Zveno Aircraft and Developments

The complete sequence of Zveno developments (not all were tried).

In 1930 Vakhmistrov suggested that a cheap glider might be used as an aerial gunnery target, and he quickly perfected a way of carrying such a glider above the upper wing of an R-l reconnaissance aircraft and releasing it in flight. This gave Vakhmistrov the idea of using a large aircraft to carry a small one on long-range flights over hostile territory. The small aircraft could either be fighters to protect a large bomber, or bomb-carrying attack aircraft or camera-carrying fast reconnaissance aircraft which could make a pass over a target while the parent aircraft stood off at a safe distance. In each case the difficult part was hooking on again for the long flight home. After presenting the WS and LII management with calculations Vakhmistrov received permission to try out his idea. This led to a succession of Zveno (link) combinations:

Z-1 This featured a twin-engined Tupolev TB-1 bomber carrying a Tupolev I-4 fighter above each wing. The fighters were of the I-4Z version, three of which were converted for these experiments with short stub lower wings and attachment locks on the landing gear and under the rear fuselage. The bomber was provided with attachments for the Zveno aircraft above each wing: two small pyramids for the landing gear and a large tripod for the rearfuselage attachment.

The first flight took place from Monino on 3rd December 1931. The TB-1 was flown by AI Zalevskii and A R Sharapov, with Vakhmistrov as observer. The fighters, with ski landing gears, were flown by V P Chkalov and A S Anisimov. The take-off was made with the fighter engines at full power. The TB-1 co-pilot forgot the release sequence and released Chkalov’s axle before releasing the aft attachment, but Chkalov reacted instantly and released the rear lock as the fighter reared nose-up. The second fighter was released correctly. For a few seconds the TB-1 flew with no tendency to roll with an I-4Z on one wing.

Z-1a First flown in September 1933, this comprised the TB-1 carrying two Polikarpov I-5 fighters. The latter were fitted with a reinforcing plate under the rear fuselage carrying the rear holddown, but had no special designation. The pilots were P M Stefanovskii (TB-1) and I F Grodz’ and V K Kokkinaki (I-5).

Z-2 This was the first of the more ambitious hookups using a TB-3 as parent aircraft. The bomber was an early TB-3/4 M-l 7, and it was given attachments for an I-5 above each wing and a third above the fuselage with its wheels on a special flat platform. On the first test in August 1934 the TB-3 was flown by Zalevskii and the fighters by T P Suzi, S P Suprun and T T Al’tnov.

Z-3 This combination would have hung a Grigorovich I-Z monoplane fighter under each wing of the TB-3. It was not flown.

Z-4 No information.

Z-5 This was the first attempt to hook back on. The parent aircraft was again the TB-3/4 M-l 7, and the fighter was an I-Z fitted with a large suspension superstructure of steel tubes, plus a curved upper guide rail terminating in a sprung hook releasable by the pilot (almost identical to the arrangement used on the airship- borne US Navy F9C Sparrowhawks). This was designed to hook on a large steel-tube trapeze under the bomber, which was folded up for take-off and landing. V A Stepanchyonok flew the I-Z on several tests with the bomber flown as straight and level as possible by Stefanovskii. The first hook-on took place on 23rd March 1935; this was a world first.

Z-6 The final combination of the original series was the mating of two I-16 monoplane fighters hung under the wings of the TB-3. The fighters were provided with local reinforcement above the wings to enable them to be hung from sliding horizontal spigots on large tripod links of streamlined light-alloy tube pin-jointed to the bomber’s wing structure. Bracing struts linked the bomber to a latch above the fighter’s rear fuselage, and one of the fighters (M-25A-engined No 0440) was photographed with a lightweight pylon above the forward fuselage to pick up under the bomber’s wing. The first test took place in August 1935; Stefanovskii flew the TB-3 and the fighter pilots were K K Budakov and AI Nikashin.

Aviamatka

Named ‘mother aircraft’, this amazing test, not part of the original plan, took place in November 1935. The TB-3/4M-17 took off from Monino with an I-5 above each wing and an I-16 below each wing. At altitude it folded down the under-fuselage trapeze and Stepanchenok hooked on the I-Z, making a combination of six aircraft of four types all locked together. After several passes all the fighters released simultaneously. By this time Vakhmistrov had schemes for up to eight fighters of later types all to be carried by large aircraft such as the full-scale VS-2 tailless bomber projected by Kalinin. Instead Stalin’s ‘terror’ caused the whole effort to wither, but there were still to be further developments.

SPB (Russian initials for fast dive bomber) This was a special version of the Polikarpov I-16 equipped with a rack to carry an FAB-250 (bomb of 250kg, 551 Ib) under each wing. Such an aircraft could not have safely taken off from the ground. In 1937 a later TB-3/4AM- 34RN was made available, and two SPB aircraft were hung under its wings. The first test took place on 12th July 1937, the TB-3 being flown by Stefanovskii and the dive bombers by A S Nikolayev and IA Taborovskii.

Z-7 In November 1939 one final combination was flown: the TB-3/4AM-34RN took off with an I- 16 under each wing and a third hooked under the fuselage in flight (with severe difficulty). The I-16 pilots were Stefanovskii, Nyukhtikov and Suprun. In early 1940 the WS decided to form a Zveno combat unit. Based at Yevpatoriya, this was equipped with six modified TB-3/4AM- 34RN and 12 SPB dive bombers. During the Great Patriotic War a famous mission was flown on 25th August 1941 which destroyed the Danube Bridge at Chernovody in Romania, on the main rail link to Constanta. Surviving SPBs flew missions in the Crimea.

Dassault Rafale

Rafale B01 was the two-seat prototype, which completed its initial flight in April 1993. B01 was the first Rafale to fly with the RBE2 multi-mode radar, housed within a recontoured nose

An early Rafale M of the French Navy. The Rafale is the only non-U.S. fighter cleared to operate from the decks of U.S. carriers, using their catapults and their arresting gear.

The AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire, Air-to-Surface modular weapon) is a low-cost, all-weather ‘fire-and-forget’ weapon. Intended to attack targets at long ranges, the AASM is also known as ‘Hammer’. The AASM is powered and can engage targets at high off-boresight angles. Using the AASM, the Rafale does not have to overfly a target to carry out its attack, and can remain safely out of reach. Depending on the target, the aircrew will choose vertical or horizontal impact to cause maximum damage. For long-range engagements, the AASM is equipped with a bolt-on tail unit/range-extension kit that combines a solid rocket motor with flip-out wings. Range exceeds 50km (31 miles) for a high-altitude release, reduced to 15km (9 miles) with a low-level firing. Up to six AASMs can be carried by a single Rafale (underwing, as seen here), and up to six widely separated targets can be destroyed in a single pass.

Described by the manufacturer as an ‘omni-role’ fighter, the Rafale has excelled in action with both the French Air Force and Navy and its undoubted capabilities across the combat spectrum have attracted interest on the export market.

The Rafale traces its origins back to the Avion de Combat Experimentale (ACX) programme that was designed by Dassault in the early 1980s before France’s withdrawal from the multinational European Fighter Aircraft (EFA) project in 1985. One of the reasons behind the French leaving the programme was the requirement for a smaller and lighter combat aircraft that could operate from aircraft carriers.

The ACX originally took the form of a technology demonstrator and was first flown in July 1986. The ACX, renamed Rafale A, established the primary design features of the production Rafale, including the basic aerodynamic configuration, fly-by-wire control system and structure that made extensive use of composites. In its initial form, the Rafale A demonstrator was powered by a pair of 68.6kN (15,422lb) thrust General Electric F404-GE-400 turbofans. After initial flight tests, including carrier touch-and-gos, had been completed with this powerplant, an example of the planned SNECMA M88-2 turbofan was substituted for one of the F404s.

Experience with the Rafale A led to the Rafale C, initially known as the Avion de Combat Tactique (ACT), which first flew in May 1991. A single prototype was completed for the French Air Force’s single-seat Rafale C model and it was followed by the first example of the Air Force’s two-seat Rafale B, flown in April 1993. In its basic form, the production Rafale includes the RBE2 multi-mode radar that incorporates a passive electronically scanned array (PESA), and a Spectra defensive aids package.

The French Navy’s requirement for an Avion de Combat Marine (ACM) led to development of a carrier-based Rafale M that was first flown in December 1991. Compared to the land-based aircraft this version is somewhat heavier, due to its reinforced undercarriage, and provision for catapult take-off and arrested landing.

The Rafale has been delivered equipped to progressively more advanced Standards. The initial production aircraft, delivered from December 1998, were of the F1 Standard. This was optimized for the air-to-air role and became operational in 2004 with French Navy Rafales that launched from the carrier Charles de Gaulle during Operation Enduring Freedom. First of the ‘omni-role’ Standards, the F2 entered service with the French Air Force and Navy in 2006, the aircraft now able to conduct both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

The definitive F3 Standard has the capability to use a further improved RBE2 radar, adding an active electronically scanned array (AESA). The F3 is also equipped with Damoclès laser designation pod and the Pod Reco NG (Pod de Reconnaissance de Nouvelle Génération, or new-generation recce pod). The latter store is capable of providing extremely sharp images at stand-off distances, and all recorded data can be transmitted back to base in real time. F3 adds an anti-ship capability with the AM.39 Exocet missile, buddy-buddy refuelling and a nuclear capability with the ASMP-A cruise missile. A conventional stand-off attack capability is enabled by the SCALP EG cruise missile. This latest Standard was qualified by the French Defence Ministry in 2008.

The French Defence Ministry has ordered 180 Rafales, for a total of 132 aircraft for the French Air Force (63 Rafale Bs and 69 Rafale Cs) and 48 Rafale Ms for the French Navy. India has a requirement for at least 126 Rafales having selected the fighter as winner of its competition to find a new Multi-Role Medium Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).

The French Navy’s Flottille 12F converted to the Rafale at Landivisiau, officially re-forming on the Standard F1 in June 2001. The first operational French Air Force Rafale unit was Escadron de Chasse (EC) 1/7 ‘Provence’, stationed at Saint-Dizier air base in northwest France since 2006.

The Rafale went into combat over Afghanistan in 2006, and in 2011 French Air Force and French Navy aircraft engaged in coalition operations over Libya, conducting air superiority, precision strike, deep strike and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) and strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR). More recently, French Air Force Rafales have taken a leading role in Mali, helping destroy enemy infrastructure and support friendly troops in contact. The Rafale has also been active against Islamic insurgents in Iraq, flying from its forward base at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates.

Variants

Rafale A

    Technology demonstrator, first flew in 1986.

Rafale D

    Dassault used this designation (D for discrète) in the early 1990s to emphasise the new semi-stealthy design features.

Rafale B F3-R

    Two-seater version for the French Air Force.[37] “It can operate with the Talios targeting pod (45 ordered by the French Air Force will delivered between 2019 and 2023).”

Rafale C F3-R

    Same as Rafale B F3-R but Single-seat version for the French Air Force.

Rafale M F3-R

    Same as Rafale C F3-R but Carrier-borne version for the French Naval Aviation, which entered service in 2001. For carrier operations, the M model has a strengthened airframe, longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude, larger tailhook between the engines, and a built-in boarding ladder. Consequently, the Rafale M weighs about 500 kg (1,100 lb) more than the Rafale C. It is the only non-US fighter type cleared to operate from the decks of US carriers, using catapults and their arresting gear, as demonstrated in 2008 when six Rafales from Flottille 12F integrated into the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Air Wing interoperability exercise.

Rafale N

    Originally called the Rafale BM, was a planned missile-only two-seater version for the Aéronavale. Budgetary and technical constraints have been cited as grounds for its cancellation.

Rafale R

    Proposed reconnaissance-oriented variant.

Rafale DM

    Two-seater version for the Egyptian Air Force.

Rafale EM

    Single-seat version for the Egyptian Air Force.

Rafale DH

    Two-seater version for the Indian Air Force.

Rafale EH

    Single-seat version for the Indian Air Force.

Rafale B, C, M F4 (first step 4.1, second step 4.2)

    It will upgrade radar (F4.1), as well as improved capabilities in the Helmet-Mounted Display and AASM 1000 kg, OSF (long range optoelectronics system) will be receive an IRST( Infrared Search and Track ) for detecting and identifying airborne stealth targets at long range (F4.1), it will be more effective in network-centric warfare, more data exchange and satellite communication and will launch small (F4.2) . It as be ordered in 2019.:All 180 French Rafale B,C,M will be upgraded to F4.1 in 2022 and F4.2 in 2027, moreover a further 30 aircraft at the full F4 standard (F4.2) will be ordered in 2023 and delivered between 2027 and 2030.

Dassault Mirage 2000

A Mirage 2000H (known locally as Vajra – Thunderbolt) of No.1 ‘The Tigers’ Squadron, Central Air Command, Indian Air Force, based at Maharajpura Air Force Station, Gwailor, in the 1990s. A former MiG-21 unit, No.1 Squadron was the second IAF Mirage 2000 operator after No.7 Squadron.

A Mirage 2000C of the 5e Escadre de Chasse, as it appeared during Operation Daguet, France’s contribution to the 1991 Gulf War. The aircraft was one of 14 based in Al Ahsa, Saudi Arabia.

Targeting Pods While the first air-to-ground version of the Mirage 2000, the Mirage 2000N, was not initially equipped with a targeting pod, this omission was addressed in the conventional-optimized Mirage 2000D. The first targeting pods for this model were the PDL-CT (Pod de Désignation Laser-Caméra Thermique) that provided thermal imaging designation, and the ATLIS day-only system. These were supplemented by the PDL-CTS fitted with the improved Synergie infra-red sensor for a 40 per cent increase in image resolution. Most recently, the Mirage 2000D has added the advanced Damoclès MP laser-designation pod. Meanwhile, Indian Mirage 2000s are fitted with the Israeli Litening laser designation pod. The most advanced Mirage, the UAE’s Mirage 2000-9, includes the Damoclès pod (known as Shehab) used in conjunction with a forward-looking infra-red pylon (Nahar).

Continuing the tradition of delta-winged Dassault fighters, the Mirage 2000 brought the family up to date and established itself not only as the backbone of the French Air Force but also as a genuine success on the export market. The basic fighter has been adapted for roles including nuclear strike and conventional attack.

While the Mirage 2000 bears superficial resemblance to the dynasty of delta-winged fighters that preceded it, the new fighter combined this configuration with negative longitudinal stability and a fly-by-wire control system, the result being a vast improvement on the previous generation of Dassault warplanes. Retaining a delta wing meant considerable lift, low drag and plenty of internal volume for fuel and avionics, while the computer-based flight controls ensured the aircraft was more agile, handled better at low speed and landed at a more manageable velocity.

The Mirage 2000 can be traced back to an in-house Dassault project, the Mirage 1000 of 1972. In 1975 a planned Dassault Avion de Combat Futur (ACF) was cancelled and a new official specification had to be drafted. This was issued in 1976 and thus began a high-priority programme for a new interceptor fighter to enter service in 1982. Powered by an 83.36kN (18,839lb) thrust SNECMA M53 turbofan, the first prototype made a maiden flight in March 1978. In its initial production form, the Mirage 2000C for the French Air Force featured a broader-chord tailfin and trailing edge root fairings. More importantly, thrust was boosted to 88.26kN (19,842lb) thanks to a new M53-5 engine. First deliveries took place in April 1983.

Complementing the single-seat Mirage 2000C was the two-seat Mirage 2000B conversion trainer, first flown in 1983. With marginally increased length, the Mirage 2000B suffered a reduction in fuel capacity and had both cannon deleted. A total of 32 Mirage 2000Bs were completed for France, together with 121 Mirage 2000Cs. Although the RDM radar and Super 530F air-to-air missiles were originally fitted, both variants were eventually equipped with the RDI radar providing continuous-wave illumination for the Super 530D missile and improved look-down/ shoot-down capability. As production continued, the M53-5 engine was superseded by the 95.12kN (21,384lb) thrust M52-P2.

In 1979 Dassault received a contract to produce two prototypes of a nuclear strike version, which became the Mirage 2000N. Based on the two-seat Mirage 2000B airframe, this features an airframe strengthened for low-level operations, and attack avionics based around the Antilope 5 radar. The primary weapon is the ASMP standoff nuclear missile. A total of 75 Mirage 2000Ns were built for the French Air Force and the type achieved initial operational capability in 1988.

Post-Cold War, the French Air Force was presented with an increased requirement for conventional strike aircraft, leading to the development of the Mirage 2000D, which is otherwise similar to the Mirage 2000C. First flown in 1991, a total of 75 Mirage 2000Ds were delivered.

The original Mirage 2000B/C became a major export success, the first of which was the Mirage 2000EM/BM for Egypt, with M53-P2 engine and the earlier RDM radar modified for use with the Super 530D intercept missile. India’s Mirage 2000H/TH is powered by the M53-5, later replaced by the M53-P2, and also has Super 530D capability. Peru obtained the Mirage 2000P/DP. The United Arab Emirates ordered Mirage 2000EAD multi-role fighters, Mirage 2000RAD reconnaissance aircraft and Mirage 2000DAD combat trainers. The ‘first generation’ Greek version was the Mirage 2000EG/BG.

The first of the ‘second generation’ Mirage 2000s was the Mirage 2000-5, designed as an export-optimized multi-role warplane and first flown in 1990. Initially tested as a two-seater, the Dash 5 was subsequently joined by a single-seater. The main feature of the Dash 5 is the Thales RDY multi-mode radar, complemented by a modernized cockpit, improved self-defence suite, the new MICA air-to-air missile and a wide range of guided and unguided air-to-surface ordnance. The first customer was Taiwan (Mirage 2000-5EI and -5DI), followed by Qatar (Mirage 2000-5EDA and -5DDA). The French Air Force, meanwhile, elected to upgrade 37 of its Mirage 2000Cs to a similar standard, thereby producing the Mirage 2000-5F.

The export line was further advanced with the appearance of the Mirage 2000-9, and the essentially similar Mirage 2000-5 Mk 2. Compared to the Dash 5, these introduced the RDY-2 standard radar. The initial customer for the Mk 2 was Greece, followed by the United Arab Emirates (Mirage 2000-9). Both Greece and the UAE also decided to upgrade a number of Mirage 2000s previously delivered to these same advanced standards.

Variants

Mirage 2000C

Upgrades include the addition of the Non-Cooperative Target Recognition (NCTR) mode to the RDI Radar to allow identification of airborne targets not responding on identification friend or foe (IFF), and the ability to carry air-to-ground stores such as rocket pods, iron bombs and cluster bombs. Some variants, especially those equipped with the RDM radar (mainly used in export models) have the capability to use the Exocet anti-ship missile.

Mirage 2000B

The Mirage 2000B is a two-seat operational conversion trainer variant which first flew on 11 October 1980. The French Air Force acquired 30 Mirage 2000Bs, and all three AdA fighter wings each obtained several of them for conversion training.

Mirage 2000N

The Mirage 2000N is the nuclear strike variant which was intended to carry the Air-Sol Moyenne Portée nuclear stand-off missile. The variant was retired on 21 June 2018.

Mirage 2000D

The Mirage 2000D is a dedicated conventional attack variant developed from the Mirage 2000N.

Mirage 2000-5F

First major upgrade over the Mirage 2000C. Replaces most cockpit displays with several large multi-function displays, and upgrading the stores-to-aircraft interface for the use of targeting pods and a wide variety of guided air-to-ground weapons, as well as a radar upgrade to provide guidance information for MICA missiles.

Mirage 2000-5 Mark 2

Dassault further improved the Mirage 2000-5, creating the Mirage 2000-5 Mark 2 which is currently the most advanced variant of the Mirage 2000.

Mirage 2000E

“Mirage 2000E” was a blanket designation for a series of export variants of the Mirage 2000. These aircraft were fitted the M53-P2 engine and an enhanced “RDM+” radar, and all can carry the day-only ATLIS II laser targeting pod.

Mirage 2000M

The Mirage 2000M is the version purchased by Egypt. Two-seat Mirage 2000BM trainers were also ordered.

Mirage 2000H, 2000TH

Designation of two-seat trainers and single-seat fighters for India. Indian Mirage 2000s have been integrated to carry the Russian R-73AE Archer missile as of 2007. The Mirage 2000TH is a twin-seat trainer version.

Mirage 2000I, 2000TI

It is an Indian specific version single/twin-seater fighter for the Indian Air Force similar to Mirage 2000-5 Mk2 equipped with Indian French and Israeli avionics and weapon packages. Its contract was signed in 2011 and first upgraded aircraft was delivered in 2015. Dassault aviation will upgrade initial few planes Mirage 2000H, 2000TH to 2000I, 2000TI later by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

Mirage 2000P

Peru placed an order for 10 single-seat Mirage 2000Ps and 2 Mirage 2000DP trainers.

Mirage 2000-5EI

Of the 60 Mirage 2000s Taiwan ordered in 1992, the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) would receive 48 single-seat Mirage 2000-5EI interceptors and 12 Mirage 2000-5DI trainers. This version of Mirage 2000-5 had the mid-air refuel ability as well as its ground attack ability deleted.

Mirage 2000-5EDA

In 1994, Qatar ordered nine single-seat Mirage 2000-5EDAs and three Mirage 2000-5DDA trainers, with initial deliveries starting in late 1997.

A UAE Mirage 2000 multi-role fighter

Mirage 2000EAD/RAD

In 1983, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) purchased 22 single-seat Mirage 2000EADs, 8 unique single-seat Mirage 2000RAD reconnaissance variants, and 6 Mirage 2000DAD trainers, for a total order of 36 aircraft.

The Mirage 2000RAD reconnaissance variant does not have any built-in cameras or sensors, and the aircraft can still be operated in air combat or strike roles. The reconnaissance systems are implemented in pods produced by Thales and Dassault. The UAE is the only nation operating such a specialised reconnaissance variant of the Mirage 2000 at this time.

Mirage 2000EG

In March 1985, Greece ordered 30 single-seat Mirage 2000EGs and 10 Mirage 2000BG two-seat trainers, equipped with RDM radars and M53P2 engines, mainly for interception/air defence roles, although the ability to use air-to-ground armaments was retained. After the Talos modernisation project, during which variant aircraft received updated sensors and avionics, as well as new anti-ship and air-to-air weapons, and were redesignated Mirage 2000EGM.

Mirage 2000BR

A variant of the Mirage 2000-9 for Brazil that did not materialise.

Mirage 2000-9

Mirage 2000-9 is the export variant of Mirage 2000-5 Mk.2. The UAE was the launch customer, ordering 32 new-build aircraft, comprising 20 Mirage 2000-9 single-seaters and 12 Mirage 2000-9D two-seaters. A further 30 of Abu Dhabi’s older Mirage 2000s will also be upgraded to Mirage 2000-9 standard.

Pre-WWII Air Corps Bomber Doctrine I

In January 1935 Major Wilson drafted the tactical school comment on a proposed Air Corps doctrine prepared by the General Staff’s War Plans Division. Wilson’s concepts about the proper use of air force were explicit: “The principal and all important mission of air power, when its equipment permits, is the attack of those vital objectives in a nation’s economic structure which will tend to paralyze that nation’s ability to wage war.” Wilson believed that such a decisive use of air power would “contribute directly to the attainment of the ultimate objective of war, namely, the disintegration of the hostile will to resist.” Wilson continued, stating matter-of-factly that in a “war between major powers, an air force phase, which may be decisive, will be initiated prior to the contact of ground armies.” Additionally, the air force plan, once decided on, must have “unwavering adherence” to be effective. Finally, in an ironic twist, the Tactical School also noted that the importance of aviation justified the diversion of ground troops to guard air bases.

Quite simply, the Tactical School proposed that air power by itself could be the decisive factor in war if its control was left to those who knew how to employ the weapon—air officers. Furthermore, the study admitted that this doctrine was offensive and was to be directed against modern industrial nations once a suitable airplane made the theories feasible. Bomber technology was driving the development of a doctrine to exploit its potential, regardless of whether this doctrine was appropriate to stated American defense policies, but two crucial elements were still missing. First, the vital objectives in a nation’s economic structure that could paralyze its ability to wage war had to be identified. Second, an airplane capable of executing the doctrine was needed.

Key elements in the industrial web were identified through research at the Tactical School. Captain R. M. Webster decided that New York City was a good example of a city “highly dependent upon the mechanisms of modern civilization.” Accordingly, he wrote to the commander of the 2d Corps Area at Governor’s Island, New York, asking for assistance. He noted that he was conducting research to determine the “sensitive points in that city to air attack” to evaluate “the probable effects induced by their destruction.” Webster specified that he was particularly interested in the relation of New York City to the national economic structure as well as the city’s water, food, electric power, illuminating gas, and transportation systems.

Major F. V. Hemenway, an officer assigned to Governor’s Island, responded that the data were available but could be viewed only at the headquarters due to their nature. If Webster could not visit, Hemenway suggested he write to a number of New York state agencies for assistance. Webster took the advice and began a letter-writing campaign that included the National Board of Fire Underwriters, the New York City Board of Water Supply, the Director of the Bureau of the Census, the Museum of Sciences and Industry, and the Consolidated Gas Company. Most of the addressees provided Webster with the information he requested, and he soon amassed an impressive amount of data. From such efforts the Tactical School determined the targets most vulnerable to bombardment attack.

Technology supporting the evolving doctrine was also forthcoming. In August 1935 the Douglas, Martin, and Boeing aircraft companies each sent bomber prototypes to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, to compete for the Air Corps multiengine bomber contract. The Martin entry was a larger version of the firm’s B-10, while the Douglas airplane was a derivative of its commercial DC-2 design. Each had two engines and were evolutions of existing aviation technology.

The Boeing entry, the four-engined model 299, was revolutionary. It had flown nonstop the 2,100 miles between the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington, and Wright Field, at an impressive average speed of 232 miles per hour. The operational capabilities promised by the model 299 were impressive: a top speed of 251 miles per hour; a cruising range of 2,600 miles, with an increase to 3,150 miles feasible; a normal bomb load capacity of 2,500 pounds; and a service ceiling of 27,600 feet.

The Boeing airplane caused General Foulois, chief of the Air Corps, to rethink the entire Air Corps procurement program for fiscal year 1936. On October 1 Foulois requested that the approved requirements of 438 airplanes of all types be revised downward to a total of 333 so that 65 Boeing bombers could be purchased.

Within the month, however, the airplane procurement plan again had to be revised. On October 30 the Boeing prototype bomber crashed, not because of any defect in the airplane but because the crew had neglected to unlock the rudder and elevator controls during preflight checks. Unfortunately, the crash occurred before the necessary regulatory evaluations of the airplane had been completed, precluding “an award being made to the Boeing Aircraft Company under competitive conditions for 65 of these bombers.”

Still, Westover believed that the Boeing plane was a “remarkable aeronautical development” and that thirteen of the bombers should be procured “under Section 10 (k) of the Air Corps Act for experimental service test.” Westover went on to recommend that in addition to the thirteen Boeing planes, eighty Douglas prototypes be purchased if they proved superior to the Martin entry. Colonel William T. Carpenter, Supply Division, G-4, advised the chief of staff to approve Westover’s new Air Corps plan.

On November 21 the chief of staff approved the request, and thirteen Boeing airplanes were ordered. The contract for the Boeing bomber, designated the Y1B-17 pending service test, was closed on January 17, 1936. Delivery began the following January, and by August 1937 all thirteen of the B-17 bombers had been accepted by the Air Corps.

Over the next three years, the Air Corps asked for more B-17s and bombers of even greater range, but the War Department resisted. Its position stemmed from two considerations. First, the department believed that the twin-engined B-18 (the standardized Douglas prototype) was adequate for national defense purposes, particularly since substantially more B-18s than B-17s could be purchased with the limited budget.55 Second, the War Department argued that bombers with greater ranges than that of the B-17 were out of step with American policy, since they could “bomb points in Europe and South America and return without refueling.” Consequently, such an airplane was inappropriate “in the armament of a nation which has a National Policy of good will and a Military policy of protection, not aggression.”

The Air Corps arguments were articulated well by General Andrews. At a September 1936 conference concerning the continued funding of the Project D airplane, Andrews stated that the Army needed “airplanes of long endurance” to “stop hostile air expeditions at their sources,” to maintain continuous reconnaissance to guard against sea invasion, and to bomb enemy aircraft carriers at distances from national coasts that would prevent them from launching their aircraft. Andrews argued that the Air Corps should have the most advanced equipment available. Since “a future international situation may set up a need for planes of greater power,” the War Department authorized research and development of a generation of bombers beyond the B-17 but offered little more.

General Andrews undoubtedly envisioned roles for long-range bombers, including the B-17, beyond those he mentioned in the conference. The missions he discussed were those sanctioned for the GHQ Air Force by the October 1935 War Department training regulations—that is, air operations that were “beyond the sphere of influence of ground forces,” in the “immediate support of ground forces,” or involved “in coastal frontier defense and in other joint Army and Navy operations.”

Even in the unlikely event that Andrews wanted more bombers at least as capable as the B-17 to perform only the War Department–authorized missions, some air officers at the Tactical School believed strongly in the old adage “the best defense is a good offense.” In a 1936 lecture on the principles of war, Major Harold George blithely dismissed American military policies in the face of the new bomber technology:

I like to compare the strategy of an air force with the measures used by the Medical Department in ridding the Canal Zone of mosquitoes. That department did not put fly swatters in the hands of the population and then go back to its hospitals. Not by any means. The Medical Department went to the places where those mosquitoes lived and breeded and there they exterminated them,—not by defensive action but with offensive action.

This offensive doctrine called for an airplane of great range, whose “ultimate radius of action…is that which will enable us to strike the nerve centers of any potential enemies from our own territory.” The B-17 was a major step in this direction. Here, for the first time, was an airplane capable of transforming the bomber advocates’ theory into reality.

Aside from its range and bomb load, the B-17 had capabilities that seemingly made it virtually invincible. Its demonstrated speed of 250 miles per hour was faster than the standard Air Corps pursuit airplane, the P-26, whose maximum speed was 234 miles per hour.61 Increased speed also enabled bomber advocates to dismiss antiaircraft fire as a threat. The 1935 Bombardment text proclaimed confidently: “Higher speeds will also give the bombardment airplane a higher degree of immunity from antiaircraft fire than it already enjoys.” Furthermore, it appeared that bomber speed would only increase as bomber design advanced, further widening the gap between the bomber and pursuit aircraft. The reigning wisdom among American aviation engineers, particularly in the matériel division of the Air Corps, was that “increased aerodynamic efficiency could be achieved with increased size.” The apparent solution to increased speed, range, and carrying capacity was to design airplanes with larger airframes and powered by multiple engines of great horsepower.

In addition to the B-17’s impressive performance characteristics, it was the Air Corps’s first bomber large enough to mount guns larger than .30 caliber. The capability to carry heavier armament meant that the B-17 had a much greater chance of defending itself. Many Air Corps officers thus came to believe that when bombers were flown in tight formations the synergy of their massed weapons would create a wall of fire through which no pursuit plane could pass. For the bomber advocates, the B-17 settled the issue of the ascendancy of the bomber over the pursuit airplane. They were convinced that the “present and potential single engine pursuit planes” were “ineffective” against the new bomber since they were slower and had less range and weaker armament. Quite simply, the Air Corps was convinced the B-17 was an unstoppable weapon. Brigadier General Henry H. Arnold, commander of the 1st Wing, GHQ Air Force, asserted that “with the wide variety of targets available to long range bombardment, it is out of the question to expect that pursuit can be so placed as to intercept all air raids.”

The conviction that long-range bombers could not be deterred, reinforced by the technological breakthrough of the B-17, was the catalyst that made American air doctrine dogma. The invincibility of the bomber was a powerful assumption on a number of levels. First, if the United States could develop such a formidable bombardment capability, it had to be assumed that potential enemies could do so as well. Therefore, since their bombers would be invulnerable to defensive means, they could be stopped only by counter–air force operations. This mission, which required strategic long-range bombers in a defensive role, did not tie their procurement to the contentious coast defense. Second, the mission against an enemy’s air force, if presumed to be the most important role for aviation, gave the Air Corps additional arguments for autonomy. How could such a valuable weapon possibly be tied to the support of ground forces? The Air Corps understood clearly the implications of such arguments: “The United States must provide bombardment aviation at least the equal in numbers, range and speed performances, and striking power, to that of any other nation or possible coalition.”

From these crucial assumptions the Tactical School made the final refinements to Air Corps doctrine. The doctrine had two fundamental premises. First, “modern nations cannot wage war if their industries are destroyed.” Second, “aircraft can penetrate any known air defenses and destroy any known targets with bombs.” These premises led to the conclusion that “air warfare is…a method of destroying the enemy’s ability to wage war. It is primarily a means of striking a major blow toward winning a war, rather than a direct auxiliary to surface warfare.”

The conviction that the bomber was all important and all but unstoppable had a telling effect on how the Air Corps viewed other classes of aviation. By 1937, when the rout of the pursuit advocates was complete, their most vocal champion, Claire Chennault, retired. Forty years later General Laurence Kuter, a former bombardment instructor, recalled the victory of the bomber advocates: “We just overpowered Claire; we just whipped him.”

Kuter further explained that the bomber advocates defeated Chennault and the pursuit boosters by edging them out in a number of crucial areas, including “attention by the chief’s office, for appropriations, for personnel assignment, appropriations primarily. We got money for B-17s; he didn’t get anything.” Kuter also noted that Chennault was myopic about pursuit: “He wouldn’t talk about a fighter to accompany a B-17, a supporting defensive fighter, because that put the fighter in a secondary role.” Finally, Kuter noted the chasm between the competing camps in the Air Corps: “We wouldn’t talk about it [pursuit] either because that implied some of the limited funds might have to go to a supporting fighter of some sort. We didn’t believe we needed it in the first place, and where there was doubt, we believed that the limited amount of money was barely enough to get a bomber program started.”

The crucial assumption that enemy pursuit would be ineffective against American bombardment was repeated in the Air Corps doctrine about its own pursuit tactics. The 1939 Pursuit text noted that although the role of pursuit remained the attack of enemy bombers, the mission was questionable. Since pursuit had lost its speed advantage and had limited range, its attacks on heavily armed enemy bombardment formations “must be confined to harassing by long-range fire or by bombing if so equipped.”

The conviction that air power was potentially decisive also shaped the doctrine for support of the ground battle. The Tactical School rationalized that since air forces were so powerful the best service the Air Corps could provide to the ground commander was the defeat of enemy air power. Thus, the “neutralization of the hostile air attacking force” became the principal Air Corps contribution to the ground battle. Furthermore, the old contention that aviation was viewed by ground officers as “long-range artillery” was now used to the aviators’ advantage by asserting that “air attacks are not made against objectives within the effective range of friendly artillery, or against deployed troops, except in cases of great emergency.” Finally, Tactical School instructors emphasized that bombardment was simply too valuable to use in any type of ground support role.

Attack aviation doctrine was radically altered by this view that counter-air force operations were primary, since attack aviation had as its principal role “the attack of hostile ground forces…in close cooperation with ground forces in battle.” By 1935 targets for attack aviation were enemy air bases and parked airplanes; coast defense; antiaircraft defenses; and “the destruction, or the interruption of movement of personnel and materiel through the attack of factories, logistical establishments, lines of communication, and concentrated bodies of troops.”

The Tactical School’s marginalization of the ground support mission extended to the integration of tanks and airplanes into a combat team. In October 1938 Colonel John H. Pirie, acting commandant of the school, wrote to the chief of the Air Corps that he believed that airplanes, when compared with tanks, were fragile and susceptible to ground fire and that using them in a close support role jeopardized a valuable weapon system. Furthermore, air power was most effective when employed “beyond the local ground combat zone.” Therefore, using airplanes to “clear the path of the more rugged tank…clearly appears to be tactically unsound…except in the gravest emergency.”

The deteriorating European situation provided the impetus to expand the Air Corps into a force capable of executing the doctrines espoused at the Tactical School. When in September 1938 British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain acceded to Adolf Hitler’s demands to dismember Czechoslovakia, George Fielding Elliot, a respected military commentator, suggested that Chamberlain had capitulated because of Germany’s immense advantage over England in air strength. Elliot concluded: “It is blackmail which rules Europe today, and nothing else: blackmail made possible only by the existence of air power.”

Joseph P. Kennedy, the American ambassador in London, shared Fielding’s opinions about the power of the Luftwaffe. On September 22 he informed the secretary of state of his recent conversation with Charles Lindbergh, who had just returned from a review of European air forces. Lindbergh’s opinions were alarming. He asserted that “Germany’s air strength is greater than all other European countries combined and that her margin of leadership is constantly being increased…. If she wishes to do so, Germany now has the means of destroying London, Paris, and Prague.” He further observed that only the United States could hope to compete with Germany in the aviation field.

On October 13 William C. Bullitt, the American ambassador to France, told President Roosevelt that Hitler had been able to dictate his terms at Munich because of his vastly superior air strength. He echoed Lindbergh’s conviction that only the American aviation industry could compete with Germany’s. Bullitt also told the president that the French believed that they and the British would have to rely on American production to counter the threat posed by the Luftwaffe.

Roosevelt soon settled on how America would respond to German military power. On November 14 he assembled key civilian and military advisers and sketched the outlines of a new national defense policy based on his belief that American defenses had to be bolstered in light of the situation in Europe. The country had to be “prepared to resist assault on the Western Hemisphere ‘from the North to the South Pole.’” The key to the plan, the president argued, was a massive expansion of American air power. Although he wanted an Army air corps of 20,000 planes and an annual production capacity of 24,000, he realized that Congress would not support such numbers and instead directed the War Department to develop a program based on 10,000 planes.

Roosevelt’s pronouncement produced mixed views in his military subordinates. General Arnold believed “that the Air Corps had achieved its Magna Carta.” He was fully receptive to the president’s conclusion that a strong air corps, not a large ground force, was the best way to deter aggression in the American hemisphere. Arnold also concluded that “the president had not only made permissible but had required the development of the long-range heavy bomber.” He left the White House with the seed of an idea for a balanced American air force branch planted firmly in his mind.

Pre-WWII Air Corps Bomber Doctrine II

General Marshall, who had openly opposed the president’s fixation on air power during the conference, preferred to strengthen the entire Army, not just one component. Furthermore, he and Arnold both agreed that “a lot of airplanes by themselves…were not air power.” Consequently, the War Department, applying its best military judgment, planned a balanced program.

The War Department did not grasp that what the president wanted was airplanes. Marshall later realized that the president “was principally thinking at that time of getting airships for England and France,” but when in December the military officers returned to Roosevelt with their conventional program, the president was incensed. The military leadership interpreted his anger as an inability to understand the complexities of modern armies, but they misread Roosevelt’s intentions. They recommended a professional approach that would develop an army capable of defending the hemisphere. Roosevelt simply wanted airplanes. When his military chiefs made their recommendations, he retorted that the “services were offering him everything except planes” and that “he could not ‘influence Hitler with barracks, runways, and schools for mechanics.’” The military chiefs failed to recognize that Roosevelt’s “emphasis on sheer numbers of planes and his irritation at arguments for the supporting apparatus that would make them effective attested to an interest similar to Hitler’s in an air force whose appearance would be more important than its use.”

In spite of the president’s wishes, the military chiefs prevailed and Roosevelt “felt compelled to accept a balanced force.” The War Department modified the 10,000-airplane program: by January 1939, the totals had been adjusted to 6,000 aircraft.

For the Air Corps, the president’s sudden emphasis on air power was an institutional windfall. In September 1939 the appointment of General Marshall as chief of staff further enhanced the air arm’s position. Marshall understood the importance of aviation in a political as well as an operational sense.

In May 1940 President Roosevelt told Congress that he wanted a program that could produce 50,000 aircraft a year and “provide us with 50,000 military and naval planes.” Shortly thereafter, on June 26, Marshall approved the first aviation objective of organizing fifty-four combat groups by April 1942. The size and complexity of the expansion program resulted in a reappraisal of the air arm’s position within the War Department. General Arnold became the deputy chief of staff for air in November, a position above both the office of the chief of Air Corps and the GHQ Air Force. Robert A. Lovett was appointed as the special assistant to the secretary of war in December to manage air affairs. In April Lovett filled the reestablished position of assistant secretary of war.

These new arrangements were not satisfactory, because the office of the chief of the Air Corps and the GHQ Air Force still shared the management of air matters. Henry L. Stimson, the secretary of war, directed in March 1941 the placement of the air arm “under one responsible head.” He also told the War Department “to develop an organization staffed and equipped to provide the ground forces with essential aircraft units for joint operations, while at the same time expanding and decentralizing our staff work to permit Air Force autonomy in the degree needed.” In June 1941 the Army Air Forces was created, with General Arnold as its chief, assisted by an air staff.

On July 9, 1941, President Roosevelt directed the secretary of war and the secretary of the Navy to begin “exploring at once the over-all production requirements required to defeat our potential enemies.” By September the “Joint Board Estimate of United States Over-all Requirements,” a document designed to support the ABC-1 and Rainbow-5 war plans that assumed an Anglo-American coalition, had been prepared. The plan was based on defeating Germany first. The Joint Board’s report included an air section prepared by the new Air War Plans Division (AWPD). This document, called AWPD-1, would form the basis for the organization of the American air effort in the coming war.

Four officers prepared the important sections of AWPD-1: Colonel Harold L. George, Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth N. Walker, Major Laurence S. Kuter, and Major Haywood S. Hansell. All were staunch bomber advocates and former instructors at the Tactical School. The plan they prepared reflected the essence of the radical air power doctrine that focused on the preeminence of the long-range strategic bomber:

The effectiveness of an Air Force in contributing to the defeat of an enemy is measured by the efficiency of the bombardment component in destroying vital enemy objectives. Day bombing, in which the target may be most readily seen, will result in the highest bombing accuracy.

AWPD-1 proceeded to explain how Germany could be defeated by air power. The plan recognized three major tasks for the Army air forces:

a. Destroy the industrial war making capacity of Germany.

b. Restrict Axis air operations.

c. Permit and support a final invasion of Germany.

The air planners outlined 154 targets that would “virtually destroy the sources of military strength of the German state.” These targets were grouped into six prioritized target categories that would ensure the disruption of the German industrial fabric: fifty to disrupt electric power, forty-seven to disrupt the transportation system, twenty-seven to destroy 80 percent of the synthetic petroleum production, eighteen to destroy airplane assembly plants, six to destroy 90 percent of aluminum production, and six to destroy magnesium production.

The air planning team realized that its entire plan hinged on the question of whether it was feasible to deeply penetrate German territory and conduct precision bombing without prohibitive losses. They themselves raised this issue and outlined the threat posed to their plan by German air defenses. German fighter opposition had made “daylight bomber operation excessively expensive” until “the appearance of the British Sterling bomber and the American [B-17] Flying Fortress.” The defensive fire power of these more capable bombers would enable them to cope with the fighter problem. German antiaircraft artillery, although capable, would not prevent success. These assumptions led the planners to the conclusion that “by employing large numbers of aircraft with high speed, good defensive fire power, and high altitude, it is feasible to make deep penetrations into Germany in daylight.”

AWPD-1 conceded that the failure of the German daylight bombing offensive over England had been caused by the superiority of British pursuit airplanes. The planning group believed that the Germans had had to meet the “British pursuit on unequal terms.” The solution posed to redress the German “technical deficiency” was to increase the armament and armor on bombers. The planning group recognized that this approach might not work, since it was “not impossible that the present relative superiority of the interceptor over the bomber may be maintained.” In that event, they recommended the development of escort fighters “designed to enable bombardment formations to fight through to the objective.”

The planners, even after revealing a crucial weakness in one of their key assumptions—that bomber formations could rely on their own defensive armament to fight their way through to their objectives—did not give high priority to any alternative plan. Although they concluded that pursuit could pose a significant threat to bombardment and recognized a “possible need” for escort fighters, the project received little attention. AWPD-1 recommended a research and development effort, not a crash program. A squadron of thirteen escort fighters would be established to test the concept. Furthermore, only “if the need for this weapon is determined” would production plans be altered.

AWPD-1 was the quintessential expression of American strategic bombing theory. The plan was alluring because the airmen seemed to promise that “precision bombing will win the war.” Indeed, AWPD-1 specifically stated that “if the air offensive is successful, a land offensive may not be necessary.” Furthermore, the air offensive could be initiated in April 1942, well in advance of any possible major ground operations. The air officers asked only “that this project be given priority over all other national production requirements.” And it needed a high priority. The plan called for an Army Air Force of 251 combat groups equipped with more than 63,000 operational aircraft and staffed by 2 million officers and enlisted men.

AWPD-1 was approved by Secretary of War Stimson on September 25. His endorsement was significant on two levels. First, it recognized that the air effort would require immense resources. Second, and perhaps more important for the air power advocates, it provided license for the air arm to try to prove that it could be a decisive, independent force. Regardless of whether ground officers believed the air power advocates’ claims, they had pragmatic reasons to at least try to implement the plan, because “there was certainly much to be gained if it worked. If it did not, the Army and Navy would be called upon to do what they had been planning on doing anyway.”

For air officers, AWPD-1 had enormous significance. It was the enunciation of an air power manifesto that had been twenty years in the making. Clearly, the future institutional form of the air arm depended on its contribution to winning the impending war, but the Air Forces had also staked out an irreversible position: unescorted, high-altitude, daylight precision bombing would have a decisive impact on the outcome of the war.

General Arnold understood the implications of AWPD-1. Realizing he would be hard-pressed to stay abreast of the expansion program, and when war came, the deployment of the air arm, he moved to forestall any further calls for independence. In late August General Marshall learned that the American Legion planned to introduce a “storm of resolutions” for a “unified air service or independent striking arm” at its national convention. Marshall apparently asked Arnold to help defuse this movement. In September 1941 Arnold sent letters to Norman M. Lyon, chairman of the National Aeronautics Commission, American Legion, and Warren Atherton, chairman of National Defense, American Legion. In these letters, Arnold explained his position: “Our expansion is being effected in accordance with ou[r] plans and program but not without the greatest effort on the part of all of our Air Force officers…. Additional work, and no one can gainsay but that there will be a tremendous amount of it in connection with the transformation from an Air Force organization to a separate Air Force, may be just enough to ‘break the camel’s back.’” On September 2 Arnold informed Marshall that he had written Lyon and Atherton and had explained to them “why a separate Air Force is undesirable [at this time].”

Arnold’s stance that the Air Forces should remain within the War Department did not mean that he did not try to gain greater autonomy over air operations. He and his subordinates did not find the arrangements for control of the air arm satisfactory. The air staff members chafed under their continued subordination to the War Department General Staff. Furthermore, the chief of the Army Air Forces only “coordinated” the operations of the office of the chief of the Air Corps and the former GHQ Air Force, now renamed the Air Force Combat Command.

The War Department reorganization in March 1942, discussed in the next chapter, corrected most of these deficiencies. The Army Air Forces was made an autonomous force, coequal with the Army Ground Forces and the Services of Supply. Furthermore, the War Department General Staff was restructured so that 50 percent of its members were air officers.

As the War Department grappled with its organizational problems, the planning and production to deploy American air power against Germany accelerated. Ominous lessons from the air war in Europe also began to surface. In the closing months of 1941 the British had determined that daylight bombing was suicidal and that existing technologies employed under combat conditions precluded precision bombing. A September 1941 report by the Royal Air Force (RAF) noted that performance of American-supplied B-17s in “daylight Continental bombing missions thus far are not encouraging.” German fighters had shot down two B-17s, while “as yet the B-17’s gunners have failed either to shoot down or damage a single enemy plane.” Furthermore, German antiaircraft weapons were reported to be accurate up to 30,000 feet. Eventually, the British abandoned daylight precision bombing for a new strategy centered on area bombing of German cities at night.

The American bomber enthusiasts were not deterred by either the British experiences or the earlier German failure during the Battle of Britain. In a January 1942 memorandum for General Marshall, Laurence Kuter faced the issue squarely by posing the question: “How can the AAF [Army Air Forces] (Victory Program) succeed in softening up the enemy when the RAF and GAF [German Air Force] have been unable to do the same thing?” Kuter explained that the issue was one of training:

Attrition in airplanes in the Bomber Command of the RAF is over 50% per month and at the same time they are accomplishing no material results. The inevitable consequence of this vicious cycle which is initiated by entering combat without the training required to effect material accomplishment and at the same time having to withstand extraordinary attrition has resulted in the unpalatable fact that the bombardment combat crews of the RAF are no longer trying.

General Arnold was as confident as Kuter but more diplomatic. He wrote in a March 1942 letter to Air Chief Marshall Sir Charles F. A. Portal, British chief of air staff, that he believed that with the “greater defensive fire power of our bombers, and a carefully developed technique of formation flying with mutually supporting fire, that our bombers may be able to penetrate in daylight beyond the radius of fighters.” American airmen were convinced that their doctrine and technology, in the hands of trained bomber crews, could succeed where others had failed. They soon had the chance to prove their contentions.

On February 20, 1942, Brigadier General Ira Eaker and six other air officers arrived in England. Two days later Eaker assumed command of the newly established VIII Bomber Command. Over the coming months he and his staff laid the foundations for the envisioned American bomber offensive against the Continent. It was a difficult task. Plans for the invasion of North Africa and diversions of air groups to the Pacific theater sapped the strength of the force being assembled for what the air officers viewed as the main effort against Germany. In mid-June the Eighth Air Force became operational under the command of Major General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz. In early August Eaker wrote Arnold that the initial B-17 group appeared ready for its first mission. In his letter, he also expressed the crucial assumptions developed by American air power advocates between the two world wars:

The tempo is stepping up as we approach the zero hour. Tooey’s and my theory that day bombardment is feasible is about to be tested where men’s lives are put at stake.

It will interest you to know that several months ago when the date of our entering operations seemed far away, a great many people told us that day bombing could be done by well trained crews and airplanes despite the stiffness of fighter opposition. As the hour approaches for the test, with the chips down, a lot of these people have grown luke warm or actually deserted our camp. Tooey and I however, remain steadfast in the belief that it can and must be done. Everything depends on it. Here are the reasons, well known to you why we must bomb by daylight:

We can hit point targets in day bombing. A smaller force can therefore destroy vital objectives.

The British bomb by night and the German defences sleep by day; when we are at them in the day time, they will be alerted 24 hours a day and get no rest.

The operational losses will be greatly reduced; It is much better to combat the normal weather in this theater in daylight than at night.

Navigation will be greatly improved; crews with much less training and experience can do an acceptable job.

Our aircraft, super-charged and unflamed dampened, are not well suited for night bombardment.

Tight formations can be flown and pursuit protection can accompany.

We can see the enemy fighters and knock them down; we shall not be slinking through the forest evading the enemy, but shall be boldly looking for him; asking for combat in order to reduce his air power, knowing that our production and replacement capacity is superior to his.

By chance, or by keen foresight on your part, you have two zealots in Tooey and myself who believe whole-heartedly that the foregoing reasons are compelling and that daylight bombing can be done without irreplaceable losses.

Spaatz also wrote Arnold and was more to the point: “The question of the ability of a formation of B-17’s to take care of itself against fighter attack must be decided.”

Their confidence seemed justified. On August 17 twelve B-17s of the 97th Bombardment Group flew the first American mission against the Rouen-Sotteville marshaling yard in occupied France. The force suffered no losses, and Sergeant Kent R. West, a B-17 gunner, bagged a German fighter. On August 19 twenty-two B-17s hit the Abbeville/Drucat airfield, again without loss. The next day eleven bombers attacked the Longeau marshaling yard, with all planes returning to base. Spaatz, as assured as Eaker, wrote Arnold on August 21 that these first three missions proved the soundness of American training and equipment. He further noted that “our daylight bombing of precision objectives will be decisive provided we receive an adequate force in time.” Three days later, after only one week of operations, Spaatz concluded that “daylight bombing with extreme accuracy can be carried out at high altitudes by our B-17 airplanes.” Furthermore, Spaatz was convinced “that such operations can be extended, as soon as the necessary size force has been built up, into the heart of Germany without fighter protection over the whole range of operation.”

Arnold used Eaker’s and Spaatz’s reports as ammunition to obtain more resources for the Eighth Air Force. Early in September he wrote Harry Hopkins that the Eighth Air Force’s operations had shown the validity of American bomber doctrine and the B-17’s worth in battle. Therefore, it was time to concentrate the air resources for a decisive effort against the “German war machine.”

Arnold also wrote to Spaatz that AWPD-1 was being revised. He noted that the underlying premises for the new plan remained the same, with Germany the principal enemy. He asked Spaatz to keep up the pressure for more resources and to continue to send him reports on the bombing effort, which he was using to show that precision bombing was the correct strategy. Arnold also stressed the importance of the Eighth Air Force’s success to supporting a “lick Germany first” policy and in arguing that the air offensive should be extended against Germany itself: “The accuracy of your precision bombing to date and the remarkable record with respect to losses that you have established has done much to convince everyone that our former theories are now facts.”

General Arnold was exuberant. By late October it seemed that two decades of struggle to build American air power were finally paying off. Arnold wrote to Hopkins about “miraculous results,” noting that the Eighth Air Force had conducted 16 missions, with 336 bombers reaching their targets. Only 9 bombers had been lost, and 498 enemy airplanes had been engaged, 63 of which had been destroyed, 97 probably destroyed, and 107 damaged.

The airmen’s claims about the invincibility of the B-17 and the soundness of their doctrine were, Arnold believed, being proven. This initial success probably further confirmed in his mind the validity of the advice he had received from Eaker earlier in the month. Eaker believed that as soon as the Eighth Air Force bomber strength had increased, an air assault against Germany proper was possible. On October 20 he wrote: “I am absolutely convinced that the following answers are sound and I am certain Tooey agrees with me. Three hundred heavy bombers can attack any target in Germany by daylight with less than four percent losses…. The daylight bombing of Germany with planes of the B-17 and B-24 types is feasible, practicable and economical.”

In the next year, Arnold provided Eaker with enough planes and air crews to test their shared assumptions.

ROYAL AIRCRAFT FACTORY F.E.8

The Royal Aircraft Factory applied its talents to the design of a single-seat fighter as soon as the need for such a machine became clear with John Kenworthy completing his design for Fighting Experimental No. 8 or F.E.8 in May 1915. Like rival designers and limited by firing a machine gun past a tractor propeller, Kenworthy’s design was a pusher powered by a 100-hp Gnome rotary engine driving a four-blade propeller; however, it introduced a number of innovative features. The nacelle frame was of triangulated steel tube that once constructed required no ‘truing up’ in service and was covered with shaped panels of aluminium (these covering items required regular inspection as they were secured by laces as was common for fabric.) The oil and petrol tanks were shaped to match the contours of the upper decking and the underside of the nacelle was fitted with light armour to provide protection against ground fire. The tail surfaces had wooden spars and ribs of aluminium alloy punched out to shape with steel fittings and framework. The tail booms did not meet at the rudder post as in other designs, but at the tailplane spar forming a triangle when viewed from the side. Tailplane incidence could be adjusted while the machine was on the ground by moving the retaining bolts around a quadrant and the skid was fastened to the bottom of the rudder post. The wing structure was more conventional, the high-aspect-ratio wings being rigged in two bays and having a generous five degrees of dihedral outboard of the first interplane struts. The ailerons had no balance cables, being returned to their normal position by rubber bungees.

The F.E.8 was designed to be armed with a Lewis gun mounted in the nose of the nacelle, the breech level with the pilot’s knees and aimed by means of a small sighting bar mounted above the cockpit rim. Instrumentation was typical for the period and comprised of a compass and clinometer with a direct-drive tachometer, fuel pressure gauge and altimeter to the left, and an air speed indicator, fuel gauge and watch to the right. A hand pump was provided to top up the air pressure in the tank if required and a blip switch was mounted on the top of the control column.

Two prototypes, 7456 and 7457, were commissioned, the first being completed and ready for inspection on 6 October 1915; however, it did not make its first flight by Frank Goodden until 15 October when if flew for just ten minutes. Its next flight on 19 October lasted an hour and a half with Goodden finding no fault of any kind. By 5 November, it had been painted with the standard service finish, PC10, and was at the Central Flying School for evaluation. The report stated:

Stability: excellent in all axes. Not at all tiring to fly.

Remarks: the hand pressure pump and 2-way tap might be removed to a more convenient location. Machine is very satisfactory and easy to fly. Being small and high powered, it naturally requires careful handling, especially of the rudder. The seating accommodation is comfortable but rather too much lying back. Pilot would be more comfortable sitting straighter. Machine gun, as now fitted, is rather low and difficult to reload. It is suggested that the gun mounting be raised at least six inches, the pistol grip then being in line with the top of the control column. The machine is in every other respect highly satisfactory, and very handy and controllable and extremely easy to land. Windscreen fitted is efficient and goggles can be dispensed with. Controllability on the ground is good.

The Central Flying School noted that the take-off run was 60 yards and the landing run 90 yards, both fairly typical figures for those days. Also, its top speed was 94 mph, a slightly lower figure than that recorded while under test flying at Farnborough. On 15 November, it was returned to Farnborough by the famous pre-war display pilot B. C. Hucks who had the misfortune to crash on landing, damaging 7456 beyond repair. By this time, the second prototype, 7457, was almost complete and using the engine recovered from 7456, made its first flight piloted by Goodden on 6 December recording a speed of 97.4 mph. It was initially, and for no apparent reason, fitted with a conical spinner to the propeller hub, but was otherwise identical to 7456. On 18 December 1915, Mervyn O’Gorman, Superintendent of the Royal Aircraft Factory, wrote the following note to Brig-Gen. Hugh Trenchard, Commander of the RFC in France:

I am sending you, piloted by Goodden, my F.E.8 fighter. I would like to draw to your notice some points both as regards stability and the fighting qualities of this machine. The machine is absolutely stable fore and aft, and laterally, and may be flown with all controls free. The directional stability is such that the machine will fly straight with the feet off the rudder bar.

On the following day, 7457 was flown to France by Goodden for service trials. It joined No. 5 Squadron that was operating the first DH2s alongside the Vickers FB5 and for whom the Gnome Monosoupape engine held few surprises. 7457 was flown by Lt Powell who took to it immediately stating that ‘every detail of the F.E.8 was so far advanced from the DH2’ although he, like the Central Flying School, was critical of the gun mounting. Nor did Powell like the propeller spinner that he claimed vibrated and was removed. Powell took 7457 on a patrol and in an engagement with an enemy two-seater, received bullet damage to his petrol tank, but managed to glide home. No spares were yet available and with repair of the tank causing some concern, 7457 was grounded until the undamaged tank from 7456 could be shipped over.

Trenchard, having discussed the machine’s performance and handling with Powell, wanted the endurance increased from 2½ hours to 3 hours, but the necessary increase in petrol tank capacity proved impossible without a major redesign of the nacelle; however, an increase from 25 gallons to 29 gallons was achieved for all future machines giving an endurance of 2¾ hours. He also accepted the criticism of the gun installation and requested that the Royal Aircraft Factory send an engineer to France to arrange the necessary modifications as soon as possible. As a result, the gun was moved to the cockpit rim on a mounting similar to that of the DH2. The hole left in the nose by the removal of the gun was faired over and ammunition racks fitted to the nacelle side. Thus modified, 7457 remained with No. 5 Squadron, Powell choosing it in preference to the DH2 and refusing leave rather than risk another pilot flying it.

On 17 January 1917, Powell shot down an Aviatik and claimed a second kill on 5 February. On the same day, he chased an Albatros over the lines but failed to shoot it down, but was credited with an L.V.G. two-seater ‘driven down’. A similar claim for an Albatros two days later was not confirmed, but on 29 February, he sent an Aviatik down in flames.

The first prototype, 7456, was rebuilt to production standard and was completed by early April. It remained at Farnborough and was tested with the 110-hp Le Rhône and Clerget engines, installations which necessitated modifications to the fuel-feed systems and engine controls in each case. The Gnome, however, remained the standard fitting. Production was undertaken by the Darracq Motor Engineering Co. Ltd and Vickers with the first completed example from Darracq joining No. 29 Squadron on 15 June 1916. This example was shot down a week later on 22 June and its pilot, Capt. L. Sweet, killed. At least five examples of the F.E.8—6378, 6380, 6381, 6383 and 6385—served with No. 29 Squadron alongside its DH2s.

The introduction of the F.E.8 was greeted with a similar fear of spinning as that of the DH2 earlier in the year. However, the Royal Aircraft Factory took prompt action and on 23 August, the results of spin trials conducted in 7456 by Goodden were circulated. His report included what was probably the first ever published instruction on spin recovery:

1] – Switch off motor.

2] – Control stick put central and pushed forward.

3] – Rudder put in centre.

This results in a nosedive from which the aeroplane, having once got up to speed, can easily be pulled out with the control stick pulled back slightly.

The first squadron to be fully equipped with the F.E.8 was No. 40 under the command of Major Robert Loraine and with Frederick Powell as a flight commander. Powell thought Loraine as rather heavy handed, both as a pilot and superior officer, but welcomed the promotion and opportunity to continue flying the F.E.8. ‘A’ Flight went to France on 2 August 1916 and suffered its first casualty with the loss of Lt Davies in 7595 the following day. ‘B’ and ‘C’ Flights flew to France as soon as sufficient aeroplanes were available and the squadron based at Treizzennes was not complete until 25 August.

Their first victory came on 22 September when Capt. D. O. Mulholland in 6084 spotted a Fokker attacking an F.E.2b and went to its assistance, shooting down the enemy fighter (both Mulholland and the F.E.2b crew claimed credit for the kill). On the same day, 2 Lt Hay engaged a Roland two-seater, but the encounter was inconclusive. On 20 October, Mulholland shot down two Fokkers with Lt E. L. Benbow claiming an Albatros and S. A. Sharpe a Roland. The following day, Benbow sent a two-seater down in flames near Vimy. The squadron claimed a total of five enemy machines, a feat that was congratulated by Trenchard with a signal followed by a personal visit a few days later.

By this time, a second F.E.8 squadron was in action in France. No. 41 Squadron had arrived on 15 October with just twelve of eighteen aircraft that had taken off from Gosport for St Omer with mechanical problems and forced landings accounting for the other six. After a week to regroup, the squadron moved to Abeele where ground crews and equipment caught up with them. They began operations only to discover that their pushers were significantly outclassed by the latest German machines. The squadron’s duties were largely ground attack and their first victory was achieved on 24 January 1917, the successful pilot, Cecil Tooms, being shot down just hours later.

On 9 November 1916, Capt. Tom Mapplebeck, a flight commander with No. 40 Squadron, was shot down during an engagement with Jasta 8 and his F.E.8, 7624, landed behind enemy lines and was captured more or less intact. It was test flown by the Germans for evaluation purposes with black crosses painted over its British markings.

Problems were experienced with the fuel feed, it proving difficult to maintain pressure when the tanks were nearly empty and 6426 was therefore fitted with the gravity tank from a DH2 in addition to its pressure tank. This solved the issue but its drag cut at least 4 mph from the machine’s top speed. Therefore, an internal tank was made from sheet copper by Sgt Ridley to fit inside the centre section. This solved the fuel feed problems without a reduction in speed and so copies of this tank were manufactured in England and shipped out to be fitted to all F.E.8s in service.

It was discovered that after a time in the field, electrolytic corrosion was occurring between the duralumin ribs of the elevators and the steel tube frame to which they were fixed. 7456 was therefore fitted with the elevators of a DH2, the hinge positions being suitably modified. Other machines were similarly fitted until replacement elevators with wooden ribs could be manufactured.

No. 40 Squadron’s Lt Benbow shot down a two-seater on 16 November and an Albatros DII fighter on 4 December with Mulholland scoring the same day. Benbow’s success with the F.E.8 continued into 1917 and on 14 February, he downed an Albatros DII while flying A4871. Benbow also shot down another Albatros the same day. Lt John Hay of No. 40 Squadron scored three victories flying 6388, but fell victim to the guns of an Albatros DII flown by Manfred von Richthofen on 23 January 1917. This was the Red Baron’s seventeenth victory and the first with Jasta II.

Capt. R. H. Saundby, who joined No. 41 Squadron at the end of January 1917, shared a victory on 4 March when flying 6431 in company with 2 Lt A. Fraser in 7622. He spotted a Nieuport in combat with an Albatros and immediately dived to assist in sending the enemy down.

The F.E.8’s career with No. 40 Squadron effectively ended in March 1917 after nine machines took part in a lengthy dogfight with Albatros DIIs of Richthofen’s Jasta II and all were shot down, five of them being destroyed. The squadron began to swap its F.E.8s for the new Nieuport 17 almost immediately, although a number of the squadron’s pilots who had never flown anything but pushers found the reduction in a forward view a disadvantage.

No. 41 Squadron began the process of changing over to the DH5 on 11 June 1917, scoring a final victory with the F.E.8 on 16 June with the changeover completed by the beginning of July. But this was not the end of the F.E.8’s role in the war. As like most outdated fighters, it carried on serving with training and home defence units in the UK. Lionel Blaxland, later a county cricketer, flew an F.E.8 with No. 61 (HD) Squadron at Rochford and wrote of it:

The F.E.8 was a very pleasant machine to fly, but was extremely cold. I recall one of our pilots having to be helped out of his machine and, on putting his feet to the ground, having his legs give way under him.

One example, A4919, was handed over to a French liaison officer on 30 September 1917 in rather mysterious circumstances for no one knew why they wanted it. Having arrived in a crate at the Aircraft Acceptance Park at Hendon towards the end of the September, it was assembled and on 29 September, test flown by A. G. D. Alderson who recalled:

I took my seat in the nacelle which felt very strange after a tractor, it being impossible to see any part of the machine from the cockpit.

Alderson commented more favourably on the unobstructed forward view.

The following day, A4919 was flown away and never heard of again—an appropriate end to a machine that, despite the excellence of its design, arrived too late to do any good and had long outlived its usefulness.

German Naval Aviation War II 1939 Part I

When war was declared with Great Britain and France on 3 September 1939, the Heinkel He 115 was beginning to enter service. However, owing to the imperfections of the LT F5 torpedo, the new floatplane was unable to carry the weapon as it was incapable of flying slowly enough to launch it successfully without stalling. During October 1939, trials conducted by the TVA in altering the torpedo’s aerial rudder to allow use by the He 115 resulted in an unacceptable 50 per cent failure rate. Nevertheless, the He 115 began operational missions, relegated to reconnaissance and bombing roles. By 2 September the Kriegsgliederung der Luftwaffe reported the See-Luftstreitkräfte standing at a strength of thirty-one He 59s (thirty of them operationally ready), eighty-one He 60s (sixty-six operationally ready), sixty-three Do 18s (fifty-four operationally ready) and eight He 115s spread among its squadrons; the carrier group 4./Tr.Gr. 186 numbering twelve Ju 87s, and 5. and 6./Tr.Gr. 186 twenty-four Bf 109s between the two Staffeln.

Two distinct operational commands were established to allow smoother control over operations in the North Sea or the Baltic Sea. These were Führer der See-Luftstreitkräfte West and Führer der See- Luftstreitkräfte Ost respectively; each tactically subordinate to the relevant Marinegruppenkommando (MGK) that had been established to co-ordinate surface forces within the same regions. At the formation of the two posts Generalmajor Hermann Bruch, former Chief of Staff to Zander at Luftwaffenkommando See, commanded the western branch, while Generalmajor Joachim Coeler headed that in the east, both men having been former naval officers before transfer to the Luftwaffe. However, their positions changed almost immediately war was declared, when the two officers swapped posts. The allocation of available Staffeln to each regional command was made by the Kriegsmarine; Ritter was responsible for all related administration and logistical support pertaining to the deployment in his role as Gen.d.Lw.b.Ob.d.M.

F.d.Luft West

Küstenfliegergruppe 106, Obstlt. Hermann Jorden, Norderney

Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 106: no aircraft

1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106: He 60, He 115 (Hptm. von Schrötter)

2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106: Do 18 (Oblt. Bischoff)

3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106: He 59 (Hptm. Stein) (based at Rantum)

Küstenfliegergruppe 406 Maj. Heinrich Minner, List

Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 406: no aircraft

1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406: He 115 (Hptm. Lienhart Wiesand)

2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406: Do 18 (Maj. Bartels)

3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406: He 59 (Hptm. Bergemann)

Bordfliegergruppe 196, Wilhelmshaven

1./B.Fl.Gr. 196: He 60/Ar 196 (Maj. Lessing)

F.d.Luft Ost

Küstenfliegergruppe 306, Obstlt. Heinz von Holleben, Dievenow

Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 306: 1 x He 60, 1 x He 59 (moved to F.d.Luft West command on 4 September, based at Hörnum)

1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306: He 60 (Hptm. Heyn) (moved to F.d.Luft West command on 4 September, based at Hörnum)

2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306: Do 18 (Hptm. Hartwig)

Küstenfliegergruppe 506, Obstlt. Wolfgang von Wild, Pillau

Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 506: 1 x Ju 52, 3 x He 59

1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506: He 60 and He 114 (Hptm. Hermann Busch)

2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506: Do 18 (Hptm. Herbert Hartwig) (moved to F.d.Luft West command on 4 September and placed under staff of Kü.Fl. Gr. 306)

3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506: He 59 (Hptm. Ludwig Fehling) (moved to F.d.Luft West command on 12 September)

Küstenfliegergruppe 606, Kamp (Formerly 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706)1

2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 606: Do 18 (Hptm. Hans Bruno von Laue – temporarily replacing Hptm. Rudolf Wodarg on attachment to Staff/ Luftwaffenkommando East Prussia) (moved to F.d.Luft West and placed under the staff of Kü.Fl.Gr. 306)

Küstenfliegergruppe 706, Obstlt. Hermann Edert, Kamp

Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 706: 1 x Ju 52

1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706: He 60 and He 114 (Maj. Kaiser) (based at Nest)2

3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706: He 59 (Hptm. Gerd Stein) (moved to F.d.Luft West and placed under the staff of Kü.Fl.Gr. 106

Bordfliegergruppe 196, Holtenau

5/B.Fl.Gr. 196: He 60 (Hptm. Wibel)

II./Trägergeschwader 186 (established in Kiel-Holtenau), Maj. Walter Hagen

Stab II/Tr.Gr. 186:

4./Tr.Gr. 186: Ju 87B (based at Stolp)

5/Tr.Gr. 186: Bf 109B (based at Brüsterort)

6/Tr.Gr. 186: Bf 109B (based at Brüsterort)

Outside of direct Kriegsmarine tactical control, Luftflotte 2 had been allocated the task of investigating aerial naval operations, and Felmy ordered the creation of a specific command for maritime operations using high-performance land-based aircraft, the 10.Fliegerdivision, established in Hamburg on 5 September 1939, commanded by Generalleutnant Hans Ferdinand Geisler and based initially at Blankenese. Geisler took aboard as his Chief of Staff the gifted and experienced Maj. Martin Harlinghausen of AS/88 fame. Within less than a month Geisler’s command was renamed X.Fliegerkorps. Stationed in North Germany, the main force incorporated Heinkel He 111H bombers of Generalmajor Robert Fuchs’ KG 26 and, from November, the new Junkers Ju 88 bombers of KG 30 under the command of Geschwader Kommodore Generalmajor Hans Siburg (replaced by Obstlt. Walter Loebel in January 1940). Until 1941, most of KG 26’s observers were either members of the Kriegsmarine or Seeluftstreitkräften, and the crews as a whole had already been introduced to a new training regime incorporating the techniques required for nautical warfare; ship identification and marine navigation, as well as weather patterns and their relative sea state. They began their first small-scale joint manoeuvres with Kriegsmarine units in waters south of Norway.

During September, Hptm. Edgar Petersen began to lobby for the adoption of a relatively new aircraft to enable long-distance maritime reconnaissance. The former Army flight instructor and Staffelkapitän of 1./KG 51 had been moved to the staff of Geisler’s fledgling 10.. Fliegerdivision as a navigation specialist, and began pushing for the use of the Focke-Wulf Fw 200. He had initially favoured the Junkers Ju 90, but was swayed by the fact that only two prototype aircraft existed and there was, as yet, no established production line for more. The Fw 200, on the other hand, had already proved its endurance during peacetime.

The prototype Fw 200 V1 (initially civil registered as D-AERE and named Saarland, then re-registered D-ACON and named Brandenburg in the summer of 1938 in preparation for its record flight to New York that August) had first flown at Neulander Field in Bremen, the Focke-Wulf factory airfield, on 27 July 1937. At the controls was Kurt Waldemar Tank, a former First World War cavalry officer who had become a leading aeronautical engineer and test pilot. Tank was working for the prestigious Albatros Flugzeugwerke when the company was merged with Focke-Wulf in 1931, and during 1936 began design work on the Fw 200 Condor long-range commercial transport to specifications agreed with Lufthansa. British and American airlines were developing and using large four-engine flying boats for transatlantic journeys from Europe to South America, though their weight and bulk prevented them from carrying large payloads. Instead, Tank developed a sleek, lighter landplane; an all-metal, low-wing monoplane crewed by four and capable of carrying twenty-six passengers. The aircraft was designed to operate at a maximum ceiling of 3,000m, allowable without the use of oxygen and a pressurised cabin.

To prove the aircraft’s potential, at 7.30am on 10 August 1938 D-ACON lifted off from Flugplatz Berlin-Staaken to begin a Great Circle course across the North Atlantic, and landed at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, at 1.50pm local time the following day. The flight, which had carried no passengers, had covered 6,371.3 kilometres in just a fraction under twenty-five hours, and marked the first non-stop flight between the two points by a heavier-than-air aircraft. The crew comprised Lufthansa pilot Kapitän Alfred Henke, Luftwaffe Hptm. Rudolf Freiherr von Moreau (co-pilot), Paul Dierberg (flight engineer) and Walter Kober (radio operator). Two days later the aircraft made a return crossing, shaving five hours off owing to more favourable winds.

The Condor had proved itself as a long-distance aircraft, and made a series of demonstration flights, including Berlin to Hanoi, French Indo-China, during November, during which it set a new speed record, though the aircraft was eventually wrecked after ditching near Manila on 6 December 1938 due to fuel starvation, either through crew error or mechanical malfunction. There were no casualties, and though the Condor was recovered it was deemed beyond repair.

Nonetheless, a military variant of the Condor, the Fw 200 V10, had been requested by the Imperial Japanese Navy, and at the outbreak of war four such aircraft were near completion in Bremen. They were purloined by Petersen and combined with six existing civilian models for the formation of his new unit on 1 October 1939: the Fernaufklärungsstaffel (long-distance reconnaissance squadron), initially under the direct command of Ob.d.L., though non-operational until 1940. During the pre-war development of the Luftwaffe the late Walther Wever had been a strong advocate of strategic bombing by long-range aircraft, leading to the Dornier Do 19 and Junkers Ju 89 prototypes. However, following his death the concept of strategic bombing had been abandoned by men who favoured tactical aircraft, particularly the dive-bomber. This frustrated German bomber design thereafter; even development of the heavy He 177 was delayed through an irrational desire to incorporate a dive-bombing capability. The Fw 200 was a compromise between the two camps, but although its later reputation among the Allies as the ‘Wolf of the Atlantic’ was born from some reality, the aircraft was never entirely suitable for its intended role, and one wonders what could have been achieved if Wever’s original vision had been allowed to flourish. Among the deficiencies of the Fw 200 were lack of a proper bombsight and relatively poor forward vision, particularly compared with the Heinkel He 111H and its extensively glazed cockpit. This forced Condor crews to attack at low level, approaching targets at a height of around 50m before releasing bombs only 240m or so from the target. Crews came to know this manoeuvre as the ‘Swedish turnip tactic’, allowing the highest chance of a damaging hit or near miss, but also rendering the relatively fragile airframe vulnerable to small-calibre anti-aircraft weapons that were soon issued to merchant ships. Furthermore, the barometric altimeters in use at that time were notoriously unreliable at low altitude, requiring instead good spatial judgement and timing on behalf of both pilot and observer for a successful attack.

On the front line in the days leading up to war the Seeluftstreitkräfte was engaged in reconnaissance of the North and Baltic Seas. As the Wehrmacht began its invasion of Poland on the morning of 1 September the floatplanes were immediately in combat, its first casualties being suffered less than twenty-four hours after fighting began, in an accident when He 60 M7+NH of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 crashed while taking off for a reconnaissance of the Bay of Danzig. Pilot Uffz. Hans August Damrau misjudged his take-off run and the aircraft’s floats struck the harbour mole in Pillau-Neutief. The Heinkel crashed into the sea and caught fire after impact, killing Damrau and observer Lt.d.R. Hoffmann. In the West, Do 18 M2+JK ‘I’ of 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106 crashed in darkness and bad weather on 3 September. The wreckage was later recovered by the Seenotdienst ship Günther Plüschow, which had been despatched to investigate a large oil patch believed to be from the missing aircraft, and the bodies of observer Oblt.d.R. Georg Müssig and pilot Uffz. Friedrich Römermann were found six days later.

Newly trained observer Lt.z.S. Paul Just later recalled the beginning of hostilities in his post-war autobiography:

I am ordered from the school to the front: Küstenaufklarüngsstaffel 1./306 on the North Sea island Norderney. But the English remain inactive like the French. We landed our float biplane on a lake in Pomerania and prepared for combat missions. With the single-engine Heinkel He 60 we are to bombard the last Polish units in small bunker positions on the Hela peninsula . . . We wear leather aviator overalls, with hood and glasses. The observer has binoculars, and in the on-board compartment are the nautical chart, compass and navigation triangle, in front of his knees the radio. With Morse signals he can relay reconnaissance information to the command post.

The initial tasks allocated to the naval fliers during the first days of war with Poland revolved around attacks on the Hela Peninsula and its heavy gun emplacements, and in bombing the garrison at Gydnia. Just and his He 60-equipped Staffel joined in the attack, a task for which the He 60 was not designed:

But here we are supposed to be a bomber. The explosive bombs with detonators in place weigh five kilos each. To prime them, I have to remove a safety pin. Bomb mountings are not available in the He 60, so I put the bombs under the seat. If they roll around, I have to hold them with my feet

More appropriately, the dive-bombers and fighters of the Graf Zeppelin’s Trägergeschwader 186 had also been taken on to the strength of F.d.Luft Ost, and were in combat from the outbreak of hostilities. Indeed, the first Luftwaffe loss attributed to enemy action was a Junkers Ju 87B-1 of 4./Tr.Gr.186 that had been thrown into action against Polish targets. Equipped with heavy SC500 bombs, the Stukas were provided with air cover by Bf 109 fighters of Trägergeschwader 186, both squadrons operationally subordinated to Jagdgeschwader 1, commanded by Obstlt. Carl Schumacher.

During the last days of peace the carrier squadrons of Trägergeschwader 186 had moved from Kiel-Holtenau to the east: the fighter squadrons 5./186 and 6./186 on 22 August and 24 August respectively to Brüsterort, the Stuka Staffel 4./186 to Stolp-West in Pomerania. Major Walter Hagen, the commander of Trägergeschwader 186, was a highly experienced pilot, having served with the Seeflieger during the previous world war and spent years in the interim as a pilot and test pilot for the German airline industry. Joining the Luftwaffe in 1935, he had continued his role as test pilot before being appointed commander of the Graf Zeppelin’s aircraft group. Stuka pilot Helmit Mahlke later wrote of him:

A modest individual, he was a superb pilot who had played a pivotal role in the earliest days of naval aviation. He was also an incomparable leader of men who treated those under his command with respect, consideration and absolute fairness. We could not have wished for a better commanding officer.

A mixture of naval and Luftwaffe personnel had flowed into Hagen’s command during the weeks leading to war. They were hurriedly formed into operational units at Kiel-Holtenau, with a few He 50s available for training alongside the newly available modified Stuka Ju 87Bs finishing production. The squadron was treated as an extension of the Graf Zeppelin complement, and by 1 September only one Stuka Staffel was fully equipped and operational, having been posted to Stolp for what the men believed were impending exercises.

Hauptmann Erich Blattner’s 4./Tr.Gr. 186 was in fact the strongest single unit within Generalmajor Hermann Bruch’s F.d.Luft Ost command, which had established its headquarters at the Seefliegerhorst Dievenow (Pomerania), on the north-east corner of the island of Wolin. Blattner, a former Lufthansa pilot, led his squadron into action, initially against Polish naval bases, beginning with a one-and-a-half-hour attack on Gdynia Harbour beginning at 0215hrs on 2 September. The next morning Uffz. Wilhelm Czuprina and his gunner/radio operator Funkmaat Erich Meinhardt were killed when their Stuka was hit and brought down by flak during an attack against the Hela Peninsula. During this bombing raid the Stukas severely damaged the 2,250-ton modern minelayer Gryf, hits on her bow setting her ablaze, as well as 1,540-ton destroyer Wicher, which was hit amidships, the tender Smok, and a patrol boat.

The Polish minelayer Gryf had already been attacked by Stukas of the Luftwaffe’s Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG1, formerly Lehrgeschwader Greifswald) on the first day of hostilities, while travelling in company with six minesweepers from Gydnia to lay mines at the entrance of the Bay of Danzig. With the Gryf damaged by several near misses and with twenty-two men killed, including the commander, Captain Wiktor Kwiatkowski, the 290 mines were jettisoned, and the ship was taken to the Hela Peninsula to serve as a flak platform. There German destroyers briefly shelled them, Gryf being hit twice before a return hit on Z1 Leberecht Maass forced the Germans to retreat. Moved to the floating dock for repair, she was then hit repeatedly by the carrier squadron’s Stukas, and left burning and partly submerged. The coup de grâce did not come until 4 September, when the Staffelkapitän of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706, Hptm. Gerd Stein, led his He 59 aircraft in an attack that afternoon and finished the ship off with more hits, the hulk continuing to burn for two days. The He 59 seaplanes of both Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 and Kü.Fl.Gr. 706 were added to the offensive against the Hela Peninsula by this stage of the battle, though Obstlt. Wolfgang von Wild, commander of Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, harboured grave doubts about the aircraft’s suitability for what would be a conventional night bombing role against artillery positions. In his War Diary, the entry from 5 September clearly records his opinion:

Kdr. Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 repeatedly informed F.d.Luft several times by telephone of his doubts concerning the military expediency of planned attacks by bomber squadrons on 6 September 1939. A successful attack cannot be counted on as the small target can only be properly targeted from low level. The attacking crews will meet very heavy flak (ten heavy anti-aircraft batteries and between thirty and forty anti-aircraft machine guns). The battery has so far been bombarded with 50 tons of bombs, of which 20 tons were SC500s, without any success whatsoever. Considering the defence, the operation seems unwarranted and a waste of ammunition, especially since the Gruppe’s request to attack the Westerplatte was originally rejected in order to save ammunition.

Nonetheless, the attacks went ahead between 0400hrs and 0420hrs on 6 September, and Lt.z.S. Claus Münscher’s He 59 M7+XL of 3./ Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, was brought down by flak from a height of 500m, all four crewmen being killed. The aircraft hit the sea, and a Polish patrol boat despatched to the site collected a pilot’s glove, collar, and pieces of the wing for identification.

Attack carried out according to orders. Heavy defensive fire. Aircraft ‘X’ shot down. Success of attack equal to zero. Request F.d.Luft: Should the ordered additional attacks be carried out?

Response from F.d.Luft: No further attacks.

Too late for Münscher and his crew, on 6 September, SKL prepared the following order to Group Baltic, to be issued four days later:

Multipurpose aeroplanes are no longer to operate against heavily protected objectives on land. The use of multipurpose aeroplanes for long-range reconnaissance operations in the North Sea is more urgent: thus, the aeroplanes are to be spared during operations in the Baltic Sea which are still necessary for the time being.

The Stukas of Trägergeschwader 186 had been despatched to sink Polish gunboats which fired on German positions around Rewa, before spending an extended period in support of ground operations, two aircraft making forced landings after being hit by ground fire, and another being shot down in flames during the battle for the marshlands at Oxhöfter-Kämpe on 14 September; Oblt. Hans Rummel and Oberfunkmaat Fritz Blunk were both killed. Stuka crewmen reported enemy machine-gun fire from the quarantine station east of Amalienfelde (marked by a large red cross on white ground), returning fire in what they considered a violation of international convention.

After the British declaration of war on 3 September, several units were removed from the Baltic battlefield and transferred west, creating a confused tangle of administrative hierarchy as individual Staffeln were placed under different Gruppe commands. On 12 September, 3./ Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 was the latest assigned to F.d.Luft West and ordered to transfer to the North Sea. Following the expected defeat of Gdynia Blattner’s Stuka squadron, redesignated two days previously from 4./ Tr.Gr. 186 to 3.(St)/Tr.Gr. 186, was also to be placed at the disposal of Marinegruppenkommando West (MGK West), leading SKL to issue notice to Ritter that ‘for reasons of tactical command Naval Staff no longer needs a Commander, Naval Air, Baltic, for the Baltic Sea due to the reduction of staff and senior personnel’.

Following the subjugation of all Polish naval bases and the clearingup of defensive minefields that had clogged Danzig Bay, Commanding Admiral, Baltic, considered the minimum allocation of aerial forces suitable for his requirements to be one long-range reconnaissance squadron, one Stuka squadron and three multipurpose squadrons for the effective maintenance of reconnaissance and combat operations for control of the Baltic Sea. However, on 20 September the Luftwaffe’s Chief of General Staff, Generaloberst Hans Jeschonnek, expressed ‘the urgent desire’ for Blattner’s Stukas to be removed from naval control and transferred to Luftflotte 1. The Naval Liaison Officer attached to Luftwaffe General Staff, Fregattenkapitän Mössel, received the following reply to Jeschonnek from SKL:

a. Naval Staff considers that there is still a limited number of tasks for the Stuka squadron in the Baltic Sea area at present, not only as support for the fight on Hela, but also for possible employment in the fight against submarines etc.

b. Some time ago Naval Staff issued an order that this squadron is to be assigned to Group West for tasks in the North Sea as soon as there are no more tasks in the Baltic Sea.

c. The Naval Staff believes that if this squadron were assigned to Luftflotte 1 in the course of the general transfer of air forces from the east to the west, the Stukas would not immediately be able to operate against land targets there. On the other hand, the Naval Staff sees possibilities for using this squadron in the North Sea theatre against sea targets. As a matter of fact, possibilities for such operations have already presented themselves.

d. However, if it appears in the further progress of the war against Great Britain that, owing to limited range of the Stukas or to lack of opportunities for attack, the squadron is in the wrong place, Naval Staff will at once make it available.

e. Naval Staff therefore asks to have 3.(St)/Tr.Gr. 186 left with the Navy at present.

Within five days the Kriegsmarine had their answer, as Göring himself ordered the Stukas immediately placed under the command of Luftflotte 2. Raeder and his staff were predictably and justifiably outraged at yet another incursion into what small amount of control the Kriegsmarine still exercised over aerial units:

The withdrawal of this squadron is opposed to the demand of Naval Staff, who will feel the loss of the squadron for breaking resistance on Hela Peninsula as well as for operations against naval targets in the North Sea all the more, as by order of Armed Forces High Command the naval air units are tactically assigned to Commander in Chief, Navy, and the order of Commander in Chief, Air Force, is, therefore, contradictory to the basic instruction issued in agreement with the Führer.

Nonetheless, the decision was taken, and the highly effective Stuka unit was shortly removed to purely Luftwaffe control. Blattner’s squadron transferred briefly to Danzig, from where it continued to batter the Hela Peninsula, before moving to Radom, south of Warsaw, for two days, where it was temporarily subordinated to Stukageschwader 77. By 28 September Blattner and his men and machines had returned to Kiel-Holtenau. As the inter-service wrangling continued in the higher command echelons, the men of 3.(St)/Tr.Gr. 186 were pragmatic when informed of their impending reassignment.

Our personnel had come exclusively from the ranks of the Navy before being transferred to the Luftwaffe. But because it was not known at this juncture just how long it would be before our aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin, entered service – which, in the event, she never did – the Luftwaffe was demanding that, in the interim, our Gruppe should be placed under the control of its own Luftflotte 2. The Navy’s opposition to this demand – made mainly as a matter of prestige, I suspect – was put to the OKW, which came down firmly on the side of the Luftwaffe. Naturally, we knew nothing of these goings-on at our lowly level. We were simply surprised and delighted when, at the beginning of November 1939, we received orders to transfer to Wertheim, near Würzburg, for service under Luftflotte 2. On 8 November 1939 we landed at Wertheim, thereby taking our place as a tactical unit on the Luftwaffe’s operational order of battle alongside all its other Stukagruppen. The move was very welcome from a flying point of view, but it did pose a number of problems for our ground staff, which would continue to plague the Gruppe for a long time to come. Still nominally a carrier-based unit, we had been furnished with very little transport of our own. The Gruppe itself had been allocated a single Ju 52 transport aircraft, while the HQ and each Staffel was provided with one 3-ton lorry, one small car and one motorcycle for use while lying in harbour. Obviously, this was totally inadequate for a normal Stuka unit’s day-to-day operations, let alone for a rapid transfer from one airfield to another.

German Naval Aviation War II 1939 Part II

While the aircraft of Trägergruppe 186 were soon removed from F.d.Luft Ost, the remaining squadrons continued their activities over Poland and the Baltic Sea. On 16 September SKL suggested that boarding commandos be formed from personnel of both 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306 and 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706 to augment the naval forces already tasked with the interdiction of merchant ships carrying contraband to Great Britain. Each small commando unit would comprise a naval officer observer supported by a Luftwaffe radioman and one or two soldiers drawn from the ground staff. They were to be carried into action aboard an He 59, which was capacious enough to accommodate the extra men, two float-equipped Ju 52s able to carry larger parties of men if required also being added to the complement. The officers received basic training in the intricacies of Prize Law and were soon operational within the Baltic Sea. The interdiction missions were mounted by pairs of aircraft, one maintaining a protective circle above while the other landed near the target vessel, which had been requested to stop by gunfire, a thrown message from the Heinkel, or flashed Morse signals. Once alongside, the officer was able to inspect the ship’s manifest. Any vessel suspected of carrying contraband was directed to Swinemünde, where it would be more thoroughly inspected and possibly interned as a legitimate Prize of War. Following their brief training in the art of boarding merchant ships, on 24 September SKL recorded that: ‘Naval air forces are permitted to carry out war against merchant shipping in compliance with prize regulations’.

It was soon found that prevailing winds often prevented safe landings, and that the most effective method of inspection involved signalling the suspect vessel while remaining aloft, directing the ship toward a German port or one of the Vorpostenboote waiting in predetermined locations. Once again, Paul Just was at the forefront of this new Küstenflieger initiative, this time as observer and aircraft commander aboard a Kü.Fl. Gr. 306 Heinkel.

The He 59 is a good aircraft, but the two 600hp BMW engines can only give a maximum speed of 240km/h, the highest cruising speed only 205 km/h. The He 59 was intended for four men: Pilot and navigator up front, the radioman who doubled as an air gunner behind, and another gunner, the flight engineer, astern in the lower hull . . . Eight to ten aircraft are constantly on the move, and every day sixty to eighty merchant ships are inspected by the Vorpostenboote. It puts a great strain on the crews, with no possibility of collecting military glory . . .

My pilot, Bootsmann Brötsch, sits behind and above me. If I want to enter the control dome for a turn at the stick, I knock on his leg. He trims the machine, we understand each other with a look, and he drops out of his seat in the hull, I pull myself up. Of course, the change is prohibited, but the He 59 sails so well through the air, that probably nothing can happen; until the day it happens. When I’m up in the pilot’s seat, I unexpectedly see a crooked horizon. The machine is suddenly leaning almost 45 degrees to port. Brötsch is back in his seat in a flash. The machine straightens up, but the drone of the port motor is missing; the propeller has stopped. Theoretically, one engine should be sufficient to keep the He 59 airborne. Brötsch gives the starboard engine full power. The flight engineer, who also takes constant care of the aircraft when on the ground, feverishly searches for the cause of the failure. We can only hope that he is successful, because the aircraft has started to lose height.

Brötsch doesn’t need to say anything: we will be down soon. Worried, I look at the sea state, which is quiet, but with a few foam heads. Two steamers are all that are in sight, and as we go further down they disappear behind the horizon. We turn to face against the wind and wave direction. With the slow-running starboard engine we hold ourselves on course above the sea. But the He 59 lurches powerfully and it looks for a moment like the ends of the floats could hit the water and submerge. The fierce vibrations of the floating aircraft puts a great strain on us . . .

We radio a distress signal, because if the motor stops we will not be able to get it going again on our own. [The engineer shouts] ‘Everything is okay, I can’t find anything. Brötsch, give it another try!’ The starter makes the [port] engine pop and puff, the propeller turning in fits and starts before suddenly the engine runs again. We are amazed, and the pilot is happy.

In the west, co-operation between Admiral Alfred Saalwachter (MGK West) and both Joachim Coeler’s F.d.Luft West, Felmy’s Luftflotte 2 and Geisler’s 10.Fliegerdivision was initially very positive. Despite the fact that the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine had failed to co-ordinate the most basic tenets of cohesive maritime war (each used different map grids, there was no established mutual communications net, no common code or cypher system, and inadequate telecommunications between operational headquarters and command stations), an element of goodwill had been fostered, not least of all due to Coeler’s obvious enthusiasm for his aircraft to begin maritime operations. Overcoming the difficulties imposed by the joint control of naval air units, local organisational measures were taken between the various headquarters: Saalwachter based in Wilhelmshaven, Coeler in Jever thirteen miles to the west, Felmy in Brunswick, and Geisler’s office located in Hamburg, which boasted a highly developed signals net. The Luftwaffe and Naval offices immediately exchanged grid-square charts, enabling a composite overlay to be created to ease operational co-ordination. Communications systems were rapidly improved upon, and a Luftwaffe liaison officer was quickly assigned to Saalwachter’s staff. Felmy requested that a U-boat be assigned the task of sending direction-finder signals to aid aircraft navigation, but this was refused by B.d.U. on the grounds of meagre U-boat strength available for the war against British trade, a converted trawler Vorpostenboot being allocated instead for the same purpose.

Over the North Sea, aircraft controlled by F.d.Luft West mounted continuous reconnaissance missions to form a picture of shipping movements and the distribution of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet. Aircraft also monitored the entrance to the Skagerrak for any indications of enemy minelaying, as well as any British naval forces despatched to reinforce Poland. First blood was drawn by one such reconnaissance flight within two days of the start of war with Great Britain. During the morning of 5 September eight He 115s of 1./ Ku.Fl.Gr. 106 took off from Norderney to fly their parallel search patterns. At approximately 0600hrs the crew of Lt.z.S. Bruno Bättger’s M2+FH sighted Avro Anson Mk.I K6183, VX-B, of 206 Sqn, RAF, south of the Dogger Bank, and attacked. The Anson was also engaged on maritime reconnaissance, as part of the new Coastal Command, having taken off from its home airfield at Bircham Newton to hunt for U-boats. Pilot Officer Laurence Hugh Edwards, a New Zealander who had trained with the RNZAF, engaged the He 115, and a fifteenminute battle followed. The Anson’s dorsal gunner, 22-year-old LAC John Quilter, was killed by gunfire. Edwards was unable to bring his forward machine gun to bear, and the Anson was soon on fire as it went down into the sea. Two other occupants, 23-year-old Sgt Alexander Oliver Heslop (of 9 Squadron, RAF) and 18-year-old AC1 Geoffrey Sheffield, were both killed, but Edwards manage to swim free of the wreckage despite suffering burns to his face and other minor wounds. The victorious He 115 alighted and rescued Edwards, who became the first RAF officer to be captured during the Second World War. Bättger’s triumph was to be short-lived, however, as his aircraft was shot down on 8 November by a 206 Sqn Anson. Bättger was posted as missing in action, but the bodies of pilot Uffz. Friedrich Grabbe and wireless operator Fkmt. Schettler were later recovered.

However, Coeler’s F.d.Luft West staff also suffered casualties during the first week of war. On 5 September a Junkers Ju 52 transport carrying six passengers was misidentified by flak gunners aboard the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Scheer and shot down. All aboard were killed, including Hptm. Günther Klünder, former commander of AS/88, who had been seconded to the staff of Führer der Seeluftstreitkräfte.

Only three He 60s were lost during the period between the opening of hostilities with Poland and the end of the year, all during September 1939. As well as the fatal crash in Pillau on 3 September, a second He 60 from 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 crashed in the harbour on 11 September, shortly before alighting, after the pilot was momentarily blinded by sunlight. However, both he and the observer escaped unscathed. On 22 September an He 60 made an emergency landing off Kaaseberga near Kivik, Sweden, owing to engine problems during a reconnaissance sweep of the Bay of Danzig. Drifting toward Swedish territorial waters, the aircraft was subsequently taken in tow by the Swedish destroyer Vidar and landed at Ystad. Both the pilot, Oblt. Gerhard Grosse, and observer Lt.z.S. Helmut von Rabenau were initially interned but repatriated on 8 June 1940. The aircraft was not returned to Germany until 4 November of that year.

On 26 September the second He 59 destroyed during the month was lost when M2+SL of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106, one of nine patrolling the North Sea, was forced down by failure of the port engine. Observer Oblt.z.S. Deecke could see that the aircraft was steadily losing height and stood no chance of making landfall, and so ordered pilot Fw. Worms to put the Heinkel down, a strong breeze running the sea to a moderate and potentially dangerous swell. Unfortunately, as soon as the aircraft touched down, the starboard float struts broke on the choppy water and the wing cut under the sea surface. The aircraft was completely written off, its wreckage being recovered by the salvage ship Hans Rolshoven and the crew rescued and landed at Borkum.

Three of the few unsatisfactory He 114s in service were also lost during September. On 6 September T3+NH was destroyed while being lifted aboard the supply ship Westerwald, which was idling near Greenland in support of the ‘pocket battleship’ Deutschland. The aircraft smashed against the ship’s hull and was dropped back into the water, its engine later being salvaged. Five days later, observer Lt.z.S. Ralph Kapitzky and his pilot, Uffz. Nowack of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, were both slightly injured while alighting at their home base at Putzig following action against Polish troops at Grossendorf. During the attack on infantry positions, rifle and machine-gun fire had damaged the aircraft’s control system, causing Nowack to lose control during the landing run. Theirs was one of ten He 114s operated by the Staffel. A second was lost a week later when it crashed while alighting owing to an unexpectedly strong tailwind, though there were no casualties.

Six of the long-range reconnaissance Dornier Do 18s were also lost during September. Four days after the fatal crash of Do 18 M2+JK in Baltrum, an aircraft of 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 606 capsized during a night alighting at 2304hrs at Hörnum, after being diverted from Witternsee because of fog. Of its crew, observer Oblt.z.S. Helmut Rabach was posted as missing, his body never being recovered, flight engineer Uffz. Karl Evers was killed, pilot Uffz. Ernst Hinrichs was badly injured, and wireless operator Hptgfr. Herbert Rusch slightly injured. The aircraft, 8L+WK, was virtually destroyed and later written-off, and Hinrichs died of his injuries in hospital two days later. The Staffel 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106 lost two aircraft within a day of each other, the first following an emergency alighting with engine trouble in the North Sea. Kapitänleutnent Karl Daublebsky von Eichhain rescued the crew, adrift in their lifeboat, with his coastal Type II U-boat U13. He also attempted to take the aircraft in tow, but repeated attempts failed in a worsening sea state. During the following morning the seaplane tender and Seenotdienst ship Günther Plüschow reached their position and also attempted to take the crippled Dornier in tow, but the waterlogged aircraft subsequently flooded and was finally sunk by gunfire at 1230hrs on 13 September.

That same day, near the sand dunes of Ameland, Do 18 M2+LK of the same Staffel washed ashore after being damaged by Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighters of 1st JaVA. Unlike the other Low Countries, The Netherlands actively defended their territorial air and sea space, and the Dutch fighters had been scrambled after a naval reconnaissance Fokker T.VIII-W floatplane was attacked six miles outside territorial waters off Schiermonnikoog Island by a German He 115 floatplane of Küstenfliegergruppe 406. The German crew had not recognised the approaching aircraft as Dutch, maintaining that, as it came out of the sun towards them, the national insignia of tricolour roundels looked either British or French. The Heinkel crew opened fire and brought the aircraft down, whereupon the T.VIII-W capsized. Recognising their error too late, the Heinkel crew descended alongside the upturned Fokker to assist the crew, some of whom were slightly injured. However, the He 115 was also slightly damaged by a short steep sea, and further assistance arrived in the form of the Do 18 flying boat commanded by Lt.z.S. Horst Rust. This too suffered minor damage upon alighting, but the Heinkel was eventually able to take off and transport the injured Dutch crew to hospital on Norderney. Meanwhile, alerted to the drama unfolding at sea by observers ashore, a patrol of three Fokker D.XXIs took off from Eelde, intending either to force the German aircraft to remain stationary and await naval interception, or attack should they attempt to flee. By the time they arrived at the scene the Heinkel had already left, but they sighted the stationary Dornier and fired initial warning shots ahead of the floatplane to prevent take-off. Pilot Fw. Otto Radons initially set course for the flying boat to head towards the Dutch coast, but then attempted to lift off and escape. A second strafing attack hit the Dornier, puncturing its hull, which began to leak in the heavy swell. Abandoned, the aircraft drifted ashore and was virtually destroyed by the surf, while Rust and his crew, who had taken to their lifeboat and paddled to the coastline, were captured and interned at Fort Spijkerboor, being taken to Great Britain as prisoners of war in May 1940.

Although the Luftwaffe immediately apologised for the incident, Dutch authorities also admitted some measure of culpability, and in an attempt to minimise such an event recurring, the Dutch Air Force substituted an orange triangle for their tricolour roundels, and their established red, white and blue rudder markings being changed for orange overall. This, however, did not prevent the misidentification of a Dutch DC-3 on 26 September, which was attacked by an He 115 of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406, damaging the airliner and killing Swedish passenger Gustav Robert Lamm.

The forces available to F.d.Luft West were steadily increased as the war in Poland progressed in Germany’s favour. Gydnia fell on 14 September, Polish forces withdrawing to the Oksywie Heights, which in turn fell within five days. The Hela Peninsula was isolated and finally battered into submission by 2 October, and four days later the final Polish military units surrendered following the battle of Kock, marking the end of the German’s Polish campaign.

While ‘Fall Weiss’ neared completion in the east, the units of F.d.Luft West shared with Luftflotte 2 responsibility for the reporting of shipping movements and naval activity within the North Sea. The picture that was forming at MGK West instigated an intensification of operations against merchant shipping sailing in defiance of the declared blockade of Great Britain, in which both Kriegsmarine surface forces and naval aircraft could co-operate. The Luftwaffe crews of Luftflotte 2 still lacked the required naval training to guide German destroyers effectively towards suspicious merchant vessels, so the onus fell to F.d.Luft West, with its contingent of Kriegsmarine observers.

On 26 September 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306, 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406 and 2./Kü.Fl. Gr. 506 were scheduled to mount eighteen separate reconnaissance flights over the North Sea in what had become a familiar routine. However, on this occasion they located strong elements of the Royal Navy Home Fleet that had thus far eluded them. Three main groups were reported and, to maintain contact, aircraft of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406 and 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 (transferred from the east and placed under the direction of Karl Stockmann’s Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 406) were also despatched to strengthen the reconnaissance sweep. The first group (Home Fleet) was observed heading east, and comprised two battleships, one aircraft carrier and four cruisers. The second (Humber Force), was sailing west, and consisted of two battlecruisers, (mistakenly) one aircraft carrier and five destroyers, and the final group, ‘heading for the west at high speed’, comprised two cruisers and six destroyers. Rather than spread the aircraft too thinly, contact was maintained on the two heavy groups only, and all W/T transmissions from the shadowing aircraft were immediately forwarded by F.d.Luft West to 10.Fliegerdivision so that they could prepare a bombing attack. Furthermore, Coeler ordered two multipurpose torpedo-carrying Staffeln to prepare an attack to follow-up the bombers, though the time taken to prepare the aircraft delayed take-off until 1330hrs.

At 0830 on 25 September the Home Fleet, comprising the battleships HMS Nelson and Rodney (of the 2nd Battle Squadron), the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (with the Blackburn Skuas of 800 Sqn, the Blackburn Skuas and Rocs of 803 Sqn, and the Fairey Swordfish of 810, 818, 820 and 821 Sqns embarked), and the destroyers HMS Bedouin, Punjabi, Tartar and Fury, had sailed from Scapa Flow, steering a westerly course to provide cover for the cruisers and destroyers of the Humber Force returning to British waters, escorting the submarine HMS Spearfish which had been damaged by German depth charges. The destroyers HMS Fame and Foresight were already at sea, and soon joined the main force, followed later by the destroyers HMS Somali, Eskimo, Mashona and Matabele.

At 1100hrs GMT three of the distant shadowing Dornier flying boats were sighted by Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft from Ark Royal, and nine Skuas were flown off in groups of three at hourly intervals to intercept. The first flight had trouble locating the shadowing aircraft, finally sighting 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306 Do 18 K6+XK and engaging in a protracted air combat, hitting the Dornier thirty-six times before it escaped using its superior speed. A second Do 18 of the same Staffel survived forty minutes in combat against Skuas of 803 Sqn, suffering fifty-five hits before managing to escape and later making an emergency landing. It was later recovered successfully. However, Leutnant zur See Wilhelm Frhr. von Reitzenstein’s Dornier Do 18, M7+YK of 2./ Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, was attacked by a flight from 803 Sqn at approximately 1203hrs GMT. Reitzenstein was sighted flying close to the surface of the water, and Lt B.S. McEwan RN and his air gunner, Acting Petty Officer Airman B.M. Seymour, disabled the Dornier’s engine, forcing it to make an emergency descent. All four crewmen took to their liferaft and were captured by HMS Somali, their crippled aircraft being sunk with gunfire. The shooting-down of Reitzenstein’s Dornier was the first confirmed German aircraft lost in aerial combat. A second Do 18 of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106 was also lost, but to engine malfunction rather than enemy action. It made an emergency descent near Juist, whereupon the starboard float struts broke apart and the wings hit the water. Although it was later recovered by the Seenotdienst ship Hans Rolshoven, the Dornier was written-off. Nonetheless, the Küstenflieger aircrafts’ dogged perseverance in maintaining contact allowed a co-ordinated bombing attack to be made on the Home Fleet.

In the morning our air reconnaissance contacted heavy enemy forces north and west of the Great Fisher Bank. Despite strong enemy fighter defence and anti-aircraft gunfire, the shadowing aeroplanes succeeded in guiding four dive-bombing Ju 88s and one squadron of He 111s of 10 Fliegerdivision to the attack by sending out direction-finder signals.

The ships’ positions had been successfully reported and at 1345hrs, when the British Home Fleet was approximately 120nm west of Stavanger, HMS Rodney’s Type 79Y radar reported aircraft approaching. Nine He 111H bombers of the only operational ‘Löwen Geschwader’ Staffel, 4./ KG 26, from their forward airfield at Westerland, and four Ju 88A-1 bombers of 1./KG 30 from Jever airfield, were closing on their target at an altitude of 2,000m, attacking in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire of all calibres but no fighter cover. All of the defending British aircraft had landed and been struck down to defuel, as dictated by Royal Navy policy at the time, which relied on anti-aircraft fire for fleet protection. Despite the strong defensive fire, no attacking bombers were hit, although it at least prevented German success.

All four Ju 88s targeted the Ark Royal, that flown by Uffz. Carl Francke, a former aeronautical engineer, being one of the last to make his dive-bombing attack with Ark Royal manoeuvring below him. A single SC 500 bomb exploded off the port bow, sending a huge column of water higher than the flight deck and causing the ship to whip and list alarmingly. Aboard the Ju 88 the water column was sighted along with a visible flash, though none of the crew could confirm whether it was an actual hit or simply the flash of gunfire obscured by smoke and water. One of the two bombs dropped was an established miss, but the second Francke reported as a ‘possible hit on bows; effect not observed’. Overoptimistically, MGK West counted the hit as definite, and by the time Francke had landed the wish had solidified into fact.

Result: One 500kg bomb hit by a Ju 88 on an aircraft carrier; two 250kg bomb hits by He 111 on one battleship. One miss by a Ju 88 on a cruiser. Results of hits by a Ju 88 on another battleship and a second aircraft carrier(?) were not observed owing to interception of the aeroplane. The fate of the hit aircraft carrier, which was not sighted again by further air reconnaissance, is unknown. If not sunk, at least heavy damage is presumed by the effect of the 500kg bomb. Own losses: Attacking formation; none. Reconnaissance formation; two Do 18s.

No British ships had actually been damaged, though HMS Hood had suffered a glancing blow from a bomb dropped by Lt. Walter Storp’s Ju 88 that bounced off the armoured hull plating, a large patch of grey paint being removed to show the red primer beneath. A second wave of bombers from KG 26 and KG 30 was cancelled, as arming the aircraft had taken too long, while F.d.Luft West was soon informed that his own He 59 torpedo bombers, which were almost ready to take off, would be unable to operate against the enemy owing to the extreme range. Nonetheless, the Germans believed that they had been triumphant. Further reconnaissance missions located heavy ships but failed to find any trace of HMS Ark Royal, though she docked in Scapa Flow two days later. In fact, the Kriegsmarine were not inclined to believe that the carrier had been sunk. They instead correctly reasoned that, as a result of incorrect location fixing, the aircraft had in fact sighted the Humber Force, which they no longer believed included an aircraft carrier. Nonetheless, the co-operation of the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine in this operation had proceeded smoothly and without significant issues. SKL recorded their summary of the event:

The success of the aerial attack by the operational Luftwaffe without any losses, entailing a distance of over 300 miles, is most satisfactory. It must be rated all the higher since it was the first operation of the war by the British Fleet in the North Sea, which has shown it in a very impressive manner the dangers of an approach to the German coast and, beyond that, the striking power of the Luftwaffe which threatens it. Any attempt by surface forces to penetrate into the Heligoland Bight or through the Kattegat and Baltic Sea entrances into the Baltic Sea must appear completely hopeless to the British Fleet after today’s experience – if it should be included at all in its operational plans.

The disposition of the bomber formations of the operational Air Force – providing for only four dive-bombing Ju 88 aeroplanes on Westerland at present, out of the small number so far available – rendered a more extensive use of the particularly suitable dive-bomber formations impossible. This must be regretted all the more as, after today’s experience, the British are not likely to repeat the operation, and the use of stronger Stuka formations would probably have had an annihilating effect. The co-operation of the reconnaissance formations of the Naval Air Force with the attacking formation of the operational Air Force, which is still rather inexperienced in flying over the sea, is particularly satisfactory: they stubbornly maintained contact with the enemy with remarkable persistence and despite the strongest fighter defence. Our Radio Monitoring Service worked well. In addition to the observation of heavy enemy forces in the North Sea yesterday, it was possible to gain important information as to course and speed of certain enemy groups by the decoding of enemy radiograms to enemy aeroplanes. The enemy anti-aircraft defence was of medium strength. The enemy fighters proved inadequate as to speed and daring.

German propaganda seized on the thin evidence of success and triumphantly reported the sinking of the Ark Royal, the Völkischer Beobachter and the Luftwaffe magazine Der Adler both publishing graphic artists’ impressions of the carrier wreathed in smoke and flames. Francke received a telegram of congratulations from Göring, and was promoted and awarded the Iron Cross First and Second Class, though at no point did he claim to have actually sunk the ship.

However, while the Kriegsmarine appeared content with the result of the combined operation, the resulting analysis by Luftwaffe staff had far-reaching consequences, as it contributed to an overinflated view of the effectiveness of Luftwaffe forces acting in isolation in action against enemy naval units. A report forwarded to Göring on 30 September by his Operations Staff Officer summarised that:

a. It can be assumed according to available data that the aircraft carrier was probably sunk. (The aircraft carrier not visible on the second comprehensive reconnaissance.)

b. According to the observations of the Ju 88 which attacked the carrier, it seemed that the strongly-cased 500kg SD delayed-action bomb caused an explosion inside the carrier among the oil reserves. (Apparent fires, smoke clouds.)

c. Even small Luftwaffe forces (thirteen aircraft) are in a position to inflict considerable damage on heavy naval forces.

d. In the rough sea (state four to five) the ships’ anti-aircraft guns were unable to break up the attack.19

Göring published an order on 29 September that all long-range reconnaissance over the North Sea was henceforth to be handled by Luftflotte 2, and frequent mistakes in Luftwaffe navigation resulted in an increased number of erroneous sighting reports which, though generally considered unreliable by MGK West, still required investigation by naval air units. The resultant waste of resources in duplicated and fruitless missions served to upset the uneasy calm that had been reached over operational jurisdiction between Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine tactical control.

On 3 October SKL enquired to Luftwaffe General Staff, Operations Division, about the possibility of the operational Luftwaffe conducting war against merchant shipping in accordance with prize regulations, and any plans for the conduct of war against merchant shipping during the ‘siege of Britain’. The answer, noted in the SKL War Diary, was both disappointing and predictable:

1. War against merchant shipping in accordance with prize regulations cannot be carried out by the units of the Luftwaffe.

2. Luftwaffe General Staff regards the main objective of the fight against Great Britain up to about spring 1940 to be against British Air Force armament factories. Suitable aircraft in sufficient numbers for effective participation in the blockade of Britain by sea west of Ireland will not be available until the end of 1940 or the beginning of 1941. Up to that time the blockade in the North Sea area by the Luftwaffe remains a task of secondary importance. It is planned effectively to support the blockade by combined attacks on the main enemy ports of entry and naval bases.

Meanwhile, elements of the Küstenflieger were also engaged in support of German destroyers attempting to intercept contraband merchant shipping in the Kattegat and Skagerrak bound for Great Britain, though this resulted in few seizures of cargo ships. In the Baltic the Naval Air Units continued to maintain their own blockade by stopping and searching steamers. Thirty-one had been intercepted by 9 October, and six taken as prizes to Swinemünde. Beginning on the evening of 27 September, aerial reconnaissance reported many ships hugging the coasts of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, sheltered by those nations’ neutrality. Only four steamers were successfully seized as prizes out of a total of forty-four stopped and searched, the majority travelling in ballast. However, the German concentration of aircraft, U-boats, S-boats and armed trawlers in the Skaggerak approaches had all but paralysed Danish export trade to Great Britain, and gave rise to Royal Navy Admiralty orders for a special reconnaissance patrol of Lockheed Hudsons to search the entrance to the Skagerrak to confirm reports of continuous German aerial patrolling, and ‘attack if circumstances prove favourable’. However, bad weather intervened during the following day, and most of the planned missions were cancelled. Grimsby fishing trawlers reported frequently sighted German flying boats; never more than two flying together, flying very low over the fishing fleet at between 200 to 500ft, though thus far no trawlers had been attacked.

German Naval Aviation War II 1939 Part II

While the aircraft of Trägergruppe 186 were soon removed from F.d.Luft Ost, the remaining squadrons continued their activities over Poland and the Baltic Sea. On 16 September SKL suggested that boarding commandos be formed from personnel of both 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306 and 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 706 to augment the naval forces already tasked with the interdiction of merchant ships carrying contraband to Great Britain. Each small commando unit would comprise a naval officer observer supported by a Luftwaffe radioman and one or two soldiers drawn from the ground staff. They were to be carried into action aboard an He 59, which was capacious enough to accommodate the extra men, two float-equipped Ju 52s able to carry larger parties of men if required also being added to the complement. The officers received basic training in the intricacies of Prize Law and were soon operational within the Baltic Sea. The interdiction missions were mounted by pairs of aircraft, one maintaining a protective circle above while the other landed near the target vessel, which had been requested to stop by gunfire, a thrown message from the Heinkel, or flashed Morse signals. Once alongside, the officer was able to inspect the ship’s manifest. Any vessel suspected of carrying contraband was directed to Swinemünde, where it would be more thoroughly inspected and possibly interned as a legitimate Prize of War. Following their brief training in the art of boarding merchant ships, on 24 September SKL recorded that: ‘Naval air forces are permitted to carry out war against merchant shipping in compliance with prize regulations’.

It was soon found that prevailing winds often prevented safe landings, and that the most effective method of inspection involved signalling the suspect vessel while remaining aloft, directing the ship toward a German port or one of the Vorpostenboote waiting in predetermined locations. Once again, Paul Just was at the forefront of this new Küstenflieger initiative, this time as observer and aircraft commander aboard a Kü.Fl. Gr. 306 Heinkel.

The He 59 is a good aircraft, but the two 600hp BMW engines can only give a maximum speed of 240km/h, the highest cruising speed only 205 km/h. The He 59 was intended for four men: Pilot and navigator up front, the radioman who doubled as an air gunner behind, and another gunner, the flight engineer, astern in the lower hull . . . Eight to ten aircraft are constantly on the move, and every day sixty to eighty merchant ships are inspected by the Vorpostenboote. It puts a great strain on the crews, with no possibility of collecting military glory . . .

My pilot, Bootsmann Brötsch, sits behind and above me. If I want to enter the control dome for a turn at the stick, I knock on his leg. He trims the machine, we understand each other with a look, and he drops out of his seat in the hull, I pull myself up. Of course, the change is prohibited, but the He 59 sails so well through the air, that probably nothing can happen; until the day it happens. When I’m up in the pilot’s seat, I unexpectedly see a crooked horizon. The machine is suddenly leaning almost 45 degrees to port. Brötsch is back in his seat in a flash. The machine straightens up, but the drone of the port motor is missing; the propeller has stopped. Theoretically, one engine should be sufficient to keep the He 59 airborne. Brötsch gives the starboard engine full power. The flight engineer, who also takes constant care of the aircraft when on the ground, feverishly searches for the cause of the failure. We can only hope that he is successful, because the aircraft has started to lose height.

Brötsch doesn’t need to say anything: we will be down soon. Worried, I look at the sea state, which is quiet, but with a few foam heads. Two steamers are all that are in sight, and as we go further down they disappear behind the horizon. We turn to face against the wind and wave direction. With the slow-running starboard engine we hold ourselves on course above the sea. But the He 59 lurches powerfully and it looks for a moment like the ends of the floats could hit the water and submerge. The fierce vibrations of the floating aircraft puts a great strain on us . . .

We radio a distress signal, because if the motor stops we will not be able to get it going again on our own. [The engineer shouts] ‘Everything is okay, I can’t find anything. Brötsch, give it another try!’ The starter makes the [port] engine pop and puff, the propeller turning in fits and starts before suddenly the engine runs again. We are amazed, and the pilot is happy.

In the west, co-operation between Admiral Alfred Saalwachter (MGK West) and both Joachim Coeler’s F.d.Luft West, Felmy’s Luftflotte 2 and Geisler’s 10.Fliegerdivision was initially very positive. Despite the fact that the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine had failed to co-ordinate the most basic tenets of cohesive maritime war (each used different map grids, there was no established mutual communications net, no common code or cypher system, and inadequate telecommunications between operational headquarters and command stations), an element of goodwill had been fostered, not least of all due to Coeler’s obvious enthusiasm for his aircraft to begin maritime operations. Overcoming the difficulties imposed by the joint control of naval air units, local organisational measures were taken between the various headquarters: Saalwachter based in Wilhelmshaven, Coeler in Jever thirteen miles to the west, Felmy in Brunswick, and Geisler’s office located in Hamburg, which boasted a highly developed signals net. The Luftwaffe and Naval offices immediately exchanged grid-square charts, enabling a composite overlay to be created to ease operational co-ordination. Communications systems were rapidly improved upon, and a Luftwaffe liaison officer was quickly assigned to Saalwachter’s staff. Felmy requested that a U-boat be assigned the task of sending direction-finder signals to aid aircraft navigation, but this was refused by B.d.U. on the grounds of meagre U-boat strength available for the war against British trade, a converted trawler Vorpostenboot being allocated instead for the same purpose.

Over the North Sea, aircraft controlled by F.d.Luft West mounted continuous reconnaissance missions to form a picture of shipping movements and the distribution of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet. Aircraft also monitored the entrance to the Skagerrak for any indications of enemy minelaying, as well as any British naval forces despatched to reinforce Poland. First blood was drawn by one such reconnaissance flight within two days of the start of war with Great Britain. During the morning of 5 September eight He 115s of 1./ Ku.Fl.Gr. 106 took off from Norderney to fly their parallel search patterns. At approximately 0600hrs the crew of Lt.z.S. Bruno Bättger’s M2+FH sighted Avro Anson Mk.I K6183, VX-B, of 206 Sqn, RAF, south of the Dogger Bank, and attacked. The Anson was also engaged on maritime reconnaissance, as part of the new Coastal Command, having taken off from its home airfield at Bircham Newton to hunt for U-boats. Pilot Officer Laurence Hugh Edwards, a New Zealander who had trained with the RNZAF, engaged the He 115, and a fifteenminute battle followed. The Anson’s dorsal gunner, 22-year-old LAC John Quilter, was killed by gunfire. Edwards was unable to bring his forward machine gun to bear, and the Anson was soon on fire as it went down into the sea. Two other occupants, 23-year-old Sgt Alexander Oliver Heslop (of 9 Squadron, RAF) and 18-year-old AC1 Geoffrey Sheffield, were both killed, but Edwards manage to swim free of the wreckage despite suffering burns to his face and other minor wounds. The victorious He 115 alighted and rescued Edwards, who became the first RAF officer to be captured during the Second World War. Bättger’s triumph was to be short-lived, however, as his aircraft was shot down on 8 November by a 206 Sqn Anson. Bättger was posted as missing in action, but the bodies of pilot Uffz. Friedrich Grabbe and wireless operator Fkmt. Schettler were later recovered.

However, Coeler’s F.d.Luft West staff also suffered casualties during the first week of war. On 5 September a Junkers Ju 52 transport carrying six passengers was misidentified by flak gunners aboard the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Scheer and shot down. All aboard were killed, including Hptm. Günther Klünder, former commander of AS/88, who had been seconded to the staff of Führer der Seeluftstreitkräfte.

Only three He 60s were lost during the period between the opening of hostilities with Poland and the end of the year, all during September 1939. As well as the fatal crash in Pillau on 3 September, a second He 60 from 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 crashed in the harbour on 11 September, shortly before alighting, after the pilot was momentarily blinded by sunlight. However, both he and the observer escaped unscathed. On 22 September an He 60 made an emergency landing off Kaaseberga near Kivik, Sweden, owing to engine problems during a reconnaissance sweep of the Bay of Danzig. Drifting toward Swedish territorial waters, the aircraft was subsequently taken in tow by the Swedish destroyer Vidar and landed at Ystad. Both the pilot, Oblt. Gerhard Grosse, and observer Lt.z.S. Helmut von Rabenau were initially interned but repatriated on 8 June 1940. The aircraft was not returned to Germany until 4 November of that year.

On 26 September the second He 59 destroyed during the month was lost when M2+SL of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106, one of nine patrolling the North Sea, was forced down by failure of the port engine. Observer Oblt.z.S. Deecke could see that the aircraft was steadily losing height and stood no chance of making landfall, and so ordered pilot Fw. Worms to put the Heinkel down, a strong breeze running the sea to a moderate and potentially dangerous swell. Unfortunately, as soon as the aircraft touched down, the starboard float struts broke on the choppy water and the wing cut under the sea surface. The aircraft was completely written off, its wreckage being recovered by the salvage ship Hans Rolshoven and the crew rescued and landed at Borkum.

Three of the few unsatisfactory He 114s in service were also lost during September. On 6 September T3+NH was destroyed while being lifted aboard the supply ship Westerwald, which was idling near Greenland in support of the ‘pocket battleship’ Deutschland. The aircraft smashed against the ship’s hull and was dropped back into the water, its engine later being salvaged. Five days later, observer Lt.z.S. Ralph Kapitzky and his pilot, Uffz. Nowack of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, were both slightly injured while alighting at their home base at Putzig following action against Polish troops at Grossendorf. During the attack on infantry positions, rifle and machine-gun fire had damaged the aircraft’s control system, causing Nowack to lose control during the landing run. Theirs was one of ten He 114s operated by the Staffel. A second was lost a week later when it crashed while alighting owing to an unexpectedly strong tailwind, though there were no casualties.

Six of the long-range reconnaissance Dornier Do 18s were also lost during September. Four days after the fatal crash of Do 18 M2+JK in Baltrum, an aircraft of 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 606 capsized during a night alighting at 2304hrs at Hörnum, after being diverted from Witternsee because of fog. Of its crew, observer Oblt.z.S. Helmut Rabach was posted as missing, his body never being recovered, flight engineer Uffz. Karl Evers was killed, pilot Uffz. Ernst Hinrichs was badly injured, and wireless operator Hptgfr. Herbert Rusch slightly injured. The aircraft, 8L+WK, was virtually destroyed and later written-off, and Hinrichs died of his injuries in hospital two days later. The Staffel 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106 lost two aircraft within a day of each other, the first following an emergency alighting with engine trouble in the North Sea. Kapitänleutnent Karl Daublebsky von Eichhain rescued the crew, adrift in their lifeboat, with his coastal Type II U-boat U13. He also attempted to take the aircraft in tow, but repeated attempts failed in a worsening sea state. During the following morning the seaplane tender and Seenotdienst ship Günther Plüschow reached their position and also attempted to take the crippled Dornier in tow, but the waterlogged aircraft subsequently flooded and was finally sunk by gunfire at 1230hrs on 13 September.

That same day, near the sand dunes of Ameland, Do 18 M2+LK of the same Staffel washed ashore after being damaged by Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighters of 1st JaVA. Unlike the other Low Countries, The Netherlands actively defended their territorial air and sea space, and the Dutch fighters had been scrambled after a naval reconnaissance Fokker T.VIII-W floatplane was attacked six miles outside territorial waters off Schiermonnikoog Island by a German He 115 floatplane of Küstenfliegergruppe 406. The German crew had not recognised the approaching aircraft as Dutch, maintaining that, as it came out of the sun towards them, the national insignia of tricolour roundels looked either British or French. The Heinkel crew opened fire and brought the aircraft down, whereupon the T.VIII-W capsized. Recognising their error too late, the Heinkel crew descended alongside the upturned Fokker to assist the crew, some of whom were slightly injured. However, the He 115 was also slightly damaged by a short steep sea, and further assistance arrived in the form of the Do 18 flying boat commanded by Lt.z.S. Horst Rust. This too suffered minor damage upon alighting, but the Heinkel was eventually able to take off and transport the injured Dutch crew to hospital on Norderney. Meanwhile, alerted to the drama unfolding at sea by observers ashore, a patrol of three Fokker D.XXIs took off from Eelde, intending either to force the German aircraft to remain stationary and await naval interception, or attack should they attempt to flee. By the time they arrived at the scene the Heinkel had already left, but they sighted the stationary Dornier and fired initial warning shots ahead of the floatplane to prevent take-off. Pilot Fw. Otto Radons initially set course for the flying boat to head towards the Dutch coast, but then attempted to lift off and escape. A second strafing attack hit the Dornier, puncturing its hull, which began to leak in the heavy swell. Abandoned, the aircraft drifted ashore and was virtually destroyed by the surf, while Rust and his crew, who had taken to their lifeboat and paddled to the coastline, were captured and interned at Fort Spijkerboor, being taken to Great Britain as prisoners of war in May 1940.

Although the Luftwaffe immediately apologised for the incident, Dutch authorities also admitted some measure of culpability, and in an attempt to minimise such an event recurring, the Dutch Air Force substituted an orange triangle for their tricolour roundels, and their established red, white and blue rudder markings being changed for orange overall. This, however, did not prevent the misidentification of a Dutch DC-3 on 26 September, which was attacked by an He 115 of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406, damaging the airliner and killing Swedish passenger Gustav Robert Lamm.

The forces available to F.d.Luft West were steadily increased as the war in Poland progressed in Germany’s favour. Gydnia fell on 14 September, Polish forces withdrawing to the Oksywie Heights, which in turn fell within five days. The Hela Peninsula was isolated and finally battered into submission by 2 October, and four days later the final Polish military units surrendered following the battle of Kock, marking the end of the German’s Polish campaign.

While ‘Fall Weiss’ neared completion in the east, the units of F.d.Luft West shared with Luftflotte 2 responsibility for the reporting of shipping movements and naval activity within the North Sea. The picture that was forming at MGK West instigated an intensification of operations against merchant shipping sailing in defiance of the declared blockade of Great Britain, in which both Kriegsmarine surface forces and naval aircraft could co-operate. The Luftwaffe crews of Luftflotte 2 still lacked the required naval training to guide German destroyers effectively towards suspicious merchant vessels, so the onus fell to F.d.Luft West, with its contingent of Kriegsmarine observers.

On 26 September 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306, 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406 and 2./Kü.Fl. Gr. 506 were scheduled to mount eighteen separate reconnaissance flights over the North Sea in what had become a familiar routine. However, on this occasion they located strong elements of the Royal Navy Home Fleet that had thus far eluded them. Three main groups were reported and, to maintain contact, aircraft of 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406 and 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 506 (transferred from the east and placed under the direction of Karl Stockmann’s Stab/Kü.Fl.Gr. 406) were also despatched to strengthen the reconnaissance sweep. The first group (Home Fleet) was observed heading east, and comprised two battleships, one aircraft carrier and four cruisers. The second (Humber Force), was sailing west, and consisted of two battlecruisers, (mistakenly) one aircraft carrier and five destroyers, and the final group, ‘heading for the west at high speed’, comprised two cruisers and six destroyers. Rather than spread the aircraft too thinly, contact was maintained on the two heavy groups only, and all W/T transmissions from the shadowing aircraft were immediately forwarded by F.d.Luft West to 10.Fliegerdivision so that they could prepare a bombing attack. Furthermore, Coeler ordered two multipurpose torpedo-carrying Staffeln to prepare an attack to follow-up the bombers, though the time taken to prepare the aircraft delayed take-off until 1330hrs.

At 0830 on 25 September the Home Fleet, comprising the battleships HMS Nelson and Rodney (of the 2nd Battle Squadron), the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal (with the Blackburn Skuas of 800 Sqn, the Blackburn Skuas and Rocs of 803 Sqn, and the Fairey Swordfish of 810, 818, 820 and 821 Sqns embarked), and the destroyers HMS Bedouin, Punjabi, Tartar and Fury, had sailed from Scapa Flow, steering a westerly course to provide cover for the cruisers and destroyers of the Humber Force returning to British waters, escorting the submarine HMS Spearfish which had been damaged by German depth charges. The destroyers HMS Fame and Foresight were already at sea, and soon joined the main force, followed later by the destroyers HMS Somali, Eskimo, Mashona and Matabele.

At 1100hrs GMT three of the distant shadowing Dornier flying boats were sighted by Swordfish reconnaissance aircraft from Ark Royal, and nine Skuas were flown off in groups of three at hourly intervals to intercept. The first flight had trouble locating the shadowing aircraft, finally sighting 2./Kü.Fl.Gr. 306 Do 18 K6+XK and engaging in a protracted air combat, hitting the Dornier thirty-six times before it escaped using its superior speed. A second Do 18 of the same Staffel survived forty minutes in combat against Skuas of 803 Sqn, suffering fifty-five hits before managing to escape and later making an emergency landing. It was later recovered successfully. However, Leutnant zur See Wilhelm Frhr. von Reitzenstein’s Dornier Do 18, M7+YK of 2./ Kü.Fl.Gr. 506, was attacked by a flight from 803 Sqn at approximately 1203hrs GMT. Reitzenstein was sighted flying close to the surface of the water, and Lt B.S. McEwan RN and his air gunner, Acting Petty Officer Airman B.M. Seymour, disabled the Dornier’s engine, forcing it to make an emergency descent. All four crewmen took to their liferaft and were captured by HMS Somali, their crippled aircraft being sunk with gunfire. The shooting-down of Reitzenstein’s Dornier was the first confirmed German aircraft lost in aerial combat. A second Do 18 of 3./Kü.Fl.Gr. 106 was also lost, but to engine malfunction rather than enemy action. It made an emergency descent near Juist, whereupon the starboard float struts broke apart and the wings hit the water. Although it was later recovered by the Seenotdienst ship Hans Rolshoven, the Dornier was written-off. Nonetheless, the Küstenflieger aircrafts’ dogged perseverance in maintaining contact allowed a co-ordinated bombing attack to be made on the Home Fleet.

In the morning our air reconnaissance contacted heavy enemy forces north and west of the Great Fisher Bank. Despite strong enemy fighter defence and anti-aircraft gunfire, the shadowing aeroplanes succeeded in guiding four dive-bombing Ju 88s and one squadron of He 111s of 10 Fliegerdivision to the attack by sending out direction-finder signals.

The ships’ positions had been successfully reported and at 1345hrs, when the British Home Fleet was approximately 120nm west of Stavanger, HMS Rodney’s Type 79Y radar reported aircraft approaching. Nine He 111H bombers of the only operational ‘Löwen Geschwader’ Staffel, 4./ KG 26, from their forward airfield at Westerland, and four Ju 88A-1 bombers of 1./KG 30 from Jever airfield, were closing on their target at an altitude of 2,000m, attacking in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire of all calibres but no fighter cover. All of the defending British aircraft had landed and been struck down to defuel, as dictated by Royal Navy policy at the time, which relied on anti-aircraft fire for fleet protection. Despite the strong defensive fire, no attacking bombers were hit, although it at least prevented German success.

All four Ju 88s targeted the Ark Royal, that flown by Uffz. Carl Francke, a former aeronautical engineer, being one of the last to make his dive-bombing attack with Ark Royal manoeuvring below him. A single SC 500 bomb exploded off the port bow, sending a huge column of water higher than the flight deck and causing the ship to whip and list alarmingly. Aboard the Ju 88 the water column was sighted along with a visible flash, though none of the crew could confirm whether it was an actual hit or simply the flash of gunfire obscured by smoke and water. One of the two bombs dropped was an established miss, but the second Francke reported as a ‘possible hit on bows; effect not observed’. Overoptimistically, MGK West counted the hit as definite, and by the time Francke had landed the wish had solidified into fact.

Result: One 500kg bomb hit by a Ju 88 on an aircraft carrier; two 250kg bomb hits by He 111 on one battleship. One miss by a Ju 88 on a cruiser. Results of hits by a Ju 88 on another battleship and a second aircraft carrier(?) were not observed owing to interception of the aeroplane. The fate of the hit aircraft carrier, which was not sighted again by further air reconnaissance, is unknown. If not sunk, at least heavy damage is presumed by the effect of the 500kg bomb. Own losses: Attacking formation; none. Reconnaissance formation; two Do 18s.

No British ships had actually been damaged, though HMS Hood had suffered a glancing blow from a bomb dropped by Lt. Walter Storp’s Ju 88 that bounced off the armoured hull plating, a large patch of grey paint being removed to show the red primer beneath. A second wave of bombers from KG 26 and KG 30 was cancelled, as arming the aircraft had taken too long, while F.d.Luft West was soon informed that his own He 59 torpedo bombers, which were almost ready to take off, would be unable to operate against the enemy owing to the extreme range. Nonetheless, the Germans believed that they had been triumphant. Further reconnaissance missions located heavy ships but failed to find any trace of HMS Ark Royal, though she docked in Scapa Flow two days later. In fact, the Kriegsmarine were not inclined to believe that the carrier had been sunk. They instead correctly reasoned that, as a result of incorrect location fixing, the aircraft had in fact sighted the Humber Force, which they no longer believed included an aircraft carrier. Nonetheless, the co-operation of the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine in this operation had proceeded smoothly and without significant issues. SKL recorded their summary of the event:

The success of the aerial attack by the operational Luftwaffe without any losses, entailing a distance of over 300 miles, is most satisfactory. It must be rated all the higher since it was the first operation of the war by the British Fleet in the North Sea, which has shown it in a very impressive manner the dangers of an approach to the German coast and, beyond that, the striking power of the Luftwaffe which threatens it. Any attempt by surface forces to penetrate into the Heligoland Bight or through the Kattegat and Baltic Sea entrances into the Baltic Sea must appear completely hopeless to the British Fleet after today’s experience – if it should be included at all in its operational plans.

The disposition of the bomber formations of the operational Air Force – providing for only four dive-bombing Ju 88 aeroplanes on Westerland at present, out of the small number so far available – rendered a more extensive use of the particularly suitable dive-bomber formations impossible. This must be regretted all the more as, after today’s experience, the British are not likely to repeat the operation, and the use of stronger Stuka formations would probably have had an annihilating effect. The co-operation of the reconnaissance formations of the Naval Air Force with the attacking formation of the operational Air Force, which is still rather inexperienced in flying over the sea, is particularly satisfactory: they stubbornly maintained contact with the enemy with remarkable persistence and despite the strongest fighter defence. Our Radio Monitoring Service worked well. In addition to the observation of heavy enemy forces in the North Sea yesterday, it was possible to gain important information as to course and speed of certain enemy groups by the decoding of enemy radiograms to enemy aeroplanes. The enemy anti-aircraft defence was of medium strength. The enemy fighters proved inadequate as to speed and daring.

German propaganda seized on the thin evidence of success and triumphantly reported the sinking of the Ark Royal, the Völkischer Beobachter and the Luftwaffe magazine Der Adler both publishing graphic artists’ impressions of the carrier wreathed in smoke and flames. Francke received a telegram of congratulations from Göring, and was promoted and awarded the Iron Cross First and Second Class, though at no point did he claim to have actually sunk the ship.

However, while the Kriegsmarine appeared content with the result of the combined operation, the resulting analysis by Luftwaffe staff had far-reaching consequences, as it contributed to an overinflated view of the effectiveness of Luftwaffe forces acting in isolation in action against enemy naval units. A report forwarded to Göring on 30 September by his Operations Staff Officer summarised that:

a. It can be assumed according to available data that the aircraft carrier was probably sunk. (The aircraft carrier not visible on the second comprehensive reconnaissance.)

b. According to the observations of the Ju 88 which attacked the carrier, it seemed that the strongly-cased 500kg SD delayed-action bomb caused an explosion inside the carrier among the oil reserves. (Apparent fires, smoke clouds.)

c. Even small Luftwaffe forces (thirteen aircraft) are in a position to inflict considerable damage on heavy naval forces.

d. In the rough sea (state four to five) the ships’ anti-aircraft guns were unable to break up the attack.19

Göring published an order on 29 September that all long-range reconnaissance over the North Sea was henceforth to be handled by Luftflotte 2, and frequent mistakes in Luftwaffe navigation resulted in an increased number of erroneous sighting reports which, though generally considered unreliable by MGK West, still required investigation by naval air units. The resultant waste of resources in duplicated and fruitless missions served to upset the uneasy calm that had been reached over operational jurisdiction between Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine tactical control.

On 3 October SKL enquired to Luftwaffe General Staff, Operations Division, about the possibility of the operational Luftwaffe conducting war against merchant shipping in accordance with prize regulations, and any plans for the conduct of war against merchant shipping during the ‘siege of Britain’. The answer, noted in the SKL War Diary, was both disappointing and predictable:

1. War against merchant shipping in accordance with prize regulations cannot be carried out by the units of the Luftwaffe.

2. Luftwaffe General Staff regards the main objective of the fight against Great Britain up to about spring 1940 to be against British Air Force armament factories. Suitable aircraft in sufficient numbers for effective participation in the blockade of Britain by sea west of Ireland will not be available until the end of 1940 or the beginning of 1941. Up to that time the blockade in the North Sea area by the Luftwaffe remains a task of secondary importance. It is planned effectively to support the blockade by combined attacks on the main enemy ports of entry and naval bases.

Meanwhile, elements of the Küstenflieger were also engaged in support of German destroyers attempting to intercept contraband merchant shipping in the Kattegat and Skagerrak bound for Great Britain, though this resulted in few seizures of cargo ships. In the Baltic the Naval Air Units continued to maintain their own blockade by stopping and searching steamers. Thirty-one had been intercepted by 9 October, and six taken as prizes to Swinemünde. Beginning on the evening of 27 September, aerial reconnaissance reported many ships hugging the coasts of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, sheltered by those nations’ neutrality. Only four steamers were successfully seized as prizes out of a total of forty-four stopped and searched, the majority travelling in ballast. However, the German concentration of aircraft, U-boats, S-boats and armed trawlers in the Skaggerak approaches had all but paralysed Danish export trade to Great Britain, and gave rise to Royal Navy Admiralty orders for a special reconnaissance patrol of Lockheed Hudsons to search the entrance to the Skagerrak to confirm reports of continuous German aerial patrolling, and ‘attack if circumstances prove favourable’. However, bad weather intervened during the following day, and most of the planned missions were cancelled. Grimsby fishing trawlers reported frequently sighted German flying boats; never more than two flying together, flying very low over the fishing fleet at between 200 to 500ft, though thus far no trawlers had been attacked.