I was mentioning on line a few weeks back that I had given up trying to use iron sights on my Ruger 10/22 to qualify at Appleseeds because my eyesight has just become too bad for use on 1" targets at 25 meters without the use of magnified sights. Sad, but true. Somebody mentioned the old adage "well, you better start eating your carrots". Seems to be forever that people have been saying that. Truth is that carrots do contain a lot of eye (and other body part) healthy nutrients and should be a item you rotate in your diet on a regular basis, both for health and variety on your palette. However, carrots are not a miracle food that will instantaneously make your sight better or give you super human eyesight...just like spinach will not instantaneously make you launch Bluto into orbit like Popeye does when he eats it.
Who says Popeye isn't real?
The larger portion of the truth is that this belief is based on a propaganda tool used by the British Government exalting the eating of carrots and their benefits to vision to disguise their use of radar! What, the government lie to the population? Yeah, shocking, I know.
During the early stages of the war both British and German forces used daylight to launch most of their bombing and other air missions against each other. Visual flight rules for navigation to the proper targets was still a primary means of flying back then. Unfortunately the detection of aircraft was also still primarily a function done in daytime as well. Both sides met with the same predictable results...large bombers flying in formations in straight lines at the same altitude were easy prey for both Anti-Aircraft batteries and interceptor aircraft. Both sides soon developed a penchant for night flying and operations. This is where the image of the British Londoner leaving their home at dusk to sleep in the subways during "The Blitz" came from. Some German pilots actually refused to fly bombing missions at night due to their inability to pick legitimate military targets from civilian areas...they were "taken care of" and replaced with pilots with a moral compass not so completely set on true North. Soon, night time bombings were routine in all of Britain and the RAF did their best to knock the Junkers and Focke Wolfes from the sky before they dropped their loads on Olde Blighty. Interestingly, when America finally got into the European war in 1942 and started our own bombing campaign against Germany we got stuck with the "available" time slot of daytime, hence the other image of large American bombers (we like our planes like our cars in the states) flying over Germany in broad daylight....took us a couple of years to get it right at the cost of thousands of men's lives and scores of aircraft lost.
The British RAF did an admirable job defending the Isle against these raids but was running into a problem...not enough aircraft. Sure the RAF was a sizable force at the outset, but constant attrition dwindled their numbers. Resources also dwindled with the constant harassment of shipping by German U-boats and soon it became apparent to the British High Command that constant air patrols were not possible on a sustained basis. Their best hope to beat the Germans in the sky was to intercept them at a specific point in the air that they could be sure to find them and then quickly return to their bases to conserve planes, fuel.....and pilots. Learning to fly an aircraft in combat isn't like learning to ride a bike folks.
Anyway, along came our friend the Radar to help out the Brits. Both Germany and Britain had very rudimentary forms of radar in development at the start of the War, the Brits just happened to be farther ahead and had operational units deployed to detect incoming aircraft much sooner than the Germans ever did. Remember the machine gun assault in Saving Private Ryan? those Germans were defending part of a fixed radar array. Watching the video isn't required...but its still one the best movies ever made IMHO...
Along with ground based radar emplacements the Brits soon developed units that were mountable in aircraft that could help pilots correctly fly to their targets with little visual help, and also help the British planes from flying into other aircraft, which occasionally happened flying blacked out at night. Previously the closest that the Brits had been able to come to this was to mount powerful searchlights on planes to try and illuminate their targets. Not only were planes able to quickly avoid these lights but they also provided great targets for German gunners on the bombers. Yep, the addition of radar on the aircraft was a game changer for sure. Soon dedicated night flying aircraft, commonly called night fighters, were developed for these roles. While not a required characteristic, they were generally larger than a single seat fighter and had multiple crew members. The larger size enabled them to carry more fuel and ammo to stay up and fight longer, but also the additional weight of the radar as well. The multiple crew members removed a lot of the stress of flying at night from the pilot and meant that one man did not have to simultaneously fly, navigate and scan and locate targets on the radar and by visual means. Another big bonus was that these larger aircraft were able to carry more and larger caliber of weapons than their smaller brethren....a plus to us gun lovers out there...imagine have four or six 20mm cannons open up on you at once!
Bristol Beaufighter, typical of the night fighters employed by the British Commonwealth during the war.
Radar quickly helped the Brits overcome the numerical superiority of the Germans and was vital to the winning of the air war over Britain. Had the Germans learned of its importance it would have been easy enough to at least target the large ground based units that were used to locate incoming formations and to direct the radar equipped interceptors to their targets. The use of radar was so secretive and important that for a time the men and women manning those systems were kept separated from the population and even other military and civil defense personnel so that the nature and location of their jobs could not be detected by German spies. Part of this level of deception was the carrot campaign I spoke of above. The British government went to such great lengths to promote the idea that the use of excessive amounts in the diets of British coastal and air warden watch personnel and RAF pilots was the main factor in their increased effectiveness at night. The message was so well received that the British populace engorged themselves on carrots to try and help alleviate the nocturnal black outs they were forced to endure. Also, not to be left out of the party, the German Luftwaffe even started an extra "carrot ration" to its pilots to try and even the playing field...unfortunately for them the field they were playing on was owned by the Brits!
By the end of the war the Germans pretty much knew the score, but were helpless to do anything about it. They had developed their own working radar by then and obviously put the pieces of the puzzle of their defeat during the Battle of Britain together. By then the Americans and Soviets were both claiming Reichland real estate and "The Thousand Year Reich" was coming to a close. The use of radar as an effective air-to-air weapon may have even helped prompt the Germans to accelerate development of the V-1 and V-2 rocket programs, the technology and knowledge behind which eventually helped lead to the arms race and ICBM standoff of the Cold War.
All of this was helped along by a little ol' orange root vegetable. Here's to the carrot!
AAAARRRGGGHHH!! Not you! get your steroidal freakness out of my blog!!
And if you can't tell, I do have a fondness for my distant British friends across the Atlantic pond. Save for a few times around 1776 and 1812 we generally have been great allies and supporters of one another. If I may say so as a loyal and patriotic American "God Save the Queen!" (even if she has to live on a bit less of British money these days!).