Project Aphrodite


Mi General
MI.Net Member
Feb 29, 2004
In mid-1944, AAF moved to checkmate a potentially disastrous German threat to the UK and perhaps even to the US.

[font=arial,verdana,helvetica,sans serif]Operation Crossbow, the Allied bombing campaign against German V-weapon launching sites in northwest France, held top priority in early 1944. Despite hundreds of strikes against these sites, German attacks with V-1 buzz bombs against urban targets in the United Kingdom began in June 1944 and soon resulted in extensive loss of life and great property damage. It was known that the Germans were working on a supersonic guided missile, the V-2, which was believed by many to be technically infeasible at that time. But surprise. The first V-2 hit the London area in September of that year, with 800 to follow.

In the V-weapon launching area, a number of very different large sites were under construction--their walls 12- to 14-feet thick and with massive steel doors. Were they intended to launch V-2s, or perhaps a rumored V-3, a missile with the range to hit targets in the eastern US? The Germans were striving to develop nuclear weapons, though progress in that area was not known. At any rate, the possibility of an operational V-2, or perhaps a nuclear-armed V-3, was not a threat to be taken lightly. These mysterious, heavily defended sites were attacked at night by the Royal Air Force, using 12,000-pound Tall-boy bombs, and during the day, by Eighth Air Force. Damage was minimal. A solution had to be found.

It was concluded that the most vulnerable element of the structures was their steel doors, which were virtually immune to damage by high-altitude bombing. Tactical fighters coming in at low altitude did not have the punch to do the job. Gen. Carl A. "Tooey" Spaatz and his scientific, technical, and operational advisors came up with a novel idea. Why not use war-weary B-17s as guided missiles? That would call for more than a few innovations.

The plan, labeled Project Aphrodite, was tested inconclusively at Air Proving Command in Florida. Essentially, the idea was that a completely stripped-down and explosive-laden B-17 with a crew of two--a pilot and an autopilot technician--would take off from a base in the UK. Once safely in the air, control of the B-17 would be turned over to a mother ship cruising at 20,000 feet, whose crew would fly it by radio signals fed into the B-17's autopilot. The B-17 crew would bail out over England. The mother ship then would fly the bomber, at an altitude of 200 to 400 feet, to the target and dive it into the steel doors. This, of course, was not an "any day" operation. Ceiling--and-visibility--unlimited weather was essential so that the mother ship's crew could follow the progress of its charge.

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Quite mad! Never heard of this operation before. To be honest, I'm not suprised it didn't work.
Took guts to do it though!
Aphrodite pilot picture

Following is a photo of my father in law, as well as other pilots. This was taken in Washington DC, February 1945, shortly after Project Aphrodite was cancelled. If anyone can assist with identification of the others in the photo I would appreciate it.


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