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Western Front

Battle of Berlin: Defensive Preparations, March-April 1945

Coverage of Berlin by four USAAF reconnaissance sorties in March and April 1945 focused on defensive preparations -- in particular four areas where nine Soviet armies would concentrate attacks on 23 April (Map). Some coverage also focused on an area along the Elbe River, 50 km northwest of the city.

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. Comprising tank ditches, personnel trenching, foxholes and road barriers, the defensive areas were fairly extensive, but probably not as formidable as those in some other Reich 'fortress cities.' In general, the defenses were prepared for use by personnel, but generally appeared to lack significant heavy weapons support.

Pankow Area

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, Graphics) In one case, the fortifications appeared to incorporate an unfinished civil defense ‘Hochbunker.’ Although evidence of vehicular activity was generally 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)

Rudnow Area

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, Graphic). Roadblocks and barriers were set up at bridges along the canal.

Teltow Area

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, Graphic). 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.

Eberswalde Area

One sortie, on 14 April specifically to assess defenses in the vicinity of Eberswalde, 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). Individual fighting positions were equally spaced along the southern part of the trench system (Graphic). 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). Some trenching could be seen running through built up areas south of town. A hospital train was in the Eberswalde rail yard.

One sortie was fired upon twice by anti-aircraft sites at Wensickendorf, 30 km north of Berlin. The first instance, from an unknown location, occurred early in the mission (not shown). The second attack, from the vicinity of, took place near the end (Map, Graphic). 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.

Other Berlin Defenses

The four areas highlighted here were just some of the most concentrated 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 area 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). In addition, the two Flak Towers at Fredrichschain (2G & 2 L) were also covered (Graphic). About 20 vehicles were on the road or parked near Tower 2G on15 March.

Coverage of the Elbe River near Wittenberge

Areas along the Elbe River from Wittenberge to Havelberg were imaged on 15 March, 14 April and 23 April, possibly to assess river flooding. A village near Nitzow, was threatened on 15 March (Graphic). A major munitions production plant and storage area, HASAG/Dynamit AG, was also located near Nitzow. The plant was reportedly unfinished, but the storage area was in use. On 14 April, vehicles were lined up beside a train at nearby Glöwen, suggesting ammunition from the storage area was being loaded (Graphic). 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).

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