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AAA Ground Recognition Signals

The following comments from the commander of the U.S. 5th Armored Division on the proper use of ground recognition signals were published in “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 5, November 22, 1944.

Subject: Use of Ground Recognition Signals
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

The following extract is taken from AAA Situation Report No. 98, First US Army:

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“a. The following is quoted from a letter received at this headquarters from the Commanding General, 5th Armored Division:

“‘1. At approximately 1630, 2 November 1944, nine to twelve P-38s approached the CP of the 47th Armored Field Artillery Battalion located in a group of buildings about fifty (50) yards south of paved highway one mile southeast of ROETGEN (K-919273). After circling the CP twice, the three lead planes broke out of the circle and flew off in the direction of ROETGEN. The next three planes made a diving attack of the CP, dropping six bombs. ******* The 440th AAA thereupon fired six recognition flares, at which the remaining planes pulled out of dive without dropping bombs and dipped their wings and left the area.*******

“‘3 ******* AA did not fire on planes, other than recognition flares.’

“b. The AAA complied strictly with standing instructions, by firing flares and withholding fire of their weapons. The friendly A/C, recognizing the signal and the lack of fire from the ground, immediately ceased the attack. This exemplifies the manner in which such incidents must be handled.”


B-24 vs. 50 German Fighters

A story of the durability of the B-24 Liberator, from Informational Intelligence Summary, No. 44-17, Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Intelligence, Washington, D.C., May 30, 1944.


The surprising durability of an AAF B-24 on a deep penetration mission over Germany when attacked by an overwhelming number of German fighters is described in this article, based on crew’s report.

Target time was assigned as 1300A and all planes of a B-24 Group had proceeded as planned until just over the heavily defended target of Regensburg, Germany. The flak over the target was heavy, intense and accurate. At 20,000 feet, just before the signal “Bombs Away,” the B-24 was hit by flak in No. 1 engine. A fire broke out in this engine but was soon extinguished and the prop feathered. Proceeding in formation with only three engines, the bombardier scored direct hits on the target.

Shortly after, many enemy fighters soon noticed the feathered engine and, thinking it was a good target, began to swarm in. Attack after attack was made and soon the No. 2 engine was knocked out, but it also was feathered successfully. By that time enemy fighters seemed to multiply. With two left engines gone, the Liberator gradually lost altitude and began dropping to the rear of the formation, soon to find itself without “friends” but in the company of some fifty enemy aircraft. The air speed had been cut considerably and a terrific tail flutter had developed due to 20-mm hits on the horizontal stabilizer. The left wing was down 30° and full right rudder trim was used to maintain as near normal flight as possible.

The Alps had yet to be crossed. Me 110s in pairs assembled high astern, and made repeated attacks knocking out the tail turret, but not until the tail gunner had accounted for two Me 110s destroyed. The top turret and ball turret were destroyed and many other hits had been scored on the B-24. After crossing the Alps, the co-pilot noticed that the oil pressure was indicating zero on the No. 4 engine but it did not quit. This engine operated for approximately one hour longer before it finally ceased to function. The pilot tried to feather the engine but the electrical system had been rendered useless.

With only one engine left and losing altitude very rapidly, the pilot decided to set her down. Finding this impossible and knowing they were over friendly territory, he ordered the crew to “hit the silk.” All then alive landed safely.

The final score:

• Tail gunner–2 Me 110s destroyed.

• Waist gunners–2 Me 109s destroyed.

• Bombardier–Me 109s destroyed. The bombardier manned the right waist gun when the gunner was injured and accounted for one Me 109, which, in recovery from a dive to blast out a fire in his engine, collided with another in mid-air.

One U.S. gunner killed. One B-24 crashed.


Delayed Action

Strange tale (tail?) from Air Force, April 1943.


CREWMEN of a B-17 had a surprise recently while flying over a quiet sector of England when a 20 mm. shell exploded in the left horizontal stabilizer. They had reason to be surprised. There wasn’t an enemy plane in sight.

After the big bomber had landed, Captain Henry J. Schmidt, an engineering officer with the Eighth Air Force, began investigating. He found that the B-17 had been carrying the shell around ever since it had attacked German installations in France some three weeks before. During that attack the shell had pierced the stabilizer without exploding. The hole it made was subsequently repaired, but without knowledge on anyone’s part that the missile was still in the ship.


Japanese Fighter Tactics on B-29 Missions

The following XX Bomber Command combat report on Japanese fighter tactics against the B-29 Superfortress appeared in Eastern Air Command Weekly Intelligence Summary, No. 31, March 30, 1945 published by Headquarters Eastern Air Command, Southeast Asia. The report describes a variation of the “12 O’Clock Express” used by one Japanese Oscar pilot.


The following account extracted from XX Bomber Command Summary #9 dated 10 Mar ’45 covering enemy tactics encountered in the B-29 raid against Singapore on 2 Mar ’45, indicates that enemy opposition in this area continued to be’ weak, and that Jap pilots were aggressive in only 26% of the attacks. High frontals were favored and a variation in the “12 O’Clock Express” was noted (see sketch). Zeke 52’s armament was reported as probably increased.

Enemy opposition was rated as weak, as on the three previous missions to Singapore, and Jap pilots did not appear to be aggressive; 45% of the enemy tactics were broken off between 250-500 yds, with only 26% pressing to within distances less than 250 yds. Encounters against the B-29s’ front quarter, where most of the action took place, were predominantly high in approach, but since the number of encounters is so small, XX Bomber Command states that probably no particular importance should be attached to this fact.

Aerial Bombing

The enemy made 11 single plane aerial bombing attacks which resulted in no damage to any of the B-29s. The closest burst occurred at 50 yds off the wing of one of our planes, while most of the bombs exploded 200-400 or more yards away from the formation. Phosphorous and fragmentation bombs were observed by crews with the former in the majority. The method of releasing bombs by Jap fighters consisted of: (1) releasing from level flight; and (2) “flipping” or “slinging”. No dive bombing encounters were reported. Coordinated attacks employed two fighters each.

Variation in “12 O’Clock Express”

One Jap attack which inflicted damage on a B-29 merits elaboration in that it was an unusual variation of the “12 O’Clock Express” and showed an exceptional degree of skill on the part of the enemy pilot. The enemy aircraft was first sighted about two miles out, very high at two o’clock. As the Jap approached to about one mile, he wagged his wings and turned in towards the B-29 at 12 o’clock in a dive. When about 1000 yards above the bomber, the Jap rolled over on his back, came in on a vertical pursuit curve, opening fire at about 500 yards. A 20mm shell went through the root of the left wing of the B-29. The dive was continued, passing within 25 yards of the B-29’s tail. The timing of the attack was exceptionally good, and the pilot almost succeeded in raking the B-29. Crews reported observing a Zeke 52 firing with six guns.

Japanese Fighter Tactics against B-29 Superfortress


Artillery Against Siegfried Line Pillboxes

The following combat report by the 258th Field Artillery Battalion described the effect of short-range 155-mm artillery fire against the pillboxes of the Siegfried Line.


APO 230, U.S. Army
5 October 1944

SUBJECT: Destruction of concrete pillboxes by short range fire from M12, 155mm Gun, SP.
TO: Commanding General, XIX Corps, APO 270, U.S. Army

1. Between 26 September 1944 and 2 October 1944 this battalion was assigned to the mission of methodical destruction of all pillboxes which could be located on the front or immediate flanks of the impending attack on the Siegfried Line by the 30th Division.

2. During this period intensive aerial and ground reconnaissance, in conjunction with aerial photo study, revealed 49 pillboxes as potential observable targets.

3. Of this number 43 were attacked by short range M12 fire, 1 by direct fire and 2 by 3″ guns of Co A, 823d TD Bn. M12 adjusted using fuze delay, switching to T105 fuze on obtaining the first target shot. The TD company commander fired using one gun, direct laying, firing both HE with fuze CB, and armor piercing shot. Evidence of penetration was obtained on all 46 targets above. For details of each mission, see accompanying annex.

4. Firing was terminated only on evidence that a penetration has been obtained. It has not yet been possible to verify by close-up examination of the targets whether penetration was accomplished in every instance.

Continue reading Artillery Against Siegfried Line Pillboxes

Economical Shooting

Report on a single lucky 40mm shot from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” HQ ETO, No. 15, January 1945:

Subject: More Economical Shooting
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

The 445th AAA AW Bn (M) claims to have at least tied the world’s record for low ammunition expenditure when one of its gun crews shot down an FW 190 on 1 January with one round of 40mm. The plane came over a heavily wooded area at high speed. Because of the limited field of fire, the gun section was able to fire only one round of 40mm ammunition. The shell hit the fuselage behind the cockpit. Fire broke out immediately, and the plane turned off course, out of control. Front line observers saw the plane crash a few seconds later.


First Army AAA Versus the Luftwaffe

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.