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Flugenfϋrer Walter Stumpf

Below is the direct testimony of Commander Stumpf, patrol leader of the first patrol of the III group (under the command of Major Bernhard Jope, composed of three patrols forming part of the first attack wave), whose aircraft dropped the second deadly bomb on the ROME .

The story dates back to July 1993 and took place in the presence of the veterans  Marcello Vacca Torelli, Ferdinando Vona, Francesco Saverio Berardi and Arturo Catalano Gonzaga di Cirella.

The reported story was written by Com. Catalano Gonzaga.


“I need to tell you about the bomb firstPC1400X,which was the real protagonist, along with the bomb HS293,, of the tragic end of the beautiful ships of your fleet. "

“Since 1938 in Germany, on the fields of"Berlin Adlershof",the first experimental attempts to launch a radio-controlled bomb were completed "

“The experiments continued in 1940 using as a prototype a disruptive anti-tank bomb, the PC1400, to which a tiny radio device was applied for remote driving. "

“The PC1400 could be guided by radio pulses.[1]"

“The first test launches were carried out at the military base inPeenemunde,[2]under the guidance of Professor Max Kramer, who used a bomber plane of the typeHe.111.,[3]"

“Further testing tests were carried out in 1942 in Foggia using a small Italian military airport as an experimental base[4], because in that locality of the Capitanata visibility was always particularly excellent ".

“50% of the launches, which were made from a height of 7,000. meters on a 5 x 5 objective, they hit the mark; this technique was later adopted. ".

“The bomb reached a maximum speed of nearly 1,000. kilometers per hour in free fall. "

"The corrections and modifications, which became necessary to give the transmitter of the" radio guide "a certain reliability of use, delayed mass production until April 1943."

“Thus was born the new radio-controlled bomb PC1400X[5]. "

"The bomb had its best use against large armored ships."

“The experiments, which were always carried out from very high heights; while maintaining the normal practice of approaching the target for the release of bombs by aircraft, they had demonstrated the validity of this feature.[6]"

“The radio control[7]it allowed the operator to keep the bomb perfectly aligned on the target, correcting its trajectory from hand to hand.[8]"

"The best result was obtained by maintaining a launch altitude of no less than 5,000 meters in height, with the plane in horizontal flight at a speed between 180 and 200 kilometers per hour."

"It was only in the late spring of 1943 that the first training launches began with the PC1400X embarked on more modern type bomber aircraft.DO 217.,[9]"

“The first exercises were carried out again with the old He.111 bombers, as it was only towards the last days of April 1943 that they finally managed to deliver the new DO217 suitably modified.[10]. "

“We were practicing near our bases where on a wooded hill, called Einkorn, a battleship silhouette was roughly marked.[11]"

“In a letter of thanks to Professor Kramer, dated August 15, 1943, the head of the infamous SS of the III Reich ,. Heinrich Himmler, noted the perhaps decisive importance of this weapon for the course of the war.

After the training period our group "KG.21" became part of the 100 Stormo of the Luftwaffe, called the KG100.[12]"

“The aircraft supplied to this KG100 group in addition to the PC1400X bomb also had the HS293.[13]"

“All the crews for the Dornier 217 aircraft were also trained in Kiel[14]on "astronavigation" and on the silhouettes of the various naval units not only enemy but also of the Italian ones. "

"Precisely in those days at the end of August 1943, the 100 Stormo had the III and II Bomber Groups available for immediate use, the first located in the Istrès airport, near Marseille and the second in Cognac, near in Bordeaux. "

"The two Groups, respectively under the orders of Major Bernard Jope and Captain Franz Hullwek, were all equipped with the new DORNIER 217 high altitude bombers".

"Group II included the DO217.E2.R10 bombers armed with radio-controlled bombs of the type HS.293".

"The III Group, ours, included the DO217.K2 bombers armed instead with the other type of bomb, the PC1400X., Which we had familiarly baptized the FRITZ.X:"

"We were all at the Istrès base, near Marseille, that morning of September 9, 1943, when Steimborn had just received the order from the commander of our Group III of the 100 Bombardment Wing, Major Jope, to prepare for a mission."

"We had to arm our planes with the new bomb, the PC1400X."

"We loaded, with great care, only one of these new radio-controlled bombs for each aircraft."

"It was our first mission, just back from the long training internship, attended in Peenemunde."

"That day we were told, we had recently returned from Biserta, that the first sighting of the Italian fleet, by one of our aircraftJU. 88 [15], took place around 10.30. "

"Our reconnaissance plane had reported via radio, with great precision, the presence of three battleships, six cruisers and six large destroyers, all certainly belonging to the Italian fleet and all heading towards the island of Asinara."

“Later we also intercepted a radio message even from an RAF plane[16]followed by other messages around 13.00 and 14.20, and the last signaled, with scrupulous accuracy, the changes of course of the Italian naval team to enter the Strait of Bonifacio. "

“At the news, the one intercepted at 13.00., They prepared to take off, from Istrès airport, to attack the Italian fleet three successive waves of bombers, consisting of 28 DO217”.

"Eleven of these aircraft belonged to group II of the 100 flock that had just moved to Istrès from Cognac, and 17 instead were of our third group, always belonging to the 100 flock, but based in Istrès."

"The first wave was ours, that of Group III, under the command of Major Jope."

"This group was, in turn, divided, in the attack phase, into three patrols."

“The first, ours, which took off shortly after 2.00 pm, was made up of five bombers. "

"Each of us was given permission to take off individually and to maintain absolute radio silence, keeping the device on only for reception."

"My crew consisted of:

- Commander Kurt Steimborn.

- the observer Eugen Degan

- the radio operator Anders.

- the on-board mechanic Walteher "

"The visibility was excellent and the sea was calm."

"We were all sailing towards Sardinia, which was about 300 kilometers away from Istrès and all five of us could clearly see the great Italian island from afar."

“All aboard were strangely excited with a tremor of anguish that gripped our hearts; for us it was really the first war mission after the training course done in Peenemunde. "

“We arrived at the goal around 3.15pm. and we began the attack about 15 miles south-east of the Strait of Bonifacio, flying at an altitude of about 6,500 meters "

"We broke our flight formation almost immediately, to allow each of the pilots to independently choose their own target, which had to be, as far as they had instructed us, only one of the three battleships."

"We wanted to prepare for the attack under ideal conditions, just as we were taught in the drills."

"In fact, the first bomber began to brake the aircraft, climbing to an altitude of seven thousand meters, so it was easier for him to drop, in a few seconds, the speed of the aircraft much below those 265 km / now, that it was the maximum speed allowed for the release of the bomb, which it was carrying attached under the cockpit. "

"In this way, from the bomber, it was possible to better see the luminous" tail "of our FRITZ.X descend in front of the bow of the aircraft and control it in its almost vertical fall flight, until its impact with the ship, guiding it with the radio.[17]"

“The first plane of our patrol attacked the second battleship of the Italian formation[18]releasing his unique  FRITZ.X against her ".

"We immediately had the feeling that it had hit her."

"The second plane attacked the third battleship of the Italian formation which, hit in full, was visibly reducing its speed."

He stopped for a thoughtful moment, then continued:

- "Piloting my plane, I too was trying to progressively reduce the speed ', regardless of the reaction of the anti-aircraft guns because, due to our height, we were unreachable.[19]"

"It was easy to identify that the third, in a row in a row, of the three battleships, the one already hit, was moving slowly: it was my ideal target."

“The speed of my bomber had progressively reduced to just 180 km / h. "

"At that moment I was aware, as I was taught, that it was the perfect speed to get a good release of my bomb."

"The pointer, Degan, meanwhile, was informing me of the approaching moment of the release of the bomb against the target, while continuing to collimate it in its aiming tool."

“At his notice, I undocked my" FRITZ.X "and automatically set the camera in motion.[20]"

"From the release to the impact of my bomb against the Italian battleship it took only 42 seconds: I was sure I had hit it in full: I had hit the target right in its center."

“The camera had followed the entire trajectory of the bomb so much so that the photos, developed after our return to the Istrès base, testified very clearly. : it was a full center right in the center of the ship's hull. "

"As many as 6 razor-sharp photographs showed that the bomb had hit the hull between the two funnels." .-

Here he paused again to extract 6 frames from his old dark leather folder.

He distributed the six photos to each of us so that by examining them we could understand the trajectory of the PC1400X bomb and its point of impact with that Italian battleship.

Shortly after he spoke again:

- "I knew that my bomb hitting that target would finish demolishing the battleship and that the human losses would be very high, but I didn't think about it, I was at war."

"As I walked away I saw very high flames and an incredibly large column of black smoke rising from the ship I had taken in full."

"I returned to the Istrès base full of pride and satisfaction for having completed my mission in such a brilliant way, which was my first mission of that kind."

"It mattered very little to me whether I had hit the British or the Americans or the Italians, for us there was no difference whatsoever, it was the tragic law of war." -

He stopped for a moment, then resumed telling:

- "The third patrol of our III. Group, which like the second was also made up of DO217 aircraft, attacked the Italian fleet much later, at about 4.30 pm."

"One of the bombers seemed to have hit another battleship, the first in the formation, with its PC1400X bomb."

“When darkness came, 'no less than 7 DO217 Group II bombers, this time equipped with HS.293 bombs, dropped between 7.30 pm. and 7.40 pm, from an altitude between one thousand and three hundred and one thousand and six hundred meters high, above some Italian units, with the certainty of having hit at least one destroyer.[21]"

“At the same time, between 19.30. and 19.45., our other "DO217" planes dropped other bombs on much smaller units[22], probably some Italian torpedo boats, which they had identified, in the evening mist, about 10 miles north-west of Punta Caprera. "

"I remember that PC1400X type bombs were used in this action."

"A long time later, they told me that the Italian battleship had died many because it lacked lifeboats and that an officer had been rescued from one of our naval vessels.[23]and taken to Istrès for questioning. "

"But I must confess that I have never been able to find confirmation of these two news" -.


[1]The radio pulses had the sole purpose of modifying the inclination of the rear tail fins to the shell of the bomb which, initially, served only as an air brake to reduce stabilizing the trajectory of the fall. By varying the structure of these fins it was possible, releasing it from high altitude, to correct the trajectory of the bomb's fall.

The correction was about 800 meters more or less in the direction of flight and 400 meters more or less laterally.

[2]Headquarters of Nazi Germany's largest missile weapons research center on the island of Usedom, near Rostok

[3]The Heinkel No. 111 was the most common of the bombing aircraft, equipped with two propeller engines, used during the 2nd World War by the Military Aviation of the III Reich

[4]The airport was located on the side of the main road to Manfredonia.

[5]The PC1400X bomb had a total length of 3.26 meters, a diameter of 0.56 meters, with a total weight of 1.57 tons, of which only 320 kilograms were of high explosive material.

The rear was 1.6 meters long with 12 side drawer tail ends.

These formed the cross-shaped stabilization planes complete with spoilers, which moved with the gears controlled by radio pulses.

[6]-These experiments showed that the PC1400X bomb was able to easily pierce 120mm thick pure steel plates.

[7]After only 15 seconds from the release of the PC1400X bomb, by means of the "FX" aiming device, it was possible to maintain the alignment of the bomb on the target through radio pulses transmitted by a small "joystick" (joystik) to the Telefunken FuG.203 Kehl transmitter .

This transmitter was installed on board the aircraft, while the FG 203 “Strasbourg” apparatus was installed in the shell of the bomb.

[8]The great launch distance allowed the bomber to be able to guide the bomb, equipped with a visible luminous smoke "tail", by means of the radio control, until the impact with the chosen ship.

[9]The "Dornier 217" bomber was in a long-fuselage twin-engine aircraft, equipped with two BMW.801.D engines. capable of delivering 1,740 HP. at take-off and to give a maximum speed of 515 km / hour at six thousand meters above sea level. The main feature of this type of aircraft lay in the long and narrow wing surface to be able to more easily maintain the altitude above 6,000 meters in height.

The wing characteristic was also used in case one of the two engines supplied was damaged.

The aircraft required a runway not less than 1400 meters long for take-off and landing.

[10]Some DO 217 bombers had been prepared for the specific transport, release and guidance of the radio-controlled bomb PC.1400.X and were identified with the initials "K2."

[11]Generally we want to indicate large tonnage warships such as battleships and heavy cruisers.

[12]It was one of the most prestigious squadrons of the Luftwaffe in the 2nd World War; because it was the first German air force attack formation that used flying corps and radio-controlled bombs.

[13]The bomb HS.293 was designed by Professor Herbert Wagner, and was supplied only to special aircraft of the type DORNIER 217, suitably modified, which took the abbreviation of "E2 .R10"

It was actually a winged bomb very similar to a small unmanned aircraft.

The bomb had a wingspan of three meters and a weight of 1,045 kilos, of which 295 consisted of high-potential explosives.

This type of bomb was powered by a 2,160 HP rocket engine, using hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate. This engine was capable of imparting, with a thrust of 600 Kg. For a maximum period of 10 seconds, a speed between 325 and 900 kilometers per hour.

A weapon, then revolutionary, which had the advantage of being able to be released from a variable altitude between 400 up to 2,000 meters in height and from a distance from the target of about 3,500 meters up to a maximum of 18 kilometers, always guiding it with the remote control until the impact with the enemy ship.

[14]The most important naval base of the German Navy in the Baltic Sea.

[15]The Junker 88 was a famous German twin-engine bombing plane, particularly suitable to be used also for long-range exploration missions.

[16]Belonging to the Royal English Aviation.

[17]The operation was made possible thanks to the "mini-tool" with "Lofte 7d" viewer, made to continuously check the alignment with the target.

[18]The Italian fleet, at the moment of the German attack, kept the units in line in a row to travel more easily the security corridor between the minefields in the stretch of sea of the Strait of Bonifacio.

[19]The 90 mm guns and the large 37 mm machine guns that made up the anti-aircraft armament of the Italian battleships and cruisers had a range of no more than 4000 meters in height.

[20]The camera aligned with the target camera automatically fired every 5 seconds. After exactly 15 seconds from the release of the bomb, its luminous tang was collimated in the aiming device with the target ship in order to guide it with the radio pulses until its impact.

[21]They were the two destroyers, the VIVALDI and the DA NOLI, who, coming from Civitavecchia, were trying to rejoin the fleet.

[22]It was the group of torpedo boats PEGASO, IMPETUOSO and ORSA intent on recovering the survivors of the battleship ROMA.

[23]No survivors of the battleship ROMA were saved by the Germans

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