[Lone Sentry: German Air Force WW2]
[Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Intel Articles by Subject

"Air Force" from Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   The following intelligence article covers Luftwaffe ground-attack tactics in North Africa, from the Intelligence Bulletin, June 1943. The report covers bombing and strafing tactics used in raids on ports, airfields, roads, and gun positions. The report ends with a summary of German interrogation methods according to captured prisoners.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]




Recent reports indicate that German Air Force units in North Africa have developed new tactics, involving the use of Focke-Wulf 190's and Messerschmitt 109's (single-engine fighters) as dive bombers in raids on ports, airdromes, roads, and gun emplacements.

a. Attacks on Ports

(1) By Day.—Four types of daytime attacks on ports have been noted.

In the first type, FW 190's escorted by ME 109's make a weaving approach at about 20,000 feet and, when near the objective, glide down to between 10,000 and 12,000 feet. The 109's then veer off to attract the antiaircraft defenses, while the 190's maneuver into attack position and make a steep dive from the sun. They always dive in line astern.1 The angle of dive is from 30 to 50 degrees, and the usual diving speed exceeds 400 miles per hour. At the end of the dive, the 190's are likely to bank to the right. After pulling out, they usually head straight for home, although sometimes they rejoin the 109's and both attack the target with machine guns. Occasionally the escort may dive with the bombing aircraft.

In the second type of attack, ME 109's approach at about 12,000 feet, make a shallow dive at full speed to 6,000 feet, and release their bombs at this altitude.

In the third type, FW 190's circle at 12,000 feet, and then peel off in a steep dive to about 6,000 feet; at this altitude the bombs are dropped.

The fourth type of attack involves Junkers 87's (the standard German dive bomber), which usually dive in formation, in line abreast, at a 60-degree angle from approximately 4,000 feet to drop their bombs at about 1,000 feet. Also, Ju 87's often approach at 10,000 feet, make a shallow dive to between 5,000 and 6,000 feet, and then release the bombs. They are immediately followed by FW 190's, which come over at 5,000 feet and dive steeply to 500 feet, disregarding antiaircraft fire. At 500 feet they release their bombs and then make an almost vertical pull-out.

(2) At Night.—Several variations in night attacks on ports have been reported. In one type the aircraft, perhaps Ju 88's, approach singly at about 10,000 feet, make landfall2 to the flank of the objective, and circle inland. The aircraft then head toward the sea, usually shutting off their engines and gliding down to 2,000 or 3,000 feet to bomb port installations. However, they sometimes make a steep power-dive from 6,000 feet to about 2,000 feet. After attacking port installations, the Germans always head out over the sea.

Ju 88's also make a high, level approach, and drop flares before they separate to make diving attacks from different directions. They may even approach evasively—abruptly changing direction a number of times—at altitudes of 8,000 to 12,000 feet, from which they dive to 2,000 feet in order to bomb.

b. Attacks on Airdromes

It is reported that the Germans have used a variety of methods in attacking airdromes. For example, fighters escorting FW 190's and Ju 87's often try to engage the opposition's fighter patrols at high altitudes while the Ju 87's execute a deep dive, pulling out at 7,000 feet. The 190's go in simultaneously with the 87's in a shallow dive, the leading plane diving at a slightly steeper angle and about 1,000 feet below. The bombing by the FW 190's has been more accurate than that by the Ju 87's.

Another maneuver carried out by FW 190's and ME 109's is a low-level approach from the sun, at an altitude of about 50 feet, to attack with cannon and machine guns. These aircraft also engage in mock dogfights over the airdrome, breaking off suddenly and diving to attack.

At altitudes of from 10,000 to 15,000 feet, 190's may approach and then divide into two sections, one of which dives to about 2,000 feet to bomb the target while the other maintains altitude. After the dive, the sections rejoin each other, and both immediately dive at right angles to the original line of dive, in order to bomb and machine gun for added effect.

Still another method of attack is for fighter-bombers to come in at about 2,000 or 3,000 feet, followed by fighters several thousand yards behind. The fighters fly at an altitude of about 30 feet in order to strafe airdrome personnel, who are so preoccupied with the bombers that they often are taken completely by surprise.

FW 190's and ME 109's frequently circle at 8,000 to 10,000 feet, diving singly or in formation to attack a target with cannon and machine-gun fire. In another type of airdrome attack, Ju 87's approach in formation at 8,000 feet, escorted by a high cover of ME 109's and FW 190's. The 87's dive and release their bombs at 2,000 feet while the fighter-bombers drop one large or two small bombs from 10,000 feet. Again, ME 109's and FW 190's may appear over an airdrome in formation at about 6,000 feet, and then suddenly break off and attack from all directions with bombs and machine-gun fire.

c. Attacks on Roads and Gun Emplacements

In order of priority, the favorite targets on roads appear to be water trucks, staff cars, artillery movers, and ambulances. Road attacks vary in method. First, FW 190's or ME 109's, in threes or fours, usually reconnoiter the targets from about 6,000 or 7,000 feet. When they have sighted the desired objectives, planes dive to 50 feet, and fly either parallel to a road or diagonally across it, often attacking while vehicles are on an "S" curve or in a wooded stretch. Sometimes the planes fly far down a road, strafing any target that they encounter.

Another method of attack that the Germans follow involves coming in low over a hill and diving on a road in the adjoining valley.

Both dive and fighter bombers have been used in a counterbattery role to attack forward gun emplacements from 5,000 feet or less, depending on the intensity of the antiaircraft fire encountered.


German interrogation of United Nations prisoners who belong to air force units is in many ways comparable to the interrogation of ground force personnel, according to statements made by captured Germans. However, it is believed that attention should be called to certain reported German methods of interrogating air force prisoners, so that the members of all arms may be better informed regarding the enemy's technique of securing information.

It is reported, for example, that when an air prisoner of war is taken to an interrogation center, he is likely to be placed first in a single room outside the main camp until his first interrogation, after which a decision is reached as to the type of treatment that he is to be given.

After the prisoner has refused to give more than his name, rank, and number, he is likely to be moved into a room with a companion, in the hope that he will divulge information which can be picked up by hidden microphones. Often the companion is as stool pigeon, who plays the role of a comrade in distress and who pretends to be hurt if the prisoner does not talk freely.

Captured Germans report that stool pigeons sometimes are air prisoners of war belonging to German-occupied countries, and that they have been coerced into this sort of work by threats of retaliation against their families. Other stool pigeons may be men with private grievances, which the Germans have encouraged and played upon.

Most often, it would seem, the companion assigned to a prisoner of war is simply a German who knows one of the United Nations very well, who speaks English perfectly, and who appears to be just another prisoner.

An alternative method is to give the prisoner a period of solitary confinement. The Germans hope that prisoners will no longer resist interrogation after having been kept alone for a considerable time, and that when they are treated decently afterward, they will be glad to talk readily.

For certain prisoners, the method of "friendly" interrogation is used at the very beginning. The questioning takes place in a comfortably furnished room, and the interrogators take pains to keep the whole thing on the level of an informal chat. The serving of alcoholic drinks is intended to play an important part in this method.

Naturally, efforts are made to convince the prisoner that he need not fear to talk, inasmuch as everything about his unit is already known. It is reported that at certain German interrogation centers the prisoner is seated near a shelf of books purporting to give the history of each unit, together with names of personnel, details of losses, and so on. The interrogation officer may even start by reading aloud a few entirely correct statements, hoping that this will lead the prisoner to talk freely and, in so doing, to reveal other information, which is not yet known and which is badly needed.

German officers sometimes invite prisoners to parties, which last until four or five in the morning. There is always plenty to drink at these affairs. The Germans of course do everything they can to start friendly discussions with the prisoners, in the hope that eventually one man will grow talkative and that others will then follow suit. This method is dangerous, and no one should be so misguided as to think that it is safe for him to talk "just a little" on the grounds that he "knows when to stop."

1 "In line astern"—one following another.
2 "To make landfall"—to cross a coastline.

[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page


Web LoneSentry.com