Flak tower

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Augarten L-Tower.
Augarten G-Tower.

Flak towers (German: Flaktürme) were large, above-ground anti-aircraft gun blockhouses used by the Luftwaffe to defend against Allied air raids on certain cities during World War II. They also served as air-raid shelters for tens of thousands of people and to coordinate air defence.


[edit] History and uses

Flak tower in 1942

After the RAF's raid on Berlin in 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered the construction of 3 massive Flak towers to defend the capital from air attack. These towers were each supported by a radar installation that had a retractable radar dish (the dish would be retracted behind a thick concrete and steel dome in order to prevent damage in an air raid). The Flak towers, the design of which Hitler took personal interest in and even made some sketches for, were constructed in a mere 6 months. The priority of the project was evidenced in the fact that the German national rail schedule was altered in order to facilitate the shipment of the necessary materials, namely concrete, steel and lumber to the construction sites.[citation needed]

With concrete walls up to 3.5 metres thick, Flak towers were considered to be invulnerable to attack with the usual ordinance carried by Allied bombers, though it is unlikely that they would have withstood Grand Slam bombs which successfully penetrated much thicker reinforced concrete. Aircraft generally appeared to have avoided the flak towers. The towers were able to sustain a rate of fire of 8000 rounds per minute from their multi-level guns, with a range of up to 14km in a full 360-degree field of fire. The 3 flak towers around the outskirts of Berlin created a triangle of formidable anti-aircraft fire that covered the center of Berlin.[citation needed]

The Flak towers had also been designed with the idea of using the above-ground bunkers as a civilian shelter, with room for 10,000 civilians, and even a hospital ward, inside. The towers, during the fall of Berlin, formed their own communities, with up to 30,000 or more Berliners taking refuge in a single tower during the battle. These towers were some of the safest places in the fought-over city and some of the last places to surrender to Allied forces, eventually forced to capitulate as supplies ran out.

The Soviets, in their assault on Berlin, found it difficult to inflict significant damage on the Flak towers, even with some of the largest Soviet guns, such as the 203 mm howitzers. Soviet forces generally manoeuvered around the towers, and eventually sent in envoys to seek their submission. Unlike much of Berlin, the towers tended to be fully stocked with ammunition and supplies, and the gunners even used their anti-aircraft 20 mm cannons to defend against assault by ground units. The Zoo Tower was one of the last points of defence, with German armoured units rallying near it at Tiergarten, before trying to break out of the encircling Soviet Red Army.[citation needed]

For a time after the war, the conversion to representative objects with decorated facades was planned. After the war was lost, the demolition of the towers was in most cases unfeasible and many remain to this day.

[edit] Flak tower design iterations

Each Flak tower complex consisted of:

  • a G-Tower (German: Gefechtsturm) or Combat Tower, also known as the Gun Tower, Battery Tower or Large Flak Tower, and
  • a L-Tower (German: Leitturm) or Lead Tower also known as the Fire-control tower, command tower, listening bunker or small flak tower.
The three generations of G tower.
  • Generation 1
    • G-Towers were 70.5 × 70.5 × 39 m, usually armed with eight (four twin) 128 mm guns and numerous 37 mm and thirty-two (eight quad) 20 mm guns.
    • L-Towers were 50 × 23 × 39 m, usually armed with sixteen (four quad) 20 mm guns.
  • Generation 2
    • G-Towers were 57 × 57 × 41.6 m, usually armed with eight (four twin) 128 mm guns and sixteen (four quad) 20 mm guns.
    • L-Towers were 50 × 23 × 44 m, usually armed with forty (ten quad) 20 mm guns.
  • Generation 3
    • G-Towers were 43 × 43 × 54 m, usually armed with eight (four twin) 128 mm guns and thirty-two (eight quad) 20 mm guns.

The evaluation of even larger Battery Towers was commissioned by Adolf Hitler. These would have been three times the size and firepower of Flak towers.

[edit] Towers

[edit] Flakturm I - Berliner Zoo, Berlin

[edit] Flakturm II - Friedrichshain, Berlin

The G-Tower, known as Mont Klamott (Rubble Mountain) in Berlin, was the inspiration for songs by singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann and the rock band Silly.

[edit] Flakturm III - Humboldthain, Berlin

[edit] Flakturm IV - Heiligengeistfeld, Hamburg

[edit] Flakturm V - Wilhelmsburg, Hamburg

[edit] Flakturm VI - Stiftskaserne, Vienna

[edit] Flakturm VII - Augarten, Vienna

[edit] Flakturm VIII - Arenberg Park, Vienna

[edit] Planned towers (not built)

[edit] Berlin

[edit] Bremen

[edit] Hamburg

  • East Hamburg (planned, not built)

[edit] Munich

  • Munich Railroad Station (eight planned, none built)

[edit] Vienna

  • Original plans were to place the three towers in Schmelz, Prater & Floridsdorf.

[edit] Flak Guns

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Foedrowitz, Michael. (1998). The Flak Towers in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna 1940-1950. Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0398-8
  • Ute Bauer "Die Wiener Flakturme im Spiegel Oesterreichischer Erinnerungskultur", Phoibos Verlag, Wien 2003. ISBN 3-901232-42-7

[edit] External links

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