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"Air Attacks on Malta" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German bombing of Malta during WWII is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 6, August 27, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


The heavy and persistent air attacks on Malta have rightly earned for that small Mediterranean island the description "the most bombed place on earth".

Because of its importance to antiaircraft artillery, a brief review of the aerial tactics used by the enemy is presented here.

All heavy attacks were by day, with a few light raids by night. The Germans never employed straight, high-level bombing. Full use was made of the sun and any available cloud cover. The practice of feinting was used--starting to dive towards one objective and then turning to attack the real target.

Until the middle of March, with one exception, only JU 88's were used by the Germans. Later JU 87's were also constantly used. The JU 88's approached between 12,000 and 18,000 feet and came in at angles that varied between 30° and 60°, releasing their bombs at 6,000 to 9,000 feet, sometimes pulling out as low as 4,000 feet. Generally, the JU 87's dived very steeply, pulling out at the same height as the JU 88's.

The early attacks were by successive waves all approaching from the same direction and attacking the same objective. As the attack developed, the tactics varied, and synchronized attacks by waves of bombers approaching the same objective from different directions were common. The synchronization became markedly better with practice. Alternatively, heavy attacks were made simultaneously on two targets, the object in either case being to confuse the defense. Later "wingers" would peel off from the main attack to make individual attacks on heavy antiaircraft gun positions on the lines of approach or close to the target, or small formations would make deliberate diving attacks on gun positions, synchronizing these attacks with the main attack.

After delivering their attacks, bombers took violent avoiding action, turning and changing height until clear of the island, and did not normally come low enough to make good targets for light antiaircraft guns. They did not attack light antiaircraft gun positions.

Bomber formations were always strongly escorted by fighters. After a raid, some of the latter would machine-gun British dispersal areas, gun positions, fishing boats, or fighters about to land. Bombers were preceded by a fighter patrol and always followed by reconnaissance from a great height.

ME 109's often carried bombs, which were dropped with accuracy from a height until special Maltese spotters (who have remarkable eyesight) were established in observation posts to identify bomb-carrying fighters so that the guns would engage them.

At least in the bombing attacks on Malta, Germans showed the trait, observed in the last war, of doing the same thing at the same time every day. During the heavy raids it was normal routine to receive an attack of about 75 bombers soon after breakfast, a second at lunch time, and a third at about 6 in the evening. This regularity was found to be a great convenience.


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