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Air Spy:

How Nazi Secrets Were Uncovered From The Air

Paperback (190 pages)
Behind-the-scenes story of the role of photo intelligence in the winning of WWII by a woman whose photo analysis was instrumental in identifying German's V-1 and V-2 weapons.

Air Spy:

Behind-the-scenes story of the role of photo intelligence in the winning of World War II by RAF-WAAF Flight Officer Constance Babington Smith. Smith served in the Central Interpretation Unit, Medmenham until 1945, and later with USAAF Intelligence in Washington until V-J Day. Smith's photo analysis was instrumental in the BODYLINE investigations of the German developments of the V-1 and V-2 vengeance weapons.

Smith's memoirs were written before the revelations of the ULTRA secret (the wholesale decryption of Nazi Germany's encrypted communications), and many of the WWII HUMINT and counter-intelligence double agent operations. Consequently, her accounts "over-attribute" to PHOTINT what was actually "all source" intelligence. She was also unable to credit others who helped her "find" much of what she successfully interpreted. It is strongly recommended that Smith's memoir be read along with R. V. Jones's "The Wizard War."

Her conclusion is ironic to anyone familiar with the evolution of photo interpretation in the U.S. military. In discussing how Nazi Germany failed at photo interpretation compared to the Allies, despite having (in many respects) superior equipment and imagery, Smith noted with distain that, "All the [German] interpreters were non-commissioned, you know, except for one officer in command of each unit."

About the author: Flight Officer Constance Babington Smith, served in the RAF Women's Auxilliary Air Force, first in the Central Interpretation Unit, Medmenham until 1945, and later with USAAF Intelligence in Washington until VJ-day. Smith received the M.B.E. and the U.S. Legion of Merit for her wartime photo intelligence work. After the war she worked as a photo researcher for Life magazine.

Used book, printed 1957.

V-1 Weapons...

Related Scanning WWII links...

  • 12 Mar 44: Swedes investigate crashed V-1 from research station 40 miles away
  • 13 Jun 44: First V-1 Flying Bomb attack on England, 4 of 11 hit targets
  • 16 Jun 44: V-1 offensive on Britain begins in earnest as 244 flying bombs strike England
  • 19 Jun 44: Air Ministry releases the first official V-1 details
  • 04 Aug 44: First RAF pilot destroys a V-1 flying bomb by tipping its wing
  • 02 Sep 44: Allied advance forces V-1 rocket bases in France to cease operations
  • 06 Sep 44: Victory in the Battle of London is proclaimed after 80 days of V-1 rocket attacks

V-2 Weapons...

Related Scanning WWII links...

  • 20 Aug 41: Adolf Hitler authorizes the development of the V-2 missile
  • 18 Mar 42: First A-4 rocket explodes on test stand during combustion chamber test
  • 23 Mar 42: Wernher von Braun's team launches its first successful test of an A-4 rocket
  • 22 Apr 43: A British Mosquito photographs German rockets at Peenemunde
  • 27 Jun 43: British Chiefs of Staff circulate V-2 rocket report
  • 28 Jun 43: RAF reconnaissance plane conclusively identifies Peenemunde V-2 launch site
  • 13 Aug 43: B-24s bomb factory making V-2 parts, unknowingly setting program back
  • 20 May 44: Polish underground captures, dismantles V-2 rocket intact, sends to England
  • 08 Sep 44: First of over 3,000 German V-2 rockets hit Paris and London
  • 27 Mar 45: The 1,115th and last V-2 rocket reaches England
  • 02 May 45: Wernher von Braun surrenders to US troops

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