Wednesday, 7 August 2013

How could you miss a target that big?

In a comment in response to my previous blog entry about the Kristiansand Cannon Museum, Lee Hadley asked if such a weapon was viable as it presented such a large (and therefore difficult to miss) target.

This set me thinking, so with the help of Google Earth I conducted an experiment.

Once I had found the Kristiansand Cannon Museum I set the altitude on the slider at the side of the image at 1,000m ... and the gun position looked like this:


I then set it at 500m ...


... and 250m.


Had I been a bomber pilot the only way I could have been fairly certain of hitting the target would have been by flying at low level ... but that would have made my aircraft an almost unmissable target for any anti-aircraft guns protecting the gun position. The greater the altitude, the safer I would have been ... but the target would have been very difficult to hit.

I think that the only sure-fire way the Allies would have had to ensure the destruction of the gun position would have been to use a 'Tallboy' or earthquake bomb.

8 comments:

  1. or Commandos?

    Very clever use of Google Earth though! I like it.

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  2. Ross Mac,

    The gun position is at the top of a very rocky promontory with steep cliffs all around. Commandos might have managed the task, but gliderborne or paratroops might have been a better option.

    The gun position was defended by 150 German soldiers in addition to the naval personnel who manned the guns, so it would have been quite a formidable objective to overcome.

    I think that Google Earth has lots of wargaming potential that has yet to be exploited.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Remember that bomber crews looked on it as a success if they were within 5 miles of the target...

    Rob

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  4. Xaltotun of Python,

    Precision bombing, eh? If they had missed this target by five miles, they would have hit the sea or Kristiansand!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  5. Nice follow up article! I see your point about how difficult it would have been to hit, and I guess with three such targets (and one potential extra) it would have been even harder to be sure you could neutralise the whole battery. But I'm still looking at this massive construction project and wondering if all that effort (and concrete) could not have been put to better use elsewhere… such as in the much vaunted but only half finished Atlantic Wall!

    The Nazis were obsessed with insanely grand building projects and all too often they seemed to 'loose the plot' chasing after impractical objectives whose only real value was as a propaganda weapon. I'm thinking of places like La Coupole in France which was designed to be a launch site for the V2. The site is gargantuan in proportions with 55,000 tones of concrete in a dome 5m thick and 71 meters diameter with 7km of tunnels below it. It was built to be impregnable and indeed it was hardly damaged by months of heavy Allied bombing. But so many Tallboy bombs had been dropped that the surrounding rocks became unstable and the whole structure became undermined and effectively unusable. Despite the massive efforts that went onto building La Coupole it never saw action.

    Looking at these guns in Kristiansand I see the same sort of National Socialist hubris in their design. Massive concrete and metal statements of supposed Nazi superiority gouged into the landscape that served more of a propaganda role than as viable weapons of war.

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  6. Lee Hadley,

    It was an interesting exercise to undertake.

    One of my friends did the mathematics and estimated that it would take a raid by 100 Lancaster bombers to land one bomb on target!

    You are right about the Nazi obsession with big, over-engineered projects that diverted effort away from projects that would have far more of an immediate impact on the war. Your example of the V2 launch facility is a very good one. Because it was static, it could be easily targeted and eventually neutralised. The mobile V2 launchers were much more tactically flexible ... and far more difficult to find and destroy .... and they were far cheaper as well!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. A WWII German 88 flack gun had a maximum altitude of 11,900 meters; so flying at 1,000 meters you still would have been mincemeat attacking the guns. There is a reason that Allied and Axis bombing accuracy is so miserable: because to fly lower and slower was death. So you send 100 bombers and each drops their load about where they figure it might be effective – given the fact that each second of time falling and each kilometer of speed and each meter falling, changes the impact.

    Now let’s not worry about trifling things like humidity, wind, weather, faulty equipment, human error & etc and you can see that lading a bomb within a 100 meters of a target would be considered a “hit”. Some emplacements were so hardened that even striking the target might not take it out. Consider some German submarine pens in France and the forts of the Maginot Line. Bombing was a big investment and a bit risk.

    Until quite recently without precision guided weapons, bombing was a crapshoot and a worry for surrounding civilians. Forts were pretty much hard to harm if built correctly – I for one (nor the Royal Navy either) would not have wanted to run the minefield in the Dardanelles while being pelted by forts on both sides during WWI. They again, a ground assault would have been horrendous as well. The good side of wargames is nobody gets hurt and nobody has to feel bad if a barrage goes wild.

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  8. CoastConFan,

    You have precisely summed up the problems that bombers had attacking hardened targets. You have to be suicidally reckless, very lucky, or operating in very large numbers. It is not for nothing that the latter is called saturation bombing!

    Attacking any substantial fortification is always problematic, and even extemporised fortifications created from well-constructed large buildings (such as the Germans had at Monte Cassino) can pose major problems for an attacker.

    All the best,

    Bob

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