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"High altitude napalm versus bunkers..." Topic

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Warspite127 Oct 2023 5:01 a.m. PST

Something I was not aware of, the USAAF's attempted use of napalm in massed attacks from high altitudes against Atlantic Wall defences in France late in WW2 The results were not good.

The vertical drop meant that the extemporised drop-tanks with exploders attached to them either buried themselves into the ground and just burned in the deep hole they had made or else failed to burn at all. Some collided and burned on the way down.

The Germans found the smell of the remaining unburned fuel was the greatest nuisance. One soldier, who had some splash on to him while it was alight, managed to shake it off. The Germans told the investigators that they would have feared a high explosive attack more.

YouTube link

The above is an interesting and detailed account of a raid which exposed the futility of dropping napalm from high altitudes. In the Pacific, in Korea and Vietnam note that napalm was dropped from low altitudes which allowed it to 'splash' horizontally, spread better and then ignite. And by Vietnam the formulation had been thickened and improved to prevent the 'shake off' of burning fuel.


Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2023 6:28 a.m. PST

My father flew that mission. Here's his description of it from his hand-written flight journal:

Mission 25: April 15, 1945. Target: Royan, Fr. A 9-hour mission against troop concentration in Nazi pocket near Bordeaux. Formed over Laon, France. Flew over Paris. Bombed visually from 15,000 feet. No flak in our formation. Ship #807 with 6 600# gasoline-jelly P-51 tanks (leaked all over hell [in airplane]). Free French Navy shelling town while we bombed.
[Note: "Mission 951. 1,348 unescorted bombers [B-17 and B-24] are dispatched to visually attack strongpoints on the French Atlantic coast; the first two forces [My father's was the first one.] below make the sole operational employment of napalm bombs by Eighth AF against German ground installations (pillboxes, gunpits, tank trenches, and heavy gun emplacements); the results are negligible and HQ recommends its discontinuance against this type of target:
1. 492 of 529 B-17s hit four strongpoints and flak batteries in the Royan area."]

Note: My additional comments and information from the 8th Air Force on-line calendar are in square brackets. See link


Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP27 Oct 2023 10:19 a.m. PST


advocate27 Oct 2023 11:43 p.m. PST

April 15th 1945? Couldn't they just have waited?

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2023 5:17 a.m. PST

Gen Leclerc and 2eme DB would have echoed that thought. They were livid to be moved right across France for the attack on Royan, at the very moment they were so anticipating dashing across Germany. They did race back however, in time to be in Berchtesgarten right at the end.

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2023 6:54 a.m. PST

ColCampbell what an amazing document and right on point with the article. Thanks for sharing.

Warspite130 Oct 2023 3:08 p.m. PST

Very interesting. The best my father got around this time was to shelter behind some very low mole hills when a German jet (prob an Arado 234 Blitz) flew over and bombed the bridge they were standing near. He had never heard a jet before and thought it was incoming shellfire.


Warspite130 Oct 2023 3:09 p.m. PST

German surrender was not yet certain.
Also the desire may have been to see how effective napalm was against this kind of target.


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