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US considered 'suicide jet missions'
BBC ^ | August 29, 2002 | BBC

Posted on 08/29/2002 5:33:11 PM PDT by The Energizer

Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 21:09 GMT 22:09 UK US considered 'suicide jet missions'

US Air Force commanders considered crashing fighter jets into hijacked planes on 11 September because of a lack of armed planes, a BBC investigation reveals. In the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks US fighter planes took to the skies to defend America from any further attacks.

Their mission was to protect President George W Bush and to intercept any hijacked aircraft heading to other targets in the US.

But, as a new BBC programme Clear The Skies reveals, the threat of an attack from within America had been considered so small that the entire US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes.

As a result unarmed planes were diverted from training missions in a desperate bid to increase the number of fighter planes patrolling American airspace.

Colonel Robert Marr was Commander of the North East Defence Sector and remembers the words that came over the secure phone "we will take lives in the air to preserve lives on the ground".

US military unprepared

However, at the time of the attacks the US had just four fighter pilots on alert covering the north eastern United States.

Colonel Marr: Too few planes to defend the US

US pilots were forced to take to the skies without any weapons and might have had to deliberately crash into a hijacked plane to prevent casualties on the ground.

"I had determined, of course, that with only four aircraft we cannot defend the whole north eastern United States," he said.

"Some of them would have just gotten in the air possibly without any armament onboard.

"If you had to stop an aircraft sometimes the only way to stop an aircraft is with your own aircraft if you don't have any weapons.

"It was very possible that they [the pilots] would have been asked to give their lives themselves to try to prevent further attacks if need be."

Colonel Marr said: "That was the sense of frustration, of I don't have the forces available to do anything about this, we've got everything up that we can get up and still can't do anything."

Two of the pilots patrolling north east America told the programme how they struggled to get to New York as fast as possible after the first plane had hit the World Trade Center.

Pilots "Duff" and "Nasty" recalled they were only minutes away when the second plane hit the towers.

Pilot Duff said: "For a long time I wondered what would have happened if we had been scrambled in time.

"We've been over the flight a thousand times in our minds and I don't know what we could have done to get there any quicker."


TOPICS: Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: military; preparedness; terrorism; unitedstates
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This is shocking . . .
1 posted on 08/29/2002 5:33:12 PM PDT by The Energizer
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To: The Energizer
Shocking indeed. Fourteen unarmed planes defending the entire eastern seaboard. Could this be possible?

I wonder if a fighter pilot would obey an order to crash his plane into an airliner. I just don't think suicide missions are in our culture.

2 posted on 08/29/2002 5:37:37 PM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: The Energizer
Colonel Robert Marr was Commander of the North East Defence Sector and remembers the words that came over the secure phone "we will take lives in the air to preserve lives on the ground".

Who supposedly said this?

3 posted on 08/29/2002 5:38:51 PM PDT by michigander
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To: The Energizer
>>the entire US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes.

This is the Shocker. Of course, we were fat, dumb and happy in our complacency.

Kamikaze by US pilots were a sign of desperateness, but would the pilots have obey an order like that or done it on their own initiative? Who knows. At least someone was thinking desperate measures for desperate times.
4 posted on 08/29/2002 5:39:08 PM PDT by swarthyguy
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To: The Energizer
No - it is not. God bless our soldiers.
5 posted on 08/29/2002 5:39:24 PM PDT by patton
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To: SamAdams76
This is true only if you discount the Air National Guard.
6 posted on 08/29/2002 5:40:23 PM PDT by Non-Sequitur
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To: SamAdams76
I wonder if a fighter pilot would obey an order to crash his plane into an airliner. I just don't think suicide missions are in our culture.

What about the two snipers in Somalia who gave their lives for the helicopter pilot? They had to ask three times to be allowed to go. Amongst our Medal of Honor winners you'll find many cases of self sacrifice from our culture.
7 posted on 08/29/2002 5:41:46 PM PDT by Arkinsaw
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To: The Energizer
Shocking looking back at it, yes, but we were a different country then.

The military changed this policy immediately. In the days after 9-11 when air-traffic finally resumed, I personally witnessed a couple of Navy F-18/As tailing a jumbo jet into SFO from the rear balcony of the building I work in that is literally on the shoreline of the bay off Foster City, CA.

Those Hornets were bristling with missiles. Every hardpoint was filled. Fully-loaded for bear.

The racetrack flight patterns they were running over the 'Bay lasted for at least a week.

8 posted on 08/29/2002 5:42:54 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid
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To: Arkinsaw
I guess I was too hasty in making that statement. Yes, our soldiers have indeed gone on "suicide" missions to save their fellow soldiers and countrymen as you point out. I didn't think that statement out very carefully.

Certainly a Medal of Honor would have been in order had a fighter pilot been able to make it to one of those planes in time.

9 posted on 08/29/2002 5:45:10 PM PDT by SamAdams76
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To: SamAdams76
Hey Sam, I usually like your posts, but you have missed the target on this one.

I don't have to think any further than the firemen and police who died on 9/11 trying to evacuate as many people as possible out of the towers. Then of course I can't ignore the group that took the plane down over PA.

Our history is filled with people who have sacrificed their lives for others. Sacrificing your life to save others is a far different culture than sacrificing your life to destry something.

There is no comparision between the two acts.
10 posted on 08/29/2002 5:46:52 PM PDT by Freeper 007
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To: SamAdams76
Fourteen unarmed planes defending the entire eastern seaboard.

Rather, 14 armed planes over the whole mainland, 4 over the northeastern part. (Peraps not including Air National Guard).

the entire US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes.

at the time of the attacks the US had just four fighter pilots on alert covering the north eastern United States.


11 posted on 08/29/2002 5:46:55 PM PDT by Looking for Diogenes
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To: SamAdams76
I wonder if a fighter pilot would obey an order to crash his plane into an airliner. I just don't think suicide missions are in our culture.

If you mean PLANNED missions where superiors actually tell subordinates that they are going to kill themselves to acheive an objective, no. But if you mean an individual purposely giving his life for the life of another (falling on a grenade, or the snipers in Somalia), it is a common thread woven into the fabric of the American fighting man.

12 posted on 08/29/2002 5:47:31 PM PDT by TomB
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To: SamAdams76
Nevermind, I just saw your last post.
13 posted on 08/29/2002 5:47:58 PM PDT by Freeper 007
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To: SamAdams76
I wonder if a fighter pilot would obey an order to crash his plane into an airliner. I just don't think suicide missions are in our culture.

Towards the end of WWII, Hitler turned down proposals for suicide weapons, and he had people willing to volunteer for suicide missions. That even Hitler would not consider suicide weapons says something about Western attitudes; I highly doubt that anyone on 9/11 seriously considered ordering American pilots on suicide missions. This sounds like either made up rubbish, or idle talk which has been exaggerate to sound like a serious proposal.

14 posted on 08/29/2002 5:48:54 PM PDT by Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
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To: Non-Sequitur
This is true only if you discount the Air National Guard.

Thank you. But this wouldn't be a scoop for the BBC if they counted the National Guard.

15 posted on 08/29/2002 5:51:06 PM PDT by Jean S
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To: The Energizer
This is shocking . . .

It's also Bullshit!

There were at least 4 F-16s on alert at VTANG before and after 9/11

16 posted on 08/29/2002 5:51:39 PM PDT by JimVT
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To: The Energizer
If any Freepers can receive the BBC Two broadcasts, they will air a program on this.

Here are the details:

Clear the Skies - presented by the BBC's special correspondent Gavin Hewitt - will be broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday 1 September at 2100 BST.
17 posted on 08/29/2002 5:53:30 PM PDT by The Energizer
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To: SamAdams76
(...Shocking indeed. Fourteen unarmed planes defending the entire eastern seaboard. Could this be possible?...)

If US politicians assign higher priority to defending South Korea, Kuwait, Kosovo, Bosnia, Germany, and other overseas territories, what else would one expect on the domestic front? The US military is stretched thin all over the world.

Some of those planes in Saudi Arabia and in the no-fly zones of Iraq, should be brought back home, to protect the home turf.
18 posted on 08/29/2002 6:00:02 PM PDT by jstone78
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To: The Energizer
Just a thought too but I bet the pilot would have tried to eject somehow just before his plane collided. Plus, there might be other ways of doing it- I'm certainly not a pilot but couldn't the fighter get under the airliner's wingtip and give it nudge to destabilize it's flight somehow- maybe try to break on of the tail stabilizers or something? Probably raw speculation on my part but I'll stand by the ejection seat bit.
19 posted on 08/29/2002 6:01:59 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: swarthyguy
A pilot could probably set up a collision trajectory and eject just before impact.
20 posted on 08/29/2002 6:08:06 PM PDT by Prince Caspian
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To: Prodigal Son
on of = one of

I hate it when that happens

21 posted on 08/29/2002 6:14:09 PM PDT by Prodigal Son
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To: The Energizer
Uh huh. Unless I heard the audio tapes, I'd be inclined to dismiss this as "creative journalism."
22 posted on 08/29/2002 6:15:23 PM PDT by IronJack
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I don't believe this shit for a moment.
23 posted on 08/29/2002 6:22:07 PM PDT by Michael Barnes
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To: The Energizer
Utter garbage. Whoever wrote this article knows nothing about the U.S. defense system.
24 posted on 08/29/2002 6:23:39 PM PDT by TommyDale
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To: SamAdams76
If our fighter pilots saw what happened to the 1st WTC tower, and had a chance to save the 2nd WTC Tower, IMHO most of our pilots would have given their lives freely. I have that much respect for our military.
25 posted on 08/29/2002 6:41:58 PM PDT by desertcry
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To: The Energizer
Since this was reported by the BBC I know it is true. Had this been from the evil American CCN I would not believe it.
26 posted on 08/29/2002 6:45:40 PM PDT by Doe Eyes
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To: patton
No - It's not .... You are right, it's not suicide to give up one's life to save the lives of our countrymen/women/children. It's called HEROISM.
27 posted on 08/29/2002 6:50:43 PM PDT by desertcry
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To: SamAdams76
Of course they would...our men would lay down their lives in a heartbeat if it meant savings thousands of American lives. What kind of question is that...
28 posted on 08/29/2002 6:57:48 PM PDT by Lucas1
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To: SamAdams76
US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes.

Right... I was near an air force base... that had ARMED looking missile pods 'ready to rock'... and a marine base, with more... certainly more than fourteen.... in just one small region of southern california.

pehaps there were periodsof time when we only had 14 in the air simultaneiously... but I don't think so.

Why would someone post disinformation like this?
29 posted on 08/29/2002 7:11:08 PM PDT by Robert_Paulson2
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To: Looking for Diogenes
the entire US mainland was being defended by only 14 planes. at the time of the attacks the US had just four fighter pilots on alert covering the north eastern United States.

Know what? There are a lot of suckers on here tonight.

30 posted on 08/29/2002 7:14:30 PM PDT by ErnBatavia
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To: The Energizer
Their mission was to protect President George W Bush and to intercept any hijacked aircraft heading to other targets in the US.

This flaming, left-wing, Euro-trash slander bullsh*t. Duh.

31 posted on 08/29/2002 7:15:31 PM PDT by ASDFGHJK
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To: Lucas1; All
I kicked this question (that of a kamikaze shootdown) around with some pilot friends shortly after 9-11 (we knew about the unarmed planes). The one comment that sticks in my mind came from one pilot who sighed that he would have done it, and then asked God to send him to Hell, for killing all the innocents.

You see, if the fighters had cannon shells, they could disable an engine, force a landing...ANYTHING but flat killing it. At least they'd have tried. Having them unarmed guarantees that they must destroy the entire aircraft.

Someone once said, "No one is ever paid enough to make descisions like that..."


32 posted on 08/29/2002 7:18:44 PM PDT by Long Cut
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To: Robert_Paulson2
that had ARMED looking missile pods 'ready to rock'

Missile pods? Or individual missiles on the rails? If they were pods, they were unguided rockets. If they were missiles, then more than likely, they were inert, with active seekers, but no warheads or rocket motors. We don't have armed jets sitting round on the flight line unless they're getting ready to go out on a sortie. Red Flag missions fly with inert missiles on the rails, but with active seekers. Even when we were flying air defense exercises, we had practice missiles and dummy rounds in the cannons. About the only live munitions you saw on the flightline were bombs and cannon rounds.

33 posted on 08/29/2002 7:20:41 PM PDT by Tennessee_Bob
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To: The Energizer
Uh...color me extremely skeptical. We may have had that many aircraft in the air in the area at the time, but then why would we have any more? One doesn't defend the continent by keeping a flotilla of aircraft circling on station 24 hours a day.

As for the "suicide missions," forget it. No CO would order any subordinate to do any such thing in the U.S. armed forces - remember, those airliners were filled with civilians just as innocent as the ones in the WTC. I wouldn't doubt for a minute that a pilot who knew what was going on might choose to sacrifice himself to save people on the ground - I know these people and they absolutely would do that sort of thing. But they did not know, nor did the people aboard the hijacked airliners know, what was in the terrorists' minds until impact. That's why the whole article is a little silly - you don't defend well against a threat you've never seen and have not anticipated.

I'm just guessing here, but it doesn't seem likely to me that the authors of this have much military time under their collective belt...

34 posted on 08/29/2002 7:24:37 PM PDT by Billthedrill
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To: SamAdams76
I was stationed at Perrin AFB in Sherman TX in the late 60s. We trained delta wing aircraft operations for F-102 and F-106 fighter pilots, (and for pilots transitioning to B-58s!). Should a "massed" bomber attack occur, the "final" weapon the pilot had was his aircraft.

This was the SAGE, (Semi Automatic Ground Environment), era and radar controllers vectored pilots to targets, since the aircraft of that era had a radar intercept range of under two miles for a lock on to be made! Weapons, Aims and evenutally the nuclear AIM would be deployed. The final vector would be for a collision with an attacking bomber which had run the gauntlet. The pilot would have one hand on the ejection handle amd would try to eject at impact!.

I spoke with pilots at the O Club and they were all willing to perfrom this final maneuver, if necessary. Reason: Protect the wife and kiddos!

35 posted on 08/29/2002 7:25:03 PM PDT by Young Werther
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To: The Energizer
This sounds like BS to me.

Jets take off from Andrews AFB constantly. I assume they do likewise from bases in Virginia, Massachussets, etc. Surely, most of them search to the East, as we would expect, but I find it hard to believe than NONE would have been available.

36 posted on 08/29/2002 7:25:11 PM PDT by blau993
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To: Freeper 007
I have to admire the willingness to sacrifice one's life shown by the NYFD. However, at the point where it became clear that WTC would collapse, a decision should have been made to give priority to people descending the stairways, and to send no more firefighters up. This would have increased the downard-carrying capacity of the stairways, but basically given up the effort to reach those trapped on higher floors. I hope this happened, but have no reason to think it did.

37 posted on 08/29/2002 7:25:55 PM PDT by Tax Government
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To: The Energizer
I saw this interview on BBC America. Truly scary. He was sending unarmed planes on combat missions.
38 posted on 08/29/2002 7:26:28 PM PDT by aculeus
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To: Prodigal Son
I wonder if the guy wouldn't have some misgivings about crashing (by whatever means necessary) an airliner full of passengers, while he himself bailed out. Seems like it would be easier on the conscience to ride it in.
39 posted on 08/29/2002 7:30:05 PM PDT by Semaphore Heathcliffe
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To: swarthyguy
Kamikaze by US pilots were a sign of desperateness, but would the pilots have obey an order like that or done it on their own initiative? Who knows. At least someone was thinking desperate measures for desperate times.

Well. . . .

Maybe it would have been suicidal, maybe not. A jet fighter could knock the tail or wing off of a jetliner without killing the fighter's pilot. Closing rates could be 50 to 100 mph, maybe less. A pilot could then eject safely.

During WWII Russian pilots occasionally resorted to ramming to destroy German planes, then bailed out. They would ram the tail of the German plane, or chew up the tail with the prop. There was a novel by Hank Searls written in the 1950s or 1960s called The Crowded Sky. It dealt with a head-on midair collision between a USAF jet trainer and an airliner. At an early point in the novel the pilot is telling an airman getting a lift in the second seat how another pilot crashed head-on into an airliner and lived (he pulled up, and let the top of the airliner crash into the belly of the fighter). Of course the crisis of the novel dealt with whether the jet pilot would dive under the commercial airliner, guaranteeing his own death, but increasing the chances that the passengers would survive, or pull up over the airliner so he would survive while killing the crew of the airliner, and guaranteeing everyone aboard would die. Similarly, any USAF fighter could collide with the crew cabin of a jetliner (possibly with a wing) then punch out.

Normally that is lousy tactics because you are trading one airplane for another, even if you save the crew, however in this case, it would have been worth it.

40 posted on 08/29/2002 7:30:16 PM PDT by No Truce With Kings
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To: SamAdams76
Suicide has always been considered. Look at the Strategic Air Command as it was in 1950's. It was nothing but a suicide outfit. Get to the target, drop big bomb then bail out.
41 posted on 08/29/2002 7:30:30 PM PDT by southland
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To: The Energizer
However, at the time of the attacks the US had just four fighter pilots on alert covering the north eastern United States.

This has to be complete and utter BS. The friggin' Brits love to toss this kind of misinformation around as if they know what they're talking about.

There would have been more than four pilots in F15s on alert at Otis AFB on the Cape alone. And I know that the Air Force has a wing stationed at or near Bradley Int'l in Connecticut.

42 posted on 08/29/2002 7:31:28 PM PDT by Bloody Sam Roberts
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To: Long Cut; Ramius; snopercod; Squantos; harpseal; redrock
The defense posture is at least daily assessed and set by the President.

Jet fighters which are unarmed, are not entirely disabled --- they do not necessarily have to ram another aircraft to bring it down.

43 posted on 08/29/2002 7:32:26 PM PDT by First_Salute
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To: Tax Government
a decision should have been made to give priority to people descending the stairways

I think people who are in the business of saving lives would be unable to make such a decision or to live with themselves if it was made. Some people think it's better to die trying. That is the mark of a hero, I think.

44 posted on 08/29/2002 7:33:13 PM PDT by ASDFGHJK
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To: The Energizer
Is this new news? Why is it coming out one year later?
45 posted on 08/29/2002 7:35:53 PM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: Arkinsaw
I agree. God Bless these brave men.
46 posted on 08/29/2002 7:36:55 PM PDT by ItisaReligionofPeace
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To: desertcry
I still think guns in the hands of pilots are better than having to shoot down a hijacked airliner.
47 posted on 08/29/2002 7:40:39 PM PDT by southland
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To: Bloody Sam Roberts
There would have been more than four pilots in F15s on alert at Otis AFB on the Cape alone. And I know that the Air Force has a wing stationed at or near Bradley Int'l in Connecticut.

Yeah, but why would it have been strange to have only four jets in the air, or ready to launch, regardless of how many squadrons we have on the East Coast.

It takes time to take a jet from stone cold to airborne. Having jets on standby wears the jets big-time, and costs like the dickens. On Sept 11th we were in a peacetime situation, with no apparent military threat. It wasn't the cold war where they had thousands of jets on the ground ready to launch in 15 minutes. The only jets up in the air would have been those training, and a handful of jets used for drug intradiction.

Even the paranoid Soviets had troubles keeping their intradiction forces ready 24-7. Remember Matthias Rust (AFAIR), who landed a 152 on Red Square after flying from W. Germany. Or how about KAL 007. It spent three-four hours over Soviet airspace with the Soviets scrambling like mad to get planes up in the air after it. They finally got two -- and only two -- in the air.

Like Toby Keith sang we "got sucker-punched from somewhere in the back."

48 posted on 08/29/2002 7:41:02 PM PDT by No Truce With Kings
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To: JimVT
my gut feeling on this agrees with yours ...
49 posted on 08/29/2002 7:41:34 PM PDT by tomkat
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To: Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
"Towards the end of WWII, Hitler turned down proposals for suicide weapons, and he had people willing to volunteer for suicide missions. That even Hitler would not consider suicide weapons says something about Western attitudes"

You never heard of Gruppe Elbe? They were have half trained Luftwaffe pilots who rammed B-17's in the last days of the war. Scores died but few bombers were lost. Ramming was a matter of course in the Soviet Air Force. It was even being considered decades after the war.

50 posted on 08/29/2002 7:48:56 PM PDT by Eternal_Bear
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