Una hora que cambió 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.
Pronto, con su fuerza de bombardero reducida a unos cientos de máquinas obsoletas, la Luftwaffe no pudo penetrar las defensas de Gran Bretaña, excepto por los ataques de pinchazos de golpe y fuga. Pero quedaban bombas voladoras y cohetes de largo alcance para satisfacer las demandas del pueblo alemán de represalias por bombardeos. Si estas armas pudieran ser producidas en masa a tiempo, permitirían a los alemanes tomar la ofensiva en el aire sin usar sus preciados bombarderos o aviadores.
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.

Los entusiastas creían que las armas secretas decidirían la guerra en 24 horas. Los alemanes más realistas esperaban que al menos interrumpirían la producción de guerra británica y retrasarían la invasión, o tal vez obligarían a los Aliados a una invasión prematura de la costa de Calais, fuertemente defendida, desde la cual los alemanes lanzarían sus nuevas armas. E incluso si no demostraron ser decisivos, el bombardeo en represalia reforzaría la moral alemana y sería útil más adelante en la negociación de un compromiso de paz.

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.

El primero fue la vivienda de los científicos y técnicos.
El segundo consistió en hangares y talleres que contenían bombas experimentales y cohetes. El tercero era el área administrativa: edificios que contenían planos y datos técnicos.

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:

"La importancia extrema de este objetivo y la necesidad de lograr su destrucción con un solo ataque debe quedar impresionado en todas las tripulaciones. Si el ataque no logra su objetivo, deberá repetirse en las noches siguientes, independientemente, dentro de los límites practicables, de bajas ".
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.

En menos de una hora, el área era una franja de fuego casi continua.
Cuando la última ola de bombarderos voló a casa, los cazas nocturnos alemanes, que habían estado esperando en vano por Berlín, los alcanzaron y se perdieron 41 bombarderos británicos, un pequeño precio a pagar por una de las mayores victorias aéreas de la 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.

El científico principal von Chamier-Glisezenski murió durante la redada.
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 la eliminación de los mejores científicos y especialistas, hubo que encontrar nuevos hombres para llevar a cabo el trabajo de desarrollo.
Como resultado del retraso, los nazis no pudieron lanzar sus armas secretas el invierno pasado; y tuvieron dificultades para cuidar la moral alemana a través de continuos ataques aéreos aliados.
Los alemanes se vieron aún más retrasados ​​por los ataques aéreos aliados durante la primavera de rampas de lanzamiento de bombas voladoras y cohetes en el Pas de Calais, y en las fábricas de componentes. Entonces se le dijo a la gente que las armas secretas estaban pensadas como armas antiinvasión, y se salvaron para destruir a los Aliados en los puertos y en las playas.

D-Day, sin embargo, atrapó a los alemanes que aún no estaban listos. Hasta siete días después de que los aliados invadieron Normandía, la primera bomba voladora cayó sobre Londres.
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.

Por Allan A. Michie British Digest sobre 1945

 

Footage of Peenemünde: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN4M1p_tTKU 

 

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