At the beginning of the Second World War, August Lambert was a Luftwaffe flight instructor. His first combat assignment was with Schlachtgeschwader 1, a ground attack unit. He flew his first mission on the Eastern Front on 23APR43 claiming a Soviet aircraft destroyed, but this was not confirmed. During the Crimean Campaign II./SG 1 was hard pressed by the advancing Red Army and Air Force, and air-to-air encounters increased sharply. Lambert scored steadily during the campaign. On 17APR45 Lambert’s flight was jumped by American P-51 Mustangs of the 55th Fighter Group an he was killed. His final tally was 116 aerial victories and over 100 vehicles destroyed.
The model depicts Lambert’s Fw 190A-5 assigned to 5./SG2, Southern Sector of the Soviet Union, late 1943.
Prior to World War Two the way things moved between the continents was by ship. Crossing the Atlantic between the United States and Europe were several competing shipping lines offering regular service to various ports of call. The majority of ships carried both cargo and passengers, who often counted diplomats and celebrities among their ranks. Dining with the Captain was a mark of social status, and the Captain and his officers were held in some esteem by society.
Al Chester entered this world as a cadet in the New York State Merchant Marine Academy in 1933. Upon graduation in 1935, he began serving on a variety of merchant vessels as a nineteen-year-old Officer Cadet. He was able to advance by taking on more responsible positions with different ships, often serving alongside former classmates from the NYSMMA. By 1938 it was becoming apparent that war was coming and that the United States would eventually become involved. When the war came to Europe, Chester’s Naval Reserve commission was made active and he was assigned to the oiler USS Kanawha (AO-1) as her gunnery officer, and as officer in charge of the U.S. Navy Armed Guard aboard the merchant transport S.S. Matsonia as the war came to the U.S. and the Pacific.
With German U-boats ravaging shipping in the Atlantic the U.S. built hundreds of small, expedient escorts, Chester was given command of the USS SC-981, and later advanced to command the USS Cofer (DE-208), a Destroyer Escort. After some convoy work in the Atlantic, Coffer was converted to an Assault Transport, which gave her the capability to carry landing craft for amphibious assaults at the expense of her torpedo tubes, among other modifications. As APD-62 she participated in the invasion of the Philippines and faced Japanese Kamikaze attack at Ormoc Bay.
A Sailor’s Odyssey is a very personal story, Chester details the day-to-day life and incidents from a decade at sea. I found the descriptions of life in the Merchant Marine to be particularly fascinating as there is not much written about that. His wartime progression and commands were not unique but his previous experience in the commercial shipping trade certainly left him better prepared than most of his contemporaries and even many of his superiors. He does not gloss over anything he experienced or observed, calling out the good and the bad in equal measure. This includes his own physical decline when the unceasing demands of command and constant strain impacted his health. I can highly recommend this book, both for its descriptions of Navy life and insights into the Merchant Marine at the end of an era.
Horst Ademeit was shot down during the Battle of Britain, but was rescued from the English Chanel by the German Seenotkommando. He achieved one victory against the RAF, but flying against the Soviets is where he was to score all his remaining victories. He was killed while attacking an IL-2 a low level on 08AUG44, likely hit by ground fire. In all, he was credited with 166 enemy aircraft shot down.
The model represents Ademeit’s Fw 190A-6 while he was Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 54 at Daugavpils, Latvia in July 1944.
The 344th bomb Group was composed of four squadrons, the 494th, 495th, 496th, and 497th Bomb Squadrons. They operated from Stansted Mountfitchet, England from February through September 1944, where the majority of these color photographs were taken. After the invasion they relocated to Cormeilles-en-Vexin which was just outside Paris until April 1945, finishing the war in Florennes Belguim. The Group was assigned to the Ninth Air Force and operated the Martin B-26 B/C. Most mission assignments were tactical targets in support of ground operations, the Group was very active during the invasion of Normandy and the ensuing breakout. These photographs display a selection of nose art applied to the Marauders.
Hubertus von Bonin claimed four victories with the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. At the beginning of the Second World War he was serving with JG 26, but spent the majority of the war in a variety of command positions with JG 52 and JG 54. He fought in the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, and later in the East during Operation Barbarossa. On 15DEC43 he was shot down and killed by Soviet fighters east of Gorodok. He was credited with 77 aerial victories.
The model depicts Major von Bonin’s Fw 190A-5 during June 1943 at Dorpat, Estonia while he was serving as the Geschwaderkommodore of JG 54 “Grünherz”.
By F. Julian Becton, RADM USN (Ret) with Joseph Morschauser III
Softcover, 279 pages, appendices, photographs, and index
Published by Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, April 1987
Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.0 x 9.3 inches
The USS Laffey (DD-724) was an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer built for the U.S. Navy during the Second World War. At 2,200 tons, they were the largest and most heavily armed U.S. Navy destroyers to see combat during WWII, the Gearing-class was a derivative with a 14-foot hull extension amidships to increase range. Laffey was commissioned on 08FEB44.
The author was Laffey’s Captain from her commissioning through the end of the war. He was already an experienced officer, having seen combat aboard the USS Arron Ward (DD-483) in the Solomons, where he was with the original USS Laffey (DD-459) when she was sunk during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. He was assigned to the new Laffey as Prospective Commanding Officer during her construction and the training of her crew.
The Laffey had a busy war. She first saw combat off Normandy during the invasion, and shelled German defenses at Cherbourg. From there she sailed to the Pacific, joining Task Force 38 for the invasion of the Philippines. She first encountered the Japanese Kamikaze there, and was with the USS Ward (DM-16) when she was sunk at Ormoc Bay. She then escorted the carrier groups during strikes against the Japanese home islands and off Iwo Jima.
The Laffey is best remembered for her ordeal on the radar picket line screening the landings on Okinawa. On 16APR45 she was attacked by a large formation of Kamikaze aircraft, an estimated twenty-two singling out Laffey. Ultimately, she was hit by six Kamikaze and four bombs which caused extensive damage and fires, and also jammed her rudder. With the assistance of salvage tugs she was able control her flooding and was towed from the area. She returned to the States under her own power and was eventually repaired, but her war was over. Laffey served until 1975, and is currently preserved as a museum ship in North Charleston, South Carolina.
The book is written in autobiographical style. Becton describes the day-to-day operations of the ship and makes a special effort to mention as many of his crew by name as possible. I was surprised to see a number of factual errors which somehow crept into the narrative – some ships’ armaments are improperly described, aircraft mis-identified in a caption, apparent confusion between a Landing Ship, Dock (LSD) and a floating drydock (AFDB), and a US Navy officer said to have survived the sinking of HMS Hood. Minor issues in their own rights, but they call into question other details. In spite of that, this is an interesting story and well worth reading.