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STEVEN J. ZALOGA, illustrated by JIM LAURIER
Although the Crossbow campaign was costly in terms of aircrew losses and the diversion of bomber missions, the initial attacks proved very effective in delaying the start of the missile campaign against London. In early December 1943, before the attacks, Wachtel reported that he expected to be ready to start the campaign later in the month, and even the more skeptical General Heinemann thought it might be possible in January. In fact, the bombing so disrupted the creation of launch sites, and so badly interfered with training and deployment, that the missile campaign started six months late. General Eisenhower later wrote that if the missile campaign had started on time at the end of 1943, it might have disrupted the D-Day plans. This is a misunderstanding of the role of the missiles, as neither Hitler nor any of the other senior leaders had the sense to use the missiles against the invasion fleet, so obsessed were they with their revenge mission against London. The Crossbow campaign also lessened the volume of the summer missile attacks since it reduced the production rate of the missiles through attacks on the factories, and forced the Germans to adopt less efficient launch bases, with a lower rate of fire than the original configuration.
This map illustrates a typical "modified" V-1 launch site, No. 240 at the entrance to La Maison de Bricqueboscq in Normandy. A stretch of Route D204 was reinforced with concrete where It met the chateau's entrance road. A pad for the launcher (1) has been created, along with an aligned pad for the non-magnetic guidance platform (2). A launch control bunker has been built near the launch pad (4) and a small "garage" bunker (3) for preparing the V-1 was built near the road access point. (Author)
In late December 1943, General Heinemann held a conference for all leaders of the FZG-76 program, in order to determine how to get the program back on track. The conference concluded that neither missile production nor manufacture of the Walter launcher were going to be ready until late February 1944. Heinemann therefore concluded that the existing Site System 1 and the four heavy bases were such obvious targets for attack that they could not be used in the forthcoming missile campaign. Instead, the French work crews would complete them, and even effect modest repairs after Allied air raids, in order to distract attention from a new series of bases. The new Operational Site System would be constructed by German engineer battalions with no participation by French construction firms, and security around the sites would be draconian. The new sites would have as little construction as possible to prevent their detection by Allied intelligence. The only concrete fixtures at the sites would be a basic concrete platform for the launch ramp, a concrete floor for the non-magnetic alignment building, a small garage for preparing the missile, and a modest amount of concrete road improvements. None of the distinctive "ski" buildings or other facilities would be used, and no distinctive missile equipment would be allowed near the sites until six days before the start of the missile campaign. Storage of missiles and their equipment would be moved to local caves and tunnels and not specialized bunkers. The simplified sites were also much easier to construct, taking only eight days compared to eight weeks for the "ski-sites." These new bases, called "modified sites" or "Belhamelin" sites by Allied intelligence, proved much more difficult to locate, and the first Was not identified until April 26th, 1944. After the meeting, the Germans referred to the Type A ski sites as Stellungen alter Bauart ("Old pattern sites") and the new types as Einsatz Stellungen ("Special sites").
Deployment of Flak Regiment 155 (W) in northern France in June 1944 for Operation Eisbär. (Author)
Heinemann realized that photographic reconnaissance coverage over London was unlikely when the missile attacks began, so novel methods were concocted to determine whether the missiles had hit their target. Fieseler equipped about seven percent of the FZG-76 missiles with radio transmitters which would permit tracking where they landed. This was supplemented by a special SS observation battalion using sound location and seismographic instruments. Heinemann planned to start the campaign on March 1st, 1944, but by the spring of 1944 the Crossbow campaign had effectively delayed construction of the launch sites and Allied air attacks against the railroad network in France to support ihe D-Day invasion further undermined the missile program.
A supply battery of Flak Regiment 155 (W) prepares missiles for launch. The missile on the left is mounted on the Zubringerwagen loading trolley which was mated to the launch ramp, and the missile slid into place. (NARA)
Besides the ground-launched missile program, the Luftwaffe began an air-launched missile program in early 1944. Aircraft had already been used in the test program, but had been ignored as possible combat launchers since, unlike fixed land bases, there was no existing navigation system accurate enough to determine the precise launch point. Tests of various navigation systems began in November 1943, and a conference was held at the Rechlin test base on March 18th, 1944, to examine some of the options including the Egon, Y-Gerät and Zyklop, and Knickebein navigation systems. The only practical way to perform this mission was to pre-set the guidance on the Fi-103 for launch from a single predetermined location along a predetermined bearing. Needless to say, this offered a much lower level of accuracy than the ground launchers. On April 6th, 1944, tests began of various bombers, and the Heinkel He-111 was selected. A program began to convert old subtypes into the He-111H-22 configuration with a launch station under the light wing. General Milch was not very keen on this program but acquiesced, feeling that the bomber launches would help confuse the British. In early May 1944, III/Kampfgeschwader 3 was assigned the missile mission and sent to Karlshagen for training.
The last launcher option examined before the start of the campaign was a local initiative by FR155W to develop a mobile, vehicle-mounted launch system, but this did not progress very far.