Luftwaffe General Josef Kammhuber took command of Nachtjagd. He oversaw the construction of a new and much more deadly Himmelbett system. This was a chain of radar-guided fighter 'boxes' from Belgium to northern Germany and around important German Cities (Spring 1942). This became nown as the Kammhuber line. Kammhuber at first faced Bomber Command night raids and thus organized defensive efforts to stop night raids. Each individual nightfighter "box" overlapping the adjascent boxes. Each box had a ground freya radar set. This provided early warning of Allied Bombers and their course, although not their height. Then as the Luftwaffe fighters were scrambled, the incoming bombers were picked up by short-range W�rzberg radar. Each box had short range radars covering an area of about 20 miles. Each "box" had two short range radars, one to track the Allied bombers and the other to track the Luftwaffe fighters. Ground controllers plotted the positions of Luftwaffe fighters and Allied bombers with green and red dots projected on to the Seeburg evaluation screen. Controllers radioed the vector information to the fighters so they could close with the bombers. The improved Lichtenstein airborne radar was fitted on the night-fighters. Ground controllers guideed the night fighters to within 2 miles of the RAF bombers at which point the Lichtenstein radars could acquire the bombers. The German system had limitations. Each "box" could direct only one interception at any given time. Bomber Command developed a tactic of "streaming" which took a raiding force through a single "box" to saturate the German defenses. Then in 1943 Kammhuber also had to face the American 8th Air Force and daylight raids many around the clock bombing.
The Kammhuber Line was named for its chief architect, Generalleutnant Josef Kammhuber. Kammhuber was born in T��ling, Bavaria (1896). His father was a farmer. He fought in World War I in a Bavarian engineer battalion. His abilities were noted and he was allowed to stay in German's small post-War army. He showed an interest in aviation. This was prohibited by the Versailles Treaty ending the War, but the Germans arrange to do it secretly in the Siviet Union under thecterns of the 1922 Rapollo Treaty (September 1929). Kammhuber joined the staff of General Walter Wever, chief of staff of the new Luftwaffe. Wever wanted to build a strategic bomber force. Wever was killed in an air crash (June 1936). Because of Germany's limited industrial capacity, the Luftwaffe emerged as primarily a tacticalmair force with fighters and short-range light/medium bombers. Kammhuber continued to rise in the ranks, reaching colonel before the outbreak of World War II (1938). He became involved with both bomber and Flak units. He is best known for his role in the World War II air war. German air defenses forced RAF Bomber forces to bomb at night. Kammhuber oranized the Luftwaffe Nachtjagd (Night Fighters). He thus suceeded in building the first truly successful night fighter defense system--the Kammhuber Line. The defensive system he built exacted a terrible toll on Bomber Command, although it could not stop the bombing. Allied technical advances as well as the growing weight of the American and British bomber fleet as well as long-range fighter escorts eventually overwealmed the Kammhuber Line. Kammhuber differed with Erhard Milch, director of the Reich Air Ministry, over which planes to be used. Eventually Milch dismissed him and transferred him to Norway (1943). After the war, the Allies arrested Milch, but eventually released him without charges. He helped build the Argentine Air Firce and then joined Germany Federal Defense Force.
Luftwaffe General Josef Kammhuber took command of Nachtjagd (1940). The Luftwffe night fighters would be the major killing force taking on the British night bombers of Bomber Command. They wwre supported by the Himmelbett System which was steadly strengthened by technical advances.
Kammhuber at first faced Bomber Command night raids and thus organized defensive efforts to stop night raids.
From the beginning a system of over-lapping boxes was used. This became kown as the Kammhuber line. It included a deadly combination of searchlights, radar, and night fighters based in occupied France, Belgium, and Holland which sat aside the direct air routes from Britain into the Reich.
At first during 1940 a fairly simple method involved powerful manual searchlights which illuminated the slow moving British bombers as a Messerschmidt Bf-110 or Junkers Ju-88 night fighter assigned to that area moved in for a kill. During 1941 the system was upgraded with a radar-controlled beam, making the Kammhuber Line much more effective. This enabled the search lights to lock onto the British bombers automatically, illuminating the target with a pale blue guide beam. The manually directed searchlights could then find the bombers.
Kammhuber oversaw the construction of a new and much more deadly Himmelbett system. This replaced the original rather primitive searchlight illumination system. This was a chain of radar-guided fighter 'boxes' from Belgium to northern Germany and around important German Cities (Spring 1942).
Each individual nightfighter box overlapped adjacent boxes. Each box had a ground Freya radar set. This provided early warning of Allied Bombers and their course, although not their height. Then as the Luftwaffe fighters were scrambled, the incoming bombers were picked up by short-range, but highly aaccurate Würzberg radar. Each box had short range radars covering an area of about 20 miles. Each "box" had two short range radars, one to track the Allied bombers and the other to track the Luftwaffe fighters. Ground controllers plotted the positions of Luftwaffe fighters and Allied bombers with green and red dots projected on to the Seeburg evaluation screen. Controllers radioed the vector information to the fighters so they could close with the bombers. The improved Lichtenstein airborne radar was fitted on the night-fighters. Ground controllers guided the night fighters to within 2 miles of the RAF bombers at which point the Lichtenstein radars could acquire the bombers. The German system had limitations. Each "box" could direct only one interception at any given time.
Bomber Command developed a tactic of "streaming" which took a raiding force through a single "box" to saturate the German defenses.
Then in 1943 Kammhuber also had a new challenge to face, the American 8th Air Force and daylight raids. This meant many around the clock bombing.
The Belgian Resistance stole a map of the Kammhuber Line. The French resistance assisted in preparing the Brritish commando attack on a Würtzburg radar station along the Channel coast.
The Battle of the Beams began over Britain as the Luftwaffe developed systems to guide bombers on to targets and the British attepoted to disrupt them electronically. As the War continued, the battleground shifted to the skies over northern Europe as RAF Bomber Command began to strike back at Germany in force with the new Acro Lancasters. Kammhuber boxes were remarkavly effecrive againt su=ib=gle bomv=bers. So the Britisbegan flooding a box with large numbers of bombers. The Germans reponded by exoanding and deeoing the Line and adding radar stations and introducing an improved Würzburg--the more powerful Würzburg Riese (Giant Würzburg) with an extended range. The Germans began equipping their night fighters with radare detecting antenna part of the Lichtenstein ra=dar sets (1942). The Center Radio was Fug 202 and the side raduio was Fug 220. The British developed a succession of radar jammers trying to blind the elaborate German Himmelbett network. The first was the American Mandril system. Anoyther was the RAF Serrate system to shoot down German night fighters. The Germans responded with changes in their radars as well as new equipment designed to operate in different frequency ranges. Another British effort was Carona--native German speakers issuing falese radio commands to Luftwaffe nightfighters. The German sthan recruited women opetators which resulted in the British finding women operators of theiur own. Thus you have operators trying to convince the German night fighters who was who. The Germans generally suceeded in maintaiing the intergety of their radar defenses. The Battle of the Ruhr cost Bomber Command 872 bombers, mostly losses from German night fighters. The British were developing a new countermeasure that they believed would compleletly surprise the Germans, but wanted to wait for the best time and place to use it for maximum impact.
British electronic-warfare expert Reginald V. Jones before the War began experimenting with strips of metal foil causing radar echoes (late-1930s) He eventually found that bundles of metal strips droppe by aircraft revealed that when dropped in large quantity would create echoes that look like bombers on radar screens, especially to operartors who had never been exposed to the foil drops before. Thus when dropped, Window would give the impression to the Germans that a massive bomber force was on its way. It would also when dropped in large quantities, radars operating between 200 and 600 MHz. The Germans were doing similar tests calling it "Dueppel, but importantly did not have a bomber firce to throw at Britain that would make it useful. Reichmarschall Hermann Göring eventually banned further testing, concerned that the British would learn about it. The British continued with theur research, calling it "Window". Prime Minister Winston Churchill was informed and decided to reserve Window for a major strike.
The first major crack in the Kammhuber Line came with the Anglo-American raid on the German port city of Hamburg (July 24-August 2, 1943). Air Marshal Harris' proposed a major air attack on Hamburg. Churchill decided that Hamburg was a big enough target to justify the use of Window. The attack was code named Operation Gomorrah. It was designed to utterly destroy the city--one of the most important in Germany. The biblical term, a place destroyed by God's fire and brimstone, suggests what was planned for the city. Almost 1,000 night bombers of the British RAF Bomber Command, supported by American 8th Air Force daylight bombers struck at the north German port city of Hamburg. The raid began The raid began with RAF Mosquito pathfinder aircraft equipped with H2S terrain-mapping radar sets guiding a Bomber Command force of almost 800 Lancaster, Halifax, and Stirling four-engine bombers to their targets (July 24-25). They dropped Window bundles from special chutes cut into the fuselages. Window did all that ws hoped. It completely disrupted the German air defenses dependant as they were on radar. As a result the RAF heavies proceeded on toward their targets virtually un impeded by the Luftwaffe night fighters. The German night fighter radar operators reported phantom bombers appearing and disappearing abruptly again and again during the night. Only 12 RAF bombers were lost during the raid. The size of the bomber force and the fact that Hamburg was on the North Sea proved devestating. In addition, the Allies nearly paralysis the German radar-directed defenses through countermeasures like Window. The Allies introduced the radar contermeasures for the first time and the Germansere unpreoared for them. The result was one of the most devestating air raids of World War II created a fearsome firestorm. The first attack was only the beginning. Bomber Command would revisit Hamburg three times more in subsequent days. Feeding the inferno with more incendiary bombs. The 8th Air Force contributed with attacks with B-17 Flying Fortresses during the day. An estimated 50,000 Germans are believed to have perished in the rais, both from the actual bombing abnd the resulting firestorm. This was nearly as many as the British civilians during the entire War. The Germans called it "Die Katastrophe". The success on Hamburg broke a period of considerable success by the Luftwaffe's Nachtjagdgruppen
The Allied strategic bombing campaign could not get around the fact that the bombers were not abke to defend themselves, even in defensive boxes against German fighters. As a result, bith the Americans during the day and the British at might suffered large losses, The bomber crews were unlikely to conolete theur required numbers of missions despite the heavy armament. This was both costlt for the Allies and limited the effectiness of the bombing campaign. This fact is dutifully recounted in World War II histories. What is now fully reported is the cost to the Germans. In addition to the damge done, it was a huge cost to mainatin the system at a time with which the Reich was experiencung increasin pressure. The Ostheer was not cistly to maintain. It wasan army operating with horse drawn carts and fed by seizing food from the local population. The Kammhuber Line in sharp conttast was a high-tech military undertaking. The personnel was a fraction of the Ostheer, but the industrial requirement was substantal, requiring high tech components ,and critical raw materials. It required the Luftwaffe not only to move mich of its aircraft west, but for German induistry to place huge quantiries of artillery and ordinance to defend German cities rather thanequio the Ostheer.
USAAF commanders given high losses on raids nto the Reich were forced to change their preconceived ideas about the ability of their B-17 Flying Fortresses tio fight thedur way into the Reich. Partial escorts by the fuel hungary P-47 Thubndeboldts was not going to solve the proiblem. The massive losses of Regensburg-Schweinfurt mission shocked the American commanders. It became increasinglky clkear that even partially escorted were un sustained even with the massive American bomber production and aircrew training effort. The Bomber Boys led by Gen. Hap Arnold came to see that a long-range escort fighter was needed. Even after reaching this conclusion, the Eight Airforce continued to hammer the Reich and experience serious losses. New tactics were devised an efforts made to extend the range of existing fighets were developed. A major step was carrying drop tanks. But there was just no way of extending the range of the existiung fighters to the range required.
The Americans had the airtframe need--one with minimal drag eraly in the War (1940). But it was underpowered.
A british pilot flying one of these planes suggested its performance could be significantly improved by replacing the Ameican Allison engine with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine powering the RAF Spitfire. That iudea created the gratest propeller fighter of the War--the P-51 Mustang. Along with futher work and drop tanks, the Americans had a fighter which had the range to escort bombers all the way, even on deep penetrations raids into the Reich. The first P-51 squadorns began the first escort missioins (Devember 19844). In a few sgort months they woyld sestroy the Luftwaffe.
Svejgaard, Michael. Who'll Stop the Rain?.
Pheasant, V.A. Window on Gomorrah.
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