Dogfights: Season 2, Episode 16

Death of the Luftwaffe (7 Mar. 2008)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History, War
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Operation Bodenplatte was a daring plan to destroy American forward air bases all over Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands during World War ll.

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Episode credited cast:
Phil Crowley ...
Narrator (voice)


Operation Bodenplatte was a daring plan to destroy American forward air bases all over Holland, Belgium, and the Netherlands during World War ll.

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7 March 2008 (USA)  »

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User Reviews

4 August 2015 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

"Dogfights" is a decent series with crisp CGIs, expert commentary, and compelling accuracy. Frankly, I was awed by the CGIs. I don't know how the hell it's possible to imitate the strobe effect on an airplane's propeller on an ordinary movie camera, but they've done it.

This episode describes Operation Bodenplatte, aptly called "The Death of the Luftwaffe." It was New Years day in 1945, in the last year of the war. The Allies has unchallenged air superiority and were rapidly advancing through France and Belgium into Germany.

Hitler throw all his fighters against some Allied airfields in Belgium, about one hundred FW-190s and Me-109s. The plan was to catch the Allies on the ground, probably suffering from hangovers, and destroy as many aircraft as they could.

It was a pathetic, last-ditch effort by the Luftwaffe. Unlike the Allies, German pilots (and their crews) kept airplanes in the sky until they were shot down. There was no rotation system. And by 1945, seasoned pilots were about used up, so the German airplanes were flown by men with little training and experience.

Further, the plan depended on secrecy, and in pursuit of that secrecy, the mission had been kept from German anti-aircraft batteries. When the men on the ground saw a large flight of airplanes zooming overhead at low altitude, they naturally assumed it was the enemy, and when they opened fire they managed to bring down about one quarter of the fighters. As the ensuing air battle reached the Allied base, called Y-29, the American gunners opened fire on the P-47s too, but they mostly missed, bringing down only two of their own fighters.

Spotting the flak in the distance, a flight of P-47s that had just taken off attacked the Germans and surprised them instead of the other way round. The Thunderbolts were quickly followed by an unauthorized take off of about a dozen P-51s from the same base. There was a fierce mêlée after which the Germans come out second best. It was a lopsided battle over Allied territory. The German fighters destroyed several American airplanes on the ground but we could afford the loss and the Germans no longer could.

I can't really watch contests like this and root wholeheartedly for "our team," although our team fought for values that were infinitely superior. A thought keeps nudging its way into my anthropological mind: This is a hell of a way for Homo sapiens, or any other organism, to promote its own welfare. What a waste.

I should mention a few minor irritations. The frantic musical score is sometimes distracting. And the narration, which is accurate, sometimes uses rhetoric that more properly belongs at a high school football game. And once or twice an airplane flies at high speed directly into the "camera", so that the viewer winces.

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