Operational antiaircraft report from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 8, December 13, 1944. This attack was mounted by the Luftwaffe’s Jagdgeschwader 4 (JG 4). The aircraft displayed the black-white-black bands of JG 4.
SUBJECT: First Army AAA Versus the Luftwaffe.
SOURCE: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group.
a. “Ich habe niemals etwas ähnliches gesehen!” meaning “I’ve never seen anything like it.” This statement by a captured GAF pilot epitomizes the disastrous effort of the Luftwaffe to match its air skill against First Army AAA on the afternoon of 3 December. In this action, the heaviest daylight effort since 5 October, 70 enemy aircraft operated over the front in the First Army area. AAA claim 41 enemy aircraft destroyed and 23 enemy aircraft probably destroyed.
b. The enemy started the attack at 1359 hours when approximately 2 Gruppen entered the First Army area in the VII Corps zone, swung south through the V Corps zone to enter the VIII Corps zone, then reversed to retrace the route, and leave again at the northern part of VII Corps zone. The action lasted for approximately 45 minutes. The enemy chose to operate in concentrated numbers on an afternoon when weather had grounded all our fighters, a fact which the enemy evidently judged would give him freedom in the air to attack targets in the fighting zone and thus slow the threatening ground advance. But the enemy did not reckon with the prepared AAA.
c. The First Army AAA was ready and waiting. The effectiveness of the early warning is demonstrated by the fact that gun crews had four minutes warning of the approach of enemy aircraft. An additional factor in the preparedness was that the area controller had released guns to fire unseen because none of our aircraft were airborne in that area.
d. The cloud ceiling at the time of the action was approximately 1000 feet. The enemy aircraft approached in formations but split up to small individual groups of two’s and three’s before entering the area. The mission assigned was to cover the area “thoroughly and attack any and all targets of opportunity. In attempting to carry out this mission, each aircraft took individual action; more often than not this consisted of violent evasive action to avoid AAA fire. The enemy planes darted in and out of the cloud cover, and even attempted to fly down valleys to avoid our flak. In a determined effort to complete the mission the planes strafed and bombed for 45 minutes, all the time in the face of devastating AAA fire.
e. Fifteen (15) AAA battalions participated in the action. It is not possible to tabulate the claims of each unit at present as claims in many instances are overlapping and the AAA intelligence officers, the air force crash intelligence teams, and the interrogation teams are working overtime to segregate the true facts of the downed planes. Many of the observed coordinates of crashed aircraft are in heavily mined areas or behind the enemy lines and thus are not readily accessible. However, as of 8 December, seventeen (17) crashed aircraft had been located, together with nine live pilots. Units participating in this action were: 116th AAA Gun Bn (M), 555th AAA AW Bn (M), 376th AAA AW Bn (M), 552nd AAA AW Bn (M), 486th AAA AW Bn (SP), 474th AAA AW Bn (SP), 462nd AAA AW Bn (M), 460th AAA AW Bn (M), 387th AAA AW Bn (SP), 438th AAA AW Bn (M), 461st AAA AW Bn (M), 197th AAA AW Bn (SP), 103rd AAA AW Bn (M), 445th AAA AW Bn (M), 377th AAA AW Bn (M)
f. The interrogation of one captured pilot, an extremely experienced one having seen much action on other fronts, produced the following facts: He was shot down by flak after his plane had been hit four times – in the tail, fuselage, wing, and engine. When flak was mentioned, he became very agitated and cursed our AAA fire as being too intense and too accurate. He said that evasive tactics of skidding his plane and jinking, which had worked so successfully on other fronts, was useless here, as evidenced by his being hit and downed. When the flak opened up, it appeared to him that the whole mountainside was alive with fire. He had “never seen anything like it.”
g. The following facts emerging from this action are interesting to note:
(1) Some planes were painted with a replica of the invasion stripes on the fuselage between the cockpit and stabilizer. There were three stripes – black, white, black – each 10-11 inches wide.
(2) Me 109 G-6 and Me 109 G-14 types participated. The Me 109 G-14 had a 20mm cannon mounted between the engine blocks.
(3) First Army policy of preventative maintenance was demonstrated by the fact that the 197th AAA AW Bn (SP) had 36 half-tracks in action without a single malfunction of any type.
(4) The 116th AAA Gun Bn (M) fired some rounds of pre-cut fuzes in gun control at low flying strafing planes. It is reported that one plane was destroyed by this method of fire control. This battalion claims four (4) planes destroyed by unseen fire control.
Interesting WWII newspaper correspondent’s report from Tunisia in April 1943:
Death of Tiger Tank
By Noland Norgaard
With the British 8th Army Beyond Sousse, Tunisia—(Wednesday)—Delayed—(AP)
The crew of a German Mark VI Tiger tank hastily set fire to the heavily armored machine and fled on foot when a spunky British armored car charged with its only machine gun blazing.
The story of the unequal encounter and its surprising ending was told today by a sergeant from Bath, the commander of the seven ton car which took on an opponent nearly nine times its size as the British 8th Army charged north through Tunisia.
“We poked the nose of our car over the edge of a hill and saw a Mark VI sitting there with its heavy gun trained on our troops to the east,” the sergeant recalled. “We left our other cars and skirted around to the other side and then came at the tank and directed our machine gun against the crew, who for some reason had dismounted from their vehicle.
“Two of the four crewmen got back into the tank and set it afire. They must, have some device ready for such a purpose because they were able to destroy it very quickly. The fire seemed to come from the motor instead of the spot where they were.
“Then the Germans jumped out again and hit the ground to avoid our fire. We captured them, and another of our cars captured the other two, who tried to get away.”
A similar incident between an M8 armored car and a Tiger tank during the Battle of the Bulge was reported in “The Battle at St. Vith, Belgium, 17-23 December, 1944: An Historical Example of Armor in the Defense” published by U.S. Army Armor School, Fort Knox, KY, 1966.
While the northern and eastern flanks had been heavily engaged, the northeastern sector (Troop A, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron; Company A, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion; Troop B, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron) had been rather quiet. The only excitement there had been when an M8 armored car from Troop B destroyed a Tiger tank. The armored car had been in a concealed position near the boundary of Troop B, 87th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and Company A, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion, when the Tiger approached the lines at right angles to move along a trail in front of the main line of resistance. As the tank passed the armored car, the latter slipped out of position and started up the trail behind the Tiger, accelerating in an attempt to close. At the same moment the German tank commander saw the M8, and started traversing his gun to bear on it. It was a race between the Americans, who were attempting to close so that their 37-mm gun would be effective on the Tiger’s thin rear armor, and the Germans, who were desperately striving to bring their 88 to bear. Rapidly the M8 closed to 25 yards, and quickly pumped in three rounds; the lumbering Tiger stopped and shuddered; there was a muffled explosion, followed by flames which billowed out of the turret and engine ports, after which the armored car returned to its position. [This action was reported to Major Donald P. Boyer, Jr.. S3, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion, by Captain W. H. Anstey (commanding Company A, 38th Armored Infantry Battalion) who witnessed the engagement.]
Allied soldiers informally referred to any of the German tanks armed with high-velocity guns as “Tigers,” so in both cases the panzers in question may actually be panzers of other types.
“Chaff can take it… you can’t! Know chaff and use it!” Ninth Air Force (IX Tactical Air Command) training poster:
See Also: Flak Traps
Don’t roll or loop your B-17 bomber. Important pilot restrictions for the B-17 Flying Fortress from the Pilot’s Manual for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress:
- DON’T lower flaps at speeds in excess of 147 mph!
- DON’T dive in excess of 270 mph (with modified elevators).
- WARNING: Some airplanes are restricted to 220-mph maximum diving speed, pending modification of the elevators. See warning placard in airplane.
- DON’T exceed 46 inches Hg manifold pressure!
- DON’T exceed 30 inches Hg below 2100 rpm!
- DON’T stall the airplane! (except for training purposes.)
- DON’T spin!
- DON’T roll!
- DON’T loop!
- DON’T attempt inverted flight!
- DON’T fly the airplane at maximum gross weight (64,500 pounds) UNLESS auxiliary wing tanks are full!
- CAUTION: All power settings given in this section are for use with 100 octane fuel only. See appendix III for restrictions to be observed when using 91 octane fuel.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 (Me 109) "Black 12"—A Bf 109 G-6 "Kanonenvogel" of JG-2 equipped with the Rüstsatz R6 underwing cannons photographed in in France in 1943. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-487-3066-04 / Boyer / CC-BY-SA)
From “Combat Lessons” No. 4 comes this tribute to the U.S. artillery spotter planes in World War II:
The Artillery “Jeep Plane” Colonel Russell P. Reeder, Infantry Regimental Commander, Normandy.
“When our division commander asked us what we wanted our reply was ‘Keep those artillery jeep planes in the air.’
“These planes were the most effective means of stopping German artillery fire on our troops. We would be taking a real pasting from their artillery until one of these planes would show up skittering across the sky. Immediately the German artillery would stop firing. After one or two incautious enemy batteries had continued to fire and disclosed their position to the air observer, with ‘sudden death’ results, the others learned that discretion is the better part of valor.
“Even their mortars respected the eagle eye of the jeep plane and would suspend fire rather than risk detection of their positions.”
COMMENT: This disinclination of German artillery to fire under the threat of disclosing their positions to air observers has also been reported from both Sicily and Italy.
Cartoon from the October 1944 issue of C.I.C. (Combat Information Center) published by the U.S. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Schematic of the Baka rocket-propelled piloted aircraft bomb from the U.S. Navy Technical Air Intelligence Center:
See Also: Baka… Flying Warhead