You are here

Diplomacy & Crisis News

What Made America’s B-25 Mitchell Bomber a World War II Legend?

The National Interest - Tue, 16/11/2021 - 04:30

Caleb Larson

B-25 Bomber, Americas

The B-25 was an American workhorse.

Here's What You Need to Know: The bomber's solid design helped turn the tide for the United States world-wide.

The B-25 was first designed in 1940 and was intended to be the United States’ medium bomber workhorse. On paper, the B-25 was not particularly spectacular: it had two engines, a pencil-like fuselage, and a fairly modest bomb loadout. Still, the B-25 was not without its merits.

A staggering number of B-25s were built during World War II. The design proved flexible, and a large number of aircraft variants were built to suit the needs of the different armed services—and other countries, as the B-25 platform was widely shared with the Allies as a part of the Lend-Lease war material sharing agreement. B-25s were shipped to Britain, the Soviet Union, and after the war to the Canadians, Dutch, and Australians, to name a few.

The B-25 Mitchell design was far from perfect, but highly regarded by flight crews as durable and reliable, forgiving to pilots even with one engine out and full of bullet holes. It was not out of the ordinary for B-25 to have logged enormous amounts of repaired damage throughout their flight lifetimes.

One of the few drawbacks from the crew standpoint was the B-25’s engine noise. The airplane’s engines were relatively close to the fuselage, and in a unique arrangement the plane’s exhaust was directed toward the cockpit. Some B-25 pilots and crew members would experience varying degrees of hearing loss after the war thanks to excessive engine noise.

Though the B-25 was used by the United States in every theater of war, it was most useful in the Pacific Theater. As the war progressed, the B-25 was outfitted with more and more forward-facing heavy machine guns. The bomber’s medium-level bombing proved to be useful for troops and against targets deep in thick jungle, where the B-25’s low-level bombing and strafing runs were particularly potent. The B-25 also experienced success by adapting this low-level strafing tactic in an anti-shipping role.

Guns Blazing

The B-25 design was evaluated as a potential gunship platform, a role the airframe could have excelled at, had it been adopted. As a gunship, the modified B-25 could bring an awesome amount of firepower to bear on a target. One of the gunship prototypes had four .50 caliber heavy machine guns mounted in the nose, as well as an enormous 75 millimeter cannon. Additionally, the prototype could carry four more .50 machine guns in two flank-mounted pods, two in a manned turret just aft of the cockpit, one on both sides of the waist, and two for the rear gunner, bringing the number of onboard guns to an astounding fourteen.

Empire State Building

The B-25 was also involved in an accidental crash with the Empire State Building in New York. Flying through heavy fog, a B-25 crashed into the north side of the building, en route to Newark Airport in New Jersey, killing all passengers on board and eleven people in the building. 

Doolittle Raid

Perhaps one of the B-25’s best-known chapters was in the Doolittle Raid of World War II fame. Four months after America’s Day of Infamy attack on Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led a 16-plane raiding party on an attack on mainland Japan. The raid was successful, and though it caused very little in terms of actual material damage, it did much to boost American spirits early in the war. It also was a sharp psychological blow to the Japanese, who had considered mainland Japan to be too far out of reach to be bombed. As a result of the Doolittle Raid, Japan diverted ships and soldiers closer to the mainland to better protect Japan from American air attacks.

An American Icon

Though nothing fancy, the B-25 was a true American workhorse that just kept soldiering (or rather, flying) on. Its solid design helped turn the tide for the United States world-wide, but most especially in the Pacific. Hats off to an American icon.

Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

This article first appeared in June 2020.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Meet the Vehicle That Moved Hitler’s World War II War Machine

The National Interest - Tue, 16/11/2021 - 04:00

Caleb Larson

World War II, Europe

The Sonderkraftfahrzeug was an odd motorcycle-tank hybrid.

Here's What You Need to Know: Nazi Germany found a vehicle well-suited to the Eastern Front.

Germany likes small things. Be it the Wiesel tankette, a tiny two or three-man scout tank armed with a 20-millimeter autocannon main gun, or this odd motorcycle-tank hybrid, the Sd.Kfz. 2. The Special-purpose Vehicle, or Sonderkraftfahrzeug as it was known in German, was intended to be a compact heavy mover for the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War.

The Sd.Kfz. 2 was most used in Russia on the Eastern Front. In that intense conflict, the Sd.Kfz. 2 was used mostly as a support vehicle for towing or moving small amounts of troops or equipment in its small crew compartment or in a compact two-wheeled trailer.

It was also occasionally used to position airplanes on runways. Especially in the later stages of World War II, efforts were made by Germany to conserve as much jet fuel as possible, and using the Sd.Kfz. 2 to position jets was a conservation measure.

The Sd.Kfz. 2 was well-suited to the Eastern Front and the heavy muck that troops and vehicles had to wade through. In addition to a relatively low weight, the Sd.Kfz. 2 benefited from the large interleaving road wheels that rode on tracks, giving the Sd.Kfz. 2 low ground pressure. This neat video gives a good idea of just how capable the little tankette was off-road and is worth the watch.

Though low ground pressure was beneficial, the design suffered from mechanical complexity. The innermost road wheels were not quickly removable. In order to service them an outermost wheel would also have to be removed, hampering maintenance. In addition, the interleaving wheels could sometimes become filled with freezing mud and muck endemic to the austere Russian landscape and freeze, jamming the Sd.Kfz. 2’s tracks.

Variants

One of the more interesting Sd.Kfz. 2 variants was a demolition vehicle based on the Sd.Kfz. 2 chassis that could be driven both by remote control and by a driver. The Springer as it was called, lacked the motorcycle-like front wheel and handlebars of its Sd.Kfz. 2 parent and had a small one-man crew compartment that had additional armor protection.

To fulfill its demolition role, the Springer carried a 330 kilogram (or about 730-pound) explosive charge towards a target. Once near, the driver exited the little tankette and guided it via remote control towards its target. As the Springer would explode along with its payload, it could only be used once making it impractical for widespread use.

Postwar, an unknown number of Sd.Kfz. 2s were built as a cheaper tractor alternative. These low-cost vehicles were desperately needed to help alleviate the post-war food shortage in Germany that persisted until 1948.

Caleb Larson is a defense writer with the National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

This article first appeared in June 2020.

Image: Ben Norwood / Wikimedia Commons

Tobacco use continues to fall, but still 'long way to go'

UN News Centre - Tue, 16/11/2021 - 00:15
The number of tobacco users continues to decrease globally, going from 1.32 billion in 2015 to 1.30 billion last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said onTuesday.  

The New Economics

Foreign Affairs - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 23:15
How the U.S. and its allies are rewriting the rules on spending and trade.

Central African children in crosshairs, UN calls for their protection 

UN News Centre - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 22:29
Children in the Central African Republic (CAR) have suffered a spike in grave violations since the end of 2020, according to a new UN report on the situation in the country, issued on Monday. 

A Nuclear Iran Is Not Inevitable

Foreign Affairs - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 18:40
A nuclear Iran would pose serious challenges to the United States and such an outcome should not be accepted as inescapable.

‘Under $1’ test kits available to stop mother-child HIV/syphilis transmission

UN News Centre - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 18:30
Dual test kits, which cost less than $1, are now available for pregnant women to stem mother-to-child HIV and syphilis transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday.  

Séductions de la bohème

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 18:05
Une bande de copains joyeux, fauchés, un peu provocateurs, prêts à s'inventer un autre avenir que celui des bons bourgeois : la bohème avec ses légendes, héritée du XIXe siècle, fait si bien rêver que le XXIe n'en finit pas de la recycler. Romantique, insolente, est-elle un geste de liberté ou un (...) / , , , , , , , - 2016/10

Catastrophes – and hope – in Haiti

Foreign Policy Blogs - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 17:31

Haiti has a long history of natural, political, and human catastrophes. What do Haitians do now?

The Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bel Air. Photo credit: Marcello Casal, Jr., Agencia Brazil, CC BY 2.0 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EscombrosBelAir7.jpg

A State Department warning to Americans to avoid travel to Haiti follows the kidnapping of 17 foreign aid workers and family members in a long line of tragic stories from Haiti in 2021. Beginning decades ago but accelerating this year with political unrest, natural disasters, and economic and social problems, any prospects for progress in Haiti seem to be demolished by the next catastrophe.

The political earthquake of the year was the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Moïse replaced an interim president in 2017, who had replaced a president who stepped down for constitutional reasons, who himself came to power after 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians and left more than a million homeless. The fallout from this summer’s assassination of Moïse continues, with the arrests of Columbians and former Haitian police officers, questions about former Ministry of Justice official Joseph Badio, and the current interim prime minister’s connections to Badio.

In August, Haiti suffered an actual earthquake, a 7.2 magnitude quake that killed more than 2,000 people and left more than 650,000 people in need of humanitarian aid.

This natural disaster built on years of similar ones. A partial list includes historic storms in 1935, 1954, and 1963, a series of devastating storms in the 1990s, four major storms in 2008, and Hurricane Matthew that destroyed 200,000 homes in 2016. Weeks after this summer’s assassination of Moise and two days after the earthquake, Haiti was hit by Hurricane Grace. Damaging flooding and landslides also hampered relief efforts for earthquake victims.

These political and natural disasters amplified the ongoing economic and social problems in Haiti. USAID assessed that more than one-third of Haitians live with “severe acute food insecurity.” Even before 2021’s troubles, the World Bank called Haiti the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world, with a negative growth in 2019 and 2020. Sixty percent of the country live in poverty and nearly a quarter in extreme poverty.

Together, these conditions have facilitated the rapid growth of violent gangs in Haiti. Gangs are not new to Haiti, but they are alleged to act with unofficial “governing powers” in some regions and with extrajudicial violence with the cooperation of government officials.

Drack Bonhomme is founding director of Haiti’s international relations think tank and graduate school, L’Ouverture Institute for Diplomacy & Global Affairs (LIDGA). Bonhomme spoke about these natural, political, and social crises at The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR).

“The kinematics of Haiti are catastrophic, the picture is really disastrous,” Bonhomme began. The indigenous people called the island Haiti, meaning mountainous land, and now “the problems are like mountains.”

Bonhomme described natural disasters – especially Hurricane Hazel in 1954 – as devastating the economy. Hazel damaged sugar and coffee production as well as tourism. In subsequent decades, disease and natural disaster, including HIV/AIDS and the 2010 earthquake, have had a continuing series of negative impacts.

Haiti’s political troubles also have deep roots, including the family dictatorship of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Haiti today faces an “unprecedented constitutional crisis,” said Bonhomme, where “the three branches of government are non-existent.”

Bonhomme believes the limited international responses to Haiti’s current problems are worsened by the all-consuming nature of the Covid-19 pandemic. The international community is too busy with the pandemic, Bonhomme said, to focus on more traditional questions like natural disasters and political crises.

But he believes there is more that Haiti can do to help itself. First is working with donors and aid agencies to help Haitians figure out a way forward themselves – as the Marshall Plan offered reconstruction aid in postwar Europe based on what each country’s own plans were. Second is to draw more from the successful diaspora. The Haitian constitution limits the ways diaspora can contribute, other than remittances, to the re-development of the country.

But Bonhomme is optimistic. “The Haitian people are very resilient, a religiously spiritual people,” he concluded. There is a “hope within the soul of the Haitian people, they keep looking for the light…and that sense of hope is still shining inside of them.”

Watch Drack Bonhomme’s full presentation

Ethiopia: $40 million in aid relief for victims ‘living on a knife-edge'

UN News Centre - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 17:28
As the humanitarian crisis grows in Ethiopia’s conflict-affected north, the UN announced on Monday that $40 million in funds have been made available to scale up emergency operations. 

Reimagine justice and end child detentions: UNICEF

UN News Centre - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 17:18
More than 45,000 boys and girls were released from detention during the COVID-19 pandemic, proving that child-friendly justice solutions “are more than possible”, according to new data released on Monday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). 

Le bois, une ressource naturelle captée par Pékin

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 15:02
/ Chine, France, Mondialisation, Matières premières, Forêt, Environnement - Environnement - Forêts / , , , , , - Environnement - Forêts

China’s Search for Allies

Foreign Affairs - Mon, 15/11/2021 - 00:29
Is Beijing building a rival alliance system?

Braderie forestière au pays de Colbert

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sun, 14/11/2021 - 17:54
Couvrant près d'un tiers du territoire, la forêt française constitue un fabuleux trésor. Mais il y a loin de l'arbre brut au bois travaillé : faute de politique industrielle concertée, la sylviculture est devenue le deuxième poste du déficit commercial. Plongée au sein d'une filière saccagée, entre (...) / , , , , , , , - 2016/10

COP26 closes with ‘compromise’ deal on climate, but it’s not enough, says UN chief

UN News Centre - Sat, 13/11/2021 - 21:12
After extending the COP26 climate negotiations an extra day, nearly 200 countries meeting in Glasgow, Scotland, adopted on Saturday an outcome document that, according to the UN Secretary-General, “reflects the interests, the contradictions, and the state of political will in the world today”.

Climate action can deliver a sustainable future for all: UN deputy chief

UN News Centre - Sat, 13/11/2021 - 18:08
Climate action can be the driver for a green and equitable future for all, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said at the TED Countdown Summit, urging people everywhere to demand that leaders deliver on their promise to limit global warming. 

Les vengeurs masqués de la rue mexicaine

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sat, 13/11/2021 - 17:15
Le catch mexicain — ou « lucha libre » — inspire et fascine bien au-delà de son pays d'origine. La popularité de cette « comédie humaine » apparue au début du XXe siècle s'enracine dans la culture, l'histoire et la vie politique mexicaines, dont elle révèle des aspects inattendus. / Amérique latine, (...) / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , - 2016/10

Feature: Woman mentor empowers girls to reach for the stars in space careers

UN News Centre - Sat, 13/11/2021 - 11:35
Growing up in 1970s New York, Mindy Howard received no encouragement at home and was ridiculed at school for her dream to become an astronaut, it was a time when only boys were supposed to have such aspirations. 

Qui a tué Berta Cáceres<small class="fine"> </small>?

Le Monde Diplomatique - Fri, 12/11/2021 - 17:13
L'assassinat de Berta Cáceres le 3 mars dernier au Honduras a suscité une vague d'indignation. Ce meurtre s'ajoute à celui de nombreux militants amérindiens et écologistes opposés aux barrages hydroélectriques qui prolifèrent en Amérique centrale. / Amérique latine, Eau, Écologie, Énergie, Amérindiens, (...) / , , , , , , , , , - 2016/10

Aux États-Unis, une démocratie (peu) représentative

Le Monde Diplomatique - Thu, 11/11/2021 - 18:40
Le Congrès américain est composé de 435 représentants et 100 sénateurs. Si les premiers sont répartis suivant la population de chaque État — ce qui n'empêche pas certaines disparités —, les sénateurs sont toujours au nombre de deux par État. Ainsi, un sénateur californien porte la voix de 19 millions (...) / , , , , - Amérique du Nord

Pages