Great stuff, Gregory. Thank you.
It certainly causes me to lean away from
the buring bird hypo.


-----Original Message-----
From: D.Gregory Griffith [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 3:46 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: dove descending

    Perhaps it's only a side issue, but I'm a WWII history buff, and though
description of German bombers is partially accurate--they did at times fly
overhead in tight formations and drop their bombs--there's more than one
set of aircraft and several strategies employed by the German Luftwaffe over

the course of the war. I'll mostly limit myself to the time, area, and other

particulars that Eliot would have probably experienced: London, the Battle
Britain, "The Blitz" as the late (Sept. 1940) part of the air war was
    First, there were (and are)  several different kinds of bombers, one of
was a dive bomber, which did indeed dive as its name indicates. Two
were used in 1940 against the British: the JU 87--known as the "Stuka" (this

was notorious for the high pitched whistles installed in the wings for no
other reason than to terrify folks on the ground, and is probably the most
known and recognized aircraft of the war and often winds up in WWII flicks
via copious file footage of it in use in Poland, France, and England). A
aircraft the JU 88 was used extensively as a platform bomber (the kind you
mention flying from a respectable height in close formation and dropping
bombs), and as a dive bomber, dropping out of the sky (as did the Stuka) in
single file rows to drop their bombs from very low altitude, one bomber
after the other--and in part to allow them to strafe the ground with machine

gun and automatic cannon fire as they dropped those bombs.
    Second, the Germans bombed London and the southern portions of England
relentlessly, night and day for the majority of the Battle of Britain; the
raids got fewer and fewer as the battle progressed because of the high
number of German casualties, and if  my memory serves me right, the late
portions of the
Blitz became almost exclusively night operations--this was I think after
September of 1940. Day bombing operations were more frequently done
in close formation so that fighters could guard them and so the bombers
could protect themselves with fire from their own machine guns, manned by
individual gunners on board. A lone bomber, one singled out or straggling,
couldn't muster the withering fire in all directions that say twenty tightly

knit aircraft with guns blazing and gunners sighting and giving the
of enemy fighters to one another via radio would be capable of. However,
at night a wider formation was often employed because the darkness made
the bombers difficult to intercept by fighters, and a tight formation of
aircraft was more easily found in the dark than a single plane with lots of
distance between it and its nearest neighbor, and because flak--ground
anti-aircraft fire--can more easily hit aircraft in a close formation than
in a
distant or loose formation--again, during the day, the most deadly
was fighter attack, so despite the bombers being easily seen and hit by
gunners while in those tight groupings in broad daylight, the ground fire
the least of the airmen's concerns; at night, again, a different story, the
fire, by odds,  becomes the most likely source of destruction if a tight
is used.
    I don't know if this helps anyone with the issue of the dove descending,

but it might contribute to the understanding of what Eliot might have
as he stared up into the skies over London at this time.
    I also hope this post doesn't sound patronizing in any way. I saw the
to make use of an esoteric knowledge and "hobby" that I doubt will pass my
again soon--those dusty WWII history books seem a little more valuable and
the time spent pouring over them a little less ill-spent!


Some technical considerations here:

- As far as I know, German bombers didn't dive, and their speed was nothing
like that of a jet. They generally flew overhead at night, in relatively
close formation, and dropped their bombs from a fairly respectable height.
The bombs themselves did of course 'break the air'.


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