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La Coupole
Part of Nazi Germany
Northern France, close to Wizernes & Helfaut
Coupole Helfaut.jpg
Domed roof of La Coupole
Type bunker
Coordinates 50°42′21″N 2°14′38″E / 50.70583°N 2.24389°E / 50.70583; 2.24389
Built started April 1943[1]
Built by Organisation Todt
Construction
materials
concrete
Height 21 metres (69 ft)
doors:17 metres (56 ft)[2]
In use never completed
Open to
the public
History and Remembrance Centre[3]
Controlled by France
Garrison Abteilungen (English: firing detachment) comprising one technical and two operational batteries[4]
Battles/wars Operation Crossbow campaign
Operation Aphrodite
Events late August 1944: captured[4]

November 1944: "Sanders mission"[2]

La Coupole (English: The Dome) was a Nazi Germany bunker constructed in a former limestone quarry and planned for V-2 rocket assembly and launches. The site was bombed as a "Heavy Crossbow" target and the rockets were launched from mobile firing batteries, instead.

History

Prior to 1942, the Bauer and Nebel consulting firm was contracted to design the intricate erector to transport checked-out Wizernes V-2s from underground to the surface launcher.[5] For launches, the rockets would be hauled from the service chamber through concrete tunnels Gretchen and Gustav past the planned 5 feet (1.5 m) thick solid steel bomb-proof doors.[4]

On July 8, 1943, Hitler viewed a colour V-2 rocket film and scale models of the Watten bunker and mobile launching-troop vehicles. Instead of the "shoot-and-run" mobile launching Walter Dornberger advocated (and eventually used), Hitler reaffirmed that there should be more than one fixed bunker.[6] By September 1943, construction at Watten (despite Allied bombings), Wizernes, and the 'special' V-2 site at Sottevast was on schedule.[1] Work on La Coupole was begun after the nearby Le Blockhaus had been damaged by Operation Crossbow bombing. On November 5, 1943, the Allied Central Interpretation Unit (CIU) reported photographs of Wizernes construction.[4]

In January 1944 a concrete dome 71 m in diameter, 5 m thick and weighing an estimated 55 000 tonnes was built over the top of the facility. Similar to the Verbunkerung method,1 the Wizernes plan was to build a bomb-proof dome on the ground on the edge of the 30 m / 100-foot-deep quarry, then excavate a facility beneath.[4][6] Directly beneath the dome, a 35 m / 117 ft diameter[2]-by-21 m high hexagonal room was planned to house the rocket production facility. After final assembly and fueling, the rockets were to be moved outside and fired.[7] In May 1944, the "953 (Semi-Mobile) Artillery Detachment", started Abteilungen (English: firing detachment) training at Blizna for operations at Wizerne.[4] The detachment consisted of one technical and two operational batteries to launch up to 50 rockets daily from Wizernes.[4]:142 On July 3, 1944, the Oberkommando West gave permission to stop construction at the heavily damaged Watten and Wizernes sites,[5] and on July 18, 1944, Hitler ruled that plans for launching V-2s from bunkers no longer need be pursued.[4]

In late August 1944 the site was captured by the Allies,[4] and the Allies recovered the uninstalled Wizernes doors from storage at Le Blockhaus when it was captured.[2] In November 1944, the "Sanders mission" led by Colonel T. R. B. Sanders inspected the site.[2]

Wizernes WWII bombings
Date
11 March 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 255: 34 of 51 B-24 Liberators hit Wizernes using blind-bombing techniques due to thick overcast[8]
19 March 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 266: On a raid to Wizernes and Watten, 1 B-17 is lost[8] (B-17G 42-31926 of the 545th BS, *Lovell's Hovel*)[9]
1944-03-26 Patch 8thUSAAF.png The 303 BG bombed Wizernes.[1]
17 April 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 304: 14 of 15 B-24s bomb the V-weapon site at Wizernes, France without loss; escort is provided by 33 P-47s.[8]
25 April 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 317: 27 of 28 B-24s bomb V-weapons sites at Wizerenes, France without loss. Escort is provided by 40 P-47s.[8]
3 May 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 336: 47 of 51 B-24s bomb the V-weapon site at Wizernes.[8]
20 June 1944 RAF roundel.svg 20 aircraft targeting the covered Wizernes V-weapon site in a quarry did not attack (the target was cloud-covered).[10]
22 June 1944 RAF roundel.svg The No. 617 Squadron RAF force attacking Wizernes failed to find its target because of cloud and did not bomb the target.[10]
24 June 1944 RAF roundel.svg Three Tallboy bomb exploded in the tunnels, one burst under the edge of the dome, and one hit in the mouth of a launch rail tunnel. The whole area was churned up and the bunker was jeopardised from underneath,[4] with landslides making further work impossible.[6]
27 June 1944 RAF roundel.svg No. 433 Squadron RAF bombed Wizernes
28 June 1944 RAF roundel.svg 103 Halifaxes, 5 Mosquitos, and 2 PFF Lancasters attacked the V-weapon site at Wizernes without loss.[2]
17 July 1944 RAF roundel.svg After markers had been placed, three Lancasters dropped Tallboy bombs and caused some damage. One tallboy caused the dome to shift out of alignment, the two others had caused a roof collapse and blocked the entrance.[3]
July 18, 1944 An Aphrodite mission to Wizernes failed (two men died).[11]
20 July 1944 RAF roundel.svg 369 aircraft attacked 6 flying-bomb launching sites and the V-weapon site at "Wizemes" [sic], and the Wizernes raid was successful.[10]
20/21 July 1944 RAF roundel.svg 87 aircraft attacked "flying bomb sites" [sic] at Ardouval and Wizernes, but Wizernes was not bombed[10] due to bad weather.[4]
4 August 1944 Patch 8thUSAAF.png Mission 515: The Aphrodite mothership lost view of B-17 42-3461 in low clouds[9] and the B-17 overshot Wizernes by 2,000 feet.[11]

References and notes

Note 1: Instead of excavating underneath a constructed roof as at Wizernes, the Verbunkerung method first built a roof for a new facility (provided bombing protection), then jacked the roof up enough for a portion of the walls to be constructed—walls upon which the jacks would be used to further raise the roof and successively heighten the walls to the design height.
  1. ^ a b Henshall, Philip (1985). Hitler’s Rocket Sites. New York: St Martin's Press. pp. 75.  
  2. ^ a b c d e "The V-Weapons", After The Battle: 14,24, 1974, http://www.afterthebattle.com/ab-con1.html#index  
  3. ^ "History and Remembrance Centre, LA COUPOLE". http://www.lacoupole-france.com/en/default.asp. Retrieved 2007-05-24.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Irving, David (1964). The Mare's Nest. London: William Kimber and Co. pp. 142,169,223,247,309.  
  5. ^ a b Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team. Apogee Books Space Series 36. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 31. ISBN 1894959000.  
  6. ^ a b c Dornberger, Walter (1952 -- US translation V-2 Viking Press:New York, 1954). V2--Der Schuss ins Weltall. Esslingan: Bechtle Verlag. pp. 176,179.  
  7. ^ "Wizernes V-2 Bunker - France". A4/V2 Resource Site. Brothers Designs. http://www.v2rocket.com/start/deployment/wizernes.html. Retrieved 2008-01-06.  
  8. ^ a b c d e "8th Air Force 1944 Chronicles". http://www.airwarweb.net/usaaf/8af_1944.php. Retrieved 2007-05-25.   1944:March, April, May, August
  9. ^ a b "USAAF Serial Numbers". Encyclopedia of American Aircraft. Joseph F. Baugher. http://home.att.net/~jbaugher. Retrieved 2008-02-06.   41-24340 to 41-30847, 42-001 to 42-30031, 42-30032 to 42-39757, 42-39758 to 42-50026, 42-57213 to 42-70685
  10. ^ a b c d "Campaign Diary". Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary. UK Crown. http://www.raf.mod.uk/bombercommand/diary.html. Retrieved 2007-05-24.   1944: June, July
  11. ^ a b Dwiggins, Don (1965). The Kennedy Courage. Pyramid Publications, Inc. pp. 112. http://www.orwelltoday.com/jfkbrother.shtml.  
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