Operation Crossbow

Operation Crossbow
World War II
Operation Crossbow
Eisbär (V-1) & Pinguin (V-2)
Part of Strategic bombing campaigns in Europe
La Coupole (Wizernes) "Heavy Crossbow" target
Date August 1943 – May 2, 1945[1]:136
Location Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands
Result "limited effect"[2]
 United Kingdom
 United States
 Nazi Germany
Sorties/bomb tonnage:

Total: 68,913/122,133[3]
RAF: 19,584/72,141
USAAF: 17,211/30,350[4]

V-1 launches: 9,251 against
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg[5] (>8000 @London),[6]
2,448 @Antwerp[7]:82
V-2 launches: 1664Flag of Belgium.svg,
1402Flag of the United Kingdom.svg, 76Flag of France.svg, 19Flag of the Netherlands.svg,
11Flag of Germany.svg (Ludendorff Bridge)
Casualties and losses

British civilians killed/
seriously injured:

  • V-1: 6,184/17,981
  • V-2: 2,754/6,523[5]
V-1: 4,261 destroyed
by AA guns (1,878),
barrage balloons (231),
and fighters (1,846):[9]

V-2: 51/117 killed/wounded,
48/69 rockets/vehicles

Crossbow was the code name of the World War II campaign of Anglo-American "operations against all phases of the German long-range weapons programme—operations against research and development of the weapons, their manufacture, transportation and their launching sites, and against missiles in flight".[2]:7 The original 1943[10]:149 code name Bodyline was replaced with Crossbow on November 15, 1943.[11]:4 Post-war, Crossbow operations became known as Operation Crossbow as early as 1962,[12] particularly following the 1965 film of the same name.


Strategic bombing

For a list of bombing targets, see the Operation Crossbow navigation box (below).

When reconnaissance and intelligence information regarding the V-2 rocket became convincing, the War Cabinet Defence Committee (Operations) directed the campaign's first planned1 raid (the Operation Hydra attack of Peenemünde in August 1943).[13] Following Operation Hydra, a few Crossbow attacks were conducted on the "Heavy Crossbow"[14] bunkers of Watten (V-2) and Mimoyecques (V-3) through November.[15] "CROSSBOW Operations Against Ski Sites" began on December 5 with the NOBALL code name used for the targets (e.g., 'Noball 27' was the Ailly-le-Vieux-Clocher [sic] site,[7]:49 'Noball No. 93' was in the Cherbourg area, 'Noball No. 107' was at Grand Parc, and 'noball' V1 site No.147 was at Ligescourt).[1] ). The US formed its own Crossbow Committee under General Stephen Henry (New Developments Division) on December 29, 1943, and the US subsequently developed bombing techniques for ski sites in February/March 1944 at the Air Corps Proving Ground (a June plan to attack V-1 launch sites from aircraft carriers with USMC fighters was disapproved). V-2 facilities were also bombed in 1944, including smaller facilities such as V-2 storage depots and liquid oxygen plants, such as the Mery-sur-Oise V-2 storage depot[4] on August 4, 1944 and, by the Eighth Air Force, which bombed 5 LOX plants in Belgium on August 25, 1944 and aborted the next day "to hit liquid oxygen plants at La Louviere, Torte and Willebroeck, Belgium...due to clouds."

Bombing priority

At the request of the British War Cabinet, on April 19, 1944,[10]:212[11]:24 Dwight Eisenhower-directed Crossbow attacks have absolute priority over all other air operations, including "wearing down German industry" and morale[1]:46 "for the time being",[10]:212 which he confirmed after the V-1 assault began on the night of June 12/13, 1944: "with respect to CROSSBOW targets, these targets are to take first priority over everything except the urgent requirements of the [Overlord] battle; this priority to obtain until we can be certain that we have definitely gotten the upper hand of this particular business" (Eisenhower to Arthur Tedder, June 16).[15]

Carl Spaatz responded on June 28 to[16] "complain that CROSSBOW was a 'diversion' from the main task of wearing down the Luftwaffe and bombing German industry" and to recommend instead that CROSSBOW be a secondary priority since "days of bad weather over Germany's industrial targets would still allow] enough weight of attack for the rocket sites and the lesser tactical crises."[17] By July 10, Tedder had published a list of Crossbow targets which assigned 30 to RAF Bomber Command, 6 to Tedder's tactical forces, and 68 to Spaatz' USSTAF; after which Spaatz again complained,[18] so Eisenhower allowed 'spare' bombing of non-Crossbow targets: "Instructions for continuing to make CROSSBOW targets our first priority must stand, but...when...the entire strategic forces cannot be used against CROSSBOW, we should attack — (a) Aircraft industry, (b) Oil, (c) ball bearing [German: Kugellagerwerke], (d) Vehicular production" (Eisenhower, July 18).[17] On August 25, 1944, the Joint Crossbow Target Priorities Committee (established July 21)[19] prepared the "Plan for Attack on the German Rocket Organization When Rocket Attacks Commence"—in addition to bombing of storage, liquid-oxygen, and launch sites; the plan included aerial reconnaissance operations.[11]:37 Following the last V-1 launch from France on September 1, 1944, and since the expected V-2 attacks had not begun, Crossbow bombing was suspended on September 3[11]:34 and the campaign against German oil facilities became the highest priority. The V-1 threat from occupied France ended on September 5, 1944, when elements of the 7th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division contained the German military units of the Nord-Pas de Calais area with their surrender following on September 30.[20]

Resumption of bombing

Crossbow bombing resumed after the first V-2 attack and included a large September 17th raid on Dutch targets suspected as bases for Heinkel He 111s, which were air-launching V-1s.[11]:37 Modified V-1s (865 total) were "air-launched" from September 16th, 1944 to January 14th, 1945.[21]:104 The British had initially considered that an earlier July 18–21, 1944 effort of 50 air-launched V-1s had been "ground-launched" from the Low Countries, particularly near Ostend.[10]:256 In addition to air-launched V-1s, launches were from ramps built in Holland in 1945. Allied reconnaissance detected two sites at Vlaardingen and Ypenburg, and along with a third at Delft, they launched 274 V-1s at London from March 3–29. Only 125 reached the British defences, and only 13 of those reached the target area. Three additional sites directed their fire on Antwerp. After using medium bombers against V-2 launch site in the Haagse Bos on March 3, the RAF attacked the Holland V-1 sites with two squadrons. A RAF Fighter Command unit used Spitfires against Ypenburg on March 20 and 23, while a 2nd Tactical Air Force unit used Typhoons against Vlaardingen on March 23. Counterattacks on Holland V-1 and V-2 sites ended on April 3, and all Crossbow countermeasures ended on May 2 with the end of World War II in Europe.[1]:133-6

A Spitfire tipping the wing of a V-1, which disrupted the missile's automatic pilot.

V-1 defence

On January 2, 1944, Roderic Hill submitted his plan to deploy 1,332 guns for the air defence of London, Bristol and the Solent against the V-1 "Robot Blitz" (the "Diver Operations Room" was at RAF Biggin Hill).[1]:96,161 V-1s that hadn't run out of fuel or veered off course were attacked by select units of Fighter Command (No. 150 Wing RAF) operating high speed fighters, the anti-aircraft guns of Anti-Aircraft Command, and approximately 1,750 barrage balloons of Balloon Command around London."[9] Flabby was the code name for medium weather conditions when fighters were allowed to chase flying bombs over the gun-belt to the balloon line,[7]:197 and during Operation Totter, the Royal Observer Corps fired ‘Snowflake’ illuminating rocket flares from the ground to identify V-1 flying bombs to RAF fighters.[7]:102 After the Robot Blitz[22] began on the night of June 12/13, an RAF fighter first intercepted a V-1 on June 14/15. Moreover, anti-aircraft guns increased the rate of downed V-1s to 1 per 77 rounds fired after "the first few weeks[when?] of proximity fuse operation" (Reginald Victor Jones).[23] By June 27, "over 100,000 houses had been damaged or destroyed by the V-1... and shattered sewage systems threatened serious epidemics unless fixed by winter."[17]

Of the 638 air-launched V-1s that had been observed (e.g., by the Royal Observer Corps), guns and fighters downed 403 and the remainder fell in the London Civil Defence Region (66), at Manchester (1), or elsewhere (168, including Southhampton on July 7).[1]:131 Additionally, the gunners on W/Cdr. S.G. Birch's Lancaster claimed they downed a V-1 over the target area on a March 3, 1945, raid on the Ladbergen aqueduct.

V-2 countermeasures

The Bodyline Scientific Committee (19 members, including Duncan Sandys, Edward Victor Appleton, John Cockcroft, Robert Watson-Watt)[10]:131 was formed in September 1943 regarding the suspected V-2 rocket, and after the 1944 crash of a test V-2 in Sweden, "transmitters to jam the guidance system of the rocket" were prepared.[25] A British sound-ranging system provided "trajectory [data] from which the general launching area could be determined," and the microphone(s) in East Kent reported the times of the first V-2 strikes on September 8, 1944: 18:40:52 and 18:41:08.[26]:251 On March 21, 1945, the plan for the "Engagement of Long Range Rockets with AA Gunfire" which called for anit-aircraft units to fire into a radar-predicted airspace to intercept the V-2 was ready, but the plan was not used due to the danger of shells falling on Greater London.[26]:262 Happenstance instances of Allied aircraft engaging launched V-2 rockets include the following:

  • on February 14, 1945, a No. 602 Squadron RAF Spitfire wingman fired at a V-2 just after launch[27]
  • on October 29, 1944, Lieutenants Donald A. Schultz and Charles M. Crane in a P-38 Lightning attempted to photograph a launched V-2 above the trees near the River Rhine,[28]:4
  • on January 1, 1945, a 4th Fighter Group pilot observed a Big Ben "act up for firing near Lochem ... the rocket was immediately tilted from 85 deg. to 30 deg",[26]:256
  • a B-24 Liberator of the 34th Bombardment Group over the Low Countries at ~10,000 feet saw[when?] a rocket climb through the formation like "a telephone pole with fire squirting from out of its tail. ...a left waist gunner in our squadron let fly a burst and down it went". The unit painted a V-2 on the B-24 such as one would mark a downed enemy aircraft.[29]

After the last combat V-2 launch on March 27, 1945, the British discontinued their use of radar in the defence region to detect V-2 launches on April 13.[1]:136

Named activities

  • Bodyline Joint Staff Committee[30]
  • Diver - a secret British Defence Instruction specified the code name: "Enemy Flying Bombs will be referred to or known as 'Diver' aircraft or pilotless planes" to alert defences of an imminent attack (often called Operation Diver, particularly post-war, without citation).[7]:61
  • Flying Bomb Counter Measures Committee (Duncan Sandys, chairman)[7]:42
  • Fuel Panel of the Special Scientific Committee (Sir Frank Smith, chairman)[10]:150
  • Questionnaire...to establish the practicability...of the German Long-Range Rocket (by Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell)[10]:131
External media
1944 Crossbow Network (map)

USSBS Crossbow Exhibits


^1 The June 1943 Operation Bellicose was not targeted against German long-range weapons, but happened to be the first bombing of a German long-range weapon facility (the Zeppelin Werk). Likewise, an October 22/23, 1943, RAF city bombing wrecked homes of workers employed at the Gerhard Fieseler Werke, delaying both their transfer to the new V-1 plant at Rothwesten and, as a result, "the final trials of the [V-1] weapon's power unit, control-gear, diving mechanism, compass and air-log" until February[10]:180 (a "three or four" month delay of V-1s). Also, a few V-2 centre sections had been assembled by the Raxwerke when a November 2, 1943, Fifteenth Air Force mission targeting the nearby Messerschmitt fighter aircraft plant hit the Raxwerke.[26]:74,171
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Collier
  2. ^ a b D'Olier, Franklin; Alexander, Ball, Bowman, Galbraith, Likert, McNamee, Nitze, Russell, Searls, Wright (September 30, 1945). "The Secondary Campaigns". United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Summary Report (European War). http://www.usaaf.net/surveys/eto/ebs14.htm. Retrieved 2008-09-22. "The attacks on the V-weapon experimental station at Peenemünde, however, were not effective; V-l was already in production near Kassel and V-2 had also been moved to an underground plant. The breaking of the Mohne and the Eder dams, though the cost was small, also had limited effect." 
  3. ^ Krause, Merric E (June 1988). "From theater missile defense to anti-missile offensive actions: A near-term strategic approach for the USAF" (pdf). School of Advanced Airpower Studies, Air University. p. 11. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/saas/krause_me.pdf. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  4. ^ a b "Total Crossbow Offensive Effort by Air Forces" (exhibit). V-Weapons (Crossbow) Campaign. AllWorldWars.com. http://www.allworldwars.com/V-Weapons%20Crossbow%20Campaign.html#10. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  5. ^ a b Charman, Terry. "The V Weapons Campaign Against Britain 1944-1945" (pdf). Imperial War Museum. http://london.iwm.org.uk/upload/package/4/dday/pdfs/VWeaponsCampaign.pdf. Retrieved 2008-06-04. 
  6. ^ von Braun, Wernher (Estate of); Ordway III, Frederick I., and Dooling, David Jr. (1985—first edition) [1975]. Space Travel: A History. New York: Harper & Row. p. 105. ISBN 0-06-181898-4. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Cooksley, Peter G (1979). Flying Bomb. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. pp. 102, 162, 197. ISBN 0684162849. 
  8. ^ Russell, Edward T (1999). "Leaping the Atlantic Wall: Army Air Forces Campaigns in Western Europe, 1942–1945" (pdf). United States Air Force History and Museums Program. p. 26. http://www.airforcehistory.hq.af.mil/Publications/fulltext/leaping_the_atlantic_wall.pdf. Retrieved 200-07-10. 
  9. ^ a b Hillson, Franklin J. (Maj) (Summer 1989). "Barrage Balloons for Low-Level Air Defense". Airpower Journal. Archived from the original on 2007-05-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20070501062111/http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj89/hillson.html. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Irving, David (2002–pdf format) [1965–3rd edition, 1964–1st&2nd]. The Mare's Nest. Parforce UK Ltd.. pp. [2002: tbd] (1965: 131, 150, 149, 180, 212, 256,308). ISBN 1872197221. http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/MaresNest/index.html. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Gruen
  12. ^ Huzel, Dieter K (1962). Peenemünde to Canaveral. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. p. 61. ISBN 0313229287. OCLC 1374588. "This was part of the effort to knock out German's secret weapons, known ... as "Operation Crossbow"." 
  13. ^ Neufeld, Michael J (1995). The Rocket and the Reich: Peenemünde and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era. New York: The Free Press. p. 198. 
  14. ^ Sanders, T.R.B. (Sanders Mission) (February 1945). "Investigations of the Heavy Crossbow Installations in Northern France". http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0014%2FDSND%202%2F3. Retrieved 2007-05-16. 
  15. ^ a b Carter, Kit C; Mueller, Robert (1991) (Scribd). The Army Air Forces in World War II: Combat Chronology 1941-1945. Washington DC: Center for Air Force History. ISBN 1428915435. http://www.scribd.com/doc/1454964/US-Air-Force-wwii-combat-chronology. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  16. ^ Spaatz, Carl (June 28, 1944). "Memorandum, Spaatz to Eisenhower". Pre-Presidential File Box 115. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. 
  17. ^ a b c Eisenhower, David (1991) [1986]. Eisenhower: At War 1943-1945. New York: Wings Books. p. 349. ISBN 0-517-06501-0. 
  18. ^ Mets, David R. (1997 - paperback) [1988]. Master of Airpower: General Carl A. Spaatz. p. 239. ISBN 0891413170. 
  19. ^ Craven, Wesley Frank; Cate, James Lea (editors) (1983-01). (Volume 3) Europe: Argument to V-E Day. p. 535. ISBN 9780912799032. http://books.google.com/?id=jTXWGhwBacAC&pg=PA530. 
  20. ^ Hyrman, Jan. "Operation Undergo: The Capture of Calais & Cap Griz Nez". Clearing the Channel Ports. http://www.nasenoviny.com/DunkirkENUndergo.html. Retrieved 2008-06-13. 
  21. ^ Pocock, Rowland F (1967). German Guided Missiles of the Second World War. New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc.. p. 104. 
  22. ^ Hill, Roderic (October 19, 1948). "Air Operations by Air Defence of Great Britain and Fighter Command in Connection with the German Flying Bomb and Rocket Offensives, 1944-1945" (pdf). London Gazette. http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/38436/pages/5559. Retrieved 2009-04-28. [verification needed]
  23. ^ Jones, R.V (1979). Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945. London UK: Coronet Books (Hodder and Stoughton). p. 428. 
  24. ^ McGovern, James (1964). Crossbow and Overcast. New York: W. Morrow. p. 74. 
  25. ^ tbd. "tbd" (pdf). p. 6. http://www.bbceng.info/Operations/transmitter_ops/Reminiscences/Woofferton/woof50y-v2.pdf. Retrieved tbd. 
  26. ^ a b c d Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979) (index). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 251, 256, 262. ISBN 1894959000. http://www.apogeebooks.com/indices/RocketTeamindex.htm. 
  27. ^ "Den Haag (The Hague) - Wassenaar - Hoek van Holland". A-4/V-2 Resource Site. V2Rocket.com. http://www.v2rocket.com/start/deployment/denhaag.html. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  28. ^ Kennedy
  29. ^ Johnson, David (1982). V-1, V-2: Hitler's Vengeance on London. Stein and Day. p. 168. ISBN 0812828585. 
  30. ^ Sandys, Duncan (October 1943-December 1943). "Reports by Bodyline Joint Staff Committee". The Papers of Lord Duncan-Sandys. Churchill Archives Centre. http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0014%2FDSND%202%2F4%2F4A. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 

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