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Martin Gleeson 11th January 2009 02:03

Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
Hallo all,

For years the subject of research - or rather the lack of - into Flak/AA claims and victories has puzzled me.

We, as a body of aviation researchers and historians, have an almost limitless interest in the victories of fighter pilots and aerial combat. The published works on this aspect of the air war are vast, authoritative and growing (thankfully). This is all to the good. However we seem to virtually ignore the study of the claims/victories achieved by Anti-Aircraft Guns, Ground Fire, Barrage Balloons and Surface-to-Air Missiles and Rockets.

With one exception I do not recall seeing a list of Flak or AA claims/victories for any unit, battle or ship from any nation. It is clear that AA was a major cause of aircraft and aircrew losses throughout WW2. Let us not forget the considerable casualties resulting from ground fire and AAA to aircraft during WW1. In the Korean and Vietnam air wars the real victories achieved against American aircraft by AAA and SAMs were a multiple of those obtained by opposing fighters. The most dangerous adversary for the Israeli Air Force in the 1973 air war was a combination of SAMs and AAA. Yet what do we know of the personnel and units who claimed these victories ?

The exception I referred to above is 'U-BOAT VERSUS AIRCRAFT' by Norman Franks and Eric Zimmermann, Grub Street, 1998; a detailed account of the U-Boat gun claims and victories against Allied aircraft in WW2.

However it is mainly WW2 that I am thinking of for the purpose of this discussion. Let me illustrate this disparity in fighter versus AAA claims research. Last year on this website there was a fabulous thread on Soviet Air Force losses during airfield attacks in May and June 1943. Original Russian research put names to those Shturmovik crews who were lost. Follow up posts narrowed down the Luftwaffe fighter pilot claimants. The Soviet losses were appalling, but genuinely mostly due to fighter action. Last year also I greatly enjoyed Christer Bergstrom's 'KURSK - The Air Battle' and again he clearly showed the extent of Il-2 losses, especially to fighters and he was able to provide the names of possible victors in many cases. However there was almost no detail of the losses to AAA and ground fire. Oleg Rastrenin in his work 'Il-2 SHTURMOVIK GUARDS UNITS of WW2' stated that 49% of Il-2 losses at Kursk were attributed to AAA/ground fire, 37% to fighters and 14% to unknown causes.

In using the above example I mean absolutely no criticism of Christer Bergstrom nor of any other author in this regard. That is not my intention, rather it is to stimulate a discussion on whether anything can be done to improve matters. I know many authors give the Flak unit where it is known but these tend to be for a fraction of the Flak claims covered by any book. It is the apparent almost complete lack of research material and published work on the Flak claims available to the authors that is the basic problem.

I understand that the original microfilms with the Luftwaffe fighter claims also contain the Flak claims (presumably only the Luftwaffe Flak ?). Without these being available to us it is surely more difficult to be definitive about attributing certain losses to certain fighter pilots. It cannot simply be a case of, for example, trying to reconcile 40 RAF losses to 35 or 45 Luftwaffe fighter claims and ignoring the Flak claims and other reasons for losses. Indeed one sometimes reads of instances where a certain aircraft was claimed by both a fighter pilot and by a Flak/AA unit. It is hard not to believe there are/were scores if not hundreds of Old Comrades Associations for many of the Luftwaffe Flak units alone. Surely many of them must have lists of the claims made by their wartime units ?

I realize that such research may be difficult but it would only enhance the accuracy of any work. In many of the warring nations more personnel served in Flak/AAA units rather than as aircrew. Yet one would not suspect that based on the volume of published works available. Perhaps when we have exausted the research potential for aerial combat then we will look at the Flak/AAA claims more closely. One cannot really write about aerial conflict definitively without properly detailing the AA claims. I expect and hope the forthcoming Eagles over Europe project will be groundbreaking in addressing this problem.

Is anyone working on such research at present ? Trusting this post will stimulate discussion and focus attention on the subject.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Gleeson.

Revi16 11th January 2009 10:45

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
Martin, take the preverbial ball and run with it. Post all your data when completed. Thank you for your help.


byron- 11th January 2009 11:11

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
That`s a very good idea Martin

I`m starting with my Flak-research on the island of Rhodes

Schw.Flak-Abtl. 806 auf Rhodos


Ab Januar 1943 Teile der Abtl. aus Kreta stammend, nach Rhodos zum Schutz des FlgH. Gadura,verstärkt allmählich durch die Btrn. 9002, 9003 u. 9006.
Versorgung durch Qu. Außenstelle der Fstg. Kreta, Leiter, Major Meyer

Fp.Nr. 46 854= Stab Rhodos, Kdr., Obstlt. Bruno Enge, + 10.09.43
ab 28.09.43 prov. Kdr. Chef der 3. Btr. Hptm. Hins
ab 11.43 Major Westernhagen
Abtls.Arzt, Ass.Arzt Dr. Igel, Offz., Ltn. Albrech, R.Insp. Steffen

53 392(ab 04.10.43 aus 9002) = 1. Btr. 08.43 Tolaro, sp. Fliegerhorst Maritsa, 20.09.44 Gadura
Btr.Chef, Oblt. Rampfl
52 879(ab 04.10.43 aus 9003) = 2. Btr. Fliegerhorst Gadura
Btr.Chef, Oblt. Prinz,

ab 03.11.43 Oblt. Schmidt
44 849 = 3. Btr. Villanova, ab 20.09.44 Fl.H. Gadura
Btr.Chef, Hptm. Hins
26 036= 4. Btr. Stadt Rhodos
Btr.Chef, Oblt. Klinkmann
55 344(ab 31.03.44 aus 9006) = 5. Btr. Fliegerhorst Kattavia
Btr.Chef, Hptm. Denk

SES 11th January 2009 11:18

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
You may also want to have a look here:

galgos 11th January 2009 13:37

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
I've been trying to research it Martin, well one small bit of it, the flak defences around the Dortmund-Ems canal at Ladbergen, but there is precious little available it seems. I've recently read a report on a daylight raid on the canal by Jim Morris, a pilot on 467 squadron. He says:
"There was hardly a cloud in the sky as we passed over the picture postcard landscape. Then I saw ahead what we had been through on night operations. I had heard of a cubic mile of "flak" but had never seen it. Could we fly through this and return.....the fighters were few - flak was so heavy - I was still not 100%. Everything was so clear as we moved into the box of flak....etc etc."
I know Malcolm Brooke has some of the flak positions logged on his website, but he found those by cycling round the area with a local historian. I've also made contact with a man whose father was a 16 year old helper, carrying shells etc, though his father died some years ago and left no records, diaries etc. It seems a difficult area to research, and as you say, one that not many have tried to tackle.

Dénes Bernád 11th January 2009 14:04

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
I would like to recommend a reference book on German flak, the one written by Edward B. Westermann, published by the University Press of Kansas, in 2001 (BTW, it's one of only a handful of AAA related books in my aviation library of several thousand titles).

Here is a small excerpt from the Conclusion drawn by the Author: "...flak defenses accounted for over half of USAAF combat losses during the war in Europe, downing almost 5,400 aircraft, compared with the 4,300 aircraft shot down by Luftwaffe fighters."

Indeed, a most interesting topic, largely ignored by researchers and authors.

ArtieBob 11th January 2009 15:30

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
When one looks at the numbers, the failure to develop and put into service proximity fuzes seems a technological disaster for Germany. If the Flak kill rate could have been increased by a significant amount, then major changes to both the tactics and strategies of the allied air war probably would have resulted. It has been many years since my USNavy training in air defense gunnery, but IIRC, we were told the kill rate using proximity fuzing increased by a factor of more than two to one, under certain conditions, by an order of magnitude.

Best regards,


PeterVerney 11th January 2009 15:43

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
Regarding the proximity fuse. I well remember the flying bomb period when there was a battery of four 3.7? guns with proximity fuses, stationed near us. They were radar controlled and would fire a salvo of 20 rounds. We would stand counting the bursts and very often by about number 12 they would have hit the V1. But the rest of the salvo would still explode around it.
By contrast at Hythe was a massive concentration of Bofors which put up a wall of fire such that little blacks clouds would form from all the bursts. The V1 would scud merrily through it all and they would possibly hit 1 in 6 whereas the 3.7s got perhaps 2 in 5.
I suppose someone has real figures but that is how it seemed to us at the time.

Martin Gleeson 11th January 2009 15:49

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?
Thanks to all for the responses so far.

Mike. I have no intention of beginning major research into this subject ! I have far too many projects in progress as it is. I knew someone would suggest this !

Byron. Excellent information on the Rhodes Flak units. Thank you for that.

Max. That is interesting, that some people are doing work at a local level.

SES. Yes, I have been aware of Michael Holm's excellent website for some time. It is a great resource for those beginning research.

Denes. Thanks for the recommendation of Edward Westermann's book on German Flak. I had been meaning to ask for an opinion of it, having spotted it on Amazon some months ago.
The figures you quoted from it prove my point about the need to do research on this neglected field.
By the way may I single out for praise the two-volumes of FROM BARBAROSSA TO ODESSA by you, Dmitriy Karlenko and Jean-Louis Roba concerning AAA claims. Your team gave the claiming unit in many (most ?) instances, including some Soviet batteries.

ArtieBob. I am sure you are entirely correct. I believe the experience of the US Navy Pacific Fleet using proximity fuzes would support your comments.

Thanks to all. Hope we have more contributions.

Martin Gleeson.

Nick Beale 11th January 2009 17:06

Re: Flak/AA - Why do we not research it ?

Originally Posted by Martin Gleeson (Post 79605)
Thanks to all for the responses so far.

Denes. Thanks for the recommendation of Edward Westermann's book on German Flak. I had been meaning to ask for an opinion of it, having spotted it on Amazon some months ago.
Martin Gleeson.

Well, I bought it with high hopes (see the review at and was very disappointed. The author starts with the idea that the role and value of "the German ground-based air defences" (a phrase it feels like he uses about six times per page) have been denigrated or ignored. That's strange because just about every airman's memoir I've ever read suggests that Allied flyers were terrified of it and that it took down a lot of aircraft.

There is about one paragraph on the 1940 Blitzkrieg in the West and little or nothing on Army or Navy Flak. The book concentrates on home defence. From memory, the author didn't seem to have a good grounding in the history of the air war and that led him to write some very odd things at times. The writing style felt very cumbersome and I found the book a struggle to get through.

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