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Torpedo Squadron Four - A Cockpit View of World War II - Revised, Updated Edition, 2011

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Air Group 4 - Casablanca to Tokyo

Dedicated to those who
served in VT-4, VB-4, VF-4,
VMF-124 and VMF-213

Operation Leader - October 4, 1943


Here is the New York Times account of OPERATION LEADER, the attack on German shipping in the Norwegian "leads" on October 4, 1943 by planes from the USS Ranger. The Ranger is the unidentified carrier referred to in this article.

The attack was a complete surprise to the German forces and had a long-term impact on German war strategy, as the Germans were forced to maintain more military assets in Norway than they had planned to before the attack. For a detail analysis of the operation, including the German report of the attack, see .
 

Allied Fleet Rips Nazi Shipping In Surprise Attack Off Norway

Carrier-Based Planes Bomb Many Merchant Craft, Including Big Tanker, at Bodoe, in Blow at Foe's Northern Sea Lanes

BY JAMES MacDONALD
By Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES

LONDON, Oct 5 -- Defying enemy shore batteries and warships lurking in Norwegian waters, a combined United States and British naval force that included a strongly escorted American aircraft carrier, have struck a surprise blow at German merchant shipping in the Norwegian "leads" or inner waterways in the Bodoe (1) area, it was announced in a British Admiralty communiqué tonight.

German naval units in Norway, where, according to the latest unofficial reports reaching London, the powerful battleship Tirpitz (2) is lying in a fjord somewhere northeast of Trondheim, refusing to accept the obvious challenge to come out and fight. The only opposition was by enemy anti-aircraft fire and by two German planes (3), both of which were destroyed by fighter machines that took off from the American carrier.

Three planes from the carrier, the name of which was, of course, withheld for security reasons, were shot down by enemy anti-aircraft fire but the communiqué said that some members of their crews may possibly have been picked up by the Germans.

USS Ranger

The "unnamed carrier" -- the USS Ranger

The three United States planes that were lost were part of a formation that took off from the carrier and bombed a number of large enemy merchant ships, including an 8,000-ton tanker (4). The American fliers scored hits but the communiqué did not say whether any ships were sunk (5).

Schleswig Tanker - Operation Leader

Tanker Schleswig, identified as a Rigmor-class tanker in this combat photo, under attack during OPERATION LEADER.

The two enemy planes that were destroyed showed up at the scene after the bombing attack was completed and tried to shadow the combined United States and British naval forces.

There was no indication of the size of the United States force that participated in the action. The communiqué said the British naval forces comprised the Home Fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Bruce A. Fraser who is one of this country's leading experts in air-sea strategy.

The official announcement did not come out flatly and say that this action, which took place early yesterday morning, was a direct challenge for a full-scale naval battle but the fact that the British Home Fleet was mentioned spoke for itself. The communiqué merely said that the operation was directed "against enemy shipping."

Chief significance of the announcement was that the Home Fleet, instead of devoting itself mainly to defensive work, as it has done hitherto, has now undertaken offensive duty and is now able for the first time in this war to seek out the enemy in his own waters.

The announcement of this foray coincides with the changeover at the Admiralty, where the 59-year-old Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham, victor of "Cunningham's Pond" -- the Mediterranean -- is now in charge.

Bodoe is on the Norwegian mainland about sixty miles from the Lofoten Islands, which twice have been raided by Commandos. Recently the Germans were reported to have ordered the evacuation of the Lofotens as a precaution against a possible Allied invasion, Bodoe is on the north side of the Sal Fjord, which is capable of sheltering fairly large vessels.

As a result of the recent decision by Sweden refusing the Nazis further use of Swedish railroads for the transportation of materials and men to Norway, the Germans are compelled to send them by ship through the Skagerrak and up along the Norwegian coast. Yesterday morning's Allied attack shows how vulnerable these German lifelines to their Norwegian bases have become.

Moreover, the naval operation took on still further significance in view of the fact that now that the long northern nights are beginning to close in with the approach of autumn and winter, convoys may be expected soon to be carrying supplies to Russia.(6)

Footnotes

(1) Bodö.
(2) Attacked many times, and damaged several times, the Tirpitz was finally put out of commission on November 12th, 1944.
(3) The two planes were a Junkers JU-88 and a Heinkel HE-115 floatplane. For details and photos, see .
(4) The ship identified as a tanker was the Schleswig, which was hit by 3 bombs.
(5) The operation damaged or sunk 13 ships.
(6) Published October 6, 1943.

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