Sunday, April 21, 2013

Movie Review

 U.K. produced 1957

Franz Von Werra was a very charismatic pilot of WWII’s Lüftwaffe.  The Von Werra story begins on the fifth of September in 1940.  When he is shot down by two enemy planes, one British the other Australian, the controversy would go on until each pilot was award a ½ Victory each.  Earlier Von Werra had gained Fatherland Notoriety by  blending into a formation of 6 Hawker Hurricanes and downing 3 of them.  During the same sortie, Von Werra was also credited with destroying 4 British planes on the ground.

The Movie is based on a true and heroic story of Franz Von Werra’s capture and multiple escapes from the British interrogators and P.O.W. camps.  Von Werra, played by Hardy Krüger, comes across in the movie as part “Frank Sinatra” part “James Dean” and he looks a lot like Stray Cat front man Brian Setzer. 

It’s the month before the end of the Battle of Britain. Von Werra is forced to land in the south east area of the U.K. known as Kent.  The most impressive scene in the movie is the downing of Von Werra’s BF-109E.  The U.K. production studio actually used a real BF109E for the filming.  Kenneth Moore, the producer used not only a real Messerschmitt but an actual Hawker Hurricane as well.  As of 2012, the Hurricane that was used was still to be in existence and flying as part of the “Battle of Britain Memorial Flight”.
(real BF-109 used in movie)

On 5 September 1940, Leutnant Franz Von Werra is shot down in England over Kent.  He is captured by a British mess cook with a meat cleaver and 2 armed infantrymen.   He’s taken to a nearby interrogation headquarter where Von Werra is given the usual routine.  In addition to being put into a room with a fellow pilot from his old squadron, Von Werra out smarts the British intelligence by mocking their feeble placement of microphones.  Before Van Werra is transferred to a P.O.W. camp, he bets the chief interrogator a magnum of Champagne that he will escape and return to the Fatherland.

Upon arrival at his first P.O.W. camp, he organizes an escape attempt and manages to elude the British search parties for 5 days.  On the 5th day Von Werra is discovered by an English maid who sees Von Werra trying to out run his search party.  By the time the Brits catch up with Von Werra, he is face down in 4 to 6 inches of mud.  He peacefully surrenders to his captures again.

Von Werra is then transferred to a true “Lüftstalog”.  It is not known how much creative licensing Kenneth Moore used, but Von Werra’s new camp is very reminiscent of Hogan’s Heroes’ “Stalog 13”.  After days of tunneling under the perimeter of the prison camp, Von Werra and others were able to escape.  Von Werra wore a Dutch pilot’s flight suit and had forged papers.  Upon his 2nd successful escape, he turns himself over to a rail station manager and insists that he is a downed Dutch pilot working on a top secret plane that crashed.  The railway manager calls the RAF who sends a driver to bring him back to the airfield.  It’s here where Von Werra attempts to make his flight back to Germany in a new upgraded Hawker Hurricane.  As the plane is being refueled, the base commander holds a gun to Von Werra’s head who is anxiously sitting in the cockpit.

England proves to be too much of a risk for the tenacious Von Werra who is put on a ship destined for Canada.  On the way to Canada Von Werra learns of the route of the train and takes notice of the train’s close proximity to the neutral country, The United States  (Which has not entered the war yet) Von Werra develops a plan to jump out of the train window once the train passes Montreal. 

Von Werra makes his escape and hitches a ride with a Canadian who thinks Von Werra is a Dutch fisherman.  The final part of the movie (Which is cut short) is all about Von Werra crossing the semi-frozen St. Lawrence river and seeking political asylum in the neutral United States.  The movie ends with Von Werra’s post card of the Statue of Liberty being read by the initial interrogator in England stating: “You owe me a magnum of Champagne”. 

What the Movie omits is the political negotiations going on between the Canadian embassy and the U.S. state department for the extradition of Franz Von Werra.  While the two countries are working out the transfer plans, the German embassy transports Von Werra to Mexico, then Peru, Bolivia, Brazil , Spain and finally back to Germany.

Upon his return to Germany he is awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes  by Der Führer and becomes a national hero. 

Within the next year, Franz Von Werra would be promoted to Hauptman and assigned to JG53 as Gruppenkommandeur  during operation Barbarossa.  During July of 1941 Von Werra raised his score of victories from 13 to 21. (Becoming an Ace)  In the following month (August) JG53 would be recalled to have their Messerschmitts upgraded to the BF-109”F” version.  On October 25th 1941 (A little over a year after his initial capture) Franz Von Werra would take off in his upgraded War bird only to have engine failure over the North Sea by the Netherlands.  His body was never found.   
Hauptman Franz Von Werra 1941
In review, the true story is more exciting than the movie.  For those who had never read the story of Franz Von Werra, they may have thought the movie too "over the Top" to be true.  Yet again, this is another story of persistence from those in an ugly situation in WWII.  Like many of the great Heroes who faced incredible odds only to survive then their life is cut short by simply bad luck.  First it was the Father of Aerial combat Oswald Boelcke who had his landing gear clipped by his wingman, then Manfred Von Richthofen taking a stray ground machine gun round to the chest, a golden B.B. .  The great Werner Mölders was the first Ace to reach 100 victories, only to die in bad weather aboard "The Boelcke" on his way to Ernst Udet's funeral. George Patton looked death in the eye and never flinched.  Then died in automobile accident.   History is full of Heroes that faced death daily only to die in a freakish accident.
The one that got away is a movie that is not as good as the real story.  All I can say is: "You know how a movie can ruin a good book? This movie couldn't do reality justice".


The Death of MVR (The Red Baron)

As we recently celebrated the birth of the greatest ace of aces on Thursday 4/19 Erich Hartmann. Today 4/21, we remember the original "Golden B.B." as the Highest scoring Ace of WWI would perish in his Iconic Red Triplane. Thought for many years to have been shot down by Canadian Pilot  Captain Roy Brown, in the 21st century it was determined that The Red Baron, Manfred Von Richthofen, was brought down by Australian anti-aircraft Machine Guns due to the trajectory of the gun fire, the wounds Richthofen sustained (Primarily a bullet entry wound in his left axilla) and the flight path of MVR's DR.1.  Adding up all of this confirmed forensic evidence lead the historical community to determine that a kill from Brown's six o'clock position was less plausible.  As MVR was flying from the right side of the Australian ground gunners aim, through their path of bullets, to the left when downed, this made the left axilla wound even more probable as the demise of one of WWI's greatest pilots.

Saturday, April 20, 2013



APRIL 19, 1922

Erich Hartmann  was the most successful and most feared fighter pilot of WWII.  His record of 352 Victories (Destruction of enemy aircraft) will never be broken.  He was so feared as a fighter in JG 54 that when his call sign "Karaya 1" was heard over the radio, the enemy would dispatch.  It got to the point where his famous "Black Tulip" BF-109 Messerschmitt became so recognizable that he had to repaint his "Iconic" plane so the enemy would not know who he was.

At the war's end, Hartmann would surrender to the Americans who were forced to hand Hartmann over the Red Army where he would face false charges of "Crimes against Humanity".  These charges would later be dropped and Hartmann would be released with a clean record, only after spending 10 years in a Russian Hell Hole. 
Hartmann went on to pilot the F-86 SabrerJet  in the New West German Air Force.  But today we celebrate a Legend and a true Hero.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Death of an Unsung Hero

Theo. I have run out of ammunition. I'm going to ram this one. Good bye. We'll see each other in Valhalla." - Heinrich Ehrler's last transmission over the Squadron Radio Network before he allegedly rammed a B-24 bomber, destroying both aircraft and killing himself. "Theo" refers to Theodor Weissenberger.

Today is the Anniversary of the death of Lüftwaffe Ace Heinrich Ehrler on April 4th 1945.  (So close to the end of the war).  Ehrler ended his career with 208 kills.  The last 8 in the ME-262.

Ehrler was one of the finest pilots the Lüftwaffe had and was considered a "Top Ace" with his 200 kills.  Then controversy would ruin his reputation when Avro Lancasters sunk the German Battleship Tirpitz unopposed.  Ehrler who was a loyal Lüftwaffe pilot was "Scape-goated", as he was given conflicting orders as to where the enemy was.  By the time they realized the Tirpitz was the target, Ehrler's squadron was to far away to render support.  He was stripped of his rank and sentenced to 3 years an 2 months in prison.  Prior to this incident, Heinrich Erhler was being considered for the Iron cross with Oak leaves and Swords. (But the award was never approved)

Once the truth came out about the demise of the Tirpitz, it was discovered that the position of the Tirpitz was moved without the Lüftwaffe being notified by the Kriegsmarine.  Ehrler was released after a month, he was demoted and allowed to fly again with an ME-262 squadron.  One of Ehrler's junior officers,Walter Schuck, sent an affidavit of what truly happened to Reichsmarschall
Hermann Göring who "commuted" Ehrler's sentence, and rescinded his demotion.  He was allowed to fly an "Rehabilitate himself"

Ehrler was never the same pilot after that.

On April 4th 1945, the 714th Bombardment squadron of B-24 liberators were carpet bombing Berlin when Ehrler and his squadron engaged the enemy.  After shooting down two B-24s Ehrler ran out of ammunition. His final words were:
"Theo. (Theodor Weissenberger his wingman) I have run out of ammunition. I'm going to ram this one. Good bye. We'll see each other in Valhalla."   He flew his ME-262 into the final B-24 destroying both planes and killing himself.  The war would be over 30 days later. Ehrler's body was found the next day in the woods of Scharlibbe confirming his death on April 4th 1945.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Rectum ? It nearly Killed him.......

I don't usually talk about my surgical past.  Many of you know that I made my living for several years as a Surgical technician/surgical assistant.  It's a trade that I learned in the military.  I saw things nobody should ever have to see.  I'll spare you the gore.  Just believe me there were days I felt like I was living a horror movie.

I found one of the most disturbing operations that I assisted with was any thing that had to do with one's butt.  The most common "Butt" cases that get scheduled are Pilonidal cysts, anal fistulas,  Hemorrhoidectomies,  and ....... well that's enough.

Needless to say, none of these are brain surgery, (although some people I know.....) but most of these cases only take about 45 minutes.  In fact, in most cases, it takes longer to prepare for the operation than the operation its' self. 

The Pilonidal cyst is amongst the most common.  Let me explain how it's handled.  The area,(usually above your rectum) has been sat on for an eternity.  When you sit on your butt day in and day out, depending on your weight and DNA,  the area about your rectum which is often a very vascular area, forms an awful cyst or as they say on the streets, "a Boil".  Unlike a ganglion cyst or a sebaceous cyst where they make an incision, remove the encapsulated cyst then sow up the incision; your friendly neighborhood general surgeon takes what is called a "Bovie" (It's actually the brand name of the person who popularized the "Electro Cautery knife".  In other words, they use an electrical knife to cut the whole area above your butt hole out.  It's an incision that looks like a football.  The difference? They don't sew it up.  They let it "fill in" on its' own.  The recovery is quite painful.  You are pretty much forced to stand or lay on your stomach.

What do I do?  I'm not a doctor and I'm not saying this will help you, but how closely do you use soap and water "down there"?  Seriously, your rectum needs a daily once over and if I did a lot of sitting, (and even though I don't) I use soap and water to massage that area where the Pilonidal develops.  I have no proof it helps, but I know that I massage my scalp every day when I shampoo, and look at my hair.
I've been a long believer that blood flow is an important part of your health.  That's why exercise is so important.  It forces blood to your body parts.  (Along with air and nutrients etc...)  This is why many claim that magnets have a therapeutic value.  The magnetic field vibrates the tissue. 
This is all anecdotal and non-empirical so don't take my word for it.  But it does make sense.