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WWII Aerial Counterflak Tactics

WWII Aerial Counterflak Tactics

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Published by CAP History Library
Air Force
Air Force

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: CAP History Library on Jun 29, 2010
Copyright:Public Domain


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Deception of one sort or another was as mucha stock in trade of flak batteries as was their ammunition, and the Hun became quite proficient indeceptive tactics.
Frequent Changes of Positions
Accuracy of Alliedair reconnaissance compelled flak batteries tomake frequent changesof positions. Movementswere mostly at night,and often a two-hourfire silence in the newpositions was enforcedfor the purpose of "sucking in" unwary fighter-bomber pilots.
In the vacated positions dummy guns wereleft, and detection of thedummies was an extremely difficult and oftenimpossible task for photointerpreters, because ofthe height from whichfrom 1,000 feet.
Traps for Fighter-bombers
In the German handbook of tricks there wasalways a chapter on luring fighter-bombers withineasy range of flak guns. Various types of bait wereused.In Western Germany a section of highwayhad foxholes dug everyfifty feet, and movingback and forth alongthe road were threetrucks. When fighter-bombers dived in for anattack, the truck driversdove into the foxholes,and light flak openedfire from positions onboth sides of the road.Sometimes the baitwas a locomotive withsteam up, but unmanned.Planes which went infor an attack receivedstrong light flak fire.Another trick wasto drive two trucks downpictures were taken.
Sketch of 20mm flak on tower
a highway. If they wereSince this German policy was well known to flak officers, it was no surprisewhen a ground inspection of overrun defensesrevealed a number of dummy positions which hadbeen plotted as "occupied" positions. Though notelaborate, the dummy guns and fire control equipment contained all the component parts of thesimulated materiel and were often realistic evenattacked, one truck, avan type, dropped its sides, exposing light flak guns.Very seldom were heavy gun emplacementscamouflaged, probably because the expense anddifficulties involved were not worth the results.Frequently light gun emplacements were camouflagedfor the purpose of surprising low level attackers.Guns around a flak trap were always concealed.
Flak with the Army
Whereas flak units in the rear areas were usuallystatic or semi-mobile and concerned only withdefense against Allied aircraft, flak with the armies,particularly those units well forward, were equippedas highly mobile and powerful striking forces. Theversatility of the 88mm and 20mm weapons wereexploited offensively and defensively.During the African Campaign 88mm flak gunswere used to seek and destroy Allied tanks. Thoughsuch offensive action was infrequent during theEuropean campaigns, these weapons always reverted to anti-tank roles when Allied armies approached gun positions before they could be evacuated.Their use, and subsequent sacrifice, in road blocksand strong points were often planned rearguard,delaying actions to allow withdrawal of mainGerman forces from untenable positions. A primeexample of this was the enemy's retreat from theArdennes region in January and February 1945.As major flak defenses were approached byAllied ground forces, a great lessening of fire wasnoted by flak officers studying pilots' reports of firereceived over the defenses. The principal reason forthis 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 aground role. Army commanders studied such redeployment of flak guns and divined from it thekeynote of the Hun's defensive preparations.German Panzer Army spearheads which drovedeep into the Ardennes in December 1944 fairlybristled with light flak guns which were to protectthe crack armored units from the much feared andrespected "Jabos". Close behind the advancingtroops came large numbers of heavy flak guns toprotect vital crossroads and communication centers.Flak weapons were allotted top priority in thaoffensive, even though it was planned to take advantage of weather prohibitive to flying.The crisis created by the First Army's captureof Remagen bridge and establishment of a footholdon the east bank of the Rhine was met with a strongholding force of mobile 88mm and 20mm flak gunspulled from active defenses of Cologne and the Ruhrand redeployed in a half circle around the bridgehead area.Mobility and high muzzle velocities of flak gunsmade for flexible adaptability to the many purposesnecessarily consigned them by the Germans. However, the vacillating policies of the higher commandin 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 torealize the futility of their further resisting the Alliedhordes which were striking them mercilessly andunrelentingly 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 militaryinstallations against Allied aerial attacks. Tools forthis task, in addition to aircraft, were the hugenumbers of flak weapons of all kinds. Four-fifthsof all flak was controlled by the GAF; 15%, bythe Army; and 5%, by the Navy.For purposes of administration the GAF dividedGermany and occupied countries into areas knownas Luftgaue (similar to American Corps areas). Tothe headquarters of these Luftgaue was given controlof all flak within the areas. Units operating in Luftgaue were generally either static or semi-mobile.
Under Luftgaue headquarters the channel ofcommand ran down through divisions (or brigades),regiments, battalions, to batteries. In static defensesbrigades often took the place of divisions.A parallel set-up for mobile flak was maintained by the GAF, parallel except that the commandchannels were headed by Corps instead of Luftgaue.The GAF furnished the great majority of flak unitsrequired by the Army, retaining administrativecontrol while passing operational control to theArmy. In addition the Army had separate flakbattalions of its own; from these were often formedbattle detachments which operated offensively in aground role in conjunction with regular groundforces.Flak organizational structure was very flexible,and its composition was governed by exigencies ofparticular circumstances.
More than
persons were involvedin German flak defenses, and this total was maintained even during the acute manpower shortageoccasioned by the German reverses in the East andthe increased scale of air attacks in the West. Asflak units were called upon for trained personnel toset up new flak units and for replacements for otherbranches of the service, Goering scraped the bottomof the manpower barrel and dragged out personnelwho normally would not have been called upon formilitary service. Thus the regular ranks of GAF flakwere diluted with Hitler Youth, old men, prisonersof war, Italian nationals, and women. Consequently,in the areas where these people were used accuracyand volume of flak fire suffered.
Military* Civilian Men, Women Used
Most of the flak personnel continued to bemilitary, but 30% were civilians and foreigners,who carried on their normal occupations and werecalled upon for service during air attacks and fortraining. Russian prisoners, under inducements ofbetter rations and living conditions, were employedto considerable extent in flak batteries.Five percent of the total flak personnel werewomen. Generally they were used in headquarters

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