Sunday, July 26, 2015

Night Raid




Peter Stahl, a former pilot of the Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader 30, 30 Squadron bombers of the Luftwaffe, describes a night raid with this classic bomber at the time of the blitz on England.

The scream of the engine suddenly left when the automatic command inserts the turbocharger wakes me.

Next to me, Hans, my navigator, is sitting tight in his harness, his head leaning against the window of the cabin. I call Theo and Hein intercom, sleep. Our Ju 88 rose after take-off at 4,200 meters; the temperature of the engine is too low because the shutters of the radiators are still open and the normal fuel tanks are nearly exhausted.

Nobody brings oxygen masks if we continued to sleep we passed quietly from sleep to death.

Fly, sleep, eat and go fly here our routine in recent weeks. This evening, the report on the mission, Stoffregen warned entire squadron that Hermann Goering had personally ordered that night operations against the Island not only had to continue with the current intensity, but should even be increased by all means possible.

The Supreme Command was informed that the population of the Island will give up in the next weeks. My navigator, Hans, loud enough to be heard, commented: The Pot Belly and his scribblers of command with their pink pants (the German staff officers wore a red stripe down the sides of his trousers, hence the allusion ) they should go on a mission, so let's see who surrenders first.

There was a moment of dead silence, in the meeting room. Stoffregen then resumed as if nothing had happened.

Well then, a good journey.

What could he say to us on the other airmen who know what is the truth?

The people of the command is so far from the war that no longer thinks of us as human beings, but simply as numbers. A growing number of crews reached the limits of endurance nervous and does not take into account the forces, as no account is taken of the actual situation in the air war on Britain.

England has had to endure an air war against a superior opponent by more than 6 months and still does not give signs of weakness. On the contrary, its defenses become stronger every week.

The profile of the coast is emerging before us, the photoelectric we seek, but the flak is silent. Gunners enemies do not sleep, and then it means that there are around night fighters. Some reflectors were gathered in groups of five.

And as a result, our path is accurately indicated by a pyramid of light beams that moves with us.

Very often, the light of a photoelectric takes us in full and the glare is blinding me. The light beam is following us for moments that seem interminable, before leaving us, which shows that, when we are at a good level, our bombers with matte paint can no longer be followed in view of earth.

I plan to have the moon at an oblique angle behind us. If I had it directly behind it would be easier for night fighters recognize us against the sky clearer, after being guided by photoelectric. Are all lessons learned with operational experience?

Sighted a twin-engine night fighter that I cut the route to a hundred meters. Fortunately the moon's position is such that there sighted. Then my gunner warns calmly intercom night fighters tail, on the left.

Cast down our Ju 88 with a bicycle kick on the left, and let myself fall, upside down, into the night. I just leveled when Hein repeated the warning. What the hell. Down a second time, like a stone, in the pitch darkness below. Then again a third time.

We are now just 800 meters, with 2 tons of explosives on board and a long climbing to be done to bring us to a decent share for attack.

The Ju 88 is something special, so different from everything I knew before, that the riders are allowed to put commands only after a minuziosissimo technical training on the ground.

To begin with, there is a complicated plumbing, which activates the cart, flaps, brakes sharply, the device for the automatic callback of beaten and locking the tail wheel, while the manual controls of respect are triggered by a hand pump. A further innovation compared with the previous modern types of airplanes around the world is that the Ju 88 was designed as a single-seater plane, which means that although it has a crew of four (pilot, bombardier / navigator, radio operator and gunner) , if necessary, the pilot can only play from his seat during a flight operating all necessary functions.

The location and arrangement of the cockpit is ideal.

Thanks to the fully glazed nose is full visibility in all directions, including downward and toward the front. The pilot's task is facilitated by the different shape of the various knobs, which can be recognized as the right ones simply by touch (very important factor in the dark and in the heat of the battle, when you have to look out all the time).

The Ju 88 seems to know to be a nice and interesting (just as capricious actress) and acts accordingly. And that can give you an incredible surprise without warning.

These quirks can be seen especially in takeoff, but just in the air, just masters of the aircraft, the Ju 88 responds like a dream, really a dream aircraft.

As I return to the attack rate expected, we run into the clouds and begins to form ice. At 6,000 meters the temperature dropped to -30 ° C, but does not form more ice. It's cold in the cabin, and each slit apertures filters a powder of icy needles. The clouds go away and almost immediately the flak we shot.

The batteries seem to know not only our exact share but also our speed and our route.

Grenades explode in front and behind us and every maneuver to dodge it seems unnecessary. However I try to try all the tricks you know, all the maneuvers of diversion possible, but to no avail. The situation is becoming so difficult that I am several times to think it would be better to unhook my mine blindly into the night.

These mines have on board are of the LM-B ships, seem big barrels, weighing 1,000 kg each and are expected to arrive at the target hanging from a parachute. Our squadron has used for the first time in land operations against the city of Coventry, this month.


Now we finally arrived on the main path to attack other air all around. The aircraft batteries can choose their targets and for a few minutes let alone us. Beyond the horizon we see a reddish reflection. We no longer need to study the route and I can vary my path towards in order to avoid major concentrations of flak. The closer we get to the target, the more we realize that there must be in a living hell.

Mines dropped from planes that have gone before exploding in regular series.

As we approach, the shooting antiaircraft thickens and it seems that every sector of the sky is searched by thousands of light curtains. The adjustment path, through the inferno, punctuated by explosions of anti-aircraft shells, seems to have no end, and I am compelled again and again to grope the dodges.

But what we feel above the lens exceeds any possible imagination. It seems that the whole city is in flames, and we are only the vanguard; a large number of our bombers is yet to come, and will not have some navigation problems with the reflection of flames in the sky. Furthermore the aim is illuminated by flares that light up at irregular intervals.

With the engine idling begin to glide toward the goal that was assigned to me.

Suddenly my Ju 88 is located in the midst of a strike-aircraft precisely that forces me to turn and walk away. I wait until the shot is focused against another plane, then I take advantage of that moment to throw with a fast swooping to the point of release.

Beneath us everything is red and the heat of the fires raises a huge black cloud, fed by the flames below. Our target is closed in the Docks area.

Hans did not find it hard to take aim for our mines. I fly over the harbor on fire following his instructions. We can recognize, as if we were in broad daylight, all the details that we have studied the photo reconnaissance. My stopwatch turns and the exact second we spot two large explosions in our area, are our mines.

A row of flares hanging from the parachute we suddenly explodes in front and on the left, to our exact share. I discarded immediately to the right. It changes all the time, at irregular intervals, my route and the speed of the engines, in order to change its roar. The minute one another without end, until we spot the coast. My nerves are going to give in.

Without wasting any more time it reduces the engines idling, and I'll throw in a glide fast and decisive, even knowing that this will bring me a shot of the shore batteries of anti-aircraft light. I do not care anymore and count on luck to avoid areas of higher concentration-aircraft.
And then it happens. A blinding flash. They were impressed.

Recall our Ju 88 and cast a quick look at the instruments.

It seems completely normal and no one aboard was injured.

Reduce the speed to the engines, but as pull back the throttle, the engine continues to turn left at full capacity. A splinter has probably sliced the lead. There is no aircraft engine that it can withstand long, in these circumstances.

I decided off and the Ju 88 continues drifter in the dark of night.

Those beams rummaging heaven before us are our curtains, and we're happy to have them spotted. We launch rockets of recognition, but the spotlight continues to dazzle us in full. Another set of rockets of recognition. Suddenly the flak it takes lightly at gunpoint, and are forced to make a series of maneuvers to avoid it. Hazardous, with the engine stopped.

This deadly game with the curtains and lightweight batteries continues along the coast. We are already exhausted by fear and lack of sleep, and my crew vents his anger returning fire with machine guns. Shoot at their fellow soldiers.

I can not blame them.
The fear of the fire engulfs, we would like to jump out of the plane and flee, but the roof of the cab crashed. Soldiers rushed to the split and we can roll out.

Firefighters and doctors arrive quickly. The soldiers say to the doctor, a young guy just arrived at the front, that none of us is seriously hurt. And we see that the slips in the plane and he goes out with the clock edge, which intends to keep as a souvenir.

Hans for this gesture of the doctor is the last straw that breaks the camel. Go to him calmly, he takes off of the clock hand and plant a fist in the face with such force that the medicine man slips on the wing and it ends up on his back on the grass.

And this is the end of another mission to London.

A 14 year old boy would already recognized as a friendly aircraft.

As we approach the base prepare the crew to the difficulties of a landing on one engine only. I want to download the excess fuel but the control of the discharge must be dead. Visibility is excellent, so, contrary to accepted practice, down with the cart instead of groped a belly landing.

The operation requires time, since I have only half of the normal hydraulic pressure. After a final check, turn the engine good for approach and landing. On board no one speaks. I value my share while plane to land along the lighted path.

Too low.

We bump with the left wing and we run into the ground in complete darkness. The swath on the ground seems to never end. The right engine begins to creak and there's no way to stop it.

The fear of the fire engulfs, we would like to jump out of the plane and flee, but the roof of the cab crashed. Soldiers rushed to the split and we can roll out.

Firefighters and doctors arrive quickly. The soldiers say to the doctor, a young guy just arrived at the front, that none of us is seriously hurt. And we see that the slips in the plane and he goes out with the clock edge, which intends to keep as a souvenir.

Hans for this gesture of the doctor is the last straw that breaks the camel. Go to him calmly, he takes off of the clock hand and plant a fist in the face with such force that the medicine man slips on the wing and it ends up on his back on the grass.

And this is the end of another mission to London.

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