Un'ora che ha cambiato la guerra
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.
Presto, con la sua forza di bombardieri ridotta a poche centinaia di macchine obsolete, la Luftwaffe non fu in grado di penetrare nelle difese della Gran Bretagna se non per gli attacchi a percussione. Ma rimanevano bombe volanti e missili a lungo raggio con i quali soddisfare le richieste del popolo tedesco di rappresaglie di bombardamenti. Se queste armi potessero essere prodotte in serie in tempo, permetterebbero ai tedeschi di prendere l'offensiva in aria senza usare i loro preziosi bombardieri o aviatori.
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.
Gli appassionati credevano che le armi segrete avrebbero deciso la guerra entro 24 ore. I tedeschi più realistici speravano che avrebbero almeno interrotto la produzione di guerra britannica e ritardato l'invasione, o forse costretto gli Alleati all'invasione prematura della costa di Calais pesantemente difesa da cui i tedeschi avrebbero lanciato le loro nuove armi. E anche se non si dimostrassero decisivi, i bombardamenti di rappresaglia rafforzerebbero il morale tedesco e sarebbero più utili nella contrattazione per una pace compromessa.
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.
Il primo era il quartiere degli scienziati e dei tecnici.
Il secondo consisteva in hangar e officine contenenti bombe e missili sperimentali. Il terzo era l'area amministrativa - edifici contenenti blueprint e dati tecnici.
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:
"L'estrema importanza di questo obiettivo e la necessità di raggiungere la sua distruzione con un solo attacco devono essere colpiti da tutti gli equipaggi. Se l'attacco non riesce a raggiungere il suo obiettivo, dovrà essere ripetuto nelle notti successive, indipendentemente da limiti praticabili, di vittime ".
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.
In meno di un'ora l'area era una striscia di fuoco quasi continua.
Mentre l'ultima ondata di bombardieri volava verso casa, i combattenti notturni tedeschi, che avevano aspettato invano Berlino, li raggiunsero e persero 41 bombardieri britannici, un piccolo prezzo da pagare per una delle più grandi vittorie aeree della guerra.
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.
Il capo scienziato von Chamier-Glisezenski morì durante il raid.
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.)
Con i migliori scienziati e specialisti spazzati via, è stato necessario trovare nuovi uomini per portare avanti il lavoro di sviluppo.
A causa del ritardo, i nazisti non sono stati in grado di lanciare le loro armi segrete lo scorso inverno; e hanno avuto difficoltà a curare il morale tedesco attraverso i continui raid aerei degli Alleati.
I tedeschi furono ulteriormente arretrati dagli attacchi aerei degli Alleati durante la primavera delle rampe di lancio di bombe e missili nel Pas de Calais e nelle fabbriche di componenti. Quindi alla gente fu detto che le armi segrete erano intese come armi anti-invasione, essendo state salvate per far saltare gli Alleati nei porti e sulle spiagge.
Il D-Day, tuttavia, catturò i tedeschi che non erano ancora pronti. Solo sette giorni dopo che gli Alleati invasero la Normandia, la prima bomba volante cadde su Londra.
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.
Di Allan A. Michie Digest britannico verso il 1945
Footage of Peenemünde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN4M1p_tTKU