Heinkel He 177 Griffins over Normandy

The Heinkel He 177 was the Luftwaffe’s sole long-range, heavy bomber to become operational during World War Two. But, as Chris Goss reveals, its death knell would be heralded over the beaches of Normandy

Heinkel’s He 177 Greif (Griffin) was plagued with development problems, political and military interference and frequent changes to its intended role. First flying in November 1939, it took three years for the long-range behemoth to become operational – only for it to suffer heavy losses across the Mediterranean that same year, over Nettuno and Anzio in Italy, and the south of England during the so-called ‘Baby Blitz’ in 1944. Its death knell would sound over the beaches of Normandy in June that year – it was withdrawn from operations just a month later.

Entering the fray

The 26 He 177s of Kampfgeschwader 40’s (KG 40) 1 and 2 Staffels, based at Orléans-Bricy about 65 miles southwest of Paris, and II./KG 40 at Bordeaux-Mérignac, 250 miles further south, were the only bomber units left on the Western Front by the time Operation Overlord hit the French coast on June 6, 1944.

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