En timme som förändrade kriget

In the late evening of August 17, 1943, a fleet of 600 R.A.F. heavy night bombers roared out across the North Sea. The next day, the British Air Ministry's Communiqué recorded that the research and development station at Peenemünde, Germany, had been attacked.
Behind the deliberately vague language of that Communiqué lies one of the most dramatic stories of the war. Unknown to all except a handful of men, R.A.F. Bomber Command had won an aerial battle which was a turning point of the war. It remained a secret, however, for almost a year, until the first robot bombs began to crash on London. By the spring of 1943, the Allied air offensive had opened gaping wounds across the face of Germany and, to beat back our bombers, the Nazis decided to concentrate on the production of fighter planes.
Snart, med sin bombplan som reducerades till några hundra föråldrade maskiner, kunde Luftwaffe inte tränga igenom Storbritanniens försvar utom för pinprick-hit-and-run-attacker. Men det återstod flygande bomber och raketer med lång räckvidd för att tillfredsställa det tyska folks krav på bombningsrepressalier. Om dessa vapen skulle kunna massproduceras i tid skulle de göra det möjligt för tyskarna att ta offensiven i luften utan att använda sina dyrbara bombplaner eller flygmän.
The decision was taken. Orders went out from Hitler to complete quickly the experimental development of the flying bombs and rockets and to rush them into production. The main development centre for these weapons was the Luftwaffe research station at Peenemünde, tucked away in a forest behind the beach of the Baltic Sea, 60 miles north-east of Stettin and 700 miles from England.

Into Peenemünde went the best technical brains of the Luftwaffe and the top men in German aeronautical and engineering science. In charge was the veteran Luftwaffe scientist, 49-year-old Major-General Wolfgang von Chamier-Glisezensky. Under him was a staff of several thousand professors, engineers, and experts on jet-propulsion and rocket projectiles. These scientists were set to working around the clock, for Hitler hoped to unleash his “secret weapons" during the winter of 1943-1944.

Entusiaster trodde att de hemliga vapnen skulle avgöra kriget inom 24 timmar. Mer realistiska tyskare hoppades att de åtminstone skulle störa den brittiska krigsproduktionen och försena invasionen, eller kanske tvinga de allierade till för tidig invasion av den kraftigt försvarade Calais-kusten från vilken tyskarna skulle lansera sina nya vapen. Och även om de misslyckades med att visa sig bestämma, skulle repressalierbombningen förstärka den tyska moralen och vara användbar senare för att förhandla fram en kompromissfred.

By July 1943, British intelligence reports had definitely located Peenemünde as Germany's chief spawning ground for robot bombs and rockets, A file of reports and aerial reconnaissance pictures was placed in the hands of a special British Cabinet committee, which suggested that the R.A.F. grant Peenemünde a high priority in its bombing attentions. Air Chief Marshal Harris decided to stage a surprise raid during the next clear moonlight period.

The German had become careless about Peenemünde. R.A.F. night bombers frequently flew over it on their way to Stettin and even to Berlin, and Germans working at Peenemünde used to watch British planes pass overhead, secure in the belief that the British did not know of Peenemünde's importance. A Special reconnaissance photographs for the raid were taken with great care to avoid Warning the Germans that the R.A.F. was interested in Peenemünde. They were made during routine reconnaissance flights over Baltic ports, to which the Germans had grown accustomed. These photographs enabled planners of the raid to pick out three aiming points where the most damage would be done.

Den första var bostadsområdet för forskare och tekniker.
Den andra bestod av hangarer och verkstäder som innehåller experimentella bomber och raketer. Den tredje var det administrativa området - byggnader som innehåller blåtryck och tekniska data.

The night of August 17 was selected because the moon would be almost full. The bomber crews were informed only that Peenemünde was an important radar experimental station; that they would catch a lot of German scientists there, and that their job was to kill as many of them as possible. After the briefing, a special note from Bomber Command headquarters was read aloud:

"Den här extrema betydelsen av detta mål och nödvändigheten av att uppnå dess förstörelse med en attack är att bli imponerad av alla besättningar. Om attacken inte lyckas uppnå sitt objekt måste den upprepas på efterföljande nätter - oavsett inom praktiska gränser, av skadade. "
Nearly 600 four-motored heavies took off and roared down on Peenemünde by an indirect route. Peenemünde's defenders, apparently believing that the bombers were headed for Stettin of Berlin, were caught napping. Pathfinders went in first, swooped low over their target and dropped coloured flares around aiming points. Bombers using revolutionary new bombsights followed. Scorning the light flak, wave after wave unloaded high explosives and incendiaries from a few thousand feet on the three clearly visible aiming points.

På mindre än en timme var området en nästan kontinuerlig remsa.
När den sista bombvågen flög hem, tog de tyska nattkämparna, som hade vänta förgäves runt Berlin, upp med dem, och 41 brittiska bombplaner förlorade - ett litet pris att betala för en av krigets största flygseirer.

The next morning a reconnaissance Spitfire photographed the damage. Half of the 45 huts in which scientists and specialists lived, had been obliterated, and the remainder were badly damaged. In addition 40 buildings, including assembly shops and laboratories, had been completely destroyed and 50 others damaged. In a few days news of even more satisfactory results began to trickle in. Of the 7.000 scientists and 'technical men stationed in Peenemünde, some 5.000 were killed or missing. For, at the end of the raid, R.A.F.blockbusters combined with German explosives stored underground had set off such a 'tremendous blast that people living three miles away were killed.

Huvudforskaren von Chamier-Glisezenski dog under attacken.
Reports drifted out from Germany that he had been shot by agents or jealous Gestapo officials. Two days after the attack the Germans announced the death of General Jeschonnek, the Luftwaffe's chief of staff and a young Hitler favourite, who had been visiting Peenemünde, Then the Nazis admitted that General Ernst Udet, veteran aviator of the first World War and early organiser of the Luftwaffe, had met death under mysterious circumstances. It seemed likely that Udet, as head of the technical directorate of the German Air Ministry, had also been in Peenemünde.

Nazi reaction to the raid was violent. Gestapo men quizzed survivors and combed the countryside for ‘traitors who might have tipped off the RAF to Peenemünde's importance. General Walther Schreckenback, of the black-shirted secret-service, was given command of Peenemünde, with orders to resume work on the flying bombs and rockets. But all Germany's plans had to be recast. With Peenemünde half destroyed and open to further attack, new laboratories had to be built deep underground. (According to Swedish reports, these have been constructed on islands in the Baltic.)

Med de bästa forskarna och specialisterna utplånade var det nödvändigt att hitta nya män för att fortsätta utvecklingsarbetet.
Som ett resultat av förseningen kunde nazisterna inte lansera sina hemliga vapen förra vintern; och de hade svårt att amma tysk moral genom fortsatta allierade luftattacker.
Tyskarna sattes vidare tillbaka av allierade luftattacker under våren med flygande bomber och raketer som startade ramper i Pas de Calais och på fabriker av komponenter. Så folket fick höra att de hemliga vapnen var avsedda som antiinvasionsvapen, och sparades för att spränga de allierade i hamnarna och på stränderna.

D-Day tog dock tyskarna fortfarande inte redo. Först sju dagar efter att de allierade invaderade Normandie föll den första flygande bomben på London.
If Peenemünde hadn't been blasted as and when it was, the robotbomb attacks on London doubtless would have begun six months before they did, and would have been many times as heavy. London communications, the hub of Britain and nerve centre of invasion planning and preparation, would have been severely stricken. The invasion itself might have had to be postponed.

Av Allan A. Michie British Digest cirka 1945

 

Footage of Peenemünde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN4M1p_tTKU 

 

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