Operation Steinbock (German: Unternehmen Steinbock) was the nocturnal Second World War Luftwaffe offensive against southern England from January to May 1944, launched primarily for the sake of propaganda and as a measure of retaliation for RAF Bomber Command's attacks on German cities.
Placed under the command of Generalmajor (Major–General) Dietrich Peltz, Luftflotte 3 (Air Fleet 3), the Germans assembled 474 bomber aircraft for the offensive. The operation ran parallel to Bomber Command's campaign against Berlin. The attacks were mainly in and around the Greater London area. In Britain, it was known as the Baby Blitz due to the much smaller scale of operations compared to the Luftwaffe's operations over the British Isles in 1940–41.
The operation achieved very little, and the force suffered a loss of some 329 machines during the five months of operations—an average of 82 per month—before it was abandoned. Other senior Luftwaffe commanders, such as Hugo Sperrle, had intended to use the bomber force against the Western Allied invasion fleet, which he predicted would land in Northern France sometime in the summer of 1944.
Eventually, the revenge attacks gave way to attempts to disrupt preparations for the impending Allied invasion of France, codenamed Operation Overlord, but Steinbock had worn down the offensive power of the Luftwaffe to the extent it could not mount any significant counterattacks when the invasion began in June 1944.
The offensive marked the Luftwaffe's last large-scale bombing operation against England, and henceforth only the V-1 flying bomb cruise missiles and V-2 rocket—pioneering Short-range ballistic missiles—were used for striking at British cities.
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“Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced. Nature to be commanded must be obeyed; and that which in contemplation is as the cause is in operation as the rule.”
—Francis Bacon (15601626)