Buying Time for Britain
I’m glad to see from Robert M. Citino’s article (“Sympathy for the Neville,” January/February 2015) that I’m not the only one who appreciates Neville Chamberlain’s “appeasement” at Munich in September 1938; that was the only action he could have taken.
When he spoke of “peace for our time” he was aware that RAF Fighter Command was composed mainly of biplanes like the Hawker Hart and Gloster Gladiator, slower than German bombers. The first Spitfire was only delivered to the RAF in June of that year, and just two Hurricane squadrons had been formed by September. German frontline strength was around 2,500 aircraft. The Chain Home radar system and integrated fighter control that would be vital in 1940 were not yet fully operational.
Had Britain declared war in 1938, the Battle of Britain would have been lost in less than a week and the Germans would have invaded and occupied Britain soon after. There would have been no D-Day because there would have been nowhere to launch it from. And I, an English kid, would have been speaking German. Tank you, Neville.
Enjoyed your piece on Poltava (“Blowout at Poltava,” January/February 2015) but it needs some correction. A downed P-51 had nothing to do with Luftwaffe aware ness of what was going on.
In May, photo recce of Mirgorod and Poltava identified construction of run ways longer than the Soviets needed. On June 2, 1944, Fifteenth Air Force B-17s few to Poltava from Italy. On June 6, they few a mission to Romania, returning to Poltava. The Luftwaffe photographed them the next day. By the time Luftwaffe bombers mounted a mission, the B-17s had flown back to Italy. Two weeks later, when Eighth Air Force bombers bombed in Ruhland and kept heading east, Luftwaffe intel knew exactly where they were going. On June 21, Luftwaffe recon photographed planes on Poltava parked in the same locations as the June 7 imagery. Tis time they weren’t about to let the targets get away and a laid on a strike for that night.
Roy M. Stanley II
Author Richard R. Muller responds: Everything in the letter is correct except the assertion that the downed P-51 played no role in the Luftwaffe’s decision making. It was the combination of the reports from the contact planes, papers found in the downed P-51 (the war diary of the Luftwaffe Operations Staff for June 21, 1944, specifically mentions Beutepapieren—captured documents), and finally the recon photos that led to the quick scheduling of the night’s raid. A 1945 interrogation of one of the German bomber commanders also referred to the downed P-51 and its valuable trove of maps and papers.
First and Foremost
In his article “A Bridge In Time” on the Ludendorf Bridge (January/February 2015), Gavin Mortimer states that Sergeant Drabik, while the first American across the Ludendorf Bridge, was not the first Allied soldier in Germany. Allied troops were on German soil west of the Rhine before the Battle of the Bulge. The city of Aachen surrendered to American forces in October 1944.
From the Deck of the Laffey
You have no idea how much I appreciate having received the World War II periodicals. David Sears did an excellent job of describing the ordeal to which our ship [the USS Laffey] was subjected (“Battered Beyond Belief,” January/February 2015). It was a never-to-be-forgotten day in the lives of all who served on board.
Aristides “Ari” Phoutrides
[Ari Phoutrides, featured in our story, was the Laffey’s bridge quartermaster during the April 16, 1945, attack.]
The Patton Rumor’s Past
As a World War II veteran of the 35th Division, I read with interest in the January/February review of Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Patton. I saw the general once in early January 1945 when his jeep passed a truck convoy I was riding in. Our division was part of the Third Army driving the Germans out of Belgium and Luxembourg. In December 1945 I was back in the states and in the regular army. Even then, the rumor was that they had murdered Patton. In addition, I enjoyed the article on the crossing of the Rhine by the Ninth Army. The 35th Division relieved the 79th Division on D+1 across the Rhine. We crossed on a large pontoon bridge code named “Love.” The 30th Division was on our left on the Elbe River when the war was over. Good magazine,
Gas Up—Or Don’t
In the story “Blasted into the Shadows” (January/February 2015), author Gene Santoro writes that the Higgins assault boats ran more smoothly on a high-octane blend of aviation fuel. I was a motor mechanic during my three years in the navy with the amphibious forces. I operated landing barges at Little Creek, Virginia, Fort Pierce, Florida, all the ports of southern England, Omaha Beach, France, on D-Day, on the Rhine River in Germany, and in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. I never heard of using aviation fuel in the Gray Marine diesel engines, the power plants for the LCVP.
In January/February 2015’s “Picture Imperfect” Portfolio, the caption on page 45 should refer to a Sturmgewehr, a hand held assault rifle, not a Sturmgeschütz, which belongs on armored vehicles.
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.