Sunday, April 25, 2004
"Operation Eagle" Commission
King of Fools: "In the spirit of the 9/11 Commission, here is a brief look back at 'Operation Eagle', Germany's major air offensive against Great Britain.
The operation began in August of 1940 and although Germany was the overwhelming favorite, things didn't turn out quite as expected. Historian William L. Shirer points out a critical mistake by Hermann Goering in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:
The skill of British Fighter Command in committing its planes to battle against vastly superior attacking forces was based on its shrewd use of radar. From the moment they took off from their bases in Western Europe the German aircraft were spotted on British radar screens, and their course so accurately plotted that Fighter Command knew exactly where and when they could best be attacked. This was something new in warfare and it puzzled the Germans, who were far behind the British in the development and use of this electronic device.
German fighter ace Adolf Galland later testified:
We realized that the R.A.F fighter squadrons must be controlled from the ground by some new procedure because we heard commands skillfully and accurately directing Spitfires and Hurricanes on to German formations...For us this radar and fighter control was a surprise and a very bitter one.
On August 12, the Luftwaffe staged a raid on enemy radar stations. Five stations in all were damaged, with one completely disabled. Yet, following a dismal showing in battles on August 15th, Goering called off all future attacks on the radar stations, declaring:
It is doubtful whether there is any point in continuing the attacks on radar stations, since not one of those attacked has so far been put out of action.
German pilots knew that radar granted an advantage to their opponent. German intelligence knew the location of many (if not all) of the radar stations. Shirer believes that this gross miscalculation is one of the major factors why Germany did not win the Battle of Britain. Why was this decision made? Could the available intelligence have allowed them to make a better decision?"
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