Did you know Nazi Germany had a golden comb to use at sea?

A German Heinkel He 111 dropping one of its torpedoes
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a literal comb made of gold. The “Golden Comb” (“Goldene Zange”) was a poetically named tactic the Luftwaffe developed to strike at Allied convoys crossing the Arctic with supplies intended for the Soviet Union. It worked rather well – at least once.
German torpedo bomber development was lagging behind most other countries’ due to the rivalry between the Luftwaffe, the German air force, and the Kriegsmarine, the German navy. It was only in early 1942 that the Luftwaffe was ordered to form a torpedo bomber force. The tactic developed for this unit was the “Golden Comb.”

A Heinkel He 111 from KG 26, one of the two bomber wings that developed and executed Golden Comb attacks
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)

Attacks on Allied Arctic convoys would be launched in the half-light of dawn or dusk. A flight of dive bombers would pass over the convoy, sowing confusion and attracting anti-air fire. Meanwhile, dozens of torpedo bombers would show up on one flank of the convoy, flying low and line abreast, with planes roughly 30 yards (27 meters) apart. While the escort ships were busy with the dive bombers, the torpedo planes would release their torpedoes simultaneously, then turn aside and make their getaway. The parallel torpedo trails would form the teeth of the “comb,” and their tightness would guarantee several hits.

An ammunition ship blowing up in PQ 18, the first convoy to be hit with the Golden Comb. (Note that this explosion happened later during the voyage.)
(Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The tactic was first used in September 1942 against the convoy PQ 18, and a single attack managed to sink 8 out of 35 merchant ships of an Allied convoy – an outstanding result. Sadly for the Germans, they never managed to repeat it, as the Allies were quick to catch on. Calmly directed anti-air fire and interceptors taking off from escort carriers travelling with the convoy could take a heavy toll on the attackers. Additionally, prepared Allied ships could “comb the tracks” by turning towards the incoming torpedoes. This both reduced their profile, and also meant that a hitting torpedo might glance off rather than impact at a right angle. 

Victory in Europe Day promotion

10% discount on all tours

A V-E Day celebration in Toronto on May 8, 1945.
(Photo: City of Toronto Archives)

In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate the 79th anniversary of V-E Day, standing for Victory in Europe Day, the date of the formal surrender of the German armed forces in World War II on May 8, 1945. On this occasion, we are offering all our available tours with a 10% discount if you book and pay in full by May 8, 2024. Note that this offer applies only in case of new bookings, and it cannot be combined with other special promotions. If you have any questions related to this promotion or our tours, please contact our travel consultants at info@beachesofnormandy.com or by calling our toll-free number: +1 855-473-1999.

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