Chapter 15: CROSSBOW – Second Phase
FOR six days after the launching of OVERLORD, the CROSSBOW areas in the Pas-de-Calais and on the tip of the Cherbourg peninsula had remained silent. The great network of ski sites lay in ruins and the seven large sites were visibly shattered. Though the Allies had confirmed by the end of April earlier reports that the Germans were preparing in large numbers new, small, and superbly camouflaged modified sites for launching pilotless aircraft, these lately discovered installations had raised a minimum of concern in most Allied quarters.1 The tense days of anxiety and alarm over the V-weapon threat to the safety of England and the execution of OVERLORD appeared to be over.* Allied airpower – earlier and reluctantly diverted to neutralizing the V-weapon danger – now gave massive support to ground operations and, on a limited scale, bombed strategic targets in Germany.
The continued silence of the rocket and flying-bomb sites confirmed the judgment of those who had from the beginning regarded the threat as only a gigantic hoax, a last-minute and desperate effort to bewilder and dissuade the Allies from launching the cross-Channel invasion. If V-weapons had ever been a genuine threat, the threat was now surely over, or so minimized as to be only negligible. So ran the thought of most Allied authorities during the first week of post D-day operations.2 On 11 June, for instance, the British Air Ministry noted, and filed without action, a report that a trainload of V-1’s had passed through Belgium two days earlier, and treated similarly a signal (dated 11 June) indicating that aerial reconnaissance had revealed intense activity at six modified sites.3 And on 12 June, reporting on the day’s
* See above, Chapter 4.
events, USSTAF informed AAF Headquarters in Washington that there was “no change” in the CROSSBOW situation.4
But that night – the night of 12/13 June – the silence of the Pas-de-Calais was interrupted. Catapulted from the steel rails of a modified site launching ramp hidden near a farmhouse on the French coast, the first V-1 fired in combat broke from its steam-propelled carriage and began its noisy, fiery journey to London. Eleven V-1’s were fired that night, though only four struck the British capital.5 For another four days the German batteries remained inoperative. And then, on the night of 15/16 June, there began an entirely new phase of the war in Europe, one that opened a new epoch in the technique of warfare the “Battle of the Flying Bomb.” In a little more than twenty-four hours the Germans fired approximately 300 V-1’s against England.6 Of this number, 144 crossed England’s Channel coast. Seventy-three missiles struck London, and with their remarkably effective shallow blast explosions caused alarming property damage and fairly severe civilian casualties.7 The V-1 was clearly not a hoax. It had with startling suddenness,8 and at a most inopportune moment become a dismaying actuality – worse yet, a potential threat of the first magnitude.
Beginning of Second-Phase Operations
On the morning of 13 June the British War Cabinet met to discuss the new situation. Simultaneously, in Washington, there was an immediate expression of the necessity of “full cooperation” between British and American agencies in the ETO and elsewhere, in order that the sometimes conflicting, sometimes disjointed efforts characteristic of the first phase of Allied CROSSBOW countermeasure operations could be altogether avoided.9
Since the ski and large sites were considered almost certainly inoperative, the best method of attack seemed to be air strikes against supply sites and possibly against the modified sites, “apparently” the source of the V-1’s fired against England. The War Cabinet therefore proposed – with understandable caution – that it would be “desirable to recommend to the Supreme Allied Commander” an immediate heavy attack on V-weapon supply sites in the Pas-de-Calais and that all launching sites believed to be operable should be attacked “whenever effort ... can be spared without prejudicing in any way the urgent needs of the Battle of France.”10 Apparently, however, little air effort could be spared from the critical opcrations on the Normandy beachhead and elsewhere, for only one strike
– thirty-six sorties and 101.2 tons by the Eighth Air Force against a supply site – was made during the next several days.11
The firing of nearly 300 V-1’s against England on 15/16 June made any further postponement impossible. Early in the morning of the 16th, as V-1’s continued to strike London, the Prime Minister assembled his entire War Cabinet, together with Air Chief Marshal Tedder, Field Marshal Brooke, chief of the British Imperial Staff, and others who were to have a voice in one of the war’s fateful decisions. Though little was known about the number and capabilities of the modified sites, it was agreed that London would have to withstand whatever was in store for it – the Battle of France was to rernain the primary concern of the Allies. Nevertheless, General Eisenhower would be asked to take all possible measures to neutralize the supply and launching sites, and long-standing plans for deployment of balloons, fighter aircraft, and radar-controlled antiaircraft against the flying bombs would be put into effect at once by the Air Defence of Great Britain.12
General Eisenhower’s response was swift. On his orders, a comprehensive plan was drafted for the bombing of V-weapon sites by units of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces and by the RAF Bomber Command.13 An informal order, first given on 16 June, was reaffirmed through a memo for Tedder, dated 16 June, in the following explicit terms:–
In order that my desires, expressed verbally at the meeting this morning, may be perfectly clear and of record, with respect to CROSSBOW targets, these targets are to take first priority over everything except the urgent requirements of the battle; this priority to obtain until we can be certain that we have definitely gotten the upper hand of this particular business.14
The Eighth Air Force could not for several days be reorganized to undertake large-scale CROSSBOW bombings, though on the 16th it dispatched four very small missions against targets in the Pas-de-Calais.15 The RAF Bomber Command, which had been lending less support, proportionately, to the Battle of France, went into immediate action on a more significant scale against the new threat. On the night of 16/17 June the British flew 315 sorties and dropped 1,423.3 tons on a variety of targets, principally large and supply sites.16 By the end of the month the RAF Bomber Command had dispatched 4,057 effective CROSSBOW sorties for a total of 15,907.2 tons, and though bombing conditions were unfavorable during the period there was only one day (the 26th) when the British failed to sustain their effort
to reduce the V-1 firings.17 On 19 June the Eighth Air Force began a concerted offensive against V-weapon sites. Though the unfavorable weather was an even greater handicap to the Eighth than to the RAF, the former in eight days of operations flew 2,149 heavy bomber sorties for a tonnage of 5,524.18 The Ninth Air Force, which did nor resume CROSSBOW operations until the week beginning 23 June,19 had considerably more success in achieving significant damage than did the Eighth or the British Bomber Command. With 1,500 medium bomber sorties and a tonnage of 2,000, the Ninth was credited with achieving Category A damage to six, perhaps nine, ski and modified sites.20
Considering the varied demands upon Allied air power – both strategic and tactical – during the critical weeks after D-day, the dispatch of 8,310 bomber sorties and an expenditure of 23,431.2 tons of bombs in CROSSBOW operations during the second half of June indicated that the Germans had again created for the Allies a diversionary problem of the first magnitude. The significance of the renewed diversion was particularly evident in operations of the RAF Bomber Command which had, in the two-week period, expended 29 per cent of its total bomber sorties and 28 per cent of its tonnage for the month against CROSSBOW targets.21 Moreover (and aside from the effect of V-1’s on life, property, and civilian morale), CROSSBOW air operations were having little apparent effect in diminishing the V-1 bombardment. Once they had begun their major offensive (on 15/16 June), the Germans continued to launch an average of 100 missiles per day against England.22 Very obviously, the CROSSBOW problem in its second phase called for a more satisfactory solution – if possible – than had been provided by Allied operations prior to D-day.
By the end of June there was serious, sometimes intense, debate among Allied authorities – particularly among the air commanders – on (1) the place CROSSBOW should occupy in the entire pattern of Allied air operations and (2) the most efficient means of applying the air power withdrawn from other critical operations. There were, to be sure, only a very few air commanders, British or American, who did not recognize the serious nature of the V-1 offensive against England. But conversely there were almost none who felt assured that the increasingly massive and patently ineffective bombing operations against CROSSBOW targets in France were either permissible or possible in the light of the over-all war situation.
Concerning the first issue at debate, the Allied air commanders directly responsible for conducting bombing operations were disturbed by CROSSBOW’S priority over everything except the battle in France.23 In effect, this priority jeopardized the grand strategic design of completing the CBO. And tactically, CROSSBOW now took precedence over such tasks as the bombing of French railroad bridges and marshalling yards, fuel and oil dumps, airfields, and electrical and radar installations not in the immediate area of the Normandy beachhead.24 On the second issue, there was intense and openly voiced dissatisfaction over the selection of CROSSBOW targets and the ensuing instructions for carrying out bombing assignments.
For the operations of 16/17 June (the first concerted response to the V-1 offensive) the Air Ministry* had established the priority of four supply sites, eleven ski sites, and twelve modified sites.25 Within a few days several large sites were given first priority, followed by supply, ski, and modified sites.26 Since it was reasonably certain that no V-1’s were being fired from ski sites, that the large sites were to be used – if ever – for some other purpose, and that the modified sites (rapidly increasing in numbers) were exceptionally poor targets,27 the Air Ministry’s target schedules were vigorously protested by the two principal bombing commanders, Air Chief Marshal Harris of RAF Bomber Command and General Doolittle of the Eighth Air Force.28 After the British had attacked supply sites on 16 and 17 June, Harris indicated that he was “unwilling” to send his forces on similar missions until photographic reconnaissance showed evidence of significant results.29 Harris’ view, shared by Doolittle, was firmly supported by
* Until very late in the campaign the allotment of all CROSSBOW targets and the preparation of bombing directives were in the hands of the Air Ministry – a situation that almost continually distressed the air commanders. The Air Ministry had been made responsible for CROSSBOW intelligence and countermeasures in October 1943 (COS  278th Mtg.); after that time and until June 1944, CROSSBOW was – except for a very brief period – the responsibility of the director of operations (SO). On 19 June, Churchill established the War Cabinet CROSSBOW Sub-Committee, which was instructed to meet daily, with the Prime Minister in the chair – something no other “special” War Cabinet committee (including the Night Air Defence Committee and the “Battle of the Atlantic” Committee) had been requested to do. Other notable members of the committee established 19 June were several of the principal War Cabinet secretaries, the three British chiefs of staff, and the DSAC (Tedder).On 20 June, Churchill decided to withdraw from the CROSSBOW Committee and to transfer to it “representation,” rather than direct participation, by the dignitaries mentioned above. Direct control of all CROSSBOW intelligence and countermeasures was in the hands of this lesser committee (which worked through the Air Ministry) until 28 Oct. 1944, when a portion of its control was transferred to SHAEF Continental.
Brig. Gen. Frederic H. Smith, Jr., deputy senior air staff officer, AEAF, who informed Air Chief Marshal Portal that “subject to ... approval” he intended to apply the bomber forces against oil dumps and bridge targets in France rather than to repeated CROSSBOW attacks unjustified by prior photographic reconnaissance.30
While Smith waited for approval to ignore, at least in detail, the Air Ministry’s bombing directives, two other proposals were offered. The prevailing weather over the target area in mid-June forced the Eighth’s B-24’s to resort to radar bombing at a time when the average accuracy achieved by that method was estimated to be within approximately 500 yards of the aiming point. Since this promised very ineffective results against the small CROSSBOW targets, it was proposed that all but a few harassing attacks be withheld until improved weather permitted a single, devastating attack on the entire CROSSBOW network.31
It was also suggested that, in lieu of attack on the sites, a massive “reprisal” raid be immediately flown against Berlin by 1,200 heavy bombers from the Eighth and 800 from the RAF Bomber Command.32 Air Marshal Coningham, commanding the Second TAF, meanwhile was seeking permission to withdraw his forces from CROSSBOW activities in order to concentrate entirely on support of the land battle.33
Air Chief Marshal Tedder appeared to be in favor of the proposal for a mass raid against Berlin, particularly as it would invalidate the fantastic propaganda accounts of the Goebbels ministry on the “absolute success” of the so-called “vengeance” weapons,34 and would thereby be an indirect CROSSBOW attack.35 But because of increasing pressure from the British government, which was deeply concerned over public reaction to the continued V-1 bombardment and was already considering large-scale evacuation of the London populace,36 Tedder did not regard the Berlin raid as a substitute for continued strikes against the CROSSBOW network proper. In fact, he instructed the bombing commanders to increase rather than diminish the frequency of their attacks against the sites in France.37 In the end, the Eighth Air Force on 21 June staged a massive attack on industrial targets in Berlin,* and RAF Bomber Command that night struck CROSSBOW targets in France.38
During these early debates, General Spaatz, representing the American view at its highest air force level in the theater, offered a variety of proposals. As always, General Spaatz took the strategist’s view,
* See above, pp. 284-85.
even in matters of immediate moment. Certain that the large sites could withstand any conventional bombing methods, including the 12,000-pound Tallboy bombs the British had begun employing in CROSSBOW attacks on 19 June,39 Spaatz suggested, first, the bombing of the Pas-de-Calais electrical system, without which he was certain neither the large nor the supply sites could function, and second, the development of an entirely new bombing technique for attacks against the large sites and other targets of a similar magnitude.40 On 20 June, Spaatz urged Arnold to direct General Gardner of the AAF Proving Ground in Florida to begin experiments with radar-controlled war-weary heavy bombers which, with excess loads of explosives, could be expended as single “missiles” against otherwise impregnable targets.41 Concurrently, Spaatz initiated in the theater a far-reaching experiment – variously coded APHRODITE, RATTY, CASTOR, ORPHAN, and WEARY-WILLIE – for developing and using every promising form of radar-controlled conventional bomber aircraft as a “guided missile.42 At the end of June, Spaatz offered two other proposals for reducing the rate of V-1 firing without expending massive bomber forces in futile attacks against modified sites and in the even more wasteful operations that were still under way late in the month against the inactive ski sites.43 By this time a considerable amount of information had been collected on the V-1 and on the ground organization that fired it. Spaatz therefore suggested attacks on German factories making the gyro compasses that guided V-1’s in flight; also attacks, in France, against recently discovered V-1 storage depots that were large enough to provide satisfactory bombing targets.44
All of Spaatz’s concrete proposals were, in some measure, incorporated into the bombing program.45 But his most searching contribution to the general debate was – though ineffective – a remarkably strong letter, personally delivered to General Eisenhower on 29 June, in which Spaatz laid down a set of principles that should, he felt, place the problem in its proper perspective.46
He reminded General Eisenhower that the primary – and successfully accomplished – task of the strategic air forces in preparation for
*Though the experimental phases of APHRODITE were not completed in time for the new technique to be employed with success against the large sites, remotely controlled B-17’s loaded with 20,000 pounds of TNT or a similar amount of jellied gasoline (napalm) were dispatched against Mimoyecques, Siracourt, Watten, and Wizernes on 4 August and against Watten on 6 August. Thereafter the APHRODITE project was consolidated and developed for other purposes.
OVERLORD had been the weakening of the German Air Force to the point where it could not hinder the Allied invasion. The present primary task of the strategic air forces, he went on, was denial to the German ground armies of the means with which to continue effective resistance and continued neutralization of the GAF. To achieve this dual task a new policy decision was required. Bombing operations over Germany (weather permitting) should have “overriding priority” with two exceptions: a major emergency involving Allied ground forces and attacks against the large sites. Attacks against V-1 launching sites, Spaatz declared, could not be sufficiently decisive to justify diversion of the strategic air forces from their primary task. He asked, therefore, that the policy decision he suggested “be made immediately.”
Eisenhower made the decision immediately; but not in accordance with Spaatz’s proposals. On the 29th of June (the day he received Spaatz’s letter) the supreme commander ordered that bombing of V-weapon launching sites should “continue to receive top priority.”47
The Critical Period
The two most critical months of the CROSSBOW campaign were July and August 1944. During this period the V-1 offensive against England reached its climax and – with the withdrawal of the German firing organizations from ground launching sites in France – greatly diminished in significance; the Allies expended their most massive air effort against the V-weapon sites in France and undertook for the first time a concerted strategic bombardment of V-weapon industrial plants in Germany proper, while at the same time the debate on CROSSBOW policy entered its most intense stages; and the imminence of attack by V-2’s was for the first time definitely established.
Eisenhower’s decision to continue “top priority” bombing of the V-1 launching sites appeared, at least immediately, to be justified, for beginning at dusk on 2 July the Germans, in a 24-hour period, succeeded in firing 161 missiles that approached the English coast or passed overland to fall on the London area.48 In the seven-day period ending on 8 July, 820 V-1’s were plotted approaching England.49 The Allied response to this marked increase in the rate of firings was threefold. The deputy supreme commander instructed the Air Ministry to request an increase in bombing operations against the sites in France,
particularly against the modified sites. The British War Cabinet went into prolonged consultations on the wisdom of undertaking large-scale reprisal measures to counteract, if not diminish, the increased tempo of the V-1 offensive against England.50 And the air strategists, certain that an even greater V-1 offensive could have “no bearing on the outcome of the war unless we are foolish enough to divert too much of our effort to its neutralization,”51 renewed their efforts to meet the CROSSBOW threat by redirecting Allied bombing countermeasures and by devising new lines of strategic operations against the true sources of the weapons-manufacturing plants in Germany.
Though the Eighth Air Force was called upon to increase its bombing operations against CROSSBOW sites in France, the brunt of the new offensive was borne by the RAF Bomber Command. During all but two days in July the Bomber Command attacked sites in the Pas-de-Calais. On 102 missions it dispatched 5,832 effective heavy bomber sorties for a total tonnage of 24,292.2, representing 30.7 per cent of the bomber sorties and 42 per cent of the tonnage expended during the month in all Bomber Command operations.52 Operating continuously against V-weapon sites for the first thirteen days of August and flying CROSSBOW missions on eleven days during the second half of the month, the Bomber Command expended 5,745 effective heavy bomber sorties and 25,328.8 tons – 27.7 per cent of its total sorties and 30.8 per cent of its tonnage for the month.53 Thus, in fifty-three days’ operations during July and August the Bomber Command expended the impressive totals of 11,577 effective heavy bomber sorties and 49,616 tons in CROSSBOW operations. To this effort the Eighth added 4,266 heavy bomber sorties for a tonnage of 10,891.6, the tactical forces (otherwise engaged in supporting the land battle) 400 sorties and 400 tons, and the Fifteenth Air Force, called upon for the first time in the CROSSBOW campaign, dispatched in two mis-sions of 3 and 16 August 323 heavy bombers for a total of 773.7 tons against V-weapon manufacturing at Ober Raderach in Germany.54 The grand total of the Allied air effort against CROSSBOW targets in July and August, excluding the air efforts of ADGB against V-1 missiles in flight and other ADGB defensive operations, was 16,566 bomber sorties and a tonnage of 61,681.3. The Eighth and RAF Bomber Command expended on these targets a fifth (20.4 per cent) of the effective heavy bomber sorties and a fourth (27.8 per cent) of the tonnage of their combined effort in all combat operations during
the period.55 Unfortunately, this massive air effort produced only a very slight reduction in the scale of German V-1 operations, if indeed it contributed at all to diminishing the V-1 rate of fire.56 During the period 15 July-15 August the Eighth and Bomber Command expended 9,566 heavy bomber sorties for a tonnage of 28,662 in CROSSBOW operations,57 “principally in France.” Yet, during this time the number of V-1’s plotted as successfully launched was 2,667, only 267 less than the number during the period 12/13 June to 14 July, when the combined air effort was 11,136 effective heavy bomber CROSSBOW sorties for a tonnage of 40,417.5.58
The essentially unhindered rate of V-1 firings, which actually were intensified during the first few days of July, led British authorities to give further consideration to the possibility of large-scale reprisals that might counteract the effects or decrease the scale of the V-1 bombardment of England. But proposals for use of gas warfare against launching sites and for saturation bombing of cities to be selected for purposes of retaliatory attack, with advance announcement of the attack, were rejected. Once initiated, gas warfare could hardly be confined to Allied use against CROSSBOW targets, and advance announcement of bombing objectives (apart from the moral hazard of replying in kind by indiscriminate civilian bombings) would be nothing less, it was agreed, than negotiating with the enemy and admitting at least a degree of defeat from the effects of the new German weapons. Moreover, and still on the practical side, it was agreed that saturation bombing of nonmilitary targets would be only a further diversion of Allied air power from its prime objectives, already in jeopardy from CROSSBOW operations currently in progress. In firm agreement with these conclusions, Eisenhower informed the British chiefs of staff: “As I have before indicated, I am opposed to retaliation as a method of stopping this business ... Please continue to oppose.”59
Aside from furnishing Allied authorities with an opportunity for declaring against reprisal measures, the deliberations of early July provided the occasion for an effort by the air commanders to reorganize the entire CROSSBOW intelligence and countermeasures program. On 6 July, Maj. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson, USSTAF’s deputy commander for operations, forwarded to Lord Beaverbrook, a member of the War Cabinet, a comprehensive paper calling for a reassessment of the problem. This document had been prepared by Brig. Gen.
* The Eighth conducted one strategic mission against a V-weapon factory in Germany during this period.
Charles P. Cabell, military air adviser of the European Advisory Committee.60 Agreeing that retaliation “for vengeance alone ... has no place in sound military schemes,” and recognizing that the effect of the V-1 on civilian morale justified strong measures against the weapon, the paper nevertheless urged that the Allies should avoid losing their perspective to the extent of “throwing everything in blind fury at this target alone.” Instead, a “balanced” program of countermeasures was proposed, one that would employ only efficient and economical attacks against all V-1 launching facilities (not against firing sites alone), attacks against V-weapon manufacturing facilities and fuel sources (principally in Germany), and an intensification of defensive countermeasures by the ADGB.61
Two days later, on 8 July, General Anderson proposed to Tedder the organization of a joint CROSSBOW committee that would be composed of authorities (three from the British air staff, three from USSTAF) familiar with problems of intelligence and operations “at the working level”; that would take over from the Air Ministry intelligence interpretation and operational planning; and would be directly responsible for assuring General Eisenhower that the best possible intelligence guided the assignment of the right weapons in the correct role against the proper objectives.62
Spaatz sent Tedder a strong covering memorandum, urging support of Anderson’s recommendations,63 and on 10 July addressed a second direct plea to General Eisenhower for a definitive policy statement.64 On 15 July Spaatz again urged Tedder to establish a joint CROSSBOW committee that could achieve “greater clarity and effectiveness of operations” and provide the Americans, who were bearing a considerable share of the operational burden, an articulate voice in the analysis of intelligence and in operational recommendations made to the supreme commander.65 That same day, Brig. Gen. George C. McDonald, USSTAF’s director of intelligence, informed Air Vice Marshal Frank F. Inglis of the Air Ministry that nothing less than a joint and balanced Anglo-American committee could solve the problem of CROSSBOW offensive countermeasures.66
These continued American proposals bore some fruit, for on 21 July there was established the Joint CROSSBOW Target Priorities Committee, thereafter generally known as the Joint CROSSBOW Committee.67 The new committee contained American representation and its members were largely drawn from working levels, as requested by Spaatz and Anderson, but it hadonly advisory powers, was still
under the jurisdiction of the Air Ministry,68 and its recommendations could be – and frequently were – set aside by Tedder, who. continued to be considerably influenced by opinion in the Air Ministry and War Cabinet.69 At its first meeting the Joint CROSSBOW Committee advised the suspension of all but light harassing attacks on modified sites, of all attacks on ski sites, and of all except APHRODITE attacks on large sites, and recommended that attacks against three storage depots in France and seven V-weapon production centers in Germany be given first priority.70 In a simultaneous meeting, on 21 July, the Combined Operational Planning Committee, which had been directed to consider operational plans for reducing the scale of V-1 attacks, concluded that no specific plan could be guaranteed to do more than prevent a rise in the scale of V firings, and recommended that all attacks on launching sites be suspended in favor of attacks against V-weapon production centers in Germany, on storage depots, and against ground transportation supporting the V-1 offensive.71 Though an American representative proposed employment of the Eglin Field technique of fighter-bomber minimum-altitude attacks* on the modified sites, the COPC declined to recommend this method.72 The pattern of day-today CROSSBOW operations continued to differ from that suggested by the air commanders and from recommendations of the COPC and the Joint CROSSBOW Committee.73
The chief area of disagreement continued to be the value of attacks on V-1 launching sites. Repeatedly the air commanders and the Joint CROSSBOW Committee advised the suspension of these attacks,† but with continuing firmness Tedder insisted that they could not be abandoned.74 Subsequently, on at least two occasions, General Doolittle seems to have declined to commit his forces to CROSSBOW operations requested. On 15 August he was asked by Tedder to send the Eighth against CROSSBOW targets the following day. The American commander replied that his forces would that day be attacking industrial targets in the Lepzig area. Questioned as to why CROSSBOW targets were not scheduled, in accordance with directives, Doolittle informed the deputy supreme commander that there were no such targets near Leipzig.75 Three days later the Eighth did attack
* See above, pp. 97-99.
† COPC made only the one general recommendation on CROSSBOW operations; the Joint CROSSBOW Committee prepared a series of recommendations over a period of six weeks.
CROSSBOW targets, but these included no launching sites and the tonnage was less than 200. In simultaneous operations it expended nearly 1,300 tons on other targets.76 On 17 August, Tedder inquired of Doolittle why he had scheduled only two light CROSSBOW attacks while reserving his main forces for a heavy strike against railroad bridges in France. Doolittle’s answer was that he considered bridges to be the more important targets. To this Tedder replied that CROSSBOW must come first.77 Nevertheless, the Eighth conducted only two more CROSSBOW operations (114 sorties and 351.2 tons) before 30 August, the day of its last direct participation in the CROSSBOW offensive.78 While there were less open differences between Harris and Tedder over CROSSBOW, the British bombing commander continually shared Doolittle’s (and other Americans’) opinion that the best answer to the V-1 bombardment was to shatter Germany’s war economy by concentration on strategic operations and by support of the land battle, which could provide the most immediate means of stopping the V-1’s through capture of the ground launching sites.79
Strategic attacks against V-weapon plants and fuel sources, recommended by Spaatz on the renewal of CROSSBOW operations in June and subsequently by the Joint Committee and the COPC, were carried out on a relatively limited scale, though with some success, principally by the Eighth Air Force and the Bomber Command. The RAF attacked Russelsheim, a V-weapon manufacturing center, on 12/13 and 25/26 August for a total of 699 sorties and 2,524 tons. In ten missions against six targets in Germany – flown with two exceptions between 18 July and 25 August – the Eighth expended 1,198 sorties for a tonnage of 3,002.7.80
The most notable of these raids were directed on 18 July and 2 and 25 August against the Peenemünde experimental station and V-weapon factory, first attacked in August 1943 by the RAF. The raid of 18 July was one of the outstanding examples of daylight precision bombing during the war in Europe. Three hundred and seventy-nine heavy bombers, with full fighter escort, dropped 920.6 tons on eight separate aiming points within the concentrated target area, with the result that Peenemünde was seriously damaged.81 The effects, however, of this and the two following raids, in which, all told, 811 heavy bombers dropped 1,899.1 tons on Peenemünde, were not immediately apparent in V-1 operations against England, and the cost of these strategic attacks was high. In
its two raids against Rüsselsheim, RAF Bomber Command lost 35 bombers, as against the loss of 100 in all its other CROSSBOW operations during July and August, and in the ten strategic missions flown by the Eighth, 23 heavy bombers were lost (10 in the Peenemünde raid), in contrast to only 14 in its other CROSSBOW operations during the two months.82
After 10 July 1944 there hung over the Allies the constant threat of the opening of V-2 operations by the Germans. Originally regarded as a more imminent and more serious danger than the V-1, concern about the giant supersonic rocket – against which there could be no defensive countermeasures – had for a time given way to immediate preoccupation with offensive and defensive countermeasures against the smaller weapon that had become an actuality in June.83 But during the second week in July, coincident with the intensified V-1 bombardment of England, it was finally established that the V-2 existed in operational form and could soon be used against England.84
Some weeks earlier Spaatz had urged the development of APHRODITE on the assumption that the Germans would make some attempt to use the large sites for V-2 firings.85 In mid-July, Anglo-American authorities began negotiations with the Russians for sending a group of technical experts to obtain information from a V-weapon experimental site at Blizna, Poland, in the path of advancing Russian ground forces.86 And at intervals during July and August the British expended quantities of the largest conventional bomb, the 12,000-pound Tallboy, against the more active large sites with indeterminate results.87 But it was not until late August, with the falling off of V-1 firings following withdrawal of German launching activities from the area south of the Somme,* and with new intelligence at hand on the imminence of V-2 operations88 that a specific plan was prepared for offensive countermeasures on a large scale – once firings should begin against the entire V-2 organization.
On 25 August the “Plan for Attack of the German Rocket Organization when ... Attacks Commence,” prepared by the Joint CROSSBOW Committee, was forwarded by SHAEF to the commanders of USSTAF, the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces, and the British Bomber and Coastal Commands.89 The plan proposed, in addition to air attacks
* The scale of V-1 attacks fell off by approximately a third, to a total of 1,115 missiles reported between 16 August and 1 September, when V-1 attacks against England from ground firing sites in France came to an end.
already under way on large sites and storage depots thought to be associated with the rocket, armed reconnaissance of launching points and primary forward and rearward storage depots as the first priority; air attacks against secondary forward and rearward storage depots as second priority; against primary and secondary liquid-oxygen plants as third priority; the SHAEF plan for destruction of the “third ring” of rail bridges as the fourth; air attacks against the system of canal locks in Belgium and western France as the fifth; and, as the last priority, air attacks against fifteen V-weapon production centers in Germany and Austria – in all more than 250 major targets. This plan was the most comprehensive one prepared for CROSSBOW operations during the course of the campaign. With the flying of seven missions totaling 173 sorties and 454.5 tons by the Eighth on 30 August, followed by an attack on the 31st by 603 RAF heavy bombers for a tonnage of 2,401.7 against nine targets thought to be associated with the V-2, the critical period of Allied CROSSBOW operations came to an end.90
During this two-month period, the Eighth had made 164 attacks in operations against a total of 67 CROSSBOW targets (75 attacks in July and 89 in August – operating continuously the first 11 days in August). The U.S. heavy bombers had attacked modified sites 116 times, storage depots (or fuel dumps) 15 times, strategic targets in Germany 9 times, 6 liquid-oxygen plants in France and Belgium 1 time each, airfields in France and Holland 6 times, supply sites 4 times, 1 ski site 6 times, and 1 marshalling yard 1 time. For its attacks against targets in the Pas-de-Calais the Eighth had used visual sighting 117 times and Gee-H bombing 24 times (in contrast to 64 visual-sighting and 49 Gee-H attacks in the second half of June); in all CROSSBOW operations outside the Pas-de-Calais visual sighting was used.91
The RAF Bomber Command used Tallboy bombs for the first time in CROSSBOW operations, initially on an experimental basis, later as a common method of attacking large sites92 Otherwise, the RAF followed routine patterns of bombing during the critical period of CROSSBOW operations, though it is to be noted that its heavy bombers – in particular the Lancaster – were capable of transporting a considerably greater tonnage per sortie than were the Eighth’s B-17’s and B-24’s on comparable missions. Operating on 29 days in July and 24 in August (and, as before noted, striking continuously the first 13 days of August), the Bomber Command attacked a variety of CROSSBOW
targets – large sites, supply sites, airfields, V-1 firing organization headquarters, a V-weapon factory in Germany – but principally modified sites and storage depots.93 The infrequent operations of AEAF during the period were largely confined to fighter-bomber attacks on electrical installations and against ground transportation of V-weapon equipment. The Ninth Air Force participated in only one operation of consequence; on 27 August it dropped 47 tons on an electrical installation near Boulogne. Of the Fifteenth’s two raids on Ober Raderach (3 and 16 August), the first was less successful than the return raid on the 16th, when a concentration of bombs on target was achieved.94
The CROSSBOW campaign of the summer of 1944 must be regarded generally as having failed to achieve its objectives. Indeed, it seems to have been the least successful part of the over-all effort. The RAF attack on Peenemünde in August 1943 probably had hastened, if it did not cause, the dispersal of V-weapon manufacture, and it is possible that the V-2 experimental and production program was set back by some months. Certainly the attacks on the large and ski sites executed during the months preceding D-day had achieved the essential aim of CROSSBOW operations during the first phase, which was destruction or neutralization of the network of permanent launching sites along the Channel coast, although the practical advantage gained may be debated in view of the enemy’s subsequent success with his modified launching sites. But it is apparent from the record of V-1 launchings during the summer of 1944 (6,716 missiles were plotted between 12/13 June and 1 September),95 as measured against the magnitude of Allied efforts to neutralize them by offensive air power, that the Germans had found in their improvised modified sites a launching method that was impervious to conventional attacks by heavy bombers. Though the Allies did neutralize or destroy a fair number of the modified sites, the Germans could build new ones faster than they could be destroyed by the air power committed to their attacks.96 The suspension of the V-1 offensive toward the close of summer bears a more obvious relationship to the enemy’s disastrous defeat in France by Allied ground forces than to the CROSSBOW air attacks.
Perhaps the Allied air forces should have directed at least one all-out and concentrated attack on the entire modified-site system and on the supporting supply and transportation system. Tedder did, on several occasions, urge such an attack, but he was unsuccessful in gaining support from Eisenhower or from the air commanders for an operation
that would have withdrawn, even for a brief period, nearly all heavy bombers from support of the land battle and from strategic operations.97 The effect of such an effort must therefore remain a matter of conjecture. The use of the Eglin Field technique of minimum-altitude attack by fighter-bombers against modified sites might possibly have provided a better solution than the dispatch of multitudes of heavy bombers in essentially ineffective operations. But for a variety of reasons, the most significant of which perhaps was the solidified objections that had denied any consistent use of that technique in the first phase of CROSSBOW operations, the Eglin Field technique was never tried against the modified sites.98 The technique was, however, continually in use with conclusive results against bridges, railways, and other targets in some ways comparable to modified sites.99
There were serious faults in the handling of intelligence and in the organization of controls over the campaign. The records contain many evidences of seemingly inexcusable malfunctioning of intelligence services.100 Intelligence estimates, usually some distance behind the operational situation, tended often to be grossly optimistic or unduly pessimistic. As to the failure in organization, below the supreme commander’s immediate staff, CROSSBOW channels were in their complexity and their gradually fading dispersion of authority hardly to be rivaled.101 Competing interests, differing views, and the unconcealed reluctance of air commanders to execute unwelcome policy – once decisions were made – were more often than not fostered rather than diminished by the multiplicity of strands in the CROSSBOW organizational pattern.
In general, then, the large-scale CROSSBOW operations during the critical period were a failure. But from another perspective the organization and its operations appear in a different light. CROSSBOW air operations in the summer of 1944 – despite their shortcomings – offered firm evidence that the Allies could respond too generously rather than too niggardly to whatever threats might arise to jeopardize the execution of the grand strategic designs so carefully prepared and so skilfully executed in the pursuance of one objective – defeat of the enemy in Europe.
The Final Phase
The last V-1 fired from a launching site in France fell in Kent on the afternoon of 1 September 1944.102
With the cessation of V-1
firings, the rapidly deteriorating German ground situation on the continent and the continued delay in the inauguration of V-2 attacks led British authorities to conclude that – except for the possibility of sporadic attacks by air-launched V-1’s* – the CROSSBOW danger was over. On 1 September the British civil defense halted its planning of precautionary measures in the case of V-2 attack.103 On the 3rd all operational air commands in the ETO were informed that every type of CROSSBOW offensive countermeasure was to be suspended pending further notice.104 The next day ADGB discontinued the extensive reconnaissance sweeps it had conducted on a 24-hour basis for weeks past. On the 5th the chief of the British air staff advised abandonment of bombing attacks on the V-2 storage depot and transportation system, and on the following day the British chiefs of staff, convinced that “there should shortly be no further danger” from either ground-launched V-1’s or the as yet unheard from V-2, agreed that all bombing attacks against CROSSBOW targets should cease, except for occasional strikes against airfields that might be used for the air launchings of V-1’s. On the 7th Duncan Sandys of the War Cabinet announced to the press that the “Battle of London” was over, except “possibly ... a few last shots.”105 As had been the case during the week following D-day, the danger appeared to be over.
But the cycle was to repeat itself, for at the dinner hour on the evening of 8 September the first of more than a thousand 10-ton rockets (traveling at more than five times the speed of sound) that were to strike England fell and exploded at Chiswick. Six seconds later a second V-2 struck at Parndon Wood, Epping.106 On that same day the Germans fired V-2’s against Paris, and before late March 1945 they were to fire an additional 2,786 V-2’s and 8,659 V-1’s, of which 1,951 missiles – 1,113 V-2’s and 838 V-1’s – were launched against England, the rest against continental targets, principally Antwerp.107
Neither the British public nor the outside world was informed that the Germans had at last put into combat one of the two most feared new weapons of World War II (the other, of course, the atomic bomb) as – on the morning of the 9th – the British chiefs of staff and
* Limited attacks by air-launched V-1’s were first suspected on 9 July but were not verified until 3 August, when it was learned that He-111’s, flown from bases in Holland, were the source of a relatively small number of V-1’s that approached London from the Thames Estuary.
† Both the British and German governments withheld notice, the Germans until 8 November, the British until 10 November, that London was being attacked by V-2’s.
other Allied councils deliberated what action should be taken following the opening of Germany’s long-threatened V-2 offensive.108 As is so often the case (the atomic bomb again the exception), the fear in anticipation of a dreaded event is more harrowing than the event itself – and so with the response of Allied authorities to the now operational V-1. Countermeasures had to be taken, but the threat itself appeared to be of far less magnitude than it had seemed only a few weeks earlier, when SHAEF had distributed the Joint CROSSBOW Committee’s formidable “Plan for Attack of the German Rocket Organization when Rocket Attacks Commence.” Spectacular as was the scientific achievement apparent in the V-2, the weapon had been committed to battle too late, its military effectiveness was more limited than had been anticipated (with a warhead similar in weight, it produced – as investigations on the night of the 8th showed – less blast damage than the much cheaper and more primitive V-1), and on the basis of reliable intelligence reports recently received, it seemed unlikely that the Germans had produced sufficient quantities of the weapon to constitute a long-continuing danger of significant proportions. The effect of the weapon on civilian morale had yet to be gauged (and this was the reason for withholding from the public knowledge of its use), but only two rockets had thus far struck England. Moreover, the currently rapid advances of Allied ground troops on the continent had to be considered in assessing the new problem. It was this combination of factors, all of which were quickly evaluated in the Allied deliberations of 9 September, that led to the decision – it proved to be a sound one that only limited and essentially defensive countermeasures should be taken to meet the V-weapon threat in its third and, as it proved, final phase.109
Except for one attack (32 sorties for 170.9 tons) by RAF Bomber Command on 17 September, none of the elaborate plans prepared for use when rocket attacks should commence was carried out.* In its last operations of the CROSSBOW campaign, all in September, the Bomber Command dispatched 703 heavy bomber sorties which dropped 3,876.3 tons on airfields in Holland associated with the air launching of V-1’s against England.110 The Eighth conducted minor operations in September (100 sorties and 300 tons) and again in December (75 sorties and 100 tons) which, although not listed by the
* In advance of the V-2 attack, Bomber Command on 1 September had sent two attacks (113 sorties and 498.2 tons) against rocket storage depots.
Eighth as CROSSBOW operations, were an indirect contribution to the campaign in its final phase and were the last such operations undertaken by American heavy bombers.111
The more significant operations of the period were in large measure the responsibility of the ADGB and do not fall, therefore, within the scope of this narrative.112 In the closing months of the campaign, elements of the Ninth Air Force participated with Second TAF in armed reconnaissance operations against the V-weapon firing and transportation system on the continent, though the largest share of the work was carried by British units. Operations of Second TAF against CROSSBOW targets were confined to the first four months of 1945. In January, 75 fighter-bomber sorties were flown for 100 tons; in February 100 sorties for 75 tons; in March 2,300 sorties (principally fighter sweeps against fleeting targets) for 800 tons; and in April 1,600 sorties for 700 tons.113 The intensified operations of March reflected both a temporary rise in the rate of V-weapon firings against England and continental targets and the opportunity presented by the increasing concentration of all German forces within a diminishing land area. April’s operations represented an effort to destroy the remnants of the V-weapon field organizations.114 The last V-weapon that struck London (a V-2) had fallen on 29 March, the last on Antwerp a day earlier when both a V-1 and V-2 reached that target.115 By the end of April the final air countermeasures, limited defensive patrols by ADGB and Second TAF, had been completed, and on 2 May 1945 the campaign was formally declared to be at an end.116
Since the beginning of September 1944 the Allies had expended 991 heavy bomber sorties for a total of 4,774.5 tons, and in 10,270 fighter and fighter-bomber sorties an additional 1,857 tons.117 The decreased scale of operations in this final phase finds no small part of its explanation in the following figures: between 1 September 1944 and 29 March 1945, 831 V-1’s and 1,115 V-2’s reached England, as against the 6,716 V-1’s plotted in the summer of 1944.118
Administration and policy continued to be active issues during the final phase of CROSSBOW, though, like operations, the debate was on a reduced scale. The Belgian port of Antwerp, captured on 4 September and a logical target because of its vital importance to the development of Allied ground operations in the north, lay within easy reach of the German firing organizations that had nioved northward from the French coast at the end of the summer. Early in October,
Lt. Gen. F. E. Morgan advised SHAEF that before firings began on Antwerp and other key centers in the north the Allied forces in Europe should profit from the experience of the past summer, when “the affair [CROSSBOW] was made far more difficult than it need have been owing to the failure in organization at the start.”119 He urged that intelligence and operational planning should be centered at once in one organization directly responsible to the supreme commander for all continental CROSSBOW operations. Approving Morgan’s proposal, Eisenhower on 9 October requested the Air Ministry to transfer to SHAEF control of all aspects of CROSSBOW intelligence and operations that did not affect the local interests of ADGB. The British chiefs of staff, aware that the threat from V-weapons was now greater in Europe than in England, took action on 24 October to yield the requested control.120
Nevertheless, the endeavor to centralize CROSSBOW responsibility and operations on the European mainland moved very slowly. It was not until 15 December, after a series of conferences had been held and several committees and commissions had come and gone, that there was established a working organization, generally designated the Continental CROSSBOW Organization, with headquarters at SHAEF Main. The core of the new agency was the Continental CROSSBOW Collation and CROSSBOW Intelligence (Interpretations and Operational Recommendations) Section, responsible throughout the re-maining months of the campaign for the functions indicated in its generous nomenclature.121 Like earlier agencies, the Continental CROSSBOW Organization suffered continuing proliferations of function and responsability.122
But because its problems concerned only a very minor part of Allied air operations during the period, there was – with one exception – no high-level debate on policy and organization.
The exception involved a series of discussions in December 1944 and January 1945 regarding the policy that should be adopted in consequence of intelligence reports indicating that the Germans were preparing to use a third V-weapon, variously designated the V-3, V-4, and the “final weapon.” Early in December, American agents in Argentina and Turkey reported that “reliable sources” had revealed the Germans would, within 30 days, begin bombardment of American cities on the Atlantic seaboard with stratospheric rockets capable of demolishing forty square kilometers around the point of impact.123 Since the Germans had produced and used the V-2 (once regarded as
a technical impossibility), since there was authoritative intelligence that they had prepared designs for a rocket capable of transatlantic flight, and since the Allies were not fully aware of the state of German efforts at nuclear fission, these reports could not be dismissed. Moreover, the large sites, though no longer in the possession of the Germans, were still regarded as “unsolved mysteries.”124 Though they could not be used by the Germans, it was not possible, at the time, to dismiss the idea that they might have some bearing on the weapons reported as nearly ready for operational use. After painstaking investigations, the War Department and AAF Headquarters in Washington concluded that while such rockets and warheads might be in the experimental stage in Germany, it could be assumed that they were not ready for use in combat.125 In Europe, General Spaatz came to a similar conclusion.126 And thus ended the discussions of policy with reference to the German V-weapons.
Those discussions, extending back over a period of more than a year, had reflected the uncertainty and divided councils with which the Allies moved to meet a new and startling development in the war. The effort to cope with the danger is only in part a story of AAF activity, and any summary must give prominent place to the fortitude of the British people under this final assault upon their morale and to the increasing assumption by the RAF, after the attacks began, of the major responsibility for countermeasures. If some AAF leaders had been at first too much inclined to discount the danger and if they had begrudged the cost of CROSSBOW to other air operations, they found substantial support for their views in the failure of the methods of air attack employed to prevent the enemy’s use of the weapon on a significant scale. Those of an opposing view, however, were able to point to a delay in the inauguration of the enemy’s offensive that had robbed it of any major military effect, and for that delay the intensive bombing of launching sites during the first half of 1944 may well have been the decisive factor.