stuka

War in the West

War in the West

 

The Second World War by John KeeganThe
best one-volume treatment available, The Second World War by John Keegan
is an outstanding synthesis of an enormous amount of material on “the
largest single event in human history.” The book proceeds
chronologically through the war, but chapters appearing at appropriate
moments focus on particular themes, such as war production, occupation,
bombing, resistance, and espionage. Keegan’s ability to translate the
war’s grand strategies is impressive, and the battle descriptions are
superb. Generals obviously play a key role in this narrative, but
ordinary soldiers also receive proper credit, as do the often-overlooked
merchant marines whose heroic efforts to supply Great Britain made the
Allied victory possible.


Polish Conquest and the Scramble For Norway

Battle of France, Miracle at Dunkirk

Battle of Britain and the Blitz

Operation Millennium – 1,000 bomber raid

Raid on the Ploesti Oil Fields

America’s Costly Bombing of Schweinfurt and Regensburg

Operation Gomorrah – Attack on Hamburg

‘Big Week’ Attacks on German Aircraft Plants

Transportation Plan vs. Oil Attacks

‘D-Day’ Normandy Invasion

Market Garden and Battle of the Bulge

The Bombing of Dresden

Fall Weiss Invasion of Poland
September 1, 1939

Before dawn on September 1, 1939 under a lingering mist eleven German
Panzer divisions and 40 infantry divisions poured into Poland and
started World War II. A new type of warfare called blitzkrieg (
lightning war ) made its appearance and enduring impression.

This was a highly mobile form of fighting, abandoning static positions
entirely. Also, for the first time all elements of the armed forces
worked together in a coordinated manner. Fighters swept the skies free
of enemy planes as dive-bombers struck key targets and served as a kind
of mobile artillery for the advancing armor and infantry units. The
affect was devastating on the enemy as these armored thrusts smashed
through the Polish lines, rapidly outflanking and encircling units
before they could react.

It was a hard fought thing leaving the German forces not unscathed.
During the 4-week campaign the Luftwaffe lost no fewer than 743 men and
285 aircraft (including 109 bombers and Stukas.) Total German losses
came to 10,574 men killed, 30,322 wounded and 3,400 missing.

 

Disastrous Daylight Raids

At the outbreak of war Britain only had 17 squadrons of bombers (all twin engined) totalling a paultry 272 aircraft.

The first eight months of the war bomber targets were exclusively military ones and losses in daylight raids were appauling. Whitley bombers among other types dropped propoganda leaflets over enemy population centers at night during this time as well.

September 4, 1939 marked the first bombing attack by Britain against
Germany when ten Blenheims of No.107 and No.110 squadrons, carrying two
500 lb bombs
each, took off to attack ships at Wilhelmshaven. Another five Blenheims
from No.139 squadron and 12 Hampdens of No. 49 and 83 squadrons tried
to join in but had to turn back because of poor weather. Over the
approaches to Schilling Roads the five Blenheims of No.110 squadron
scored two direct hits on the Admiral Scheer, but the bombs bounced off the armored deck before detonating. One bomber was lost to flak. The next wave of five bombers from No.107 squadron lost four planes to murderous flak while scoring no hits.

The same day 14 Wellingtons of No.9 and No.149 squadrons set off to attack ships at Brunsbuttel. Anti-aircraft fire was heavy and two bombers were lost with only one “possible” hit scored.

On September 29, 1939 Eleven Hampdens of the No. 144 squadron made an
attack in two waves against two German destroyers just outside
Wilhelmshaven. The first wave of 6 bombers
did no damage but succeeded in getting back to England. All five
Hampdens of the second wave were shot out of the sky by Messerschmitt
fighters.

December 3, 1939 saw two dozen Wellington bombers attacking German ships. All planes made it back to base after succeeding in damaging a mine sweeper.

On December 14, 1939 in another attack on enemy warships by No.99
squadron half of the 12 Wellingtons participating were lost ( 5 to enemy
fire, one crashing near its base. )

Four days later, on December 18th, four sections of 6 Wellington bombers ( 24 in all ) made their way towards Schilling Roads. The attacking bombers were from No.9, 37, and 149 squadrons. Shortly after take-off 2 Wellingtons of the second section had to turn back to base because of mechanical trouble. Of the 22 bombers
that reached Wihelmshaven 10 were shot down over the target mainly by fighters, two were so badly shot up they had to ditch, and two more crash landed back in Britain. The remaining eight Wellingtons were all damaged.

These raids and more like them convinced the RAF to switch to night bombing. However bomber Command never gave up on daylight missions totally, especially later in the war when escort fighters could protect bombers better and the Luftwaffe had been seriously worn down.

Operation Weserübung (The Invasion of Norway and Denmark)

April 9, 1940

In December 1939 Admiral Raeder arranged for Vidkun Quisling, the leader of the NAZI movement in Norway, to visit Berlin and meet Adolf Hitler.

The British and the Germans were both eyeing Norway and its strategic possibilties but Hitler moved first.

supply ship the Altmark February 16, 1940 Graf Spee HMS Cossack
300 British merchant seamen

General Nikolaus von Falkenhorst mountain warfare expert to devise an invasion plan to take Norway.

March 7, 1940 Hitler assigned eight divisions to the operation.

April 7, 1940 the transports sailed.

April 9, 1940 German forces simultaneously landed at Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim and Narvik.

General Eduard Dietl, mountain troops ten destroyers were sunk. Managed
to bring 2,000 and 2,600 sailors to shore now opposing 24,500 Allied
troops. April 10th and the 13th in naval clashes with British naval
forces.

From April 14th he was besieged at Narvik and managed to breakout and
withdraw to the Swedish border which he reached by tbe end of May by
which time the situation in France forced the Allies to pull out
completedly.

German cruiser Blucher was sunk at Oslo by costal guns and torpedoes.

Oslo
Narvik
Trondheim

12,000 British and French troops landed north and south of Tronheim between April 18 and the 23rd.

The Maginot Line

One of the most elaborate series of military fortifications ever devised was the French built Maginot line.
Stretching for 200 mi (300 km) from the Swiss border to the Belgian
border this series of mutually supporting bunkers, gun emplacements and
anti-tank obstacles was constructed during the decade preceding the war
and considered impregnable. Too much reliance placed on the Maginot Line was a significant factor in the Allied defeat in France.

Modern Marvels: The Maginot Line

 

Go inside the ambitious fortifications that nevertheless failed to protect France from Nazi aggression.

 




Suicide Missions: Silent Wing Warriors

 

Go behind enemy lines on a one-way flight with the glider pilots of World War II. 50 mins.

 




 

Fall Gelb Battle of France

May 10, 1940 – June 25, 1940

At Dawn on May 10, 1940 the German army struck France using the same
blitzkrieg tactics they had used against Poland. Originally the Army
High Command made plans for a major thrust through Belgium and Holland
similar to the “Schlieffen Plan” of World War I. General von Rundstedt
and his chief of staff, General von Manstein, said that this was exactly
what the France and British were expecting. They unsuccessfully argued for a more radical plan with the major thrust going through what most thought as impenetrable to armor – the Ardennes forest.

However after battle plans had fallen into Allied hands General von Manstein was able to present his case to Hitler in person and it was quickly adopted. This new plan worked better than anyone expected.

A total of 136 divisions were set to participate in the attack
code-named Case Yellow. On the Allied side were 135 divisions (94
French, 10 British, 22 Belgian and 9 Dutch.) This parity of forces is
greatly misleading though as the allies, particularly the French, were
tied down to rigid pre-planned defensive strategies. The Luftwaffe
fielded 3,634 front line aircraft (1,016 fighters and 1,562 bombers.)
Opposing this were too few of the better French fighters like the
Dewoitine 520 and Bloch 151. In addition there were 130 mostly
obsolescent RAF fighters and 160 British bombers.

As Luftwaffe aircraft strafed and bombed airfields and towns in Belgium, Holland and Northern France

Not everything went the Germans way, of course, particularly when the Dutch I Corps re-took several airfields in fierce fighting.

Operation Dynamo “Miracle at Dunkirk”
May 26 – June 4

After the German Panzer Armies sliced across France in a stunning 10 days the British Expeditionary Force and the French found themselves pinned down on the beaches of Dunkirk.

For the German field commanders a great victory was in sight: the
capture of almost the entire British Expeditionary Force and 112,000
French and Belgian soldiers. But Hitler, concerned about possible flank attacks on his extended columns, ordered a halt. A confident Hermann Goring claimed that the Luftwaffe could finish off the troops at Dunkirk and Hitler chose that course.

A priceless opportunity was being thrown away since capturing these
troops would leave Great Britain almost defenseless. Once they realized that their army had been given a reprieve of sorts the British rescued 338,226 men, of which 112,000 were French and Belgian during a hectic 6 days using a fleet of 861 ships and smaller craft including yachts. It was in the skies over Dunkirk where the Luftwaffe met a first class opponent for the first time, the RAF. By June 3 the RAF squadrons supporting Operation Dynamo had carried out 171 reconnaissance, 651 bombing, and 2,739 fighter sorties and had suffered 177 aircraft destroyed or seriously damaged including 107 fighters and 87 pilots. This meant that Fighter Command first-line fighter strength was down to 331 Spitfires and Hurricanes, with only 36 fighters in reserve by June 4th.

Left behind on the beaches of Dunkirk were some 2,472 guns, 84,427 vehicles of all kinds and 657,000 tons of ammunition.

Battle of France and the West
Cost to the Germans:

27,074 dead
111,034 wounded
18,384 missing
The Luftwaffe lost 1,284 aircraft

French losses estimated at 90,000 dead, 200,000 wounded. 1,900,000 prisoner or missing.

British casualties: 68,111
Belgian casualties: 23,350
Dutch casualties: 9,779

The French lost more than 560 aircraft in combat while the RAF lost 931 (477 of these being fighters)

The Battle of Britain

July 10, 1940 – October 31, 1940

The first strategic bombing campaign was actually the Battle of Britain
although the fighter to fighter combat during this period gets most of
the attention. Air superiority was a necessary condition for Operation
Sea Lion ( the invasion of Britain ) to be
launched. The Battle of Britain was the conflict to win air superiority
over Southern England and the channel. To accomplish this the Germans
had nearly 3,000 aircraft in three separate air fleets. Luftflotte 2 under Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring in Belgium, Holland and northeast France, Luftflotte 3 under Generalfeldmarschall

Hugo Sperrle in northwest Framce and Luftlotte 5 commanded by Generaloberst

Hans-Jürgen Stumpff based in Norway. Most of the German aircraft were
designed with short range tactical roles in mind and were not well
suited for the essentially strategic bombing campaign they were now
embarking on.

stuka.jpg (9320 bytes)
Stuka Dive bomber

Stuka-Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel : His Life Story in Words in Photographs
Battle of Britain Timeline:

10 July – 7 Aug preliminary phase

8 – 23 Aug attacks on coastal targets

24 Aug – 6 Sept attacks on Fighter Command airfields

7-30 Sept daylight attacks on London mainly by heavy bombers

1 – 31 October daylight attacks on London mainly by fighter-bombers

From July 10 to August 10, 1940 the Luftwaffe attacks were mainly
confined to coastal shipping and the laying of mines. During this time
period the Germans lost 227 aircraft while the British lost only 96.

Britain’s Main Fighter Aircraft During The Battle of Britain:

A wonderful aircraft benefiting from sound design, low drag and a superb power plant – the Merlin engine. The Spitfire as well as the engine showed great potential and indeed both were upgraded many times during the war. While the Hurricane fighter equipped more squadrons during the Battle of Britain this plane was far deadlier.

The Hawker Hurricane formed the backbone of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain. While not as good as the Spitfire the Hurricane was rugged and proved quite effective, especially against bombers.

On the English side despite being outnumbered and facing more
experienced pilots the British had several key advantages. Foremost in
this regard was a series of coastal radar stations which gave them early
warning of enemy attacks. Also, any downed German pilots were captured
and thus lost while British pilots could be shot down and be back up
fighting the next day or even the same day in some cases.

Adler-Tag “Eagle Day”

August 13, 1940

Eagle Day marked the start of a greatly increased air offensive against
Great Britain. This was to be an all-out effort but the day was marred
by mistakes for the Germans. Fighter Command could pull together 909
front-line Spitfire and Hurricane
fighters to defend against this onslaught. By the end of the day the
Germans had lost 46 planes with precious little to show for it while the
defending British lost 13 fighters in the air and just one on the
ground.

Although hampered by lack of coordination and efficiency and in spite of super human effort on the part of RAF pilots the Germans were getting close to achieving at least temporary air superiority by late August of 1940. The price was high in aircraft and pilots but by sheer force of numbers Germany was wearing Fighter Command down, killing pilots that could not be replaced fast enough, knocking out airfields and bombing factories where fighter aircraft were manufactured. Fate took a hand on the night of August 24th when, against Hitler’s standing orders, London itself was bombed. Actually the bombs were dropped by several pilots off course heading for a different target. The Berliners were stunned however when 81 RAF bombers appeared over their city the next night dropping bombs
on the German capitol. Although this attack and several follow up ones
caused little real damage Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to focus its
bombing efforts against the city of London, this was the break Fighter
Command badly needed.

With a chance to reconstitute itself the RAF went on to cause heavy losses in further bomber raids forcing the Germans to switch to night bombing and Hitler to postpone the invasion of Britain indefinitely.

RAF Single Engine Fighter Stats (July 6 – October 26 1944)

Date Fighter Losses Fighters Produced Serviceable Fighters Available Fighter Command Pilots Available
July 6 81 496 644 1,259
July 13 686 1,341
July 20 658 1,365
July 27 651 1,377
August 3 293 476 708 1,434
August 10 749 1,396
August 17 704 1,379
August 24 758 1,377
August 31 764 1,422
September 7 476 467 742 1,381
September 14 725 1,492
September 21 715 1,509
September 28 732 1,581
October 5 176 469 734 1,703
October 12 735 1,752
October 19 734 1,737
October 26 747 1,735

Aircraft Losses in the Battle of Britain:

Date: RAF Fighters RAF Other German bombers German Fighters
July 10-30 75 (27) 8 (1) 116 (31) 49
July 31-Aug 27 284 (30) 30 (7) 306 (53) 268 (35)
Aug 28-Oct 1 471 (32) 12 (5) 345 (78) 400 (41)
Oct 2-31 174 (57) 11 (7) 194 (68) 162 (36)
Total 1,004 61 961 879

Numbers in ( ) are non combat losses. These are also included in totals.

The excellent Messerschmitt Bf 109 was one of the best fighter aircraft in the world when the war started. In the Battle of Britain only the Spitfire could deal with the 109 on anywhere near equal terms. Possessing heavy armament and clean aerodynamic lines the Bf 109 was fast and maneuverable.

The Messerschmitt Bf 110 was designed as a heavy fighter Zerstörer (Destroyer) which could provide long range escort for bombers,
using its impressive firepower to deal with enemy planes. This concept was a popular pre-war idea but proved to be flawed and more or less invalid. Against the British the Bf 110 faired badly as a fighter and escort, itself needing escorting by single-engine Bf 109 fighters after a point! On other fronts and for the rest of the war the Messerschmitt Bf 110 served admirably as an all-purpose plane.

October 8, 1940  German troops enter Romania

September 17, 1940  Hitler abandons Operation Sealion ( the invasion of Great Britain ) for good.

October 28, 1940  The Italians attack Greece from Albania
with the first of some 200,000 troops without consulting with the
Germans first.

By the middle of November not only had the Italians been expelled
by the Greek army but were falling back in the face of a
counter-attack.

The Blitz

September 7, 1940 – May 31, 1941

After the Germans failed to neutralize Fighter Command in the Battle of
Britain they launched a sustained bombing campaign against the city of
London. Such was the intensity and frequency of these raids that the
city only saw ten nights free of falling bombs between September 7th and November 12th.

In the nine months from September 7, 1940 to the end of May 1941 the Germans dropped some 46,000 tons of high explosive bombs
and 110,000 incendaries (54,420 tons total) This bombardment left over
40,000 dead, 86,000 seriously injured and 150,000 slightly injured. 2
million homes were destroyed or damaged (60% of this number in London
itself.)

Between Feb 19,1941 and May 12,1941 sixty-one air raids were launched mainly against British ports including London.

Coventry
November 14 /15, 1940

This industrial city of 125,000 was the target of a particularly devastating attack by German bombers on the moonlit night of November 14/15, 1940. 449 bombers dropped 150,000 incendiary bombs, 503 tons of high-explosives (1,400 bombs) and 130 parachute sea-mines (causing extensive blast damage) on Coventry.

More than 550 people died with another thousand seriously injured during this massive air-raid and the subsequent raging fires. 50,749 houses ended up being destroyed or heavily damaged with the ruins of St. Michael’s Cathedral becoming a powerful symbol of the ruthlessness of German bombing policies.

From the viewpoint of strategic bombing Coventry was a legitimate target possessing considerable industrial facilities dedicated to Briitish aviation.

Air raids lessened somewhat as British night fighters became more effective but continued until the Spring of 1941.
Also, while London was still a target many other industrial cities were
bombed as well such as Bristol and Southampton. From the end of
September 1940 to May 1941 the Germans launched 71 major air raids on London and 56 against other cities. Mounting German losses and Hitler’s need to consolidate his aircraft for the upcoming Operation Barbarossa (invasion of Russia) effectively put an end to the Blitz.

The suffering and cost both in human terms and property was tremendous. Some 40,000 people died during the Blitz while 46,000 more were seriously wounded, in addition around a million dwellings and homes were destroyed or damaged. But the Germans had achieved very little militarily with the Blitz on London. Actually the British cause was greatly helped since many countries now felt far more inclined to side with and assist Great Britian in fighting NAZI Germany, especially the United States of America.

German Bombing During the Blitz

Date Sept. 1940 Oct. 1940 Nov. 1940 Dec. 1940 Jan. 1941 Feb. 1941 Totals
Sorties 7,260 9,911 6,000? 3,844 2,465 1,401 30,881
Tons dropped 7,044 9,113 6,510 4,323 2,424 1,127 30,541

The Channel Dash “Operation Cerberus/Operation Thunderbolt”

The German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in the French port of Brest since March 22, 1941 were subjected to regular attacks by the RAF. Occasionally the bombing damaged one of the warships slightly but more often than not ended up damaging the surrounding port facilities, docks and buildings. The RAF attacked the warships at Brest no fewer than 299 times losing 43 planes and 247 crewman in the process. The Gneisenau had been hit twice and damaged while the Scharnhorst had been hit once and damaged severely. A close watch was maintained on these ships with photo reconnanicance planes and submarines. The cruiser Prince Eugen was also there.

Hitler decided to withdraw his capital ships from the French port and in one of the few instances of real cooperation betweeen the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine Operation Cerberus was carried out. Fighter Chief Adolf Galland had 250 fighters available for this operation. He based them along the coast so as to provide continuous coverage of the warships as they conducted their breakout. From dawn to dusk 16 fighters were to operate over the warships for about 35 minutes – if no contact or just slight contact was made with the RAF they had to stay an additional 10 minutes. 10 minutes before these planes were scheduled to leave the next group of 16 fighters joined them. This meant that the number of fighters protecting the ships doubled for at least 10 minutes and as long as 20 minutes. A fighter direction officer was placed on the flagship Scharnhorst to help coordinate things between the Navy and the
Luftwaffe.

At 8:00 in the evening the warships left their berths but quickly had to go back and dock as British bombers were coming in on yet another raid against the port. flak from the shore and the ships erupted against the 20 – 25 bombers as a defensive smoke screen was generated. Luckily no ships were damaged so after the all-clear signal Operation Cerberus went forward again. Finally, a few minutes before 11:00 pm the three ships slipped out of the harbor and started north escorted by seven destroyers.

In complete radio silence the vessels made 30 knots to make up for lost time and arrived right on schedule off Cherbourg where a small fotilla of E-boats formed an outer defense perimeter. It was still dark when the first group of fighters flying at very low altitude arrived over the fleet at 8:50, now making good speed through the channel. A mine field discovered at Dieppe just hours before the ships were supposed to arrive caused some anxiety but an all-out effort by four mine-sweepers made a safe passage through it.

Not until the afternoon of the 12th were the British certain that the
ships had broken out of Brest. Coastal gun batteries opened fire,
torpedo boats and destroyers attacked all without inflicting damage.
Waves of RAF planes and coastal patrol aircraft joined in and pressed
home their attacks with a cloud ceiling of less than 1,000ft.

Off the Scheldt the Scharnhorst struck a mine but was underway within half an hour. During the night of 12-13 both the Gneisenau and the Scharnhorst were damaged slightly by striking mines near Terschelling. But on the 13th the ships were able to steam into port and safety.

Remarkably the Germans lost just one torpedo boat and 17 aircraft during the Channel Dash while the RAF lost 40 to enemy action plus two more, Spitfires that collided into each other. Six Navy Swordfish torpedo planes went down as well.

Early American Bombing Efforts in Europe

Eight Air Force eventually occupied 60 air bases in Great Britain.

Ira Eaker himself flew along on this mission.
The first bombing mission organized by Americans August 17, 1942. A
dozen flying fortresses took off from Grafton Underwood in eastern
England to attack a railroad marshalling yard 200 miles away at Rouen,
northwest of Paris. Escorted by four squadrons of Spitfires the B-17s dropped 18.5 tons of bombs and suffered no losses, two bombers had slight damage due to flak.

By early October of 1942 the Eighth Air Force had flown 13 missions
against German targets in France, Belgium and Holland losing just two bombers to interceptors and flak.

October 9, 1942 saw the first major raid by the Americans. The target the steelworks at Lille in northern France. 108 bombers
took part in the raid including, for the first time, B-24 Liberators.
But mechanical problems and errors in navigation left only 69 bombers to reach the target. 3 flying fortresses and one Liberator were lost. Only nine bombs
landed within 500 yards of the target. Although gunners claimed 56
enemy planes shot down German records show that just 2 interceptors were
lost.

Bad weather forced the cancellation of 11 U.S. missions in the 12 days
following the raid on Lille. Only 12 missions were actually flown in the
two month period November and December, many missions were cancelled.

At this time a crewman had to fly 25 missions to complete a tour of duty
and cancelled or aborted raids did not count toward this total even if
the attack was aborted after the planes had taken off.

A major blow to the Eighth Air Force was the for the invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch). In November two bomber groups were transferred to support the invasion (about 100 planes or at this time about a third of Eight Air Forces strength).

Furthermore Eaker was ordered to concentrate his bombing on submarine
pens along France’s Atlantic coast. These structures protecting U-boats
with massive 112 ft thick reinforced concrete. Bombing these targets did
not accomplish much as the bombs literally bounced off the pens.

November 23, 1942 in an attack on submarine pens at Saint-Nazaire U.S. bombers
encountered stiff resistance from the Luftwaffe and a disturbing new
tactic. The interceptors led by Lieut. Colonel Egon Mayer, attacked the bombers
from head on revealing a deficiency in forward firing armament of the
flying fortress. Four flying forts went down out of 56 over the target.
The Germans lost seven fighters that day.

At the end of 1942 the daylight bombing offensive was in a dismal state.
Just 27 U.S. missions had actually been carried out. Also not one
mission had attacked targets in Germany itself.

Operation Millennium – A Thousand Bomber Raid
May 30 / 31, 1942

On May 30th, 1942 1,046 RAF bombers took off to bomb the city of Cologne. It was an incredible feat by Air Marshall Harris to muster over 1,000 bombers
for a single raid and it marked a milestone for strategic bombing.
Never before had an air armada of such proportions set out to hit one
target but several hundred of this force consisted of hurriedly patched
up aircraft and outdated bombers with crews still in training. As a result only 898 bombers successfully dropped their payload on the city yet it still amounted to 1,455 tons of bombs
in a period of 90 minutes. Nearly 18,440 buildings were destroyed
including 13,000 homes and 250 factories leaving 56,000 people homeless.
The loss of life was relatively small given the dimensions of the
attack, 469 people were killed and more than 4,000 injured in the air
raid. bomber Command lost 41 bombers in the “thousand bomber
raid,” far less than the predicted loss rate. Air raids of this size
and intensity would prove to be frustratingly difficult to repeat but “Operation Millennium” did give bomber Command much needed support from Britain’s leadership at a time when it was severely lagging.

Hamburg’s Ordeal

Operation Gomorrah, the brainchild of Arthur Harris, involved
using both British and American aircraft to concentrate their bombing
attacks against one city – the port city of Hamburg for a ten day
period. The first night, July 24th, 1943, 740 RAF bombers dropped nearly 3,000 tons of bombs
and lost only 12 planes in the process. This was mainly due to the
British using window, bundles of aluminum foil strips that appeared as a
bomber
on German radar, a total of 92 million strips were released during the
raid totally confusing the German defenses. The daylight hours saw 68
B-17s attacking the shipyards and submarine building yards of Hamburg
losing 19 flying-fortresses to stiffening German opposition. The next
day 53 Flying Fortresses dropped bombs on the Neuhoff power plant in the city.

On the night of July 27th 722 RAF bombers found Hamburg still burning brightly andlbed it with more incendiary and high explosive bombs.
Fires merged with existing fires unleashing a firestorm with
temperatures reaching 1,800 degrees F (980 C) and winds up to 150 mph
(240 km/h.) – enough to uproot trees and set asphalt streets ablaze.
There was no defense against this and even those in bomb
shelters were not safe as many suffocated to death or were incinerated
in the intense heat. Again on the 29th of July and the 2nd of August
British bombers
returned and hit the city. The nine day aerial assault left Hamburg and
its residents devastated. About 50,000 perished in the bombing while
nearly half of the city’s buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged,
almost 10 square miles of Hamburg lay in ruins. A million refugees fled
the city and word of the Die Katastrophe spread throughout Germany.

This attack more than any other galvanized the Luftwaffe leadership into
action to defend the cities of Germany. Hitler did not agree with
Goring and the other Generals who felt that extreme measures had to be
taken now to save the Luftwaffe and Germany itself from destruction. In
the face of Hitler’s veto many officers and pilots did everything they
could anyway to improve the tactics and weapons of the fighter force.
This hard work would pay off in the months to follow.

Casablanca Directive

Ira Eaker / Churchill

Issued January 21, 1943 by Allied leaders. Endorsed round the clock bombing policy with the British bombing at night and the Americans bombing by day. Detailed target priorities.

The Ploesti Oil Raid of August 1st, 1943

Operation Tidal Wave

The rich oil fields of Ploesti in Romania supplied one third of the oil
the Germans used and was a tempting target for Allied planners. Being
too far from England the attack came from bases in Libya. 177 B-24D
Liberators from five groups the 44th, 93rd, 389th of the 8th AF and the
98th and 376th Bomb
Groups of the 9th B.C. headed for the target in radio silence and at
low altitude to avoid alerting the enemy. But this was already
impossible since the Germans had intercepted the routine radio
transmissions at takeoff and knew an attack was coming.

The southern approaches to Ploesti were the best defended with many flak batteries and the bombers had orders to fly to the north of this area and approach the target from a north-westly direction. But the lead bomber
turned too soon and both groups ended up flying through the heaviest
part of these defenses at tree top level and into a solid wall of flak. From that point on it was a running battle between the flak gunners, many well concealed, and the bombers firing their .50 calibre (12.7 mm) machine guns. The bombers
were so low that the German gunners just had to use simple visual
aiming to score many hits. There was even a train bristling with guns
that followed the bombers
for some distance. Over the target Messerschmitt fighters tore into the
formation and followed it for some time after inflicting many losses.

Out of 177 bombers that took part in the mission 54 bombers (532 airmen) never made it back and 55 other bombers were so badly damaged they were only fit for scrap.

And while Ploesti was heavily damaged in the raid it had considerable
reserve capacity, by bringing this into operation shipments of oil to
Germany were not affected.

Schweinfurt and Regensburg

The city of Scweinfurt held five plants that turned out over 50% of the
ball bearings used by Germany. This type of target seemed to embody the
American strategic bombing doctrine, requiring precision daylight
bombing to assure success and being a key or “bottleneck” industry on
which everything from artillery and tanks to planes heavily relied on.
By far this was the deepest American bombers
had flown into Germany but most planners thought that the massed
firepower of the B-17s in formation would be protection enough against
German fighters. Still to hedge their bets another force of 146 bombers was going to strike the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg first, hopefully confusing the German defenses.

The well trained crews commanded by then Colonel Curtis Lemay took off
from bases in England shrouded in fog on the morning of August 17th. The
Scweinfurt bound bombers
scheduled to takeoff ten minutes later were delayed by the fog, a delay
which eventually lasted three hours and killed any benefit the two
pronged attack could have yielded.

As the American bombers
crossed the English coast improved long range radar alerted the Germans
who had interceptors aloft within minutes to meet the incoming
formations. Patiently the planes held back until the fighter escorts
turned back for lack of fuel, just inside the German border, then they
attacked with a fury. As the bombers slowly made their way to Regensburg 300+ interceptors hammered the formations with cannon, machine gun fire
and even rockets. Pilots were under orders to fly at least three
sorties, rearming and refueling in between. In one of the most intense
aireal battles of the War the Luftwaffe showed its new determination and
new tactics which brought down 15 fortresses by the time the Americans
reached their target. Despite this ordeal the remaining bombers,
most heavily damaged and riddled with bullets, hit all the major
buildings at Regensburg and in a pre-planned move flew across the Alps
and on to Algeria. Like leeches the Luftwaffe fighters hung on bringing 3
more B-17s down before it was over.

At this point the 230 bombers
going to Scweinfurt were struck by an alert, rearmed and refuelled
German fighter force. In a replay of the carnage that the first bombers
had suffered 21 B-17s were lost before reaching the ball bearing
factories at Scweinfurt. There they managed to accurately drop over 420
tons of bombs
on the targets but now they faced the long flight back – unlike the
force that struck Regensburg there were no plans to go to Algeria.

The bombers
were relentlesslylbed all the way until the fighter escorts finally
appeared to bring the battered force across the channel and home to
bases in England.

Initial response to the air strikes was positive based mainly on reports
of the extensive damage done to the targets at both Scweinfurt and
Regensburg. This view quickly sobered with the realization that the
day’s operations cost the Eighth Air Force 60 bombers and 600 crewmen. In addition 122 bombers
were heavily damaged with 27 of those just fit for scrap. An alarmed
officer noted that a week of such missions would completetly wipe out
their frontline strength.

In the aftermath of these costly air raids Army Air Corp Generals really
began to question one of their most sacred ideas often stated as “the bomber will always get through”. The Luftwaffe lost 36 aircraft with 12 more written off defending against the bomber
attacks. To Adolf Galland, General of the Luftwaffe fighter arm this
was proof that the daylight raids on Germany could be forced to a
standstill.

It would be several months before American bombers revisted Scweinfurt but it would not be long enough for the weary crews of the Eighth Air Force.

Back to Top of Page

“Black Thursday”  Back To Schweinfurt

On Oct. 14, 1943 Eighth Air Force bombers
conduct the second raid on the ball-bearing factories at Schweinfurt,
Germany. As a result, the Germans will disperse their ball-bearing
manufacturing, but the cost of the raid is high; 60 of the 291 B-17s
launched do not return, 138 more are heavily damaged.

 

Target: Peenemünde (Germany’s Secret Weapon Research)

In 1936 most of Germany’s secret weapon research was transferred to a
small Baltic island called Peenemünde. Major facilities were built there
so scientists and technicians (eventually numbering 4,000) could work
on rockets, missiles and later the Veangence weapons.

The British slowly unveiled the secret and threatening nature of
activities at Peenemünde through recon flights and intelligence. Knowing
that any V weapons once developed would most certainly be used against Great Britain a “knock out” blow was planned. bomber Command launched 597 bombers to hit Peenemünde on the night of August 17th, 1943 – the same day of the American attacks against Scweinfurt and Regensburg.

A good concentration of 2,000 tons of high-explosive bombs hammered the facilities killing 735 people, including Dr. Thiel, who had spent the last seven years perfecting the V-2s huge rocket engine. The pre-production works designed to be a complete assembly line for the A-4 ( V-2 ) was almost totally destroyed. The 30m tall several hundredm long structure got hit with nine 992 lb (450 kg) bombs setting back the V-1 and V-2 projects by roughly two months. 40 bombers fell to German defenses in the attack, 29 to night fighters, a sign of the growing effectiveness of this force.

 

The Battle of Berlin

November 18, 1943 – March 31, 1944

A sustained bombing campaign conceived by bomber Command’s Arthur Harris to force the war to a quick end began on November 18, 1943. Averaging 500 bombers a raid more than 9,111 sorties were flown in 35 major raids ( 16 against Berlin and 19 against other cities to dilute German night
defenses. ) When the Battle of Berlin was finally at an end on March
31, 1944 it had caused considerable damage to the city but it had not
forced Germany to it’s knees. A catastrophic 1,047 RAF bombers had been lost during the Battle of Berlin.

 

The Sturmgruppe and Rammjäger Fighters

General Galland ordered the formation of a squadron of heavily modified FW-190 aircraft

to close in and attack enemy bombers at point blank range. These planes were fitted with 5

to 12 mm ( 0.2 – 0.5 in ) armor plating around the pilot and engine, mostly facing

forward, and a 50 mm ( nearly 2 inch ) thick bullet-proof windscreen. Equipped with four

30 mm cannon the Sturmgruppe approached from the rear and started firing from a

distance of 300ft (90 m) or less where their firepower was absolutely devastating.

These special fighters also had leading edges covered with armor so they could close-in

and ram the rudder or a elevator, causing the bomber to lose control and crash.

Big Week

Operation Argument or “Big Week” was a massive bombing effort aimed at

the German aircraft industry. The Eighth, Ninth and the Fifteenth Air Force together flew

more than 3,800 sorties and dropped 10,000 tons of bombs during a six day period starting

with February 20, 1944. In all roughly half of the German facilities for aircraft

production were destroyed or heavily damaged, including nearly a thousand fighter aircraft

ready or near completion.

Big Week cost the Allies 226 bombers and 28 fighters but was seen as a major success

and a crippling blow to the German aircraft industry. In fact it wasn’t, the number of

fighter aircraft built actually increased though at a slower rate during the next few

months. Operation Argument was not a failure however as it hurt the Luftwaffe in an

even more critical area – fighter pilots. In defending against the week of nonstop bombing

attacks the Germans lost 227 pilots with another 141 wounded. This was a full 10 percent

of the total number of pilots that could fly interceptors – lost in just six days.

 

The Greatest Victory for German Night Fighters: Nuremberg

The night of March 30, 1944 the RAF launched a major raid consisting of 795 bombers
against the city of Nuremberg. Better night fighter tactics and changing weather
conditions allowed the German defenses to shoot down fully 95 of the bombers and badly
damage another 59. 12 more crashed or wrecked back on landing in England.

The Transportation Plan vs. Attacks on Oil Targets

Interdiction Campaign Leading Up To The D-Day Invasion

The question of how best to support the Allied troops set to invade the
Normandy coastal area was a matter of considerable and heated debate.
The transportation plan involved numerous attacks against bridges,
marshaling yards, and other targets that would isolate Normandy and
hinder the movement of German reinforcements.

Other allied leaders thought that a concentrated series of attacks on
oil installations would cripple the German war machine, depriving
Hitler’s Panzer armies of fuel they would need to effectively fight the
allied invasion force. The transportation plan was adopted in the end
primarly because General Eisenhower, supreme allied comander, supported
it. 80 rail and road targets in Northern France became key targets.
Along with targets of opportunity these were blasted by sustained
attacks for almost four months. Deception was worked into this campaign
as for every target bombed in or near the Normandy area two targets were
struck elsewhere.

February 9 – June 6 1944

Allied aircraft used: 21,949

bomb Tonnage dropped: 76,200 tons

Selected road and rail targets: 80

Targets destroyed: 51

Targets severely damaged: 25

Targets slightly damaged: 4

NO-BALL – a V-1 target site

CROSSBOW – V-1 and V-2 targets

The Ninth Air Force dropped 33,000 tons of bombs on these 80 vital transportation targets.
Along with the damage to marshaling yards and rail junctions 1,500 locomotives were destroyed.

All 24 bridges on the river Seine between Paris and the coast were knocked down and kept down by frequent attacks.

Nearly a hundred airfields in Northern France were repeatedly hit and strafed by attack bombers and fighters destroying hundreds of German fighters on the ground and rendering the airfields all but useless.

All together some 200,000 sorties were flown in the effort to isolate
the invasion area and destroy targets within it leading up to D-Day. In
the dark hours before dawn on June 6th an additional 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the Atlantic wall and coastal defenses themselves.

D-Day The Allied Invasion of Europe

June 6th, 1944

B-26 Medium Bomber

B-26 Marauder

The Longest Day by Cornelius RyanA true
classic of World War II history, The Longest Day tells the story of the
massive Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Journalist
Cornelius Ryan began working on the book in the mid-1950s, while the
memories of the D-day participants were still fresh, and he spent three
years interviewing D-day survivors in the United States and Europe.

Operation Overlord kicked off with 6,500 naval and transport vessels in
75 convoys converging on Normandy. At 6:30 on June 6, 1944 British,
Common Wealth and US troops landed on five beaches along the Normandy
coast. An aireal umbrella covered the landings with 4,900 fighters and
5,800 bombers
flying 14,600 sorties (not counting transports) in the first 24 hours. By midnight
57,000 US and 75,000 British and Common Wealth troops were ashore and
linking together. The Luftwaffe could barely muster 300 sorties on
D-Day. Casualties among the ground forces were 2,500 killed and 8,500
wounded. The German response to the invasion was hampered greatly by
Hitler’s indecision and the fear that Normandy was just a feint with the
real blow coming at the Pas de Calais region, a believe that the Allies
had fostered among the German high command with clever deceptions.

 

The Oil Campaign

A few preliminary attacks against oil targets were launched prior to
D-Day but nothing substantial could be done in the months leading up to
the invasion of Europe and sometime after since most bombers were commited to supporting the D-Day invasion.

The main source of oil for the Germans were 13 synthetic oil plants plus
three smaller ones starting in 1944.  Ploesti in Rumania and oil
fields in Hungary provided more than 25% of refined crude oil such as
liquid fuels. Domestic production of liquid fuels and other refined oil
products was small but important to the German war effort.

The refineries at Ploesti were attacked, beginning with a daring and
costly low-level attack in August 1943.
However, oil shipments continued and increased until April of 1944 when
air raids resumed. The sustained attacks during 1944 together with the
mining of the Danube river reduced Rumanian oil shipments to a trickle.
Finally advancing Russian troops took over what was left of Ploesti in
August of 1944. Now maintaining a steady flow of oil from the synthetic
plants was given a high priority by the Germans.

As the bombing of the synthetic oil plants finally picked up
production dropped steadily and by July of 1944 every major plant had
been hit. Before the sustained bombing effort on this key industry the
synthetic plants were putting out an average of 316,000 tons per month
of oil and 175,000 tons of aviation gas. By June this fell to 107,000
tons and 30,000 tons respectively. September saw an all time low with
just 17,000 tons of oil and 5,000 tons of aviation fuel being produced.
But the main problem for the Luftwaffe was lack of trained pilots well
before aviation fuel supplies became critically low. Nearly 1,000
Luftwaffe pilots were lost in the first four months of 1944. Many of
these pilots had considerable experience and could not be replaced.

The Germans took extreme measures to repair and reconstruct the oil
plants. A czar was appointed, Edmund Geilenberg, who had almost
unlimited priority on men and materials. Geilenberg used as many as
350,000 men for the repair, rebuilding, and dispersal of the bombed
plants and for new underground construction. The synthetic oil plants
were huge complex facilities which could not easily be broken down and
dispered. Efforts toward dispersal and underground construction were not
completed by war’s end. Geilenberg was however able to bring bombed
synthetic oil plants back into at least partial production in a
remarkably short space of time.

The largest and most heavily defended of the synthetic oil plants was
Leuna. It took a long and costly bombing campaign with 6,552 sorties
and 18,328 tons of bombs over 12 months to keep the average production at Leuna below 10%.

 

Der Grosse Schlag The Great Blow

A plan devised by Adolf Galland to assemble over a thousand fighter aircraft and throw them against a daylight bomber raid. By shooting down a huge number of American bombers
at one stroke Galland hoped to bring a halt to the bombing that was
crippling Germany’s industries and he was prepared to lose 500 fighters
to achieve it. After months of carefully building up a reserve of
fighters General Galland signaled the head of the Luftwaffe, Herman
Goring, that he was ready. In mid November, after days of waiting for
the weather to allow a large bombing raid, Hitler ordered almost all of
these fighter planes to be sent to the Western front in preparation for
the Ardennes offensive (Operation Watch on The Rhine) later changed to
“Autumn Mist.”

 

The Sinking of The Battleship Tirpitz

November 12, 1944

In a bold but well planned daylight raid 32 Lancasters of the elite No. 617 bomber
squadron carrying 12,000 lb ( 5,443 kg ) Tallboy bombs sank the
battleship Tirpitz in Tromsoe Fjord, Norway. The bombers flew at very low altitude toward
a point on the Norwegian coast where German radar coverage was the least effective. Having
avoided detection the bombers then skirted the Norwegian-Swedish border all the way North
finally turning to fly over Tromsoe Fjord at 12,000 – 15,000ft. The Germans were taken
by surprise as three direct hits and two near-misses were scored by Tallboy bombs causing
the battleship to rollover and sink. Over 1,400 men were killed including the Captain when
the battleship went down. flak opened up but the Lancasters were already on their way back
to England. The entire flight took over 12 hours for the bombers and their crews.

Operation Market-Garden

September 17, 1944

A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius RyanAn
account of a significant World War II battle discusses the airborne
struggles at Arnhem and documents the related human issues with the
words of Dutch civilians, British and American strategists, common
soldiers, and commanders.

Conceived by the overly cautious British Field Marshal Montgomery this
highly ambitious plan aimed to capture and hold key bridges in Holland,
up to 60 miles behind enemy lines, with airborne troops. An armored
ground thrust would then drive up the major road, linking up with and
reinforcing the lightly armed paratroopers. If successful this would
give the Allies a crossing over the Rhine and threaten the heart of
Germany itself.

The ground component (Garden) consisted of the British XXX Corps (part of the British Second Army and 21st Army Group.)

The U.S. 101st Airborne Division succeeded in capturing the canal crossings at Eindhoven and Veghel while the 82nd Airborne Division captured the bridges over the Maas and Waal rivers.

At Arnhem, the farthest objective, the British 1st
Airborne Division with the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade encountered heavy
resistance and just managed to secure the Northern end of the bridge.
Equipped to hold the bridge for three days they held it for nine days
and nine nights
against a vastly superior force. These brave soliders were waiting in
vain for the XXX Corps to reach them. The ground forces involved in
Market-Garden did not move with the swiftness necessary to take full
advantage of the initial German surprize and confusion. Later with
German resistance stiffening the British advance slowed, just when it
was vital to reach Arnhem.

 

Operation Watch on The Rhine “Battle of The Bulge”

Dec. 16, 1944 – Jan. 31, 1945

The preparations for Operation “Watch on The Rhine” were remarkably well
handled considering the terrible condition of Germany and its war
machine at this stage of the war. Assembling a force of 2,567 tanks and
assault guns, 10 panzer divions and 2,295 aircraft (totalling about
250,000 men) so close to the front without the enemy becoming aware of
the fact was achieved only with the greatest secrecy and deception. No
matter how desperate or foredoomed this final German offensive was it
should be remembered that the “Battle of The Bulge” caused more American
casualites than any other battle of the war.

As concieved the attack would cut through the wooded Ardennes, where
four years previous German armies had blitzed their way to victory
against France and the low countries. The primary goal was to drive a
wedge between the American and British armies to the Mues River.
Finally, the major port of Antwerp, through which flowed the bulk of
supplies for the Allied armies, was to be taken.

The Sixth, Fifth and Seventh Panzer Armies were the main forces
involved. In addition a special unit of “english speaking” soliders. On
December 16, 1944 the offense got underway with low cloud cover and fog
leaving allied air power grounded.

 

Unternehmen Bodenplatte (Operation Baseplate)

January 1, 1945

About 900 German aircraft, mostly Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf
190 fighters, were launched in a low-level surprise attack on Allied
airfields in Holland and Belgium on New Year’s Day 1945. The attack
achieved almost complete surprise and resulted in the destruction of 278
aircraft ( 144 RAF and 134 USAAF ) with a further 162 planes damaged
(84 RAF and 62 USAAF.)

However, these were losses that the Allies could quite easily make-up
while the cost for the Luftwaffe was quite high, partially because
German flak
units had not been informed about Operation Baseplate and so fired at
aircraft returning from the raid. The Luftwaffe effectively lost 255
pilots (170 pilots killed or missing in action, 67 taken prisoner and 18
wounded.)

The Destruction of Dresden

 

Febuary 13-14, 1945

Ruins of Dresden

The attack on the city of Dresden is the most controversial air raid of the war except possibly the atomic bomb
attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In February of 1945 Dresden was the
largest German city to be spared major bombing by the Allies. The
initiative for the attack on the city of Dresden came from British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill and was primarily political in nature. The
Yalta conference with Roosevelt and Stalin was approaching and Churchill
desperately wanted to be able to show Stalin that his Anglo-American
allies were supporting the advance of the Soviet armies now fighting
their way into Eastern Europe and Germany.

Dresden itself offered little in the way of military targets – this is
one of the main reasons it had only seen bombing twice, both times by
American planes diverted from primary targets due to clouds to bomb the rail yards of Dresden. It is also the reason that a bare minimal number of flak (anti-aircraft) guns defended the city.

It was reasoned that demolishing the city of Dresden would sow confusion
among the refugees fleeing the advancing Red army and impede the
movement of German reinforcements to the Eastern front.

There was not much enthusiasm among those carrying out this massive
attack on a city better known for its cultural and historical attributes
than military ones but neither were there serious objections raised
either – until after the bombing – and the full horror of what happened
to this beautiful city became known.

Churchill did much to distance himself from his involvement in the decision to bomb Dresden. Others did the same leaving Sir Arthur Harris, head of RAF bomber Command, to shoulder the blame for his perfect execution of an attack he was ordered to carry out.

In the wake of Mosquitos laying red marking flares over the city the first wave of 244 Lancaster bombers dropped incendiary and high explosive bombs
around 10:13 pm. A 2nd wave of 529 Lancasters timed to produce maximum
disruption among firefighters and emergency crews struck at 1:30 am
creating a terrible firestorm that gutted 8 sq miles (20 sq km) of the
city. The following day 311 B-17 bombers dropped 771 tons of bombs on the city itself after failing to find Dresden’s railroad yards. The next day 210 more U.S. bombers dropped 461 tons of bombs on the burning city. A total of 3,749 tons of bombs (75% being incendiary) had been discharged with the loss of only six bombers.

Dresden burned for seven days and eight nights with 70% of the city
destroyed. When it was over there were literally not enough able-bodied
people to bury the dead and fearing the spread of disease the center of
Dresden was closed off and the bodies burned. The number of people who
died in the attack will never be known but estimates start at 32,000 and
go as high as 135,000.

 

b26

USAAF B-17 B-24 B-25 B-26 B-29

USAAF B-17 B-24 B-25 B-26 B-29

B-24 Liberators

Heavy Bombers

Medium/Light Bombers

B-25 Mitchell | B-26 Marauder | A-20 Havoc | A-26 Invader

Heavy Bomber Specifications

Aircraft B-17C/D B-17F B-17G B-24D B-24H/J B-29B
Crew 10 10 10 10 10 10
Engines Four 1,200 hp R-1820-65 Cyclone Four 1,200 hp R-1820-97 Cyclone Four 1,200 hp R-1820-97 Cyclone Four 1,200 hp R-1830-65 Twin-Wasp Four 1,200 hp R-1830-65 Twin-Wasp Four 2,200 hp Wright R-3350 radials
Wingspan 103 ft 9 in 103 ft 9 in 103 ft 9 in 110 ft 0 in 100 ft 0 in 141 ft 33 in
Length 68 ft 4 in 74 ft 8 in 74 ft 3 in* 66 ft 4 in 67 ft 2 in 99 ft 0 in
Height 18 ft 4 in 19 ft 2 in 19 ft 2 in 17 ft 11 in 18 ft 0 in 29 ft 7 in
Wing Area 1,420 sq. ft 1,420 sq. ft 1,420 sq. ft 1,048 sq. ft 1,048 sq. ft 1,736 sq. ft
Empty Weight 27,650 lb 35,728 lb 36,134 lb 32,605 lb 36,500 lb 69,000 lb
Gross Weight 46,650 lb 40,260 lb 40,260 lb 60,000 lb 64,500 lb 137,500 lb
Max Speed 291 mph/25,000 ft 325 mph/25,000 ft 302 mph/25,000 ft 303 mph/25,000 ft 290 mph/25,000 ft 364 mph/25,000 ft
Cruise Speed 217 mph 160 mph 160 mph 200 mph 215 mph 228 mph
Service Ceiling 36,000 ft 38,500 ft 35,600 ft 32,000 ft 28,000 ft 32,000 ft
Range 2,400 miles 2,420 miles 3,750 miles 2,850 miles 2,100 miles 4,200 miles
Max Bomb Loads (Long Range Mission) 4,800 lb 4-6,000 lb 4-6,000 lb 5-8,800 lb 5-8,800 lb 20,000 lb
Load-outs 8 X 600 lb or 14 X 300 lb or 4 X 1,000 lb or 2 X 2,000 lb 26 X 100 lb or 16 X 300 lb or 12 X 500 lb or 2 X 2,000 lb 26 X 100 lb or 16 X 300 lb or 12 X 500 lb or 2 X 2,000 lb 20 X 100 lb or 12 X 300 lb or 8 X 1,000 lb or 4 X 2,000 lb 20 X 100 lb or 12 X 300 lb or 8 X 1,000 lb or 4 X 2,000 lb 4 X 4,000 lb or 8 X 2,000 lb or 12 X 1,600 lb or 40 X 500 lb
Armament 6 X .50 in machine guns

1 X .30 in machine gun

8/11 .50 in machine guns

1 X .30 in machine gun

11/13 .50 in machine guns

i X .30 in machine gun

10 X .50 in machine guns 10 X .50 in machine guns 4 remote control turrets w/ twin .50 in machine guns

2 X .50 in machine guns in tail

* Cheyenne tail

Suicide Missions: Ball Turret Gunners

 

Hear harrowing stories from men who survived one of the most dangerous assignments in the history of war. 50 mins.

 




8th Air Force Bomb Groups and Squadrons

Group Squadrons Period
44 66,67,68,506 Nov. 1942 to 1945
91 322,323,324,401 Nov. 1942 to May 1945
92 325,326,327,407 Sep. 1942 to May 1945
94 331,332,333,410 May 1943 to May 1945
95 334,335,336,412 May 1943 to May 1945
96 337,338,339,413 May 1943 to May 1945
100 349,350,351,418 Jun. 1943 to May 1945
303 358,359,360,427 Nov. 1942 to May 1945
305 364,365,366,422 Nov. 1942 to May 1945
306 367,368,369,423 Oct. 1942 to May 1945
351 408,409,410,411 May 1943 to May 1945
379 524,525,526,527 May 1943 to May 1945
381 532,533,534,535 Jun. 1943 to May 1945
384 544,545,546,547 Jun. 1943 to May 1945
385 548,549,550,551 Jul. 1943 to May 1945
388 560,561,562,563 Jul. 1943 to May 1945
390 568,569,570,571 Aug. 1943 to May 1945
398 600,601,602,603 May 1944 to May 1945
401 612,613,614,615 Nov. 1943 to May 1945
447 708,709,710,711 Dec. 1943 to May 1945
452 728,729,730,731 Feb. 1944 to May 1945
457 748,749,750,751 Feb. 1944 to May 1945
34* 4,7,18,391 Sep. 1994 to May 1945
486* 832,833,834,835 Aug. 1944 to May 1945
487* 836,837,838,839 Aug. 1944 to May 1945
490* 848,849,850,851 Aug. 1944 to May 1945
493* 860,861,862,863 Sep. 1944 to May 1945

* These groups flew B-24s for a time then switched to B-17s

Body Armor “Flak Suits”

Early in October of 1942 a study revealed that about 70% of wounds
received by 8th air force crews came from relatively low velocity
missiles (shrapnel from flak
bursts). Body Armor or “flak suits” as they were known were issued as
an answer. They consisted of a heavy canvas covered with overlapping 2
inch squares of 20-gauge manganese steel. The first 600 were made by the
Wilkinson Sword Company of the UK.

Large scale production went forward in the U.S. and by January 1, 1944
some 13,500 suits had been made for the 8th and 9th air forces.

There were five main types:

M-1 18 lb 2 oz vest protecting front & back of torso

M-2 9 lb vest covering the chest

M-3 4 lb 12 oz added to other armor to protect lower body

M-4 7 lb 8 oz protecting all frontal areas

M-5 light ?lb added to M-1 or M-2 to cover thighs, lower body

Crews normally put armor suits on when approaching the target area. A
ripcord was attached which allowed the entire suit to fall off if
yanked. In case of bail-out or other emergency a crewman could then
quickly shed the heavy armor.

B-26 bomber

Medium Bomber Specifications

Aircraft A-20G B-26C B-25H B-25J A-26C
Crew 3 7 3-6 3-6 3
Engines 2 x 1,600 hp R-2600-23 2 x 2,000 hp R-2800-43 2 x 1,700 hp R-2600-13 2 x 1,700 hp R-2600-92 2 x 2,000 hp R-2800-27/-79
Wingspan 61 ft 4 in 71 ft 0 in 67 ft 7 in 67 ft 7 in 70 ft 0 in
Length 48 ft 0 in 58 ft 3 in 51 ft 0 in 52 ft 11 in 51 ft 3 in
Height 17 ft 7 in 21 ft 6 in 15 ft 9 in 16 ft 4 in 18 ft 3 in
Wing Area 464 sq. ft 658 sq. ft 610 sq. ft 610 sq. ft 540 sq. ft
Empty Weight 15,984 lb 24,000 lb 19,975 lb 19,480 lb 22,850 lb
Gross Weight 27,200 lb 38,200 lb 36,047 lb 35,000 lb 35,000 lb
Max Speed 339 mph/12,400 ft 282 mph/15,000 ft 275 mph/13,000 ft 272 mph/13,000 ft 373 mph
Cruise Speed 272 mph 214 mph 230 mph 230 mph 284 mph
Range 1,090 miles 1,150 miles 1,350 miles 1,350 miles 1,400 miles
Bomb Load / Armament 2,600 lb

8 X .50 machine guns

3,000 lb

12 X .50 machine guns

3,000 lb

14 X .50 machine guns

1 X 75mm cannon

8 X 5 m rockets

3,000 lb

12 X .50 machine guns

8 X 5 m rockets

4,000 lb

6 X .50 in machine guns in nose, top

& ventral turrets

 

 

USAAF bombers in the European War, 1942-45

Bomber Type Number of
Sorties
Bomb Tonnage US Aircraft
Lost in combat
Enemy Aircraft Claimed
Destroyed in Air*
B-17 291,508 640,036 4688 6659
B-24 226,775 452,508 3626 2617
B-26 129,943 169,382 911 402
B-25 63,177 84,980 380 193
A-20 39,492 31,856 265 11
A-26 11,567 18,054 67 7
Total 762,462 1,396,816 9937 9889

* claims of enemy planes shot down by bombers are notoriously inaccurate
- usually grossly above the actual figure. They are included here to
give an indication of the ferocity of aerial combat and the bravery of
gunners in bomber aircraft.

Consolidated B-32 Dominator

Only fifteen of this very heavy bomber saw combat during World War II.
Not including the three XB-32s only 115 of this bomber were delivered by
the end of August 1945, including forty TB-32 crew trainers.

armament: ten 0.5 in machine-guns in five powered turrets

bomb load: max of 20,000 lbs (9070 kg)

range: 3,600 miles (5790 km) with 8,000lb (3625 kg) of bombs

max speed: 364 mph (585 km/h)

ceiling: at least 30,000 ft (9140 m)

A pair of B-32 bombers on a photo mission over Tokyo on August 18,1945
were jumped by some fourteen Japanese fighters (Zeros and Tojos). One of
the B-32s was damaged but both managed to return safely to Okinawa. The
gunners claimed two fighters destroyed and two probables. The Last B-32
operational mission was flown on August 28, 1945.

Northrop XB-35 “Flying Wing”

XB-35

Northrop XB-35 “Flying Wing”

Type:		Heavy bomber
Crew:		9
Armament: 	(first YB-35 only)
		3 sets of 4 .50 cal machine guns in turrets
		two .50 cal machine guns each in 4 barbettes

Specifications:
	Length:        	20' 1" 
	Height:        	53' 1" 
	Wingspan:      	172' 0" 
	Wing area:	4000 sq. ft 
	Empty Weight:  	89,560 lb
	Gross Weight:	180,000 lb
	Max Weight: 	209,000 lb

Propulsion:     
	No. of Engines:	4
	Powerplant: 	two Pratt & Whitney R-4360-17
	Powerplant: 	two R-4360-21 Wasp Major radials
	Horsepower:	3000 hp each

Performance:    
	Range:		8150 miles at 183 mph  with a 16,000 lb bomb load 
			720 miles at 240 mph with 51,070 lbs of bombs
	Cruise Speed:   183 mph
	Max Speed:      391 mph at 35,000ft
	Ceiling:       	39,700 ft 

 

Name B-36
Role Very Long Range Strategic Bomber
Crew Eight
Country U.S.A.
Manafacturer Convair
Wing span 230 ft, 0 in (70.1 m)
Length 162 ft, 1 in (49.4 m)
Height 46 ft, 8 in (14.224 m)
Wing Area 4,772 square ft (443.3 m²)
Empty Weight 131,740 lbs (59760 kg)
Gross Weight 276,506 lbs (125425 kg)
Max. Bombload 77,784 lbs (35280 kg)
Engines Six 3,000 hp (2237 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-4360-25 Wasp Major air cooled radial
engines
Fuel Capacity 19,976 U.S. gallons (75615 liters)
Max. Speed 346 mph (557 km/h) at 35,000 ft (10670 m)
Cruising Speed 216 mph (347 km/h)
Climb Rate 1,740 ft/minute (530m/min)
Time to 25,000 ft (7620 m) 42 minutes
Absolute Ceiling 38,000 ft (11580 m)
Range with 10,000 lbs (4536 kg) of bombs 9,500 miles (15290 km)
Range with Max. Bomb load 3,850 miles (6200 km)
Normal Bomb load up to 72,000 lb (32660 kg)
Max. Bomb load 77,784 lb (35280 kg)

 

446 B-36 bombers went on to be built, none seeing service in World War II.

TN_lanc_6

RAF Bomber Command: Aircraft, Munitions, Stats, Missions



RAF Bomber Command: Aircraft, Munitions, Stats, Missions

pair of halifax bombers

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley

Avro Lancaster | Avro Manchester

Bristol Blenheim

de Havilland Mosquito

Handley Page Halifax

Handley Page Hampden

Short Stirling

Vickers Wellington

British Fighters



Early Operations

Arthur Harris Takes Charge

Operation Millennium

Battle of the Ruhr

Hamburg

Transportation Plan

D-Day – Invasion of Europe

Battle of Berlin

Destruction of Dresden

Pathfinders

Aircraft

Personnel

Weapons / Ordnance

Organization

Navigation

Electronic Warfare

Special Operations






Bristol Blenheim

Background:
Users: Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Jugoslavia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, UK (RAF)

Blenheim Mk IV
Type three-seat light bomber / night-fighter
Dates
Service entry
March 1937
Engine Two 920hp (kN) Bristol Mercury 9-cyl. radials
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
56′ 4″ (17.17m)
42′ 7″ (12.98m)
12′ 10″ (3.91m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
9,790 lb (4441 kg)
14,400 lb (6531 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
266 mph (428 km/h) at 11,500 ft (3505m)
Inital Climb 1,500 ft (457m) /min
Service Ceiling 24,600 ft (7500m)
Armament 1,000 lb (454 kg) internal bomb load
Range  
# built 3296

total # built: 6165


Armstrong Whitworth Whitley

Background:
Users: UK (RAF, BOAC)

Whitley Mk V
Type five-seat heavy bomber
Dates
Service entry
March 1937
Engine Two 1145hp (kN) Merlin X V12s
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
84′ 0″ (25.60m)
70′ 6″ (21.48m)
15′ 0″ (4.57m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
19,350 lb (8777 kg)
28,200 lb (12790 kg)
33,500 lb (15195 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
228 mph (367 km/h) at 17,750 ft (5410m)
Inital Climb 800 ft (244m) /min
Service Ceiling 17,600 ft (5364m)
Armament one .303-in Vickers K in nose turret, four Browning .303-in mgs in tail turret
7,000 lb (3175 kg) bombs
Range 470 miles (756 km) /w max bomb load
1650 miles (2650 km) /w 3,000 lb (1361 kg) bomb load
# built  

total # built: 1,737


Vickers Wellington

Background:
Users: Australia, Czechoslovakia, France, New Zealand, Poland, UK (RAF)

Wellington Mk IC Mk X
Type six-crew bomber
Dates
Service entry
October 1938
Engine Two 1050hp (kN) Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cyl. radials Two 1695hp (kN) Bristol Hercules XVI 14-cyl. radials
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
86′ 2″ (26.26m)
64′ 7″ (19.68m)
17′ 5″ (5.31m)
41′ 11″ (12.78m)
31′ 11½” (9.74m)
15′ 4″ (4.67m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
18,556 lb (8417 kg)
25,800 lb (11703 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
235 mph (378 km/h) at 15,500 ft (4724m)
Inital Climb 1,120 ft (341m) /min
Service Ceiling 18,000 ft (5485m)
Armament 4,500 lb (2040 kg) max bomb load  
Range  
# built 2685  

total # built: 11,461


de Havilland Mosquito

Background:
Users: Canada, New Zealand, UK (RAF)

Mosquito Mk B.IV Mk FB.VI
Type two-seat light bomber two-seat fighter-bomber
Dates
Service entry
July 1941
Engine Two 1480hp (kN) Merlin 21 V12s Two 1480hp (kN) Merlin 21 or 1635hp (kN) Merlin 25 V12s
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
54′ 2″ (16.51m)
40′ 11″ (12.47m)
15′ 3″ (4.65m)
54′ 2″ (16.51m)
40′ 10″ (12.45m)
15′ 3″ (4.65m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
 
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
341 mph (549 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6096m) 380 mph (611 km/h) at 13,000 ft (3962m)
Inital Climb  
Service Ceiling 27,000 ft (8230m) 33,000 ft (10058m)
Armament 2,000 lb (907 kg) internal bomb load, some with modified bomb bay to carry one 4,000 lb (1814 kg) bomb Four 20mm cannon, Four .303-in mgs in nose
1,000 lb (454 kg) internal bomb load plus eight rocket projectiles or 1,000 lb (454 kg) under wings
Range  
# built 273 (38 series i + 235 series ii) 2248

total # built: 6535


Short Stirling

Background:
Users: UK (RAF)

Stirling Mk I/III
Type seven-crew heavy bomber
Dates
Service entry
August 1940
Engine Four 1595hp (kN) 14-cyl. Hercules XI radials
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
99′ 1″ (30.20m)
87′ 3″ (26.59m)
22′ 9″ (6.93m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
44,000 lb (19958 kg)
59,400 lb (26944 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
270 mph (434 km/h) at 14,500 ft (4420m)
Inital Climb 800 ft (244m) /min
Service Ceiling 17,000 ft (5182m)
Armament 14,000 lb (6350 kg) bombs
Range 590 miles (km) /w max bomb load
2010 miles (3235 km) /w 3500 lb (1587 kg) bomb load
# built 1631

total # built: 1631 bomber versions (Mk I,III)


Handley Page Halifax

Background:
Users: Australia, Canada, France (FFL), New Zealand, UK (RAF, BOAC)

Halifax Mk I series III Mk B.III
Type heavy bomber
Dates
Service entry
November 1940
Engine Four 1280hp (kN) Merlin X Four 1615hp (kN) Bristol Hercules XVI
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
98′ 8″ (30.12m)
70′ 1″ (21.36m)
20′ 9″ (6.32m)
98′ 10″ (30.12m)
71′ 7″ (21.82m)
20′ 9″ (6.32m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
   
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
262 mph (422 km/h) at 17,750 ft (5410m) 282 mph (454 km/h) at 13,500 ft (4115m)
Inital Climb  
Service Ceiling 22,800 ft (6949m) 24,000 ft (7315m)
Armament 2 x .303-in mgs in nose turret, 4 x .303-in mgs in tail turret, 4 x .303-in mgs in beam positions
13,000 lb (5897 kg) max bomb load
1 x .303-in mg in nose turret, 4 x .303-in mgs in tail turret, 4 x .303-in mgs in dorsal turret
13,000 lb (5897 kg) max bomb load
Range    
# built    

total # built: 6179


Handley Page Hampden

Background:
Users: Canada, New Zealand, UK (RAF)

Hampden Mk I
Type four-crew bomber, torpedo bomber, & minelayer
Dates
Service entry
August 1938
Engine Two 980hp (kN) Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cyl. radials
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
69′ 2″ (21.08m)
53′ 7″ (16.33m)
14′ 11″ (4.55m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
11,780 lb (5343 kg)
18,756 lb (8508 kg)
21,000 lb (9526 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
265 mph (426 km/h) at 15,500 ft (4724m)
Inital Climb 980 ft (298m) /min
Service Ceiling 22,700 ft (6919m)
Armament Up to six 0.303-in mgs in nose, dorsal & ventral positions
4,000 lb (1814 kg) of bombs internally, two 500 lb (223 kg) bombs underwings or one 18″ torpedo
Range 1200 miles (1931 km) /w max bomb load
1885 miles (3033 km) /w 2,000 lb (907 kg) bomb load
# built  

total # built: 1432


Avro Manchester


Background:
Users: UK (RAF)

Manchester Mk IA
Type seven-crew heavy bomber
Dates
Service entry
November 1940
Engine Two Rolls Royce Vulture II engines rated at 1845hp (8.2 kN) each
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
90′ 1″ (27.46m)
70′ 0″ (21.33m)
19′ 6″ (9.54m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
29,440 lb (13354 kg)
56,000 lb (25400 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
265 mph (426 km/h) at 17,000 ft (5200m)
Inital Climb  
Service Ceiling 19,200 ft (5850m)
Armament Two 0.303-in mgs in nose & dorsal turrets; four 0.303-in mgs in tail turret
10,350 lb (4700 kg) max bomb load
Range 1630 miles (2623 km)
1200 miles (1930 km) /w max bomb load
# built  

total # built: 199 plus 2 prototypes


Avro Lancaster


Background:
Users: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Poland, UK (RAF, BOAC)

Lancaster Mk I/III
Type seven/eight-seat heavy bomber
Dates
Service entry
December 1941
Engine Four 1280hp (kN) Merlin XX
Dimensions
Wingspan
Length
Height
Wing area
102′ 0″ (31.09m)
69′ 4″ (21.04m)
20′ 0″ (6.10m)
Weights
Empty
Loaded
Maximum
36,900 lb (16738 kg)
68,000 lb (30844 kg)
Speed
Maximum
Max s/l
Max cruising
287 mph (462 km/h) at 11,500 ft (3505m)
Inital Climb  
Service Ceiling 22,000 ft (6706m)
Armament 14,000 lb (6350 kg) max bomb load
Range  
# built  

total # built: 7377


Early Operations

Attacks on Cross Channel Invasion Barges
Bomber Command Tries to Find its Focus
The U-boat Peril
Anti-shipping Missions and Aerial Mining
Accuracy and Effectiveness Questioned
The Growing Effectiveness of German Night Fighters

Arthur Harris Takes Charge

Attacks on Cross Channel Invasion Barges

more than a 1,000 barges were assembling in Channel ports in France.
Flight Lieutenant Roderick Learoyd was awarded the Victoria Cross for
successfully bombing an aqueduct on the Dortmund-Ems canal from a nearly
suicidal altitude of 150ft. The canal remained blocked for 10 days
throwing the German’s seriously behind schedule.

Bomber Command Tries to Find its Focus

The U-boat Peril

Anti-shipping Missions and Aerial Mining

Accuracy and Effectiveness Questioned

The Growing Effectiveness of German Night Fighters

As German air defenses improved particularly the Kammhuber Line the loss
rate suffered by RAF bombers increased from around 1.6% in 1940 to 4.8%
by November of 1941. In the first eighteen nights of August Bomber
Command lost a total of 107 bombers. The worst night came on November
7th when 37 aircraft were lost out of a force of 400 bombers in raids on
Berlin, Mannheim, and the Ruhr. Within a week of this disaster Peirse
was told to scale back operations and conserve strength for a renewed
offensive in the Spring.

Arthur Harris Takes Charge

3 March Renault motor and armaments works outside of Paris – 235
bombers dropped over 460 tons of bombs. 40% of the plant’s machinery
destroyed.

8 March Essen – 211 bombers, 82 of them fitted with Gee. The results
were fairly disappointing with bombs scattered and the Krupp works
virtually unscathed.
Attacks on Essen continued on the nights of 9/10,10/11,25/26, and 26/27.

28 March Lübeck – 234 bombers, more than half of them loaded with
incendaries, struck Lübeck in three waves. Led by 10 Gee-equipped
Wellingtons. Some 200 acres were leveled (almost half of the city),
2,000 buildings destroyed, and more than 15,000 people made homeless. 12
bombers lost.

23 April Rostock – more than a hundred bombers attacking on four
successive nights. 70% of the old city was wiped out. 6,000 people
killed or badly wounded. By the thousands people fled to nearby villages
and towns. The Heinkel factory which built the He 111, located in a
suburb of Rostock, was also badly damaged.

Hitler denounced the attacks as ‘terror bombing’ and called for
Vergeltungsangriffe (‘reprisal raids’) which came to be called Baedeker
Raids (or the Baedeker Blitz) after the well known travel guides from
which historic cities of Britain were chosen to be attacked.

Operation Millennium
May 30/31 1942

Churchill was so excited about the plan that he said he would defend it
again any subsequent criticism even if losses reached 10% (100 bombers).
Air Vice Marshal Saundby

‘bomber stream’ concept

Cologne – Germany’s third largest city.

1,455 tons of bombs were dropped, mostly incendiaries, during the three
hour raid by 898 aircraft out of 1,046 which took off from the UK. The
British lost 41 bombers. 600 acres devastated, 12,000 fires started, 250
factories and more than 18,000 other structures seriously damaged or
destroyed. About 5,000 injured and 469 killed. Some 45,000 were made
homeless in the attack.

Two more ‘thousand’ bomber raids followed, on 1/2 June 956 bombers were
sent against Essen but heavy flak and cloudy weather prevented the raid
from doing substantial damage. The North Sea port of Bremen was likewise
attacked by 904 bombers on 25/26 June with the British losing 49 planes
in the process. The raid was a limited success.

Operation Chastise – Dam Busting Raid
(May 16/17, 1943)

Upkeep bomb
large cylindrical shaped weapon
weight: 9,250lb (4200 kg)
explosive: 5,720lb (2600 kg) torpex
hydrostatic fuze set to detonate at a depth of 30 ft (9m)

In December of 1942 a Wellington bomber was acquired to conduct full
scale tests. After several abortive attempts Barnes Wallis got the
spherical bomb to bounce 16 times across a stretch of water.

Modified Lancasters
23 ED serial block Lancaster bombers were extensively modified to
accommodate the Upkeep weapon. The bomb bay doors were removed and
special pylons fitted, together with an electric motor to set the mine
spinning backward at 500 rpm before bomb release. This backspin was
crucial as it allowed the Upkeep bomb to skip across the water, past
several torpedo nets, and strike the dam wall. The mid-upper gun turret
was removed and its gunner moved to the nose turret where ‘stirrups’
were added to prevent him from inadvertantly treading on the bomb
aimer’s head. Fighter type VHF radios were added to all of the aircraft,
close control of the operation being vital to its success. Since the
entire mission had to be flown at low altitude specailly prepared
‘roller maps’ were provided to the bomb aimers to assist in navigation.

The problem of flying each plane level at just 60 ft was solved by the
ingenious use of a pair of Aldis lamps, one mounted in the nose camera
port, the other behind the bomb bay. The lamps were angled so that the
two spots of light touched at an altitude of 60 ft and offset to
starboard where they were easily seen by the navigator who monitored
height during the bombing run. Standard bombsights could not be used due
to the unique nature of the attack so a sight was improvised consisting
of a plywood triangle, a simple eyepiece and a couple of nails. Finally
each Lancaster was provided with 3,000 rounds of ammunition per gun,
all tracer, to keep the German gunners heads down.

No. 617 Squadron

Established in March of 1943. Commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.
Based at Scampton. Crews were hand-picked from the best Bomber Command
had to offer, the majority were British but also included 26 Canadians,
12 Australians, 2 New Zealanders and one American.

The Attack
19 Lancaster bombers in three waves; nine in the first wave, five in
both the second and third waves. Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson the
first wave was tasked with taking out the Mohne Dam, and if that was
breached go on to the Eder Dam. If both targets were breached any
aircraft still with mines were to assist in the attack on the Sorpe Dam
which was main target for the second wave. The third and final wave of
bombers was a mobile reserve under the direct command of No. 5 Group in
England.

Battle of the Ruhr
(March 5, 1943 – June 14/15, 1943)

Started on night of March 5/6, 1943 with heavy attack on Essen by 367
RAF planes. Ended on night of 14/15 June with a heavy raid on
Oberhausen.

872 bombers lost in Battle of the Ruhr

Operation Gomorrah – Hamburg’s Ordeal
(July 24, 1943 – August 2/3, 1943)

July 24, 1943 – 791 bombers 12 lost
July 25, 1943 – US daylight attack by 68 B-17s
July 26, 1943 – US daylight attack by 53 B-17s
July 27, 1943 – 739 bombers 17 lost
July 29/30, 1943 – 30 lost
August 2/3, 1943 – 30 lost

Bomber Command flew 3,095 sorties and dropped over 8,600 tons of bombs
on Hamburg during this brief but fierce campaign. Total losses amounted
to 87 bombers.

Window

40 tons of Window were released (92 million strips in all) to confuse
the defenses on the first night alone. It succeeded brilliantly throwing
the German night defenses into disarray and resulting in just 12
bombers lost. But the Germans quickly adapted to the situation as can be
seen in the second raid when 17 bombers went down and then 30 bombers
on each of the last two raids. The loss rate when using Window was lower
than otherwise but like everything else in the war it was subject to
measures and counter-measures.

Battle of Berlin
(November 18, 1943 – March 30/31, 1944)

35 major air raids (16 against Berlin, 19 against other cities to dilute the German air defenses).

Berlin 23/24 August 1943  56 (another 67 were lost in two more raids against Berlin over the next two weeks)
Munich 2/3 October 1943  8
Stuttgart – 7 October

4 major raids against Berlin in both November and December with a total loss of 180 bombers
Berlin – 18 November
Berlin – 22 November
Berlin – 16/17 December 1943
Magdeburg – 21 January 1944  55
Berlin – 28 January 1944  43
Leipzig – 19 February 1944  78
Stuttgart – 15/16 March 1944 
Berlin – 24 March 1944  72 (16th RAF raid on the city in a little over 4 months)
Nuremberg – 30 March 1944  96

1,047 aircraft lost with more than that number damaged.

Transportation Plan

On 15 April 1944 a complete list of targets for the Transportation Plan
was issued by Air Chief Marshal Tedder. Of the 79 rail yards to be
destroyed 37 were allocated to Bomber Command, 42 to the Americans and
other British units.

Between the beginning of April and the end of June Bomber Command flew more than 13,000 sorties against rail targets.

D-Day and Beyond

In the darkness before D-Day 1,130 Bomber Command aircraft blasted 10 major coastal batteries overlooking the landing areas.



Essen – Large industrial city in the Ruhr. Site of the critically important Krupp works, an industrial complex covering 800 acres in Essen. During one raid in March of 1943 150 4,000-lb ‘block busters’ were dropped on the city in just forty minutes. In a year of steady raids starting in August of 1942 6,926 tons of bombs rained down on Essen.

Bremen – German port. Naval and U-boat base and submarine building facilities. By 13 September 1942 the city had been bombed 100 times.

Destruction of Dresden
(February 13/14, 1945)

Electronic Warfare

20-21 December 1942 – The first operational use of Oboe, a blind-bombing
device, was made by Mosquitoes of No 109 Squadron in a raid on a Dutch
power station.

30-31 January 1943 – First use of H2S by Stirlings and Halifaxes of Nos 7 and 35 Squadrons for navigation in a raid on Hamburg.

24-25 July 1943 – first use of ‘Window’ (metal foil strips dropped to
fool radar) was made by Bomber Command aircraft and first use of H2S
blind bombing radar system.

22-23 September 1943 – ‘Spoof’ raid techniques were employed by Bomber Command for the first time.

30/1 Nov-December 1943 – first operational use of No 100 (Bomber
Support) Group came when Wellingtons of No 192 Squadron carried out
radio countermeasures flights over Germany.

Heinrich – German transmiter that jammed GEE transmissions.
on the night of the 9/10th August the Germans began to jam GEE over the
German mainland with their Heinrich transmitters. The likelihood of
jamming had however been expected and the boffins were ready with
anti-jamming devices which were installed in all aircraft by the 21st
August 1942, which restored the effectiveness of GEE over most of its
range.
Wassermann (Aquarius) – long distance radar, range up to 190km.
Mammut (Mammoth) – long distance radar which could plot bombers above
the radar ‘horizon’ as far north as Norfolk and Suffolk. 300km range.

Mandrel – British airborne jamming device working in the 85-135 MHz band
against Freya radars and somewhat against Wassermann and Mammut radars.

Monica – tail warning device for British bombers. Effective range up to 4 miles.
Flensburg – device that allowed German night fighters to home in on Monica.
Boozer – a device that let bombers detect when they were being monitored by the German Würzburg gun-laying radar.

KORFU;(FuG 351) – German ground radar used to produce fixes on the bombers’ H2S equipment.
Naxos – airborne equipment allowing night fighters to home in on working H2S sets.
Window (Düpple) – metal foil strips released in large numbers to fool radar.
MOONSHINE – Radio jamming device used by RAF to deceive the Freya radars
by returning their own signal in an amplified form giving the
impression of a larger force that in fact existed.
TINSEL – essentially a microphone placed in an engine nacelle on the
bomber to pick up engine noise which the bomber’s radio operator then
transmitted on the frequencies used by the German night fighter
controllers.
Special TINSEL – later version of TINSEL.
ABC (AirBorne Cigar) – A jamming device to interfere with enemy RT
channels in the 30-33 MHz, 38.3-42.5 MHz and 48-52 MHz wavebands. Range
50 miles.
BRIAR – A ground transmitter operating in the 300-600 MHz band used to jam enemy Würzburg ground recievers.
CARPET – Airborne jammer of German ground radar 300-600 Megacycle band. Later American developments allowed a more precise use.
AIRBORNE GROCER: A device for barrage-jamming of Wurzburgs. Extremely vulnerable to being homed onto.
CORONA – transmission of German-speaking female voices from the powerful
GPO ground transmitters at Rugby and Leafield at 2.56 MHz.
Serrate – home in on LICHTENSTEIN air intercept radar.
Perfectos – home in on German aircraft IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) equipment.

DRUMSTICK – Groundbased interference with enemy WT transmissions in the 3-6 MHz bands.
JOSTLE – Jamming device
DINA – American improvement of MANDREL airborne jamming device
operating in the 95-210 MHz band. Also named PIPERACK when used to
counter FuG 220 AI radar
PIPERACK – Jamming device.

U.S. Eletronic Warfare

AN/APS-15 (‘H2X’ ‘Mickey’) – U.S. developed version of H2S.
AN/APQ-13 – navigation aid.
AN/APQ-7 (‘Eagle’) – for accurate radar bombing.
SCR-729 – airborne interrogator used on early 58th Wing B-29s in the Pacific.
SCR-695 – IFF (‘Identification, Friend, Foe’) equipment on all B-29 bombers.

AN/APQ-9 and AN/APR 4 (‘Carpet III’) – jam signals in 300-1000 Mhz range (German fire control radar)
AN/APT-2 and AN/APT-5 – spot jamming of German early warning radar.

Navigation

D.R. – Dead Reckoning
GEE –
OBOE –
LORAN (LOng RANge version of GEE) – American development of GEE with a range up to 1,200 miles.
H2S (‘Home Sweet Home’) –
G-H – British two-station radio direction finding system used as a bombing aid.
Micro-H
Gee
11-12 August 1941 – first use of Gee involved Wellingtons of No 405 Squadron in a raid on München Gladbach.

GEE box which could translate pulses issuing from 3 ground transmitting
stations into strobes on a cathode ray tube in the aircraft which the
navigator could further translate into fixes on the grid of lattice
lines overlaid on his navigation map. GEE got its name from the first
letter of the word ‘grid’.

The introduction of GEE into service in March 1942 meant that targets
within its 400 mile range could be located, whatever the weather, within
an accuracy of 2 miles. The advantages of the system were that any
aircraft with the necessary receiving equipment on board could use it
and, unlike the beams along which the German bombers flew to their
targets, the GEE pulses were not themselves directed anywhere so that,
even if detected, they would not reveal the bombers’ potential
destinations. Another advantage was that, as GEE did not require the
navigator to issue interrogatory signals to the ground stations, the
aircraft using it could not be homed upon by hostile night fighters.
However, GEE was susceptible to jamming but it was to be some months
before that happened.

The system was later developed by the Americans into a long range
version (LORAN) which had a range of 1200 miles, a version of which has
survived to this day as a shipping aid. The effectiveness of the GEE
device was not lost upon the Germans because in February 1944 a Junkers
Ju 188 reconnaissance aircraft which was forced down in this country was
found to be using a captured GEE receiver and maps!

Oboe

OBOE, the device required two transmitting stations, one codenamed CAT
which transmitted a series of dots and dashes each side of an arc which
ranged over the target. The pilot had to fly along this arc guided by
the dots and dashes. If he was on track he would hear a continuous note
but this would break up into dots if he drifted towards the CAT
transmitter or dashes if he drifted away. The other station, codenamed
MOUSE, plotted the aircraft’s position along the arc until it reached
the point where it was instructed to release its load. The snag was that
the system could only be used by one aircraft at a time but, with a
range of over 250 miles from its most distant ground station and an
accuracy within 100 yards, the system was tailor made for the PFF.

Operationally, a small number of Mosquitoes equipped with OBOE would fly
in and mark the target with flares. These would be followed by
Lancasters using H2S a new centimetric wavelength radar carried by the
aircraft which produced a radar ‘picture’ of the terrain below on a
cathode ray tube. These aircraft would back up with more target
indicators upon which the main force heavies directed their bombs.

G-H

G-H, a two station radio direction-finding (RDF) system that was the
reverse of Oboe in that an instrument in the aircraft tracked it over
the target by measurement from one station, and determined its bomb
release point by its distance from the other. Unlike Oboe, which was
really an aid for target marking aircraft, G-H could be employed by up
to 80 aircraft from one pair of stations and thus could be used for
direct bombing without the aid of markers. Another bonus was that
multiple targets could be attacked at the same time. The device was
first used practically during a raid on the Mannesmann steel works at
Düsseldorf on night of 3/4th November 1943.

Pathfinders – Target Marking

16-17 Jan 1943 – During the first Bomber Command attack on Berlin since
November 1941, the RAF makes its first use of Target Indicator marker
bombs.

The PFF (Path Finder Force) is established on 15 Aug 1942. Pathfinder
aircraft fly ahead of the main bomber stream dropping target-marking
flares over the main target. On its first mission on 18/19 August,
however strong winds blow the flares off-target.

Markers Target Indicators (TIs)

Each TI contained 60 pyrotechnic candles. A barometric fuse set to
operate at low altitude (~3,000 ft) blew the TI open, cascading the
candles onto the ground, igniting as they went.

Seen from above each TI would appear as an intense pool of light, about
900 ft (275m) in diameter. Burn time was about three minutes so they
were replenished at frequent intervals.

To prevent German decoy fires from drawing bombers off the intended
target TIs were made in a series of colors; red, yellow, green, etc.,
and used in a predetermined order which varied from raid to raid.

Sky Markers – parachute flares in a variety of colors dropped by Oboe or
H2S equipped aircraft. The use of sky markers required a complicated
offset bomber technique and was only done when clouds covered the
target.

Newhaven – codename for visual marking with TIs, etc.
Parramatta – codename when marking had to be carried out using H2S due to broken cloud or poor visibility.
Wanganui – codename for sky marking.

Special Operations

Operation Chastise – Dam-Busting Raid
Operation Hydra – Raid on Peenemünde
Augsburg Raid – M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg) diesel works at Augsburg in Bavarian
Operation Taxable – D-Day Deception
Sink the Tirpitz
Mosquitos of no 613 Squadron bomb an art gallery at The Hague where Dutch resistance records are kept.
Attack on Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo.
Amies Prison Break Out

Augsburg Raid
April 17, 1941

The Lancaster bomber, although seeing some minor action earlier, burst
onto the scene in a daring daylight raid against the M.A.N. diesel works
in Ausburg. The M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg) diesel
works produced the diesel engines used in U-boats. Augsburg was not far
from Aiurlich, representing a round trip of some 1,~50 miles (2,000 km)
mostly over enemy territory.

On the afternoon of 17 April, 1941 a dozen Lancasters took off for
Augsburg. The first wave of six bombers, flying in two Vics of three,
was from No. 44 Squadron, led by Squadron leader John Nettleton. Two
miles (3 km) astern and about 3 miles (5 km) to starboard was the second
wave, six Lancasters from No. 97 Squadron led by Squadron leader John
Shewood. Each aircraft carried four 1,0001b (450 kg) bombs with 11
second delay action fuses.

Diversionary attacks were planned to keep German fighters occupied, but
these miscarried. Between 20 and 30 Messerschmitt 109s of JG.2 returning
to base encountered the rear Vic of Nettleton’s wave. They shot down
all three before turning their attention to the leading trio. One more
Lancaster went down and the others were damaged before the Germans by
now low on fuel and ammunition, broke off the running battle. The second
wave, although only a few miles away, was not spotted.

Seventeen bombs hit the factory buildings, causing considerable damage.
Nettleton was awarded the Victoria Cross, and many other survivors were
decorated for this, the first Lancaster mission to be made public. But
with a loss rate exceeding 50 per cent it was not repeatable.

Surgical Strike on Dutch Central Population Registry at The Hague
April 11, 1944

The attack on the Gestapo head quarters in The Hague. In that raid a 5
story building was leveled by 3 “waves” of 2 aircraft, using
incendiaries and high explosives, and destroying all records the Gestapo
had collected over the years on resistance fighters and their families,
and hiding addresses of jews.

On the 11th April 1944 Mosquitos of 2 group, 2nd tactical airforce flew
to The Hague in Holland. Their target the Gestapo controlled Dutch
Central Population Registry, which the Dutch Resistance had requested
destroyed to prevent identification of false id. Papers. Armed with 500
lb incendiary/high explosive bombs, the three pairs of aircraft
approached the target close to the Peace Palace. The second plane
clearly saw the first’s bombs skip through the front doors of the
building. The target was totally destroyed and only one aircraft was
slightly damaged.

Amiens Prison Break Out

Another famous attack was the break out of more than 250 prisoners in
the prison of Amiens. The first bombers destroyed the guard houses, and
following aircraft breached the walls to enable the men inside to break
free. This remarkable feat was put in progress because the French
Resistance had mentioned the planned execution of numerous resistance
fighters.

Operation Taxable – D-Day Deception

Early Operations

Attacks on Cross Channel Invasion Barges

Bomber Command Tries to Find its Focus

The U-boat Peril

Anti-shipping Missions and Aerial Mining

Accuracy and Effectiveness Questioned

The Growing Effectiveness of German Night Fighters

Arthur Harris Takes Charge


Attacks on Cross Channel Invasion Barges

more than a 1,000 barges were assembling in Channel ports in France. Flight Lieutenant Roderick Learoyd was awarded the Victoria Cross for successfully bombing an aqueduct on the Dortmund-Ems canal from a nearly suicidal altitude of 150ft. The canal remained blocked for 10 days throwing the German’s seriously behind schedule.

Bomber Command Tries to Find its Focus

The U-boat Peril

Anti-shipping Missions and Aerial Mining

Accuracy and Effectiveness Questioned

The Growing Effectiveness of German Night Fighters

As German air defenses improved particularly the Kammhuber Line the loss rate suffered by RAF bombers increased from around 1.6% in 1940 to 4.8% by November of 1941. In the first eighteen nights of August Bomber Command lost a total of 107 bombers. The worst night came on November 7th when 37 aircraft were lost out of a force of 400 bombers in raids on Berlin, Mannheim, and the Ruhr. Within a week of this disaster Peirse was told to scale back operations and conserve strength for a renewed offensive in the Spring.

Arthur Harris Takes Charge

3 March Renault motor and armaments works outside of Paris – 235 bombers dropped over 460 tons of bombs. 40% of the plant’s machinery destroyed.

8 March Essen – 211 bombers, 82 of them fitted with Gee. The results were fairly disappointing with bombs scattered and the Krupp works virtually unscathed.
Attacks on Essen continued on the nights of 9/10,10/11,25/26, and 26/27.

28 March Lübeck – 234 bombers, more than half of them loaded with incendaries, struck Lübeck in three waves. Led by 10 Gee-equipped Wellingtons. Some 200 acres were leveled (almost half of the city), 2,000 buildings destroyed, and more than 15,000 people made homeless. 12 bombers lost.

23 April Rostock – more than a hundred bombers attacking on four successive nights. 70% of the old city was wiped out. 6,000 people killed or badly wounded. By the thousands people fled to nearby villages and towns. The Heinkel factory which built the He 111, located in a suburb of Rostock, was also badly damaged.

Hitler denounced the attacks as ‘terror bombing’ and called for Vergeltungsangriffe (‘reprisal raids’) which came to be called Baedeker Raids (or the Baedeker Blitz) after the well known travel guides from which historic cities of Britain were chosen to be attacked.

Operation Millennium

May 30/31 1942

Churchill was so excited about the plan that he said he would defend it again any subsequent criticism even if losses reached 10% (100 bombers). Air Vice Marshal Saundby

‘bomber stream’ concept

Cologne – Germany’s third largest city.


1,455 tons of bombs were dropped, mostly incendiaries, during the three hour raid by 898 aircraft out of 1,046 which took off from the UK. The British lost 41 bombers. 600 acres devastated, 12,000 fires started, 250 factories and more than 18,000 other structures seriously damaged or destroyed. About 5,000 injured and 469 killed. Some 45,000 were made homeless in the attack.

Two more ‘thousand’ bomber raids followed, on 1/2 June 956 bombers were sent against Essen but heavy flak and cloudy weather prevented the raid from doing substantial damage. The North Sea port of Bremen was likewise attacked by 904 bombers on 25/26 June with the British losing 49 planes in the process. The raid was a limited success.

Operation Chastise – Dam Busting Raid

(May 16/17, 1943)

Upkeep bomb

large cylindrical shaped weapon

weight: 9,250lb (4200 kg)

explosive: 5,720lb (2600 kg) torpex

hydrostatic fuze set to detonate at a depth of 30 ft (9m)

In December of 1942 a Wellington bomber was acquired to conduct full scale tests. After several abortive attempts Barnes Wallis got the spherical bomb to bounce 16 times across a stretch of water.

Modified Lancasters

23 ED serial block Lancaster bombers were extensively modified to accommodate the Upkeep weapon. The bomb bay doors were removed and special pylons fitted, together with an electric motor to set the mine spinning backward at 500 rpm before bomb release. This backspin was crucial as it allowed the Upkeep bomb to skip across the water, past several torpedo nets, and strike the dam wall. The mid-upper gun turret was removed and its gunner moved to the nose turret where ‘stirrups’ were added to prevent him from inadvertantly treading on the bomb aimer’s head. Fighter type VHF radios were added to all of the aircraft, close control of the operation being vital to its success. Since the entire mission had to be flown at low altitude specailly prepared ‘roller maps’ were provided to the bomb aimers to assist in navigation.

The problem of flying each plane level at just 60ft was solved by the ingenious use of a pair of Aldis lamps, one mounted in the nose camera port, the other behind the bomb bay. The lamps were angled so that the two spots of light touched at an altitude of 60ft and offset to starboard where they were easily seen by the navigator who monitored height during the bombing run. Standard bombsights could not be used due to the unique nature of the attack so a sight was improvised consisting of a plywood triangle, a simple eyepiece and a couple of nails. Finally each Lancaster was provided with 3,000 rounds of ammunition per gun, all tracer, to keep the German gunners heads down.

No. 617 Squadron


Established in March of 1943. Commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson. Based at Scampton. Crews were hand-picked from the best Bomber Command had to offer, the majority were British but also included 26 Canadians, 12 Australians, 2 New Zealanders and one American.

The Attack

19 Lancaster bombers in three waves; nine in the first wave, five in both the second and third waves. Led by Wing Commander Guy Gibson the first wave was tasked with taking out the Mohne Dam, and if that was breached go on to the Eder Dam. If both targets were breached any aircraft still with mines were to assist in the attack on the Sorpe Dam which was main target for the second wave. The third and final wave of bombers was a mobile reserve under the direct command of No. 5 Group in England.

Battle of the Ruhr

(March 5, 1943 – June 14/15, 1943)

Started on night of March 5/6, 1943 with heavy attack on Essen by 367 RAF planes. Ended on night of 14/15 June with a heavy raid on Oberhausen.

872 bombers lost in Battle of the Ruhr


Operation Gomorrah – Hamburg’s Ordeal

(July 24, 1943 – August 2/3, 1943)

July 24, 1943 – 791 bombers 12 lost

July 25, 1943 – US daylight attack by 68 B-17s

July 26, 1943 – US daylight attack by 53 B-17s

July 27, 1943 – 739 bombers 17 lost

July 29/30, 1943 – 30 lost

August 2/3, 1943 – 30 lost

Bomber Command flew 3,095 sorties and dropped over 8,600 tons of bombs on Hamburg during this brief but fierce campaign. Total losses amounted to 87 bombers.

Window


40 tons of Window were released (92 million strips in all) to confuse the defenses on the first night alone. It succeeded brilliantly throwing the German night defenses into disarray and resulting in just 12 bombers lost. But the Germans quickly adapted to the situation as can be seen in the second raid when 17 bombers went down and then 30 bombers on each of the last two raids. The loss rate when using Window was lower than otherwise but like everything else in the war it was subject to measure and counter-measure.

Battle of Berlin

(November 18, 1943 – March 30/31, 1944)

35 major air raids (16 against Berlin, 19 against other cities to dilute the German air defenses).

Berlin 23/24 August 1943  56 (another 67 were lost in two more raids against Berlin over the next two weeks)

Munich 2/3 October 1943  8

Stuttgart – 7 October

4 major raids against Berlin in both November and December with a total loss of 180 bombers

Berlin – 18 November

Berlin – 22 November

Berlin – 16/17 December 1943

Magdeburg – 21 January 1944  55

Berlin – 28 January 1944  43

Leipzig – 19 February 1944  78

Stuttgart – 15/16 March 1944 

Berlin – 24 March 1944  72 (16th RAF raid on the city in a little over 4 months)

Nuremberg – 30 March 1944  96

1,047 aircraft lost with more than that number damaged.

Transportation Plan

On 15 April 1944 a complete list of targets for the Transportation Plan was issued by Air Chief Marshal Tedder. Of the 79 rail yards to be destroyed 37 were allocated to Bomber Command, 42 to the Americans and other British units.

Between the beginning of April and the end of June Bomber Command flew more than 13,000 sorties against rail targets.

D-Day and Beyond

In the darkness before D-Day 1,130 Bomber Command aircraft blasted 10 major coastal batteries overlooking the landing areas.



Essen – Large industrial city in the Ruhr. Site of the critically important Krupp works, an industrial complex covering 800 acres in Essen. During one raid in March of 1943 150 4,000-lb ‘block busters’ were dropped on the city in just forty minutes. In a year of steady raids starting in August of 1942 6,926 tons of bombs rained down on Essen.

Bremen – German port. Naval and U-boat base and submarine building facilities. By 13 September 1942 the city had been bombed 100 times.

Destruction of Dresden
(February 13/14, 1945)


Statistics and Records

Bomber Command flew 391,137 sorties dropping 955,044 tons of bombs (758,685 tons HE, 196,355 tons incendaries). Out of the total sorties 19,025 were sea mining missions laying 47,307 mines.

TONNAGE OF BOMBS DROPPED BY BOMBER COMMAND BY CITY

Target City Tons (of 2,240lb) Date of First and Last Attack
Berlin 45,517 25/26th August, 1940 – 20/21st April, 1945
Essen 36,420 24/25th May, 1940 – 11th March, 1945.
Cologne 34,711 15th May, 1940 – 2nd March, 1945.
Duisburg 30,025 16/17th May, 1940 – 21/22nd February, 1945.
Hamburg 22,580 17/18th May, 1940 – 17/18th April, 1945
Dortmund 22,242 24/25th June, 1940 – 29th March. 1945
Stuttgart 21,016 24/25th August, 1940 – 17/18th March, 1945.
Gelsenkirchen 19,606 14/15th May, 1940 – 24th March, 1945.
Mannheim/Ludwigshaven 18,114 4/5th June, 1940 – 17/18th March, 1945.
Dusseldorf 17,769 15/16th May, 1940 – 23rd February, 1945.
Kiel 16,712 1/2nd July, 1940 – 2/3rd May, 1945.
Frankfurt 15,696 2/3rd June, 1940 – 13/14th March, 1945.
Hanover 14,776 18/19th May, 1940 – 29/30th March, 1945.
Le Havre 13,449 18/19th September, 1940 – 11th September, 1944.
Nuremberg 13,021 8/9th November, 1940 – 11th April, 1945.
Bremen 12,831 17/18th May, 1940 – 22/23rd April, 1945.
Bochum 10,784 21/22nd June, 1940 – 22/23rd March, 1945.
Calais 9,736 3/4th September, 1940 – 27th September, 1944.
Brest 8,428 28/29th July, 1940 – 5th September, 1944.
Boulogne 7,827 11th July, 1940 – 17th September, 1944.

Personnel

  • Major Hajo Herrmann, a former bomber pilot – introduced Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) concept to night fighter force.
  • Oberst Viktor von Lossburg – Devised Zahme Sau (Tame Boar) system.
  • Churchill,Winston – British Prime Minister
  • Portal, AM Sir Charles – head of Bomber Command (3 April 1940 – 5 October 1940) then promoted to Chief of the Air Staff.
  • Bensusan-Butt, David – member of the War Cabinet Secretariat
  • Peirse AM Sir Richard – head of Bomber Command from 5 October 1940 to 8 January 1942.
  • Harris, ACM Sir Arthur – strong minded head of Bomber Command from 22 February through the end of the war.
  • Ludlow-Hewitt, ACM Sir Edgar – head of Bomber Command (12 September 1937 – 3 April 1940)
  • Baldwin, AVM J.E.A. – Acting head of Bomber Command (9 January to 22 February 1942.)
  • Cotton, Sidney -



Bomber Command’s Main Aircraft:

Lancaster


7,374 built. 156,308 operational sorties 604,612 tons of bombs dropped and
51,513,105 incendiaries released.


Halifax


Production totalled 6,176 Halifaxes, the bomber versions flying a total of 75,532 sorties and dropping 227,610 tons of bombs.


Mosquito


Wellington


Stirling


Between 1941 and 1944 Stirlings dropped 27,821 tons of bombs and laid over 20,000 mines for the loss of 769 aircraft.


Blenheim




Whitley




Hampden


Organization

1 Group

2 Group

3 Group

4 Group

5 Group

6 Group (Canadian)

8 Group (Pathfinder)

100 Group (Bomber Support)

Photo-Reconnaissance

Electronic Warfare

20-21 December 1942 – The first operational use of Oboe, a blind-bombing device, was made by Mosquitoes of No 109 Squadron in a raid on a Dutch power station.

30-31 January 1943 – First use of H2S by Stirlings and Halifaxes of Nos 7 and 35 Squadrons for navigation in a raid on Hamburg.

24-25 July 1943 – first use of ‘Window’ (metal foil strips dropped to fool radar) was made by Bomber Command aircraft and first use of H2S blind bombing radar system.

22-23 September 1943 – ‘Spoof’ raid techniques were employed by Bomber Command for the first time.

30/1 Nov-December 1943 – first operational use of No 100 (Bomber Support) Group came when Wellingtons of No 192 Squadron carried out radio countermeasures flights over Germany.

Heinrich – German transmiter that jammed GEE transmissions.

on the night of the 9/10th August the Germans began to jam GEE over the German mainland with their Heinrich transmitters. The likelihood of jamming had however been expected and the boffins were ready with anti-jamming devices which were installed in all aircraft by the 21st August 1942, which restored the effectiveness of GEE over most of its range.

Wassermann (Aquarius) – long distance radar, range up to 190km.

Mammut (Mammoth) – long distance radar which could plot bombers above the radar ‘horizon’ as far north as Norfolk and Suffolk. 300km range.


Mandrel – British airborne jamming device working in the 85-135 MHz band against Freya radars and somewhat against Wassermann and Mammut radars.


Monica – tail warning device for British bombers. Effective range up to 4 miles.

Flensburg – device that allowed German night fighters to home in on Monica.

Boozer – a device that let bombers detect when they were being monitored by the German Würzburg gun-laying radar.


KORFU;(FuG 351) – German ground radar used to produce fixes on the bombers’ H2S equipment.

Naxos – airborne equipment allowing night fighters to home in on working H2S sets.

Window (Düpple) – metal foil strips released in large numbers to fool radar.

MOONSHINE – Radio jamming device used by RAF to deceive the Freya radars by returning their own signal in an amplified form giving the impression of a larger force that in fact existed.

TINSEL – essentially a microphone placed in an engine nacelle on the bomber to pick up engine noise which the bomber’s radio operator then transmitted on the frequencies used by the German night fighter controllers.

Special TINSEL – later version of TINSEL.

ABC (AirBorne Cigar) – A jamming device to interfere with enemy RT channels in the 30-33 MHz, 38.3-42.5 MHz and 48-52 MHz wavebands. Range 50 miles.

BRIAR – A ground transmitter operating in the 300-600 MHz band used to jam enemy Würzburg ground recievers.

CARPET – Airborne jammer of German ground radar 300-600 Megacycle band. Later American developments allowed a more precise use.

AIRBORNE GROCER: A device for barrage-jamming of Wurzburgs. Extremely vulnerable to being homed onto.

CORONA – transmission of German-speaking female voices from the powerful GPO ground transmitters at Rugby and Leafield at 2.56 MHz.

Serrate – home in on LICHTENSTEIN air intercept radar.

Perfectos – home in on German aircraft IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) equipment.


DRUMSTICK – Groundbased interference with enemy WT transmissions in the 3-6 MHz bands.

JOSTLE – Jamming device

DINA – American improvement of MANDREL airborne jamming device operating in the 95-210 MHz band. Also named PIPERACK when used to counter FuG 220 AI radar

PIPERACK – Jamming device.

U.S. Eletronic Warfare

AN/APS-15 (‘H2X’ ‘Mickey’) – U.S. developed version of H2S.

AN/APQ-13 – navigation aid.

AN/APQ-7 (‘Eagle’) – for accurate radar bombing.

SCR-729 – airborne interrogator used on early 58th Wing B-29s in the Pacific.

SCR-695 – IFF (‘Identification, Friend, Foe’) equipment on all B-29 bombers.

AN/APQ-9 and AN/APR 4 (‘Carpet III’) – jam signals in 300-1000 Mhz range (German fire control radar)

AN/APT-2 and AN/APT-5 – spot jamming of German early warning radar.

Navigation

D.R. – Dead Reckoning

GEE –

OBOE –

LORAN (LOng RANge version of GEE) – American development of GEE with a range up to 1,200 miles.

H2S (‘Home Sweet Home’) –

G-H – British two-station radio direction finding system used as a bombing aid.

Micro-H -


Gee


11-12 August 1941 – first use of Gee involved Wellingtons of No 405 Squadron in a raid on München Gladbach.

GEE box which could translate pulses issuing from 3 ground transmitting stations into strobes on a cathode ray tube in the aircraft which the navigator could further translate into fixes on the grid of lattice lines overlaid on his navigation map. GEE got its name from the first letter of the word ‘grid’.

The introduction of GEE into service in March 1942 meant that targets within its 400 mile range could be located, whatever the weather, within an accuracy of 2 miles. The advantages of the system were that any aircraft with the necessary receiving equipment on board could use it and, unlike the beams along which the German bombers flew to their targets, the GEE pulses were not themselves directed anywhere so that, even if detected, they would not reveal the bombers’ potential destinations. Another advantage was that, as GEE did not require the navigator to issue interrogatory signals to the ground stations, the aircraft using it could not be homed upon by hostile night fighters. However, GEE was susceptible to jamming but it was to be some months before that happened.

The system was later developed by the Americans into a long range version (LORAN) which had a range of 1200 miles, a version of which has survived to this day as a shipping aid. The effectiveness of the GEE device was not lost upon the Germans because in February 1944 a Junkers Ju 188 reconnaissance aircraft which was forced down in this country was found to be using a captured GEE receiver and maps!

Oboe


OBOE, the device required two transmitting stations, one codenamed CAT which transmitted a series of dots and dashes each side of an arc which ranged over the target. The pilot had to fly along this arc guided by the dots and dashes. If he was on track he would hear a continuous note but this would break up into dots if he drifted towards the CAT transmitter or dashes if he drifted away. The other station, codenamed MOUSE, plotted the aircraft’s position along the arc until it reached the point where it was instructed to release its load. The snag was that the system could only be used by one aircraft at a time but, with a range of over 250 miles from its most distant ground station and an accuracy within 100 yards, the system was tailor made for the PFF.

Operationally, a small number of Mosquitoes equipped with OBOE would fly in and mark the target with flares. These would be followed by Lancasters using H2S a new centimetric wavelength radar carried by the aircraft which produced a radar ‘picture’ of the terrain below on a cathode ray tube. These aircraft would back up with more target indicators upon which the main force heavies directed their bombs.

G-H


G-H, a two station radio direction-finding (RDF) system that was the reverse of Oboe in that an instrument in the aircraft tracked it over the target by measurement from one station, and determined its bomb release point by its distance from the other. Unlike Oboe, which was really an aid for target marking aircraft, G-H could be employed by up to 80 aircraft from one pair of stations and thus could be used for direct bombing without the aid of markers. Another bonus was that multiple targets could be attacked at the same time. The device was first used practically during a raid on the Mannesmann steel works at Düsseldorf on night of 3/4th November 1943.

Pathfinders – Target Marking

?

PFF Path Finder Force – established on


Markers Target Indicators (TIs)

Each TI contained 60 pyrotechnic candles. A barometric fuse set to operate at low altitude (~3,000 ft) blew the TI open, cascading the candles onto the ground, igniting as they went.

Seen from above each TI would appear as an intense pool of light, about 900 ft (275m) in diameter. Burn time was about three minutes so they were replenished at frequent intervals.

To prevent German decoy fires from drawing bombers off the intended target TIs were made in a series of colors; red, yellow, green, etc., and used in a predetermined order which varied from raid to raid.

Sky Markers – parachute flares in a variety of colors dropped by Oboe or H2S equipped aircraft. The use of sky markers required a complicated offset bomber technique and was only done when clouds covered the target.


Newhaven – codename for visual marking with TIs, etc.

Parramatta – codename when marking had to be carried out using H2S due to broken cloud or poor visibility.

Wanganui – codename for sky marking.

Special Operations

Operation Chastise – Dam-Busting Raid

Operation Hydra – Raid on Peenemünde

Augsburg Raid – M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg) diesel works at Augsburg in Bavarian

Operation Taxable – D-Day Deception

Sink the Tirpitz

Mosquitos of no 613 Squadron bomb an art gallery at The Hague where Dutch resistance records are kept.

Attack on Gestapo Headquarters in Oslo.

Amies Prison Break Out

Augsburg Raid
April 17, 1941

The Lancaster bomber, although seeing some minor action earlier, burst onto the scene in a daring daylight raid against the M.A.N. diesel works in Ausburg. The M.A.N. (Maschinen Fabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg) diesel works produced the diesel engines used in U-boats. Augsburg was not far from Aiurlich, representing a round trip of some 1,~50 miles (2,000 km) mostly over enemy territory.

On the afternoon of 17 April, 1941 a dozen Lancasters took off for Augsburg. The first wave of six bombers, flying in two Vics of three, was from No. 44 Squadron, led by Squadron leader John Nettleton. Two miles (3 km) astern and about 3 miles (5 km) to starboard was the second wave, six Lancasters from No. 97 Squadron led by Squadron leader John Shewood. Each aircraft carried four 1,0001b (450 kg) bombs with 11 second delay action fuses.

Diversionary attacks were planned to keep German fighters occupied, but these miscarried. Between 20 and 30 Messerschmitt 109s of JG.2 returning to base encountered the rear Vic of Nettleton’s wave. They shot down all three before turning their attention to the leading trio. One more Lancaster went down and the others were damaged before the Germans by now low on fuel and ammunition, broke off the running battle. The second wave, although only a few miles away, was not spotted.

Seventeen bombs hit the factory buildings, causing considerable damage. Nettleton was awarded the Victoria Cross, and many other survivors were decorated for this, the first Lancaster mission to be made public. But with a loss rate exceeding 50 per cent it was not repeatable.

Surgical Strike on Dutch Central Population Registry at The Hague
April 11, 1944

The attack on the Gestapo head quarters in The Hague. In that raid a 5 story building was leveled by 3 “waves” of 2 aircraft, using incendiaries and high explosives, and destroying all records the Gestapo had collected over the years on resistance fighters and their families, and hiding addresses of jews.

On the 11th April 1944 Mosquitos of 2 group, 2nd tactical airforce flew to The Hague in Holland. Their target the Gestapo controlled Dutch Central Population Registry, which the Dutch Resistance had requested destroyed to prevent identification of false id. Papers. Armed with 500 lb incendiary/high explosive bombs, the three pairs of aircraft approached the target close to the Peace Palace. The second plane clearly saw the first’s bombs skip through the front doors of the building. The target was totally destroyed and only one aircraft was slightly damaged.

Amiens Prison Break Out

Another famous attack was the break out of more than 250 prisoners in the prison of Amiens. The first bombers destroyed the guard houses, and following aircraft breached the walls to enable the men inside to break free. This remarkable feat was put in progress because the French Resistance had mentioned the planned execution of numerous resistance fighters.

Operation Taxable – D-Day Deception


Statistics and Records

Bomber Command flew 391,137 sorties dropping 955,044 tons of bombs
(758,685 tons HE, 196,355 tons incendaries). Out of the total sorties
19,025 were sea mining missions laying 47,307 mines.

TONNAGE OF BOMBS DROPPED BY BOMBER COMMAND BY CITY

Target City Tons (of 2,240lb) Date of First and Last Attack
Berlin 45,517 25/26th August, 1940 – 20/21st April, 1945
Essen 36,420 24/25th May, 1940 – 11th March, 1945.
Cologne 34,711 15th May, 1940 – 2nd March, 1945.
Duisburg 30,025 16/17th May, 1940 – 21/22nd February, 1945.
Hamburg 22,580 17/18th May, 1940 – 17/18th April, 1945
Dortmund 22,242 24/25th June, 1940 – 29th March. 1945
Stuttgart 21,016 24/25th August, 1940 – 17/18th March, 1945.
Gelsenkirchen 19,606 14/15th May, 1940 – 24th March, 1945.
Mannheim/Ludwigshaven 18,114 4/5th June, 1940 – 17/18th March, 1945.
Dusseldorf 17,769 15/16th May, 1940 – 23rd February, 1945.
Kiel 16,712 1/2nd July, 1940 – 2/3rd May, 1945.
Frankfurt 15,696 2/3rd June, 1940 – 13/14th March, 1945.
Hanover 14,776 18/19th May, 1940 – 29/30th March, 1945.
Le Havre 13,449 18/19th September, 1940 – 11th September, 1944.
Nuremberg 13,021 8/9th November, 1940 – 11th April, 1945.
Bremen 12,831 17/18th May, 1940 – 22/23rd April, 1945.
Bochum 10,784 21/22nd June, 1940 – 22/23rd March, 1945.
Calais 9,736 3/4th September, 1940 – 27th September, 1944.
Brest 8,428 28/29th July, 1940 – 5th September, 1944.
Boulogne 7,827 11th July, 1940 – 17th September, 1944.

Second Tactical Air Force

Year Sorties Tonnage Aircraft Lost
1943 23,695 3,627 177
1944 214,592 38,729 1,305
1945 89,426 19,482 633
Totals 327,713 61,838 2,115

Bomber Command’s Main Aircraft:

Lancaster


7,374 built. 156,308 operational sorties 604,612 tons of bombs dropped and
51,513,105 incendiaries released.


Halifax


Production totalled 6,176 Halifaxes, the bomber versions flying a total of 75,532 sorties and dropping 227,610 tons of bombs.


Mosquito


Wellington


Stirling


Between 1941 and 1944 Stirlings dropped 27,821 tons of bombs and laid over 20,000 mines for the loss of 769 aircraft.


Blenheim




Whitley




Hampden

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley

Handley Page Halifax

Douglas Boston

Vickers Wellington

De Havilland Mosquito

Short Stirling

Lockheed Hudson

Arvo Lancaster

Handley Page Hampden

Consolidated Liberator

Bristol Blenheim

Fairey Battle

Bristol Blenheim

Development of the model 142 civil transport, that was faster than

the R.A.F. fighters when it appeared. Much used during the first

years of WWII. The Blenheim was used as bomber, nightfighter,

reconaissance aircraft and close-support aircraft. The Blenheim

was very vulnerable to enemy fighters. 4422 built.

Type: Blenheim Mk.I

Function: bomber

Year: 1937 Crew: 3 Engines: 2 * 618kW Bristol Mercury VIII

Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area:

Empty Weight: Max.Weight:

Speed: 418km/h Ceiling: 8300m Range: 1755km

Armament:

Fairey Battle

Elegant single-engined monoplane bomber. The Battle was too big an

aircraft to be powered by a single R.R. Merlin engine, and in

May 1940 it was quickly demonstrated to be woefully vulnerable. The

concept of this single-engined bomber was outdated. After 1940 only

used as trainer and target tug. 2419 built.

Type: Battle Mk.I

Function: bomber

Year: 1937 Crew: 3 Engines: 1 * 768kW R.R. Merlin I

Wing Span: 16.46m Length: 12.90m Height: 4.72m Wing Area: 39.20m2

Empty Weight: 3015kg Max.Weight: 4895kg

Speed: 414km/h Ceiling: 7620m Range: 1690km

Armament: 2*mg7.7mm 454kg

RAF Bombing by Target Type in 1944:

% of Tonnage Dropped Tonnage Dropped Description of Target Type
35% 183,750 Industrial Towns in Germany
18% 94,500 Enemy Transport
16% 84,000 direct support of Allied armies
11% 57,750 V-weapon sites and supply depots
7% 36,750 German oil industry
3% 15,750 Oil storage depots
4% 21,000 German aircraft industry
3% 15,750 Ports and shipping
3% 15,750 Miscellaneous industrial targets

Total RAF bomber Tonnage dropped in 1944 amounted to 525,750 tons.

Back To Top of Page

Handley Page Hampden

Medium bomber, used during the first part of WWII. Typical

design with a short fuselage and a big tail boom, carrying twin

tail fins. Nicknamed ‘Flying Suitcase’. Its defensive armament was

totally inadequate, and heavy losses were suffered on day bomber missions.

Whitdrawn in 1942. 1432 built.

Type: Hampden Mk. I

Function: bomber

Year: 1939 Crew: 4 Engines: 2 * 740kW Bristol Pegasus XVIII

Speed: 410km/h Ceiling: 7300m Range: 3000km

Armament: 4*mg7.7mm 1814kg

Lockheed Hudson

 

RAF designation for the
U.S. A-28 and A-29.

 

Short Stirling

 

First of the RAF’s four-engined heavy bombers. Soon replaced by

the Lancaster and Halifax, and used as targer tug. The shortcomings

of the Stirling were mostly due to faulty specifications, e.g. the

low operational ceiling was the consequence of letting the wing span

be determined by the doors of the available hangars! The Stirling Mk.V

was a transport version. 2375 built.

Type: Stirling Mk. III

Function: bomber

Year: 1940 Crew: 7 Engines: 4 * 1640hp Bristol Hercules VI

Speed: 435km/h Ceiling: 5200m Range: 3250km

Armament: 8*mg7.7mm 8170kg

Douglas Boston

RAF designation for the US A-20 light bomber.

Type: Boston Mk.III

Function: bomber

Year: 1942 Crew: 4 Engines: 2 * 1600hp Wright GR-2600-A5B

Speed: 490km/h Ceiling: 7400m Range: 1650km

Armament: 8*mg 905kg

Armstrong Whitworth Whitley

Twin-engined monoplane bomber. The Whitley was one of the first

heavy night bombers of the RAF, and the first RAF aircraft with a

stressed-skin fuselage. It had a characteristic nose-down flying

attitude, because of the high incidence of the wing. Performance

was mediocre, and from 1942 onwards it was used as trainer and

glider tug. Around 2900 built.

Type: Whitley V

Function: bomber

Year: 1939 Crew: 5 Engines: 2 * R.R. Merlin X

Speed: 370km/h Ceiling: 6100m Range: 3860km

Armament: 5*mg7.7mm 3175kg

Vickers Wellington

wellington.jpg (18179 bytes)

 

Twin-engined medium bomber of geodetical construction. Main British

bomber during the first part of WWII, but used until the end of

the war in numerous other duties. 11461 built.

Type: Wellingtion Mk. IC

Function: bomber

Year: 1937 Crew: 6 Engines: 2 * 1050hp Bristol Pegasus XVIII

Speed: 235mph Ceiling: 19000ft Range: 1805mls

Armament: 8*mg7.7mm 4500lbs

usbombs_s

Bombs Weapons Rockets Aircraft Ordnance

Bombs Weapons Rockets Aircraft Ordnance

An american worker inspects 1,000lb bomb cases before they are filled with explosives

Introduction to Aircraft Ordnance
Aerial Bombs
| Incendiary Devices | Rocket Projectiles | Aerial Mines, Depth Charges | Unorthodox Weapons

‘Upkeep’ Dam busting Bomb

Tallboy and Earthquake Deep Penetration Bombs

Johnny Walker Diving Mines

Highball ‘Bouncing Bomb’

Disney Rocket-Assisted Bomb

Other RAF bombs

German bombs

Japanese Balloon Bombs

US Bomb Types

Bombsights

Introduction to Aircraft Ordnance

parafrag bombs fall on parked Japanese aircraft
At the beginning of the war bombs were of considerably better design
than the crude high-explosive packed artillery shells of the Great War.
But there was still a great deal of room for improvement. The majority
of bombs dropped during the war were high-explosive (general purpose)
bombs of 250, 500 or 1,000 lbs. Incendiary devices, essentially thermite
or magnesium burning at 1200 F or higher saw extensive use as well.
These relatively small 2, 4, or 30 lb weapons were often dropped in huge
numbers using cluster bombs. Cluster bombs contain many smaller bombs
or submunitions which spill out when close to the ground to cover a
large area. Anti-personnel attacks frequently relied on fragmentation
bombs and fragmentation cluster bombs which send lethal metal fragments
flying in all directions.

As the war went on some special purpose bombs were developed such as the Upkeep dam-busting bomb and the ‘Gland Slam’ and Tallboy deep penetration bombs. In general bombs of heavier weight and blast came into greater use as the war continued.

Bombs can be as small as a few kg, but the largest one ever dropped in
combat weighed 10 tonnes (22,000lb). Common modern bomb sizes are 225,
450, and 900 kg (500, 1,000, and 2,000lb).

Bombs can be categorized according to their effects:


  • High-explosive. High-explosive (HE) bombs are also known as "general purpose" (GP) bombs and achieve destructive effect through direct
    explosive blast. They are about 50% explosive by weight, and are
    effective against most classes of targets that have not been "hardened"
    against attack.

    A variety of explosive mixtures based on traditional high explosives (such
    as TNT, RDX, PETN and so on) can be used for the explosive filler.

  • Penetration and armor-piercing. Penetration bombs are generally similar to GP bombs, but use hardened cases to allow them to penetrate earth and
    fortified targets. They only contain about 25% to 30% explosive by
    weight.

    They achieve penetration due to high speed and mass. The kinetic energy
    of a large penetration bomb can punch through manym of earth and
    reinforced concrete. They have delayed fuzes that prevent them from
    detonating until they have come to rest.

    Armor-piercing bombs are similar, but not necessarily as streamlined or
    heavy. They are generally used for attacking armored naval vessels.

  • Fragmentation. Traditional fragmentation bombs were small unitary bombs that were built with a casing that shattered on detonation into splinters
    to attack exposed troops, light vehicles, and other "soft" targets.

    Fragmentation bombs are generally in the form of cluster bomb
    submunitions, and may consist of grenade-like balls that are encased in
    plastic impregnated with ball bearings; "combined effects" submunitions
    that incorporate splintering cases along with anti-armor and incendiary
    effects; or submunitions that blast out a cloud of small metal darts,
    known as "flechettes" (French for "little arrow").

  • Incendiary. These munitions destroy by starting fires. They may contain a metallic incendiary material that burns at a very high temperature, or
    an incendiary gel ("napalm") that flows over a target as it burns.

    Incendiary metals include zirconium, magnesium, aluminum, titanium, and
    depleted uranium. Thermite, which is a combination of iron rust and
    aluminum, is particularly popular as an incendiary.

    Napalm derives its name from its original thickening agent, sodium
    palmitrate ("Na-palm") but most modern napalm actually uses polystyrene as
    a thickener. Generally napalm bombs are simply stored as empty tanks, and
    then "fueled" with napalm before use.

Conventional bombs also include chemical or biological munitions, smoke
bombs, and illumination and marking flares. These are relatively specialized
munitions and will not be considered further in this short document.

There are three main sections to the overall structure of an aerial bomb:
the bomb body that contains the destructive payload, a tail section that
provides fins and other aerodynamic devices, and one or more detonating
fuzes, which can be at the front, back, or sides of the bomb.

These parts are often made in an interchangeable fashion, allowing a bomb
body to be fitted with different fuzes or tail sections.

The bomb body varies in size, of course, and varies in structure depending on
whether the bomb is a GP bomb, penetrating bomb, cluster bomb, and so on. In
most cases the tail section simply consists of a set of fins that stabilize
the bomb’s fall. However, with bombs designed to be dropped at low altitude,
the tail section provides some sort of drag-producing mechanism to ensure
that the bomb falls well behind the launch aircraft before it hits the
ground. Bombs so equipped are called "retarded" bombs.

In comparison to the bomb body and tail section, fuzing is a complicated and
diverse subject. Fuzing is characterized by the means by which the bomb is
armed and the parameter that causes the fuze to detonate the bomb. Arming
mechanisms include:


  • A small propeller, or "arming vane", that spins a certain number of rotations after release to arm the bomb.
  • An arming pin that is withdrawn by bomb release.
  • An inertial fuze, used on retarded bombs, that is armed by the deployment
    of brake fins or ballute.

  • An electric fuze that is armed by a time-delay circuit, set into operation
    by a arming lanyard that is extracted by bomb release.

Detonation parameters include:


  • Impact fuzes — that is, the bomb explodes when it hits something. Impact
    fuzes can be mounted in bomb’s nose or tail; a tail-mounted fuze is often used on penetrating munitions, as a nose-mounted fuze would be destroyed by impact. There are also "all-ways" fuzes that can detonate on impact at
    any angle, and which are generally used on napalm bombs and other unfinned bombs.

    A variation on the simple impact fuze is the "daisy cutter" fuze, which
    resembles of a long rod mounted on the nose of an HE or fragmentation
    bomb. A daisy cutter allows the bomb to go off before it buries itself in
    the ground, generating greater blast effect.

    Impact fuzes may also have a short time delay, particularly in penetrator
    bombs. This allows the bomb to penetrate the target before detonating.

  • Time fuzes, which are set into action when the bomb is released and may have delays of hours to days. They are used to impede the efforts of
    damage-control teams, or to harass enemy forces trying to pass through a
    location after a bomb raid.

  • Proximity fuzes, which contain a small radar set that triggers the bomb at a predetermined height above the ground.

  • Hydrostatic fuzes, which go off at a certain depth under water. Such fuzes are generally used in depth charges.

  • Magnetic, seismic, and acoustic fuzes, which sense the passage of a large object like a ship or tank and then detonate, allowing the bomb to act as
    a mine. In US terminology, bombs so fitted are often called "destructor
    mines".
A bomb may be fitted with multiple fuzes. For example, a bomb fuzed to act
as a mine may also have a time fuze so that it will self-destruct after a
period of time, either to harass an enemy, or to prevent it from being a
hazard to advancing friendly forces.

Explosives

Explosive Main ingredients or chemical name Remarks
RDX
(Cyclonite, Hexogen)
Cyclotrimethylene trinitranmine WW2 and still widely used, often mixed with TNT
TNT
(Trinitrotoluene)
Toluene, nitric acid Main high-explosive used during WW2
Torpex TNT, RDX, aluminum Torpedoes and bombs
Amatol TNT, ammonium nitrate Shell and bomb filling in WW1 and WW2
Mercuric fulminate Mercury, alcohol, nitric acid Very sensitive, often used in bomb fuses
Lead azide Lead, nitrogen Substitute for mercuric fulminate
Picric acid
(Lyddite, melinite, trinitrophenol)
Phenol, sulfuric acid, nitric acid Main Allied shell-filling in WW1
Ammonium picrate Pricic acid, ammonium Filling for anti-tank shells

Aerial Bombs

RAF Bombs

During the years following the Great War bombs were still thought of as
little more than artillery shells dropped from airplanes. In 1937 a new
series of bombs was adopted by the RAF which were aerodynamically shaped
with tail fins, far more suited to being carried and dropped from
aircraft. These came in a variety of ‘sizes’ from 40 lb bombs to 250 and
500 lb bombs. For the first two years of the war Bomber Command relied
heavily on 250 lb and 500 lb GP high explosive bombs.

Bombs were classified by their CWR (Charge-to-Weight-Ratio) the
percentage of explosive compared to the gross weight of the weapon. GP
(General Purpose) bombs had a CWR of 30-35% meaning that most of the
weight of these bombs consisted of metal casing not explosive. When it
was realized that the weight of the bomb casing is a necessary evil,
something to be reduced as much as possible this led to the development
of new weapons such as the 4,000 HC (‘Block Buster’) which greatly
increased the offensive power of RAF’s bombers.

MC (Medium Capacity) bombs had a CWR of 40-50% while HC (High Capacity)
weapons had a CWR of 75-80%, the latter being essentially explosive
packed metal drums. Extensive aerodynamic streamlining was dispensed
with since these bombs were carried internally. As already mentioned the
4,000 lb ‘Block Buster’ or ‘Cookie’ was a very effective weapon in this
class and after its introduction rapidly became a mainstay of Bomber
Command.

GP – General Purpose CWR 30-35%

MC – Medium-Capacity CWR 40-50%

HC – High-Capacity CWR 75-80%

DP – Deep Penetration

AP – Armour Piercing

SAP – Semi-Armour Piercing

HE – High Explosive

I – Incendiary

SBC – Small Bomb Containers

TI – Target Indicator (airborne pyrotechnic stores)

PFF – Path Finder Force

RP – Rocket Projectile

A/S – Anti-Submarine

CWR – Charge-to-Weight Ratio

Nickels – Propaganda leafets dropped by air.

White Bomb – attack with propoganda leafets.

Gardening – Code-name for missions laying mines (known as cucumbers)

4 lb hexagonal stick magnesium incendiary

30 lb incendiary bomb

120 lb GP bomb – Standard inter-war bomb, used at start of World War II

40 lb GP/HE bomb

250 lb GP/HE bomb

500 lb GP/HE bomb

500 lb MC bomb

1,000 lb MC bomb

1,900 lb GP/HE bomb

2,000 lb MC bomb

4,000 lb MC bomb

4,000 lb HC/HE bomb ‘Cookie’

4,000 lb Pink Pansy

4,000 lb Red Spot Fire

8,000 lb HC bomb

US M41 20lb Fragmentation bomb

US M34 2000lb General Purpose bomb

Red Spot Fire – 4,000 lb incendiary bomb used as a target marker

Lancasters dropped no fewer than 217,640 1,000-pound bombs between 1942 and 1945.

First use Stats:

2,000 lb HE bomb – 7 May 1940 – by Coastal Command Beaufort

2,000 lb HE/SAP bomb – 1/2 July 1940 – Bomber Command dropped Hampden, on Kiel.

4,000 lb HE/HC (‘Cookie’) ‘block buster’ bomb – 1 April 1941 – two Wellingtons, against Emden.

8,000 lb HE/HC bomb – 1942 – Halifax first to use weapon operationally. Early September first 8,000 lb bombs became availible.

250 lb TI (Target Indicating) bomb – 16/17 January 1943 – by PFF against Berlin.

12,000 lb HE/HC bomb – 15/16 September 1943 – 617 Squadron, against Dortmund-Ems Canal.

12,000 lb HE/DP (‘Tallboy’) bomb – 8/9 June 1944 – 617 Squadron, against Saumur Tunnel.

22,000 lb HE/DP (‘Grand Slam’) bomb – 14 March 1945 – 617 Squadron, against Bielefeld Viaduct.

10-11 September 1942 – 4,000 lb ‘Pink Pansy’ incendiary bomb used as a
target marker with a load of Benzol, rubber and phosphorus, dropped by
Bomber Command on Dusseldorf.

A “cookie” or “blockbuster” was a 4,000 lb high capacity bomb. The RAF
“heavies” dropped large numbers of these high-explosive bombs along with
incendaries.

The RAF developed a 8,000 lb high-capacity bomb which was first used on Feb 10, 1942.

Tallboy and Earthquake Deep Penetration Bombs

The 22,000lb Grand Slam underneath a Lancaster
These massive bombs designed by Dr. Barnes Wallis came near the speed
of sound during descent being streamlined and equipped with angled fins
that produced spin. Penetrating the ground before exploding they worked
by setting off shock waves that would bring down nearby structures. The
12,000 lb (5443 kg) Tallboy dropped from 20,000 ft (6096m) made a 80 ft
(24m) deep crater 100 ft (30m) across and could go through 16 ft (4.88m)
of concrete. On June 8-9, 1944 eight Lancaster bombers
of No. 617 Squadron used the deep penetration Tallboy bomb in an attack
against the Saumur Rail Tunnel. The new weapon proved its worth but at
the cost of losing 5 of the 8 bombers
on this mission. Eventually 854 Tallboy bombs were used, the most
note-worthy mission resulting in the destruction of the battleship
Tirpitz. The Grand Slam (Earthquake) bomb was of the same design as the
Tallboy but larger and heavier weighing 22,000 lb (9972 kg.) The Grand
Slam was first used on March 14, 1945 when a force of Lancaster bombers
led by Royal Air Force Squadron Leader C.C. Calder attacked the
Bielefeld railway viaduct destroying two spans. In another attack
against submarine pens near Bremen two Grand Slams pentrated over 7m (23
ft) of reinforced concrete before exploding causing the collapse of the
entire concrete ceiling. 41 Grand Slam Bombs were dropped by the end of
the war mainly against bridges and viaducts.
12,000lb Tallboy just after leaving the bomb bay

  • Name: Tallboy
  • Type: Deep Penetration Bomb
  • Length: 21 ft (6.4 m)
  • Diameter: 38 in (0.97 m)
  • Weight: 12,000 lb (5,443 kg)
  • Warhead: 5,200 lb (2,360 kg) Torpex explosive
  • Number Used: 854
  • Name: Grand Slam (Earthquake) Bomb
  • Type: Deep Penetration Bomb
  • Length: 26 ft 6 in (7.7 m)
  • Diameter: 3 ft, 10 in (1.17 m)
  • Tail Section length: 13 ft, 6 in (4.11 m)
  • Weight: 22,000 lb (9972 kg)
  • Warhead: 9,135 lb (4144 kg) Torpex explosive
  • Number Used: 41

British 30-lb incendiary bomb

British 120-lb GP bomb

Standard inter-war bomb, used at the start of World War 2

British 250-lb Middle Capacity GP bomb

Standard inter-war bomb

British 500-lb GP bomb

Standard inter-war bomb

British 500-lb Medium-Case (MC) Mk III bomb

The MC bomb proved more effective than the ealier GP bombs, due to a
higher filling:weight ratio. It was widely used by tactical aircraft,
the 500-lb type also finding applications on heavy bomber aircraft.

British 4,000-lb ‘Cookie’

The Cookie is one of the demolition weapons employed by the RAF.

British 8,000-lb

Two 4,000-lb ‘Cookies’ bolted together

British 12000-lb High Capacity (HC) bomb

Three 4,000-lb ‘Cookies’ bolted together, not to be confused with the Tallboy deep penetration bomb.

British 12000-lb ‘Tallboy’ Deep Penetration Bomb

Could only be carried by the Avro Lancaster.

British 22000-lb ‘Grand Slam’ bomb

Could only be carried by the Avro Lancaster.

US M41 20-lb Fragmentation bomb

US M34 2000-lb General Purpose bomb

German Bombs

SC = SPRENGBOMBE CYLINDRICH (thin cased general purpose).

PC = PANZERBOMBE CYLINDRICH (armour piercing).

SD = SPRENGBOMBE DICKWANDIG (thick cased semi-armour piercing).

LC = LICHT CYLINDRISCHE (LC 50 parachute flare).

SC = SPRENGBOMBE CYLINDRICH – designed for maximum blast effect having a
high charge-to-weight ratio of 55 per cent explosive SC bombs were used
primarily for general demolition. Approximately 8 out of 10 of German
high explosive bombs dropped on the U.K. were of the SC type. Sizes
included 50 kg, 250 kg, 500 kg, 1000 kg “Hermann”, and the 1800 kg
“Satan”. There was even a 2500 kg type although rarely used.

PC = PANZERBOMBE CYLINDRICH – Having a charge-to-weight ratio of 20%
explosive, because of their penetration qualities they were used
primarily against ships and fortifications. The 1400 kg “Fritz” is a
good example of this type.

SD = SPRENGBOMBE DICKWANDIG – Medium cased steel weapons and, being
either anti-personnel or semi-armour piercing, had a charge-to-weight
ratio of 35 per cent explosive; 50, 250, 500 and 1700 kg versions.

LC = LICHT CYLINDRISCHE – About the same size as a conventional SC 50
bomb, hence its designation “50″. Used for target illumination and
marking at night.

Land Mines.

The 1000 kg Luft Mine B was normally employed, and as such was
designated Bomben B when used against land targets. During 1941 a new
weapon, the BM 1000 “Monika”, made its appearance. This consisted of the
sea mine LMB, but fitted with a bomb tail unit, designed to be dropped
like a conventional bomb without a parachute.

U.S. Bomb Types:

The most devastating conventional bomb used by the Americans was the
M-69 incendiary cluster. The first B-29 raids against the Japanese
mainland were performed in the fall of 1944, using high-altitude
daylight precision bombing with high-explosive bombs. For several
reasons, this strategy proved ineffective, and by the spring of 1945
operations switched to low-level incendiary bombing at night.

The M-69 firebomb had been developed earlier in the war and proved ideal
for the task of burning Japanese cities to the ground. The M-69 was a
simple weapon, shaped like a long tin can and weighing just 2.3 kg
(6.2lb). Since dropping quantities of individual bombs from high
altitude would be wildly inaccurate – it was designed to be incorporated
into an “aimable cluster”, a type of cluster bomb that contained 38 of
the M-69 firebombs.

Aimable clusters would be released over the target and break apart at
about 900m (2,000 ft) altitude, scattering their M-69s. Each M-69 would
then eject a long strip of cloth to orient itself and crash nose-first
into the buildings below. On impact the payload of napalm would ignite
and shoot out of the tail of the bomb in a burning jet. Under ideal
conditions, this jet could extend 45m (100 ft).

Name Type Bomb Weight HE Weight
AN-M30 GP 100 lb 54 lb
AN-M57 GP 250 lb 123 lb
AN-M64 GP 500 lb 262 lb
AN-M65 GP 1,000 lb 530 lb
AN-M66 GP 2,000 lb 1,051 lb
AN-M56 Light Case 4,000 lb 3,245 lb
AN-Mk1 Armor-Piercing 1,600 lb 215 lb

 


Incendiary Devices

Name Type Weight Notes
M47A1 Wh. Phosphorous 100 lb Used Mainly in Europe During Last 6 months of War
M47A2 Jellied Oil 100 lb Most Widely Used Incendiary by U.S.
M50 Magnesium 4 lb Used Mainly in Europe
M52 Magnesium 2 lb Used Mainly in Europe
M69 Jellied Oil 6 lb -
M17 Magnesium 500 lb Cluster of 110  M50 Most widely used Incendiary by 8th and 15th Air Forces
M19 Jellied Oil 220 lb Cluster of 36  M69 Dropped in Huge Numbers During Fire Raids On Japan

SBC – Small Bomb Containers

Small Bomb Containers next to a Lancaster     M-76 500-lb incendiary bomb

Each container held 236 x 4-lb or 24 x 30-lb incendiaries.

A Lancaster bomber could carry a maximum of 14 SBCs. This means that
every Lancaster over a target could dispense up to 3,304 x 4-lb (13,216
lbs) or 336 x 30-lb (10,080 lbs) incendiary bombs. Another load-out for
the Lancaster that is more representative is 1 x 4,000-lb HE bomb plus
12 SBCs.

Napalm

Napalm essentially “jellied” gasoline saw its first combat use during
the invasion of Tinian in June 1944. Dropped by fighter-bombers and
bombers it was used in subsequent assaults in the Pacific. For example,
during 16 days of ‘softening up’ attacks proceeding the invasion of Iwo
Jima B-24s dropped 1,111 drums of Napalm on the island.


Rocket Projectiles

Mk VIC Beaufighter firing 3-inch rocketsAir-to-ground
rockets were in service before the war in several nations such as the
Soviet Union but their use was limited. The Il-2 Stormovik and other
Russian planes made devastating attacks against German armor and supply
columns. In the west, fighter-bombers such as the American P-47 and the
British Typhoon
fired thousands of rockets at armor and troop concentrations. In the
Pacific rockets were invaluable in the brutal island-hopping campaign
where heavily defended positions had to be taken. Navy and Marine
Corsairs smothered pill boxes and bunkers with rockets and napalm. The triple-tube Bazooka rocket launcher on a P-47

Another application for rockets was in the anti-ship / anti-submarine effort. British Beaufighters, Mosquitos and Typhoons
became the scourge of enemy vessels even when protected by friendly
fighters. Although air-to-ground rockets were used in the air-to-air
role on occasion it wasn’t until the last months of the war in Europe
that a true air-to-air rocket came into service, the German R4M. They
were extremely effective but appeared too late to alter the course of
the war. This type of weapon – the folding-fin rocket became standard
armament for aircraft following the war till the advent of air-to-air
missiles.

M-8 4.5 inch (11.4 cm) triple-tube “Bazooka” launcher

HVAR 5 inch (12.7 cm) rockets

Tiny Tim 11.75″ (30 cm)

RP Rocket Projectile

RS-82

RS-132

5-inch rockets being loaded onto a Marine Corsair Tiny Tim rocket being test fired from a SB2C Helldiver

Rocket Diameter Length Weight Warhead Speed Platform
M-8 4.5″ (11.4 cm) 16″ (40 cm) 860 ft/s (262m/s) P-38, P-47, P-51
HVAR 5″ (12.7 cm) 72″ (1.83m) 140 lb (63.5 kg) 55 lb (25 kg) 1375 ft/s (419m/s) P-38, P-47, P-51, Corsair, Hellcat
Tiny Tim 11.75″ (30 cm) 123″ (3.12m) 1284 lb (582 kg) 590 lb (270 kg) 810 ft/s (247m/s) B-25, A-20
RP 3″ (7.62 cm) 55¼” 47 lb (21.3 kg) 25 lb (11.3kg) 1575 ft/sec (480m/s) Typhoon, Tempest, Mosquito, Beaufighter
RS-82 3.2″ (8.2 cm) 22″ (56.0 cm) 1.28 lb (0.6 kg) IL-2
RS-132 5.2″ (13.2 cm) 34″ (86.4 cm) 5 lb (2.25 kg) IL-2

RP aicraft ground attack rocket

Rocket Motor Tube

3¼” diameter
55¼” long

Total weight of 21.3kg (47 lb) w/ 25 lb AP head

11 lb cruciform stick of cordite – the main propellant charge.

Maximum Velocity of 480 m/sec (1,575 ft/sec)

  • 60 lb Shell, HE/SAP
  • 60 lb Shell, HE/GP, Hollow Charge
  • 18 lb Shell, HE
  • 25 lb Shot, AP
  • 25 lb Head, Solid, A/S (Anti-Submarine)
  • 60 lb Shell, Practice, concrete head (Training only)
  • 12 lb Head, Practice, (Training only)

 


Unorthodox Weapons

Upkeep The Dam-Busting Bomb

Upkeep bouncing bomb

Upkeep bomb

large cylindrical shaped weapon

weight: 9,250 lb (4200 kg)

explosive: 5,720 lb (2600 kg) torpex

hydrostatic fuze set to detonate at a depth of 30 ft (9m)

In December of 1942 a Wellington bomber was acquired to conduct full
scale tests. After several abortive attempts Barnes Wallis got the
spherical bomb to bounce 16 times across a stretch of water.

Modified Lancasters

23 ED serial block Lancaster bombers were extensively modified to
accommodate the Upkeep weapon. The bomb bay doors were removed and
special pylons fitted, together with an electric motor to set the mine
spinning backward at 500 rpm before bomb release. This backspin was
crucial as it allowed the bomb to skip across the water, past several
torpedo nets, and strike the dam wall. The mid-upper gun turret was
removed and its gunner moved to the nose turret where ‘stirrups’ were
added to prevent him from inadvertantly treading on the bomb aimer’s
head. Fighter type VHF radios were added to all of the aircraft, close
control of the operation being vital to its success. Since the entire
mission had to be flown at low altitude specailly prepared ‘roller maps’
were provided to the bomb aimers to assist in navigation.

The problem of flying each plane level at just 60 ft was solved by the
ingenious use of a pair of Aldis lamps, one mounted in the nose camera
port, the other behind the bomb bay. The lamps were angled so that the
two spots of light touched at an altitude of 60ft and offset to
starboard where they were easily seen by the navigator who monitored
height during the bombing run. Standard bombsights could not be used due
to the unique nature of the attack so a sight was improvised consisting
of a plywood triangle, a simple eyepiece and a couple of nails. Finally
each Lancaster was provided with 3,000 rounds of ammunition per gun,
all tracer, to keep the German gunners heads down.

Johnny Walker Diving Mines

This British weapon 72 inches in length and weighing in the 500 lb class
had a most unusual mechanism of action. With a main charge of
approximately 100 lb Torpex/aluminum in a shaped charge and a hydrogen
gas generation system the idea was to form a large bubble of hydrogen
gas that would lift a warship out of the water and ‘break its back’.

Seven Lancaster bombers each carrying a dozen Johnny Walker bombs
attacked the battleship Tirpitz in September 1944. No damage was
inflicted and the Johnny Walkers were never used again. As ingenious as
the concept was in actual use the weapon failed to produce the desired
effect.

Interestingly enough 43 years after the attack the Norwegians found one
of the Johnny Walker devices still intact near Kara Fjord.

Highball ‘Bouncing Bomb’

This spherical bomb was designed by the brilliant Dr. Barnes Wallis to
be utilized against ships. Weighing 1,280 lb (580kg) and packed with 600
lb (272 kg) of explosive two Highballs could be carried by a Mosquito
fighter-bomber. Prior to release the bomb was imparted with a backward
spin of 700-900 revolutions per minute. Dropped at high speed 360 mph
(580km/h) and low altitude 60 ft (18.2m) the Highball would skip across
the water toward the target.

Although intended to be used against the battleship Tirpitz this did not
come to pass mainly because the ship stayed in ports beyond the range
of Mosquitos based in Britain. Focus shifted to possible use in the Far
East and a number of Mosquitos were modified for use on escort/jeep
carriers. Despite considerable training the weapon was not used in
combat.

‘Disney’ Rocket-Assisted Bomb

Designed by Captain Terrell RN of the UK, this 4,500 lb (2040 kg)
hard-case streamlined bomb was intended to be used against U-boat pens
and other super-hardened targets.

Dropped from 20,000 ft (6096 m) the bomb had a barometric fuze which
activated at 5,000 ft (1525 m.) At this point a rocket in the tail of
the bomb fired bringing the impact velocity up to 2,400 ft/sec (730
m/sec.)

Carried on B-17 bombers
in pairs under-wing this weapon was first used on Febuary 10, 1945.
Nine B-17s of the 92nd BG dropped eighteen Disney bombs on U-boat pens
at Ijmuden in Holland, scoring one direct hit. The weapon saw further
use but suitable targets were often either too far away (such as in
Norway) or already over-run by Allied troops. Still by the end of the
war a total of 158 Disney Bombs had been used in combat.

Project Aphrodite

This involved taking war weary B-17F bombers
and packing them with 20,000 lb (9070 kg) of Torpex or 10 tons of RDX
explosive. A volunteer two man crew conducted the take-off and flew the
plane to cruising altitude. After arming the plane, hopefully without
setting off an explosion, the crew would bail out while a chase plane,
another bomber,
usually a B-34 (an-RAF Ventura,) would direct the bomb laden plane into
the target via a radio control link. The idea worked better in practice
than in actual combat as several of the planes exploded prematurely and
the basic stability of the B-17 in flight frustrated efforts to nose
the bomber
down into the target. Seven of these missions were flown in the month
of August under the code name Aphrodite. The first Aphrodite mission was
flown against V-2 rocket sites in the Pas de Calais area of France on August 4, 1944.

Japanese Balloon Bombs

During 1944 and into 1945 the Japanese carried out a most unusual
bombing campaign. Large paper balloons fitted with an ingenious
mechanism for maintaining altitude during the 6,200 mi (9,970 km) 3-5
day trip across the Pacific to America were launched in great numbers.
Each balloon carried a small incendiary device as it travelled at 25-170
mph (35-270 km/h) between 30,000-50,000 ft (9,144-15,240 m) altitude.
The thinking was that the large forested areas of the United States
could be set ablaze by the incendiary bombs dropped by these balloons.
In November of 1944 the remains of some of these balloon bombs were
discovered and reported. By March the following year reports indicated
that roughly 100 of these balloon bombs were crossing the Pacific per
month. On March 5, 1945 Mrs. Elsie Mitchell and five children were
killed when they came upon one of the incendiary devices while out
fishing at a lake. These were the only casualties of enemy action
against the mainland of the United States during World War II.
Altogether some 9,300 balloons were released during this campaign but
with essentially no results as no forest fires resulted and less than a
thousand of these weapons actually landed on American soil.


Aerial Mines, Depth Charges

British aerial mine being readied for a misson

250lb Mk XI Aerial Depth Charge

Mk. I-IV – 1,500lb and 1,850lb

First introduced for Bomber Command Operations in April 1940, the Mk. I -
IV was sturdily built and designed to withstand drops from aircraft
flying at 200 mph at altitudes varying from 100 to 15,000ft. Containing
approximately 750lb of explosives the mine could be detonated using
various triggering devices depending on the application required. The
type along with the Mk. V and VII became the standard mine used by the
Command until being replaced by the Mk. VI in 1944.

Mk. V – 1,000lb

Introduced into service sometime during 1940-41 this mine was a smaller
version of the Mk. I-IV. Containing between 625lb and 675lb of
explosives this mine was usually detonated using magnetic triggers,
although it could be configured to use our triggering devices.

Mk. VI – 2,000lb

A similar mine to the of the Mk. I-IV in that it could be configured in
various ways to dentate. This mine differed only in that it contained
2,000lb of explosives in comparison to the 750lb of the Mk. I-IV.

Mk. VII – 1,000lb

Introduced in 1944, the Mk.VII was an improved version on the Mk.V
although no increase in the size of explosive charge was made.


Bombsights

CSBS – (Course Setting Bombsight)

ABS – (Automatic Bombsight)

SABS – (Stabilizing Automatic Bombsight)

Mark VII – introduced in 1932.

Mark IX – introduced in 1939.

Mark X – cancelled due to its unsuitability for night bombing.

Mark XIV (T1) – introduced in August of 1942 with the PFF.

SABS Mk IIA – precision bombsight introduced August 1943.

Mark XIV (T1) – introduced in August of 1942 with the PFF.

By 1943 the Mark XIV was installed in all RAF heavy bombers. The USAAF also used the Mark XIV bomb-sight designated T1.

It was designed to enable the run up to the target flying straight and
level to be restricted to a mere ten seconds and enable the pilot to
carry out evasive manoeuvres on his approach to the target. It could be
used to bomb both on the climb and the glide. The bombsight consisted of
a computer cabinet mounted to the left of the Air Bomber and a
stabilised sighting head with optical graticule. The sight was one of
the first practical uses for a mechanical computer.

This was the bombsight of choice for Bomber Command until the end of the
war and beyond. Shortly after its entry into service, its manufacture
was subcontracted to the Sperry Gyroscope Company in America who after
re-engineering it to meet American standards, arranged for A.C. Spark
Plug , Division of General Motors to manufacture in quantity. Known as
the ‘T1’ version a total of 23,000 were made for use in the RAF and
Commonwealth airforces. In some respects, it was a mechanical
improvement on the British manufactured sight but was fully compatible
with it in every way.

The principal source of inaccuracy was the need to set on the computer
the wind speed and direction which under operational conditions, could
be often in error. A T1A version was produced for use with the faster
Mosquito and to allow for the greater operating height.

August 1943 as the SABS Mk IIA tachometric precision bombsight precision
sight. The SABS provided an even more complex mechanical computer being
able to calculate its own ‘wind’ and to automatically release bombs.
These were qualities it shared with the Norden and probably the German
Lotfe sight.

Starting in 1941 Barnes Wallis had designed a range of very large bombs,
namely the Tallboy of 12,000 lb and Grand Slam of 22,000 lb. These
bombs to be effective, had to be dropped within 150 yards of the target
from 20,000 ft and the SABS MkllA proved to be the ideal sight for this
purpose. A direct hit was not required as it was anticipated that the
bomb if landed close to the structure would destroy the foundations of
the target causing a degree of damage that would take many months to
repair.

This sight was mainly fitted to the Lancasters of 617 squadron and used
in their precision bombing of tunnels, V1 and V2 launch sites. In
company with 9 squadron using ‘Tall boy’ and ‘Grand Slam’ earthquake
bombs the German battleship Tirpitz was sunk in less than 10 minutes
once the attack began. To achieve such a high level of accuracy required
a considerable amount of bombing practice on the bombing range.

The accuracy of 617 squadron improved greatly with an average radial
error of 170 yards being recorded over the period of June to August 1944
and improved to 125 yards in the period of February 1945 to March 1945.
Two other precision bombing squadrons were formed based upon the Mk XlV
bombsight and in the period of February to March 1945 their average
error was 195 yards.

Less than 1,000 SABS bombsights were manufactured and after the war
great difficulty was experienced in finding sufficient sights to equip
two Lincoln squadrons for precision bombing against Japan. Compare this
with the 23,000 T1 sights manufactured in America.

There was in Bomber Command at the time much discussion on the
comparative merits of the two bombsights. The SABS although potentially
more accurate lacked the degree of tactical freedom afforded by the Mk
XlV/T1. As a result the Mk XlV/T1 was known to Bomber Command as the
‘area’ bombsight of the RAF and the SABS as the ‘precision sight.’

It was a much more complex sight to use and to maintain than the Mk
XlV/T1 and required more man-hours in manufacture. For the majority of
the squadrons in Bomber Command the Mk XlV/T1 was still the preferred
sight.

The Norden Bombsight

safeguarding the Norden bombsight

One of the most highly praised devices put into U.S. bombers
was the Norden bombsight, it combined the M-1 bombsight and the C-1
automatic pilot. This complex device measured 12 by 19 inches and cost
over $10,000 a copy. In high altitude bombing trials the Norden
bombsight demonstrated remarkable accuracy and the Army Air Corps had
high expectations for it.

In 1935 the 19th Bomb Group, based at Rockwell airfield, California,
started using the Norden bombsight in bombing runs. With a little
practice bomber crews found they could regularly place their bombs within 164 ft (50m) of a target from 15,000 ft (4570m).

In 1940 the Air Corps gave the Sperry Gyroscope Company a contract to
build a bombsight equivalent to Norden’s. Ironically Carl L. Norden was a
former employee of Sperry. The company had to make the sight without
violating the patents that Norden possessed. The result was the S-1
bombsight which worked on a similar principle in tying an automatic
pilot device, the A-5 automatic pilot in this case, to the bombsight.

Flight tests using the Sperry S-1 bombsight began in May 1941. The first
production type was installed in a B-24 Liberator in Feb 1942 and made
its first flight a month later. The Sperry bombsight had serious
problems and deficiencies from the beginning. The stability of the
optics was poor so that the field of view tended to “jump around” a
lot. Additionally the S-1 took twice as long to calculate data imputed
from the bombardier, 60 seconds instead of the 30 for a Norden, this was
serious since it forced the bomber
to fly straight and level for a full minute during a bombing run, the
time when it was most vulnerable to enemy fire. Despite this thousands
of S-1 sights were made and put into bombers destined for Russia and Britain. The relatively few Norden bombsights went into B-17 bombers while many B-24 Liberators got the Sperry S-1 instead.

Secrecy was given paramount importance, Norden bombsights were removed from bombers
right after they landed and crews were instructed on how to destroy the
bombsight in case of a forced landing in enemy territory. The elaborate
measures to keep the Norden bombsight a secret were undermined in 1938
by Herman Lang, a worker at the Norden plant and a German sympathizer.
He sent detailed drawings to Germany and even flew over before the war
to answer specific questions about the bombsight. In any case the
accuracy achieved in high level bombing missions over Europe proved less
than was hoped for, mainly due to the pressures of intense combat and
the often poor weather over the continent. But the Norden was good, at
least five times more accurate than most RAF bombsights.

Bombing Accuracy

During the summer of 1944, 47 B-29s raided the Yawata steel works from
bases in China; only one plane actually hit the target area, and with
only one of its bombs. This single 500 lb general purpose bomb (which
hit a powerhouse located 3,700 ft from the far more important coke
houses that constituted the raid’s aiming point) represented one quarter
of one per cent of the 376 bombs dropped over Yawata on that mission.

In the fall of 1944, only seven per cent of all bombs dropped by the
Eighth Air Force hit within 1,000ft of their aim point; even a
fighter-bomber in a 40 degree dive releasing a bomb at 7,000 ft could
have a circular error (CEP) of as much as 1,000 ft. It took 108 B-17 bombers,
crewed by 1,080 airmen, dropping 648 bombs to guarantee a 96 per cent
chance of getting just two hits inside a 400 by 500 ft area (a German
power-generation plant.)

Average % of bombs dropped which fell within 1,000 ft (610 m) and 2,000
ft (306 m) of pre-assigned MPI’s on visual missions under conditions of
good to fair visibility.

Distance: 1,000 ft (305 m) 2,000 ft (610 m)
Date: 1st Div. B-17 2nd Div. B-24 3rd Div. B-24
B-17 from 8/44
8th AF 1st Div. B-17 2nd Div. B-24 3rd Div. B-24
B-17 from 8/44
8th AF
Jan-Mar. 1943 18 - - 18 36 - - 36
April-June 1943 13 - 11 12 32 - 29 30
July-Sept. 1943 13 - 19 16 31 - 48 38
Oct-Dec. 1943 25 32 27 27 46 58 47 48
1/1944 34 23 41 35 61 48 60 58
2/1944 42 26 46 39 76 49 77 69
3/1944 31 20 39 31 64 36 70 58
4/1944 34 21 32 29 62 43 58 55
5/1944 44 34 33 37 68 64 62 65
6/1944 49 32 35 40 81 62 65 71
7/1944 42 26 44 37 73 56 77 69
8/1944 54 36 42 45 84 65 72 65
Sept-Oct. 1944 29 32 46 38 61 56 72 65
Nov-Dec. 1944 24 24 25 25 54 44 47 48
1/1945 29 34 24 29 59 61 56 59
2/1945 50 57 40 49 80 81 69 77
3/1945 40 45 30 38 76 73 58 69
4/1945 64 58 52 59 91 79 80 85

 

oilrun

Ploesti Oil Raid Operation Tidal Wave

The Ploesti Oil Fields
First Strike
Tidal Wave
Beginning of the Campaign
Lightning Raid
Costly Triumph

The Ploesti Oil Fields

ploesti2

Located 35 miles north of Bucharest, the capital of Rumania, Ploesti was a massive complex consisting of seven major refineries, storage tanks and related structures covering 19 square miles. The importance of Ploesti can be judged by the fact that it supplied Germany with 1/3rd of its entire fuel oil needs. It’s not too surprising than that it was also the first target in Europe bombed by American aircraft.

First Strike  June 12, 1942

In May 1942 Colonel Harry A. Halverson led 23 factory-fresh B-24s from Florida on an epic flight that was supposed to finish in China. Known as HALPRO (Halverson project) the unit was going to bomb Tokyo in a follow-up to the Doolittle raid. When HALPRO reached Egypt however, the crews were ordered to stay put and prepare to bomb the oil refineries at Ploesti. The mission (the first US raid of the European war, top secret at the time and later overshadowed by the disastrous low-level Ploesti raid of 1943) was set for June 12th.

The aircraft took off individually between 10:30 and 11:00 pm on June 11th, arriving over the target at dawn the following day. Ten bombers hit the Astra refinery at Ploesti, one B-24 attacked the port area of Constanta, the remaining two B-24s struck unidentified targets. Three ended up interned in Turkey, the rest manage to reach friendly bases in Iraq. Damage turned out to be minimal but the mission was considered a success.

Tidal Wave  August 1, 1943

Operation Tidal Wave was designed to be an all-out maximum effort against the Ploesti oil fields. Colonel Jacob E. Smart, a member of the Advisory Council first came up with the idea of striking Ploesti at low-level with heavy bombers. It was a gutsy some felt suicidal plan but it went up the chain of command and got the backing of General ‘Hap’ Arnold and the president. Planning was meticulous including two full-scale practice missions against a replica of Ploesti built in the desert. Since Ploesti was located north of heavily defended Bucharest it forced any attacking force to divert around the capital to have any chance of reaching the target unmolested. This was a key feature of Operation Tidal Wave and it called for precision navigation and strict radio silence.

The Plan

376th BG B-24 Ninth AF

98th BG B-24 Ninth AF

93rd BG B-24 Eighth AF

44th BG B-24 Eighth AF

389th BG B-24 Eighth AF

 

Target Refinery No. of Key Installations Order of Importance A/C Alloted Place in Formation Flight Plan over Target Group Assigned Commander and Leader
White I Romana Americana 6 3 24 1 4 waves of 6 a/c 376th Col. Compton

Lt. Flavelle

White II Concordia Vega 6 2 21 2 3 waves of 6 a/c

1 wave of 3 a/c

93d Lt. Col. Baker

Maj. Brown

White III Standard Petrol Block

Unirea Speranta

3 5 12 3 4 waves of 3 a/c 93d Lt. Col. Baker

Maj. Potts

White IV Astra Romana

Unirea Orion

10 1 40 4 4 waves of 10 a/c 98th Col. Kane

Capt. Young

White V Columbia Aquila 6 7 15 5 5 waves of 3 a/c 44th Col. Johnson

Maj. Brandon

Blue Creditul Minier

(Brazi)

3 6 18 6 3 waves of 6 a/c 44th Lt. Col. Posey

Capt. Diehl

Red Steaua Romana

(Campina)

7 4 24 7 8 waves of 3 a/c 389th Col. Wood

Capt. Caldwell

Concern over the tree-top bombing altitude continued and shortly before the mission date of August 1, 1943 the five group commanders and the head of 9th Bomber Command, Major General Uzal Ent, signed a letter to Brereton asking to be allowed to go in at high altitude. Major General Brereton ordered the low-level bombing attack to take place as planned.

The Ploesti mission was based on 154 participating aircraft. Actually, 177 successfully took off. Each of the 23 spares was loaded with four 500-lb. bombs with 45-second tail delay fuse and four clusters of American-type incendiaries. The spares appear to have been distributed among the seven target forces, as follows: White I, 4; White II, 4; White III, 0; White IV, 6; White V, 2; Blue, 2; Red, 5.

 

Target Force No. A/C 1000-lb. Dem. Bombs

Tail Delay Fuse

500-lb. Dem. Bombs

Tail Delay Fuse

Total Bombs Incendiary Bombs
1-6 Hrs. 1 Hr. 1-6 Hrs. 1 Hr. 45 Sec. Br.-Type Am.-Type
White I 24 24 - 36 - 72 132 48 Boxes -
White II 21 - 48 - - 54 102 42 Boxes -
White III 12 - 24 - - 36 60 24 Boxes -
White IV 40 - 120 - - 60 180 80 Boxes -
White V 15 - 36 - - 36 72 60 Boxes -
Blue 18 - 48 - - 36 84 36 Boxes -
Red 24 - 48 - 48 - 96 - 48 Clusters
Spares 23 - - - - 92 92 - 92 Clusters
Totals 177 24 364 36 48 386 818 290 Boxes 140 Clusters
Total Lbs. 24,000 364,000 18,000 24,000 193,000
Total Bomb Load Carried (excluding incendiaries): 623,000 lbs

Key:

A/C – Aircraft

Dem. Bombs – Demolition Bombs

Br.-Type – British-Type Incendiaries

Am.-Type – American-Type Incendiaries

White I – Romana Americana Refinery

White II – Concordia Vega

White III – Standard Petrol Block Unirea Speranta

White IV – Astra Romana Refinery Unirea Orion

White V – Columbia Aquila Refinery

Blue – Creditul Minier (Brazi)

Red – Steaua Romana (Campina)

Spares – Spare aircraft that would fill in for planes that turned back or aborted.

Across the Mediterranean

Despite careful preparation the operation was marred by bad luck from the start, one B-24 crashed on take-off. Since the mission was flown in radio silence the bomber groups became somewhat separated on the long flight across the Mediterranean. Then just off Corfu, Greece the lead aircraft carrying the route navigator inexplicably plunged into the water. A second plane of the 376th with the deputy route navigator followed down to see if there were any survivors. Unable to regain formation the bomber turned back to base. This left the lead bomber group without the expert navigators to guide them through the difficult low-level approach to the target.

Thick clouds greeted the incoming bombers as they approached the mountains. While the two lead groups threaded their way through or under the cloud layers the 98th, 44th and 389th crossed at various altitudes. By the time these three bomber groups were formed up and heading for the first IP (Initial Point) they were 29 minutes behind the 376th and the 93rd.

Confusion and Bravery at Ploesti

 

oilrun
Oilrun

Meanwhile not knowing if the other bomber groups were forced to turn back or not the 376th and 93rd made their turn at the first IP of Pitesti toward the final IP of Floresti. However, halfway to the real IP the 376th mistook the town of Targoviste for Floresti, an error that wasn’t discovered until they were on the outskirts of Bucharest. At that point Major Gen. Uzal Ent broke radio silence and ordered the two groups to turn north and attack targets of opportunity in the complex of refineries.
The carefully worked out bombing plan was foiled as bombers struck the wrong refinery or attacked any target that looked good.

Getting Home

German fighters pursued the bombers as they left bringing down more than a few damaged aircraft. Of the 177 bombers that took part in the mission 54 were lost, a further 53 planes were heavily damaged. It was a costly victory by any measure. The damage to Ploesti was significant but offset by its spair refining capacity and the fact that a raid like this could not be mounted again for quite some time.

The Medal of Honor presented to Col. John Riley “Killer” Kane (1907-1996) is one of five presented for the mission, the most ever awarded for a single action. Three of the awards were posthumous: 2nd Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes (-), a native of Alexandria, Louisiana; Lt. Col. Addison Baker (-); and Maj. John L. Jerstad (-). The other Medal of Honor presented to a living recipient for that day’s battle was to Col. Leon W. Johnson (1904-1997).

Beginning of the Campaign  April / May 1944

vienna
April 5, 1944 began. Between April 5 and May 5 the 15th AF attacked the marshalling yards at Ploesti four times, losing 43 heavy bombers shot down and a dozen more in crash landings.
May 18, 1944 – the 15th made its first direct attack on the refineries.

Lightning Raid  June 10, 1944

On June 10, 1944 46 P-38s took off from Vincenzo to attack the Franco-Americano oil refinery at Ploesti. The 46 P-38s carrying one 1,000 lb bomb apiece, 8 planes soon aborted, the rest pushed on. 36 bombs were dropped successfully and a oil-cracking plant, oil tanks, and other facilities are damaged or destroyed as well as a variety of ground targets that are strafed by the Lightnings. Losses are heavy included 14 1st Fighter group P-38s and eight 82nd Fighter Group P-38s. 33 Axis fighters were downed during this mission.

2nd Lt. Herbert B. Hatch, a P-38 pilot 1st FG 71st Fighter Squadron became an ace-in-a-day by shooting down five and possibly six Romanian Air Force IAR.80 fighters over a Romanian airfield near Ploesti. 1130 hours.
1st Lt. Armour C. Miller, P-38 pilot 1st FG 27th Fighter Squadron achieves ace status when he downs a Bf 109.

Costly Triumph

June 23, 1944, in one of its major strikes, the Fifteenth sent 761 bombers to Romanian oil targets.

July turned out to be the costliest month for the 15th Air Force and the height of its bruttle campaign against Ploesti.

August 19, 1944 – last mission to Ploesti.

August 30, 1944 – Red Army troops capture the burned and twisted wreckage of Ploesti.

Sources

AIR FORCE MAGAZINE August 1988 “Into the Mouth of Hell” by John L. Frisbee
(article available at www.afa.org)

USAF Museum WWII History Combat Europe: The Ploesti Mission

Big Bombers of WWII by William N. Hess, Frederick A. Johnson, Chester Marshall

Winged Victory The Army Air Forces in World War II by Geoffery Perret

Air War Europa America’s Air War Against Germany in Europe and North Africa by Eric Hammel