Anti aircraft wartime friendly fire injuries


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HOME DEPOT GEORGE
February 1, 2009, 10:26 AM
Excuse this if it sounds like a dumb question but I'm a real history buff and have all kind of documentaries and books with some scary pictures of sea battles, well the question is how many sailors/soldiers were hurt by anti aircraft fire during some of these fire fights.http://encarta.msn.com/media_461546454_761552739_-1_1/The_Battle_of_Midway.html especially when torpedo bombers were coming in low. Thats an awful lot of lead falling from the sky as well as fragments from anti aircraft bursts. I'd like to hear from anyone with any input on these historical battles.

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Mauserguy
February 1, 2009, 11:22 AM
I've met a few WWII navy guys over the years, and yes, there were plenty of injuries topside during big barrages. I think that they worried more about the safety of the ship, though, than the safety of a few crews on topside duty, besides, they had helmets.
Mauserguy

highorder
February 1, 2009, 11:29 AM
I have read many accounts of the serious damage inflicted to downtown Honolulu from AAA (returning to Earth from its ballistic arc) from the defense of Pearl Harbor.

Harve Curry
February 1, 2009, 12:47 PM
I knew one sailor who was on the Yorktown when it was sunk at Midway. His name was Bob Schiavo and his job was handing up AA ammunition in 3 round clips. He said he was at the hatch bent over as he would keep the line of ammo passed up to the next guy. I asked him what the battle looked like and he said he "never saw any of it, lots of noise and all he knew was he had to keep that ammo passed along to keep the gun firing". The electric motors were out and they had to crank it by hand. He spent 3 days in the water before being rescued. He had a plate in his head from a nearby explosion in the water which took him along time to recover from but he did.

HOME DEPOT GEORGE
February 1, 2009, 01:21 PM
I couldn't imagine what it was like, some of the newsreels show so much tracer fire and shrapnel smoke trails it almost looks like a heavy rain at times.

jad0110
February 1, 2009, 01:53 PM
From what I have read, injuries were pretty common, and deaths from falling shrapnel and AAA were not unheard of either. It was not a fun place to be, lets just say that. The same was true over land.

Exposure
February 1, 2009, 02:26 PM
If you ever get the chance watch the TV series "Victory at Sea" It is a show from the 50's that has got some of the most amazing footage you will ever see of actions at sea during WWII.

In particular though the scenes of Kamikazes are just incredible. The gunners are so focused on bringing them down that they just keep hammering away at them until they either impact the water or a ship. Streams of tracers constantly sweep other ships. The sky is dark with flak smoke. Ma Deuces, Oerlikons, Bofors, all of them running at once, and nonstop. Just unreal! I can't imagine the sheer volume of noise.

Suffice to say it would have been awfully dangerous to be topside when that was going on!

JimmyN
February 1, 2009, 02:51 PM
My father was on board the Emmons, a destroyer sweeping for mines, off the coast of Okinawa in April of '45. That was when the Japanese launched their biggest suicide attack against the increasing Navy fleet.

His ship was hit by 5 kamikaze planes in a period of about 30 minutes. All the officers were killed and most of the enlisted. He said they would sometimes fly in low, between the ships, so fire from one ship would hit the others. It was shoot at the plane and possibly hit the other ship, or do nothing.

My father passed away a year ago, so now I have the yellow canvas helmet worn by the pilot of the second plane to hit the ship. It came in low just above the water and struck the fantail, flipped up on it's nose and pretty much disintegrated when it hit the aft gun turrent. The pilot was still strapped in his seat, wedged into the aft hatchway.

They abandoned ship, but though low in the water and listing badly it was still afloat the next morning. They sunk it with 5" gunfire as it was drifting toward Japan, and they didn't want the Japanese to possibly get the radar and other electronics on board.

Duke of Doubt
February 1, 2009, 02:55 PM
"What goes up must come down," said Werner von Braun.

A big reason Civil Defense got people out of the street and into shelters in London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow and etc. wasn't that they were bombproof -- it was that they were flakproof.

Jim K
February 1, 2009, 03:02 PM
In wartime, that is accepted as just one more way of getting killed. A lot was made of "friendly fire" in Vietnam including, IIRC, an anti-war movie, but in WWI and WWII it was fairly common and even the object of jokes.

AA shells had a timer built in that was supposed to detonate the shell if it missed or the prox fuze didn't fire it, but note the word "supposed."

And of course nothing smaller than 40mm had anything but an impact fuze, so .50 and 20mm just came back down.

Jim

Deanimator
February 1, 2009, 03:33 PM
In wartime, that is accepted as just one more way of getting killed. A lot was made of "friendly fire" in Vietnam including, IIRC, an anti-war movie, but in WWI and WWII it was fairly common and even the object of jokes.
During and right after the first Gulf War, there was a Brit in usenet who had a lot to say about the "friendly fire" incident in which some British troops were killed. It certainly happened, but being the jackass he was, he tried to make out like it was something uniquely American. He didn't much like it when I asked him to give everybody the number of "friendly fire" incidents involving the RAF in roughly the time period covering the Battle of Britain. I had recently read the book, "Their Finest Hour" which is about the BoB. The FF casualty rate was horrendous, and it didn't end with the BoB. The first sets of dive brakes for USAAF P-38s never made it to units. A British aircraft shot down the US C-54 carrying them.

Ky Larry
February 1, 2009, 03:51 PM
My Brother-in-laws dad served with the American Army during the liberation of France, Belguim, and Luxemburg. I can't remember the unit but they grabbed every vehicle that would move. He said it looked like a traveling gypsy circus. There were Allied, French army, and German trucks, halftracks, scout cars, taxi cabs, and farm tractors. Even though this unit was well known to Allied command, he said the British would strafe them evey day untill they started shooting back. I wasn't there but I don't think he would lie to me.


While we're on the subject, I'd like to offer a "Thank You" to the warriors of America's Greatest generation. We enjoy life in the best country of the world because of their grit, courage, and brass balls.

Mello
February 1, 2009, 04:33 PM
Samuel Morison wrote a multi-volume "History of the U.S. Navy in WWII".

In many battles where the task force was defending itself against air attack, ships sustained damage from other ship's AA fire.

Leanwolf
February 1, 2009, 04:56 PM
JAD0110 - "From what I have read, injuries were pretty common, and deaths from falling shrapnel and AAA were not unheard of either. It was not a fun place to be, lets just say that. The same was true over land."

Yes.

I have an older friend who is from London, England. (Moved to Los Angeles in 1962; now a U.S. citizen.) He was in London during the Battle of Britain. At the age of fourteen, he was working in a factory welding gas tanks for Spitfires and Hurricanes. His mother was working in the Vickers Machine Gun Factory. His father had been heavily gased during WW I, and could not work.

He told me that when the Germans were flying over London, and the RAF fighters were engaging them, the empty cartridge cases and bullets from the dogfights far above, fell like hail all over London. Shrapnel from the AA guns also covered the streets and tops of buildings.

Once, when he was going home from the factory, a V2 rocket came over. He dove for the only protection, the street curb by the sidewalk. The rocket fell and exploded about 200 yards down the street from him. He said it nearly blew out his ears!

Yep, nothing fun about war, whether one is in the military, or in an area where the fighting is taking place.

L.W.

Prince Yamato
February 1, 2009, 04:57 PM
You know, I've always wondered this too... and it was from when I used to watch Victory at Sea. :)

Part of me thinks that the distance between the ships was great enough that if you shot directly at the other ship, your bullet would fall below the deck. Then another part of me says, "wait... human error..." I'm sure more than one person was killed from ship to ship fire. It was probably listed as, "died during the battle of ____ valiantly serving his country." No investigation was performed.

grilledcheese
February 1, 2009, 05:56 PM
I'm sure more than one person was killed from ship to ship fire. It was probably listed as, "died during the battle of ____ valiantly serving his country." No investigation was performed.
And that is exactly it. Very few people alive today understand the sheer magnitude of the second World War. Defeating the Axis powers was the objective, and it was an objective to be won at all costs. Our leaders knew there would be heavy losses due to both the enemy and fratricide, but it was the cost of ending the war as quickly as possible.
Its hard for today's generations to draw a correlation between WWII and any modern conflict because their really isn't a fear of imminent personal danger. Joe Blow on the street doesn't fear that an enemy army will invade his neighborhood or his country. So many people really do start to think of war as some surgical exercise where only the bad guys get hurt.
Most of the estimates I've read for friendly fire incidents in WWII put the casualty rate at 30%. No doubt some actions saw varying rates.
Imagine what the media would make of that today. In the first gulf war the media seemed intent on crucifying a couple of pilots who mistakenly destroyed armor from their own forces at night during the ground invasion, as if it was done intentionally. Now imagine if almost one in every three or four coalition soldiers had been injured or killed by his own side.
Friendly fire incidents still occur and always will if humans are involved in any way, regardless of how shiny and awesome our technology gets.

Oh, and as someone already mentioned, Samuel Eliot Morison's thirteen volume series on The U.S. Navy in WWII is outstanding. First published in the fifties, it can still be found as numerous reprints and versions.




Jeffrey

Ky Larry
February 1, 2009, 06:14 PM
Some of you may find this web site interesting. I sure have.

http://ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/index.html

EOD Guy
February 2, 2009, 11:08 AM
AA shells had a timer built in that was supposed to detonate the shell if it missed or the prox fuze didn't fire it, but note the word "supposed."


And of course nothing smaller than 40mm had anything but an impact fuze, so .50 and 20mm just came back down.

A lot of the AA artillery just used a mechanical time fuze to detonate the projectile at a certain altitude. Variable time (proximity) fuzes came along early in the war. They were called variable time fuzes in order to hide their true function (proximity) from the enemy.

Most 20mm HE projectiles had a self destruct in the form of a burn-through tracer that functioned a detonater. That doesn't mean they were then harmless. There were still pretty big chunks of metal coming back down.

Dain Bramage
February 2, 2009, 12:20 PM
I have read many accounts of the serious damage inflicted to downtown Honolulu from AAA (returning to Earth from its ballistic arc) from the defense of Pearl Harbor.


For the longest time the civilian casualties were attributed to direct Japanese action. Only later did the Navy come clean and admit that the time fuzes were defective on their 5" guns, and the shells were raining down on the city like artillery.

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