Halifaxes tow gliders over landings

February overview

The air attacks on the rocket and flying bomb sites continued, as did the air drops of weapons to the resistance. One of the new targets added to the D-Day list was German aircraft production, particularly that of fighter aircraft. An air superiority umbrella over the landing areas of the invasion would have to be established, so minimising the availability of replacement aircraft to the Luftwaffe was seen as a priority.

February 1944

Dummy landing craft 1 February - The US 1st Army Group, based in Norfolk and Yorkshire, like the British Twelfth Army, were all part of the intelligence deception plan being fed to the Germans by turned agents in the UK. Neither Armies existed, but dummy tanks, camps, vehicles and intelligence reports suggested otherwise. The spoof invasion force was aimed directly at the Pas de Calais region.

8/9 February - The Gnome-Rhone aero engine factory at Limoges was attacked by twelve Lancasters of No 617 Squadron, led by Wing Commander Leonard Cheshire.

12 & 13 February - Allied aircraft attacked missile sites in the Pas de Calais.

Mosquitos at low level 18 February - As part of the ongoing resistance support operations Amiens Prison was the subject of a special low-level attack called Operation Jericho. 18 de Havilland Mosquito VIs from 2 Group (RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force), 6 each from Nos 21, 464 (RAAF) and 487 (RNZAF) Squadrons, led by Group Captain P C Pickard. The Amiens Prison attack was a bid to release French Resistance workers held by the Germans. Having taken off from Gravesend in bad weather, the aircraft conducted a low level daylight raid. The first two waves were so successful in breaching the prison walls that the remaining wave was ordered home with its bombs still aboard. The raid released 258 of the 700 prisoners held in the prison – Monsieur Vivant, a most important member of the Resistance was amongst those released although the bombing killed a a further 102. The aircraft flown by Group Captain Pickard and his navigator, Flight Lieutenant J A Broadley circled overhead the target directing the bombing. As the last aircraft departing the scene, Gp Capt Pickard’s Mosquito was engaged and destroyed by two Focke Wulf Fw190s; both aircrew lost their lives.

B-17s 20 to 26 February - The US 8th Air Force and RAF Bomber Command begin what has become known as 'Big Week', a series of heavy bomber attacks aimed at the German aircraft industry. In six days, the 8th Air Force flew over 3,800 heavy bomber sorties, losing 226 aircraft in the process. On 24 February, the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt were attacked by a force of 226 B-17 and B-24 bombers, unlike the disastrous earlier raids, only 11 aircraft were lost. On the night of 25/26 February, a force of 594 RAF Bomber Command aircraft attacked the Messerschmitt factory at Augsburg. During these raids 517 German fighters were claimed as shot down, an unsustainable loss rate for the Luftwaffe.

24 & 28 February - Allied aircraft attacked missile sites in the Pas de Calais.

V-1 launcher Pictures:

Dummy landing craft at anchor. These dummy vehicles were intended to convince the German commanders that the invasion force was aimed at Calais.

Mosquitos at low level over Amiens Prison. The first bombs are bursting against the walls.

US 8th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortresses in formation.

Taken after the area had been captured, British troops inspect the wreckage of a V-1 launching ramp at one of the attacked sites.

See March overview

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