Saturday, September 5, 2020

Emily and Catalina


Emily and Catalina: Two Exotic Flying Boat Beauties of the Pacific War

Consolidated PBY Catalina

Before the outbreak of WWII, it became clear that the days of the dominant role of the huge Naval fleets of Destroyers and Battleships were numbered, and aircraft plus their carriers were about to take over their role as a new weapon, being more flexible in Naval Battles with way more speed, and more reach and punch with massive torpedo- bomber attacks and fighters.

In the early 1930s, a number of Naval aircraft/ Flying Boats were specifically designed for ultra-long Patrol flights over open oceans, demanding for a new sort of aircraft platform that could carry sufficient amounts of fuel for the long haul.

Both the British, the Japanese, and the Americans were working on such designs as they, with their Imperial ambitions and/or oceans surrounding them, felt the most urgent need in case of a war.

In engine technology, major steps were made in the early 1930s, as the newly upgraded Radial engines from Pratt & Whitney and Wright arrived into the market with previously unseen HP/weight ratios, reducing the need for use of 3-4 engine setups (Similar to what we see now with the upgraded/ stretched 2-engine Wide Body Jet-airliners, pushing the 4-engine B-747/ A-380 Jetliners out of the market for pax flights).

The P & W R-1830 Twin Wasp 14 cylinder Radial engine cranked out some 1,000 hp and in later versions even 1,200 hp with extreme endurance and reliability. The engines could run/fly for well over 30 hours if only sufficient fuel was aboard. For the planned long overseas Flying Boat patrol and civil aircraft, that flight endurance/range became the new Holy Grail.

A wet dream for any Navy, to fly & spy over the oceans, with a swarm of mechanical Gulls, monitoring the endless seas with almost unlimited flight endurance and hopefully detecting one day the enemy fleet or a single Submarine, way before those vessels could launch an attack and inflict damage.

Not a contest for the “Most Exotic or Best Flying Boat“ but a brief comparison of the tech specs of both ‘boats, with their own Outstanding features, that earned them the title “Best flying boat of the Pacific”.

Kawanishi H8K2 Emily

Kawanishi H8K2 Emily
Kawanishi H8K2 Emily

In Japan, there was a similar development for Long-Range Flying boats that started in or before 1934.
Could it be that around that year, they may have had a master plan for conquering the “Colonial” Pacific?

Kawanishi incorporated in their design the knowledge collected after they visited the Short Brothers factory in the UK, at that time one of the world’s leading producers of flying boats (Industrial espionage is nothing new).

The result was the Kawanishi H3K, a license-built, enlarged version of Short’s Old-School design, the model Rangoon. Based on that type, a larger, 4-engine monoplane with twin tails came out, and a hull suspended beneath the parasol wing by struts, quite closely resembling the PBY wing setup. The maiden flight was on 14 July 1936 (just over a year after the maiden flight of the PBY) and was originally designated Navy Type 97 Flying Boat, later H6K.

An H8K2 51-085 of the 851st Kōkutai in flight, before being shot down by a U.S. Navy PB4Y-1, 2 July 1944.
An H8K2 51-085 of the 851st Kōkutai in flight, before being shot down by a U.S. Navy PB4Y-1, 2 July 1944.

From there, a newly developed large-sized flying boat came out. The Kawanishi H8K was a larger, four-engine aircraft designed for long-range and extended endurance on patrols or bombing missions typically flown alone over the ocean, and used by the Imperial Japanese Navy in some very audacious assaults.

With the Allied code name “Emily”. it was a shoulder-winged design that has some distinct similarities with the Short Sunderland design: a robust flying boat that was also fitted with powerful defensive armament, for which Allied pilots had respect, wherever this aircraft was encountered in the Pacific theater.

The H8K entered production in 1941 and first saw operational use on the night of 4 March 1942. Only 3 months after the first surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese launched a daring second raid on the Oahu, Hawaii US Naval Port.

Since the target laid out of range for the flying boats, this audacious plan involved a refueling by submarine at the abandoned French Frigate Shoals, some 900 km (560 mi) north-west of Hawaii.

A Kawanishi H8K2 Type 2 Flying Boat ashore.
A Kawanishi H8K2 Type 2 Flying Boat ashore.

Two Emilys attempted to bomb Pearl Harbor and believe it or not, they arrived there but, due to poor visibility, did not accomplish any significant damage. Six days after this second Pearl Harbor raid, yet another flight to Oahu was made! What? As if a Tokyo-Hawaii Express scheduled-flight slot was agreed upon, one of the Emilys was again sent out on a daylight photo-reconnaissance mission from the Midway Atoll.

But this time, their luck ran out, It was intercepted by radar-directed Brewster F2A Buffalo fighters of Marine Fighting Squadron 221 and shot down. All aboard were killed including Lt. Hashizume Hisao, the lead pilot of the second Pearl Harbor raid. (Source Wikipedia)

But the string of events as described with the “Emily”, gives an impression of how this aircraft was underestimated by the Allies. It turned out that also the Japanese had made major steps forward.

With a length of 28 m/ 92 ft and a wingspan of 38 m/ 124 ft, the ‘Emily’ was markedly larger than the PBY. Also, its Gross Weight of 24,5 tons/ 34,000 lbs and take-off weight of 32,5 tons/ 72,000 lbs indicate that this aircraft was made for the long haul, like a flying tanker and well-armed.

On top, its 4 Mitsubishi radial engines cranked out max 1,859 hp each, resulting in a high top speed of 467 km/h/ Cruise speed of 300 km/h (184 mph). The ferry range was 7,152 km (4,444 mi), Spectacular Specs for the time!

The Consolidated/ Convair/ Canso PBY Catalina.
Length: 63 ft /19.5 m
Wingspan: 104 ft (32 m)
Max takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,000 kg)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines, 1,200 hp (890 kW)
Maximum speed: 196 mph (315 km/h, 170 kn)
Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h, 109 kn)
Range: 2,520 mi (4,060 km, 2,190 nmi)
Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,800 m)

PBY waist gunner mounting port side gun blister.
PBY waist gunner mounting port side gun blister.

It is clear from all specs/data that we see from the ‘Emily’ under Photo 1, the design of the PBY Catalina comes from an earlier era. There is no doubt about that, the PBY was considered an obsolete design at the beginning of WW II.
So, in a tech comparison, the Cat lacks speed, payload, and defensive capacity, but there was a huge edge. With its proven technology and old-school design features (underwing struts, no wing flaps, low top/ cruise speed, etc.), the type could be built in huge numbers, right in the time when they were needed in 1940-1941 and beyond.

PBY riding at sea anchor.
PBY riding at sea anchor.

With all those setbacks mentioned, there was one more thing, the flight range was fabulous and the aircraft’s endurance made her the champion of the long overseas patrol flights, needed over the Atlantic Ocean from early 1940 and over the Pacific Ocean from December 1941.

Soon engaged in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and in SAR flights (Search and Rescue) for tracking downed pilots, the Catalina had the capacity to fill the ship-convoy escort-gap over the Atlantic, as PBY flights were performed both from the UK and Canada.

Another Article From Us: Live Like a Bond Villain, 3 Remote Napoleonic-Era Forts For Sale

During the War, the Catalina got big fangs for killing the Subs. Not only in the daytime, the Cats were among the first fighting aircraft that received Radar, the Mad Boom, Sonar and the Leigh Light, so they were able to attack the Subs also at night, the critical time that Subs had to come to the surface, in order to start their diesel engines and recharge their batteries, needed for the daytime underwater operations.

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Monday, August 24, 2020

The “Forbidden” Attack On Gestapo HQ

Baron Jean De Selys Longchamps & The “Forbidden” Attack On Gestapo HQ

 Noor Muhammad

It was January 20, 1943, when the people of Brussels saw the German occupying forces getting their due reward at the hands of a Hawker Typhoon.
The fighter plane, piloted by Jean de Selys Longchamps, flew unscathed above Brussels, entering the Avenue Louise after traversing the Avenue De Nation. Its target was a 12-story building on the Avenue Louise used by the Gestapo as their headquarters ever since the German army occupied Brussels in 1940.
De Selys flew very low over the city in a bid to evade German radar. As he approached the Gestapo headquarters, he turned his guns on the occupants of the building who’d rushed to the windows to see what was going on.

In a close attack, he opened up a stream of deadly cannon fire on the building, ripping apart its façade and sending uncountable pieces of concrete and glass into the air. The attack had been launched in a remarkably precise manner, so the neighboring buildings didn’t sustain any discernible damage.
German cavalry parade past the Royal Palace in Brussels shortly after the invasion, May 1940.
But de Selys wasn’t finished yet. While pulling away, he opened his cockpit and dropped thousands of miniature Belgian and British flags over a number of villages, the Royal Palace at Laken, and the garden of his niece, Baroness De Villegas De Saint-Pierre.
Continuing at a low level, he once again evaded German radar and anti-aircraft guns as he made his way through the Flemish countryside, along the seashore, and, eventually, across the sea. In less than 30 minutes, he had landed safely at his home base at Manston in Kent, England.
Typhoon IB DN406/PR-F of No 609 Squadron at Manston, 14 May 1943.
De Selys’s deadly attack instantly killed four Germans and left dozens with grave injuries. The fatalities included a high-ranking Gestapo officer, Commander Müller, and the Chief of the SD, SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Thomas.
The building was in shambles, having been damaged to such an extent that the Germans couldn’t use it for the next six weeks.
The word soon spread, and the Belgians rejoiced at what they saw as retribution for the evil acts of their occupiers. Hundreds of Brussels citizens came to see the damage but were driven away from the site by the German soldiers.
Belgian civilians fleeing westwards away from the advancing German army, 12 May 1940
The annoyed troops arrested innocent denizens in retaliation, but the sight of the devastated building was enough to lift the spirits of the entire nation.
Herman Bodson, a member of the Belgian resistance during the Second World War, recalled: “The day of the attack was a day of joy. That week, while the news was told around the country, was a week of joy.”
Jean de Selys Longchamps
Belgians all over the country secretly listened to the BBC that evening to find out who was behind the daring attack. They were both happy and amazed to learn that the pilot who had wreaked havoc on the Gestapo was de Selys – a member of the Belgian aristocracy.
Leopold III in 1940, Belgium
Born to Baron Raymond Charles Michel Ghislain de Sélys-Longchamps in Brussels on May 31, 1912, Baron Jean Michel P.M.G. de Sélys-Longchamps was a grand-nephew of King Leopold III.

De Selys was a Belgian Cavalry Officer at the time of German invasion. He fought in the Battle of Belgium before leaving for Britain through Dunkirque.
Refusing to accept the Belgian capitulation, de Selys went to France with hopes of joining a newly raised Belgian army from there. But it couldn’t become a reality due to the armistice between France and Germany.
Belgian soldiers under German guard following the fall of Fort Eben-Emael on 11 May 1940.
De Selys decided to return to Britain via Marseille and Gibraltar along with a group of Belgian pilots. Unfortunately, he was caught and imprisoned in Marseille as he tried to reach England through Morocco. He was apprehended as a POW for some time before he managed to escape and reach England through Spain.
Since de Selys was 28 years old at the time, he didn’t meet the required age to enable him to enlist as a volunteer. So he forged his papers in a bid to get trained by the RAFVR (Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve) as a fighter pilot.
A Luftwaffe aerial photograph of RAF Manston at the outbreak of war in 1939 when it was still an all-grass airfield
Shortly after he’d completed his training, de Selys became famous as one of the best pilot officers at the RAF.
De Selys kept himself aware of what was going on in his country through his Belgian contacts. He decided to raid the Gestapo after learning that his father was tortured to death by the security police (SIPO) which then shared its headquarters at 453 Avenue Louise along with the secret police (SD).
After making an ingenious plan to launch the attack, he sought permission from his superiors to execute it.
A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee, as he dives on a formation of Heinkel He IIIs of KG 55 which had just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works at Woolston, Southampton.

Although his proposal was supported by his colleagues, the RAF didn’t approve the venture because it was too risky. After trying for several weeks, he decided to carry out the daring enterprise on his own and continued planning it secretly.
The opportunity presented itself on Wednesday, January 20, 1943, when de Selys was ordered to strike a railway junction in the vicinity of Ghent, in Northern Belgium. He armed his Hawker Typhoon to its limit and took with him a bag full of miniature Belgian and British flags.
He left the airfield along with his comrade and wingman, Flight Sergeant André Bianco, to launch the assault in Flanders. After completing the mission, de Selys told Bianco to return to England and flew alone towards Brussels to execute the solo attack.
A Royal Air Force Hawker Typhoon Mark IB with a full load of 60-lb. rocket-projectiles beneath the wings
When de Selys returned to Manston after completing his “forbidden” mission, he received a hearty reception from his colleagues, but such ebullience wasn’t forthcoming from his superiors.
He was subsequently demoted to Pilot Officer and was transferred to No.3 squadron as punishment for disobeying orders. However, despite seeing his rank reduced, the young pilot was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the British on May 31, 1943.
Distinguished Flying Cross.
Sadly, de Selys didn’t live long enough to enjoy his newfound fame and died just a few months after being decorated. He passed away on August 16, 1943, after his aircraft was severely damaged by German flak while he was flying a mission over Ostend.

He crashed as soon as he landed at the Manston base and was killed instantly.
Monument for the Belgium RAF Pilot Jean de Selys Longchamps
De Selys’s daring attack on the Gestapo has been preserved forever in the form of a plaque on the façade of the building at 453 Avenue Louise as well as a statue of the heroic pilot which was erected nearby.