5 March 1943

Britain’s first combat jet aircraft, the Gloster Meteor, has it first flight.

The Gloster Meteor was the first British operational jet fighter and the only Allied jet aircraft to reach operational status during World War II. However, apart from its radical departure in propulsion, it was conventional in design and never considered to be “cutting edge” in performance. It had straight wings, and was not much faster than the fastest piston-fighters at the time, such as the P-51 Mustang, Spitfire and Hawker Tempest. The jet engine was still in its infancy and not a proven technology—more years were needed to perfect it. The most notable jet fighter at the time was the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was well along in production, but at a price. Its engines weren’t fully developed and it was a dangerous aircraft to fly. The Allies wanted to ensure the Meteor was airworthy before entering service. The Meteor could have surpassed the Me 262 in performance and numbers, but partly due to bureaucratic bungling, the Meteor project nearly died. It finally took Rolls Royce to get the project back on track again.

The Me 262 gets most of the attention for the development of jets, due to its Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow engines and sleek swept-back wings. The Meteor airframe however, was more conventional in design—it was powered with the soon-to-be obsolete centrifugal-flow engines and then largely forgotten. However, the Meteor was actually the better airplane. Germany had its back against the wall and the Me 262 was rushed into production, taking a heavy toll on its pilots. Had the Allies been in charge of production, the Me 262 might have never entered service.

Britain had the luxury to evaluate, develop and refine the Meteor, but as the war progressed, the Meteor became less urgent. The Luftwaffe was being drained maintaining a defense on the Russian front and the Hawker Typhoon was proving itself against the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 at low altitude. By the end of the war, the Me 262 and Meteor were leagues apart in safety and reliability. The Meteor’s engines could operate 180 hours before overhaul, while the Me 262’s Jumo 004 engines were required to be overhauled after only 10 hours.1 And more than a hundred Me 262s were lost in air-to-air combat against enemy piston-engine fighters, whereas not a single Meteor was lost to enemy action. Near the end of the war, it was thought that perhaps the Me 262 and Meteor would engage in jet combat for the first time in history, but it was not to be. Aerial combat with jet fighters would not happen until the Korean War, which surprisingly brought the Russians into the picture. Jet fighters now encountered each other on a daily basis and the Meteor struggled to compete with the superior Mig 15.

Although the Meteor saw service in World War II, its missions paled in comparison to the Messerschmitt Me 262. Early jet engines consumed excessive amounts of fuel, which limited their range. Since the Me 262 was fighting on its home turf, it engaged in combat against Boeing B-17s and Allied fighters. In the time it was in operation, the Me 262 claimed a total of 542 Allied victories for a ratio of 5:1. On March 18, 1945, Me 262 fighter units were able, for the first time, to mount large scale attacks on Allied bomber formations. 37 Me 262s of Jagdeschwder 7 intercepted a force of 1,221 bombers and 632 escorting fighters. This action also marked the first use of the new R4M rockets. The high explosive warhead of only one or two of these rockets was capable of downing a B-17. They shot down 12 bombers and one fighter for the loss of three Me 262s.

Whereas, the Meteor was limited to home defense against Luftwaffe V-1 Buzz Bombs, but it did serve later on the continent and performed escort duty on bombing missions, which allowed Allied fighters to gain experience in confronting jet fighters. However, it was restricted from flying over enemy territory, lest it be shot down and its secrets revealed to the enemy.

Although Frank Whittle of the United Kingdom and Hans von Ohain of Germany were simultaneously and independently working on the turbojet engine, Germany would be first in flight with jets with the introduction of the Heinkel He 178 on August 27, 1939. The next jet aircraft to take flight was the Gloster E.28/39 on May 15, 1941. Both jets were powered by a single engine built for experimental purposes and not meant for production, although the E.28/39 design required provisions for possible later installment of armament. The next true turbojet airplane to take fight was the Messerschmitt Me 262 on July 18, 1942—the Bell XP-59 made its first flight on October 2, 1942—finally the Meteor prototype made its first flight on March 5, 1943. Although the Me 262 flew before the Meteor, it entered frontline service only after the Meteor had done so.

15 January 1943

The Pentagon is dedicated in Arlington, Virginia.

The world’s largest office building, construction began on the Pentagon on September 11, 1941. Designed by architect George Bergstrom, approved construction contracts totaled $3.1 million. The original site for this government facility was Arlington Farms, which was shaped like a pentagon. This is why the building is shaped as such. However, concerns that the building might obstruct the view of Washington, D.C. from Arlington Cemetery, President Roosevelt opted for the Hoover Airport site.The Pentagon took less than two years to complete and was dedicated on January 15, 1943.

Some interesting facts about this historical building:

Design work for the building proceeded during actual construction. Sometimes construction would get ahead of design and different materials were used than specified in the final plans.

Due to racial segregation, the Pentagon was constructed with separate dining and toilet facilities. In June 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the end to discrimination and to remove the “Whites Only” signage. At the time, and for many years after completion, the Pentagon was the only building in Virginia where segregation was not allowed.

Construction contracts were approved on September 11, 1941 and construction began that same day.

Due to steel shortage the building’s height was capped at just over 77 feet and was built as a reinforced concrete structure. This explains its vast “sprawl” across nearly 29 acres.

Rather than elevators, concrete ramps were built.

Engineers used 680,000 tons of sand from the Potomac River. Indiana limestone was used for the facade.

The Pentagon uses six zip codes and it’s registered postal address is Washington, D.C., even though it is located in the state of Virginia.

The square footage of the Pentagon is 6,636,360 square feet. The parking lot is 67 acres.

During the Cold Ware, the central plaza was referred to as “ground zero” based on concerns the Soviet Union would target nuclear missiles to that location.

While the Pentagon has undergone many improvements over the years, the core design of this unique structure remains intact. Today, nearly 3,700,000 square feet are used as offices, and the building houses about 28,000 military and civilian personnel.

5 November 1943

The Vatican is bombed during World War II.

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On 5 November a single plane flew over Vatican City and dropped bombs. The identity of the plane was never established despite a series of investigations launched by the Secretary of State, Cardinal Maglione and responses made by the British, American and German governments. Amidst the documents is a telegram sent by Maglione to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, Amleto Cicognani, that there was a rumour that Stalin had congratulated Churchill for ordering the raid! The British government promptly denied the rumour.

The three governments denied responsibility and reaffirmed their committment to observing Vatican neutrality. The Allies accused the Germans, who counter-accused the Allies of bombing the Vatican for propaganda purposes. On 9 December the British and American governments informed the Vatican that Allied pilots had been ordered to avoid flying over Vatican territory.

The timing of the bombing was significant. Rome was occupied by the Germans, the Jews of Rome were either in Auschwitz or hiding, the city was hungry with the very real spectre of famine hovering ominiously, the partisans were stepping up anti-German activity and Naples had been liberated a few weeks but not before the Germans wrecked a savagery on the city not witnessed outside of Eastern Europe. The Vatican remained visibily neutral hoping Rome would be spared.

The Zenit article proposes a new theory based on new documents that suggest the source of the raid lay in orders given by Roberto Farinacci from the Salo Republic in an attempt to silence Vatican Radio. According to the new information, Farinacci was convinced the Vatican was sending information to the Allied. It will be interesting to read the book which has received some coverage in the Italian press.

26 April 1943

The Easter Riots break out in Uppsala, Sweden.

The Easter Riots is the name given to a period of unrest in Uppsala, Sweden, during the Easter of 1943. The National Socialist group Swedish Socialist Unity held its national congress in Uppsala, amid the Second World War and only days after events like the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The unrest climaxed on 26 April, when the SSS – who after initially belonging to a Strasserist wing of National Socialism began adopting a more indigenous form of fascism in 1938, and included Ingvar Kamprad among its early members – ended the congress by holding a demonstration at the Royal Mounds of Old Uppsala.

Thousands of anti-fascists gathered to protest against the Nazi gathering at the Royal Mounds, a historical site that held much political symbolism among Swedish nationalists. Policemen had been called in from Stockholm to defend the demonstration, and after the situation became increasingly tense they resorted to violence, dispersing the peacefully protesting crowds and onlookers alike with heavy force.

In addition to writing a book about it, the historian and playwright Magnus Alkarp has depicted the riots in a play, 4 dagar i april. The play, produced by the Uppsala City Theatre and directed by Sara Cronberg, was put up in 2012.[4] Alkarp received death threats from the Swedish Resistance Movement, a militant neo-Nazi group, after the play’s premier.

5 November 1943

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The Vatican is bombed during World War II

The Bombing of The Vatican during World War II happened on the evening of 5 November 1943 when a Fascist Italian aircraft, departing from Viterbo, dropped five bombs on Saint Peter’s Basilica.Only four out of the five bombs detonated. The Vatican City was neutral during the whole of the war;both Allied and Axis bombers were told not to attack the Vatican when bombing Rome. Two months before the bombing, the Kingdom of Italy signed an armistice with the Allies. Nazi Germany responded quickly by driving the royal government from Rome, freeing Benito Mussolini, and establishing the Italian Social Republic. The bombing occurred while the city was under German occupation.

It was discovered in 2010 that the attack was a deliberate attempt to knock out the radio station, but the raid did not succeed. The Fascists were under the impression that Vatican radio was sending coded messages to the Allies. The attack was orchestrated by leading Italian Fascist politician and anti-clericalist, Roberto Farinacci, who wished the bombing to remain anonymous, so as not to give the nascent RSI a bad name. Damage from the raid can still be seen today, but it is not signposted in any way. There was no actual loss of life during the raid but several windows and a mosaic were destroyed, there was also severe damage to the Vatican’s train station and water-system.
The attack was the only breach of Vatican neutrality during the Second World War.

7 September 1943

A fire breaks out at the Gulf Hotel in Houston, killing 55 people.

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The Gulf Hotel fire claimed 55 lives on September 7, 1943 in Houston, Texas. This fire remains the cause of the worst loss of life in a fire in the city’s history.The hotel was located on the northwest corner of Louisiana and Preston Streets and occupied the upper two floors of a three-story brick building, with a variety of businesses occupying the first floor.

Firefighters recovered 38 bodies from the burned out building. In all, 55 people died in the fire and more than 30 were injured. A mass funeral was held for 23 victims of the fire who were never identified and they were buried at the South Park Cemetery in Houston.