Twins over Korea


A side profile of the 68th F(AW)S FQ-383 displaying natural aluminium drop tanks with the vertical tail displaying the Squadron’s emblem of a medieval knight. Lieutenant William ‘Skeeter’ Hudson and radar operator Lieutenant Carl Fraser operated this aircraft and scored the first official aerial kill of the Korean War.


Lieutenant Hudson’s victory taken with a malfunctioning camera by his radar operator, Lieutenant Fraser. The North Korean insignia and the observer in the rear cockpit are just visible. The observer failed to parachute and went down with the aircraft. The pilot bailed out and landed by South Korean troops who shot and killed him after he fired at them with a handgun.

The picture is a shot taken by a USAF F-82G Twin Mustang of the first kill claimed by the USAF in the Korean War, June 27, 1950. The original is cutoff as shown, that’s all there is.

This aircraft is identified in some US books as a “Yak-7U” presumably meaning Yak-7V conversion trainer, which it’s pretty clearly not. It was officially credited as a Yak-11 (trainer based on the Yak-3 fighter airframe but with a lower powered radial engine, sort of equivalent to an American T-6 Harvard, not fighter-like in performance). However given the situation, North Korean aircraft attacking Kimpo, and one having put holes in the tail of the F-82 taking the picture before the tables were turned, a Yak-11 seems a strange type to encounter (though Yak-11’s did have a light armament of 1 synchronized mg). A more likely type would seem a Yak-9P fighter, but that type had a retractable tailwheel, unlike the plane in the photo shot and unlike most Yak-11’s.

The Russians are adamant that all they ever gave the KPAFAC were postwar all metal Yak-9P types. If the tailwheel is fixed, it could be (a) a local modification (b) an early production series model or (c) sterling KPAFAC maintenance.

On the Sunday of 24 June 1950 at 04.00 hours (25 June Korean Time), seven infantry divisions of the North Korean People’s Army (NKPA), supported by one armoured division, equipped with Russian-built T-34 tanks, crossed the 38th parallel into the Republic of South Korea (ROK). Within four days, NKPA forces captured Seoul and continued southward down the peninsula, sweeping aside ROK forces, which fell back southward to Suwon. The United States initially committed air and ground forces to provide military assistance to South Korean Forces and for the protection of women and children dependents of American military personnel and civilians. On the 26th, President Truman committed U.S. forces to enforce the UN Security Council’s demand that member states provide military assistance to the Republic Of Korea and named General Douglas MacArthur as Commander-in-Chief, Far East (CINCFE) of all United Nation forces. The air component of Far East Command (FEC) responsible for providing defensive air cover, was the Far East Air Force (FEAF) under the command of Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer with the Fifth Air Force based in Japan as its largest component commanded by Major General Earle E. Partridge. American naval and air forces quickly went into action with the Seventh U.S. Fleet establishing a blockade of the Korean Coast while FEAF struck North Korean targets affecting the safety of evacuating American nationals. On 27 June FEAF specifically instructed the Fifth Air Force to establish air superiority over South Korea and strike NKPA ground forces by conducting air strikes against enemy troop concentrations and supply routes.

The arrival of the Twin Mustang over Korea was in response to the evacuation of U.S. civilians, including many women and children, from the advancing North Korean Army to ships in Inchon Harbor or by transport aircraft at nearby Kimpo and Suwon Airfields. Fearing that the North Korean Air Force might try to shoot down the transport aircraft or attack shipping in the harbour, the Air Force requested fighter cover while the ships and transports loaded and departed. Colonel John ‘Jack’ Price, commander of the Eighth Air Wing immediately realized the difficulties in undertaking this mission since this task required continuous air cover by long-range conventional aircraft. The F-80 Shooting Star was available, but without secure airfields in Korea from which to operate, its thirsty jet engines and an 800-mile combat range (less when fitted with external weapons stores), meant it could only remain over the airfield for a few minutes before having to return to base. The F-82G was the only interceptor capable of travelling the 300-plus miles from Itazuke to the Seoul/Han River area and still have enough fuel to orbit for any length of time and then return to base. He needed the services of three Air Force F-82 squadrons stationed on mainland Japan and Okinawa.

Price had at his disposal twelve F-82Gs of the 68th F(AW)S ‘Lightning Lancers’ at Itazuke Air Base Kyushu, Japan but that was not nearly enough for the mission. The Fifth Air Force requested the use of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F-51 Mustangs but Britain and the Commonwealth had not yet committed their military to the conflict. Therefore, the Fifth Air Force ordered the 339th F(AW)S to move its Twin Mustangs from Yokota, Japan, to join the 68th at Itazuke. The deployment of those two squadrons was still not enough and Brigadier General Jarred V. Crabb, FEAF Director of Operations, ordered the Twentieth Air Force to send eight F-82s from the 4th F(AW)S to Itazuke from their base Naha Air Base, Okinawa. The Air Force quickly formed the three night fighter squadrons into the 347th Fighter (All-Weather) Group (F(AW)G) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John F. Sharp, commanding officer of the 4th F(AW)S, nicknamed the ‘Fightin’ Fuujins,’ after the Okinawan god of wind. The 347th had an official strength of thirty-three F-82s in late June 1950 but in reality the number ready for combat stood at nineteen: the 4th F(AW)S having five of eleven aircraft combat ready, the 68th with six of ten, and the 339th with eight of twelve. The Air Force, without a long-range jet night fighter, pressed the F-82 into conducting every type of air warfare in Korea from air-to-air combat, bombing, close-air support, weather reconnaissance, air control of ground fire, to night intruder missions. It was one of the 68th F(AW)S Twin Mustang’s, piloted by First Lieutenant George D. Deans with radar operator Second Lieutenant Marvin R. Olsen which, during a reconnaissance flight over South Korea on the night of 24/25 June, confirmed the North Korean military had crossed the 38th Parallel.

Air-to-Air Combat

Aerial coverage by Twin Mustangs began on the morning of 26 June with flights of four F-82s orbiting the Seoul/Inchon area throughout the day as cover for evacuees heading towards the port of Inchon. The first few hours of that first day went by without any trouble but at 13.33 hours a pair of North Korean Lavochin La-7, (Russian-built) fighters appeared and bounced two of the 68th Squadron’s Twin Mustangs. One of the F-82s, piloted by Lieutenant William A. ‘Skeeter’ Hudson with his radar operator Lieutenant Carl S. Fraser, was in the process of providing cover for two ships in Inchon Harbor when the pair of North Korean fighters attacked. Hudson and Fraser were under the assumption that the existing rules of engagement restricted any offensive action and they could only defend themselves if fired upon by hostile forces. According to Fraser, ‘We were supposed to be fighter cover for the two evacuation boats at Inchon, but after we were there for about thirty minutes, our control radioed us to proceed inland to Kimpo Air Base and cover the motor convoy bringing people from Seoul to Inchon,’ he said.

‘Skeeter’ Hudson’s aircraft with another Twin Mustang went inland at an altitude of 500 feet while two other F-82s provided top cover above the clouds at 3,000 feet. ‘After going up and down the road a couple of times, we spotted a couple of Russian-made Lavochkin LA-7s, at 11 o’clock high. We were instructed not to fire unless fired upon, so we didn’t make any aggressive move in their direction,’ Fraser said. ‘They started a wide turn toward us and we started one to keep them in sight. Suddenly, the leader tightened up his turn and peeled off at us, with the wingman right behind him. When we saw that he was going to attack, we dropped our external tanks, put on the combat power, turned on the gun switches and started a climbing turn toward him.’ The F-82s were under the impression not to engage until fired upon. Fraser continued, ‘Since we were forced to wait for him to make the aggressive move, he was in a good position to clobber us, but he was either overeager, or green, because he started firing from too far out and his bullets lagged behind us for the entire firing pass. His wingman started to make his pass on our wingman, but he wasn’t in a good enough position to even fire. They broke off and started a turn around on our tails, so we pulled up through the overcast. We figured that, if they came up through, we’d be up there in a position to let them have it. They evidently decided not to press the matter, because they never showed up.’

The Twin Mustang pilots’ decision not to engage the enemy infuriated Far East Command and it sent an order to FEAF that mandated its fighters to engage and destroy any NKPA aircraft approaching Republic of Korea and American forces. On the 27th, FEAF clarified the rules of engagement in which U.S. fighters would engage any North Korean military aircraft operating over South Korea; this clarification led to the 68th and 339th scoring the first aerial kills by USAF fighters. Evacuations in the Inchon area continued but Colonel Price became concerned over the effectiveness of F-82 squadrons due to aircrew fatigue – one pilot had flown fifteen hours out of the last thirty-eight but Price had no other choice: the Twin Mustangs had to continue with the mission because of their long-range capability. Operations on 27 June 1950 became the F-82’s high watermark as a (night) fighter in combat. Eleven Twin Mustangs belonging to the 4th, 68th, and 339th F(AW)S squadrons in conjunction with F-80C Shooting Stars of the 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing (FBW) took turns providing cover for the Norwegian freighter Reinholte evacuating civilians at Inchon Harbor and for a similar mission of a Douglas C-54 transport aircraft at Kimpo Air Base. Four F-82s of the 68th orbited an area around Kimpo Airfield and Suwon at 4,000 feet while three 339th Twin Mustangs flew at 8,000 feet and four more fighters of the 4th F(AW)S provided top cover at 12,000 feet. Flying above the evacuation Carl Fraser and ‘Skeeter’ Hudson were not about to repeat the previous day’s event and the team would engage in the first air-to-air engagement and record FEAF’s first aerial kill of the conflict.

The formation flew above the evacuation playing out below in Inchon Harbor and Kimpo for nearly three hours until five enemy aircraft; IIyushin II-10 Sturmovik and Yakovlev Yak-7s (some sources cite Lavochkin La-7s or La-9s as participants) jumped the American fighters at 11.50 hours. Dropping out of the clouds, one of the North Korean fighters selected the last F-82 in the 68th Squadron’s formation, FQ-357, piloted by Lieutenant Charles ‘Chalky’ Moran with Lieutenant Fred Larkins as the radar operator and began firing, scoring several hits on the Twin Mustang’s vertical stabilizer, but Moran’s faster and more agile night fighter successfully eluded the attacker and his aircraft suffered no further damage. According to Carl Fraser, ‘It was while we were circling Kimpo that two North Korean fighters came up out of some low clouds and started after Charlie Moran, who was the number-four man in our flight. Their shooting was a little better this time, and they shot up Charlie’s tail.’ The F-82 pilots broke away as the enemy fighters flashed by the formation but the slower North Korean aircraft proved no match for the faster Twin Mustangs as they accelerated and manoeuvred behind their adversaries. ‘Skeeter’ Hudson conducted a high-G turn and latched onto one of the enemy aircraft. ‘Hudson slipped around and got on one of their tails,’ Fraser said. ‘When the guy realized that we were there, he pulled up into some clouds, and tried to shake us.’ Fraser continued, ‘We were so close to him that we could even see him in the middle of the clouds.’

Following the North Korean aircraft through the clouds and down to an altitude of 1,000 feet or less, Lieutenant Hudson lined up his Mk-18 gun sight and blasted away with the F-82’s six .50-caliber machine guns scoring hits on the enemy plane and knocking off pieces of the fuselage. The Yak banked steeply to the right as a second burst from Hudson’s fighter tore off the flap and aileron, ignited the gas tank, and caught the right wing afire. ‘By this time we were in so close we almost collided with him,’ Fraser said. Hudson and Fraser then observed the enemy pilot climb out of his cockpit of the stricken plane and onto the wing, turning around and speaking to the observer still strapped inside the rear cockpit. The observer, petrified, dead, or wounded, did not move as the North Korean pilot pulled his parachute’s ripcord. The chute billowed which yanked the man off the aircraft. At that moment, Fraser grabbed his 35mm camera he had taken aloft and snapped a photo. The enemy plane then rolled over with the observer still inside and crashed into the ground. The North Korean pilot survived his escape from the burning plane and landed safely but he was shot to death by South Korean troops after he started shooting at them with a pistol.

A few minutes later, Lieutenant Moran managed to latch onto the tail of the Yak that had made the initial attack on him and shot the plane down over Kimpo. At the beginning of the engagement, when the North Korean fighter had shot up his aircraft’s tail, Moran pulled the stick hard back but his aircraft began to stall and started to drop making it an easy target for the enemy. Moran jammed his stick forward to recover and as his aircraft responded the Yak appeared right in front of him and a few bursts from the F-82’s guns sent the North Korean crashing to the ground. Sadly, Lieutenant Moran, along with his radar operator Lieutenant Francis J. Meyer, were killed in action less than two months later on 7 August 1950 when their Twin Mustang crashed into a hill after hitting a cable that the North Koreans had strung across a valley. The wreckage of his aircraft, serial 46-355, and the crew’s remains were found 18 months later by ROK forces.

The three Twin Mustangs of the 339th Squadron, flying mid cover for the formation, joined in the fray with Lieutenant Walt Hayhurst and radar operator Lieutenant Cliff Miles latching onto another enemy fighter from the rear and opening fire at almost point-blank range of 100 yards scoring hits along the length of the fuselage. Hayhurst and Miles would have completed dispatching the North Korean except the F-82 was forced to break away to avoid a collision. Immediately, Captain David Texler and Lieutenant Victor Helfenbein, another 339th team, closed in with the same aircraft but lost it in the clouds. Meanwhile, Major James A. ‘Poke’ Little, commanding officer of the 339th, scored the third and final victory of the day for the Twin Mustangs by taking on the wingman of the aircraft that Hayhurst and Texler had engaged. Chasing the Yak through the clouds, he dispatched the enemy fighter a couple of miles outside Kimpo. The remaining two North Korean fighters seeing three of their brethren fall to the F-82Gs fled the scene. The three aerial victories by the 68th and 339th F(AW)S on 27 June 1950 were the first and last recorded by the Twin Mustang, although, subsequently, another 14 enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground by F-82s. Later that day, three F-80Cs shot down four North Korean fighters attacking Kimpo airfield becoming the first jet aircraft victories of the war, despite which however, enemy aircraft did manage to strafe and bomb Suwon airfield, 19 miles south of Kimpo, where they destroyed an F-82 named ‘B.O. Plenty’ (which had been forced to land at the airfield due to battle damage), as well as a Douglas C-54.

The fast pace in which the North Korean aircraft were engaged, and as to which of them was shot down first, created some confusion regarding which F-82 crew actually scored the first victory and who was piloting which 68th Squadron aircraft at the time. Major Little’s and Lieutenant Hudson’s victories occurred at approximately the same time. Officially, in 1953, the Fifth Air Force, after reviewing conflicting testimony, credited Lieutenant Hudson with the first kill. The action took place in a matter of a few minutes, therefore, the Air Force’s conclusion reached in 1953 must stand unless additional documentation comes to light that may reverse the official record.

The Army Phillip Built


Phillip and his Companions. Johnny Shumate


The Macedonian phalanx by A. Karashchuk

Phillip was himself fortunate to be operating in the comparatively permissive environment of a Hellenic world destabilized by 150 years of major warfare that began with the First Persian Invasion about 492.

The Persian threat forced sweeping economic and political change on the deeply conservative Greeks. Before they could adjust fully to the new social realities, internecine Greek warfare reached apotheosis in twenty-seven years of titanic and suicidal struggle for domination between Sparta and Athens known as the Peloponnesian War. These conflicts left the former great powers of Greece diminished and vulnerable. Weakened classical Greek power, however, modifies, but does not entirely explain Phillip’s accomplishments. He still had to subdue numerous Hellenic states for whom war had become a near constant occupation and who could avail themselves of the impressive military innovations and refinements which desperate conflict had driven. To accomplish that, Phillip imaginatively combined, refined, and improved on the best military practices of his age.

In forging the Macedonian military machine Phillip created the first truly professional army in the Western world and established the template upon which all current conventional armies are based. He standardized equipment within formations organized according to their intended tactical function. The rank and file (volunteers as well as conscripts) were issued their kit gratis from government-operated armories and manufactories. Pay and remuneration were standardized according to military rank and duty without excessive regard to private status. Command and administrative structures were rationalized and made permanent with reasonable opportunity for advancement and recognition based (in part) on merit and demonstrated ability. Institutionalized provision was made for the full range of support functions from commissary through medical services to disability and veterans’ pensions. Indirect command and control was exercised through a regular and consistent chain of command from army down to squad with orders relayed by an elaborate system of voice commands, visual signals, and music. In contrast to the rather xenophobic and ad hoc tendency of the Southern Greeks, Phillip adopted and institutionalized the best innovations from both Greek and barbarian military practice, recombining these elements into a singularly effective and synergistic whole.

The Macedonian tactical system was based on four fundamental elements: Heavy Infantry, Light Infantry, Light Cavalry and Heavy Cavalry, but it also made indispensible use of traditionally armed troops, artillery and engineers, naval forces and the specialized skills of local troops as they were available. Phillip modeled his Heavy Infantry after the concepts of the mercenary general, Iphicrates, who had extended the traditional hoplite seven-foot stabbing spear into an eighteen- to twenty-foot pike. In order to effectively manage this heavy and awkward weapon with two hands, individual body armor was greatly reduced or eliminated and the large hoplon shield, from which Greek infantrymen (“hoplites”) derived their name, shrunk to a light buckler that could be suspended from the neck. The members of these modified phalanxes gained protection from the standoff provided by the deep hedge of iron-tipped pikes. Groups of heavy infantrymen were organized into disciplined “syntagma” or companies composed of 256 pikemen arrayed in ranks and files of 16 men each. The heavy Macedonian phalanx had relatively little tactical flexibility and was slow moving, but it could generate enormous momentum in the attack and could establish a formidably intractable defensive base.

Also following the ideas of Iphicrates, The Macedonians fielded large formations of Light Infantry – primarily missile troops called “peltasts” – who rapidly deployed in amorphous, but regulated formations to shower enemy troops with barrages of arrows, javelins, and lead sling bullets, relying on their own agility and mobility for protection. Light Cavalry also relied primarily on missiles as their primary weapons; either short javelins or arrows launched from composite bows. They performed the same range of critical tasks – scouting, flank security, envelopment, and pursuit that modern armies rely upon mechanized cavalry to perform. Under the right tactical circumstances they could even join a general assault against disorganized or badly positioned infantry.

Heavy Cavalry, although perhaps inspired by the eccentric practice of some wealthy steppe warriors, was Phillip’s unique military innovation and was a key to the Macedonian approach to set-piece battle. These were relatively heavily armored horseman armed with a 12-foot lance and a heavy slashing saber. They were mounted on large powerful horses selected for their aggressive spirit and conditioned through patient training to be steady in the confusion of close-quarters combat. Phillip used his heavy horse in the then-non-traditional role of mounted shock troops. He is even credited with developing the remarkable mounted wedge formation designed to penetrate and disrupt enemy infantry and cavalry lines. Although these heavy horsemen were originally drawn from the sons of the aristocratic elite (hence their famous status as “Companions”), they were eventually expanded to include formations comprising the “able” from more modest backgrounds and designated “hetairoi.” The same regularity and consistent command and control Phillip had imposed on his infantry was extended to his cavalry, which were organized into squadrons of 200-300 riders each divided into troops of 50-60. These innovations gave Macedonian cavalry a high degree of flexibility in deployment. They were capable of rapid changes in direction of maneuver and attack with minimal disruption to their formation. In addition to his role as overall commander, Alexander generally led the senior squadron of heavy cavalry as “Hipparch” and placed himself at the very tip of the lead assault formation.

As well as these basic tactical elements, the Macedonian system also comprised significant formations of medium infantry equipped similarly to the traditional Greek hoplite, but under more uniform organization and training. These medium phalanxes provided greater flexibility and mobility than the heavy pikemen and provided the essential connective link to the cavalry formations. They were also indispensible for specialist tasks such as leading a breach assault or escalading a wall in a siege, serving as marines in a naval fight, or providing a rapid infantry reaction to an unexpected threat or opportunity. Phillip also created the first regularly organized corps of engineers whose technical prowess and creativity transformed the ancient practice of siege craft. Under assault from the formidable Macedonian machines directed by highly skilled specialists, Phillip and Alexander successfully concluded their sieges not in months or years, as had been the traditional norm, but often in weeks – sometimes days. The equipment and techniques they developed continued to define siege warfare for millennia until they were eclipsed by the introduction of gunpowder weapons in 13th Century AD. The engineers were also critical in sustaining mobility over difficult terrain and bridging obstacles, an essential element in Alexander’s scheme of relentless, all-season warfare.

While less frequently mentioned by historians, naval forces also represented a vitally important capability for power projection and sustainment. Although generally inferior to the largely Phoenician fleet which served the Persian Empire, the Macedonian and allied Greek fleet was nevertheless critical in securing Alexander’s supply lines and protecting the transport ships which were the most efficient and practical means of transporting the hundreds of tons of food and material required daily by the army in the field.

Under Phillip, the Macedonian nobility was, for all practical purposes, transformed into a professional officer corps. Alexander could and did rely on a large group of capable subordinate commanders and staff officers. As complement to his own remarkable skills, Alexander was well served by a group of highly competent subordinate generals many, such as Parmenion and Ptolemy, justly famous in their own right and some of whom went on to rule powerful successor empires themselves.

Together, these elements made a military machine of unprecedented agility, flexibility, and sustainability capable of adapting itself to dominate virtually any tactical situation, project power across enormous distances and maintain a high operational tempo in difficult, poorly resourced environments far from its strategic base. So sophisticated was the Macedonian system that it even had what approached an institutionalized tactical doctrine in which light forces deployed to create or to deny the enemy tactical opportunities, the heavy infantry formed a solid base of maneuver, and the heavy cavalry was used as a “hammer” to smash through the enemy line then wheel and crush the enemy force against the heavy infantry “anvil.” The medium infantry formed the flexible continuity connecting the different formations ready to provide immediate support to the cavalry and missile troops or act as a reserve. Alexander appreciated the utility of this doctrine, but never allowed himself to be rigidly bound by it. He always found his army able to adjust itself rapidly to his sudden creative insights or unconventional inspirations.

In addition to these impressive capabilities, the Macedonian Army possessed one final attribute that was equally important in explaining Alexander’s unprecedented record of achievement. The Macedonian Army was a fighting force of exceptional and terrifying ferocity. The average Macedonian soldier was, even by the standard of his time, ruthless, relentless, and remorseless. Collectively the Macedonians displayed a singular bloody-mindedness seldom exceeded by any military force in history. Terror and intimidation were primary weapons in their arsenal and they used them with unapologetic vigor. Perhaps the only fundamentally original innovation of Alexander was his technique of aggressively and relentlessly pursuing a defeated enemy. In divergence from traditional Greek warfare and in stark contrast to Asiatic practice, Alexander sought not simply to defeat his enemies, but to annihilate them lest they later discover the temerity to challenge him again. It was in pursuit operations that the inherent ferocity of the Macedonian military found its most terrifying outlet. It is not the least irony surrounding Alexander that in his campaigns – ostensibly undertaken to restore Greek honor, liberty, and fortune lost in persistent conflicts with Persia he killed more Asian and Greek soldiers than had died in the preceding 150 years combined.

For all of the Macedonian Army’s extraordinary potential, to be effective, any military force must be well-led and directed, and it was the gifts of military planning and leadership that Alexander possessed in greatest abundance. It was a legacy of traditional Greek warfare that the military commander should put himself at risk by participating personally in combat. Alexander, in this as in so much else, took the “heroic” leadership model to an extreme. He generally placed himself in the thick of the most desperate fighting and plunged into the attack with reckless disregard for his own safety in the process setting a powerful example for his men. Arrian relates that during a siege of an Indian fortress, Alexander, impatient with the progress of his men storming the enemy wall, impetuously seized a scaling ladder and clambered to the top accompanied by just two companions. In the mad rush to join their commander, the Macedonians over-crowded and broke the ladders, stranding Alexander among the enemy. His men implored him to jump back down into the many arms waiting to catch him, but, espying the enemy commander in the interior court, Alexander instead leaped inside and killed the Indian leader in personal combat. In the process, this tiny group of Macedonians became the focus of the defenders and they were showered with arrows one penetrating Alexander’s lung. Alarmed and enraged, the remaining Macedonians swarmed over the wall to secure what they assumed would be a corpse. That he survived this commonly mortal wound says much about Alexander’s physical stamina and toughness (as well as the modern tendency to underestimate the sophistication of ancient medicine). In all, the various sources record that Alexander received a total of eight major wounds in combat at least two of them very nearly fatal.



Moltke. She was fitted with ten 28cm guns, trainable within a wide arc on both sides. The antitorpedo nets, initially fitted on most capital ships, were removed during the war due to their limited effectiveness and burdensome handling.


Goeben at La Spezia in early 1914. Since Italy was part of the Triple Alliance, until she declared her neutrality in early August 1914, Goeben was entitled to have access to Italian naval bases. Her main support harbour in the Mediterranean was, however, the Austrian base of Pula on the Adriatic.


Moltke, 1914


Goeben, 1912

In defining the designs of Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ and ‘H’, included in the 1908 and 1909 building programmes, the RMA avoided the mistake made by Britain, which failed to introduce in the Indefatigable class significant improvements over the Invincibles. In comparison to Von der Tann, the new German battlecruisers were, in fact, much larger, equipped with a more powerful main battery and better protected. This was possible thanks to the increased budget allocated to battlecruisers, which rose from RM36.7 million in 1907 to RM44.1 million in each of the two following years.

Design, Construction and Cost

The design process of Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ started in April 1907. Faced with the alternatives of switching to a larger calibre (30.5cm) main gun, as in the new Helgoland class battleships, or increasing the number of existing 28cm guns, Tirpitz and Department K choose the latter. Given that Britain was building a larger number of battlecruisers than Germany, it was indeed advisable to have a greater number of guns, rather than increase their calibre. Moreover, the RMA considered the 28cm was sufficient even to engage battleships.

Initially, the 28cm SK L/45 was selected and a preliminary design – dubbed ‘G2i’ – for a 22,000t battlecruiser equipped with five twin turrets and capable of developing 24 to 24.5 knots, was approved by the Kaiser on 28 May 1907. The project definition continued at a slow pace, due to both the many changes gradually introduced and the work overload affecting Department K. At one point, building Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ as a repeat of Von der Tann to save time was even considered, postponing the introduction of improvements to the next ship, Grosse Kreuzer ‘H’. This proposal, however, was set aside, and on 15 May 1908 Tirpitz decided that Grosse Kreuzer ‘G’ and ‘H’ had to be identical. On 17 September, the RMA entrusted the construction of ‘G’ to the Blohm & Voss shipyard, which had submitted the lowest bid in anticipation of winning the contracts for both ships. The order for the first battlecruiser was signed on 28 September and, on 8 April 1909, Blohm & Voss also secured the contract for Grosse Kreuzer ‘H’.

Moltke11 was laid down on 7 December 1908, launched on 7 April 1910 and declared ready for the acceptance tests on 30 September 1911. She entered service on 31 March 1912. Goeben12 was laid down on 12 August 1909, launched on 28 March 1911, declared ready for acceptance tests on 2 July 1912 and commissioned on 2 August. Moltke cost RM44.08 million, spread over four budget years (1908-11), and distributed as follows: hull and propulsion, RM29.15 million; guns, RM14 million; and torpedo armament, RM0.93 million. The cost of Goeben was almost identical: RM44.125 million over 1909-12.

General Features

The main design features of the Moltke class (overall length 186.6m, beam 29.4m, design displacement 22,979t) were largely superior to those of Von der Tann. In particular, the greater size of the hull caused an overall increase of about 3,600t in the design displacement. The table on pages 156-7 shows displacement, dimensions and the ships’ main characteristics. This overall increase was due to several features. 1,000t came from a hull that was finer at the ends and wider amidships. An additional 1,000t were due to a greater freeboard and the installation of an additional 28cm turret and the consequent lengthening of the ship’s citadel caused an increase of 900t. The installation of more powerful machinery resulted in an additional 450t and, finally, larger ammunition stowage accounted for 100t.

The hull was divided longitudinally into fifteen watertight compartments and horizontally into six decks. Extensive compartmentalisation and a double bottom extending for 78% of the hull length provided underwater protection. In addition, there were side longitudinal bulkheads that provided further compart-mentalisation in the central and aft sections of the hull. There were two passageways located along the hull sides in the upper, lower platform and hold decks, running from approximately the foremost boiler rooms to ‘C’ turret magazine. Another two middle passageways, only in the upper platform deck, ran along the boiler rooms.

The forecastle rose up gently up to 7.6m far forward, while aft it continued up to the superfiring turret. The freeboard was increased by about 1m at the battery deck but reduced at the stern. The stem was nearly straight, instead of the pronounced ram bow fitted on Von der Tann.

The forward superstructure included the main control tower, two 8.8cm guns, the chart room and the bridge and the flag bridge. The rear part of this superstructure supported the forward funnel, which was higher than the aft funnel because it had a hood. The foremast was just forward of the fore funnel. Two searchlight platforms were fitted on each side of the fore funnel; the air vents for the boilers were located at its base, which also supported two derricks for handling the service boats. The aft superstructure included the secondary conning tower and a lattice frame with two platforms, each supporting two searchlights.13 These were installed aft, rather than on the sides of the aft funnel, to move them away from the flash and blast of the 28cm wing turrets. The aft funnel was not fitted with an outer coating; it was no longer needed since the aft searchlights were moved onto separate platforms. At the base of the aft funnel, there were the air intakes for the ventilation of the lower decks.

The barrels of the 28cm guns were 1.4m longer than Von der Tann’s, due to the transition from 45 to 50 calibres. This resulted in a corresponding increase of the traversing radius, thus requiring an adjustment of the funnels’ positioning, with a consequent increase in length of the ship’s citadel. The original design foresaw lattice masts; concerns related to the increased volume of these structures, their stability in case of hits, and potential interference in the operation of the W/T equipment led to the adoption of metal pole masts. After 1914, a fire-control position was added on the foremast. The Moltkes were equipped with bilge keels to improve stability. Six turbo generators supplied 1,500kW at 225V, powering the lighting and communication systems and the training servo-mechanisms of the large calibre turrets. The turbo-generators were housed in four dynamo rooms, two positioned along the centreline and the other port and starboard of the forward engine room, in the upper platform deck. W/T fitting was the same as on Von der Tann. Anti-torpedo nets were originally fitted but they were removed in 1916.

The Moltkes’ metacentric height was 3.01m. The angle of maximum stability was 34° and the angle at which stability vanished was 68°. Complement included forty-three officers and 1,010 men; when serving as flagship, there were an additional thirteen officers and sixty-two men.


The increase in displacement allowed for a considerable strengthening of the Moltkes’ protection, compared to Von der Tann. However, the weakness represented by the thinner armour of the barbettes behind the main armour belt was not eliminated. The main belt, consisting of KC steel plates, extended over 112m between the barbettes of the forward and the aftermost large calibre turrets. Maximum thickness was 270mm on a height of 175cm, 35cm of which was below the waterline. The belt tapered upwards to 200mm at the battery deck level (or at the upper deck outside the citadel) and to 130mm at the lower edge, 175cm below the waterline. The main belt was closed by 200mm bulkheads fore and aft. Beyond the main belt, side armour extended towards the bow and stern with a reduced thickness of 100mm.

The citadel enclosing the 15cm guns was protected by 150mm side armour between the upper and battery decks and was closed by bulkheads of equal thickness. The side protection of the main conning tower was 350mm, with an 80mm roof. The aft conning tower featured 200mm in side protection and a 50mm roof. The main gun turrets’ armour was unchanged from Von der Tann (230mm front, 180mm sides and 90mm flat roofs). The thickness of the barbettes was 200-230mm above the main belt but it was reduced to 80mm behind the battery side armour and to 30mm behind the main belt. Horizontal protection was 75mm inside the citadel, equally divided among the upper, battery and armoured decks. The thickness of the sloping sides of the armoured deck was 50mm. Outside of the citadel, protection was provided by the armoured deck, with a thickness between 50 and 75mm. A longitudinal torpedo bulkhead ran 3.75m inside the main belt with a thickness of 30mm, increasing to 50mm on the sides of the ammunition magazines.


Moltke and Goeben were equipped with twenty-four coal-fired Schulz-Thornycroft boilers. They were housed in groups of three in eight separated rooms amidships. The watertight compartment that housed ‘B’ turret magazine and some auxiliary equipment separated the two forward boiler rooms from the aft boiler rooms. In turn, these were split into six compartments, obtained by dividing two adjacent boiler rooms with two longitudinal bulkheads.

Steam was raised at 16atm and fed two groups of Parsons turbines, powering as many shafts fitted with three-blade propellers, 3.74m in diameter. The Moltkes, like Von der Tann, featured two side longitudinal bulkheads, which split the engine rooms into port and starboard compartments. The two forward engine rooms housed the HP turbines, which operated the outer shafts. The aft engine rooms housed the MP turbines, which ran the inner shafts.

Design power was 52,000shp, providing 25.5 knots at 260rpm. This value was greatly exceeded during speed trials, in which Moltke attained 85,782shp at 332rpm, and a top speed of 28.07 knots. Goeben achieved 85,661shp at 330rpm, and 28 knots. Design coal stowage was 1,000t; the maximum 3,100t and endurance was 4,120 miles at 14 knots. After 1916, the boilers were equipped with tar oil sprayers, thus obviating the poor quality of available coal; oil capacity was 200t.

Moltke and Goeben had two rudders in tandem. Since the rudders were 12m apart, this layout increased manoeuvrability at slow speed and the ship’s survivability. However, this also remarkably increased the ship’s turning diameter at slow speed. When turning at full rudder, speed loss could reach 60%, while heeling could reach 9°.


The main armament consisted of ten 28cm L/50 guns in five Drh. LC/08 twin mountings: a bow turret (‘A’), two aft (‘C’ superfiring over ‘D’) and two wing turrets (‘B’ to starboard and ‘E’ to port).14 As in Von der Tann, this layout allowed firing a full broadside of ten guns within a wide arc (about 75°) on both sides. The height of the gun axis was 8.79m above the waterline for the forward turret, 8.43m for the wing turrets and 8.61m and 6.25m for the aft turrets. Each mounting weighed about 445t, and had a crew of seventy.

Elevation of the large-calibre guns was -8°/+13.5°, 6.5° less than Von der Tann. Therefore, the maximum range was limited to 18,100m.15 When the maximum elevation was increased to 16° in 1916, range was extended to 19,100m. As Yavuz (ex-Goeben), the maximum elevation was further increased to 22.5°, in order to enable her to deal with the newest Russian battleships, armed with 30.5cm guns, operating in the Black Sea. The guns of Yavuz could then achieve a maximum range of 21,700m. Thanks to the increased length of the barrel when compared with the 28cm L/45, the new gun fired the 302kg AP shell with a muzzle velocity of 880 mps and corresponding muzzle energy of 116.9MJ. Maximum rate of fire was three rounds per minute while the weight of the full broadside (ten rounds) was 3,020kg. Ammunition outfit totalled 810 rounds. The capacity of the magazines was 150 rounds for the wing and aftermost turrets and 180 rounds for the other two turrets.

The secondary battery consisted of twelve 15cm L/45 guns on MPL C/06 mountings, casemated on both sides of the ship’s citadel. Each gun’s axis was 5m above the waterline. Ammunition outfit was 150 rounds per gun (1,800 in total). Two 15cm guns were removed from Yavuz in May 1915 and used to strengthen the fortress of In Tepe, on the Dardanelles.

To defend against torpedo boats and destroyers, the Moltkes were initially armed with twelve 8.8cm L/45 naval guns: four were placed near the bow, two in the fore and four in the aft superstructure, and two on the upper deck, aft of the 15cm battery. These 8.8cm guns were first reduced to eight, removing the bow guns because they were flooded when the ship steamed at full speed; another four guns were removed in 1916. The remaining 8.8cm guns were replaced by four AA guns on MPL C/13 single mounts, which were installed on the aft superstructure. Ammunition outfit for these guns totalled 3,200 rounds (200 per gun). Moltke and Goeben were also equipped with four 50cm underwater torpedo tubes (one forward, one aft and two on the broadside), with eleven torpedoes carried.


In April-May 1912, Moltke paid a visit to the United States along with the light cruisers Stettin and Bremen. In July, she escorted the Kaiser’s yacht during a visit to St. Petersburg. Back in Germany, Moltke became the flagship of 1. Aufklärungsgruppe and served as such until Rear-Admiral Hipper transferred his flag to the new Seydlitz, on 23 June 1914. Moltke was interned at Scapa Flow on 24 November 1918 and scuttled by her crew on 21 June 1919. Raised in June 1927, she was scrapped in Rosyth in 1927-9.


In October 1912, after the outbreak of the First Balkan War, Germany decided to send a naval Division to the Mediterranean to exert influence in the area. On 4 November, Goeben, escorted by the light cruiser Breslau, sailed from Kiel to Constantinople, where they arrived on 15 November. At the end of the war in May 1913, the ships were supposed to return to German waters but the reopening of hostilities, in the Second Balkan War, dispelled this notion. On 28 June 1914, the day Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, Goeben was cruising in the eastern Mediterranean, from where she immediately sailed for repairs at the Austro-Hungarian naval base of Pola (today, Pula in Croatia). Goeben was formally transferred to Turkey on 16 August 1914 and renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim. However, the German crew continued to man the battlecruiser until November 1918. Yavuz remained in service under the Turkish flag until 20 December 1950, when she was placed in reserve. Deleted from the navy register in 1954, she was offered to Germany in 1963, with the proposal to turn her into a floating museum. Following the rejection of this idea by the German government, in 1971 Yavuz was sold for dismantling and scrapped in 1973-6.

Volksjäger Ta 183


Focke-Wulf Ta 183 in flight.


Focke-Wulf P.V of February 1945, soon to become the Ta 183.

Emergency Fighter Competition third round (27-28th February, 1945) competitors:

Messerschmitt P 1101, P 1110 and P 1111

Focke-Wulf P.V and Entwurf III

Heinkel P 1078

Blohm & Voss P 212

Junkers EF 128

Focke-Wulf continued to pitch its elegant P.V design with its swept wings and long T-tail but added another less risky option to sit alongside it – an aircraft known simply as Entwurf III. This was similar to the P.V but with the cockpit positioned further back from the engine’s intake rather than being sat right above it, and with a conventional low tail plane rather than the P.V’s T-top.

Stung by criticism of the P 1106’s poor pilot visibility, Messerschmitt withdrew it from contention – reinstating the P 1101 in its place. A refined version of the P 1110 remained, but was joined by a near-delta wing fighter which drew on the firm’s years of experience with tailless designs, the P 1111.

Heinkel pressed ahead with its P 1078 and Blohm & Voss altered its P 212’s fuselage to make it aerodynamically cleaner. Junkers EF 128 also remained in contention, unchanged.

A report produced for the meeting said: ‘Subject: Comparison of designs for single-jet fighter, Upper Bavarian Research Station, Oberammergau. Summary: The report gives a concise statement of the most important technical points and sizes for comparison of the single-jet fighter.

The performances are determined from general characteristics (performance adjustment according to Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt). At the request of the Entwicklungs Hauptkommission and the head of the Technische Luft Rustung, designs for single-jet fighters were tendered by the following firms: Blohm & Voss, Focke-Wulf, Ernst Heinkel, Junkers, Messerschmitt.

At the meeting of the Entwicklungs Hauptkommission on 27-28th February, 1945, a decision concerning the completion of these designs is to be made. The purpose of this report, after careful work on the material in question, is to present a comparison between the designs tendered, and, thus, is to serve the EHK as the basis for decision. A considerable interruption of the work necessary for this report was brought about by war conditions. On account of the bad traffic and communication facilities, it was not possible to obtain in written form the report of the DVL on general performance and criticism of the characteristics of the aircraft.

For the same reasons it was not possible to compare in the general discussion with DVL the additional designs tendered (the design from Heinkel and the Messerschmitt P 1101 and P 1111 designs).

In order to ensure the fairest possible comparison, reference was made to the performance and weights of all the designs submitted with regard to equipment and armament. The aircraft weights were determined against each other at the beginning of the performance comparison. The bulletproofing was not assumed to be of equal weight for the individual designs, but the bulletproofing for each aircraft was set out so that an equal extent of protection was obtained wherever possible.

Exceptions can be made for designs P 1101 and P 1111 from Messerschmitt, as these have to be considered with a view to their stronger armament (three MK 108 and four MK 108 respectively, instead of two MK 108). This happened on account of the fact that the arrangement of the supplementary armament at the extreme front of the aircraft presented great difficulties on both models in regard to the centre of gravity, and thus the firm provided additional armament as a fundamental. The design of the Heinkel company was not included in the comparison of performance and weight, as it was not ready at the time. The comparison was finished, but the result has not yet been submitted at this time to Special Commission for Day Fighters. The estimated performances are thus the firm’s specifications.

The estimated performance for the designs P 1110, P 1101 and P 1111 from Messerschmitt do not correspond entirely to the values that were ascertained at the comparison of performance. For the design P 1110, an increase of wing and fuselage surface is contemplated and considered according to the fundamental process of calculating the performance comparison. The designs P 1101 and P 1111 that were not submitted for the performance comparison by Messerschmitt, were calculated by the firm according to an agreed process and were submitted for decision in place of the project P 1106. The estimated performances are comparative figures, which will serve as the deciding factor for the value of the designs submitted. They are not to be considered as absolute estimates of the velocities.

The report consists of a short description, in concise form, of the separate projects, with the most important technical points such as the main dimension weights and important performances in comprehensive tables.

These served the Special Commission for Day Fighters on January 12, 1945, as a basis. In the meantime, alterations proposed by the firms have not been considered.’

The third and final round competitors for the Emergency Fighter Competition on 27-28th February, 1945, were Focke-Wulf’s P.V and Entwurf III, Messerschmitt’s P 1101, P 1110 and P 1111, Heinkel’s P 1078 C, Blohm & Voss’s P 212 and Junkers’ EF 128.

Comparative data

Top speed

Messerschmitt P 11101000kph (621mph)

Messerschmitt P 1111995kph (618mph)

Messerschmitt P 1101980kph (608.5mph)

Blohm and Voss P 212965kph (599mph)

Focke-Wulf Entwurf 3962kph (597mph)

Focke-Wulf Ta 183955kph (593mph)

Junkers EF 128905kph (562mph)

Heinkel P 1078 Cdata unavailable

Rate of climb

Messerschmitt P 111123.7m/s (4660ft/min)

Focke-Wulf Entwurf 323.2m/s (4550ft/min)

Junkers EF 12822.9m/s (4500ft/min)

Messerschmitt P 110122.2m/s (4380ft/min)

Messerschmitt P 111021.5m/s (4250ft/min)

Blohm and Voss P 21221.3m/s (4200ft/min)

Focke-Wulf Ta 18320.5m/s (4020ft/min)

Heinkel P 1078 Cdata unavailable

Take-off weight

Heinkel P 1078 C3920kg

Messerschmitt P 11014064kg

Junkers EF 1284077kg

Focke-Wulf Entwurf 34100kg

Blohm and Voss P 2124180kg

Messerschmitt P 11114282kg

Messerschmitt P 11104290kg

Focke-Wulf Ta 1834379kg

Maximum fuel capacity

Focke-Wulf Entwurf 32100 litres

Junkers EF 1281570 litres

Messerschmitt P 11011500 litres

Messerschmitt P 11101500 litres

Messerschmitt P 11111500 litres

Heinkel P 1078 C1450 litres

Focke-Wulf Ta 1831440 litres

Blohm & Voss P 2121370 litres

Maximum armament

Blohm & Voss P 2125 x MK 108

Messerschmitt P 11105 x MK 108

Focke-Wulf Ta 1834 x MK 108

Junkers EF 1284 x MK 108

Messerschmitt P 11014 x MK 108

Messerschmitt P 11114 x MK 108

Focke-Wulf Entwurf 33 x MK 108

Heinkel P 1078 C2 x MK 108


The Focke-Wulf’s P.V as it appeared in February 1945, shortly to become known as the Ta 183, was specifically design to allow the aircraft to fly as close to Mach 1 as possible without suffering the negative effects of compressibility – particularly strong vibrations and loss of control. Its wings were sharply swept back and far narrower than they had been a year earlier. The engine’s air intake had also been sculpted and shaped using wind tunnel models for maximum efficiency.

The design team at Focke-Wulf, who code-named the aircraft ‘Huckebein’, were confident that they had satisfactorily resolved the issues associated with high-speed flight and that the aircraft would be suitable for low-speed flying too.

It was proposed that the P.V/Ta 183 would be adaptable and could easily be converted into a short-range interceptor with the addition of a rocket engine with 1000kg thrust in the rear fuselage. The T-Stoff and C-Stoff fuel needed for this, however, would need to be carried externally in drop-tanks. The rocket’s pumps would be driven by the turbojet and 200 seconds of thrust would be available.

When used in the fighter-bomber role, the P.V would be able to carry up to 500kg in munitions in a specially designed semi-recessed bomb rack. Standard-fit weaponry would be a pair of MK 108s, each with 100 rounds, but a second supplementary pair of these powerful 30mm cannon could be installed with 60 rounds each. This would result in the aircraft’s maximum service ceiling being reduced by 600m.

The struts for the tricycle undercarriage’s main legs would simply be repurposed Fw 190 components, as would the pilot’s seat. Even the cockpit canopy and its emergency release mechanism would largely come from that of the Fw 190.

Some 45.3% of the P.V was to be made of steel, another 25% was duraluminium, 25.9% was plywood and other materials made up the remaining 3.8%.

The second Focke-Wulf design put forward for the final analysis was the Entwurf III. It was clearly similar to what would become the Ta 183 but was also noticeably more conservative in layout. The undercarriage arrangement was largely the same and so was the armament – but with an optional upgrade reduced to just one additional MK 108 for a total of three. But the wings had a less severe sweepback and the tail was far more conventional. Based on the DVL’s calculation formula, the Entwurf III was actually faster than the P.V/Ta 183, with a top speed of 597mph compared to 593mph and it could climb faster too, at a rate of 4550 feet per minute compared to just 4020 feet per minute.


Long months after the original ‘emergency’ for which the Emergency Fighter Competition was named had arisen and grown into a solid death blow for Nazi Germany, the contest finally drew to a close and a winner was chosen – Focke-Wulf’s Ta 183. Its performance against the other designs had been relatively mediocre and it finished mid-to-bottom of the table in every respect. Yet it won in one crucial area – it was close to production ready. The company could demonstrate that it had been working on the design, relatively unchanged, for over a year and was also able to produce detailed constructional blueprints for most of the design’s major structures and systems. It was a safe bet and the German chief development committee adjudicators grasped it with both hands – even though time had long since run out for what was now hurriedly designated the Ta 183. It had been hoped that the new fighter would be able to make its first flight as a prototype towards the end of May or perhaps early June 1945 but this was not to be. In fact, the earliest that production models of the Ta 183 might have been produced was October 1945. The capture of Focke-Wulf’s Bad Eilsen design headquarters – complete with chief designer Kurt Tank himself – on April 8 put an end to both the Ta 183 and the Emergency Fighter Competition that had spawned it.

Arab – Israeli war of 1948–9


Israeli armored vehicles in Lydda airport after the town’s capture by Israeli forces.



On 29 November 1947 the General Assembly, in UN Resolution 181, voted in favour of the partition of Palestine by a vote of thirty-three to thirteen, with ten abstentions. The Muslim countries (together with India, Yugoslavia and Greece) voted against partition. The United States and the Soviet bloc (together with several other nations, including France and Australia) supported partition. Although many construed partition as an American plan, Latin American and European nations supported partition in part because Catholics liked the special international status planned for Jerusalem.

It is now taken for granted that the passage of the UN partition resolution in November 1947 virtually assured a Jewish state in Palestine in that it liquidated the mandate, defined a legal framework in which the Yishuv could establish a state, and gave to the Haganah a definite goal around which it could rally its forces. The situation was not nearly so clear in early December 1947. In Sydney, a former governor general of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs publicly stated that the partition resolution ‘had broken the express terms on which Britain had accepted the mandate’, something he regretted.The Sydney Morning Herald editorialized that: ‘Time alone will show the wisdom of this momentous decision.’ Under the banner headline: ‘Palestine Crisis a Supreme Test for UNO’, the Herald reported that there was considerable doubt and misgivings in diplomatic circles in New York as to whether the United Nations had the legal right to partition the country against the will of the majority. The newspaper raised the even more important question as to the practical means of enforcing the decision should the Arabs resort, as they did, to armed force and the matter went before the Security Council.

The Herald pointed out that the UN was not yet equipped to enforce its will. The paper warned that if the decisions of the General Assembly were challenged by war the whole fabric of collective security created to protect the world from the horrors of atomic warfare would fail. The Herald urged the Arab states, despite their disappointment, to accept the decision, otherwise ‘Armageddon may yet be fought on the plains of Palestine.’ The signs were ominous. A leading Arab spokesman in London stated that: ‘UNO has set the Arabs and Jews in the Middle East irrevocably against each other and made war inevitable’, and pointed out that the UN charter authorized member states to oppose aggression, by force if necessary. Perhaps attempting to placate Arab hostility, world leader of the Jewish Agency, Chaim Weizmann, in a speech delivered in New York on 30 November, made the remarkable statement that there would be no mass migration of Jews from Europe to Palestine when the new Jewish state was created. On 4 December 1947 the British announced that they would depart from Palestine in August of the following year, but many predicted an earlier date, in May.

The next months were full of uncertainty and confusion. Jewish celebrations were matched by Arab determination to prevent partition’s realization. Efforts by moderate Arab and Jewish leaders to prevent bloodshed failed. Murders, reprisals and counter-reprisals took place, killing dozens of victims on both sides. Both sides resorted to terrorist atrocities against each other, especially in the major cities, with little regard for noncombatants or women and children. In one series of attacks and retaliation, in December 1947, Jewish terrorists (Irgun or Lehi members) threw bombs at a group of Arab oil refinery workers in Haifa, killing six and wounding 42. The Arabs then rioted and killed 41 Jews and wounded 48 before being dispersed by British troops.

Two days later, Haganah members disguised as Arabs entered a village close to Haifa and killed approximately 60 people, including a number of women and children, to avenge the Jewish deaths in the port city. British forces, who were withdrawing in a state of virtual collapse, found it increasingly difficult to be even-handed. During the period December 1947 through January 1948, it was estimated that nearly 1,000 people were killed and 2,000 people were injured. By the end of March the figure had risen to 2,000 dead and 4,000 wounded. These figures correspond to an average of more than 100 deaths and 200 casualties per week – in a population of 2,000,000. During this initial stage up to 100,000 Palestinians, chiefly those from the upper classes, sought refuge abroad or in eastern Palestine. The British devoted their energies to preparation for their evacuation and refused to assume responsibility for implementing the partition plan. From January onwards operations became more warlike, with the intervention into Palestine of a number of Arab Liberation Army (ALA) regiments organized, trained and armed by Syria for the Arab League states. At first the ALA had considerable success and the Haganah was forced on the defensive.

The British, meanwhile, resigned to the emergence of a Jewish state, favoured uniting the Arab areas of Palestine with Transjordan into a ‘Greater Transjordan’ under King Abdullah, who became king in 1946 when Britain recognized Transjordan’s independence. On 7 February 1948 Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin informed Jordan’s prime minister in London that Britain would support Transjordan’s annexation of the Arab part of Palestine when the British left, using the Arab Legion if necessary. The Jewish Agency, Abdullah and the British had a common interest in preventing a Palestinian state headed by al-Husseini. Abdullah had long sought to control Arab Palestine and there had been contacts over the years with officials of the Jewish Agency about their mutual interests.

Shortly before the UN partition resolution was approved, in early November 1947, Abdullah had met with senior representatives of the Jewish Agency, including Golda Meir, acting head of the agency’s political department. An understanding was reached in which the Agency agreed to Abdullah’s annexation of Arab Palestine; in return, Abdullah promised not to stand in the way of the establishment of a Jewish state. Another meeting was to have followed the vote on partition, but owing to the tumult in Palestine, it did not take place. There was one last meeting between Meir and the king just before the partition plan was to take effect, but by then the demands on the king to fight against the Jews were too great. The outbreak of hostilities provided him with an opportunity to cross the Jordan and annex central Palestine, whether or not a Jewish state came into being.

By late February the chaotic situation led Truman to the view that partition should be replaced by a temporary UN trusteeship. This encouraged the Arab League to believe that the Palestinians, with the aid of the Arab Liberation Army, could now put an end to the partition plan. On 19 March, in the Security Council, US ambassador Warren W. Austin called for a suspension of all efforts aimed at partition and asked for a special meeting of the General Assembly to approve a temporary United Nations trusteeship for a period of five years. Secretary of State George C. Marshall was afraid that partition might require implementation by the use of UN forces – he estimated upwards of 100,000 troops. Soviet troops would then be involved and they would probably remain, dangerously close to Greece, Turkey and the Arabian oil fields vital for the European recovery programme. The fact that the Soviets were looking for a warm-water port also added to the threat of Soviet military in the area. The only solution, Marshall believed, was to turn the matter over to the UN Trusteeship Council, where the Soviets were not represented, so the danger of Soviet military intervention would be avoided.

During April the Israeli forces, armed with a shipment of weapons that arrived from communist-controlled Czechoslovakia, took the offensive. Arab leader Adb al-Qadir al-Husayni was killed, and all the towns and villages within the designated Jewish state were occupied. Tiberias was captured on 18 April and Haifa on 22–3 April. Most of Haifa’s 70,000 Arabs fled, many to Lebanon. By early May the Haganah also had control of Jaffa and most of eastern Galilee. But East Jerusalem remained in Arab hands.

By 2 May the Israelis had carved out for themselves a state roughly equivalent to that approved by the United Nations in November 1947. The Jews went ahead with plans to announce an independent state on 14 May. On the morning of 14 May 1948 the Union Jack was hauled down from Government House in Jerusalem for the last time and, as the British high commissioner, Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham, sailed out of Haifa at 11:30 pm that night, the mandate came to an end.

About 4 pm on the afternoon of Friday 14 May 1948, in the assembly hall of the Tel Aviv art museum, with a photo of Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, on the wall behind him, stood David Ben-Gurion, the 61-year-old Polish-born head of the Jewish National Council. He read to the 350 assembled members and guests an announcement proclaiming the establishment and independence of Israel, ‘by virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly’. The declaration of independence took the prime minister and minister of defence of the newly created provisional government seventeen minutes to read. As members of the council signed the declaration, the Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra played ‘Hatikvah’, which was the new state’s national anthem. The declaration of independence did not define the borders of the new state, although it did extend ‘an offer of peace and good neigh-bourliness’ to the Arab states.

Eleven minutes later President Harry S. Truman extended de facto recognition to the new state. Truman’s decision to do this to the new state has raised considerable controversy over the past 60 years. Many argue that it was motivated by political considerations rather than by calculations of the national interest. In later years Truman himself basked in the praise lavished upon him by Israelis and their supporters for his swift action. Yet when in 1965 I asked him about this decision he merely observed that ‘something had to be done, so I did it’, which accurately reflects the essence of the man. The same kind of comment may be made about the president’s meeting with his former Kansas City haberdashery partner Eddy Jacobson in April 1948, in which he agreed to see Chaim Weizman and reassured the future Israeli president that the US would not back away from partition. This Truman-Jacobson meeting has been given considerable attention by historians, myself included. Yet when called upon to unveil a bust of Jacobson in Independence, Missouri, in 1965 to commemorate Jacobson’s role, Truman said nothing about this meeting, or Israel. Again revealing his pragmatic approach to life, he simply stated: ‘Eddy Jacobson was a good friend of mine. Always there when I needed him’, and sat down.

Just before midnight the same day, 14 May 1948, King Abdullah of Transjordan, standing on the eastern side of the Allenby Bridge across the River Jordan, fired his revolver into the air, so signalling his army, the Arab Legion, to enter and occupy the area on the west bank of the river the UN had allotted to the Arab state. Early on the morning of 15 May troops from Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, together with volunteers from Saudi Arabia and Libya, entered Palestine to support local Palestinian irregular forces and the Arab League’s Arab Liberation army. The Arab League of Arab States informed the UN Secretary-General on 15 May that their aim was to create a ‘United State of Palestine’ in place of the two-state UN plan. They also claimed it was necessary to intervene to protect Arab lives and property. The first Arab – Israeli war had entered a new phase. Three days later, on 17 May, the Soviet Union extended full de jure recognition of the new state, ensuring that the dispute between Israel and the Arabs would become entwined in the developing Cold War between the two super powers and their allies. (The US extended de jure recognition following elections held in January 1949.)

On 15 May the first of around 1,000 Lebanese, 5,000 Syrian, 5,000 Iraqi and 10,000 Egyptian troops, with a few Saudi Arabian, Libyan and Yemenite volunteers, crossed the frontiers of Palestine with the intention of establishing a unitary Palestinian state. The first all-out Arab – Israeli war had begun. Israel, the United States and the Soviets called the Arab states’ entry into Palestine illegal aggression. The primary goal of the Arab governments, according to historian Yoav Gelber, was to prevent the total ruin of the Palestinians and the flooding of their own countries by more refugees. On 26 May 1948 the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) was officially established and the Haganah, Palmach and Irgun were absorbed into the army of the new Jewish state. As the war progressed, the IDF managed to mobilize more troops than the Arab forces. By July 1948 the IDF was fielding 63,000 troops; by early spring 1949, 115,000. The Arab armies had an estimated 40,000 troops in July 1948, rising to 55,000 in October 1948, and slightly more by the spring of 1949.

The war consisted of three short phases of violence, each followed by a truce. In the first phase, from 14 May to 11 June 1948, the Arab Legion captured Jerusalem but the Israeli forces defended their settlements and their territory against the Egyptians, Iraqis and Lebanese. The UN mediator, Folke Bernadotte, declared a truce on 29 May that came into effect on 11 June and lasted 28 days. In the second phase of fighting, from 8 to 18 July 1948, Israeli forces secured and enlarged the corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, capturing the roadside cities Lydda (later renamed Lod) and Ramle. Following the seizure of these cities, the Israelis forced the 50,000 residents to leave – the largest single exodus of the war. Israelis also captured the area in the north between Haifa and the Sea of Galilee. A second truce lasted from 18 July to 15 October. On 16 September Bernadotte proposed a new plan in which Transjordan would annex Arab areas including the Negev, al-Ramla and Lydda, Galilee would be allocated to Israel, Jerusalem internationalized, and Arab refugees be allowed to return home or receive compensation. The plan was rejected by both sides. On the next day Bernadotte was assassinated by the Lehi and was immediately replaced by his deputy, an American, Ralph Bunche.

The last phase of the war lasted from 15 October 1948 to 7 January 1949. In this final stage Israel drove out the Arab armies and secured its borders. Israel signed separate armistices with Egypt on 24 February 1949, Lebanon on 23 March, Transjordan on 3 April, and Syria on 20 July. Israeli casualties amounted to 6,000 killed (4,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilians). Arab losses are estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 killed.

The new borders of Israel, as set by the agreements, encompassed about 78 per cent of mandatory Palestine west of the Jordan River. This was about 25 per cent more than the UN partition proposal allotted it (55 per cent). These ceasefire lines were known afterwards collectively as the ‘Green Line’. Transjordan occupied and later annexed the thickly populated West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Gaza Strip was retained and administered by Egypt. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization and Mixed Armistice Commissions were set up to monitor ceasefires, supervise the armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region.

The Arab – Israeli war of 1948–9 and its outcome still determine the direction and dimensions of the contemporary Arab – Israeli conflict. Sixty years later most of the issues that caused that war have still not been resolved. Questions such as the borders of Israel, its ethnic make-up and its relationships with neighbouring Arab states remain unclear. Palestinian Arabs are still stateless, and more than half survive homeless, are prohibited from returning, and are unlikely to receive compensation. The future of the occupied or disputed territories, the status of Jerusalem, the sharing of water resources and many other contested matters have not been agreed upon. For all these reasons and many more, it is essential to examine closely the events that preceded and made up the war of 1948–9.

By twentieth-century standards the war of 1948–9 was not a large-scale war. At the beginning of the war neither side had more than 30,000 troops, although by the end of the war Israeli forces had risen to around 108,500, and the Arab armies to around 60,000. The weapons used were mainly World War II-vintage rifles and light and medium machine guns. Few tanks were involved, and not many aircraft. The repercussions of the war, however, were enormous. Israel emerged possessing territory 50 per cent greater than that which had been allocated by the UN, but beyond that nothing was settled. No peace treaties were signed, merely a series of uneasy armistices. No Palestinian Arab state was established. Palestinian Arabs had no independent voice in these negotiations; their spokesman was King Abdullah, whose forces had occupied the area of Palestine west of the River Jordan stipulated by the UN as an Arab state.

Thunderbolts to Ie Shima


P-47N Thunderbolt Bubbletop of the 333rd Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group Ie Shima.


The first of the army air force fighter groups to arrive on Ie Shima was the 318th Fighter Group under Col. Lew Sanders. Having gained combat experience at Saipan, Tinian, Rota, Pagan, Truk and Iwo Jima, the pilots were ready for their new mission. The ground echelon left Saipan 6 to 7 April 1945 on board the liberty ship S. Hall Young 479 and Kenmore AK 221 and headed for Ie Shima. As this excursion was beginning, a skeleton crew remained behind to prepare the group’s new fighters for action. New model Thunderbolts, the long-range P-47N, had just arrived to replace the older model P-47Ds that the group had been flying. Pilots tested them out on runs over Truk and Marcus islands for about two weeks before deeming them ready for the flight to Ie Shima.

Kenmore and S. Hall Young arrived in Okinawan waters at the end of April 1945. The ground echelon of the 318th landed on Ie Shima on 30 April, and had to stand by as demolition men cleared mine fields all around them. The next evening, a kamikaze hit S. Hall Young, burrowing into her number 5 hold and setting off fires. Fortunately the fires were extinguished before the 530 tons of ammunition and rockets were set off. A dozen trucks and various other supplies and equipment were lost in the attack.

The first of the group’s squadrons took off for Ie Shima and arrived on 13 May. The 333rd Fighter Squadron completed the 1, 425 mile flight in seven hours, making it the longest over- water flight up to that point. A B-29 flew navigation for the Thunderbolts but, three hours into the flight, encountered bad weather and the fighters had to continue on to Ie Shima using their clocks and compasses as a guide. Reports indicate that one plane and pilot were lost.12 The 73rd Fighter Squadron arrived on the 14th and the 19th Fighter Squadron arrived on the 15th. On 16 May, the 29th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron arrived.

The “Jugs” were quickly put to work at a variety of duties, including bomber escort missions and fighter sweeps from their base up to Kyushu and westward to Korea. On 14 May 1945, only one day after landing, they participated in the combat air patrol. Their primary responsibilities involved flying patrols near Radar Picket Stations # 5, 7, 9, 15, and 16.13 A few days later, they became the first of the ADC fighter planes to attack the Japanese mainland, hitting targets on Kyushu. From this point on, they would fly regular CAP and attack missions from their base at Ie Shima. Designed for long range missions, the P-47Ns were not seen over the picket ships as frequently as were the marine and navy planes. Army air force pilots found this agreeable, since there were those who felt that radar picket patrol could be unnerving at times. Lieutenant Durwood B. Williams, of the 333rd Fighter Squadron on Ie Shima, had been in the first group of army air force fighters to arrive at Okinawa. He recalled:

I flew 7 CAP missions during May and 6 CAP missions during June. Several were protecting the pickets. I do not recall how many. I do recall, however, that the duty was hazardous. One could peaceably orbit the pickets as long as no hostile aircraft were reported to be in the area. Once hostiles were reported, you could depend on every Navy gun in the group to fire on you. For Army pilots, undisciplined navy gunners were more feared than were the Japanese. At least, we could shoot back at the Japanese.

Pilots had been given fair warning. In an Operations Memorandum of 15 May, Col. Lew Sanders had warned pilots that “Planes must not fly within automatic weapon range of surface craft nor engage in any maneuver near surface craft which might be interpreted as hostile.”

Additional fighter groups arrived on Ie Shima in June 1945. Black Widows of the 548th Night Fighter Squadron landed on 8 June. The 34th Fighter Squadron of the 413th Fighter Group flew in on 14 June and three days later was joined by the 1st and 21st Fighter Squadrons. On 27 June the 463rd and 464th Fighter Squadrons of the 507th Fighter Group arrived and the next day the 465th arrived as well.

By this time, the need for their presence over the radar picket ships was minimal, and most of the Thunderbolts were used to the north of Okinawa to escort bombers in attacks on the main islands and to patrol in barrier CAPs near Amami O Shima. The fighter squadrons also headed west and northwest to attack Japanese bases in China and Korea.

From the time of their arrival on 14 May 1945 until 14 July 1945, the army air force units were under the command of the Tenth Army Tactical Air Force. After that date, they were once more back under the commanding general of the Seventh Air Force, a part of the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF).


The P-47N Thunderbolt

Weighing in at 9, 950 lbs. empty, the Republic P47-N Thunderbolts were the heaviest of the fighters over the radar picket stations. Their primary mission involved long-range attacks on the southern islands of Japan; however, on many occasions they flew combat air patrol over the picket ships and barrier CAP north of Okinawa. Eight .50 caliber machine guns and a top speed of 440 miles per hour made the Thunderbolt a deadly adversary. It could catch whatever the Japanese put in the air with the exception of the Oka and, with all eight guns blazing, could demolish anything that flew. With its high speed and heavy weight it was no dog fighter, and so relied on hit and run tactics to make the best use of its attributes.

Technical Air Intelligence Center comparison tests of the Thunderbolt and Zeke 52 had similar findings to other American aircraft such as the Hellcat and Corsair. In turns, the advantage was to the Zeke with one-half to three-fourths of a turn at 10, 000 and 25, 000 feet respectively.

Thunderbolts were significantly faster than Zekes at all altitudes. For example, the difference in speed at 10, 000 feet was 70 miles per hour. In zooms from both level flight and dives, the P-47D was far superior. Aileron roll for the Zeke was a higher rate at lower speeds, but once the aircraft hit a speed of about 250 miles per hour they were equal. At higher speeds Thunderbolts had a significant edge.

Russia attacks the Ottoman Empire


On 25 September 1789, Russian and Cossack troops take the fortress of Khadjibey, defeating the Ottomans and thus providing the impetus to found Odessa.

Throughout the last two decades of the eighteenth century the Ottoman system was shaken by a succession of challenges to its corporate existence. By 1781–2 the evident decay of centralized administration, the anarchy in many outlying provinces, and the threat of erosion along distant frontiers, had begun to tempt the Sultan’s most powerful neighbours into behaving as if the Empire were under notice to quit. Catherine the Great, influenced by her favourite Prince Potemkin, exchanged letters with the Habsburg Emperor, Joseph II, proposing an alliance: Austria would acquire large areas of modern Roumania and Yugoslavia while Russia would absorb Turkish lands around the Black Sea and establish autonomous states in Rumelia, eventually setting up a new Byzantine Empire under the sovereignty of Catherine’s grandson, the infant Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich (1779–1831). When, in April 1783, Catherine proclaimed annexation of the Tatar khanate of the Crimea as a first step towards realization of this secret ‘Greek Project’, there was widespread indignation at Constantinople. But no declaration of war was made; the Sultan and his viziers were pessimistic about their chances of success without a powerful ally, and none was forthcoming.

Yet it became increasingly difficult for Abdulhamid to ignore Russian provocation. His chief concern was the persistent Russian advance in the Caucasus, following the establishment in 1783 of a protectorate over Georgia. But there were other acts of aggravation, too: the encouragement given to visits by Greek Orthodox churchmen to the court at St Petersburg; the incitement of unrest by Russian consular officials in Bucharest, Jassy and several Greek islands; the rapid building of a river port to handle Black Sea trade at Kherson, on the Dnieper, where 10,000 people were settled by 1786; a triumphal progress by the Empress through her newly acquired Crimean lands. Abdulhamid was physically strong and mentally alert, the father of twenty-two known children, but by 1785 he was ageing rapidly and growing morbidly suspicious of palace intrigue. In the spring of that year he connived at the fall and execution of Halil Hamid, a reforming minister who had trimmed down the Janissary Corps by some sixty per cent. In January 1786 the Sultan appointed Koça Yusuf as Grand Vizier. He was a Georgian convert to Islam who as governor of the Peloponnese had been inclined to see Russian agents lurking on every quay in his province. In August 1787 Koça induced the ailing Abdulhamid, although still without an ally, to declare war on Russia.

This renewed conflict with imperial Russia began a half-century in which the Ottoman Empire was intermittently at war with foreign powers for twenty-four years. During the same period the Sultans were also forced to mount fifteen repressive campaigns against insurrections in outlying provinces, the most serious of which developed into wars of national liberation. These military and naval demands checked the economic growth of the Turkish heartland and limited the character of the reforms undertaken by Abdulhamid’s two strong-minded successors, Selim III and Mahmud II. At the same time, they brought the Sublime Porte into the European diplomatic system, posing an Eastern Question to which the only possible solution ultimately proved to be the dissolution of the multinational Ottoman Empire itself.

At first, in the early autumn of 1787, Koça Yusuf’s war seemed reluctant to come to the boil. Even when Joseph II became Catherine’s ally, six months later, little happened. On land, the Austrians lumbered into Bosnia and crossed from the Bukovina into northern Moldavia, while the Russians eventually took the fortress of Ochakov, commanding the approach to the Bug and the Dniester; and in June 1788 two naval engagements were fought amid the mudflats of the Dnieper estuary, where a Russian flotilla led by the American hero John Paul Jones exposed the weakness of the newly revived Ottoman navy. There was little co-ordination between Russia and Austria, both empires being distracted by threats elsewhere in Europe. Habsburg victories in Serbia went unexploited by the Russians until Suvorov won his ten-hour battle at Focsani in August 1789; but by the following summer, when Suvorov and Kutuzov stormed the Turkish defences around Izmail, Austria was already negotiating for a separate peace. The Ottoman envoys secured good terms from the Habsburgs at Sistova in August 1791; and joint British, Prussian and Dutch mediation enabled the war with Russia to be ended before Catherine’s armies swept south of the Danube delta. Even so, the Peace Treaty of Jassy (January 1792) was yet another humiliation for the Porte in what had so long been reserved as the Ottoman’s maritime lake: the Sultan recognized, not only Catherine’s annexation of the Crimea and the protectorate over Georgia, but the southern advance of the Russian frontier to the line of the lower Dniester. It was in this region that, in August 1794, the first stones were laid of the port of Odessa, soon to give the Turks a more formidable competitor for Black Sea trade than up-river Kherson.

Abdulhamid I, like his predecessor in an earlier conflict with the Russians, succumbed to apoplexy at the height of the war. His nephew Selim III acceded in April 1789, that momentous month when George Washington became the first President of the United States and deputies converged on Versailles for Louis XVI’s opening of the States General. Events in America mattered little to Selim; but what happened in France was of considerable interest. Even during his years of nominal confinement in the kafe, Selim had been in touch with Louis. A trusted friend, Ishak Bey, served as Selim’s personal emissary, travelling to Versailles in 1786 with a plea that France, as a long-term friend and ally of the Ottoman Empire, should provide aid in modernizing the army and support policies aimed at the containment of Russia. But the Comte de Vergennes, Louis’ foreign minister for the first thirteen years of his reign, had himself served as ambassador in Constantinople: he was sceptical over the prospects of reform in Turkey and strongly opposed to any enterprise which might lead to a Franco-Russian conflict. Louis’ reply to Selim was guarded and patronizing. ‘We have sent from our court to Constantinople officers of artillery to give to the Muslims demonstrations and examples of all aspects of the art of war’, Louis wrote in a letter dated 20 May 1787, ‘and we are maintaining them so long as their presence is judged necessary.’

Throughout the war with Russia French officers continued to give advice to cadets on the Golden Horn. Translations of military manuals were turned out by the excellent private press attached to the French embassy: aspiring Turkish gunnery specialists could therefore study the treatises from which the young Bonaparte profited at the academy in Brienne. Of course, none of these benefits were in themselves sufficient to change the military balance along the shores of the Black Sea. Whatever his sympathies and inclination, Selim was able to do little to reform or improve the Ottoman state during the first three years of his reign, when day-to-day reports of the war with Russia determined the behaviour of sultan and viziers alike. Nevertheless, in the autumn of 1791 Selim ordered twenty-two dignitaries, both secular and religious, to draw up memoranda on the weaknesses of the empire and the way to overcome them. When, a few months later, the Jassy settlement gave the Ottoman Empire a respite from war, the Sultan resolved to press ahead with a policy of westernization. He hoped that the preoccupation of European statesmen with events in Paris would, at the very least, enable him to ensure that his army and navy should catch up the armed forces of the West in training and equipment.

These good intentions look tediously familiar, but Selim’s plans went further than any reforms contemplated by his predecessors. The twenty-two collected memoranda encouraged Selim to seek a ‘New Order’ (Nizam-i Cedid), thereby virtually imposing a revolution from above. Administrative changes included revised regulations to strengthen provincial governorships, the creation of more specialist secular schools to provide training in the ancillary subjects essential for military and naval command (including the French language), control of the grain trade, the institution of regular ambassadorial diplomacy with the major European Powers, and improvements in methods of ensuring that provincial taxes reached a new central treasury, which was given the right to impose taxes on coffee, spirits and tobacco. Earlier Sultans had given their somewhat erratic support to the building of modern ships of the line and the reform of new light and heavy artillery units; Selim III instituted a form of conscription for the navy in the Aegean coastal provinces, tightened discipline in the artillery and other specialist corps and, amid widespread consternation, announced the creation of new infantry corps, organized and trained on French lines and equipped with modern weapons. The Janissaries, suspicious as ever of innovation, had their arrears of back pay settled, and were promised more money for active service, and regular pay-days. But the new barracks for young Turkish recruits above the Bosphorus and at Üsküdar seemed a direct challenge to the entrenched status of the Janissaries. Sultan Selim’s other reforms were soon forgotten, and the term ‘New Order’ became applied solely to the regular infantry battalions which the Nizam-i Cedid brought into being.

Japanese Banzai on Okinawa





On April 29, Emperor Hirohito’s birthday and the most important holiday in Japan, Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima summoned his top commanders to his headquarters in a tunnel underneath Shuri Castle. For days they had been privately arguing over Isamu Cho’s proposal for a massive counter-stroke against the Americans. Now Ushijima wished them to discuss whether or not his strategy for defending Okinawa should be changed. Some historians say Ushijima was not present, others insist that he was. It does not seem likely, however, that the Thirty-second Army commander—even though it was not his custom to attend staff discussions—would ignore such a momentous meeting called by himself.

Ushijima’s chiefs sat on canvas camp chairs at a rough flat table covered with maps. Around them the stones of the tunnel glistened with sweat. Water from the moat surrounding medieval Shuri seeped through crevices in the wall or dripped incessantly on the floor of beaten earth. Dim light glinted weakly off the glasses worn by most of the officers in attendance or winked on the stars of the numerous generals present.

Isamu Cho sat close to Ushijima, staring arrogantly into the questioning gaze of his arch rival, Colonel Hiromichi Yahara. Just as he had predicted the debacle of General Cho’s abortive counter-attack of April 12-13, the rigidly rational Yahara was now prepared to oppose what he knew would be a plan for an even greater and more disastrous counter-stroke. By his patrician bearing he made it clear that he could not be bullied by either the rank or the fiery rhetoric of the burly general now rising to address the meeting.

Cho began with an incredible untruth: that the Japanese soldier—in the main from four to six inches shorter than his American enemies and from thirty to fifty pounds lighter—was a superb hand-to-hand fighter who could easily overpower the soft, effete American devils. A general clearing of throats and grunts of approval followed this absurd remark, either born of the School of the Rosy Report or emanating from the sake bottles being passed freely around. Very quickly most of the commanders present supported Cho’s plan: Lieutenant General Takeo Fujioka, commander of the Sixty-second Division, and also the plan’s coauthor; Lieutenant General Tatsumi Amamiya, swallowing his detestation of the boastful Fujioka in his eagerness to lead his untested Twenty-fourth Division into battle at last; and Major General Kosuke Wada, chief of the Fifth Artillery Command. Wada agreed with the others that the Thirty-second Army had made an achievement unprecedented in Pacific warfare: it had preserved its main body intact after a month of fighting.

This, Yahara bluntly interjected, happened only because the Americans had not yet hurled their full strength against the Naha-Shuri-Yonabaru line. But now that the outer defenses had fallen, because of the April 12-13 fiasco, the American commander was strengthening his assault forces, according to intelligence reports. An even bigger disaster would ensue if Cho’s massive counter-offensive were approved, he warned. And to speak of the valor of the troops was foolish, because even now, since there had been no issue of sweet-potato brandy on the emperor’s birthday, the men were discontented. For thirty days these gallant men had risen every morning to look down upon a Hagushi Anchorage still choked with enemy ships. The Divine Winds had not blown them away. It was difficult for even Japanese soldiers to believe that the Navy would come to their rescue—nor could they be blamed for complaining about being asked to fight alone one day’s sail from the homeland.

It was true, Isamu Cho replied slowly, that the Americans had not thrown in all their strength. But they were doing so now. There was a new Marine division in the enemy’s assault line, the First, the hated butchers of Guadalcanal. Another—the Sixth—was due to join them. This was the moment to destroy the Americans’ fresh power. But, Cho continued, the Thirty-second Army had also been reinforced. Had not our chief General Ushijima in his wisdom concluded that the enemy was not interested in storming the Minatoga Beaches, and so had ordered our comrades of the Twenty-fourth Division and Forty-fourth Brigade to join us here? Now it is we who are at full strength. Let us strike the enemy immediately and annihilate them before they can grind down to our main line.

Careful, full-scale counter-attack, not the foolish glory of the Banzai, would crush the Americans. There must be help from the kamikaze, then massed artillery fire with the troops attacking all along the line. The fresh Twenty-fourth Division would be hurled at the center and open a hole through which the Forty-fourth Brigade would pour in a thrust to the west coast. The Forty-fourth would then wheel south and the First Marine Division would be isolated and annihilated. The American Twenty-fourth Corps would be rolled up. There should also be counter-landings on both flanks. The Twenty-sixth Shipping Engineer Regiment would embark from Naha in barges, small boats, and native canoes to strike the rear of the Marine division. Later, the youths of the Twenty-sixth, Twenty-eighth, and Twenty-ninth Sea Raiding Squadrons would cross the reef and wade ashore to help the engineers. A similar counter-landing would strike the rear of the Seventh Infantry Division on the east.

It would be difficult to conceive a more complicated plan of attack, and Cho’s proposal calling for so many disconnected and disparate sallies—a montage of uncoordinated sorties if ever there was one—paid absolutely no heed to what the enemy’s reaction might be. Moreover, it was made doubly difficult by the Japanese unfailing reliance on a night attack to cancel out the American superiority in artillery, even if this meant confusing their own troops. Yet, when Colonel Yahara arose to criticize the operation, he praised it as tactically excellent, probably because he was about to demolish it as a strategic monstrosity and did not want to alienate Cho entirely. Yahara said:

“To take the offensive with inferior forces against absolutely superior enemy forces is reckless and will only lead to certain defeat. We must continue the current operation, calmly recognizing its final destiny—for annihilation is inevitable no matter what is done—and maintain to the bitter end the principle of a strategic holding action. If we should fail, the period of maintaining a strategic holding action, as well as the holding action for the decisive battle for the homeland, will be shortened. Moreover, our forces will inflict but small losses on the enemy, while on the other hand, scores of thousands of our troops will have been sacrificed in vain as victims of the offensive.”

Yahara sat down.

It was now up to Ushijima.

He nodded to Cho.

The attack would begin at dawn on May 4. Before that, the flank counter-landings would be launched. Before them the artillery would commence, and before everything would come the kamikaze.

The Japanese aerial assaults began at six o’clock on the night of May 3. Once again, the bombers sought to get at the rich pickings in the Hagushi Anchorage, but thirty-six of them were shot down and the rest forced to unload at high altitude, with little damage. Only the suicide-diving kamikaze broke through. They sank destroyer Little and an LSM, while damaging two mine layers and an LCS. After midnight, sixty bombers struck Tenth Army rear areas, coming in scattering window. Terrible antiaircraft fire rose in crisscrossing streams of light, as though a million narrow-beamed searchlights were aimed into the night, and the bombers dropped their loads aimlessly—though some of them landed in a Marine evacuation hospital.

An hour later Marine amtanks guarding Machinato Airfield on the west coast fired at voices on the beach. American cruisers, destroyers, and gunboats on “flycatcher” patrol shot at squat Japanese barges sliding darkly upcoast from Naha. The barges lost their way. Instead of landing far enough north to take the Marines in their rear, they veered inshore and blundered into the outposts of B Company, First Marines.

The Japanese sent up a screeching and gobbling of battle cries and the surprised Marines sprang to their guns. All up and down the sea wall the battle raged, with Marine amtracks moving out to sea and coming in again to grind the Japs to pieces between two fires. Some five hundred Japanese died in this futile west-flank landing.

The east-flank landings came to the same annihilating end. Navy patrol boats sighted the Japanese craft. They fired at them and turned night into day with star-shells. Soldiers of the Seventh Division’s Reconnaissance Troops joined the sailors to complete the destruction of four hundred men.

At dawn, the main attack began.

It went straight to the doom that Colonel Yahara had predicted. Wave after wave of the Twenty-fourth Division’s men shuffled forward to death in that gray dawn, moving among their own artillery shells, taking this risk in hopes of getting in on the Americans. But the soldiers of the Seventh and Seventy-seventh Divisions held firm—while American warships, sixteen battalions of division artillery, and twelve battalions of heavier corps artillery, plus 134 airplanes, smothered the enemy in a wrathful blanket of steel and explosive. Ships as big as the fourteen-inch-gunned New York and Colorado, as small as gunboats with 20 mm cannons, ranged up and down the east coast firing at the Japanese on call.

Across the island, the kamikaze dove again on ships in the Hagushi Anchorage, again falling on the luckless small vessels of the radar picket screen. With them were the baka bombs. This May 4 one of the baka hit the light mine-layer Shea and set it temporarily on fire. The kamikaze also sank two more destroyers, Luce and Morrison, as well as two LSMs, while damaging the carrier Sangamon, the cruiser Birmingham, another pair of destroyers, a minesweeper, and an LCS. Again, they failed to get at the cargo and transport ships. And they lost 95 planes.

Ashore, Isamu Cho’s massive counterthrust was being broken by that material power for which Mitsuru Ushijima had shown such profound respect. Much of the Japanese assault died aborning. Sometimes the Japanese closed, but rarely. There were seesaw battles up and down some of the ridges held by the Seventy-seventh, but they ended with the GIs either in command of their previous position or holding new ground farther inside the Japanese territory. One battalion of the Japanese Twenty-fourth Division got behind the Seventy-seventh on the left, but it was annihilated by a reserve battalion of the Seventh Division in a three-day fight. Otherwise the Twenty-fourth Division never punched that hole through which the Forty-fourth Brigade was to race and isolate the First Marine Division.

And the First began attacking on the morning of May 4. Even as the GIs on their left bore the brunt of Cho’s big sally, these Marines were battling southeast toward the key bastion of Shuri. They scored gains of up to four hundred yards. The next day they attacked again, once more pushing the Japanese back—even though their advance was made more costly by the fact that they were up against rested battalions of the Japanese Sixty-second Division. By the night of May 5 the Marines had picked up another three hundred yards. By that time Lieutenant General Isamu Cho’s massive stroke had been completely shattered. Those two days of fighting had cost the Japanese 6,227 dead. The Seventh and Seventy-seventh Divisions had lost 714 men killed or wounded while holding the line, the First Marine Division had taken losses of 649 men in the more costly business of attack. The next day the First gained another three hundred yards, and added a fourth Medal of Honor winner to its rolls since coming into the line on May 1. That day Corporal John Fardy smothered a grenade with his life, as had Pfc. William Foster. Sergeant Elbert Kinser did it on May 4. Two days before that, Corpsman Robert Bush had risked his life to give plasma to a wounded officer, driving off a Japanese rush with pistol and carbine, killing six of the enemy and refusing evacuation though badly wounded.

There would be more Medals of Honor won in the days to come. The First Division by May 5 had come against Ushijima’s main line, as had the GIs on their left. In front of the First was the western half of the Shuri bastion. To their right was Naha, and this would be assigned to the Sixth Marine Division the next day. In the sector of both these Marine divisions were systems of interlocking fortified ridges such as those encountered on Iwo Jima. Nor would the way be made easy here by further counter-attack.

A change had taken place at Shuri Castle. In tears, Lieutenant General Ushijima had promised Colonel Yahara that from now on he would listen to no one but him. The Ushijima-Cho relationship had ended in the recrimination of a red and useless defeat. Isamu Cho argued no longer. He became silent and stoical, convinced now that only time stood between the Thirty-second Army and ultimate destruction.