The GMC CCKW is a 2.5 ton 6X6 U.S. Army cargo truck that saw service in World War II and the Korean War, often referred to as a “Deuce and a Half” or “Jimmy”. The CCKW came in many variants, based on the open or closed cab, and Long Wheel Base (LWB 353) or Short Wheel Base (SWB 352).

Built to 812,262 copies, CCKWs were employed in large numbers for the Red Ball Express, an enormous convoy system created by Allied forces to supply their forces moving through Europe following the breakout from the D-Day beaches in Normandy, from August 25 to November 16, 1944, when the port facilities at Antwerp were opened. At its peak the Red Ball operated 5,958 vehicles, and carried about 12,500 tons of supplies a day.

The designation CCKW comes from model nomenclature used by GMC; the first C indicated a vehicle designed in 1941, the second C signifies a conventional cab, the K indicates all-wheel drive and the W indicated tandem rear axles. The term “Deuce and a Half” is not a post war term and was applied to all 2½ ton cargo trucks. Including the DUKW, General Motors in the US produced 562,750 of these 2.5 ton trucks just prior to and during World War 2.


Truck, cargo, 2½-Ton, 6X6, long-wheelbase / short-wheelbase

Water tanker 700 Gal.

Fuel tanker 750 Gal



Ordnance Maintenance Truck, Van

K-53 truck Van

K-60 truck Van

M27 Bomb Service Truck

M27B1 Bomb Service Truck

M1 chemical Service Truck

Dental Operating Truck, Van

Surgical Truck, Van

Water purification truck

Fire Engine

Tractor cab

Initially all versions were of closed cab design (having a metal roof and doors) with all steel cargo beds. But as the war progressed an open cab version was designed that had fixed ‘half doors’ and a canvas top/sides and the steel bed was replaced by a wooden one to conserve steel. The wood bed proved unsatisfactory and a ‘composite’ bed with steel sides and framing, but with wooden slats for the bed, was developed. Later on the ‘wood/steel’ composite bed was replaced by an all steel composite bed.



Krupp 28-cm-Kanone 5 (E)


Krupp 28-cm-Kanone 5


A K5(E) is preserved at the United States Army Ordnance Museum in Maryland. It is composed of parts from two guns that shelled Anzio beachhead during World War II. They were named Robert and Leopold by the Germans, but are better known by their Allied nicknames – Anzio Annie and Anzio Express. When the Germans were forced to retreat, the guns were spiked by their crews. The guns were discovered on a railroad siding in the town of Civitavecchia, on 7 June 1944, shortly after the allies occupied Rome. Robert had been partially destroyed by the gun crew before they surrendered and Leopold was also damaged but not as badly. Both guns were shipped to the U.S. Aberdeen Proving Ground, (Aberdeen, Maryland) where they underwent tests. One complete K5 was made from the two damaged ones, and Leopold remains on display to this day.

The Krupp 28-cm-Kanone 5 (E), in short K5, was a heavy railway gun used by Germany throughout World War II.

The K5 was the result of a crash program launched in the 1930s to develop a force of railway guns to support the Wehrmacht by 1939. K5 development began in 1934 with first testing following in 1936 at the Firing Test Range Rügenwalde-Bad (German: Schießplatz Rügenwalde-Bad) in Farther Pomerania at the South coast of the Baltic Sea. Initial tests were done with a 150 mm barrel under the designation K5M.

Production led to eight guns being in service for the Invasion of France, although problems were encountered with barrel splitting and rectified with changes to the rifling. The guns were then reliable until the end of the war, under the designation K5 Tiefzug 7 mm. Three of them were installed on the English Channel coast to target British shipping in the Channel, and proved successful at this task.

Towards the end of the war, development was done to allow the K5 to fire rocket-assisted projectiles to increase range. Successful implementation was done for firing these from the K5Vz.

A final experiment was to bore out two of the weapons to 310 mm (12.2 in) smoothbore to allow firing of the Peenemünder Pfeilgeschosse arrow shells. The two modified weapons were designated K5 Glatt.

Several other proposals were made to modify or create new models of the K5 which never saw production. In particular, there were a number of plans for a model which could leave the railway by use of specially modified Tiger II tank chassis which would support the mounting box in much the same manner as the railway weapon’s two bogies. This project was ended by the defeat of Germany.


The Krupp K5 series were consistent in mounting a 21.5 metres (71 ft) long gun barrel in a fixed mounting with only vertical elevation of the weapon. This gondola was then mounted on a pair of 12-wheel bogies designed to be operated on commercial and military rails built to German standards. This mounting permitted only two degrees of horizontal traverse. The carriage had to be aligned on the rails first, with only minimal fine levelling capable once halted. Hence the gun could only fire at targets tangential to an existing railway track.

To track targets needing greater traverse either a curved length of railway was used with the gun shunted backwards or forwards to aim; a cross-track was laid with the front bogie turned perpendicular to the rest of the gun and moved up and down the cross-track to train the weapon; or for 360 degree traverse, the so-called “Vögele Turntable” could be constructed, consisting of a raised rail section (the “firing bed”) carrying the gun, running on a circular track with a central jack to raise the gun during traverse and to take some of the enormous weight.

The main barrel of the K5 is 283 mm (11.1 in) in calibre (caliber), and is rifled with twelve 7 mm (0.28 in) grooves. These were originally 10 mm (0.39 in) deep, but were shallowed to rectify cracking problems.


The Decision not to Drop the German Bomb

Hitler had set himself, or been set, specific guidelines for the introduction and use of new weapons. In 1940 he had given Ohnesorge the impression that he was not interested in having an atom bomb. Two years later, within a few weeks of taking office, Armaments Minister Speer accepted that Hitler “did not want the bomb for doctrinal reasons”.

During a conversation with Field Marshall Keitel, Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and the Rumanian Head of State Marshal Antonescu on 5 August 1944 only a fortnight after the 20 July attempt on his life, Hitler spoke of the latest German work on new explosives “whose development to the experimental stage has been completed”. He added that, to his own way of thinking, “the leap from the explosives in common use to these new types of explosive material is greater than that from gunpowder to the explosives in use at the outbreak of war”. When Marshal Antonescu replied that he hoped personally not to be alive when this new substance came into use, which might perhaps bring about the end of the world, Hitler recalled reading a German writer who had predicted just that: ultimately it would lead to a point where matter as such would disintegrate, bringing about the final catastrophe. Hitler expressed the hope that the scientists and weapons designers working on this new explosive would not attempt to use it until they were quite sure that they understood what they were dealing with.

There can be little doubt that the subject under discussion was fissionable weapons material and, if that is so, then Hitler confirmed that the Germans had the weapon and that it was ready for testing in August 1944. The actual test took place two months later.

The difficulty with all these new weapons was the same, Hitler said. In general, he had ruled that a weapon should be brought into use immediately if it was guaranteed to bring the war to a victorious conclusion forthwith. This rule held good even if no counter-measure had yet been devised. In the majority of cases, however, the probability existed that the enemy would eventually obtain the same substance for himself, so the counter-measure was essential. Accordingly he had ordered that no weapon should be deployed by Germany first until Germany had developed the counter-measure to it.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny stated that when he saw Hitler in November 1944 their conversation came round to the atom bomb. Hitler said,

“Of course! But even if the radioactivity could be controlled, and you used fission as a weapon, then the effects would be terrible … it would be the Apocalypse. And how would one keep such a thing a secret? Impossible! No! No nation, no group of civilised people could take on such a responsibility. The first bomb would be answered by a second and then humanity would be forced down the road to extinction. Only tribes in the Amazon and the primeval forests of Sumatra would have a chance of survival.”

We must now place ourselves in the shoes of the 20 July plotters determined at some stage to overthrow Hitler. The U-boat offensive in the Atlantic had been defeated. German cities and industry were being pounded day and night by bomber fleets which roamed across Reich airspace with impunity. The Army and Waffen-SS were close to exhaustion, defending the ever-shrinking perimeter of Greater Germany. The situation was not completely hopeless, but it would not be long before it was.

Ernst von Weizsäcker, the father of Heisenberg’s close colleague, was Under-Secretary of State at the German Foreign Office, where he was one of the opponents of the Nazi regime. In 1938 he had informed the British Foreign Office of the existence of a group of civilian and military leaders ready to overthrow the Nazi Government if Hitler should go to war over Czechoslovakia, and was himself a major conspirator in what appears to have been the best-prepared coup ever planned against Hitler.

But Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, who had been asked to provide a strong demonstration of their determination not to tolerate the assimilation of the Czech state, disregarded the request, believing that an accord with Hitler was still possible. The German plotters were dismissed as Jacobites. The elder von Weizsäcker remained a focus of resistance in the Nazi State at war but was ultimately convicted at Nuremberg for alleged war crimes on the basis of his signature to certain documents.

According to Hitler’s Luftwaffe ADC Nicolaus von Below, the SS interrogations of the July 1944 plotters reported widescale treason by military leaders throughout the preceding four years: the preparations for the French campaign, the dates of the attack and the objectives of the first operations: even the beginning of the Russian campaign had been betrayed.

Long before the attempt on Hitler’s life the plotters had approached the Allied camp to establish terms for peace. Unconditional surrender was obviously not acceptable, yet, beyond that, all they got was encouragement to carry through their plans to overthrow Hitler. The Soviet author and former ambassador to Bonn, Valentin Falin, demonstrated by reference to Russian secret archives that the resistance movement penetrated to the highest military level in Germany and had contributed substantially to the success of the Allied invasion of occupied France in June 1944.

Professor Heisenberg, who in June 1944 had turned down an invitation by a Professor of History of his acquaintance, Adolf Reichwein, to participate in a plot against Hitler, frequented a social group known as the Mittwochgesellschaft(Wednesday Club). This was an intellectual forum of conservative opposition to Hitler composed of academics, civil servants and industrialists. Its members included the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell: General Ludwig Beck, the nominal head of the military conspiracy against Hitler; the philosopher Spranger; the Prussian Finance Minister Popitz; Ferdinand Sauerbruch, the Chief Surgeon of the German Army, and Rudolf Diels, the founder of the Gestapo. Reunions were held at the Harnack House in Berlin-Dahlem, the headquarters of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

At the meeting of 12 July 1944 Heisenberg addressed the forum with a talk entitled “What are the Stars?” which appears to have been a cover for a discussion about nuclear fission. Spranger observed that these scientific developments promised to change the way men thought about the world, General Beck was more explicit and said that if atomic energy could be used for bombs then “all the old military ideas would have to be changed”. This implies that the question of the atom bomb must have been discussed. Just before leaving Berlin for his home at Urfeld on 19 July, Heisenberg delivered minutes of the meeting to Popitz. The attempt on Hitler’s life was made the next day.

Dr Kurt Diebner and ten assistants had set up an atomic laboratory in the cellar of a school at Stadtilm in the Harz, about thirteen kilometres from Ohrdruf, where Oberst Graf von Stauffenberg, the ringleader of the conspiracy, stayed regularly on the Wachsenberg, which was a favourite meeting place for officers and scientists working in the Ohrdruf area. Frau Cläre Werner, a watchtower lookout who resided on the mountain, recalled Stauffenberg visiting on a number of occasions and she still had possession of items of property he had left with her on his final visit. Why should Stauffenberg have come so often to Ohrdruf when he worked in Berlin? Did the German resistance movement have more than a passing interest in what was going on at Stadtilm and its subterranean environs?

The German author Harald Fäth reported that in the 1960s Gerhard Rundnagel, a master plumber who worked in the Stadtilm atomic research laboratory, gave evidence to a DDR judicial enquiry about the wartime activities there. In the depositions Rundnagel made a statement that the Stadtilm Research Institute had not been properly plumbed in and so was not really up and running. As far as he could see the scientists there were not actually working on anything. This left a lot of time for talk and Rundnagel described conversations he had had at the beginning of July 1944 with Dr Rehbein, a scientist at Stadtilm. Rehbein is alleged to have told Rundnagel that what was under development there was a type of bomb which had a greater explosive power than anything that an old weapons engineer such as himself could possibly envisage. Rehbein then went on to say, “Within a few days you will hear a decisive announcement on which will depend the outcome of the war.” On 20 July 1944 the unsuccessful attempt was made on Hitler’s life. When Rundnagel asked Dr Rehbein later if that was what he had meant, the scientist laughed and replied, “Now it will never be used. The war is lost.” There are two ways of looking at this statement. Rehbein may have been suggesting that once Germany could make the official announcement that an atom bomb had been successfully tested, Hitler would be in a strong position to negotiate with at least one of his enemies. Because of the conspiracy against him, however, the evidence of disunity and betrayal perceived by foreign governments abroad would reduce figuratively the bomb’s impact.

But there is an alternative interpretation. Along with other scientists in Dr Diebner’s entourage, Dr Rehbein may have been an associate of the anti-Hitler faction who wanted the Führer out of the way so that the German military could use the bombs physically to negotiate peace on terms more favourable than unconditional surrender. If it had become known to the resistance that, once tested, Hitler was resolved not to deploy the small atom bombs operationally, this would explain not only why the plotters struck when they did, but would justify Rehbein’s remark that the war was lost, for with Hitler remaining as leader the atom bombs would never be used, or at least would be used only in response to the enemy’s first use; yet the atom bomb, used in quantities, was, in the view of the plotters, Germany’s last hope. 95 The sense of the words attributed to Dr Rehbein seem to favour the latter interpretation.

The fantastic idea current in 1944 of the effect of even a small atomic explosion is conveyed by an article in the Swedish newspaper Stockholms Tidningen in August 1944, and reported in Germany by the TranSozean Innendienst news agency:

“In the United States scientific experiments are being carried out with a new bomb. Its explosive substance is uranium, and when the elements within its structure are liberated, a force of hitherto undreamed-of violence is generated. A 5-kilo bomb could create a crater one kilometre deep and of forty kilometres radius.”

In all the foregoing we have a possible explanation for Professor Heisenberg’s activities. Throughout the Hitler period he was opposed to the regime. He had remained in Germany in 1939 in order to sabotage the atom bomb and radiological warfare projects. In September 1941 he had taken a philosophical standpoint that a regime is to be considered evil by reference to the means it uses to impose its policies, and the atomic bomb was evil. In 1943 the United States had begun work on its atomic arsenal, a fact of which he would probably have been aware. In Germany a strong military resistance was developing of which Heisenberg had knowledge. He knew from von Weizsäcker that terms for an honourable conclusion to hostilities other than unconditional surrender were not available to Germany if that resistance succeeded in overthrowing Hitler. Heisenberg was a patriot. War was war, and, with Hitler removed, what German wanted Stalin or Roosevelt running the country? Therefore the idea of building a bomb of some description had been forced on him, for there had to be some sort of bomb, a bomb inevitably designed and built during the chancellorship of Hitler as Führer, but intended for use in diplomacy by those who would succeed him.

This pre-supposed, of course, that Hitler actually could be got rid of. The suggestion has been made in various quarters that he was in some way under the protection of higher powers determined that he should see his mission through. No assassination attempt could ever succeed because there would always be the hand to re-position the offending attaché case with its bomb, or Hitler would change his schedule unexpectedly and leave the building minutes before a bomb went off. As was referred to in the Introduction, two well-placed authorities who observed Hitler pre-war had the impression that he was a medium, and mediums do claim that nothing can harm them seriously during the times when they are possessed by gods or spirits.

If the plotters had succeeded on 20 July 1944, and the SS had not taken over the running of the country in the aftermath, the death camps would presumably have been abolished, but one sees no easy way how a continuation of the war against the Western Powers could have been avoided. Probably Germany would have found Stalin willing to re-align the Soviet Union in some manner with the new Reich and possibly Japan, particularly if a demonstration of the new explosives or the nerve gases could have been arranged. Whether that was something which the supporters of the plot against Hitler would have found acceptable as the price of removing him we have no means of knowing.



This lathe, or shaper, invented by Thomas Blanchard, was a key development in the history of gunmaking. Installed at the Springfield Armory in the early 1820s, the lathe allowed the duplication of the irregular shapes of wooden stocks. Although the shaper shown is no longer in use, this technology is still used in some parts of the world.

Roswell Lee

The Springfield Armory was the most important manufacturer of military firearms in the US between 1794 and 1968. Established in 1777 as the country’s key weapons store during the Revolutionary War, the Armory became famous for pioneering the kind of mass-production techniques that allowed precision-engineered products to be built in large numbers. Led by Roswell Lee between 1815 and 1833, the Armory’s mechanized production techniques had a huge impact, not only on the firearms business but also on American industry as a whole.

George Washington himself recommended Springfield, Massachusetts, as the location for an arsenal. He appreciated the high, defensible site near the Connecticut River, and the proximity of the river and roads was convenient for transportation. In 1777, the arsenal was founded to store a range of ammunition and arms. When the move was made to weapons manufacture in the 1790s, there was an expansion to lower-lying land to the south and west, near water that could provide a source of power. Here a foundry and workshops were built, beginning a tradition of firearms manufacturing in the area.


In 1794, the Springfield Armory began to manufacture firearms, starting with muskets. As a major arms producer it made weapons for the US forces in the War of 1812, for Union troops during the American Civil War (1861-65), and in the Spanish-American War (1898). The Armory became a center for innovation as engineers and craft workers found ways of making better weapons and improving the efficiency of the production process. Some of these developments were groundbreaking, placing the Armory at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. For example, in 1819, inventor Thomas Blanchard devised a machine on which workers could produce rifle stocks. Blanchard’s machine, usually known as a lathe, was strictly a shaper, working in a way similar to a modern key-cutting machine in which an original shape is copied on to a stock blank. It enabled gun stocks to be mass-produced for the first time. Springfield also pioneered the production of guns using interchangeable parts (a field also developed by Samuel Colt and many others), allowing firearms to be assembled at speed and repaired with ease. This method of production relied not only on new machinery but also depended on the division of labor, with separate workshops for different parts of the production process, precise measuring and gauging of components, and good quality control. By the time of the Civil War, the Armory was using state-of-the- art machines for milling, turning, grinding, and shaping, some driven by water, others by newly installed steam engines. These technological advances were accompanied by up-to-date management and accounting methods, introduced by Colonel Roswell Lee, who became superintendent of the Armory in 1815.


The Armory’s production facility was adaptable, producing a range of muzzle- loading weapons. In the 1840s, the Armory achieved the goal of producing firearms with interchangeable parts, and was able to build guns in large numbers during many conflicts of the 19th century. From about 85,000 Charleville Pattern smoothbore muskets (without interchangeable parts) produced between 1795 and 1815, the Armory’s volume of production jumped to 800,000 Springfield Model 1861 rifled muskets (with interchangeable parts) during the Civil War. The techniques of mass production developed at Springfield during the 19th century made the Armory well placed to produce firearms in the huge numbers needed for major 20th-century conflicts. New improvements, such as the arrival of electrical power, also helped the Armory in this respect. The early 20th century saw the production of bolt-action repeating rifles, including the Krag rifle, designed in Norway, and the Model 1903, which was designed in Springfield. The retooling and adaptation required to produce these new weapons was a challenge, but thanks to machine upgrades and a reorganization of the workforce, they were successfully put into production and demonstrated that the Armory could build quality firearms en masse. The Armory’s Model 1903 was used in both world wars. It was followed by a new generation of semiautomatic firearms, including the famed Garand rifle of 1936, which made US infantrymen much better equipped than those in other parts of the world who were issued with slower bolt-action rifles. Such products kept the Armory going through the mid-20th century, until the US government decided to rely solely on private manufacturers and shut down the facility in 1968.

Vortex weapons

Like the Vortex Gun, the Wind Cannon was also developed by a factory in Stuttgart during the war. It was a type of gun that would eject a jet of compressed air against enemy aircraft. It was a strange device consisted of a large angled barrel like a bent arm resting in an immense cradle like some enormous broken pea-shooter lying askew. The cannon worked by the ignition of critical mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen in molecular proportions as near as possible. The powerful explosion triggered off a rapidly-ejected projectile of compressed air and water vapor, which, like a solid “shot” of air, was as effective as a small shell. Experimental trials of the cannon at Hillersleben demonstrated that a 25mm-thick wooden board could be broken at a distance of 200m. Nitrogen peroxide was deployed in some of the experiments so that the brown color would allow the path and destination of the otherwise transparent projectile to be observed and photographed. The tests proved that a powerful region of compressed and high-velocity air could be deployed with sufficient force to inflict some damage. However, the aerodynamics of a flying aircraft would almost surely neutralized the effectiveness of this cannon. In addition the effects of the cannon on a fast-flying aircraft was quite different from that on a fixed ground target. Still, the cannon was installed on a bridge over the Elbe, but with no significant results — either because there were no aircraft or simply no successes (as one might suspect). The wind cannon was an interesting experiment but a practical failure.


The first documented occurrence of the development of a weapon using abrupt changes in pressure goes back to the Wunderwaffen, literally “wonder weapons”-the name given by the Ministry of Propaganda to the experimental weapons program of the Third Reich. Shortly before the Nazi surrender, American Major General Leslie E. Simon was sent with others to Germany to lead an inquiry into the program. He would publish his observations in 1947 under the title German Research in World War II.

He mentions in particular that under the authority of Albert Speer, then minister of armaments, a research center situated near Lofer, Austria, worked “to duplicate in miniature the effects of tornados” thanks to a vortex cannon. The vortex is a (natural or artificial) phenomenon that takes the form of a whirlwind in which the moving particles (air, water) wrap in a spiral around a zone of low pressure. To produce a vortex in a controlled manner, Dr. Zippermeyer, who was responsible for this research, used a mortar set in the ground, which launched a projectile filled with carbon powder and a weak explosive charge. Once in the air, according to the scientist, the powder explodes and a vortex is created if the projectile is moving at a speed of at least several hundred meters per second. The idea was to be able to “remove the wings” of planes, which would be unable to sustain the resulting pressure differential. Simon indicates that “he achieved a considerable vortex effect,” but he doesn’t mention any use of the cannon other than an experimental one. Another prototype was developed by a company in Stuttgart: a “wind gun” aiming to shoot a “plug of air” at an airplane to destroy it. A model of this cannon projecting air by means of a mix of oxygen and hydrogen was found at the test center in Hillersleben. The Germans working on-site announced that the device could “break one-inch boards at a range of 200 meters but it produced no appreciable effect on aircraft at normal ranges.” It failed to ensure the anti-aircraft defense of a bridge on the Elbe.

Vortex weapons were the subject of major research in the twentieth century, not only in Germany but also in the Soviet Union and in the United States. It is not just the kinetic energy of the vortex, its power of impact, that interests researchers and military folks, but also the fact that its centrifugal force allows it to transport other particles. No weapon seems to have moved beyond the prototype stage. During World War II, the American inventor Thomas Shelton worked on resolving the problem of the unpredictability of combat gases, which a strong breeze can send back toward those who launch them. He developed a device that propels a vortex of noxious gas, which can thereby transport the poison over long distances. The prototype “sent a 45-cm smoke ring a distance of 50 meters with an `eerie howling sound.’ It would never be used.

In the early 1970s, the United States showed particular interest in developing “vortex rings and wind-generation machines” for “crowd and mob control,” but no known result emerged. In 1996, Dr. Andrew Wortman of a company called Istar proposed the development of a “vortex ring generator” with the same goal, but the army did not pursue the research “because it required fielding an entirely new system, and the trend in the Army was to reduce weight and logistic costs.” In 1997, ARL and ARDEC began to recycle and proposed adding a “kit” to the MK19-3 grenade launcher, which would provide “a means of quickly converting the Navy MK19-3 automatic 40-mm grenade launcher between lethal and nonlethal modes of operation” and allow it to shoot not only grenades but also gas vortices transporting chemical products. In the end, it was concluded “the kit enables the weapon to apply flash, concussion, vortex ring impacts, marker dyes, and malodorous pulses onto a target at frequencies approaching the resonance of human body parts,” but “gaps in technology . . . inhibit fielding.” In terms of developing “non-lethal” weapons, that same year the JNLWD launched a dedicated program, the Vortex Ring Gun Program, still with ARL. It was an ambitious project:

“The Vortex Ring Gun (VRG) program will design, build, and successfully demonstrate the capability to produce combustion-driven, ring vortices that will deter and disorient hostile individuals or crowds.”

Once again, a combination of the vortex with other effects was envisaged:

Applications could include an ability to mark an individual or object with a fluorescing dye at a distance; delivery of an incapacitating agent at a distance; delivery of aerosol at a distance (a chemical to corrode, lock, or otherwise disable an automobile); or temporarily introducing a smoke screen or obscuring agent. But the research was not “satisfying”: a stop was put to the program in 1998 due to the “unpredictable vortices and limits on effective range.”

Nonetheless, the enthusiasm didn’t abate. Five years later, British researchers Neil Davison and Nick Lewer reported:

An acoustic technology receiving considerable R&D attention is the vortex generator. . . . At the 2nd European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons in 2003 several groups presented on this topic. These included papers by The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) of the U. K. Ministry of Defence on “Initial Simulations of a Single Shot Vortex Gun,” Bauman Moscow State Technical University reported research on “Application of Vortex Technologies for Crowd Control,” and the Fraunhofer Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) presented a paper entitled “Impulse Transport by Propagating Vortex Rings-Simulation and Experiment.”

In 2004, Canada showed a certain interest in vortex weapons in a report on “non-lethal” weapons. And in 2006, even though the research had been interrupted officially eight years prior in the United States, SARA’s website still boasted the merits of its vortex weapon: “A supersonic vortex of air hits its target at about half the speed of sound with enough force to knock them off balance. The vortex feels like having a bucket of ice water thrown into your chest.” Despite its capabilities, the weapon does not seem to have been used and has since disappeared from the company’s website.

Rockets in WWII Japan

In Japan there was a clear recognition of the potential importance of rockets, but relatively little that the Japanese scientists could do about it. Japan is a nation that lacks natural resources, and at the time had limited industrial experience. Like many centralized states, it had a cumbersome bureaucracy and a tendency for rival organizations to seek to outdo each other.

In the early years of World War II, both the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy were looking at developing 8in (20cm) rockets. The Army’s 8in rocket was a spin-stabilized projectile equipped with six vents to impart both spin and propulsion. It was designed to be launched from a Type 4 Rocket Launcher, in reality a mortar. By contrast, the Japanese Navy developed their own rival version. Their 8in rocket was designed to be launched from simple wooden troughs or even from holes in the ground.

The Japanese also developed the Type 10 Rocket Motor which was a simple propulsion unit intended as a launch facility for aerial bombs. They later produced a rocket 18in (44.7cm) in diameter; it was an unsophisticated projectile that was used in action on Iwo Jima and had a maximum range of over a mile (2,000m). Although it was inaccurate, it delivered a warhead of 400lb (180kg). Interestingly, this rocket was also spin-stabilized. This rotation around the axis had the potential to stabilize a rocket in flight, just as the Congreve rocket had in a previous century.

The Imperial Japanese Army focused their efforts on developing an air-to-surface missile while the Navy concentrated on the design of surface-to-air missiles. The Army decided to develop their Igo missile, while the Navy’s project was the Funryu (Raging Dragon) rocket.

The Igo-1-A was a winged cruise missile constructed by Mitsubishi from wood and metal. It was 16ft (5.77m) long, and had a wingspan of 10ft 9in (3.6m). It had a launch weight of 3,080lb (1,400kg) and could deliver a 1,760lb (800kg) warhead at a velocity of 340mph (550km/h). The rocket motor was a Mitsubishi Tokuro-1 Type 3 which fired for just 75 seconds. There was also an Igo-1-B produced by Kawasaki which was of similar design but delivered a somewhat smaller payload. Both versions of the Igo-1 were launched from an aircraft at about 5,000ft (1,500m) some 6 miles (about 10km) from the target. An onboard altimeter established the missile on a straight and level path and it was then radio-controlled by the pilot to the target. The missiles left no smoke trail and it was difficult for the aircraft pilot to aim them accurately. The rockets were fitted with a tail light for use at night – but under these conditions, although the pilots could see the drone, they now had difficulty in seeing the target. The final refinement of the Igo rocket was the Igo-1-C, developed by the Aeronautical Research Institute of Tokyo Imperial University. Rather than being guided by radio, the Igo-1-C was ingeniously designed to home in on the shockwaves produced by ships when they fired their guns.

Meanwhile the Navy were developing their Funryu rockets, and planned to produce four versions. Like their Igo counterparts, they would be radio-controlled to the target. In the event, only the Igo-1-A and Igo-1-B went into production, and none was ever fired at the enemy.

Air-to-ground missiles were not seriously considered by the Japanese until March 1944. The Army continued to prefer spin-stabilized rockets, while the Navy wanted devices stabilized by fins. Had the two services combined forces, an optimized design could well have been agreed but, as it was, the age-old rivalry persisted and each service pressed ahead with their own ideas. The air-to-ground missiles were to be fitted to the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (Violet Lightning) aircraft which were to be specially modified to carry six of the rockets ready to attack the fleet of ships that the Japanese believed to be on its way to invade the homeland. In the event, the aircraft never achieved full operational status before the war’s dramatic end. Japanese plans to fire off a salvo of rockets were never achieved; instead each rocket was launched singly, in the manner of firing off a mortar, and so little useful benefit was ever achieved.


Japanese Rocket Artillery of World War II

Shisei four Formula 7.cm試製四式七糎噴進砲 –

Type 4 Rocket Mortar 四式二十糎噴進 Rocket Mortar from 1943 –

Type 4 Rocket Mortar 四式四〇糎噴進 Rocket Mortar from 1943 –

Shisei Tarenso 試製十五糎多連装噴進砲

Experimental Multiple Rocket Launcher from 1944 –

Western Approaches – Coastal Command

During November 1942 Admiral Sir Percy Noble, who had been C.-in-C., Western Approaches since February 1941, was succeeded by Admiral Sir Max Horton. Starting with miserably inadequate resources, Noble had done a magnificent job in creating a viable AS defence for the convoys. Churchill, however, found him lacking sufficient aggression, wanting a man who would use the Allies’ growing strength to carry the war to Dönitz. In Horton he made the perfect choice. A career submariner, he had been in command of the whole Royal Navy submarine force and well understood Dönitz’ problems and weaknesses. Horton was ferocious with erring subordinates yet knew that the war against the U-boat was one of patience, for which the maintenance of morale was top priority. In pursuit of this he regularly sailed on operational cruises and flew with Coastal Command crews.

First Wellington variant to be developed specifically for Coastal Command was the GR. VIII, a general reconnaissance/torpedo-bomber version of the Pegasus XVIII-engined Mk IC. Equipped with ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) Mk II radar, it was identified readily by the four dorsal antennae and the four pairs of transmitting aerials on each side of the fuselage. A total of 271 torpedo-bombers for daylight operation was built at Weybridge, together with 65 day bombers, and 58 equipped for night operation with a Leigh searchlight in the ventral turret position. In these last aircraft the nose armament was deleted and the position occupied by the light operator.

There was, however, still an important role for the Wellington to play with Coastal Command. Maritime operations had started with the four DWI Wellingtons: these had been converted by Vickers in the opening months of 1940 to carry a 52-ft (15.85-m) diameter metal ring, which contained a coil that could create a field current to detonate magnetic mines. Eleven almost identical aircraft, with 48-ft (14.63-m) rings, were converted by W. A. Rollason Ltd at Croydon, and others on site in the Middle East.

No. 172 Squadron at Chivenor, covering the Western Approaches, was the first to use the Leigh Light-equipped Wellington VIII operationally, and the first attack on a U-boat by such an aircraft at night took place on 3 June 1942, with the first sinking recorded on 6 July. From December 1941 Wellingtons were flying shipping strikes in the Mediterranean, and in the Far East No. 36 Squadron began anti-submarine operations in October 1942.


The Coastal Command of the RAF, which was eventually to prove such a potent obstacle to Dönitz’ plans, enjoyed a painfully slow expansion. Until early in 1941, invasion was the primary threat to the nation. In denying the Luftwaffe the necessary air supremacy for such an undertaking, Fighter Command took an indisputable top priority. Bomber Command, with its deeply ingrained strategic bombing theories, could equally claim that it alone could strike directly at the enemy, reducing his capacity to continue the war through the destruction of his industrial base and the morale of his populace.

In July 1940, as Dönitz’ boats extended their range by beginning operations from Biscay bases, Coastal Command had 500 aircraft, but only thirty-four of them were Sunderlands, capable of operation beyond a 500-mile radius. The enemy increasingly operated at the fringe of these limits.

Further to the all-important anti-invasion patrols, there were others to watch for attempted breakout by raiders, and the establishment of an AS reconnaissance line running north-westward from Cape Wrath. Patrols were gradually set up on a regular basis from Iceland, and then from Freetown, the busy southern terminal of the SL convoys.

For nearly two years, poorly equipped and lacking experience, Coastal Command spent thousands of hours patrolling, seeing U-boats aplenty but sinking none except in support of surface AS escorts. Then, on 27 August 1940, they captured one. With what appeared to be the most incompetent crew that ever sailed, the U-570, a Type VIIC, surfaced south of Iceland almost beneath a patrolling Hudson. Four shallow-set depth charges caused extensive superficial damage and created panic. With the boat unable to dive, the aircraft kept the crew below with strafing runs until further aircraft and, eventually, the Navy arrived. With some difficulty, the U-570 was recovered and repaired. Although all sensitive material had been destroyed, the boat provided valuable operational data when re-commissioned with a Royal Navy crew.

Slowly, Coastal Command accumulated new aircraft – Sunderlands and Catalinas, Beaufort torpedo bombers, Blenheims and the new Beaufighter. As Bomber Command expanded its four-engined, heavy bomber fleet, it passed down some still-useful twin-engined aircraft – Hampdens, Whitleys and the versatile Wellington.

The useless AS bombs had been superseded by depth charges, modified for air drop but yet lacking a reliable ultra-shallow fuse. As U-boats were usually attacked while on or near the surface, this was an urgent requirement. To evaluate new weapons and to establish correct attack procedures a Development Unit was created.

Although the ASV Mark II, the first practical air-to-surface radar set, was introduced in August 1940, Bomber Command took first priority. When the development of the magnetron oscillator then facilitated a high-power centimetric radar, the discovery was shared with the Americans, who began production of sets with trainable antenna but small enough to be airborne. For these, Coastal Command’s priorities ranked below those of the night fighters of Fighter Command.

Radar gave an aircraft the ability to surprise the U-boat, surfaced at night to recharge batteries and to refresh on-board air. Unfortunately, like Asdic-equipped ships, the aircraft was ‘blind’ over the very last stage of the approach, as the synchronously-switched transmitter and receiver units could not cope with near-simultaneous returns.

The solution was the brilliantly simple ‘Leigh Light’, a 24-inch naval projector mounted in a turret ring and controlled by the standard gun mounting servo system. When trials began in March 1941, a Wellington was required to accommodate the associated generator, but later variants were powered from a bank of trickle-charged accumulators. Entry into service of a device so important was inexcusably slow, it seeing action for the first time in June 1942.

From the middle of 1941, U-boats commissioned at an increasing rate while mercantile losses fell off considerably. This false dawn led to demands that Coastal Command’s heavier aircraft be diverted to assist in Bomber Command operations. But this was to ignore that these same aircraft were a major reason for the improvement. Air cover extended some 700 miles westward from the British Isles, 600 miles eastward from Canada and 400 miles southward from Iceland. Within these limits, surfaced U-boat skippers found that they could be caught with little warning. Around the fringes life was safer, for the longer-range aircraft remained scarce and could not dally so far from base. The U-boats correspondingly congregated in what was known as the Gap, an aircraft-free zone, several hundred miles in width, occupying the central one-third of a line drawn from Iceland to Newfoundland. The Admiralty’s Submarine Tracking Room thus sought to use intelligence to direct convoys in a great northerly arc, to avoid known submarine concentrations and to remain a maximum time within the limits of air cover.

Noting the decrease in interceptions, Dönitz initiated the first of several inconclusive enquiries to establish whether naval codes had been compromised, how to reduce the number of radio transmissions and to evaluate the accuracy of the known British D/F system.

By the end of 1941 a first Coastal Command squadron was converting to the American-built B-24 Liberator. This aircraft proved vulnerable as a daylight bomber over the Continent but was remarkably successful when converted for long-range maritime patrol duties, being well able to cover the Gap.

As the Bay of Biscay had to be traversed by every U-boat leaving or returning to its French base, it was divided into sectors by Coastal Command. These sectors reached down to Spanish coastal limits and each was covered in a planned patrol programme. Submarines increasingly had to submerge during daylight hours, slowing their progress and reducing their endurance.

Mid-1942 saw the strength of RAF Coastal Command stand at over fifty flying boats (Catalinas and Sunderlands) and nearly 500 other aircraft. These included Hudsons, Wellingtons, Whitleys and Hampdens for general reconnaissance but only two squadrons of B-24 (Liberator) and B-17 (Fortress) Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft. As the Luftwaffe was now operating Ju88 and Me110 heavy fighters over the Bay of Biscay, there were also deployed eight squadrons of Beaufighters and the more vulnerable Blenheims.

In addition, four naval squadrons were attached to the Command, together with specialist units for photographic, meteorological and air-sea rescue duties. Based around the British Isles (with Group headquarters at Liverpool, Chatham, Rosyth and Plymouth), at Iceland and Gibraltar, the Command’s aircraft were complemented by those of the US Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) operating from Iceland, Newfoundland and the Canadian mainland. Despite increasing offensive capacity, however, the Gap yawned as wide and as deadly as ever.

With the reduction in scale of submarine attack, it became the practice to reduce the degree of evasive routing and to follow more closely the shortest Great Circle routes. There came also an inevitable relaxation in vigilance, so that it came as an unpleasant surprise when Dönitz set up the occasional pack attack. This he did in order to prevent the transfer of escorts to assist the beleaguered Americans.

One such attack fell on HG.84, a twenty-three ship convoy which sailed northbound from Gibraltar on 9 June 1942. Barring its route were the nine U-boats of Group Endrass, named for the ‘ace’ lost in these waters some six months earlier. The group itself contained one ace skipper in Erich Topp of U-552. It was he that had earlier sunk the American destroyer Reuben James and, by virtue of surviving the war, would accumulate a ‘score’ of 185,000 GRT, earning him the Ritterkreuz with Oak Leaves and Swords.

By coincidence Endrass’ nemesis, Captain F.J. Walker, was again the Senior Officer of the escort, although EG.36 was at a reduced strength of Walker’s sloop Stork and three Flowers. Included in the convoy was the fighter catapult ship, Empire Morn.

Enemy agents in Spain duly reported HG.84’s departure. Twenty ships sailed from Gibraltar, the final three joining from Lisbon on 11 June. These were tracked by Kondors, which thus discovered the main convoy. The reported position proved to be thirty-five miles in error, prompting a tart comment from Dönitz.

With the convoy’s slow progress, Dönitz was able to deploy his boats in two search lines and it was Topp himself that made the first sighting on the afternoon of the 14th some 400 miles west of Cape Finisterre.

In vectoring-in the three colleagues, Topp generated radio traffic that was noted by the rescue ship Copeland at the rear of the convoy. Rescue ships did not enjoy any special immunity and were equipped with ‘Huff-Duff’, the existence of which was suspected by the enemy but not yet confirmed. The Copeland alerted Walker who ordered away the Empire Morn’s solitary Hurricane to disperse the snoopers while his four escorts pursued three separate contacts.

With darkness, Topp had worked himself into an attacking position. He launched a full, four-tube bow salvo, then swung to fire the stern tube. Three ships went down, the Norwegian tanker Slemdal and two British ships, Moss Hutchinson’s Etrib and MacAndrew’s Pelayo. Reloading rapidly, he was able to repeat his attack, this time destroying two Ellerman ships, Hall Line’s Thurso and the Papayanni vessel City of Oxford. The four British ships aggregated barely 8,500 GRT but typified the valuable little Mediterranean traders which, working cargo with their own equipment, could use the most minor ports.

Despite the number of boats in contact with the convoy by the 15th they were kept at a safe distance by the escort, Topp and one other receiving sufficient damage to cause them to break off.

On the following day the escort was reinforced by three fresh ships, including two of the new River-class frigates. The convoy also came within the range of Coastal Command Liberators. Continuous air cover and calm conditions caused the remaining enemy to abandon the operation. Topping-up from a pair of U-tankers, they resumed their interrupted passage to the United States.

That the enemy was thus being ‘let off the hook’ was of great concern to the Admiralty which, as soon as suitable vessels could be mustered, initiated the Support Group concept. This comprised an independent group, accompanied by its own oiler, which could be directed to reinforce the escort of any threatened convoy. First tried in September 1942, the idea immediately faltered with the need of every available ship to cover the North Africa landings in the November. Requirements here consumed not only every possible AS escort but also the first escort carriers (CVE) that were coming forward. It was thus a further six months before Support Groups would become a reality, for which reason the Admiralty initiated the emergency Merchant Aircraft Carrier (MAC) programme. This, however, would produce no result before May 1943.

Deployment of escort carriers pitted U-boats against that most unlikely of killers, the Fairey Swordfish. Often portrayed as an obsolescent stopgap, the aircraft was nothing of the sort, having entered service with the Fleet Air Arm only in July 1936. Designed to handle well at very low speeds, it could lift off a short flight deck with a relative wind speed of only 55 knots. A rare example of a successful multi-purpose design, the Swordfish could deploy torpedoes or mines, and even engage in divebombing in the face of light opposition. Fitted with ASV radar, it carried depth charges or, later, hull-piercing rocket projectiles, to deadly effect against submarines. Often ‘superseded’, it nevertheless remained operational throughout the war.

Although ASV Mark II radar had first been flown in March 1941, Fighter Command’s night fighters enjoyed higher priority than Coastal Command, and it was June 1942 before the enemy became convinced that his surfaced submarines were being surprised because of airborne radar rather than poor watch-keeping. In this same month came a further alarming report of a U-boat, surfaced at night in the Bay of Biscay, being surprised by a sudden illumination and almost simultaneous bombing. The Leigh Light had arrived.

From their French Atlantic bases, all U-boats had to deploy and return across ‘the Bay’ and the growing attentions of Coastal Command were a matter of concern to BdU. Where early 1942 had been casualty-free, June had seen three boats damaged sufficiently to abort their deployments and return. Unusually, Dönitz over-reacted, ordering boats to remain submerged at night, surfacing by day only to recharge and refresh. This was intended to be only a stopgap measure, pending the improvisation of a suitable radar warning receiver. Its result, however, was to more than double the number of sightings and to begin a slow attrition as odd boats were picked off.

Following complaints about lack of Luftwaffe cover, two dozen fighter versions of the Ju88 were transferred to Lorient and Bordeaux. Additional automatic weapons began to appear on U-boats, starting a trend to growing topside clutter that had a cumulative and adverse effect on surfaced stability and submerged manoeuvrability.

Ironically, a couple of French firms, Metox and Grandin, were already producing electronic equipment which, with the addition of a crude antenna, could receive signals over a bandwidth that included the frequency range of ASV Mark II. Known simply as ‘Metox’, the first sets were rushed to completion within six weeks. On surfacing, boats so equipped would hoist a wooden-framed antenna (the ‘Biscay Cross’) and submerge again hastily on the reception of a train of signals at around 200 MHz. Metox-equipped boats escorted those without and, once again, sightings dropped almost to zero.

With their superior electronic industrial base, the Americans were keen to apply technology to AS warfare. Airborne magnetic anomaly detectors were shown to work in principle but the distance from detector to the ferrous mass of the target could not exceed 600 feet. Even the lowest and slowest of aircraft could thus detect a transient lasting only milliseconds.

Expendable air-dropped sonobuoys appeared to be more promising. Released around a suspected target position, these detected target noise, amplified it and re-transmitted it to the circling aircraft. By the end of 1942 they were in use by both US Army Air Corps and US Navy aircraft, and were about to go into mass production.

As sonobuoys could give only an approximate position for the target, precision-dependent weapons such as depth-charges were not appropriate. For this purpose, the self-homing acoustic torpedo was developed. For submarines, too, this was a useful weapon for, launched against a threatening escort, it allowed a skipper to concentrate on a convoy. The Germans had been working on the device since 1933 but progress had been slow. Targeting depended upon matched pairs of sensitive and highly-directional hydrophones. As these, in a fast torpedo, would be swamped by self-generated noise, the weapon was electrically-propelled at about 25 knots. Wrongly assuming that the Allies were already using acoustic torpedoes, German scientists managed to deploy them operationally during 1943.