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B-17 Mid Air Collision 1943

A mid-air collision on February 1, 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot then continued its crashing descent into the rear of the fuselage of a Fortress named All American, piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart, but left some pieces in the B-17. The left horizontal stabilizer of the Fortress and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been cut almost completely through – connected only at two small parts of the frame and the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were damaged. There was also a hole in the top that was over 16 feet long and 4 feet wide at its widest and the split in the fuselage went all the way to the top gunner’s turret.

Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the wind and twisted when the plane turned and all the control cables were severed, except one single elevator cable still worked, and the aircraft still flew – miraculously! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner, the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the All American. Despite the extensive damage, all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove off the fighters. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the All American as it crossed over the Channel and took one of the pictures shown. They also radioed to the base describing that the empennage was “waving like a fish tail” and that the plane would not make it and to send out boats to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been “used” so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

When the ambulance pulled alongside, it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.
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Hitler's Stealth Bomber

Keep in mind, this aircraft was built in the 1940′s. It resembles our Stealth bombers of today. Had Hitler got these into production sooner, the world wouldn’t be what it is today.

With its smooth and elegant lines, this could be a prototype for some future successor to the stealth bomber. But this flying wing was actually designed by the Nazis 30 years before the Americans successfully developed radar-invisible technology. Now an engineering team has reconstructed the Horten Ho 2-29 from blueprints, with startling results.

Blast from the past: The full-scale replica of the Ho 2-29 bomber was made with materials available in the 40s.

Futuristic: The stealth plane design was years ahead of its time

It was faster and more efficient than any other plane of the period and its stealth powers did work against radar. Experts are now convinced that given a little bit more time, the mass deployment of this aircraft could have changed the course of the war.

First built and tested in the air in March 1944, it was designed with a greater range and speed than any plane previously built and was the first aircraft to use the stealth technology now deployed by the U.S. In its B-2 bombers.
Thankfully Hitler’s engineers only made three prototypes, tested by being dragged behind a glider, and were not able to build them on an industrial scale before the Allied forces invaded.
From Panzer tanks through to the V-2 rocket, it has long been recognized that Germany’s technological expertise during the war was years ahead of the Allies.
But by 1943, Nazi high command feared that the war was beginning to turn against them, and were desperate to develop new weapons to help turn the tide.
Nazi bombers were suffering badly when faced with the speed and maneuverability of the Spitfire and other Allied fighters.
Hitler was also desperate to develop a bomber with the range and capacity to reach the United States .
In 1943 Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering demanded that designers come up with a bomber that would meet his requirements, one that could carry 1,000kg over 1,000km flying at 1,000km/h.
A full scale replica of the Ho 229 bomber made with materials available in the 1940s at preflight

A wing section of the stealth bomber. The jet intakes were years ahead of their time. Two pilot brothers in their thirties, Reimar and Walter Horten, suggested a flying wing design they had been working on for years.
They were convinced that with its drag and lack of wind resistance such a plane would meet Goering’s requirements.
Construction on a prototype was begun in Goettingen in Germany in 1944.
The centre pod was made from a welded steel tube, and was designed to be powered by a BMW 003 engine.
The most important innovation was Reimar Horten’s idea to coat it in a mix of charcoal dust and wood glue.

Vengeful: Inventors Reimar and Walter Horten were inspired to build the Ho 2-29 by the deaths of thousands of Luftwaffe pilots in the Battle of Britain.

The 142-foot wingspan bomber was submitted for approval in 1944, and it would have been able to fly from Berlin to NYC and back without refueling, thanks to the same blended wing design and six BMW 003A or eight Junker Jumo 004B turbojets. He thought the electromagnetic waves of radar would be absorbed, and in conjunction with the aircraft’s sculpted surfaces the craft would be rendered almost invisible to radar detectors.
This was the same method eventually used by the U.S. In its first stealth aircraft in the early 1980s, the F-117A Nighthawk.
The plane was covered in radar absorbent paint with a high graphite content, which has a similar chemical make-up to charcoal.
After the war the Americans captured the prototype Ho 2-29s along with the blueprints and used some of their technological advances to aid their own designs.
But experts always doubted claims that the Horten could actually function as a stealth aircraft.
Now using the blueprints and the only remaining prototype craft, Northrop-Grumman (the defense firm behind the B-2) built a full size replica of a Horten Ho 2-29.

Luckily for Britain the Horten flying wing fighter-bomber never got much further than the blueprint stage, above.

Thanks to the use of wood and carbon, jet engines integrated into the fuselage, and its blended surfaces, the plane could have been in London eight minutes after the radar system detected it It took them 2,500 man-hours and $250,000 to construct, and although their replica cannot fly, it was radar-tested by placing it on a 50ft articulating pole and exposing it to electromagnetic waves.
The team demonstrated that although the aircraft is not completely invisible to the type of radar used in the war, it would have been stealthy enough and fast enough to ensure that it could reach London before Spitfires could be scrambled to intercept it.
If the Germans had had time to develop these aircraft, they could well have had an impact, says Peter Murton, aviation expert from the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, in Cambridgeshire.
In theory the flying wing was a very efficient aircraft design which minimized drag.
It is one of the reasons that it could reach very high speeds in dive and glide and had such an incredibly long range.
The research was filmed for a forthcoming documentary on the National Geographic Channel.
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