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Photo reconnaissance of Germany

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I have a few questions.


Firstly, what would be the criteria to arrange sorties to somewhere? (i.e. would other forms of intelligence suggest somewhere would be worth observing or were places just part of routine sorties?)


Secondly, does anyone know if Falkenhagen was a target?


Lastly, if it was, where would be the best place to look for photos.

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It rather depends on the type of PR being flown.  If we're talking about strategic PR, then yes other forms of intel would be used to identify potential targets that would then be flown by the PR units.  Often, that "intel" came from industrial and commercial travelers based on their pre-war knowledge and experience.  Other sources could include resistance fighters in an occupied country or signals intelligence which might indicate a new facility coming on-line.


If you're talking about tactical PR, that's more commonly driven by what the Allied commander wants to know.  If there are 3 possible routes for the enemy to use, he'll apply PR against (preferably) all 3 routes to identify which one is actually being used.  In the absence of adequate PR resources, the HQ staff must make a judgement call to identify the assessed most likely routes and then task accordingly.  Signals intelligence can also support the tactical fight, particularly direction finding which can be used to triangulate the position of an emitter, and hence point to the location of a particular unit or formation.


The National Collection of Aerial Photography (https://ncap.org.uk/)is likely your best starting place for any imagery of Falkenhagen...if any exists.

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Hello Beard,


some further thoughts (hopefully) answering your first question.


- When planning a military operation you should plan in a way that the element of surprise is working for you. For example approach the target from an unexpected direction and using a suitable flight profile (for example: approach below radar coverage and then a steep climb to required altitude). It gives you more time over target area to complete the required photo runs. As mhaselden mentioned above some other intel resources must be used to get an idea how to achieve this goal.

- Consider the known enemy air defence installations near the target area and how to best avoid them. Once again some other information is needed, possibly from ground troops.

- prepare a contingency plan.


On the photographic side of the operation you need to:

- work on a chart covering the target area decide on the photo scale required. This in turn gives you the theoretical picture number and a number of photo runs needed.

- decide the best flight procedure over target ("block", "FLOL" or "pin-point").

- calculate the altitude required to give the required scale

- calculate the Sun's azimuth and altitude angle (the length of the shadows is an effective way to find out the heights of different objects) and time over target.

- calculate the shutter speed and aperture as correct exposure values are more complicated in the air than they are on the ground.

- choose the right film and filter combination

- consider the weather conditions over target: light overcast is usually the best as the shadows will reveal more detail in soft light

- prepare the aircraft, the camera equipment and your personal kit

- prepare your flight maps or charts (draw the photo runs, Initial Points, turns, ...).

- if several targets are to be photographed then work your way from low level to higher altitudes to avoid condensation in the camera and/or view finder ("bomb sight").


Of course every task mentioned above is further divided into smaller, detailed part-tasks. Then there are the post flight tasks as well (removing and developing the film, checking photo scale, plotting the photos on your flight map and so on).


Kind Regards,


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Occasionally unnecessary flights had been performed intentionally to divert attention from other sensitive intelligence sources. Once a Spitfire or a Mosquito buzzed overhead, Germans would have (hopefully) blamed PR planes and quit searching for leaks elsewhere. Cheers


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