken by infantry assault. I could see the 11th Army being one formation used for this task. If the city is successfully encircled (and the encirclement holds), then it will fall.

      If anyone wants I can make a map to help clarify my ramblings.


      The defenses, terrain, and logistics of the area do not favor remotely favor such a successful thrust. The region is a mass of roadless forests, tractless hills, and utter swamps with heavily entrenched Soviet forces. Just advancing would nightmarishly break-up the German spearheads. And then there is the issue of how you supply and reinforce the Demyansk pocket for an offensive without having to mount a separate, preliminary offensive to open it up.

      So straight in the teeth of the toughest Soviet defenses. Grand. At least with the southern route can flank around the tough northern defenses of the Bryansk front by breaking through it's weak southern defenses. Trying to move eastward towards Kaluga can be achieved by nothing but a frontal assault.

      The forces defending the Moscow route are very much experienced and have less severe problems in command then what the Germans tried to move through historically.

      Yes they were. The Soviet frontline defenses west of Moscow, and at the Sukhinichi Salient, were 30 miles deep with a second defense line just 10 miles behind them. More then one military historian, including the foremost western expert on the Eastern Front, has declared them a defense-in-depth or even a "mini-Kursk".

      "The argument that Hitler's Wehrmacht could have seized Moscow in the summer and fall of 1942 is ludicrous for a variety of reasons. First, had it attacked Moscow, the Wehrmacht would have been advancing into the teeth of Red Army defenses, where the Stavka expected the offensive to occur. The Red Army defended the Moscow axis in depth, manning heavy fortified lines back up by the bulk of its strategic and operational reserves. Furthermore, by mounting an offensive against Moscow, the Wehrmacht would have had to thin out its forces in other sectors of the front, thereby improving the Red Army's chances for offensive success in southern Russia and elsewhere. Simply stated, a Wehrmacht advance on Moscow in 1942 would likely have replicated its sad experiences of 1941." -David Glantz, Colossus Reborn, Pg 36.

      Deleted member 1487

      Well, before even getting any deeper in a tit-for-tat discussion we need: Numbers!
      Having found some sources I will share.
      From Robert Forcyzk's "Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-42"
      p.211: The Soviets had 9,260 tanks in all (including reserves) as of June 1942 of which 48% were KV-1s or T-34s. The rest were L-L models or light tanks. Of these 1,280 were in the Moscow MD, 1,640 were in the Bryansk Front, and 1,720 were with Western Front for a grand total of 4640 tanks available anywhere close to Moscow and the proposed attack zone (the Soviets loaded up Bryansk Front because they thought that Front would bear the brunt of a German 1942 offensive).

      Against this the Germans had 2,276 tanks across the entire front, mostly Pz IIIs and IVs as of June. AG-South had 1,582 and AG-Center had 544 for a grand total of 2,226. Likely no more than 2,000 of those would be available for a Moscow offensive. On top of that there were 400 StuGs available in the East, probably all them would be made available for a Moscow offensive. One thing that did also matter is the trebling of halftrack production, which meant 4x as many Panzer divisions had halftrack equipped infantry battalions. This dramatically increased the combat power of infantry, engineer, and mortar units, the last by increasing the mobility and allowing them to be fired from within the halftrack, effectively creating the first SP artillery units within the Panzer divisions (the Wespe 105mm SP artillery did not enter service before 1943).
      It is not clear if the SP anti-tank guns are counted in AFV totals, but I'm assuming so.

      In the tradition of Soviet use of historical examples to try and determine how future conflicts would play out, we should consider what happened IOTL during Case Blue to figure out just how much that disparity in numbers matters.

      Between10 May and 4 July, a period of just eight weeks, Heeresgruppe Süd managed to encircle and destroy major parts of nine Soviet armies in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, inflicting over 612,000 casualties and the loss of 1,400 tanks. Von Bock’s subordinate armies accomplished these victories at a cost of 67,000 German casualties and 140 tanks and assault guns, yielding an exchange ratio of 9– 1 in personnel and 10– 1 in armour. The lop-sided nature of these losses handed the strategic initiative back to the Wehrmacht and set the stage for Operation Blau.

      Forczyk, Robert. Tank Warfare on the Eastern Front 1941-1942: Schwerpunkt

      Blau 28th June- 24 July 1942

      158,000 soviet prisoners reported by Wehr

      Soviet records: 568,347 casualties (370,522 KIA/POW and 197,825 wounded/sick)

      lost 2,436 armor, 13,716 guns/mortars, 783 combat aircraft

      Glantz/House count- soviet count perhaps 30% understated POW figure is around 150,000. permanent losses

      1.3 million soviets committed in action.

      It should be noted that 1.3 million committed includes multiple Soviet reserve forces from the Moscow MD/Reserve, including the 3rd and 5th Tanks armies among others.

      Blau I: 28 June-12 July 1942

      Blau II: 9-24 July 1942

      88,000 soviet prisoners

      Advance towards Stalingrad (July 23 1942 - Sept 3 1942)

      Since mid July " more than

      300,000 soldiers and 1,000 tanks". (casualties)

      Blau and advance to Stalingrad (excluding advance into the Caucasus):

      In the range: less than 870,000 and over 1,040,000 Soviet casualties.

      armor losses greater than 3,400

      Endgame II, Glantz/House (they believe that the real soviet figures are 30% higher):

      Losses, Blau 28th June- 24 July 1942

      Soviet count, Red Army's fronts fighting along the Voronezh and Stalingrad Axis took 1,212,189 casualties including 694,108 irrevocable losses.

      Vozonezh, Stalingrad, Rostov/Caucasus: 1,586,100 including 886,899 irrevocable losses.

      Casualty pattern, German forces only (AGS):

      July 1, 1942 - July 30, 1942: 57,381

      August 1, 1942- August 31, 1942:

      AGS/A/B, July 1, 1942- August 31, 1942: 123,210

      1,000 by forces conducting Blau (700 along the Voronezh/Stalingrad Axes and 300 in the Caucasus).

      Soviets suffered 'at least' 1.2 million causualties in the fighting along the Voronezh/Stalingrad axes from 28 June- 17 Nov 1942 as compared to a rough Axis casualty toll of 200,000 (130,000 in the 6.A and 4.PzA alone).

      During the same period, the Soviets lost in excess of 4,862 tanks as opposed to German losses of fewer than 700 tanks (discounting the losses in the Caucasus region).

      Also, the soviet lost 200,000 men compared to 9th Army's losses of 42,000 at the Rzhev salient over the summer.

      So it looks as per OTL despite the massive distances the Germans had to travel to Stalingrad and the Caucasus, they managed to achieve massively favorable casualty ratios and applied to the strength of the Fronts around Moscow (Western, Moscow MD, and Bryansk) should be able to smash them with acceptable losses and capture Moscow.

      Bryansk Front was larded up with armor to oppose a German offensive south of Moscow:

      Deleted member 1487

      After achieving their initial breakthrough, Hoth’s armour spread out into a large armoured wedge, with the 9, 11 and 24.Panzer-Divisionen in the lead, followed by the 3 and 16.Infanterie-Division (mot.) and the Grossdeutschland Infanterie-Division (mot.). Heavy rain on 29–30 June slowed the rate of advance, but the German panzer units continued to advance. Golikov was not slow to react – he quickly committed the two tank brigades belonging to the 40th Army to delay Hoth’s advance, while committing Generalmajor Mikhail E. Katukov’s 1st Tank Corps and General-major Mikhail I. Pavelkin’s 16th Tank Corps to stop Hoth at the Kshen River. Nervous that Hoth’s attack suggested a new push on Moscow from the southwest, as Guderian had done the previous year, the Stavka ordered Timoshenko on the night of 28–29 June to send his 4th and 24th Tank Corps to reinforce Golikov’s crumbling left flank. Although some Soviet rifle units were withdrawing under pressure from Hoth’s panzers, Stalin refused Golikov’s request to allow his 13th and 40th Armies to retreat in order to avoid encirclement and demanded a major armoured counterattack as soon as practical. In just the first few days of Blau, the refitted armoured forces of both sides were committed to a major trial of strength against each other.

      From Moscow, Stalin exhorted Golikov to smash the German penetration, noting that he had 1,000 tanks between Hoth and Voronezh, against fewer than 500 German tanks. However, the new Soviet tank corps commanders and their staffs proved unable to effectively control their own forces or coordinate with their neighbors. Korchagin’s staff failed to provide enough fuel for the movement to Kastornoye, resulting in impaired tactical mobility. Rather than attack straight into a mass of Soviet armour – which was spotted by the Luftwaffe – Hoth used maneuver tactics by sending the 11.Panzer-Division to bypass Kastornoye to the north and 9.Panzer-Division to the south. Korchagin was befuddled by the German maneuvering and failed to react, allowing his corps to be defeated piece-meal the 17th Tank Corps lost 141 tanks in a few days and fell back in disorder.

      Likewise, General-major Vasily A. Mishulin’s 4th Tank Corps attempted to block the path of the XXXXVIII Panzerkorps near Goreshechnoe, but was repulsed by 24.Panzer Division. Golikov’s armoured counterstroke was a disaster, which inflicted only twenty four hours delay on Hoth’s 4.Panzerarmee, but resulted in four tank corps being mauled.

      By 3 July, Soviet resistance between the Olym River and Voronezh evaporated and the defeated 17th Tank Corps retreated east, across the Don. While Balck’s 11.Panzer-Division, assisted by some infantry from AOK 2, held off the 1st and 16th Tank Corps, Hoth sent the rest of his armour east toward Voronezh. The Grossdeutschland Division was able to capture an intact bridge over the Don at 1930 hours on 4 July and the 24.Panzer-Division seized two bridgeheads over the Don the next morning. Once again, the Red Army had failed to leave any units to garrison a major city and the 24.Panzer-Division advanced into the city on 6 July. General-major Ivan D. Chernyakhovsky’s 18th Tank Corps arrived just in time to put up a fight for the city center, but quickly lost its 180th and 181st Tank Brigades with 116 tanks.43 German video within Voronezh shows many intact T-34s, in column, which suggests that many tankers may have abandoned their tanks when they feared being cut off by the German advance. Once again, German panzers seized a major Russian city with a coup de main. However, in this case the Germans had only seized Voronezh to protect the left flank of Heeresgruppe Süd as it advanced to the Volga, and they had no intention of exploiting east across the Don, even though there was now a significant gap between the Bryansk and Southwest Fronts. Even before Voronezh had fallen, Stalin pressured Golikov to commit his main armoured reserve – General-major Aleksandr I. Liziukov 5th Tank Army – to strike the flank of Hoth’s advance to the Don. The Stavka hastily transferred General-major Pavel A. Rotmistrov’s 7th Tank Corps from the Kalinin Front to join Liziukov’s 5TA at the Elets railhead. In fact, Rotmistrov’s corps was the first to reach its jump-off positions, while General-major Andrei G. Kravchenko’s 2nd Tank Corps and General-major Aleksei F. Popov’s 11th Tank Corps were slower to get into position. Despite the fact that no artillery or air support was available and that only two of nine tank brigades were ready to attack, Liziukov ordered the counterattack to begin at 0600 hours on 6 July. Thus, the first offensive operation conducted by a Soviet tank army in the Second World War was not a carefully planned action, but rather a meeting engagement where forces were fed into battle piecemeal.

      Mike Mackey Collection 1940-2002SC 014.9

      Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.


      Michael R. Mackey was born in 1957 and grew up in Powell, Wyoming. He worked in the oil and construction industries before beginning his academic career in his 30s. He received an Associate of Arts and an Associate of Science degree from Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. Mackey then transferred to University of Wyoming where he completed his Bachelor of Arts (1992) and Master of Arts (1993) in History. As part of his undergraduate thesis, Mackey contacted individuals of Japanese descent who had been moved to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center under Executive Order 9066. After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, both Japanese immigrants and American citizens of Japanese descent were forcibly removed from their homes into concentration camps (often referred to as "internment camps"). Heart Mountain Relocation Center was located between the cities of Powell and Cody, Wyoming, and housed more than 10,000 people of Japanese ancestry between 1942 and 1945. Through his research and correspondence, Mackey amassed several first person accounts and recollections of the Heart Mountain site. After completing his thesis, Mackey continued to write about Heart Mountain and the incarceration of Japanese Americans, writing and editing numerous books and articles. In 1995, Mackey also organized a symposium on Heart Mountain entitled “After 50 Years: Japanese American History: The Heart Mountain Experience.” Mackey has also written books on Wyoming history, and published his first book, Black Gold: Patterns in the Development of Wyoming’s Oil Industry in 1997. Mackey continues to write in Wyoming, where he lives with his wife, Laurie.


      In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the incarceration from 1942 to 1946 of approximately 120,000 adults and children of Japanese ancestry, many of whom were United States citizens. They were expelled from their homes and placed in incarceration camps without due process and in violation of their civil rights. These camps were euphemistically referred to as “relocation centers” or “internment camps”. After decades of advocacy by the Japanese American community, in 1988 the United States issued a formal apology and began redress to survivors of Japanese incarceration during World War II.

      Scope and Content

      The Mike Mackey Collection contains correspondence, mainly incoming, from survivors of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, a concentration camp (also called "internment camp") in Wyoming for individuals of Japanese descent during World War II. The collection also contains research materials, including newspapers, scholarly articles, and magazine items pertaining to Japanese American history in general, other incarceration camps, and Japanese Americans in World War II. There are also 12 VHS tapes of presentations given at the symposium “After 50 Years – Japanese American History: The Heart Mountain Experience.”


      The collection is arranged in 3 series: Correspondence, Research files, and Symposium materials.

      Series 1: Correspondence, 1992-2002. This series contains correspondence primarily from survivors of Heart Mountain Relocation Center. Notable correspondents include William Hohri, Bill Hosokawa, and Mits Koshiyama. The letters include recollections about Heart Mountain, information on publications by Mackey and others, and the information on the 50th anniversary symposium in Powell, Wyoming commemorating Heart Mountain.

      Series 2: Research files, 1940-2000. This series contains research files about Heart Mountain Relocation Center, its commemoration, and newspaper articles about the concentration camp. Notably, the series contains a near comprehensive run of the Heart Mountain Sentinel on microfilm.

      Series 3: Symposium materials, 1995. On May 12-21, 1995, Powell, Wyoming hosted a symposium titled After 50 Years: Japanese American History: The Heart Mountain Experience." This series contains some administrative files and video recordings of the event.

      Administrative Information

      Publication Information

      Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections © 2015

      The Cockleshell Heroes of 1942

      The Cockleshell Heroes raided Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in December 1942 in ‘Operation Frankton’. The Cockleshell Heroes target was the harbour complex in the city. The port was very important to the Germans as many merchant ships used it to supply the German Army stationed not only in France but also elsewhere throughout occupied Europe. They succeeded in sinking one ship and severely damaging four others and doing enough damage in the port to greatly disrupt the use of the harbour for months to come. Such was the significance of the raid that Winston Churchill said that it helped to shorten World War Two by six months.

      Another important reason for ‘Operation Frankton’ to succeed was that German U-boats used the port as a base and any disruption to their Atlantic patrols would have been highly important.

      Any German merchant ships that came through the English Channel could be dealt with by either the Royal Navy or by Coastal Command. But plenty of merchant ships were willing to risk sailing to Bordeaux harbour via the Mediterranean Sea and there was little the Royal Navy could do about it. A raid by bombers would have led to many civilian casualties – so this was excluded.

      The task of the Cockleshell Heroes was simple – destroy as many ships in the harbour as was possible so that the harbour itself would be blocked with wreckage, thus rendering it incapable of fully operating as a harbour.

      The Cockleshell Heroes were from the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment. These men got their nickname from the canoes they were to use which were themselves nicknamed ‘cockles’. After months of training, they set-off for their target on board the submarine ‘HMS Tuna’. Out of the twelve Marines, only Major Hasler, the group commander, and Lieutenant Mackinnon knew where they were going as they had helped formulate the plan. The other ten Marines were only told their target once ‘Tuna’ surfaced off the French coast.

      The plan was for the six teams of two men to paddle five miles to the mouth of the River Gironde, paddle seventy miles up it, plant limpet mines on the ships in the harbour and then make their way to Spain.

      The raid started badly once the men were due to be dropped off by ‘HMS Tuna’. One of the canoes was holed as it was being made ready on the Tuna. The two Royal Marines who were meant to have used this canoe – called ‘Cachalot’ – could not take part in the raid. It is said that Marines Fisher and Ellery were left in tears at their disappointment.

      The commander, Major ‘Blondie’ Hasler partnered Marine Bill Sparks in ‘Catfish’.

      As the canoes approached the mouth of the River Gironde they hit a violent rip tide. The waves were five feet high and the canoe ‘Conger’ was lost. The two crew of ‘Conger’ – Corporal George Sheard and Marine David Moffat – were towed by the other canoes. Once near the shoreline, both men had to swim to the shore as they were slowing down the remaining canoes. Neither man made it to the shore. It was assumed that they had both drowned.

      The crew of the canoe ‘Coalfish’ – Sergeant Samuel Wallace and Marine Jock Ewart – were caught by the Germans, interrogated and shot after being held captive for two days. Despite being in uniform, their captors carried out Hitler’s infamous ‘Commando Order’ – that anyone captured on commando raids was to be shot.

      The crew of the ‘Cuttlefish’ – Lieutenant John Mackinnon and Marine James Conway – had to abandon their canoe after it was damaged. They were also caught by the Germans who handed the pair over to the Gestapo. It is though that both men were held and interrogated for about three months before being shot.

      With four canoes down, the raiders were only left with two canoes. Along with ‘Catfish’, ‘Crayfish’ was left crewed by Marine William Mills and Corporal Albert Laver.

      By now, the Germans knew that something was up and they greatly increased the number of patrols along the Gironde. The two crews paddled at night and hid during the day.

      The two canoes got to the harbour in Bordeaux. Here they were spotted by a sentry who failed to raise the alarm – possibly he mistook what he saw for driftwood as both crews remained motionless in their canoes as they had been trained to do.

      The crew of both remaining canoes placed limpet mines on the merchant ships they found in the harbour. This whole process took about two to three hours. Each mine had a nine-hour fuse on it that was activated before the mine was placed giving the four Marines time to get away. Both ‘Crayfish’ and ‘Catfish’ escaped on the tide.

      The damage to Bordeaux harbour was severe. Now the crews had to leave their canoes, move on foot and link up with the French Resistance at the town of Ruffec. The Germans automatically assumed that the men would travel south to Spain. In fact, they travelled 100 miles north of Bordeaux – a journey that took six days. They then backtracked and travelled to Gibraltar via Spain.

      Laver and Mills, who were moving separately from Sparks and Hasler, were caught by the Germans and shot. With the help of the French Resistance, Hasler and Sparks reached Spain and then Gibraltar – a journey that took a total of fifteen weeks.

      Even here, Sparks met problems. Hasler was transported back to Britain with due speed on the orders of Lord Louis Mountbatten. However, Sparks did not have such luck and was arrested because he could not prove his identity. Sparks was transported back to London where he was put under guard by the military police. However, Sparks slipped these guards at Euston Station. He visited his father to assure him that he was not dead and then made his way to the Combined Operations Headquarters.

      The Cockleshell Heroes were:

      Marines Fisher and Ellery on ‘Cachalot’. Both had to abandon because of damage to their canoe.

      Corporal Sheer and Marine Moffat on ‘Conger’. Both men were drowned.

      Sergeant Wallace and Marine Ewart on ‘Coalfish’. Both were men captured and shot.

      Lieutenant Mackinnon and Marine Conway on ‘Cuttlefish’. Both men were captured and shot.

      Corporal Laver and Marine Mills on ‘Crayfish’. Both men were captured and shot.

      Major Hasler and Marine Sparks on ‘Catfish’. Both men made it back to the UK.

      November 30 th 1942: The twelve Commandos embarked on ‘HMS Tuna’

      December 7 th 1942: At 19.30 the canoes were made ready for their journey. ‘Cachalot’ was torn during the disembarking and could not be used. The other five ‘cockles’ started their mission about ten miles from the Pointe de Grave at the head of the Gironde estuary.

      December 7 th /8 th 1942: ‘Coalfish’ and ‘Conger’ were lost. The daytime of the 8 th was spent in hiding at the Pointe aux Oiseaux.

      December 8 th /9 th 1942: Twenty five miles was covered during the night and during the day of the 9 th , the remaining canoes hid at St. Estephe.

      December 9 th /10 th 1942: The crews of ‘Cuttlefish’ and ‘Catfish’ landed on the Ile de Cazeau. This was at the head of the River Garonne – the river that would take them to the port at Bordeaux.

      December 10 th /11 th 1942: ‘Cuttlefish’ was wrecked and could not continue. Mackinnon and Conway made their way inland but were captured. ‘Catfish’ and ‘Crayfish’ paddled to striking distance of the docks and hid for the day.

      December 11 th /12 th 1942: Both ‘Catfish’ and ‘Crayfish’ paddled into the docks and placed their mines. The first mine went off at 07.00 on December 12 th . Both canoes had retraced their way up the Garonne and paddled to Blaye. Here both teams destroyed their canoes before they separated and went their separate ways.

      Operation Sentinel (1942) - History

      Y-12: OPERATION
      (Oak Ridge: Clinton, 1943-1944)
      Events > The Uranium Path to the Bomb, 1942-1944

      During the summer and fall of 1943, the Y-12 Electromagnetic Plant at Oak Ridge began to take shape. The huge buildings to house the operating equipment were readied as manufacturers began delivering everything from electrical switches to motors, valves, and tanks. While construction and outfitting proceeded, almost 5,000 operating and maintenance personnel were hired and trained. Then, between October and mid-December, Y-12 paid the price for being a new technology that had not been put through its paces in a pilot plant. Vacuum tanks in the first Alpha racetrack leaked and shimmied out of line due to magnetic pressure, welds failed, electrical circuits malfunctioned, and operators made frequent mistakes. Most seriously, the magnet coils shorted out because of rust and sediment in the cooling oil.

      Leslie Groves arrived on December 15 and shut the racetrack down. The coils were sent to Allis-Chalmers with hope that they could be cleaned without being dismantled entirely, while measures were taken to prevent recurrence of the shorting problem. The second Alpha track (Alpha 2, not to be confused with the Alpha II phase of the Y-12 Extension) now bore the weight of the electromagnetic effort. In spite of precautions aimed at correcting the electrical and oil-related problems that had shut down the first racetrack, Alpha 2 fared little better when it started up in mid-January 1944. While all tanks operated at least for short periods, performance was sporadic and maintenance could not keep up with electrical failures and defective parts. Like its predecessor, Alpha 2 was a maintenance nightmare.

      Alpha 2 produced about 200 grams of twelve-percent uranium-235 by the end of February, enough to send samples to Los Alamos for experimentation and feed the first Beta unit but not enough to satisfy estimates of weapon requirements. The first four Alpha tracks did not operate together until April 1944, a full four months late. While maintenance improved, output was well under previous expectations. The opening of the Beta building on March 11 led to further disappointment. Beam resolution was so unsatisfactory that complete redesign was required.

      Ernest Lawrence and others, nonetheless, remained convinced that Y-12 still offered the only realistic avenue to a bomb by 1945. Despite his concern that the construction could not be completed in time, Groves therefore approved in May 1944 the construction of a third Beta building containing two racetracks. Groves also agreed to a series of complicated changes in the racetracks that would allow their Alpha units to process the material originating from the gaseous diffusion plant, K-25. This was necessary because K-25 had been experiencing even greater problems during 1943 and 1944 than Y-12.

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      The latest in the Hawk line of fighter aircraft, the Warhawk had a better engine and was more aerodynamic than its predecessor thanks to flush rivets. It became the main fighter of the US Army Air Corps fighter squadrons.

      Unfortunately for the American pilots, the Warhawk was outclassed by both French and German planes in North Africa. It was the staple weapon of fighter pilots in Operation Torch, which they used to defend bombers and strafe Axis convoys.

      On the journey to Africa, pilots kept the .50 caliber machine guns from their P-40s wrapped in blankets under their beds. It protected the guns from being corroded by the salty sea air.

      Armourers working on a Tomahawk fighter aircraft of No 3 Squadron RAAF. 23 December 1941, Western Desert, North Africa. Photo: AWM.

      Operation Sentinel (1942) - History

      The Sheaffer Triumph Nib 1942-1998
      by Jim Mamoulides, December 27, 2001

      Triumph Pens 1942-1948

      Removing the cap of a Triumph nib pen reveals not only a Sheaffer hallmark, but an innovation in design and functionality. The Triumph, also the namesake of the new pen line introduced in 1942, is one of the most unique nibs ever made, developed to be stronger, based on cylindrical design, than a traditional open nib and to have more ink channels, which extend well into the section, in order to have better ink flow in general and better usability at high altitudes. Sheaffer also advertised this "feed-back" design allowed the pen to be carried in any position, as the feed was designed to back flow the ink into the barrel when the pen was not in use.

      Sheaffer 1942 Triumph Advertisement

      Another innovation of the Triumph nib was a slight upward taper at the end. This was for two purposes, one, like the conical shape, was for strength in writing through carbons so that it would not pierce the paper, the second was to allow the nib to be used upside down with a finer line. This tapering is more pronounced on 1940s Triumphs, which also had generally shorter and fatter nibs, than on TM pens.

      Sheaffer Triumph Pens With Two Tone Triumph Nibs c1944-1945

      The new pen continued the trend, started with the Parker 51, toward stiffer and more conical nib and section designs, a strong move away from traditional open nibs. Instead of a hooded traditional nib, as with the 51, Sheaffer opted to redesign the nib to the same effect. The section was also redesigned with grooves for better grip. The earliest Triumph nibs were formed from a flat piece of 14 karat gold and bent into the tube shape and welded. The tip was then plated with palladium, as on the Feathertouch nibs.

      Sheaffer Triumph and Touchdown Two Tone Triumph Nibs c1948-1949

      By 1948, Sheaffer redesigned the nib making process and introduced injection molding for the plastic parts. The nib was now drawn from 14 karat gold, in the same manner as seamless tubing, and threaded for mounting on the section. In 1949 Sheaffer introduced the Touchdown filling system, dropping the Triumph name for the pen line. The Lifetime marking on the nib was dropped.

      Thin Model Touchdown and Snorkel Pens 1950-1959

      Sheaffer Thin Model Touchdown and Snorkel Two Tone Triumph Nibs 1950-1959

      Sheaffer redesigned the Touchdown in 1950, introducing the Thin Model or TM pen line, and with it a narrower, but longer looking nib. In 1952, Sheaffer introduced the Snorkel filling system, making the pen slightly longer, but without any real change to the nib design.

      Sheaffer Thin Model Snorkel Palladium Silver Triumph Nibs 1952-1959

      In 1952, Sheaffer also introduced several models of the new TM Snorkel with palladium silver alloy Triumph nibs. Some nibs are marked PdAg for the metal content, while others simply have "Sheaffer's" as the sole marking. The palladium silver nibbed pens were "down" models from their same trimmed two-tone gold nibbed cousins, allowing Sheaffer to market numerous versions of essentially the same pen.

      Imperial, Stylist, and Cartridge Pens 1964-c1972

      Sheaffer Cartridge Pen With Short Triumph Nib c1965

      A shortened version of the Triumph nib also appeared on certain Imperial, Stylist and Cartridge models from the mid 1960s to the early 1970s. This nib was made in stainless, gold plate and 14 karat gold. The "Sheaffer's" engraving was shortened to "Sheaffer" c1966.

      Sheaffer Crest Two Tone Triumph Nibs 1991-1998

      In 1991, Sheaffer introduced the Crest line, a cartridge / converter pen that derives its design strongly from the TM Snorkel pens of the 1950s. These pens are fitted with conical 18 karat gold nibs that are nearly identical to the gold two-tone TM nibs.

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