AMERICA AT WAR

Aviation's War Communique No 6

"We are not going to lose Australia," promises Brett, as the Jap is slowed in his push to the South. Meanwhile, antipodal forces of the United Nations pulverize Nazi arms plants in RAF blasts at the Continent.

Lieut Gen George H Brett, United Nations Air force Commander in Australia, says that Australia may have to take a little drubbing from the Japanese but "we are not going to lose this country."

American and Australian planes are in the air all the time looking for Japanese, says John McEwen, former Australian Minister for Air.

Signs are even more definite now than they were when your last Communique was written that Japanese air and surface forces have been slowed if not completely stopped on the margin of North Australia. There is no longer any expression of fear of loss of that big island, in Washington or elsewhere.

From now on the front line will move northward instead of southward. How soon, and how fast, will depend, as General Marshall said, on our getting sufficient forces there to seize and hold islands. It is a war of islands — a war on land, sea and air for islands.

General Brett gave what may be a fair estimate of the quality of Japanese airplanes when he said that 100 American planes are worth 200 Japanese planes. This is taken not merely as a boastful remark but as a considered observation. Even at that, if we have to put up 100 airplanes for every 200, seven or eight thousand miles away from home, it's no small chore.

Most observers are mildly surprised at the showing the Japanese are making in the air. When you consider that the little yellow men have scarcely any technical creative power, never having invented anything in the whole gamut from egg beaters to superchargers, you must admit they are doing a first rate job of adapting other people's aero development work to their needs and their ambitions.

Incidentally, in the absence of any official report on the number of Nipponese airplanes, one man turns up, writing in the British Manchester Guardian, with an earnest attempt to show that Rising Sun production is somewhere between 12,000 and 16,000 a year, rather than about 5,000, as most every one assumes. His argument is not very convincing.

Still more about the Japanese aloft: the Army and Navy Journal says it has reports that Japanese army fliers are inferior to naval fliers. Most of the enemy bombers are of the two-engine type, with a medium ceiling. The new-type bombers are still inferior to similar type American planes. Dive bombers were none too effective as pilots usually hesitated to approach within 10,000 ft. of the target. Virtually all Japanese fighter planes are inferior to American planes.

Still on the war in the East, it begins to look as if the historian, trying to highlight 1941 in the Second World War, will put down among top events the sinking of the British Repulse and Renown battleships by Japanese air forces. This fact may already have turned the development of heavy war ships at a pretty sharp angle. The United States Navy has not said whether or not it is laying down any more battleships.

Which moves us over to Europe and Britain's announcement that the German battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, have been hunted down with air cameras, and discovered to be badly damaged and definitely out of Hitler's spring push. This seems to confirm reports of RAF and the Fleet Air Arm that their planes and ships were attacking in very low visibility — so low they couldn't see their hits. All they saw at the time were the ships making away. Every improvement in the weight and action of air-borne guns and bombs darkens the picture for surface war ships. Not that war over the water will be any nicer than it is on the water.

European Air War

Aside from the Russians' punching hack at Hitler on the battle line, the next most decisive action in Europe is England's dishing it back to Germany and occupied countries with more and bigger bombs. The Luftwaffe is still in the ring, with a lot of good. fight left, but its heels are down and its breathing is labored.

Now if you live and watch closely, you will see whether airplanes can do what people thought they could do before this war started. Namely, can they render an area untenable and occupy it, or make occupation by land forces bloodless.

The Germans tried it on England, with everything they had, and it wasn't quite enough. RAF officers now say that no more than 1,000 planes ever came over England in any one day. They say the Germans probably never had over 15,000 on their lines at any time, perhaps 25,000 total. England probably has more than that, and certainly will have many more, with Lend-Lease planes and Army Air Forces at their aid.

RAF sweeps are made with around 300 planes or more, carrying 4,000-lb bomb as compared with 500- and 1,000-lb loads early in the war and during the big German blitz. Furthermore, a pound of explosive is much stronger now than it was only recently. An average of 250 tons of explosive have been dropped on the Reich each raid night since the return blitz started. About 350 tons fell on Lubeck. Estimates differ, but it is said that the Luftwaffe only twice unloaded as much as 400 tons of bombs on Britain in a single night.

Pictures released by the Germans, showing the ruins of Lubeck after the British raid, showed a curious quirk of the Nazi mind. The caption said that Germany would remember England for this job.

Another recent ruinous attack by the British was on Rostock and Germany's Heinkel airplane works, where the Nazis seemed to be about to put into production a new four-engine bomber. This project was halted for the time being by four successive night attacks by RAF. Germany has its new Focke-Wulf fighter in the air, and the English have been meeting up with it over the Channel of late.

At the first demonstration of the new Whirlwind fighter, the claim was made that it passes the Spitfire in speed. A flight-commander says that Whirlwinds have been engaged in operational flying over the English Channel for some time and had destroyed at least 30 aircraft on the ground and in the air since last June.

Closing notes: British air force and naval officers are exchanging tours of duty for experience; the Germans have been doing it for years.

The Russians put an extra piece of armor plate behind the pilot's back and head when they took delivery of some Hurricanes. They also added an oxygen feed gadget.

It looks now as if the Russians had paid dearly for their decision to fight through the winter; they are seriously in need of planes. But their air force is in no state of decimation. Correspondents traveling over the country report it very much in evidence. Russia is getting planes from both the United States and England.

New German Bomber

Unofficial reports say that Germany is producing a new Junkers bomber, believed to be the Junkers Ju-288, with two new Junkers liquid-cooled engines of about 2,000 hp each. They are also experimenting with bombers with pressure cabins. It is believed a Junkers transport airplane is being made for carrying light tanks in the fuselage. The tail portion swings on hinges to uncover the hatchway and the tank is run aboard.

The German four-engined Heinkel He177 has the appearance of being equipped with two radial engines, but actually each nacelle houses a pair of liquid-cooled in-line plants. Wing span is 103 ft 4 in and top speed is about 280 mph.

First air fight has occurred over United States-held Iceland, between a German and a Norwegian plane. The German was hit but it went into a bank of cloud.

Unofficial estimates are that American pilots and AA gunners have knocked down 715 Japanese planes and damaged others: Navy, 120; Army, 295; American Volunteer Group, 300.

Press reports refer to a Japanese Zero fighter as hitting an American medium bomber with machine gun and cannon fire.

Britain's Air Secretary Sir Archibald Sinclair says that up to new year, 1942, RAF had lost 3,981 planes; Germany 6,440; and Italy 2,119.

This article was originally published in the June, 1942, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 41, n0 6, pp 72-73. 260.
The original article includes aerial photos of bomb strikes at Le Havre and of the bomb-damaged Heinkel plant at Rostock, and a photo of the tail of a PBY, looking forward.
Photos credited to Wide World and Press Association.