Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Glide Bombs

Precursor to today's cruise missiles developed by the Germans. The Germans developed two types of weapons systems, the first of which was the free-fall FX-1200 bomb. Designed by Max Kramer of the Ruhrstahl AG, it weighed 3,460 lb with a warhead of 771 lb. The FX-1200 had small 5 ft 3-inch wings to enable it to glide, and it was radio-controlled by means of an electrical tail unit. Glide bombs were carried by such German aircraft as the Dornier Do-217, Heinkel He-117, and Junkers Ju-88 and Ju-290.

On 9 September 1943, after Italy had announced an armistice with the Allies, the Germans used FX-1200 glide bombs to sink the Italian battleship Roma; half of her crew was lost. The Germans also severely damaged the battleship Italia. The FX-1200 could be dropped from an altitude of 18,500–22,700 ft and a distance of up to 3 mi from the target.

The second glide bomb was the Hs-293, designed by Herbert Wagner of the Henschel Company. The Hs-293 was a rocket-assisted, guided winged bombed initially designed for use against ships. It was fitted with a Walter 109–507B rocket motor of 1,323 lb thrust, giving it a speed of about 360 mph. The Hs-293 was 13 ft 4 inches long with a wingspan of 10 ft 7 inches. It weighed about 2,140 lb, of which about 165 lb was in the rocket and 1,124 lb was in the warhead—a substantial ratio of warhead to delivery system. The Hs-293 employed a Dortmund/Duisburg wire-guided system for control, and it had a useful range of almost 10 nautical miles.

Modifications to the Hs-293 included the Hs-294 (16 ft 5 inches long with a wingspan of 14 ft 2 inches), Hs-295, Hs-296, Hs-297, Hs-298, and Hs-344. The Hs-298, a smaller version of the Hs-293, was designed to be launched from night fighters against Allied bombers. It had a two-stage rocket motor and could operate at heights up to 20,000 ft. Its warhead weighed about 150 lb. The Hs-344 was another lightweight version designed for use by fighters against other aircraft. These versions were largely just tested.

The Germans first used the Hs-293 on 24 August 1943 in the Bay of Biscay. During Allied Operation percussion, an antisubmarine air and surface attack on German U-boats, the Canadian 5th Support Group came under air attack from 14 Dornier Do-217 bombers of the 2nd Squadron of Kampfgeschwader 100 and 7 Junkers Ju-88Cs of another unit. The attackers employed Hs-293s to damage the sloop Landguard in 4 near hits and the sloop Bideford in 1 near hit. On 28 August, 18 Do-217s attacked the relieving 1st Support Group and sank the British sloop Egret and heavily damaged the Canadian destroyer Athabaskan.

Kapfgeschwader 100 mounted further attacks with the Hs-293 in the Mediterranean in September 1943. During the U.S. landing at Salerno on 11 September, Kapfgeschwader 100's Do-17s attacked and heavily damaged the cruiser Savannah and narrowly missed the cruiser Philadelphia. On 13 September, the British cruiser Uganda was hit and heavily damaged. The Philadelphia and British destroyers Loyal and Nubian were both damaged. The hospital ship Newfoundland was sunk, probably by an Hs-293. On 16 September, the British battleship Warspite sustained heavy damage from 2 Hs-293 hits. Among other Allied warships that were struck and sunk were the British destroyer Intrepid and the Greek destroyer Vasillissa Olga on 26 September, the Italian destroyer Euro on 1 October, and the British destroyer escort Dulverton on 13 November 1943.

During the landing at Anzio, Do-217s and Ju-88s again attacked Allied ships with Hs-293 glide bombs. On 23 January 1944, these glide bombs sank the British destroyer Janus and damaged the destroyer Jervis. On 29 January, Hs-293s sank the British cruiser Spartan, and on 25 February they sent to the bottom the British destroyer Inglefield.

The glide bomb was well conceived and well tested. Some 2,300 were used in combat, but production was limited by the many other demands on the German armaments industry at the time. The Germans claimed that the glide bombs sank or damaged 400,000 tons of Allied shipping, but this was an exaggeration. The Germans also sent plans for their rocket motors by submarine to the Japanese, who used them to develop their Oka manned rocket bomb.

Late in the war, the United States tested several types of air-to-surface missiles, including the Fletcher XBG-1, Fletcher XBG-2, Cornelius XBG-3, Pratt-Reed LBE, Piper LBP, and Taylorcraft LBT. The term "glomb" was used as shorthand for "glide bomb." The Eighth Air Force used the GB-1 series of glide bombs beginning on 28 March 1944. Some 1,000 were launched, but they lacked accuracy. Later versions incorporated television guidance, but only one version (Project Batty, a GB-4) was used in combat. Instead, bombs without wings but with a guidance system were used. One was the Azon (for "azimuth only"); another was the Razon (azimuth and range guidance). Azons were used successfully in combat. A later version, the Tarzon, was used effectively during the Korean War.

The most advanced winged missile of World War II was the Bat, a glide bomb with a 1,000 lb bomb and semiactive radar homing. Employing PBY-42s Privateer aircraft, the U.S. Navy used the Bat with great success against Japanese shipping. The Bat had a 10 ft wingspan, was a little longer than 11 ft, weighed 1,880 lb, and achieved 300 mph in the glide. Range depended on the release height; a Bat sank a Japanese destroyer at 20 mi distance from the drop aircraft.

David Westwood, Walter Boyne, Jürgen Rohwer, and Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Jane's Publishing Co., 1946.; Kens, Karlkeinz, and Heinz J. Nowarra. Die deutschen Flugzeuge 1933–1945. Munich: J. Flehmanns Verlag, 1968.; Rohwer, Jürgen, and G. Hummelchen. Chronology of the War at Sea, 1939–1945. London: Greenhill, 1992.
 

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