World War II’s Technological Advancements in Aerial Warfare

World War II’s Technological Advancements in Aerial Warfare

Brianna Hatzold

A significant battle that played an enormous role in World War II that incorporated air crafts was the Allied invasion of mainland Europe at Normandy Beach in France, Operation Overload. This epic invasion was a very crucial climatic battle of World War II. The invasion of Normandy which is commonly referred to as D-Day consisted of a series of complex operations that dealt over several of days. This operation’s goal was to defend the beaches of Normandy heavily and to establish a foothold on the European continent. The first step of the operation was the landing which would prove a grueling march to the city of Berlin to attack the Nazi regime. It is an understating to even try and describe the gigantic role the Allied air forces played in the invasion. Without the assistance provided from the Allied air force the operation could not have happened. The Allied air force, with the contribution of Allied fighter planes, transports, bombers, reconnaissance planes and troop carriers made the events on D-Day possible. In the D-Day operation approximately 13,000 Allied aircrafts participated. D-Day marks one of the largest aerial operations in history. This precedent action was a learning experience that further developed the understanding of how aircrafts can operate as well as how they would interact. Operation D-Day was a very critical and complex mission that commanders understood and accepted the fact that there will be great losses in order to have a control over a beachhead. During this there was a low pressure weather system in England and the coast of France. With the low weather in these areas it then resulted in much confusion when airplanes departed from their bases in England. On top of that, the ceilings forced drop planes to fly at much lower altitudes then what was planned. Then there was also a troubling overcast layer that made it difficult for bombers to targets. Some airplanes even crashed into one another or went missing. 

June 6, 1944 the operation commenced in the dark early-morning. This complex mission was a surprise to Germany. German commanders believed that the weather was poor conditions for the Allied powers to initiate an attack. The aerial operation had several phases in which immensely contributed to the success of the invasion. The first phase consisted of an aerial bombardment on the German emplacements, artillery and supply lines, that were on the beach of Normandy. In this first phase, it used heavy bombers and attack planes. Aircrafts such as the British Lancaster, American B-17 Flying Fortress and the Hawker Typhoons were in action to breakdown the enemy’s defenses. Allied commanders were hopeful that the bombings would neutralize the enemy’s defenses. However, it did not. German forces seemed to be still intact and feared of.

Hundreds of American C-47s were also at this scene. Acting as a supply plane the C-47 was capable to hold up to 6,000 pounds of cargo on their journey bearing a fully assembled vehicle or even a 37-mm cannon. When acting as a troop transporter it can hold 28 soldiers that are fully geared. If it was acting as a medical airlift it had the capacity to hold up to 14 stretcher patients as well as three nurses. According to Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, the C-47 was the most important piece of equipment. These aircrafts took off from a base that was located in central England which was approximately two hours flying time away from Normandy. Joe Crouch and his pathfinders were the first Americans to reach the outskirts of France in the early hours on the day of June 6, 1944. Him and his men took off it the darkness around 9:50 p.m. on June 5th. Joe Crouch’s small fleet of armless C-47s began to depart, leaving England in five-minute intervals. His fleets C-47s carried up to 200 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne, the first pathfinders that played a role in the invasion. The pathfinders’ duties were to mark drop zones behind the beaches of Normandy by placing lights and radar beacons.

 Once in the air, the American C-47s then congregated into several V-formations. Each plane held more than a dozen paratroopers. In the morning of D-Day there were hundreds of planes that transported more than 13,000 paratroopers beyond the beach, encroaching on occupied France. The paratroopers were airborne fighters that would leap from these aircrafts into occupied France to cut off the Germans from behind. With the low weather in England and in France in the early morning, it made the airborne operation impossible to run swiftly like planned. About two-thirds of the courageous paratroopers landed way off of the ideal jump zone destinations. With the paratroopers being displaced all over France in incorrect areas it led to great chaos. As Allied soldiers desperately tried to regroup their troops, they encountered the Germans then resulting in a series of guerilla skirmishes.

During the invasion of Normandy, the Waco-CG Hadrian played an enormous role in the war effort. This aircraft did a fantastic job moving in troops and supplies onto the beaches. the Waco-CG Hadrian landed thousands of allied soldiers behind enemy lines with guns and equipment. It even was capable of carrying a Jeep or Howitzer into the war scene. This aircraft was easy to make and not costly to construct. Another wave of support came to troops hours later in gliders. The gliders arrived pre-dawn hours due to when the airborne troops. They went during that time because the airborne men could not wait incredibly long to resupply its troops with equipment as well as fighting off the Germans. This brought a mass amount of difficulty though due to landing at night. There were numerous variables that fliers could have faced. For instance: landing in an occupied territory, landing into fields that held defensive features, other problematic geography landscapes, anti-glider poles, ditches, and so on. Pilots reported that it was extremely difficult to see and that often times they were not able to see until their craft had touched ground. Many of the gliders crashed with fatalities. Despite the problematic situations these soldiers faced, the glider invasion was highly successful. The gliders were able to hold around 15 troops or to transport heavy equipment. Horsa gliders were larger than the Waco Gliders and could carry up to 30 troops.

The great contribution from C-47s as well as the Waco-CG Hadrian allowed the Allied forces to come out on top and to have a gateway into the European theater. D-Day is one of the most famous and the most significant battles that occurred in World War II. Without the reinforcement from aircrafts by supplying soldiers and equipment, then D-Day would not have been possible. Air crafts did far more for the war effort than one may think. Through air crafts, especially in this battle, they totally transformed the war and open the door to “how” to incorporate air crafts.

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