The Largely Unknown Contribution of Blimps in WWII

by | Dec 6, 2019

A K-class blimp in flight. Source: Defense Network

The “Battle of the Atlantic” refers to the fighting between German U-boats and Allied forces in the Atlantic Ocean during WWII. From the start of World War II to its end, Germany launched over 1,000 U-boats whose main mission was to disrupt shipping between the North America and the U.K. with the goal of keeping soldiers and supplies from reaching the British Isles.

Early in the war the U-boats were very successful, but in the latter half of the war the Allies ability to search and find U-boats and sink them had dramatically improved. The Battle of the Atlantic was costly on both sides: “By the end of the war, German U-Boats in the Battle of the Atlantic had sent over 2,900 ships and 14 million tons of Allied shipping to the bottom of the sea. In exchange, the Allies sank almost 800 U-Boats and over 30,000 of the 39,000 German sailors who put to sea, never returned – the highest casualty rate of any armed service in the history of modern war.” Source.

In addition to using airplanes and ships to battle the U-boat scourge, the U.S. Navy also employed Airships (AKA Blimps). The Goodyear Corporation of Akron, Ohio built and delivered 168 airships to the U.S. Navy during the war. “The Navy used them for minesweeping, search and rescue, photographic reconnaissance, scouting, escorting convoys, and antisubmarine patrols. Airships accompanied many oceangoing ships, both military and civilian. Of the 89,000 ships escorted by airships during the war, not one was lost to enemy action.” Source.

The contribution of the blimps is largely overlooked. The blimps made over 50,000 flights and logged 550,000 flight hours. About 17,000 members of the military supported the blimps and over 1,400 pilots flew the 168 blimps.

“Only one airship was lost to enemy action. A surfaced German u-­boat shot down the airship K-74 during a battle, but the K­74 damaged the German submarine so badly that it could not submerge and was sunk by British bombers in the North Sea while it was en route to Germany for repairs.” Source.

Here are some great war blimp photos:

US Navy airships over Moffet Field, California during World II

1 Comment

  1. Thanks, John – I had no idea. Apparently the control car (gondola) of the Goodyear Puritan K-28 is on display at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.


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