Military Ops





Did the Germans Plan to Invade Gander?

By Frank Tibbo

No one would talk about it during the war and few after the war; however, released archival files seem to bear out the fact that the Germans planned to occupy Gander during WWII.

During the summer of 1944, aircraft operating from the base in Gander were experiencing Radar "jamming." There are several ways to interfere with radar reception. Radar consists of a transmitter sending radio pulses and receiving echoes of that same pulse. If a transmission is made on the same frequency as a particular radar frequency, and that signal reaches the radar receiver, the receiving signal will be distorted. That is what is referred to as radar jamming. The radar scope is cluttered with "garbage" targets rendering it useless.

If the Germans could render the radars on the aircraft useless, they would have far more freedom to operate submarines, or ships on the west side of the North Atlantic. The main purpose of 10 BR Squadron stationed at Gander was to hunt for submarines that were having such a devastating effect on the allied ships supplying Europe. Their other prime mandate was to protect the convoys of ships proceeding from this side of the Atlantic to Great Britain.

Radar was essential to Squadrons operating from Gander in 1944 in their search-and-destroy missions. For several weeks pilots were reporting radar interference when in the vicinity of Fogo Island. The situation was considered so serious that the Base Commander at Gander thought the Germans were preparing an invasion of the huge airport. In retrospect, it may seem preposterous; however, it was a very real possibility. Intelligence sources knew that the Gander Base was a thorn in Hitler's side, and the Germans had discussed the possibility of taking it out of commission – or indeed capturing the Island of Newfoundland in order to have a staging place for the invasion of Canada and the United States.

Several Canadian regiments had been stationed in Gander to protect against such a possible invasion. The radar interference was considered so serious that the Base was put on full alert. The Base Commander sent an officer and a hundred soldiers to station themselves near the railway in Benton, and an officer and another hundred soldiers to Glenwood. They had orders to stop and search the trains. The Base Commander thought it likely that if the Germans came ashore from ships and submarines, they would head for the closest railway track, take over the train and head for Gander. Hundreds of soldiers were stationed at strategic locations around the airport, including a heavily armed contingent at the railway station.

In the meantime, several aircraft were sent to search out the origin of the transmitter that was jamming the radars in the aircraft. Some suspected that the Germans had landed a crew on a remote site in the vicinity of Fogo Island, while others thought that a submarine was the culprit. The latter theory was probably correct because no evidence was found on or near Fogo Island.
In any case, it was that period of time during the war that the Germans started to take big losses and Berlin and other great cities in Germany were being bombed day and night. The German High Command had to place their priorities closer to home, and the threat to the great Gander Base was diminished.

After a few days, the base commander cancelled the Full Alert and the base returned to normal operations until the end of the war.

Contributed by F. Tibbo


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