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The Luftwaffe and the War At Sea 1939-1945, Edit by David Isby

Discussion in 'Atlantic Naval Conflict' started by harolds, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    This is both a book report, a commentary and a question for discussion. The book titled above is collection of post-war intelligence/historical interviews of KM and LW officers centered around the use of LW against convoys and other naval targets. It points out what the LW did, tried to do but failed and what it didn't try to do. It also goes quite a bit into the LW's take over of the KM's naval air arm in the pre-war period where the LW took over most of the Navy's planes and aviation officers, leaving the navy with just ship-launched sea planes and some short-range patrol craft. Hitler told Goring to help the KM as much as he could and coordinate the LW's efforts with the KM. In practice this really didn't work well because the LW had its own agenda and gave the sea war short shrift. There was one LW unit engaged in anti-shipping activity but this was inadequate. German naval officers felt there was only one example of good LW/KM coordination that was Operation CEREBUS (AKA "The Channel Dash). Adolph Galland came up with a system using fighter officers aboard the ships ensuring good cooperation between the protecting fighters and the naval force.
    The most daunting problem for the Germans in the Atlantic was finding and tracking the convoys heading to Britain. German airmen often didn't have the navigational skills to correctly locate the position of the convoys that they found so that U-boats were directed to empty ocean. Compounding the problem there were never enough long range patrol planes to cover the North Atlantic continually. Huge gaps in the coverage that was provided allowed many convoys to get through unmolested.
    The other problem was the lack of air cover over the Bay of Biscay where U-boats were under considerable risk of air attack. The LW didn't feel it could do this and maintain its other duties so this was neglected and resulted in heavy U-Boat casualties.

    Commentary: Some of these comments by LW and KM officers were partially reflecting the usual inter-service rivalry common to most countries. However, I think that the KM officers made a good point that the navy needed either their own air arm or at least given a certain amount of LW assets that would be under Naval command.

    Question: So instead of engaging in the very costly and futile "Battle of Britain" would the Germans gotten better results in the long run by trying to help interdict the British ocean lifeline? It would be understood that they would have to produce more long-range aircraft and have a much closer relationship with the navy.
     
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  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Consider that Hitler looked at Britain more as an ally than as an opponent at least in the near term in the mid 30's. He was apparently surprised when Britain and France declared war over Poland. Then equally surprised when the British didn't throw in the towel after France fell. When are they going to start developing those long range planes? They certainly don't have the time to start in the Summer of 1940 and not really in the fall of 39. IMO the BoB was something of an exercise in frustration. It was the only thing the Germans could think of that might take Britain out of the war.
     
  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Well lwd, I think that certainly Churchill understood there was probably going to be a fight. From what I've read the German armed services never ruled out a war with Britain. The Germans had the FW "Condor" and loaded with extra fuel instead of bombs they could have extended its range. However, they needed many more of them to get continuous cover of the eastern half of the Atlantic. Certainly, such coverage would have been a fantastic force multiplier for the U-Boats. German bombers could have helped in the mining of British ports much more than they did. The downside was that it would not be a quick victory and would take time. The JU 290 and the HE 177 with the FuG 200 search radar would have come later but I feel the Germans, by better inter-service cooperation than they had historically, could have done significantly more damage to Britain's lifeline.

    By the way, thanks for the "like"!
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Churchill wasn't in charge until after the war started though. Even Chamberlin realized there would be a war after Czechoslovakia was dismembered. That's rather irrelevant though because Hitler didn't and if he didn't the Germans weren't going to prepare for it. Well actually he expected conflict with GB and France but not until the mid 40's or later. The Condor had considerable range but it was rather fragile and very susceptible to fighters. They were also expensive in terms of resources that the Germans were rather short on. Quite few Condors were lost due to operational incidents and for everyone they built it would likely mean 4 less fighters. As for building something else, looking at:
    Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress - Wikipedia
    Air force proposal in 1934 first flight in 1935 Operational 1938
    Consolidated B-24 Liberator - Wikipedia
    Design started 1938 USAAF request for design January 1939 First flight Dec 1939 Operational 1941
    Consolidated PBY Catalina - Wikipedia
    Contract issued 1933 first flight March 35 Operational October 1936
    I'm seeing design to operational time lines on the order of 3 years. The implication is Germany needs to realize the problem and start working on it in 1937 or earlier.
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The thing is the Germans didn't have time. They needed to defeat Britain before 1942 and arguably before the summer of 41. More resources spent on bombers aren't going to help them that much. The British are building fighters and training pilots faster than the Germans. The LW started out the BoB with a significant edge in the number of fighters and lost it within a couple of weeks. Building fewer fighters and more bombers isn't going to help that ratio at all it's going to hurt and they are going to loose more bombers as well. Then once the 8th AF shows up they are going to be in even worse shape and CVE's would doom the long range bombers in the Atlantic as well. Indeed even the RAM ships are going to make it hard on the long range bombers.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Starting with your point re. German aircraft production: Germany had problems replacing airplanes early in the war chiefly because they stupidly weren't using anywhere near their total manufacturing capacity. It was on "peacetime mode"! So, the capacity was there, it just wasn't being used.

    As Churchill stated after the war, the weak link the British armor was its reliance on supplies coming in from overseas, and the main threat to that lifeline was the U-Boat. The problem the Germans faced was that many U-Boats came back to harbor with all or most of their torpedoes because the couldn't find a convoy. Proper air recon would have helped immensely and made the U-Boats more problematic than they were. Add to that any sinkings by the LW would have helped tip the battle toward Germany.

    The LW could have had the HE 177 in production much earlier if they had stopped stubbornly insisting on the design only having only two cowlings and went to a more conventional four-cowling configuration. The JU290 was just a stretching of the 190 and thus would not have needed a long development time. The German's problems had solutions but those solutions weren't pushed.
     
  7. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Well yes and no. Aluminum was in rather short supply. They weren't exactly overflowing in high quality steel either. Much the same could be said of oil How much they could ramp up and how quickly is a serious question.

    The British weren't ever in really serious trouble though. There was a period that if it had continued for another half year or so they might have been. More planes flying recon might have helped some but the planes need to last more than a patrol or two or it's counter productive.

    So when could they have had those designs operational? And what would the cost have been?
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    As to the 290, we saw with the 737 max8/9 a relatively modest change can have profound effects on the air worthyness of a plane.
     
  9. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    That isn't actually true. The mobilization of the German aircraft industry on the declaration of war was widespread and actually caused problems in other manufacturing since much of the expansion of component manufacturing was by converting much of the existing automotive industry. Prewar, five companies engaged in radically different work,
    Allgemeine Transportanlagen GmbH, Blohm & Voss, Gothaer, Henschel, and Weser converted some of their plant to aircraft production. The real culprit was lack of capitol for investment and the lack of labor.
     
  10. harolds

    harolds Member

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    In a way we're saying the same thing. Aircraft production, in fact just about all war production was a fraction of what they achieved when by that time, the war was essentially lost. If the KM had been granted a portion of the air assets and could have had a say in the planning before the war started then probably they could have had these designs much sooner. As it was, by the time OKL was convinced of the need for long-range recon in the Atlantic, the battle was already in serious doubt. It was a case of P.P.P.P.
     
  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    With respect, I don't think so. I was referring specifically to your comment that the German aircraft industry was "on "peacetime mode"!". It wasn't.

    Yes, but it wasn't because from 1939-1942 German war production was "on "peacetime mode"!". Arguably, by the time war broke out, Germany was already on a wartime mode. The problem was that it expanded its war-making capabilities so rapidly 1933-1939 that on the outbreak of war Germany was devoid of capitol for investment (and was already siphoning off the German worker's pension schemes) and was at essentially full employment, so full that the mobilization of the Wehrmacht severely crippled many industries productivity, forcing the Nazi's to declare a 90-day draft holiday at the conclusion of the French Campaign and disbanding 19 divisions, in order to allow the draftees to return to the civilian economy. The sudden decision by Hitler to prosecute the war against the USSR ended that and created a new industrial crisis, since the new withdrawal of labor especially affected the coal industry, and the coal shortage October-December 1940 nearly led to a forced "industrial holiday", "solved" by a temporary reduction in munitions production, especially ammunition, freeing up the demand of steel and thus the demand on coal. It was that sort of start-stop-start planning that affected early production and can be traced to over-mobilization, lack of financial capitol, lack of strategic resources, and lack of labor.

    The lack of labor was solved periodically in 1940-1942 by allowing strategic personnel in the Wehrmacht to get home "leave", where they simply put on a civvy suit and continued to work. That was slowly replaced by reliance on Gastarbeiter "hired" from the occupied countries (and Spain and Sweden as well) and then by wholesale Zwangsarbeit - forced labor.

    That may be, at least partly, sour grapes on the part of the KM. There simply wasn't much available as long-range reconnaissance assets in the Luftwaffe on the outbreak of war. 1.(F)/Aufklärungsgruppe 120, 1./(F)/Aufklärungsgruppe 124, five Staffeln of Aufklärungsgruppe 122, three Staffeln of Aufklärungsgruppe 123, and three Staffeln of Aufklärungsgruppe 121 flew a mixture of He 111 and Do 17P, and were to transition to Ju 88. There were also two Lehr Fernaufklärungsgruppe. So fifteen long-range reconnaissance squadrons with 119 aircraft. However, there were also five Staffeln of the Küstenfliegergruppe, 2.(F)/106, 2.(F)/306, 2.(F)/406, 2.(F)/506, and 2.(F)/606 with 60 Do 18 at the disposal of the KM. They also requisitioned to Ju 88 in fall 1940, so basically had the longest ranged reconnaissance aircraft then available.
     
  12. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Of course, the Germans had an answer to much of their labor problems-women. We know that in Nazi mythology women were only good for sexual pleasure and home-making/child rearing duties. We also know that in the first years of the war, the Nazis were loath to disturb the populace at home so that some peacetime manufacturing was still going on up until as late as 1943.. Anyway, that plus what you said resulted in factories that weren't working 24/7 like Britain's and the USA's. That was the point of my comment. Besides, problems in the steel industry really wouldn't affect the aircraft industry all that much.

    The five staffeln you mentioned above were absorbed into the LW in 1940 to help with the air war on Britain. That left only a few short range recon craft and ship-launched float planes left under KM command. After the BoB these staffeln stayed under LW control and used He 115s, Do 18s, He 59s etc. which were short-to-medium range flying boats and float planes. After the summer of 1940 these aircraft had to patrol a coastline from the tip of Norway down to the Fanco-Spanish border. Their duties included convoy escort, commando raid warning, anti-submarine duties and even some courier work. All this with just five staffeln! The only long-range recon group was I/KG 40 which had the FW 200. German U-Boats primarily operated against convoys coming across the Atlantic from North and South America as well as ones coming from South Africa and the Med. Later, the Med itself had to be patrolled, so we see that with a large coastline, and later the Med, PLUS long-range patrols supporting the U-Boats, the number of patrol planes were woefully inadequate. The main point I was trying to make was that by not increasing the number of LR recon aircraft, the U-Boat war couldn't have been successfully prosecuted-nor was it.

    As for your "sour grapes" comment, I suppose that was part of it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their arguments weren't valid.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    German women were not as underutilized as some think. From what I recall reading they were the major source of labor in agriculture during the war. If you are interested in this and haven't read Wages of Destruction you should. The pre war chapters are especially enlightening.
     
  14. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but that is an old canard that never seems to die. On the outbreak of war, 51 percent of German women of working age were employed in the workforce...14.626 million of them. The majority were in farm labor, six million, but 2.7 million were in industry and made up 37.4 percent of the total workforce. Thus, from the outset of war, the German female labor force was more utilized than the British, where on the outbreak of war, women made up 25.8 percent of the workforce, only 13 percent in agriculture and 17.8 percent in heavy industry. Similar statistics may be found for the US and USSR. What changed is that the British and others increased the proportion of women in labor, but in Germany it remained about the same. Fundamentally, Germany did not have a large pool of unemployed women to push into agricultural and industrial work as did the British, US, and (to aa slightly lesser extent) the USSR.

    Yes, we "know" that, but curiously I have never been able to find hard confirmation of that. The usual response seems to be , "they continued to manufacture refrigerators", which is actually a gross misrepresentation of what happened - they continued to manufacture refrigeration equipment for military and civilian usage. Meanwhile, the German automobile industry, laboriously built up by the Nazi's 1933-1939, effectively ceased civilian production, auto production for the civilian sector went from 167,276 in 1939 to 26,011 in 1940, 3,200 in 1941, 1,283 in 1942, and 935 in 1943.

    Indeed, labor shortages were the key problem for German industry, not really solved until the advent of mass forced labor beginning in 1942-1943. That meant that most German factories worked on a single 12-hour shift...effectively the work was 12/7 and the individual German worker worked a longer shift and more total hours typically than his British and American counterpart.

    Well, technically they were always Luftwaffe and only seconded to the Kriegsmarine. Anyway, 2./106 was at Brest and then Cherbourg during the BoB before moving to Stavanger as 3./906 in February 1941. 2./406 was in Norway during the battle. 2,/306 was redesignated as 3./406 and was in Holland during the battle. 2./506 was in Norway and then the German North Sea on Nordenay during the battle. 2./606 was in Kiel, converting to Do 17 during the battle. So they were deployed in an arc along the German-controlled coast from Norway to Brest, which is not necessarily an indicator they were to help with the air war on Britain...they remained concerned with long-range over-ocean reconnaissance.

    The He 115 was primarily used as a mine-layer and torpedo bomber and only secondarily as a reconnaissance aircraft with 1./106, which was re-equipped with Ju 88 and designated 1./KGr.106 in May 1941. 3./106 also used the He 115 from December 1939 until it transitioned to Ju 88 in October 1940. 1., 2., and 3./506 also used the He 115 from early 1940 until June 1941 when they transitioned to Ju 88. The remaining He 115 went to 1./406 in the spring of 1941. All these units then were effectively reconnaissance attack squadrons.

    Actually, by the spring of 1941, there were six dedicated long range reconnaissance and 11 reconnaissance-attack squadrons in the Küstenfliegergruppen. The first were equipped mostly with He 115, Bv 138, and Do 18, the latter with Ju 88. That to support a U-Boote force that averaged just 26.5 boats operational per month in the first half of the year and 47.5 per month for the year. With something between 8 and 16 boats actually on patrol at any one time.

    Anyway, that was the problem...they never expected a requirement for anything other than North Sea patrols...the French Campaign and mass movement of the U-Boote fleet to France for operations out of the Bay of Biscay was unplanned, as was the need for long-range reconnaissance aircraft to provide convoy spotting, which is hwy it took forever and was never closely coordinated before May 1943, when it may have had an effect...except the numbers of U-Boote at sea was the real deciding factor.

    The FW 200 was never more than a militarized civilian aircraft with marginal capabilities...its low rate of production is an indicator of that.

    :D I do believe it was, partly to cover the P.P.P.P. by the KM on how to utilize the air assets they did have in coordination with the U-Boote...famously, they didn't even bother to check if they were issued the same charts. :D
     
    Last edited: May 2, 2019
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  15. harolds

    harolds Member

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    The point being that the FW 200 was all they had at that time. You have to go with what you've got and the Condor had the most range (2700 mls) of all the planes we've discussed. Where it was marginal was as a bomber. As a recon platform it was excellent. More could have been made since the number produced was a function of how many were ordered. Your point that there was only an average of 26.5 U-Boats available underscores the need for good reconnaissance so as to maximize the potential of that limited number of subs. You can't sink what you can't find!

    Your last comment was a reflection, going back to my original post, on having one service (LW) do a job for another (KM). This could have been largely avoided by having naval personnel on the Condors. They could have helped bridge the gap between U-Boat command and Flieger Fuehrer Atlantik.
     
  16. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The Condor was also rather fragile. A fair number sere seriously damaged just in landing from what I've heard. They also didn't hold up well to AA or fighters. Early war if the Germans produce more and use them for maritime recon the British are going to use more RAM ships and the Condors will suffer greater losses.
     
  17. harolds

    harolds Member

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    The LW used the Condor for both recon and attack purposes. When it was used on independently sailing, unarmed, merchantmen it did ok but it's forte was shadowing convoys and bringing the U-Boats into attack them. Often the Condors could escape into the clouds when chased by a RAM fighter. According to my sources only 5 Condors were brought down by RAM fighters. Of course once a RAM fighter was used, it had to ditch. It was an expedient that had more of a moral effect than an actual one.

    The damage on landing, AFAK, was usually caused by trying to land with bomb loads still on. Perhaps botched landing were a factor too. The Condor simply was out of its league as a bomber but still was an adequate recon platform.
     
  18. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately, the Condor was never really the threat it was made out to be and it also had to fit into the operational planning - and prejudices - of the B.d.U. On 2 March 1941, after just a few months of Condor operations, Dönitz became convinced that the Condor attacks were serving as warning to the convoys and ordered that they not attack convoys; they were simply to observe and report. Further, shortly afterwards a German analysis of Condor/U-Boote operations for the months of January and February 1941 found that the U-Boote had been able to react with success to only a single Condor convoy sighting. So on 6 March, Dönitz confirmed the orders..."no more U-Boote operations" were to be "undertaken on aircraft reports", but now the Condors were again allowed to attack convoys on sight. The next Condor sighting that resulted in a U-Boote attack was on 1 July 1941. Dönitz targeted five boats on it, but only one was able to make contact, sinking a troopship on 5 July. On 7 July, another Condor contact resulted in a scramble order to all available U-Boote...and no contacts or sinkings. On 25 July, two Condors spotted a convoy of 26 ships and Dönitz vectored 8 U-Boote to it, which found nothing. The convoy was spotted by a Condor again on 26 July and 7 U-Boote tried to find it...again without success. Then, by accident a U-Boote stumbled on part of the convoy, which had split and vectored in other U-Boote, leading to attacks by three boats that stumbled on different parts of the now three different convoys, and sank six ships. Hardly the precise tool one would want the Condor's to be.

    It is difficult to blame the fact that the Condor crews were Luftwaffe and the subs Kriegsmarine, given the Condor's were flying under KM direction and were operationally subordinate to them. The sightings simply weren't accurate enough and the subs not fast enough, even when the subs were able to vector onto the Condor beacons, for them to find and engage the convoys after sighting them. And that after a half year of experience.
     
  19. harolds

    harolds Member

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    If the aircraft just sent out a sighting report with location, speed (estimated) and direction, then the problem was that often the Condor's navigator had an imprecise fix on their location-which often happened. If the aircraft sent out homing signals over a period of time and the convoy was still missed, then is sounds to me like the fix would have been some inter-service training in the Baltic to iron out the bugs. However, from the KM point of view, the dual-command system had a lot of inefficiencies built into it as well as a certain amount of inter-service rivalry. Sighting reports, as I understand it, went from the a/c to a LW HQ then to KM HQ, then to BdU and then to the subs. The LW wasn't going to give up any of its independence to the KM and on occasion pulled the Condors out for other duties-such as the Stalingrad airlift. Therefore, the need for long range recon a/c for exclusive KM use really can't be sluffed off with accusations of "sour grapes" (even though the staff of OKL would have probably characterized it as such.
     
  20. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    The procedure was for the Condor to broadcast a navigational fix on the convoy, which was usually picked up by local boats and which was re-transmitted by B.d.U. back to the boats with interception orders. The Condor on station also emitted a navigational beacon that could be followed by the boats to get an exact fix. The problem was, the Condors could not stay on station forever and the surface speed of the convoys was often only a few knots slower than the U-Boote. In theory, they could have set up a staggered series of Condors to stand on station, except in practice there were never enough Condors operational to both search and stay on station.

    B.d.U. was quite capable of picking up the sighting reports and acting on them with or without acknowledgement of Ob.L. The 19 February 1941 incident that led to Dönitz's decisions in March I remarked upon above is sufficient evidence of that. In that case, a Condor from Norway spotted an outbound convoy and Dönitz vectored five boats against it...and ordered KG 40 to send out more Condors to track it on the morning of 20 February. KG 40 was under the operational control of B.d.U. Three Condors were duly dispatched, following the orders of B.d.U. and made sighting reports, but all gave different positions. However, the interpretation of that was that three different convoys had been sighted, and then B-Dienst picked up a ship's submarine attack distress call at yet another location, muddying the waters further. Only one boat homed on a Condor beacon, managed to find the convoy, and sank a single ship. The others followed the spurious reports and found nothing.

    That was a problem of the practical limitations of the system and was not due to inter-service rivalry. Yet again, KG 40 during this period was operationally subordinate to OKM and B.d.U., while it remained administratively part of OKL.

    A single occasion is not evidence they did it multiple times. In this case, the single occasion is also something different than I think you may suppose it to be. In January 1943, KG 40, like many of the other KG, was detailed to send emergency transport units to support the Stalingrad airlift. It sent the personnel of 1. and 3./KG 40, then in Norway, with 21 Fw 200 (11 from IV./KG 40 and 10 from I./KG 40), forming KGr.z.b.V. 200 on 7 January 1943. At the time I. and III./KG 40 were the sole operational FW 200 units in the Luftwaffe, II./KG 40 being equipped with Do 217 and IV./KG 40 being the unit Erganzungs or operational training unit. III./KG 40 stayed at its Biscay and Brittany bases and continued to operate supporting B.d.U. Also at the same time though, 2./KG 40 was re-equipping with He 177, still operating out of Trondheim. So 40% of the operational FW 200 units went to support the airlift. KGr.z.b.V. 200 was disbanded on or about 19 February at Berlin and reformed as 8./KG 40, which also began converting to the He 177.

    Thus, in theory, the FW 200 and other less capable aircraft were to be replaced by the He 177, a much more capable, again in theory, aircraft. So no one was "sluffing off" the need for long range reconnaissance aircraft, rather, they were trying to replace a very problematic expedient design with a purpose-built one. That the replacement had its own set of problems is a different matter having nothing to do with sour grapes either.

    The simple fact is that the Condor did not really work well in its intended role, even during its supposed heyday in 1941-1942. Even under OKM operational control its spotting reports were found to be imprecise and its ability to shadow convoys limited. It was hoped the He 177 would improve things, but it had its own issues and by early 1943 it made no difference anyway. Throwing more FW 200 at the problem, even with KM crews in them, was unlikely to prove a cure. Postwar KM memoirs stating something different remain sour grapes.
     
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