February 25, 1945

Sunday

In England, Verne writes in his diary . . . .

02-25-45

Up early this morning and on a practice mission to give the Major1 experience as element lead. He flies it darn well. Had turkey a la king for supper. Pretty good. On battle order in the morning. Hope they have forgotten about the low altitude bombing.

During February, a departure from ordinary bombing technique was established when the Group’s aircraft attacked certain visual, tactical targets, relatively flak-free, from altitudes as low as 15,000’.2

Mission plans began including low altitude bomb runs on visual targets, primarily marshalling yards. The minimum target altitude for bombing in Germany was set at 5,500’ on flak free targets.3

On two occasions in an attempt to saturate the enemy’s transport system, undefended transportation targets were attacked from reduced altitudes with excellent results. The targets attacked were primarily those of the tactical category in support of Ground Forces on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. This was the first period in which it was possible for bombing to be carried out on tactical targets of importance to the Russian Ground Forces.4

Higher command’s use of terms such as “relatively flak free” and “flak free” was disingenuous, and the combat crews knew it. The combat crews knew that only when a target was occupied by Allied troops could it be classified as being “flak free”. Lower altitude missions opened up a whole new world of danger for heavy bomber crews.

Against high-altitude missions, the Germans employed a variety of antiaircraft weapons ranging from the 128 mm Flak 40, the 105 mm Flak 38 & 39, the standard German heavy antiaircraft weapon, to the 88 mm Flak 16, 36, 37 and 41, and down through the 50 mm Flak 41, the 40 mm Flak 28, 37 mm Flak 18 and 36, the 37 mm Flak 43, to the 20 mm Flak 30 and 38. These weapons had a variety of mountings: Static, railway and mobile.5 Those of smaller caliber were often mounted on highly mobile wheeled and tracked vehicles. The heavier caliber weapons, which had slower rates of fire, could reach up to the high operating altitudes of the Allied bombers. The smaller caliber weapons did not have the vertical range of the heavier weapons, but below say 9,000’, they were very dangerous. Given their mobility, their presence could not be determined with precision.

Notes & Commentary

1 Maj. James O. Gross.

2 “General Summary.” 390th Bombardment Group (H) History, February 1945, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 26 March 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1184.

3 “Air Executive’s Historical Report for February 1945.” 390th Bombardment Group (H) History, February 1945, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 26 March 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1344.

4 “Bombing Historical Report for February 1945.” 390th Bombardment Group (H) History, February 1945, Headquarters 390th Bombardment Group (H), 26 March 1945, microfilm B0426, Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency, 1973, frame 1371.

5 Donald B. McLean. Illustrated Arsenal of the Third Reich. Wickenburg, AZ: Paramount Technical Publications, 1973. pp. 89, 96, 99-100, 115, 119, 121-122, and 124-129.

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2 Responses to February 25, 1945

  1. SJS says:

    These journal entries have been a realistic and fascinating look into the thoughts of a young airman during the final part of the war. This is great stuff–thanks.

    Like

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