Sunderland Flying Boat

The Short S.25 Sunderland was a British flying boat patrol bomber, developed and constructed by Short Brothers for the Royal Air Force (RAF). 

The aircraft took its service name from the town (latterly, city) and port of Sunderland in North East England.

Developed in parallel with the civilian S.23 Empire flying boat, the flagship of Imperial Airways, the Sunderland was developed specifically to conform to the requirements of British Air Ministry Specification R.2/33 for a long-range patrol/reconnaissance flying boat to serve with the Royal Air Force (RAF). As designed, it served as a successor to the earlier Short Sarafand flying boat. 

Sharing several similarities with the S.23, it featured a more advanced aerodynamic hull and was outfitted with various offensive and defensive armaments, including machine gun turrets, bombs, aerial mines, and depth charges. 

The Sunderland was powered by four Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial engines and was outfitted with various detection equipment to aid combat operations, including the Leigh searchlight, the ASV Mark II and ASV Mark III radar units, and an astrodome.

The Sunderland was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats throughout the Second World War. 

In addition to the RAF, the type was operated by other Allied military air wings, including the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), South African Air Force (SAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), French Navy, Norwegian Air Force, and the Portuguese Navy. 

During the conflict, the type was heavily involved in Allied efforts to counter the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. 

On 17 July 1940, a RAAF Sunderland (of No. 10 Squadron) performed the type’s first unassisted U-boat kill. Sunderlands also played a major role in the Mediterranean theatre, performing maritime reconnaissance flights and logistical support missions. 

During the evacuation of Crete, shortly after the German invasion of the island, several aircraft were used to transport troops. Numerous unarmed Sunderlands were also flown by civil operator British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), traversing routes as far afield as the Pacific Ocean.

During the post-war era, use of the Sunderland throughout Europe rapidly declined, while greater numbers remained in service in the Far East, where large developed runways were less prevalent. 

Between mid-1950 and September 1954, several squadrons of RAF Sunderlands saw combat action during the Korean War. 

Around a dozen aircraft had also participated in the Berlin airlift, delivering supplies to the blockaded German city. The RAF continued to use the Sunderland in a military capacity up to 1959. 

In December 1960, the French Navy retired their aircraft, which were the last remaining examples in military use within the Northern Hemisphere. 

The type also remained in service with the RNZAF up to 1967, when they were replaced by the land-based Lockheed P-3 Orion. 

A number of Sunderlands were converted for use within the civil sector, where they were known as the Hythe and the Sandringham; in this configuration, the type continued in airline operation until 1974. 

Several examples were preserved, including a single airworthy Sunderland which has been placed on display in Florida at Fantasy of Flight.


Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber

The Fairey Swordfish is a biplane torpedo bomber designed by the Fairey Aviation Company.

Originating in the early 1930s, the Swordfish, nicknamed “Stringbag”, was operated by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, it was also used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), as well as several overseas operators, including the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Royal Netherlands Navy.

It was initially operated primarily as a fleet attack aircraft. During its later years, the Swordfish became increasingly used as an anti-submarine and training platform.

The type was in frontline service throughout the Second World War.

Despite being obsolete by 1939, the Swordfish achieved some spectacular successes during the war.

Notable events included sinking one battleship and damaging two others of the Regia Marina (the Italian Navy) during the Battle of Taranto, and the famous attack on the Bismarck, which contributed to her eventual demise.

By the end of the war, the Swordfish held the distinction of having caused the destruction of a greater tonnage of Axis shipping than any other Allied aircraft.

The Swordfish remained in front-line service until V-E Day,

having outlived multiple aircraft that had been intended to replace it in service.

Archer (Self-Propelled 17pdr, Valentine

The Self Propelled 17pdr, Valentine, Mk I, Archer was a British self propelled anti-tank gun of the Second World War based on the Valentine infantry tank chassis fitted with an Ordnance QF 17 pounder gun. 

Designed and manufactured by Vickers-Armstrongs, 655 were produced between March 1943 and May 1945. 

It was used in North-West Europe and Italy during the war; post-war, it served with the Egyptian Army. 

This vehicle was unusual in that its gun faced the rear of the chassis instead of the front.

The 17 pounder anti-tank gun was very powerful but also very large and heavy and could be moved about the battlefield only by a vehicle, which made the gun more effective in defence than in the attack. An improvised modification to the Churchill tank had been tested in 1942 as a self-propelled gun; the 3-inch Gun Carrier and the US was expected to be able to provide the 76 mm armed M10 tank destroyer through Lend-lease. 

Other projects were considered using obsolete tank chassis, including the Valentine for its reliability and low profile and the Crusader for its good power-to-weight ratio. 

In development were tank designs using the 17-pounder, which led to the Cruiser Mk VIII Challenger tank (and its post-war variant the Avenger SP gun) derived from the Cromwell cruiser tank and the Sherman Firefly conversion of the Sherman tank.

The Valentine chassis was soon chosen, as it was in production but obsolescent for British use and was also one of the few chassis that could accommodate such a large gun. 

The engine in the Archer had a higher power rating than in the Valentine. 

Since the Valentine had a small hull and it was not possible to use a turret, the gun was mounted in a simple, low, open-topped armoured box, very much like the early Panzerjäger German self-propelled guns in appearance, with the gun facing to the rear, which kept the length of the Archer short. 

The mounting allowed for 11 degrees of traverse to either side, with elevation from -7.5 to +15 degrees.

On firing, the gun breech recoiled just shy of the driver’s space, with the driver staying in position, in case the vehicle needed to move quickly. 

The rear mounting combined with its low silhouette made the Archer an excellent ambush weapon, allowing its crew to fire, then drive away without turning round. 

The first prototype was completed in 1943, with firing trials carried out in April 1943. Vickers were given orders for 800 vehicles

Handley Page Hampden

The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

It was part of the trio of large twin-engine bombers procured for the RAF,

joining the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington.

The newest of the three medium bombers, the Hampden was often referred to by aircrews as the “Flying Suitcase” because of its cramped crew conditions.

The Hampden was powered by Bristol Pegasus radial engines but a variant known as the Handley Page Hereford had in-line Napier Daggers.

The Hampden served in the early stages of the Second World War, bearing the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-bomber raid on Cologne.

When it became obsolete, after a period of mainly operating at night, it was retired from RAF Bomber Command service in late 1942. By 1943,

the rest of the trio were being superseded by the larger four-engined heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster.

de Havilland Mosquito

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a British twin-engined, shoulder-winged multirole combat aircraft,

introduced during the Second World War.

Unusual in that its frame was constructed mostly of wood, it was nicknamed the “Wooden Wonder”, or “Mossie”.

Lord Beaverbrook,

Minister of Aircraft Production, nicknamed it “Freeman’s Folly”, alluding to Air Chief Marshal Sir Wilfrid Freeman, who defended Geoffrey de Havilland and his design concept against orders to scrap the project.

In 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world.

Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito’s use evolved during the war into many roles, including low- to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber,

intruder, maritime strike, and photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation as a fast transport to carry small, high-value cargo to and from neutral countries through enemy-controlled airspace.

The crew of two, pilot and navigator, sat side by side. A single passenger could ride in the aircraft’s bomb bay when necessary.

The Mosquito FBVI was often flown in special raids, such as Operation Jericho (an attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944), and precision attacks against military intelligence, security, and police facilities (such as Gestapo headquarters).

On 30 January 1943, the 10th anniversary of the Nazis’ seizure of power, a morning Mosquito attack knocked out the main Berlin broadcasting station while Hermann Göring was speaking, taking his speech off the air.

The Mosquito flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other air forces in the European, Mediterranean and Italian theatres.

The Mosquito was also operated by the RAF in the Southeast Asian theatre and by the Royal Australian Air Force based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War.

During the 1950s, the RAF replaced the Mosquito with the jet-powered English Electric Canberra.

German U-boat submarine U-36

German submarine U-36 was a Type VIIA U-boat of Nazi Germany’s Kriegsmarine which served during World War II.

Like all Type VIIA submarines, U-36 displaced 626 tonnes (616 long tons) while surfaced and 745 t (733 long tons) when submerged. 

She was 64.51 m (211 ft 8 in) in overall length and had a 45.50 m (149 ft 3 in) pressure hull. U-36s propulsion consisted of two MAN 6-cylinder 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines that totaled 2,100–2,310 PS (1,540–1,700 kW; 2,070–2,280 bhp). 

Her maximum rpm was between 470 and 485. The submarine was also equipped with two Brown, Boveri & Cie GG UB 720/8 electric motors that totaled 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp). 

Their maximum rpm was 322. 

These engines gave U-36 a total speed of 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph) while surfaced and 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) when submerged. 

This resulted in a range of 6,200 nmi (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) while traveling at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) on the surface and 73–94 nmi (135–174 km; 84–108 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) when submerged. 

The U-boat’s test depth was 220 m (720 ft) but she could go as deep as 230–250 m (750–820 ft) without having her hull crushed.

U-36s armament consisted of five 53.3 cm (21 in) torpedo tubes (four located in the bow and one in the stern). 

She could have up to 11 torpedoes on board or 22 TMA or 33 TMB mines. U-36 was also equipped with a 8.8 cm SK C/35 naval gun and had 220 rounds for it stowed on board. Her anti-aircraft defenses consisted of one 2 cm (0.79 in) anti-aircraft gun

Horses of World War 2

Horses in World War II were used by the belligerent nations for transportation of troops, artillerymateriel, and, to a lesser extent, in mobile cavalry troops. 

The role of horses for each nation depended on its military strategy and state of economy and was most pronounced in the German and Soviet Armies. 

Over the course of the war, both Germany and the Soviet Union employed more than six million horses.

Most British regular cavalry regiments were mechanised between 1928 and the outbreak of World War II

The United States retained a single horse cavalry regiment stationed in the Philippines, and the German Army retained a single brigade. 

The French Army of 1939–1940 blended horse regiments into their mobile divisions, and the Soviet Army of 1941 had thirteen cavalry divisions. 

The ItalianJapanesePolish and Romanian armies employed substantial cavalry formations.

Horse-drawn transportation was most important for Germany, as it was relatively lacking in natural oil resources. Infantry and horse-drawn artillery formed the bulk of the German Army throughout the war; only one fifth of the Army belonged to mobile panzer and mechanized divisions. 


Each German infantry division employed thousands of horses and thousands of men taking care of them. Despite losses of horses to enemy action, exposure and disease, Germany maintained a steady supply of work and saddle horses until 1945. 

Cavalry in the German Army and the Waffen-SS gradually increased in size, peaking at six cavalry divisions in February 1945.

The Red Army was substantially motorized from 1939 to 1941 but lost most of its war equipment in Operation Barbarossa

The losses were temporarily remedied by forming masses of mounted infantry, which were used as strike forces in the Battle of Moscow

Heavy casualties and a shortage of horses soon compelled the Soviets to reduce the number of cavalry divisions. 

As tank production and Allied supplies made up for the losses of 1941, the cavalry was merged with tank units, forming more effective strike groups. 

From 1943 to 1944, cavalry gradually became the mobile infantry component of the tank armies. By the end of the war, Soviet cavalry had been reduced to its prewar strength. 

The logistical role of horses in the Red Army was not as high as it was in the German Army because of Soviet domestic oil reserves and US truck supplies.

Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier

Smoky (c. 1943 – 21 February 1957), a Yorkshire Terrier, was a famous war dog who served in World War II. She weighed only 4 pounds (1.8 kg) and stood 7 inches (180 mm) tall. 

Smoky is credited with beginning a renewal of interest in the once-obscure Yorkshire Terrier breed.

In February 1944, Smoky was found by an American soldier in an abandoned foxhole in the New Guinea jungle. She was already a young adult Yorkie (fully grown). The soldiers initially thought the small dog belonged to the Japanese, but after taking her to a nearby prisoner-of-war camp they realized she did not understand commands in Japanese or English. Another GI then sold Smoky to Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland, Ohio, for two Australian pounds (equal to $6.44 at that time)—the price paid to the seller so he could return to his poker game.[2][3]

World War II

For the next two years, Smoky back-packed through the rest of the war and accompanied Wynne on combat flights in the Pacific

She faced adverse circumstances, living in the New Guinea jungle and Rock Islands, suffering the primitive conditions of tents in equatorial heat and humidity. 

Throughout her service, Smoky slept in Wynne’s tent on a blanket made from a green felt card table cover; she shared Wynne’s C-rations and an occasional can of Spam. Unlike the “official” war dogs of World War II, Smoky had access to neither veterinary medicine nor a balanced diet formulated especially for dogs.

Despite this, Smoky was never ill. 

She even ran on coral for four months without developing any of the paw ailments that plagued some war dogs.

As described by Wynne, “Smoky Served in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force26th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron and flew 12 air/sea rescue and photo reconnaissance missions.”

On those flights, Smoky spent long hours dangling in a soldier’s pack near machine guns used to ward off enemy fighters.

 Smoky was credited with twelve combat missions and awarded eight battle stars.[6] She survived 150 air raids on New Guinea and made it through a typhoon at Okinawa.

Smoky even parachuted from 30 feet (9.1 m) in the air, out of a tree, using a parachute made just for her. 

Wynne credited Smoky with saving his life by warning him of incoming shells on an LST (transport ship), calling her an “angel from a foxhole.” 

As the ship deck was booming and vibrating from anti-aircraft gunnery, Smoky guided Wynne to duck the fire that hit eight men standing next to them.

In the down time, Smoky learned numerous tricks, which she performed for the entertainment of troops with Special Services and in hospitals from Australia to Korea According to Wynne, Smoky taught him as much as he taught her, and she developed a repertoire beyond that of any dog of her day.

 In 1944, Yank Down Under magazine named Smoky the “Champion Mascot in the Southwest Pacific Area.”

Smoky’s tricks enabled her to become a hero in her own right by helping engineers to build an airbase at Lingayen GulfLuzon, a crucial airfield for Allied war planes

Early in the Luzon campaign, the Signal Corps needed to run a telegraph wire through a 70-foot-long (21 m) pipe that was 8 inches (200 mm) in diameter. 

Soil had sifted through the corrugated sections at the pipe joinings, filling as much as half of the pipe, giving Smoky only four inches of headway in some places. As Wynne himself told the story when he appeared on NBC-TV after World War II:

“I tied a string (tied to the wire) to Smoky’s collar and ran to the other end of the culvert . . . (Smoky) made a few steps in and then ran back. `
Come, Smoky,’ I said sharply, and she started through again. 
When she was about 10 feet in, the string caught up and she looked over her shoulder as much as to say `what’s holding us up there?’ 
The string loosened from the snag and she came on again. 
By now the dust was rising from the shuffle of her paws as she crawled through the dirt and mold and I could no longer see her. 
I called and pleaded, not knowing for certain whether she was coming or not. At last, about 20 feet away, I saw two little amber eyes and heard a faint whimpering sound . . . at 15 feet away, she broke into a run. 
We were so happy at Smoky’s success that we patted and praised her for a full five minutes.”

Smoky’s work saved approximately 250 ground crewmen from having to move around and keep operational 40 United States fighters and reconnaissance planes, while a construction detail dug up the taxiway, placing the men and the planes in danger from enemy bombings

What would have been a dangerous three-day digging task to place the wire was instead completed in minutes.

After the war

When they arrived home from the war, Wynne and Smoky were featured in a page one story with photographs in the Cleveland Press on December 7, 1945.

Smoky soon became a national sensation. 

Over the next 10 years, Smoky and Wynne travelled to Hollywood and all over the world to perform demonstrations of her remarkable skills, which included walking a tightrope while blindfolded.

 She appeared with Wynne on some of the earliest TV shows in the Cleveland area, including a show of their own on Cleveland’s WKYC Channel 3 called Castles in the Air, featuring some of Smoky’s unbelievable tricks.

 Smoky performed in 42 live-television shows without ever repeating a trick. 

Smoky and Wynne were also very popular entertainers at the veterans’ hospitals.

According to Wynne, “after the war Smoky entertained millions during late 1940s and early 1950s.”

On February 21, 1957, “Corporal” Smoky died unexpectedly at the approximate age of 14.

Wynne and his family buried Smoky in a World War II .30 caliber ammo box in the Cleveland Metroparks, Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood, Ohio.

Nearly 50 years later, on Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, a bronze life-size sculpture, by Susan Bahary, of Smoky sitting in a GI helmet, atop a two-ton blue granite base, was unveiled there.

It is placed above the very spot that Smoky was laid at her final resting place.

This monument is dedicated to “Smoky, the Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and the Dogs of All Wars”

North Africa Campaign

The North African campaign of the Second World War took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. 

It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch), as well as Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign).

The campaign was fought between the Allies, many of whom had colonial interests in Africa dating from the late 19th century, and the Axis Powers. 

The Allied war effort was dominated by the British Commonwealth and exiles from German-occupied Europe. 

The United States officially entered the war in December 1941 and began direct military assistance in North Africa on 11 May 1942. Canada provided a small contingent of 348 officers and enlisted men.

Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army’s 11th Hussars (assisted by elements of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 1st RTR) crossed the border from Egypt into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. 

This was followed by an Italian counter-offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September and its recapture by the British in December following a British Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian 10th Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps—commanded by Erwin Rommel, who later became known as “The Desert Fox”—was dispatched to North Africa in February 1941 during Operation Sonnenblume to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.

A fluctuating series of battles for control of Libya and regions of Egypt followed, reaching a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein in October 1942 when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery inflicted a decisive defeat on Rommel’s Afrika Korps and forced its remnants into Tunisia. 

After the Anglo-American landings (Operation Torch) in North-West Africa in November 1942, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides), the Allies encircled several hundred thousand German and Italian personnel in northern Tunisia and finally forced their surrender in May 1943.

Operation Torch in November 1942 was a compromise operation that met the British objective of securing victory in North Africa while allowing American armed forces the opportunity to engage in the fight against Nazi Germany on a limited scale. 

In addition, as Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, had long been pleading for a second front to be opened to engage the Wehrmacht and relieve pressure on the Red Army, it provided some degree of relief for the Red Army on the Eastern Front by diverting Axis forces to the North African theatre. 

Over half the German Ju 52 transport planes that were needed to supply the encircled Axis forces at Stalingrad were tied up supplying Axis forces in North Africa.

Information gleaned via British Ultra code-breaking intelligence proved critical to Allied success in North Africa. 

Victory for the Allies in this campaign immediately led to the Italian Campaign, which culminated in the downfall of the fascist government in Italy and the elimination of Germany’s main European ally.

The North Africa campaign was often labeled a “war without hate,” a pure military clash in the desert without the partisan roundups and ethnic cleansing happening in Europe. 

This view has been challenged by recent historians, given that there were indeed many civilians who lived in the region, and the campaign was marked by numerous atrocities and abuses  towards prisoners of war and local Jewish, Berber and Arab populations. They were often motivated by racism and anti-semitism.

Nakajima Ki-43

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (隼, “Peregrine falcon”, “Army Type 1 Fighter” (一式戦闘機)) was a single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in World War II.

The Allied reporting name was “Oscar”, but it was often called the “Army Zero” by American pilots because it bore a certain resemblance to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s counterpart to the Ki-43.

Both aircraft had generally similar layout and lines, and also used essentially the same Nakajima Sakae radial engine, with similar round cowlings and bubble-type canopies (the Oscar’s being distinctly smaller and having much less framing than the A6M). 

While relatively easy for a trained eye to tell apart with the “finer” lines of the Ki-43’s fuselage – especially towards the tail – and more tapered wing planform; in the heat of battle, given the brief glimpses and distraction of combat, Allied aviators frequently made mistakes in enemy aircraft identification in the heat of a dogfight, reportedly having fought “Zeros” in areas where there were no Navy fighters.

Like the Zero, the radial-engined Ki-43 was light and easy to fly and became legendary for its combat performance in East Asia in the early years of the war. 

It could outmaneuver any opponent, but did not initially have armor or self-sealing fuel tanks, and its armament was poor until its final version, which was produced as late as 1945. 

Allied pilots often reported that the nimble Ki-43s were difficult targets but burned easily or broke apart with few hits.

Total production amounted to 5,919 aircraft. 

Many of these were used during the last months of the war for kamikaze missions against the American fleet