The Imperial Russian Air and Naval Forces 1914-1918

Staff Captain Pyotr Nesterov

For a country so backward in just about every other branch of technology, it is surprising that Russia had the second largest air force in Europe, after France. The Imperial Russian Air Force – Imperatorskii Voyenno-Vozdushny Flot (IVF), to give it its correct name – was even able to claim the credit for the first enemy aircraft ever destroyed in flight. Piloting a Nieuport IV monoplane, the aerobatic pioneer Staff Captain Pyotr Nesterov was the first man to fly a loop. On 25 August 1914 he repeatedly fired his pistol at an Austrian Albatros BII on a reconnaissance mission, then deliberately flew his Morane-Saulnier Type G monoplane into the Albatros. His specific intent is unknown because, in addition to causing the Austrian aircraft to crash, killing pilot and observer, his own plane was so damaged by the collision that it also crashed, killing him when he fell out on the way down. There were no parachutes at the time, except for observer officers in tethered balloons, because it was thought that this would cause nervous pilots to bail out before they needed to, instead of flying their valuable craft back to base for the necessary repairs.

Formed in 1910, IVF traced its beginnings back to earlier experimental flights by pioneers like Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Igor Sikorsky, who emigrated to the United States in 1919 after the Revolution. Before the war, he built a four-engine airliner named after the Russian folk hero Ilya Murometz, but commonly called ‘the big ’un’, at his Russo-Baltic Wagon Company factory in Riga. Powered by French-built Salmson air-cooled engines, the civilian version had panoramic windows lining the large and comfortable insulated cabin, heated by the exhaust pipes, with wicker armchairs for up to sixteen passengers, a table, bunk, electric lighting – and the first airborne toilet! Hatches on either side of the cabin allowed the flight engineer to scramble out onto the lower wing to service the engines in flight. For the time, it was an extraordinary piece of engineering and set a world record by flying from St Petersburg to Kiev in Ukraine, a return trip of 2,400km, in under twenty-eight hours’ flying time with only one refuelling stop in each direction.

The several military versions designed for service as heavy bombers had a gun position equipped with an 8mm machine gun and a 37mm cannon set in the middle of the upper wing, where the gunner had 180-degree vision at the cost of being completely exposed to the elements. Up to eight other machine guns could be fitted in various positions, including a tail gunner pod, making this an early Flying Fortress. All this armament and the armour-plating that protected the motors made the Ilya Murometz the least favourite target for CP fighters, which also found the powerful prop wash dangerously destabilising if they got too close when attacking from the rear. Navigation instruments were still primitive but did include a drift indicator and simple bombsight. Bomb racks could accommodate up to 800kg of bombs. Seventy-three of these amazing machines were built in all, flying over 400 sorties and leading the way in squadron-strength raids, night bombing, photographic damage assessment and the dropping of safe-conducts to encourage enemy ground troops to desert.

The total of 5,000 aircraft of all types built in Russia between 1914 and the end of hostilities included ‘flying boats’ as float-planes were then called, constructed for the Imperial Russian Navy. Construction of all aircraft was limited by the need to depend heavily on foreign aero engines – mainly from France. Austro-Hungary did not do much better, but Germany allegedly produced over 45,000 aircraft during the war. Spare parts were also a big problem for Russia, given the wide variety of makes and models, for many of which spares were not available locally. Ground crews therefore tried to fit non-standard parts, which caused additional unreliability so that, as the war ground on, many aircraft in front-line squadrons would not have been considered airworthy at any other place or time.

For all the undoubted skills of Russian aircraft constructors and fliers, in the first months of hostilities IVF aircraft were confined to reconnaissance and artillery observation roles because the military applications of flying machines had yet to be fully appreciated. In December 1914 an otryad or squadron of Ilya Murometz aircraft was tasked with bombing missions against both German and Austro-Hungarian armies in the first step towards the carpet bombing of cities forty years later.

Among the other aircraft in IVF was the Anatra DS, built in Artur Anatra’s factory at Odessa in the Ukraine. This was a two-seater reconnaissance biplane with 150hp Salmson Canton-Unne water-cooled radial engine that necessitated an ugly cooling radiator mounted on the centre of the upper wing. The DSS model had radiators mounted on the plywood sides of the fuselage or under the nose. It had a maximum speed of 144kph and ceiling of 4,300m. The pilot had a forward-firing machine gun and the observer used a second machine gun firing in a wide arc. Also made in the Anatra factory was the oddest-looking aircraft of the war. The Anadwa VKh was a twin-boom three-seater biplane light bomber composed of two Anatra D fuselages, of which the left one was occupied by the pilot, and the right by his observer. The machine gunner was seated in a nacelle mounted on the centre of the upper wing, providing excellent all-round vision and field of fire. Powered by twin 9-cylinder air-cooled Gnome rotary engines, it could carry a bomb-load of 600kg at a maximum speed of 140kph and service ceiling of 4,000m.

The Moskva MB 2-bis single-seater fighter was powered by a single Rhône air-cooled rotary engine that gave it a maximum speed of 130kph and ceiling of 3,200m. The single machine gun was not synchronised, on some models firing above the propeller arc. Other models had bullet deflectors on the propeller blades, which seems a bizarre idea today. In 1916 two Russian engineers collaborated to produce the Savelyev Quadruplane. The four wings were in a strut-braced box tilted forward with a Morane-G fuselage fitted between. Under-powered when first flown in April 1916, it went into production with a more powerful Gnome-Monosoupape or Clerget 9-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine, giving it a maximum speed of 132kph and a ceiling somewhere above 2,000m, sufficient for reconnaissance work.

The Voisin-Ivanov was another biplane made in the Anatra factory, primarily for ground attack roles. Fitted with a Salmson P9 water-cooled radial engine, it carried a crew of two with one machine gun and a bomb-load of less than 100kg. Its design was based on the French Voisin LAS pusher biplane, which enabled the observer sitting in the front seat to have a clear field of fire to the front and sides. Maximum speed was 150kph with a ceiling of 3,500m. More than 100 were produced and some continued in use after the Revolution until lack of spares eventually grounded most aircraft in Russia.

At the start of the war, Germany had 200-plus aircraft in a corps designated Die Fliegertruppen, or flying troops. For the first months of hostilities their main activity was reconnaissance, often performed by pilots flying the reliable Rumpler-Taube monoplane which had been in production since 1912 and was instrumental in causing many casualties among Allied troops in Macedonia. As the combat potential of aircraft was realised, in late 1916 the German air force was renamed Die Luftstreitkräfte.

The Fokker MV was an unarmed single-seater monoplane, first produced in 1913. With its single wing above the cabin, it afforded excellent visibility of the ground below and was widely used in early months of hostilities. It was also the platform from which the more successful Fokker EI was developed. Marks II and III were also single-seater fighters, which first appeared on the Russian front in 1915. The EIII had a more powerful engine than the earlier models and one 7.92mm machine gun. At end of 1915 this was superseded by the Mark IV with an up-rated engine and two machine guns. The Mark V, with its Gnome-Lamda 7-cylinder rotary engine had a tubular metal construction that made it light and strong. Some modified Mark VIII models were designated AI and AIII, and fitted with a single 7.92mm parabellum machine gun. The Fokker DV1 was an all-metal biplane with a speed of 200kph that could reach a ceiling of 6,000m. However, it only arrived on the Russian fronts in April 1918, at the time of the Armistice.

The Albatros DIII biplane was feared by Russian pilots as the most dangerous German aircraft of the war, with its speed of 165kph and a ceiling of 5,000m. Its successor the Albatros DV biplane was reputed to be able to out-fly most Allied aircraft with the exception of the Bleriot-SPAD 7. The Roland CII appeared on the Russian fronts early in 1916, and was used for local and long-range recce, correction of artillery fire and precision bombing until mid-1917. The Fokker Dreidecker triplane was inspired by the British-built Sopwith triplane. With the fuselage between the two lower wings, early models had structural problems but the Mark V and later models stood every test on the Russian fronts starting in February 1917. Because of its inherent instability, the aircraft was loved by fighter aces for its ability to take immediate evading action and was the machine of choice for the German ace Manfred von Richtofen. It was in one of these that he was shot down and killed in April 1918.

The AEG GIII was the first German long-distance bomber – and range was imperative on the widespread Russian fronts. It was produced from mid-1915 onwards and was in service from the end of that year. It had two machine guns and could carry a 300kg bomb-load. The Zeppelin-Staaken RVI was another long-distance heavy bomber. Armed with four machine guns, it could carry eighteen 100kg bombs. The four powerful Maybach engines were mounted in two pods on either side of the fuselage that each had one pusher and one puller propeller. Between the two motors in each pod was a space for the flight mechanic to sit when carrying out in-flight maintenance. Although built in Germany, the Hansa-Brandenburg C1 biplane was passed on to Austro-Hungarian fliers as being not quite good enough for use as a fighter, although adequate for reconnaissance roles. Surprisingly, twelve Austro-Hungarian airmen scored sufficient kills with it to be labelled aces.

Although a side-show to the main conflict on land, the Baltic was itself a theatre of war. Here, Russia was at a great disadvantage because, during the Russo-Japanese war, Admiral Zinovi Rozhdestvensky had led the Russian Baltic Fleet from the Latvian port of Libau (modern Liepaja) to relieve the blockade of Port Arthur by the Japanese – a task well beyond the capacity of the Russian Pacific Fleet. On 14 May 1905 this fleet belatedly set course from Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay for the surviving Russian naval base at Vladivostok, Port Arthur having already surrendered during the long voyage. Admiral Togo Heihachiro’s more modern and better armed warships were waiting in ambush in the Tsushima Strait between Japan and Korea. In the long and bloody Battle of Tsushima 27–29 May the Russian fleet lost over 200,000 tons of shipping, against Heihachiro’s losses of 300 tons. Casualties were similarly disparate, with 4,830 Russian sailors killed and 6,000 taken prisoner, including the admiral, while Japanese casualties totalled less than 200.

Nine years later, with the Russian Baltic Fleet still well below strength, by 26 August 1914 both German and Russian submersibles patrolled the Baltic. In October 1914 a German submersible sank the Russian cruiser Palladia in October 1914 and a Royal Navy submarine sank the German heavy cruiser Adalbert. When the German cruiser Magdeburg went aground while mine-laying off the Gulf of Riga, its crew was evacuated by an escorting destroyer but left behind their code books, which greatly helped to break encrypted German radio traffic when forwarded to the British Admiralty. In the Baltic both sides laid thousands of mines, claiming several ships, and also shelled coastal towns held by the enemy.

Jan Nagórski

In late August and early September 1914 Polish-born IVF pilot Jan Nagórski was the first man to fly over the Arctic, making five search missions in his Farman MFII biplane in the hope of finding the lost Russian polar explorer Georgi Sedov. It was an incredibly brave undertaking, given the state of low-temperature engineering knowledge and the fact that the only lubricant was castor oil. Nagórski’s subsequent war service included flying as eyes-in-the-sky for the Baltic Fleet from a base at Turku, Finland, where he was the first man to loop the loop in a float-plane, in September 1916. In 1917 his aircraft was damaged far out over the Baltic and Nagórski declared missing in action when he did not return to base. After several hours in very cold water, he was picked up by a Russian submarine and recovered from exposure in a military hospital in Riga. Because the report of his rescue and recovery never reached his HQ, he was declared dead – and stayed that way for thirty-eight years! In 1955 he attended a lecture in Warsaw where he was referred to as ‘a dead Russian aviator’ and announced to the amazed audience that he was neither Russian nor dead.

On 8 August 1915 the largely obsolete Russian Baltic Fleet of five pre-dreadnoughts with four dreadnoughts, six ancient armoured cruisers, four light cruisers, destroyers, torpedo boats and a few small submarines – including three Royal Navy submersibles that had sneaked into the Baltic – found itself facing a strong German naval task force of eight dreadnoughts, three battle cruisers, some light cruisers and destroyers of the High Sea Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral Franz Ritter von Hipper. Hipper was attempting to break into the Gulf of Riga to destroy Russian naval forces based there and lay mines to interdict Russian use of the port of Riga – a strategically important communications hub. The Germans’ first problem was negotiating the Russian minefields in the Irben Strait, which proved costly. After two minesweepers were sunk, the first attack was abandoned.

On 16 August a third minesweeper was lost but, more importantly, the ageing Russian battleship Slava was driven off by two German dreadnoughts while the main force stayed out in the Baltic. That night, two German destroyers broke through the Irben Strait, hunting the Slava. Battle was joined by Russian destroyers and one German destroyer was so damaged that it had to be scuttled. After daybreak, German dreadnoughts Posen and Nassau pursued Slava and scored three hits before it withdrew to the shelter of Moon Sound. After further mine-clearing, the first German warships were able to penetrate the Gulf of Riga and attack Russian shipping there. A blow for Britain was then struck when RN submersible E-1, captained by Lt Commander Laurence, scored a torpedo hit on the battle cruiser Moltke, damaging it in the bows.

On 14 August the British Admiralty had ordered Lt Commander Layton’s E-13 and four other submersibles to sail from Harwich to reinforce the Baltic flotilla, but E-13 was not a ‘lucky ship’ and ran aground on the Danish island of Saltholm while negotiating the narrows of Øresund on the night of 18 August. In spite of Danish navy attempts to screen it, two German torpedo boats opened fire on the stranded vessel. Re-floated, E-13 was interned until the end of the war, when it was returned to Britain, its captain having meanwhile been allowed to escape and find his way home. Sister ships E-18 and E-19 arrived safely in the port of Riga the following month. The fate of the fourth British submarine is a mystery.

After the damage to Moltke, Hipper decided to break off contact in what was really a ground support operation, reasoning that the High Seas Fleet would have need of its capital ships for more important naval tasks ahead. On land, for most of the Russian troops food was poor or non-existent for days on end; there was no home leave; due to lack of medical facilities, a small wound often meant death from infection. But the main problem lay in the inability of the Russian munitions industry to supply guns and especially shells for the artillery. Because of the lack of rifles to issue to them, the proposed call-up of the 1916 class had to be postponed. But there were signs of change. Some Japanese materiel was arriving from Vladivostok via the Trans-Siberian railway.

Lying on a mile-wide stretch of the estuary of the Northern Dvina, Archangel was not much of a harbour in European terms. This river was not a northern stretch of the Baltic Dvina, but a separate watercourse, the word dvina being apparently a pre-Russian word for river. Although devoid of wagon-ways along which ponies could haul freight, and lacking cranes, Archangel was an established town overlooking the water, over a mile wide at this point. The chaos here, caused by the impossibility of moving the stores away fast enough, made a negative impression on every visitor. The nearest railhead was across the river at Bakaritsa, to which freight had to be transported by barge or, in winter, hauled across the ice of the frozen river by pony-drawn sled for onward transportation along the ramshackle narrow-gauge railway leading to the south. In 1914 the railway had a capacity of twelve short trains a day; the requirement was for at least five times this level of traffic. An additional, seasonal problem was that the Bakaritsa terminal was flooded during the spring thaw, when freight transported across the estuary by barge was then hauled through mud and water 8 miles further south, to Isakagorka.

Given the vital necessity to import materiel for the Russian war effort, one would have thought that Nicholas II’s government would have put in hand a priority programme of modernisation of the port, its freight handling facilities and the totally inadequate railway to the south. There was no such programme. Money was made available as and when: 1.5 million roubles to purchase two Canadian ice-breakers; 270,000 roubles to purchase metal barges to replace the rotten old wooden ones; another 20 million roubles for the widening of the railtracks – and so on. It was a Russian problem. No one was in overall charge, yet somehow by the spring of 1916 supplies were flowing in something like satisfactory manner.

To get around the insoluble problem of Archangel being ice-bound for half the year, a contract was given to a British company for the construction of a railway reaching all the way from Petrograd to the ice-free fishing port of Aleksandrovsk (now Murmansk) on the Kola Peninsula. It lay 350 miles to the north-west of Archangel, but was ice-free all year, thanks to the mitigating effects of the Gulf Stream. This warm-water inlet was to become the home port for the Soviet Cold War nuclear submarine fleet. The British company backed out – either because of the nature of the near-impossible job or because of the difficulty of dealing with the Russian authorities. A larger than life character named Admiral Roshchakovsky – big, bluff and with a chestful of medals – was given thousands of German and Austro-Hungarian POWs as forced labour to build a single-track railway from the fishing port of Aleksandrovsk to connect it with Petrograd and points south. As when Stalin ordered the construction of the White Sea Canal across the same region using Gulag labour in 1931–33 at the cost of 35,000 lives, so thousands of these POWs died during construction of the line.

There being no commercial docking facilities at Aleksandrovsk, Roshchakovsky’s labour force built a port too – not that any westerner was other than depressed at the first sight of the unplanned sprawl of hastily built wooden shacks that was to be their home there. While the 600-mile railway was a-building, Roshchakovsky requisitioned thousands of Lapps and their reindeer to haul sledges laden with stores south towards the fronts. The Lapps had formally been exempted from this sort of exploitation and had to be threatened with the execution of their hereditary leaders before they gave in. It was at Aleksandrovsk that the Royal Navy based a flotilla of armed trawlers for minesweeping the shipping lanes around the northern tip of Norway. In 1916 a permanent town named Romanov na Murmane was founded, and later became modern Murmansk.

Aside from the appalling winter weather, there can be few more difficult terrains through which to drive a railway across the permafrost tundra, of which the top half-metre gradually thawed in summer to destabilise the rails and release swarms of vicious mosquitoes that tormented the labourers. In anticipation of its completion allowing freight to travel directly to Petrograd, the Royal Navy was sweeping German mines from the sea lanes to the north Russian ports – although, as Knox himself was to discover, not always successfully.


IJN Heavy Cruiser Takao

The Japanese had probably the best cruisers of the early Pacific War era. Their crews were superbly trained and the boats themselves superbly handled, and used very imaginatively as well.

The Takao class was a class of four heavy cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy launched between May 1930 and April 1931.

They were an evolution from the preceding Myoko class, with heavier torpedo armament and had an almost battleship-like, large bridge structure. Their bridges able to accommodate an Fleet staff.

Their main gun armament was ten 8-inch (203 mm) guns in twin mounts and they were also armed with sixteen 24 inch torpedoes (carrying more than the Myokos or Mogamis), making the Takaos the most heavily armed cruisers of the IJN. The only flaw was that they were considered top-heavy and thus prone to capsizing, while Turret #3 had a poor firing arc. These two problems were rectified in the follow-up Mogamis; nonetheless the Takaos were considered the best cruisers that the IJN ever built.

IJN Takao: Early in the morning of 15 November 1942, the battleship Kirishima, supported by Takao and Atago, engaged the American battleships Washington and South Dakota. All three Japanese ships hit South Dakota multiple times with shells, knocking out her radar and fire controls. Takao and Atago fired Long Lance torpedoes at Washington but missed. However, Kirishima was quickly disabled by Washington and sank a few hours later. Atago was damaged. Takao escaped unharmed, but was forced to retreat to Truk.

Takao was launched on 12 May 1930 at the Yokosuka Navy Yard and commissioned on 31 May 1932, and was the lead ship of her class.

At the start of World War II, Takao was commanded by Captain Asakura Bunji and assigned to Vice Admiral Kondo Nobutake’s Cruiser Division 4 together with her sister ships Atago and Maya. In late December 1941, she provided gunfire support for the landings at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon in the Philippines.

In early 1942, Takao operated in the Java Sea in operations culminating in the Battle of the Java Sea in early March. On 1 March, one of Takao’s floatplanes bombed the Dutch merchant ship Enggano. The next night, Takao and Atago overtook the old United States Navy destroyer Pillsbury and sank her with no survivors. Early on 4 March, Takao, Atago, Maya and two destroyers of Destroyer Division 4, Arashi and Nowaki attacked a convoy near Tjilatjap. The Royal Australian Navy sloop HMAS Yarra defended the convoy for an hour and half, but was sunk with 34 survivors of her crew of 151. (Of these 34 survivors, only 13 were alive to be picked up a week later by the Dutch submarine K-XI and taken to Ceylon.) The Japanese cruisers then sank three ships from the convoy: the tanker Francol, the depot ship Anking, and a minesweeper. Two Dutch freighters were also captured.

In June 1942, Takao and Maya supported the invasion of the Aleutian Islands. On 3 June 1942, their reconnaissance floatplanes were attacked by United States Army Air Forces Curtiss P-40 fighters from Umnak and two were shot down; on 5 June, Takao shot down a B-17 Flying Fortress.

In August 1942, she was assigned to Operation Ka, the Japanese reinforcement during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and participated in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands on 26 October. A determined attempt to shell the US base at Henderson Field led to the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal: early in the morning of 15 November 1942, the battleship Kirishima, supported by Takao and Atago, engaged the American battleships Washington and South Dakota. All three Japanese ships hit South Dakota multiple times with shells, knocking out her radar and fire controls. Takao and Atago fired Long Lance torpedoes at Washington but missed. However, Kirishima was quickly disabled by Washington and sank a few hours later. Atago was damaged. Takao escaped unharmed, but was forced to retreat to Truk.


Despite everything that Rear- Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s two heavy cruisers (Maya and Suzuya) threw at it during the following night, Henderson Field remained defiantly operational. Its aircraft proved that on the morning of 14 November by attacking the rest of Nishimura’s force (the light cruiser Tenryu and four destroyers) and the units of Gunichi Mikawa’s 8th Fleet (the two heavy cruisers Chokai and Kinugasa, the light cruiser Isuzu and two destroyers) which had been acting as a covering force for the previous evening’s bombardment. Along with carrier aircraft from the Enterprise, the Americans swiftly got their own back on the Japanese for the destruction of TG. 67.4. After waves of attacks, hits and near-misses, the heavy cruiser Kinugasa was sunk, while two others (Chokai and Maya) and the light cruiser Isuzu, along with one of Nishimura’s destroyers, were damaged to the extent that they could not go to Tanaka’s assistance as he brought his transports down `The Slot’ to their landing sites on Guadalcanal later that day. More punishment was meted out to the Japanese when carrier aircraft from the Enterprise, along with planes from both Henderson Field and Espiritu Santo, found these troop transports. Six were sunk and one was damaged in a series of savage attacks that killed 400 troops and left another 5,000 to be rescued and put ashore by their destroyer escorts. Tanaka stoically pressed on with only four transports left and got his troops ashore on the northwest of the island during the hours of darkness(14-15 November). It was just as well because more air attacks followed the next day and all the empty transports were hit and sunk.

As Tanaka was disembarking his troops, Kondo’s 2nd Fleet – comprising the battleship Kirishima, the heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, two escort cruisers and their eight destroyers – were trying to do what Abe and Nishimura’s forces were supposed to have done the previous two evenings and eliminate Henderson Field. Once again, the night time operation was thwarted. On this occasion the perpetrators were the two battleships South Dakota and Washington and four destroyers belonging to Rear-Admiral Willis Lee’s TF 64 which Vice-Admiral William `Bull’ Halsey, the recently appointed C-in-C South Pacific, had sent the previous day from their holding position south of Guadalcanal to go to Turner’s aid after the loss of Callaghan, Scott and their ships. Once again, the nightfighting skills of the Japanese wreaked havoc with the American ships when they confronted one another in Iron Bottom Sound off the northeast coast of Guadalcanal. Three of Lee’s destroyers were swiftly dispatched by a mixture of shells and torpedoes and the other one, Gwin, was damaged. His leading battleship (South Dakota) lost her radar and shortly thereafter the ability to avoid the concentrated fire of her heaviest opponents. Despite being battered, she was still able to defend herself as the destroyer Ayanami found out the hard way when she tried to torpedo her. While all of this was going on, Lee’s other battleship (Washington) remained unseen and unaffected. Captain G. B. Davis, expertly using his radar, brought her to within 8,000 metres of the Kirishima and sank her in a seven-minute bout of shelling. Kondo, on his flagship Atago, had no option but to abandon his mission and withdraw taking the rest of his fleet with him. Henderson Field’s extraordinary durability was set to continue.


In 1943, Takao supported the evacuation of Guadalcanal. Under the command of Inoguchi Toshihira, she operated in the central Pacific from her base at Truk. On 5 November 1943, she was refuelling at Rabaul in the Bismarck Islands when she came under attack by SBD Dauntless dive bombers from USS Saratoga (see Attack on Rabaul). Takao was hit by two bombs, killing 23 and damaging her steering; she was forced to return to Yokosuka in Japan for dry dock repairs.

On 22 October 1944, she joined Takeo Kurita’s “Centre Force” and sailed from Brunei Bay for the Battle of Leyte Gulf. On 23 October, as she was passing Palawan Island, the force came under attack from two US submarines. At 06:34, Takao was hit by two torpedoes from USS Darter, which shattered two shafts, broke her fantail and flooded three boiler rooms. She turned back to Brunei, escorted by the destroyers Naganami and Asashimo, the torpedo boat Hiyodori and the transport Mitsu Maru. This flotilla was tailed by Darter and Dace until just after midnight on 24 October, when Darter ran aground on the Bombay Shoal and Dace remained to rescue her crew.

Takao was so badly damaged that it was considered impossible to send her back to Japan any time soon for full repairs. So the stern was cut off and shored up, and she was moored as an anti-aircraft battery for the defence of Singapore. While berthed there, she was attacked (Operation Struggle) on 31 July 1945 by the British midget submarine HMS XE3, commanded by Lieutenant Ian Edward Fraser and Acting Leading Seaman James Joseph Magennis, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Magennis attached six limpet mines to Takao’s hull using a piece of rope (the hull was covered with thick layer of seaweed, and the magnets of the limpet mines would not hold them on the hull); when the mines exploded, they blew a hole 20 m by 10 m. Most of Takao’s guns were put out of action, the rangefinders were destroyed and a number of compartments flooded.

On 5 September 1945, the Straits of Johor naval base was surrendered by the Japanese to the British and the formal boarding of the still partially manned Takao took place on 21 September 1945. She was finally towed to the Straits of Malacca to be used as a target ship for HMS Newfoundland and sunk on October 19, 1946 (03°05′05″N 100°41′00″ECoordinates: 03°05′05″N 100°41′00″E).

Other Takao-class heavy cruisers

Continuing in her role as a fleet flagship, Chokai was assigned to the Eighth Fleet in August 1942. As the flagship of Vice Admiral Mikawa Gunichi, she played a central role in the Japanese victory at Savo Island, although she also received the most damage of any Japanese ship present – American cruisers achieved several hits, killing 34 crewmen. Throughout the campaign, Chokai was a regular visitor to the waters around Guadalcanal, and on 14 October she and Kinugasa bombarded Henderson Field. On November 3, the other three ships of Sentai 4 departed Truk to reinforce the Eighth Fleet. Later, on November 13, Maya and Chokai left Shortland anchorage to conduct a night bombardment of Henderson Field alongside Suzuya. After hitting the airfield with 989 shells, the cruisers were attacked during their withdrawal by aircraft from the carrier Enterprise. Kinugasa was sunk, Chokai slightly damaged, and Maya more heavily damaged when a dive-bomber struck the ship’s mainmast and crashed into her port side, igniting fires. Maya’s torpedoes were jettisoned to avoid a disaster and she was sent back to Japan for repairs.

After her repairs, Maya was assigned to the Fifth Fleet and took part with Nachi in the March 1943 battle of Komandorski Islands, as already recounted. Later that year, Takao, Atago, Maya, and other heavy cruisers were forward-deployed to Rabaul with the aim of launching a massive cruiser attack on the American invasion forces at Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville. To forestall such an operation, the Americans hastily mounted a carrier air attack on the cruisers on November 5, while the Japanese vessels were still anchored in Rabaul Harbor. Takao was hit by a bomb near No. 2 turret, killing 23 men; she departed the same day with Atago for Truk. Atago suffered three near misses that caused flooding in the boiler and engine rooms. Maya was heavily damaged when a dive-bomber hit the aircraft deck above the No. 3 engine room and started a major fire in the engine room itself that killed 70. Maya returned to Japan in December 1943 and underwent major repairs and conversion.

The entire Takao class participated in the Philippine Sea operation. Maya was slightly damaged by near misses from carrier air attack. Leyte Gulf, however, was the death knell of the IJN’s finest class of cruisers. All four were assigned to the First Diversionary Attack Force. On October 23, the force was ambushed by two American submarines in the Palawan Passage. Darter sank Atago with four torpedoes and hit Takao with two others, setting her afire and stopping her dead in the water. Dace sank Maya with four torpedoes, killing 470 of 1,105 crewmen. Takao was able to get under way and arrived in Singapore on November 12. The cruiser was deemed irreparable and was moved to join Myoko in Seletar Harbor as a floating anti-aircraft battery.

Plans for modernizing the Takao class were complete by April 1938, but the approach of war meant that only two ships in the class were fully modernized: Takao at Yokosuka from May 1938 to August 1939 and Atago from April 1938 to October 1939. Chokai and Maya received only limited modernization before the war, including modifications to handle the Type 93 oxygen-propelled torpedo, heavier catapults, and the standard fit of 13mm and 25mm light anti-aircraft guns.

During the modernization, the anti-aircraft armament was increased, though the projected fit of the Type 89 5in twin guns did not begin until after the start of the war: Atago and Takao received theirs in May 1942; Chokai retained the single 4.7in guns until she was lost in 1944; Maya kept hers until reconstruction as an anti-aircraft cruiser began in November 1943. The light anti-aircraft armament was standardized and in the autumn of 1941 the two twin 13mm mounts were replaced with two 25mm mounts. The torpedo armament was augmented by the substitution of quad mounts for the existing double torpedo mounts.

The largest change was to the bridge structure, which was rebuilt to reduce topweight. When completed, the bridge was much smaller in appearance and was the primary feature for distinguishing Atago and Takao from their sisters Maya and Chokai. The bridge accommodated new fire-control equipment and featured the placement of an almost 20ft rangefinder in a separate tower immediately aft of the Type 94 fire-control director.

The other primary change was the alteration of the aircraft-handling facilities and the area of the hangar. To do this, the mainmast was moved 82ft aft. Two heavier catapults were also fitted and moved forward. As on the Myoko class, larger bulges were fitted to increase anti-torpedo protection and stability.

During the war, modifications were made to the ships’ radar and light anti-aircraft fit. In July-August 1943, Atago and Takao received the foremast-mounted No. 21 radar and two triple 25mm guns, making their total light anti-aircraft fit six twin and two triple mounts. Maya and Chokai received the No. 21 radar and two twin 25mm mounts between August and September, making their total anti-aircraft fit eight twin mounts.

In November 1943-January 1944, Atago and Takao were fitted with No. 22 radars and eight 25mm single guns. Chokai could not return to Japan during this period, but was given ten single 25mm guns at Truk. After receiving severe damage in November 1943, Maya returned to Yokosuka in December 1943 for repair and conversion into an anti-aircraft cruiser. Her No. 3 8in gun turret was removed, as were all her twin 25mm mounts, the single 4.7in mounts, and her old twin torpedo tubes. In their place were fitted six twin Type 89 guns with two Type 94 directors, plus 13 triple and nine single Type 96 guns. In addition, 36 13mm machine-guns on moveable mounts and four quadruple torpedo mounts with no reserve torpedoes were fitted. A No. 22 radar was added, and the No. 21 radar received a larger antenna.

Another round of modernization began after the battle of the Philippine Sea in June 1944. All four units received a No. 13 radar and Chokai finally received a No. 22 set. In June 1944, Atago and Takao received four triple and 22 single 25mm guns. Maya received another 18 single guns, while Chokai received 12 more single mounts. Plans were made to convert her as Maya, but since she did not return to Japan until June 1944, these was never carried out.

IJN Cruiser Armour

Kako – Belt 79.88m X 4.12m of 76mm NVNC plate at 9 degree slope, AD 35-32mm, 51mm sides and 35mm roofs on magazines, total wt 1200t, 12% of trial displacement
Aoba – as Kako.

Myoko – belt 123.15m X 3.5m of 102mm NVNC plate at 12 degree slope. AD as Kako, total wt 2032.5t, 16.1% of trial displacement.

Takao – belt 119.8m X 3.5m (Amidships) of 102mm NVNC plate at 12 degrees, but thickness and height varied at the ends (38-127mm thick). AD as Kako, total wt 2368t 16.8% of trial displacement.

Mogami – belt over machinery tapered from 100mm to 25mm over magazines tapered from 140mm to 30mm (total length and height not given) at 20 degree slope. AD 35mm flat, 60mm sloped. total wt in 1935 was 2029t 15.6% of trial displacement.

Tone – belt over machinery 77.8m X 6.95m tapering from 100 to 18mm, belt over magazines 44.82m X ? high, tapering 145 to 55mm all at 20 degree slope
AD 31mm flat 60mm slope, total 2053t 14.6% of trial displacement.

Ibuki – similar to Mogami.

Note, none of the above protection schemes were modified during the various reconstructions only minor plating added.

Special Brigades of the Russian Expeditionary Force

Russian troops parading in front of général Henri Gouraud and général Nikolaï Lokhvitski at camp de Mailly in October 1916.

General N. Lokhvitskiy inspecting positions accompanied by Russian and French Officers in the summer of 1916 in Champagne.

Travel of the Russian Expeditionary Force to the Western Front

Surprisingly, at this time of preparation for the great offensive of 1916 – and even more surprisingly in view of the millions of casualties already suffered and men taken prisoner – Russia was sending troops abroad. When Vasily Lodshina was being deafened by the guns in the forest, 1st Special Brigade of the Russian Expeditionary Force landed at Marseille to fight on the Western Front. Visiting Russia in December 1915 future French president Paul Doumer had asked for 300,000 men, which ridiculously high figure was based on the assumption that Russia had unlimited reserves of trained manpower. At Stavka, General Alekseyev was understandably against sending any men to France, in addition to those already destined for the Salonika front. The Tsar, however, overrode his objections in return for Doumer’s promise of armaments and eventually compromised on sending a brigade, providing it was to serve under Russian officers, be equipped by the French, and be transported by the French navy.

Comprising one regiment from each of Moscow and Samara, the brigade numbered 8,942 men, with factory workers predominating in 1st Regiment and peasants in 2nd Regiment. Contemporary photographs show French officers on the quayside at Marseille in April 1916, saluting the new arrivals after their ten-week journey from Moscow, via the Trans-Siberian railway and by sea from Dal’ny around China, across the Indian Ocean, through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. On board one of the four French ships, some Russian officers return the salutes, while most of their men see Europe for the first time with no apparent emotion. They parade through the Old Town in front of curious, but not very large, crowds before being transported by rail to Mailly le-Camp in Champagne, preparative to being sent into the line. Killing time for a few days there, they eat, smoke and watch two burly NCOs doing energetic Cossack knees-bend dancing to music played on an accordion. In a safe trench on the French-held sector of the Champagne sector of the line, their commander, General Nikolai Lokhvitsky, poses for a photographer. For him and the other officers, with fluent French as their second language, liaison was not a problem. For their conscripts in the brigade, it was a different story. At that point, the photographic record ends, but the documentary record continues, to end in tragedy.

A few days after setting foot on French soil, 1st Special Brigade was transported to Châlons-sur-Marne and attached to General Henri Gouraud’s 4th Army, ‘going up’ to the line around Auberive at the end of June. Like their brothers-in-arms on the Russian fronts, the men of 1st Special Brigade fought and suffered in the trenches, being joined later by 3rd Special Brigade, shipped from Archangel to Brest in September, while 2nd and 4th Russian Special Brigades were in Macedonia, fighting the Bulgarians. In all, some 45,000 officers and men were sent to fight in France. There is a military cemetery at Mourmelon-le-Grand containing the graves of 1,000 Russian officers and men. Somewhat belatedly, the French nation erected a memorial equestrian statue on the bank of the Seine in Paris in 2011.

News of the Tsar’s abdication in March 1917 and of the mutinies on the Russian fronts divided the men’s loyalties, with many of the more politically active townsmen in 1st Brigade refusing to fight and demanding to be repatriated while the peasants of 3rd Brigade remained under the discipline of their officers, prepared to continue the war. The generals might have been able to fool themselves that the loss of millions of lives was justified in some unprovable way, but the men in the front lines had long ceased believing in anything, except the likelihood that they would soon be corpses. Because the French army was suffering mutinies with many men being summarily shot in front of their comrades pour encourager les autres, the mutinous Russians were moved to where they were less likely to spread dissent at the front. At the huge military camp of La Courtine in Central France, attempts were made by Russian and French officers to restore order in 1st Brigade. After 3rd Brigade was ordered to surround the mutineers’ camp, there ensued five days of scuffles and argument before a Russian-manned battery of French field guns shelled the mutineers, causing fifty casualties.

The surviving mutineers were despatched to concentration camps, some as far away as the Sahara desert, then policed by the French Foreign Legion, where conditions were horrific. Most officers and some men, however, volunteered to form the Légion Russe, which continued the fight until the Armistice in November 1918. By then, few of these legionnaires thought it was safe to return to Russia under the Bolsheviks. Since France had been a pays d’accueil for refugees from European monarchies ever since the Revolution, they opted to stay there on demobilisation. This produced the strange phenomenon between the wars, when it seemed that the majority of taxi-drivers in Paris were former Russian officers, as were many of the commissionaires outside posh hotels.

Short Sunderland

The large, graceful Sunderland was among World War II’s best flying boats. Because it bristled with armament, the Germans regarded it as the “Flying Porcupine.”

The advent of successful Short Empire C-class flying boats in 1933 persuaded the British Air Ministry to consider its adoption for military purposes. That year it issued Specification R. 2/33 to replace the aging biplane flying boats with a new monoplane craft. The prototype Sunderland was heavily based upon the civilian craft when it first flew in 1937. It was a high-wing, four-engine airplane with stressed-skin construction and a very deep, two-step hull. The spacious hull of the Sunderland allowed for creature comforts not associated with military craft. These included comfortable bunks, wardrooms, and a galley serving hot food, all of which mitigated the effects of 10-hour patrols. The craft was also the first flying boat fitted with powered gun turrets in the nose, dorsal, and tail positions, as well as the first to carry antishipping radar. Despite its bulk, the Sunderland handled well in both air and water and became operational in 1938. World War II commenced the following year, and Sunderlands ultimately equipped 17 Royal Air Force squadrons.

This capable aircraft played a vital role in the ongoing battles in the Atlantic. They cruised thousands of miles over open ocean, providing convoy escorts and attacking U-boats whenever possible. The first submarine kill happened in January 1940 when a Sunderland forced the scuttling of U-55. The big craft, by flying low to the water, could also defend itself handily. On several occasions, Sunderlands beat off roving bands of Junkers Ju 88s with considerable loss to the attackers. The Germans held the big craft in such esteem that they nicknamed it the Stachelschwein (Porcupine). Sunderlands performed useful service in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters throughout the war.

Steady improvements through Mks. I-V improved the aircraft’s performance in the air, though at some disadvantage in water handling. With a speed of 165 mph and a payload of just under 10,000 pounds, the aircraft had a range of about 1,000 miles. The aircraft was primarily used in long (10-12-hour) patrol and reconnaissance missions, including convoy protection and U-boat searches, as well as some search and rescue. Sunderland production stopped with 749 built (456 were Mk. III) by the end of World War II, though the type would remain in service in Britain to 1957 and elsewhere through 1967. An improved model, the S. 45 Seaford, was designed, but only a handful were built. Three dozen copies of both models were converted for postwar civil use.


The protection of our returning vessels was not the only service rendered by the Royal Air Force during the Greece 1941 evacuation. An emergency ‘air lift’ for ‘V. I. P. s’, Headquarters parties, and the like was organized by No. 201 Group at Alexandria. The aircraft employed were the Sunderlands of Nos. 228 and 230 Squadrons, which carried out reconnaissance by day and evacuation by night, the Lodestars and Bombays of No. 267 (Communications) Squadron, and two B. O. A. C. flying-boats. The Lodestars and Bombays mad only five trips to Greece before conditions at Menidi and Eleusis made further flights impossible; thereafter, with the two B. O. A. C. aircraft, they concentrated on the Crete-Egypt section of the run. 3 But the Sunderlands made full use of their ability to alight at remote spots along the coast-one of them was attracted to a stranded party by signals from a shaving-mirror-and between them they succeeded in bringing off from Greece nearly nine hundred persons. The King of Greece and most of our senior commanders mad their exit this way; a little earlier in King Peter had been rescued in similar fashion from Yugoslavia. Needless to say, the pilots took on fantastic loads. One Sunderland with an official ’emergency capacity’ of thirty bodies staggered off the water with eighty-four.


The most dramatic aircraft to fly into Berlin proved to be the Sunderland flying boats of the British Coastal Command. Taking off from Finkenwerder on the Elbe River near Hamburg they landed on the Havel See in Berlin with nine tons of cargo to be met by Berliners paddling out in boats with flowers like some scene from a South Pacific travelogue film. Crews for the British planes came not only from the United Kingdom, but also from India, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.



The first S.25, now named the Sunderland Mark I, flew from the River Medway on 16 October 1937 with Shorts’ Chief Test Pilot, John Lankester Parker at the controls. The deeper hull and installation of nose and tail turrets gave the Sunderland a considerably different appearance from the Empire flying boats. The prototype was fitted with Bristol Pegasus X engines, each providing 950 hp (709 kW ), as the planned Pegasus XXII engines of 1,010 hp (753 kW) were not available at the time.

The 37 mm gun, originally intended as a primary anti-submarine weapon, was dropped from the plans during the prototype phase and replaced with a Nash & Thomson FN-11 nose turret mounting a single .303 inch (7.7 mm) Vickers GO machine gun. The turret could be winched back into the nose, revealing a small “deck” and demountable marine bollard used during mooring manoeuvres on the water. The change of armament in the nose to the much lighter gun moved the centre of gravity rearwards.

After the first series of flights the aircraft was returned to the workshop and the wing was swept 4.25° to the rear, thereby moving the centre of pressure into a more reasonable position in relation to the new centre of gravity. This left the engines and wing floats canted out from the aircraft’s centreline. Although the wing loading was much higher than that of any previous Royal Air Force flying boat, a new flap system kept the takeoff run to a reasonable length and the aircraft first flew with the new wing sweep and the uprated Pegasus XXII engines on 7 March 1938.

Official enthusiasm for the type had been so great that in March 1936, well before the first flight of the prototype, the Air Ministry ordered 21 production examples. Meanwhile, delivery of the other contender Saro A.33 was delayed and it did not fly until October 1938. The aircraft was written off after it suffered structural failure during high speed taxi trials and no other prototypes were built.

Sunderland Mark I

The RAF received its first Sunderland Mark I in June 1938 when the second production aircraft (L2159) was flown to 230 Squadron at RAF Seletar, Singapore. By the outbreak of war in Europe, in September 1939, RAF Coastal Command was operating 40 Sunderlands.

The main offensive load was up to 2,000 lb (910 kg) of bombs (usually 250 or 500 lb), mines (1,000 lb) or other stores that were hung on traversing racks under the wing centre section (to and from the bomb room in the fuselage). Later, depth charges (usually 250 lb) were added. By late 1940, two Vickers K machine guns had been added to new hatches that were inserted into the upper sides of the fuselage just aft of the wing, with appropriate slipstream deflectors. A second gun was added to the nose turret. New constant speed propellers and deicing boots were installed as well during 1940.

The Sunderland had difficult in landing and taking off from rough water, but, other than in the open sea, it could be handled onto and off a short chop, by a skilled pilot. Many rescues were made, early in the war, of crews that were in the Channel having abandoned or ditched their aircraft, or abandoned their ship. In May 1941, during the Battle of Crete Sunderlands transported as many as 82 armed men from place to place in one load. Steep ocean swells were never attempted, however a calm ocean could be suitable for landing and takeoff.

Beginning in October 1941, Sunderlands were fitted with ASV Mark II “Air to Surface Vessel” radar. This was a primitive low frequency radar system operating at a wavelength of 1.5 m. It used a row of four prominent “stickleback” yagi antennas on top of the rear fuselage, two rows of four smaller aerials on either side of the fuselage beneath the stickleback antennas, and a single receiving aerial mounted under each wing outboard of the float and angled outward.

A total of 75 Sunderland Mark Is were built: 60 at Shorts’ factories at Rochester and Belfast, Northern Ireland, and 15 by Blackburn Aircraft at Dumbarton.

Sunderland Mark II

In August 1941, production moved on to the Sunderland Mark II which used Pegasus XVIII engines with two-speed superchargers, producing 1,065 hp (794 kW) each.

The tail turret was changed to an FN.4A turret that retained the four .303 guns of its predecessor but provided twice the ammunition capacity with 1,000 rounds per gun. Late production Mark IIs also had an FN.7 dorsal turret, mounted offset to the right just behind the wings and fitted with twin .303 machine guns. The hand held guns behind the wing were removed in these versions.

Only 43 Mark IIs were built, five of these by Blackburn.

Sunderland Mark III

Production quickly changed in December 1941 to the Sunderland Mark III which featured a revised hull configuration which had been tested on a Mark I the previous June. This modification improved seaworthiness, which had suffered as the weight of the Sunderland increased with new marks and field changes. In earlier Sunderlands, the hull “step” that allows a flying boat to “unstick” from the surface of the sea was an abrupt one, but in the Mk III it was a curve upwards from the forward hull line.

The Mark III turned out to be the definitive Sunderland variant, with 461 built. Most were built by Shorts at Rochester and Belfast, a further 35 at a new (but temporary)[N 3] Shorts plant at White Cross Bay, Windermere; while 170 were built by Blackburn Aircraft. The Sunderland Mark III proved to be one of the RAF Coastal Command’s major weapons against the U-boats, along with the Consolidated PBY Catalina.

As the U-boats began to use Metox passive receivers the ASV Mk II radar gave away the presence of aircraft and the number of sightings diminished drastically. The RAF response was to upgrade to the ASV Mk III, which operated in the 50 cm band, with antennas that could be faired into fewer more streamlined blisters. During the Mk III’s life there were a large number of almost continuous improvements made, including the ASV Mk IIIA and four more machine guns in a fixed position in the wall of the forward fuselage just behind the turret (developed on RAAF aircraft first) with a simple bead and ring sight for the pilot.

Despite the 14-hour-long patrols expected of their crews, early Sunderland gunners were provided with only 500 rounds of ammunition each. Later 1,000 round ammunition boxes were installed in the turrets. The beam hatch guns were removed from Mk II aircraft but Mk IIIs and then Mk Is gained much more capable .50 inch (12.7 mm) guns, one each side.

Offensive weapons loads increased too. The introduction of the hydrostatically fused 250 lb (110 kg) depth charge meant that additional weapons could be carried on the floor of the bomb room in wooden restraints, along with ammunition boxes of 10 and 25 lb anti-personnel bombs that could be hand launched from various hatches to harass U-boat crews otherwise manning the twin 37 and dual quadruple 20 mm cannons with which U-boats were fitted.

As radar detection became more effective there were more night patrols to catch U-boats on the surface charging their batteries. Attacking in the dark was a problem that was solved by carrying one inch (25.4 mm), electrically initiated flares and dropping then out of the rear chute of the aircraft as it got close to the surface vessel. Sunderlands were never fitted with Leigh lights.

Sunderland Mark IIIa

The Sunderland Mark IIIa was more of an “evolution” of the Mark III with no documentation to define exactly which features were included.[citation needed] Photos of the Mark IIIa suggest varying numbers of bomb door windows and either the original Bristol Pegasus or the newer Pratt & Whitney engines.

ML883 of RCAF Squadron 423 was a Mk IIIa with the following features:

Bristol Pegasus XVIII engines

Two windows per bomb door (while ML422 was another Mk IIIa but with three windows per bomb door)

Radar blisters under the wingtips

Four additional fixed machine guns just aft of the forward turret.

Sunderland Mark IV

The Sunderland Mark IV was an outgrowth of the 1942 Air Ministry Specification R.8/42, for a generally improved Sunderland with more powerful Bristol Hercules engines, better defensive armament and other enhancements. The new Sunderland was intended for service in the Pacific. Although initially developed and two prototypes built as the “Sunderland Mark IV” it was different enough from the Sunderland line to be given a different name, the S.45 “Seaford”.

Relative to the Mark III, the Mark IV had a stronger wing, larger tailplanes and a longer fuselage with some changes in hull form for better performance in the water. The armament was heavier with .50 inch (12.7 mm) machine guns and 20 mm Hispano cannon.

The changes were so substantial that the new aircraft was redesignated the Short Seaford. Thirty production examples were ordered; the first delivered too late to see combat and only eight production Seafords were completed and never got beyond operational trials with the RAF.

Sunderland Mark V

The next production version was the Sunderland Mark V, which evolved out of crew concerns over the lack of power of the Pegasus engines. The weight creep (partly due to the addition of radar) that afflicted the Sunderland had resulted in running the Pegasus engines at combat power as a normal procedure and the overburdened engines had to be replaced regularly.

Australian Sunderland crews suggested that the Pegasus engines be replaced by Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines. The 14-cylinder engines provided 1,200 hp (895 kW) each and were already in use on RAF Consolidated Catalinas and Douglas Dakotas, and so logistics and maintenance were straightforward. Two Mark IIIs were taken off the production lines in early 1944 and fitted with the American engines. Trials were conducted in early 1944 and the conversion proved all that was expected. The new engines with new featherable propellors provided greater performance with no real penalty in range. In particular, a Twin Wasp Sunderland could stay airborne if two engines were knocked out on the same wing while, in similar circumstances, a standard Mark III would steadily lose altitude. Production was switched to the Twin Wasp version and the first Mark V reached operational units in February 1945. Defensive armament fits were similar to those of the Mark III, but the Mark V was equipped with new centimetric ASV Mark VI C radar that had been used on some of the last production Mark IIIs as well.

A total of 155 Sunderland Mark Vs were built with another 33 Mark IIIs converted to Mark V specification. With the end of the war, large contracts for the Sunderland were cancelled and the last of these flying boats was delivered in June 1946, with a total production of 777 aircraft completed.

Transport variants

Sunderland III of Aquila Airways at Hamble Beach in 1955. This aircraft was the first transport conversion that had served BOAC 1943-1948, it still carried the name given to it by BOAC Hadfield.

In late 1942, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) obtained six Sunderland Mark IIIs, which had been de-militarised on the production line, for service as mail carriers to Nigeria and India, with accommodation for either 22 passengers with 2 tons of freight or 16 passengers with 3 tons of freight. Armament was removed, the gun positions being faired over, and simple seating fitted in place of the bunks. As such they were operated by BOAC and the RAF jointly from Poole to Lagos and Calcutta. Six more Sunderland IIIs were obtained in 1943. Minor modifications to the engine angles and flight angle resulted in a significant increase in the cruise speed, which was a relatively unimportant issue for the combat Sunderlands. In late 1944, the RNZAF acquired four new Sunderland Mk IIIs already configured for transport duties. In the immediate postwar period, these were used by New Zealand’s National Airways Corporation to link South Pacific Islands in the “Coral Route” before TEAL Short Sandringhams took over after 1947.

BOAC obtained more Mark IIIs and gradually came up with better accommodation for 24 passengers, including sleeping berths for 16. These conversions were given the name Hythe and BOAC operated 29 of them by the end of the war. In February 1946, the first of these, G-AGJM, made a 35,313 mile route survey from Poole to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo in 206 flying hours. It was the first British civil flying boat to visit China and Japan.

A more refined civilian conversion of the Sunderland was completed by the manufacturer as the postwar Short Sandringham. The Sandringham Mk. I used Pegasus engines while the Mk. II used Twin Wasp engines.

The Levant: The Assyrian Annexation

Judaean King Hezekiah and Jerusalem endured a siege led by Assyrian king Sennacherib.

The Levant c. 830 BCE

Tiglath-pileser’s policy was innovative not because he introduced new organizational elements but because he carried through on a large scale an already existing practice: annexation. Over the course of twelve years (743-732 bce) and eight campaigns, several states lost their independence and were incorporated into the Assyrian empire. In 743 bce, Tiglath-pileser marched to the Levant to confront an anti-Assyrian coalition made up of Urartu, Arpadda, Meliddu, Gurgum, and Kummuhu. The submission of Arpadda, the capital of Bit-Agusi, proved particularly challenging. All together, three campaigns against the city are attested (in 742, 741, 740 bce). Only after the third attempt, in 740 bce, did Tiglath-pileser succeed in conquering the town. In Arpadda, the victor received tribute from Gurgum and Kummuhu, which were members of the enemy coalition, from Gargamis and Que, which had perhaps been part of the coalition and, finally, from Damascus and Tyre. After taking rich booty, the Assyrians annexed Bit-Agusi. The new province was named Arpadda, after her capital; the local name, Bit-Agusi, is not attested in the Assyrian texts after this point. The annexation of Arpadda must have put the whole area on the alert, particularly the people of the neighboring states Unqi and Hamat, who must have asked themselves whether it was a special measure or the beginning of a greater enterprise. With a wave of annexations starting in the regions west and south of Arpadda, they were soon to find out.

The campaign of 738 bce was a large-scale operation that resulted in the establishment of three new provinces, Kullania, Hatarikka, and Simirra, districts within the land of Hamat that had plotted against the Assyrians. The rest of Hamat managed to maintain a limited independence as a vassal state. According to a tribute list from 738 bce, all countries located north of the Assyrian provinces Arpadda, Unqi, and Hatarikka, up to the distant Tabalu and Kasku, paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser. So did again Tyre and Damascus, and also Hamat, Byblos, the Arabs, and Israel.

In 734 bce, after three years of absence, Tiglath-pileser marched for the fifth time to the Levant. In Pilistu, the Assyrian army conquered the city of Hazzat (Gaza). From here, Tiglath-pileser marched further southwest until he reached the “Brook of Egypt,” where he set up a stele. Probably in the same year, the submission of the Arabian tribe Mu’na took place, as well as the appointment of Idibi’ilu as a supervisor in the area of the “Brook of Egypt.” According to a tribute list from the same year, Ammon, Moab, and Edom, the Philistian cities Hazzat and Ashkelon, Judah, as well as Arwad on the northern coast, paid tribute after this campaign. Moreover, Tiglath-pileser earned the loyalty of the southern states without annexing them. The entire Levant seems to have been under direct or indirect Assyrian control at this point.

In 733 and 732 bce, Tiglath-pileser carried out two campaigns against Damascus, the strongest enemy in the region, which ended with its annexation. Tiglath-pileser’s opponents were Rezin of Damascus, Pekah of Israel, Hiram of Tyre, and Mitinti of Ashkelon. After the siege of Damascus and the devastation of its surrounding area in the year 733 bce, military actions were undertaken against Galilee and Gilead, ending with the annexation of some territories in Israel. Israel’s southern part, around the capital Samaria, was allowed to continue existing as a vassal state. In 732 bce, the city of Damascus was eventually conquered and the country was annexed. As a consequence of these events, two new provinces were created, namely Megiddo and Damascus. The province Qarninu, whose establishment is not attested, probably originated at this time as well, when Tiglath-pileser conquered territories in the Transjordan area.

Between 740 and 732 bce, a large part of the Syria and the Levant was thus annexed by the Assyrian empire. Newly established provinces included Arpadda (in 740 bce), Hatarikka, Kullania, and Simirra (in 738 bce), probably Mansuate and Tu’immu (in 740/738 bce), as well as Megiddo, Damascus, Qarninu, and Subat (in 732 bce). The formerly independent states of Bit-Agusi, Unqi/Pattinu, and Damascus ceased to exist, while Hamat and Israel suffered substantial territorial losses. The remaining states and city-states submitted to the Assyrian ruler and paid tribute. In spite of all this, the region was not yet defeated completely and the danger of uprisings and the formation of anti-Assyrian coalitions not yet eliminated.

During the short reign of Shalmaneser V (726-722 bce), no annexations took place. At the end of Tiglath-pileser III’s reign, the Israelite territory around Samaria had bordered on the provinces of Megiddo and Qarninu, which had been established on the former territories of Israel and Damascus. The refusal by Israel’s king Hoshea to pay tribute was a risky decision under such circumstances, but apparently, Assyria’s military presence in the new provinces was not yet strong enough to prevent rebellions in the region. Samaria resisted Shalmaneser’s siege for three years until it fell in the fall of 722 bce. When Shalmaneser died in the winter of 722/721 bce, the Assyrian army returned to Assyria, and the annexation and reorganization of Samaria was postponed. Sargon II (721-705 bce), who ascended the Assyrian throne in 722, must have been involved with the conquest in some manner because his annals ascribe this success to him. When the Assyrians left the region, Hamat, followed by the provinces of Arpadda, Simirra, Damascus, and the newly conquered Samaria, used this unexpected opportunity to break away from Assyrian rule. In 720 bce, Sargon II marched to the Levant and reestablished the previous order. The population of Samaria was deported, and some years later (in 715 bce), Arabs and people from Babylonia and Hamat were settled there.

With Sargon II, Assyria’s second extensive annexation phase in the west began. Sargon led half of his campaigns to Syria and the Levant, where the northwestern region, in particular, required his attention. During his reign, the provinces of Samaria (in 720 bce) and Ashdod (in 711 bce) were established. Hamat was annexed in 720 bce, either as a district or as a province. In the north, the provinces of Marqasa (on the territory of Gurgum) and Kummuhu (on the territory of Meliddu and Kummuhu) were created in 711 and 708 bce, respectively, and in 717 bce Gargamis was probably annexed. A province established in 713 bce in the territory of Hilakku and Bit-Purutas was short-lived; in 711 bce, the area was newly conquered, and a new province was created, with Til-Garimmu as its center, which served as a bulwark against the menace of Urartu, Kasku, and Musku. This province, too, was lost at the end of Sargon’s (or in the first years of Sennacherib’s) reign. Whether the provinces of Que and Sam’alla were established by Sargon or by Shalmaneser V is unclear. During the following decades, the political map of the Levant underwent no important changes, but uprisings in the region did not stop and prompted more than ten Assyrian campaigns.

The Levant did not play a special role during Sennacherib’s reign (704-781 bce); his main problem was Babylonia. Sennacherib’s campaign in 701 bce, often referred to as the campaign “against Judah” and attested in the Bible (2 Kgs 18: 13-19: 37, 2 Chr 32: 1-22, and Isa 36-7: 37; also Mic 1: 8-16), was neither a military action directed exclusively against Judah nor as important as the extensive secondary literature seems to suggest. It concerned, rather, an episode within a campaign that targeted Phoenician, Philistian, and Judaean towns. Even if the Judah episode did not end with the conquest of Jerusalem, it was successful: Sennacherib devastated Judah, he conquered Lachish, one of the most important Judaean towns, and handed conquered Judaean territories over to the Philistians. Hezekiah capitulated and paid a high tribute. Jerusalem was not conquered because it was not necessary to do so after Hezekiah’s capitulation. It is not known why Sidon, the Philistian cities (Ashkelon and Ekron), and Judah revolted at that time, but it is clearly that anti-Assyrian sentiments led the political elites of Ekron to ask for help Egypt, an action sufficient to prompt an Assyrian intervention.

Like his father Sennacherib, Esarhaddon (680-669 bce) suffered territorial losses in the northwestern regions as well as uprisings in the southern Levant during his reign. In 677 bce, a campaign against Abdi-Milquti of Sidon took place, which ended with the establishment of the last Assyrian province in the Levant. Abdi-Milkuti had not felt obligated to follow the foreign policy of his predecessor and wanted to shake off the Assyrian yoke. Thereupon, Assyrian troops conquered Sidon, looted and destroyed it, and deported the royal family and members of the elite to Assyria. The territory of Sidon was annexed, and the city was replaced as the capital by a new settlement called Kar-Assur-ahu-iddina, “Esarhaddon’s Harbor.” The new capital was settled with inhabitants from Sidonian cities and deportees from the eastern areas of the empire. In addition, Esarhaddon handed the Sidonian cities of Ma’rubbu and Sariptu over to king Ba’al of Tyre. The well-known treaty between this king and Esarhaddon may have been concluded in 676 bce, after the conquest of Sidon. When in 671 bce, only five years after the treaty, Ba’al betrayed the Assyrian king, Esarhaddon besieged Tyre, accusing the city of having an alliance with the Egyptian ruler Taharqa. The town was conquered and looted and the king of Tyre lost all of his cities. But Tyre itself was not annexed and its king was not deposed.

During Esarhaddon’s reign, the situation in the northwestern areas became unstable under increasing pressure from Musku and Tabalu. The territory of Meliddu, which belonged to the province of Kummuh? u, was lost. The provinces of Que and Sam’alla may have come under pressure as well, when uprisings took place in Hilakku, Kundu, and Sissu.

The most important intervention in the Levant during the reign of Esarhaddon’s successor Assurbanipal (668-631 bce) occurred in the course of his “third campaign” against Ba’al of Tyre, which seems to have taken place between 663 and 657 bce. After the military actions of 671 bce, which ended with territorial losses for Tyre, Ba’al observed the treaty at least until 667 bce, at which point he is still listed among other loyal vassals. But, as in the past, his loyalty did not last for long. Warnings from the Assyrian king did not seem to have impressed him, so Assurbanipal was forced to take harsher measures. Only a siege of Tyre brought about Ba’al’s submission: he handed his daughter, his nieces, and his son over to the Assyrian king along with heavy tribute. However, the city of Tyre was not annexed.

The last known Assyrian intervention in the Levant was a limited military operation in the 640s against Usu (a city on the mainland opposite of Tyre) and Akku, which took place on the march back from a campaign against Arabian tribes. The inhabitants of Usu refused to continue to pay their annual tribute, as the inhabitants of Akku probably did as well. In both cases, the insubordination was punished with executions and deportations. The corpses of the rebels of Akku were impaled and put on exhibit around the town. The survivors were deported to Assyria and incorporated into the Assyrian army.

In spite of a relatively weak Assyrian presence in the Levant, it is remarkable how few uprisings occurred there between the late eighth century and the 640s. The situation in the Assyrian provinces was stable; they served, among other things, as bases for military operations against the Arabs, which took place partially on the land of the Transjordanian vassals, and – in the case of Moab – even with their support.

The Assyrian kings were met with a complicated geopolitical situation in the Levant. A look at the political map reveals that they dealt with the region in different ways. During the course of some 200 years, the Assyrian army campaigned in the Levant sixty-seven times. Although not every state lost its independence, twenty-one provinces were created there, based on the principle of “territorial continuity,” which meant that only provinces whose territories bordered on already existing ones were established. Three of them (Hilakku/Bit-Purutas, Til-garimmu, and Ashdod) were lost shortly after they were created. Tabalu, some Phoenician cities (Arwad, Byblos, Samsimurruna, and Tyre), Philistia (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Hazzat), Judah, and the Transjordanian states (Ammon, Moab, and Edom), as well as some princedoms in Cyprus (Yadnana), remained Assyrian vassals.


Garford-Putilov Armoured Cars were produced in Russia during the First World War (starting with 1915). They were built on the frames of Garford Motor Truck Co. lorries imported from the United States.
In 1909, the Garford Motor Truck Company was established in Elyria, Ohio, a small town 30 miles outside Cleveland.
By June 1912, the company was awarded a lucrative contract with the United States Post Office. The first order called for 11 trucks, the following for 20 trucks, for a total of 31 trucks. “This is very significant of the practical efficiency of this most advanced commercial car.” The post office had experimented for two years “with practically every truck made.” They tried not only all the leading American trucks, but the foreign trucks, as well. The test resulted in the Garford being awarded first honors. The Garford proved to be the most practical truck under all conditions.
Although considered to be a rugged and reliable machine by its users, the Garford-Putilov was severely underpowered. With a total weight of about 11 tons, and only a 30 hp engine, the vehicles had a top speed of approximately 10–11 mph (16–18 km/h). The design was also overloaded (top-heavy), and therefore had very limited off-road capabilities.

The original versions had separate drivers front and rear for going forward or backward. The front driver could not see anything to the rear, despite the fact that he had a mirror. The initial four Garford Putilov platoons returned to the Putilov factory with their recommendations. The improved version had a window out of the rear “pillbox” where the rear gunner sat in the comfort of something akin to an “armchair” and relayed driving commands via a communications tube to the front driver. This worked marvelously it seems, dispensing with the need for a rear driver or rear driver controls (accelerator, brake).
Besides the countries that emerged from the ruins of the old Russian Empire, Garford-Putilov armoured cars were also deployed by German forces. The Germans captured several of the vehicles, and put them to some use towards the end of World War I, and post-Armistice in the “Freikorps”. The armored cars also saw action in the Russian Civil War.
Armament: 76 mm (3 inch) mountain gun variant and two machine-guns.
Number produced: 48 (total)
Ammo: 60 shells
Armor: 6.5 mm.

Air Force Special Warfare Post WWII

A U.S. Air Force Helio U-10B Courier (s/n 63-13093) from the 5th Special Operations Squadron in flight over Vietnam in 1969.

A Farm Gate B-26B over Vietnam.

Air force had continued its special duty flight of transport planes with the Twenty-First Troop Carrier Squadron, during Korean War days familiarly known as the “Kyushu Gypsies.” The unit later moved to Okinawa and, when C-130 aircraft began rolling off the production lines in the late 1950s, some went to the Gypsies. At a stroke this development virtually quadrupled the distance over which clandestine air missions could be carried out. After tours with the CIA and with psychological warfare headquarters in Europe, Heinie Aderholt, perhaps the single most important figure in the evolution of air force unconventional warfare, returned to the Gypsies as a major, leading its special operations detachment. With the air force’s blessings he supported CIA operations in Tibet and Thailand. With the advent of the C-130 the air force had a capability for long-range covert missions.

Short hops into primitive airfields, which would characterize the air effort in Southeast Asia, were a different matter. In the late 1950s the air force introduced its twin-engine C-123 “Provider,” but that went to standard transport squadrons. The army was developing the C-7 as a short-haul light transport. The Provider could carry a bigger load but lacked the short-takeoff-and-landing capacity of its competitor. Conditions in Vietnam and Laos demanded aircraft capable of taking off and landing in these short spaces. In 1962 the air force deployed a Provider version modified for this. Colonel Aderholt took a hand too. During the interval he was assigned to the air branch of CIA paramilitary operations staff, Aderholt had learned of a new single-engine plane that could be ideal. He pressed for adoption of the HelioCourier and succeeded (CIA knew this craft by one name [L-28], the air force by another [U-10]). These three aircraft became mainstays of the air wing within the Studies and Observation Group as well as the CIA proprietary Air America. The war, particularly in Laos, could not have been conducted without them.

Combat capability began with the “Jungle Jim” unit. Partly a result of the air force responding to President Kennedy’s demands, and partly to the service’s dawning awareness that the US military as a whole was reconfiguring itself for counterinsurgency, chief of staff General Curtis E. LeMay moved ahead smartly. Identified with high technology throughout his career, here, in 1960, LeMay approved a unit outfitted with prop-driven T-28 fighter-bombers and B-26 light bombers. This was deliberate. Rapidly transitioning to supersonic aircraft, the air force realized that slow-flying prop planes would have more time to spot targets and strike them. The innocuous 4400th Combat Crew Training Squadron ran its flag up at Auxiliary Field No. 9 of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, in April 1961. At the time, Hurlbut Field, as it was renamed, consisted of wood-frame single-story barracks, plus sheds left over from World War II. It is today the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command, descendant of the Special Air Warfare Center created there-and rivaling Fort Bragg as an unconventional war mecca-in 1962. Soon enough Jungle Jim left for South Vietnam, where it was given the code name Farm Gate and stationed at Bien Hoa. Officially the aircraft trained crews for the South Vietnamese air force. In actuality they flew strike and bombardment missions, with American pilots accompanied by South Vietnamese observers.

In Laos the strike capability began with Project “Mill Pond,” a CIA operation utilizing B-26 bombers with air force crews seconded to the agency and flying in civilian clothes The ubiquitous Aderholt organized Mill Pond too. And when he returned to the United States, promoted colonel, this officer briefly commanded the First Air Commando Wing, the air force’s initial venture with a full-scale counterinsurgency unit, along the lines of those who’d flown in Burma during World War II. Wing mixed together fighter-bombers, transports, and liaison aircraft, and it became the parent organization for Farm Gate.

A major innovation of air force special warfare during the Vietnam War was the gunship. This was a large aircraft-the C-47 would be the first used, followed by the C-119 and then the C-130-providing a stable platform for side- and/or front-firing heavy weapons and cannon, soon supplemented by electronic systems for targeting. The early C-47 version got the nickname “Puff the Magic Dragon.” When these aircraft entered the force they went to the First Wing. More advanced planes joined the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Wings. All of them were redesignated special operations wings in 1968. The gunships were especially effective in helping to defend outposts or patrols that were under attack, and in armed reconnaissance missions along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The gunships became established elements of air Special Forces. By 1966 there were six thousand men and 550 aircraft assigned to air special operations.

After Vietnam

Air force special operations, reassigned to the Tactical Air Command, which remained dominated by a mafia of jet fighter pilots who had risen through the Vietnam air campaigns, had held on. It had even developed a new capability-unconventional warriors akin to the army’s old airborne “pathfinders,” airmen who would drop in to a target ahead of mission aircraft and mark it for aircraft landings, the insertion of troops, or be ground observers guiding air strikes. These warriors would not get their name of “Special Tactics Units” until the 1980s-at this time they were known simply as “Brand X”-but they already had the capacity to work alongside Navy and Army Special Forces. With the new units came new terminology, reflecting more closely the multiservice nature of the troops, no longer known simply as Special Forces but as “Special Operations Forces,” the name that is familiar today.