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During the Syro-Lebanon War in 1941, French forces fought British forces both on the ground, in the air and at sea. French airplanes attacked the British fleet multiple times.

But according to Roald Dahl in its book No 80th Squadron, some Junkers 88 daily joined the fight against British Hurricanes. They were based at Rhodes.

So I have three questions:

  • Do any other sources support this claim of German air intervention? I found nothing on the internet nor in my books
  • Where were those German planes based, and what squadrons did they belong to?
  • Were they escorted during the raids and why didn't British forces in Cyprus intercept them?

EDIT:

Timeframe: 8 June – 14 July 1941 Locations of the attack: only Syria and Lebanon

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    Fliegerführer Irak were using Syrian airfields. I don't believe they had Ju-88s. They did have visually similar He-111s.
    – Schwern
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 22:36
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    You mention the Syro-Lebanon War, but they were based in Rhodes. Is it possible these actions were part of the Battles of Greece, Crete, and Malta and general Axis air raids against Allied shipping in the Eastern Med? If so, consider Lehrgeschwader 1. A more firm time period and location for these attacks would help.
    – Schwern
    Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 22:47
  • @Schwern Thanks for the link but I am sure of the question: those planes are said to attack the British fleet operating against Syria About Flieger Furher, those actions were only in Irak (only transiting through Syria) and before the timeframe of syrian war Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 9:52

1 Answer 1

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I have tracked down the Dahl quote from Going Solo:

We had nine Hurricanes at Haifa and the same number of pilots, and in the days that followed we were kept very busy. Our main job was to protect the navy ... every day they would sail up the coast past Tyre and Sidon to bombard the Vichy French forces in the mountains around the Damour river. And whenever our ships came out, the Germans came over to bomb them. They came from Rhodes, where they had built up a strong force of Junkers Ju 88s, and just about every day we met those Ju 88s over the fleet. ... then the Germans hit the destroyer Isis and we spent the whole day circling above her in relays and fighting off the Ju 88s ...

So the Ju88s were operating around Lebanon, but off the coast - they were concentrating on attacking naval units. Wikipedia notes the attack on Isis as being on 23 June, by aircraft from Lehrgeschwader 1. Dahl's book doesn't seem to say they intervened in the ground fighting - he later mentions them bombing Haifa, but this was a British-controlled port south of the fighting area.

He does not mention any escorts, and the 450 miles from Rhodes to the Lebanon coast would have been quite a long journey for most fighters in 1941 - so they were probably unescorted.

As to why they were not intercepted over Cyprus - that is unclear. It could be that the Cyprus fighters were already deployed elsewhere, that the bombers took a longer route to avoid Cyprus, or that it was simply thought to be more effective to keep the fighters over the fleet and intercept any attacks there.

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  • Interested last paragraph since in 1941, I don't think the British had lots of radar in the Middle East so they might have not been able to intercept from Cyprus Commented May 14, 2022 at 13:22
  • @totalMongot that's a good question - it seems plausible there was some, though. WP indicates that some early radars were sent to Malta and Egypt at the outbreak of war, and there was certainly radar operating in Cyprus by 1942. Commented May 15, 2022 at 14:25
  • So overall, we could say there were no German aircrafts in Syria-Lebanon involved in fightings, right? Commented Jun 11, 2022 at 15:26
  • I think that may be true (if you restrict it to land-based aircraft and only June-July - there were certainly some staging through to Iraq earlier), but this doesn't prove it - you would need to do more research to make a firm statement like "overall, none" Commented Jun 13, 2022 at 18:28

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