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“


“Richard the Lionheart, Battle of Arsuf, 1191” Justo Jimeno Bazaga

In late summer 1191 King Richard I of England prosecuted a remarkably controlled, ruthlessly efficient march south from Acre to Jaffa, subjecting Saladin to a humiliating, if not crushing, defeat along the way. Since his arrival in the Holy Land, the Lionheart had galvanised the Third Crusade; no longer mired and inert in the northern reaches of Palestine, the expedition now seemed poised on the threshold of victory. Success depended on momentum – only immediate and resolute action would preserve the brittle Frankish coalition and maintain pressure on a faltering enemy. But just when focused commitment to a clear military goal was needed, Richard hesitated.

Around 12 September 1191, just a few days after reaching Jaffa, worrying reports from the south began filtering into the crusader camp. Saladin, it was said, had moved on Ascalon and even now was razing the Muslim-held port to the ground. With these rumours stirring up a mixture of incredulity, horror and suspicion, the king dispatched Geoffrey of Lusignan (who had now been appointed titular count of the region) and the trusted knight William of L’Estang to investigate. Sailing south, they soon caught sight of the city, and, as they drew closer, a scene of appalling devastation revealed itself. Ascalon was awash with flame and smoke, its terrified populace streaming away in forced evacuation while the sultan’s men swarmed over the port’s mighty defences, ripping wall and tower asunder.

This grave spectacle was the product of Saladin’s newly resolute approach to the war. Still smarting from his humiliating defeat at Arsuf, the sultan had assembled his counsellors at Ramla on 10 September to re-evaluate Ayyubid strategy. Having tried and failed to confront the crusaders head-on during their march south from Acre, Saladin decided to adopt a more defensive approach. If Richard could not be crushed in open battle, then drastic steps would be taken to halt his advance – a scorched-earth policy to hamper Frankish movement, involving the destruction of key fortresses. The critical target was Ascalon, southern Palestine’s main port and the stepping stone to Egypt. If the Franks captured the city intact then the Lionheart would have the perfect bridgehead from which to threaten Jerusalem and the Nile region. Saladin realised that he lacked the resources to fight a war on two fronts and, prioritising the protection of the Holy City, ordered that Ascalon’s walls be razed to the ground. This cannot have been an easy decision – the sultan was said to have remarked, ‘by God I would prefer to lose all my sons rather than demolish a single stone’ – but it was necessary. Time was pressing, for if Richard marched on he might yet seize the port. Saladin therefore sent al-Adil to watch over the crusaders at Jaffa, and then raced south with al-Afdal to oversee the dreadful labour, driving his soldiers to work at a furious pace, day and night, fearful of the Lionheart’s arrival.

When Geoffrey and William brought news of what they had seen to Jaffa, King Richard still had a chance to act. Throughout the late summer he had been deliberately evasive about his objectives, but now a definite decision had to be made. To the Lionheart, the choice seemed clear: the seizure of Ascalon was the logical next step for the crusade. As a general he recognised that, to date, the expedition’s achievements had been dependent upon naval superiority. While the crusade continued to hug the coastline, Latin domination of the Mediterranean could stave off isolation and annihilation by offering a lifeline of supply and reinforcement. So far, the Christians had not truly fought the Third Crusade in enemy territory; once they marched inland, the real battle would begin. Ascalon’s seizure and refortification promised to destabilise further Saladin’s hold over Palestine, creating a secure coastal enclave, while keeping Richard’s options open for an eventual assault on Jerusalem or Egypt.

Richard arrived in Jaffa apparently expecting that, as king and commander, his will would be obeyed; that the march south could continue, almost without pause. But he had made a serious miscalculation. As a species of war, the crusade was governed not merely by the dictates of military science, nor by notions of politics, diplomacy or economy. This was a mode of conflict underpinned by religious ideology – one that relied upon the overwhelming and imperative devotional allure of a target like Jerusalem to create unity of purpose within a disparate army. And for the vast majority of those within Richard’s amalgamated crusading host, marching south from Jaffa was tantamount to walking past the doorway to the Holy City.

At a council held outside Jaffa in mid-September 1191, the Lionheart was confronted by this reality. Despite his best efforts to press for an attack on Ascalon, a large number of Latin nobles resisted – among them Hugh of Burgundy and the French – arguing instead for the refortification of Jaffa and a more direct strike inland towards Jerusalem. In the end, as one crusader put it, ‘the loud voice of the people prevailed’ and a decision was made to stay put. Richard seems not to have recognised it at the time, but he had failed a critical test. The events at Jaffa exposed an ominous deficiency in his skills as a leader. The Lionheart had been well schooled in the affairs of war since childhood; since 1189 his skills and authority as a king had blossomed. But, as yet, he had not grasped the reality of crusading.

With the decision to halt at Jaffa, the crusade lost impetus. Work began to rebuild the port and its defences, even as Saladin completed Ascalon’s destruction. Crusaders, shattered by the horrors of the march from Acre, now basked in the sudden break in hostilities. Among the constant flow of supply ships, vessels packed with prostitutes soon began to appear. With their arrival, bemoaned one Christian eyewitness, the army was again polluted by ‘sin and filth, ugly deeds and lust’. As days turned to weeks, even the will to press on to the Holy City faltered and the expedition started to fragment. Some Franks actually sailed to Acre to enjoy more luxurious comforts, and eventually Richard had to travel north in person to goad these absentees back into action.

On the road to Jerusalem

In the end, the Third Crusade remained stalled around Jaffa and its environs for the best part of seven weeks. This delay gave Saladin time to extend his scorched-earth strategy, demolishing the network of fortifications running from the coast inland to Jerusalem. Richard spent much of October 1191 reassembling his army and, only in the last days of that month, with the normal fighting season drawing to a close, did the expedition begin to advance on Jerusalem. It now faced a challenge unlike any encountered by previous crusades. Back in 1099, the First Crusaders had marched on the Holy City largely unopposed, and in their subsequent siege, arduous though it was, the Franks had encountered a relatively small, isolated enemy force. Now, almost a century later, the Latins could expect to meet far sterner resistance.

Saladin’s power may have weakened in the years since 1187, but he still possessed formidable military resources with which to harass and oppose every step of a Christian approach on the Holy City. And should the crusaders reach Jerusalem, its actual conquest presented manifold difficulties. Protected by a full garrison and stout physical fortifications, the city’s defences would be all but insurmountable, while any besieging army would undoubtedly face fierce counter-attacks from additional Muslim forces in the field. More troubling still was the issue of supply and reinforcement: once the Third Crusade left the coast behind, it would have to rely upon a fragile line of communication back to Jaffa; if broken, Richard and his men would face isolation and probably defeat.

The Lionheart’s primary aim in the autumn of 1191 was the forging of a reliable chain of logistical support running inland. The main road to Jerusalem crossed the coastal plain east of Jaffa, through Ramla to Latrun, before arcing north-east to Beit Nuba in the Judean foothills and then winding east up to the Holy City (although there were alternatives, such as the more northerly route via Lydda). In the course of the twelfth century, the Franks had built a string of fortresses to defend the approaches to Jerusalem. Many of these had been controlled by the Military Orders, but all had fallen to Islam after Hattin.

Saladin’s recent shift in strategy had left the road ahead of the crusaders in a state of desolation. Every major fortified site – including Lydda, Ramla and Latrun – had been dismantled. On 29 October Richard marched on to the plains east of Jaffa and began the painstakingly slow work of rebuilding a string of sites running inland, starting with two forts near Yasur. In military terms, the war now devolved into a series of skirmishes. Marshalling his forces at Ramla, Saladin sought to hound the Franks, impeding their construction efforts while avoiding full-scale confrontation. Once the advance on Jerusalem began, the Lionheart frequently threw himself into the thick of these running battles. In early November 1192, a routine foraging expedition went awry when a group of Templars were attacked and outnumbered. When the news reached him, the king rode to their aid without hesitation, accompanied by Andrew of Chauvigny and Robert, earl of Leicester. The Lionheart arrived ‘roaring’ with bloodlust, striking like a ‘thunderbolt’, and soon forced the Muslims to retreat.

Latin eyewitnesses suggest that some of the king’s companions actually questioned the wisdom of his actions that day. Chiding him for risking his life so readily, they protested that ‘if harm comes to you Christianity will be killed’. Richard was said to have been enraged: ‘The king’s colour changed. Then he said “I sent [these soldiers] here and asked them to go [and] if they die there without me then would [that] I never again bear the title of king.”’ This episode reveals the Lionheart’s determination to operate as a warrior-king in the front line of conflict, but it also suggests that, by this stage, he was taking risks that worried even his closest supporters. It is certainly true that there were real dangers involved in these skirmishes. Just a few weeks later, Andrew of Chauvigny broke his arm while skewering a Muslim opponent during a scuffle near Lydda.

Talking to the enemy

Bold as Richard’s involvement might have been in these inland incursions, his martial offensive was just one facet of a combined strategy. Throughout the autumn and early winter of 1191 the king sought to use diplomacy alongside military threat, perhaps hoping that, when jointly wielded, these two weapons might bring Saladin to the point of submission, forestalling the need for a direct assault on Jerusalem.

In fact, the Lionheart had reopened channels of communication with the enemy just days after the Battle of Arsuf. Around 12 September he sent Humphrey of Toron, the disenfranchised former husband of Isabella, to request a renewal of discussions with al-Adil. Saladin acceded, giving his brother ‘permission to hold talks and the power to negotiate on his own initiative’. One of the sultan’s confidants explained that ‘[Saladin] thought the meetings were in our interest because he saw in the hearts of men that they were tired and disillusioned with the fighting, the hardship and the burden of debts that was on their backs’. In all probability, Saladin was also playing for time and seeking to garner information about the enemy.

In the months to come, reliable intelligence proved to be a precious commodity, and spies seem to have infiltrated both camps. In late September 1191 Saladin narrowly averted a potentially disastrous leak when a group of eastern Christians travelling through the Judean hills were seized and searched. They were found to be carrying extremely sensitive documents – letters from the Ayyubid governor of Jerusalem to the sultan, detailing worrying shortages of grain, equipment and men within the Holy City – which they had intended to present to King Richard. Meanwhile, to furnish a regular supply of Frankish captives for interrogation, Saladin engaged 300 rather disreputable Bedouin thieves to carry out night-time prisoner snatches. For Latin and Muslim alike, however, knowledge of the enemy’s movements and intentions was always fallible. Saladin, for example, was apparently informed that Philip Augustus had died in October 1191. Perhaps more significantly, the Lionheart persistently overestimated Saladin’s military strength for much of the remainder of the crusade.

Throughout autumn and early winter 1191, Richard eagerly maintained a regular dialogue with al-Adil, and, to begin with at least, this contact seems to have been hidden from the Frankish armies. In part, the king must have been driven to negotiation by the rumour that Conrad of Montferrat had opened his own, independent, channel of diplomacy with Saladin. As always, the Lionheart’s willingness to discuss avenues to peace with the enemy did not indicate some pacifistic preference for the avoidance of conflict. Negotiation was a weapon of war: one that might beget a settlement when combined with a military offensive; one that would certainly bring vital intelligence; and, crucially in this phase of the crusade, one that offered an opportunity to sow dissension among the ranks of Islam.



Philip II depicted arriving in Palestine.

The Siege of Acre was the first major confrontation of the Third Crusade.

Even before leaving Jaffa, Richard entered into an intensive period of communication with al-Adil between 18 and 23 October. Initially, the king set out to gauge the enemy’s attitude towards Jerusalem. He wanted to explore the possibility that Saladin might relinquish possession of a city that Richard bluntly stated ‘is the centre of our worship which we shall never renounce, even if there were only one of us left’. But al-Adil conveyed an unequivocal response from the sultan, emphasising Islam’s own reverence for the Holy City and urging the Lionheart ‘not to imagine that we shall give it up, for we are unable to breathe a word of that amongst the Muslims’.

Richard then made an audacious change of tack – one that surprised his adversaries at the time and still confounds modern historians to this day. The king had already made a point of cultivating an amicable relationship with al-Adil, apparently describing him as ‘my brother and my friend’ in conversation. He now took the far grander step of proposing an extraordinary marriage alliance between Latin Christendom and Islam, in which al-Adil would be wed to Richard’s own sister, Joanne. This union would form the basis of a peace agreement in which ‘the sultan should give to al-Adil all the coastal lands that he held and make him king of [Palestine]’, with Jerusalem to serve ‘as the seat of [the royal couple’s] realm’. This new polity would remain part of Saladin’s empire, but Christians would be given free access to the Holy City. Al-Adil and Joanne would command the region’s castles, while the Christian Military Orders would take control of its villages. The pact would be sealed by an exchange of prisoners and the return of the True Cross. With a flourish of seeming magnanimity, the Lionheart proclaimed that the acceptance of this deal would bring the crusade to an immediate end and prompt his return to the West.

Because this offer was not recorded in any surviving contemporary Christian source (being mentioned only in Arabic texts) it is difficult accurately to assess how such an apparently outrageous arrangement might have been greeted by Richard’s Frankish compatriots. The Lionheart seems to have kept the entire affair a closely guarded secret, even initially from his sister, but whether he took the whole idea seriously, or whether it was merely intended as a ruse, remains uncertain. What is clear is that al-Adil viewed it as a genuine proposal. In diplomatic terms, Richard’s proposition possessed a masterful subtlety. Alive to the potential tensions between Saladin and al-Adil – the latter’s position as trusted brother being balanced by the threat he posed to the sultan’s son and heir – the English king made an offer that al-Adil could not ignore, but one that could also make him appear to be harbouring personal ambitions. Acutely aware of this implication, al-Adil refused to convey the news of Richard’s scheme to Saladin in person, instead deputising Baha al-Din, instructing him to speak with strict caution.

Saladin actually agreed to the terms, although he may have believed that Richard would never go through with the plan and was merely trying to ‘mock and deceive him’. Certainly, within a few days the Lionheart sent news that his sister would be unable to marry a Muslim and now suggested that al-Adil should convert to Christianity, leaving ‘the door open for negotiations’.

A few weeks later, with the Third Crusade now grinding out its advance on Judea, Richard once again requested a parley. He and al-Adil met in an opulently appointed tent, pitched just beyond the Muslim front line at Ramla, on 8 November 1191. The atmosphere was almost convivial. The pair exchanged ‘foods, luxuries and presents’, tasting delicacies from their respective cultures; Richard asked to hear some Arabic music and a female musician was duly ushered in to entertain him with singing and the playing of a harp. Having talked through the day, ‘they parted’, in the words of one Muslim witness, ‘in amity and good spirits as firm friends’, even though the Lionheart’s repeated requests for a direct meeting with Saladin were declined.

Now, for the first time, the king’s negotiations with the enemy became public knowledge in the crusader camp, prompting considerable criticism. One Christian eyewitness noted that Richard and al-Adil ‘seemed to develop a sort of mutual friendship’, exchanging gifts including seven camels and an excellent tent. The general feeling among the Franks appears to have been that this diplomacy was ill advised. The Lionheart was said to have been fooled by the façade of generosity and goodwill into delaying the advance on Jerusalem – an error ‘for which he was much blamed and much criticised’ – and outmanoeuvred by Saladin’s brother, who ‘trapped the overly credulous king with his shrewdness’. This notion of Richard as a befuddled pawn, manipulated by the devious political operator al-Adil, does not match up with the depiction of the Lionheart as a diplomat by Muslim sources. Indeed, the Mosuli chronicler Ibn al-Athir openly praised Richard, noting that ‘the king [met with al-Adil] as a skilful stratagem’.

In fact, the English king seems to have been a wily negotiator. A different man might have felt stymied by Saladin’s continued refusal of direct dialogue, but Richard sought to turn this factor to his advantage. On 9 November he sent the sultan an artful message, capitalising on the concessions made weeks earlier: ‘You have said that you granted these coastal lands to your brother. I want you to be an arbitrator between him and me and to divide these lands between [us].’ The Christians would need ‘some hold on Jerusalem’, but he wanted there to ‘be no blame on [al-Adil] from the Muslims and none on me from the Franks’. Richard’s rather devious underlying intention was to shift the whole basis of the negotiations, encouraging Saladin to think of himself as a magnanimous arbitrator and not an arch-opponent. At least some of the sultan’s advisers ‘were greatly impressed by this approach.

In the field of diplomatic machination, however, Saladin was, at the very least, Richard’s equal. Throughout the autumn, the sultan had been in contact with Conrad of Montferrat, a fact he made no effort to hide from the Lionheart – indeed, Conrad’s envoy even occasionally ‘went riding with al-Adil, observing the Franks as the Muslims engaged them in battle’, a spectacle which, it was believed, prompted the English king to redouble his own efforts at negotiation. Looking to exploit the rift between Richard and the marquis, Saladin pushed for a ‘show of open hostility to the Franks from overseas’, promising that if Conrad attacked crusader-held Acre he would be rewarded with an independent principality including Beirut and Sidon. The sultan juggled the negotiations with Richard and Conrad with panache, even lodging their respective envoys in different parts of his camp on the same day, all the while aiming, in the words of one of his advisers, ‘to cause dissension amongst them’.

By 11 November, however, with the crusaders now threatening Ramla, Saladin was willing to deal in earnest. He assembled his counsellors to debate the relative merits of forging a truce with Conrad or Richard. The marquis’ strength was certainly growing – he now had the backing of much of the nobility of the former Latin kingdom – but, ultimately, he was deemed less reliable than the Lionheart. Instead, the council backed an agreement with the English king based on an equitable division of Palestine that would see al-Adil and Joanne married and Christian ‘priests in the shrines and churches of Jerusalem’. In the end, perhaps believing that he had Saladin backed into a corner, Richard responded to this significant offer with prevarication. For the union to be permissible, he argued, the pope would have to give his blessing and this would take three months. Even as the message was being delivered the Lionheart was readying his troops to advance on Ramla and beyond.

To take the HOLY CITY

By early November 1191 the work to refortify the region around Yasur had been completed. Richard took the next step towards Jerusalem on 15 November, moving the crusader army forward to a position between Lydda and Ramla. Saladin retreated before him, leaving the two settlements – their defences shattered – to the Franks and, in the weeks that followed, he moved back first to Latrun and then, around 12 December, took refuge in Jerusalem itself. Although Muslim forces continued to harry the Latins throughout this period, in some sense at least the path to the gates of the Holy City was now open.

But even as his men hurriedly sought to rebuild Ramla, the Lionheart had to confront a new enemy: winter. On the open plain, its onset brought a ferocious change in the weather. Lashed by driving rain, freezing in plummeting temperatures, the crusaders spent six miserable weeks stockpiling food and weapons at Ramla, securing the supply line back to Jaffa, before inching their way forward first to Latrun, and then on to reach the small dismantled fortress near Beit Nuba, at the foot of the Judean hills, soon after Christmas. They were now just twelve miles from Jerusalem.

Conditions within the army that December were appalling. One eyewitness wrote:

It was cold and overcast . . . Rain and hail battered us, bringing down our tents. We lost so many horses at Christmas and both before and after, so many biscuits were wasted, soggy with water, so much salt pork went bad in the storms; hauberks rusted so that they could hardly be cleaned; clothes rotted; people suffered from malnourishment so that they were in great distress.

And yet, by all accounts, morale among the ordinary soldiers was high. After long months, and in some cases years, of struggle, they were now practically within sight of their goal. ‘They had an indescribable yearning to see the city of Jerusalem and complete their pilgrimage’, noted one Latin contemporary, while a crusader in the army recalled, ‘no one was angry or sad . . . everywhere was joy and happiness and [everyone] said together “God, now we are going on the right way, guided by Your grace.”’ Enduring commitment to the cause of the holy war seems to have inspired them, even amidst the anguish of a winter campaign. Like their crusading forefathers back in 1099, they were now ready, desperate even, to besiege the Holy City, regardless of the risk and privation involved.

The question was whether King Richard shared their fervour. As the new year of 1192 began, he had a crucial decision to make. The crusade had taken almost two months to advance just thirty miles towards Jerusalem. The line of communication with the coast still held but was subject to near-daily Muslim raids. Mounting a siege of the city in these conditions, in the bitter heart of winter, would be a mammoth undertaking and a huge gamble. And yet, the bulk of the Latin army clearly expected that an assault would be made.

Around 10 January, the Lionheart convened a council to debate the best course of action. Its shocking conclusion was that the Third Crusade should retreat from Beit Nuba, turning its back on Jerusalem. Officially it was said that a powerful lobby of Templars, Hospitallers and Latin barons native to the Levant persuaded Richard. The dangers of undertaking a siege while Saladin still possessed a field army were too severe, they argued, and anyway, the Franks lacked the manpower adequately to garrison the Holy City even if it did, by some miracle, fall. ‘[These] wiser men were not of the opinion that they should acquiesce in the common people’s rash desires [to besiege Jerusalem]’, recalled one contemporary, and instead they advised that the expedition ‘should return and fortify Ascalon’, cutting Saladin’s supply line between Palestine and Egypt. In truth, the king probably packed the council with those sympathetic to his own views and knew only too well what its recommendations would be. For now, at least, Richard was not willing to stake the fate of the entire holy war on the outcome of so hazardous a campaign. On 13 January he broadcast the order to retire from Beit Nuba.

This was an earth-shattering pronouncement, but in recent scholarship Richard’s decision has been viewed in a positive light. Championed by the likes of John Gillingham as an astute general whose decision making was governed by martial reality and not pious fantasy, the Lionheart has been widely praised for his cautious strategy. Hans Mayer, for example, concluded that ‘in view of Saladin’s tactics, [Richard’s decision] was the right one’.

In fact, the truth of the matter will never be known. One crusader eyewitness later concluded that the Franks missed an enormous opportunity to capture Jerusalem because they did not appreciate ‘the distress, the suffering and the weakness’ of the Muslim forces garrisoning the city, and to an extent he was right. Struggling to maintain his exhausted troops in the field, Saladin had been forced to disband the majority of his army after 12 December, leaving the Holy City dangerously undermanned. Ten days passed before Abu’l Haija the Fat arrived with Egyptian reinforcements. Throughout this period a decisive and determined move to assault Jerusalem might have broken Saladin’s will, fracturing his already fragile hold over the Muslim alliance and plunging Near Eastern Islam into disarray. On balance, however, Richard was probably right to forgo such a massive gamble.

Even so, the Lionheart should not escape reproach for his conduct in this phase of the crusade. To date, historians have ignored a fundamental feature of his decision making. If, in January 1192, it was so obvious to Richard’s military advisers and probably to the king himself that the Holy City was unconquerable and untenable, why had that same reality not been apparent months earlier, before the crusade ever left Jaffa? The king – the supposed master of military science – should surely have recognised in October 1191 that Jerusalem was a near-impossible military target and one that could never be retained. Writing in the early thirteenth century, Ibn al-Athir tried to reconstruct the Lionheart’s thinking at Beit Nuba. He conjured up a scene in which Richard asked to see a map of the Holy City; once aware of its topography, the king supposedly concluded that Jerusalem could not be taken while Saladin still commanded a field army. But this is little more than an imaginative reconstruction. Richard’s character and experience suggest that he would carefully have assembled the fullest possible picture of strategic intelligence before mounting the advance from Jaffa.

The Lionheart probably set foot on the road to Jerusalem in late October 1191 with little or no intention of actually prosecuting an attack on the city. This means that his advance was effectively a feint – the military component of a combined offensive in which a show of martial aggression augmented intensive diplomatic contact. Richard sought that autumn and winter to test Saladin’s resolve and resources, but was ever ready to step back from the brink if a clear opportunity for victory failed to materialise. In all this, the king acted according to the best precepts of medieval generalship, but he failed to account for the distinct nature of crusading warfare.

The impact of the retreat upon Christian morale and the overall prospects of the crusade were catastrophic. Even Ambroise, the Lionheart’s vocal supporter, acknowledged that:

[When] it was realised that the army was to turn back (let it not be called retreat), then was the army, which had been so eager in its advance, so discouraged, that not since God created time was there ever seen an army so dejected and so depressed . . . Nothing remained of the joy they had had before when they were to go to the [Holy] Sepulchre . . . Everyone cursed the day he was born.

Now a stunned and bedraggled rabble, the army limped back to Ramla. From there, depression and disillusionment ripped the expedition apart. Hugh of Burgundy and many of the French decamped. Some returned to Jaffa, others went off to Acre, where food and earthly comforts were plentiful. Richard was left to lead a severely weakened force south-west to Ascalon.

The production MiG-9 in detail

The MiG-9 was a cantilever mid-wing monoplane of all-metal construction with a smooth stressed skin and a retractable tricycle undercarriage. To simplify the process of assembly the aircraft was divided into several production units.

Fuselage: semi-monocoque stressed-skin structure. Duralumin was used as the main structural material.

Technologically the fuselage was built in two sections – the forward fuselage (frames Nos. 1 through 15a) and the rear fuselage (frames Nos. 15 through 35), which were joined together by fittings. The fuselage structure incorporated two air ducts supplying air to the engines. The ducts had an elliptic cross-section changing to circular at the rear and ran along the fuselage sides, flanking the cockpit.

The forward fuselage housed the armament, the nose landing gear unit, the cockpit with the canopy, controls and appropriate equipment, a fuel tank and other units. The forward fuselage framework consisted of four variable-section longerons, 15 frames, a number of stringers, two beams for the installation of the nose gear unit and two beams for the attachment of the armament. Attached to frame No. 1 was the front fairing which formed the aircraft’s nose with a bifurcated air intake for the powerplant. The inlet ducts were structurally joined to the beams of the nose gear unit and to the armament attachment beams. Together with the floor of the cockpit, the skinning and the longitudinal structural members they formed a structure sustaining all the stresses of the forward fuselage.

The framework of the rear fuselage consisted of four longerons, 20 frames, a number of stringers and two ribs to which the main undercarriage units were attached. The aft fuselage housed equipment, wiring and control units, as well as two bag-type fuel tanks in containers. A heat shield protecting the fuselage undersurface from hot exhaust gases was mounted between frames Nos. 19 and 34. Between frames Nos. 19 and 29 the fuselage was structurally integral with the lower part of the fin. Lugs for mounting the stabilizers and the fin were installed on frames Nos. 32, 34 and 35.

The landing gear attachment ribs together with the wing attachment beam and engine attachment beam formed a load-bearing structure absorbing the loads from the undercarriage, the wings and the engines.

The cockpit was placed in the forward fuselage over the engines within the space between frame No. 5 and the sloping frame No. 11 a. The cockpit canopy had a streamlined shape, consisting of a fixed windshield and an aft-sliding rear portion which could be jettisoned in an emergency. Aft of frame No. 5 the cockpit floor was partly formed by the inlet ducts. The rear part of the floor adjoining the rear wall of the cockpit sloped in such a way that the pilot’s seat was placed between the engines. The seat was a duralumin pan of the usual type, designed to accommodate a parachute and attached to the cockpit floor by brackets. The seat was provided with a harness comprising leg belts and shoulder straps. A padded seat back was attached to the rear cockpit wall. A padded headrest was attached to the rear bow of the sliding part of the canopy. The cockpit armour comprised two steel armour plates 12 mm (0.47 in.) thick and, on some machines, a 55-mm (2.16-in.) bulletproof glass plate mounted in the front part of the windshield. An attachment unit for the centrally-mounted cannon was installed in the cockpit on suitably stressed elements of the structure; the cockpit also housed the control stick and rudder pedals.

Wings: unswept wings of trapezoidal planform and all-metal two-spar riveted construction, built as one-piece panels attached to the fuselage sides. Incidence 1°, dihedral 2.5° and thickness-to-chord ratio 9% over the entire span.

The wings employed a combination of airfoil sections. A low-lift TsAGI1-A-1 0 airfoil was used in the span segment between ribs Nos. 1 and 3; a high-lift TsAGI1-V-1 0 airfoil was used between rib No. 6 and the wingtip, and the span segment in between featured a transitional airfoil section. This combination of airfoil sections precluded the possibility of the aircraft entering a spin at high angles of attack.

The wing framework comprised two spars, 21 ribs and a number of stringers. The wings were equipped with Frise ailerons and TsAGI-type slotted flap§. (modified Fowler flaps). The flaps occupied the portion of the trailing edge between ribs Nos. 1 and 11, the ailerons being accommodated between ribs Nos. 11 and No. 21. The ailerons’ maximum deflection angle was +22S/-14S. The flaps were set at 20° for take-off and 50° for landing. The trailing-edge section of the wings between ribs Nos. 1 and 6 had a cutout for the wheel wells. The wings also housed six bag-type fuel tanks which were placed in containers.

Tail unit: the empennage was of all-metal construction, featuring high-set cantilever stabilisers. The tail surfaces employed a NACA0009 symmetric airfoil section. The fin and the stabilisers were detachable. The horizontal tail was built in two symmetrical halves, each half having two spars and 11 ribs. The front stabiliser attachment fittings were of a rack type, permitting the incidence of the stabilisers to be adjusted on the ground between the angles of +1°10′ and -4°. The starboard elevator incorporated a steerable trim tab.

The fin structure was similar to that of the stabilisers. The fin’s frame comprised two spars and six ribs. The elevators were of allmetal construction and were attached to the stabilisers by five brackets. The all-metal rudder was attached by three brackets to the fin and the fuselage.

Landing gear: pneumatically retractable tricycle type, with single wheel on each unit. The wheel base was 3.02 m (9 ft 11 in.). All three units had levered suspension and oleopneumatic shock absorbers, those on the main undercarriage struts being mounted externally. The main units retracted outwards into the wings, the nose unit aft into the fuselage. The levered-suspension main units had 660 x 160 mm (25.74 x 6.24 in) wheels equipped with brakes and mounted on semiforks. The nose unit had a non-braking wheel measuring 480 x 200 mm (18.72 x 7.8 in); it featured an attachment point, an integral shock absorber, a shimmy damper, an uplock, a downlock and a retraction jack. Each mainwheel well was closed by two doors, the bigger one being attached to the main gear strut and the smaller one to the wing; the nosewheel well had a forward door segment hinged to the nose gear oleo and two lateral doors at the rear.

Powerplant: two RD-20 Series A2 single-shaft axial-flow turbojets delivering 800 kgp (1,764 Ib st) each. The engine had a seven-stage compressor, a single-stage turbine with air-cooled blades and a variable nozzle with a movable centre-body. Each engine had its own Riedel two-cylinder two-stroke starter.

The fuel (kerosene) was accommodated in ten tanks. Four tanks (including three bagtype tanks) were housed in the aft fuselage, the remaining six were located in the wings. The total capacity of the fuel system was 1,595 litres (351 Imp gal), of which 1,225 litres (269.5 Imp gal) could be carried in the four fuselage tanks. To facilitate engine start-up a special start-up fuel system using more easily combustible petrol was provided.

Armament: production MiG-9s were equipped with one centrally-mounted 37-mm (1.45 calibre) Nudel’man N-37 cannon with 40 rounds and two 23-mm (.90 calibre) Nudel’man/ Sooranov NS-23K cannons with 80 rpg. The N-37 weighed 103 kg (227 Ib) and possessed a rate of fire of 400 rounds per minute, the muzzle velocity of the shell being 700 m/sec (2,296 ft/sec). The NS-23K cannon had a rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 680 m/sec (2,230 ft/sec). The N-37 protruded 1.16 m (3 ft 9.67 in.) beyond the plane of the air intake lip, while the NS-23K cannons protruded 0.5 m (1 ft 7.68 in.). The ammunition boxes were accommodated in an equipment bay between fuselage frames Nos. 1 and 6.

It should be noted that some production aircraft were provided with attachment points for a centrally-mounted cannon of a larger calibre. Thus, the first three machines of the ‘parade’ batch (c/ns 106001 through 106003) were provided with attachment points, ammunition box and link and case chutes for the 57-mm (2.24 calibre) Nudel’man N-57 (izdeliye 120P) cannon. MiG-9s with c/ns 106004 through 112001 were fitted only with attachment points for the N-57 cannon (they differed in having an increased-diameter internal bore).

Avionics and equipment: The basic range of equipment installed on production MiG-9s comprised the following items: an RSI-6 CRei-VM’) short-wave transceiver; an RPKO-10M direction finder, a single 1.5-kilowatt GSK-1500 DC generator driven by one of the engines, a 12-A-10 DC battery and an RU-45A AC converter. The cockpit housed flight and navigation instruments and engine control instruments: a US-1 000 airspeed indicator, a VD-12 altimeter, an electrical gyro horizon combined with a Horn-type turn indicator; a PDK-44 compass, a VR-30 vertical speed indicator, a TF-15 tachometer, an MP-80 kerosene pressure gauge, an EDMU-1 gas pressure gauge, a TVG-44 exhaust gas thermometer, a BE-296 fuel gauge and TME-45 engine oil thermometers.

A single-wire aerial was attached with one end to a strut which was mounted on a fuselage frame, offset to starboard; the other end of the aerial was attached to the fin.

The aircraft was fitted with a PKI-1 reflector gunsight which was later replaced by an ASP-1 N optical sight; some machines were provided with an S-13 gun camera in the wing/fuselage fairing.

Oxygen system: a KP-14 breathing apparatus which ensured oxygen supply for the pilot to an altitude of up to 12 kilometres (39,370 ft).

Control system: conventional mechanical control system comprising control stick, rudder pedals and trim tabs. The stick was connected to the ailerons and elevators by push-pull rods and bellcranks, while the rudder was controlled by means of steel cables. The elevator trim tab installed on the starboard elevator was controlled electrically.


The initial-production 1-300s (by then the type had been allocated the service designation MiG-9) were to be powered by BMW 003A engines, a small stock of which had been captured in Germany. Known in service as the RD-20 Series A1, these original German engines had a TBO of only ten hours. Subsequently the Kazan’ engine factory No. 16 managed to increase the TBO of 50 hours; the longer-life Kazan’-built engines were designated RD-20 Srs A2.

The time limits set for the manufacture of small batches of jet fighters seemed absolutely impracticable; nevertheless, all the plants did what they were expected to do. The first production MiG-9 (c/n 106001) was completed on 13th October; the remaining nine aircraft (c/ns 106002 through 106010) were assembled by 22nd October. All of them were virtually hand-made, next to no production tooling being available; structurally they were basically identical to the second and third prototypes. The fighters were transported to the airfield in Ramenskoye by rail, and as early as 26th October Mark L. Gallai flew the first production machine. In addition to Gallai and Shiyanov, production MiG-9s were flown by GK Nil VVS test pilot L. M. Koovshinov; later, other military pilots selected for demonstrating the aircraft over the Red Square on 7th November joined in the conversion to jet fighters. Preparations for the aviation part of the military parade were fully completed, yet the flypast on that festive day had to be cancelled due to adverse weather.

In October, while military pilots were preparing for the anniversary parade, the final stage of the 1-300’s manufacturer’s flight tests began, preceded by live weapons trials at a shooting range. Mark Gallai was tasked with testing the armament in the air. This was the most dangerous mission, since there was no prior experience in the USSR of large-calibre automatic cannons being fired in the air on jet aircraft. On 10th and 17th October Gallai performed flights to an artillery shooting range in Noginsk east of Moscow where he fired the weapons; these flights showed that the aircraft behaved normally when the 37-mm cannon mounted in the air intake splitter was fired.

Generally the performance figures obtained in the course of the 1-300’s manufacturer’s flight tests were fairly impressive. The range at an altitude of 5,000 m (16,404 ft) and 563 km/h (304 kts) indicated airspeed was 633 km (393 miles), the endurance being 1 hour 2 minutes. With one engine shut down and the fighter flying at 360 km/h (194.6 kts) IAS, the maximum range at 5,000 m increased to 726 km (451 miles), the endurance being 1 hour 40 minutes. Remarkably, the aircraft showed no tendency to yaw when flying on the power of one engine.

When the manufacturer’s flight tests were coming to an end, M. Gallai had a narrow escape on the F-3 when the horizontal tail disintegrated; the pilot had to muster all his skill to make it back to base and land the damaged aircraft in one piece. A while later, in February 1947, a similar accident happened on the F-2 flown by GK Nil WS test pilot Yuriy A. Antipov during the State acceptance trials – it also suffered a structural failure of the stabiliser. Fortunately, once again the pilot managed a safe landing. As a result, urgent steps had to be taken to reinforce the fighter’s airframe and make some other improvements; both affected aircraft were repaired.

Manufacturer’s flight tests of the F-2 went on through the second half of November and the first half of December; on 17th December the machine was handed over to GK Nil WS for State acceptance trials. The F-3 had been handed over to the military institute ten days earlier, on 7th December 1946. However, in 18 accordance with the Council of Ministers directive No. 1249-511 ss dated 5th June 1946 the 1-300 (MiG-9) was to be presented for State acceptance trials as early as 1st September. Thus, the design bureau was nearly three and a half months late in handing the machines over to GK Nil WS. Later, in the autumn of 1946, the Government revised the State acceptance trials commencement date and the number of machines to be handed over was increased to four (they included the first two machines of the initial-production batch and the two surviving prototypes). However, bearing in mind the haste in which the small batch had been built in Kuibyshev, the transfer of the production fighters to GK Nil WS was delayed in order to subject the airframes to a more thorough check.

The State acceptance trials of the F-2 were interrupted on 5th April 1947 when test pilot D. G. Pikoolenko had to make a belly landing because of an engine failure. There were also other flight incidents. In one of the flights Pikoolenko discovered that the aircraft tended to pitch up in maximum-speed flight. Antipov decided to repeat the flight profile and get a personal impression of what had happened, but when the machine was flying at approximately 5,000 m (16,400 ft) the stabiliser suddenly disintegrated (this accident happened in February). In both cases the aircraft was saved thanks to the skill and courage of the pilots. Fortunately, in each case the pilots succeeded in landing the fighter safely at the risk of their lives, using ailerons for lateral control and ‘playing’ with the throttles for pitch control. This made it possible to trace the causes of the accidents and make appropriate changes to the tailplane design.

After repairs and necessary improvements had been made, the trials of the second prototype resumed on 21 st May and were duly completed on 29th May. Somewhat earlier, on 19th May, the testing of the F-3 was completed, too. Between 2nd June and 24th June the institute held armament trials on the F-2; these were not part of the State acceptance trials programme.

State acceptance trials of the second production machine (c/n 106002) were started on 8th May 1947, continuing until 21 st June. Testing of the first production MiG-9 (c/n 106001) which had passed manufacturer’s flight tests with two 260-litre (57.2 Imp gal) drop tanks under the wingtips between 27th December 1946 and 5th April 1947, began on 28th April (also with drop tanks); on 8th May the fighter had to be grounded because its RD-20 engines had to be replaced but no replacement engines were available at the institute. The aircraft rejoined the State acceptance trials programme on 2nd June, this time in ‘clean’ configuration, completing them on 21 June together with the second production machine.

During the State acceptance trials the MiG-9 was flown by GK Nil VVS test pilots A. G. Proshakov, A. Khripkov, A. G. Koobyshkin, Yu. A. Antipov, P. M. Stefanovskiy and D. G. Pikoolenko, while Engineer-Major A. S. Rozanov was in charge of the machine. The military test pilots performed hundreds of flights on the four jet MiGs, determining their performance, firing the weapons, studying and evolving the methods of their combat employment in first-line units. More than 200 aerobatic manoeuvres were performed and there was not a single case of the engines flaming out. The 1-300 has the distinction of being the first Soviet jet aircraft on which a spin was performed.

The use of four machines was due primarily to the wide scope of the trials programme which could not be effected within a short time frame on one or two aircraft. Thus, the F-2 (or MiG-9 No. 02, as it was referred to in the GK Nil VVS report) was used between 17th December 1946 and 5th April 1947 for determining the stability and handling characteristics, as well as field performance with American-made wheels borrowed from a Bell P-63 Kingcobra. Between 7th and 21 st May 1947 the institute assessed the changes made by the manufacturer when updating the aircraft; the armament was tested between 2nd and 24th June 1947, having been installed immediately prior to that.

Kuibyshev-built MiG-9 cln 106002 was used in May and June 1947 for determining the range and endurance, as well as field performance with Soviet-made wheels, and assessing the functioning of the radio equipment. MiG-9 c/n 106001 served for assessing the fighter’s agility, aerobatic capabilities and structural strength limits in June 1947. The F-3 (or aircraft No. 03) was used for determining the speed limits and basic flight performance (with the exception of range and endurance). Besides, in July-December 1947 the fifth aircraft of the ‘parade’ batch (MiG-9 c/n 106005) was used by GK Nil WS for special tests involving mock combat with the Lavochkin La-9, Bell P-63C Kingcobra, Supermarine Spitfire Mk IX and Yak-15. The fourth aircraft of the initial batch (MiG-9 c/n 106004) underwent State acceptance trials to determine the influence of firing the weapons on the engines’ operation at altitudes in excess of 7,000 m (22,965 ft); more will be said about this a while later.

Still, despite the numerous shortcomings and defects, the MiG-9’s assessment by the State commission can be considered favourable. Generally the military were quite pleased with the fighter’s handling qualities; as for speed, rate of climb at high altitudes and altitude performance, it was markedly superior to piston-engined fighters then in service with the Soviet Air Force. Also, the MiG-9 had no equals in the Soviet Union regarding its firepower – the other contenders from A. S. Yakovlev’s OKB-115 (the Yak-15) and S. A. Lavochkin’s OKB-301 (the ‘150’) were armed with only two 23-mm cannons (on the other hand, their engines did not flame out when the cannons were fired, ‘whereas much work was still needed to enable the MiG-9 to actually produce a high weight of fire). In comparison with the Me 262 Mikoyan’s fighter had a lower take-off weight and surpassed the German jet virtually in all performance characteristics except range. The British Gloster Meteor F. 3 and the American Lockheed P-80A Shooting Star which had been designed and built somewhat earlier were also inferior in performance to the MiG-9 (again with the exception of range). A while later, improved versions of the Western fighters outperformed the Mikoyan twinjet, but that was achieved primarily thanks to the installation of more powerful engines (the Soviet Union was still seriously lagging behind the Western world in aero engine design at the time). As regards the armament, the MiG-9 was roughly on a par with the Meteor (the latter was armed with a quartet of 20-mm cannons) but could not use the armament with the same efficiency (the Meteor’s wing-mounted engines could not possibly flame out when the cannons were fired in a salvo). The Shooting Star, on the other hand, was considerably inferior to the Soviet fighter as regards weight of fire (it was armed with six 12.7-mm machine-guns), but, again, it could fire its weapons without any limitations, since the six 12.7-mm (.50 calibre) machine-guns did not have such a marked effect on engine operation.

Despite obvious shortcomings and defects, full-scale production of the MiG-9 began at Plant NO. 1 in Kuibyshev when the State acceptance trials were still under way. The production version was known in-house at OKB-155 as the 1-301, aka izdeliye FS, the S standing for sereeynoye (production, used attributively). The haste with launching production was again due to the wish of the nation’s leaders to demonstrate the country’s air power at the 1947 May Day parade. Besides, the Soviet government strongly believed that for want of something better one should build in series aircraft that were available at the moment and rectify their shortcomings in the process of production.

As noted earlier, the majority of production MiG-9s were powered by RD-20 Srs A2 engines built by the Kazan’ engine factory No. 16. The armament of production fighters comprised one N-37 cannon and two NS-23K cannons. In March and April a batch of 48 aircraft intended for the May Day parade was manufactured, supplemented by one more machine for OKB-155, whereupon series production of the MiG-9 was suspended. Building on recommendations from TsAGI and the results of the manufacturer’s flight tests and State acceptance tests, the OKB introduced a number of changes into the fighter’s design in May and June 1947. The fuel system was improved; airbrakes were incorporated into the wing trailing edge just outboard of the flaps. The fin area was increased and a fin fillet added to improve directional stability; also, the rudder and elevator skin which had been made of elektron magnesium alloy was replaced by duralumin and the framework of these control surfaces was strengthened. Air suction inside the fuselage was eliminated and the shape of the fuselage fairing aft of the engine nozzles was changed in order to ensure a smoother flow of engine exhaust gases.

In the course of three years a total of 610 MiG-9s was manufactured, 604 of them being production machines. As noted earlier, the first ten examples of the initial-production (‘parade’) batch were manufactured in great haste in 1946.

Nuremberg Night 30/31 March 1944

This would normally have been the moon stand-down period for the Main Force, but a raid to the distant target of Nuremberg was planned on the basis of an early forecast that there would be protective high cloud on the outward route, when the moon would be up, but that the target area would be clear for ground-marked bombing. A Meteorological Flight Mosquito carried out a reconnaissance and reported that the protective cloud was unlikely to be present and that there could be cloud over the target, but the raid was not cancelled.

795 aircraft were dispatched – 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitoes. The German controller ignored all the diversions and assembled his fighters at 2 radio beacons which happened to be astride the route to Nuremberg. The first fighters appeared just before the bombers reached the Belgian border and a fierce battle in the moonlight lasted for the next hour. 82 bombers were lost on the outward route and near the target. The action was much reduced on the return flight, when most of the German fighters had to land, but 95 bombers were lost in all – 64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes, 11.9 percent of the force dispatched. It was the biggest Bomber Command loss of the war.

The bomber dived violently and turned to the north, but because of good visibility we were able to keep him in sight. I now attempted a second attack after he had settled on his course, but because the Lancaster was now very slow we always came out too far to the front. I tried the Schräge Musik again and after another burst the bomber fell in flames.

The words belong to Oberleutnant Helmut Schulte of II./NJG 5 as he describes the last moments of a Lancaster on the night of 30/31 March 1944. The target that night was the ancient city of Nuremberg, the shrine of Nazism, and flying a Bf 110G-4 fitted with Schräge Musik his success contributed to what turned out to be Bomber Command’s worst night of the war.

The choice of target, deep in the heart of Bavaria in southern Germany, was an interesting one, as it was not considered to be of industrial importance. There were, however, several small factories around the city and it was a central link in rail and water communications. But any route taken to Nuremberg meant passing close to known heavily defended areas. Furthermore, the moonlight meant that it should have been a period of stand-down for the Main Force but a favourable weather forecast, with protective cloud cover all the way to the target and clear conditions over Nuremberg, led to the decision being made to go ahead with this distant raid.

The Bomber Command pump was again full-on with the squadrons producing aircraft and crews in large numbers. It had been less than a week since the last raid against Berlin (which had involved 800 aircraft) and just four nights since Essen (over 700), but, even so, 795 aircraft were made available for the Nuremberg raid.

For the Beetham crew of 50 Squadron it was to be their twenty-first op. Their experience that night is best told through the words in Les Bartlett’s wartime diary:

Such a nice day today, little did we know what was in store for us. Briefing was getting later each day as the days grew longer, and today it was 5 pm, so we all had an afternoon nap. The target was Nuremberg. Where was that? ‘Oh, this should be a nice quiet stooge’, someone said, but that remained to be seen. At 10 pm we taxied out and were first airborne. Everything was quiet during the climb to 20,000 feet over the Channel. We crossed the enemy coast and it was eyes wide open. As we drew level with the south of the Ruhr Valley, things began to happen. Enemy night fighters were all around us and, in no time at all, combats were taking place and aircraft were going down in flames on both sides. So serious was the situation, that I remember looking at the poor blighters going down and thinking to myself that it must be our turn next, just a question of time. A Lancaster appeared on our port beam, converging, so we dropped 100 feet or so to let him cross. He was only about 200 yards or so on our starboard beam when a string of cannon shells hit him and down he went. We altered course for Nuremberg, and I looked down at the area over which we had just passed. It looked like a battlefield. There were kites burning on the deck all over the place – bombs going off where they had been jettisoned by bombers damaged in combat, and fires from their incendiaries across the whole area. Such a picture of aerial disaster I had never seen before and hope to never see again. On the way into the target, the winds became changeable and we almost ran into the defences of Schweinfurt but we altered course in time. The defences of Nuremberg were nothing to speak of, a modest amount of heavy flak which did not prevent us doing a normal approach, and we were able to get the target indicators dropped by the Pathfinders in our bombsight to score direct hits with our 4,000lb ‘Cookie’ and our 1,000lb bombs and incendiaries. We were able to get out of the target area, always a dodgy business, and set course for home. To reach the coast was a binding two-hour stooge. The varying winds were leading us a dance. We found ourselves approaching Calais instead of being 80 miles further south, so we had a slight detour to avoid their defences. Once near the enemy coast, it was nose down for home at 300 knots. Even then, we saw some poor blokes ‘buy it’ over the Channel. What a relief it was to be flying over Lincoln Cathedral once more. Back in debriefing, we heard the full story of the squadron’s effort. It was the worst night for the squadron.

Bartlett and his crew had been lucky. It appears the weather forecast had been wrong and several wind-finding errors were made, causing the Main Force to become scattered. One-in-five bombers, it is reckoned, missed one of the turning points by at least 30 miles.

For the experienced crews who had spent the past few months clawing their way through varying densities of cloud to attack the major cities in Germany, including Berlin, the conditions just did not feel right. An attempt to deceive the German controllers of the intended target had failed; the lack of H2S transmissions coming from the Mosquitos carrying out spoof attacks against Cologne and Kassel making these attempts to deceive the defences easily recognized for what they were. And if this was not bad enough, a long straight leg of 270 miles to the target made the actual area of attack predictable.

Everything seemed to favour the defenders. Not only had the bombers become scattered over a wide area, the atmospheric conditions meant that condensation trails from their engines formed at a much lower height than normal. Also, there had been little or no cloud over much of Belgium and eastern France, and even where there was some cloud it was very thin and offered little or no protection. Over Holland and the Ruhr the sky was clear and the bright half-moon lit up the trails, making the bombers visible from many miles away.

The first night fighters appeared before many of the Main Force had even reached the Belgian border, enabling them to constantly harass the bombers for the next hour. Falling bombers merely presented a trail of fires as they crashed to earth. By the time the Main Force approached Nuremberg some eighty bombers had been shot down with dozens more having aborted their mission either because of damage sustained or for other technical reasons.

Helmut Schulte was one to get amongst the main bomber stream at 20,000 feet with ease. In Spick’s Luftwaffe Fighter Aces Schulte described what happened next:

I sighted a Lancaster and got underneath it and opened fire with my slanting weapon. Unfortunately it jammed, so that only a few shots put out of action the starboard inner motor. The bomber dived violently and turned to the north, but because of good visibility we were able to keep him in sight. I now attempted a second attack after he had settled on his course, but because the Lancaster was now very slow we always came out too far to the front. I tried the Schräge Musik again and after another burst the bomber fell in flames.

For the bomber crews that did make it to Nuremberg they arrived over the city to find it covered by thick cloud, which extended up to 15,000 feet. It was not at all what had been briefed. Having expected the target to be clear of cloud, the Pathfinders carried mostly ground markers, which, of course, could not be seen through the cloud. Most of the bombs fell in residential areas, with only slight damage caused to industry.

Because of the problems caused by the wind, more than a hundred bombers had become so straggled that it is likely they bombed Schweinfurt, to the north-west of Nuremberg, instead. This belief is backed up by some post-raid reports of crews that had passed to the west of Schweinfurt on their way home. Pilot Officer John Chatterton of 44 Squadron, an experienced skipper flying his twenty-third op that night, later recalled what his crew had seen after leaving Nuremberg for the long journey home:

… after several minutes they [his air gunners] called our attention to another target away over to our right which seemed to be cloud free and with a lot of action. Tongue in cheek I asked Jack [his navigator] if he was sure we had bombed Nuremberg and received the expected forceful reply, with added information that the burning town was probably Schweinfurt.

Helmut Schulte, meanwhile, claimed three more bombers before coming across another Lancaster to the south of Nuremberg. When the bomber went into an immediate corkscrew he knew he had been spotted. With his Schräge Musik jammed, Schulte had no choice but to opt for his forward-firing guns but on this occasion his attack did not bring any success as he later recalled:

As soon as I opened fire he dived away and my shells passed over him. I thought that this chap must have nerves of steel: he had watched me formate on him and then had dived just at the right time. He had been through as much as I had – we had both been to Nuremberg that night – so I decided that was enough.

Schulte’s performance that night was impressive but it was bettered by another Bf 110 pilot, Oberleutnant Martin Becker, the Staffelkapitän of 2./NJG 6, who claimed seven bombers during the raid. Six of his victims – three Lancasters and three Halifaxes – all came down over Wetzla and Fulda in central Germany in a matter of minutes while the seventh, another Halifax, was claimed over Luxembourg while Becker was returning to base. These latest successes took his score past twenty, thirteen of which had been claimed in just over a week, earning him the Knight’s Cross and command of the 4th Gruppe.

Not only was the Nuremberg raid a failure, it turned out to be the worst night for Bomber Command of the war. Ninety-five aircraft were lost, of which seventy-nine fell to the night fighters. These figures might have been even higher had some Bf 110s not have been sent too far to the north. A further ten more bombers were written off after crash-landing back at base and a further fifty-nine had sustained considerable damage.

Leaving aside those aircraft that had been damaged, the overall loss rate for the raid was in excess of 13 per cent, with a reported 535 lives lost and a further 180 wounded or taken as prisoners of war. The Halifax force had again suffered the heaviest losses. Including the five written-off back in England, thirty-six of the 214 aircraft taking part in the raid had been lost (16.8 per cent). 51 Squadron based at Snaith in Yorkshire had suffered particularly badly with six of its seventeen Halifaxes failing to return, with the loss of thirty-five lives.

One young Halifax pilot to be killed that night was 22-year-old Pilot Officer Cyril Barton of 578 Squadron based at Burn in North Yorkshire. Flying Halifax ‘LK-E Excalibur’, Nuremburg was his nineteenth op. For most of the transit to the target he had been fortunate to avoid any trouble but the first he and his crew became aware of immediate danger was when they spotted pale red parachute flares, dropped by Ju 88s to mark the position of the bomber stream.

The sky was clear and the crew watched in horror as night fighters suddenly appeared. One by one their colleagues were picked off. They knew it would soon be their turn but they were now on the final leg towards the target and there was to be no turning back. Suddenly, two night fighters appeared in front. They were seen attacking head-on just as cannon shells ripped through the Halifax, puncturing fuel tanks and knocking out the aircraft’s rear turret and all of its communications while setting the starboard inner engine on fire.

Barton threw the aircraft into a hard evasive manoeuvre just as a Ju 88 passed close by. Corkscrewing as hard as he dare, the Halifax went down. For a while it seemed the danger had passed but no sooner had Barton resumed his course towards Nuremberg than the Halifax was attacked once again. Shells raked the fuselage for a second time. Again, the Ju 88 broke away but it was soon back again, scoring more hits on the crippled bomber before eventually turning away.

Undaunted, Barton again resumed his course for Nuremberg. He was finally able to gather his thoughts and to assess the damage to his aircraft, only to find that three of his crew members had gone. Unable to communicate with their skipper, and with the bomber repeatedly under heavy attack while corkscrewing towards the ground, the navigator, bomb aimer and wireless operator had all abandoned the aircraft to become prisoners of war.

Left in a desperate situation, Barton decided what to do next. With a crippled bomber, one engine out, leaking fuel, his rear turret out of action, no communications or navigational assistance, and now with three of his crew missing, he would have been fully justified in aborting his mission. But he decided instead to press on to the target with just his two air gunners, Sergeants Freddie Brice and Harry Wood, and his flight engineer, Sergeant Maurice Trousdale, left on board.

The four airmen struggled on as best they could. By working together and using the stars to navigate, they eventually reached the target and completed their attack before finally turning for home. Remarkably, they managed to keep out of further trouble as Barton nursed the crippled Halifax back towards safety. It was an outstanding feat of airmanship for a pilot so young. But the crew were still not out of danger and although Barton was satisfied they had coasted-in somewhere over eastern England, they still had to find somewhere to land.

It was just before 6 a.m. and still dark but the Halifax was now desperately short of fuel. As Barton eased the bomber down he was all too aware that the remaining engines were about to give up. With his three crew colleagues braced behind the aircraft’s rear spar, he was all alone in the cockpit.Visibility was extremely poor and suddenly a row of terraced houses appeared in front. Yanking the control column back in a desperate attempt to hurdle the obstacles before him, a wing first clipped the chimneys before the Halifax came crashing down, demolishing everything in its way.

The Halifax had come down in the yard of Ryhope colliery in County Durham. One miner on his way to work, 58-year-old George Dodds, was killed in the wreckage. Remarkably, though, the three crew members braced in the rear of the fuselage had survived; all to later receive the DFM. Fortunately for them, the rear section of the aircraft had broken away on impact. The forward section, however, still with the gallant young pilot inside, was a wreck of twisted metal. Barton was pulled from the wreckage and rushed to hospital but he died from his injuries the following day.

It was an extraordinary act of courage and words are difficult to find. A few weeks later came the announcement of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross to Cyril Barton. The citation, which appeared in the Fifth Supplement to the London Gazette on Friday 23 June 1944, concludes:

In gallantly completing his last mission in the face of almost impossible odds, this officer displayed unsurpassed courage and devotion to duty.

Pilot Officer Barton’s Victoria Cross was the only one awarded during the Battle of Berlin, which had now officially ended.

The disastrous raid against Nuremberg was yet another costly reminder that large-scale raids deep into Nazi Germany were still extremely hazardous and often resulted in heavy losses. Unfortunately for all the bomber crews lost during the long and hard winter of 1943/44, they had come up against the Luftwaffe’s night fighter force at the peak of its effectiveness.

It was, for now, the last all-out offensive against the German homeland and brought to an end Bomber Command’s long-employed tactic of massed attacks against major targets. Not until the Allies enjoyed air superiority over north-west Europe would Bomber Command employ such tactics again. If it had not been apparent before then it was certainly apparent now – the war would not end until Germany had been defeated on the ground. However, everything Germany needed to maintain both military and civil defence – water, electricity, transport and emergency services – as well as the raw materials to keep the factories going, had drawn heavily on its resources throughout that hard winter. In truth, Germany was slowly grinding to a halt. The Nuremberg raid had also marked the Nachtjagd’s last great victory of the war.

Most of the returning crews reported that they had bombed Nuremberg but subsequent research showed that approximately 120 aircraft had bombed Schweinfurt, 50 miles north-west of Nuremberg. This mistake was a result of badly forecast winds causing navigational difficulties. 2 Pathfinder aircraft dropped markers at Schweinfurt. Much of the bombing in the Schweinfurt area fell outside the town and only 2 people were killed in that area.

The main raid at Nuremberg was a failure. The city was covered by thick cloud and a fierce cross-wind which developed on the final approach to the target caused many of the Pathfinder aircraft to mark too far to the east. A 10-mile-long creepback also developed into the countryside north of Nuremberg. Both Pathfinders and Main Force aircraft were under heavy fighter attack throughout the raid. Little damage was caused in Nuremberg; 69 people were killed in the city and the surrounding villages.


49 Halifaxes minelaying in the Heligoland area, 13 Mosquitoes to night-fighter airfields, 34 Mosquitoes on diversions to Aachen, Cologne and Kassel, 5 R.C.M. sorties, 19 Serrate patrols. No aircraft lost.

Minor Operations: 3 Oboe Mosquitoes to Oberhausen (where 23 Germans waiting to go into a public shelter were killed by a bomb) and 1 Mosquito to Dortmund, 6 Stirlings minelaying off Texel and Le Havre, 17 aircraft on Resistance operations, 8 O.T.U. sorties. 1 Halifax shot down dropping Resistance agents over Belgium.

Total effort for the night: 950 sorties, 96 aircraft (10.1 percent) lost.

The War in the Forest I

Military historian Douglas Edward Leach has called 1689 the “year of the great divide, marking as it does the beginning of a series of four major wars whose outcome would shape the whole future of North America.” That year saw the start of the titanic struggle between predominantly Protestant Britain and Catholic France that lasted for seven bitter decades. In America, the long series of skirmishes, pitched battles, and anxious truces would be popularly remembered as the French and Indian Wars, a name implying that the Indians were pawns of their European allies.

They were not. Caught between two warring nations whose customs were equally incomprehensible to them, the North American natives were again and again forced to pick sides. Some tribes chose to fight with the French, and some with the English, but all the tribes fought for their own best interests as they saw them. And although the war was a clash between European rivals, Indians were in it from the first; in fact, the war actually began in America in 1688, while Europe was at peace and England still had a Catholic king.

Although it had at first been sluggish in colonizing the New World, by the 1680s France had established strong bases in Montreal, Port Royal, and Quebec. The British had forestalled French expansion north of Quebec by opening a trading post at Hudson Bay in 1670, but the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers gave France access to the immense reaches of land in the interior of the continent. The English had a long Atlantic coastline, but the French meant to see that their ancient rivals stayed behind the Appalachian mountain barrier.

The English, in turn, were ever on guard against French encirclement, and none was more vigilant than the autocratic Sir Edmund Andros, who as New York’s governor had persuaded the Mohawks to side with his English settlers during King Philip’s War. James II of England had appointed Andros governor of all the northern colonies from New Jersey to Maine, with orders to prevent any French encroachments. This Andros did with hawkish efficiency.

In April 1688, he moved north with a company of soldiers to Penobscot Bay, where Frenchman Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, baron de Saint-Castin kept a trading post at what is now Castine, Maine. Saint-Castin had established his post on land Andros felt had been granted to the duke of York and had gotten rich from the fur trade. He had married the daughter of a chief and was well loved by members of the Abnaki confederacy of eastern Indians. As an observer wrote in 1684, they were the “most powerfull, politick, warlike and numerous nation of Indians since the Narragansetts are broken, and influence and steer all others that inhabit the English Plantations or Colonies.”

The Abnakis were furious when Andros and his men descended on their friend Saint-Castin’s trading post, plundered his home, and demanded his submission to James II. When, a little later, English settlers at Saco, Maine, seized sixteen Indians in retaliation for the killing of some cattle at nearby North Yarmouth, the natives responded by capturing as many settlers as they could lay hands on.

In September, the nervous English began erecting fortified stockades at North Yarmouth. Having received a report that a large number of natives were approaching, the soldiers fled, only to stumble onto the party of Indians, who had brought a number of English captives along, evidently for the purpose of negotiating a settlement of their grievances. Although nobody wanted a fight, the English tried to free the captives, and in the scuffling “one Sturdy and Surly Indian,” as the indefatigable Puritan chronicler Cotton Mather described him, “held his prey so fast, that one Benedict Pulcifer gave the Mastiff a Blow with the Edge of his Broad Ax upon the Shoulder, upon which they fell to’t with a Vengeance, and Fired their Guns on both sides, till some on both sides were Slain.” In this manner, Mather said, “the Vein of New-England first opened, that afterwards Bled for Ten years together!” Blood had been spilled, however blindly and unnecessarily; by the values of both Indians and settlers, blood spilled had to be avenged.

The Indians attacked the outlying settlements, burned, killed, captured, and plundered. With the onset of winter, they withdrew into the woods. Governor Andros arrived on the scene with 1,000 men in November and built forts at Pemaquid and what is now Brunswick. But, as Mather noted in disgust, Andros’s men killed no Indians until the spring, when Andros returned to Boston, where he was promptly deposed in the backwash of a Protestant revolt in England that dethroned the Catholic king James II. Andros went home to Britain, and the war whose opening moves he had managed continued without him under the name of King William’s War, after the new English monarch.

Meanwhile, France sought to bolster its situation in America by appointing a vigorous governor for New France. The choice was Louis de Buade, comte de Frontenac, a tough old soldier and a good one (he had been made a brigadier general at the age of twenty-seven). Frontenac had been governor once before, in 1672 – court gossip said he had gotten the job because he became too intimate with the king’s favorite mistress. He had handled his duties with energy and skill, but he was quarrelsome and overbearing and in ten years made himself so thoroughly unpopular that he had been recalled. Now, however, the situation demanded Frontenac’s knowledgeable toughness, and the French king reappointed the seventy-year-old autocrat.

Frontenac set sail from France armed with an ambitious battle plan: to invade the English colonies through Lake Champlain and Lake George to Albany, where, after concluding an alliance with the Iroquois, he was to move down the Hudson and with the help of a French fleet capture New York. But the old commander never got the chance to put this grand design into operation.

When he arrived at Quebec, Frontenac found the colony stunned by a savage Iroquois attack that had devastated the settlement of Lachine, six miles upriver from Montreal, during the night of July 25-26. The settlers, taken in their beds, had had no time to resist; the Indians killed 200 of them immediately and took another 120 prisoner. The ferocity of the attack was typical of the Iroquois. When Jacques Bruyas, the French missionary to the Iroquois, told his charges that all their desires would be satisfied in heaven, they badgered him with “impertinent questions as that they would not believe that there were no wars in heaven; if one would meet human beings there and if there one would be looking for scalp locks.” Bruyas deplored their “passion to kill,” so that “they are willing to travel 300 leagues to have the opportunity of taking a scalp lock.”

Demoralized by so ruthless an enemy, the French had abandoned their fort at Cataraqui on Lake Ontario. Frontenac, far from being able to send a campaign roaring down the Hudson Valley, had to content himself with small-scale sallies against English settlements on the frontier, a strategy he called la petite guerre – which we would call guerrilla warfare. To fight his “little war,” Frontenac began to forge such Indian allies as he had into efficient units that attacked under the direction of French officers.

In the meantime, the English continued to have their share of Indian trouble. After Andros’s departure from Maine, the Indians continued their assaults on outlying settlements and then mounted a major expedition against Dover, New Hampshire. There they killed thirty English, among them the trader Major Richard Waldron, an old enemy from King Philip’s War. Local Indians of the Pennacook, Ossipee, and Pigwacket tribes attacked the seventy-five-year-old patriarch. While he lay dying, they cut off his fingers, one by one, asking him mockingly whether his fist, which he had often put onto the scales as a makeweight against their furs, would weigh a pound now. Then they took turns slashing his chest, saying, “See! I cross out my account.”

The Indians maintained the pressure on the frontier throughout the summer until finally the English abandoned all their posts east of Falmouth (present-day Portland). The general court at Boston sent 600 soldiers north to help secure the frontier, but the expedition accomplished little more than Andros had the year before.

Then, as winter came on, Frontenac, with characteristic energy, decided to add to the English miseries with a three-pronged attack on Albany and the borders of New Hampshire and Maine. The Albany party, composed of 160 Canadians and 100 Indians, set off from Montreal early in 1690. In arctic weather, they struggled down Lake Champlain to the frozen southern tip of Lake George, then took to the woods. By the time, the French and Indians reached the Hudson, they decided that Albany was too difficult a prize and instead chose to attack the closer settlement of Schenectady. Even so, they had a dreadful march through half-frozen swampland before they got within striking distance on the afternoon of February 8. They waited until dark and then approached the village, where, to their astonishment, they found the open gates guarded only by two snowmen.

The party swept into the sleeping town and for two hours hacked men, women, and children to pieces. When the carnage ended, sixty villagers were dead. “No pen can write, and no tongue express,” said one contemporary, “the cruelties that were committed.”

Frontenac’s other two blows fell with equal strength, at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire, where thirty-four died, and in mid-May at Falmouth, where hundreds of Abnaki Indians joined the French in an attack on Fort Loyal. After a stiff defense, the commander of the fort surrendered on the promise that the garrison would not be harmed, then marched out to see 100 English murdered by the Indians.

By the time Fort Loyal fell, the English colonies had managed to mount a counterattack in the form of a naval assault on Port Royal in Acadia under the command of Sir William Phips. A curious figure, Phips was the twenty-first child of a Massachusetts farming family and had made his fortune by recovering a huge treasure from a Spanish ship sunk in the Bahamas. His flotilla of fourteen vessels easily took Port Royal, and Phips went home a hero, whereupon he was immediately given command of a far larger expedition against Quebec. He got the fleet there, but then the operation fell apart. The English could not dislodge the French defenders – who commented in journals that they were watching the bumblings of a bunch of amateurs – and in November, with smallpox spreading among his men, Phips went home. Fortunately for him, the authorities chose to blame the debacle on the “awful frown of God” rather than on any possible mismanagement by Phips.

The English did better the next year with a land campaign against the Maine frontier, in which Massachusetts enlisted the indestructible Benjamin Church. This old warrior had grown quite fat in the fifteen years since he brought down King Philip, but like Frontenac, he retained his vigor and his military judgment. Arriving in Saco with 300 soldiers in September 1691, Church harried the Indians so effectively that most of them retired inland. Although his men fought no decisive battles, they shook their opponents badly. In October, several Abnaki sachems sued for a truce, and on November 29, they signed a document by which they agreed to bring in all English captives, warn the English about French plots, and do them no harm until May 1, 1692.

Whatever relief the treaty gave the weary, frightened settlers did not last long. On February 5, 1692, Indians and Canadians fell upon the town of York in Maine, killed forty-eight inhabitants, and took about seventy prisoners. From this fresh beginning, the savage dialogue of raid and counterraid, deception, and bad faith continued for years. New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts all suffered as the Indians burned towns and butchered settlers with a sort of ghastly monotony, which the great nineteenth-century historian Francis Parkman described as “a weary detail of the murder of one, two, three or more men, women or children, waylaid in fields, woods and lonely roads, or surprised in solitary cabins.”

On March 15, 1697, a party of Abnakis struck the town of Haverhill, Massachusetts, in a raid different from a score of others only because it marked the beginning of the extraordinary saga of a farm woman named Hannah Dustin. Mrs. Dustin’s eighth child had been born the week before, and she was resting in her house when the attack came. Her husband, who was working in the fields nearby, told his children to run to a fortified house and then tried to fight his way through to his wife. He failed, and the natives carried off Mrs. Dustin, her baby, and the nurse who was caring for them.

As the Indians escaped with their captives silently through the forest, the infant began to cry, and in a cruel but characteristic response, a warrior grabbed the child and smashed its head against a tree. A little later, the Indians killed some of the captives and divided up the rest amongst themselves, Mrs. Dustin and the nurse were handed over to a group of two warriors, three women, and seven children. This party led them north through the woods for more than a month. The Indians, who were Catholic, paused twice a day to say their rosaries.

At last, on the night of March 29, Mrs. Dustin and the nurse rose silently from the campfire, got hold of hatchets, and set about murdering their sleeping captors. They killed all but two, an old woman and a boy who fled into the forest. Mrs. Dustin must have been an extremely practical woman: Massachusetts was offering a bounty on dead Indians, and so, despite her six-week ordeal and the horror of the recent butchery, she carefully scalped all her victims. Then she and the nurse made their way home to Haverhill, where Mrs. Dustin found that her husband and children had also survived the raid. Massachusetts gave her £25 for her night’s work.

Though the European end of the war between France and England wound down with the signing of the Treaty of Ryswick in September 1697, in the colonies, spasms of frontier violence continued. Part of the reason for the continuing hostilities was the English colonists’ very real horror of their opponents. In the Puritan cosmology, civilized Europeans and barbarous Indians represented opposite and antagonistic poles. Thus, to see Frenchmen not only living the life of the native warrior, but united with him in some sort of spiritual brotherhood, appalled and bewildered the English. Cotton Mather, in Decennium Luctuosum (Woeful Decade), his account of the war, speaks grimly of the “Half Indianized French, and Half Frenchified Indians.” The terror and awe that these mixed parties inspired is clearly shown in the way individual accounts of English captives dominate Mather’s narrative. Writing of the ordeal of one woman taken by the Indians, Mather intoned: “Read these passages without Relenting Bowels, thou thyself art as really Petrified as the man at Villa Ludovisia (an Italian statue). . . . I know not, reader, whether you will be moved to tears by this narrative; I know I could not write it without weeping.”

In 1702, Europe began to fight anew, and the deadly raids in the colonies turned back into a full-scale war, named this time after Queen Anne, who had just taken the throne upon William’s death. As before, New England bore the brunt in America. (New York escaped the worst horrors because of the protection provided by its Iroquois subjects – as New Yorkers referred to the Indians when they were out of earshot – or allies, a nicety of phrasing employed during negotiations.)

The worldly, power-loving Joseph Dudley, Massachusetts’s new governor, had been made responsible for keeping peace with the Abnakis, which he did in schizophrenic fashion, alternately wooing and scorning them. At a conference in Casco, Maine, he claimed to have 1,250 men under arms and compared the Indians to wolves, able to disturb men but not capable of doing any real harm. “I value them not,” he said, “no more than the paring of my nails,” Then, changing his tune, he announced that several chiefs among the Indian delegations “are fit to be made Officers to bear commission from the Queen of England, to bear Rule among you, who shall be my Officers, and shall be Rewarded from time to time. . . .” Several of the Indian leaders declared that they would resist the overtures of the French, but the meeting broke up with the peace still fragile.

Then in August 1703, a party of Englishmen plundered the house of Saint-Castin’s son, an Abnaki chief. Enraged by this affront, the Indians responded. Less than six weeks after Dudley’s peace conference, 200 miles of New England frontier were in flames.

Despite his boasts, the best Dudley could do was to field an army of 360 men, which advanced as far as Saco, with the Indian forces melting away before it unharmed while the raids continued unabated. To the staggered colonists, it all seemed a repetition of King William’s War. Indeed, many of the same towns suffered, among them Deerfield, Massachusetts, the northernmost settlement of the string of villages along the Connecticut River.

Deerfield had already had its share of grief. Almost wiped out during King Philip’s War and badly mauled during King William’s, by the winter of 1704, the community had recovered and become a prosperous village of forty-one houses and some 270 people.

Remembering the past, the townspeople had posted a sentry, but he was either asleep or absent on the last night of February 1704, when a party of fifty French and 200 Abnakis and Caughnawagas trudged toward the village through deep snow. They attacked two hours before dawn and killed many settlers in their beds. But some villagers, awakened by the screams and shouting, fought back. The militia sergeant, Benoni Stebbins, had time to order his seven men to barricade the windows of his house, which had been otherwise bulletproofed by means of brick walls. The militiamen drove off an attack of about fifty Indians, and though Stebbins died at the window where he had posted himself, his house withstood the onslaught. Most of the villagers, however, thrown into panic by the whooping death that had come on them out of the night, died or were captured. By dawn, the fighting had ended, leaving some fifty settlers dead and more than 100 prisoners.

The French and Indians bullied their captives north along the forest trails toward Canada. Among the survivors of the brutal trek was John Williams, a Deerfield clergyman whose immensely popular account of his sufferings, Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion, kept alive the memory of the Deerfield raid long after similar atrocities had been forgotten. His wife, who had just borne a child, was too weak to keep up with the rest of the party. When Williams tried to help her, the Indians drove him away, and they killed her a little later when she flagged trying to cross an icy river. But another Indian carried Williams’s daughter Eunice nearly every step of the 300-mile journey. Eventually, the French ransomed most of the prisoners, but Eunice Williams never came home. Adopted by the Caughnawagas, she married the warrior who had saved her life. Years later, she visited her one-time neighbors in Deerfield, but the gulf had grown too wide, and she returned to the forest.

The news of the Deerfield raid brought Benjamin Church stamping into Boston, furiously demanding that Dudley give him a force to lead against Acadia. By this time, Church was so old that he had to have a soldier walking beside him to help him over fallen logs along the line of march. But he got 550 men up into French territory, where he terrorized some settlements, telling the inhabitants that if any more English villages suffered Deerfield’s fate he would return with 1,000 Indians to repay the compliment to the French. Church wanted to attack Port Royal, but his officers restrained him, and he sailed back to Boston after throwing some bombastic threats at the well-defended French stronghold.

The English colonists took another ill-fated stab at Port Royal in 1706 and then appealed to the mother country for help. Committed as she was to a costly European land war, Queen Anne had few troops to spare. Finally, in hopes of generating some sympathy and publicity, the colonists sent several Mohawk chieftains to the English court in 1710. Outfitted by a London theatrical costumer in what he thought barbarian warlords should wear, the four Indians made a magnificent spectacle. The queen was delighted with them, the archbishop of Canterbury gave them Bibles, fashionable artists of the day painted their portraits, crowds followed them through the streets, and the nobility vied for the privilege of entertaining them. The next summer, the long-awaited troops arrived from England, and in September, Port Royal fell and with it Acadia.

Emboldened by their success, the British moved against Quebec the next year, but they had to retire at the end of a timid and badly mismanaged campaign. Despite this British fiasco, old King Louis XIV of France, tired and debt-ridden, ended the war by accepting the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The treaty ceded Hudson Bay and Acadia to the English, but left the bounds of France’s Canadian empire in doubt. By a treaty of July 13, 1713, the Eastern tribes sued for a separate peace with the New Englanders, acknowledging their “past rebellions, hostilities, and violations of promises” and promising to become loyal subjects to Queen Anne. The Abnakis, however, had little idea of what being a British subject meant, and their oath of loyalty was too tenuous a thing to withstand the English incursions on their land that began nearly as soon as the treaty was signed.

While the Northern colonies enjoyed the brief respite from frontier raids that came with the Treaty of Utrecht, warfare was ripping through the Carolinas. The white traders there had done much to bring the fighting on themselves. Like Indian traders everywhere, they tended to be rough, unprincipled men who duped the Indians and debauched them with liquor. Adding to these abuses, the traders also sold Indians as slaves. The Tuscaroras, who had settled inland along the coastal rivers of North Carolina, suffered most, and though they did not at first retaliate, their discontent was obvious enough to make the settlers uneasy. By 1710, relations had become so tense that the Tuscaroras sent messengers to Pennsylvania asking permission to migrate there. The Pennsylvania authorities said that they could settle provided they had a note from the North Carolina government attesting to their previous good conduct. The Carolinians refused outright.

Less than a year later, a group of Swiss colonists organized by a promoter named Baron Christoph von Graffenried went to occupy a tract of land at New Bern, at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers in North Carolina, only to find an Indian town on the site. Von Graffenried complained to the surveyor-general, who told him that the colonists held clear title to the land and suggested they drive off the Indians without payment. That was poor advice; on September 22, 1711, the Tuscaroras responded with a dawn attack on settlements between the Neuse and Pamlico Sound. During the bloody morning, they killed nearly 200 settlers, among them, eighty children. The survivors fled to the coastal towns, and the usual sequence of raids and counterraids began. Von Graffenried had earlier been captured, and in order to spare New Bern from attack – and as a condition of his release – he promised not to make war on the Indians. But one of his settlers, a foolish man named William Brice, decided that the baron’s pledge showed contemptible softheartedness and took matters into his own hands by capturing the chief of one of the smaller tribes allied with the Tuscaroras and roasting him alive. The Indian attacks increased in fury.

North Carolina sent to South Carolina for help, which arrived in the form of Colonel John Barnwell, a tough Irish-born soldier, who came leading a force of thirty settlers and 500 Indians. Barnwell handily neutralized the resistance of tribes allied with the Tuscaroras and devastated their communities. In March 1712, with his forces strengthened by a contingent of North Carolinians, Barnwell launched an assault on the fort of the Tuscarora king Hancock, which failed when the North Carolina men panicked and broke. Then the Indians exposed some of their white prisoners in view of Barnwell’s lines and tortured others in hopes of forcing the Carolina troops to negotiate. Barnwell agreed to call off his men if the prisoners were released. He took fifty of them safely back to New Bern, where he discovered that the North Carolina assembly was vexed because he had not destroyed the Tuscarora fort. Whereupon Barnwell went back, forced the Tuscaroras into a treaty and then, on his way home, immediately violated it by seizing a group of Indians as slaves. So the war broke out afresh in the summer of 1712.

Again North Carolina begged its southern neighbor for help, and in November, a seasoned Indian fighter named Colonel James Moore arrived with thirty-three whites and 1,000 friendly natives. Joining with North Carolina troops, he struck the main Tuscarora force late in March of 1713 and smashed it. Moore’s men killed several hundred Indians and captured 400 more, whom he sold into slavery at £10 each to help pay for the campaign. Most of the surviving Tuscaroras began a long, slow retreat to the north, where they eventually joined the Iroquois confederacy.

The last feeble Indian resistance in the Carolinas ended when Tom Blount, the chief of the Tuscarora faction loyal to the English, signed a peace treaty on February 11, 1715. But no sooner had peace come to North Carolina than war began in South Carolina. Like the Tuscaroras, the Yamassees, a Muskhogean tribe that had moved into South Carolina, had suffered the exploitation of traders. On Good Friday, April 15, they avenged themselves in a well-coordinated attack similar in every respect to the great Virginia massacre of 1622. The assault left the outlying settlements north of present-day Savannah, Georgia, in flames and took the lives of 100 settlers, South Carolina’s governor Charles Craven, commanding his colony’s militia, moved quickly and by June had driven the Yamassees from their villages. That autumn, on a follow-up expedition, he hit them so hard that they fled to Spanish Florida. The English appropriated the Yamassee lands for the new colony of Georgia.

Although he had gotten the Yamassees out of the way, Craven still feared the powerful Creeks and tried to counterbalance them by inducing the equally strong Cherokee nation to join the English. Although divided into two factions, the proud Cherokees, under the prodding of the English, broke with their southern neighbors and joined the Carolinians in curbing the Creeks. Thus, a measure of peace returned to the Carolinas.

The War in the Forest II

In New England, the brief span of peace was drawing to a close. The Abnakis had pledged their allegiance to Queen Anne, but their true loyalties lay with the French. Provoked by the English settlers who kept pushing into their territory, the Indians were urged on by French agents who kept them well supplied with ammunition. One of these men, a Jesuit priest named Sebastian Rale, had lived for years among the Norridgewock tribe on the Kennebec River in Maine. A trusted adviser who spoke their own tongue, Rale incited the Indians to strike back at the English, who were dotting Abnaki lands with blockhouses and farms. In the autumn of 1721, his charges began attacking isolated farmsteads.

The Massachusetts authorities reacted particularly strongly to these raids; Rale, living among the Indians in their forest home, was the embodiment of all the English feared and loathed. In 1723, a force of 230 men moved up the Penobscot and burned the mission town of Passadumkeag, but they failed to capture the soldier-priest. The next summer, another expedition struck north at Rale’s headquarters in the town of Norridgewock and took the village completely by surprise. The English held their fire while the Indians got off a wild, scattered volley, and then killed twenty-six of the panicked natives with a well-aimed fusillade. The surviving Norridgewocks jumped into the river and swam to safety, but Rale refused to surrender, forcing the English to shoot him although they had hoped to take him alive.

His death had the predictable results: The Abnakis struck back not only along the Maine frontier but in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as well. The English counterattacked with forces raised by the colonial governments and with companies of volunteers who offered to fight Indians in return for pay, scalp bonuses, and booty. Captain John Lovewell, a resident of Dunstable, raised one such company after the Indians burned his Massachusetts border town in the autumn of 1724. He petitioned the General Court in Boston to pay five shillings a day for his volunteers. The court would not put up more than two and a half, but it offered a bounty of £100 on every male Indian scalp. Late in February 1724, Lovewell and his eighty-seven men surprised a small encampment of ten Indians, killed them all, and went home to collect £1,000.

Cheered by his success and the easy money, Lovewell immediately embarked on a summer campaign accompanied by forty-seven volunteers. On May 8, the company sighted a single Indian on the shore of Saco Pond. Lovewell gave chase, suspecting that he had been posted to lure the company into an ambush but confident that the English could handle any assault. He was wrong. A large party of Indians ambushed the company and boldly closed to within a few yards of the English. “The battle continued fiercely throughout the day,” said a contemporary account, “the Indians roaring and yelling and howling like wolves, barking like dogs, and making all sorts of hideous noises; the English frequently shouting and huzzaing, as they did after the first round.” But the shouting and huzzaing died away as one Englishman after another went down. Lovewell himself died late in the afternoon, and though the Indians finally abandoned the field, they left only a few of their opponents unhurt.

The survivors retreated at once, leaving the badly wounded behind, among them a lieutenant who asked that his gun be charged and left with him. “The Indians will come in the morning to scalp me,” he said, “and I’ll kill one more of ‘em if I can.” Only fourteen soldiers eventually made it home to receive barren solace from such ministers as the Reverend Thomas Symmes of Bradford, who declaimed that the reason “so many brave men should descend into battle and perish” was clearly the general backsliding and irreverence of New Englanders, which had aroused the wrath of a vengeful God. Nevertheless, further English campaigns in Maine once more forced Abnaki chiefs to the treaty table in 1725, where they again acknowledged their submission to England.

Except for an occasional isolated atrocity, the New England frontier remained quiet for the next two decades, then boiled up again in 1744 when England went to war over who should succeed to the throne of Austria. This time, George II gave his name to the struggle in the colonies, and King George’s War saw the frontiers again convulsed from New York to Maine by Indian raids and white counterraids. The most significant part of the colonial war, however, was not the Indian fighting but an extraordinary expedition, mounted by New Englanders without any help from England, against the great fortress-rock of Louisburg, the anchor of France’s right flank in the New World. Built on Cape Breton Island, the fort guarded the approaches to the vital St. Lawrence River with the strongest concentration of cannons in North America. Nevertheless, 4,200 Massachusetts militiamen took it in June 1745. England, astonished and delighted at this unprecedented triumph of provincial arms, repaid Massachusetts for the cost of the expedition but then enraged the colonists by handing the fort back to the French in return for Madras when the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the European phase of the war in 1748.

The peace that followed King George’s War was a truce, a brief respite before the culminating struggle for supremacy in North America that would have bagpipes and French battle horns challenging one another in virgin pine forests. This final clash of arms would come to be known as the French and Indian War, an inadequate title that fails to distinguish it from all the wars, large and small, that preceded it. Lawrence Henry Gipson, the most thorough historian of the climactic struggle, chose a far better name – the Great War for Empire.

As before, Indian support would be crucial to both French and English in the coming fight, and one who saw that fact clearly was a cheerful, indefatigable Irishman who had come to America in the 1730s to manage his uncle’s estates in the Mohawk Valley. His name was William Johnson, but the Iroquois knew him as their brother Warraghiyagey – “He-Who-Does-Much.” He opened a small trading post in 1738 and immediately won a reputation among the Indians as one of the few white men who would deal fairly with them. By the 1750s, this reputation had made him the largest trader in the area. He kept his home, which he shared with his wife, a Mohawk woman, open to his Indian friends at all times. In 1756, he wrote of the people he knew so well: “Whoever pretends to say, as some have fatally imagined, that the American savages are of little or no account to our interest on that continent, and that, therefore, it is not of great consequences, whether or no we endeavour to cultivate friendship with them must be so extremely ignorant, or else so wilfully perverse, that it would be wasting time to expose the absurdity of such preposterous suggestions.”

Johnson’s conviction was borne out by the demography of North America on the eve of the war. The French, concentrated in a thin line stretching down the St. Lawrence from Louisburg through the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi Valley to the Gulf of Mexico, numbered only about 55,000 in 1754. But their Indian neighbors in the Great Lakes region alone could field perhaps as many as 70,000 warriors.

The English colonies, with well over 1 million white inhabitants, enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in numbers, but the population was confined to the seaboard. The French controlled the interior, largely by dint of their policy of befriending Indians whenever possible rather than fighting them. In some cases, the French commitment to coexistence became so strong that one observer wrote, “Those with whom we mingle do not become French, our people become Indian.” Despite close ties, the French were never wholly successful in their efforts to secure their southern flank with allies in the southeastern tribes. They formed strong bonds with the numerous and powerful Choctaw Indians who occupied the lands along the coast north of the French bases at Biloxi and Mobile, but they never won over the Chickasaws, who lived to the north of their ancient Choctaw enemies in lands east of the Mississippi River. The English retained Chickasaw loyalty, and despite a series of hard-fought battles, the French never subdued the tribe.

Nevertheless, by the mid-1750s, the French had seized the initiative and begun advancing into the Ohio Valley just when Virginia speculators were beginning to take a strong interest in the same rich region.

Robert Dinwiddie, the determined sixty-year-old governor of Virginia, saw which way the wind was blowing, and in October 1753, sent a twenty-one-year-old militia major named George Washington to the recently begun Fort Le Boeuf (now Waterford, Pennsylvania) to tell the French commander there that his garrison was on English lands. Washington arrived after a long, cold journey. Having received him courteously, the commander bluntly informed Washington that he was on French soil and that thenceforth any Englishmen who set foot in the Ohio Valley would be taken prisoner.

Acting promptly on Washington’s news, Dinwiddie sent a small force of men to build a fort at the crucial junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers – where Pittsburgh stands today – and early in April 1754 dispatched 120 reinforcements under Washington.

The undertaking was wretched from the beginning. Hacking their way across Pennsylvania’s endless ridges, the men under Washington soon became exhausted. Supplies of food and arms failed to arrive; what did get through was the disheartening news that the men Washington was marching to support had been chased from the fort by the French. But most serious of all was the failure of Washington’s command to enlist the aid of more than a handful of friendly Indians. Dinwiddie knew the value of Cherokee, Catawba, and Chickasaw support for the expedition, but those Indians had long been accustomed to dealing with South Carolina, whose governor was outraged that Virginia might think of enlisting “his” Indians without first getting his permission. So Washington began his march without Indian support and only belatedly received native detachments.

On May 24, Washington reached a place called Great Meadows, where a Mingo chief known as the Half-King told him that the French were nearby. Washington took forward a detachment of forty men and, joined by a dozen of Half-King’s warriors, surprised a party of thirty-three Frenchmen. The English killed ten, and the rest surrendered after a brief defense during which, for the first time in his life, Washington heard bullets whistling past him, a sound he described as “charming.” The French later charged that Washington had murdered innocent soldiers in time of peace; the young militia officer responded that they had brought it upon themselves by shadowing his forces in a surreptitious and apparently hostile manner. Whatever the truth, the Great War for Empire had begun, as Gipson put it, in an “isolated mountain ravine on the western slopes of the Alleghenies.” It would spread like a forest fire “to leap over oceans, to illuminate continents, and to end by reducing to ashes the bright dreams of Frenchmen of a great future in the New World.”

Washington fell back on Great Meadows, where he had his men throw up a stockade he named Fort Necessity. Reinforcements had brought the strength of his command up to about 400, a considerable improvement, but nowhere near enough to hold off the 900 French troops who moved out from Fort Duquesne to avenge the death of their comrades. They attacked the English fort on July 3, fighting in a steady downpour that turned Washington’s entrenchments to soup and rendered his swivel guns useless. With nearly half his men dead, sick, or wounded, Washington surrendered. He and his men were allowed to march from the fort with full honors of war. The French could afford to be generous – they had swept the English from the Ohio Valley.

The English struck back the next year. This time, there would be no inept campaign by provincial troops, but a well-planned attack by two regiments of British regulars under the command of General Edward Braddock. A tough, competent officer, Braddock had spent forty-five of his sixty years in the army. He was brave, popular, and considerate of his men. If he had a failing, it was his confident determination to prove that his troops had nothing to fear from “naked Indians . . . [or] Canadians in their shirts.”

Braddock moved out of Fort Cumberland, Maryland, at the head of some 2,500 men in June. There were no Indians with him as he plunged into the 100 miles of forest that separated him from Fort Duquesne; Governor Dinwiddie had promised the support of the southern tribes, but their help had failed to materialize. The French, on the other hand, had successfully courted their Indian allies and sent them to harry the English settlements along the route of Braddock’s march. Braddock had such trouble chopping his way through the dense forest that, at last, he detached some 1,500 of his best troops and led this flying column quickly toward the fort. He had little fear of the French: Fort Duquesne had only 800 defenders, and they would be powerless against the British artillery. On July 7, Braddock’s men made camp less than ten miles away from their objective.

The French, however, had no intention of waiting for the British to roll over them. On July 8, a captain named Hyacinth de Beaujeu took a detachment of 200 men out of the fort and persuaded an equal number of reluctant Indians to join him by crying, “I am determined to go against the enemy! What! Will you allow your father to go alone?”

On the morning of July 9, the British army splashed across the Monongahela with the fifers shrilling out “The Grenadiers March.” Washington, who had resigned his command and was serving without pay as an aide to Braddock, thought it the most splendid sight he had ever seen. As the troops pushed on through the woods, they suddenly heard war whoops. The English vanguard formed a skirmish line, sent a volley crashing into de Beaujeu’s troops, and then fell back. The Indians and French scattered to the ravines that ran along both sides of the English forces. Posting themselves behind trees, they raked the milling, panicked British with a murderous crossfire. As the English in the van fell back, they collided with troops coming up, and in the confusion men began to drop by the hundreds. Braddock, wildly and vainly trying to rally his men, had five horses shot out from under him before he was himself brought down with a mortal wound. The slaughter went on for three hours.

With British troops flinging away their muskets and fleeing and the drums rattling out retreat, Washington found a wagon, got Braddock into it, and pulled the stricken general away from the carnage. The afternoon had cost the French fewer than sixty casualties; of the 1,373 English noncoms and privates involved, only 459 escaped being killed or wounded, and three-quarters of the eighty-six officers became casualties. “Who would have thought it?” the wounded Braddock kept muttering, He died two days later, and Washington had him buried in an unmarked grave in the road so that the Indians would not mutilate his remains.

The debacle threw Virginia into a panic and left the frontier of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania open to French and Indian raids. To the north, the English had better luck, thanks to the efforts of William Johnson, whom the king had appointed superintendent of northern Indian affairs. Johnson led 3,000 New Englanders against Crown Point, a French stronghold at the southern end of Lake Champlain. The French marched to meet him and, getting word of their advance on September 8, Braddock sent forward a detachment of 1,000 militiamen and 200 Mohawks under Chief Hendrick, a canny old warrior who had visited Queen Anne in 1710. Hendrick was dubious about the detachment: “If they are to be killed, too many; if they are to fight, too few.” The command marched straight into an ambush where French musketry ripped it apart. Chief Hendrick was among those killed.

The survivors fled back to the English lines, where, incredibly, Johnson succeeded in rallying them behind a log barricade. When the French regulars attacked, the provincials beat them off. Johnson never got to Crown Point, but he did build Fort William Henry on Lake George and received a knighthood for his part in the campaign.

In the spring of 1756, a formidable new commander named Louis-Joseph, marquis de Montcalm joined the French in America. Short, nervous, brilliant, and brave, Montcalm moved quickly and skillfully. He threw 3,000 troops at Oswego, the English fort on the south side of Lake Ontario, and captured it in August 1756. His victory encouraged the western Indians, whom the English had hoped to secure as allies, to support the French. One Indian delegation to Montreal said, “We wanted to see this famous man who tramples the English under his feet. But you are a little man, my father. It is when we look into your eyes that we see the greatness of the pine-tree and the fire of the eagle.” Throughout the colonies, Indians began to pull away from any associations they might have had with the English. In January 1757, Washington, training a Virginia regiment, wrote that “the French grow more and more Formidable by their alliances, while our Friendly Indians are deserting Our Interest.”

The year 1757 dawned bleakly for the English. Seven years before, the French had had 800 regular troops in America; now they had 6,600. Everywhere, England was on the defensive. In the spring, Montcalm prepared to attack Fort William Henry. He recruited 2,000 Indians from the upper Great Lakes, and, sensitive to the diplomatic niceties required, presented many of them with belts of wampum in the name of the king of France. At last, the French and Indians marched toward Lake George, 8,000 strong, destroying several British parties on the way. The Indians scalped and even practiced cannibalism on some of the English dead, behavior the French justified on the grounds that they could not prevent it without losing the Indians.

Montcalm besieged the fort early in August. The hopelessly outnumbered garrison put up a spirited defense before surrendering. Montcalm allowed the men to keep their arms and promised to protect them from his Indian allies. But the English had no sooner left the fort than the Indians fell on them and, berserk with plundered brandy, began to strip and murder the captives. Unable to check the chaos, Montcalm finally bared his breast to the Indians and cried, “Since you are rebellious children who break the promise you have given to your Father and who will not listen to his voice, kill him first of all.” His officers finally restored some order, but not before 200 of the 2,000 prisoners had been murdered. Montcalm’s Indian allies immediately abandoned him, and the French destroyed Fort William Henry and then withdrew to their posts at Ticonderoga, Crown Point, and Montreal.

These events had marked the nadir of British fortunes in the war; the next year saw the British taking the offensive and redressing the balance with powerful strokes. On July 26, Louisburg fell to 12,000 British regulars under Lord Jeffrey Amherst, and a month later, a provincial force of 3,600 men captured Fort Frontenac, on the north side of Ontario, giving the British control of the lake. Indians took only a minor part in these battles, but they were to play a major role in the campaign that began to take shape in the Ohio Valley late that spring. Rankling over their two ill-starred attempts to seize Fort Duquesne, the British had appointed General John Forbes to lead a new assault. Though only fifty-one, Forbes, wracked with disease, was a dying man – he had to be carried on a litter – but his capacity for intelligent, meticulous planning had not deserted him. Forbes’s campaign differed from the earlier failures of Washington and Braddock not only in the general’s choice of a new route, but in his vigorous efforts to secure Indian support.

That support was difficult to get and to control. Washington, commanding the Virginia regiment, wrote in disgust: “The Indians are mercenary; every service of theirs must be purchased; and they are easily offended, being thoroughly sensible of their own importance.” The natives often arrogantly demanded food, supplies, and presents, and sometimes left in a huff when they felt the provisions were inadequate. But they were not drawing regular military pay, and despite the moralizing of the frustrated white commanders, they could hardly be expected to serve Europeans in a European manner for no good Indian purpose.

By April 10, 1758, more than 500 southeastern Indians had gathered at the English camp, eager to go into the field on scalp-seeking parties. As summer came on, however, and the campaign failed to get under way, they became disgusted and went home, carrying their presents with them. By July, most of the Cherokees and Catawbas had drifted away.

When Forbes finally moved out of the main supply base he had built, at what was to become Bedford, Pennsylvania, he had few Indian allies with his 5,000 provincial troops and 1,400 Scots Highlanders. Newcomers arrived, however, including some Cherokees under their chief Little Carpenter, whose demands Forbes met, though he termed them “sordid and avaricious.” The army moved forward with care, leaving a string of fortified posts behind it. Despite their precautions, the English suffered a setback in September when Forbes sent out some 800 Highlanders to scout around Fort Duquesne. The Scots got themselves badly cut up, losing a third of their number. The French had relied heavily on their Indian allies in the light, and the natives were shaken by the number of casualties they had sustained. When more of them were killed in a skirmish in October, they began to leave the French camp. They were sick of dying for their allies, and they had begun to get word of a series of peace conferences between English and Indians in Philadelphia.

Forbes and the colonial authorities had convened the conferences to recapture the allegiance of the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingos and to reassure the western Indians that the English did not intend to dispossess them of their lands. At the same time, Christian Frederick Post, a Moravian missionary who had twice been married to Indian women, carried out a delicate mission in the country of the western Indians, assuring them of English good will and inviting the Delawares to return to their original home in the Susquehanna Valley. Post managed to counter a good deal of legitimate skepticism: “You intend to drive us away and settle this country,” the Indians said, “or else, why do you come to fight in the land that God has given us?”

“I am your flesh and blood,” Post replied, “and sooner than I would tell you any story that would be of hurt to you, or your children, I would suffer death . . . I do assure you of mine and the people’s honesty.”

Some 500 Indians, Iroquois among them, attended another treaty conference at Easton, Pennsylvania, in October, where several colonial governors discussed and redressed many native grievances. The proceedings, subsequently ratified by the king of England in Council, returned land west of the Appalachians – which had been deeded to the Pennsylvania proprietors by the Iroquois – to the other tribes that lived on it. Colonel Henry Bouquet, Forbes’s chief of staff, issued a proclamation prohibiting English movement west of the mountains without special authorization. The Easton treaty, Bouquet said, was a blow that “knocked the French in the head.”

When, a little later, a French officer from the threatened Fort Duquesne approached an Indian camp with a string of wampum and offered it to one of the Delaware chiefs with whom Post was conferring, the Indian refused it. The Frenchman thereupon threw the belt to a nearby group of Delawares, who treated it like a snake, kicking it from one to the other until one of them picked it up with a stick and flung it away.

By November 24, the English forces had advanced to within a few miles of Fort Duquesne. As they approached they heard a terrific explosion, and when they arrived at the fort the next day, they found it gutted and the defenders gone. Inside the ruined fort, the English troops came upon a row of stakes on which were fastened the heads of Highland troops who had been taken in the earlier engagement, each with a Scottish kilt tied beneath it.

For all its savagery, there was a note of despair in the grisly taunt. The French were losing the war, and they knew it. The final blow came the following September when British troops under General James Wolfe faced off against French regulars commanded by Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham, near Quebec. Both commanders died in the battle – surprisingly brief, considering all the years and wars that had led up to it – but Wolfe lived long enough to know he had won. The peace treaty would not materialize for three years, but after Quebec, New France never had a chance.

Still, the fighting went on. While Wolfe was taking Quebec, the back country of the Carolinas was again in an uproar. The Cherokee nation, about 10,000 strong and scattered through some forty villages along the frontiers of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, had taken up the hatchet against the English. The war apparently began when Cherokee warriors, returning home from Forbes’s campaign against Fort Duquesne, appropriated several horses they found running wild in the woods. A group of frontiersmen, claiming the horses as their own, ambushed and killed a dozen of the Cherokees. The Cherokees retaliated by murdering twenty or thirty settlers, and soon a full-scale war engulfed the frontier. The fighting lasted for two years, ending in the winter of 1761 after a long, devastating campaign conducted against the Indians by regular and provincial troops. The harsh terms of the treaty included the establishment of a boundary line between Indian and white settlements.

Three years before, when the English had set up a similar line, they had done so in hopes of placating a valuable ally. The contrast between that boundary and the one forced on the Cherokees at gunpoint indicated how Native Americans had fared in the war. No matter which side the Indians chose, their true interests lay in a continued stalemate between the English and the French. With the French forces driven from the New World, the natives could no longer be of any use to the colonists. Just as much as the French, the Indians lost the long struggle that had begun with a bloodless scuffle at a Maine trading post seventy years before.

World War II Aviation

Although it cannot be said that airpower won World War II, it is fair to state that airpower made possible and accelerated the Allies’ victory over the Axis powers. If airpower had been removed entirely from the equation, it is possible that the end result might have been exactly the same; given the difference in resources between the Allies and the Axis, however, it is fairly certain that the war would have lasted much longer with much greater loss of life. Airpower proved to be the great advantage of the Allies.

Summary of the Air War: Timing, Technology, Scale

One of the ironies is that the Axis nations chose airpower as a tool for aggression, but the Allied nations made better and far more extensive use of airpower to achieve final victory. The reason for this turnabout was that airpower in World War II turned entirely on three major issues: timing, technology, and scale. The Allies were able to exploit these issues to a far greater degree.

In the beginning, the Axis powers made excellent use of timing and technology. The timing of the war was almost solely of their choosing, and they chose to strike when their air forces were at the peak of modernization, equipped with first-rate aircraft in numbers deemed necessary for victory. Italy has been left out of this equation because its military services were totally unprepared for modern warfare in equipment, training, and morale. It was Italy’s misfortune to have a leader, Benito Mussolini, who was so greedy for the spoils of war that he ignored Italy’s blatant military deficiencies. In doing so, he sacrificed many brave and capable soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

Democratic Allied powers, because they were democracies, found themselves in a typical position: unprepared for war because politicians had refused to risk electoral defeat by voting to raise taxes necessary for defense. In the Soviet Union-an accidental Ally as a result of the German invasion-the situation was different. Great sums had been spent on the military, including the Soviet air force, but the armed forces were paralyzed with fear as a result of Stalin’s insane purges. They left the military bereft of leadership, with the great majority of senior officers executed, the remainder afraid to take any action for fear of arrest and a quick death.

Germany and Japan were thus able to prepare first-class air forces, equipped with the most modern equipment and sufficiently strong to win almost all of their initial objectives. Both nations considered an air force of 3,000-5,000 aircraft, flown by well-trained, well-motivated crews, to be sufficient for their purposes. When Germany initiated the war on 1 September 1939, and when Japan entered the war on 7 December 1941, both nations had bent timing and technology to their will.

However, neither nation had any concept of the scale of effort that airpower required. As a result, their production would soon lag behind that of the Allies. When they finally perceived the scale of the task at hand, they were in no position to achieve it.

Only two nations did. The Soviet Union was one, and it formulated airpower projections in the same way it created divisions and employed infantry, artillery, and tanks: on a grand scale-far beyond the concepts of either the German or the Japanese leaders. In fact, even when properly informed of the scale of the Soviet effort, German leaders refused to believe it.

Even more remarkable was the Soviet ability to relocate the aircraft industry from European Russia to behind the Urals. There they not only instituted mass production in amazingly short order but also introduced new and more effective types of aircraft. It was a magnificent effort, totally beyond the comprehension of the Nazi leaders, Adolf Hitler in particular. In terms of industrial miracles, the Soviet effort corresponded fully to the renaissance of the U. S. aviation industry during the war.

The United States was the other nation to correctly estimate the scale of effort that would be required. The fact that it did so was improbable, as was the method by which grandiose estimates were made and accepted.

The United States, nurtured in its isolation by two oceans and still resenting the events in Europe and Asia following World War I, had let its armed forces be reduced to a bare minimum. In January 1939, the U. S. air forces had a nominal strength of some 1,700 aircraft, 1,000 officers, and 18,000 enlisted personnel. Most of the aircraft were obsolescent, and none were equivalent to their European and Asian counterparts. Only one year later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt would call on Congress to permit the building of 50,000 aircraft per year. It seemed an impossible assignment, but it was the clarion call that brought forth the plan conceived by four brilliant young officers: Lieutenant Colonels Harold Lee George and Kenneth N. Walker and Majors Haywood S. Hansell and Laurence S. Kuter. These four men-all future general officers-created the plan for U. S. airpower in World War II during nine hectic days in August 1941. Their audacious plan-AWPD-1-would prove to be uncannily accurate in concept and fulfillment.

In large part this was due to the permissive and aggressive leadership of the U. S. air forces, personified by Major General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold and Brigadier General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz, backed up by the president of the United States. In stark contrast, the Luftwaffe was under the command of a dissolute dilettante: Reichsmarschall Herman Goering, who had selected a fellow dilettante, Generaloberst Ernst Udet, to supervise the technical development of the service. The chief of state, Hitler, was too preoccupied with the army to do more than treat the Luftwaffe with benign neglect.

AWPD-1 was subsequently modified, but not to a significant extent. The final plan called for 207 groups of aircraft, 68,416 operational aircraft (including 3,740 Consolidated B- 36 bombers, a design that was still on the drafting boards). The officer force was to be expanded to 179,398 while enlisted personnel would number almost 2 million. Monthly attrition was estimated at 2,133 aircraft-more than existed in the entire USAAF at the time. Also included were requirements for training, factories, targets, sorties, fuel, bombs, and all the other materiel that an air force of almost 70,000 aircraft would require.

At any other previous moment in history, the tender of such an extravagant plan would have been considered insane. It would have been rejected forthwith, and the careers of the men who made it would have been over. But the planners’ timing was impeccable. As grand as it was, their plan was accepted on its merits and implemented with blinding speed. In 1939 in the United States, annual aircraft production of all types had barely reached 3,000, mostly small, simple aircraft. By 1944, the United States was producing aircraft at the rate of 100,000 per year, including some of the largest and most sophisticated aircraft in history. When the war ended, the United States Army Air Forces possessed some 70,000 operational aircraft and had suffered almost exactly the predicted rate of attrition.

In stark contrast, the Axis powers had based their plans on a series of short wars quickly won by the superior technology and numbers of their aircraft working in cooperation with land and naval forces. A production level of 3,000-5,000 aircraft per year was considered adequate in both nations. When the war grew long, both Germany and Japan made valiant and determined efforts to expand aircraft production. Both succeeded to a remarkable degree, with Germany manufacturing some 40,000 aircraft in 1944, at the height of the Allied bombing raids. In the same year, Japan manufactured 24,000 aircraft, approximately six times its 1939 figure. If the leaders of the two nations had the foresight to make such an effort in 1939 and 1940 rather than in 1943 and 1944, the war might have taken a very different turn.

However, timing now worked against them. They were locked into manufacturing aircraft types that had begun the war and were largely obsolete by 1943. Both nations would introduce new and improved models, including such radical advances as the Messerschmitt Me 262 and Arado Ar 234 jets. These would prove too little, too late.

The Allies reflected the mirror image. Although the Allied forces suffered early defeats in every theater, they endured and were then able to begin large-scale production of more modern types. Thus, in Great Britain the late-model Supermarine Spitfire was supplemented by Hawker Typhoon and Tempest aircraft, and the RAF bomber force moved quickly from twin-engine bombers to the superb four-engine Avro Lancaster and the sensational twin-engine de Havilland Mosquito multirole fighter-bomber. In the United States, production saw multiple modified versions of the Boeing B-17 and Consolidated B-24 bombers, complemented by the introduction of the B-29-the best bomber of the war. Fighter production was originally concentrated on the obsolescent Curtiss P-40, soon replaced by the Lockheed P-38, Republic P-47, and the best U. S. fighter of the war, the North American P-51.

The forced draft of the war effort stoked the fires of technology in all the combatant countries, especially Great Britain, Germany, and the United States. Such technological advances as airborne radar, electronic counterwarfare methods, pressurized cabins, advanced fire-control systems, and jet engines were found in all three countries. Germany, in desperation, leaped ahead in some areas, including rocket and missile technology. Japan lagged behind in almost all areas, for its economy was incapable of expanding production while also conducting extensive research in new disciplines. The Soviet Union lagged as well, but primarily because it was concentrating on the basic weapons necessary to defeat Nazi Germany in the ground war. When the time came-particularly after the acquisition of German engineering data-Soviet technology moved rapidly ahead.

By 1944, timing and technology had turned against the aggressor nations on a scale the likes of which the world had never seen. Japan and Germany reacted like typical militaristic dictatorships: They allowed the discrepancy between their forfeited airpower and the overwhelming airpower to be made up by the blood of their people-soldiers as well as civilians. Axis leaders knew there was no way to win this war, their powerful opponents now fully armed and growing stronger every day, yet they forced their populations to fight on to the very end. In Germany that end came when Allied forces met their Soviet counterparts on the River Elbe. In Japan that end came with the union of the B-29 and the atomic bomb. This combination represented, for the first time, absolute airpower, and the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki finally forced even the Japanese militarists to realize the war was lost.

The following contains year-by-year summaries of air warfare in World War II:


The Luftwaffe paved the way for Germany’s victory over Poland, demonstrating blitzkrieg tactics in which aircraft and armor cooperated to penetrate enemy positions. The Allies remained cautious and inactive on the Western Front: The few bombing raids that they did conduct met with failure, and a great deal of effort was expended on utterly pointless leaflet drops. The Germans were careful not to antagonize the Allies at first, in the hope that the war could be ended quickly. In November, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. The Finns resisted valiantly, and their small air force took a heavy toll of Soviet aircraft. In Asia, the Japanese air forces continued to operate over China with little opposition.


By February, after having suffered heavy losses, the Soviet Union exhausted the Finns and a peace was concluded. In April, Germany used airpower to overwhelm Denmark and Norway, offsetting German inferiority at sea. On 10 May, Germany invaded the Low Countries, its Luftwaffe again spearheading the attacks in the Battle for France. The inadequate Allied air forces caused the Germans some casualties, but they were defeated in the air and on the ground. Luxemburg, Belgium, and Holland were quickly overrun. In late May, the Royal Air Force succeeded in preventing the Luftwaffe from interfering with the evacuation at Dunkirk. This was the first defeat the German air force had suffered. By 21 June, France had surrendered. Great Britain upped the ante in the air war, sending bombers to attack targets in Germany, particularly in the Rhineland.

After his lightning victories, Adolf Hitler offered Great Britain peace-but at too great a price. The United Kingdom was now led by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a longtime supporter of airpower and a man who was determined never to surrender. He was exactly the right man for the job, for he brought the United Kingdom back from the brink of despair and set about building a bombing force that he hoped would punish Germany.

In the meantime, Germany attempted to establish air superiority over England in the Battle of Britain. It was here that timing and technology first began to work against the Germans, for the aircraft (Messerschmitt Bf 109s, Heinkel He 111s, Dornier Do 217s, and Junkers Ju 87s and Ju 88s) that had been perfect for a continental campaign were now too few in numbers and technologically inadequate for a strategic bombing campaign. Timing and technology worked instead for Great Britain, whose factories were churning out hundreds of Hurricanes and Spitfires and whose radar system formed the core of an integrated command-and-control system that would enable the RAF to decisively defeat the Luftwaffe. Defeated in the Battle of Britain, Germany realized that invasion was impossible and turned to nighttime bombing of British cities even as the Nazis reorganized their forces for an invasion of the Soviet Union. Events in Europe had served to alert the United States that it was necessary to increase production capacity, and Allied investment in the U. S. aviation industry aided this effort. Large orders for combat aircraft were placed by England and France (with smaller orders being placed by other countries), which prompted an expansion of the U. S. aviation industry-critically important in the coming years. Japan began the occupation of French Indochina in an effort to move closer to the vital oil and mineral resources of Southeast Asia. On 28 October, Italy invaded Greece from its Albanian bases. The invasion was inadequately prepared, and the Greeks proved to be tough adversaries who promptly forced the Italians back beyond the Albanian frontiers. Great Britain sent troops and aircraft to Greece, beginning a relatively small but politically important air battle there.


German bombing of the United Kingdom continued through May 1941 but on a reduced scale. In Africa, very limited British forces were able to maul Italian armies in Libya and in Eritrea and Ethiopia. The defeats in Libya would cause Hitler to send the Afrika Korps, with limited but very effective air components, to rescue the Italians. This would begin the long, bitter North African campaign. In eastern Africa, there were dogfights between biplane opponents, with Gloster Gladiators contesting Fiat Falcos in a World War I-type atmosphere. Air attacks on Malta began to build in intensity. The United States moved closer to open warfare by announcing its Lend-Lease plan, whereby it would provide arms to Great Britain on a massive scale. On 6 April, Germany began its Balkan campaign, which was massively successful and ended with the evacuation of Greece by British forces and the occupation of Crete. It had the effect, however, of delaying the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which many observers feel was critical to the outcome of the 1941 campaign. On 22 June, German launched Operation BARBAROSSA, its invasion of the Soviet Union. The Soviet air force was virtually destroyed on the ground, but once again the scale of German air effort was hopelessly inadequate, and despite overwhelming success, the fighting ground down in the winter snows. The Soviet Union began a massive relocation effort that saw no less than 1,523 factories moved beyond the Urals.

On 7 December, imperial Japan began a whirlwind air campaign with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. Japanese airpower would soon seem to be invincible as it swept through Southeast Asia, sinking HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse in passing. It would be dominant for the next six months of the war. Germany declared war on the United States on 11 December.


The Japanese forces, employing relatively small but highly effective elements of airpower, conquered some 20 million square miles of territory, including the Philippines, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and Burma, along with critical Pacific islands such as Wake and Guam, by March 1942. The only ray of hope came in the famed 18 April Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the first of many. In Europe, the RAF became increasingly aggressive with daylight fighter and bomber sweeps over occupied territories. In March, RAF Bomber Command began its new offensive, intensifying the nighttime bombing of Germany. The United States would join Great Britain in the Combined Bomber Offensive, which would grow from modest beginnings to an overwhelming force over the next three years. In the Atlantic, German U-boats began a war against shipping that would become known as the Battle of the Atlantic; they would succeed for more than a year because of inadequate Allied airpower.

The war in the Pacific took a sudden and surprising turn in favor of the Allies following the Battle of Midway in early June. On August 7, the United States would invade Guadalcanal, beginning a bloody six-month battle that would literally turn on the possession of a single facility-Henderson Field. In Russia, German advances continued to the south toward Stalingrad and the Caucasus. In Africa, Germany would suffer a major defeat at El Alamein in October, then be confounded by the massive U. S. invasion of North Africa on 8 November. Allied airpower in every theater was causing the tide of war to shift.


The fortunes of war turned irreversibly against the Axis powers in 1943, beginning with the catastrophic German losses in the Battle of Stalingrad. The Luftwaffe could still attain local air superiority at specific spots along the Eastern Front, but the Soviet opposition was gaining both in numbers and tactics. The effectiveness of Soviet airpower and the decline in the Luftwaffe’s strength was demonstrated in the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history. Germany also suffered defeat in the Battle of the Atlantic, where the combination of land- and carrier-based aircraft shut down all areas of operation by the U-boats and, in cooperation with surface ships, caused prohibitive losses. The Germans were also defeated in North Africa, which was followed by defeats throughout the entire Mediterranean Theater with the loss of Sicily and the invasion of Italy. At the same time, the Combined Bomber Offensive grew in intensity and effectiveness over Europe, exemplified by the destruction of Hamburg. The Luftwaffe was still capable of dealing out tremendous punishment, however, as in the air battles over Regensburg, Schweinfurt, and Berlin.

In the Pacific, the defeat at Guadalcanal forced the Japanese on the defensive throughout the theater as Allied forces followed a two-axis strategy. The first was a step-by-step advance toward the Philippines by the forces of General Douglas MacArthur, the second an island-hopping advance under the direction of Admiral Chester Nimitz. The island-hopping campaign was characterized by bitter battles such as Tarawa.


Allied airpower came into its own in Europe with the introduction of long-range escort fighters and a new philosophy that was aimed at destroying the Luftwaffe. By March 1944, the Luftwaffe had been soundly beaten; although it was occasionally able to muster strength for savage attacks, it was never again able to secure daytime air superiority. However, in the same month the Luftwaffe did defeat the RAF in its nighttime-bombing campaign against Berlin. The combined USAAF/RAF forces focused on preparing the European continent for an invasion; the 6 June 1944 D-Day operation was so successful that it was virtually unopposed by the Luftwaffe. The air battle over Germany intensified and was regarded as a “second front” by no less an observer than Albert Speer even before the D-Day landings.

In the Pacific, the airpower of the U. S. Army and Navy proved superior to the Japanese at every point. The Japanese were now desperately short of trained pilots, so much that their remaining aircraft carriers were sometimes forced to sortie as mere decoys without any aircraft aboard. They incurred massive defeats in the Marshall Islands and the Philippines and were forced to resort to kamikaze suicide tactics.

In the last days of 1944, the Germans took advantage of bad weather, which hampered Allied air operations, to launch their final offensive of the war in the West-the Battle of the Bulge. As soon as the weather cleared a bit, however, Allied airpower reasserted itself.


Airpower played itself out in Europe; useful targets disappeared by April, and the Germans surrendered in May. In the Pacific, true airpower came into being for the first time in the B-29 fire-bombing of Japan, which reduced major cities to ashes. The Japanese militarists still refused to surrender until the application of absolute airpower in the form of atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is worth noting that the final application of airpower in both the European and Pacific theaters was compassionate, with the dropping of food, clothing, and medical supplies to POWs still held in the defeated enemies’ camps.

References Boyne, Walter J. Clash of Titans: World War II at Sea. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. ______. Clash of Wings: World War II in the Air. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. Goralski, Robert. World War II Almanac, 1931-1945. New York: Bonanza, 1981.