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"The German Rescue Buoy" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. intelligence report on the German rescue buoy is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The Germans have developed deluxe buoys for flyers of the Luftwaffe brought down while operating over the English Channel. The Rettungsboje was constructed under the direction of the German Ministry of Air Navigation in 1941 at the suggestion of Generaloberst Ernest Udet. These buoys, called Generalluftzeugmeister after their sponsor, are anchored far offshore. They have saved many German airmen that ships or coastal planes might have been too late to rescue.

The buoys are of square or hexagonal construction and have a floor space of about 43 square feet with an 8-foot cabin rising above the float. On the upper deck of this cabin, there is an oval turret 6 feet high with a signal mast carrying a wireless antenna. Tube railings to which the distressed flyers may cling run along the outer circumference below and above the water line. A ladder leads up to the turret, in which there is a door opening into the cabin below.

[German Luftwaffe WWII Rescue Buoy: Rettungsboje]

A 320-foot red and yellow striped rope anchors the buoy at a fixed location, but allows a limited drift, thereby indicating the direction of the current to aircraft in distress. The buoy is painted light yellow above the water line, and red crosses against white oval backgrounds are painted on each side of the turret.

The cabin accommodates four persons comfortably for several days, and in an emergency, the crews of several aircraft can be taken care of. It is electrically lighted by storage batteries, but in case of a breakdown kerosene lamps or other lighting devices are provided. There are two double-deck beds and adequate cupboard space for first-aid equipment, dry clothing and shoes, emergency rations, and a water supply. Hot food may be prepared on an alcohol stove. Cognac to relieve chill and cigarettes to quiet the nerves are also provided. Games, stationery, playing cards, etc. afford diversion until rescue is effected. Depleted supplies are always immediately replaced upon the arrival of the rescue ship.

[Schematic, German Luftwaffe WWII Rescue Buoy: Rettungsboje]

A tubular lifeboat is available for transferring the downed aviators from the buoy to the ship.

Signalling is accomplished by hoisting a black anchor ball and a yellow and red striped flag on the mast during the day. At night, red and white lights in the turret indicate that rescued men are on board. A white anchor light on the mast is visible for 3,000 feet or more. SOS signals giving the location of the buoy are automatically sent out by an emergency wireless transmitter. Signal pistols with red and white lights, white-light parachute flares, or a smoke, distress-signalling apparatus complete the signalling equipment. Other equipment includes plugs to stop up bullet holes in the walls of the cabin and a pump for the expulsion of seepage. The accompanying sketches illustrate these buoys.


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