Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Dirty Jobs.

Do you know what a spähkorb is? It's a little wicker capsule covered in doped fabric, teardrop-shaped with fins at the back, containing a chair, a little writing desk, a telephone, and one dude with way more courage than common sense.

This whole ensemble, crazy man and all, would be lowered on a 2,400-ft cable beneath a zeppelin so that accurate blimpensteeren and bombendroppen could be done with the airship itself still safely hidden by the clouds.

Apparently there was no shortage of lads volunteering for the gig either, because you could smoke to your heart's content down in the spy basket. There's one on display in the Imperial War Museum in London; apparently LZ 60's winch broke one quiet September night over the English countryside and the spähkorb landed a little earlier than the rest of the zeppelin. I am unable to determine whether or not the Brits had to hose a Luftverrückter 1st Class out of the thing before putting it on display or if it was unoccupied at the time of the accident.

16 comments:

BobG said...

Used to work with a friend who was a belly gunner in a B-17 during WWII. I imagine he felt the same way as the guy in the bird cage that you describe.

reflectoscope said...

I think I've learned enough today that the boss would give I another day off.

What? It was worth a try.

Jim

Anonymous said...

Modern spy satellites, meh..
Now that, that is fantastical!
Best,
McVee

Vaarok said...

Typically, if I remember right, Zep crews were given parachutes, while fighter and bomber pilots weren't- the idea being heavier-than-air pilots could use parachutes to flee battle out of cowardice.

Boat Guy said...

This arrangement was featured in Howard Hughes' movie "Hell's Angels". Not quite as compelling as Jean Harlowe's party dress but still interesting...

Ken said...

Boat Guy beat me to it.

staghounds said...

Luftverruckter! It is to laugh...

Jay said...

My kind of job!!

Justin said...

"Hell's Angels" was a great movie. IIRC, didn't they cut the guy in the basket loose in order to gain altitude and escape the incoming fighter pilots?

Ken said...

It was an example of Hun's ihumanity to Hun, as well as to everyone else.

GuardDuck said...

Uh-huh, wikiwander...

In December 1941 and the first months of 1942, the Goodyear blimp Resolute was operated as an anti-submarine privateer based out of Los Angeles. As the only US craft to operate under a Letter of Marque since the War of 1812, the Resolute, armed with a rifle and flown by its civilian crew, patrolled the seas for submarines.

TJIC said...

> It was an example of Hun's ihumanity to Hun, as well as to everyone else.

LOL!

DaddyBear said...

When I visualize this, why do I see a German soldier swinging high above the English countryside, singing "I'm Just a Little Black Raincloud"?

Just goes to show how important tobacco is to a smoker.

DirtCrashr said...

an upside-down periscope to peek out of the clouds. The Macon had one of those "spy basket"observation cars too - with a key-radio and an altimeter.
It was on a 4,000 foot, 1/4-inch steel cable - but according to "Flying Hookers" (p.48) they only let out 3,000 feet of it. Each pilot had a "chance" to ride in it. They could also lower a rubber life-raft right down to the water in case a plane went down. Didn't get much use.

Anonymous said...

Jetzt geht mir ein Licht auf!

That is a marvelous pun in Kraut!

As in crazy person up in the air, but also someone getting jerked around (verruckt being the origin of the American term Jerk, i.e., someone alweays getting yanked by others).

Es ist zum Schreien.

Anonymous said...

Quote Vaarok: "Typically, if I remember right, Zep crews were given parachutes, while fighter and bomber pilots weren't..."

Unfortunately, in order to save more weight for bombs, Zeppelin crews were never given parachutes. Poor buggers.

LZ60 was an Army airship, (they apparently dug the cloud-car concept a lot more than the Navy for some reason,) and it flew under the official designation LZ90. According to "The Zeppelin In Combat" by DH. Robinson, the cloud car unraveled itself above Manningtree in Essex (about twenty minutes drive from where I live, actually,) and fell to earth. The crew later jettisoned the winch mechanism to save weight and it appeared as though they had tried to stop the thing running away by jamming an iron bar into the gears. Nobody really knows if there was anyone in it, but G.H.Q Home Front states that: "There is no reason to suppose that an observer was in the car, which undoubtedly fell by accident."

There is another story of a cloud-car observer who got stuck down there while the ship came under attack. He was told that they would lower altitude and he should telephone the airship when he was on the deck, then they would cut him loose. Unbelievably, this plan worked and the crewman spent weeks hiding out in haylofts, trying to work out how to get home, before he was captured.

MJ