Monday, May 30, 2016

Remembering (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #4)

P47 Thunderbolt (P.O.F. #20)Memorial Day in the U.S.A. was designed as a day to remember those who have died in service to the country. For the type of freedoms we have I am grateful. Something should be said for the allies too who gave their lives in support as well with similar goals. At the same time, I don’t want to deny the humanity of those who were my countries enemies.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero  (P.O.F. #33)A month or two ago there was a Japanese pilot who died who fought against the U.S. at some of the major conflicts in the Pacific. Most people were sending their condolences, but I saw someone say they could never do that because this person killed Americans. Maybe so for the time, but there has been some good-will on both sides. That is part of the forgiveness project that says the war is over, and it is time to move on. Not sure I will think this way about modern terrorists in the decades to come, but soldiers forced into conflicts are a little different.
Mitsubishi A6M Zero  (P.O.F. #34)

It has been said that the 20th century wars were fought so that those living today will never experience them. I think that is true as long as we remember them. If we forget about the quests for utopias and the wars that brought them about, then we are doomed to repeat them.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #2)
I took a bunch of pictures and video at the Chino Air Show. If you are interested the pictures are on Flickr and the video is unlisted on Youtube:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"The Enemy" (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #3)

Recently, I was reading Gunter Koschorrek’s book Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front. He was a German machine gun soldier in Stalingrad, Italy, and returned to the Soviet Union. The quotes I use in this blog are taken from that.

“My stomach is churning, and I cannot bring myself to look at their colourless faces. Now, for the first time, when I see the lifeless bodies before me, my consciousness really grasps the meaning of death. As a young person you tend to push these thoughts far away from you, but here there is no way to escape them. These people are out enemies, but, even so, they are flesh and blood, just like us. And just as they are lying here now, so could I or some of us be lying here dead and motionless in this ice cold snow.” P. 67
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (P.O.F. #13)
One area that I enjoy reading, watching documentaries, and movies about is the Eastern Front of World War 2. This is an area that most public school students in the U.S. probably have been ripped off on. Understandably, most U.S. history classes emphasize the U.S. parts of the war so the issues with the Germans vs. the Soviets in the east are almost a non-issue. Interesting enough I have heard people say that they have learned more about the Eastern Front part of the conflict through video games like “Call of Duty” and others that have come out over the past two decades than what they got in school.

“Revenge and retaliation! That inflammatory clarion call for revenge! That's the way all war leaders want their soldiers to be. Remorseless, and with hatred and retaliation in their hearts, men can win battles, and quite ordinary soldiers can be turned into celebrities. Fear is converted into hatred, anger and calls for retribution. In this way you are motivated to fight on even decorated with medals as a hero. But heroes have to stay alive, so that others can see their medals; they are supposed to inspire the weaker among us.” P. 227

One of the major parts of Hitler’s goals during the years of WW2 was the destruction of the Soviet Union (“The Judeo-Bolsheviks”). The ideas of invading the Soviet Union go back to his Mein Kampf autobiography. Even though a non-aggression pact was signed with the Soviet Union almost two years earlier, Operation Barbarrosa was started on June 22, 1941. It started off well for the Germans, but the problems of getting supplies over large distances of land, fierce resistance, and the bad weather (rain, and eventually snow in the upcoming winter months) to name a few of the key issues turned into a battle of attrition. This is something the Germans had not faced before with their blitzkrieg strategy used until this point.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 (P.O.F. #14)

Over the next two years Hitler and his advisors would come up with further operations into the Soviet Union. The conflicts at Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Kursk to mention some of the important ones are legendary for the brutality. Tank battles, infantry conflict, starvation, cannibalism, atrocities, etc. all had their parts in this conflict. The Soviets held off all these conflicts and would make their offensives and send the Germans back. Millions perished on both sides.

Yakovlev Yak-3 (P.O.F. #21)“I tell Fritz about my meeting with Unteroffizier Schwarz and how, at the Rytschov bridgehead, he executed wounded Russian soldiers by shooting them in the head. He explains to me that people who kill the defenceless must have sadistic leanings, and that war provides them with the excuse to satisfy this inhuman trait under the pretext of benefiting the rest of your men. After this period in Italy we would again be fighting together in Russia for a time and would kill many of our enemies. But, even though war may sometimes cause normal human beings to become insensitive, we would never slay the helpless.” P.138

While all wars are hell there is something a little extra disturbing and creepy about this one. This is the real life version of The Walking Dead. It is much worse than what one sees in horror movies. Little hope, not much is worth redeeming about it. Who were the good guys and the bad guys in this one? It many ways it is a case of evil vs. evil. Hitler and Stalin were not nice guys, and in my book they were almost equally evil. I do think the ideas and how they implemented them were evil in their regimes. I don’t think the same way about the individual people on the ground during the conflict.

Spitfire (P.O.F. #25)
“It’s the Oberleutnant who gives me strength, so I don’t go back, but rather choose to remain with him. I feel tied to him and would go through hell with him. After you have spent some time at the front, like I have, you no longer fight for Fuhrer, Yolk undVaterland These ideals, have long gone And no one talks about National Socialism or similar political matters. From all our conversations, its quite obvious that the primary reason we fight is to stay alive and help our front-line comrades do the same. But we often fight for a superior, such as our Oberleutnant, who through his exemplary attitude manages to instil spirit into even dog-tired and almost indifferent warriors.” P.255

One thing I have learned in life is there are many situations we get stuck in that we had no choice in. Be it jobs, family, friends, school, etc. we are put in situations and expected to fulfill out duty or we are morally blamed or shamed. In the case of the soldiers above it could mean their own death if they did not follow orders, and possibly family members back home. I would like to think that if I were in some situations I would not do certain things, but I’m not sure. It was generally thought that in the trials after WW2 that saying “I didn't want to do what I did, but I was just following orders” was not a good excuse.

I’ll wrap this up tomorrow. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The WW2 Generation is Almost Gone (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #2)

Sometime back I was reflecting after some major court decisions had come down and how the country I live in doesn't feel like the one I grew up in. The concerns I and others had while I was younger don’t really exist today in the same way.

A shock that really hit me not too long ago is that we are at the tail end of the World War 2 generation. Those that served in that war that are still alive are now in their mid-90’s. A lot of those people are ones that had to lie about their age in order to get into the service to fight. The reality is that the WW2 generation will be completely gone from us very soon.
P40 Warhawk (P.O.F. #9)
One of my neighbors that is no longer with us was a mechanic for a squadron bomber group during the war. He ended up being the historian for the group. I was given the book he had compiled of all the daily activities of that group for the war.

Most of the flights were B-25’s sent from their base in Great Britain to bombing targets in Europe. Later on the group was sent to Africa to give support with the fight in Italy as well as being a part of the major raid on the Ploesti oil fields on Aug. 1, 1943. Then back to Great Britain where the bombings started to finally reach the heart of Hitler’s Germany. Until D-Day, a good portion of the war for the U.S. was these types of bombings.
B-25 Mitchell (P.O.F. #39)
A portion of the entries consist of flights being scrubbed due to bad weather. Another portion were flights sent off to create a diversion for someone else…to trick the Germans into thinking the major attack would be someplace where they would commit their forces only to find out the real attack would be elsewhere. Most of the entries talk about what was known of the bombing missions. However, what I really got out of these B-25 raids to precision targets is that the ten men on each aircraft really were “dead men”. There was a good chance they would get to their target and let out their bombs, but they might not make it back to base. In their minds, their job was to get to the target and fulfill that goal. In most cases they were intercepted at some point by German aircraft. There were many entries of B-25 crew members having to either jump out with them being listed as POW’s or KIA. If they did their 25 (or later on 30) missions of the tour they could go home, but that seemed to be a rare thing.
P-51 Mustang (P.O.F. #36)
Reading through all the names on the roster that died in action is a sad thing. They are not just names, but people that did their service and died very young. The hopes and dreams of a normal life they never experienced.

Continued tomorrow...

Friday, May 27, 2016

Have We Forgotten? (Memorial Day Weekend 2016 #1)

We have hit Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. where I am at. It’s a time where people hit the beaches, or make short vacation getaways as the “American Summer” (un)officially starts. Admittedly, I have definitely been one of those people. I suspect we do this somewhat robotically as an escape rather than a true reflection on what the day represents. Over the weekend I wanted to put out a few thoughts I have been having combined with my recent visit to the Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, CA.
P40 Warhawk (P.O.F. #6)
I mentioned a few months back that I had gotten really sick of Twitter because of the constant political sniping that is going on. I’ve pretty much decided enough was enough and logged out. I just don’t need that in my life right now, and I have pulled that from this site.

However, the whole Internet has really become like that in that I always think I am not really getting daily news on various sites, but either someone pushing an advertisement or pushing their political narrative. Certain news items are news worthy, but many are not. What is selected or emphasized as news on some of the sites out there might not be what really matters.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #1)
What put me into a bit of despair over the past few months to a year is the push of a lot of utopia-type of thinking in articles I have read. Then we have the people that think it is American to shut down free speech by shouting people down if they have an opposing points of view. Have we forgotten what a good portion of the 20th century was about? From the total wars of WW1 and WW2, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Cold War, Pol Pot, The Balkan conflict, and Rwanda to name some of the bigger ones. Utopia thinking and the use of terror have proven to go hand and hand with results that have been never good. The 20th century showed that a utopia can’t happen in this world, and we have to live with imperfection. You may not like what another person says, but you should respect their right to say it.
Hellcat (P.O.F. #4)

The following blogs I will have over the weekend are further thoughts on what Memorial Day means to me. 

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Looking at Birds in Riverside (AKA March Field Air Museum)

(GPS: N33°53.000 W117°16.000) 

The beginning of May marks the anniversary of the hike I did twice in Death Valley to the remains of the SA-16 Albatross. The first time was ten years ago, and the last time was two years ago. Two times were enough for me on that, and while I have no interest in doing that hike ever again I did want to visit the same type of aircraft in person. So, off to a museum I went.

March Field Air Museum in Riverside, CA is located right next to March Air force Base. It has an indoor museum with lots of artifacts and the outside has lots of historical aircraft. I would say a good portion of it is Cold War era aircraft. It was well worth the trip, and I spent about two hours looking around.

After entering the first thing one sees is the SR-71 which takes up a good portion of this part of the museum. I kept trying to backup so I could get the whole thing in one shot, but I had to settle for a panorama shot done in Photoshop. When I was younger I remember the SR-71 being talked about a lot at school. Sometimes with friends, but sometimes in classes I had. The aircraft was legendary in Cold War era reconnaissance missions.
So after going through the various rooms inside of the museum I went outside. After visiting some of the other aircraft I made my way to the HU-16 Albatross. This aircraft was primarily used for search and rescue missions during the Cold War era. Many lives were saved with this plane. The designation changed from SA-16 to HU-16 in the early 1960's. So, while this is a more advanced version of the aircraft, it is basically the same type as the one I visited in Death Valley. Of all the aircraft I visited I spent the most time here for obvious reasons.
The Russian MiG-15. The jet fighter that initially put the fear of God into the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War of the early 1950's. Both fighters and bombers were at a serious disadvantage with this jet. In fact, the bombing campaign strategy that was successful in World War 2 that was attempted in Korea had to be stopped because of the effectiveness of the MiG-15.
The F-86 Sabre. This is the jet that eventually countered the Russian MiG fighter in Korea. By the end of the war it had a better kill ratio compared to the MiG.
The F-4 Phantom II. The Vietnam era jet.
A head-on view.

There is no way I could possibly do this museum justice with all the artifacts and aircraft at the site. I am just showing a small fragment of what they have. In the video you will see a few of the other aircraft I visited, but even that just scratches the surface.

Looking at Birds in Riverside (Youtube Video)

If you haven't seen the hike I did in Death Valley to the SA-16 Albatross remains then the following link will get you there: Hunting a Bird in Death Valley. That will give you the video I did, further links to pictures, as well as links to the original blogs I did for the first time I visited the site ten years ago.

The music used for the Looking at Birds in Riverside video is In the West, The Descent, and Thunderbird.

The official March Field Air Museum has more information about the museum and pictures of all their aircraft.