Sunday, May 27, 2007

Today In History: Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

May 27th, 1942: Reinhard Heydrich gets his via IED in Prague.

I hadn't known about his piloting. Knowing fighter pilots, they must've loved that. Some pogue REMF old-guy bureaucrat from Berlin shows up, demands a plane, orders that it have his personal goofy Dungeons & Dragons-esque Germanic rune painted on the fuselage, and within a month, he's balled it up on takeoff. (A notoriously easy thing to do in a 109; like all the great piston-engined fighter planes, it was notably unforgiving of a ham-fisted novice at the stick.)


GeorgeH said...

You ever notice that the FBI Hostage Roasting Team leader who ran things at Ruby Ridge and Waco looked exactly like ol' Reinhardt?

Marko said...

Apparently, the narrow undercarriage track of the ME109 made it a wee bit tricky to handle on takeoff and landing, especially in a crosswind or on rough unpaved fields. Something like 5% of all 109s were balled up in landing/takeoff accidents, AFAIK. does "ensign eliminator" translate into German? "Faehnrich-Zerlegegeraet" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Ben said...

Ah, Tamara. Your cool points just shot off the scale in my book. You're the only woman of my generation I've come across who actually knows what a 109 is. Are you a Bf purist or do you prefer the Me ident?

Couple footnotes for fun for you:
Kenneth Branagh's suitably creepy Heydrich in "Conspiracy" is worth a look if you've never seen it. Also, give Duane Unkeffer's book "Gray Eagles" a try if you've never read it. It's not Shakespeare but it's an interesting read. IMHO of course.

Anonymous said...

Ben is right. Tam is definitely an unusually cool lady.

I have read that Heydrich was recovering from his injuries, until the special doctors arrived. His widow thought that he was poisoned. He had gone from nothing to Lt General in 3 years. Any promotions after that (particularly in the smallish SS organization) would have put him in the running as Hitler's succession.

Anonymous said...

Any tailwheel aircraft, as most aircraft were of that era, requires constant attention from startup to shutdown. Especially so with most of the fighters. Many had narrow track landing gear.

Tricycle geared aircraft became popular postwar because they were so much easier to fly, and more forgiving of sloppy flying. Insurance is lower, too.

less said...

A big reason never to have an
unloaded pistol. (Not that I'm
a Nazi advocate and he certainly
got his just desserts...)

"Heydrich appeared not to be
injured seriously. He gave chase
and tried to return fire but his
pistol was not loaded."

staghounds said...

What IED?? It was a stand up ambush with sub machine guns.

And you might have mentioned Jozef Gabčík & Jan Kubiš, betrayed and trapped like rats in the cellar of that church. Through the tiny vent they can hear the Prague firemen (at gunpoint) unreeling their hoses to drown them...

Anonymous said...

Heydrich was mortally wounded by grenade fragments. One of the ambushers was going to use a Sten SMG on him, but it jammed, so the other hurled a grenade into his staff car.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I seem to recall reading that the grenade was actually a bio-weapon. It was loaded with botulinal toxin. At least, that was what the book on the history of Chemical and Biological warfare I read in high school about 12 years ago had said.

Tam said...

"What IED?? It was a stand up ambush with sub machine guns."

There were subguns present, but Gabcik's Sten malf'ed, and Kubis lobbed an improvised satchel charge built around an anti-tank grenade that detonated on the fender of Heydrich's car.

Will said...

the Bf109 was almost exclusively operated from unpaved fields. The narrow, splayed main gear made the directional stability very poor. On hard surface, the tire angle influence was magnified to the point of creating a hair-trigger ground loop mechanism. They were not normally flown on or off in cross-wind conditions. A grass field was not a "strip", but a FIELD, which allowed the plane to always be headed into the wind. Any cross-wind component would be a near guarantee of a -loop.

Frankly, I am amazed that the plane was accepted with such a handicap. I think the loss figure was more like 30%.

Fortunately for the Allies, they continued to waste resources, and pilots, building an out of date fighter for the second half of the war.

Anonymous said...

Socialist regimes are never meritocracies. Failure is rewarded if you are a suckup. Willy got his first aircraft sale based on merit, when his competition was a biplane, a parasol wing, and a fighter with an open cockpit. He rode that pony the end of the war.

The early versions are Bf, the later versions are Me, because Willy bought out the company.

My favorite Willy Messerschmit story is about his transport glider, that needed a hole in front of it so that the take off gear (a trolley) could be put under the fuselage without crushing the front clamshell cargo doors. One tractor, then two tractors were tried to pull it out of the hole without success. So they got 300 men from the factory to come out and pull it out of the hole with ropes.

Tam said...

You might be an aircraft trivia geek if you know the development history of the Me 323 Gigant.

Sigivald said...

Note, though, that while it might seem D+Dish now, and is certainly goofy, the whole rune thing wasn't the slightest bit out of the ordinary for Nazis.

(Hey, me, I do medieval historical re-creation, so runes are no big thing.

"What else do you expect a viking or a northern kraut to write with? Roman letters? Hah!")