Air Ministry, to all wing commanders
Operation Falcon, 1 November 1939
In an effort to inflict a heavy defeat upon the French air force and open up their defences to allow our own bombing of Paris to commence, on 20 November Operation Falcon is to be launched.
The operation will be split into three stages:
I. Fighter and bomber strikes upon the forward French airfields within the border zone, crippling the front line French forces.
II. Follow-up strikes upon the air bases in the French interior, pushing the French to their reserve fields and limiting the effective range of their machines.
III. With the French air force defeated, the indiscriminate bombing of Paris can begin. The bombers will be supported by fighter sweeps to keep the remains of the French air force at bay.
To achieve the first objective, 1,200 Ar 65 and 1,200 Fw 187 fighters are to wrestle control of the skies from the French air force. 1,400 Ju 86 bombers are to then commence daily attacks on the airfields. All dive bomber groups are to be on standby to attack high priority targets as they are identified, and to help stretch the French defences. Once the frontline air bases are destroyed, and the French retreat to their fields closer to Paris, the heavy fighter squadrons will have to take up the burden of operations as our single-engine fighters lack the range to conduct sweeps that far into France. With the French air force defeated, round the clock bombing of Paris is to commence with immediate effect.
German state newspaper, 30 November 1939
Luftwaffe score massive victory over French Terror Flyers!
Our gallant pilots clash with the French near the border
The Air Ministry, tight lipped over the last month, have today revealed that a massive air operation has just been completed that has inflicted a heavy blow against the French terror flyers. It was announced that last Monday, the 20th, over 2,000 fighters hit French airbases all along the border sweeping the skies clear. With the way open over 1,000 bombers reaped destruction on what was left on the ground. The first day of operations claimed at least 100 French aircraft destroyed.
One of our fighter squadrons, before they take off to deal with the French terror flyers.
Over the course of the following eight days, our gallant air force struck at additional air fields. The number of French air craft destroyed rose into the region of 500. Our losses in this operation are understood to have been extremely low, the element of surprise - after a month of inactivity - playing a pivot role along with the sheer numbers involved swamping the French fighters and not allowing them an inch. The Reichsmarschall has declared the French bomber threat to have been neutralised for the foreseeable future, and has promised that the Luftwaffe will keep up the pressure on the French.
Chief of air intelligence, Abwehr to Air Ministry
30 November 1939
Operation Falcon, after action report to OKW
On 20 November (Falcon Day), per orders issued at the beginning of the month, Operation Falcon was launched. The operation opened well with the sheer number of our fighters achieving local air superiority, but only for a short time. Our fighters were soon met by an estimated 600 Anglo-French fighters. Regardless, our bombers punched through and delivered their bomb loads over the French airfields. Accuracy was high, although reconnaissance flights have indicated that very few French planes were caught on the ground during the raids.
After two days of continued attacks, intercepted British reports acknowledged the loss of twenty fighters (and 15 pilots) and numerous more planes heavily damaged forcing them to withdraw from further fighting. French losses were higher, and their forward airfields have been extensively damaged. However after eight days of bombing, several of these forward bases are still intact; our raids have not been as effective as it was believed they would be. In addition, and more seriously, our losses had mounted to unsustainable levels, and our ground forces were unable to keep the planes flying in the numbers required.
In total we have lost 120 single-engine fighters, 160 double-engine fighters, and 120 medium bombers. This represents ten per cent of the force committed to battle, and in addition 60 dive bombers were also shot down. As noted, few French planes were caught on the ground and only 60 fighters have been confirmed to have been shot down. The French have lost around 40 pilots while we have lost 550, with the French confirming 250 of these men have been taken prisoner.
The assault has been a complete disaster, however we do believe it will be a while before the French will renew their high level medium bomber attacks.