Zoo Flak Tower in Berlin Shoots Allied bombers Down in Flames


Nazi Flak Towers Blast Allied Bombers Out of Sky.

FLAK: Germans constructed indestructible anti-aircraft towers capable of putting out immense amounts of flak to protect key areas. This is a photo of an anti-aircraft gun on top of the famous Zoo Tower located next to the Berlin Zoo which protected the government district in the middle of Berlin. The site today is part of the aviary exhibit.


Reichsgebiet, Alarm auf Flakturm

Fliegeralarm! Running to their action posts on the Zoo Tower 1944.

Most of these young gunners were fifteen or sixteen and were known as the kinderflak



This is one of the surviving towers in Vienna. You can clearly see how massive these buildings were.

Gunners on the flak towers weren’t firing at individual Allied bombers.  Based on data from radar and sophisticated optical rangefinders, operators in a smaller tower known as the G tower calculated target details and transmitted those to the flak tower.  The gunners trained their flak batteries on whatever coordinates they received. When the sky was overcast the flak gunners couldn’t even see the bombers.

Flak, a word used by both sides, is the abbreviation of the German word Fliegerabwehrkanone, which translates as “air defense cannon”.


US Army Air Force B-17s flying through heavy flak over Germany winter 1943

The batteries fired pre-set “box barrages” to create a curtain of flak which British Royal Air Force or US Army Air Force bombers had to fly through on their bomb run. Shells were set to explode at different heights usually above 20,000 feet. The strategy was to force the bombers higher since the higher they were when they dropped the less accurate the bombing. (Although under the best conditions bombing was rarely accurate).


This gunner seems to be getting some sun on top of the Zoo flak tower


While these photographs were all taken in daylight, the British Royal Air Force bombed at night. So the other reason to force the bombers above 18,000 or 20,000 or so feet was to put them in the path of German night fighters. When a spotlight caught a bomber, the point was to illuminate the bomber for the night fighters. Nonetheless, various anti-aircraft batteries in Berlin, for example, would open up. This often led to German flak batteries shooting down their own night-fighters.

German Fighter Command made regular complaints to the anti-aircraft command to stop doing this and toward the end of the war demanded that the gun captain of any battery which fired above its mandated ceiling be tried and shot.

A key point to remember: the technique of firebombing used so successfully against many German cities by Anglo-American strategic bombers, was developed by the German Luftwaffe for their long campaign of aerial firebombing of London in the early years of the war.