last voyage of HTMS Sri Ayudhya / the Manhattan Rebellion

Thailand’s two Thonburi class warships of WWII were very unique and interesting designs, but very little has been written about them.

The second ship of the class, HTMS Sri Ayudhya, was later sunk in one of the strangest situations of post-WWII naval history; a big-gun capital ship fighting in the downtown of a major inland city. Outside of Thailand even less has been written about that. So, perhaps this will be of value.

colorsri

(The Thonburi class as they appeared during WWII.)

29june1951

(The old dredge Manhattan, which lent its name to the failed 1951 rebellion which resulted in the loss of HTMS Sri Ayudhya.)

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Bedcheck Charlie 1950 – 1953

The Korean War’s air combat is best known for the duels of MiG-15s and F-86 Sabres in the world’s first jet-vs-jet matchups. An unusual sideshow to that was North Korea’s use of woefully obsolete WWII types as night harassment planes. They were called “Bedcheck Charlies” by the Americans.

82_1

(North Korean Po-2 “Mule” which was used as a Bedcheck Charlie plane, just as the Soviets had done during WWII.) (artwork via Wings Palette website)

mbr2

(The MBR-2bis, another WWII Soviet plane used by the North Koreans for Bedcheck Charlie missions.)

koreaF4U-5NL

(Two of the WWII-legacy American answers to the problem: a F4U-5NL Corsair and in the background, a F7F-3N Tigercat.)

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USS Midway: retrieval of land-based South Vietnamese warplanes 1975

The fall of Saigon in 1975, and along with it the fall of South Vietnam and final end of the Vietnam War, is most remembered in the United States for the dramatic helicopter evacuation of the American embassy.

Less known is the final chapter to the “Frequent Wind” story: how the aircraft carrier USS Midway, built to fight the Imperial Japanese Navy during WWII, ended up retrieving the remnants of the defunct VNAF (South Vietnamese air force) during the summer of 1975.

completed1945

(USS Midway (CV-41) at the end of WWII, prior to commissioning.)

frequentwind

(USS Midway with US Air Force helicopters staged prior to the start of “Frequent Wind” in 1975.)

7

(A most unusual scene as the flight deck of USS Midway is filled with land-based warplanes of the defunct South Vietnamese air force.)

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fate of the last Skytrain built

Through remarkable circumstances, the last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII ended up in the Congo where it lingered on into the 21st Century.

c47

(C-47 Skytrain. The stripes are an identification marking used during the 1944 “Overlord” D-Day landings.)

abelkavanaugh

(The last C-47 Skytrain built during WWII, in Goma, D.R. Congo during December 2014. This had been Mobutu’s DC-3.) (photo by Abel Kavanagh)

As a background to the astonishing story and unfortunate fate of this one Skytrain, it is perhaps worthwhile to look at the very long and varied history of the C-47 / DC-3 in the country. The plane is somewhat unique in aviation in that it became almost symbolic of a new nation’s struggles.

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WWII aircraft in Lebanon

Sadly the military history of Lebanon will, at least for the near future, be dominated by the horrible 1970s – 1980s civil war. The country did have military history prior to that, including WWII-era warplanes in its early air force.

harvardiia

(Lebanese air force Harvard, the RAF’s name for WWII lend-leased T-6 Texan trainers.)

b5

(Lebanese air force SM.79 bomber. The country was the last in the world to fly this WWII Italian warplane.)

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 1

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union conducted regular nuclear weapons tests. One of these was unique in that it was not just a test detonation of a weapon, but a full-scale military exercise which involved a blend of WWII-vintage systems and their Cold War-era replacements.

bull

(One of the two Tu-4 “Bull” strategic bombers involved in the 1954 exercise. There was a primary and alternate Tu-4 staged, of which only one dropped a bomb. The “Bull” was an unlicensed copy of the WWII American B-29 Superfortress.)

pak

(An ex-Wehrmacht PaK 40 anti-tank gun smashed and radioactive following the 1954 Soviet atomic test.)

plane

(A WWII Il-10 “Beast” burns after the exercise atomic detonation.)

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the last Liberators

Alongside the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator was one of the main American bomber types of WWII pending arrival of the B-29 to the Pacific theatre. Despite the huge number built, they disappeared with amazing quickness from the postwar American military, serving on only in China and India.

1952

(The EZB-24 test plane which was the very last Liberator in the US Air Force.)

india

(Indian B-24 Liberator bomber.)

tocaf

(Taiwanese B-24 Liberator bomber.)

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AAC.1 Toucan: France’s post-WWII Ju-52

France restarted domestic production of the Junkers Ju-52 transport after WWII. Although intended as a quick, cheap stop-gap solution, the AAC.1 Toucan fought in three post-WWII conflicts and quietly served as long after WWII as the famous original Junkers did before and during WWII.

1940trauining

(Junkers Ju-52s of the Luftwaffe training Fallschirmjäger during WWII.)

indochine1(A French air force AAC.1 Toucan – the post-WWII French copy of the Ju-52 – flies over a burning Vietnamese jungle during the Indochina War.)

AAC1algeria1

(A French air force AAC.1 Toucan in Africa during the 1950s Algerian War.)

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WWII weapons in Shanghai: VJ Day to 1949

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Shanghai was famous as China’s international city, a busy trade port with notorious underworld . During the latter part of the 20th century, the city languished through Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, before once again becoming a world-class city leading in finance, technology, and culture at the turn of the millennium.

There was a very brief time after WWII, only four years, when the city was under the Kuomintang (KMT), or nationalist Chinese government. What makes this period interesting militarily, was the unusual combinations of WWII weaponry fielded there, and a now largely-forgotten American military presence in China.

1948antiUSprotest

(Officers of the Shanghai Police Department monitor a political protest in 1948. Equipment includes a stahlhelm M35 helmet and Arisaka Type 38 rifle.)

Ki21in1945

(An abandoned Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally” bomber sits opposite American C-46 Commando, C-54 Skymaster, and C-47 Skytrain transports at a former Japanese airbase near Shanghai after WWII.)

t26andm5stuart1949

(Soviet-made T-26 and American-made M3/M5 Stuart tanks of the nationalist army together in Shanghai during 1949. An irony of this last battle is that the nationalists were partially equipped with Soviet gear and the communists were partially equipped with American gear.)

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B-29 to “Bull”

I debated writing on this topic as the story of the Tu-4 “Bull”; the reverse-engineered B-29 Superfortress; is fairly well known. Numerous authors have covered it, and there was a TV documentary on it some years ago. None the less, the topic is apparently still of high interest, so perhaps the information below will be presented in a different way or otherwise still be of value.

b-29-superfortress

(A Boeing B-29 Superfortress during WWII.)

mosinnagant

(A Soviet soldier with WWII-era Mosin-Nagant marches in Red Square in the late 1940s as a Tu-4 “Bull” flies overhead.)

bombloading

(A RDS-4 atomic bomb is wheeled to a Tu-4 “Bull”.)

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