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Operation Crossbow

Discussion in 'The War In Normandy' started by Cabel1960, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    In the predawn hours of June 13, 1944, a jet-propelled German missile, designated the V–1, left a launching pad in the Pas de Calais area of France and sputtered across the English Channel, landing near the center of London. Within twenty-four hours, the Germans launched almost 300 of these flying buzz bombs against the United Kingdom. The Allies reacted, under the operational name of Crossbow, by attacking the launching sites with fighter-bombers. Later, in addition to using fighter patrols, radar-controlled antiaircraft guns, and barrage balloons, the British requested the use of heavy bombers to destroy the launch sites. Spaatz objected to the diversion of his heavy bombers away from the strategic mission, but in response to British losses Eisenhower ordered Spaatz to attack the launch sites.

    La Coupole complex, built as a German V-2 rocket bunker, Wizernes in Nord-Pas de Calais region of France

    Operation_Crossbow.jpg

    In September 1944, the problem worsened because the Germans began launching the V–2, a rocket-powered ballistic missile that flew at almost 4,000 miles per hour and descended without a warning noise. The Allies responded by bombing not only the launching sites but also the support installations. Regrettably, these bombing attacks were largely ineffective and the German “vengeance” weapons were not neutralized until the Allied ground armies overran the launch sites. The raids cost the lives of more than 700 Allied airmen and destroyed at least 154 aircraft.
     
  2. brianw

    brianw Member

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    The entire Operation Crossbow involved not only the combined operations of RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF but also a large input from a little known branch of the RAF; Photograph Interpretation Unit or PIU based at RAF Medmenham in Bucks.

    Photographic reconnaissance in war was nothing new, but one major advance made by the RAF was to equip their Spitfire and Mosquito photographic aircraft with two cameras taking photos of the same area from slightly different angles which provided the PIs with a 3D view of the target area when both images were viewed together through a “stereoscope”. It was from these 3D photographs that they were able to make quite accurate measurements of “objects of interest”.

    One such object found on a photograph turned out to be the first image of a “pilotless plane”; the V1 on its launch ramp. Another photograph found an image of a V2 ready to be test fired on its launch pad at the Peenemünde rocket facility.
    Other images showed some strange bent buildings which became known as “ski sites” and turned out to be storage bunkers for the V1s. the PIs were also able to identify numerous V1 launch ramps from their photographs.

    The reconnaissance aircraft; mainly Spitfires and Mosquitos were stripped of all armaments enabling then to fly higher and faster than anything the Luftwaffe had at the time and target areas were photographed usually from a straight and level run at some 30,000 feet, although there were some particularly “hairy” photo runs at very low levels; under one hundred feet. Some of these low level runs provided images of the domed roof control bunkers such as the one shown in the post from Stalin, above.

    The domed roof and the thickness of the concrete made these structures almost impervious to ordinary bombing, so the famous 617 squadron, then commanded by Leonard Cheshire VC., was called on to attack them with Tallboys. A near miss on one site caused the bunker to fall into the cavity and tilt at such an angle that it became unusable.

    Ultimately, it was only when Allied ground forces over-ran the launch sites that the V1 and V2 threats were neutralised.

    RAF Medmenham was very much regarded as a sister site to Bletchley Park and as such the security surrounding it was very similar, consequently little has been published about its wartime operations.
     
  3. Cabel1960

    Cabel1960 recruit

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    Thanks for adding this Brian, makes great reading. :thumb:
     
  4. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Great thread guys, history at its best. :thumb:
     
  5. brianw

    brianw Member

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    The BBC transmitted their documentary about "Operation Crossbow" again this evening (3rd January 2013) and this time I remembered to record it.

    I'm able to transfer it to a DVD if anybody is interested. Unfortunately for our overseas members only in the PAL television format not NTSC American standard.

    The cost to you, (isn't there always a cost?) will be a blank DVD (DVD+R) disk and a stamped, addressed envelope for return.
    Please PM me with your "War44" username for my postal address if you would like a copy.
     

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