Excerpt from the upcoming book – Shadow Heroes
Ed’s squadron’s next mission was one feared by the airmen of the Mighty Eight; Berlin. The second mission was a tough draw for the novice crew. Berlin was heartily defended. As early as 1940, in response to RAF raids, Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of three massive flak towers to defend the German capital. They were supported by a retractable radar dish, which itself was protected by concrete. The towers were completed in six months. The three flak towers were situated around the outskirts of Berlin and formed a triangle of awesome anti- aircraft fire that covered the center of Berlin.
Flakturm I was located at the Berlin Zoo, Flakturm II was located at Friedrichshain, Berlin and Flakturm III was at Humbolthain, Berlin.
The Germans used several anti-aircraft weapons in its defense. The most widely used weapon for air-defense was the 88 mm gun. It was the most recognized German weapon during the war. It was used as an anti-aircraft weapon and as a anti-tank weapon. Flak is a contraction for the German Flugzeugabwehrkanone which means “anti aircraft cannon.”
They also used 128 mm, 37 mm and 20 mm guns. The Flak 38 was a 20 mm gun. Four would be mounted on a single carriage, and it was considered light anti-aircraft weapon.
Ed remembered what happened on the second mission: “At briefing we were told Berlin was the target. The experienced combat flyers told us that was it; make plans in case we did not come back.” Preparation was the same as with the first mission, but Berlin was big. It is the capital of Germany and the location of the Fuehrer. Other targets were also well defended, but just the name “Berlin” carried so much more intensity and fear for the crew of the 752nd squadron. The pits in their stomachs grew more uncomfortable. The 752nd, according to Ed, made it to the continent just west of Flensburg, which is in Schleswig – Holstein. It was the seat of the last NAZI government under Admiral Karl Donitz who replaced Hitler after the Fuehrer’s death. Flensburg is about 5 miles from Denmark.
Ed continued: “When we hit the main land there was no way to climb over the clouds, so the mission was aborted.” Because they received enemy fire when they were over the continent, they received credit for that mission even through it was aborted. There was a long dangerous road ahead for Ed and his crew.