SHORT STORY – John Caulton Spitfire Pilot


Of Enemies And Friends

This is a short article of my Grandfather John Jeremy Caulton’s encounter with Major Hans Joachim Jabs during WW2. For a longer version please see the “Full Story” page.

John Caulton, retired and living in Havelock North, New Zealand and Hans Joachim Jabs, also retired and living in Ludenscheid, West Germany, became the best of friends.

Theirs is a unique friendship forged from a desperate few seconds in the skies over Holland many years ago. It was April 1944 and Jabs (pronounced “Yarbs”) – a Messerschmitt BF110 pilot with the German Luftwaffe – tried to kill Caulton in a one-on-one air battle. Caulton too, had the same fate in mind for Jabs as he aimed his near new Mk IX Spitfire at the distant outline of the Bf110.

RCAF German nose art – Death Comes At Night – Redux

Editor’s  notes

You  are  probably  wondering  why I  posted four links  yesterday.

I  wanted to show  you something Clarence  Simonsen sent me.

Death Comes At Night was written  by Clarence Simonsen, and  I posted this story in December 2014. Little  did  I know there was more to this story than history  had recorded…

Original  post

On the warm summer night of 17/18 August 1943, RAF Bomber Command conducted a precision attack on the German V-2 rocket test site at Peenemunde. This operation was code named “Hydra” [RAF Operation order #176] and used an advance decoy raid to Berlin in an attempt to draw away the German night fighters from the main target on the Baltic coast, 150 kilometers north of Berlin. The raid was unique in many forms, as it was conducted in very thin cloud cover on a bright moonlight night, with the bombers flying at a low altitude of 8,000 feet. The force of 596 RAF bomber aircraft would attack the V-2 site in three separate waves. It took time for the German defenders to understand the main target was Peenemunde and not Berlin, and this allowed the first two waves of bombers to strike with full force. As the final wave of bombers arrived over Peenemunde the German night fighters had arrived in force, thus the majority of the 40 bomber casualties [243 killed, 45 POW] lost over Peenemunde came from the last wave. The Canadian No. 6 RCAF Group was part of the last wave and they suffered the highest casualty rate [19.7] in Bomber Command that night, when twelve of their 57 aircraft failed to return, and sixty were killed.  Three RCAF squadrons [419, 428 and 434] each lost three aircraft over Peenemunde and this is the story of the loss of one new Halifax Mk. V bomber from No. 434 squadron, which carried rare newly painted nose art with German words “Todt Kompt Bei Nacht”. No photo image was ever taken of the nose art.

RCAF German nose art - Copy

Lloyd Christmas was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on 21 July 1919, and during his youth, drawing and painting became a major part of his life. In High School Lloyd received his first instructional art lessons, which were interrupted due to the depression and family problems. Like many Canadian youth of this period, Lloyd was forced to leave school and go to work to support their family. He became an apprentice in a silk screen printing company, where the pay was poor, but jobs were hard to find and it gave him experience in the graphic arts.

Lloyd’s career in the RCAF began at a Manning Depot in Brandon, Manitoba, in early February 1941. He reported to Toronto Manning Depot the following month, and then two months guard duty at Camp Borden in June. In August he reported to Trenton – “they tried to make everyone a Wireless Air Gunner.” Lloyd was soon on a west bound train to No. 2 Wireless School in Calgary, Alberta. “Not finishing High School caused me many problems in the RCAF, long on art, but short on the math.” Lloyd failed the course and returned to Trenton, where he was sent for Air Gunner training, arriving at No. 6 Bombing and Gunnery School, just before Christmas 1941. Sgt. Christmas graduated Air Gunner on 2 February 1942, leave, marriage, and report overseas to Stormy Downs, Wales, advanced Gunnery course beginning on 24 May 42. On 28 June he crewed-up with P/Sgt. R. Wright at No. 22 O.T.U. Wellsbourne, flying Wellington aircraft. 1 October 42, conversion to Halifax bomber at No. 1652 H.C.U., joined No. 408 RCAF [Goose] squadron on 24 October. Lloyd flew his first squadron air to sea test firing [rear gunner] in Halifax DG239 on 26 November 1942. Beginning operations on 6 February 1943, Sgt. Christmas flew seven night operations as rear gunner with pilot Sgt. Wright, the last completed on 26 February, Halifax “J” DT769 to Cologne. This original crew was suddenly broken up due to the burn out of their pilot.

Sgt. Christmas next flew three night operations as fill-in for other crews. 4 April – Halifax “S” pilot P/O Harty, [rear gun] 10 April – Halifax “D” pilot F/Sgt. Wood, [rear gun] and 27 May – Halifax “R” pilot F/O Smith [mid-upper gun]. On 11 June 1943, Sgt. Christmas was assigned to fly to Dusseldorf with the crew of pilot Gregg McIntyre Johnston, from Rosetown, Saskatchewan. This veteran combat crew had  their original mid-upper gunner killed and after this operation, the pilot ask Sgt. Christmas if he would join their band of comrades. Lloyd agreed to remain as their mid-upper gunner until the end of their operational tour. The following night the new crew flew Halifax “T” to Bochum.

In July 1943, three experienced aircrew were sent from No. 408 [Goose] squadron to help form the nucleus of No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron. The crew of P/O Gregg Johnston became one of those selected for transfer.

“I do believe we thought up the nose art idea of painting something while we gathered in a pub at Leeming, which was adjacent to 408 Squadron. It never came to fruition until we received a brand new Halifax “G” EB276, on our transfer to No. 434 [Bluenose] Squadron.” “We had quite a bit of free time while No. 434 was getting itself organized. We went on leave and I was able to go hunting on the squadron property. After training flights in our new Halifax, I had time to paint my very first [and last] bomber nose art. We had kidded with the idea of using the call sign “G” for German and that led to the idea of painting nose art using German names – “Death Comes at Night”.

I had to first scout around the base to find someone who could give me the German words needed, and I still don’t know if they were correct? I also had much difficulty painting with the coarse brushes, which I borrowed from other ground crew. When I finished the painting, the black German letters TODT KOMPT BEI NACHT appeared in a white circle and the middle of the circle contained a white skull and crossed bones.” “I will now describe what I remember about 17 August 1943. It was a rare beautiful sunny day and the flight engineer [RAF Keith Rowe] and I had ridden my motorcycle into a nearby town. Near lunchtime we returned to the sergeant’s Mess, which was alive with speculation we were going to the ‘Big City’ – BERLIN. When it came time for briefing the big wall map was opened, revealing the tape stretching from Flamborough Head, due east across Denmark and then a right angle turn south in direction of Berlin. The thing that surprised us most was that it went only a little distance south and then turned back west toward England. I do recall we were warned that if we failed to destroy the target on this first try, we would go back as many times as it took to get the job done. That was the first time any of us had heard a statement like that. I remember as we taxied out and started our take-off, I noticed there was an unusually large crowd of personnel lined up parallel to and back from the runway. Because of the light, the sun was just going down; they all looked like a big line of crows. I felt a sense of foreboding.”

“Over the channel we test fired our guns and sure enough two of my 303’s refused to fire. I was still working on them when we arrived over the target. We came in north over the Baltic coast and turned flying north to south over the target, dropped our bombs, then turned west on a course home. We were now attacked three times by three different German night fighters. The first attack came shortly after we left the target; a single engine fighter was spotted by our husky French-Canadian rear gunner Doug Labelle. He quickly gave Johnny instructions to corkscrew to starboard and we lost him. Immediately a twin engine, Bf110, attacked us and again we lost that one with a corkscrew.

Suddenly from far below and off to the port side, obscured by a dark patch of ground, a third aircraft fired cannon shells that arched up like big orange balls, directly into our port inner engine, just below me. Our Halifax seemed to shake and then flame poured from the engine and soon spread along the complete wing. Pilot Johnny gave the order to bail.” “Pilot Gregg Johnston maintained control long enough to allow his crew to escape; but he could not get out and was killed on impact. The crew was captured and the following morning the Germans took rear gunner Labelle to the crash site, to identify his pilot who was lying in the nose section of the Halifax. He was promoted to Pilot Officer posthumously and cited for valor.”

During the raid the Germans used their new “Schrage Musik” 2 x 20 mm cannon weapons for the very first time. The Bf110 aircraft was fitted with twin upward-firing cannons and this is what destroyed the Halifax Mk. V. The bomber crews had no idea they now faced danger from a night-fighter flying below them. Few aircrew saw the night-fighter, just tracer markers in the sky, then it was too late.  Two of the new Schrage Musik Bf110 aircraft found the bomber stream and they shot down six bombers, including “Death Comes At Night.”

 RCAF German nose art - Copy (4)

The deadly upward firing 2 X 20 mm canons aimed at 70 degrees.

When Sgt. Lloyd Christmas painted his little nose art on Halifax Mk. V, serial EB276, code WL-G, he had no idea how true his words ‘Death Comes At Night’ would become to the future Peenemunde history.

This first precision raid of WW II was conceived by the RAF to not only destroy the Peenemunde testing facility, but it was also directed at the living and sleeping quarters of the many technical and administrative staff and families as possible. The first RAF wave would bomb the 80 residential buildings at Karlshagen Housing Estate located on Usedom Island, home to the top 500 German scientists and their families. Because of the inaccuracy of the early Pathfinder aircraft, most of the first wave bombers [two thirds] dropped their bombs on the camp at Trassenheide, [two miles south] which housed [forced labor] foreign prisoners of war, killing 555. Although this part of the raid was not effective, two key figures, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther were killed together with their families, along with 50 residential buildings destroyed.  The raid cost the lives of 735 on the ground but only 178 of the over 4,000 in the residential area were killed. The attacks came too late to effect the development of the A-4 rocket and gave the Germans the opportune time to move the rocket production to the infamous Mittelwerk center in the Harz Mountains. This would have a major effect on the future of man in space, American Russian cold war, the creation of NASA, and man on the moon.


At the same time as Operation Hydra, a group of nine Mosquito bombers conducted Operation Whitebait, the dropping of Pathfinder markings over Berlin. This was a complete success and tricked over 200 German night fighters to the defense of the German capital city. During this confusion, the Luftwaffe Chief of Staff, General Hans Jeschonnek erroneously ordered Berlin’s air defenses to open fire on the German night fighters. On 18 August 1943, General Jeschonnek committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

The total Housing Estate was home to 1000 rocket scientists and over 3000 rocket personnel. If the first wave of RAF bombers had struck the intended target [F], the war and future space travel would have been altered. However the mistaken attack on the workers camp at Tassenheide [between rings #3 and #4] allowed all but one top German scientist to escape death. Only 178 rocket personnel were killed in the residential area, out of 4,000, which had little effect on future A/4 rocket development. This unusual operation left its mark in history, but never became the turning point it should have been. The continuous raids [post 18 Aug, 42] by RAF and American 8th Air Force against V-2 supporting facilities had a much larger effect on the A/4 future then the single attack on Peenemunde.

The Water Thiel family lived in apartment Hindenburg Road 56. They had escaped to the trenches in front of their home, but it took a direct hit by RAF bombs. Top rocket engine scientist Walter Erich Oskar Thiel was killed with wife Martha, daughter Sigrid, and son Siegfried. This one death did in fact cause a major setback to the future A/4 rocket development at Peenemunde. Eric Walther, Chief of Maintenance Workshops and family were also killed.

RCAF German nose art - Copy (3)

This post card shows the self-living model village housing estate constructed at Peenemunde, known as Karlshagen Siedlung. The construction was completed in October 1937, and housed 500 of the most brilliant German rocket scientists. Only one-quarter of the first wave bombers stuck this target late, destroying 50 of 80 residential homes. The occupants had escaped to bomb shelters, where only one top scientist [Thiel] and family received a direct bomb hit.

Had the RAF Pathfinder aircraft correctly marked this primary target, many experts technical and administrative, would have been killed. Three-quarters of the first wave bomber force struck the forced labor camp at Trassenheide, killing 555 prisoners of war. In total 18 of 30 wooden sleeping huts were destroyed. This mistake allowed the German A/4 rocket experts to escape to the bomb shelters and only two key figures were killed, Walter Thiel and Erich Walther. Post war interviews with German technicians [Helmut Zoike] even suggest the raid came at an opportune time, allowing the rocket production to be moved to the infamous Mittelwerk center.

In April 1943, Arthur Rudolph had endorsed the use of S.S. forced labor in the production of the A4 rockets in Peenemunde. In early June 1943, the first of 600 French and Russian prisoners of war arrived and began assembling A4 production machinery.

The RAF primary object was to kill as many expert A/4 rocket personnel as possible, including women and children, and this became a complete failure.

The facts in regards to the mistake of marking the wrong target have been covered in many publications by many authors. The RAF Pathfinders were the very best and on this moonlight night with light cloud covering they could not find the correct target? Is it possible one of the lead Pathfinder crewmembers could not bring himself to kill thousands of German women and children as they slept in their beds? The first causality in war is always the truth and the answer to my question may never be known. However, this bombing error did affect the future of world space travel, the Russia – American cold war, landing on the moon in 1969, and today’s space station.

A total of 243 airmen lost their lives that night over Peenemunde. The British lost 167 , Canada came second with 60, Australia 10, New Zealand 3, USA 2, Rhodesia 1, Trinidad 1, and Southern Ireland 1. Of the British total, 69 bodies were recovered from crashed bombers or washed ashore to be interred  in British Berlin cemetery. Twelve bodies drifted east in the Baltic and were interred  in Poland.  

Today 125 aircrews are still listed as “Missing in Action.”

This story is dedicated to the unknown names and forgotten foreign prisoners of war who died on 18 August 1943. Their sacrifice changed the future world of space travel forever.

RCAF German nose art - Copy (2)

British R.A.F. map of the Rocket Base at Peenemunde 17-18 August 1943. Main targets marked in red.

A – Test stand VII, the main A/4 launch pad.

B – Peenemunde south, Production plant, where forced labor worked.

C – Dock for oxygen plant.

D – Test pad

E – Peenemunde East, development works

F – This area housed over 6,000 rocket engineers. The north section was known as settlement I;     further south was the Karlshagen Estates, which housed the 500 most brilliant scientists. This was the primary target, but they bombed two miles south in ring 4.

Was this an error as recorded by all historians?

The Silent Secretary – November 17, 1942

It took me two years to decide if I was going  to  post  this on the blog. Lawrence  Walton  Montague  was  somewhat  involved  with a B-26 accident where this pilot died.



Source of what I had found about the crash two years ago…


B-26 crash investigation begins in earnest WWII aircraft based in Fort Myers crashed in 1942
by Kevin Lollar • October 31, 2008

POLK CITY – For 66 years after a B-26 Marauder went down in the Gulf of Mexico 30 miles off Lee County, the cause of the crash has been officially listed as unknown. But recent evidence from the aircraft itself and memories of World War II airmen are leading to a revision of the record. This week, a team investigating the crash met with Martin B-26 Marauder Men at the Fantasy of Flight aviation museum, hoping to gather clues.

A crash in the Gulf

At 6:10 p.m., Nov. 16, 1942, a B-26 took off from Fort Myers Army Air Base, now known as Page Field. Pilot Lt. Donald Vail of Macomb, Ill., had 144 hours’ flight time in B-26s; the aircraft had flown 95.6 hours. Fifty-five minutes later, the air base received a radio call from the B-26 saying the six-man crew were bailing out. Search teams found the bodies of Vail and co-pilot Lt. Fred Dees of Pender County, N.C., on Nov. 20. Neither the rest of the crew, Louis P. Miles, Richard Treat, Milton H. Newton, nor, for many years, the plane, were found. “It was night; there was 3,500-foot overcast; they were 30 miles out,” Delta Air Lines pilot Kevin McGregor, an aircraft crash specialist, told the historical society. “It was a brand-new plane with a brand-new pilot. Something happened to make the pilot order a bail-out.”

Finding the plane

In 1990, fishing guide Tim Wicburg discovered wreckage of a B-26 in the Gulf and thought it was a plane that had crashed after smuggling billions of dollars out of Cuba the day Fidel Castro took power. Along with Tom O’Brien of Chicago, commercial diving consultant Capt. Jon “Hammerhead” Hazelbaker, and fabricator Brian Ulman, Wicburg formed TBT&J Adventure Vacations and set out in May to find the Cuban treasure. Instead of gold, TBT&J divers found the aircraft’s serial number, which identified it as a B-26 that crashed Nov. 16, 1942. TBT&J obtained the official accident report, on which was typed, “Pilot charged with accident,” which the team took to mean that the Army Air Forces blamed Vail for the crash. The B-26 was an early model of the Marauder and notorious for crashing from mechanical failure, so the team decided to investigate and possibly exonerate the pilot – they found out later that the official cause of the crash was unknown.

Gathering evidence

Pat Clyne of Paradigm Productions in Key West shot video of the wreckage in May and sent it to McGregor, who was intrigued by what he saw. On Sept. 17, McGregor, Clyne and TBT&J members dove the wreck site. Debris was scattered over a quarter mile; the right wing was badly damaged (the left wing was not); the right propeller was not attached to the engine (left propeller and engine were intact). This all indicated that the plane crashed at a shallow angle, at high speed, with the right wing hitting the water first. McGregor figured the key to the crash was the right propeller, so the divers raised it and sent it to propeller expert Paul Gaither in Opa-Locka.

Flat pitch

Marauders used variable-pitch Curtis props; the pilot can change the angle, or pitch, of the blades relative to the airflow. Sometimes, though, the props changed angle on their own, resulting in flat pitch with the blades facing flat into the airflow. Gaither determined that the pitch on the Marauder’s right prop was flat. “Somehow, they lost control of the pitch in flight,” McGregor said. “If you can’t get out of a flat pitch, you lose control of the aircraft. It’s like putting out a drogue chute. I don’t think a plane is flyable with a flat pitch.” Marauder veterans said that Curtis props tended to malfunction on takeoff rather than in flight, but Edmond Clemenzi, 91, who flew 72 missions as a B-26 bombardier, said the pitch probably changed in flight when a ground wire from the prop to the motor that controls pitch vibrated loose. “That happened once when we were flying out of Lakeland over the Gulf in 1942,” Clemenzi said. “The pilot said to bail out, and I said, ‘B.S.’ There was a switch that overrode the automatic switch, and that fixed it. The pilots should have known it, but they didn’t because they didn’t have the hours.” McGregor said the loose-wire theory was a possibility. Gaither made a second discovery. Large pieces were missing from the inside of three of the right prop’s four blades: The blades had crashed into the engine cowling, either while the plane was still in flight or as it hit the water. Hazelbaker believed that the prop moved backward while the plane was in the air, causing the blades to slam repeatedly into the engine.

Next steps

TBT&J is now forming a non-profit organization called Underwater Historical Explorations to raise money for future projects and to finance the completion of a documentary on the B-26 Marauder. Clyne, who worked for treasure hunter Mel Fisher for more than 30 years, has shot 18 hours of video and will soon begin post-production. “I started this to make money, and I got sucked in, like Mel sucked me in 35 years ago,” Clyne said. “I’m not going to get rich in money on this, but if I stick with these guys, I’ll be rich in other ways. This is a great story. It has legs, and it sure beats anything on the Food Network.” Kevin McGregor, a pilot and aircraft crash specialist, examines the propeller of a B-26 Marauder that crashed in 1942. (special to




Another B-26 from Page Field  lost…

Somewhat of a sequel here


Talking with veterans of WWII that flew the B-26 revealed that particular plane had more than its share of mechanical difficulties, and until the plane received stronger engines later in 1942 and 1943 it, suffered many problems. “One a day in Tampa Bay” was the slogan of the B-26, which was also called “the widow maker”. There were many pilots that transferred away from this plane during the early years of the war. The B-26 became a better plane in the months to come but during the early years it took a good pilot and some luck to keep the plane in the air.

Another Oscar winning story by Clarence Simonsen

Soon on this blog…

A trailer…

Crazy Rabbit

Hello Pierre,

Last week I received two emails in regards to the Lancaster with nose art “Rabbit’s Stew” and the serial number KB903 which came originally from Nanton and was used by Dave O’Malley of Vintage Wings, then copied by you. One email came from Mr. Troy Kirby of Edmundston City, New Brunswick, the man who worked on the history of KB882 since 2001. Please find attached the history I sent to him, and you may publish if you wish. It was from him, I learned KB882 was being given to Edmonton museum, a total surprise, but good news.

Operation Bodenplatte Revisited

Coming soon on this blog…


Memoirs of someone who was there!

You can take a peek

RCAF 127 Wing

Memories of John Le May – 1942/1945

The content of this website is copied with permission from John Le May’s autobiography e-book & CD.

* Excerpts from John Le May’s autobiography “My First Twenty-Three Years On This Planet – 1923 ~ 1946”

* WING TIPS – Informal newsletter from the battlefields of Europe

Before I get to the purpose for creating this e-book and CD, I would like to give you a brief outline of my career as an Administrative Clerk/Accountant/Typist/Bugler at funerals etc. From the date of my joining the RCAF on my 18th birthday, on August 25th 1941, until my discharge and back to civvies on March 16, 1946. One week at Valcartier, then two months at the Manning Depot in Quebec City, in the bugle and drum band parading up and down the main drag to show how smart we looked in our brand new government issued uniforms. Then came November and that meant a posting to a Kittyhawk Fighter Squadron in Dartmouth on the East Coast, under the command of Squadron Leader Hartland De M. Molson, who had just returned from fighting in the Battle of Britain as a fighter pilot with the No. 1 Fighter Squadron.

Shortly after my arrival, I was paraded in front of the CO and was offered a promotion to become an air gunner, which I immediately declined. Then came an offer that I could not refuse, to work in the Orderly Room as a typist under the Chief himself. This lasted until August 1942 when I had to decide once again on a choice of posting. Pat Bay, about 3000 miles away from Ottawa or Overseas. I chose the latter which would probably give me a chance to travel all over the British Isles. So, England it was.

I crossed over in October 1942, and arrived at Gorrick in Scotland, parked right next to the Queen Mary, then traveled by train next day right through to Bournemouth. A couple of weeks there and I was eventually posted to the 401 Squadron at Kenley, Surrey. We moved a few times during the next 18 months until the 2nd TAF was formed and the 127 Wing was part of it. We spent a week or so at Salisbury Plains to waterproof the vehicles and wait for D-Day.

On the night of the 5th of June 1944, the sky was filled with a thousand bombers heading for France, and then we realized that the invasion of France was imminent. In fact, when the sun rose a few hours later, it was indeed confirmed by our Commanding Officer and the BBC that the invasion had started. D DAY had arrived. We finally moved out of that muddy hole about a week later and got aboard a large TLC which brought us to the other side of the channel and JUNO beach. There was no mistake about where we were, right in the middle of air attacks by the Luftwaffe which kept us pinned under our trucks loaded with jerry cans filled with gas)

So, we finally left the beach and traveled a few miles inland to our destination, a landing strip which was named B2 (Brazeville) or Crepon, just a couple of miles from Bayeux and a couple of miles from the front lines. This was to be our home for the next 5 or 6 weeks or until there was a breakthrough at the front, whichever came first. Who can forget the contrast between the daylight hours and the constant rumbling noise coming from the front, and the flares dropped by Jerry during the night over our airfield. Who could also forget the CO’s Great Dane roaming around the camp all night long and accompanying anyone who had to use the facilities, a two-seater with canvas around it. On a more serious side, one of the chores I will never forget was loading the casualties arriving from the front on DC3’s. This was a daily ritual for a couple of hours after supper. It was heartbreaking to say the least.

As soon as the Allies broke through and captured airfields, we moved. Paris, Brussels, then Holland to an airfield called Grave (Near Ravenstein} not far from the Nimegen Bridge. The name GRAVE was very appropriate, it almost became the resting place for more than a few civilians and also wounded some of our own members, thanks to the regular 4″oclock visit by Jerry’s secret weapon, a Jet Fighter called the Me 262. Surprise, Surprise…nothing could reach them, by the time the order was given to the RAF Regiment to fire their Bofors, the jet was already 50 miles away. This situation forced us to leave in a hurry and move back to Brussels where we spent the winter of 1944/1945, incidentally the coldest winter on record. How cold was it you ask, I guess you know the answer involving the brass monkey.

During my stay at Evere (a few miles out of Brussels) I had the privilege of working for W/C Johnny Johnson as a clerk in the Intelligence Section, typing the daily reports on the pilot’s previous day’s activities. I had the pleasure of having breakfast with the “Air Commodore” when he attended the Fighter Pilot’s Association annual reunion here in Ottawa some 25 years ago. He invited my wife and I to his room at the Chateau Laurier. Some members had received special invitations to take part and meet with former pilots and attend certain functions as a barbecue at Andy Mackenzie’s residence, that was quite a night to remember.

This CD is dedicated to all airmen , ground crews and air crews who served under the 2nd Tactical Air Force , particularly with the 127 Spitfire Wing. Regrettably, many have died while serving in Europe and many more are no longer with us in this year of 2010, 66 years after D DAY. The photos on the CD are mostly memories of my four and half years in the RCAF, (3 years and 2 months overseas) Many veterans of Normandy will no doubt remember the visit of Winston Churchill a couple of weeks after D Day and some members of the 127 Wing will also remember the unexpected visit of General Eisenhower and Field Marshall Montgomery at our airfield in Germany a couple of weeks before the end of hostilities. The General took time out before his meeting to sign autographs and also walked all the way to the other end of the airfield to meet with American POW’s just released from Stalag 11B and personally taking notes while talking to the GI’s. Some of them had been wounded in battle and had not received any treatment. Our own Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King also showed up in Normandy to visit the troops.

There were some good times to talk about The 2 weeks at Goering’s Strand Hotel (his personal cottage) on Steinhuder Meer, and who can forget Paris, Brussels, London, Bournemouth, Edinborough, New York City, etc. Other good spots that most servicemen in London will never forget….Covent Gardens , the Opera House turned Dance Hall for the benefit of the troops, the corner pubs , and more importantly the Sally Ann, (Salvation Army) where one could go in at any time and find a warm meal and a place to sleep while on leave. Another name comes to mind, Irving Berlin, that diminutive but giant composer of so many patriotic songs like the one we saw that night at the London Palladium “This is the Army Mr. Jones”. While on embarkation leave in 1942 a couple of airmen were invited to lunch at the Waldorf Astoria with Xavier Cugat (I have his autograph somewhere on the menu which was about 18 inches high by 12 inches wide. I only brought back the bottom half with his autograph.

Non-stop music during the working hours was heard on all the military bases with artists like Vera Lynn, George Formby, American Orchestras, Glenn Miller, Guy Lombardo, and many other well known singers of the era. It certainly was a morale booster. We cannot forget listening to Lord Ha Ha from somewhere on the other side of the channel with his nightly broadcasts reading the list of newly-captured aircrews. There were also many sad reminders of the devastation caused by the daily attacks by the German air force on London and other large cities. The courage demonstrated by the British people during those long war years was an inspiration to all of us.

However, the best moment had arrived, boarding the Queen Elizabeth 1 (along 15,000 others) for the return to Canada, via New York City, Lachine, then my arrival at the Union Station in Ottawa on the night of December the 9th, 1945 with my family waiting for me. The rest is history.

John (JB) Le May

Painting titled U-129 – Redux

Editor’s note

To make  more sense  of Gloria’s comment yesterday.

While surfing the net, my husband ran across this article and paintings and then showed them to me.  It was a lovely surprise since Luis Noriega Medrano was my dad. I showed the U-129 painting to my mother, who is now 98 and lives in Mexico City, and she thought it was very powerful. Gracias!



Painting titled  U-129

This painting shows replica Aztec God “Xiuhtecuhtli” with a Atlatl spear throwing device in his left hand. The two foot long Atlatl is estimated to be over 15,000 years old, and derived from the Aztec Nahuatl language. Atlatl darts could be thrown with power and precision from a range of 150 feet. Aztec paintings portrayed many gods with the Atlatl in throwing position. The weapon was widely used by Aztec warriors upon the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and was feared by the Spanish, however it could not penetrate metal armour.

Unlike some Latin American countries, Mexico did not support the Axis powers before or during the second world war. Mexico had opposed the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and supported the Republican government during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Mexico even allowed the establishment of a Spanish Republican government in exile in Mexico, which functioned until the death of Franco. After the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Mexico broke off all diplomatic relations with Germany, Japan, and Italy. General Manuel Avila Camacho’s government also seized nine Italian and three German ships in Mexican ports. These 12 ships now became part of the Mexican merchant navy, and in an ironic twist of war, a few would be attacked and sunk by German U-boats.

On 10 April 1942, the Mexican tanker Tamaulipas, was sunk by German U-boat 552, with three Mexican nationals killed. German U-564 attacked Mexican tanker Portero del Liano, sunk on 13 May, with loss of 14 Mexican crew. This had been one of the Italian vessels confiscated by Mexico. Seven days later a second confiscated Italian tanker, Faja de Oro, was sank by U-106, with loss of ten Mexican crew. Mexico demanded an explanation from Germany through the Mexican ambassador to Sweden, and after no response was received, Mexico officially declared war on the Axis powers on 28 May 1942.

On 1 June 1942, orders were issued to the 2nd Air Regiment in Mexico City, to sent a group of pilots to San Antonio, Texas, to transport six AT-6B Texan trainers back to Mexico City. All six arrived at Balbuena airfield at 15:35 hrs., 14 June 1942. The aircraft remained in US Army drab colours with the Mexican concentric triangle near each wing tip. The tail was painted in Mexican three colour bands -green forward, white, and red. The American serials 41-17428 to 17433, remained on some aircraft with the Mexican serial P-75 to P-80 in yellow colour on the tail. On 17 June 1942, Noriega Medrano, Sgt 1st class, Sargento Primero, received his aircraft serial P-80, and was assigned to Tuxpan, Veracruz, for U-boat patrol of the Gulf of Mexico. On the 5 July 1942, north of Tampico, Sgt. Medrano sighted a German U-boat cruising partly submerged near the Mexican shore. Catching the submarine in a crash dive he attacked.

The Submarine was U-129, a type IXC, commanded by Kapitanleutnant Hans Witt, who would become a U-boat ace. Witt was on his first war patrol which left Lorient, France, on 20 May 1942 and lasted 94 days. The front conning tower of U-129 carried the German words  Weftward-ho, Westward-Ho, while the sides of the tower carried the German crest and name of the city of Poertschach, Austria. With three Allied ships to his credit he would now strike 40 miles off the Mexican coast. On 27 June 1942, he struck twice, sinking the Mexican tanker Tuxpan, with a loss of four crew, then a few miles away sank the Choapas, with loss of three crew. On 5 July, Sgt. Noriego Medrano sighted the partly submerged U-129 cruising near the Mexican shore, 25 miles north of Tampico. His AT-6 was fitted with a N-3B optical bomb sight and carried two M-30,  100 lb bombs on its wing racks. He dropped his bombs and reported one landed 45 feet from the front, and the other struck three feet from the U-boat conning tower.

A large oil slick was observed and the Mexican press reported their first U-boat sunk. The American press responded with an editorial cartoon showing Uncle Sam’s face in the map of U.S., and the fist of Mexico striking the German U-boat. The caption read – “I can use that punch, Good Neighbor.”

Postwar German U-boat records reported U-129 made four emergency dives on 5 July 1942, after spotting aircraft. The U-boat received no reported damage and continued patrols until 18 August 1944, sinking 29 ships. Sgt. Noriega Medrano continued patrols until 24 July 1942, when he was posted back to Mexico City.  

History had repeated itself, like the Aztec Atlatl darts which could not penetrate the Spanish metal armour, the Mexican 100 lb. bombs were unable to damage the German U-129.

Clarence  Simonsen