Military stories from past to present, both wars.


April 17th, 2012 Posted in The SandGram v1.0
I love this stuff.  Like Vince Lewis and his lost tanks, David Cundall spent 15 years searching for hidden treasure in Burma…buried Spitfires from WWII.  Here is a great piece on this and then some wonderful facts about WWII that you might find interesting.
Semper Fi,

Spitfires buried in Burma during war to be returned to UK

Twenty iconic Spitfire aircraft buried in Burma during the Second World War are to be repatriated to Britain after an intervention by David Cameron.

A Spitfire flying from RAF Manston

A Spitfire flying from RAF Manston Photo: © Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

By , and Rowena Mason

7:00AM BST 14 Apr 2012

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The Prime Minister secured a historic deal that will see the fighter aircraft dug up and shipped back to the UK almost 67 years after they were hidden more than 40-feet below ground amid fears of a Japanese occupation.

The gesture came as Mr Cameron became the first Western leader to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy campaigner held under house arrest for 22 years by the military regime, and invited her to visit London in her first trip abroad for 24 years.

He called on Europe to suspend its ban on trade with Burma now that it was showing “prospects for change” following Miss Suu Kyi’s election to parliament in a sweeping electoral victory earlier this year.

The plight of the buried aircraft came to Mr Cameron’s attention at the behest of a farmer from Scunthorpe, North Lincs, who is responsible for locating them at a former RAF base using radar imaging technology.

David Cundall, 62, spent 15 years doggedly searching for the planes, an exercise that involved 12 trips to Burma and cost him more than £130,000.

When he finally managed to locate them in February, he was told Mr Cameron “loved” the project and would intervene to secure their repatriation.

Mr Cundall told the Daily Telegraph: “I’m only a small farmer, I’m not a multi-millionaire and it has been a struggle. It took me more than 15 years but I finally found them.

”Spitfires are beautiful aeroplanes and should not be rotting away in a foreign land. They saved our neck in the Battle of Britain and they should be preserved.”

He said the Spitfires, of which there are only around 35 flying left in the world, were shipped to Burma and then transported by rail to the British RAF base during the war.

However, advances in technology and the emergence of more agile jets meant they were never used and officials abandoned them shortly before the end of the conflict.

“They were just buried there in transport crates,” Mr Cundall said. “They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition.”

The married father of three, an avid plane enthusiast, embarked on his voyage of discovery in 1996 after being told of their existence by a friend who had met some American veterans who described digging a trench for the aircraft during the Allied withdrawal of Burma.

He spent years appealing for information on their whereabouts from eye witnesses, scouring public records and placing advertisements in specialist magazines.

Several early trips to Burma were unsuccessful and were hampered by the political climate.

He eventually met one eyewitness who drew maps and an outline of where the aircraft were buried and took him out to the scene.

“Unfortunately, he got his north, south, east and west muddled up and we were searching at the wrong end of the runway,” he said.

“We also realised that we were not searching deep enough as they had filled in all of these bomb craters which were 20-feet to start with.

“I hired another machine in the UK that went down to 40-feet and after going back surveying the land many times, I eventually found them.

“I have been in touch with British officials in Burma and in London and was told that David Cameron would negotiate on my behalf to make the recovery happen.”

Mr Cundall said sanctions preventing the removal of military tools from Burma were due to be lifted at midnight last night (FRI).

A team from the UK is already in place and is expecting to begin the excavation, estimated to cost around £500,000, imminently. It is being funded by the Chichester-based Boultbee Flight Acadamy.

Mr Cundall said the government had promised him it would be making no claim on the aircraft, of which 21,000 were originally produced, and that he would be entitled to a share in them.

“It’s been a financial nightmare but hopefully I’ll get my money back,” he said.

“I’m hoping the discovery will generate some jobs. They will need to be stripped down and re-riveted but it must be done. My dream is to have a flying squadron at air shows.”

More stuff on this story…

British farmer’s quest to find lost Spitfires in Burma

A Lincolnshire farmer has told how he spent 15 years trying to find a lost squadron of Spitfires that was buried in Burma at the end of the Second World War.

A Lincolnshire farmer has told how he spent 15 years trying to find a lost squadron of Spitfires that was buried in Burma at the end of the Second World War.

Image 1 of 3
David Cundall with a painting of a Spitfire Photo: Sean Spencer

7:50AM BST 15 Apr 2012

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The extraordinary plans to dig up the lost squadron were revealed this weekend as David Cameron visits the country.

Now, David Cundall, 62, of Sandtoft, near Scunthorpe, has spoken about his quest to recover the Spitfires and get them airborne.

Mr Cundall has spent £130,000 of his own money, visited Burma 12 times, persuaded the country’s notoriously secretive regime to trust him, and all the time sought testimony from a dwindling band of Far East veterans in order to locate the Spitfires.

Yet his treasure hunt was sparked by little more than a throwaway remark from a group of US veterans, made 15 years ago to his friend and fellow aviation archaeologist Jim Pearce.

Mr Cundall said: “The veterans had served in a construction battalion. They told Jim: ‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.’ And when Jim got back from the US, he told me.”

Mr Cundall realised that the Spitfires would have been buried in their transport crates.

Before burial, the aeroplanes would have been waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred, to protect them against decay. There seemed to be a chance that somewhere in Burma, there lay Spitfires that could be restored to flying condition.

He was determined to find them. The first step was to place advertisements in magazines, trying to find soldiers who buried Spitfires.

“The trouble was that many of them were dying of old age.”

He visited Burma over and over again, slowly building friendly relations with the military junta that have for decades held power in the capital, Rangoon.

“In the end the minders trusted me so much they would let me hold their AK-47s while they ate the lunch I had bought them.”

And finally, he found the Spitfires, at a location that is being kept a closely guarded secret.

Mr Cundall said: “We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.”

Mr Cundall explained that in August 1945 the Mark XIV aeroplanes, which used Rolls-Royce Griffon engines instead of the Merlins of earlier models, were put in crates and transported from the factory in Castle Bromwich, in the West Midlands, to Burma.

Once they arrived at the RAF base, however, the Spitfires were deemed surplus to requirements. The war was in its final months and fighting was by now increasingly focused on ‘island-hopping’ to clear the Japanese of their remaining strongholds in the Pacific. Land-based Spitfires, as opposed to carrier-based Seafires, did not have the required range.

The order was given to bury 12 Spitfires while they were still in their transport crates.

Then two weeks later, the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The Japanese surrendered on September 2 1945.

It is possible that a further eight Spitfires were then buried in December 1945, bringing the potential total of lost Spitfires to 20.

Mr Cundall said that about 21,000 Spitfires were built, but at the end of the war very few were wanted.

“In 1945, Spitfires were ten a penny. Jets were coming into service. Spitfires were struck off charge, unwanted. Lots of Spitfires were just pushed off the back of aircraft carriers into the sea.

“On land, you couldn’t leave them for the locals – they might have ended up being used against you. It was a typical British solution: ‘Let’s bury them lads.’ They might have planned to come back and dig them up again. They never did.”

To meet the £500,000 cost of the excavation Mr Cundall enlisted the help of Steve Boultbee Brooks, 51, a commercial property investor who also runs the Boultbee Flight Academy, in Chichester, West Sussex, which teaches people to fly on the two-seater Spitfire that Mr Brooks bought for £1.78 million in 2009.

Ground radar images showed that inside the crates were Spitfires with their wings packed alongside the fuselages.

The Britons now want to work to restore as many of the 20 Spitfires as possible and get them flying. If the project works, it will nearly double the number of airworthy Spitfires. There are currently only about 35 flying in the world.

Mr Cundall said: “We want to dig as many Spitfires up as we find.

“Spitfires are beautiful aeroplanes and should not be rotting away in a foreign land. They saved our neck in the Battle of Britain and they should be preserved.”

The final obstacle to recovering the Spitfires, however, is political: international sanctions forbid the movement of military materials in and out of Burma, and it was also feared the Burmese government would not allow any foreign excavations on their territory.

Because of the new, reforming stance of the Burmese government, it is likely some sanctions will be lifted after an EU review begins on April 23.

With the help of David Cameron and his visit to Burma, a deal is currently being negotiated and hopes are high that it will conclude with President Thein Sein of Burma granting permission for the dig.

Mr Brooks, who returned to his Oxford home on Saturday, after helping open negotiations with the Burmese authorities, said: “Our hope is that we can be digging them out in the next three or four weeks. Then the plan is to get as many of them flying as possible.

“They have been in the ground for more than 65 years, so it is not a case of taking them out of the crates, putting them together and flying them. There is a lot of work to do. We may have to use parts of many planes to make perhaps a couple airworthy.

“But if the crates didn’t get waterlogged, the Spitfires might be in pretty amazing condition. It’s also encouraging that they put teak beams over the crates so they wouldn’t be crushed by the earth when they were buried.”

Mr Cundall also raised the tantalising prospect that there may be more buried Spitfires out there.

“It’s possible there are other Spitfires buried around different sites in Burma. I have heard about 36 in one burial; 18 in another; 6 in another. And when they were buried, they would have been brand new, never taken out of the box.”

Mr Brooks, however, cautioned: “People have spent decades scouring the earth for Spitfires. If other aeroplanes are there, they may be very difficult to find.”

Most Americans who were not adults during WWII have no understanding of the magnitude of it. This listing of some of the aircraft facts gives a bit of insight to it. 
276,000 aircraft were manufactured in the U.S.
43,000  planes lost overseas, including 23,000 in combat.
14,000 lost in the continental U.S.
The  U.S. civilian population maintained a dedicated effort for four years, many working long hours seven days per week and often also volunteering for other  work. WWII  was the largest human effort in history.
Statistics are from Flight Journal magazine.THE  PRICE OF VICTORY (cost of an aircraft in WWII dollars)
B-17        $204,370.      P-40        $44,892.
B-24   $215,516.      P-47        $85,578.
B-25        $142,194.      P-51        $51,572.
B-26        $192,426.      C-47        $88,574.
B-29        $605,360.      PT-17      $15,052.
P-38          $97,147.      AT-6        $22,952.PLANES A DAY WORLDWIDE
From  Germany’s invasion of Poland Sept. 1, 1939 and ending with Japan’s surrender Sept. 2, 1945 — 2,433 days
From  1942 onward, America averaged 170 planes lost a day.

How many is a 1,000  planes?  B-17 production (12,731) wingtip to wingtip would extend 250  miles.  1,000 B-17s carried 2.5 million gallons of high octane fuel and required 10,000  airmen to fly and fight them.THE  NUMBERS GAME
9.7  billion gallons of gasoline consumed,  1942-1945.
107.8 million hours flown,  1943-1945.
459.7 billion rounds of aircraft  ammo fired overseas, 1942-1945.
7.9 million bombs  dropped  overseas, 1943-1945.
2.3 million  combat sorties, 1941-1945 (one sortie = one  takeoff).
299,230 aircraft accepted,  1940-1945.
808,471 aircraft engines accepted,  1940-1945.
799,972 propellers accepted,  1940-1945.

According  to the AAF Statistical Digest, in less than four years (December 1941- August 1945), the US Army Air Forces lost 14,903 pilots, aircrew and assorted  personnel plus 13,873 airplanes  — inside  the continental United  States. They were the result of 52,651 aircraft accidents (6,039 involving fatalities) in 45 months.

Think about those numbers. They average 1,170 aircraft accidents per month — nearly 40 a day.  (Less than one accident in four resulted in totaled aircraft, however.)
It gets worse…..
Almost 1,000 Army planes disappeared enroute from the US to foreign climes.  But an eye-watering 43,581 aircraft were lost overseas including 22,948 on combat missions (18,418 against the Western Axis) and 20,633 attributed to non-combat causes  overseas.

In a single 376 plane raid in August 1943, 60 B-17s were shot down. That was a 16  percent loss rate and meant 600 empty bunks in England.  In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe.
Pacific theatre losses were far less (4,530 in combat) owing to smaller forces  committed.  The worst B-29 mission, against Tokyo on May 25, 1945, cost 26 Superfortresses, 5.6  percent of the 464 dispatched from the Marianas.
On an avrage, 6,600 American servicemen died per month  during WWII, about 220 a day. By  the end of the war, over 40,000 airmen were killed in combat theatres and another 18,000 wounded.  Some 12,000 missing men were declared dead,  including a number “liberated” by the Soviets but never returned.  More than 41,000 were  captured, half of the 5,400 held by the Japanese died in captivity, compared with one-tenth in German hands.  Total combat casualties were pegged at 121,867.

U.S. manpower made up the deficit.  The AAF’s peak strength was reached in 1944 with 2,372,000 personnel, nearly twice the previous year’s figure.
The losses were huge—but so were production totals.  From  1941 through 1945, American industry delivered more than 276,000 military aircraft. That number was  enough not only for U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps,  but for allies as diverse as Britain, Australia,  China and Russia.  In fact, from 1943 onward,  America produced more planes than Britain and Russia combined.  And more than Germany and Japan  together 1941-45.
However, our enemies took massive losses. Through much of 1944, the Luftwaffe sustained uncontrolled hemorrhaging,  reaching 25 percent of aircrews and 40 planes a month.  And in late 1944 into 1945, nearly half the pilots in Japanese squadrons had flown fewer than 200 hours. The disparity of two years before had been completely reversed.

Experience  Level:
Uncle  Sam sent many of his sons to war with absolute minimums of training. Some fighter pilots entered combat in 1942 with less than one hour in their assigned aircraft.
The  357th Fighter Group (often known as The Yoxford  Boys) went to England in late 1943 having trained on P-39s.  The group never saw a Mustang until shortly before its first combat mission.
A high-time P-51 pilot had 30 hours in type.  Many had fewer than five hours.  Some  had one hour.
With  arrival of new aircraft, many combat units transitioned in combat. The attitude  was, “They all have a stick and a throttle.  Go fly `em.” When  the famed 4th Fighter Group converted from P-47s to P-51s in February 1944, there was no time to stand  down for an orderly transition.  The  Group commander, Col. Donald Blakeslee,  said, “You  can learn to fly `51s on the way to the target.

A future P-47 ace said, “I  was sent to England to die.”  He was not alone.  Some fighter pilots tucked their wheels in the well on their first combat mission with one previous flight in the  aircraft.  Meanwhile, many bomber crews were  still learning their trade: of Jimmy Doolittle’s 15 pilots on the April 1942 Tokyo raid, only five had  won their wings before 1941. All but one of the 16 copilots were less than a year out of flight school.

In  WWII flying safety took a back seat to combat.  The AAF’s worst accident rate was recorded by the A-36 Invader version of the P-51: a staggering 274 accidents per 100,000 flying hours.  Next worst  were the P-39 at 245, the P-40 at 188, and the P-38  at 139.  All were Allison powered.

Bomber wrecks were fewer but more expensive.  The B-17  and B-24 averaged 30 and 35 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, respectively– a  horrific figure considering that from 1980 to 2000 the Air Force’s major mishap rate was less than 2.
The B-29 was even worse at 40; the world’s most sophisticated, most capable and most expensive  bomber was too urgently needed to stand down for mere safety reasons. The AAF set a reasonably high standard for B-29 pilots, but the desired figures were seldom attained.
The original cadre of the 58th Bomb Wing was to have 400 hours of  multi-engine time, but there were not enough experienced pilots to meet the criterion.  Only ten percent had overseas experience.  Conversely, when a $2.1 billion B-2 crashed in 2008,  the Air Force initiated a two-month “safety pause” rather than declare a “stand down”, let alone grounding.

The B-29 was no better for maintenance. Though the R3350 was known as a  complicated, troublesome power-plant, no more than half the mechanics had previous experience with the Duplex Cyclone.  But they made it work.

Perhaps the greatest unsung success story of AAF training was Navigators. The Army graduated some 50,000  during the War.  And many had never flown out of sight of land before leaving “Uncle Sugar” for a war zone.  Yet the huge majority found their  way across oceans and continents without getting lost or running out of fuel — a stirring tribute  to the AAF’s educational establishments.
Cadet  To Colonel:
It was possible for a flying cadet at the time of Pearl  Harbor to finish the war with eagles on his shoulders.  That was the record of John D.  Landers, a 21-year-old Texan, who was commissioned a second lieutenant on December 12, 1941.  He  joined his combat squadron with 209 hours total  flight time, including 20 in P-40s.  He finished the war as a full colonel, commanding an 8th Air Force Group — at age 24.
As the  training pipeline filled up, however those low figures became exceptions.
By early 1944, the average AAF fighter pilot entering combat had logged at least 450 hours, usually including 250  hours in training.  At the same time, many  captains and first lieutenants claimed over 600  hours.
At its height in mid-1944, the Army Air Forces had 2.6  million people and nearly 80,000 aircraft of all types.
Today the US Air Force employs 327,000 active personnel (plus 170,000 civilians)  with 5,500+ manned and perhaps 200 unmanned aircraft.
The 2009 figures represent about 12 percent of the manpower and 7 percent of the airplanes of the WWII peak.
Whether  there will ever be another war like that experienced in 1940-45 is doubtful, as fighters and bombers have given way to helicopters and remotely-controlled  drones over Afghanistan and Iraq. But within living memory, men left the earth in  1,000-plane formations and fought major battles five miles high, leaving a legacy that remains timeless.

This is an excellent summary of the effort required in WWII. It focuses on the American side of things, but the British, Germans and Japanese expended comparable energy and experienced similar costs. Just one example for the Luftwaffe; about 1/3 of the Bf109s built were lost in non-combat crashes. After Midway, the Japanese experience level declined markedly, with the loss of so many higher-time naval pilots. This piece is worth saving in hard copy.

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