Friendly Fire


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I just thought all of these were interesting to read so I posted them here.


FRIENDLY FIRE (Disaster off Norway)

Only a week after the war broke out, the British submarine Oxley was patrolling off the coast of Norway along with her sister ship Triton. Somehow the Oxley had sailed into the sector patrolled by Triton. The Commander of the Triton, Lt. Cdmr. Steel, sighted an unidentified submarine on the surface and when challenged received no reply. Assuming the other submarine to be hostile, he ordered two torpedoes to be fired. The unidentified submarine disappeared, leaving three survivors swimming towards the Triton but one of the swimmers was seen to sink below the water and disappear. One can only imagine the shock the Triton's crew experienced when they pulled the Oxley's Commander, Lt. Cdmr. Bowerman and one other survivor, Able Seaman Gluckes, out of the water. They happened to be standing on the bridge when the torpedo hit. Fifty-three of Oxley's crew perished. Apparently the Oxley's signal answering apparatus had malfunctioned and failed to answer in time. Families were notified that the Oxley was accidentally rammed by the Triton and it was not until the 1950s that they were informed that the loss was due to friendly fire. Its a sad fact that the first British submarine torpedo to explode on target, sank a sister ship. The Oxley was the first submarine to be lost in the war.

FRIENDLY FIRE (Greenock, Scotland)

On April 28, 1940, the 2,400 ton French destroyer Maillé Brézé, became a victim of its own weaponry when one of its own torpedoes accidentally fired and slithered along the main deck exploding under the bridge structure and completely wrecking the forepart of the ship. The British destroyer HMS Firedrake, rushed to the scene and rescued fifteen men who had slid down the hawse pipe. Other mangled bodies were recovered but those on the mess deck were doomed as the ship slowly sank taking with her 38 of her crew still trapped below.

FRIENDLY FIRE (Pearl Harbor)

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, US army personnel started digging trenches along the beaches in anticipation of a seaborne invasion. Every fifty feet or so along the beach, a gun crew with 30 caliber machine guns took up their positions. At around 8pm on December 7th, seven planes were seen trying to land on an airstrip on Ford Island. Misjudging the length of the runway the pilots decided to go around again for a second try. As the planes came around again the gunners, thinking they were Japanese, opened fire and shot down all seven. The planes were their own aircraft from the carrier USS Enterprise out at sea.

FRIENDLY FIRE (D Day-June 6, 1944)

At sunset on D-Day, forty DC3s from 233 Squadron RAF, crossed the English Channel carrying 116 tons of ammunition, spares and petrol for the 6th Airborne Division. As the planes passed over the warships off the mouth of the Oren river, trigger happy gunners on the ships opened fire. Two planes were forced to turn back with severe damage, one ditched in the sea and five went missing believed shot down. Fourteen others were damaged. The end result was that only twenty-five tons of supplies were recovered. In future, all operations of this nature were carried out only during daylight hours.


On July 11, 1943, on the American held airfield at Farrell, three miles east of Gela in Sicily, preparations were under way for the reception of reinforcements from Colonel Reuben H. Tucker's 504th Parachute Regiment. As the C-47 transports approached the bridgehead and headed for the drop zone, an American machine-gun down below fired a stream of tracers upward at the C-47s. A second machine-gun opened up followed by another and still another. Directly into this storm of 'friendly fire' flew the C-47s. As plane after plane was hit, the paratroopers jumped only to be shot in mid-air or just before they landed. The trigger-happy machine-gunners, thinking they were German paratroops, kept up their deadly fire while General George Patton and General Matthew Ridgeway, the 82nd Airborne commander, awaiting to greet the paratroopers, could only look on with shocked disbelief as the tragedy unfolded before their eyes. Altogether, twenty three of the original 144 troop carrying planes were shot down and thirty-seven others badly damaged. Ninety-seven men were killed and around 400 were wounded in this, the greatest tragedy to befall the US invasion forces. A total of 2,440 US soldiers died in the battle for Sicily and are now buried in the American Cemetery on the Gulf of Salerno. The battle for Sicily (Operation Husky) involved a total of 467,000 men. The Allied forces lost 5,532 men killed and 2,869 missing. German dead amounted to 4,325 and the Italian dead, 4,278.

FRIENDLY FIRE (Solomon Islands)

When out on a pre-dawn patrol on April 29, 1944, off the island of New Britain in the Solomons, the Patrol BoatP-347 commanded by Lt. Robert J. Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, runs up onto a reef in Lassul Bay. Patrol Boat P-350 attempts to tow the P-347 off the reef but while doing so both boats were strafed by US Corsairs whose pilots mistook them for enemy gun boats. Soon, another Patrol Boat, P-346 appeared on the scene to assist in the tow but more planes made their appearance and began their strafing run in spite of the crew of the P-346waving the Stars and Stripes. The Patrol Boats opened fire and shot down two of the planes. One bomb made a direct hit on the P-347just after the crew had abandoned ship. The planes continued strafing the men in the water before heading back to base. On the boats involved in this tragic incident, fourteen men were killed, another fourteen wounded and two pilots lost.


On May 26, 1944, the beachhead at Anzio/Nettuno ceased to exist. It had now become a bridgehead. British and American troops had broken out and were pushing forward to cut the retreat of Kesselring's forces on Route 6, the main highway leading to Rome. A few minutes after noon on the 26th on the outskirts of Cori, a squadron of five American P-40 fighter-bombers of the 99th Fighter Group, US 12th Air Force, flew over the Anzio/Nettuno area, turned back and prepared for a strafing run. Soldiers of the US 15th Infantry froze in terror as bombs started falling in their midst. Within seconds, 120 men were either dead or wounded. The 2nd Battalion of the 15th Infantry, US 3rd Division, suffered seventy-two casualties. A number of bombs hit their jeeps which were loaded with ammunition and the exploding 37mm anti-tank shells caused additional casualties; some of the bodies were never found. This held up the advance to Giuglianello for five to six hours. A week later, headlines in the 'Stars and Stripes' proclaimed "American troops at Anzio bombed by Germans flying American planes". This incident has been covered up for over fifty years, the 12th Airforce never having admitted its error. One of the many witnesses to this tragedy was ex-Corporal Robert Steele, of Cannon Company, 15th Infantry Regiment, who now lives in Columbus, Georgia.


On April 29, 1944, a group of American P-47 Thunderbolt fighters mistakenly strafed the airstrip at Cutella on Italy's Adriatic coast, the pilots thinking that it was a Luftwaffe airfield. The airstrip was a base for the Royal Australian Airforce 239 Wing which included 3 and 450 Squadrons. One 3 Squadron Kittyhawk fighter was destroyed and three more damaged. Human casualties were one pilot of an Air Sea Rescue Walrus float plane killed and a few other ground personnel wounded. Tragedy was to strike again next day when a pilot of one of the attacking Thunderbolts, realizing a mistake had been made, flew to the airstrip to apologize. Unfortunately he was killed when his plane crashed when taking off to return home.


On July 24, 1944, 300 US planes dropped a total of 550 tons of bombs on the St. Lo front. Some of the bombs fell upon the 30th Infantry Division (Old Hickory) killing 25 men and wounding 131. Next day, the Americans flung in 140,000 shells while 2,730 planes dropped 3,300 tons of bombs and napalm canisters into an area 7,000 long by 2,500 yards wide. The bomb loads of 35 heavy bombers and 42 medium bombers again fell upon the 30th Infantry Division. In this second disaster in two days, the bombing killed a further 111 men and wounded 490. Among the casualties in this second disaster was General Lesley J. McNair, Commanding General of US Army Ground Forces. He had flown over from England as an observer to the raid taking place. He was the most senior American General to be killed in the Second World War. His grave can be found in the US Military Cemetery above Omaha Beach in Normandy. This is one of the fourteen permanent WWII military cemeteries that the USA built on foreign soil. In the 172 acre site lie the remains of four women and buried side by side are a father and son as well as thirty-three pairs of brothers. The cemetery contains a total of 9,386 graves.


In July, 1944, prisoners from the concentration camps in Poland were being transported to labour camps in the Reich. German munitions factories were crying out for slave labour. To fill this need around 2,000 Jewish women from the women's camp at Birkenau were being sent by train to camps near Essen. As fate would have it, the train was caught up in an Allied bombing raid as it crossed central Germany. Of the two thousand women passengers on the train, 266 were killed.


On August 24, 1944, the RAF bombed the industrial complex at the Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar. A total of 384 prisoners were killed and around six hundred were injured. Among the casualties were the wife and daughter of the Camp Commandant, SS Colonel Herman Pister. Again, on February 9, 1945, the complex was bombed for the second time, the target being the Gustloff Works, an SS run munitions factory. In this raid 316 prisoners lost their lives out of about two thousand employed in the works. Prisoners were forbidden to leave their workbenches during raids. Over 80 SS guards were killed and 238 wounded. Hospitals in nearby Weimar refused to receive the wounded Buchenwald prisoners so they had to be transported back to the camp where many died through lack of first aid. Colonel Pister was later arrested and tried at the Camp Guards Trial and was sentenced to death. While awaiting execution in Landsberg Prison he died of a heart attack on September 28, 1948.


On September 29, 1944, the American submarine USS Seawolf (SS-197) set sail from Manus with 62 crew, some stores and 17 military personnel on board. On October 3, an attack was made by the Japanese submarine RO-41 on the US destroyer USS Shelton in the area through which the Seawolf was passing. The Shelton was sunk. An American aircraft on patrol, spotted a submarine in the vicinity of the sinking and notified the destroyer USS Rowell which immediately attacked what was thought to be the RO-41. As the RO-41 made it safely back to Japan and no attack was listed in Japanese reports of the day, it is now assumed that the Rowell mistakenly sank the Seawolf. In all, 79 men were lost.


On October 25, 1944, the American submarine USS Tang, commanded by Commander Richard O'Kane, was chasing a damaged Japanese warship that had fallen behind the convoy it had been escorting. During an engagement the day before, the Tang had fired all her torpedoes except one, at the convoy. Now its commander was determined to finish off the damaged warship using the last torpedo. Catching up with the limping ship, the Tang surfaced and fired its torpedo. From the bridge, Commander O'Kane and eight of his officers, looked on in amazement as the wake of the torpedo made a complete circle around their ship. The circle got smaller and smaller until a terrific explosion blew them all from the bridge and into the water. The Tang sank fast as tons of water poured into her hull. Seventy-eight officers and men of the Tang lost their lives. When Japanese destroyers arrived on the scene only nine men had survived to be picked up and taken prisoner. They all survived the war.


In the first week of April, 1945, a column of American POWs from the Hammelburg camp were being evacuated through the city of Nuremberg. Stopping for a rest near some railyards on the south-west of the city, they were caught up in a bombing raid by their own fighter-bombers. Around forty men were killed and nearly one hundred wounded leaving some 110 survivors to continue the march towards their destination, Austria.


During April, 1945, a column of 2,000 Allied airmen were being evacuated from their prisoner-of-war camp at Fallingbostal in face of the advancing Russian army. Near the village of Gresse they stopped for a rest in a country lane. Six RAF Typhoons appeared and began strafing the helpless prisoners. Eight of their German guards were killed as were thirty of the airmen. There were over sixty injured. The injured were taken to the town of Boizemburg where they were operated on by German doctors and then transported to an airfield near Luneburg to await air-lifting to the UK. It is not known why the RAF pilots mistook the prisoners for Germans.
The friendly fire incident in Sicily brought about massive changes for D Day. All Allied Aircraft had to have their wings and fuselage painted in thick black and white stripes so the thickest of gunners could tell the difference between friend and foe
LeEnfield 2 said:
The friendly fire incident in Sicily brought about massive changes for D Day. All Allied Aircraft had to have their wings and fuselage painted in thick black and white stripes so the thickest of gunners could tell the difference between friend and foe

That's pretty crazy. I really would hate to be one of those machine gunners who shot some of the planes down. They would be in BIG trouble.
And with all our technology, with all our close support and training it is still an unfortunate aspect of combat operations.
Those gunners decimated my old Regiment when it was flying into Sicily, they shot down quite a number of DC3 towing gliders