WW2 Aerial Reconnaissance Studies
Finally, US7/0040 was fired upon twice by anti-aircraft sites during the course its flight. The first instance, from an unknown location, occurred early in the mission (not shown). The second attack, from the vicinity of Wensickendorf, 30 km north of Berlin, took place near the end (Map 1, Graphic 12). The left and right split vertical images showed the batteries firing and the tracer rounds falling off below the aircraft, which was flying at about 24,000 feet.
Map 2 shows the location of the Berlin city defenses and the general orientation of attacks by the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th Guards Tank Armies, 8th Guards Army, 3rd & 5th Shock Armies, and 28th & 47th Armies.
Coverage of Berlin by four USAAF reconnaissance sorties in March and April 1945 focused on defensive preparations -- in particular four areas where the Red Army would concentrate attacks on 23 April (Maps 1 & 2). An analysis of the imagery shows defenses had been constructed at Teltow, Rudnow, Pankow on the city's south, east and northeast perimeter, respectively, and at Eberswalde, 40 km to the northeast. For some reason, the coverage also focused on an area along the Elbe River, 50 km northwest of the city. Comprised of tank ditches, personnel trenching, foxholes and road barriers, the defensive areas were fairly extensive but probably not as formitable as those in some other Reich "fortress cities." In general, the defenses were prepared for use by personnel and generally appeared to lack significant heavy weapons support.
The four areas highlighted here were just the largest concentration of prepared defenses; positions along roadways and around buildings could be seen virtually everywhere. Three other areas worth noting were foxholes along waterways in the vicinity of Karlshorst and Tegel and another flooded areas south of Potsdam. Although the city center was not a focus of the reconnaissance, enough was seen to confirm that bridges along the canals were heavily defended by barriers and weapons positions (Graphic 8). In addition, the two Flak Towers at Fredrichschain (2G & 2 L) were also covered (Graphic 9).
Some of Berlin's outlying areas were urban or heavily forested, making them somewhat defensible. The Pankow quarter, however, was more open and suburban, requiring substantial defensive works that took advantage of roads and canals (Map 3, Graphics 1 & 2) In one case, the fortifications appeared to incorporate an unfiished civil defense "Hochbunker." Although evidence of vehicular activity was gerneally limited in the city, a major exception could be seen at a vehicle depot southeast of Pankow where hundreds of vehicles were dispersed on and around a probable old airfield (Graphic 3)
Teltow, on the southside of Berlin, was in another lightly built-up suburban area. Defenses in this area --generally lighter than the other two areas-- ran along the Teltow canal and an abandoned railroad construction running south of the canal and Teltow Airfield (Map 5, Graphic 5). The southern line extended at least as far as Stahnsdorf, 6 km to the west. Five empty vehicle revetments --possibly for armored vehicles-- were sited along the road behind the canal. Also, an existing anti-aircraft artillery complex south of the defenses had recently been enclosed in defensive trenching; similar trenching was seen at all anti-aircraft complexes lying outside the city defenses.
One sortie, US7/0100/C, was flown on 14 April to specifically assess defenses in the vicinity of Eberswalde guarding the northeast approaches to Berlin. The defenses in front of Eberswalde were thin, and composed mainly of a single trench system extending north and south of the town of Falkenberg (at least 12 km) (Map 6). Individual fighting positions were equally spaced along the southern part of the trench system (Graphic 6). The line and Falkenberg itself were protected by forests and flooded areas to the north; it is not clear if the flooding was purposeful or the result of rain or melting snow. Defenses closer to Eberswalde consisted of a tank ditch and a trench network supported by several anti-aircraft or heavy weapons positions (Graphic 7). Some trenching could be seen running through built up areas south of town. A hospital train was in the Eberswalde rail yard.
For reasons that are not readily apparent, areas along the Elbe River from Wittenberge to Havelberg were imaged on 15 March, 14 April and 23 April. There were no crossings and few military installations in the area, but the river was swollen and flooding threatened nearby towns (Graphic 10). The one major military facility in the along the river was a large munitions production plant near the towns of Glöwen and Nitzow-- HASAG/Dynamit AG. The plant was reportedly unfinished, but it was in use as a storage area, its activities supported by a sub-camp if the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp. On 14 April, transshipment of supplies was observed at Glöwen, where vehicles were lined up beside a train (Graphic 11). A vehicle convoy appeared to be leaving a train in another part of the rail yard (not shown). Elsewhere, a hospital had been set up in a small barracks in Glöwen and a hospital train was headed in the direction of the town 10 km to the northwest (not shown).
Rudnow, 15 km south-southeast of Pankow, sits across the Teltow canal from Johannisthal Airfield. Foxholes and trenching could be seen lining the north bank of the canal and rail line east of the airfield. The main defensive works running from the canal south and west of Pankow, included a different kind of tank barrier consisting of a graded area with transverse berms. (Map 4, Graphic 4). Roadblocks and barriers were set up at bridges along the canal.