“Willi” Batz was serving in the Luftwaffe as a flight instructor at the beginning of WWII. He repeatedly applied for transfer to a combat unit, but was rejected until the beginning of 1943. He was then posted to JG 52 on the Eastern Front, claiming his first victory over an Il-2 Shturmovik on 11MAR43. He was quickly promoted to Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 52, where he continued to score steadily.
He was injured during a bombing raid on his airfield in April 1944, and was promoted to command III./JG 52. On 31MAY44 Batz downed 15 Soviets over four sorties, his best day. Wilhelm Batz survived the war with 237 aerial victories, flying to the West to surrender to the Americans with his Gruppe rather than face Soviet captivity.
The model depicts Batz’ last Messerschmitt, a Bf 109K-4 at Neubieberg, Germany on 08MAY45.
By SSGT David Belavia with John Bruning, Narrated by Ray Porter
Audiobook, hours 9 and 20 minutes
Published by Blackstone Audio Inc, August 2007
SSGT David Belavia was a Squad Leader assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. In November 2004, they were assigned to take the city of Fallujah, Iraq, in what would become known as the Second Battle of Fallujah. The city was held by as many as 3,000 insurgents representing several Iraqi and Islamic terrorist groups, bolstered by Jihadists from around the globe. The civilian population had largely fled, and the insurgents had taken the opportunity to fortify the city. They had turned many of the houses into fortified positions, blocking off stairways and turning interior rooms into bunkers. These ambush houses had been modified to funnel assaulting troops into kill zones. Other houses were booby trapped, and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were placed along the streets. Some buildings were completely packed with explosives and large quantities of flammable materials, turning the whole building into a huge IED.
Belavia’s Squad was part of a Mechanized Infantry Platoon which was centered around an M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank and two M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Each of the Bradleys carried six infantrymen as dismounts, with an imbedded journalist and USAF Forward Observation Team jammed in for good measure.
As the title implies, the Second Battle of Fallujah was fought house to house. The American way of war emphasizes a doctrine known as Combined Arms. Infantry and armor fight as a composite unit, maximizing the strengths of each. These units can call in support from aircraft and indirect fires from mortars and artillery. All this is designed to maximize the firepower which can be brought to bear against an enemy while minimizing the enemy’s opportunities to engage friendly forces. Urban combat reduces the effectiveness of this doctrine by requiring small groups of infantrymen to enter into close-quarters combat where employing the supporting assets is less practical.
There is little build-up to this book, it begins with a firefight and soon the unit is on its way to Fallujah. The squad is engaged continuously from the beginning, and soon the men are exhausted, hungry, filthy, and suffering from ailments and injuries large and small. Each structure they enter is potentially an ambush or wired with explosives. The ultimate assault in the book is a chamber of horrors where the author fights several insurgents at close quarters in a fortified house.
This is a very gritty story, told with gallows humor and locker room language. It is not for the squeamish. It is fast paced, and there are several points where things could have gone very wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommended.
The BlizzCon 2023 was show was put on by the Eddie Rickenbacker IPMS chapter yesterday. It was held at the Makoy Center in Hilliard, a small town just outside Columbus, Ohio. Fortunately, BlizzCon did not live up to its name this year, it was a sunny day with mild temperatures for Ohio in February. The post-pandemic model show attendance remains strong, the facility was by no means small but both the show and vender areas were packed to the point it was difficult to move through and the parking lot was overflowing. I didn’t get an entry count, but there were easily over 500 models on the tables. The vendors’ room was great, I found four kits I didn’t know I needed and some incredible bargains on books. Several really nice pubs were nearby, we had fish and chips at “The Old Bag of Nails” which was only a five minute walk. Overall, a great day out and a great way to start the 2023 show season!
This is another legacy build of the Hasegawa (Mania) Ki-51 Sonia, this one in the markings of the 49th Independent Flying Group. The medium blue upper surface color was applied by some IJA units operating from Formosa (Taiwan) during the last year of the war and was intended to offer better concealment for over-water operations. Even back in the day I was often building in batches, although the batches have only grown larger over the years.
Mania released this kit in 1975, the molds were purchased by Hasegawa in 1977 and they’ve been re-boxing it ever since. The kit is ahead of its time, featuring finely recessed panel lines. It is still not a bad kit, but has been surpassed by the recent release from Clear Prop.
I built this kit when Hasegawa first issued their boxing. It could do with a rebuild, but there is also value in seeing one’s older efforts to see how your modeling techniques have evolved over time. Markings are from an aircraft profiled in Francillon’s Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War, a reference which has stood the test of time quite well.
The history of the Balkans has always been complex, and this continued to be the case during the Second World War. Yugoslavia formed a brief alliance with Germany, but the military staged a coup. Hitler saw this as a personal insult, and the surrounding Axis states invaded on 06APR41. Yugoslav forces were overwhelmed and surrendered twelve days later.
Two resistance groups soon formed. One was led by Draža Mihailović, a former army Colonel who had the support of the Yugoslavian government in exile in Britain. Mihailović favored a strategy of forming a force in being and waiting to support an Allied invasion in order to minimize German reprisals against civilians. A second group formed under Josip Tito, a Communist supported by the Soviet Union. Tito took a more active stance against the Axis occupiers. The two factions were soon fighting not only the Axis but each other. British policy in Yugoslavia was influenced by SOE agent James Klugman, who soon shifted Allied support from Mihailović to Tito. Later it was learned that Klugman was an avowed Communist and a Soviet spy.
Against this backdrop, Allied airmen were being shot down over Yugoslavia during missions to bomb oilfields in Romania. Despite the official Allied policy against supporting him, Mihailović remained a staunch friend of the United States and went to great lengths to shelter American airmen from the Germans. These airmen were gathered in the village of Pranjane, where they managed to contact their bases in Italy. The OSS sent in a team to assess the situation and devise a plan to get the airmen out. To their surprise, they found the villagers sheltering almost 250 Allied airmen, with more arriving daily. It was decided to construct a secret airstrip and fly the airmen out. In all, over 500 Allied airmen were rescued between August and December 1944.
The rescue was kept secret at the time. Mihailović could not be given credit for helping the airmen and still preserve Klugman’s narrative supporting Tito. The Soviet’s penetration into British Intelligence circles gradually became known after the war, Churchill later admitted that British wartime policy supporting Tito in Yugoslavia was his greatest regret.
The rescue remains relatively unknown to this day. This is a great story, and a cautionary tail about how politics can be influenced by misinformation, with disastrous results. A great read, recommended.
WHENEVER ANY FORM OF GOVERNMENT BECOMES DESTRUCTIVE OF THESE ENDS (LIFE,LIBERTY,AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS) IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT, AND TO INSTITUTE A NEW GOVERNMENT― Thomas Jefferson