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"Some German bombers landed at UK bases, believing they were back in Germany." (wikipedia.org)
99 points by JakeSc on Aug 16, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments

I dimly recall from my youth in Cornwall that it was a particular problem if the aircraft ended up too far west - they would leave the South Wales coast, cross the Bristol Channel - confuse that with the English Channel, and then land, lost, at the first airbase they found in Cornwall -thinking they were at least in France.

Interesting! You always hear about the battles won with guns and bombs, but very rarely do you get to learn about battles between engineers.

One issue is that a lot of this wasn't declassified until long after the initial histories were written. Winston Churchill's fantastic multi-volume history makes no mention of ULTRA and I recall that a lot of the engineering stuff was only declassified in the '70s.

I remember well searching for the book The Wizard War: British Scientific Intelligence, 1939-1945 (http://www.amazon.com/Wizard-War-Scientific-Intelligence-193...) in the summer of 1978, the year it came out (the library hadn't yet gotten its copy).

I'm almost finished reading a UK printing of The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War (http://www.amazon.com/Deceivers-Allied-Military-Deception-Se...) which was first published in 2005 and it comments that a lot of its material was only recently declassified. Prior to it the only detailed history was the bit known as The Man Who Never Was: World War II's Boldest Counter-Intelligence Operation (http://www.amazon.com/Man-Who-Never-Was-Counter-Intelligence...) from the '50s, which wildly overstates the importance this particular bit of deception used for the invasion of Sicily. It was one of many pieces which in total achieved complete success, but it and they don't hold a candle in "boldness" to FORTITUDE SOUTH and QUICKSILVER (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Fortitude) which convinced Hitler and most of the Wehrmacht high command for well over a month that the Normandy landing was only a feint.

Keep in mind that this is not pure engineering, as you're not just trying to solve a problem, you're trying to solve a problem against a living, reacting adversary. So strategy ("game theory") enters into the picture.

Edward Luttwak's book "Strategy: The logic of war and peace" (http://www.amazon.com/Strategy-Logic-Peace-Revised-Enlarged/...) has a lengthy dioscussion of the strategic back-and-forth in the Battle of Britain. Besides the beams, both sides were also experimenting with new kinds of bombers, bombs, fighter planes, ways of finding and fighting fighter planes, countermeasures for preventing the enemy from finding your fighter planes, etc. Very interesting read.

Interesting indeed. If you think all the new tech in WW2 (missile, radar, atom bomb, Enigma, u-boat), calling the WW2 "the first war of engineering" isn't far from the truth.

It is a bit far from the truth. Kadesh is possibly the first war of engineering we have accounts of, in which the manevourability of chariots were decisive.

Actually, every nation that challenged the status quo of their times run a war of engineering.Avars and the stirrup, kinghts and the body armor, Turks and the cannon, etc, etc...

U-boats were a major factor in WW1 - the United States probably wouldn't have entered the war if it hadn't been for German attacks on transatlantic shipping.

And even encryption was important in WW1. The Germans did a pretty good job at listening to the Russian communications.

There is a spectacular book about the Battle Of the Beams written by R. V. Jones, who was the British scientist in charge of countering the German technical advances.

I can't recommend it enough, although it is a very in-depth read: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Most-Secret-Penguin-World-Collection...

Here's an US Amazon.com entry: http://www.amazon.com/Most-Secret-Penguin-World-Collection/d... Based on a review comment and the page count it looks like it's a version of The Wizard War I cited in another posting in this topic.

Lots of inexpensive used paperback editions available.

The article actually says 'RAF bases', not 'UK bases', so I presume the error wasn't necessarily as large as the distance between Germany and the UK.

It mentions however that the system was used after the campaign has switched to night bombing, which was months after the evacuation from France. The error was at least as large as the channel.

... but not as large as Germany to UK, which is what the title says. The title does not say 'occupied territory', but 'Germany'.

Yeah, sorry for the modification in the title. I first posted this on reddit, where sensationalization of the title is a bit more commonplace.

Hallicrafters S-27 ftw!

As one of my EE professors stated, "In RADAR, the odds are stacked in favor of the jammer". While this isn't radar similar principles apply.

Like! :-)

Truly a leaf from the Art of War. Confound before Conflict.

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