Operation Moonlight Sonata: The German Raid on Coventry

By Allan W. Kurki | Go to book overview
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The Bombers and Ordnance of the GAF


This chapter reviews the kinds of bombers and offensive ordnance of the GAF that were used during the bombing of Coventry. Three different types of bombers participated in the Coventry raid: the Dornier Do 17, the Heinkel He 111, and one of the newest types of German bombers, the Junkers Ju 88. The Do 17 and the He 111 had been widely used in combat by the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War and were already approaching obsolescence at the time of the Battle of Britain. The Ju 88, however, was newer and had more recently entered service with the Luftwaffe. It was destined ultimately to become the most versatile bomber used by the GAF during all of World War II. A brief description of the Ju 87 Stuka bomber is also included in this chapter because, although it was not used in the Coventry bombing, it did participate in several phases of the Battle of Britain.

Table 5.1 lists the major specifications of the three types of German bombers used in the Coventry raid. For comparison purposes, the specifications of an American B-17 "Flying Fortress," a true heavy strategic bomber, are also shown in the table. It is noteworthy that all three of the GAF bombers were considered to be medium bombers and not heavy strategic bombers like the B-17. The Luftwaffe actually needed heavy strategic bombers to effectively bomb England. The Dornier Do 17 was not originally designed as a bomber; rather, it had been designed as a commercial transport. 1 Lufthansa had put forth specifications for a high-speed mail plane capable of carrying six passengers and suitable for use on European express services. Dornier designed the Do 17 to meet these specifications, and the first of three prototypes of this aircraft was ready to be flown in the autumn of 1934. Although Lufthansa test pilots were extremely pleased with the responsiveness and performance of the aircraft, those individuals responsible for passenger ticket sales vetoed further consideration of the aircraft because its passenger compartments were much too confined. There was a small forward cabin housing two passengers


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