The role of a superior strategy in the course of the radar war
in the Second World War

Helwig Schmied

Radar is the abbreviation for Radio Detection and Ranging. Until 1945, the German name for it had been Funk Mess. Hertz had already described the reflection of electromagnetic waves by metal. As the originator of radar, one can name Hülsemeyr, who filed a patent application for his telemobiloscope in Germany 1904 and in England 1905. This was a device for avoiding ship crashes. On 10th May 1904, on a bridge crossing the River Rhine in Cologne, he successfully demonstrated the reflection of a passing ship. Afterwards, Hülsemeyr founded a company in order to capitalize on his device - though without success, due to two reasons: In the time before the Titanic-catastrophe of 1912, the awareness of secureness did not exist sufficiently, and on the other hand, Marconi had the monopoly on equipping ships with electronic devices. Thus, his invention sank into oblivion. In many countries, research concerning the reflection of electromagnetic waves was started with attempts at measuring out the altitude of reflecting atmospheric strata. Investigations concerning these topics took place more or less at the same time, but entirely independently in the following countries: France, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, and the Soviet Union. Three countries, however, had a head start: The USA, Great Britain, and Germany. In contrast to the German scientists, the English had realized the advantages of using shorter wavelengths for radar. In Germany, the opinion was that such waves could be mirrored away” and thus were unusable. In England, intensive research and development concerning this topic took place. For this reason, the Royal Air Force (RAF) could be equipped with efficient on-board radar soon. With it, the British bombers could easily find their targets. This radar became known as H2S, „Home Sweet Home“. Shortly afterwards H2X came into being, which used the even shorter wavelength of 3 cm, and thus offered higher precision. In March 1941, the navy, too, introduced this shortwave radar. The production series were called Type 271 and Type 274. Radar equipped with 3 cm wavelength were soon very successfully deployed as target finder, such as against the battleship Scharnhorst which was run down by the British Navy in the North Sea near Bear Island in December 1943. In 1937 already, the RAF was able to equip their night hunters with radar. With it, ships could be detected from a distance of 5 km. 1938 sidelooking” radar was at disposal, which was capable of tracking a 10.000-ton-ship from a distance of 48 km. In 1941, night hunters with Leighlight” (a high-performance searchlight) were used, which put German submarines into difficulties, especially at first in the Biscay. The 3cm-radar could even locate the periscopes and snorkels of submarines. The German Air Force Office never worked out why they had lost 101 night bombers over England between July 1940 and May 1941. The first German on-board radar Lichtenstein” became ready for action not before February 1942. 1941, the USA had ground anti-aircraft early warning radar the SCR 270, which located the attacking Japanese air force from a distance of 220 km in the morning of 7th December 1941; this information, however, was not transmitted due to lacking communications. Contrary to the English, the Americans had not carried out any system analysis, which would have led to the conviction that using radar was of outstanding relevance. The development of radar technology remarkably influenced the Second World War, especially as far as aerial warfare is concerned. It also considerably contributed to the victory of the Allies in submarine warfare. In comparison with the British and German approach to this technology, one can find out how the different approach and the strategic foresight of the decision makers enormously influenced the further development of this technology. This also concerns the collaborative further development together with the particular allies: Whereas the USA and England supported each other in this respect, there was no cooperation between Japan and Germany. In any case, the understanding of command and control for technological possibilities and necessities is of particular relevance, even if losing one’s face becomes imminent.