Sat Feb 16, 2013, 05:38 AM
dipsydoodle (42,239 posts)
Setback in search for WW2 Spitfires lost in jungle
Setback in search for WW2 Spitfires lost in jungle after archaeologists say the planes were never taken to Burma in the first place
Some 36 planes were thought to be lying undiscovered in Mingaladon - one of three potential locations in the country - with as many as 124 buried in total.
But Wargaming Ltd, who were funding the project, today said they believe no Spitfires were delivered in crates and buried at RAF Mingaladon during 1945 and 1946.
The company said that archival records showed that the RAF unit that handled shipments through Rangoon docks only received 37 aircraft in total from three transport ships between 1945 and 1946.
None of the crates contained Spitfires and most appear to have been re-exported in the autumn of 1946, they said.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2279537/Setback-search-WW2-Spitfires-lost-jungle-archaeologists-say-planes-taken-Burma-place.html#ixzz2L3cAcMBl
7 replies, 1963 views
Setback in search for WW2 Spitfires lost in jungle (Original post)
Response to dipsydoodle (Original post)
Sun Feb 17, 2013, 07:55 PM
CTyankee (43,643 posts)
1. Interesting, but why would they export these to Burma?
Where were they to be used? I find it interesting that they would be consider useful there but exactly how would that happen? A land invasion that needed fighter planes to accompany bombers? I don't know that much about military stuff, so I would appreciate hearing from those who do know...
Response to CTyankee (Reply #1)
Mon Feb 18, 2013, 12:42 AM
happyslug (13,333 posts)
3. The British Military situation in India, Pakistan and Burma was weak post WWII
People forget that Britain retained Rationing till the early 1950s, do to shortages caused by WWII that were NOT fully recovered from till the early 1950s. In 1945, with Labour being put into power in the first election since 1938, Military spending was going to be restricted and Britain was going to turn inward. The Labour Government was NOT going to stop Indian Independence (Something Churchill opposed, i.e. Churchill wanted India to stay under British rule) and with that went Burma.
This was complicated by the fact Thailand (Then Siam) had technically declared war on the US in 1941, right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US for its own reason refused to acknowledge that declaration of war and by 1945 was backing the Siam Government (that had declared war in 1941) as a faithful ally (Politics can be strange, today's enemy, can be tomorrows "long time friend").
The Communists had taken over most what would become North Vietnam AND the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. The Mekong flows from China through Laos and Cambodia and then to the South China Sea in what was to become South Vietnam. While Thailand was between Burma and French Indo China (present day Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) it NEVER been an barrier between French Indo China and India (the sea route was preferred, but the land route was doable from a Military point of View).
Worse, With the Russians taking Manchuria and turning over all the Japanese Weapons and equipment they took to the Chinese Communist Army, the possibility of China being lost to the Communist was a real concern (By 1949 the Chinese's Communist had taken over all of Mainland China, through in 1945/1946 the Communist were NOT strong in South China).
On the other hand the position of the US and British Forces in Europe was bad. Stalin had taken over most of Eastern Europe and his allies in the Communist Parties of Italy and France were willing to work with him. Germany was destroyed. Shipping from the US to Europe was the weak link in the US defense positions via the USSR. Shipping from the US, while no longer subject to U-Boat attacks, was NOT big enough to support the US Army in Europe if war broke out with the Soviets.
Food was in short supply in 1945, due to the war NOT ending till after the planting season in Italy and Germany (in fact the US would starve to death 2000 German POWS in the winter of 1945-1946, due to the lack of food). France had been cleared of Germans by early 1945, but almost all the farm animals and tractors used by farmers were either dead or destroyed (A similar situation occurred in the Soviet Union, with a shortage of Farm Animals till the 1960s, a shortage so severe that conversion to tractors were delayed and Collectivization of Poland never occurred). Netherlands had remained under German Rule till May 1945, when Germany Surrendered, again restricting planting season in the Netherlands and adding to the food shortage.
The US was shipping what it could in 1945, but the demand of the American People for their sons to come home from the War so became overwhelming (and would lead to the lost of Congress by the Democrats in the Election of November 1946, due to the delay in releasing the troops by Truman, who feared that if he released to many of them at once, as had been done in 1919-1920 period after WWI, the US would have entered a new Depression like the 1919-1921 recession that cost Truman his attempt to become a haberdasher).
Notice Russia under Stalin was having many of the same problem with food as Western Europe was having, but Stalin made sure the Soviet Army was fed and loyal to him. Poland, like France had been liberated from Nazi rule in 1944, and thus able to provide some of the food the Soviet's needed to feed Eastern Europe. The problem was, Poland which had been a huge part of Western Europe's pre WWII food supply chain was now cut off from Western Europe.
Thus by the Summer of 1945, it was clear, Europe needed food and that source had to be the US. The problem was US ability to export the food needed (And Europe's ability to import the food needed) was limited. This was more a product of the destruction of European Ports as the Germans retreated then any other factor (through the British bombing of Hamburg in 1943, the first time in history a "Fire wall" occurred, predating the "Fire walls" of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima in 1945).
Side note: Due to how the Atomic bomb reacted to the hills around Nagasaki, no fire wall occurred in Nagasaki, the Second Atomic bombing, dropping it to third or fourth most deadly bombing, behind Dresden (#1 is the Tokyo Fire Bomb raid of 10 March 1945, at least 100,000 dead, Second is Hiroshima at 82,000 dead., Third is Hamburg at 42,600 killed, Fourth is Nagasaki at 40,000 dead with Dresden at fifth place with 25,000 dead). Please notes, all types of numbers are often given for each of these five bombings. All were bombings with high death counts. Some reports put Dresden at 250,000-300,000 dead, but that is considered to high, for most of the bodies were recovered at Dresden, most people died from lack of oxygen due to the fire bombing. NOT the actual affect of the fire bombing. The same with Tokyo in March 1945 (through you have more bodies actually burned in the Tokyo fire bomb raid then in Dresden and Hamburg).
One of the problem with US Air Power in 1945 was the most of the Soviet Union was also outside the range of the B-29s (Except on one way missions) England was the only secure base. China had based B-29s, but those had been marginally against Japan in 1944 and withdrawn to Mariana Islands in the fall of 1944, after those were taken in the summer of 1944.
Similar to Germany, Japan and Korea was in no position to support US forces against the Soviet Union in the Summer of 1945 (and this seems to be the reason the Japanese held out, hoping that the Soviet Union and the US would go to war, and Russia would provide the three things it needed to defend itself from a US invasion, oil, planes and trained pilots (by the summer of 1945, due to the shortage of fuel and planes, the number of trained pilots had fallen to low numbers, thus the Kamikaze plan, trained enough to take off and hit a ship, not even trained enough to avoid Anti-Aircraft fire). This hope survived even the Atomic Bombing of August 6 and 9th 1945, thus not until it was clear that the Soviet Union would take NOT only Manchuria by September 1, 1945, but all of Korea by October 1st, at the latest, did the Japanese surrendered.
Even with the surrender of Japan, the US did NOT have the ability to use Japan as a base against the Soviet Union. Most large Soviet Cities were outside Siberia and thus use of Atomic bombs from Japan would be limited to bombing the Trans-Siberian Railway, which the Russian had enough ability to defend (and a large Communist party not only in China BUT Japan. In many ways the reason the Japanese surrendered on August 15th, was the fear that the Soviet Union forces would reach Japan, and allied with the Japanese Communist quickly take Japan before the US could).
Iraq was British occupied, but by three Brigades, facing three Russian Divisions. Now a Division in generally made up of three Brigades itself, but had addition support troops to support the Division's three Brigades. More, once you have three divisions, you have an Army Corp behind them. The Army Corp generally had Additional support troops, including heavy artillery and Air Craft, including planes from the Air Force. Army Corp roughly 100,000 men, a Brigade roughly 1600-2000 men. Thus you had 100,000 Soviet Troops facing maybe 6-10,000 British troops (If the three Soviet Division did NOT have Corp Support behind them, it still would be 45,000 men, 15,000 in each division, against 6-10,000 British Troops). On top of this, the Iraq Government hated the British occupation, while they hated the Communists more, Stalin could have made a deal, exchanging support for the Iraqi Army against the British, but no permanent Soviet Troops in Iraq).
As you can see, the situation was NOT that good for the US and its Allies in the Summer of 1945. What saved the US was Stalin knew he did not have a Fleet, thus he was supreme if he stayed out of areas were Naval Fleets could be effective (Thus his famous order to the Communist in Bulgaria and Yugoslavia to end all support for the Communists in Greece "To hold Greece your need a Fleet, and we have no Fleet").
Stalin really did not want to go into Korea, Japan, and Western Europe, in all three areas a Fleet is important. That is NOT true of Russia, Central Europe north of the Mediterranean (Stalin had some concerns about China, given its huge Coast line, but as long as most Chinese supported the Communist Party of China, China could always withdraw from any coastal areas that came under attack and then retake those coastal areas when the Fleet doing the attack goes some place else). Please note Stalin had a treaty with Turkey as to what ships could go into the Black Sea, and no Carrier or Battleship could go through the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.
Side note: The treaty has two clauses, one for "Black Sea Powers" i.e. any country on the Black Sea. A Second Clause for all other countries. Aircraft Carriers are NOT technically excluded under either clause, but even the old WWII era Aircraft Carriers exceed the tonnage limit for any war ship in the clause that covers non-Black Sea Countries (i.e. the US, Britain etc). There is NO similar Tonnage limit for war ship of any Black Sea Nation, but ships that are exclusive carriers are forbidden (Thus all Soviet and now Russian Carriers had a secondary role that excluded it from being an "Aircraft Carrier" under this second clause). I did not write the Treaty, just repeating its restrictions.
In the Spring and Summer of 1945, the Communist Resistance groups were taking over most of the Countries of the Balkans. German Troops on retreat, would pass communist guerrillas on the March in late 1944 to May 1945. Previously they had fought each other toe and nail, now the Germans just wanted to get home and the Communists saw no reason to even try to stop them. They walked right by each other, often saluting each other (and technically they were still at War with each other, but by late 1944 it was clear that the area was going to become Soviet Controlled and thus fighting over who will hold the Balkans till the Soviet Army showed up was not high on to either sides agenda). This was also true in Northern Italy, this is how Mussolini ended up in Italian Communist hands. The German convoy he was in, talked to the Italian Communists and made a deal. The Communist would leave the Germans go home, but none of any Italian Fascists. The Germans agreed to separate themselves from any Italian in their order of March and Mussolini and his men were on their own (Mussolini was captured and hanged by the Communists).
Notice, nothing was the way it was in 1939. The French Army was still building up, it would participate in the Occupation of Germany, but in 1945 it was barely able to do that (By 1946 it had rebuild itself to do a decent job in the French Indo China war, but that was in 1946, when the Communists already held most of North Vietnam). Italy was worse, over half the Country would vote for the Communists (and US policy in Italy would be to support one of the most corrupt political parities in history, for it was the only party, even with massive US financial support, able to defeat the Communists in elections).
Thus the British was facing various threats, including cuts in defense spending at home. Britain would agree to Independence of India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Burma almost at the same time, due to the need to maintain an Army in Germany for a possible war with the Soviet Union, troops in Iraq and Iran for the same purpose. Thus by 1946 it was clear that any problems in British India (Modern India AND Pakistan) would be one to many conflicts for the British Army in 1946. Burma had always been a flank on British India, thus holding it while losing British India would be close to saving the cellar door, while the rest of the house burned down behind it. You end up with something useless.
On the other hand, Burma was still part of the British Empire in 1945 and given the spread of Communists forces in China, putting Air Craft in Burma to fly cover for any British Troops that ends up in a fight with Chinese Communists who had cross the border made sense. By 1946 and the decision to leave the whole area, moving the Spitfires some place else made sense. Things were becoming clear by 1946, Stalin did NOT really want to go to War with the West, but instead rely on his fellow Communists to take over. Thus the possibility of direct war with Soviet Forces were being down graded, but Guerrilla/Partisan warfare would become more and more the norm. In many ways, by 1946 it was clear China was lost (Truman even sent General Marshall to China to try to talk the Nationalists to entered into a coalition government with the Communist to give him more time to build up Nationalists forces, it was declined and in the Subsequent Civil War the Nationalists lost). Stalin had solidified his hold on Eastern Europe and would try to expand that to Berlin, but at the same time tried to avoid any incident that would lead to open warfare. Britain and the US had decided to support the Anti-Communist forces in Greece, Turkey and Iran, even if that means less support for forces elsewhere (another reason for Indian Independence).
Thus 1945 was still in flux, what would the Japanese do in the Summer of 1945? Will the War end by August or after the proposed US invasion in November 1945? How far would the Soviet Army go in China? These were open question in 1945, but most were answered by 1946 (Stalin withdrew his forces, but left the arms for the Communists of China to fight the Chinese Nationalists, the same with Korea, pull out and leave the Korean Communists take over North Korea). Stalin would avoid direct conflict with the US and its allies, including Britain, but continue to support guerrilla wars by Communists throughout the world. What would become the Cold War Norm was setting in by 1946. No attack on West Berlin, but an attempt to isolate it with the Berlin blockage (and answered by the Berlin Airlift). In fact, other then in Countries the Russians already controlled (German 1953, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1967 and Support for the Suppression of Solidarity in 1981) the Russians did NOT invade any country during the Cold war. Even Afghanistan in 1979 was more an intervention in a satellite nation more then an invasion of another nation.
Thus from 1945 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, you had the longest period of peace in Europe in European History since the Middle ages. It is also the longest period without any border changes in European history since the Middle Ages. This patten was NOT yet set in 1945, but had set in by 1946. The US and the USSR set up a system of stability in Europe that survived till the Soviet Union could no longer pay to keep its share, and had to give it up to save money (and the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the prices it had to pay for paying so much to keep its share of Europe).
Thus things were changing rapidly in 1945, you did not only see the collapse of the Nazi and Fascist Empires of Germany and Italy, you saw the collapse of the Imperial Empire of Japan, You saw the Establishment of the Soviet Empire, and the strain the cost of WWII had done to the British and French Empires. Things changed on almost a daily basis in 1945.
By 1946, changes had come to an almost total stop. Yes, the Chinese Communists would NOT take China till 1949 and the Vietnamese would not take North Vietnam till 1954 (And South Vietnam in 1975) but like the Korean War, were just thing that had to work they way out due to events already set into stone by 1946. No Communist advance in Europe, the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent (Cuba would turn Communist in 1959, but that has more to do with US Politics then the world situation as a whole, one of those exceptions that in many ways show how stable the rest of the world was). Thus shipping those Spitfires to Burma made sense in 1945, but no longer made sense in 1946. The world had settled down into a new regime, one that would stay in place till 1989.
Since 1989, the situation has changed drastically, and in some ways we are in a period like 1945 instead of 1946-1989 period. Things change constantly, who may be your ally this week, may be your enemy next week (And become you ally again in the following week). Some of this is food driven for the first time since 1945 (Price of Food has skyrocketed world wide over the last 4-5 years, due in many ways to the US decision to go with using corn as a bio-fuel). The price of energy has also gone through the roof, increasing the power of net oil exporters (Russia for example) while weakening oil importers (the US, China and Europe). We have increase overalls trade, strengthening exporters, Germany and China, over Importers, the US and much of the Third World.
We are in a time of flux, and who knows what will occur tomorrow to change things once again, again like in 1945 but not 1946.
Response to happyslug (Reply #3)
Mon Feb 18, 2013, 01:59 AM
CTyankee (43,643 posts)
4. Interesting. Lots of good information. I don't know much about airplanes, but wasn't the
Spitfire somewhat "obsolete" by 1945? Of course, I can understand if they were available and something is better than nothing if your economy is shredded. I was a child so I don't remember too much but growing up in post war Texas but my parents used to talk about their friend who was an engineer with Chance Vaught in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Interesting guy. He used to tell folks he had "flown with RAF." My parents chortled at that, but tolerated his story. I found out a few years back that he might have been telling the truth: there was briefly an RAF base in Terrell, Texas (not too far from Dallas) just prior to US involvement in WW2. He was Canadian and could very well have volunteered, perhaps "washing out" as a pilot at that base and therefore becoming an engineer who designed engines instead...there were a few other such bases, ones in OK and AR, for instance. Evidently, they helped train RAF pilots at a time when Britain was undergoing lots of air attacks from Germany and desperately needed a safe place to train their pilots. Texas was also a good place since the weather was so much better. The bases were secured under Lend Lease, according to the staff at the RAF "museum" at the old Love Field Airport in Dallas (I've spoken with staff there on the phone).
My mother took me to Europe way back in 1956 and I dimly remember how dreary everything looked in Amsterdam and even Paris! Versailles was a neglected relic, not the glittering showplace it has been restored to be.
No wonder the European Union was created. Europe is a wonderful place to go now, even tho it is expensive as hell. I'll be visiting London in May, my first trip back since that trip in the 50s...
Response to CTyankee (Reply #4)
Mon Feb 18, 2013, 10:09 AM
muriel_volestrangler (75,902 posts)
5. In production until 1948
according to the reference Wikipedia used: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire
Later versions could top 400 mph, and were still very manoeuvrable compared with alternatives; the plane's main problem was range. Jet fighters were still new in 1946.
Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #5)
Mon Feb 18, 2013, 11:59 AM
CTyankee (43,643 posts)
6. fabulous looking plane! I love the ellipitcal design...
I wonder what my parents' friend trained on down in Texas. This was circa 1940 and 1941 up to our declaring war. I never asked that question...whether they had Hurricanes and Spitfires available or had to learn on another plane and get trained again back in England...
Response to CTyankee (Reply #4)
Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:28 PM
happyslug (13,333 posts)
7. Jets were coming in, but piston engine fighters were used by the US till 1957
Piston engine fighters had a advantages over jets, first Jets take a while to get up to speed, and to slow down. Thus around air bases Jets are vulnerable to piston fighters who tended to have better acceleration at low speeds. For this reason the Germans kept Piston engine fighters around the air bases where jets operated out of.
Piston engines also had better fuel economy, the reason being Jet Turbine engines have two speed, FAST and OFF. The trick in designing jets is to design ways to slow up and speed up the Jet given such jet engines have only the said above two speeds (After burners is one way, but they are others). Piston engines could operate at much lower power settings and save fuel (Thus the B-36, the last piston engine bomber the US produced stayed in US Service till 1959 as a bomber and only then replaced by the B-52 which started in production in 1954, to get close to the range of the B-36, the B-52 had to have not only its only internal tanks, but tanks inside each wing to carry it as far as the B-36 and then only with aerial refueling, something the B-36 was NEVER designed to do).
The US Air National Guard flew P-51 Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts till 1957 (Through by 1957 they were designated F-51 and F-47). In the early days of the Korean War, the US had to bring Mustangs back into service, for the US Jets were to fast to handle the piston engine Russian made WWII era YAK-9 that were wrecking havoc with US forces, while the Jets went after the Russian Supplied Migs. They are other uses of Piston Engine Fighters while into the 1950s, but better tactics and the introduction of Air to Air Missiles ended the usability of Piston Fighters by the 1960s.
Such Air to Air missiles could be retrofitted to such fighters, but why, given that most Jets had radar by that time period (and the piston engine planes did not) and thus could shoot down the Piston Engine Planes while before the Jet came within range of the Guns of the Piston Engine Fighter.
Thus the Spitfire was more then adequate Fighter till the mid 1950s (by which it was hopelessly obsolete), as were the American P-51 and P47s (Spain used German Messerschmidt till the late 1950s for the same reason). None of these were any longer top notch, but a good pilot could still shoot down a Jet under the right circumstances AND provide air cover for any ground operation.
The problem was research into Air to Air missiles had started during WWII, but the first real product did not come out till the early 1950s. Heat Seeking and Radar Guided Missiles provided longer range, more blast on target AND a higher hit probability then guns by the mid 1950s. Thus by the mid 1950s, it was Planes (which tended to be Jets) that could operate such such Air to Air Missiles that became the norm. In the late 1950s the doctrine was so bad, jets were made without ANY guns, they were to rely on missiles only (This was found to be a bad doctrine during Vietnam and the Gun came back, but in conjunction with Missiles not as a replacement).
Thus the Spitfire was still an excellent plane in 1945, a little old, a little slow compared to the Jets but still usable. It was the increase electronics and Air to Air Missiles of the 1950s that made such planes completely obsolete as fighters. Thus such piston engine fighters were still used till the late 1950s,
One last comment, the Spitfire used the same Engine as the American P-51, the Merlin (Which was a British design and built engine, till the US put it into production for the P-51). . The Merlin was the most powerful in line (water cooled) engine even put into a regular fighter. The P-51 was a much larger plane, with more fuel shortage then the Spitfire, but other then that almost duplicates given both were designed around the same engine. Thus, to call the Spitfire of 1945 obsolete in 1945 is NOT quite right, but as you can see from above, was the case by the mid 1950s.
Side note: An inline engine was a Water Cooled Engine Piston Engine, it was the preferred engine type of the British RAF, US Air Force Fighters. and the Germans. The American P-47 used an "Air Cooled" Radial engine, which was preferred in ground support planes, US Air Force Bombers, the US Navy and the German Air force as the war ended. The US did put a jet into production during WWII, but it never saw action. The British had a Jet, but kept it back to shoot down V-1s. The Germans had several Jets. Of the WWII Jets the best over design were German, but the best Jet engine was the British. One German Ace who flew ME-263 Jets during WWII and British Meteors Jets for Argentina after WWII, said the ideal jet would have been a Me-263 with a British Meteor Engine.