31 - Day of the Typhoon

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

Panzer Divisions.

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 Sqn. ten minutes later.

The pilots soon spotted 50 or 60 tanks and 200 vehicles

in a 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 seriously 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

surrounding woods.

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

mortar fire.

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 motorbikes machinery

                                                                                                                               The destroyed vehicles are an Opel Blitz (Ffz 305 4x2) which was

                                                                                                                                intensively used wherever the Wehrmacht went.  More than 100.000

                                                                                                                               was build.

                                                                                                                               The Blitz in the diorama will have a 3,7cm Pak 36 anti-tank gun in tow.

                                                                                                                               To the right in the picture below: An 8 ton Half Track (Sd. Ktz 7/1) with   

                                                                                                                                                                         a Quadruple 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 diorama.

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

Eastern front

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

blown away.

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.

The Base

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 Typhoons

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 Propeller

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 on 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


Bjørn Jacobsen

May 2015

This diorama will be on display in

the new WWII hanger at