Mosquito attack on Dalsfjord, 23 March 1945

Mosquito attack on Dalsfjord, 23 March 1945

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Mosquito Bomber/ Fighter-Bomber Units of World War 2, Martin Bowman. The first of three books looking at the RAF career of this most versatile of British aircraft of the Second World War, this volume looks at the squadrons that used the Mosquito as a daylight bomber, over occupied Europe and Germany, against shipping and over Burma. [see more]

The de Havilland Mosquito: Britain’s Super-Plane of WW2

On March 15, 1939, German ambitions and lies combined with lack of British resolve pushed Europe to the brink of war when Germany occupied what was left of Czechoslovakia. After this duplicitous move, Britain and France could no longer stand by and allow Germany to encroach on any more territory. Whereas Germany had been ominously building up its armed forces, Britain and France had done nothing, but now they were forced to scramble to design and build appropriate arms for the coming conflict.

Digging Deeper

Events unfolded too fast for France to develop any wonder weapons to rank among the best of the war, but the British aircraft industry was well on its way to supplying the Royal Air Force (RAF) with Hurricanes and Spitfires to fight off the Luftwaffe and would soon finish development of the mighty Lancaster and Halifax bombers to take the war to Germany. The titanic struggle that was World War II demanded of the best and brightest engineers that they create weapons that could be assembled easily and cheaply with available materials and yet capable of defeating the enemy. This was quite a task.

British airplane designers at the de Haviland company were given the assignment of coming up with a twin-engine, high-speed light bomber that could outfly German fighters, thus needing no escort or even defensive armament. Their solution was the Mosquito, one of the greatest and most versatile aircraft of World War II, first flown in 1940 and fielded in 1941.

Constructed of wood because supplies of aluminum and other metals were tight, the Mosquito was also equipped with the wonderful Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, the same motors that powered the Spitfire, Hurricane and Mustang (American P-51) fighters. When fitted as a bomber, the Mosquito could reach top speeds of 415 mph and thus was able to outrun German fighters. When fitted as a fighter, it could reach speeds of 366 mph and was used mainly at night against German bombers. Stripped-down versions with cameras but no guns were flown on reconnaissance missions and were the fastest planes in the sky until the Germans fielded jet aircraft.

The bomber version could carry as much as 4,000 pounds of bombs or could be outfitted with rails to fire ground attack rockets. Fitted with 4 x 20mm cannons and 4 x .303 caliber machine guns (one of the heaviest gun loads of any fighter WWII), the fighter version was well armed for blasting bombers or strafing. Some versions were made with modified engines and turbochargers to allow a service ceiling altitude of at least 37,000 feet, about 8,000 feet above the standard version. Even naval attack versions were built.

German aviators were so impressed, mighty efforts were made in Germany to copy the Mosquito, but German scientists never developed the glues necessary to create adequate plywood and keep wooden parts together. As far as glue and keeping things together were concerned, problems were experienced with Mosquitoes that had been sent to the Far East, where apparently the heat and moisture from monsoons caused the wood to delaminate.

In combat, the Mosquito proved extremely effective, with analysis showing that from a cost perspective, Mosquito bombing missions were almost 5 times as effective as those conducted in Lancasters. In other words, Mosquitoes could accomplish the same results as Lancasters at a fifth the cost. That is what we call a “Superplane!”

Nearly 8,000 Mosquitoes were built, including over 1,000 in Canada and over 200 in Australia. The RAF retired their Mosquitoes in 1950, but some other countries, such as South Africa and Israel, flew them longer. Only 2 are airworthy today.

The next time you hear people discuss the “best” airplanes of World War II, do not be surprised if you hear many nominate the Mosquito as the best all-around plane of the war.

Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite plane from World War II? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

If you liked this article and would like to receive notification of new articles, please feel welcome to subscribe to History and Headlines by liking us on Facebook and becoming one of our patrons!

One thought on &ldquo Operation Clarion: February 22-23, 1945 &rdquo

Interesting as usual, Greg. It’s not surprising that rail traffic didn’t suffer a longer disruption railways are relatively easy to repair, and in many instances it wasn’t terribly difficult for the Germans to reroute trains – if bridges were still intact. Bridges, though, were very difficult targets to significantly damage, let alone destroy. If I was a Jabo driver, I’d probably not be too pleased to go up against the flak batteries protecting them!

Historical Events on March 23

    Jocelin, abbot of Melrose, is elected bishop of Glasgow 1st dated edition of Maimonides "Mishneh Torah", a code of Jewish religious law is published Aragonese legal code formally recognised Treaty of Longjumeau: French huguenots go on strike Friesland joins Union of Utrecht English Separatist Puritans John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe tried and sentenced to death on the charge of devising and circulating seditious books French troops occupy Pinerolo Piedmont France & England form alliance against Spain England gets Dunkirk Pretender to the English throne James III attempts to land at Firth of Forth, Scotland, but is turned away by the British Royal Navy

Music Premiere

Event of Interest

1775 Patrick Henry proclaims "Give me liberty or give me death" in speech in favour of Virginian troops joining US Revolutionary war

Event of Interest

1794 Lt-general Tadeusz Kościuszko returns to Poland

Event of Interest

1808 Napoleon's brother Joseph takes the throne of Spain

    Battle and fall of city of Kalamata, Greek War of Independence 1st recorded use of "OK" [oll korrect] (Boston's Morning Post) Draper takes 1st successful photo of the Moon (daguerreotype) The ship John Wickliffe arrives at Port Chalmers carrying the first Scottish settlers for Dunedin, New Zealand. Otago province is founded. Battle of Novara (King Charles Albert vs Italian republic)

Event of Interest

1857 Elisha Otis installs his 1st elevator at 488 Broadway in New York City

    Streetcar patented (E A Gardner of Philadelphia) London's 1st tramcars, designed by Mr Train of NY, begins operating Battle of Kernstown Virginia, Jackson begins his Valley Campaign Encounter at Camden, Arkansas

Event of Interest

1865 General Sherman and Cox' troops reach Goldsboro, North Carolina

Event of Interest

1867 Congress passes 2nd Reconstruction Act over President Andrew Johnson's veto

    University of California founded in Oakland, California 39th Grand National: Fred Hobson aboard 15/1 shot Austerlitz wins by 4 lengths from Congress English FA Cup Final, Kennington Oval, London: Wanderers beat Royal Engineers, 3–1 Wanderers' back-to-back and 5th title overall War of the Pacific fought between Chile and the joints forces of Bolivia and Peru. Chile successfully takes over Arica and Tarapacá, leaving Bolivia a landlocked country. Flour rolling mill patented (John Stevens of Wisconsin)

Event of Interest

1919 Benito Mussolini forms Fascist movement in Milan Italy

Event of Interest

1919 8th Congress of the Russian Communist Party re-establishes a five-member Politburo which becomes the center of political power in the Soviet Union. Original members Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Lev Kamenev and Nikolai Krestinsky

Mosquito attack on Dalsfjord, 23 March 1945 - History

Adapted from his TV Series Secret Britain

Photographs by Devon Photographer - Jackie Freeman

RAF Winkleigh

The story of a WW II Air Base in Devon

An illustrated History of the RAF Airfield at Winkleigh

The Canadians at RAF Winkleigh 1944 - 45

Royal Canadian Air Force - RCAF - 406 - 415 - 408 - Squadrons

I have mentioned already the RAF 3 volume record History of the Royal Air force in World War II, in which the RAF airfield at Winkleigh simply does not exist!

Now, on the other hand, if you take a look at the Canadians version of its war time history 'The RCAF Overseas' it's a different story altogether, with some 20 pages dedicated to Winkleigh in Devon and its RAF base.
They loved it here and certainly made themselves at home.

An interesting observation, sent to me recently by a war time evacuee to Winkleigh with fond memories of the Canadians, concerned their natural attraction to local cider!
He recalls many an airman, not used to cider being full of alcohol ( Canadian cider is a different thing altogether, we call it Apple Juice. ) being either carried out or falling out of the Kings Arms and being leaned up against the Village Pump to sober up!

With a change of Command at RAF Winkleigh on March 29th 1944, as Wing Commander Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Fumerton was described as a big, strapping guy with a deceiving gentleness and a row of decorations and rightly so because Moose Fumerton was to become the top Canadian night-fighter ace of World War II and is credited with 14 aerial victories.

These men made an indomitable pair, both leading their squadrons from the front and always itching for a go at the enemy.

They were tireless and brave commanding officers.

The D Day Orders - Operation Bigot.

In his memoirs, Moose Fullerton tells us of his role in 'Operation Bigot' so secret that he could not even discuss it with his counterpart Douglas-Hamilton. he speaks of the dramatic responsibility placed in his hands on June 4th by his superiors in personally delivering the D Day orders out of RAF Winkleigh to various airstrips in the South West.

This task he accomplished by meeting motorcycle outriders at the individual air bases and whilst keeping the engines going, passed on the top secret documents for internal delivery straight to each CO. He would repeat the process to every airfield across the South West of England.

Wing Commander Fummerton, DFC., AFC. Retd, in a letter of November the 6th. 1994 from his home in Toronto, recounts the story of the D Day orders.

He goes on to speak of his feelings of pride upon returning to Winkleigh from his mission to see the west country roads

'jammed with men and machinery on its way to the coastal ports. '

It must have been quite a sight and a daunting honour?

Wing Commander David John "Blackie" Williams

Wing Commander Russell Bannock DFC, DSO & Bar Born Russell Bahnuk.

Squadron Commander after Blackie Williams

By July of 1944, S quadron Leader Blackie Williams, having been awarded a DSO for his actions against 7 Dornier DO 217 aircraft over Brest in France, then took over the command of the Canadian Squadron at Winkleigh.

Many Canadian officers were awarded commendations for their exploits which included a DSO, 7 DFC's and two DFM's and held a dramatic record of successful kills:

47 aircraft confirmed destroyed, 15 vehicles, 68 trains, 3 barges 2 submarines and 3 power stations.

The Squadron records for the 14th of May 1944 begins:

" An epic evening in Squadron annals. "

. when after midnight, some 35 enemy aircraft operated in scattered fashion, with Bristol as their objective.

When the smoke of battle had cleared, the score stood as follows:

W/C Fumerton and Flight A.N.C. Lynes - 1 Ju. 88 Destroyed

P/O W.H. Muschett and P/O J.L.N. Hall - 1 Ju. 88 destroyed 1 Ju 88 probable

P/O D.J.McConnell and F/O Michael James Kazakoff in a Mosquito they named "The Impatient Virgin".

1 Ju. 88 probable, 1 unidentified damaged.

F/L H.D.McNabb & F/S A.F Tindall - 1 Ju.88 probable, 1 unidentified damaged.

Total: 4 Destroyed, 3 probable, 1 damaged, for no losses.

* With thanks to Mr. Jack Webster in Ottawa, Canada for his assistance in correcting an error appearing in the operations record book. We are pleased to correct to oversight.

Old comrades will be sad to learn of the passing of Flight Officer Michael James Kazakoff.
December 2nd 2010 at the age of 89.

RCAF 406 Squadron played an enormously important role in the war with their Beaufighters and Mosquito attack planes. Completing an impressive, dedicated service in the annals of war.

406 Squadron was credited with 64 enemy aircraft destroyed, seven probably destroyed and 47 damaged. In addition, several locomotives and ground installations were blown up or strafed

by shelling. These actions had won the squadron three D.S.O.&rsquos, one second Bar to the D.F.C., one Bar to the D.F.C., fourteen D.F.C.&rsquos, two D.F.M.&rsquos and four Mentioned in Despatches citations.
The squadron flew over 1800 sorties in the four years they were operational.

During night fighter activities it lost eight aircrew & as an intruder unit its casualties were twelve killed and two taken prisoner.
Non-operational accidents took the lives of 13 squadron members.

One such 406 mission is recounted below.

The last flight of Burgess and MacPherson.

Flight Lieutenant Navigator

406 Sqdn. Royal Canadian Air Force

Flight Lieutenant Pilot

406 Sqdn. Royal Canadian Air Force

It was a beautiful afternoon at the airbase at RAF Winkleigh on July 1944 when a pair of Mosquito fighter planes

took to the sky for routine patrol over France.

The weather continued to be perfect, giving the young pilots first class visibility and stunning views to the south as they crossed the Channel.

^Unknown aircrews in front of a Mosquito fighter, winter 44/45 Winkleigh

Aircrew - in frointy of a Mosquito, Winkleigh

A t approximately 15:15 hours on July 25th 1944, a Mosquito XII attack plane piloted by Flight Lieutenant Ray Burgess of Biggar Saskatchewan and navigated by Flight Lieutenant Navigator Bill MacPherson of Wallenstein, Ontario, out of 406 Squadron based at Winkleigh in Devon, caught sight of two German fighters based close to Varades near Nante in the Loire-Atlantique. They were closing in on them fast.

The Mosquito pilots, both old hands at such tactics, immediately took avoiding action and engaged the bandits with ferocious cannon fire. But the German planes veered off on different tacks, only to fall upon the stricken Mosquito with devastating results.

One of the German fighters suddenly gained altitude and fell upon his prey, firing on the Canadians plane and riddling it with bullets.

The crippled aircraft plummeted out of the sky.

Burgess struggled vainly with the controls of the dying Mosquito which swung in a slow, lingering arc above the village of Meilleraie. But already on fire, it hung for just one dreadful moment above a nearby forest, before being crushed in a horrendous explosion.

F arm workers in a nearby corn field were harvesting in the sunshine that afternoon and had little time to dive for cover as the aircraft hit.

A group of Boy Scouts, camping not from the crash site, rushed to the scene but heat and flames, now visible for miles and continuous explosions from igniting ammunition was too great a risk and nothing could be done.

Young and old from the village, some with Red Cross arm bands arrived on bicycles including Marie-Therese Brunet and Joseph Muloise and stood silent as two charred bodies were reverently recovered from the crash site and laid on sheets in the field.

The Mosquito had ended barely 150 meters from the meadow where the Huard family was working and Monsieur Eugène Huard Senior remained at the crash site with his combine harvester as his son Eugène Huard Junior (20), went to stable the horses.

Their eye witness reports tell of how an hour and a half passed when the German fighter plane&rsquos pilots emerged from the road toward Sorgne in the company of an interpreter having landed after the engagement at their temporary air base on an airstrip near Varades.

" The Germans did not salute the mortal remains of the two Canadian aviators but rolled them over with their feet and searched their pockets for their identification papers and money.

A short while later, a German officer of the " Kommandatur "arrived. He saluted the bodies of the Officers and ordered that the municipality arrange a burial in the cemetery, but without a procession."

The German order naturally would not be respected.

T he region was a stronghold for the free French and resistance movements and their hatred for the Bosch utter, patent and complete.

Full well, the people would be aware of the efforts of other Allied squadrons and their efforts in support of the resistance.

These men would not go un-honoured

D uring the evening, the airmen's bodies had been taken to Jean Cottineau&rsquos barn and the local carpenter Ms. Muloise was tasked with making coffins.

The following day, Wednesday July 26th, Mr. Eugène Huard junior, took his black mare named "Fanny" and went to the village of Riaillé to get the hearse and a funeral procession assembled.

There were many flowers at the funeral which followed and over 200 people followed the coffins of the two young Canadian airmen to the village church which was crammed with over 400 French mourners.

The two Canadian airmen were laid to rest side by side in the cemetery in the village of Riailléwhere Mrs. Marie-Thérèse Knittel has been

placing flowers on the Canadian aviators graves for over 60 years.

William MacPherson and his wife Pauline taking tea with their 'Landlady' somewhere in Winkleigh just before his death.

We believe the land lady may be Molly Short . Please contact us if you can help

William MacPherson and his

wife Pauline in Winkleigh

Royal Canadian Air Force - RDF Radar Technical staff at 406 Squadron in Winkleigh - Summer of 1944

Photograph - RAF Winkleigh - Devon - UK : August 23rd 1944.

Left to right (Rear. F/O Reg Labbe, T.G. MacGregor, F.Sgt Joe Kendall, LAC Reg Gaetz, PO - RAF. LAC, Bob McDowell, LAC, Wilf Lederman

Seated Cpt.Clyde Lattin, FO Jack Fenn, LAC Doug Long, LAC John Lindsay, Cpl. Alf Loach, Manley J Richardson Cprl. Horace Red Macaulay, LAC Jim Scaffter.

In the History of RAF Winkleigh, one cannot miss out the contribution made by the RDF Radar Technical staff of the RCAF 406 Squadron. For it was to them that pilots and air crew turned for the installation and servicing of the best and most innovative early warning systems yet devised.

DF [Radio Direction Finding] Technician Bob Mc Dowell photographed here at RAF Winkleigh (right) is on his way to carry out his daily inspections of the top secret and sophisticated radar equipment, SCR 720 (MkX) AI, which was assigned to the Canadian 406 Lynx Squadrons - Mosquito strike aircraft during World War 2.

The photograph is taken by: Horace."Red" Robinson Macauley, (Nepean, Ontario. Canada) Red was an airborne radar technician based at Winkleigh with Bob, involved with testing and development of the onboard radar systems.

"External power was used to run up the aircraft radar equipment and this was provided by this small gasoline engine that ran a generator delivering 80 volts ac and 12 or 24 volts dc as required. The equipment was mounted on a two-wheel cart with a metal top and canvas storm sides which were rolled up when in use. A bar handle at one end was used to push the unit from aircraft to aircraft. It was commonly referred to as “Jennie."

415 Sqd. Four hundred and Fightin&rsquo Fifteen Squadron

T here has been little mention of RCAF 415 Squadron at Winkleigh, so far. Yet the actions of Four hundred and Fightin&rsquo fifteen Squadron from Winkleigh in support of Coastal Command, which was initially why the air base was built, was an equally vital part of the war effort.

415 were here playing a magnificent role right through until the summer of 1944 when they were transferred to Bomber Command. But all during this time, 415 had a torpedo-bomber role to play and these men were experts in tracking down enemy submarines.

The &ldquoStringbag&rdquo or the Fairey Swordfish, was clearly one of the most important British biplanes of the Second World War & with a twofold strategic purpose - torpedo bomber & spotter - reconnaissance plane.

415 flew both Swordfish and the modified Albacore aircraft.

The Swordfish in their emblem and motto "To the mark" symbolise the squadron's operational duties in attacking enemy shipping.

To this section I am hoping that veterans, particularly of the Winkleigh based wing will contact me and contribute.

There actions were steadfast, their successes many and yet untold.

For Archive Photographs go to the next page:

The War Years - 10 Group Fighter Command RAF at Winkleigh 1942 - 1945

12th Tactical Reconnaissance

RCAF 415
Swordfish Squadron

RCAF 408
Goose Squadron
"For Freedom"

Part of a History of the Borough Town of Winkleigh, Devon & RAF airfield Winkleigh.

Sponsored by: Jackie Freeman Photography.

Photographs of Canadian Airmen at RAF Winkleigh 1944-45.

The writer thanks and acknowledges the help of Steve & Shirley Leahy

Copyright:/ 2008 | Jackie Freeman Photography - Grays Cross - Winkleigh - Devon - England. All rights reserved
Unauthorized use of the images illustrated is prohibited and protected under international laws of copyright.

The Luftwaffe attack on RAF Elvington – Operation Gisela

By of 1945, the Allied Air Forces enjoyed strong air supremacy across most of Europe. The home skies of the UK were growing ever safer. On the evening of 3/4th Match 1945, The Luftwaffe displayed a harrowing tactic that, had they only deployed it earlier in the war, could have had harrowing and far reaching effects on the Allied Air Bombing Campaign.

It also turned out to be an eventful and fatal night for the French aircrews flying from Elvington and also some nearby residents of the airfield.

In the early hours of 4th March 1945, in Unternehmen (Operation) Gisela, 200 Junkers JU88 nightfighters of the Luftwaffe Nachtjagdeschwader Gruppen (Night Fighter destroyer Group)were deployed to intercept the allied bombers returning to base at their most vulnerable point, just before landing.

These marauding German aircraft crossed the North Sea at points stretching from the Thames Estuary to the east coast to the North Yorkshire moors.

The fact that these intruders were able to cross the North Sea coast without being picked up by English radar operators would suggest a result of a degree of complacency that had set in amongst Bomber Command, as the Luftwaffe by 1945 the Allied Air Forces were dominant.

Their objective was to intercept returning aircraft in the final moments of their mission, at a point of maximum tiredness and just as aircrews were beginning to relax after the tensions of flying over enemy territory.

The Allied Bomber Command mission scheduled for this evening was a dual attack on the synthetic oil producing plant at Kamen and a raid on the Dortmund Elms canal. 234 aircraft from the northern 4 & 6 Groups took on the first mission, with 222 bombers from 5 Group, Lincolnshire, tackling the canal, departing bases at around 10.00pm on the 3rd March 1945.

The mission ran smoothly, until the return, when they ran into trouble in the form of Operation Gisela. It is a clear night and some of the early returning aircraft had inexplicably switched on their navigation lights much earlier than usual, despite warnings of the dangers of possible predators, which was copied by those following.

This gave the circling German intruders a clear, enticing target.

Having already claimed two Halifax Bombers of 158 Squadron returning to RAF Lissett, near Bridlington, Hauptmann Johann Dreher (Iron Cross) flying his Junkers JU88 of 12 NJG, set his sights on a French 347 Squadron Halifax, returning to RAF Elvington. At approximately 1.50am as Capitaine Notelle approached Elvington, he received the warning of the attack.

Suddenly all of the airfield lights went out, as Elvington had electric runway lighting by this time. He pulled his aircraft up and headed north for Croft, narrowly escaping the menacing intruder.

Capitaine Notelle (left with cap) and his crew climbing aboard their Halifax. The Rear Gunner, Lucien Malia (far right) suffered burns during the crash landing but did survive to fly again. He was a regular visitor to Elvington particularly for the Remembrance Sunday Services and indeed married a local girl from Fulford in York.

The night fighter continued its attack on Elvington, strafing the road at a passing taxi. Circling for another pass at 1.51am, the JU88 was too low, clipped a tree and crashed into Dunnington Lodge, a farmhouse on the outskirts of the airfield.

Machine gun fire from the fighter had strafed the farmhouse, before the aircraft crashed through one section of the building. Here, farmer Richard Moll and his wife, Helen (60), were awakening, having been startled by the gunfire. Their daughter in law, Violet (29) was making her way to their bedroom when the aircraft struck. Meanwhile, her husband, Fred, was saving the life of their 3-year old son, Edgar, by scooping the child up in one arm and, with fire extinguisher in the other, fighting his way through flames and debris to the outside.

Tragically, both his wife and mother died as a result of their injuries, shortly after admission to hospital. Richard Moll survived initially, but, suffering severe burns and died later. The JU88 ended up in a field at the junction of the Elvington and Dunnington roads.

This was the last German aircraft to crash on British soil during the war, preceded by a 7 NJG JU88 crashing at Welton, near Lincoln at 1.48am and 5 NJG JU88 crashing near Halesworth, Suffolk, at 01.37am.

Three of Elvington’s French Halifaxes were brought down that morning, though with miraculously few casualties. Attempting to reach Croft and having escaped the trap at Elvington, Notelle’s Halifax was hit three times by fire from the JU88 of Feldwebel Gunther Schmidt, before he successfully belly-landed the burning aircraft at Rockcliffe Farm, Hurworth, near Darlington.

All crew escaped, but some reports suggest that two civilians were killed by the skidding aircraft. Notelle was treated at hospital at Northallerton for a head injury.

Sous-Lieutenant Terrien himself, remaining at the controls of his burning Halifax whilst the other six baled out, crashed at Glebe Farm, Sutton on Derwent, close to the Elvington base.

Further south, Capitaine Laucou, on his first mission, was brought down near Orford Ness, Norfolk, reflecting the extent to which the returning aircraft had been scattered by the attackers. Both he and the flight engineer were killed, but the others baled out.

Intervention by Mosquito fighters brought this disastrous Night of the Intruders to an end, but, in just a couple of hours, Bomber Command had lost a further 19 aircraft in addition to the 9 reported missing on the raids themselves. The Luftwaffe also lost 25 fighters out of the 200 involved in the operation.

It could be argued that if the tactics used by the Luftwaffe in Operation Gisela had been introduced much earlier, the effect on Bomber Command would have been catastrophic and altered the tactics of RAF Bomber Commands strategy, perhaps even the course of the war.

The fact that our home here at Elvington is the site of the last German fighter to crash over British soil is of national significance and adds to the unique history on which the Yorkshire Air Museum is based.

Nazi Germany Surrenders: February 1945-May 1945

One of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific in World War II transpired when tens of thousands U.S. Marines stormed the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima. The World War II timeline below summarizes important events that occurred during the month of February 1945.

World War II Timeline: February 13-February 23

February 13-15: The Allies unleash a devastating attack on Dresden, Germany, killing more than 30,000 in a bombing raid that triggers intense firestorms.

February 16: Two battalions of U.S. forces invade the Philippine island of Corregidor by air and sea. They encounter fierce Japanese resistance.

Aircraft carriers attached to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, along with dozens of support ships, launch a series of air raids over Tokyo.

February 17: Some 170 U.S. Navy frogmen lose their lives in an ill-fated effort to thwart Japanese beach defenses on Iwo Jima.

February 18: General Ivan Chernyak-hovsky, 39, one of the youngest Red Army generals to command a front during World War II, dies of wounds received in combat.

February 19: One of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war ensues when 30,000 U.S. Marines storm the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima.

February 20: Red Army troops advance on Berlin, Nazi Germany's capital and the heart of the Third Reich.

Allied troops breach the Siegfried Line in Nazi Germany and reach the banks of the Rhine River.

Twenty-three American aircraft are lost when some 1,500 bombers and fighters attack infrastructure targets in Nuremberg, Germany.

February 21: The Americans recapture the Philippine province of Bataan, site of the infamous Bataan death march three years earlier.

February 23: The USS Henry Bacon becomes the last Allied merchant ship to go down at the hands of the Luftwaffe when it is sunk in the Arctic Sea by German bombers.

The U.S. Marines capture Iwo Jima's Mount Suribachi and raise a foreign flag on Japanese soil.

World War Headlines

Below are more highlights and images that outline the events of World War II and show the details of the treatment of American POWs in Japanese custody, as well as the battle of Iwo Jima in the mid-1940s.

Japanese troops kill and rape thousands during the "Manila Massacre": The burned corpse of a Filipino civilian murdered by Japanese troops lies in a Manila street, his hands still tied behind his back. Trapped by U.S. forces and facing certain death, Japanese naval personnel in Manila ran amok, butchering and raping thousands of helpless civilians. "I saw the bodies of priests, women, children and babies that had been bayoneted for sport. by a soldiery gone mad with blood lust in defeat," recalled Filipino editor Carlos Romulo. An estimated 100,000 civilians perished in what became known as the "Manila Massacre."

American POWs suffer while in Japanese hands: Liberation came too late for many sick and malnourished American POW at the Davao Penal Colony on Mindanao in the Philippines. One American POW died while trying to get a drink of water from a sink in the camp hospital. Of the approximately 25,000 U.S. troops captured during the war -- most during the first months after Pearl Harbor -- more than 10,000 died while in Japanese hands. Lack of adequate food and medical care, disease, forced labor, and outright murder all contributed to the toll. Japanese racism and a disdain for surrendered soldiers virtually ensured that the welfare of Allied POWs would remain a very low priority.

Marines land on Iwo Jima and suffer severe casualties: U.S. Marines hug a sandy terrace under enemy mortar fire after landing on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945. Americans hoped to seize the island, located only 660 miles south of Tokyo, to eliminate a source of interference with B-29 raids from Saipan. They also wanted to provide a refuge for crippled bombers on their way home from Japan. The Marines found that the three-day preliminary naval bombardment had done little damage to Iwo Jima's 21,000 defenders, who had literally moved underground into a maze of tunnels and shelters. Japanese gunners waited patiently until the U.S. beachhead was congested with successive landing waves. They then opened fire, inflicting severe casualties.

Nepalese warriors are feared by German troops: A Gurkha soldier brandishes his weapon of choice -- the kukri, a curve-bladed knife. These natives of Nepal had served in the British Army since the beginning of the 19th century. During World War II, 40 battalions of Gurkhas fought in every theater of the war. Gurkha battalions attached to the British Eighth Army took part in the Italian campaign. They were feared by German troops for their ability to strike at any time and place, leaving their victims -- often with their throats cut -- as a sign of their presence.

Japanese troops embed themselves in rock and wait to attack U.S. Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima: A U.S. assault team warily clears a cave on Iwo Jima. Though dominated by 556-foot Mount Suribachi, the island's greatest defensive potential lay along a plateau two and a half miles to the north. General Kuribayashi Tadamichi located his best forces there among a nightmarish jumble of upheaved rock, gorges, caves, and ridges. The Japanese took full advantage of Iwo Jima's porous volcanic rock to burrow underground beyond the reach of U.S. heavy guns. Above ground, blockhouses with five-foot concrete walls and a multitude of pillboxes awaited U.S. Marines. These American forces had no alternative but to assault them one by one with flamethrowers and demolitions.

The Allies continued their advance into the German homeland, forcing the German army to begin conscription of boys as young as 16. Go to the next page for a detailed timeline on these and other important World War II events that occurred from February 24, 1945, to March 7, 1945.

Mosquito attack on Dalsfjord, 23 March 1945 - History

By Robert Barr Smith

Many of the prisoners knew this night was probably their last on earth. Amiens Prison had seen a great many judicial murders and much Gestapo torture and brutality, so except for those about to die, executions were routine. Most of those who died within these walls were simply patriots, members of the French Resistance movement, agents, and ordinary people who helped their occupied country against the Germans and their own prostrate government at Vichy. They were held in a separate part of the prison, the “German side.” The rest of the prison housed ordinary criminals.

Outside the grim stone walls a bitter February night closed down like a shroud. Those about to die knew there could be no assistance, no miraculous delivery. Locked in their cells behind the thick stone walls, surrounded by a German garrison, in a city saturated with collaborationist police and officials, they were far from help. There could be no rescue mission from outside. Besides, the resistance had been badly shattered over the last months, infested with informers, and those of its leaders not captured by the Gestapo or the French Milice were on the run or in hiding.

This was 1944, the year of the Allied invasion, and much depended on information from within France: data on transportation, defenses, even the location of the Germans’ launch sites for V-1 buzz bombs reaching out toward London. Effective sabotage was crippled. Most of the heavy-duty transmitters sending information to London were in German hands. The damage to the resistance apparatus must have crossed the minds of those about to die. Many were veterans, and among their fellow prisoners were at least one American and two Englishmen. Worst of all, one of the French prisoners was the heart and soul of the Somme resistance. If the Gestapo found out who he was and broke him, the entire network would crumble, and with it crucial pre-invasion intelligence and information on the German missiles. The Allied intelligence chiefs knew the danger, and frankly agreed that this man had to be gotten out … or killed.

The French underground fighters who remained free were well aware of the plight of their comrades inside the prison. They even weighed the possibility of an armed ground assault on the prison walls. They were a motley collection of shopkeepers, doctors, housewives, thieves, whores, and at least one pimp, but they shared a fierce patriotism. They would get their chance to help their imprisoned friends, but not in the way they imagined.

As time ran out, the underground weighed plans and the Amiens prisoners thought grimly about what awaited them, thought of family, prayed, and prepared themselves as best they could. Meanwhile, in England, a remarkable man and a remarkable collection of planners, pilots, and navigators were preparing an astonishing feat of arms, no less than an aerial jailbreak courtesy of the Royal Air Force.

The Raiders of 140 Wing

The RAF outfit laid on for the task was 140 Wing, comprising Squadrons Number 487, New Zealand, Number 464, Australian, and Number 21, British. From their air base at Hunsdon, near London, the wing was flying “no ball” raids, strikes against German V-1 launching sites across the Channel. These were veteran airmen many of the aircrew had flown literally hundreds of missions into the hostile skies across the Channel. They were very good indeed. In fact, all three squadrons would be part of other daring strikes, including the March 1945 rooftop attack on the six-story Shell Building, Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen. They left the building afire and were gone, covered by P-51 Mustang fighters, by the time the Germans could start to recover. A single plane was lost at zero altitude when it struck a building, but the Danish underground reported 151 Gestapo killed and some 30 Danes escaped.

In this reconnaissance photo taken from nearly directly above the prison at Amiens, damage to the north wall is visible at lower right. A large section of the wall collapsed under the impact of 500-pound bombs during the raid which took place on March 23, 1944.

The same squadrons also hit the Gestapo headquarters in Aarhus, Denmark, in October 1944. This raid, like the others, was truly an Allied affair. The aircrew were British, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders, and the covering Mustangs came from a Polish squadron. The target was not only the Germans in the building, but especially the mass of carefully collected dossiers on thousands of Danes.

In spite of bad weather, the raid went perfectly. The raiders struck their target hard, avoiding two nearby hospitals. Delighted Danes waved the V-for-Victory sign at the raiders, and on the run into the target a farmer plowing his ground came to attention and saluted as the de Havilland Mosquito bombers roared in toward the city and skimmed over the buildings as low as 10 feet. The raid was carried out without losses, except for a dented engine nacelle and one raider’s tail wheel left on an Aarhus building when the pilot closed in to return fire from a building window. One pilot had the memorable experience of watching one of a comrade’s bombs hit its target, come out through the building’s roof, and arch gracefully over his own aircraft.

The Top Secret Operation Jericho

The operation against Amiens Prison, codenamed Jericho, had been prepared in the deepest secrecy. Until a scale model of the Amiens Prison was unveiled on a table in the briefing room, none of the crews had any idea they were scheduled for the most audacious raid of the war, rivaled only by the Doolittle strike at Tokyo. Matter-of-factly their leader, Air Vice Marshal Basil Embry, told the aircrew that they were on their way to blow holes in prison walls deep in France so that prisoners inside could run to safety.

The whole idea might have seemed fantastic coming from about anybody but Embry, but he wore his credentials on his chest. He was a veteran of many missions into harm’s way. He was once captured but could not be held for long. He simply killed his German guards and ran for it, escaping over the Pyrenees. The Germans put a 70,000-mark bounty on him, dead or alive, so he flew later missions as “Wing Commander Smith,” even wearing a dog tag to that effect. Embry was a stern taskmaster, but a fine leader, intensely concerned about his men. When an assemblage of high-ranking officers pressed him to take the Vultee Vengeance divebomber for use, Embry had been adamant: “I will not be a party to my men being killed in the Vultee Vengeance.” And that was that.

They would have to attack the prison soon, Embry said, since some of the prisoners were slated to be executed in the near future. The group would be braving miserable weather, German flak, and a cloud of fighters, including the Focke-Wulf FW 190s of the Abbeville Boys. These were the pilots who painted the noses of their fighters yellow and followed the legendary Adolf Galland,who rose to the post of general of fighters. They were a formidable lot.

Percy “Pick” Pickard: A Gentle Giant

So was the man who would command the wing during the raid. Embry had been forbidden to lead, a bitter disappointment, but he had confidence in the man who flew in his place. Percy Pickard—“Pick” to his pilots—was the wing commander and himself a storied veteran of innumerable missions into the teeth of the Luftwaffe. Pickard had been an Army officer of the King’s African Rifles before the war but had transferred to the Royal Air Force. As it turned out, he and the RAF were made for each other.

He had been actively flying operational missions since 1940, including over 100 nocturnal flights into occupied France, landing little Lysander liaison aircraft and Hudson bombers in pastures to deliver agents and supplies. In 1942, he led the bombers that dropped paratroops who raided the German radar station at Bruneval, shot some Germans, took the set apart, and made off by sea, taking a vital part back to England. He also flew conventional missions: shot down on a bombing mission in the Ruhr, Pickard crash-landed in the North Sea, where he and his crew bobbed around in a rubber boat—in a minefield—until their little craft drifted clear and they could be rescued. Pickard stood over six feet four, but he was nevertheless a gentle man who loved animals of all kinds, from rabbits to snakes, and particularly his English sheepdog Ming.

Pickard clenches his pipe between his teeth while standing in front of his de Havilland Mosquito bomber.

Dead serious about their job, professional to their boot-heels, the men of the wing nevertheless had a light side, very much in the RAF tradition. Visited by the king and queen at an airport at which they had been earlier stationed, the flattered Pickard was asked by the king the significance of a track of black barefoot prints leading up the mess wall and across the ceiling. Pickard, realizing that appropriate wall and ceiling cleaning had been overlooked, had to admit that the tracks were his, hoisted up by his pilots during an especially jovial party after the highly successful Bruneval raid, his feet covered with shoe polish. “But what,” said His Majesty, “are those two especially large blobs in the center of the ceiling?”

“I regret to say, sir,” said Pickard, “that those are the marks of my bottom.” He apologized, but he and his pilots found that the royal couple had a sense of humor.

The de Havilland Mosquito

All three squadrons of the raider group flew the de Havilland Mosquito, probably the finest fighter-bomber of the war. The “wooden wonder,” as she was called, was constructed largely of plywood from Canada and balsa wood from Ecuador. Her parts were put together in woodworking shops all across Britain—“every piano factory” Göring grumbled, when the Mosquito proved faster than any German fighter of the day. Then the final assembly took place at de Havilland, where the sections were put together in concrete molds, the glue bombarded with microwaves to hurry the drying.

Even the early prototype reached a speed of 392 miles per hour, an unheard of speed for the day. The Mosquito’s power came from a pair of Rolls Royce Merlins, the same engine that drove the Supermarine Spitfire and made an ordinary airplane called the Mustang into a long-range wonder, the finest single-engine fighter of the war. The Mosquito appeared in all sorts of configurations besides light bomber. It flew as a photo reconnaissance aircraft, radar-equipped night fighter, heavy bomber escort, and one version, armed with rockets and a 57mm cannon, was developed to stalk German U-boats. During the war they flew more than 28,000 missions, one aircraft flying 213 sorties. Mosquitos struck Berlin in early 1943, giving lie to Göring’s boast that no British bomber would ever reach the capital of Nazi Germany.

The Mosquito carried a prodigious sting. The airplanes that would attack the prison were armed with four machine guns and four cannon in addition to their bomb loads. Much thought had gone into those loads, and especially into how the bombs were to be dropped. Since the idea was to blow holes in the walls through which the prisoners could run to escape, and the RAF was coming in on the deck—“naught feet” as the pilots put it—the Mosquitos were in effect skip bombing and using delayed action ordnance at that. They had to hold a speed well below what the airplane would do and use great care to leave space between waves so that the bombs of the wave ahead of them would not go off before the next wave flew into the explosions of British bombs ahead of them. The impact generated by the bombs would also, the planners hoped, shake open the locks on cell doors or spring their hinges.

Perfect Target For a Low-Level Raid

One thing favored the attackers besides their experience and the quality of their aircraft. The ground around the prison was relatively flat and free of trees, houses, or other obstructions, making low-level attack possible. They would go in in waves of six airplanes on a front of about 100 yards. Each aircraft would drop its load of four bombs at once. If one wave failed to demolish its target, the next wave would follow up and bomb it. Since the bombs carried delay fuses, the later waves had to be sure they did not follow too closely behind the aircraft ahead of them.

Embry, Pickard, and their crews knew there was a substantial chance of civilian casualties inside the prison, but there was no help for that if the escape was to succeed. The French underground knew it too, but was ready to help. The handful of resistance leaders alerted to the raid knew only that if and when it came it would be at midday. They collected bicycles, men, and vehicles near the prison around noon each day, ready to hide escapers and spirit them away. They included a stock of weapons, in case they had to rush gaps in the walls to help prisoners out to freedom. There was also a vast stock of identity documents, stolen or expertly forged, many with real seals.

The motor vehicles were Gazogenes, which ran grumpily on gas from a wood-burning contraption on the rear. It then pumped the gas into a peculiar looking tank perched on the roof. They were ungraceful and ran at a glacial pace, but they were all that was available to the French civilian population and at least they would not attract unwanted attention from the Germans or the Vichy police.

“Just Follow Me- You’ll be All Right”

February 19 dawned cold and thickly overcast, miserable weather into which no civilian aircraft would ever have ventured. Nevertheless, the raid was a go, driven by the ominous knowledge that more delay, even a day, might be the deaths of more prisoners at Amiens. One frightening piece of information passed to the resistance indicated that the execution would be on the 19th, and a mass grave had already been dug.

The wing’s attack was minutely orchestrated. The first squadron, 487 New Zealand, would split into two three-plane sections, each section to strike a different side of the walls. The Australians, also flying in two three-plane sections, would follow, attacking the corners of the main building. Six aircraft of 21 British were in reserve, ready to hit anything that was not destroyed or that Pickard ordered. He would orbit over the prison, identifying targets that needed more work, and a photo recon Mosquito would record the damage.

Each squadron would be covered by a squadron of burly Hawker Typhoon fighters. The big Typhoon, lineal descendant of the famous Hurricane, was designed as an interceptor. Instead it won its spurs as a low-level fighter and fighter-bomber: fast, armed to the teeth, a full match for the Luftwaffe’s Focke-Wulf FW 190 at the altitudes at which the Mosquitos would operate.

Flight Lieutenant J.A. Bradley adjusts the Mae West flotation device of Wing Commander Percy “Pick” Pickard prior to takeoff for the attack on Amiens Prison. Both veterans of numerous Royal Air Force operations, the fliers were killed in action during the raid.

Pickard would watch for prisoners running through breaches in the walls, a sure sign of success. But if, he said, there were no escapers, 21 Squadron would be ordered in to bomb the jail itself. “We have been informed,” he said, “that the prisoners would rather be killed by our bombs than by German bullets.” It was something nobody wanted to do, but 21 was grimly prepared to strike the heart of the prison. There would be, he added, complete radio silence, and anybody who brought a bomb back to England would answer to him personally. And when someone asked about the precise course, the answer was vintage Pickard: “Bugger the course. Just follow me—you’ll be all right.”

The three squadrons took off into the murk of a miserable morning. It was snowing over southeastern England, but meteorology held out hope that the weather would improve once they reached France. At the start, it could not have been worse. The snow poured in against the Mosquitos’ canopies, clouds were down to 100 feet or so, and there was no hope of keeping formation. Several aircraft lost all touch with the others, including Pickard himself, and two Mosquitos narrowly avoided collision. Four crews were hopelessly lost, and at last had to turn back. They could not reach the prison in time to meet the exacting timetable of the raid.

Still another pilot lost an engine over France. Flying too slow to press on, he jettisoned his bombs and turned for home. Hit by flak on the way, with only one arm and one leg working, blood streaming from his neck, he hung on grimly. His observer managed to give him a shot of morphine, and he flew for home. Miraculously, he would make it. The rest pressed on, flying so low that their propwash kicked up great clouds of snow, skimming so near rows of power poles and lines of poplars that some of the Mosquitos had to raise one wing to avoid collision.

Breaching the Walls of Amiens Prison

The attack went in as planned, the aircraft skimming over the walls as they climbed after their drop. As great breaches appeared in the walls, little figures began to run for open country, sprinting for their freedom through the gaps. “You could tell them from the Germans,” said one RAF man, “because every time a bomb went off, the Germans would dive to the ground, but the prisoners kept on running like hell.” The bombs blew several small breaches in the north wall of the prison, a big one in the south wall, and an enormous hole where the west and north walls came together.

One aircraft dropped its load against the guardhouse and wall and climbed hard, skimming over a sort of gargoyle figure on the wall. Climbing away, they watched one bomb blow in the guardhouse, two more in the wall.

Some of the guard force lay dead or wounded in their mess hall others wandered aimlessly through the ruins. Meanwhile, two prisoners —one a professional thief who picked the locks on the filing cabinets—were busily burning prisoner dossiers in the commandant’s office. Two more—one a professional burglar—paused in their flight long enough to burgle the Gestapo headquarters, knife a guard, crack the safe, and burn more heaps of files.

Mosquitos of No. 487 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force clear the walls of Amiens Prison after dropping their 500-pound bombs on the facility. The first explosions are visible, striking near the south wall of the prison.

The great escape went on, prisoners by the hundreds running to nearby streets where they piled into the Gazogene fleet and vanished. Some—as many as 100—changed clothes in commercial vans thoughtfully parked for the purpose. Prisoners helped each other without distinction as to which side of the prison they came from. There were no criminals running from the building, no political prisoners, only Frenchmen. Some stripped guards’ bodies of their uniforms, becoming instant Germans. One, equipped with a white cane, tapped his way to freedom as a “blind man.”

A team of nine resistance members, including at least one prostitute, raided several stores, led by a professional thief called Violette Lambert … at least that was one of her names. Many of her team were also professional criminals, the women with bags carried under their clothing to receive their loot. The men carried overcoats over their arms, the sleeves sewed closed for their booty. The stolen attire was meant to clothe the escapers, and the team of thieves stole so many articles that some had to return to their cars to unload and return for more. At last Violette saw one of her team being closely observed and shouted, “My bag’s been stolen,” and the man slipped away in the confusion.

Two days after the raid, a low-level reconnaissance photo reveals extensive damage to Amiens Prison. The Operation Jericho raid to free prisoners from the Germans blasted a breach in the north wall of the facility, which is visible at the center of the image.

Other prisoners, not so lucky or inventive, were recaptured, many of them wounded or injured. And a few chose not to escape. One doctor, unhurt and able to flee, chose to stay behind with the wounded prisoners and to help dig out wounded still trapped beneath the rubble of Amiens Prison. Other able-bodied prisoners stayed with him.

Hiding the Escaped Prisoners

Other escapers were quickly hidden in private homes, clinics, bordellos, anyplace to get the prisoners off the street quickly. Three were sheltered in a brothel, placed, the madam said, in a room between two rooms where she would send girls to entertain visitors from German military intelligence, “a tasty Amiens jail sandwich.” The madam was an original in any case. She seldom went anywhere without her grenades, which from time to time she left under German vehicles. “Financing escapes with money the Nazis spend here,” she said, “is one of my greatest pleasures—the other is killing them.” Two other escapers seeking sanctuary—one a forger, the other a saboteur—were dressed in monks’ habits and passed across France from monastery to monastery in the company of real priests.

This photograph taken by one of the attacking planes of No. 464 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force shows smoke rising thickly from the damaged north and east wings of Amiens Prison. The Australians participated in the second wave of Operation Jericho, while the Germans were on full alert.

Many escaped prisoners were hidden in the underground vaults of a private clinic run by the father-and-son doctors Poulain, the same vaults they had used as refuge for Jews hunted by the Nazis. The vaults were hard to find, for they were concealed below the first basement … the morgue. Other escapers were hidden in plain sight, put to bed with their faces bandaged, victims of a “road accident.” Others became “expectant mothers” mounded with covers. “When are they due to deliver?” the Gestapo asked. About three o’clock in the morning, the doctor said. Why then, asked the German. Nobody knows, said the doctor but that was when most babies were born. The Germans bought it all.

“Red Daddy”: A Costly Return Home

The bombing went so well that even the demanding Pickard was satisfied. Standing by to bore in and finish the job, 21 Squadron heard Pickard calling, “Red Daddy.” It was the call to turn and go their extra bombs would not be needed. And then the wing’s aircraft were on their way home, roaring across France almost on the ground, chased by flak, pursued by Luftwaffe fighters. The Typhoons fended off many of the German aircraft, and the Mosquitos fought back with their formidable armament, shooting down several of the pursuing German planes. Squadron leader Ian McRichie crashlanded in a snowy pasture, partially paralyzed, his observer dead. He would survive, a wounded prisoner.

As the remaining raiders reached the English Channel, scattered and exhausted, the weather closed down again. Gray waves and thick snow showers cut visibility to almost zero. If they dived under the shelter of the clouds, visibility disappeared altogether. And then, as the Germans turned away about mid-Channel and the earth of England passed under the Mosquitos’ bellies, Hunsdon radioed landing instructions, staggering the planes’ altitude to avoid collision between tired pilots and damaged aircraft. Nobody had rested at Hunsdon or over at Embry’s headquarters. Everyone wondered and prayed. The raid had been a success, but nobody knew how many of the Mosquitos were coming home. Recon aircraft swept over Amiens and the homeward path of the raiders. Now Mosquitos were coming back, queuing up to land, but nobody knew what had happened to McRichie or Pickard.

But Dorothy Pickard knew. For Ming, Pickard’s beloved sheepdog, had collapsed, vomiting blood. A sort of supernatural bond existed between man and dog. Ming always fretted when Pickard flew, but she relaxed when her master was back on the ground, even before his wife knew Pick was back safely. She trusted Ming’s instincts. “Pick’s dead,” his wife said. And it was so. Somehow his dog’s sixth sense knew her master was gone for good.

Australian combat artist Dennis Adams captured the drama of Operation Jericho in Breaching of Amiens Prison as a Mosquito bomber rises from the complex, which is shrouded in smoke from bomb blasts.

For Pickard had stayed too long over the target, assessing the damage to the prison walls and watching his men fly clear. Turned for home, he was bounced, as the RAF put it, by two Focke-Wulf FW 190s, diving from higher altitude to offset the greater speed of the Mosquito. Pickard made a fight of it, nailing one German fighter, which ran for home. But the cannon of the second Luftwaffe aircraft ripped the tail from Pick’s aircraft and the plane smashed into the ground and burst into flame. There was very little left.

Local civilians rushed to help, using sticks to try to pull out the bodies of Pick and his longtime navigator, Flight Lieutenant Alan Bradley, but the flames were too hot and the Mosquito’s remaining ammunition began to cook off from the heat. Only later could they recover the remains of the crew, and one of them cut Pickard’s wings and ribbons from his uniform, hoping to hinder any identification by the Germans. In time, the girl who removed them sent them to his wife.

Over 250 Prisoners Saved

Pickard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and two Distinguished Flying Crosses over an illustrious career, and many thought he should have been given the Victoria Cross for Amiens. Long after the raid, French citizens came to put flowers on the graves of Pickard and Bradley they even went so far as to expunge the German grave markings and substitute their own.

He was gone now, and the world was much the poorer, but the success of the Amiens raid was his best memorial. The German guard force had suffered heavily, an estimated 20 killed and 70 wounded, even though the Germans publicly said they had no casualties at all. But even the Germans’ own records admitted that more than 250 prisoners had gotten away and had not been recaptured. In fact, the total was substantially greater.

This photo, taken from inside Amiens Prison after the Operation Jericho raid, reveals serious damage to the complex. The junction of the north and west wings of the prison has been struck by several bombs. The photographer’s back is to the large breach which was blasted in the outer west wall of the prison.

Eighty-seven had died in the bombing and received a mass funeral carefully orchestrated by the French authorities. Predictably, the tame French press fulminated at the British, carefully parroting the party line that the raid was a crime. The funeral was a sad time, but even it had its bright side, for in the cortege of one of the dead, six wanted men walked piously away from the convent where they had been hidden.

Whatever the supine French press said, the French Resistance and most of the French people knew better. And 15 weeks after the strike at Amiens, the Allies came ashore in Normandy. It was the beginning of the end.

The RAF and USAAF continued to bomb targets in France for both strategic and tactical purposes through the first three quarters of 1944. French industry was a substantial supporter of the German war effort until liberation, as was its agriculture. Industrial targets and railyards were bombed by the American and British heavy bombers, supported by medium bombers such as the American B-25 and the British Mosquito. Railroads, bridges, dams, shipyards, and logistics centers were all targeted in France by the air campaign. The results of the bombing included nearly 70,000 French citizens killed in the bombing offensive.

As the German armies receded into Germany in early 1945, Berlin, Dresden, and other cities became refugee centers, though their infrastructure was largely destroyed. American and British bombers continued to attack, and until March, 1945, Arthur Harris continued to practice wide area bombing as his favored technique. After the war Harris wrote of the practice as &ldquothe principle of starting so many fires at the same time that no firefighting services, however efficiently and quickly they were reinforced by the fire brigades of other towns could get them under control&rdquo. The USAAF used the same principle in the bombing of Japan during the Pacific War.

Watch the video: Mosquito attack


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