- Bogart, Charles H.
- Naval Aviation, WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1980 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
As the Allied Fleet at Salerno possessed a preponderance of anti aircraft guns and protection of fighters the Luftwaffe mixed III KG 100 attacks with conventional bombing attacks, this mixture being adopted on the premise that the Allied anti aircraft gunners and fighters would concentrate on those aircraft making direct attacks on the fleet and ignore the DO 217 E’s cruising over head at high altitude. This plan seemed to work as allied naval gunners and fighter pilots concentrated most of their effort on those planes making visible attacks on the fleet.
On 14 September 1943 III KG 100 scored again, this time sinking the Liberty ship Bushrod Washington, which was offloading a cargo of gasoline. The next day it was the turn of the Liberty ship James Marshall. Set on fire by a FX1400, she was abandoned by her crew. Naval salvage tugs were able however to put out the fire and save part of the cargo. She was later towed back to England for repairs but was declared a constructive loss. James Marshall was therefore expended as part of the Gooseberry 2 breakwater off Normandy.
Returning to battle on 16 September 1943, III KG 100 scored a major triumph by hitting the battleship Warspite twice during the afternoon. The first missile hit Warspite amidships and penetrated through No. 4 boiler room to explode in the double bottom. A hole 20 feet by 14 feet was opened in the hull and the boiler room was destroyed. The next missile exploded close alongside the starboard side of the ship next to No. 5 boiler room. The inner and outer bottom plating below No. 5 boiler room became corrugated and the bilge plating was holed and disturbed.
The result of these two hits was a slow flooding of the boiler and engineering spaces, which soon left Warspite dead in the water. Warspite later relit her fires and got underway for Malta, however the damage was such that the boilers shortly thereafter had to be shut down. The US Navy tugs Hopi and Moreno were therefore ordered to take her in tow for Malta. Here they delivered her on 19 September. After a brief repair she steamed for Gibraltar where two cofferdams were built into her bottom. Warspite was then ordered to England for permanent repairs but these were never carried out. Still with the temporary cofferdams in her Warspite would fight at Normandy in June, at Brest in August and off the island of Walcheren in November 1944 before being decommissioned and sold for scrap.
One final attack was made against the Salerno beachhead by III KG 100 on 18 September 1944. The target was once again the cruiser Philadelphia and once again Philadelphia’s luck was good and all she suffered was some minor damage due to near misses.
As General Baumback had feared the Allies soon began to master the HS293 and FX1400. The bomb aimer needed to see his target to hit it so smoke was used to conceal the anchorage; no longer did the fleet’s guns and patrolling fighters ignore the solitary DO 217s high above the fleet but took them under fire, forcing them to take evasive action and lose sight of their missile, and the electronic experts were learning the missile’s guidance frequency and jamming them. The HS293 and FX1400, while not yet nullified by the Allies, were being mastered. The weapon that was to have sunk the Russian Navy and protected the Atlantic Wall from invasion was being compromised at an alarming rate.
While III KG 100 had been carrying out its war in Southern Italy the HE 177 was preparing to enter battle with II KG 40. During October and November 1943 four attacks were made by II KG 40 against convoys off of Spain and in the Mediterranean Sea. The first success by II KG 40 was on 6 November against convoy KMF 25A, which had sailed from the Clyde for the Mediterranean.
During II KG 40’s attack on SMF 25A a near miss was scored on the US destroyer Tillman that knocked out her fire control gear and damaged her superstructure. The tactics developed by II KG 100 to attack the convoys was for the HE 188 aircraft to attack the escorts with HS293s and disrupt their protective formation; once the screen was broken torpedo carrying JU88s would attack and sink the merchant ships. It should be remembered that due to the small explosive charge carried by the HS293 it was a marginal weapon for sinking ships.