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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

German Warbird Discovery In Arctic Lake Now Filmed

Two Swedish divers have now released the first film of this Junkers Ju 52 at a depth of 75 metres. PHOTO: Simon Kenttä (who owns both this photo and the films)

The report of this discovery was printed yesterday, in the Swedish newspaper Expressen. The report and part of the first film footage went online the day before. Yours truly is the reporter and all images except those from WWII come from one of the divers, Simon Kenttä.

Resting at 75 metres in a lake north of Norwegian Narvik and not far from Sweden, the Junkers Ju 52 "Ace of Hearts" has so far not been filmed, only last year photographs of the plane appeared online. In the same lake, Hartvikvatnet (also Hartvigvannet), there is a much more accessible Ju 52 wreck. As a consequence, that plane is very incomplete. The Junkers aircraft now in question constitutes a contrast - it has an amazing amount of details and lots of paint and markings including the ace of hearts.

The Junkers Ju 52 "Ace of Hearts" helps tell the story of the battle of Narvik - that provides important lessons about WWII in Scandinavia.

Diving 75 metres down in an Arctic lake is extremely dangerous and requires special training, equipment and safety precautions. Before one dives one also has to be very sure about the exact location of the target. Also please bear in mind that German WWII equipment left behind in Norway belongs to the Norwegian state, meaning the Norwegian defence museums.

To very easily examine one of the Junkers Ju 52 machines that went down into lake Hartvikvatnet, see the one taken out of the lake in 1983 and preserved in the splendid Norwegian Aviation Museum in Bodö. Here is the link to immediately see their Ju 52.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Secret War - Not Just About SOE

An attractive cover for a special operations reference book not just about the SOE.

When you have read about Special Operations Executive (SOE) operations in certain countries you might want to better understand the SOE in general - why it was created in 1940, how it began its existence and what became of it. Secret War by Nigel West answers such questions and has some parts of particular interest to Nordic readers.

Secret War: The Story Of SOE includes the original Cabinet memorandum, drafted by Neville Chamberlain in July 1940, which created SOE. West´s book has many details about the origins of SOE and the serious rivalry it from the start experienced with the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, also known as MI6). Nigel West even writes that an "undeclared war" existed between the SOE and SIS. West also makes it clear that he has studied not just the successful SOE operations, and that he wants to shed light on how the SOE tipped the resistance balance in favor of Communist groups in several countries, not only in Yugoslavia.

West does not devote many paragraphs to describe Operation Gunnerside, the successful SOE action in the Norwegian mountains to stop the German development of nuclear weapons, through the destruction of heavy water production and stocks. But that operation is well documented in several other books and West instead clarifies how Gunnerside was to the benefit of the status of SOE in general.

Early SOE activities in Sweden and Norway are covered rather extensively. One wishes West had written as much about the last activities, that interest me more. Still, one learns some important facts about the SOE in all of Scandinavia and regarding the Danes I learnt of something I had no idea of - how the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had plans for a Danish Operational Group (OG). In fact, several pages of this book are very informative about the OSS.

If you are mainly interested in SOE and OSS activities in France, this book will be even more useful to you.

The edition of Secret War: The Story Of SOE that I have just reviewed is the one that was printed this year (2019). The first edition was published in 1992. I believe it remains a good investment.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Operation Totalize & Michael Wittmann

Great to better understand Operation Totalize and Michael Wittmann´s last battle.

Having previously blogged about two guides about all of Normandy it is time to look at a new book focusing on an area of particular interest to armour buffs, the area covered by Operation Totalize, during which German tank ace Michael Wittmann was killed.

The new book Operation Totalize by Tim Saunders is filled with both the information, photos and maps that you need to get a good idea of this offensive launched by Allied troops to break through the German defences south of Caen. If you are mostly interested in US forces this book is not for you, because Totalize is the story of Canadian, British and Polish troops fighting against Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS units.

Tim Saunders is of the opinion that it was most likely Sherman Trooper Joe Ekins who took out Michael Wittmann´s Tiger. Ekins belonged to the British 1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry. Saunders presents a plausible scenario but does not exclude another Sherman due to the nature of armoured warfare. Well, thanks to the relevant text, air photograph and map in Operation Totalize one has the tools necessary to visit the battleground in question and oneself judge what is more likely, Joe Ekins or a tank from the Canadian Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment.

Speaking of tanks, during Totalize the Germans used also some radio-controlled tanks of the type Borgward B IV, operated by the Funklenk-Abteilung 301. This part of the book was a surprise for me, and Saunders has also found a Borgward photo I had not seen before.

If you are an AFV buff, wargamer or intend to do a battlefield tour of the Operation Totalize battlegrounds, you will find this book very helpful and you will want to bring it with you to Normandy.

Let me finally say that the author, Tim Saunders, has found many great photos I had never seen before and I also like how he uses maps and unit insignia.