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Airships are the forgotten weapon of World War II. Forgotten Weapons analyzes the development of airships as weapons for antisubmarine warfare, examines how scientists and airmen collaborated to combat U-boats and reveals the little-known accomplishments of airship crews. As William F. Althoff demonstrates, the naval airship logged an admirable operational record during the Battle of the Atlantic, the longest continued armed contest during the war. Their useful deployment depended first, however, on effective collaboration between naval airmen and government-sponsored research institutions, such as the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). The Battle of the Atlantic saw a race to gain technological advantage German measures met by Allied counter measures with both sides producing various weapons and sensors designed either to destroy or to protect Allied merchant shipping. For the antisubmarine campaign, U.S. contract laboratories devised the magnetic airborne detector (MAD), microwave radar, the Loran long-range navigation systems, radio sono-buoys, and pattern ordnance, all of which were fitted to airships. Key NDRC projects exploited lighter-than-air platforms for airborne tests. Hurried into production, special devices for antisubmarine warfare were fitted onto fleet airships as well as in airplanes and surface forces. The result turned the tide against the U-boat menace and saved countless lives, supplies, and shipping. This book is an invaluable history and reference for readers interested in airships, antisubmarine warfare, the Battle of the Atlantic, and the bygone squadrons of unique airmen who helped defeat the Nazi war on commerce from 1939 to 1945.
William F. Althoff is a geologist and historian of naval aviation and science in the Arctic. His publications include scientific papers, articles, and six books. He was Ramsey Fellow in Naval Aviation History at the National Air and Space Museum in 1999–2000 and then research associate in 2000–02.
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