LONDON, ENGLAND -- On the evening of Feb. 19, 1944, the blitz
came back to London. It wasn't the old blitz of 1940-41 scope,
but Goering and Company tried to make it a reasonable facsimile.
You must understand that things are tough everywhere for the
Luftwaffe, and London isn't cold meat for an invader pilot any
The new attacks were what the British newspapers called "a
series of raids in some force," and were considered the
most ambitious Axis effort since the Battle for Britain. I was
in London during five successive nights of the "new"
blitz. It wasn't fun.
The attacks, which were launched in a seven day period of
nightly bombing, were accompanied by loud shouts over radio Berlin
by Propaganda Minster Goebbels. The little doctor with the large
voice, said that in the first phase of this new offensive, 6000
tons of bombs had been dropped on the citadel of the United Nations.
"When we have flown seven times seven over London,"
Herr Goebbels asserted, "the aspect of the British capital
will be changed to an incredible extent." According to the
Jerries, London's Bank of England, Central Post Office, and the
Tower of London, no less, had been smashed to ruin. Londoners,
it was claimed, were in a panic.
Naturally, all this was propaganda for the German home front,
itself quivering under mass aerial attack by the RAF and USAAF.
According to the best Allied information, not one-tenth of that
wonderful 6000 tons of bombs has fallen on London during the
whole year. The seven times seven mirage petered out into occasional
scalded cat intrusions by fast fighter-bombers. The historic
buildings, purported laid in ruins, were still there - any Londoner
could see that for himself. And panic was a minus quality; people
hardly discussed the bombs. The big topic was London's new air
raid defense set-up!
However, it must not be imagined that Germany's new blows
against the British capital were not serious. An air raid, however
light, is grim business, and these enemy formations, you will
remember, were reported to be "in some force."
Incendiaries rained down, the ack-ack thundered, the night
sky droned with engines and shuddered with drumfire explosions.
Creeping into the sky on several occasions we saw the red stain
which tells of a distant fire. The heavy rescue squads went clattering
into action. Fire fighters dusted off their equipment. People
were killed, a few buildings were reduced to smoking rubble.
And the young pilots of the Luftwaffe discovered painfully that
bombing London was no longer a "milk run." There'd
been some changes made.
When I left base camp to visit London, I told the platoon
that I hoped for at least one raid by the Luftwaffe, having always
wanted to see one. I had my raid immediately upon arrival, and
then for good measure, four more of them, one each evening. When
we went raidless for the last two nights of our stay in the British
capital, it was something of a let-down!
My first raid came just as I had crawled into the most luxurious
bed it has ever been my good fortune to discover since reaching
the spam circuit. At camp we sleep on wooden cots and mattresses
of straw. The allotted beds in the American Red Cross Club in
London, therefore, were something to write home about. However,
as I say, I'd just settled down comfortably when the darndest
racket you ever heard began to shake the whole building!
A couple of engineers and I had been arguing about the correct
method of anti-tank mine removal, and we'd probably been making
too much noise to hear the alert. Therefore, the planes were
overhead and the ack-ack blasting away at them when we finally
awoke to the fact that Jerry was in London too, or - at least
- over London.
Downstairs in the Red Cross Club, business was proceeding
as usual, excepting for the fact that a sign had been hung over
the door. ALERT, it read in large black letters, as though we
Outside, we found that the sky was twinkling with pinpoints
of explosive where the anti-aircraft shells were exploding. The
drum-fire of guns was a continuous pattern of sound, but running
through it we could hear the drone of German motors.
A raid is a quaint experience, to say the least, and although
there is the spice of excitement, you feel a definite undercurrent
of fear. The defensive flak amounts to barrage proportions all
over metropolitan London, yet you are given a further shock when
the heavy AA guns suddenly blaze away from what seems like next
door! The sound is almost deafening, and the curtain of steel
thrown up seems almost impossible to penetrate, it is so thick.
The flak goes up in darts of red, in long, almost lazy streaks
of livid flame, in Roman candle effects - where you may see strings
of red fireballs, each perfectly spaced like knots in a taut
Rocket guns blaze away with the sound of a dozen freight trains
hurtling through a tunnel - if you can imagine that. The new
rocket guns, recently taken off the can't-talk-about list, throw
up hundreds of projectiles which burst all over the sky like
the great finale of a fireworks exhibition, but on a vastly increased
You see searchlight beams catch a plane, hungrily fasten upon
it, and hold it in a white glare while ack-ack bursts coverage.
You know that enemy is in that airplane, although the machine
is too high to distinguish type or markings without the aid of
binoculars. You find yourself wondering how the Jerry can possibly
elude all the flak, but he does, and often gets out of the crossing
Then, another item that goes straight to the shiver-and-shake
department: German flares begin to blossom up there among the
stars and the flak. Each flare seems to be coming down directly
upon you, and you know very well that somewhere in the dark sky,
looking down, are bombardiers of the Luftwaffe. Ack-ack gunners
fire at the flares, and gradually they break up and disappear.
A raid begins with the siren alert, the banshee. Then, usually
10 or 20 minutes later, the barrage begins and London throws
up her steel wall of flak. The Luftwaffe planes which manage
to get through the outer defenses, drop their bombs, incendiaries,
and flutterers - a flutterer is merely a long strip of metallic
paper designed to hamper radio detection - and having jettisoned
their bombs, begin a long dive for home on the continent of Europe.
The German night bomber's lot is not a particularly pleasant
one at this time. Defenses are tighter here. Night fighters of
the RAF harry the invader of the skyways to and from the capitol.
Black painted Mosquito and Douglas A-20 Intruders stooge around
in Nazi airdromes in France waiting for the birds to come back
to their roost, so that they may be neatly destroyed while trying
Gone forever are the soft days when a German bomber-boy could
easily dodge the flak of London, sneer at the inadequate Allied
night-fighter strength, and fly safely back to a mug of German
beer and a completed mission against England. Each trip to Britain
these days is a general engagement. Now it is the Luftwaffe which
must improvise, fight against heavy odds, and regard death as
the co-pilot on every mission. Mixed formations are sent out
to raid - which probably indicates that the German Air Force
cannot marshal a large force of the proper type of aircraft for
the job at hand. Junkers-88's, and planes of like design are
used, along with fighter-bombers, which carry only the lightest
The Ju-88 is admittedly a magnificent fighting airplane, but
it carries no heavier a load than our medium bombers such as
the North American B-25, the Marauder B-26, etc. These are all
two-motored mediums, and carry but a fraction of the bomb load
lifted by a Flying Fortress or a British Lancaster, which are
Although the latest German bombs are reported to be more destructive
than those hurled on London in the Battle for Britain, they are
few and light compared to the tonnage now nightly falling on
Hitler's Third Reich. London news agencies quote the RAF estimation
that the average British raid on Berlin is 20 times as great
as the present attacks against England's capitol.
I saw some of the buildings hit by the Luftwaffe in its latest
sorties, and I made a point of visiting targets which German
radio claimed to have destroyed. A few apartment houses were
hit, and people died in London. But the Luftwaffe loses a painful
percentage of valuable aircraft for each mission undertaken.
Londoners shrug off the raids with the observation that they
have taken much worse than this, and that every German aircraft
destroyed during the raids is one less to shoot at and bomb their
sons when the invasion of Germany begins. The big topic of conversation
is the new defense system in the capitol, not the bombs and the
incendiaries. People laugh at the German propaganda and recognize
it for what it is - an attempt to bolster the courage of Germans
who are living through a 20 times greater hell of Allied bombs
dropping night and day on their groaning fortress.
I don't think that the Luftwaffe is achieving anything worthwhile
in its "new" raids on London. On the other hand, it
is losing planes which, considering the RAF-USAAF bombing of
aircraft factories in the Reich, have become precious machines.
I wanted to see a raid. I saw five of them, one after the
other, and there were times when I was scared plenty. You may
be sure that I am satisfied. I hope I never see another one.
Raids aren't fun at all.