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  #1  
Old 5th March 2007, 12:27
Boomerang Boomerang is offline
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Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Gentleman:

I hope you can clarify an issue that I have wondered about for some time. I have read that increases in radio traffic provided a very good advance warning to the LW of forthcoming 8AF raids and hence was a valuable source of intelligence e.g. Caldwell's JG 26 War Diary, Vol One: 'Any major increase in activity on the American radio frequecies foretold a genuine raid.' IIRC the increase in radio traffic was caused by testing the radios in the B17s and B24s.

If this was the situation, several questions come to mind:
  • was the increase in radio traffic actually caused by testing radios in individual bombers?
  • was the 8 AF aware of the potential SIGINT being provided to the LW?
  • why weren't countermeasures, such as generating false traffic when raids weren't occurring, carried out?
I have never come across any discussion of the above questions, so I hope you can enlighten me.

Thanks

Boomerang
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Old 5th March 2007, 12:55
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Juha Juha is offline
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Hello boomerang
IIRC Germans took a heavy British radio traffic as a sure sign of fortcoming RAF night raid. Radios were essential to the bombers so they had to test. British probably knew that the testing gave up the fortcoming attack but I don't recall that they had, at least often, tried to fool Germans with false radio testing. Probably they calculated that the Germans anyway knew rather well BC procedures and conditions when the main attacks were launched.

Juha
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Old 5th March 2007, 17:04
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

I think Juha's answer works for USAAF, except that radio discipline was pretty strong in 1944 through end of war - not just because of alerting Germans but to ensure that the Wing Commanders could issue orders as required w/o radio chatter interference, particularly on "C" channel for fighter escort.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure the USAAF cared whether the Germans really knew they were coming - It is hard to disguise a radar signature of 600-2000 ships forming up over England.. of course they DID care about shedding light on the targets - but that is why they never flew straight paths to a target, even taking into consideration known flak concentrations.

Regards,

Bill
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Old 5th March 2007, 18:10
Bruce Dennis Bruce Dennis is offline
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Boomerang,
The job of listening to the radio and radar transmissions of the enemy was a specialist function. The Allies called theirs the “Y Service” and the German service was “Horchdienst”. The reporting units specifically assigned to spot USAAF and RAF raids were called ‘Kiebitz’. Each branch of the armed forces had it’s own Y service, but the level of interservice co-operation among the listeners was higher than anywhere else during the conflict, more so with the Allies but very good within the German forces.

German and British Y services had had a lot of experience by the time the American 8th AF arrived in the theatre, and, to his eternal credit, Eaker was eager to take on board the experiences of the British. (This didn’t stop him from rejecting some of their standard practices where he saw fault). At the time of his arrival the people in British Y were still having trouble convincing Bomber Command of the harm their lack of radio discipline (and use of IFF) was doing, so Eaker was also slow to appreciate this need.

The definitive first hand account of the growth and techniques of the British Y Service is ‘The Enemy is Listening’, (Aileen Clayton 1980 isbn 0 09 142340 6). Aileen Clayton was a WAAF in intelligence, Ultra cleared, and a veteran of the earliest ‘radio wars’ from the Battle of Britain onwards. In her book there are many passages concerning the efforts to (a) quantify the risk of betraying information about an assembling British raid and (b) convey this danger to the higher authorities. Included in the story is an episode where she sat in as an observer in the control tower during a US operation and was able to (tactfully) pass on the official verdict that the US pilots were not security conscious and that her German opposite numbers were benefiting greatly from the on-air procedures. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to understand what was influencing the commanders of the Allied air forces.

Hope this helps,

Bruce Dennis

Last edited by Bruce Dennis; 5th March 2007 at 19:43. Reason: wrong name: Eaker not Spaatz
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Old 6th March 2007, 11:38
Boomerang Boomerang is offline
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Gentlemen:

Thank you for your enlightening replies. Some really interesting points in there - I certainly agree that the implications of radio security for the 8AF must have changed significantly when the USAAF won daylight air superiority over Germany.

I have a vague recollection of having seen 'The Enemy is Listening' years ago - I definitely will chase it up, sounds like essential reading. Also fascinating to hear that there was close interservice cooperation on the German side for this intelligence source. That would a startling contrast with many other areas e.g. the squabbling over the Condors.

Cheers

Don (Boomerang)
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Old 6th March 2007, 16:14
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Don - I want to be clear (Lol) with respect to my somewhat flippant remark. USAAF doctrine vis a vis radio silence was much more focused on tactical links being kept open for the commanders - to command - not as a first priority 'don't let 'em know we're coming'

I vividly remember being a child who would sneak out of his room when the fighter pilot community was in session - and one discussion in particular between my father, Gabby Gabreski, Clay Kinnard and Bill Whisner.

The subject was how difficult it was to teach young fighter pilots when to say something and when to shut up - and all the 'lost' opportunites because a leader a.) didn't know what just became important, or b.) couldn't communicate to rest of squadron/group because of too much chatter.

It seemed the three most important bits of communication for the fighter commanders were;
1.) "lookee thar, 40 plus of them gray lookin thangs at 4 o'clock (above/below) us, or behind the bombers we're supposed to protect
2.) "354 and 358 stay with bombers, 357 go get em" or "Blue/Green flights stick, Yellow - follow me"
3.) hear 'Help' from a nearby bomb group

On the other subject of 'strike security', I still communicate with a lot of Brit friends who vividly remember a sense of ground shaking from the roar of 5000+ radial engines and 600 in-lines during take off and assembly around the airfield known as England.

And that was just a typical early morning in April 44 - for just the 8th and 9th AF. I suspect we never suprised the Luftwaffe in that regard.

Regards,

Bill
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Old 8th March 2007, 16:27
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Don - I was having a problem with PM with this message , so....

I had the opportunity to chat with Roger Freeman on several occasions before and after he published Mighty Eighth as he, along with Danny Morris and others, used to correspond with my father and visited several times.

What Roger told me is that his awe of listening to, and seeing, the incredible formations winding up every morning was the motivating force to devote his later life into the 8th AF histories.

He distinguished the 8th from Bomber Command as the RAF was less visible - whereas B-17's, B-24's, P-51's and 47's and 38's were always visible in astonishing numbers everywhere in central to east England in the morning and afternoon.

I can remember Chuck Lenfest, (who was squadron exec to my father when he went POW trying to rescue Henry Brown) describing the feeling of hope and awe when the formations would be visible for nearly an hour at a time - and wonder how the Germans felt when they saw the same sight.

I also had the opportunity to talk to many Luftwaffe pilots including Galland and Krupinski and Steigler who to a person, said attacking a B-17 formation head on was to 'watch one's life about to pass' - they had incredible courage..

The RAF was powerful (but invisible) - the USAAF was in their face every day, no matter what the losses. When I wrote my book about the 355th FG, above all, I want them remembered when everyone has passed - ditto for the 355th in Viet Nam. Warm Regards, Bill
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Old 8th March 2007, 19:48
atckyrre atckyrre is offline
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

On a related note:

August 8 1944 about 45 planes from 4FG escorted the Langham wing Beaufighters on a flight to Norway. As they approached the shore the Beaufighter pilots were worried because the Americans in their Mustangs were chatting on the radio. When radio silence was prompted the the Americans replied something like this: "Don't you want the Germans to come and fight us?"
To my knowledge 4FG nor any other american escort units were used again for Strike Wing escort missions.

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Old 8th March 2007, 19:53
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

It could be said that the 4th FG was low on the list of 8th Fighter Command Groups on operational radio security - unless Blakeslee was leading.

He was leading that day so the breach would have been suprising.
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Old 8th March 2007, 20:47
atckyrre atckyrre is offline
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Re: Did Radio Traffic Provide Warning of 8 AF Raids?

Quote:
Originally Posted by drgondog View Post
It could be said that the 4th FG was low on the list of 8th Fighter Command Groups on operational radio security - unless Blakeslee was leading.

He was leading that day so the breach would have been suprising.
I don't have the references at hand but if I remember correctly Blakeslee, or at least whoever was leading the formation, had to return to base quite early due some fault.

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