Sunday, January 15, 2012
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
It started once again at 4:00 hours in pitch dark all over the French, Benelux and Danish coast. The engines coughed to life, men shouting warnings and instructions, creatures of the night scurrying for cover and flocks of birds being disturbed into unwelcome flight. I had become a very recent but pervasive chain of events for the last several weeks. It also a most unwelcome daily even to most of the native inhabitants both wild and tame.
Bomber Command had run some very successful raids with night flying mosquitoes but this hardly made a dent in masses of Soviet aircraft and crews that were practicing daily for the massive onslaught that would soon wash over the Island of Britannia as well as the rest of the British Isles. In lieu of this event “Bomber” Harris had made a proposal and it was accepted.
Today 500 Lincoln and Lancaster heavy bombers, escorted by 500 Spitfires, were going to attempt to carpet bomb 4 of the largest Soviet airfields along the French and Benelux coast. Intelligence reported the presence of hundreds of ground to air missiles spread out in the area near the airfields along with the usual thousands of AAA guns. Harris knew that many of his bomber crews would be lost but he was convinced that it was a chance worth taking. In his mind the bomber forces currently under his command would either prove itself as a relevant weapons system or it would die a slow death along with the battleship.
This was the last and possibly final test of the relevance of the current stable of RAF heavy bombers and their survivability in WWIII. To heighten his chances he had marshaled every single Mosquito, Typhoon, Tempest, Hornet and Beaufighter that could be put in the air. They were assigned to weather the metal wall sure to be present consisting of 85mm, 37mm, 25mm anti-aircraft shells thrown up by the guns around the known Surface to Air Missile sites. Their purpose was to suppress the Wasserfal missiles hopefully minutes before the bombers where in range. In addition the Soviets did have an estimated one million VT fuses. In preparation for the Raid, daily flights of chaff laden aircraft dropped their curtains of foil at various times of the day to confuse, blind and lull the crude Soviets radar sets into ineffectiveness.
The Tu2s code named Bat, Pe 2s code named Buck, IL-4 named Bob and what seemed to be their mothership, the B25J code named Bank took off and all formed as usual in pods around the Banks. There was no indication of what the purposes of the B25 Banks were. There were plenty of local spies and such that reported on the unusual formation being practiced incessantly by the VVS. At least 5 attempts had been made at measuring for any kind of electronic, radioactive or biological activity. They all had come back negative except for a brief interlude of 5 seconds recorded when some kind of electronic activity came from one Bank. This seemed more like a fluke than a planned event, which in reality it was. One of the operators on a Jammer Bank accidentally hit the switch but immediately turned it off. Thereafter all critical switches had safety guards installed by welding two nails over the offending switch. Crude but effective as the Soviets are wont to do.
The pods dutifully navigated their way inland after forming up, to various target areas set up around France. The VVS seemed to have figured out a way to navigate quite well in the early morning hours and arrived at their intended targets just as the visual conditions were right for ground attack.
It is believed that they were using celestial navigation and that’s why no amount of jamming done to their radio compasses would be of use. The British themselves had become quite adept at this method of navigation before they moved on to the radio compass. The Soviets were attempting to take it even further.
Today was the day for bomber command’s first 1000 plane raid of WWII and it would be in daylight at high altitude counting on surprise and the suppression of the Wasserfal missile systems by the tactical bombers and fighter bombers. Only time would tell if all the resources spent on creating and then resurrecting the heavy bomber fleet of Bomber Command was worth the effort and great expense. A number of leading officers and tacticians advocated strongly for an increase in fighters at the expense of resurrecting the bomber fleet but much like Hitler, “Bomber” Harris and his cabal advocated offensive action over defensive reaction.
In normal times it might have worked. Unfortunately The Cambridge 5 and others in the service of Lavrentiy Beria had changed the rules of the game much like the British Ultra program had changed it in their favor in WWII. This time the shoe was on the other foot and it was going to pinch quite a bit before it had run its course.