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Anti-Tank Role

Heavy flak guns near the front lines were generally sited in positions for firing at ground targets, as well as at air targets. Armor-piercing shells and high muzzle velocity made the 88mm gun a good anti-tank weapon.

German armourers are shown here putting fuses on 88mm shells. The pro jectile itself weighed 20 pounds; those for the 105mm and 128mm guns weighed 33 and 57 pounds, respectively. Heavy flak guns fired high explosive shells with time fuses, cut to explode at a pre determined altitude. Enemy experiments with incendiary shells met with very little success.


Of the 50,000 light guns in Ger- A many's flak defenses, 80% were 20mm cannons. Single, double, triple, and quadruple mounts were used, with each gun having a practical firing rate of 200 rounds per minute. On-carriage visual sights were at one time complicated mirror and lead computing mechanisms; later in the war the simple course-and speed ring sights were generally used. The quadruple mount, which could fire 800 rounds per minute, was a powerful weapon against low-level attacks. As with the single gun, it was mounted on wheels for towing, on railway flatcars, and on tank chassis. Total weight of the quadruple mount was slightly less than 2 1/2 tons.

Light flak guns fired high explosive shells with percussion fuses, which detonated only if the pro jectile hit the target. How ever, a self-destroying feature was incorporated which detonated the pro jectile if, after a certain length of time, the target had not seen struck; this prevented unexploded shells from falling on friendly troops. Tracer ammunition was used al most invariably. >

Mounted on top a building at the freight station, this 20mm gun provided protection a gainst low-level attacks on the rolling stock and buildings. The effective ceiling of fire was 3,500 feet. The single mount weighed 1,650 lbs. Types of ammunition used in cluded high explosive, armor-piercing, and in cendiary, as well as combinations of two of these basic types.

Machine Gun Flak

Protection of this military area was supplied by machine guns mounted on towers, which afforded an excellent allround view. Rifle calibre ammunition was used. Since the effective range was no more than 2,500 feet, only very low altitude attackers encountered machine gun fire. Spread-legged stance of gunner is awkward and improper. Course and speed ring sight is used here.

Large field artillery piece in the background was part of a battery which the flak machine gun was defending. Flak units with the Army often were involved in ground fighting, in spite of high-level, directives to the contrary. Tri pod mount and air-cooled jacket for ma chine gun was standard. Gunner's left hand supports weight of ammunition belt to facilitate feeding.


40mm Flak
Captured from the British in the early phases of the war, this 40mm Bofors model was put into use by the Germans on the West coast. The German on the extreme left is looking through a range finder, which was standard equipment with Ger man light flak guns. The 40mm fired at the rate of 120 rounds per minute, and had an effective range of 2000 yards.

20mm Railway Flak

The "Wachtmeister" was instructing the others in the operation of the Flakvierling, which was mounted on a railway car for defense of trains against attacking aircraft. Usually each train had two or three flak cars, which would not open fire unless the train were attacked, in which case the train would stop and passengers would alight to take shelter.



Flak panzers were developed during the war primarily for defense of tanks against "tank-busting" aircraft. Single and quadruple-mounted 20mm guns, as well as a 37mm gun, were placed upon tank chassis, generally the Mark IV chassis. Allied aircraft first encountered such weapons in Normandy, where the enemy's only salvation lay behind heavy armor plating. Self-propelled 37mm, mounted on a semi-tracked vehicle, was part of a battery whose fire was being directed by the battery commander in the foreground, observing through flak binoculars. The 37mm was the second most widely used light flak gun. Mobility of self-propelled flak guns made them especially valuable for protection of fast moving army units.


Position of a naval ship's flak (Bord Flak) was always known before an attack a fact which was often not true in attacks on continental targets. Because of the roll of ships, flak, particularly the heavy guns, was more inaccurate than flak emplaced on the ground.

In coastal areas, particularly for the defense of naval shore installations, the German Navy maintained its own flak organizations, which often operated from coastal forts. German naval flak (Marine Flak) pictured here was mounted on a barge for protection of canal shipping. This type flak greatly enhanced the for midable defenses of the Atlantic coast ports, as Le Havre, Cherbourg, St. Nazaire, etc.









Means of aiming flak weapons varied from simple ring and bead sights to very complicated and expensive computing mechanisms capable not only of accurate gunlaying for visible targets, but also for "unseen11 targets. Heavy flak guns, because of their long distance shooting, required complex directors and radio equipment for gun-pointing. Light flak guns had neither power-laying nor means of firing accu rately at "unseen" targets. Shooting down what to the man on the ground is a fast and maneuverable speck in the sky, at ranges from one to six miles is a difficult proposition at best. This task requires highly intricate and pre cisely tooled fire control equipment capable of determining the slant range, speed, and direction of flight of an aircraft and of predicting where the plane will be by the time a shell can be delivered along its course. thence out to the guns constantly, and the result was continuously pointed fire the most effective type. Fire control equipment was generally placed about 150 yards from the guns. In Grossbatterien the equipment was centrally located between the batteries it controlled. In any case the fire control instruments were not farther away from any gun than about 400 yards, because of the inaccuracies incident to large parallax corrections.

For Heavy Flak

All heavy flak guns must have such equipment. The basic German equipment which did the com puting was the Kommandogerat (director) which determined optically speed and course of the planes. An optical range finder, mounted on top of the Kommandogerat, determined slant range. On cloudy days or at night, when a target could not be seen through the optical instruments, gunlaying radar (small Wurzburg) provided range, course, and speed data for the Kommandogerat's computation of future position of the target. This prediction plus required fuse length was transmitted electrically to the guns, where azimuth and eleva tion gun-layers pointed the guns by matching point ers on synchronized dials. In the fuse-cutter the fuse was set automatically to the required length of time and the shell was put into the gun and fired. Data flowed into the Kommandogerat and

For Light Flak

To solve the automatic weapon problem of accurate and rapid prediction against a low-flying, fast moving target, the Germans developed several types of mechanical and electrical sights capable of computing lateral and vertical leads and superel evation. All of these were on-carriage mechanisms, which provided initial leads subject to corrections based on observations of tracer streams. Generally the sights were of two types: coursespeed sights and rate-range sights. That none of these proved completely satisfactory seems to be indicated by the reversion of many units during the last months of the war to the simple course and speed ring sights. Most light flak units used a small r-metre range finder in conjunction with the computing sights so as to introduce positive, rather than estimated, ranges into the sights.


Kommandogerat and Height Finder

Not only much heavier and larger than our own AA gun directors, the Kom mandogerat, with the 4-metre range finder mounted on top, weighed 6000 pounds. Approximately fifteen seconds were required for determining initial "leads" for targets, after which the flow of firing data was continuous. Such data was transmitted electrically from director to guns. The white stripes on the right half of the range finder show that the battery had shot down eleven planes.

One Kommandogerat normally controlled each 4- or 6-gun battery. How ever, with the use of the multiple con verter Zug 44, one Kommandogerat could furnish firing data for eight batteries simultaneously; this made possible a large concentration of fire power on a single target. Because of high angular velocity and inability of the Kommandogerat to correct firing data fast enough, targets at ranges under 1500 yards could not be engaged effectively by heavy flak guns.


Multiple Converters

Two major problems confronting the Germans were solved with some success by the development of conversion instru ments capable of receiving present posi tion data from the radar of one battery and converting it for the use of a large number of other batteries. One* problem was that of so con trolling large flak defenses that maxi mum firepower could be brought to bear against attacking aircraft. The other problem was that of over coming radar countermeasures used by the Allies. The Malsi converter was first design ed to solve these difficulties, but little success was achieved. In 1944 the first Zug 44's were pro duced, and these were an improvement. Central control of as many as 32 bat teries was provided, and only three men per battery were necessary for operation. Moreover, the instantaneous and con tinuous operation of the Zug 44 elimi nated the time-lag which existed in the Malsi. On paper these mechanisms, parti cularly the Zug 44, looked good and seemed to represent a successful step in the solution of the problems of control of large defenses and of nullifying Allied radar countermeasures. In practice, how ever, the results achieved fell far short of desired ends, though some inroads had been made into the highly intricate and complex nature of the problem.

Small Wiiizburg

Giant Wiirzburg

Capable of supplying the Kommandogerat with course, speed, and range data, this gunlaying radio instrument made it possible for gun batteries to fire at "unseen" targets (obscured by clouds or darkness). High-frequency radio waves shot into space reflect back to the transmitter if an object is struck by the waves; measurement of these waves provides information necessary for computation of firing data. The Wurzburg had an operating range of about 25 miles.

Having a much longer range (60 to 80 miles) than its smaller counterpart, the giant Wurzburg was used in warning nets throughout Germanheld territory to pass to flak and fighter control centers information on the altitude, course, and size of Allied formations detected. The latest models were improved to the extent that they could be used for gun-laying, but such employment was unusual. The instrument pictured above is damaged.


As the proficiency of German radar improved during the war, the necessity for searchlights tended to de crease. Large searchlights, like the two pictured above, had two primary uses: (i) illumination of Allied planes at night so that they could be engaged visually by the flak guns; and (2) illuminating Allied aircraft, with resul tant "blinding" of the pilots, for attack by German night fighters. Large searchlights had a reflecting mirror of 601 diameter (same size as American AA searchlights). These were directed either by sound locators, or if emplaced near a heavy gun battery, by the radar of that battery. The center picture above shows a sound locator in operation. Small searchlights (24" mirror) were employed in conjunction with light flak batteries for night firing.



Deployed chiefly around port installations, dams, power plants, transformer stations, and bridges, balloon barrages were intended for the protection of small, well defined objectives against low level or dive-bombing attack. Actually the hazard presented was more psychological than physical, but none theless such defenses were effective in that fighter-bomber pilots avoided them. The usefulness of balloon barrages seems to have been deprecated by the Germans them selves; at least that is the indication derived from the fact that of the 2500 balloons being used at the beginning of 1944, only half were still in use at the beginning of 1945 The principal operating altitude of German barrage balloons was between 4000 and 6000 feet, though often they were observed at lower levels. Tests of captured balloons and cables showed that the danger resulting from a plane's collision with a German cable was not too great. The cable broke much more readily than did the stronger British balloon cable. In addition, the "weak link" connecting the cable to the balloon broke readily, but the resultant drag of the free cable usually was not such as to cause a pilot to lose control of his plane.



Any unusual and not readily explainable observa tions made by flying personnel on missions over enemy territory were classified as "phenomena". Some of these were German experiments proposing to find some further means of combatting Allied air superiority, and some were pilot optical illusions or misidentities of materiel used by the Allies. Most of the phenomena reported were resolved into live general classes: (1) Cable Type Flak Included in this class were rocket projectiles which emitted wires or cables on exploding, cables suspended from parachutes, and small balloons supporting cables to which were attached dark objects. Investigation revealed that a number of the small balloons with appendages were either radio or meteorological devices. No evidence was ever received that any aircraft of this Air Force were damaged by cable flak, though it is believed that such phenomena did possess a real lethality. However, such flak must be used in great densities in order to achieve any effectiveness. (2) Translucent Balls Variously described as appearing like fishbowls, baseballs, snowballs, silver balls, and soap bubbles, reports of such phenomena were rather common. Since none of our aircraft ever flew or fired into these balls, nothing definite was ever learned about their potential lethality. However it was believed that many of these reports were actually observations of "window" units which failed to disperse, and which, spinning in the sun light, might quite reasonably have appeared to be silvery or transparent spherical objects. (3) Rocket Flak It was definitely known that the Germans were experimenting with rocket flak, and the varying colored bursts and occasional "streamers" were most likely variations of already known rockets. Rocket flak was fired at high and low altitudes. Though they are an inexpensive form of defense, they are also inaccurate, and large num bers must be employed to achieve a semblance of effectiveness. It is believed that many reports of rocket flak stemmed from observations of trails of smoke bombs dropped by our planes, of light flak tracer, and of exhaust from jet-propelled aircraft. (4) Electrical Disturbances On several occa sions pilots experienced electrical disturbances in their engines and radios. At first flak officers thought this might have tied in with reports from PWs and other sources that the Germans were trying to develop high frequency electrical methods of knock ing aircraft out of the sky. However, in one instance investigation revealed that malfunctions of the electrical systems of the aircraft involved had caused the disturbances. Because of the tremendous amounts of energy which would be required to create a mag netic field capable of damaging aircraft in flight, it is not believed that such a weapon ever actually operated. (5) Flares or Unusual Bursts Since these were generally very bright and directed near large for mations of our planes, it was believed that for the most part they were either signals to German fighter aircraft or possible designation of zones of fire for flak batteries. One type of burst, called the "scare crow", resembled a plane which had exploded in mid-air, and was used for a deterrent morale effect on bomber crews. Though none of the phenomena demonstrated effectiveness, some were potentially lethal, and all unusual observations were carefully studied with a view of keeping abreast of experiments and devel opments in German air defense equipment.


Whereas from January 1944 to January 1945 the number of balloon barrages was reduced one-half, the number of smoke screen installations doubled to approximately 75. These were employed chiefly for concealment of communication and industrial targets. Use of smoke screens around dams and bridges was not begun till the latter part of 1944. Almost all synthetic oil and rubber plants and oil refineries had elaborate smoke defenses, as did several ball-bearing plants and the more vulnerable airplane engine factories. In the last months of the war the Germans, having increased considerably the efficiency of their

smoke defenses, were able to accomplish an effective density in 20 minutes. Deception was also practiced, such as the use of dummy screens short of the target and dual screens - - one over the target and another over a prominent landmark. Actually the smoke screens proved to be more of a nuisance than an effective defensive measure. Although bombardiers' aiming points were obscur ed sometimes, because of the necessarily limited area coverage with smoke no mission failed solely as a result of its use, since off-set aiming points or blind bombing methods could be used.


Early Warning

Early warning radar formed an inte gral part of Germany's Air Defense system, being operated by air warning service for initial detection of hostile aircraft, by night fighter control to aid interceptions, and by flak divisions or brigades for control of all flak defenses in a large area. Having a range of about 125 miles, such radio equipment afforded sufficient time for alerting of all air defense units. Prior to the invasion of the continent early warning stations were employed along the entire West coast of Europe, as well as at many large flak batteries. The "chimney" type long range radar shown here was developed during 1943 by the Germans, who also employed Freyas and Giant Wurzburgs for long range detection of Allied aircraft. Range of the "chimney" was more than 100 miles.



Since the Hun realized early in the war that he had not enough flak equipment, he adopted the policy of concentrating defenses around his most important targets and maintaining a mobile strate gic reserve to rush to the defense of undefended areas which became subject to Allied air attacks. A large part of such reserves were railway-mounted flak guns which, because of their easy mobility, were especially suited for the purpose. Often part of the guns were taken from large active defenses to provide protection for a threatened and undefend ed area.

Heavy Flak in Ring Defense

If sufficient numbers of heavy guns were available, flak batteries were sited to give an allround defense at the probable bomb release line. Batteries were close enough together so that the firing ranges of adjacent batteries overlapped, elim inating flak-free gaps in the defenses. If there were


insufficient guns to provide such a defense at the bomb release line, the guns were moved in towards the objective until their firing arcs overlapped. Balanced defenses were always the aim, but terrain features and size and shape of objectives often unbalanced the Hun's defenses, leaving weak spots which flak officers capitalized on. Further unbalancing resulted during the first part of the war from the policy of concentrating guns along the most likely avenues of approach to the target. Since flak officers directed bombers away from such well guarded approaches and took advantage of an approach which was weakened by this policy of concentration, the Germans discontinued that system. The number of guns to be used in a particular defense depended on the priority of the target area, the number of guns available, and the number needed to provide an all-round defense without gaps. Around strongly defended cities generally there was a double ring of heavy flak guns the outer ring attempted to break up bomber formations before they reached the vital area and the inner ring engaged the bombers prior to and during the bomb run. Cologne and Munich are two examples of the double ring defense. In the strategic area heavy flak guns were primarily concerned with the protection of cities and heavy industries.

to ring defenses at specific points throughout the strategic area. During periods when the front lines moved rapidly, as in the race across France, what heavy guns could be saved fell back to a defensible line and were deployed in a dual role for protection of forward Army installations. Such a line was that of Chalons-Reims-Laon-Amiens during August IQ44. The basic heavy flak unit was the four-or sixgun battery complete with fire control equipment. The four-gun battery was emplaced in the shape of a square about 50 yards on a side. Fire control equipment was situated in the center of the square prior to the addition of radar for fire direction; after that the Wurzburg and Kommandogerat were moved to a position approximately 150 yards from the guns to protect the delicate radio from the concussion of the guns when firing. A typical six-gun battery layout is shown on the following page.

Light Guns in Great Numbers

The manner in which light flak was deployed depended upon the objective to be defended. In defending an airfield or similar point objective, an all-round defense was the aim. This paralleled the policy for siting heavy guns. The Germans formed defense for a bridge by placing an arc of guns at each end. If a length of road was defended, guns were emplaced on either side and parallel to it. Light guns in the tactical zone formed strong and extensive flak areas, not only during periods when the battle lines were relatively static, but also, because of the easy mobility of such weapons, when the main line of resistance moved rapidly forward as in the Ardennes offensive. The basic light flak unit consisted of three guns emplaced to form an equilat eral triangle whose sides were 25 to 50 yards long.

Tactical Flak
In the tactical area heavy guns defended also communication centers, marshalling yards, bridges, large troop areas, and major supply points. When the main line of resistance became static, as it did along the Roer River in the fall of 1944, heavy gun defenses were built up in depth and breadth. In effect this tended to large area coverage, as opposed


The typical six-gun heavy battery deployment w a s hexagonal in shape with the command post in the center and the fire control equipment usually 150 yards away. Sketch "A" shows such a layout: (1) Gun position (2) Command post (3) Kommandogerat (Director) (4) Small Wurzburg (Radar) (5) Light flak gun on tower



Nerve center of the lay-out was the command post, from which the commander controlled the fire of his battery. If Malsi or Zug converters were employed, these were at the command post also. Sketch " B " shows a close-up of the fire control equipment which supplied firing data for the heavy guns. Under visual conditions the Kommandogerat could procure all the information it needed for making a prediction, but under non-visual conditions the small Wurzburg had to supply the director with initial data. Sketch " C " illustrates the relationship of the central command post and gun sections. Note the excess roominess of the emplacements and the reserve ammunition shelter near the gun pit.




The grossbatterien, developed during the war and commonly employed by the Germans in major defenses, consisted of two or more batteries situated close together and controlled by a single command post. Several advantages stem from such a set-up. For one, a large amount of fire power could be amassed against a single target. Flexible employment of this fire power was made possible by the use of two sets of fire control equipment. Fire could be switched from one target to another very quickly or the fire power could be so divided that two tar gets could be engaged simultaneously, though this latter practice was unusual. Economies of fire control equipment and per sonnel were effected, since the grossbatterien set-up

obviated the need for some of the fire control equip ment and personnel operating it. Moreover, the problem of fire direction was simplified, for the siting of several batteries close together facilitated their control as a single fire unit. Despite the considerable theoretical advan tages, results from the use of grossbatterien were rather disappointing. There were too many guns for the fire control equipment to adequately control, and the huge problems of handling such large layouts with precision were never satisfactorially surmount ed. In addition these large sites were very vulnerable and lucrative targets themselves for air attack. The above photograph shows a typical gross batterie near Munich.


Light Flak

Flak Tower


I 1 I 1 I


Light guns were sited for the pro tection of anything that was subject to fighter-bomber attacks - airfields, bridges, minor communication centers, supply points, troop concentrations, railway trains, truck convoys, and armored ve hicles. More than 40 light flak guns were along the stretch of road pictured above. This photo was taken near the border town of Daleiden, Germany, during the German Ardennes offensive of December 1944 January 1945.


Varying greatly in size from raised platforms which gave one or more light flak guns an allround field of fire to huge flak "fortresses" con taining large gun densities at central points, flak towers were used by the Germans somewhat less than extensively. Most familiar of these were the con crete towers scattered through France, many of which looked like water towers. Sketched here is a Berlin "fortress" 250 feet square and 100 feet high, mounting 4 doublebarrelled heavy guns and 4 quadruple-barrelled light guns. A satellite tower held fire control equipment.



Deception of one sort or another was as much a stock in trade of flak batteries as was their ammu nition, and the Hun became quite proficient in deceptive tactics. from 1,000 feet.

Traps for Fighter-bombers

In the German handbook of tricks there was always a chapter on luring fighter-bombers within easy range of flak guns. Various types of bait were Frequent Changes of Positions used. Accuracy of Allied In Western Germa air reconnaissance com ny a section of highway pelled flak batteries to had foxholes dug every make frequent changes fifty feet, and moving of positions. Movements back and forth along were mostly at night, the road were three and often a two-hour trucks. When fighterfire silence in the new bombers dived in for an positions was enforced attack, the truck drivers for the purpose of "suck dove into the foxholes, ing in" unwary fighterand light flak opened bomber pilots. fire from positions on Dummies both sides of the road. Sometimes the bait In the vacated posi was a locomotive with tions dummy guns were steam up, but unmanned. left, and detection of the Planes which went in dummies was an extreme for an attack received ly difficult and often strong light flak fire. impossible task for photo Another trick was interpreters, because of to drive two trucks down the height from which Sketch of 20mm flak on tower a highway. If they were pictures were taken. attacked, one truck, a Since this German poli cy was well known to flak officers, it was no surprise van type, dropped its sides, exposing light flak guns. when a ground inspection of overrun defenses Very seldom were heavy gun emplacements camouflaged, probably because the expense and revealed a number of dummy positions which had been plotted as "occupied" positions. Though not difficulties involved were not worth the results. elaborate, the dummy guns and fire control equip Frequently light gun emplacements were camouflaged ment contained all the component parts of the for the purpose of surprising low level attackers. simulated materiel and were often realistic even Guns around a flak trap were always concealed.


Flak with the Army

Whereas flak units in the rear areas were usually static or semi-mobile and concerned only with defense against Allied aircraft, flak with the armies, particularly those units well forward, were equipped as highly mobile and powerful striking forces. The versatility of the 88mm and 20mm weapons were exploited offensively and defensively. During the African Campaign 88mm flak guns were used to seek and destroy Allied tanks. Though such offensive action was infrequent during the European campaigns, these weapons always revert ed to anti-tank roles when Allied armies approach ed gun positions before they could be evacuated. Their use, and subsequent sacrifice, in road blocks and strong points were often planned rearguard, delaying actions to allow withdrawal of main German forces from untenable positions. A prime example of this was the enemy's retreat from the Ardennes region in January and February 1945. As major flak defenses were approached by Allied ground forces, a great lessening of fire was noted by flak officers studying pilots' reports of fire received over the defenses. The principal reason for this decrease was not that the guns had been with drawn to positions farther beyond the battle lines, but, rather, that they had been redeployed in a ground role. Army commanders studied such re deployment of flak guns and divined from it the keynote of the Hun's defensive preparations. German Panzer Army spearheads which drove deep into the Ardennes in December 1944 fairly bristled with light flak guns which were to protect the crack armored units from the much feared and respected "Jabos". Close behind the advancing troops came large numbers of heavy flak guns to protect vital crossroads and communication centers. Flak weapons were allotted top priority in tha offensive, even though it was planned to take ad vantage of weather prohibitive to flying. The crisis created by the First Army's capture of Remagen bridge and establishment of a foothold on the east bank of the Rhine was met with a strong holding force of mobile 88mm and 20mm flak guns pulled from active defenses of Cologne and the Ruhr and redeployed in a half circle around the bridge head area. Mobility and high muzzle velocities of flak guns made for flexible adaptability to the many purposes necessarily consigned them by the Germans. How ever, the vacillating policies of the higher command in deploying their AA in air, ground, air-ground, ad infinitum roles so frustrated the flak field com manders that they were among the first Germans to realize the futility of their further resisting the Allied hordes which were striking them mercilessly and unrelentingly from the air and the ground.
Army flak firing as field artillery


To the German Air Force was delegated re sponsibility for defense of the Reich and its military installations against Allied aerial attacks. Tools for this task, in addition to aircraft, were the huge numbers of flak weapons of all kinds. Four-fifths of all flak was controlled by the GAF; 15%, by the Army; and 5%, by the Navy. For purposes of administration the GAF divided Germany and occupied countries into areas known as Luftgaue (similar to American Corps areas). To the headquarters of these Luftgaue was given control of all flak within the areas. Units operating in Luft gaue were generally either static or semi-mobile. command ran down through divisions (or brigades), regiments, battalions, to batteries. In static defenses brigades often took the place of divisions. A parallel set-up for mobile flak was main tained by the GAF, parallel except that the command channels were headed by Corps instead of Luftgaue. The GAF furnished the great majority of flak units required by the Army, retaining administrative control while passing operational control to the Army. In addition the Army had separate flak battalions of its own; from these were often formed battle detachments which operated offensively in a ground role in conjunction with regular ground forces. Flak organizational structure was very flexible, and its composition was governed by exigencies of particular circumstances.

Under Luftgaue headquarters the channel of


More than 1,000,000 persons were involved in German flak defenses, and this total was main tained even during the acute manpower shortage occasioned by the German reverses in the East and the increased scale of air attacks in the West. As flak units were called upon for trained personnel to set up new flak units and for replacements for other branches of the service, Goering scraped the bottom of the manpower barrel and dragged out personnel who normally would not have been called upon for military service. Thus the regular ranks of GAF flak were diluted with Hitler Youth, old men, prisoners of war, Italian nationals, and women. Consequently, in the areas where these people were used accuracy and volume of flak fire suffered.

Military* Civilian Men, Women Used

Most of the flak personnel continued to be military, but 30% were civilians and foreigners, who carried on their normal occupations and were called upon for service during air attacks and for training. Russian prisoners, under inducements of better rations and living conditions, were employed to considerable extent in flak batteries. Five percent of the total flak personnel were women. Generally they were used in headquarters


staffs, searchlight and balloon units, though sometimes they were used to operate fire control equipment for the heavy guns. Women were found to be more

suitable than men for operation of the director, height finder, and radar; women showed keener perception, though men possessed more technical skill.


Normal detachment for the range finderdirector was a crew of six; for radar, six; for a single 88mm gun, seven. Types of training fell into three classes: basic, specialist and practical. Responsibility for basic army training and basic gunnery training belonged to the flak Ers Division. Period of training was from six to eight weeks. Specialist training was carried out at the various schools conducted by the flak school division. Range finders went through a six-week course. Director crews had five weeks of training; radar operators, four to six weeks. Only the non-commissioned officer in charge of an 88mm gun crew went to a specialist school this for three weeks; other members of the gun crew were taught their jobs at the flak Ers Division and on the gun site. Normal detachment for the single barrel 20mm gun was a crew of six. For the 20mm Vierling three more loaders and three more ammunition men were required, making a crew of twelve.


Unrelenting pounding of German arsenals of war and transportation systems by Allied bombers and fighter-bombers so plagued the enemy that his supply problem was a major headache and contri buting cause to his final collapse. Shortages of ammunition, as well as of replace ments for worn - out guns, seriously affected flak fire during the last months of the war. Not only were factories making parts of flak equipment hard hit, but assembly of parts into a finished product was made doubly difficult because of the blasted supply lines. Even when there was sufficient ammunition for all batteries, distribution fell down. Batteries in some sections of Germany had plenty of shells, while others had scarcely enough for firing against a crippled bomber. The supply and distribution situation became so acute that high-level directives were issued severely curtailing flak fire against Allied aircraft. Barrage fire was strictly forbidden. Firing at ranges greater than 20 seconds time of flight was not allowed, nor was fire past the mid-point or after bombs-away allowed. Instructions stated that guns were not to be fired unless there was reasonable expectancy of scoring hits. Unseen targets, forma tions using anti-radar measures, or planes taking effective evasive action probably obviated that requisite "reasonable expectancy" in many in stances and caused battery commanders to withhold fire in compliance with the stern orders. Sole exception to the restrictions were the vital oil industries, which required continued protection at all costs. The Hun was never able to surmount his supply and distribution problems, and that failure afforded many an Allied flyer the unusual and pleasant experience of flying within range of long known strong defenses without drawing a shot.



Fighter-bombers of Ninth Air Force Thunderbolt, Mustang, and Lightning

Because personnel and equipment will always have certain capabilities and limitations, no single person nor military weapon in this war ever proved infallible or invincible. So it was that the threat of the German flak defenses was mastered by the prudent and skillful use of countermeasures. The measures described in the following paragraphs allow a brief insight into the major methods used in this Air Force an air force which met the full fury of German flak and came through a winner.



Poster Number 1

Medium Bombers
In the absence of enemy aircraft, the principal routing problem was to avoid all known or suspected flak defenses. This was usually possible, although at times the bomber range did not allow the use of the best circumferential routing. In the Ninth Bom bardment Division both flak officers and air crews were so flak conscious that routes were sometimes changed to avoid a spot where flak fire had been reported but once previously. Under blind bombing conditions the planners had little latitude because the final 30 mile run could be made on only two different headings at the most, and often on only one, depending on the location of the ground control stations with relation to the target. However, as was pointed out elsewhere, the unseen fire of enemy batteries could in no way compare in accuracy to visual shooting. In routing the ships the chief worry was that visual fire would be encountered through breaks in the cloud, and this actually happened on various occasions. In routing over a visual target, many conflict ing problems were considered and balanced against

each other. The ideal conditions were to have the wind and sun at the tail of the formation and the flak deployed in such a way that on this heading the bombers came in over the weakest sector. How ever, such a combination of conditions was seldom achieved. In the presence of very strong flak defenses other considerations were occasionally made secondary. However, it was very seldom that flak was considered of sufficient import to send the planes in on a heading where bombing accuracy would have been very low due to sun glare or poor visi bility. In most cases a compromise was arranged.

On armed reconnaissance missions fighterbomber pilots were briefed on the major flak zones in their area, but in general they depended on aircraft maneuverability and knowledge of enemy flak deployment tactics to keep themselves out of trouble. Light flak was so mobile in the close up tactical area that it was not possible to brief fighters with the same degree of accuracy as the bombers. Our experienced fighter pilots soon got to know

Wing shot off, B-26 goes down in flames over Pas de Calais, France

where flak was and where it could be expected, and the low damage and loss figures proved they used this knowledge to good advantage. On more specific target missions fighter-bombers of course took advantage of altitude and careful routing to reach their targets undamaged.

Troop Carrier
In operation of troop carrier transports and gliders, flak was always one of the most important considerations. As a result of the altitude of forma tions (5001500 feet) and the speed flown (110

140 mph), troop carriers were very vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire of all categories. It was usually not possible to take the formations over absolutely flak free routes, because this required a zig-zag course of detours around individual gun positions which was impossible for the unwieldy transport and glider teams. In addition, the tactical mission of troop carrier command required the element of surprise, and formations had to go in on as short and as direct a route as possible. Therefore the best route as regarded flak was always a compromise with other important factors of navigation, nature of the mission, and length of route over enemy territory.

Flak casualty over Munstereifel



Poster Number 2





/ /




Poster Number 3


Medium Bombers
In the early days of the war evasive action was usually left up to the individual fancy of the forma tion leader. As studies were made and tactics devel oped, it was found that very carefully planned evasive action would invariably lead to lower loss and damage and therefore better bombing. It is now known that change of altitude has very little effect on evasive action unless it is vio lently made, and unless it is incorporated with evasive action in course. On the approach to the target this Air Force used altitude changes on but few occasions. Planned evasive action was usually begun 40 seconds or more before coming within range of the heavy flak. S turns were attempted and later aban doned, because it was found that planes were often hit by predicted bursts when coming back over the original straight course line. Instead of these, a definite but irregular series of turns was used, the minimum rate being about 2/sec. The straight portion between turns became progressively smaller as the target was approached, varying from 20 seconds down to 5 seconds. Because of operational requirements the turns themselves usually were between 150 and 45 0 . This action continued until the start of the bomb run. It was also found that the last turn into the bomb run should be as large and sharp as possible. When an 18-ship box arrived at the IP, the inside flight made the turn first. The lead flight and outside flight continued on the same course for 10 seconds, at which time the lead flight made the same turn. The outside flight continued on for 10 seconds and then it also made the same turn. From

there until the start of the bomb run, these flights flew parallel courses and executed the same evasive maneuvers. The bomb runs were therefore con vergent, provided the three flights had the same aiming point, thus also employing saturation tactics against the flak gunners. As the ships were most vulnerable while on the bomb run, shorter runs were attempted, but assess ment of bombing damage proved that proper synchronization could not be made, and a run of 45 to 60 seconds was highly advisable. A sharp turn away and loss of as much as 1,000 feet altitude after bombs away has long been a standard procedure. The evasive turns were then begun again until the ships were out of range of the defenses.

Ninth Air Force fighters have developed some novel and also extremely successful evasive tactics. In a low level strafing attack, for instance, the first principle is surprise. This is mainly accomplished by staying low and making use of terrain features. After passing over the target the pilots were taught to stay low and head out of the area, as climbing would expose a large surface to enemy gunners. Another ruse was to split up into elements of two or three planes each, which came in on different headings from 300 to 1200 apart. This tactic con fused and tended to saturate the defense in a similar manner to bomber practices, as the gunners could only fire at a small percentage of the attacking planes. Another bit of deception used was to send one flight over the target area just out of light flak range. This flight simulated a dive-bombing attack and drew fire, and while the flak gunners were thus


engaged the other flights sneaked in on the deck in a surprise sweep. Very little other planned evasive action was necessary, as the maneuverable fighters could per form what aerial acrobatics were necessary as the occasion arose.

Troop Carrier
Evasive action by troop carriers was often difficult or impossible. While tugging gliders and carrying paratroopers tug planes could not "jink" all over the sky, as the very nature of the equipment did not permit it. The landing and drop zones were small areas which required very precise navigation to find. When coming in for para or glider drops the run resembled a bombing run, and evasive action

at this critical stage was inconceivable. After the transports released their loads, more evasive action was possible. Going into a slight dive, thus gaining speed to leave the area quickly, was found to be one good expedient, as loss or gain of altitude often confused flak gunners. Steep banks were not advised as these exposed a large surface of the plane. Profitable use was made of cloud cover, as well as defilade caused by hills or trees. However, the maximum use of low altitude flight increased the hazard of small arms fire. In view of vulnerabil ity under all conditions, troop carrier missions which did not sustain some damage or loss were rare, yet the complete success of such missions flown over the battle grounds of Europe at extremely low loss is a tribute to the pilots and to flak intelligence.

A medium over Armentieres, France




Number 5


Air power is not as powerless to hit back against flak as was originally supposed. Various methods of neutralizing flak from the air have been developed and used in this Air Force with excellent results.

were used in the last months of the war, and showed great promise. Peeling off

Medium Bombers
The mediums employed high explosive and fragmentation bombs with good success against heavy flak batteries. Clusters of three 260 lb. frag bombs or six 90 lb. bombs were used. The former cluster parted upon release, whereas the latter had either an instantaneous or a delayed release mecha nism. Usually a box of twelve ships went out slightly ahead of the main bombing formations and did this work. Of course, direct hits put the flak out of business completely, but near misses often discouraged the flak personnel or ruined the delicate directors. Crew experience proved that this antiflak measure worked well, provided that timing was correct, since fire received was often far below the unhindered capabilities of the defenses.

Concerning fighter operations, the standard procedure was to assign several fighters the task of strafing the emplacements around a target, while the remainder went about the business of strafing or bombing the target itself. Here again it was found that the average flak gunner took cover first and worried about his job later, so this system became standard on all well-defended targets such as air fields or ordnance depots. The fighters also carried 90 lb. frag bombs under the wings, and these were used against flak positions in a manner similar to bomber tactics. Proximity fused anti-personnel bombs



fighter Bombers i
bombers to i.R

lighter 3ombers

TAR0T5 v. A A. Batteries

Left mamjbrmation on signal, ID dii>e bomb and strafe

flak guns around

Hie target


Medium Members began run asjirst

of the Fighter JSomhers attack the flak positions



lwbot3cnnb launch/'thj itlLltb


Calais Combined Operation

On the gth of May 1944 the first combined air operation in this theatre simultaneously employ ing medium and fighter-bombers at the same target was successfully accomplished. The general plan was to achieve the best possible medium bombing accuracy against a target strongly defended by heavy flak. Obviously the major problem was to achieve such timing that the short bombing periods of the fighter bombers would occur during the critical period just before and during the mediums' bomb ing run on the two main targets, Calais and Sangatte. In the actual attack the entire medium and fighter-bomber force rendezvoused at North Foreland, proceeded generally to a landfall five miles west of Dunkirk, thence to the B-26 initial point east of Calais where the mediums started their bombing run. To obtain the timing necessary, the medium bombers gave a radio signal on landfall indicating they would bomb six minutes later, and again a signal at the IP meaning they would bomb one minute and forty seconds later. Excellent timing resulted. The attack proceeded according to plan, the
medium bombers starting their bomb runs just as
the first of the flak positions were being dive-bombed.
Immediately on the dive-bombing of flak positions the flak over the entire area went from "intense accurate" to "nil". Medium bombing results were generally excellent; there were no losses and flak damage was received by only a few aircraft from a flak battery which was attacked slightly behind schedule. This reaction was quite different from a previous attack when 3.5% of the mediums were lost and 57% damaged against the same target - similarly protected. Bomber and fighter crews were all very enthusiastic, viz: Bombers. "As our group approached target on the bombing run moderate to intense flak was seen coming from the Calais defenses apparently directed at the bomb group ahead. At that moment the P-47S dive-bombed and the flak appeared to stop in the entire area." Fighter-bombers. "It is my opinion that this is a very effective type of attack. The coordina tion with the bombers was perfect. The flak was firing at the fighter-bombers when they attacked the gun positions. We smothered practically all ground opposition. There was no flak to interfere with bomb run of medium bombers. Results, so far as attack by fighter-bombers and medium bombers, declared excellent."

Mediums cross the enemy coast




Shortly after the beachhead was established in Normandy, Allied ground artillery fire was directed against certain dense flak areas in the immediate battle line in attempts to neutralize some of the German AA positions. These early artillery missions proved so beneficial to our air effort that, in the late fall when the flak situation was again stabilized as at Caen and Brest, counterflak artillery missions were again employed and definite operating procedures between air units and the ground artillery were established. During these operations every caliber of gun and howitzer from 90mm to 240mm was used to blast the enemy flak positions while our medium

and fighter-bombers were in the area. In many cases our artillery could not reach all of the flak batteries within range of the air targets, but even partial neutralization often allowed the lay-on of a mission which would otherwise have been beyond the capabilities of our aircraft flying at very low and medium altitude against tremendous flak densities. The extract from a First Army operations memo below is an example of SOP which all Allied armies possessed to lay on these air-ground missions. The flak intelligence section in each differed slightly due to differences in photo interpretation sources.


APO 230


18 December 1944

I Counlcrflak Fires.
1. Responsibility a Counterflak artillery support can be made available for the majority of air missions flown in sup port of First Army. Consistent with the availability of ammunition, all echelons are charged with furmsh inq maximum protection to air support activities within their sectors. . . b. Responsibility for arrangement of counterflak fires rests with the echelon (Army, Corps, or Division)


obtatningmd transmitting to corps certain information data required (targets,

routes, altitude and estimated time over target) rests with G-3 Air section at IXTAC. d. Unit G-3 Air officers should coordinate plans with the appropriate artillery commander prior to submitting requests through the air support officers to the IX TAC.


2. Flak Intelligence In order that accurate data on enemy flak posilions will be available the following procedure has been inaugurated. a. The Army Photo Interpretation Section (APIS) will publish weekly hostile flak lists based on second phase interpretation of latest basic cover. Distribution will include divisions. b. Between publication of hostile flak lists, as new photo coverage becomes available, APIS, through the Army Artillery Section (Army Artillery Officers' Radio Net, telephone, or messenger), will disseminate changes in enemy flak positions to the corps artillery, for further dissemination to the division artillery. c. For large scale "carpet" bombing by heavy and medium bombers APIS will provide special coun terflak maps and lists of coordinates. 3. Type of Counterflak Fires Based on the present availability of ammunition, it is contemplated that counterflak fires should take the following form : a. Fighter-bomber support of divisions and corps : Neutralization of all enemy flak on and in the immediate vicinity of selected bomber targets just prior to and during attack. b. Medium bomber support of divisions and corps : Neutralization of target area as above, plus neutralization of heavy and medium flak along bomber routes when such are previously known. c. Large scale heavy and medium bomber "carpel" bombing : Neutralization and maximum destruc tion of all known and suspected enemy flak positions capable of interfering with the effort. Fires to be characterized by 10Jo minutes of intense concentrations preceding the attack and neutralization through out the attack. d. Field Artillery Air OP patrols should be maintained in connection with all counterflak fires in order to neutralize active flak unaffected by the planned fires. By command of Lieutenant General HODGES : W. B. KEAN, Major General, G. S. C, Chief of Staff. OFFICIAL : Is I S. E. Senior /// S. E. SENIOR Colonel, A. G. D.
Asst. Adjutant General.


"Black Widow" night fighter

Medium Bombers
As the Luftwaffe became neutralized, bomber formations were gradually altered to more success fully counter the potent flak hazard. Aircraft spacing in any formation has been the subject of many discussions and studies. If the ships fly too closely together, one shell burst may damage more than one plane, or a shot aimed at one may miss but still hit another. The latter is called single shot probability. If, however, the ships are spaced too widely apart, the battery will be able to get in more shots at a given number of planes because they will take longer to cross over the effective area of fire. On the other hand bombing accuracy requires a

tight pattern which cannot be achieved in our type bombing if the ships are in a widely scattered for mation. An optimum solution had, therefore, to be determined. On the following page the top picture shows the lead and low flights of a normal 18-ship box enroute to a target. The bottom picture shows a flight of six. Distance between planes of each flight was sufficient to provide protection against one flak burst hitting more than one ship. However, since this spacing did not achieve a tight bomb pattern, the two Vees of three contracted in breadth and trail while on the bomb run. Thus a satisfactory pattern was attained.

Hit the silk!

Aledium bombers

in flight

Spacing between the three flights of a box was also a problem. Each 5,000 feet of altitude above 10,000 feet diminishes by about one-half the proba bility that an aircraft will be hit. Hence as flights are stacked down from maximum altitude to reduce the single shot probability, this probability increases at a high rate. A limited amount of stacking was therefore advisable, and 500 feet between flights was agreed upon. Some reduction in flak loss and damage was accomplished by saturating the defenses. This was done by moving the attacking forces across the target area in the shortest possible time. Under simultan eous attack by different formations the flak batter ies were forced to choose one as a target, thus allowing the others to fly almost flak-free. Saturation of continuously pointed or predicted concentration flak fire was accomplished by closing up in trail so as to reduce the time between attacks of successive bombing formations. Our boxes were usually 2 miles apart (40 seconds). When encountering bar rage fire, risk to aircraft was reduced by increasing the formation spread in altitude and breadth.

vicinity of the target while waiting to bomb, the pilots were carefully briefed on all heavy flak posi tions within range. The general looseness of fighter and fighter-bomber operations did not make elabo rate planning of formations for flak feasible or necessary.

Troop Carrier
The usual formation for glider operations was a long column of 48 aircraft and 48 gliders. The planes flew in pairs echelonned to the right. Serials of 48 ships were seven minutes apart. Parachute trans ports flew in nine ship Vee of Vees in serials up to 45 aircraft in trail, with 4 minutes between lead aircraft of serials. These formations were primarily designed to achieve sufficient maneuverability of the column and at the same time deposit the highest possible concentration of paratroopers and gliders on the ground in the target area. Although not designed primarily to counter the hazards of flak these formations proved suffi ciently flexible to allow the troop carrier sky trains to follow the planned flak-free routes.
Fighter-bombers enroute

In fighter operations it was also found that the use of small numbers of aircraft worked out best. Except for an occasional low angle engagement by heavy guns, fighter aircraft were for the most part concerned with light flak weapons which, with their high rate of fire, could do serious damage to any large group of planes within range. Therefore the fighters frequently operated in pairs or trios. One squadron of fully-bombed fighter-bombers was the largest unit used. Here too the larger forma tions drew more fire and also caught grossly inac curate shots, as well as near misses aimed at aircraft in the same group. If top cover was employed on those operations, or if planes had to stay in the




Poster Number






Radio countermeasures have played an impor tant part in neutralization of enemy flak. Under "unseen" fire conditions the enemy was completely dependent on his radar for direction of his AA guns, and with effective use of RCM he was forced to resort to the inefficient barrage method of fire. When "seen" conditions prevailed the usual method was to use radar for range finding, but optical sighting for elevation and azimuth. Here again with RCM in use the enemy's radar was denied him, and he had to use optical range finders alone instruments which required high type personnel for exact functioning and which decreased the length of effective engagement due to their limitations. This Air Force used three "window" ships per medium bomber group. One ship flew in each of the flights of the lead box until the time approached for their dropping operation. Then they went out one mile ahead and 1,000 feet below the lead ship. The position of these "window" ships varied slightly

depending on the wind direction with relation to the direction of attack. The usual procedure was for the "window" ships to leave the formation at the IP. They each dropped twelve bundles of "window" every six seconds, while all other ships in the group dropped six bundles every thirty seconds. "Window" can well be credited with saving many a ship, as well as allowing much better bombing through great reduction of the flak hazard. The Ninth Air Force has been credited by POW state ments as employing "window" more successfully than any other air force operating in this theater. The jamming, or "carpet", technique used by the Eighth Air Force was experimented with in this Air Force, but it was found that our smaller bombers could not carry the necessary equipment to make it effective, nor did our A-26 aircraft, to which our entire Bomber Division was slowly converting, have the air crew necessary to operate the "jammer".

Clouds and "window" protect our mediums

Flak was everywhere





, Campaiqn


Shonq pi fio Robomb

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