Operation Paukenschlag (drumbeat/thunderclap), which Wikipedia likes to call the Second Happy Time, occurred from 1942 January to August. During this time, German U-Boats sank a huge amount of ships on the US East Coast.

During this time, what was the state of US AA defenses on the East Coast? For example, how many AA guns did a city like New York have? How many airfields were nearby and how many aircraft were ready to defend? What kind of aircraft were they and what were their armaments? And crucially, did these AA defenses increase significantly from January to August?

With hindsight, we know that Germany had no possible air power near the US East Coast. But at the time there were fears of an invasion. So I would like to know the state of the US AA defenses on the east coast.

1 Answer 1


In the report Guarding the United States and its Outposts, Conn, Engelman and Fairchild provide much detail on defense of the United States and its possessions leading up to and during World War Two.

Chapter three of this paper states (pp 47) (my emphasis),

Three months later [April 1942] the Chief of Coast Artillery described the existing defenses in these terms:

With but few exceptions our seacoast batteries are outmoded and today are woefully inadequate. Nearly every battery is outranged by guns aboard ship that are of the same caliber. More alarming than this is the fact that every battery on the Atlantic Coast, and all but two of the batteries on the Pacific Coast, have no overhead cover so are open to attack from the air.

Despite his protests, the War Department decided that the general shortage of antiaircraft guns was so critical that no mobile and no more fixed antiaircraft guns could be included in harbor defense projects.

So for the time period in question, the higher priority of other needs resulted in the assignment of no anti-aircraft guns to East Coast defence.

  • Thanks. I hope you or someone can find the airfield situation too, because aircraft could certainly be used to defend the coast.
    – DrZ214
    Jan 23, 2018 at 11:12
  • @DrZ214: I believe most of your questions will be answered in that linked document - the information is not arranged quite how you are thinking however as it analyzes, chronologically, each aspect of defense independently largely by service. There was a pre-war plan to have continental air defense built around 8 airfields encircling the Continental U.S., but this was revised after May 1940. See pages 54-57 Jan 23, 2018 at 11:17

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