About MSW

Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“

British African Adventures

During the course of the late 19th century Britain involved herself in a series of disastrous brush wars in southern Africa. In each case Imperial might should have prevailed. However, the failure of the establishment of the day to realize the potential of the enemy led the British to neglect a series of fundamental military tenets with fatal consequences.

When the Zulus began to menace the Boer settlements in the Transvaal the Boers, however unwillingly, sought the protection of the British military. The British High Commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, determined to destroy the Zulu forces and, acting on his own initiative and against the wishes of the Government in London, ordered Lord Chelmsford to march into Zululand in January, 1879. The Zulu people had, by then, acquired a formidable military organization under successive warrior kings, yet Chelmsford deceived himself that their destruction would be a mere formality. His arrogance was to cost the lives of 1,600 men, half of them British.

Chelmsford advanced deep into enemy territory in search of the main camp of the Zulu king, Cetewayo. Common sense dictated that the British should have reconnoitred well ahead but they did not. Instead they allowed a Zulu army of 20,000 to remain undetected. When Chelmsford did receive a confused and wholly inaccurate report that the Zulus were massing some distance away he split his command, moving out to meet them with approximately half his strength. The rest, six companies of the 24th Regiment, two guns, some Colonial Volunteers, and some native contingents, about 1,800 men in all, he left at his base camp at Isandhlwana.

On 22 January, 1879, with Chelmsford too far away to come to its assistance, the Zulus burst upon the unprepared camp. The British commander formed a hasty perimeter, but the Zulus broke through; the native contingents broke ranks and fled, but were chased and killed. True to their orders the 21 officers and 534 soldiers of the 24th Regiment stood their ground and died where they fought. No more than 50 Europeans and 300 Africans escaped.

The British position was made worse by the refusal of the quartermasters to release ammunition reserves before the battle. When attempts were made to break into the heavy wooden boxes holding the ammunition it was found that some of the screws had rusted making release difficult. Also, prevailing regulations would not allow the two quartermasters to open more than one box at a time, as every cartridge had to be accounted for. When the Natal Native Horse sent for ammunition at the height of the battle they were refused it and sent elsewhere by the quartermasters of the 24th Regiment.

Staggeringly, when Lieutenant Smith-Dorrien, later a First World War corps commander, began to break into an ammunition box and shovel cartridges into his men’s helmets he was requested to stop by a regimental quartermaster until he was able to provide the right requisition papers.

Two days later a company of the 24th Regiment based at the missionary station at Rorke’s Drift successfully withstood an attack by some 4,000 Zulus. They were no better equipped than their colleagues had been at Isandhlwana. They were, however, fully alerted to the proposed attack and allowed adequate ammunition resupply throughout the battle. The massacre at Isandhlwana temporarily halted the invasion of Zululand until Sir Garnet Wolseley and 10,000 reinforcements arrived from Britain. The Zulus were eventually overwhelmed, but not until the British had committed a further series of blunders, through one of which the Prince Imperial (the only son of Napoleon III), who had volunteered for the British Army, was killed.

Just over a year later the Transvaal, now free from the Zulu threat, rose in rebellion, and between December, 1880, and February, 1881, inflicted a series of humiliating defeats upon the British garrison. General George Colley, the British Governor of Natal at the time, was a brilliant soldier. He was, however, new to the area and had to rely upon his subordinates to advise him of the worth of his enemy. In this he was tragically ill-served.

Commando from Stephen de Villiers on Vimeo.

Colonel Lanyon, Administrator of the Transvaal since 1879, gave Colley a wholly inaccurate assessment of the Boer military strength. He advised the Governor that the Boers were incapable of any united military action, that they were mortal cowards and that the mere sight of British regulars would be enough to make them sue for peace. In this Lanyon made the cardinal error of underestimating his enemy. The Boers had no standing army. However, they had a strong tradition of frontiermanship and had fought at times fanatically against a series of native enemies, including the much-vaunted Zulus. More fundamentally, with only 1,760 troops in the area, the British were badly outnumbered.

The first British encounter with the Boers proved catastrophic. On 20 December, 1880, a detachment of 264 soldiers from the 94th Regiment was stopped by a 1,000-strong commando dug in on the surrounding hills. The British were given the opportunity to retire, but declined and instead decided to fight it out. Their column was decimated with 77 soldiers killed and over 100 wounded. The Boer sharpshooting was astonishing and should have sent a warning to Colley. It did not. Instead, against all the rules of war, the British general decided to ‘invade’ the Transvaal, even though his enemy outnumbered him two-to-one, was well entrenched and knew the terrain well.

Soon thereafter the British suffered a further reverse at Laing’s Nek, close to the Boer main encampment, suffering 160 casualties out of a force of 480 officers and men. Colley must have known by now that he had underestimated the Boers, but refused to change his tactics and decided upon revenge. Majuba Hill, 2000 metres high, overlooked the Boer position and commanded their defences on Laing’s Nek. He reasoned that if the British were to take the Hill the Boers would be forced to evacuate Laing’s Nek and ultimately their entire position.

In the course of a night march he occupied the hilltop with 490 soldiers and 64 sailors. From the peak the enemy camp was less than 2km away and the effect of overlooking the Boers made the commander and his men over-confident. Rather than maintain the element of surprise groups of Highlanders heralded the daybreak by waving and jeering at the enemy below. Incensed by the behaviour of the soldiers and by the fact that the British had taken the hilltop on a Sunday, a day kept holy by the ultra-religious farmers, the Boers opened effective fire at once, causing casualties among the British who had not bothered to dig in.

Colley, who had fallen asleep as soon as he had reached the peak of the hill, could not believe that the Boers would not evacuate their camp. Instead they sent a picked force of 180 marksmen, most of them teenage farm workers, to climb the hill while covering fire from another 1,000 troops kept the British pinned down. Majuba was a convex hill, and without the protection of slit trenches the British could only engage the climbing enemy by exposing themselves to the fire from below.

Even when Lieutenant Hamilton, later to command the disastrous 1915 campaign in Gallipoli, woke Colley to advise him that at least 100 Boers had reached the summit of Majuba the General refused to accept the gravity of the situation. Instead he continued to doze, presumably to refresh himself for his ultimate occupation of the Boer position! When eventually Colley did appreciate his predicament and ordered the formation of a skirmishing line his men were shot to pieces by the Boer marksmen.

Within an hour of reaching the summit of Majuba Hill the Boers had completely routed the British, killing 93 soldiers, wounding 133 and taking 58 prisoners for the loss of one dead and five wounded. Colley himself was killed, reputedly by a twelve-year-old farm lad. The British had suffered a humiliating and unnecessary defeat, caused totally by their failure to appreciate the true military qualities of the boys and irregulars whom earlier Lanyon had referred to as ‘mortal cowards’. Less than twenty years later the British were destined to suffer a further series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the same enemy.

The Second Boer War of 1899–1902 symbolized Britain’s towering imperial status, but at the same time exposed potentially crippling weaknesses in her military machine. The British public were told by their government that the war was being fought to protect the Uitlanders, a pro-British minority in the Transvaal, from Afrikaner tyranny. The Afrikaners of the Transvaal and Orange Free State believed that Whitehall, in support of the expansionist policies of Cecil Rhodes, had hatched a plot to strip them of their independence and subordinate them to the British Empire.

The opposing sides were, on the face of it, ludicrously unequal. Britain, arguably the greatest power in the world, her navy invincible and ubiquitous, her overseas trade colossal and her global influence all-pervasive, completely surrounded the Boer colonies. The war should have been over by Christmas, and might well have been had the British military not deceived itself as to its own strength and its enemy’s inabilities.

Britain put 448,000 troops into the field; the Boers could at no time call upon more than 70,000 men, and probably never had more than 40,000 on active service. Moreover, the Afrikaner forces were almost exclusively composed of civilians under arms. Only a small standing infantry force and their artillery was uniformed and the latter, according to the British, was unskilled in close-battery warfare. (Another self-deceipt, it was in fact Prussian trained and highly effective.)

The British forces, despite their numerical advantage in South Africa, had scarcely profited from their humiliation during the earlier Boer War. They possessed no general staff to plan and coordinate tactics and strategy, and a paltry £11,000 a year was spent on the maintenance of the Intelligence Division. The generals, most of whom still regarded brains as a dangerous commodity, saw the ‘ideal British battle’ as one invoving the frontal engagement of lightly armed natives, such as the Dervishes who had smashed themselves against the British lines at Omdurman in 1898. Kitchener, the victor of Omdurman, was later to complain in South Africa that the Boers would not ‘stand up to a fair fight’.

The British Army closed its eyes to the potential of mounted infantry. Ten per cent of the imperial troops in South Africa were admittedly mounted, but these were mainly cavalry who, although they carried carbines as well as sabres and lances, had little idea how to use them. Only later did the War Office listen to its self-governing colonies and accept their invitation to send units of experienced horsemen.

Deficiencies in British training and tactics were made apparent to all in the space of one week when three independent columns suffered bloody maulings at the hands of the Boers. Better leadership coupled with a greater respect for the enemy would have saved precious lives, but at that time the British still harboured the deceipt that the Boers, as soldiers, offered no greater potential threat than the Dervishes.

Attempts to relieve the sieges of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley met with disaster. The advancing columns were stopped at Magersfontein, Stormberg and Colenso and slaughtered. During the course of what became known as ‘Black Week’ the British Army sustained 7,000 casualties for the gain of no appreciable ground. Their maps were innacurate, their compasses faulty, and in most instances their reconnaissance was non-existent.

So low was their regard for their Boer opponents that the officers in command ignored every basic rule of combat. During the Battle of Colenso Colonel Charles Long, an artillery officer with a great deal of military experience in India, supported by Brigadier Barton’s infantry, decided to charge the enemy with his twelve 15-pdr field guns and six naval guns. While nearly 5km from the enemy position he ordered his guns to gallop forward, leaving Barton’s covering infantry fire behind. When only 1,000m from the Boer position, and having left the naval guns 600m behind and the infantry a further 750m behind them, he ordered his guns to take post. They did so with all the precision and discipline of a regiment deploying on the parade ground at Woolwich and were slaughtered by the combined might of 1,000 Boer rifles.

At the same time Major General Hart, as brave a man and as great a fool as Long, ordered his Irish Brigade to advance in broad daylight shoulder-to-shoulder towards the Boer positions. Even when the Boer marksmen opened fire and the Irish began to take heavy casualties Hart refused to allow them to deploy into skirmishing order. By the time that Hart withdrew his brigade had suffered 532 dead and wounded, one of the most futile operations of the entire war in South Africa.

Only later did the British concede the worth of their enemy. They then introduced a series of new and wholly uncompromising tactics which, although they were to lead to victory, were to cause immense suffering among the civilian population which might have been averted had the British, at the beginning, not deceived themselves as to the military competence of the ‘armed farmers’ whom they were facing.

Between 1904 and 1905 Imperial Russia fought the Japanese for control of Manchuria and Korea. In a series of battles the Japanese proved themselves not only superior but utterly ruthless. During the siege of Port Arthur (May, 1904, to January, 1905) the Japanese General Nogi ordered a series of frontal assaults on the Russian defensive positions. The Japanese suffered 16,000 casualties in a single unsuccessful assault, and in so doing laid the principle of the Kamikaze – willing to die without question for the Emperor.

The Japanese finally succeeded in taking Port Arthur, and subsequently sunk the Russian fleet at Tsushima. The Russians were forced into negotiating an ignominious peace which led to considerable unrest in their armed forces and ultimately to the Revolution. The military analysts of the day deceived themselves that the Russians had been the wholesale authors of their own downfall. They refused to accept the worth of the Japanese or the beginnings of a new military power in the East. For more than 30 years Western strategists argued that the Japanese could not wage war; they were too small and too weak, they could not close one eye to aim their rifles, which in any case were of too small a calibre to seriously injure a healthy European.

A series of Japanese victories against the Chinese in the mid-1930s should have alerted the West to the dangerous subjectivity of its attitudes, but did not. By late 1941 a war of expansion between Japan and the United States and Britain had become inevitable. Even so the Western militarists did not take the threat seriously. The British deceived themselves that their naval base at Singapore was impregnable. The base had been slowly constructed during the 1930s but had never been completed. It was well protected against sea attack by coastal artillery, although the coastal guns could, and did, fire inland.

British tacticians had argued that the immensity of the jungle to the north, in which European troops had never felt at ease, made the area impregnable to a modern army. They simply did not accept that the Japanese could operate a coherent force within it. When the Japanese landed on the Malay coast and began to advance rapidly through the jungle the British were thrown into confusion. By the time that the Japanese had reached the Johore Straits the morale of the British and Imperial forces was shattered.

Singapore island surrendered on 15 February, 1942, at which time some 16,000 British, 14,000 Australian and 32,000 Indian troops were taken prisoner. Ironically they outnumbered the Japanese forces to whom they surrendered. Indeed the latter had not intended to fight a pitched battle for the island and had contemplated a withdrawal had the Imperial forces put up a serious resistance. Had the siege been better fought and assessed, and the worth of the Japanese not been initially discounted and later exaggerated, what Churchill was forced to describe as ‘the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history’ might never have happened.



King Coloman

King Ladislaus, like Stephen, did not have a male heir. He designated as his successor his younger nephew, Álmos, whom he found more suited to the requirements of kingship. Nevertheless, when Ladislaus died on 29 July 1095, Coloman, the elder brother of Álmos, succeeded him. Coloman seems to have had a good education but an unprepossessing appearance. He was, if we are to believe his contemporaries, ‘half blind, hunchbacked, lame and stammering’, and because of these handicaps was originally destined for an ecclesiastical career; but now he exchanged the bishop’s seat for the royal throne. A contemporary Polish chronicler says that ‘in the art of writing he was the most skilful’ of all rulers of his time, and in Hungary he was later given the epithet ‘the Learned’. Coloman tried to appease Álmos by appointing him duke, but the latter could not acquiesce in being set aside. From 1098 Álmos revolted against his brother on no fewer than five occasions, generally with German and Polish help. Finally, he was even prepared to become the vassal of Emperor Henry V if the latter could secure the Hungarian throne for him. Although for some time willing to pardon his brother, Coloman eventually lost patience and around 1113 ordered the blinding of both Álmos and his son, Béla. With the fall of Álmos the duchy as an institution fell into abeyance. Hungary proper was no longer to be divided between king and duke, and the younger members of the royal family normally governed Croatia and Dalmatia or, in the thirteenth century, Transylvania.

It was early in Coloman’s reign that the first crusaders marched through Hungary. The country had been much favoured by those going to the Holy Land ever since Stephen had opened his kingdom to pilgrims in 1018 and had founded a hostelry in Jerusalem. The crusaders arrived in several waves between May and September 1096, led by Walter ‘Sans-avoir’, Peter of Amiens and Godfrey of Bouillon. Although the only troops to maintain proper discipline were Godfrey’s, the crossing of all of them was carried out without serious conflict. It was King Coloman himself who received Godfrey at Sopron, and escorted him along the left bank of the Danube to the border castle of Zemun, opposite Belgrade, while keeping his brother, Baldwin, the future king of Jerusalem, as a hostage. A few crusader bands that tried to engage in plundering were prevented from crossing the kingdom. A marauding war-band led by a Frenchman called Foucher was routed by the king himself near Nitra, while that of the German priest Gottschalk was dispersed at Székesfehérvár. Coloman also drove back the troops of Emich of Leiningen from the Hungarian border at the castle of Moson. As far as we know, the crusaders were not joined by any Hungarians. The first known pilgrim to go to Jerusalem was Duke Álmos, who undertook this long and tiring journey around 1107, between two of his revolts.

It was Coloman who took the final steps towards the definitive attachment of Croatia to the Crown of Hungary. In 1097 he defeated a certain King Peter, who had emerged as a rival; then in 1102 had himself crowned king at Biograd. According to a fourteenth-century forgery, he also made a convention (pacta conventa) with the heads of the Croatian clans, in which he supposedly recognised their autonomy and specific privileges. Curiously enough, the content of the alleged pacta is concordant with reality in more than one respect. Croatia was henceforth to be ruled by the kings of Hungary, but it was given an associate status and was not incorporated into Hungary. Although, with the exception of Coloman, none of the kings was crowned in Croatia, its separate status as a kingdom (regnum) was expressed in the royal title (rex Croatiae). Moreover, Croatia was not governed by counts (ispánok), as in Hungary proper, but by a governor who exercised viceregal authority and bore the special title of ban (banus). Apart from the fact that both the ban and the members of his following were normally Hungarians, there was nothing that made Hungarian rule seem overbearing. The Croatian nobility continued to live according to their own laws and customs, and were only required to perform military service within the boundaries of their country. Although, on occasion, Hungarian noblemen were given lands in Croatia, during the later Middle Ages the contrary occurred more frequently. It is probably this particular situation that explains the absence of any serious form of Croatian separatism until the end of the Middle Ages.

Coloman wished to extend a similar status to Dalmatia, his other acquisition, but this region, in contrast to Croatia, did not become a permanent part of the Hungarian Crown. Medieval Dalmatia did not constitute a country in the normal sense of the word, for the name stood not for a contiguous territory but a collection of scattered spots on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, including a few fortified towns and a number of nearby islands. Dalmatia was clearly distinguishable from Croatia by its government, its Mediterranean climate and its different culture. The towns, among which Zadar (Zara), Trogir (Trau), Šibenik (Sebenico) and Split (Spalato) were the most important, formed part of the Byzantine empire, enjoyed a broad autonomy and were governed by civic oligarchies with the archbishop or the bishop at their head. Unlike those in Croatia, the cities of Dalmatia were Italian in their outlook, and their population still spoke a Latin dialect.

Coloman invaded Dalmatia in 1105, his expedition meeting with rapid success. The Emperor Alexius Comnenus, who had just asked Ladislaus’s daughter, Prisca, to be the wife of his son, the future John II, did not object to Coloman’s action, a favour that the Hungarian king later returned by helping Alexius against his Norman enemy, Bohemund. Coloman forced Zadar to surrender after a brief siege, and this resulted in all the other cities recognising his rule as well. The conditions offered by the king seem to have been acceptable. As a symbol of their recognition of his authority, Coloman demanded two-thirds of their customs revenues, but he left intact the autonomy of the cities and in 1108 confirmed their former privileges.

From the time of the conquest of the Adriatic coast Coloman titled himself ‘king of Hungary, Croatia and Dalmatia’ (1108), in contrast to his predecessors who had been ‘kings of the Hungarians’ (or of the ‘Pannons’). This modification of the royal title reflected important conceptual changes. On the one hand, the pagan notion of the ‘people’ (gens) was beginning to be replaced by the ‘realm’ (regnum) as the object of royal authority, which meant that the rule over persons was giving way to the rule over a territory. On the other hand, and no less importantly, the territories themselves began to be institutionalised. The annexed regions were neither actually nor conceptually incorporated into the Hungarian kingdom, but continued to be regarded as separate countries. They were politically united to Hungary first by the person, and later on by the crown, of a common king. All this meant that the regnum Hungariae was now beginning to have clear notional and territorial outlines. As in the other countries of Latin Europe, this came to be the guarantee of political stability, in contrast to other regions, where the absence of the notion of regnum resulted in less clearly defined and less durable political formations.

The conquest of Croatia and Dalmatia opened a new, expansionist period in Hungarian foreign policy that was to last for about three hundred years. During the eleventh century, as we have already seen, Hungary had to face the expansionist ambitions of the Holy Roman Empire on several occasions, although these attempts never represented a real threat to the independent status of the kingdom. The country was also exposed to attacks by the nomadic tribes of the neighbouring steppe, like the Pechenegs or the Cumans. But the last raid from the east took place in 1091. Henceforth, Hungary was not to be a target of foreign invasions until the arrival of the Mongols. On the contrary, the reigns of Ladislaus and Coloman mark the beginning of a period of Hungarian expansionism that was to last until the first Ottoman incursion in 1390. During this period the Hungarian kingdom was a leading power of central Europe, which meant that, while not having to fear external attacks, it continually harassed its neighbours. Expansion was therefore the dominant feature of this period, even if it did not manifest itself in actual conquests, but rather in incessant campaigning, nominal annexations and, by these means, the continuous enlargement of the royal title. By the end of the thirteenth century the Árpádians were able to call themselves king of no fewer than eight neighbouring countries, all of which were to remain nominal parts of the Crown of Hungary until as late as 1918.


Paul Hausser, the man who had perhaps the single greatest influence in the military development of the Waffen-SS, was born in Brandenburg on October 7, 1880, the son of a Prussian officer. He was educated in military prep schools and in 1892 enrolled in Berlin-Lichterfelde, Imperial Germany’s equivalent of West Point. Among his classmates were future field marshals Fedor von Bock and Guenther von Kluge.

Hausser graduated in 1899 and, as a second lieutenant, was assigned to the 155th Infantry Regiment in Ostrow, Posen. After eight years of regimental service he entered the War Academy in 1907 but did not graduate until 1912. In the interval he returned to his regiment and also underwent coastal defense and aerial observer training. He was assigned to the Greater General Staff in 1912 and was promoted to captain in 1914. Later that year, when the German Army mobilized for World War I, Hausser was assigned to the staff of the 6th Army, commanded by Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. Later he served on the staff of the VI Corps, as Ia of the 109th Infantry Division; with the I Reserve Corps (also as Ia); and as a company commander in the 38th Fusilier Regiment. He fought in France, Hungary, and Rumania and was awarded both classes of the Iron Cross. At the close of hostilities, he was Ia of the 59th Reserve Command at Glogua, Germany. After the war he served with a Freikorps unit on the eastern frontier before joining the Reichsheer in 1920.

During the Reichswehr era, Hausser was on the staff of the 5th Infantry Brigade (1920-1922); Wehrkreis II at Stettin, Pomerania (1922-1923); 2nd Infantry Division, also at Stettin (1925-1926); and the Saxon 10th Infantry Regiment at Dresden (1927). He also served as commander of the III Battalion, 4th (Prussian) Infantry Regiment at Deutsch-Krone (1923-1925), and 10th Infantry Regiment (1927-1930), and ended his army career as Infantry Commander IV (Infanteriefuehrer IV) at Dresden, a post he held from 1930 to 1932. In this last post he was simultaneously one of the two deputy commanders of the 4th Infantry Division. He retired as a major general on January 31, 1932, at the age of 51, with the honorary rank of lieutenant general. At this point in his career, Paul Hausser-who had always been a fervent German nationalist-became involved with the Nazi Party. By 1934 he was an SA Standartenfuehrer and brigade commander in the Berlin-Brandenburg area, when Heinrich Himmler offered him the job of training his SS-Verfuegunstruppe (SS-VT, or Special Purpose Troops)-the embryo of the Waffen-SS. Hausser entered the SS as a Standartenfuehrer of November 15, 1934. His first assignment was that of commandant of the SS-Officer Training School (SS-Junkerschule) at Braunschweig (Brunswick).

In the SS-VT, Hausser found enthusiastic but untrained young Nazis who were fanatically dedicated to their Fuehrer and were most willing to be shaped into a cohesive military organization. As a former General Staff officer, Hausser possessed command and organizational experience, both of which were needed and appreciated. He quickly organized the curriculum of the school into a model copied by all SS officers, NCOs, and weapons schools throughout Germany-and later throughout Europe. Hausser’s program emphasized physical fitness, athletic competition, teamwork, and a close relationship between the ranks-a degree of comradeship that did not exist in the German Army at that time. Hausser himself was a noted sportsman and equestrian who could successfully compete with men 30 years his junior. Under his leadership, the SS elite soon exceeded anything the army could field-at least in appearance. Himmler was so impressed that he named Hausser inspector of SS Officer Schools, in charge of the officer training establishments at Brunswick and Bad Toelz, as well as the SS Medical Academy in Graz. He was promoted to Oberfuehrer on April 20, 1936 (Hitler’s birthday) and to Brigadefuehrer in May 1936. Later that year, due to the rapid expansion of the SS, he was appointed chief of the Inspectorate of SS-VT and was responsible for the military training of all SS units except those belonging to Theodor Eicke.

Hausser proved to be an intelligent and professionally broad-minded director of training. It was he, for example, who saw to it that the SS-VT were the first troops to wear camouflaged uniforms in the fields, and he stuck to his decision, even though the army’s soldiers laughed and called the SS men “tree frogs.” (These uniforms were very much like the present-day U. S. Army battledress uniforms [BDUs, or “fatigues”].) During the next three years he oversaw the organization, development, and training of the SS regiments “Deutschland,” “Germania,” and “Der Fuehrer,” as well as smaller combat support, service, and supply units. Paul Hausser was quick to see the potential of the blitzkrieg and, as a consequence, most of the SS units were motorized. In the autumn of 1939, he was in the processes of forming the SS-VT Division, but the outbreak of the war caught him by surprise, and not all his units had completed their training; consequently, no SS division as such fought in Poland. Most of the combat-ready SS-VT units (and Hausser personally) were attached to the ad hoc Panzer Division “Kempf,” led by army Major General Werner Kempf. After this campaign the first full Waffen-SS division was established at the Army Maneuver Area Brdy-Wald, near Pilsen, on October 10, 1939. Its commander was the recently promoted SS-Gruppenfuehrer Paul Hausser.

Hausser trained his SS-VT Motorized Infantry Division throughout the winter of 1939-1940 and led it with some distinction in the conquests of Holland, Belgium, and France in 1940, during which it pushed all the way to the Spanish frontier. As a result of the successes of the Waffen-SS units in these battles, Hitler authorized the formation of the new SS combat divisions in the winter of 1940-1941. The SS-VT Division (now on garrison duty in Holland) provided the nucleus for these divisions, giving up a motorized infantry regiment and several smaller units in the process. Meanwhile, in December 1940, the SS-VT was transferred to Vesoul in southern France and redesignated SS Division Deutschland; however, this name was too easily confused with the regiment of the same name, so in early 1941 it became SS Panzer Division “Das Reich.”

Paul Hausser did not complain about losing almost half his veteran soldiers, but rather devoted himself to training their inexperienced replacements for the planned invasion of England. In March 1941, however, the Reich Division was transferred to Rumania and took part in the conquest of Yugoslavia in April. Hurried back to Germany, it was quickly refitted for Operation Barbarossa and was then sent to assembly areas in Poland, where it was still in the process of reforming on June 15.

The invasion of the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941. Hausser crossed the border near Brest-Litovsk and took part in the battles of encirclement in the zone of Army Group Center. The Reich Division distinguished itself in extremely heavy combat. In July alone it destroyed 103 tanks and smashed the elite Soviet 100th Infantry Division. By mid-November the Reich had suffered 40 percent casualties, among them the divisional commander. Paul Hausser was severely wounded in the face and lost his right eye in a battle near Gjatsch on October 14. He was evacuated back to Germany, where it took him several months to recover.

Hausser (now an Obergruppenfuehrer) returned to active duty in May 1942, as commander of the newly created SS Motorized Corps, which became the SS Panzer Corps on June 1, 1942. Hausser was thus the first SS man to become a corps commander. He spent the rest of 1942 in northern France, controlling the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd SS divisions (the Leibstandarte, Das Reich, and Totenkopf divisions, respectively). Among other things these superbly equipped units were given a panzer battalion and a company of the first PzKw V (“Tiger”) tanks.

While Hausser prepared his new command for its next campaign, disaster struck on the Russian Front. Stalingrad was surrounded, the Don sector collapsed, and the Red Army poured through Axis lines, heading west. In January 1943, Hitler rushed the SS Panzer Corps to Kharkov, the fourth-largest city in the Soviet Union, which, for reasons of prestige, he ordered to be held to the last man. “Now at last Hitler was reassured,” Paul Carell wrote later. “He relied on the absolute obedience of the Waffen-SS Corps and overlooked the fact that the corps commander, General Paul Hausser, was a man of common sense, strategic skill, and with the courage to stand up to his superiors.”

By noon on February 15, Hausser was almost surrounded by the Soviet 3rd Tank and 69th armies. Rather than sacrifice his two elite SS divisions (Totenkopf had not yet arrived from France), Hausser ordered his corps to break out to the southwest at 1 p. m., regardless of Hitler’s commands or those of the army generals.

Hausser’s immediate superior, Army General Hubert Lanz, was horrified by this development. A Fuehrer Order was being deliberately disobeyed! At 3:30 p. m. he signaled Hausser: “Kharhov will be defended under all circumstances!”

Paul Hausser ignored this order as well. The last German rearguard left Kharkov on the morning of February 16. Hausser had made good his escape and had saved the army’s 320th Infantry Division and its elite Grossdeutschland Panzer Grenadier Division in the process. The question now was how Hitler would react to this piece of deliberate insubordination.

Adolf Hitler’s mentality demanded that a scapegoat be found for this latest disaster, but Hausser was not a candidate for public disgrace. After all, he was an SS officer, a loyal Nazi, and a holder of the Golden Party Badge, which Hitler had conferred on him just three weeks before. Instead, Hitler sacked none other than Hubert Lanz, the very officer who had insisted to the last that the Fuehrer’s order be obeyed. Contrary to usual practice, however, Lanz was given command of a mountain corps shortly thereafter, instead of being permanently retired.

Hitler did not forgive Hausser quickly, however, even after reports and events of the next few days made the correctness of his actions clear for all to see-even at Fuehrer Headquarters. As punishment, a recommendation that Hausser be decorated with the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross was not acted upon.

Meanwhile, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, the commander of Army Group South, devised a brilliant plan to restabilize the southern sector of the Eastern Front. Realizing that the overconfident Soviets were in danger of outrunning their supply lines, he allowed them to surge forward, while he hoarded his armor for a massive counterattack. This stroke would entail a pincer movement to cut off the massive Soviet penetration south of Kharkov, followed by an attempt to recapture the city. Hausser, now reinforced with the SS Totenkopf Division, would command the left wing of the pincer.

The Third Battle of Kharkov began on February 21, 1943. The fighting was fierce, but by March 9 the Soviet 6th Army and Popov Armored Group had been destroyed-a loss of more than 600 tanks, 400 guns, 600 anti-tank guns, and tens of thousands of men. That day Paul Hausser’s spearheads reentered the burning city of Kharkov, beginning the most controversial battle of the general’s career. Military historians generally agree that Kharkov was now doomed and that Hausser should have encircled the city; instead, he attacked it frontally from the west and began six days of costly street fighting against fanatical resistance. The conquest of Kharkov was not complete until March 14. During the battle, the SS Panzer Corps suffered 11,000 casualties, against 20,000 for the Red Army.

Hausser redeemed his military reputation that July, during the Battle of Kursk-the greatest tank battle in history. His command, now designated II SS Panzer Corps, penetrated farther than any other German unit and destroyed an estimated 1,149 Soviet tanks and armored vehicles in the process. Colonel General Hermann Hoth, the commander of the 4th Panzer Army, recommended him for the Oak Leaves, stating that despite being handicapped by his previous wounds, he “untiringly led all day from the front. By his presence, his bravery and his humor, even in the most difficult situations, he imbued his troops with buoyancy and enthusiasm, yet he kept command of the corps tightly and in his hand. . . . [Hausser] again distinguished himself as an unusually qualified commanding general.”

While the Germans were being defeated at Kursk, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was overthrown on July 25. Hitler ordered the II SS Panzer Corps to transfer to northern Italy on the same day, although in the end only the corps headquarters and the 1st SS Panzer Grenadier Division ever left the Eastern Front. Hausser remained in Italy until December 1943, without engaging in any fighting; then he was transferred to France, where his corps took charge of the recently organized 9th SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen” and the 10th SS Panzer Division “Frundsberg.”

Hausser’s corps was supposed to be held in reserve to oppose the D-Day invasion, but when the 1st Panzer Army was surrounded in Galicia in April 1944, Hausser was sent back to the Eastern Front to rescue it. This was accomplished without too much difficulty, thanks to Manstein, Hausser, and the army’s commander, Hans Valentin Hube. Instead of sending the SS corps back to France, however, Hitler sent it to Poland, where it formed a reserve against the Soviets. It was not until June 11-five days after the Allies’ D-Day landings-that Hitler ordered the corps back to France. It was assigned a sector west of Caen, with the mission of holding the critical Hill 112.



The Battle of Normandy was the most difficult and exacting of General Hausser’s career. Badly outnumbered, he faced an enemy with devastating air and naval supremacy, which made it difficult for him to either move or resupply his troops. Hausser nevertheless held his positions despite heavy casualties on both sides.

Meanwhile, the left half of the German front in Normandy, which was the responsibility of Colonel General Friedrich Dollmann’s 7th Army, was in serious trouble. At the end of June, shortly after the fall of Cherbourg, the hard-pressed general dropped dead of a heart attack. He was replaced by Paul Hausser, who shortly thereafter was promoted to SS-Oberstgruppenfuehrer und Generaloberst der Waffen-SS-the equivalent of an American four-star general. He was the first SS man to be assigned to the command of an army on a permanent basis.

Hausser’s army, which included the LXXXIV Corps and II Parachute Corps, was much weaker than its sister army, the 5th Panzer, on its right. It had only 50 medium and 26 Panther tanks, for example, against 5th Panzer’s 250 medium and 150 heavy tanks, and it had only about one-third of the artillery and anti-aircraft guns as the 5th Panzer. It did, however, have the advantage of excellent defensive terrain, and Hausser’s men took full advantage of that situation. They were gradually pushed back, however, and Hausser’s divisions were slowly ground to bits. By July 11, for example, his elite 2nd Parachute Division was down to 35 percent of its authorized manpower, and most of his other divisions were also down to Kampfgruppe (regimental) strength. By mid-July Hausser was restoring to tactical patchwork to establish any kind of reserve at all.

The decisive breakthrough of the Normandy campaign occurred in Hausser’s sector of July 25, 1944. That day, in Operation Cobra, 2,500 Allied airplanes-1,800 of which were heavy bombers-dropped approximately 5,000 tons of high explosives, jellied gasoline (napalm), and white phosphorus on a six-square-mile block, mostly in the zone of the Panzer Lehr Division. Panzer Lehr’s forward units were virtually annihilated. By the end of the day, it had only about a dozen tanks and assault guns left, and a parachute regiment attached to it had vanished under the bombs.

There is little doubt that Hausser mishandled the entire Operation Cobra. Several days before the bombs fell, Field Marshal Guenther von Kluge (who had replaced a critically wounded Rommel a week before) had suggested that Hausser replace the Panzer Lehr with the 275th Infantry Division, which Hausser then held in army reserve. Meanwhile, on the far left flank, LXXXIV Corps had managed to pull the 353rd Infantry Division out of the line. Kluge suggested than Hausser use it to replace the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” at the front, thus establishing an army reserve of two armored divisions. The SS general, however, ignored both of his former classmates’ suggestions. “Hausser did little more than clamor for battlefields replacements, additional artillery, and supplies, and the sight of air cover,” according to the American official history records.

When the American ground forces began to advance at 11 a. m. on July 25, Hausser reacted slowly because he did not initially appreciate the magnitude of the disaster that had overtaken his army. By late afternoon, however, he realized that his front had been penetrated in seven places in the Lessay-St. Lo sector, and without an armored reserve, he could do little to seal the gaps. He therefore requested permission to conduct a general withdrawal to Coutances. Kluge, however, also misread the situation and would approve only a limited withdrawal. As a result, LXXXIV Corps was soon cut off on the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula and only broke out (on Hausser’s orders) with heavy losses. Meanwhile, the Americans were in the rear of the 7th Army; SS Oberfuehrer Christian Tychesen, the commander of Hausser’s old Das Reich Division, was killed near his command post by an American patrol; and Hausser himself only narrowly escaped death from an American armored car that fired on him near Gavray. There was little he could do but withdraw the remnants of his disintegrating command to the east, while the rapidly advancing Americans captured Avranches (at the base of the Cotentin peninsula) and broke out into the interior of France. In doing so they unknowingly came within a few hundred yards of the 7th Army’s forward command post, which was located 3.5 miles north of Avranches. Cut off, Hausser and many of his key staff officers had to escape on foot by infiltrating through the regularly spaced intervals between American troop convoys. There was, of course, nothing Hausser could do to influence the course of the battle, which was totally out of hand.

When he finally learned of the extent of the 7th Army’s disaster, Kluge’s dissatisfaction with the 7th Army’s leadership reached a head. On July 30, he inspected Hausser’s headquarters and found it “farcical, a complete mess,” and concluded that “the whole army [is] putting up a poor show.” Lacking the authority to relieve the SS general (or perhaps not daring to do so, given his own previous association with the conspirators who had tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler a few days before), Kluge sacked Hausser’s chief of staff and the commander of the LXXXIV Corps-who was less responsible for the disaster than Kluge himself-and replaced them with his own men. Kluge also took active charge of the left flank himself. It was too late by then, however; the battle was already lost.

Paul Hausser had little influence on the campaign in Normandy after July 28. As General George S. Patton’s U.S. 3rd Army advanced south and east of Mortain and threatened to encircle the 5th Panzer and 7th armies south of Caen, Hausser joined Kluge in objecting to Hitler’s unrealistic plan to concentrate nine depleted panzer divisions in the western edge of the salient, with the objective of thrusting west to the coast, to cut off Patton. Instead, Kluge and Hausser wanted to fall back behind the Seine while there still might be time to do so. Kluge was overruled, however, and it is significant that, on the orders of Adolf Hitler, the final effort to reach the west coast was directed by an ad hoc panzer group under Army General Heinrich Eberbach, the former commander of the 5th Panzer Army, and not by Hausser. In any event it was defeated, and the bulk of Army Group B was surrounded in the Falaise Pocket on August 17. Hausser, still with his men inside the pocket, ordered all units capable of action to break out in individual combat groups on the night of August 19-20.

Hausser’s actions saved about one-third of his army, which was on the far side of the encirclement. (A considerably larger portion of the 5th Panzer Army was saved because it did not have as far to go to reach friendly lines.) The general himself joined the 1st SS Panzer Division Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler and, on August 20, was marching on foot with a machine pistol draped around his neck when an Allied artillery shell landed in front of him, and a piece of shrapnel hit him right in the face. Some soldiers from the Leibstandarte placed him on the stern of a tank and eventually succeeded in getting the seriously wounded commander back to German lines, after a number of narrow escapes. He was taken to the Luftwaffe hospital at Greifswald, where he slowly began to recover.

Six days after he was wounded, Hausser was awarded the Swords to his Knight’s Cross; however, he was unable to return to active duty until January 23, 1945, when he became acting commander of Army Group Oberrhein (Upper Rhine), replacing Heinrich Himmler. Six days later this headquarters was dissolved, and Hausser was given command of Army Group G, controlling the 1st and 19th armies and later 7th Army as well. He was given the task of defending southern Germany. The war, however, was already lost, and Hausser could do little but fight a delaying action through the Saar and Palatinate. By now thoroughly disillusioned with the Nazi leadership, Hausser became increasingly frustrated by Hitler’s constant interference in the details of operations of his forces and especially with his hold-at-all-costs orders-one of which cost Hausser much of his command, which had not been allowed to retreat across the Rhine in time. The personal relationship between the two men, which had begun to deteriorate during the Second Battle of Kharkov, had reached a new low in early 1945, due to a heated argument they had over tactical matters. On March 30, 1945, Hitler remarked to Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda, that neither Sepp Dietrich nor Hausser had any real operational talent and that “no high-class commander has emerged from the SS.” Three days later a dispatch from Hausser arrived, suggesting that a gap between the 1st and 7th armies be closed by another retreat into southern Germany. Furious, Hitler immediately relieved Hausser of his command and replaced him with General of Infantry Friedrich Schulz. Unemployed for the rest of the war, Hausser surrendered to the Americans in May. At Nuremberg he was the most important defense witness for the Waffen-SS, stating that his men were soldiers like any other. Nevertheless the entire SS, including the Waffen-SS, was condemned as a criminal organization. Hausser himself was not subjected to a long imprisonment, however.

As a general, Paul Hausser proved to be an above-average divisional commander and a gifted-and sometimes brilliant-corps commander, although his conduct of the Third Battle of Kharkov is hardly above criticism. As a trainer, he had few equals anywhere. He was largely responsible for establishing the Waffen-SS as a potent combat force, and it bore his influence throughout its existence. As the commander of the 7th Army in Normandy, however, his performance left a great deal to be desired. It is not possible to objectively evaluate his direction of Army Group G, except to say that it would have been more effective had he been left to his own devices, rather than receiving “help” from Adolf Hitler. It would probably have been better for Nazi Germany if he had been left in command of an SS panzer corps-or as director of training for the Waffen-SS-from 1943 on.

In the postwar years, Paul Hausser was an active member of the Mutual Aid Society of the Waffen-SS (Hilfsorganization auf Gegenseitigkeit der Waffen-SS, or HIAG), the Waffen-SS veterans organization, and wrote numerous articles for its magazine, Wiking Ruf (Viking Call), now Dei Freiwillige-The Volunteer. In 1953 he wrote his first book, Waffen-SS im Einsatz (The Waffen-SS in Operation), which he expanded in 1966 and subtitled Soldaten wie Andere Auch (Soldiers like Any Other). He died on December 28, 1972, at the age of 92. His funeral was attended by thousands of his former soldiers.


First Super Carrier – Forrestal Class

What would become the Forrestal class began as an outgrowth of the canceled United States and, even though the purpose had changed from pure nuclear strategic strike by a few large aircraft to a more general purpose design capable of performing tactical missions by a much larger air group of smaller aircraft, they were remarkably similar in appearance. In fact early photographs of models and artist conceptions of the two designs are nearly identical and the initial contract configuration closely resembled that of the earlier ship. The main outward difference was an enclosed “hurricane” bow. The design was to be flush decked with a retractable island, four stacks on the port and four on the starboard side designed to minimize the effects of exhaust gases on flight operations, and four deck-edge elevators: one on the starboard side between the retractable bridge and the stacks, two on the port side, and one at the stern. Four catapults were to be installed: two on the bow and one each in waist positions, port and starboard. Armament included pairs of 5″ gun mounts in sponsons at each quarter. As construction of the first ship proceeded, other developments in carrier design, such as the angled deck and steam catapults, were applied while the Forrestal was still on the building ways.

The idea of angling the landing area of a carrier flight deck was a simple, but revolutionary one that originated with the British. With the angled deck the traditional way of landing a carrier aircraft, a level approach with power cut to land, could be changed to a power on approach, which allowed pilots to touch down in the arresting gear and immediately apply full power to lift off and go around again if necessary. When the new jet aircraft were introduced after World War II, their jet engines required time to “spool up” to full power. A poor approach often meant hitting the barricades to prevent crashing into aircraft parked forward. During the Korean War the first generation of straight-winged jet aircraft, with their relatively slow approach speeds, could be accommodated with the existing straight deck carriers, but following the Korean War, as the second generation of swept-wing jets entered service, accident rates went up alarmingly. The U.S. Navy first began to give the angled deck serious consideration in 1951. In 1952 the Midway and Wasp were given superficial modifications to test the concept, and the Antietam, an un-modernized Essex-class carrier, was fitted with a true angled deck later that year; the first true angled deck landing was accomplished in 1953. As a result of the experience gained, the decision was made to modify the design of the Forrestal to accommodate the angled deck.

The hydraulic catapults used in previous carriers were approaching their design limits, and the U.S. Navy was considering alternative technologies to accommodate the growing weight of carrier aircraft. For the most efficient catapult stroke, nearly constant acceleration is desired and, given the length limits involved, the shorter the braking distance, the longer the power stroke can be. While the Americans worked on powder charge designs, the British worked on steam-powered, slotted-cylinder designs. The first full-scale steam catapult was installed on the HMS Perseus in 1950. A remarkable feature of this design was a water brake, which could bring a 5,000-pound catapult shuttle to a halt in only five feet.

The third British innovation leading to the success of the Forrestal design was the mirror landing system. To take advantage of the capabilities offered by the angled deck and the steam catapult, a new method of controlling aircraft as they came on board had to be developed. A landing signal officer (LSO) could only control one aircraft at a time, and the limitations of the human eye made control using paddles limited to no more than a half mile. The British system used a large mirror, concave about its horizontal axis, positioned alongside the landing area at the edge of the angled flight deck. The mirror pointed astern at the angle of the glide path and was mounted on gimbals connected to the ship’s fire control system, which was gyro stabilized. This allowed the mirror to compensate for any motion of the ship. Aft of the mirror a powerful light source was aimed at the mirror so that a cone of light was reflected back along the glide slope. The pilot would see a spot of light, the “ball,” when he flew in the middle of the beam. To position his aircraft more precisely, a horizontal row of datum lights was mounted on either side of the mirror. If the pilot was high on the glide path, the ball would appear above the reference lights, if too low, the ball was below the reference lights. Later, the mirror was replaced by a Fresnel lens and colors added to the ball, but the principle of the Optical Landing System (OLS) was the same.

The United States had been designed on the basis of having to operate a 100,000-pound jet that would succeed the AJ-1 Savage as a carrier-borne nuclear bomber. (In 1952 the U.S. detonated its first thermonuclear bomb. Shortly after the Korean armistice in 1953, the Russians also exploded what was thought to be a hydrogen bomb. Later, the earlier atomic weapons were included under the term “nuclear weapons” that came into general use.) As newer nuclear weapons were being developed that were smaller in size, the Bureau of Aeronautics selected the 70,000-pound Douglas A3D Skywarrior (later known as the A-3) as its heavy strike bomber, in 1949. With a smaller aircraft, a smaller carrier was possible. Even before the outbreak of the Korean War, Representative Carl Vinson, long a friend of the Navy, informally indicated that Congress might back a smaller carrier. He suggested a size limit of 60,000 tons and, even though no new plans were prepared, the Bureau of Ships (BuShips) continued studies about what design tradeoffs could be made to bring the carrier design under the 60,000-ton limit. These studies formed the basis of what would become the Forrestal class when approval for new carriers came through.

In July 1950, following the outbreak of the Korean War, Defense Secretary Johnson offered the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Sherman, a new carrier, and in October, Navy Secretary Matthews approved a revised Fiscal Year 1952 (FY52) shipbuilding budget that included the Forrestal. The Forrestal was initially laid down on 14 July 1952 as CVB-59 (the CVB designation standing for “large aircraft carrier” included the United States as CVB-58 and the  Midway-class carriers), and as the Forrestal’s keel was being laid, Congress authorized a second large carrier, the Saratoga. Another large carrier would be funded each year for the next five years. The Saratoga was included in the FY53 shipbuilding program, the Ranger in FY54, and the Independence in FY55. With the revival in support for aircraft carriers came a redesignation to reflect their mission rather than size. The new ship (along with the Midway-class CVBs and the Essex-class CV ships and the mothballed Enterprise) were reclassified as CVA “attack aircraft carriers” on 1 October 1952. From FY52 onward, construction of a new carrier every year was a major Navy goal. The Joint Chiefs of Staff adopted goal for a 12-carrier force for FY52, which was increased to 14 in 1952. Ultimately a peacetime level of 15 carriers was established.

As the first carrier laid down after World War II to be completed, Forrestal had a standard displacement of 60,000 tons, 76,600 tons full load. (Displacement is the actual weight of the ship, since a floating body displaces its own weight in water. Full load displacement includes the weight of the ship with all fuel and stores on board.) With an overall length of 1,039 feet, Forrestal was also the largest carrier built up to that time (except for the short lived Japanese Shinano of World War II), and was the first to be specifically designed to accommodate jet aircraft. Compared to a modernized Essex-class carrier, the Forrestal had significantly greater capacities: 70 percent greater ship fuel (2.5 million gallons vs. 1.5 million), 300 percent more aviation fuel (1.3 million gallons vs. 440,000), 154 percent more aviation ordnance (1,650 tons vs. 650) and 15 percent more nuclear weapons storage (150 tons vs. 130). As a result of the Forrestal’s capabilities, there was a remarkable improvement in the effectiveness of air operations, allowing for rapid aircraft turnaround and increased safety. Studies determined that her size and design allowed her to operate 96 percent of the year compared to 60 percent for an Essex-class carrier, and aircraft accident rates were reduced by half.

Propulsion was provided by a 260,000 shaft horsepower (shp) steam-turbine plant with four shafts, four steam turbines, and eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers capable of driving her at 33 knots. The Forrestal, as first ship in her class, had a 600 pounds per square inch (psi) plant, but all subsequent ships had 1,200 psi systems that provided 280,000 shp. (The 1,200 psi boiler systems were introduced in 1954 and offered higher efficiency, reduced weight, smaller volume, and simplified maintenance over the 600 psi systems of World War II vintage.)

The Forrestal-class carriers were armed with eight Mark 42 5″/54 caliber automatic, dual-purpose (air/surface target) gun mounts, two to a sponson on each quadrant. They were usually controlled remotely from a Mark 68 Gun Fire Control System, or locally from the mount at the One Man Control (OMC) station. (In U.S. naval gun terminology, 5″/54 indicates a gun that fires a projectile five inches in diameter and the barrel is 54 calibers long, i.e., the barrel length is 5″ × 54 = 270″.) The self-loading gun mounts each weighed about 60 tons, including two drums under the mount holding 40 rounds of semi-fixed case type ammunition (the projectile and the charge are separate). The maximum rate of fire was 40 rounds per minute; the maximum range was about 13 nautical miles, and the maximum altitude was about 50,000 feet. As threats from aircraft and missiles grew, these weapons were less effective and were later removed and replaced in most cases by Mark 29 NATO Sea Sparrow missile launchers and Mark 15 20mm Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) gun mounts. The forward sponsons also created slamming effects in rough weather that reduced speed because of the spray. Most of the forward 5″ mounts were removed in the 1960s and the sponsons were either removed or redesigned.

Previous American carrier design philosophy called for the hangar deck to be the main strength deck and the flight deck to be superstructure above it. In U.S. naval parlance, the hangar deck was the first deck and the decks immediately below it were the second, third, etc. Above the hangar deck were “levels,” the forecastle deck being the “01” level, the gallery deck the “02” level, and the flight deck the “03” level. In both the Essex and Midway classes this resulted in a hangar deck clearance height of 17’6.” The sides of the hangar were kept open for maximum ventilation to allow aircraft to warm up on the hangar deck. In the Essex class, the armor protection was provided mainly by the armored hangar deck; in the Midway class, the flight deck was also protected by armor. In the Forrestal and later classes, the supporting structure of the ship sides went all the way up to the flight deck, which became the main strength deck as well as providing armor protection. The flight deck was now at the “04” level, resulting in a hangar clearance height of 25 feet. Since the sides of the ship hull were part of the load-bearing structure, the large openings in the hull sides for the deck edge elevators had to be carefully designed so as not to weaken the hull.

The hangar itself had two sets of sliding bulkheads that could close off the hangar deck into three bays to contain blast and fires. There were two 25-man air crew ready rooms on the gallery deck to allow air crew to scramble to the forward and waist catapults, a 60-man room in the gallery amidships next to the Combat Information Center (CIC) and four large ready rooms (two 60-man and two 45-man) under the hangar deck with escalators to provide access to the gallery deck.

The change in design to include a large island superstructure solved many problems posed by the flush deck design with its smoke pipes for stack gases and retractable bridge and electronic masts. The electronic suite on the new island included a large SPS-8 height finder radar atop a pedestal on the wheelhouse and a massive pole mast carrying an SPS-12 air search radar with a Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) beacon at its top. A second large pole mast carried electronic countermeasures (ECM) antennas. These masts were both hinged so that they could be folded down (the larger center mast folded to port and rested on the flight deck while the smaller mast folded aft) for passage under the Brooklyn Bridge, which was a requirement for major naval ships at the time in order to have access to the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn. An SPN-8 carrier-controlled approach (CCA) radar was mounted on the aft end of the island.

Both the Forrestal and Saratoga were built with two C-7 steam catapults on the bow forward and two C-11 catapults on the port angled deck sponson. The C-7 was a high capacity slotted-cylinder catapult originally designed to use powder charges and was redesigned as a steam catapult based on the success of the British steam catapults. The original version used 600 psi steam because of the limitations of the Forrestal’s propulsion plant. Later versions used 1,200 psi steam. The C-11 was the first U.S. steam catapult and was based on the British BXS-1 system, but with higher steam pressure. When the C-11 catapult that was to be on the starboard sponson in the original flush deck design was moved to the port side of the angled deck, it created a problem in that, for structural reasons, the tracks of the two catapults had to be close together. Operationally, this meant that aircraft could be positioned on the waist catapults at the same time, but could not be launched simultaneously. Later ships of the Forrestal class, the Ranger and Independence, were equipped with four C-7 catapults.

The arresting gear on a carrier sets limits on aircraft performance as much as flight deck size and catapult capacity. The Forrestal-class carriers were fitted with Mark 7 systems, which were improvements over the World War II vintage Mark 4 and postwar Mark 5 designs and capable of stopping a 50,000-pound aircraft (up to 60,000 pounds in an emergency) at 105 knots (121 mph).19 When the design was changed from an axial deck to an angled deck this allowed for a reduction in the number of cross deck pendants, which reduced the number of arresting gear engines required, saving both weight and space. Originally there were six pendants, but this was later reduced to four.

There are many stages in the life of a warship from an approved design to a commissioned vessel. In the mid-1950s, when the Forrestal and her sisters were built, there were a number of commercial shipyards, as well as Navy Yards, capable of building such major warships as aircraft carriers. Although many components of the ship may have been brought together and assembled beforehand, the laying of the keel is the symbolic formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. Launching is the point when the ship enters the water for the first time and, by tradition, the ship is christened with the breaking of a bottle of champagne across the bow as the ship slides down the building ways with a splash. About 12 to 18 months before the ship is to be delivered to the Navy, the pre-commissioning crew (sailors who will eventually crew the ship) are selected and ordered to the ship. The balance of the crew typically arrives shortly before delivery. Sea trials are an intense series of tests to show that the performance of the ship meets the Navy’s requirements and to demonstrate that all of the equipment installed on board is functioning properly. New construction ships will also undergo builder’s trials and acceptance trials prior to delivery, when the official custody of the ship is turned over from the shipyard to the Navy. The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as an operating unit of the Navy, and with the hoisting of the ship’s commissioning pennant, the ship comes alive as the crew ceremonially mans the ship. Thereafter the ship is officially referred to as a United States Ship (USS).

The Forrestal was ordered from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in Newport News, Virginia, while the Saratoga was ordered from the New York Naval Shipyard in New York (commonly referred to locally as the Brooklyn Navy Yard). Apart from the 1,200 psi power plants and some other detail changes, the two ships were very similar in appearance. The Ranger and Independence that followed were of the same basic design, but among the most noticeable of the changes were their enclosed sterns compared to the “notched” sterns of the first two ships. The Ranger had forward gun sponsons that were of a different shape than those on the Forrestal and Saratoga and she retained these sponsons when her forward 5″ guns were removed. She had an all welded aluminum elevator on the port side, unlike the steel structures of the other Forrestal-class ships. Also, because the angle of the after end on the flight deck was changed slightly, her overall length increased to 1,046 feet. The Ranger was built at Newport News and the Independence at the New York Navy Yard. In order to expedite her construction, the Ranger was started in a smaller drydock and about four months later her partially completed hull was floated to the larger drydock where the Forrestal had been built. The Independence began construction in one drydock with her stem toward the head of the dock to allow material to be delivered over a truck ramp from the head of the dock to the hangar deck at the stern. The island and sponsons were not installed to avoid interference with a traveling overhead crane. She was also moved to another drydock for final construction.

The Forrestal was launched at Newport News on 11 December 1954, sponsored by Josephine Forrestal, the widow of Defense Secretary Forrestal, and was commissioned on 1 October 1955. Just before her commissioning, the construction cost of the Forrestal was estimated to be $218 million. As other ships followed, the growing costs of constructing and operating such large vessels would become the center of debate both within the Navy and the Defense Department. From her home port in Norfolk, the Forrestal spent her first year “working up” in intensive training operations off the Virginia Capes and in the Caribbean, often operating out of Mayport, Florida. As the first of her breed, an important part of this process was training aviators to use her advanced facilities. In November 1956 she left Mayport to operate in the eastern Atlantic during the Suez Crisis, ready to enter the Mediterranean if necessary and returned to Norfolk in December. In January 1957 she sailed for her first of many deployments with the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.

Diplomatic Impunity

In April 1942 a crew captained by Major Asyanov accomplished a non-stop flight to Great Britain in a Pe-8 bomber, carrying embassy officials and diplomatic mail. This flight presaged another, to the USA and back via England, on 19th May 1942. On board for this trip were the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov, and his staff. In spite of great difficulties the flight was successful, and the aircraft’s commanding officer and navigators Major Romanov and Major Shtepenko were made Heroes of the Soviet Union.

Petlyakov Pe-8

The Petlyakov Pe-8 was the Soviet Union’s only modern four-engine bomber of World War II, the original design concept being outlined by A. N. Tupolev to meet a mid-1934 requirement for an aircraft of this class. A cantilever mid-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, except for fabric-covered control surfaces, the ANT-42 as it was then known had retractable tailwheel landing gear with only the main units retracting. Planned powerplant was four wing¬-mounted engines with a central supercharger installation in the fuselage, but when first flown on 27 December 1936 the ATsN supercharger installation was not available and the ANT-42 was powered by four 820-kW (1,100-hp) Mikulin M-100 Vee engines. Although the aircraft was damaged subsequently in a heavy landing, official testing was completed during 1937, following which the ATsN supercharger, driven by a single M-100 engine, became available. The second prototype ANT-42 was flown on 26 July 1938, this having many improvements including an ATsN-2 supercharger driven by an M-100A engine. There was accommodation for a of 11 and the aircraft had full armament comprising electrically-actuated dorsal and tail turrets, each with a 7.62-mm (0.3-in) ShKAS machine-gun; a nose turret with a single (later twin) ShKAS machine-gun, plus a position in the rear of each inboard engine nacelle, accessible to the gunner through a wing crawl-way, each provided with a single 12.7-mm (0.5-in) machine-gun. Standard bomb-load was six 100-kg (220-Ib) or four 250-kg (551-Ib) bombs, but over suitable short ranges a maximum overload of 4000 kg (8,818 lb) of bombs could be carried.

The manufacture of five pre-production aircraft was authorised in April 1937, but there was a subsequent attempt to end the programme. However, production was finally approved in 1939 under the designation TB-7 and these five pre-¬series aircraft differed from the ANT-42 by having the ATsN central supercharger installation deleted and the main engines replaced by supercharged AM-35s. At the same time several airframe improvements were introduced and deliveries of these pre-production aircraft began in May 1940. Performance with the AM-35 powerplant was disappointing, leading to the evaluation of several different engines, but in October 1940 the 1044-kW (1,400-hp) ACh-40 diesel was selected as standard powerplant. This proved unreliable, bringing continued use of the 1007-kW (1,350-hp) AM-35A. until those in service were re-engined with the 1119-kW (1,500-hp) ACh-30B diesel. On the night of 7/8 August 194118 of these aircraft made an attack on Berlin, but with one crashing on take-off from engine failure and eight others making forced landings for the same reason, it was finally decided to discontinue the use of diesel engines. By that time the designation TB-7 had been dropped in favour of Pe-8, and when production ended in October 1941 a total of 79 had been built; by the end of 1942 about 48 of this total had been re-engined with the ASh-82FN. One aircraft with AM-35A engines made a remarkable staged flight from Moscow to Washington and back during the period 19 May to 13 June 1942.

Surviving aircraft were used extensively during 1942-43 for close-support bombing and, from February 1943, were used to deploy the FAB-5000NG 5000-kg (11,023-Ib) bomb for point attacks on special targets.

Post-war about 30 Pe-8s survived and were used for a variety of purposes, including employment as engine testbeds, and in 1952 two of them played a key role in establishing an Arctic station before returning the expedition to Moscow in a non-stop flight of 5000 km (3,107 miles).



Dealey – The Destroyer Killer I

Sinking of the Japanese destroyer Yamakaze on 25 June 1942 approximately 110 km southwest of Yokohama harbour, Japan, photographed through the periscope of the U.S. Navy submarine USS Nautilus (SS-168).

A curious fact about the United States Navy: many of its greatest heroes and commanders have come from landlocked states or areas far from the ocean. Perhaps the mystery of the sea draws them. Perhaps the ocean provided the adventure the Great Plains and cities of the interior could not. One of these men was Dallas-born Texan Samuel David Dealey. Dealey Plaza of JFK assassination fame was named after his uncle, George Dealey, founder of the Dallas Morning News. Dealey achieved a record of success and bravery rarely matched in the history of the United States Navy, awarded the Silver Star, the Navy Cross with three gold stars (in other words, he won the Navy’s 2nd highest award for bravery four times), the Distinguished Service Cross (for aiding the Army) and the Medal of Honor. His boat was also awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

Born in 1906, Dealey applied for and was given a slot at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, but washed out due to poor grades. Applying himself, he won reinstatement and graduated Annapolis in 1930. In the years before the war, Dealey attended the Navy’s Submarine School and was posted to a variety of duties, mostly involving training and scientific experimentation. When war broke out, this seemingly, boring set of duties had made Dealey one of the most experienced young submariners in the fleet.

A year after Pearl Harbor, Dealey was given command of the new Gato-class submarine USS Harder (the harder is a type of mullet – subs of the US Navy were once named for fish). Harder’s first action was inauspicious – she had to evade attack by a US patrol plane in the Caribbean as she voyaged to the Panama Canal to cross into the Pacific. (Note: for those of you new to naval terminology, the commander of a ship/submarine is referred to as “captain”, no matter what his/her actual rank. Lieutenant Commander Dealey was Captain of Harder)

After testing and training of the crew, the first war patrol of the Harder began on June 7, 1943. She was ordered to waters off northern Honshu, the largest of the Japanese Home Islands – far from home and far from help. Harder’s first action came two weeks later off the Japanese coast. Sighting two enemy ships, Dealey prepared to attack when her presence became known to the enemy. Dealey fired torpedoes, but before he could see whether they had been effective, an aggressive Japanese escort vessel came after Harder and Dealey was forced to make an emergency dive – and the sub crashed into the bottom. Not the start that Dealey or anyone else on the boat had hoped for. Though it was believed that Harder missed with its first salvo of the war, post-war examination of Japanese records indicates that one merchant vessel was damaged and put out of action for some time.

A 2000+ ton submarine diving into the bottom causes quite an impact, and the risks of damaging the sub, injuring crew members and possibly being trapped in the soft bottom (forever) are very real. Luckily, for Dealey and his crew, they were able to avoid both the Japanese escort and being stuck forever at the bottom of the Pacific.

Two nights later, Dealey attacked another Japanese merchant vessel, causing so much damage that she had to be beached and was eventually turned into scrap. During the coming days, Dealey led Harder on a number of attacks, but only managed to damage one vessel.

Two things about the Pacific War at sea: American submarine commanders were, and were taught to be, hyper-aggressive. Like English fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain in 1940, American sub commanders paid very little attention to odds – their job was to sink Japanese ships, and after Pearl Harbor, they needed no coaxing. Secondly, the Japanese government and the Imperial Navy severely limited information about American or Allied subs in Japanese waters. This was the case before the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942. Japanese citizens believed that they areas around their home islands were safe and that the Imperial Navy would not allow American subs to venture so close to Japan. Japanese merchantmen relied on word of mouth and for much of the war, had to fend for themselves. Admitting the growing success of the Americans would mean that the Navy and the government had made an error, which could not be admitted.

At the beginning of July, one of the Harder’s engines lost power. This was a common flaw in the Gato-class subs, and cost the Navy as a whole and the Harder in particular much time. Taking a mound of spare parts with him for his next war patrol, Dealey left Midway Island for Honshu once again at the end of August 1943. In fourteen days, Dealey attacked nine separate times in Japanese waters and sank five ships totally 15,000 tons. Along with other US submarines, Harder was starting to bring the war home to the Japanese people. Unfortunately, engine problems again caused Dealey to return home, this time to Pearl Harbor, where she stayed until the end of October.

While in Hawaii, Harder and two other subs (Snook and Pargo) formed a small wolfpack and were sent to the Mariana Islands in the central Pacific to help clear the area around Tarawa Atoll of Japanese shipping in advance of the American invasion of Tarawa on November 20.

Though by this time the United States had been in the war for nearly two years, submarine tactics in the US Navy still needed work and equipment (such as the radios on the subs themselves) often failed or did not meet expectations. Though the Harder was supposed to work in tandem with the other two submarines, she managed to stay in contact with Pargo to attack a merchant vessel (with unknown results) and sink a minesweeper on November 12 before becoming separated from the other two American boats and operate on her own.

A week later Harder got on the track of a Japanese convoy of three large freighters and their escorts north of the Mariana Islands. Carefully calculating the distance and time to each target, Dealey fired a spread of ten torpedoes at the Japanese. Two of the freighters were hit and sunk quickly, taking most of their crews with them. The Japanese Navy had proved to be an aggressive force itself, and Japanese destroyer commanders proved tough and enduring. Over the course of the evening of the 19/20 August 1943, Dealey had repeated close calls with the Japanese, though Harder remained undamaged.

Later that night Dealey surfaced and spotted the one freighter that had escaped him earlier and plotted a course to intercept. Over the next hours, the freighter was the target of eleven more torpedoes from Harder, which circled her both submerged and surfaced firing from different angles. All this time the Japanese crew of the freighter engaged her with their deck gun. When Harder ran out of torpedoes, Dealey decided against further engaging the Japanese on the surface and made way for Pearl Harbor to replenish his torpedo supply. Later intelligence informed Dealey and his crew that this last tough Japanese ship too had sunk giving her a total for her third patrol of four ships sunk.

Though she had proven resilient and her skipper deadly, the crew of the Harder must have been quite frustrated with their boat, for on the way back to Pearl Harbor, another of her German designed diesels broke down again. Dealey was ordered to Mare Island in San Francisco Bay at the end of November to have the boat’s engines completely replaced.

Harder was back in action in March 1944, Dealey and the Harder proved themselves on a different sort of mission. On her fourth patrol, the sub was to standby to rescue American pilots shot down in the sea near the Caroline Islands. Just west of Woleai, Navy pilot John Galvin was stranded on a small enemy held island. He had been shot down during an American carrier based strike on the island and was in danger of being taken prisoner or being executed.

Other pilots from Galvin’s carrier kept the Japanese away from their comrade, but night would soon fall and Galvin’s fate would be sealed.

Dealey and Harder were in the vicinity and were ordered to get Galvin off the island whatever the cost. Dealey ordered his sub onto the reef just offshore bow first and to keep the propellers spinning to keep her there while a rubber dinghy with armed sailors raced into shore to get the downed pilot. Crewmen of the Harder paddled into shore under Japanese fire, retrieved Galvin and paddled back to the sub still under fire from shore. For this action, Dealey and his crew were given commendations.