Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ai mere watan ke logo

“Ai Mere Vatan Ke Logo...”

“Ai Mere Vatan Ke Logo, Zara aankh mein bhar lo paani,
Jo shaheed hue hain unkee, Zara yaad karo qurbaanee....”

O! my fellow countrymen!
Let tears fill your eyes. 
But always remember,
Those brave-hearts, 
For the sake of Nation
Sacrificed their lives.

This 50 years old well known patriotic song reminds of first Chinese aggression on Indian soil in 1962.  Written by Poet Pradeep and music composed by C. Ramachandran, this song was performed live by Lata Mangeshkar (then 34 years old) on January 27, 1963 in a concert held at National Stadium New Delhi in the presence of the then Prime Minister  Jawaharlal Nehru. The concert was organised by Govt of India in aid of families of our brave-heart soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the Chinese aggression on India in 1962.
Behind the slogans of Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai, India was taken unaware by treacherous Chinese.  Our Army was not well equipped for subzero warfare. Our soldiers were not equipped with capable armament. They had no option but to fight in freezing temperature, with outdated weapons of WWII and winter clothing that was insufficient for sub zero and high altitude location.
To help Indian Government raise funds to equip Indian Army, Indian Film Industry organised a function in New Delhi where Lata Mangeshkar sang this song. Moved by the lyrics of the song, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was observed wiping his damp eyes during the performance. The entry tickets were priced at Rs 25, 50, 100 and 200, which, in today’s value is approximately 30 times the value.
Though television in India started in April 1959, with an experimental telecast, through a small transmitter in a makeshift studio in Delhi, in 1963, there was no provision for live outdoor telecasting.  This program was broadcast live, by All India Radio and it was relayed by all radio stations in India.
In the touching lyrics, poet Pradeep aptly expressed his emotions after he too was moved by the sacrifices of the ill-equipped Indian soldiers in Sino-Indian war.
The original song had sound of a  DC-3 (Dakota) aircraft flying over the venue.  So the Gramophone Company Ltd., owners of trade mark "His Master’s Voice" gramophone records and the only recording company in India those days, decided for a retake of this song in their recording studios. Lata Mangeshkar sang this song once again at HMV’s sound studio in Mumbai.  Professional quality retake of the song was released on 78 RPM gramophone records (the only format in vogue those days).  
All the artists, technicians, musical instrument players, involved with this song, (totaling about 175), including singer Lata Mangeshkar, music director C. Ramachandran, lyricist Pradeep, technicians and sound recordists, did not charge for their professional performance and rather donated additional funds to Armed Forces War Widows Fund. The Gramophone Company of India donated entire profit received by sale of these records, to National Defence Fund.
This was an exemplary soul touching song that received an equally exemplary popularity and an unusual display of heart warming patriotism by Indians.
The song concludes as follows:
Jai Hind, Jai Hind Ki Sena

Jai Hind,  Jai Hind,  Jai Hind....

Fifty years have passed by. a lot has undergone change. India has developed Nuclear capabilities, Inter Continental Ballistic Missile capability and emerged as a world power. On the other side of the fence, China too has emerged as a world power.  But, unfortunately, even after 50 years, there is no change in the attitude of Chinese leaders. Their army is still attacking our border posts, injuring and killing our soldiers and gradually taking possession of Indian soil.  

The most sad part is that our politicians are still chanting “Hindi Cheenee Bhai Bahi.”  An unparalleled nonsense of highest order!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Was World War II a blessing for Aviation?

Note:  Pictures placed below this write-up. 

USA mobilised its human and industrial resources to achieve victory in the two-front World War in Europe and the Pacific.  The US used its air power with well planned strategies, systematically.  Basically World War II became the global arena of struggle for control of the air.  U.S. factories produced amazing numbers of fighter and bombers and aviation proved crucial in tactical and strategic roles in air battle fronts in Europe and Pacific. 

This War induced technological development helped improve aircraft design and performance.  It totally recast the nature of air warfare. 

Biplanes made of wood and fabric became history as they got replaced with all-metal fighters. With remote-controlled guns, pressurized cabins and powerful engines, Boeing B-29 Superfortress became the most advanced bomber of its time.  Later in the war, the relentless process of technical refinement culminated with the debut of jet engine and jet powered aircraft. Had there been peace, all this could have taken a decade to develop.

Boeing Aviation Hangar, opened on 15 Jan 2013 at Smithsonian Aviation Museum Washington DC , has highlighted this significant feature in their new "Boeing Hanger" pictured below. 

Artifact Highlights at Smithsonian Museum:
Boeing B-29 Superfortress <em>Enola Gay</em> at the Udvar-Hazy Center
Stinson L-5 Sentinel at the Udvar-Hazy Center
Boeing B-29 Superfortress "Enola Gay" that dropped Atom Bombs in Japan on 6 Aug 1945
Lockheed P-38J-10-LO
Japan's Aichi M6A1 Seiran Amphibian
USAF Stinson L-5 Sentinel. Till 1968 this aircraft was used by Nagpur Flying Club for training pilots. During the year 1963-68, Nagpur Flying Club was hired by IAF for imparting elementary flying training to its trainee pilots (91st to 100th Pilots Training Courses) 

.V S Saxena
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

WW II Bomber B-17 was beyond a flying tank

This B-17 aircraft, of USAF not only created history but also boosted the morale of Allied Forces during WWII

Those interested in aviation will be able to appreciate this breathtaking unique and unrealistic looking bombing sortie of WW II. 

It is 1st of February, 1943. World War II is on.  German Messerschmidt fighters are firing on Allied Forces' (USAF) B-17 Bomber over Tunis* dock area in Allied Territory. No one knows that this sortie is going to become the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. 

* Located on the Northern most tip of African continent, Tunis is capital of Tunisia. During WW II, it was a French Colony and was liberated in 1956.

Wounded pilot Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg, and co pilot of 414th Bomb Squadron are finding difficult to manage to keep the "flying fortress" in the air as it is continuing to descend and gradually going out of control. Another hit breaks the B-17 aircraft apart, but strong base of the fuselage is keeping it fixed to the aircraft. Vital controls are working but sluggishly.
Left horizontal stabilizer of B-17 and left elevator are completely torn away. Out of 4 engines, both the right engines are dead and one on the left has a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder are damaged by enemy firing; half of the fuselage is damaged. Parts of main frame, radios, electrical and oxygen systems are damaged. There is 16 feet long and 4 feet wide hole in the fuselage and the top gunners are without cover.
Tail is bouncing and swaying in the wind and it gets twisted when the plane turns.   With just a single elevator cable still working, - miraculously, the aircraft is still flying.
In an attempt to keep the tail from separating in air and two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart, the waist and tail gunners used parts of their parachute harnesses to tie the ends.
While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the wind turbulence was so strong that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crew members to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane.

The turn back to England for this USAF B17 bomber had to be very slow to keep the tail from twisting and falling off. They actually covered almost 70 miles to make the turn home. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing altitude and speed and was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Messerschmidt Me-109 German fighters attacked this USAF aircraft. Despite the extensive damage and some injuries to the gunners, they responded to these attacks and soon drove the fighters off.  The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage to aim and fire their machine guns.
The extent of damage can be better understood by the fact that the tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts, because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the German attack as it crossed over English Channel and took one of the pictures shown above. They also radioed to the base describing that the bomber was waving like a fish tail and that the plane may not be able to reach base and advised to position boats to rescue the crew when they would bail out. The fighters stayed with the Fortress taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to the base.
Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes and the spare had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He decided that if they could not bail out safely, then he would stay with the plane and land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit, the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed onto the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.

It also speaks high of the rugged quality of aircraft that could withstand so much of harshness. As compared to today's aircraft, where the tolerance is sacrificed to reduce weight, the new generation of aircraft may not be able to see so much of tough handling.

V S Saxena

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Why is "Liberty Bell" called so and why is it cracked?

Why is the “Liberty Bell” of Pennsylvania called so?
Why is it cracked?

         Philadelphia has history that can be felt in every corner of the city. The museum, that houses Liberty Bell, is amongst prominent places of tourists attraction in the US.

         This cracked metallic bell, which weighs about 900 KG (2000 lbs), is one of the main attractions in Philadelphia. The Museum housing just the Liberty Bell, has records and pictures of Dollar coins and US postage stamps released to commemorate the historically significant Liberty Bell.
         Fabricated in Manchester, England in 1732, this Jumbo Bell was brought to Philadelphia by sea in 1733, in one piece.  At that time America was under British rule. (US got independence from Britain in 1776). 

         There are no official records to support this, but it is said that during unloading, the bell was dropped intentionally to show peoples’ anger towards cruel British rule.

         Though the bell could not be rung due to crack, it became an insignia of the American struggle for independence. Historians mention that the only day when this cracked bell was rung, was on 4th July 1776, on proclamation of independence from British rule.  

         Thus the name “Liberty Bell” became popular.

Written by V S Saxena

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cable Cars of San Francisco: A lady saved them from extinction

CABLE CARS of San Francisco and how in 1961, a lady leader

Frieda Klussmann could save them from extinction


San Francisco and its cable cars are so synonymous to each other that a set of photograph of San Francisco without a picture of cable car is an incomplete set. Besides a land mark for tourist, cable cars have become a necessity for San Franciscans for daily commuting.


Cable cars of San Francisco operate on a system, totally different from way trams operate in other cities including Indian metropolis, Kolkata. Kolkata is the only city in India where trams are still running. Cable cars of San Francisco do not have any power of their own. The system is unique and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world. A strong steel cable runs continuously on a pully system. Each area has a power station that rotates cables underground. The main technique lies on turns where the cables are so designed that the alignment between the car and cable remains always intact. In the middle of pair of rail tracks they have a slot where a pole from cable car is lowered and gripped to the “always moving” cable. Cable cars have clutch system on the grip under the rail line. This is a variable grip with a control like clutch system in automobiles. The driver engages and disengages the mechanism as per requirement of movement. This means that a cable car can run slower than the speed of cable running under the tram tracks but never faster than the speed of running cables under ground.


Power to move the cable cars is applied at the main Power House but Cable cars move on action of engaging and disengaging the under ground cable with the car. This requires quite a bit of manual muscular strength. The driver has to remain standing and use power of his legs to apply mechanical brakes and muscular power of hands for engaging or disengaging the drive cable. Owing to limitations of inability to steer, slow acceleration and braking due to high inertia, driving a cable car is more difficult than driving any automobile. The driver has to remain standing and operate the clutch mechanism with hands. Only able bodied and well built personnel are enrolled for the post of drivers. Selection is done on the merits of physique and reflex action which are two main criterion in addition to road reflexes, sense and ability to judge the traffic passing by.

Decision to scrap the Cable Car System: January 28, 1947, the morning news-papers gave San Franciscans a shock as they read the news that a fleet of buses would replace Cable Cars operating on Powell Street. San Franciscans, who had, and still have, a strong bond and affection for their city’s cable cars, could not digest this, and that too in an almost casual manner. The news papers informed that the most colorful transportation system in their city was to perish. Indeed the rout of Powell Street, starting at a turntable at Market Street, slipping past Union Square, Creasing Nob and Russian Hills on its meandering way to the Bay, must have been, as it still is, the most colorful street rail system in the world.

Now that it was announced that the cable cars would be scrapped and their tracks dismantled, a rumble of ignition of quiet anger was heard throughout San Francisco.

Mrs. Frieda Klussmann: At first, this anger remained directionless for want of a leader with energy, sentiments, dedication and intelligent sense of history. It was not long when a combination of all these qualities came forward in a person by the name of Mrs. Frieda Klussmann. San Franciscans found their leader. Mrs. Klussmann organized Citizens’ Committee to save the cable cars and campaigned against indifference and short sightedness on part of planners and decision makers. Mrs. Klussmann and her fellow followers maintained that a decision about Cable cars’ future should be made by people who use them and not by an administrative civil servants sitting in offices, most of whom had no attachment with San Francisco.

Plebiscite: Against odds and disappointments, which would have discouraged a less determined person, Mrs. Klussmann’s efforts secured a place for Cable Cars on the ballot. Fascinated by the sentimental and nostalgic struggle, entire USA looked on as San Francisco went to a general plebiscite. An overwhelming majority said, “Save the Cable Cars.”

This and the future generations are in debt of the “Cable Car Lady”, (as Mrs Klusmann is affectionately known) and to the timely forces which she organized. She not only paved path of transportation that continued to serve and delight, but also saved the city’s “International Trade Mark.”

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Niagara Falls: Unforgettable visit

Are you planning to visit Niagara?: If you are planning to visit Niagara Falls and you have the curiosity to know about the place you are going to visit, the information here would make your trip even more enjoyable and memorable. If you have already visited, these details, which have been collected from documentary film, articles, books and write ups, would help you add more to your knowledge bank.

Niagara River, which makes Niagara Falls, is one of the few rivers in the world that flow from North to South. Also, unlike most of the rivers, which originate from mountains, this river originates from one lake and ends up in another. It flows from Lake Eire to Lake Ontario. Both the originating and receiving lakes have half of their portion in the US and Canada. International border between US and Canada pass through the middle of both these lakes. An International Control Station, in Niagara, built in 1962, regulates the flow of water in the river.

Origin of name "Niagara": According to some researchers, the name "Niagara" is derived from a local native tribe, who were called "Niagagarega". Similar mention is also found in French maps of late 17th century.

Tell-tale: According to a legendary tell-tale, a witch by the name “Niga” and her cat by the name “Gura” were punished by the angry villagers. Both were put in a wooden drum and thrown from the top of water fall. On the fall, the drum did not break. On opening the drum the witch was found dead but cat survived. The tribes men started worshiping the cat and named the waterfall as “Niaaguaa”, which later changed to Niagara.

Logical Name: According to a thesis by Dr. George R. Stewart of US, the name “Niagara” comes from an Iroquois town called "Ongniaahra", which means "point of land cut in two". (Sounds logical.)
The river from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is just 35 miles (56 KM) long and includes Niagara Falls en rout. Northern ends of both the lakes fall in Canada and Southern ends in the US. In addition to both these lakes, the border between US and Canada passes through middle of the river too.

Was the fall ever frozen?: There are a few websites showing that once in April 1911, Niagara fall was frozen when there was a record lowest temperature of -11 deg C. However, these claims are not authenticated by any official record and people have challenged the photographs as photo-shopped and misleading. As per official records of US weather office there is no record of any occasion when water in the river was ever frozen.

Drifting of falls: A study has shown that due to soil erosion in past 120 years, Niagara falls have shifted about 11 KM backwards. After the construction of hydro-electric plants in both the countries, which are located over 5 miles away from the falls, the diversion has significantly reduced the rate of erosion.

Harnessing energy from water fall: Initial idea of harnessing the energy of water fall was not approved as this could have rightly spoiled the natural beauty of the falls. The challenge was to use the water but no commercialization anywhere near the fall. None of the power houses have made use of the energy generated by free falling water at Niagara. Both the power houses are located far from the falls. While designing the power houses, both the countries took care in designing, so that they may remain far from the falls and not cause any obstruction in the view and the natural beauty of the water falls. Hydro electric generating plants of US and Canada have built their own dams far from Niagara falls without affecting the beauty or ecology of Niagara falls.
On the Canadian side, the hydroelectric power station has been named after Sir Adam Beck (1857 –1925). Beck was a politician and a hydro-electricity advocate. Born in Ontario Canada, (1857) to German immigrants parents, Beck had established himself as a wealthy and influential Canadian civic leader in Canada.
On the US side the hydroelectric power station has been named after Robert Moses (1888 –1981), who is known as the "master builder" of mid-20th century. Moses has many buildings in New York designed by him. He is well remembered as an architect of a today’s New York and is sometimes compared to Baron Haussmann, a leading architect of Paris. A far sighted architect, Robert Moses changed New York by building bridges, tunnels and roadways that transformed New York forever. His decisions favoring highways over public transit system helped create the modern suburbs ofLong Island” and influenced a generation of engineers, architects and urban planners who spread his philosophies across USA.

In 1954, US was the first to initiate construction of power house in Niagara. Canada followed in 1961. Together, both the countries generate 4.4 Gigawatts power from Niagara. . (1 Gigawatt is equal to one billion watts.)

Total drop of the fall at Niagara is colossal 326 ft (99 Meters).
Besides several small islands, Niagara River features two large islands; Grand Island and Navy Island. Goat Island and the tiny Luna Island split Niagara Falls into its three sections, the Horseshoe fall, the Bridal Veil fall and the American Fall.
Niagara waterfalls are best enjoyed on viewing at night. During day time, one can see that Canada’s side offers better facilities and hotels which include revolving restaurant, towering hotel buildings with a view of the falls from hotel rooms. A trip on the boat “Maid of the mist” is a must to enjoy the visit to its best. The boat takes the visitors quite close to the fall. Boat trip includes a disposable rain coat.
Since the water at Niagara flows from South to North, best view of Niagara falls can be enjoyed from North i.e; Canada. One can have the most panoramic view of both the falls from Canada, especially at night, when the falls are lit with colored flood lights and offer a mesmerizing view.
Niagara has a small airport which offers helicopter and aircraft sight seeing rides on seat sharing basis.
Restaurants at Niagara falls are mostly owned by Indians and Chinese and offer choicest Indian Naan, Roti, Biryani, Matar Paneer or Chicken Curry from Hindi speaking stall owners. On asking from them I was happy to learn that Indian visitors to Niagara are on the increase every year.

Above: Every passenger visiting the falls in the boat is provided a disposable raincoat.

Below: An "Out of the world" enchanting and breathtaking view of Niagara Falls at night.
Bridal veil fall. as seen from the observation deck.
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V S Saxena
Mumbai, India.
Written on July 16, 2011.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

World's first military aircraft

World's first military aircraft (1909)

Wright 1909 Military Flyer

1909 Wright Military Flyer

The 1909 Wright Military Flyer was the World's first military airplane. In 1908, the U.S. Army Signal Corps ordered a two-seat observation aircraft-- one that was relatively simple to operate, could reach a speed of at least 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour in still air, and could remain in the air for at least one hour without landing.

The Army also required that the aircraft should be easy to assemble and disassemble and be able to land safely and take off quickly. By May 1909, Orville Wright successfully met the Signal Corps's specifications with this airplane, and the military gained its wings. In 1911, the War Department of US presented Wright Military Flyer to the Smithsonian Institution.

From the beginning of their aeronautical work the Wright Brothers focused developing a reliable method of pilot control as the key to cracking "the flying problem". W

right Brothers' fundamental breakthrough was their invention of three-axis control i.e; yaw (nose movement up and down), Pitch (nose movement left and right) and Roll (sideways wings movement left and right), which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium.

This method became standard and till date, remains standard on all types of fixed-wing aircraft including the Space Shuttle.

V S Saxena