Intelligence Briefing: “Window”

Such fortuitous timing: It is summer, it is hot, and she can’t work in her yard because at the moment it is filled with piles of gravel (She’s having her driveway re-done). What else can she do but read? And she has excellent reading material in Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg, 1943, by Keith Lowe.

This book. THIS BOOK. Wow. Until this book, she didn’t think it would be possible for her to be so engaged in reading about the destruction of a German city during World War II (Because — depressing, right? Besides, a lot of other things happened during World War II. Such as the death of two uncles, all the way across the world, in the Philippines. And the horrible hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Manila. Nevertheless)

What Mr. Lowe is really good at is painting a picture, putting the reader in scene. Just look at how he describes the night before the British aerial attack on Hamburg — important because, as the pilots were told, Hamburg was “Germany’s main center of submarine production.” There was distribution of a quantity of “brown paper packages” filled with “silver foil strips” called “Window.” Window was going to give the British aerial supremacy over the Germans. Window was going to win the war!


Intelligence Officer: “You will already have been told how to drop Window. It has been worked out as carefully as possible to give you maximum protection, but there are two points which I want to emphasize strongly. Firstly, the benefit of Window is a communal one: The Window which protects you is not so much that which you drop yourself as that which is already in the air dropped off by an aircraft ahead. To obtain full advantage, it is therefore necessary to fly in a concentrated stream along the ordered route.”

“Secondly, the task of discharging the packets of Window will not be an easy one. You are hampered by your oxygen tube, intercom connections, the darkness, and the general difficulties of physical effort at high altitudes. Despite these hardships, it is essential that the correct quantities of Window are discharged at the correct time intervals.”

The officer “went on to explain that Window was considered so important the Air Ministry was already developing machines to ensure a steady flow from the aircraft. In the meantime, however, it was up to the airmen themselves to maintain a machinelike regularity when dropping the bundles down the flare chute.”


Unfortunately, the dropping of “Window” did not exactly work out as well as visualized! The long strips of foil got tangled, especially at high altitude, and sometimes blew back into the plane, filling the interior with strips of foil that hampered the crew’s visibility . . . oh Lord, this was hilarious!

btw: Is there any system stupider than the new WordPress block system, which won’t let self indicate that the previous paragraphs are a quote. And if you try contacting WordPress customer service, they will tell you to e-mail. She really doesn’t know why they had to change the old system, when no one complained. And they applied the new system without giving anyone a heads-up. Who’s in charge of decision-making over there?

Anyhoo, they are a quote from pp. 74 – 75 of Inferno.

Stay cool, because self isn’t.

Realism Is Appreciated

Keith Lowe tells a great story. He is very singularly focused, and shows the step-by-step progression of the air war, from fairly restrained strategic bombings, early on, to area bombings, which were meant to cow and terrify the target population.

Self is on p. 68 of Inferno: The Fiery Destruction of Hamburg: It’s the summer of 1943, and Britain and America are getting ready to bomb Hamburg.

They have to deal with German flak:

  • Using their radar screens, the German defenders could plot the height, speed, and direction of flight of any one of the British bombers. They could then predict exactly where the airplane would be in the time it took the flak shells to fly 20,000 feet up into the air, and direct the flak batteries accordingly. The only way for a British pilot to avoid this was to zigzag and corkscrew across the sky — which, when the sky was full of other airplanes, greatly increased the chances of a collision. When a crew was about to release their bombs, even this course of evasive action was denied them — if they were to hit the target they were obliged to fly straight and level for a full minute before the bombs were released and they could think about escaping once more. Only when the photoflash had gone, marking the place they had bombed on an intelligence photograph, could they turn their tail and head away from the hail of flak shells.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

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