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Divers Discover Wreckage of Giant, ME323

Discussion in 'WWII Today' started by White Flight, Aug 26, 2020.

  1. White Flight

    White Flight Member

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    [​IMG]
    Nazi Leviathan unearthed after 70 years: Divers discover wreckage of 'Giant' German Luftwaffe transport plane shot down by British fighter while flying from base in Sardinia

    • Wartime transport plane found 200ft underwater off Sardinian coast 69 years after it was shot from the skies
    • Divers and experts herald discovery of 'great historical importance'
    • Messerschmitt 323 was used by Germans to transport tanks and artillery to battlefields during Second World War
    • Small team of Italian divers found wreckage while searching for different plane in Sardinia
    By CHRIS PARSONS

    PUBLISHED: 08:08 EDT, 14 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:29 EDT, 3 October 2012
    It was the 'Giant' German aircraft shot from the skies while delivering tanks and weaponry to the battlefield during the Second World War.

    Now nearly 70 years after being shot down by a British fighter, experts have found the only surviving example of the Messerschmitt 323 'Gigant' transport plane, 200ft underwater off the coast of Sardinia.

    The Me-323 - the largest land-based transport aircraft from the War - was on its way to the Tuscan city of Pistoia from its German base in Sardinia when it was hit by a Bristol Beaufighter fighter plane in July 1943. After being taken down by the long-range fighter plane, it plunged into waters off the Maddalena islands, an idyllic getaway island now popular with holidaymakers.

    But a small team of divers and amateur historians have since 'stumbled upon' the wreckage hundreds of feet underwater, claiming the rusting Messerschmitt is amazingly still intact.

    Remarkably, divers found the wreckage while they were searching for another sunken plane.

    Aldo Ferruci, a diving instructor and photographer who took pictures of the wreck, told The Daily Telegraph: 'It was just by chance that we found it because we were actually looking for a different plane wreck.

    'We had understood that the Me-323 was in a totally different location so we were lucky to stumble on it.

    'It is in good condition – it is almost intact, with the six engines still all in line.'

    Other experts described the find as one of 'great historical importance'.

    Second World War historians say they are aware of 'no other complete surviving Messerschmitt-323 Giant in existence.'

    There were an estimated 213 Messerschmitt 323s made, with the transport plane's first flight in 1942, before it was retired in 1944.

    It could take a load of up to 12 tonnes, or 120 fully-equipped men, and could reach speeds of around 210km/h (130mph), though variants like the D-6 could reach up to 285km/h (177mph).

    Only around 200 of the giant planes were ever produced, with the Messerschmitt's seeing action between 1942 and 1944.

    The Messerschmitt came into use due to the Germans' demand for airlifting vehicles and weaponry overseas as part of the Nazis' plan to invade Great Britain.

    Freight was loaded on to the enormous planes through double doors that formed the curved nose of the plane.

    The wartime discovery is the second in the space of three months, after divers found the wreckage of an Italian navy battleship, also off the Sardinian coast.

    Experts found the Roma 69 years after it was sunk by the Germans, in an incident which claimed 1,400 lives.

    Source/Credit: Found after 70 years: Divers discover wreckage of Second World War 'Giant' German transport plane which was shot down by British fighter while flying from base in Sardinia | Daily Mail Online
     
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...looks like a real beast.....
    ...engineers were positioned in the wings??!! also guns? wow..never seen that before
    ...rocket assisted take offs??
     
  3. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    Although primarily an engined version of a transport glider (using French engines) a number of other uses were attempted. One was as a gun ship to escort other Me 323s (which were proving very vulnerable to allied fighters) fitted with various turrets and extra gun positions and carrying no cargo other than ammo and extra gunners. This proved singularly unsuccessful. Towards the end of the war the Me 323Z was produced. This was two 323s joined to produce a twin aircraft with ten engines. The Germans had produced their own version of the Grand Slam bomb but none of the existing bombers could lift it. In the closing days of the war the single Me323z took off with the giant bomb to attack bridges over which the Soviets were advancing. However the airfield had been attacked earlier by Allied fighters and it is thought that the aircraft may have been damaged. It disintegrated in mid air.
     
  4. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..the Germans sure did have many [ too many? ] things on their drawing boards
     
  5. White Flight

    White Flight Member

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    Albert Speer thought so and reduced variations when he served as the Minister of Armaments and War Production.

    Source: Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer
     
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  6. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    One should be careful of Speer's accounts as he tended to fiddle the stats to promote himself, for example changing the accounting periods to inflate his production success and diminish that of his predecessor. He did manage to rationalise aircraft production to a limited number of types (although this was initiated before he gained control) but failed to deal with the plethora of projects. A good example was Hitlers obsession with a super tank. Speer learned of a project that he called "the beast" which was effectively a pocket battleship turret on tracks and managed to put enough ministerial admin barriers in front of it to stifle it - so Hitler merely phoned Krupps and verbally authorised a new project, all costs to be submitted personally to him, not documented and not to go anywhere near Speer. This eventually led to the Maus which was a huge waste of resources. Other Nazi grandees in the court of Adolf followed suit so, for example, there were numerous proximity fuze projects each with its own sponsor. Many were technically advanced and very promising, on paper, but resource was so spread that none reached completion.
     
  7. White Flight

    White Flight Member

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    Agreed. I found Speer: Hitler's Architect by Martin Kitchen to be a good reflective source. Veering further, he allegedly rewrote history in efforts to cover-up his knowledge of the Final Solution.
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I have yet to read a truly unbiased memoir. Sometimes this comes down to perspective (a grunts view, a company CO's view, a General's view etc.) and sometimes it comes down to the authors attempt to put the best view on a subject. This is especially true in the case of someone on the losing side, yet they should be read if only to gain some perspective on the subject. Only by comparing multiple sources can you reach a common sense interpretation of conflicting claims.
     
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  9. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    It isn't just down to memoirs - one also needs to look at "official figures". About 3 years or so back I attended a lecture which took us through some of the 3rd Reich's figures. The common perception is that production was lagging under Todt, then the boy wonder Speer takes over and they accelerate. However if one adjusts the figures in the reports by Todt and Speer to a common base line so that the first year under Speer does not "steal" almost a month from the Todt year (which in effect produces a 2 month statistical gain for the Speer figures) then it becomes clear that the acceleration began under Todt and Speer merely rode it onwards. Adolf it seems was not very good at reading statistical reports, or perhaps provided they gave the message he wanted to see he didn't look too closely - both faults not unknown amongst some modern politicians around the world.
     
  10. White Flight

    White Flight Member

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    Lecture must have been captivating.
    Speer success results from a Todt foundation is also brushed in the book by Kitchen.
    IMO, Adolf was a dreamer more than an educated achiever. He often preferred to surround himself with layman instead of experts.

    Agreed. I read Speer: Hitler's Architect before Inside the Third Reich. Followed with Spandau: The Secret Diaries. Will be reading another biography on Speer.
     
  11. harolds

    harolds Member

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    As was a similar attempt with the B-17. The "gunship" version couldn't keep up with the bomb carriers! The real problem about all defensive armament in that era was that if the attacking fighter was in range of the defensive armament, the reverse was also true. Exacerbating the problem was the fact that bombers and transport aircraft are much easier to hit than small, fast, nimble fighters.
     
  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The "Gigant" pioneered the key features of military transport aircraft down to the present day:

    High wing, so the wing spar doesn't cut into the cargo bay. Also out of the way for personnel or vehicles moving around the plane on the ground.

    Landing gear sponsons outside the fuselage. Large number of tires to spread the weight and minimize ground pressure, allowing operation on rough airstrips, also keeps the deck of the cargo bay low and level.

    Fore and aft doors and ramps. <correction, not sure about the rear ramp>
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2020
  13. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    And with the B 24.
    The French had attempted to solve the issue by arming bombers with 20mm cannon to outrange the fighters but the real problem was that a multi gunned fighter could concentrate more fire power than the bomber.
     
  14. White Flight

    White Flight Member

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    Interesting tie to current productions.

    In 2013 a Dornier DO-17 twin-engine medium bomber of the German Luftwaffe was lifted from the English Channel from a 50ft / 15.24m depth. At 200ft / 60.96m, it seems unlikely the Giant will be raised. Any comments or theories?
     
  15. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well, the story is from 2012 - When it was found.

    Research has shown that it was shot down carrying troops and many were killed. As such it is considered a war grave, and no attempts will be made to raise the wreck.
     
  16. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    To clarify this.

    The Gunship could keep up with the bomb carriers...Until the bomb carriers dropped their bombs. Unladen with bombs, the bombers were now faster. The Gunship, still laden with all the extra guns, ammunition, and armor, quickly fell behind.

    The Japanese were the first to find this out over China, but neglected to inform the everyone else. As such, the other nations had to figure this out in their own good time.
     
  17. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    The Luftwaffe apparently found it relatively easy to distinguish gun ships from ordinary bombers and didn't waste time on them. The gunship concept can be found in later versions of Giulio Douhet's Command of the Air which was full of nonsense. Douhet' was a theoretician with no practical experience and believed, amongst other things, that speed and manoeuvrability was not important in fighter aircraft.
     
  18. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    We should keep in mind that during the late 1920's and early 1930's where many of these theory's gained ground the difference between bomber and fighter performance was not as great as it would become by the mid point of the war. There was speculation that bombers might remain nearly as fast as fighters and some nations were still fielding fighters with only 2-4 rifle caliber machine guns.
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    To clarify the clarification: The weight (approx. two tons) was not the only factor. The added turrets and MGs sticking out also imposed a drag penalty; drag being a real killer of speed.
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The weight difference was closer to 3 tons, and really, more. To keep the weight reasonably similar, the unmodified B-17 was loaded with 2,500 gallons of avgas, while the YB-40 was only loaded with 1,700 gallons.

    The drag penalty was minimal, as the only additional turrets were the chin turret and the additional dorsal turret, the rest of the additional MGs could all be stowed.
     

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