Intense Footage from Fighter Plane Gun Cameras Shows American Raids on Germany in 1945

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
June 4 2014 9:43 AM

Intense Footage from Fighter Plane Gun Cameras Shows American Raids on Germany in 1945

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.29.01 AM

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

In this 1945 silent footage, taken by gun cameras mounted on American P-38 fighter planes, you can see the strafing of German targets like trains, bridges, ships, and oil storage tanks from an aerial perspective.

While gun camera footage, triggered when a weapon is fired, was used in the military context to assess effectiveness of targeting, the War Department’s Bureau of Public Relations’ News Division released this film for public consumption, meaning that the footage did double duty as diagnostic and PR tool.


In this footage, the P-38 skims low to the ground, bombing limited and very specific targets. (In one stretch, it looks like the plane is flying through a line of trees.) Unlike the area bombings of German cities, which caused deaths of many civilians, this bombing looks surgical. This aspect may have enhanced the footage’s publicity value.

The National Archives identifies the ill-fated fighter plane that passes by and harasses one P-38 as a German ME 163B “Komet,” an unusual and unstable rocket-powered defensive aircraft produced near the end of the war.

I found this footage via the Digital Public Library of America’s “Summer of Archives” project on the photo-sharing platform Imgur. Their first post rounds up ten WWII GIFs. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 7:30 AM Ring Around the Rainbow
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.