Pacifying the Philippines

Then and thereafter the victory achieved by policies of J. Franklin Bell was controversial. His concentration policy had successfully isolated Malvar’s guerrillas from the noncombatants. During a four-month campaign, four Americans soldiers were killed and nineteen wounded. The insurgents suffered 147 killed, 104 wounded, and 821 captured, and 2,934 surrendered. For many Americans the testimony of Malvar’s brother-in-law, who was also a province commander, vindicated Bell’s strategy: “The means used in reconcentrating the people, I think, were the only ones by which war could be stopped and peace brought about in the province.” However, there was the troubling fact that Bell’s policies also caused the deaths of about 11,000 civilians.

The problem of civilian deaths emerged by mid-January 1902 when it became apparent that civilians concentrated inside the protected zones faced famine. One American station commander reported that 30,000 civilians had been herded into an area that normally supported 5,000. Bell understood that General Order 100 decreed that the occupying army provide for the occupied. Accordingly, Bell issued orders to make the people cultivate crops inside the zones. He ordered the importation of a tremendous quantity of rice to feed civilians. He ordered his subordinates to bring food from outside the zones back to the towns. At the time he worried that these measures “might possibly create in the minds of some an impression that greater leniency in enforcing” past policies was desired. Not so, he hastened to assure his subordinates.

American food distribution efforts failed to stop the dying. Large numbers of people still went hungry because of the confluence of multiple factors: a natural plague had decimated the water buffalo, the draft animal indispensable for agricultural pursuits; American troops had slaughtered surviving water buffalo wherever they found them outside the zones; the imported rice was thiamine-deficient polished rice that compromised people’s immune systems; field commanders found it difficult to transport food from remote mountain hiding places back to the towns and often ignored this part of Bell’s instructions.

People inside the zones did not starve to death. Rather, the lack of food and the poor nutritional value of what food there was weakened them, making them susceptible to the real killers: the anopheles mosquitos. The mosquitos normally preferred water buffalo blood. Deprived of their usual prey, they turned to human targets, which, by virtue of Bell’s concentration policy, they found conveniently herded in dense masses. Malaria killed thousands. In addition, overcrowded conditions and extremely poor sanitation promoted the killing transmission of measles, dysentery, and eventually cholera. Civilian deaths in Batangas were an unintended consequence of Bell’s policy of concentration and food destruction.

On July 4, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt, who became president after McKinley’s assassination, declared the Philippine Insurrection over and civil government restored. Roosevelt did make a caveat regarding Moro territory, a handful of southern Philippine islands dominated by an Islamic people, but in the general glow of victory few noticed. He issued a fulsome thanks to the army, noting that they had fought with courage and fortitude in the face of enormous obstacles: “Bound themselves by the laws of war, our soldiers were called upon to meet every device of unscrupulous treachery and to contemplate without reprisal the infliction of barbarous cruelties upon their comrades and friendly natives. They were instructed, while punishing armed resistance, to conciliate the friendship of the peaceful, yet had to do with a population among whom it was impossible to distinguish friend from foe, and who in countless instances used a false appearance of friendship for ambush and assassination.”

Roosevelt’s effusive praise notwithstanding, the brutality of Bell’s campaign along with Smith’s crueler campaign fought on the island of Samar brought a Senate inquiry into army misconduct. On May 23, 1902, a senator read a letter purportedly written by a West Point graduate serving in the Philippines that described a reconcentrado pen with a deadline outside. A “corpse-carcass stench” wafted into the writer’s nostrils as he wrote. “At nightfall clouds of vampire bats softly swirl out on their orgies over the dead.”

Roosevelt pledged a full investigation. His adjutant general established the principle for the investigation: “Great as the provocation had been in dealing with foes who habitually resort to treachery, murder, and torture against our men, nothing can justify . . . the use of torture or inhuman conduct of any kind on the part of the American Army.” The subsequent investigation provided sensational allegations supported by extensive testimony. It became clear that torture had taken place and everyone knew it. One major candidly wrote a comrade, “You, as well as I, know that in bringing to a successful issue [the war] certain things will take place not intended by the higher authorities.” Numerous witnesses testified to the use of the “water cure.”

The shooting of unarmed men and the execution of wounded and prisoners also proved to be commonplace. A Maine soldier in the Forty-third Infantry wrote to his local newspaper that “eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolomen and ten of the nigger gunners . . . When we find one that is not dead, we have bayonets.” The official War Department report for 1900 revealed how widespread was the practice of finishing off wounded insurgents. The U.S. Army had killed 14,643 insurgents and wounded a mere 3,297. This ratio was the inverse of military experience dating back to the American Civil War and could only be explained by the slaughter of the wounded. When asked about this during the Senate inquiry, MacArthur blithely explained that it was due to the superior marksmanship of the well-trained U.S. soldiers.

MacArthur, like the other senior commanders in the Philippines, had issued orders and guidelines against coercive behavior while acknowledging that sometimes field conditions required extraordinary behavior. The senators accepted this explanation. In the end, the Senate inquiry documented frequent American excursions outside the bounds of behavior permitted by the laws of war while whitewashing the conduct of the officers in charge. This conclusion satisfied Roosevelt, who had promised to back the army wherever it operated lawfully and legitimately. Thereafter, Roosevelt kept faith with the hard men of the Philippines. During his administration he named Adna Chaffee and later J. Franklin Bell to the army’s highest post, chief of staff of the U.S. Army. For Chaffee it represented an unprecedented climb that began as a Civil War private. For Bell, it represented vindication after the humiliating Senate inquiry.


The collapse of the organized insurgency in the Philippines removed the islands from the forefront of American consciousness. The tactics employed to squash the guerrillas disillusioned Americans and most were happy to forget about the distant islands as soon as possible. Thereafter American history recalled the sinking of the battleship Maine, Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and the “Splendid Little War” against Spain. Yet the Spanish-American War had lasted only months, while the Philippine Insurrection officially persisted for more than three years and involved four times as many American soldiers. Regardless, few Americans paid attention to what had transpired in the Philippines until forty years later when a new event, Arthur MacArthur’s son Douglas’s doomed defense of the islands against Japanese invasion, superseded all else. Subsequently, even military historians largely disregarded the Philippine Insurrection until American involvement in Vietnam compelled renewed interest in how to fight Asian guerrillas.

By 1902, officers who served in the Philippines came to a near unanimous conclusion that commitment to a policy of attraction had prolonged the conflict. Colonel Arthur Murray expressed a combat soldier’s view. When he first assumed regimental command, Murray opposed punitive measures because they caused innocent people to suffer and turned potentially friendly people into insurgents. His experience on the ground changed his mind: “If I had my work out there to do over again, I would do possibly a little more killing and considerably more burning than I did.” Most officers concluded that the key to a successful counterinsurgency was decisive military action employing severe policies of chastisement. To their minds, the Filipino insurgents had given up the fight for the same reasons Robert E. Lee surrendered: both were unwilling to endure the pain that continued resistance would bring. As an inhabitant of Batangas explained in an interview decades after the conflict had ended, “When the people realized that they were overpowered they were forced to accept the Americans.”

When the Americans invaded in 1899, victory depended upon the suppression of violent opposition to the United States by replacing the control exercised by the Philippine revolutionary government with American control. The American solution had three components. First was to persuade the Filipinos that they were better off under the American vision of their future. This effort came quite naturally because Americans sincerely believed it. In American minds, the Spanish had exploited the islands. The revolutionary government continued both the exploitation and the entrenched, Spanish-style inefficiency and corruption. The Americans had no particular insight into Filipino “hearts and minds.” Without any extensive thought, they assumed that Filipinos—indeed, all reasonable people—wanted what Americans wanted. So both military officers and civilian administrators worked hard to make real physical improvements to show the Filipinos that their future was brighter under American rule. This notion guided the policy of attraction.

The second component of American pacification emerged when American leaders realized that attraction alone was insufficient. The military had to devise a way to end the insurgent hold on the people. In some areas the Americans were able to exploit ethnic, religious, or class differences to enlist native support. With the help of collaborators, the Americans identified and eliminated insurgent operatives. But in areas where resistance was the fiercest and the fear of insurgent retaliation too high, collaborators did not appear. So the American pacification effort forcibly separated the insurgents from the people by concentrating them in the so-called protected zones.

The third component of American pacification was military field operations. The field operations were essential to prevent guerrillas from massing against isolated American outposts and to deny them opportunities to rest and recover. Naturally most officers preferred such operations because they better represented the war for which they had trained. Likewise, their soldiers, particularly the volunteers who had come seeking adventure and fighting, preferred “chastisement” to attraction. As one lieutenant noted, the American soldier was a poor “peace soldier” but a mighty “war soldier.” Victory in the field came from the skilled practice of recognized military craft: scouting, march security, aggressive small-unit action. The American three-part strategy was like a tripod: without any one of the three legs it would collapse.

On a strategic level, the Philippine Insurrection highlighted the vital role of the civilian population. An insurgency could not be suppressed as long as the insurgents readily blended into a supportive general population. Accordingly, the army used a variety of measures to control the population while destroying the insurgent infrastructure, the shadow government. This destruction could not progress without Filipino assistance. In most areas, the people waited until they saw that the American army could protect them from insurgent terror before they supported the Americans. In southern Luzon, J. Franklin Bell found ways to compel civilian collaboration by extreme force, thereby proving himself to be, in the words of Matt Batson, “the real terror of the Philippines.”

An analysis of how the Americans won must recognize notable weaknesses and blunders committed by the insurgent leadership. Simply stated, the man at the top, Emilio Aguinaldo, was an inept military commander. After losing a conventional war to the Spanish, Aguinaldo and his subordinates adopted the same approach to fight the Americans. The result was an unbroken chain of tactical defeats that wiped out the best insurgent units. Only then did Aguinaldo opt for what always was his best strategic choice, guerrilla warfare.

The ilustrado class chose not to appeal to latent Filipino nationalism because they feared losing their hold on society. Consequently, the revolution of 1898 did not change the lives of most Filipinos. For centuries Filipinos had been forced by the Spanish to accommodate a colonial culture. Before the revolution a local elite had controlled the peasants’ daily life. The transition from Spanish to revolutionary government did not change this essential fact of life. The Americans came and made their own, but hardly new, set of demands. Now both the revolutionary government and the Americans levied taxes, administered justice, and used force as the ultimate suasion. A Filipino, poor or rich, assessed his prospects and either picked a side or tried to stay removed from the fray. The most adroit straddled both sides, portraying themselves as supporters of whichever side presented the most immediate peril. In the words of Glenn May, one of the conflict’s foremost modern historians, for an insurgency “to win any war with lukewarm public support is difficult enough; to win a guerrilla war on one’s own soil under those circumstances is virtually impossible.”

The insurgents suffered from a crippling lack of firearms and ammunition. Although the Filipinos tried to purchase weapons from other countries, they were seldom successful. Geography played a role. The U.S. Navy interdicted most vessels trying to deliver supplies for the insurgents, an operation made easy by the fact that no foreign government became involved in the supply effort. In addition, the navy prevented cooperation among the Filipino leaders on different islands. The Americans also benefited hugely from the fact that their enemy had no secure areas, no sanctuaries that were out of bounds to American intervention.

Throughout the war, the Americans could and did isolate the battlefield and bring overwhelming firepower to bear. This was not the indiscriminate firepower of a B-52 bomber or a battery of 155 mm howitzers. Rather, it was most often the firepower of a foot soldier sighting his Krag-Jorgensen rifle. Against the massive American superiority, the guerrillas could conduct pinprick raids but there was nothing they could do to change the calculus of battle. Their only chance was that the American public might turn against the war. At first the insurgents invested great hope that Bryan would defeat McKinley. While there was a spirited anti-imperialist movement at the turn of the century, it never achieved wide political support among voting Americans.

McKinley’s reelection reduced the anti-imperialists to harassing the administration without being able to change national strategy. It left the insurgents with only the hope that America would grow war-weary and abandon the struggle. American soldiers fighting in the Philippines keenly understood the vital importance of domestic support for the war. Brigadier General Robert P. Hughes, who served as provost marshal of Manila, told the Senate committee that it was the universal opinion of everyone who went to the Philippines “that the main element in pacifying the Philippines is a settled policy in America.”

The Senate Committee in January 1902 asked Taft if a safe and honorable method for withdrawal from the Philippines could be devised. He replied no and elaborated that at the present moment an assessment of the effort to end the insurgency was too bound up in politics. However, “when the facts become known, as they will be known within a decade . . . history will show, and when I say history I mean the accepted judgment of the people . . . that the course we are now pursuing is the only course possible.”


While most American historians cite the campaign in the Philippines as an outstanding counterinsurgency success, little mention is made of what took place after Roosevelt declared the war over on July 4, 1902. Five years after the declaration of peace, 20 percent of the entire U.S. Army still remained in the Philippines. American involvement in the islands was costing American taxpayers millions of dollars a year in an era when $1 million represented an enormous sum.

The U.S. Army handed responsibility for keeping the peace to the Philippine Constabulary, who found that they had their hands very full indeed. In all guerrilla wars, the distinction between insurgents and bandits becomes blurred. In the war’s aftermath, armed men accustomed to preying on the civilian population to obtain their material needs often find it difficult to stop. Jesse James comes to mind. In the Philippines this class of men were known as ladrones, or brigands.

The ladrones had been active before the Americans came; some became notable participants in the fight against the Americans, and many continued to operate after the peace. They imposed their will through intimidation and terror while specializing in rustling, extortion, and robbery. In the province of Albay, on Luzon’s southern tip, armed resistance resumed in the middle of 1902. The Americans insisted on calling them “bandits,” although their numbers peaked at some 1,500 men and they operated according to a military structure. The “bandits” held out for more than a year in the face of a brutal counterinsurgency campaign fought by members of the Philippine Constabulary and Philippine Scouts commanded by American officers. Elsewhere, a former guerrilla proclaimed the “Republic of Katagalugan” with the goal of opposing U.S. sovereignty. He surrendered in July 1906 and was duly executed. As late as 1910, Constabulary agents in Batangas warned that a shadowy organization whose roots stemmed from the fight against the Americans was preparing a new insurrection.

In Samar, late in 1902 armed bands again descended from the mountainous interior to raid coastal villages. They were a mix of ladrones, never-say-die common soldiers, and a bizarre mystical sect. The Constabulary fought a losing battle against them until 1904, at which point the U.S. Army intervened. The subsequent fighting on Samar became so tough that American insurance companies refused policies to junior officers bound for this region. The violence continued until 1911.

Roosevelt’s proclamation of peace had little impact on the Moros, a collection of some ten different ethnic groups who lived among the southern islands and followed the Islamic faith. They constituted about 10 percent of the Philippine population and were not racially different from other Filipinos but had been long separated due to their Islamic beliefs. Their conflict with ruling powers, in particularly Christians and Tagalogs, went back centuries. On Mindanao and Jolo in particular, they battled against the U.S. occupation troops in an effort to establish a separate sovereignty. A three-year campaign involving Captain John J. Pershing among others officially ended the so-called Moro Rebellion. Yet here too fighting continued past the official close of the conflict. Indeed, close-quarter combat convinced the army to introduce the Colt .45 automatic pistol in 1911, a weapon with enough stopping power to drop in his tracks the fanatical Muslim tribesman. Fighting persisted through 1913 but the Moro dream of sovereignty did not die with the advent of peace. This dream again spawned an insurgency in the 1960s, this time directed against the Philippine government. The violence continues to this day as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front struggles with the Philippine government and Al Qaeda–linked groups maintain training centers on the island of Jolo and elsewhere. Thus, the dictates of the worldwide “War on Terror” send U.S. Special Forces to the same areas that witnessed the Moro Rebellion.

While the Philippine insurgency still raged, two insightful men, one a war correspondent, the other an army colonel, contemplated the future for both Americans and Filipinos. The war correspondent, Albert Robinson, respected the Filipinos and deeply believed that they deserved self-rule. But he recognized this would not come easily. He thought that aspiring Filipino politicians lacked balance, a feat achieved in America by virtue of the embedded checks and balances in the Constitution as well as a cultural tradition. In time, he judged, the Filipinos would acquire this balance, but until that time the United States was “morally committed” to protecting “against disorder arising out of struggle for leadership.” This protection required American cultural sensitivity in the form of tact and restraint: “The great danger in American interference in Filipino affairs lies in the idea that American ways are best and right, and regardless of established habit, custom, and belief, these ways must be accepted by any and all people.”

At the end of 1901 a Colonel who had served as military governor of Cebu wrote eloquently about the possibility that the Philippines would one day enjoy the American promise of government for and by the people. Toward that lofty goal it was necessary to work hard to educate the Filipinos about self-government. Such education would take time: “We, and they, will be fortunate if it be secured in a generation.” He warned that many Americans underestimated Filipino mistrust of Americans and misunderstood how Filipino nationalism motivated their opposition to U.S. controls. The colonel observed that “too many Americans are inclined to think the struggle over” and the work of establishing a stable, just government nearly completed. They were wrong, he claimed, and added that guerrilla warfare would persist for years. He asserted that the correct American response was the sincere promotion of justice coupled with patience. This goal required the selection of “Americans of character, learning, experience and integrity” to implement civil government. “The islands are now ours, for better or worse,” he wrote. “Let us make it for the better by looking the future bravely in the face, without for one moment losing interest in our work. Above all, let it be a national and not a party question.”

During the war almost every unit in the United States Army served at one time or another in the Philippines. Here the army enjoyed its greatest counterinsurgency success in its history. Yet then and thereafter the army was not particularly enamored with its victory. Since its birth during the American Revolution, the army had measured itself against conventional European armies. With this mind-set, it viewed the Philippine Insurrection as an exception, something distasteful and outside its true role. Henceforth, it was more than willing to cede responsibility for fighting the nation’s “small wars” to a rival service, the United States Marine Corps. So the hard-earned lessons of a nasty fight against Filipino insurgents were quickly forgotten as army planners refocused on conventional warfare against European foes.

Variants of the ‘Man in the Missile’ Starfighter

By: Raul Colon

‘Man on a Missile’, that’s how many Starfighter pilots referred to their experience flying one of the most intriguing aircraft ever developed: the Lockheed F-104. From its conception, the Starfighter was one of the most revolutionary airplanes in the history of aviation.

Its clean lines, powerful engine and advanced electronic and weapon packages made the F-104 one of the most powerful platforms in the world. Ahead of its time by years, the Starfighter would be used by many NATO air forces for decades.

There were a total of 19 variants of the Starfighter. Most of them were flown by overseas customers such as Japan, Canada and Italy, which continued to operate the air superiority fighter well into the 2000s.

Although several units had longer airframes (by fractions), all 19 versions were similar in their fuselage profile. The F-104 had a length of 55 feet, a wingspan of just 22 feet with a total wing area of 196 square feet, including a part that was enclosed in the fuselage. The wing structure had a very thin low aspect ratio (probably the thinnest wing ever employed) for high speed enhanced performance.

1. F-104A: This was the first production version. Fitted with a General Electric (GE) J79-3A engine capable of generating 14,800 pounds of thrust, the A model could reach speeds upward Mach 2. Its operational range was an impressive 1,450 nautical miles with its full complements (2 removable wingtip tanks) of fuel tanks. Armed with the famous M61-A-1 Vulcan Cannon and two, first generation AIM-9B Sidewinder air-to-air missile, the ‘A’ was a powerful offensive machine. At the heart of the model attacking capability was the sophisticated AN-ASG 14T-1 Fire and Control System. Early units were fitted with downward ejections seats, but in the second delivery batch, those were replaced by the C2 upward platform. The A version also had the distinction of being the first aircraft fitted with the Boundary Layer Control mechanism. One hundred and fifty three (153) F-104As were developed.

2. F-104B: This was a two seated version of the A model. It had the same power plant and overall dimensions. The two main differences were maximum takeoff weight and the Vulcan gun. In the B, top operational weight was slightly lower (23,535 to 24,528). Unlike the early 104s, the B did not incorporate a forward firing gun. It did have the pylons to carry the two Sidewinders and was fitted with the 14T-1 Fire and Control system. Lockheed produced 26 of this type.

3. F-104C: Seventy seven (77) of this all-weather fighter-bomber were produced, all for the United States Air Force’s Tactical Air Command. The C model introduced the platform for the first time to a new in-flight refueling system that employing a probe fitted on the left side of the cockpit. Another innovation present in this version was the Blown Flaps (BF) mechanism added to improve the plane’s takeoff capability. A new and improved power plant (J79GE-7) capable of generating up wards of 15,000 pounds of thrust with afterburning was also introduce with this configuration. Total operational range was achieved at 1,640 nautical miles. This particular unit suffered from engine failures that caused the loss of 24 aircraft and nine pilots. Eventually, those problems were resolve and the version remained in service for nearly 35 years.

4. F-104D: Only 24 ‘D’s were ever produced. This version was basically an enhance ‘C’ unit with some refinements. It had the same engine and navigational system of its predecessor. It’s main different was the absence of the M-61 Gatling Gun.

5. F-104DJ: This unit was an special version develop for the Japanese Air Self Defense Force. It was fitted with the J79GE-11A engine capable of generating 15,800lbs of thrust and no Gatling Gun, this was essentially an upgraded D model. Only 20 units were developed.

6. F-104F: This 30-plane strong batch was developed for the West German Air Force. Its frame was a replica of the DJ’s one. The standard packaged of this version was the same of the Super Starfighter (F-104G).

7. F-104G Super Starfighter: The most produced (1,127 total units) member of the class, the G proved went on to be the standard bear of the platform. No less than 8 companies (Canadair in Canada, Fiat in Italy, Fokker in the Netherlands, Lockheed in the US, MBB and Messerschmitt in West Germany, Mitsubishi in Japan and SABCA/Fairy in Belgium) participated in the 13 (June 1960 to October 1973) year production run. The Super as many pilots referred to it, was a modified C version with a reinforce frame, larger tail area with a fully powered rudder system. It also had engagement maneuvering flaps with a new avionic package that included the famous Autonetics F15-A North American Search and Raging System (NASRR). The model was powered by a revised J79GE-11A engine capable of generating 15,600 pounds of thrust. Maximum speed was Mach 2.2 with an operational range of 1,628 nm. Another improvement over previous versions was the incorporation of a more advance navigational system: the Litton LN3. Introduce in the platform for the first time in its history was an internal bombing computer linked to the NASRS and the LN3.

8. RF-104GL: This was the tactical reconnaissance version of the ‘G’ model. It had the same fuselage characteristics of the previous unit, but instead of having its offensive package installed on the nose cone (Vulcan Cannon); this plane carried the highly sensitive KS-67a camera. It was also fitted with a flat sided fixed ventral pods for enhance stability. One hundred and eighty nine (189) ‘GL’s were built by Fiat, Fokker and Lockheed between 1964 and 1968.

9. TF-104G: Is a common mistake to associate this version with a training platform due to its ‘T’ designation. But in fact, this was a highly regarded two setter tactical attack aircraft similar in its performing envelop to the F-104G. Like the G, it also carried the advance NASRR and LN3 systems.

10. CF-104: This was a Canadian built version of the ‘G’ model. Internal characteristics and performing profile matched that of the Super Starfighter. They had the same NASRR system. Instead of the Vulcan Cannon, the CF carried the less expensive M61 Gatling Gun. It was powered by a J79OEL-7 engine (15,800lbs of thrust). Two (200) hundreds units were built. All by Canadair.

11. CF-104D: Basically a two seat version of the CF without the M61 gun. Only 38 were developed. Most of them were use as primary trainers.

12. JF-104: This was three unit batch specially modified for NASA and the US Air Force Strategic Air Command. Aside the inclusion of the NASRR and LN3 systems in a ‘G’ version fuselage, no additional data exists on this platform.

13. F-104J: Another version built exclusively for the Japanese ASDF. A total of 209 units, 206 of them by Mitsubishi, were produced. This particular model is a replica of the ‘G’ model.

14. F-104N: Is another common misconception to believe all attached planes with the N designation have to become a nuclear delivery platform. Such is the case with this version. The 104N was a dedicated research aircraft utilized by NASA to test the limits of air frame endurance at high drag profiles. Because of the nature of the airplane, no weapon system was installed. Only three unites were ever built.

15. NF-104A: As with the 104N, this was test bed plane. But instead of being fielded by NASA, the NF-104A was a US Air Force advance research units. The one different between those two test aircrafts was that the A carried a 6,000 pounds thrust rocket in the tail end structure. It also had extended wing tips as well as a new reaction jet control mechanism. As before, only three units were built.

16. QF-104A: The Lockheed Company, in conjunction with Sperry Phoenix, modified 24 F-104As as target drones. These target platforms were use between the summer of 1968 to the spring of 1973.

17. XF-104: This is the first platform built. Designed and develop by Lockheed’s famous Skunk Works division, two of this first generation versions were produce. The unit was powered by a non-afterburning Wright XJ-65 engine capable of producing 10,200 pounds of thrust. This power plant gave the XF a top operational speed of Mach 1.78 and a range of 800 nm. Its armament consisted on a M-61 Gatling Gun a K-19 Fire and Control System and the AN-APG34 Radar.

18. YF-104A: Seventeen (17) units were developed. This was basically an XF airframe, although a bit larger (54.77 feet compare to 49.17), with a more powerful engine (J79-GE-3A with 14,800 lbs of thrust). The plane also featured a newly designed supersonic conical inlets first seen in the XF version.

19. F-104S: The ‘S’ model has the distinction of being the last produce version of the Starfighter. These units, totaling 247, were built by Fiat and were intended sorely for both, the Italian and Turkish air forces. It was an advance, multi purposed aircraft capable of acting as an interceptor and/or tactical bombing platform. The interceptor mode carried an R-21G NASARR system and the AIM7 Sparrow II and AIM9 Sidewinder I missile. Its frame dimensions equal that of other F-104s. It had a J79-GE-19 engine (11,800lbs thrust) capable of generating speed upwards to Mach 2.2. Operational range was 1,589 nm. The production run for these units lasted from December 1968 until March 1979. A modernized ‘S’ version was built in October 1979. Only three samples were produce. All featuring an updated weapon package, a Look Down-Shoot Down Radar and the introduction of the Aspide 1A air-to-air missile.

African Wars 1919–1939

Just as Africans were taking their first, tentative steps towards nationhood and independence, Spain and Italy launched what turned out to be the last large-scale wars of conquest on the continent, in Morocco and Abyssinia. Both nations were driven by greed and historic grievances which alleged that their legitimate imperial ambitions had been frustrated or overlooked by the great powers. Jealousy and bruised pride were most strongly felt by right-wing politicians, professional soldiers, moneymen and journalists who lobbied for imperial expansion, promising that it would yield prestige and profit. In Italy, aggressive imperialism and an infatuation with the glories of the Roman Empire were central to the ideology of Mussolini’s Fascist Party which snatched power in 1922. Like Spain, Italy was a relatively poor country with limited capital reserves and industrial resources, deficiencies that were ignored or glossed over by imperial enthusiasts who argued that in the long term imperial wars would pay for themselves.

In 1900 Spain was a nation in eclipse. Over the past hundred years it had been occupied by Napoleon and endured periodic civil wars over the royal succession; it entered the twentieth century riven by violent social and political tensions. Spain’s infirmity was brutally exposed in 1898, when she was defeated by the United States in a short war that ended with the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, all that remained of her vast sixteenth-century empire.

National shame was most deeply felt in the upper reaches of a hierarchical society where the conviction took root that Spain could only redeem and regenerate itself by a colonial venture in Morocco. Support for this enterprise was most passionate among the numerous officers of the Spanish army (there was one for every forty-seven soldiers), who found allies in King Alfonso XIII, the profoundly superstitious and obscurantist Catholic Church and conservatives in the middle and landowning classes. The army had its own newspaper, El Ejército Español, which proclaimed that empire was the ‘birthright’ of all Spaniards, and predicted that ‘weapons’ would ‘plough the virgin soil so that agriculture, industry, and mining might flourish’ in Morocco.

Morocco was Spain’s new El Dorado. In 1904 Spain and France secretly agreed to share Morocco, with the French coming off best with the most fertile regions. Spain’s portion was the littoral of the Mediterranean coast and the inaccessible Atlas Mountains of the Rif, home to the fiercely independent Berbers. The war began in 1909 and jubilant officers, including the young Francisco Franco, looked forward to medals and promotion, while investors touted for mining and agricultural concessions. Optimism dissolved on the battlefield and, within a year, the Spanish army found itself bogged down in a guerrilla war, just as it had in Cuba forty years before. Reinforcements were hastily summoned, but in July 1909 the mobilisation of reservists triggered a popular uprising among the workers of Barcelona. Breadwinners and their families wanted no part in the Moroccan adventure, and henceforward all left-wing parties opposed a war that offered the workers nothing but conscription and death. Resentful draftees had to be stiffened by Moroccan levies (Regulares) and, in 1921, the sinister Spanish Foreign Legion (Tercio de Extranjeros), a band of mostly Spanish desperadoes whose motto was ‘Viva la Muerte!’ These hirelings once appeared at a ceremonial public parade with Berber heads, ears and arms spiked on their bayonets.

Resistance was strongest among the Berbers of the Atlas, who not only defended their mountainous homeland but created their own state, the Rif Republic, in September 1921. Its founder and guiding spirit was a charismatic visionary, Abd el-Krim, a jurist who had once worked for the Spanish, but believed that the future freedom, happiness and prosperity of the Berbers could only be achieved by the creation of a modern, independent nation. It had its own flag, issued banknotes and, under el-Krim’s direction, was embarking on a programme of social and economic regeneration which included efforts to eliminate slavery. The Riffian army was well suited to a partisan war. Its soldiers were chiefly horsemen armed with up-to-date rifles, supported by machineguns and modern artillery. The Riffians also had good luck, for they were pitched against an army with tenuous lines of communications and led by fumbling generals.

General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre y Pantiga

Riffian superiority in the battlefield was spectacularly proved in July 1921, when Spain launched an offensive with 13,000 men designed to penetrate the Atlas foothills and secure a decisive victory. What followed was the most catastrophic defeat ever suffered by a European army in Africa, the Battle of Annual. The Spanish were outmanoeuvred, trapped and trounced with a loss of over 10,000 men in the fighting and ensuing rout. Officers fled in cars, the wounded were abandoned and tortured, and their commander, General Manuel Fernandez Silvestre y Pantiga, shot himself. The circumstances of his death were ironic, insofar as his manly bearing and extended, bushy and painstakingly groomed moustache so closely fitted the European stereotype of the victorious imperial hero. A post-mortem on the Annual debacle revealed Silvestre’s reckless over-confidence, his obsequious desire to satisfy King Alfonso XIII’s wish for a quick victory, ramshackle logistics, a precipitate collapse of morale and the mass desertions of Moroccan Regulares.

Spain responded with more botched offensives, but now the deficiencies of its commanders were offset by the latest military technology. Phosgene and mustard gas bombs dropped from aircraft would bring the Riffians to their knees. This tactic was strongly urged by Alfonso XIII, a Bourbon with all the mental limitations and prejudices of his ancestors. Together, his generals persuaded him that, if unchecked, the Republic of the Rif would trigger ‘a general uprising of the Muslim world at the instigation of Moscow and international Jewry’. Spain was now fighting to save Christian civilisation, just as it had done in the Middle Ages when its armies had driven the Moors from the Iberian peninsula.

The technology for what are now called weapons of mass destruction had to be imported. German scientists supervised the manufacture of the poison gas at two factories, one of which, near Madrid, was named ‘The Alfonso XIII Factory’. Over 100 bombers were purchased from British and French manufacturers, including the massive Farman F.60 Goliath. By November 1923 the preparations had been completed, and one general hoped that the gas offensive would exterminate the Rif tribesmen.

Between 1923 and 1925 the Spanish air force pounded Rif towns and villages with 13,000 bombs filled with phosgene and mustard gas as well as conventional high explosives. Victims suffered sores, boils, blindness and the burning of skin and lungs, livestock were killed and crops and vegetation withered. Residual contamination persisted and was a source of stomach and throat cancers and genetic damage.4 Details of these atrocities remained hidden for seventy years, and in 2007 the Spanish parliament refused to acknowledge them or consider compensation. The Moroccan government disregarded the revelations, for fear that they might add to the grievances of the discontented Berber minority.

Conventional rather than chemical weapons brought down the Rif Republic. Worrying signs that Spain’s war in the Rif might destabilise French Morocco drew France into the conflict in 1925. Over 100,000 French troops, tanks and aircraft were deployed alongside 80,000 Spaniards, and the outnumbered Riffian forces were broken. Newsreel cameramen (a novelty on colonial battlefields) filmed the captive Abd el-Krim as he began the first stage of his journey to exile in Réunion in the Indian Ocean. He was transferred to France in 1947 and was later moved to Cairo where he died in 1963, a revered elder statesman of North African nationalism.


Spain had gained a colony and, unwittingly, a Frankenstein’s monster, the Army of Africa (Cuerpo de Ejército Marroquí). Its cadre of devout, reactionary officers assumed the role of the defenders of traditionalism in a country beset by political turbulence after the abdication of Alfonso in 1931. Politicians of the Right saw the Africanistas (as the officer corps was called) as ideological accomplices in their struggle to contain the trade unions, Socialists, Communists and Anarchists. The Moroccan garrison became a praetorian guard that could be unleashed on the working classes if they ever got out of hand. They did, in October 1934, when the miners’ strike in the Asturias aroused fears of an imminent Red revolution. It was forestalled by application of the terror that had recently been used to subdue Spanish Morocco. Aircraft bombed centres of disaffection and the Foreign Legion and Moroccan troops were summoned to restore order and storm the strikers’ stronghold at Oviedo. Its capture and subsequent mopping-up operations were marked by looting, rape and summary executions by the Legionaries and Regulares. Franco (now a general) presided over the terror. Like his fellow Africanistas, he believed that it was their sacred duty to rescue the old Spain of landowners, priests and the passive and obedient masses from the depredation of godless Communists and Anarchists.

Red revolution seemed to come closer on New Year’s Day 1936 with the emergence of a coalition government which called itself the ‘Popular Front’. It was confirmed in power by a narrow margin in a general election soon afterwards, and the far Left began clamouring for radical reform and wage rises. Strikes, assassinations and violent demonstrations proliferated during the spring and early summer, the Right trembled, acquired arms and covertly sounded out the Africanista generals. Together they contrived a coup whose success depended on the 40,000 soldiers of the Moroccan garrison who made up two-fifths of the Spanish army.

On 17 July 1936 Africa, in the form of Legionary and Regulares units from Morocco, invaded Spain. They were the spearhead of the Nationalist uprising and were soon reinforced by contingents flown across the Mediterranean in aircraft supplied by Hitler. Combined with local anti-Republican troops and right-wing volunteers, the African army quickly secured a power base across much of south-western and northern Spain. From the start, the Nationalists used their African troops to terrorise the Republicans. Speaking on Radio Seville, General Gonzalo Queipo de Llano warned his countrymen and women of the promiscuity and sexual prowess of his Moroccan soldiers who, he assured listeners, had already been promised their pick of the women of Madrid.

The colonial troops fulfilled his expectations. There were mass rapes everywhere by Legionaries and Regulares, who also massacred Republican civilians. Later, George Orwell noticed that Moroccan soldiers enjoyed beating up fellow International Brigade prisoners of war, but desisted once their victims uttered exaggerated howls of pain. One wonders whether their brutality was the result of their suppressed loathing of all white men rather than any attachment to Fascism or the Spain of the hidalgo and the cleric. Muslim religious leaders in Morocco had backed the uprising, which was sold to them as a war against atheism. As the Regulares marched into Seville they were given Sacred Heart talismans by pious women, which must have been bewildering.

When the Republicans were finally defeated in the spring of 1939, there were 50,000 Moroccans and 9,000 Legionaries fighting in the Nationalist army along with German and Italian contingents. Although necessity compelled him to concentrate his energies on national reconstruction, Franco, now dictator of Spain, harboured imperial ambitions. The fall of France in June 1940 offered rich pickings and he immediately occupied French Tangier. Shortly afterwards, when he met Hitler, Franco named his price for cooperation with Germany as French Morocco, Oran and, of course, Gibraltar. The Führer was peeved by his temerity and prevaricated. Fascist Spain remained a malevolent neutral; early in 1941 the tiny Spanish coastal colonies of Guinea and Fernando Po were sources of anti-British propaganda and bases for German agents in West Africa.7 Spanish anti-Communist volunteers joined Nazi forces in Russia.


Franco’s demands had been modest compared to those made by Mussolini, for whom the French surrender was a heaven-sent opportunity to implement his long-term plans for a vast Italian empire in Africa. In 1940 he asked the Germans for Corsica, Tunisia, Djibuti and naval bases at Toulon, Ajaccio and Mers-el-Kebir on the Algerian coast, and he was planning to invade the Sudan and British Somaliland. Mussolini’s flights of fancy extended to the annexation of Kenya, Egypt and even, in their giddier moments, Nigeria and Liberia.8 Hitler’s response was frosty, for at that time his Foreign Ministry was preparing a blueprint ‘to rationalise colonial development for the benefit of Europe’. An enlarged Italian empire was not part of this plan.

Fascism had always been about conquest. As a young misfit spitefully living on the margins of society, Mussolini had convinced himself that ‘only blood could turn the bloodstained wheels of history’. This remained his creed: violence was a valid and desirable means for a government to gets its own way at home and abroad. ‘I don’t give a damn!’ was the slogan of Mussolini’s Blackshirt hoodlums, and he applauded it as ‘evidence of a fighting spirit which accepts all the risks’. Violence was essential for Italy to attain both its rightful place in the world and the territorial empire that would uphold its pretensions. Yet Mussolini’s projected empire was not just about accumulating power: he promised that it would, like its Roman predecessor, bring enlightenment to its subjects. Italians were fitted for this noble task for, as the Duce insisted, ‘It is our spirit that has put our civilisation on the by-ways of the world.’

Cinema informed the masses of the ideals and achievements of the new Rome. A propaganda short of 1937 entitled Scipione l’Africano blended past and present glories. There was footage of Mussolini’s recent visit to Libya, where he is seen watching a spectacular enactment of Scipio’s victory over Carthage with elephants and Italian soldiers dressed as Roman legionaries. It was followed by scenes of a mock Roman triumph alternated with shots of the new Caesar, Mussolini, inspecting his troops. There are also images of babies and mothers surrounded by children as a reminder of the Duce’s campaign to raise the birth rate, which would, among other things, provide a million colonists for an enlarged African empire.

Fascism’s civilising mission was graphically portrayed in the opening sequence of the 1935 propaganda film Ti Saluto, Vado in Abissinia, produced by the Fascist Colonial Institute. Against a soundtrack of discordant music there is grisly footage of shackled slaves, a baby crying as its cheeks are scored with tribal marks, a leper, dancing women, an Abyssinian ras (prince) in his exotic regalia, the Emperor Haile Selassie on horseback inspecting modern infantrymen and, to please male cinemagoers, close-ups of naked girls dancing. Darkness and grotesque images give way to light with the first bars of the jaunty popular song of the film’s title, and there follows a sequence of young, cheerful soldiers in tropical kit boarding a troopship on the first stage of their journey to claim this benighted land for civilisation. Newsreels celebrated the triumphs of ‘progress’: one showed a Somali village ‘where the machinery imported by our farmers helps the natives to till the fertile soil’, and in another King Victor Emmanuel inspects hospitals and waterworks in Libya. In the press, Fascist hacks flattered Italy as ‘the mother of civilisation’ and ‘the most intelligent of nations’.


Progress required Fascist order. Within a year of Mussolini’s seizure of power in 1922, operations began to secure Libya completely, in particular the south-western desert region of Fezzan. Progress was slow, despite aircraft, armoured cars and tanks, and so in 1927 Italy, like Spain, reached for phosgene and mustard gas. Under Marshal Rodolfo Graziani, Italian forces pressed inland across the Sahara, herded rebels and their families into internment camps and hanged captured insurgents. The fighting dragged on for a further four years, and ended with the capture, trial and public execution in 1931 of the capable and daring partisan leader, Omar el-Mukhtar. Like Abd el-Krim, he became a hero to later generations of North African nationalists: there are streets named after him in Cairo and Gaza.

Somalia too got a stiff dose of Fascist discipline. Indirect rule was abandoned, and the client chiefs who had effectively controlled a third of the colony were brought to heel by a war waged between 1923 and 1927. The bill swelled Somalia’s debts, which were slightly reduced by a programme of investment in irrigation and cash crops, all of which were subsidised by Rome. Italians were compelled to buy Somalian bananas, but their consumption merely staved off insolvency. The flow of immigrants was disappointingly small: in 1940 there were 854 Italian families tilling the Libyan soil and 1,500 settlers in Somalia.

Having tightened Italy’s grip over Libya and Somalia, Mussolini turned to what was, for all patriots, the unfinished business of Abyssinia, where an Italian army had suffered an infamous defeat at Adwa in 1896. Fascism would restore national honour and add a potentially rich colony to the new Roman Empire, which would soon be filled by settlers.

Known as Ethiopia by its Emperor and his subjects, Abyssinia was one of the largest states in Africa, covering 472,000 square miles, and it had been independent for over a thousand years. It was ruled by Haile Selassie, ‘Lion of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia’, a benevolent absolutist who traced his descent to Solomon and Sheba. His autocracy had the spiritual support of the Coptic Church, which preached the virtues of submission to the Emperor and the aristocracy. One nobleman, Ras Gugsa Wale, summed up the political philosophy of his caste: ‘It is best for Ethiopia to live according to ancient custom as of old and it would not profit her to follow European civilisation.’

Nevertheless, that civilisation was encroaching on Abyssinia and would continue to do so. In 1917 the railway between French Djibuti and Addis Ababa had been opened; among other goods transported were consignments of modern weaponry for Haile Selassie’s army and embryonic air force (it had four planes in 1935), and European businessmen in search of concessions. The Emperor was a hesitantly progressive ruler who hoped to achieve a balance between tradition and what he called ‘acts of civilisation’.

Frontier disputes provided Mussolini with the pretext for a war, but he had first to overcome the hurdle of outside intervention orchestrated by the League of Nations. Abyssinia was a member of that body which, in theory, existed to prevent wars through arbitration and, again in theory, had the authority to call on members to impose sanctions on aggressors. The League was a paper tiger: it had failed to stop the Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931, and economic sanctions against Italy required the active cooperation of the British and French navies. This was not forthcoming, for neither power had the will for a blockade that could escalate into a war against Italy whose army, navy and air force were grossly overestimated by the British and French intelligence services. Moreover, both powers were becoming increasingly uneasy about Hitler’s territorial ambitions and hoped, vainly as it turned out, to enlist the goodwill of Mussolini. An Anglo-French attempt to appease Mussolini by offering him a chunk of Abyssinia (the Hoare-Laval Pact) failed either to deter him or win his favour. Interestingly, this resort to the cynical diplomacy of Africa’s early partition provoked outrage in Britain and France.

Neither nation was prepared to strangle Italy’s seaborne trade to preserve Abyssinian integrity, and so Mussolini’s gamble paid off. The fighting began in October 1935, with 100,000 Italian troops backed by tanks and bombers invading from Eritrea in the north and Somalia in the south. Ranged against them was the small professional Abyssinian army armed with machine-guns and artillery and far larger tribal levies raised by the rases and equipped with all kinds of weapons, from spears and swords to modern rifles.

The course of the war has been admirably charted by Anthony Mockler, who reminds us that, despite the disparity between the equipment of the two armies, the conquest of Abyssinia was never the walkover the Italians had hoped for. In December a column backed by ten tanks was ambushed in the Takazze valley. One, sent on a reconnaissance, was captured by a warrior who stole up behind the vehicle, jumped on it and knocked on the turret. It was opened and he killed the crew with his sword. Surrounded, the Italians attempted to rally around their tanks and were overrun. Another tank crew were slain after they had opened their turret; others were overturned and set alight, and two were captured. Nearly all their crews were killed in the rout that followed and fifty machine-guns captured. The local commander, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, was shaken by this reverse and struck back with, aircraft which attacked the Abyssinians with mustard-gas bombs.

As in Morocco, gas (as well as conventional bombs) compensated for slipshod command and panicky troops, although the Italians excused its use as revenge for the beheading in Daggahur of a captured Italian pilot after he had just bombed and strafed the town. Denials rather than excuses were offered when bombs were dropped on hospitals marked with red crosses.

Intensive aerial bombardment and gas swung the war in Italy’s favour. In May 1936 Addis Ababa was captured and, soon after, Haile Selassie went into exile. He was jeered by Italian delegates when he addressed the League of Nations in Geneva, and was cheered by Londoners when he arrived at Waterloo. He remained in England for the next four years, sometimes in Bath, where his kindness and charm were long remembered. In Rome an image of the Lion of Judah was placed on the war memorial to the dead of the 1896 war; Adwa had been avenged. Mussolini’s bombast rose to the occasion with declarations that Abyssinia had been ‘liberated’ from its age-old backwardness and miseries. Liberty took odd forms, for the Duce decreed that henceforward it was a crime for Italians to cohabit with native women, which he thought an affront to Italian manhood, and he forbade Italians to be employed by Abyssinians.

In Abyssinia Italians assumed the role of master race with a hideous relish. Efforts were made to exterminate the Abyssinian intellectual elite, including all primary school teachers. In February 1937 an attempt to assassinate the Viceroy Graziani prompted an official pogrom in which Abyssinians were randomly murdered in the streets. Blackshirts armed with daggers and shouting, ‘Duce! Duce!’ led the way. The killings spread to the countryside after Graziani ordered the Governor of Harar to ‘Shoot all – I say all – rebels, notables, chiefs’ and anyone ‘thought guilty of bad faith or of being guilty of helping the rebels’. Thousands were slaughtered during the next three months.

The subjugation of Abyssinia proved as difficult as its conquest. Over 200,000 troops were deployed fighting a guerrilla war of pacification. Italy’s new colony was turning into an expensive luxury: between 1936 and 1938 its military expenses totalled 26,500 million lire. In the event of a European war, this huge army would deter an Anglo – French invasion and, as Mussolini hoped, invade the Sudan, Djibuti and perhaps Kenya, while forces based in Libya attacked Egypt. Viceroy Graziani felt certain that Britain was secretly helping Abyssinian resistance and Mussolini agreed, although he wondered whether the Comintern might also have been involved.

By 1938, his own secret service was disseminating anti-British propaganda to Egypt and Palestine via Radio Bari. In April 1939, alarmed by the flow of reinforcements to Italian garrisons in Libya and Abyssinia, the British made secret preparations for undercover operations to foment native uprisings in both colonies. At the same time, parties of young Italians, ostensibly on cycling holidays, spread the Fascist message in Tunisia and Morocco, and Jewish pupils were banned from Italian schools in Tunis, Rabat and Tangier. Africa was already becoming embroiled in Europe’s political conflicts.


Outside Germany and Italy, European opinion about the Abyssinian War was sharply divided: anti-Fascists of all kinds were against Mussolini, while right-wingers tended to support him on racial grounds. Sir Oswald Mosley, whose British Union of Fascists was secretly underwritten by Mussolini, dismissed Abyssinia as a ‘black and barbarous conglomeration of tribes with not one Christian principle’. Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, urged his readers to back Italy and ‘the cause of the white race’ whose defeat in Abyssinia would set a frightening example to Africans and Asians. Evelyn Waugh, who was commissioned by Rothermere to cover the war, confided to a friend his hopes that the Abyssinians would be ‘gassed to buggery’.

Such reactions, and the moral insouciance of Britain and France, shocked educated Africans in West Africa. The Abyssinian episode had tarnished the notion of benevolent imperialism cherished in both nations, and seemed to condone views of Africans as a primitive people, beyond the pale of humanity as well as civilisation. In the words of William Du Bois, an American black academic and champion of black rights, the Abyssinian War had shattered the black man’s ‘faith in white justice’. Harlem blacks had volunteered to fight, but had been refused visas by the American government. Du Bois believed that their instincts had been right, for in the future, ‘The only path to freedom and equality is force, and force to the uttermost.’

Charles Older

The focus of action then shifted to Burma, where the Hell’s Angels were operating in defence of Rangoon. On 23 December a force of some 70 JAAF aircraft, Ki 21 bombers escorted by Nakajima Ki 27 Nate and Nakajima Ki 43 Oscar fighters, raided Rangoon from their bases in Thailand. The AVG P-40s scrambled with the RAF’s Buffaloes to intercept but were too late to prevent the bombing. However, the AVG pilots claimed six bombers and four fighters destroyed (although only six of these could be confirmed), in return for the loss of three P-40s and two pilots. Charles Older, a former Marine Corps pilot, claimed two victories in this fight.

Like many soldiers from World War II, pilot Charles Older seemed to be born under a lucky star of prominence. You might not know his name, but I am sure you have seen his aircraft as it is one of the most recognized and reproduced aircraft markings of WWII.

Older was a veteran of the Chinese based American Volunteer Group during the opening days of World War II, which predated America’s official entry into WWII. AVG pilots were given America’s modern front line fighter, the Curtiss P-40B, to engage the occupying Imperial Japanese Army in China. The pointy nose of the early P-40 “B” model lent AVG pilots to paint shark mouths on their aircraft. Older’s P-40B is usually the aircraft mostly produced by tattoo artists, aircraft restorers and modelers alike as it also includes the Hells Angels motif of 3rd Pursuit Squadron and an original cartoon tiger artwork designed and drawn by a Walt Disney artist. With the Hell’s Angels logo, original Walt Disney art and leering shark mouth markings, Older’s aircraft has endeared, endured and embedded itself in our subconscious and pop culture for young and old alike. He is credited with 10 victories, making him a double ace.

American Volunteer Group (AVG).

During the early months of the war in the Pacific, American and Allied fighter pilots found themselves completely outclassed by the exceptionally maneuverable and well flown fighters of the Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) and Japanese Navy Air Force (JNAF). As a consequence, they suffered serious defeats, and the myth of Japanese invincibility in the air was established. One of the first Allied fighter units to demonstrate that the Japanese fighters had weaknesses that could be exploited by skillful tactics were the pilots of the American Volunteer Group (AVG). nicknamed the ‘Flying Tigers’, who flew with the Chinese Nationalist Air Force (CNAF). During some 30 weeks of combat in 1941 and 1942, the AVG was credited with 297 confirmed victories for the loss of 80 fighters and 25 pilots killed or made prisoner of war. These considerable successes were largely due to the effective leadership and tactical skills of Colonel Claire L. Chennault, the AVG’s commander.

Shortly after leaving the United States Army Air Corps in 1937, Chennault was invited to China as air adviser to the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek. On arriving, he found the CNAF in a poor state, with fewer than 100 effective combat aircraft out of a nominal strength of 500, and an inadequate number of trained pilots. Therefore, when the Japanese engineered Marco Polo Bridge Incident precipitated a full-scale Sino Japanese War in July 1937, the CNAF was unable to put up anything more than a token defence against the invaders.

In the short term, China was able to negotiate a Non Aggression Pact with the Soviet Union in August 1937, which resulted m an infusion of Soviet combat aircraft and ‘volunteer’ airmen. For the following three years this was sufficient to stave off the complete collapse of Chinese air power, but by the end of 1940 Soviet aid had dried up and the Japanese air Forces were operating virtually at will over China. It was under these circumstances that Chennault accompanied a CNAF mission to the United States in order to acquire a force of modern fighters and recruit American pilots to fly them.

Operating under the cover of the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (CAMCO), Chennault succeeded in obtaining 100 Curtiss Tomahawk Mk II fighters (generally referred to as P-40s by the AVG). These Tomahawks had been ordered by the RAF before the Battle of Britain, but, as the pressure on the British air defences had eased by early 1941, the fighters were released to China. Recruiting suitably qualified pilots was a more difficult matter and it was necessary to obtain President Roosevelt’s permission to seek volunteers from the US armed forces.

Eventually, a total of 109 pilots was signed up by CAMCO, about half of them coming from the US Navy and Marine Corps, a third from the Army Air Corps and the remainder from civilian flying organisations. Their one year contracts provided a monthly pay 600 US dollars for pilots, 675 dollars for flight leaders and 750 dollars for squadron commanders A further Incentive to recruitment was the Chinese government merit’s offer of a 500 dollar bonus for every Japanese aircraft confirmed as destroyed The ground-crews numbering about 150 men, were mostly recruited from the United States forces and were paid between 150 and 400 dollars a month. Pay was an important factor in attracting personnel to the AVG, but the spirit of adventure   a wish to see active military service and to escape from the constraints of a peacetime routine was an equally strong attraction.

The aircraft and their pilots were dispatched by sea to Rangoon in Burma, where they assembled in late July 1941. After the P-40s had been uncrated and assembled, training began at the airfield at Kyedaw, near Toungoo. This had been made available to the AVG by the RAF authorities, as the Flying Tigers’ main base at Kunming in western China was still under construction.

Chennault set to work training AVG pilots according to his tactical doctrines. A network of ground observers had already been established in China at his suggestion and so the chances of receiving sufficient early warning of an incoming raid were good. However, Chennault realised from his study of Japanese aircraft and tactics that special procedures would be needed to deal with the enemy’s fighters. The manoeuvrable Japanese aircraft would win a traditional turning dogfight every time and Chennault stressed that this type of combat had to be avoided at all costs, He proposed that the P-40’s high diving speed and comparatively heavy firepower should be exploited:

‘You must use your superior speed to climb above them before you commit yourselves. And you then can use your greater diving speed to make a pass at them. Get in short bursts and get away. Break off and climb back for the advantage of altitude after you have gotten away safely. In such combat, and only in that kind, you have the edge.’

Once the AVG fighters had achieved an advantageous firing position, accurate gunnery was sure to achieve good results. The Japanese aircraft were both lightly constructed and poorly armoured and tended to burn or break up easily.

By the time that the Flying Tigers had completed their training in December 1941, the United States was at war with Japan. Nonetheless, the AVG retained its volunteer status. The group was organised into three squadrons, each made up of three flights of six fighters. The 1st Pursuit Squadron adopted an ‘Adam and Eve’ insignia as a pun on then designation. The squadron was commanded by Robert J. Sandell until he was killed in a flying accident on 7 February 1942, and then Robert H. Neale took over. The 2nd Pursuit Squadron, the ‘Panda Bears’, was led by John V. Newkirk and the 3rd Pursuit Squadron, the ‘Hell’s Angels’, by Arvid Olsen. Apart from their individual squadron insignia, the AVG P-40s were painted with a distinctive shark mouth marking, copied from No. 112 Squadron RAF which flew similarly decorated Tomahawks in North Africa, and this embellishment became as much the group’s identifying marking as the Chinese national insignia on the wings. Some aircraft also carried the Flying Tiger emblem designed for the AVG by the Walt Disney studios.

Deploying for Combat

By the second week of December the Flying Tigers were deploying for combat. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons deployed to Kunming, while the Hell’s Angels moved to Mingaladon, joining the Brewster Buffaloes of No. 67 Squadron RAF in the air defence of Burma The Kunming squadrons were the first to see action. On 20 December an unescorted formation of 10 JAAF Mitsubishi Ki 21 Sally bombers was picked up by the raid reporting network en route from Hanoi to Kunming. Chennault scrambled four P-40s of the Panda Bear Squadron, led by Newkirk, to intercept. A further sir, of the squadron’s fighters were reserved to cover Kunming, while Sandell’s 1st Pursuit Squadron flew to an auxiliary airfield to the southeast, from where they later scrambled to cut off the bombers’ retreat.

Newkirk’s section met the Japanese bombers some 30 miles short of Kunming and in their initial attack Ed Rector gained his first victory. However, Newkirk’s P-40 then suffered a gun and radio failure and was forced to break off the combat. He was followed by the other three pilots, who in the absence of any instructions from their leader, were reluctant to contravene the AVG’s strict formation discipline. The Adam and Eve Squadron then intervened, forcing the Ki 21s to jettison their bombs and turn away from their target. The most successful pilot during this combat was former US Navy dive-bomber pilot Fritz Wolf, who reported.

I attacked the outside bomber in the Vee. Diving down below him, I came up underneath, guns ready for the minute I could get in range. At 500yds I let go with a quick burst from all my guns. I could see my bullets rip into the rear gunner. My plane bore in closer. At 100yds I let go with a long burst that tore into the bomber’s gas tanks and engine. A wing folded and the motor tore loose. Then the bomber exploded. I yanked back on the stick to get out of the way and went upstairs.

‘There, I went after the inside man of the Japanese bomber formation. I came out of a dive and pulled up level with the bomber, just behind his tail. I could see the rear gunner blazing away at me, but none of his bullets were hitting my plane At 50yds I let go with a long burst, concentrating on one motor The same thing happened and I got number two. The bomber burned and then blew up.’

In all, six bombers were confirmed as destroyed and the Flying Tigers lost only Ed Rector’s P-40, which force landed after running out of fuel.

Defence of Rangoon

The focus of action then shifted to Burma, where the Hell’s Angels were operating in defence of Rangoon. On 23 December a force of some 70 JAAF aircraft, Ki 21 bombers escorted by Nakajima Ki 27 Nate and Nakajima Ki 43 Oscar fighters, raided Rangoon from their bases in Thailand. The AVG P-40s scrambled with the RAF’s Buffaloes to intercept but were too late to prevent the bombing. However, the AVG pilots claimed six bombers and four fighters destroyed (although only six of these could be confirmed), in return for the loss of three P-40s and two pilots. Charles Older, a former Marine Corps pilot, claimed two victories in this fight.

Two days later the JAAF returned in even greater force, and 12 AVG P-40s and 18 RAF Buffaloes were scrambled to meet a force of over 100 enemy aircraft. The Allied fighters made their interception over the Gulf of Martaban and, with the advantage of superior altitude, tore into the Japanese formation. The outcome was a complete vindication of Chennault’s tactical theories. For the loss of two P-40s, the Flying Tigers had downed 28 enemy aircraft Japanese tactics were equal to the challenge. However, on 28 December the Hell’s Angels were decoyed into pursuing a small formation of JAAF aircraft and, when on the ground refuelling after this mission, were attacked by a second JAAF formation. Only four P-40s were scrambled to meet the attack and they were unable to prevent Mingaladon from being heavily bombed.

Relief for the hard pressed Hell’s Angels came on 30 December, when Newkirk’s Panda Bears flew in from Kunming to relieve them The new unit soon took the fight to the enemy’s camp On 3 January 1942 Newkirk led a strafing attack by three P-40s on the Japanese airfield at Meshed in Thailand, claiming five enemy aircraft destroyed or. the ground and a further three in air combat. Japanese retribution was swift on 4 January six P-40s on patrol were bounced by about 30 Ki 27s and became ensnared in just such a turning dogfight which Chennault had counselled his pilots to avoid. Three kills were claimed, but for the loss of three AVG P-40s and the combat led one pilot, Gregory Boyington, wryly to reflect that the peacetime training which the Marine Corps gave its fighter pilots was completely worthless as a preparation for fighting the Japanese

Heavy fighting in January took its toll of the AVG’s P-40s, and early in February the 1st Pursuit Squadron relieved the Panda Bears in Burma By the end of that month, the Japanese advance forced the evacuation of Mingaladon During 10 weeks of combat in defence of Rangoon, the AVG and RAF fighters had claimed a total of 291 enemy aircraft destroyed.

The fight was continued from Magwe, 200 miles to the north of Mingaladon. Before Japanese air attacks forced this base to be evacuated late in March, two AVG pilots carried out a highly successful strafing attack on a newly occupied Japanese airstrip near Moulmein Bill Reed and Ken Jernstedt were flying an armed reconnaissance mission in the area on 19 March, when they spotted a lineup of Japanese Ki 27 fighters on the ground and destroyed 15 of them in a series of firing passes.

The AVG then withdrew to Loiwing across the Chinese border but remained within range of Japanese forces. On 24 March Robert Neale led a six aircraft strafing mission against the JAAF airfield at Chieng mai in Thailand, leaving more than two score Ki 27 and Ki 43 fighters as blazing wrecks. Yet whatever successes were gained in the air, the advance of the Japanese armies was inexorable and on 1 May the AVG was forced to evacuate Loiwing, destroying 22 unserviceable P-40s.

Western China

With the approach of the monsoon season on the Burma front. Chennault’s attention shifted to the defence of the cities of western China from bombing attack. This necessitated the dispersal of his slender resources, the depleted Hell’s Angels providing cover for the AVG’s main base at Kunming, the Panda Bears defending Chunking and Hengyang, and the Adam and Eves protecting Kweilin. The latter squadron was first to see action, intercepting a force of 20 JAAF aircraft over Kweilm on 13 June, accounting for 11 of them for the loss of only two P-40s and no pilot casualties.

Poor weather then enforced a lull in operations, and during this period the AVG was transformed from a volunteer unit of the CNAF into the 23rd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). However, the transition was mishandled by regular USAAF officers responsible, with the result that only five pilots agreed to transfer to the new unit. Urgent entreaties from Chennault, who had been given command of the USAAF’s new China Air Task Force with the rank of Brigadier-General, persuaded a further 19 pilots to stay on for a further two weeks after the AVG’s official disbandment. This led to the curious anomaly that ex-Navy pilot Neale (the AVG’s top scoring pilot), who was then technically a civilian, often led the USAAF’s 23rd Fighter Group during its first two weeks of existence. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that the 23rd Fighter Group was but a poor shadow of its predecessor. Indeed, the new unit’s pilots were able to carry on the traditions of the Flying Tiger with distinction. Foremost among them was the group’s new CO, Colonel Robert L. Scott, who led his new command in the interception of JAAF raiders over Kweilin. With the advantage of superior altitude, the P-40s dived onto the enemy formation Scott recalled:

‘Their formation was so perfect and so close we couldn’t miss. Even the new kids remembered not to shoot at the whole formation but to concentrate on one ship at a time, with short bursts, then skid to another. Hang on, aim, then fire – always short bursts. They didn’t see us until it was too late. Twenty or more of them were already going down and those we didn’t burn on the first pass broke and ran m all directions. After the first dive, when we’d climbed back into the sun for altitude, we broke, too, and took out after the stragglers. I followed one with my wingman all the way to Canton, 200 miles southeastward, and shot it down when the pilot lowered his landing gear preparatory to landing,’

After the results of this combat had been properly assessed, the American pilots were credited with 13 enemy aircraft destroyed for no loss to themselves. It was an auspicious start for the new Flying Tigers of the 23rd Fighter Group.

A particularly noteworthy combat was fought later that month, when, early to the morning of 30 July, Major John R Alison and Major A. J. ‘Ajax’ Baumler intercepted six JAAF night bombers over Hengyana and destroyed four of them. Alison ended the war with 10 victories and Baumler, who had gamed eight kills flying with the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, added a further five to his score in China. Another distinguished newcomer to the Flying Tigers was Scott’s successor as commanding officer, Colonel Bruce K Holloway, who finished the war with 13 victories and went on to become general commanding the USAF’s Strategic Air Command. Three of the original Flying Tigers later returned to the 23rd Fighter Group, Colonel David L. ‘Tex’ Hill and Colonel Edward F. Rector as commanding officers, and Lieutenant Colonel Charles Older as a squadron commander.

The 23rd Fighter Group remained in China until the end of the war against Japan, latterly replacing its P-40s with North American P 51 Mustangs. From its formation on 4 July 1942 until the end of the fighting, the group was credited with 621 enemy aircraft shot down plus a further 320 destroyed on the ground.


Luftwaffe Torpedo Bombers

Deployment of Convoy PQ18

Despite howls of Soviet protest, British strength was required elsewhere for Operation Pedestal within the Mediterranean. Following the catastrophe of PQ17, the Royal Navy was determined that PQ18 would not sail until much greater escort strength could be provided. It would be September before the convoy finally departed for Russia.

On 2 September PQ18 departed Loch Ewe, Scotland. Comprised of forty merchant ships (twenty American, eleven British, six Soviet and three Panamanian) a heavy escort was laid on which included an aircraft carrier for the first time: HMS Avenger carrying ten Hurricane fighters and three Swordfish torpedo bombers. A combined Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force task force of Hampden torpedo bombers, Catalina and Spitfire reconnaissance aircraft had also transferred to Vaenga airbase near Murmansk for potential operations against Tirpitz should she put to sea.

U-boat missions against PQ18 were planned, code-named Operation Eispalast. The outgoing QP14 was included, but deemed of secondary importance. Once again, large surface ships were readied for potential use against the convoy, although, as always, Hitler’s strict criteria would be used to determine their activation. They moved north to Altafjord on 10 September – Admiral Scheer narrowly missed by four torpedoes from HMS Tigris while in transit – and remained ready for sailing orders that never came. Hitler’s paranoia of losing his large ships rendered them once again useless.

Meanwhile PQ18 was detected briefly by Luftwaffe reconnaissance on 8 September. Oesten brought together a new U-boat group: Trägertod (Carrier killer). By 10 September U88, U403 and U405 were en route from the Spitsbergen and Bear Island area to a patrol line further west; U589, U377, U408 and U592 raced to join them. Additionally, U435 and U457 were scheduled operational by 12 September at Narvik, and U378 at Trondheim: and all would sail. U703 was refuelling at Harstadt, bringing the group number to eleven. Four others were earmarked for operations against QP14 following refuelling at Kirkenes: U255, U601, U456 and U251. At 1.20 p.m. on 12 September, Luftwaffe aircraft sighted PQ18 again, U405 making contact soon after and staying on station as beacon boat. The U-boats gathered, one of the next boats to begin shadowing was Kaptlt Bohmann’s U88; Bohmann was himself detected ahead of the convoy by HMS Faulknor of the ‘fighting escort’ – U88 accurately depth charged and sunk with all forty-six crewmen aboard.

The escorts and Avenger’s aircraft were kept busy attempting to force shadowing boats away from PQ18. However, at 9.52 a.m. on 13 September, Kaptlt Reinhard von Hymmen made the first torpedo hit on PQ18 when 3,559-ton Soviet steamer Stalingrad was sunk with one of three torpedoes, the ship going under in less than four minutes laden with ammunition, aircraft and tanks. Twenty-one of the eighty-seven crew were killed and the master, A. Sakharov, was last to leave the sinking ship, spending forty minutes in the water before being rescued and going on to act as pilot for the convoy. Von Hymmen had missed Stalingrad with two of his three torpedoes, but one had passed by the Soviet ship and hit 7,191-ton American Liberty Ship Oliver Ellsworth, the steamer executing a hard left turn to avoid the crippled Russian. The American ship was abandoned even before it had ceased moving, three of four lifeboats swamping and throwing their occupants into the water, though all except one US Navy armed guard were rescued. The wreck was finally sunk by shells from escorting ASW trawler HMT St Kenan.

At almost the same time as Von Hymmen, Kaptlt Hans-Joachim Horrer fired two torpedoes toward HMS Avenger from U589 claiming to have scored at least one hit, although his shots missed. It may have been the detonations from U408’s attack that were heard through the freezing water aboard the submerged boat. That same day Horrer pulled four Luftwaffe airmen from their escape dinghy after their aircraft had been shot down during He111 torpedo bomber attacks that destroyed eight ships for the loss of the same number of aircraft. The airmen did not have long to enjoy their good fortune as the following day U589 was sighted by one of Avenger’s Swordfish. Though the biplane was chased away by a Luftwaffe Bv138 flying boat, the sighting brought destroyer HMS Onslow to the scene, catching U589 on the surface. Crash-diving, U589 was depth charged relentlessly by the destroyer until fuel oil, green vegetables and pieces of U-boat casing floated to the surface marking the grave of all forty-four crew and their four Luftwaffe passengers.

That same day there remained only one other confirmed sinking from PQ18. At 4 a.m., Brandenburg’s U457 hit 8,939-ton motor tanker Atheltemplar whose cargo of 9,400 tons of Admiralty fuel oil immediately began to burn. The crew abandoned ship south-west of Bear Island while minesweeper HMS Harrier attempted to scuttle the burning ship with gunfire, the attempt failing and the ship was left burning fiercely, later found by U408 after she had capsized – the hulk sent to the bottom with gunfire. Brandenburg claimed another 4,000-ton steamer sunk and two hits on a Javelin-class destroyer, but in this he was mistaken. Korvettenkapitän Rolf-Heinrich Hopman later claimed another destroyer hit on 16 September after a torpedo from U405 was heard to detonate after a run of over seven minutes. This too remains unsubstantiated, although the Allies definitely found Brandenburg’s U457 at 3 a.m. on that day. The U-boat was diving through the port bow escort screen when spotted: depth charges from HMS Impulsive destroying the boat along with all forty-five hands as oil, wreckage, paper and a black leather glove floated to the surface to mark the spot. The British illuminated the scene with a calcium flare before one further depth charge set to explode at 500ft was dropped to ensure the boat was sunk.

Elsewhere QP14 came under successful U-boat attack. Seventeen merchant ships, under heavy escort, were attacked by a total of seven U-boats that sank six ships. Strelow’s U435 sank minesweeper HMS Leda and three merchant ships: 5,345-ton American freighter Bellingham; 7,174-ton British steamer Ocean Voice; and 3,313-ton British freighter Grey Ranger during a single devastating assault on 22 September. Reche’s U255 sank 4,937-ton American PQ17 survivor Silver Sword while the destroyer HMS Somali was badly damaged by Kaptlt Bielfeld’s U703 and later sank in gale force winds while under tow.

PQ18 was judged a relative success by the Allies. Although thirteen ships in total had been lost, twenty-eight had arrived safely in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, three U-boats and forty Luftwaffe aircraft – including many skilled veterans of maritime operations – had been destroyed; the Luftwaffe were never again able to mount such strong attacks on the Russian convoys, as aircraft were gradually transferred south to the Mediterranean. The severe losses accrued by both PQ17 and PQ18 combined, coupled with demands elsewhere for Allied naval craft such as supporting Operation Torch, led to the suspension of the Arctic convoys until December 1942. Instead, independently sailing merchantmen would be despatched in what was known as Operation FB.

Between 29 October and 2 November, thirteen ships sailed at approximately twelve-hour intervals from Scotland to Murmansk. Although unescorted, there were ASW trawlers stationed at intervals along the route and local escorts available from Murmansk. From the ships that sailed, three were forced to abort their voyages and five were sunk, the remaining five reaching the Soviet Union. On 2 November ObltzS Dietrich von der Esch in U586 had already been at sea for three weeks, sailing in bad weather and suffering mechanical problems with the boat’s exhaust valves. An initial order to reconnoitre Jan Mayen was carried out before the U-boat sighted Operation FB ship Empire Gilbert and began a two-hour chase. The 6,640-ton steamer was missed by an initial double torpedo shot but hit on the port side by a second pair of torpedoes at 1.18 a.m.. The ship sank rapidly and when U586 reached the scene she was gone. The Germans pulled deck boy Ralph Urwin and gunner Arthur Hopkins aboard U586 from a floating beam, the pair barely able to move after submersion in the freezing water, and next attempted to question six survivors found aboard a raft but received no answer. Taking one more man, gunner Douglas Meadows, prisoner aboard the U-boat, U586 left the scene and later landed the three survivors at Skjomenfjord. The other sixty-four men were never seen again.

Two days later unescorted Liberty Ship William Clark was hit by a torpedo in the engine room from Kaptlt Karl-Heinz Herbschleb’s U354. A coup-de-grâce torpedo broke the ship in two and sent her to the bottom, 31 of the 71 crew either killed in the sinking or lost at sea as their lifeboats drifted away.

The final ‘FB’ ships sunk by U-boat were both destroyed by ObltzS Hans Benker’s U625 engaged upon its maiden war patrol. The 5,445-ton British steamer Chulmleigh had been bombed by Ju88 aircraft and beached on Spitsbergen’s South Cape when Benker torpedoed the stranded wreck and finished it off with gunfire on 6 November. That night he sighted 7,455-ton British Empire Sky and hit her with two torpedoes. As the steamer settled into the water a coup de grâce ignited its ammunition cargo and she exploded, flinging debris over a wide area, one piece weighing a kilogram clattering down the conning tower hatch into the U-boat’s control room. All sixty men aboard the shattered freighter were lost.

Artwork by Simon Parry.

PQ18 – The First Air Support for the Convoys

PQ17’s fate could not be ignored. It was necessary to maintain the link between the Western Allies and the beleaguered Soviet Union. Four British destroyers were despatched to Archangel loaded with ammunition and replacement anti-aircraft gun barrels, as well as interpreters in an attempt to improve liaison with the Russians. The ships arrived on 24 July 1942. On 13 August the American cruiser USS Tuscaloosa sailed for Russia, escorted by a British destroyer and two American destroyers, carrying RAF ground crew and equipment as well as aircraft spares for two squadrons of Handley Page Hampden bombers destined to be based in northern Russia, as would be photo-reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfires and a squadron of RAF Coastal Command Consolidated Catalina flying boats. Also included in the cargo carried by these warships was a demountable medical centre with medical supplies, but while the Soviets took the medical supplies, they rejected the hospital that would have done so much to improve the lot of Allied seamen in need of medical attention on reaching a Russian port.

Survivors from PQ17 were brought home to the UK aboard the three American ships plus three British destroyers. Ultra intelligence led the three British destroyers to Bear Island where they discovered the German minelayer Ulm, and while two of the destroyers shelled the ship, the third, Onslaught, fired three torpedoes with the third penetrating the magazine, which exploded. Despite the massive explosion, the commanding officer and fifty-nine of the ship’s company survived to be taken prisoner.

Less successful were the Hampden bombers. Already obsolescent, several were shot down on their way to Russia by the Germans and, perhaps due to mistaken identity, by the Russians, who may have confused the aircraft with the Dornier Do 17. Unfortunately, one of those shot down by the Germans crashed in Norway and contained details of the defence of the next pair of convoys, PQ18 and the returning QP14. QP14 was to be the target for the Admiral Scheer, together with the cruisers Admiral Hipper and Köln and a supporting screen of destroyers. This surface force moved to the Altenfjord on 1 September.

PQ18 was the first Arctic convoy to have an escort carrier, the American-built Avenger. The ship had three radar-equipped Swordfish from No. 825 NAS for anti-submarine duties, as well as six Hawker Sea Hurricanes, with another six dismantled and stowed beneath the hangar deck in a hold, for fighter defence. These aircraft were drawn from 802 and 883 Squadrons. Another Sea Hurricane was aboard the CAM ship Empire Morn. Other ships in the convoy escort included the cruiser Scylla, 2 destroyers, 2 anti-aircraft ships converted from merchant vessels, 4 corvettes, 4 anti-submarine trawlers, 3 minesweepers and 2 submarines. There was a rescue ship so that the warships did not have to risk stopping to pick up survivors, and three minesweepers being delivered to the Soviet Union also took on this role.

The convoy had gained an escort carrier but the Home Fleet, which usually provided the distant escort – a much heavier force than that providing the close escort – had lost its fast armoured fleet carrier, Victorious , damaged while escorting the convoy Operation PEDESTAL to Malta and being refitted as a result. Also missing were the American ships, transferred to the Pacific. The C-in-C, Home Fleet, Admiral Sir John Tovey, also made other changes. This time he would remain aboard his flagship, the battleship King George V , at Scapa Flow where he would have constant telephone communication with the Admiralty, while his deputy, Vice Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, went to sea in the battleship Anson . Both PQ18 and QP14 had a strong destroyer escort with the freedom of action to leave the close escort to the corvettes, armed trawlers, AA ships and minesweepers if the situation warranted it. To save fuel, the officer in command of the destroyers, Rear Admiral Robert Burnett aboard the light cruiser Scylla, ordered that no U-boat hunt was to exceed ninety minutes.

In addition, the convoy would have the support of Force Q and Force P, both comprising two fleet oilers, or tankers, and escorting destroyers, which were deployed ahead of the convoy to Spitzbergen, Norwegian territory not taken by the Germans but that had Russians ashore working on a mining concession dating from Tsarist times. A re-supply operation for the garrison in Spitzbergen was linked with Force P and Force Q.

Iceland was the main rendezvous, but getting there was difficult despite it being summer. Seas were so rough that a Sea Hurricane was swept off Avenger ’s deck, and the steel ropes securing aircraft in the hangars failed to stop them breaking loose and crashing into one another or the sides of the hangar. Fused 500lb bombs stored in the hangar lift-well broke loose and had to be captured by laying down duffel coats with rope ties, which were secured as soon as a bomb rolled onto one of the coats. Fuel contamination with sea water meant that the carrier suffered engine problems. It also seems that remote Iceland was not remote enough, or safe enough, for the carrier was discovered and bombed by a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor long-range maritime-reconnaissance aircraft that dropped a stick of bombs close to Avenger but without causing any damage.

The engine problems meant that the convoy, already spotted by a U-boat while en passage to Iceland from Scotland, had to sail without the carrier and, on 8 September, the convoy was discovered by another Condor. Low cloud then protected the convoy from German aircraft until 12 September when a Blohm und Voss BV 138 flying boat dropped through the clouds. By this time, Avenger had caught up with the convoy and was able to launch a flight of four Sea Hurricanes, but not in time to catch the German aircraft before it disappeared.

Swordfish were extremely vulnerable on the Arctic convoys which, unlike those across the Atlantic, also had to face German fighters. As a result, the fighters from Avenger not only had to protect the ships in the convoy from aerial attack, they had to protect the Swordfish as well. At 0400 on 9 September, the Sea Hurricanes were scrambled after Swordfish on anti-submarine patrols were discovered by a BV 138 flying boat and a Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft, but both disappeared into the clouds before the Hurricanes could catch them. Another Swordfish patrol discovered that the BV 138s were laying mines ahead of the convoy.

PQ18 was repeatedly attacked from the air, which meant that the ships had to make mass turns and put up heavy anti-aircraft fire, all of which made life for the returning Swordfish crews very interesting as aircraft recognition was not as good as it could be and the single-engined biplane Swordfish were often mistaken for twin-engined monoplane Ju 88s. Ditching in the sea was never something to be considered lightly but in Arctic waters, even in summer, survival time could be very short indeed.

The Sea Hurricanes attempted to keep a constant air patrol over the convoy with each aircraft spending twenty-five minutes in the air before landing to refuel, but with just six operational aircraft, keeping a constant watch over the Swordfish as well as the convoy was impossible.

On 14 September, the first Swordfish of the day found U-589 on the surface, but she dived leaving the Swordfish to mark the spot with a smoke flare. Once the aircraft had gone, the submarine surfaced and continued charging her batteries, but alerted by the Swordfish the destroyer Onslow raced to the scene. Once again U-589 dived, but the destroyer attacked with depth-charges and destroyed her. As a result the Germans, so far not accustomed to a convoy having its own air cover and aerial reconnaissance, were forced to change their tactics. Reconnaissance BV 138s and Ju 88s were sent to intimidate the Swordfish, forcing them back over the convoy until the Germans were so close to the ships that they were driven off by AA fire. The Swordfish would then venture out, only to be driven back again.

Later that day, another attack by Ju 88s was detected by the duty Swordfish. This time, Avenger herself was the target. Her maximum speed was just 17 knots, much slower than an ordinary aircraft carrier, but fortunately the Sea Hurricanes broke up the attack and no ships from the convoy were lost, while most of the eleven Ju 88s shot down had succumbed to anti-aircraft fire. Further attacks followed that day, again without any losses to the convoy, although another German aircraft was shot down. In a final attack, three of the four patrolling Hurricanes were shot down by friendly fire from the convoy’s ships but all three pilots were saved. In this last attack of the day, Avenger ’s commanding officer Commander Colthurst successfully combed torpedoes dropped by the Germans. A bomb dropped by a Ju 88 pilot, who flew exceptionally low to make sure he did not miss the target, hit the ammunition ship Mary Luckenbach, which blew up, taking her attacker with her. The sole survivor from the ship was a steward who had been taking the master a cup of coffee, was blown off the upper deck by the explosion and found himself in the sea half a mile down the convoy.

Not all rescues were left to the rescue ships. At the height of the battle for PQ18, the destroyer Offa saw a cargo ship, the Macbeth, hit by two torpedoes and beginning to sink with her cargo of tanks and other war matériel. Offa ’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Alastair Ewing, took his ship alongside Macbeth and, at the cost of some guard rails and stanchions, took off all her ship’s company before she sank. One Sea Hurricane pilot had been very lucky to be snatched out of the sea within minutes of baling out by the destroyer Wheatland which was acting as close escort for Avenger , her role also being what became known as a ‘plane guard’, fishing unfortunate naval aviators out of the sea.

The next day, the remaining Sea Hurricanes and the Swordfish were again in the air, with the former breaking up further attacks. It was not until 16 September that the Swordfish were relieved of their patrolling by shore-based RAF Consolidated Catalina flying boats of No. 210 Squadron operating from Russia. However, the break was short-lived. Later that day the convoy passed the homeward convoy QP14 with the survivors of the ill-fated PQ17 and Avenger, with her aircraft and some of the other escorts transferred to this convoy. The interval had been used by the ship’s air engineering team to assemble five Sea Hurricanes, more than replacing the four lost on the outward voyage. In all, the Sea Hurricanes had accounted for a total of 5 enemy aircraft and damaged 17 others out of a total of 44 shot down. It was fortunate that the three Fairey Swordfish remained serviceable as no replacement aircraft were carried.

During the convoy, Avenger ’s commanding officer had changed the operational pattern for the Sea Hurricanes in order to get the maximum benefit from his small force, having a single aircraft in the air most of the time rather than having all of his aircraft, or none of them, airborne at once.

Once the Sea Hurricane flight had been so depleted, it fell to the CAM ship Empire Morn to launch her Hurricane, flown by Flying Officer Burr of the RAF. The launch was accompanied by friendly fire from other ships in the convoy until he was finally out of range. Despite problems with the barrage balloons flown by some of the merchantmen, he managed to break up a German attack, setting one aircraft on fire. Once out of ammunition, he saved his precious aircraft by flying it to Keg Ostrov airfield near Archangel. As previously mentioned, this ‘one-off’ use of aircraft from the CAM ships was a major drawback as convoy commanders were reluctant to use them in case a more desperate situation emerged later in the convoy’s passage. Cases of CAM ship fighters being saved were very rare.

Clearly, even an escort carrier with a mix of fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was hard-pressed to provide adequate air cover. It is hard to escape the conclusion that two escort carriers would have been needed, or a larger ship such as Nairana or Vindex with up to fourteen Swordfish and six Wildcat fighters, a much better aircraft than the Sea Hurricane. Again, even with these two ships one might suggest that the balance between fighters and anti-submarine aircraft was wrong for an Arctic convoy.

Inevitably, as the convoy approached its destination there was no sign of the promised Red Air Force air cover. This was typical of the experiences of those on the convoys to Russia, with neither Russia’s air forces nor her navy providing any support. Indeed, apart from some coastal bombardment as the Red armies swept westwards, the main achievement of the Russian navy was for its submarines to sink the merchantmen carrying German refugees away from the Russians and one of these attacks resulted in the greatest recorded loss of life at sea as the Germans struggled to evacuate more than 1.5 million civilians.

There were many more convoys to Russia still to come at this stage, but PQ17 and PQ18 were two of the most famous. The convoys were a demanding operation for both the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, one that Stalin never recognized and there was no Soviet contribution to the escorts. The convoys continued, despite German attacks and the weather, until the war’s end, with the exception of the period immediately before, during and after the Normandy landings when a massive effort was required that demanded the escorts and especially the larger ships. That finally gave Stalin the only battlefront that he would recognize as being a ‘second front’.

Hungarian Airforce WWII

On September 1, 1938, the Magyar Kirdlyi Honved Legiero, or Magyar Legiero, the Royal Hungarian Air Force, unfurled its red-white-green chevron insignia for the first time. Its crews did not have to wait very long for their baptism of fire, however. The following March, they flew cover for Hungarian troops occupying Ruthenia, formerly part of eastern Czechoslovakia, where clashes with elements of the Slovenske vzdusne zbrane, the Slovak Air Force, took place. Although the Slovaks’ Avia B.534 biplane was equal to Fiat CR.32s operated by the Magyar Legiero, Hungarian pilots benefited from superior training, shooting down 10 SVZ aircraft at no loss to themselves in what they referred to as the eight-day-long Kis haboru, or “Little War:”

By then, a much larger European conflagration seemed imminent, and Horthy ordered a radical strengthening of his entire armed forces. Impressed by close cooperation exhibited between the German Army and Luftwaffe in their Blitzkrieg conquests of Poland and France, he subordinated the formerly independent Royal Hungarian Air Force to the army high command. Most of the Magyar Legierd’s new aircraft were purchased from Italy. These included 69 Fiat CR.32s, 68 Fiat CR.42s (more antiquated biplanes), and 34 specimens of the Reggiane Re.2000, which Hungarian pilots referred to as the Heja, or “Hawk:” It was a poor copy of the American P-35 produced by the Seversky Aircraft Corporation, structurally deficient and plagued by a temperamental 870-hp Piaggio P.XI RC.40 radial engine.

The Magyar Legiero possessed just 3 examples of the German Heinkel He.112, its only relatively modern fighter, although 34 Junkers Ju86s rejected by the Luftwaffe made up a bomber wing, together with 36 Caproni Bergamaschi Ca.135s more yet substandard Italian aircraft. Hungary’s only indigenous warplanes were the Weiss WM 21 S6lyom and Repiilogepgyar Levente II.

A thoroughly obsolete, open-cockpit biplane design based on that of a 1928 Dutch Fokker, 48 Weiss Falcons equipped Magyar Legiero reconnaissance units, where they were joined by 38 no less doddering, if still rugged German Heinkel He.46 parasol monoplanes and 37 Italian Meridionali Ro.37 Lynxes, which had been already retired from production. These were supplemented by another 13 Luftwaffe castoffs, Heinkel He.111B medium-bombers.

The fragile Repiildgepgyar Levente II was never intended for anything more than the primary training duties for which it had been designed. But the growing exigencies of war on the Eastern Front pressed the spindly little biplane-with its 105-hp Hirth HM 504A-two four cylinder inverted inline piston engine and top speed of 112 mph-into service as a much-needed liaison and communications aircraft. The rest of the Hungarian Air Force was fleshed out by four Savoia-Marchetti SM.75 trimotors used as paratroop transports, plus a variety of German and Italian trainers, which brought Magyar Legiero strength up to 536 aircraft when Horthy permitted German forces to assemble on Hungarian territory for their invasion of Yugoslavia in March 1941.

He belatedly joined the fight on April 11 to recover the Banat and Batschka areas separated from Hungary more than 20 years earlier for the loss of six Fiat fighters and one S6lyom. Two months later, Operation Barbarossa exploded. Hitler had not invited the Hungarians to take part in his crusade against the Soviet Union, because their animosity for his oil-rich Romanian ally jeopardized the campaign. Hungarians themselves went wild for war with the USSR. They regarded the invasion as a historically unique opportunity to simultaneously destroy the Communist colossus towering over their eastern frontier and reclaim all those territories lost after World War I.

Horthy nonetheless hung back, as he had in Yugoslavia, until his hand was forced on June 26, when Red Air Force Tupolev SB-2 bombers struck Kaschau, Muncas, and Raho, towns in northern Hungary, where several dozen civilians were killed and injured. Magyar Legiero retribution was swift and far ahead of the Hungarian army, as a mixed formation of 51 Junkers and Caproni bombers protected by 9 Fiat CR.32s raided Stanislav, Strij, and other targets east of the Carpathian Mountains over the next three days. Seven Tupolevs returned on the 29th to strike the Csap railroad station, but three were shot down by Fiat CR.32s in this first aerial confrontation over Hungary.

By mid-summer, the German Xlth Army laid siege to Nikolayev, a strategic Black Sea port that received supplies across a mile-and-a-quarter-long bridge spanning the Bug River. The vital structure, heavily defended by massed anti-aircraft guns and a squadron of Polykarpov I-16s, was targeted on August 10 by six Hungarian Capronis escorted by as many Fiat CR.32s, plus five Hejas. One of the bombers scored repeated hits on the bridge, which collapsed along its entire length, and additionally claimed an attacking Rata. Although the formation commander’s Ca.135 lost its port engine to ground fire, Senior Lieutenant Istvan Szakonyi’s skilled gunners succeeded in shooting down three enemy interceptors. Another five were destroyed by the Fiats, for the loss of a single Reggiane.

Six days later, Nikolayev fell with the capture of 60,000 Soviet troops, and Luftwaffe Colonel-General Alexander Lohr presented the Hungarian flight crews with their decorations at Sutyska airfield. By the following month, however, after having flown 1,454 sorties, the Magyar Legier6 on the Eastern Front was exhausted and needed to be withdrawn. Most of its equipment was older and patently inferior to enemy aircraft, suffering disproportionate attrition. Thirty Soviet warplanes had been shot down, but the Hungarians lost 56 of their own. The aircrews would not return until July 13, 1942, after extensive training and re-equipping, with the arrival of the 1/1 Fighter Squadron at Ilovskoje airfield outside the Don River. An obvious change was replacement of the old tricolor chevron insignia on wings and fuselage with a white cross in a black square, while vertical stabilizers were covered in red, white, and green bands.

Although their Fiat biplanes had been left at home to more properly serve as trainers, MKHL pilots were still saddled with the disappointing Re.2000. Only a superior maneuverability enabled the Heja to overcome its deficiencies in speed and fire power against better Migs and Lavochkins. The Hungarians got off to a prestigious start on August 4, however, when their first success was achieved by the heir to the throne, now First Lieutenant Istvan Horthy. His Reggiane hit a LaGG-3 that caught fire and disappeared into a cloud. It was not a confirmed “kill;’ but seemed to foreshadow greater things to come. Indeed, that same day, two Polikarpov Ratas were downed by a single Heja pilot.

Over the next several days, misfortune dogged the 1/1 Fighter Squadron. Major Kalman Csukas mistook a German Heinkel bomber for a Russian Petlyakov and shot it down, injuring two crew members, to whom he later made a personal apology. Ongoing mechanical difficulties grounded all but three Reggianes, and one of these was forced to abort its mission shortly after take-off with engine trouble. The other two survived an unsuccessful attack against Soviet bombers. More Re.2000s arrived with 2/1 Fighter Squadron, but their machineguns jammed during another fruitless encounter, and the humiliated commander of the First Air Division admitted he was unable to protect Hungarian ground forces by asking the Germans for help. Mechanics, referred to by their pilots as “the black men” for their dirty job, worked furiously night and day to get six Hejas airborne on August 9.

The two lead pilots breezed passed a formation of Shturmoviks and LaGG-3s, assuming they were Luftwaffe fighters, and the remaining 4 Reggianes were left to confront more than 30 enemy warplanes. Outnumbered, the Hungarians destroyed four of the superior LaGG-3s for a single wounded Heja pilot, who survived by crash-landing behind his own lines.

Thanks to the untiring ministrations of the “black men;’ their Re.2000s were kept flying, mostly on patrols over the Don River, where Red armored vehicles were observed and reported to Wehrmacht headquarters. Luftwaffe dive-bombers obliterated the tanks, while the Hungarians provided cover.

On August 11, 1st Lieutenant Pal Iranyi shot his way out of an ambush by five LaGG-3s, downing one of them and escaping to Ilovskoje. Then, just when Magyar Legiero luck appeared to be changing for the better, Istvan Horthy died at the controls of his aircraft when it stalled and crashed shortly after takeoff on August 18, as he set out with a pair of fellow Hejas assigned to escort a reconnaissance mission. All Hungary went into mourning, and an elaborate state funeral for the royal heir attracted international attention.

Shortly thereafter, pilots of the Magyar Legierd on the Eastern Front began to make a name for themselves as effective hunters of the Red Air Force’s formidable ground-attack plane, the Ilyushin 11-2, by aiming for its vulnerable radiator mounted above the engine. While such an approach promised the best prospects for success, it was the most dangerous, exposing the attacker to concentrated fire from every rear gunner in a formation. An alternative tactic called for closing in on the target from beneath, as the Shturmovik’s oversized radiator was also vulnerable from this angle. Other Hungarian pilots followed the German preference for aiming directly at the enemy pilot during a steep dive.

The skilled Iranyi and his wingman, Sergeant Zoltan Raposa, each brought down a Shturmovik on September 2, when a 20-mm round tore off two fingers on the right hand of Cadet Lajos Molnar, who was flying cover for the attack. But the 11-2 “expert” was 1st Lieutenant Imre Panczel, who knocked out three “Flying Tanks” in the last three days of October. He and Ensign Kovas-Nagy shot down a pair of Ilyushins out of a flight of 22 on the 31st.

Earlier that same month, Panczel revealed himself as one the most aggressive airmen on the Eastern Front, when he and three other Heja pilots intercepted three times as many enemy bombers and fighters targeting the railway line between Podgarnoje and Kemenka. He promptly destroyed three warplanes, plus two more shot down by his comrades, all within 22 minutes, at no loss to themselves. The surviving Soviet pilots aborted their attack and fled back into the East.

In early fall 1942, the overworked, outdated Italian-made machines finally made way for the Magyar Legierd’s first modern aircraft. Goering had been impressed by the Hungarians’ achievements with substandard equipment, and believed they could do better with German aircraft. Accordingly, he replaced the Capronis with a squadron each of 51 Junkers Ju-88 medium-bombers and Junkers Ju-87 dive-bombers. He then ordered the formation of 1 Ungarishe Jabostaffel, the “1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron;’ composed entirely of Messerschmitt Me109 F-4/13s, fitted with 550-pound bombs. These Friedrichs initially operated out of Urasovo, blasting Red Army tanks, supply convoys, and trains in the fighting against the Italian 8th Army. In fact, the Hungarians flew a joint mission with Italian and German fighter units hunting enemy armor concealed in forested regions between Buturlinovka and Koslovka on October 29, the 20th anniversary of the March on Rome that brought Benito Mussolini to power in 1922.

Adverse weather grounded most flights throughout the following month and into the first half of next, until the Shturmovik “expert;’ Lieutenant Panczel-now the 1 Ungarishe Jabostafel’s commanding officer single-handedly knocked out a Red Army flak battery, destroyed 17 trucks, and blew up 3 locomotives with cannon shells and bombs during just 4 days in early December. On the morning of the 16th, he shot down two IL-2s and another pair that afternoon to become World War II’s first Hungarian ace. Panczel was prevented from committing further mayhem only by the return of white-out conditions that rendered flying impossible for the rest of 1942.

The year concluded with 140 sorties undertaken by the 1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron, mostly against ground targets. So far, remarkably, none of its crews had been lost to the enemy. All that was to change after the New Year, however. As the debacle at Stalingrad reached its climax, air combat intensified, and Imra Panczel, the Hungarians’ own Achilles, fell on January 11, 1943. Three days later, the Squadron’s base at Urasovo stood in the way of a Red Army offensive sweeping all before it. After every airplane that could fly was evacuated to Novy-Oskol, the airfield’s defense consisted only of several 40-mm flak guns, together with various small arms carried by 750 pilots and ground personnel. Lieutenant-Colonel Kalman Csukas ordered all cannons and machineguns stripped from the remaining aircraft and remounted on flatbed trucks or artillery stands to confront whatever was to come.

Not the enemy, but some 3,000 routed German, Italian, and Hungarian troops showed up with more than 800 wounded and frostbitten men on January 17. Their arrival had been preceded by the incessant thunder of heavy artillery growing ever louder in the East. Before nightfall, overcrowded Urasovo was completely surrounded by Soviet forces, and Csukas was ordered by radio to hold them off until outside relief could be dispatched. It appeared during the 19th in the form of the German 26th Westfalen Infantry Division, the rear guard of which broke through to Urasovo and rescued its haggard defenders, who trudged into Novy-Oskol four days later.

The 1 Ungarishe jabostafel, re-equipped with the latest Messerschmitt Me-109Gs, was now based in Kiev, with airfields at Ilovskoje and Poltava. After a brief period of recuperation, the Hungarians were patrolling over the battlefield again, carrying out numerous, low-level strafing runs against transport convoys and troop concentrations in support of Wehrmacht counter-attacks aimed at recapturing Kharkov. It was here that the unit was based in late February, when German forces took the city once more.

With spring 1943 came the first appearance in large numbers of American-made aircraft wearing Red Star insignia. Sergeant Tarnay made the first kill of a Douglas A-20 light-bomber on the morning of April 29, when six of the rugged, agile Bostons escorted by a much larger force of fighters attacked Kharkov-Osnava airfield. U.S. aid was also evident on the ground, as more Ford trucks and Grant tanks joined a growing inventory of enemy equipment destroyed by the 1st Hungarian Fighter-Bomber Squadron.

The greatest air armadas in military history clashed from early to late July over the pivotal struggle for Kursk, during which the “Pumas;’ as the Magyar Legier6 fighter pilots were now known, flew up to five missions each day. They shot down only 33 enemy aircraft, because the Hungarians were assigned mostly ground-attack duties, as one may gather from the 153 vehicles of all types they destroyed, unknown thousands of Red Army troops strafed, and eight pieces of field artillery knocked out. All to no avail. In early August, soon after the Soviets’ victory at Kursk, they over-ran all opposition, taking Belgorod and threatening Kharkov. Aerial encounters reached unparalleled levels of ferocity, as the Pumas flew in excess of 20 missions per day.

They were joined by 13 Hungarian-flown Stukas of the 102/2 Dive bomber Squadron, also known as the “Coconut Squadron:” More Ju.87 Doras, led by Captain Gyozo Levay, soon after arrived. Although both fighters and bombers excelled at their tasks, they were re-stationed at Poltava when Kharkov could no longer be held. They had by then established a particular reputation among their opponents, as Lieutenant Kalman Szeverenyi learned, when he was tailing a Lavochkin on October 7. Before Szeverenyi could open fire, the Russian pilot bailed out, parachuting near the wreckage of his own fighter.

The next day was an occasion for celebration at the 102/2nd, whose airmen had just completed their 1,000th mission. Before relocating back to Kolozsvar two weeks later, they would execute another 200 sorties, having dropped more than 800 tons of bombs on the enemy since their debut on the Eastern Front three months earlier. The Hungarian Stuka crews additionally accounted for a P-39 Aircobra.

“We form up and I set a homebound course;’ recalled Lieutenant Tibor Tobak. “Suddenly, a lone Cobra appears and heads toward the point of our formation. According to Russian custom, he tries to attack the leader. I am not excited a bit. As soon as he enters our field of fire, he is a dead man. When he comes into range, eight twin-barreled MGs open up on him. Sixteen tubes pour deadly eight-mm slugs at him. As I glance back, I can see that the tracers end up exactly in the Cobra’s fuselage. Sarkady pumps it right behind the cockpit, where the engine is. `Well done, Lali!’ I shout `I think you got him!”‘

“Ivan miscalculated his move. He came in too steep to get under our formation, but he had to pass through our field of fire … The Cobra is now ahead of me by some one hundred meters, and I can see its engine smoking. I can see the pilot bailing out. The abandoned aircraft topples and begins its final spiral descent towards the ground. The parachute blossoms into a big, white flower. We did it, we got the guy! I feel satisfied; we can finally paint our first Red Star on the tail of our airplane:’

According to Tobak, “The 37-mm gun of the Cobra is a killer. A single hit can disable the venerable Stuka. Our 151/twenty-mm is just a popgun compared to that, but my boys have practiced formation flying a bit in Kolozsvar. If jumped, German staffels usually break formation and disperse, but we keep a close formation to concentrate our firepower instead”‘

Two Lavochkin La-5 fighters were also shot down by Tobak’s men, remarkable achievements for the sluggish, under-defended dive-bomber they flew. In fact, no Coconut Squadron Stukas were lost to enemy interceptors. The Squadron had not gone unscathed, however, and its surviving machines-either four or six not claimed by flak-were transferred to the Luftwaffe after the Hungarians returned to their homeland for training new crews and rebuilding the unit.

Meanwhile, German counter-attacks failed to retake Kiev but did push the Soviets out of Zhitomir, where the 1 Ungarishe Jabostafel found a new base and celebrated its 100th kill in December 1943. Through long months of intense combat, it had suffered the loss of just 6 pilots (plus 2 missing) from an original 37 airmen, as proof of their great skill and good luck. After New Year’s 1944, they relocated yet again, this time to Khalinovka. During the transfer, Lieutenant Lasl6 Molnar and his wingman, Corporal Erno Kiss, encountered 30 Shturmoviks covered by 10 Lavochkins. Laughing at the 20-to-1 odds against them, the Hungarians dove amid the enemy bombers, shooting down four of them, plus two Red fighters, before completing their flight to Khalinovka.

While battles such as these showcased the Hungarians’ superb combat performance, they nonetheless demonstrated the awful numerical edge overshadowing the Eastern Front in lengthening shades of doom. The sheer mass of man power and materiel now at Stalin’s disposal was sufficient to usually drown any technological superiority the Axis might have possessed, as evidenced by the 2,600 warplanes he assembled for his conquest of Vinnitsa, the Wehrmacht’s own headquarters in Russia, defended by 1,460 Luftwaffe aircraft. The Soviets were nevertheless stymied for more than three months, during which the entire Eastern Front was stabilized, and the Pumas were in the thick of the fighting, scoring more than 50 “kills” in January and February alone.

On March 17,1944, the USAAF for the first time attacked Budapest with 70 B-24s. The Liberators were undeterred by just four Hungarian flown Messerschmitts, all of which were damaged and two shot down by the unescorted heavy-bombers’ defensive fire. The encounter illustrated not only the pitifully inadequate numbers of aircraft available for home defense but lack of proper pilot training. The Americans returned on April 3 to bomb a hospital and other civilian targets as punishment, it was generally believed, for the recent establishment of a new government closer aligned with Germany. In any case, the attack left 1,073 dead and 526 wounded.

During the 13-day interval between these raids, the 1/1 and 2/1 Fighter Squadrons had been reassigned to the capital, and its crews provided a crash course in interception tactics. Even so, 170 P-38 Lightnings and P-51 Mustangs prevented most of the two dozen Pumas from approaching their targets. A few that penetrated the escorts’ protective ring destroyed 11 heavy-bombers at the cost of 1 Hungarian flyer. Six more Liberators were brought down by Budapest flak. In another USAAF raid 10 days later, the Mustangs were replaced by Republic P-47s, which failed to score against the Messerschmitts. Instead, two Thunderbolts fell to ground fire, along with four B-17 Flying Fortresses.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian pilots were getting the hang of interception, suffering no casualties for downing eight B-24s and six Lightnings. These losses combined with the mistaken American belief that aircraft manufacturing throughout Hungary had been brought to a halt. In fact, just a small Experimental Institute lost its hangars and workshops, and a Messerschmitt factory was damaged, although soon after restored to full production capacity. USAAF warplanes continued to appear in Hungarian skies over the next two months, but only on their way to targets in Austria or ferrying supplies to the Soviet Union. The Magyar Legierd took full advantage of this lull in enemy raids to upgrade and re-train three, full-strength fighter squadrons, while Budapest’s already formidable anti-aircraft defenses were bolstered.

When the 101. Honi Legvedelmi Vadkszrepiild Osztkly, or 101st “Puma” Fighter Group, was formed on May 1, 1944, Cadet Dezsd Szentgyorgyi transferred to the 101/2 Retek, “Radish” Fighter Squadron, where he would soon become Flight Leader, then, on November 16, Ensign. These rapid promotions were generated by his rapidly rising number of enemy heavy-bombers shot down during the “American Season;’ as the period was referred to by his fellow pilots. Placed in charge of the Home Defense Fighter Wing was Major Aladar Heppes. At 40 years of age, he was the Magyar Legierd’s eldest pilot, known as “the Old Puma;’ a seasoned Eastern Front veteran. For practice, his airmen confronted several hundred USAAF heavy bombers and their escorts droning toward Vienna on May 24. Although four Liberators, a Flying Fortress and one Mustang were destroyed, Major Heppes lost one man killed, and six Messerschmitts were damaged. But the Home Defense Fighter Wing crews learned from their experience, and vowed to do better when the Yanks returned in earnest.

Meanwhile, in preparation for imminent Soviet invasion of their country, the “Coconut” Stuka crews were recalled from Eastern Front duty to serve on Hungarian soil. Their 102/2nd dive-bomber squadron was redesignated the 102/1st fighter-bomber squadron, indicating the transition training they undertook to Focke-Wulf FW-190F-8s at Borgond airfield.

On the morning of June 14, 600 USAAF heavy-bombers and 200 escorts went after nitrogen plants and oil refineries outside Budapest, while P-38 Lightnings made low-level strafing runs on a Luftwaffe squadron of Messerschmitt Me.323 Gigant transports at Kecskemet airfield. The defenders were joined by a quartet of German fighters, which made two “kills:’ Eight more were claimed by the 32 Hungarian pilots, who lost one of their own. The city’s anti-aircraft defenses once again proved their worth, shooting down 11 enemy intruders.

Only 28 Home Defense interceptors were serviceable 48 hours later to oppose 650 heavy-bombers ringed by 290 Lightnings and Mustangs that filled the skies over Lake Balaton. Despite the excessive odds confronting them, the Pumas broke through the thick ranks of protective American fighters, claiming a dozen of them to destroy four Liberators. A remarkable set of “kills” was accomplished by Corporal Matyas Lorincz during this, his first operational flight. Hot in pursuit of four P-38s, he was unable to prevent them from shooting down Lieutenant Kohalmy. A moment later, Lorincz was in firing range, and the two Lightnings he set afire collided with and brought down a third. Lieutenant Lajos Toth, Hungary’s third highest-ranking ace with 26 “kills, was forced to take to his parachute, landing not far from the U.S. pilot he had himself shot down a few minutes before. Aviation engineer Gyorgy Punka, recorded how “they chatted until the American was picked up by a Hungarian Army patrol”‘

Relations between opponents were not invariably cordial, however, “with the American pilots deliberately firing on Hungarian airmen who had saved themselves by parachute, or strafing crash-landed aircraft;’ according to Neulen. “One of the victims was Senior Lieutenant Jozef Bognar, who was killed by an American pilot while hanging helplessly beneath his parachute”‘

The June 16 air battle had cost the Home Defense Fighter Wing the lives of five pilots, including two more wounded. Six Gustav Messerschmitts were destroyed, and seven damaged. These losses were immediately made good by fresh recruits and replacement planes, as the struggle against the bombers began to reach a crescendo on the 30th. This time, the Pumas were aided by 12 Messerschmitt Me-110 Destroyers and Me-410 Hornets, plus 5 Gustavs from the Luftwaffe’s 8th Jagddivision. The Germans and Hungarians claimed 11 “kills” between them, while the ferocity of their interception forced a formation of 27 bombers to turn back short of the capital; the remaining 412 diverted into the northwest.

The next USAAF attempt to strike Budapest’s area oil refineries on July 2 was similarly spoiled by just 18 Pumas, together with a like number of Luftwaffe Messerschmitts. As their colleagues in Germany had already learned, it was not necessary to destroy an entire flight of enemy bombers to make them miss their target. Among the most successful interceptions undertaken by the Magyar Legier6 fighters was carried out against 800 U.S. warplanes on July 7. A mere 10 Messerschmitts led by Major Heppes, the Old Puma himself, accounted for as many Liberators falling in flames from the sky, together with another 15 brought down by flak. One Gustav was lost, its pilot parachuting safely to earth.

The American aerial offensive pressed on throughout the summer and into fall of 1944 on an almost daily basis and in growing numbers. The Home Defense Fighter Wing continued to score “kills” and deflect bomber missions, until its men and machines were withdrawn from around Budapest in mid-October on more immediately pressing business: the invasion of their country. The previous six months of stiff Axis resistance had slowed, but could not halt the Red Army juggernaut, which now reached the foot of the Carpathian Mountains at the Hungarian frontier.

In the midst of this crisis, Admiral Horthy lost his nerve and attempted to capitulate to the Soviets. But the Germans learned of it in time, and placed him in protective custody for the rest of the war. News of his dethronement was met with a mix of indifference and acclaim, because the Hungarian people, who remembered all too well the Communist tyranny and terror they experienced during the 1920s, preferred resistance to submission. The Red Army was stopped at the Eastern Carpathian Mountains by German-Hungarian forces, but they could not simultaneously contain a veritable deluge of Red Army troops that overran Transylvania.

Their attack on Budapest began in early December, although the capital was not easily taken. Russian losses over the previous three-and-a-half years were becoming apparent in the declining quality of personnel on the ground and in the air. When, for example, a formation of Heinkel He.111 medium-bombers escorted by Hungarian pilots of the 101/2 Fighter Squadron was about to sortie against Soviet troops crossing the Danube on December 21, an out-numbering group of Lavochkins scattered and fled without a fight. Clearly, Stalin was relying on the dead weight of numbers more than ever before to achieve his objectives.

On January 2,1945, a joint German-Hungarian effort known as Operation Konrad I was launched to break the siege of Budapest. Although significant gains were made early and the Pumas wracked up more “kills;’ high winds kept flying to a frustrating minimum and destroyed more of their aircraft than Soviet pilots. After three days, the attempt to liberate the capital bogged down. Undaunted, reserves pushed onward with Operation Konrad II. During a rare stretch of clear weather on the 8th, Hungarian crews of the 102 Fast Bomber Group celebrated their 2,000th sortie by pummeling Red Army positions. The return of dense fog grounded further flights, however, and Operation Konrad II was abandoned the next day, mostly for lack of air support.

A third and final Operation Konrad appeared to succeed where its predecessors had failed. The Vlth German Army kicked it off on January 18, and 35 miles of territory were recaptured in the first 48 hours of the attack. The mighty Soviet 17th Air Army stumbled backward across the Danube, which advancing Axis troops reached on the 20th. Two days later, the Russians evacuated Szakesfehervar. These successes on the ground were importantly aided by airmen such as Ensign Dezso Szentgyorgyi, the Magyar Legier’s leading ace, who scored 14 victories alone in the fighting for Budapest. His and the rest of the Pumas’s chief targets were Shturmovik ground-attack planes, together with enemy armored vehicles and troops.

A few survivors of the 102/2 Dive-bomber “Coconut” Squadron most of its Ju-87Ds had been destroyed on the ground at Bdrgond the previous October 12 by low-flying P-51s of the American 15th Air Force-pounded Red Army positions and knocked out T-34 tanks. Their vital sorties were abruptly curtailed from January 23 by heavy snowfall, just when Soviet reserves began entering the battle area, and more than 300 German tanks were destroyed. Three days later, Operation Konrad III had to be canceled. During these repeated, all-out efforts to liberate Budapest, the three participating Magyar Legiero squadrons had flown some 150 combined missions to win 69 aerial victories for the loss of 6 pilots during 20 days of flight allowed by the weather. The “Coconut” Squadron was finished, having flown 1,500 sorties, dropped 750 tons of bombs, for the loss of half of their commissioned officer pilots and 40 percent of noncommissioned pilots.

An even-more ambitious attempt than Operation Konrad to regain the initiative got underway on March 6 with Operation Fruhlingserwachsen (“Spring Awakening”) in the Lake Balaton area of Transdanubia. Forces included the German 6th SS Panzer Army, the 1.SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, German 2nd Panzer Army, Army Group Balck, elements of German Army Group E, and the Hungarian Third Army. Objectives included saving the last oil reserves still available to the Axis and routing the Red Army long enough to recapture Budapest. Combined Luftwaffe and Magyar Legiero forces amounted to 850 aircraft opposed by 965 Soviet warplanes.

Odds against the Axis on the ground were far more loaded in their opponents’ favor, with seven infantry armies and a tank army. The combined 101/1 and 101/3 Fighter Squadrons strove to stave off massed flights of Bostons and Shturmoviks savaging Axis armored units and troop concentrations. High numbers of either type were shot down, together with several Yak-9s, on March 9, when the Pumas completed 56 sorties, to gain temporary air superiority above the German 6th SS Panzer Army, enabling it to advance. Despite early, impressive gains such as these, Germany’s last offensive could not prevail against the enemy’s overwhelming numerical advantage, and Axis troops were compelled to fall back to their prepared positions in Hungary, where they were soon overrun.

Great Game of Central-Asian Dominance I

In the 1860s, Russian expeditionary forces entered Uzbekistan and captured the key trading cities of Tashkent and Samarkand. In the 1870s the Russians turned their attention to Khiva, capital of the Turkomans, lying to the south of the Aral Sea on the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. By the end of these campaigns, the empire had been expanded by 210,000 sq km (80,000 sq miles) and the Russian frontier had advanced 500km (300 miles) southwards. The Turkomans had not been wholly beaten, however, and merely retreated into the wilderness. It was then that the Russians found themselves in trouble.

Mikhail Dmitriyevich Skobelev (29 September 1843 – 7 July 1882) was a Russian general famous for his conquest of Central Asia and heroism during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878. Dressed in white uniform and mounted on a white horse, and always in the thickest of the fray, he was known and adored by his soldiers as the “White General” (and by the Turks as the “White Pasha”). During a campaign in Khiva, his Turkmen opponents called him goz zanli or “Bloody Eyes”. British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery wrote that Skobelev was the world’s “ablest single commander” between 1870 and 1914 and called him a “skilful and inspiring” leader.

In 1839, Arthur Connolly, an intelligence officer with the East India Company, described the competition between Great Britain and Russia for control of Central Asia as “the grand game,” and the phrase became widely popular as “the great game” after writer Rudyard Kipling used it in Kim, a novel published in 1901. The rivalry dated from 1813, when (after a lengthy conflict) the Russians forced Persia to accept their control of much territory in the Caucasus Mountains region, including the area covered by modern Azerbaijan, Dagestan, and eastern Georgia. British politicians feared that the tsars’ expansionist ambitions would carry them further south and threaten the commercially and strategically important imperial possessions in India so the government attempted to make Afghanistan a buffer state that would prevent Russian armies from attacking through the Bolan and Khyber Passes in the Himalayas. In the early 20th century, the struggle extended to Persia and Tibet, but by then both powers considered Germany a growing threat so on 31 August 1907, in St. Petersburg, they signed an entente that circumscribed their areas of influence in Persia and ended Russian contacts with the Afghans.

The Great Game

The name attributed to the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century competition for colonial territory in Central Eurasia. Tsarist Russia and Great Britain were the primary actors in this ongoing diplomatic, political, and military rivalry. The term Great Game was first widely popularized in Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim, first published in 1901. British Captain Arthur Connolly, however, was believed to have coined the phrase in his Narrative of an Overland Journey to the North of India in 1835. Since then, it has been the subject of countless historical studies. It should be noted that Russian speakers did not refer to this period of colonial rivalry as the Great Game, but certainly acknowledged this important period of its own historical record. Among Russian speakers, the Great Game competition is referred to as the “Tournament of Shadows.”

The Great Game is generally accepted to date from the early nineteenth century until the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention, although some scholars date its conclusion to later in the twentieth century. The Anglo-Russian Convention is also referred to as the Convention of Mutual Cordiality or the Anglo-Russian Agreement and was signed on August 31, 1907. The convention gave formal unity to the Triple Entente powers, consisting of France, Great Britain, and Russia, who would soon engage in future diplomatic and military struggles against the earlier-formed Triple Alliance, consisting of Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Italy. The agreement also confirmed existing colonial borders. Great Britain and Russia agreed not to invade Afghanistan, Persia, or Tibet, but were allowed certain areas of economic or political influence within those regions.

In contemporary history, popular media often speak of many new “Great Games.” This term has become customary for discussing any sort of diplomatic or stateorganized conflicts or competitions in the Central Eurasian region. These new Great Games are often mentioned in disputes over oil or natural resources, diplomatic influence or alliances, economic competition, the opening or closing of military bases, the outcomes and maneuvering for political elections and offices, or any number of other contemporary issues in Central Eurasia. Russia, the United States, China, Turkey, the European Union countries, East Asian states, and various Islamic-influenced countries are often portrayed as the major competitors of these contemporary Great Games.

The historical roots of the Great Game are planted in a period of sustained mutual fear and mistrust on the part of Britain and Russia throughout most of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both British and Russian leaders feared that the other side would encroach on their territorial holdings and would establish preeminent colonial control in the Central Eurasian region. It was widely believed that this would escalate into a war between the two powers at some point, but this never happened. Russia and Britain, however, did engage in a considerable amount of military ventures against various peoples of Central Eurasia. The conflicts ranged from diplomatic squabbles to shows of military force to full-blown wars.

During the early nineteenth century, Russia became increasingly interested in solidifying its southern borders. The Russians gained allegiance from various Kazakh hordes during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. They still faced opposition from many Kazakhs, however, including Kenesary Kasimov, who led a sustained rebellion of Kazakhs against Russia from 1837-1846. Much of the early nineteenth-century Russian attention in Central Eurasia was directed toward quelling Kazakh resistance and ensuring secure southern borders for the empire. By 1847, the Russians finally succeeded in bringing the Greater, Middle, and Lesser Kazakh hordes under Russian control. In response to its defeat in the Crimean War (1854-1856), Russia turned its military attention away from the Ottoman Empire and the Caucasus and instead toward eastward and southward expansion in Central Eurasia. The terms of the 1856 Treaty of Paris effectively forced Russia to relinquish its interests in Southwest Asia, spurring a new round of imperial interest in Central Eurasia. Russian advances in Central Eurasia were both offensive and defensive moves, as they conquered the only areas left to them and hoped to position themselves against future British encroachment in the region.

The British government became increasingly alarmed over the southward movement of the Russian armies throughout the nineteenth century. Russian conquest of the Kazakh steppe was followed by mid-century attacks on the Central Eurasian oasis empires of Khokand, Khiva, and Bukhara. The Russians began a new wave of conquest in 1864 by conquering the cities of Chimkent and Aulie Ata. Khokand was defeated in 1865 and with the unexpected Russian attack and conquest of Tashkent in 1865 by General Mikhail Cherniaev, tsarist Russia was in a position to launch a string of attacks in the latter 1860s and throughout the 1870s that struck fear in the hearts of the British. The Russians then conquered the Bukhara state in 1868 and the Khiva khanate in 1873. Both Bukhara and Khiva were granted the status of Russian protectorates in 1873. The Turkmen of Central Eurasia put up particularly strong resistance to Russian conquest during a long period of fighting between 1869 and 1885. As with most of the other areas, the Russians considered controlling the Turkmen and their territory as essential for resisting possible British incursions. The Russian victory over the Turkmen at the Battle of Göktepe in 1881 was crucial. The final Russian territorial acquisition in Central Eurasia was at the oasis of Merv in 1884. The Russians considered this conquest especially important because of its proximity to Afghanistan. As the Russian southward advance continued, British colonial officials became increasingly concerned that Russia may attempt to continue southward and attempt to take the jewel in the British colonial crown, India. The British had maintained economic and political influence over South Asia since the early seventeenth century, initially through the British East India Company’s economic ventures. Although India was not a formal British colony until 1858, with the suppression of the Sepoy rebellion, Britain enjoyed strong commercial and political influence over the area throughout the nineteenth century. Russians feared British interest in areas they considered to be in their own colonial backyard-especially Afghanistan, Persia, and Tibet.

The Great Game included two major wars between the British and the leaders of Afghanistan, with disastrous results for the British. The British hoped that Afghanistan could serve as a buffer state in defense of Russian advances toward India. The First Anglo-Afghan war lasted from 1839 until 1842. In this war, the British attempted to replace current Afghan leader Dost Muhammad Khan with a leader more amenable to British control, Shuja Shah. The Second AngloAfghan War was fought from 1878-1880, again over issues of British political and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan. In both conflicts the British faced harsh opposition in Afghanistan; however, after the second conflict, they were able to establish considerable control over Afghan politics by placing Abdur Rahman Khan in power. Abdur Rahman Khan ruled Afghanistan until 1901, largely in service of British interests in the region. He was able to quell opposition to the idea of a unified Afghanistan during this period. Perhaps his biggest test of political leadership came in 1885 in Panjdeh, in northern Afghanistan. Panjdeh was an oasis area, which the Russians wished to claim. After much diplomatic wrangling, the dispute was resolved and the Russians and Afghanis agreed to a border at the Amu Darya River, ceding Panjdeh to the Russian Empire. During the early 1890s, the Russians attempted to continue a southward push through the Pamir Mountains to India’s frontier of Kashmir. At this point mutual fears had reached a crisis situation, but they were temporarily resolved through the work of the Pamir Boundary Commission in 1895. This agreement paved the way for the formal acknowledgment of Russian and British colonial possessions in Central Eurasia through the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention. The Pamir Boundary Commission of 1895 set the definitive boundaries for the Russian Empire in Central Eurasia.

The Russians faced two major setbacks in the early twentieth century, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, and the Revolution of 1905. As a result of these two reversals and amidst the backdrop of an emerging alliance system among the major European powers, the Russians became interested in resolving their disputes with Great Britain. In 1907, both sides agreed to a cessation of the Great Game competition by agreeing to the Anglo-Russian Convention on August 31. Under the terms of this agreement, both sides settled their disputes over territories in Central Eurasia-including Afghanistan, Persia, and Tibet-and forged a military and diplomatic alliance that they would carry into World War I.

Great Game of Central-Asian Dominance II

In a 19th century picture, the Russians attack the Uzbek city of Khiva.

Warrior Uzbek An archer of Bukhara, with a national costume Uzbekistan of the second half century.

Khiva Khanate

Also known historically as Khorezm or Khwarezm, an Islamic state in Central Eurasia, the Khiva Khanate was centered at the city of Khiva, in modern-day Uzbekistan. The khanate established its capital at Khiva as early as 1619 and was under Chinggisid rule for most of that time. In the early nineteenth century, the Inakids took power, removing the Chinggisid element. The new rulers delegated more power to city-dwellers, called Sarts. In 1717-1718, Peter the Great sent a delegation of approximately 300 men to Khiva, who were killed at the hands of the Khivan Khan Shirghazi. Russian imperial interest in the khanate increased during the middle of the nineteenth century. The Russians attacked Khiva following their earlier conquest of Bukhara (1868) and annexed the state as a protectorate in 1873. The khanate faced difficult struggles during the war of 1917-1920. In 1920, the Khivan khanate was ended and replaced by the People’s Soviet Republic of Khorezm.

Bukhara Emirate

One of the substantial Islamic states of Central Eurasia during the age of Russian imperialism. The Bukharan Emirate’s capital, the city of Bukhara, was a very old city that had long been a center of Islamic cultural and intellectual achievement. The emirate was a major political contender and ally of Russia during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It was ruled according to Islamic law and under the leadership of an emir. In 1868, Bukhara formally recognized the superiority of the Russian Empire and, in 1873, was made a Russian protectorate but maintained its sovereignty until Bolshevik conquest in 1920. The last emir of Bukhara was Emir Muhammad Alim Khan, who continued the legacy of traditional Islamic rule. From 1800 until 1920, Bukhara was formally led by the Mangit dynasty, who took over rule from the Chinggisid rulers in the middle of the eighteenth century. See also Great Game; Russian Empire.

Russian expeditionary forces

Numerous internecine conflicts devastated the economies of the Central Asian tribal confederation and of the Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand khanates. In this environment many tribal leaders turned to outside powers for support. In the eighteenth century several Kazakh and Turkoman clans negotiated trade and political treaties with the Russian Empire. In the meantime, some Kyrgyz tribes sent a number of delegations to the British, Chinese and Russian emperors asking for their help or protection. Yet, the Russian and British were initially slow to move into the region.

The situation changed, however, by the mid-nineteenth century. St. Petersburg became increasingly interested in reaching the Central Asian market with their goods, securing land trade routes to Persia and India and halting the British advance toward Central Asia. This British-Russian race for influence in Central Asia became known as the Great Game (Hopkirk 1992). British strategists argued that the Russians might advance to Afghanistan and Persia, thereby threatening British trade and economic interests in the Middle East and in the Indian colonies. Russian strategists in turn saw great economic and military benefits in advancing into Central Asia and protecting Russia’s southern flanks from hostile British moves in case Russian-British relations turned sour. The first actions in the Central Asian region were, however, unsuccessful for both Russia and Britain. In 1840 the Russians tried to march from Orenburg to Khiva and lost nearly half their expeditionary army to severe blizzards and abnormally cold winter weather. In 1842 the British lost their entire Kabul garrison who were slaughtered on the outskirts of the city.

Yet, the Russians decided to continue their push into the region. In preparation for this further expansion, they built a new line of fortresses, establishing Akmolinsk, Kokchetav and Karkaralinsk in 1824, and Aralsk, Kazalinsk and Vernyi between 1847 and 1854.

After Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War (1853-1856), Tsar Alexander II (ruled 1855-1881) decided to boost morale among the general population by waging a “just” war in Central Asia. To do this, the Russian ministers started a propaganda campaign, emphasizing the need to save Russian subjects from the horrible fate of being sold in large numbers as slaves in the bazaars of Central Asia. In the early nineteenth century, a rumor was spread that between 8,000 and 60,000 slaves of Russian origin were to be found in Central Asia. Relying on massive public support, the Russian Empire made a series of decisive moves into Transoxiana between the mid-1850s and mid-1870s.

Kyrgyz tribes.

Between 1855 and 1864 the Kyrgyz tribes in the Lake Ysyk Kol valley, Chatkal River basin and some other areas negotiated a special treaty with the Russian authorities to bring them under Russian protection, a step directly counter to the interests of the Kokand Khanate. This action helped Russia establish control over significant parts of the eastern areas of Central Asia and check any further Chinese move into the region.

Kokand Khanate.

Kokand collided with the imperial Russian authorities in the early 1860s. The khan of Kokand was angered by the fact that the Kyrgyzs tribes of the Chui and Ysyk Kol valleys, whom Kokand had subjugated decades earlier, had become subjects of the Russian Empire. Kokand’s ruler, Khudoyar Khan, overestimated his military potential and waged a futile war against Russian troops. A small expeditionary Russian army led by Generals Cherniaev, Konstantin von Kaufman and Mikhail Skobelev conquered the cities of Ak-Masjid, Turkistan and Chimkent in 1864, Tashkent in 1865, and Khojand in 1866. The khan of Kokand, having experienced defeat after defeat and mass desertions by his troops, signed a peace treaty in 1869.

Bukhara Emirate.

The Emir of Bukhara, Muzzafar Khan, was alarmed by the Russian actions against the Kokand Khanate. He demanded the return of the city of Tashkent to Bukharan authorities and mobilized his troops. In response, the Russian expeditionary army attacked the Bukharan cities of Jizak and Ura Tube in 1866 and of Samarqand in 1868. The Bukharan army, untrained and equipped with outdated cannons and muskets, was defeated. Another Bukharan army, led by Muzzafar Khan himself, lost another battle before the city of Katta Qurgan. Muzzafar Khan signed a peace treaty with the Russian authorities that legitimized the Russian annexation of the territories of the Kokand and brought the Bukhara Khanate under the indirect control of the Russian Empire.

Khiva Khanate.

The Khiva Khanate witnessed the fate of the other khanates and did not present any significant resistance. In 1869 Russian troops landed on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea and organized several expeditions deep into the Karakum Desert, threatening the western frontier of the khanate. In 1873 they marched simultaneously from Orenburg and Tashkent and after short skirmishes captured the city of Khiva. In 1873 Khiva’s ruler, Muhammad Rahim Khan, signed a capitulation and peace treaty. Turkoman tribes. The independent-minded Turkoman tribes resisted and even had some success against Russian regiments below the Geok Tepe fortress in 1879, but the Russian expeditionary army defeated the Turkoman army at the Geok Tepe fortress in 1881. Peaceful treaties between the Russians and Turkomans followed, and the territory controlled by the various Turkoman tribes came under Russian control.

FURTHER READING: Hopkirk, Peter. The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia. New York: Kodansha International, 1994; Morgan, Gerald. Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia: 1810-1895. London: Frank Cass, 1981; Siegel, Jennifer. Endgame: Britain, Russia, and the Final Struggle for Central Asia. London: I. B. Tauris Publishers, 2002; Soucek, Svat. A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.