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THE DE HAVILLAND 98 Mosquito was one of the most versatile aircraft of World War II. No other aircraft served so many roles as a day and night fighter, bomber, torpedo bomber, trainer, transport of high-value cargo, photo-reconnaissance craft and target tug. No other aircraft helped define “quisling” as wartime parlance for traitor. No other aircraft managed to embarrass—and impress—Reichmarschall Hermann Göring.
And to think the “Mozzie” was made of wood.
The British De Havilland Mosquito was proposed in 1939 as a twin-engine bomber with a crew of two, designed without guns of any sort in an engineering tradeoff of light weight offering high speed rather than firepower. It certainly met this goal: Its 392-mph top speed bettered the highly regarded Supermarine Spitfire’s 360 mph. (See http://wp.me/p2ETap-F2 for Spitfire lore.)
Mosquito fighter variations replaced the bomber’s “bomb-aimer” (U.S. usage: bombardier) with a navigator/radar operator. Four Browning .303 machine guns and four Hispano 20-mm cannons took over the bomb-aimer’s hardware residing in the aircraft’s nose.
The aircraft gained fame in the Oslo Raid, September 25, 1942, the first of several Gestapo headquarter attacks carried out by Mosquitoes. Newspaper accounts brought this secret aircraft to public awareness and also mentioned Vidkum Quisling, Norway’s Minister-President who spoke to Gestapo officers that day. His collaboration with Nazi occupying forces had already coined the term “quisling” as synonymous with traitor.
Another raid, of Berlin on January 20, 1943, made a lasting impression on Nazi Reichmarschall Hermann Göring. One of the Mosquitoes knocked out Berlin’s principal radio station during a Göring broadcast commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Nazis rise to power.
Later, speaking to German aircraft manufacturers, Göring said, “It makes me furious when I see a Mosquito. I turn green and yellow with envy. The British, who can afford aluminum better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building…. They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops. After the war is over I’m going to buy a British radio set—then at least I’ll own something that has always worked.”
He was certainly correct about the Mosquito: Everything but its mechanicals was fabricated of wood. Its basic structure contained only 280 lbs. of metal for motor mounts, landing gear and other highly stressed components.
Ecuadorean balsa wood sandwiched between layers of Canadian birch plywood provided the aircraft’s monocoque structure with lightweight strength, good tolerance to damage and straightforward repair. Where attachments were made, plugs of Bakelite were inserted into the balsa. Not only piano factories, but furniture makers and even women’s guilds throughout Great Britain supplied components.
The narrow fuselage was fabricated in left and right halves providing workers with easy access for fitting controls, wiring harnesses and other hardware. Only then were the two halves brought together with glue and fasteners. The tail section was fabricated in similar fashion.
Completed wings and fuselages were covered with a doped fabric, then primed and camouflaged. Final assembly occurred at several British facilities. One was the Standard Motor Company, producing more than 1100 Mosquitoes during the war and destined to build Triumph sports cars afterward.
Mosquitoes were also built in Canada and Australia. Their total production amounted to 7781 aircraft through a bewildering variety of models, Mk I to Mk 39. (Through 1942, the Royal Air Force used Roman numerals for designation. The years 1943 – 1948 were a transition period, with new aircraft carrying Arabic numerals, but existing models retaining their Roman. The RAF went uniformly Arabic from 1948 on.)
The Mk 39 was a Mosquito TT, as in target tug. One of the earlier of its type remained in service until 1963. It and two other Mosquitoes were the stars of 633 Squadron, a 1964 British war movie.
Based on a book by Frederick E.. Smith, the film’s screenplay was the work of James Clavell (see http://wp.me/p2ETap-1ln). Absolutely stunning aerial footage from the film can be seen at http://goo.gl/Ud9c2q. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014