Day of the Typhoon
a diorama by Bjørn Jacobsen
Early in the morning of 7th August 1944, the German launched a full scale counter attack (Operation Lüttich) around the city of Mortain in France.
This was the first large scale German counterattack after
the Allied invasion.
The main German force was the XLVII Panzer Corps, with
one and a half SS Panzer Divisions and two Wehrmacht
Against this huge German force were only two US infantry
By midday the 7 August the 2nd SS panzer division had
taken Mortain and the Wehrmacht’s 2nd division had
overrun three villages and threatened to cut off General
Patton’s UD 3rd Army as it began moving into Brittany.
Thanks to Allied decoding of the German signals, the
Allied had time to plan the air attacks against the German
The American 9th Air Force fighter bombers were solely
capable of dropping bombs, which was not effective
against moving vehicles.
Thus the Americans asked the British 2nd TAF (Tactical
Air Force) to send as many of their rocket-armed
Typhoons to the area as possible.
The plan was that USAAF should concentrate on the
enemy transport moving to and from the battle zone
while the Typhoons from the No 121 and No 124 Wings
should attack the German armour.
Allied air strikes—the offensive stalls
There was a low cloud over the area on the 7 August
when Wing Commander Charles Green of No 121 Wing
was trying to pinpoint the German forces.
He found a small gap in the clouds and going down to
treetop level he suddenly saw an enormous contingent
of tanks, trucks, guns and transport, nose to tail for five
He and his wingman fired their rockets and immediately
alerted the No 121 HQ and asked that each section
should take off at 10 minutes interval.
No 174 Sq. was the first airborne (at 1215 hrs), followed
by No 181 Sq. ten minutes later.
The pilots soon spotted 50 or 60 tanks and 200 vehicles
in compact column.
They tried to halt the column by attacking the lead and
the rear vehicles and then set about those in between.
In the meantime more squadrons were airborne and by
1400 hrs a “shuttle service” had developed with another
squadron of Typhoons from No 121 and 124 Wings in
the air every 20 minutes.
Flak was not as bad as expected and the Luftwaffe
fighters were non-existent even if Luftwaffe had
promised the German forces 300 fighters over the area.
When darkness fell, the Typhoons had logged 305
sorties, mainly against the 2nd SS Panzer Division
north of Mortain.
Only five Typhoons were shot down with one pilot killed
and one serious wounded.
Accuracy and psychology
The accuracy of the Typhoons 20mm cannons proved
very efficient in destroying soft-skinned vehicles.
The rockets on the other hand, were by no means an
accurate weapon. But rocket attacks had a huge impact on
the morale of the German soldiers, who were often seen
to abandon their vehicles and scramble for cover in the
The POWs confirmed they were extremely nervous of a
rocket attack, despite the facts that the chance of being
hit was relatively small.
In one British study, it was found that the average
Typhoon pilot firing a barrage of all eight rockets
had only a four percent chance of striking a target
the size of a tank.
There can be little doubt that an attack by the PR firing
Typhoons had a very personal and frightening element to
it, much more than the “impersonal” impact of artillery or
In many ways, this was the Typhoons greatest
contribution to the battle of Mortain
Effectively, Operation Lüttich was over by the afternoon
of its first day, but not until 11 August did Hitler
acknowledge defeat at Mortain, and that evening,
the Germans began to withdraw.
They had never pushed beyond the positions they had
reached on 7 August.
During the 6 day battle, the 30th US Division lost nearly 2,000 men.
German losses were worse. One regiment of the 2nd Panzer Division was almost annihilated and the 1st and 2nd SS Panzer Divisions were seriously depleted.
Elements of the infamous 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” were hit very hard from the Typhoon attacks at Mortain.
The 2nd SS was one of Hitler’s elite units, notorious for its brutality and many war crimes during their operation both at the Eastern Front and in Western Europe.
A couple of the atrocities this unit conducted in France:
On 9 June 1944 in Tulle, France,
99 civilians were hanged and 148 deported to Dachau in reprisal for attacks by the French resistance.
On 10 June 1944 at Oradour-sur-Glane (France) 642 civilians were killed and the village burned down by soldiers commanded by SS-Sturmbahnführer Adolf Dieckmann. They were sent to the village to search for the captured SS-Sturmbahnführer Helmut Kämpfe.
Allied Propaganda had a field day
Army News 9 Aug 1944: 135 tanks destroyed by Typhoons at Mortain.
This is typical propaganda, that occurred on all sides in the conflict all the time.
The real number of vehicular losses at Mortain was 7 tanks and 10 soft-skins
destroyed by rocket strikes and 14 soft-skins by canon fire from the air.
Fourteen had been abandoned intact, out of fuel, of which seven were tanks..
US Army fire destroyed 38 more (included 9 tanks) while 42 (included 4 tanks) was destroyed by unidentified causes.
The total German vehicular losses that could be found after the battle amounted to 132, of which 43 were tanks.
Building the Diorama
The diorama will show a couple of Typhoons attacking the German SS-division at Mortain.
To make it realistic, I need a number of tanks and vehicles both intact and blown up and everything placed on a base looking like the wooden landscape around the town of Mortain.
There would be a lot of elements involved and I therefore opted for
1:72 scale models to keep the diorama at a reasonable size
To the left: The unpainted German machinery which I will use in the
diorama (the destroyed vehicles in the back row)
All together 6 tanks, 4 soft-skins, 4 motor bikes machinery
The destroyed vehicles are an Opel Blitz (Ffz 305 4x2) which was
intensively used wherever the Wehrmacht went. More than 100.000
The Blitz in the diorama will have a 3,7cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun in tow.
To the righ in the picture below: An 8 ton Half Track (Sd. Ktz 7/1) with
a Quadriple 20mm AA gun
The two styrene houses in ruins (below) need
some scratch building to get more like real
blown up houses. I will put more debris outside
the houses when they are placed in the
The model to the right is an
Opel (Sd.Kfz.3) Maultier
(“Donkey”) which was a semi
caterpillar version of the Opel
Blitz made to better cope with
the endless mud and dirt at the
The German Tanks
I will use three Tiger tanks (plus one
exploding) and three Panzer III tanks.
The history buffs of you will know that there
probably was no Tiger tanks involved in the
Mortain attack. The 2nd SS-Panzer Division
used the Panther tanks.
Why I used the Tiger was because I had them
in my stash and I do not think it will make a
big different. I think that the Tiger is a good
representative for the German Panzer
The Exploding Tank
One of the Tiger tanks get blown up after
being hit in the engine department by a 60lb PR Rocket. As a result, the tank tower is
The first thing I did was to cave open up the engine department and mounting a 25W halogen lamp at the bottom of the chassis, giving the illusion of an explosion.
This time, I chose to use a halogen lamp, not the LED light I have used before.
The advantage is that these lamps are inexpensive and easy to get hold of.
The disadvantage is that the halogen lamps produces a lot of heat and you should be very careful if you chose to use one.
I was thinking I could escape the problem if I only light the lamp for very short periods, but just in case, I also put a regulator on the cables to reduce the light if I so wish and I made sure that there was a good airing around the lamp.
Then I made the “bird cage” of chicken wire as a base for the cotton which should be fastened to the wire by hairspray. Bird cage is going over the halogen lamp, giving an illusion of smoke from the explosion.
Before I glued the tank to the base, I drilled a hole in to let the electrical wire out underneath the diorama.
Then I placed the bird cage on top of the tank and put on as little cotton as possible and make sure there is good ventilation inside.
Then the cotton is painted (airbrush) with yellow, red and black and the whole shebang is placed on the tank.
The explosion is caused by a rocket hit in the engine section behind the tower. This is the weak point of the tank, and it blows up..
The rockets trail a distinct vapour of white smoke, and I want to include this in the scenario.
A 0.8mm brass rod covered with white cotton will hopefully illustrate the rocket vapour.
I found a 73cm x 50cm plate (36”x20”) in my garage which seems to fit.
Before I started to mould the terrain, I tried
out different ways to place the village and
the vehicles. You can see the result on the picture to the right.
I decided to have a small creek across the terrain. The roads are very narrow and levelled above the surrounding area.
There will also be a lot of tall trees and brushes.
The first I did was to glue Styrofoam sheet
on the base to sculpt the terrain and then cover it with paper Mache.
Note the arch culverts where the road
passes over the creek.
Of course the tanks will have no problem
with crossing the creek elsewhere, but most
of the soft skins have to use the road.
The next step was to paint the base and
make it ready for water in the creek and the trees and the greenery.
Additional painting will be applied throughout the build to make the diorama look right (scorch mark for explosions and burnings and so on)
Then I made grass, put water in the creek,
put up the trees and bushes and made the village with the ruined houses.
Then it was time for the tanks, the vehicles,
the motor cycles and the infantry.
Now it’s only the Typhoons left.
In hindsight I see it was wrong to use a halogen lamp; I should defiantly have used a LED lamp. The halogen gives a “wide” light with an unclear core, while the LED lamp gives a much better “compact” impression of an explosion. Done is done and I am not changing the lamp, but I have learned a lesson.
The two Typhoons I am building for this diorama is 1:72 scale from Airfix.
The building is more or less the same as you can see at the previous page in this website.
The main different, besides the scale, is that I have to fix the two planes above the battlefield.
There are no smokes which can disguise the fixture, like in the “Bodenplatte” diorama, and I had the choice between a clear acrylic rod (8mm) and a brass rod (1,5mm).
I choose the brass rod because I believe this will be most invisible if painted in shades of green.
The brass rods are glued to the fuselages
The painting process is: First the camougfage and then the black/white Invasion stipes and the Duck Green tail band and spinner
And last: The decals
The propellers of the Typhoons in the diorama should look like its spinning.
There are many ways to do this. By a product called PropBlur (which I used on the Arado at page 01 in this website) and some are using a clear plastic disk to illustrate a spinning propeller.
I choose to use a thin strip of steel wool, which I painted in shade from black to white and glued on where the propeller blades should be.
This I an easy and inexpensive way to (hopefully) give an expression of a spinning propeller.
The two 1:72 scale Typhoons are now ready to be placed in the diorama.
And here are the
Day Of The Typhoon
I hope you enjoyed this website!
Thank you for visiting!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or comments
This diorama will be on display in
the new WWII hanger at