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MiloMorai

Lufwaffe study, 1941 to 1943

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Worth a read, thanks for posting.

 

There seems to be one error - author talks about 13mm and 20mm cannons, should be 15mm not 13mm, probably a misprint that has not been picked up due to lack of technical knowledge?

 

While I agree with his conclusions, I am surprised that anyone still thinks this is controversial: the basic fact - that the LW was defeated in the West, not the East, has been clear since the end of the War, obscured only by the most blinkered boosters for all things Soviet.

 

Just look at this one table tells you the story: although this new study shows how the resource allocation swung to the West even earlier than these loss figures suggests.

 

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Edited by unreasonable

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Yes that makes more sense!  

 

Lots of interesting bits in this: while I knew about the old biplane night harassment units, I had no idea that they made up 20%+ of Soviet air strength and nearly 30% of it's missions. (Or is that sorties?) No wonder the Germans in East front photos always look tired.

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Interesting read.

"Counting all the losses from 1939 to end the August 1942 presented in Tables 11 and 12, the Eastern front thus accounted for just a third of total Luftwaffe aircraft losses and less than a third of lost officer aircrew members. While attention has been paid to the importance of the Mediterranean in general terms as a draw on German aerial strength (Overy 2013, 504-5; van Creveld 2011, 103-4), the emphasis here is on the fact that in the first months of 1942, the war in the Mediterranean combined with that on the Western front as a source of German losses equivalent to the Eastern front."

 

Is there a point in comparing the losses of three years of operation with the losses of 14 months of operation and is there a point in comparing time frames that at one front contains large parts of resting and troop re-allocations and on the others were business as usual?

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If you were the German High command deciding on allocation of aircraft, guns, pilots etc, then you would have to make some kind of comparison, even though the fronts were of course dissimilar in ways that made comparison difficult. But history, like military decision making, is not engineering: sometimes the data is not specified quite as you would like it and you have to go with what evidence you have.   

 

As a historian, you also have the issue of how to address claims that "Front X was more important than Front Y with respect to the defeat of the GAF", especially with all the papers claiming that the western theatres were somehow sideshows to the real struggle in the east. This paper - taken as a whole - does this rather well, IMHO.

 

The Med was never "resting" as the losses make clear, just because it absorbed a very small proportion of German ground units, German air commitment - and losses - was intermittent but heavy and then continuous as the Italian effort collapsed. 

 

As to time period comparisons: take the loss chart I posted earlier: losses of single engined fighters were only heavier in the east than in the west (inc. Med) during 4 quarters, 3 of them in the period after Barbarossa started, which is hardly surprising. Losses during Barbarossa ~ losses during the BoB.  For 1942 the losses were almost equal W/E. 

 

All that aside, an interesting hypothetical would be to ask whether the war could have turned out differently had the Germans assigned a much larger proportion of air assets to the east from an early date. In Barbarossa I suspect it would make no difference: the problem there were inescapable logistic shortcomings more than numbers as such, more logistic support for the air force means less for the army, which had enough problems already. But by the summer of 1942 that was more or less solved, so presumably the air assignment to the eastern front could have been much greater, probably at the expense of giving up on the Med.  I wonder if that would have helped, perhaps in sealing off Stalingrad from reinforcement, or even in allowing a direct encirclement attack on Moscow instead of Case Blue?

 

(By 1943 it really did not matter much what the Germans did, short of developing an atom bomb).

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I don't know if 'defeat' is the proper word for the fate of the GAF in the first place. 'Overwhelmed' imho is a better one. The Luftwaffe kept operating at a fairly constant level throughout the war, and that only stopped late 1944 when all of Nazi Germany started falling apart. Point would be that while the Luftwaffe strength was fairly constant, that of the combined Allies air forces grew by a large factor. In a scenario like that, it's hard to say what contributed the most, because every loss, every effort in the end was one too much. It's the matter of an industrial war as compared to a military campaign.

 

While the two weeks in Poland might have been going according to plan, the invasion of Norway did not, the Battle of France took too high a toll and the Battle of Britain certainly did the same. In the months of higher activity Luftwaffe front line losses were larger than production back home, meaning dwindling strength in ongoing operations and the necessity for reduced activity in order to regain original strength. Pretty much in line with the German approach of quick and decisive battles & campaigns, however, clearly insufficient for a war lasting several years. Add to that a leadership that after taking on one of the two worlds strongest economies (Commonwealth), attacks the worlds largest country (Soviet Union) and then declares war on the other of the worlds two strongest economies (US). At that point, you can not win an industrial war, and it's really a moot point to discuss where the blanket was too small, as you just can't cover everything.

 

Eventually, defence is typically more important than offence. With the Western Allies starting to attack Axis mainland with the Eastern Front being somewhere far east, resources where relocated to put up a meaningful defence against that, at expense of support on the Eastern front. Naturally, this will cause higher losses there, which we see pretty much as soon as the US joined in (latest by November 1942, Torch). But getting back to industrial war, German aircraft factories again and again lost skilled labour to the armed forces because tremendous losses necessitated more recruiting. Losses sustained primarily on the Eastern front. It had a significant impact on German productivity, where Germany was already lacking industrial output.

 

WRT your chart, indeed, for SE fighters the losses in the East and West are fairly similar in 1942, however, the majority of the Luftwaffe bomber force was deployed in the East, and losses to basically all other types were higher in the East then in the West for 1942. Bomber aircraft require the same if not larger industrial and logistic efforts to replace, so I don't think just looking at fighter numbers is the proper way to go when judging the overall stress on the Luftwaffe in that year.

 

WRT to your hypothetical scenario, I'd say there'd be no real positive impact. Redirecting all Luftwaffe efforts to the East would have come at a high price in all other theatres. Giving up the Med, the Atlantic and the North (wonder if that's included in the typical East/West thinking) or even home defense, would at least give the Allies largely uncontested or at least much simplified supply options. In theory, that would for instance enable them to just ship more material to the East, countering German efforts there. Air supremacy over neglected theatres would take an additional toll, so it doesn't really seem to be a good idea.

 

What imho could have helped Germany would be all out industrial war from day 1, and a larger focus on the battle of the Atlantic. For instance, I keep wondering what effect a successful Bismarck would have had in May 1941. However, I don't think that there was any other outcome than defeat, it's just a matter of when and where.

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@JtD I agree with your general assessment with some nit picking  - at least it seems reasonable given my current level of knowledge, except to say that being "overwhelmed" is just one way of describing being defeated. Not sure how you can be "overwhelmed" but not "defeated".  

 

On the global outcome: I cannot help but wonder what might have happened if either the Germans had assassinated Churchill in the hope of a "Whale and Elephant" deal with Britain, or alternately, after Pearl Harbor, if Hitler had declared war on Japan instead of on America. ;)  I think all the Bismark might have done, realistically, is thrashed a large part of one convoy, so no worse than one bad U boat interception from the Allied pov. It was always going to get intercepted or driven back to base eventually.

 

Nitpicking:

 

On the subject of bombers, naturally they tended to be wherever the Germans were on the offensive, but towards the end of 1942 300 were withdrawn from the East to the Med as Torch and the advance of the Eighth Army threatened the entire Axis position in N. Africa, to try and attack convoys and ports - in which task they were singularly ineffective and eventually withdrawn as the GAF pretty much gave up on the Med altogether.

 

Meanwhile, looking at single-engine fighters as that table does also ignores twin-engined fighters, most of which were night-fighters by 1943, almost exclusively deployed in the West, and which also sustained heavy casualties: often accidents, but they all count. Recce and dedicated ground attack types were certainly largely confined to the East: but apart from the obvious point that it was still the main land theatre requiring these types, it is also because they simply could not survive against RAF/USAAF opposition in relatively confined air-space. 

 

I suppose if someone wanted to make a better comparison they could simply count engines, instead of planes, or perhaps even just the weight....  but I doubt the results would differ much. 

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I differentiate between defeated and overwhelmed in that defeat implies destruction, while overwhelmed simply means not up to the task. Well, just my interpretation anyway. :)

 

I was referring to 1942 for most of my points WRT to relative strengths and losses, the turning point imho is Operation Torch in November 1942.

Fortunately, the document also provides figures for other losses and strength, showing that more than 50% were both operating and lost in the East between Barbarossa and Torch.

Interestingly enough, for another year the East remained pretty much tied with the Med as the theatre of most losses, only by the end of 1943 the losses in the East (and Med) became secondary to the losses in the West.

More than three quarters of the German bombs were dropped on the Eastern front in 1942 and 1943.

 

An odd discussion in the text is the distribution of new guns between the theatres, implying that German fighters in the East had inadequate fire power and also that this can be seen as a indication of focus on the West. It is mentioned, however somehow oddly presented, that the nature of the air war in the West with aircraft being larger and heavier by a considerable factor sufficiently explains the deployment of the heavy guns. That's particularly true if we also consider night fighting, which much more than day fighting requires heavy fire power. If the lack of fire power in the East 'materially inhibited' Luftwaffe operation, how did the Soviets ever fight back? After all, their armament wasn't any heaver than that of the contemporary 109's.

 

The Germany vs. Japan bit is a very interesting idea, I never thought of that. Not the easiest 'what if' to picture.

Not sure that Bismarck is so simply solved, given the Scharnhorst/Gneisenau episode before and the Tirpitz chapter later in the North. As it was, it was a week of extreme stress and distress for the RN, not sure what had happened if it had gone on for a month or two. Eventually, Bismarck might have gone back together with the other major units in the Channel dash, but I wonder if it could had a noticeable impact before.

Edited by JtD

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"In the war on the Eastern Front, the German air force was able to maintain a degree of effectiveness as late as the end of 1943, but Allied pressure put a firm limit on the quantity and quality of resources that Germany could allocate to the East."

 

About the whole article in a sentence, his words.

 

I find it surprising that he is lamenting the non-alloation of night fighters to the eastern front "because there were so many Po-2 that could roam freely like that" (my words). Honesty, what kind of night fighter besides a Bücker Jungmeister armed with a rifle would you use against those Po-2?? A He-219?? You had to tow the Uhu by this one

 

 

Tunnelmaschine_P2.jpg

 

 

to use the schräge Musik. At least the Po-2 would be slow enough to be caught. :lol:

 

Same as the lamentation that not even the Me-262 was deployed in the east. What would you shoot with that one?? It is good for higher altitude targets, not for dogfighting down low. Besides, by the time it was deployed in large numbers, Pilots of JV44 could choose the front they would want to fight on after taking off.

 

Other remarks are out of contexrt as well. He accuses the Germans of wasting ressources by sqandering them on medium range ballistic missiles (the V2) and cruise missiles (V1). While it is true that the development of those came at extreme costs, it is not so clear whether the opportunity costs were similarly high. Would the Germans have been better off trying to make the Jumo-222 engine right by doing addeed research for that at Peenemünde? Or was that one a stillborn in any case? Would they have been better off saving the money and putting vonBraun and his fellows a rifle in their hands and send them off to fight at Kusrk?

 

 

differentiate between defeated and overwhelmed in that defeat implies destruction

 

And destroyed they were. After Bodenplatte, what was left was merely a couple of locally organised circusses flying for their lives between changing airbases, shooting targets of opportunity. Although it was still very bad for the ordinary 2TAF pilot to run into Dortemann and some of his peers, it became an entirely passive force. Some last airshows with jets they could muster as the Allies crossed the Rhine. But by no means they could interdict operations of the allies anymore.

As soon as an airforce establishes air superiority over the contestant, you should be able to consider this a ""win", right?

 

 

Interestingly enough, for another year the East remained pretty much tied with the Med as the theatre of most losses, only by the end of 1943 the losses in the East (and Med) became secondary to the losses in the West.

 

This is logic. After the Germans lost the nerve with fighting the British over the channel (when your main goal becomes unrealistic (why going on with something that costs you dearly?), they turned to other areas of operations. So did the British. Even they themselves were fighting a multi-front war. The main front was now the Mediterranean. It was a stepchild for the british as well, as they only sent planes there that they didn't want for themselves and let "fighters' paradise" be reinforced with second rate material. They might as well have sent the first batches of Spit IX to Malta. But no, they kept it at home to invest them in aerobatics against Oesau and his flying club. From late 1941 until late 1942 there was nothing else happening over the channel that finding out how to use an airforce on the offensive as well as espablishing the technology and doctrine for the RAF bomber command to do large scale operations. Planes themselves are irrelevant as long as you don't know how to use them.

 

The knowledege, routine and the procedures are what enables you to use your force as a mean of force projection. This knowledge was what made the Japanese carrier force by far the most powerful in the world. losing it meant the loss of that knowledge, something that the Japanese never could replace.

Edited by ZachariasX

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@JtD Problem for the Bismark - at least in the operation where it was eventually sunk - was that it was operating at long range from it's bases, with little or capability to resupply or refuel at sea. In contrast, at the North Cape the ships threatening the Arctic convoys only had to sortie a fairly short distance, within friendly air recce range, to have an impact.  Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Tirpitz were all a pain in the neck, but the RN could afford to trade off one capital ship for each of these -  in the end they lost only Hood (to Bismark of course) and Ark Royal in battles with these ships.  A much stronger U-Boat force in operation earlier on before the Allies developed the tactics and equipment to nullify them would have been a much better use of resources, both material and man-power.

 

As for the Germany vs Japan scenario - just a thought, really just saying that declaring war on the US was for Germany incredibly stupid, so if there was any way of avoiding public and wholehearted US entry to the European war AH should have tried it, even if it meant tolerating FDR's stretching the definition of neutrality to allow the USN to escort British convoys. Declaring war on the Japanese might have done wonders politically - and it is not as though they would have had to do anything about it! 

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@Z

 

 "Planes themselves are irrelevant as long as you don't know how to use them."

 

Absolutely - and Fighter Command, pre-war, had worked out how to use fighters defensively against bomber raids better than anyone else, but had little or no idea about tactical support or bomber escort.  I suspect that the RAF learned more about tactical support through the Desert Air Force than anywhere else, but managing very large and complex offensive operations is not a simple matter and the 1942-43 Cross Channel operations, so often derided in these forums as wasteful, were also, I believe, a necessary stage of building up the staff competences required to complete the amazingly complex air operations around Overlord - which achieved air supremacy in short order and utterly crushed the German air effort in France. 

 

I agree that sometimes in the article the author seems to be just piling up any measure that he can, when some of them are clearly overlapping, and occasionally it reads as though he

knows more about how to research a historical paper than about air operations themselves. But it is still a good paper.   ;)

Edited by unreasonable

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agree that sometimes in the article the author seems to be just piling up any measure that he can, when some of them are clearly overlapping, and occasionally it reads as though he knows more about how to research a historical paper than about air operations themselves. But it is still a good paper. ;)

Yes, I appreciated it as well. He just didn't need to stack everything else on the pile as he has some good figures put together. It is always nice to see if someone takes the effort in collecting original data.

 

What I personally find interessting is how it illustrates the German way of trying something and after that, may it succeed or not, they just move on with "the next great thing" while leaving the broken dishes of unfinished business behind them along with a force strong enough "to deal with the mess", but certainly not to sort it out. In all cases, this "dealing with it" was the flying circus-like strategy of leaving a force that can locally achieve air superiority. Any force projection beyond that is an individual effort.

 

Over Poland and France, the Germans were spoiled as capturing the ground as well meant getting lost pilots back, effectively masking significant losses in both (especially in the French) campaigns.

Over Britain, they surely gave the RAF a miserable time, but not getting pilots back that bailed out over the battlefield showed them their true hand in a rather grim way.

 

Still, their rigorous nature didn't keep them from joining the mess that Mussolini started. It is impressive in the figures presented in this paper how much got wasted in a camaign that Hitler never really wanted and didn't really know what to do with it, even in case of success.

 

It is a testament of how much Hitler wanted to mess with Russia that even after he espablished a sitaution that he could never win long term, he still embarked on invading Russia. Then again, same procedure as last year, pull all the forces together, score some, ah, doesn't work, then, uhm, deal with it.

 

But clearly, the fancy stuff was always delivered to the channel boys, on either side. The war wasn't really happening there again until 1944 (much rather over Germany), but it was a great place where you could show your airforce to the fullest and everybody still be home for dinner. Try that in Burma.

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Obviously, Me262 were desperately needed on the Eastern front to hunt down Po-2's at night. :)

 

 

 

While it is true that the development of those [V1,V2] came at extreme costs, it is not so clear whether the opportunity costs were similarly high.

 

The V1 was fairly cheap both in development and operation and in the field of terror bombing / area bombing was one of the most cost effective weapon systems of WW2. Aside from the obviously cheap and simple machine that required no pilot to operate it, ground infrastructure and logistics were also quite simple when compared to 'real' aircraft. The Fw190 could deliver roughly the same payload, just imagine what it would have taken the Luftwaffe to attack London in 1944 with these instead of V1's for the same effect. Or, in another what if, if they had, instead of their He111, used V1 as the primary attack craft starting with the BoB in 1940.

 

 

 

And destroyed they were. After Bodenplatte, ...

 

I did say until late 1944 when the Nazi German war effort pretty much collapsed. Bodenplatte is (just) 1945. Well, whatever. In a war of attrition I find it superficial to just look who destroyed how much, since who produced how much is at least as important. Why not say the Germans defeated the Luftwaffe, because they were solely responsible for the lacking 'plus' side of the balance sheet, whereas the rich 'minus' is split up between various Allies?

More serously, Germany lost the war, and so did the Luftwaffe as part of their armed forces. I don't see how the Luftwaffe was defeated separately from Germany, so I don't see how the Luftwaffe as a whole could have been defeated at any particular time in any particular place.

 

 

 

Problem for the Bismark - at least in the operation where it was eventually sunk - was that it was operating at long range from it's bases, with little or capability to resupply or refuel at sea.
The Germans maintained a supply network spread out over the Atlantic, not really comparable to bases in Norway, but more than nothing.

 

 

 

the RN could afford to trade off one capital ship for each of these
The Tirpitz caused three RN BB's to be on standby (two in support, one as reserve), and Bismarck pretty much had the RN mobilize every major ship they had. I agree on the U-boat threat, however, the what if is about using the means that are there to a slightly different effect, not to restructure the war effort. I just brought up this thing because in 1941 the battle for the Atlantic was a really grim and a really close affair, and small changes to small events could have a big effect on the bigger picture. Good conditions for what if's. This is probably not the best topic to discuss it in, though.

 

 

 

occasionally it reads as though he knows more about how to research a historical paper than about air operations themselves. But it is still a good paper.
I agree with both statements. :)

 

 

 

Still, their rigorous nature didn't keep them from joining the mess that Mussolini started. It is impressive in the figures presented in this paper how much got wasted in a camaign that Hitler never really wanted and didn't really know what to do with it, even in case of success.

 

Still, no flight sim yet to give the theatre the attention it deserves.

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More serously, Germany lost the war, and so did the Luftwaffe as part of their armed forces. I don't see how the Luftwaffe was defeated separately from Germany, so I don't see how the Luftwaffe as a whole could have been defeated at any particular time in any particular place.

That is a good way to put it. Agreed.

 

Still, no flight sim yet to give the theatre the attention it deserves.

Yess!! It is IMHO by far the most interessting theater of war. I mean, just think of it. You have a large, FPS friendly lake map (Cunningham's Pond) surrounded by several fighting parties. And there's aircraft carriers.

 

For the Americans and the British, you can shoot the Italians, the Germans and the French.

For the Germans and the Italians, in the end, you can shoot at everyone.

For the French, you can surrender to everyone.

For the Italians you can fight every losing battle while always playing with the then most profilic side.

For the French, you can even shoot the French.

 

There are countless opportunities for scripted campaigns such as:

 

For the British:

- Use aircraft carriers to find German U boats.

- Watch it sink once it finds said U Boat.

- Sink ships moored in the harbor for target practise.

- Return the favor by presenting an aircraft carrier to a KG of Stukas.

- Use your least wanted aircraft against the best of your enemy over Malta.

 

For the Italians:

- Attack a 3rd rate Catholic mostly Christian county on easter Sunday Good Friday and fail.

- Not use your capital ships when the enemy uses theirs.

- When it gets really bad, switch sides.

 

I could go on forever. Talk about diversity. :lol:

Edited by ZachariasX
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Amusing - I also would have loved the Med, such variety and genuine land/sea/air action, plus biplanes!

 

Main problem is that it is horribly big: Cairo-Tunis, for instance, 2000km, Berlin-Moscow 1600km: a fact often overlooked by the armchair warriors who like to slag off Monty for his allegedly slow pursuit of Rommel after El Alamein.

 

Confused by this "- Attack a 3rd rate Catholic county on easter Sunday and fail."  Greece and Yugoslavia (mostly) are Orthodox: who else did Italians invade at Easter?

 

You could add the following scripted campaigns for the Germans - in the interests of fairness ;)

 

- Use up 50% of your elite airborne troops capturing an island of no strategic value

- Not use any of your elite airborne troops trying to capture another island of great strategic value

- Play a minigame of how much you can over-claim before being rumbled 

etc

 

Some ideas for the Yanks?

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Confused by this "- Attack a 3rd rate Catholic county on easter Sunday and fail." Greece and Yugoslavia (mostly) are Orthodox: who else did Italians invade at Easter?

 

Albania, April 7th. Yes, they are Orthodox as well, also Islamic. I should have written "Christian" (corrected that). Choosing Good Friday as date for invasion works well with both Orthodox and Catholics. Although they made it to Tirana rather quickly, in the long run that didn't go very well. Some of these actions are mentioned here, one of the IMHO all time best reads about WWII. But I'm sure you know Charles Lambs book.

 

 

Some ideas for the Yanks?

 

Of course. They are up for 1st prize in the Mediterranean contest. (French won 1st prize for face palm.) For the Yanks you can:

 

- Fight the French Fleet. (The French didn't provide that fun to the Germans two years before, and until then it was also an almost exclusively British habit.)

- Bomb the French into surrender faster than Germany did it back then.

- Once they give in, you tell them "Alors, vous avez gagné!" and turn your back on them for further ventures while reserving them a place on the winning table for later on.

- Team up with notorious mobsters for invading Sicilly.

- Put Spitfires on your aircraft carriers.

- Bomb Montecassino (B-24 as collectors plane).

- Invade the Cote d'Azur almost unmolested (Honestly is there a better occasion for a selfie than the old harbor in St. Tropez, just after disembarking? Then go for lunch lunch at the Promenade des Anglais over in Cannes?). This campaign will focus on the player practising formation flight. But if you fly recon Lightnings, you should still check your 6.

- Use the P-80 (collectors plane) jet for a special scripted campaign. (It scrips just an engine failure, not opponents as there are none.)

 

The potenial map size of about 3 million km2 is a bit large though, but still small compared to the Pacific...

Edited by ZachariasX

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You could also have a US vs British& Empire scenario when Alexander instructs UK forces to ignore Clark's orders to US troops to fire on any UK troops attempting to enter Rome.

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You could also have a US vs British& Empire scenario when Alexander instructs UK forces to ignore Clark's orders to US troops to fire on any UK troops attempting to enter Rome.

A scripted campaign then for British planes having to attack the very carrier they are taking off from? Self-vulching. Incredible what's possible once you have the Italians involved. :lol:

 

We're definitely missing the MTO here.

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Thanks for posting this! Seems like an interesting read, even though I've just skimmed it this far.

 

Kind'a funny though... Author posts how many words the paper is, but not even what year he wrote it :P

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A scripted campaign then for British planes having to attack the very carrier they are taking off from? Self-vulching. Incredible what's possible once you have the Italians involved. :lol:

 

We're definitely missing the MTO here.

 

To be honest, is it really this funny? 

 

It can be funny once, maybe twice, but the third time it sounds a little like you have some personal issues...   :lol: 

 

One of my relative died in that war, a splinter got him and probably he died in agony for a few minutes in the middle of nowhere. 

Funny isn't it?

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To be honest, is it really this funny?

 

It can be funny once, maybe twice, but the third time it sounds a little like you have some personal issues... :lol:

 

One of my relative died in that war, a splinter got him and probably he died in agony for a few minutes in the middle of nowhere.

Funny isn't it?

You're taking this way too seriously.

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Folks let us be mindful that there are peop,e on these boards.. who had loved ones who fought and in some cases died in the conflict .. so when we make jokes about various armies.. they can be more than just jokes to some folks.. 

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