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Peter_Strasser

Peter Strasser

Peter Strasser (April 1, 1876 - August 6, 1918) Chief Commander of Germany's Luftschiffer airforce during World War I, operating bombing campaigns from 1915 to 1918.

Early career

Strasser was born in Hanover, Germany on April 1, 1876. At the age of 15, he joined the German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine). After serving on board SMS Stein and SMS Moltke, he entered the Naval academy in Kiel. He quickly rose through the ranks and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1895. He served on board SMS Mars, SMS Blücher, SMS Panther, SMS Mecklenburg and SMS Westfalen from 1897 to 1902. He was an excellent gunnery officer and was placed in charge of German shipboard and coastal artillery in the Reichsmarine-Amt. He was next transferred to the command of the Marine-Luftschiff-Abteilung, a move which he initially viewed as a demotion. Airships were as yet an unproven technology and the first two naval airships were lost in accidents. His opinion changed after he completed theoretical studies on airships and gained practical experience piloting the civilian airship LZ17 Sachsen. Another airship, LZ13 Hansa was chartered to train naval crews while new ships were being built, but at the start of the war only one, LZ24 (Navy designation L3) was operational. L3, under Strasser's personal command, was the only one to participate in the Imperial navy manouvres just before the war.

First World War

Following the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Navy airships were confined to anti-submarine, anti-mine and scouting missions. They served in the Battle of Heligoland Bight. On January 19–20, 1915, L3 and L4 participated in the first bombing raids over England, attacking Great Yarmouth, Sheringham and King's Lynn. Over the next 3 years, bombing campaigns would be launched primarily against Britain, but also on Paris, Antwerp and other cities and ports. Initially bombing was limited to military targets but soon, with the agreement of the Kaiser, civilian targets were attacked. Official British estimates list 498 civilians and 58 soldiers killed by air attack in Britain between 1915 and 1918. 1,913 injuries are recorded. The Imperial Navy dropped 360,000 kg of bombs, the majority on the British Isles. 307,315 kg were directed at enemy vessels, ports and towns; 58,000 kg were dropped over Italy, the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The German army carried 160,000 kg of bombs to their designated targets: 44,000 kg hit Belgium and France, 36,000 kg England, and 80,000 Russia and south eastern Europe.

Strasser was promoted by imperial decree to Führer der Luftschiffe (FdL), ranking with an Admiral second-class, on November 28, 1916. However, Strasser did not live to see the end of the war. On August 6, 1918, during a night raid against Boston, Norwich, and the Humber estuary in L70, Strasser's Zeppelin, with himself and 22 men on board, was spotted by English reconnaissance. Pilot Major Egbert Cadbury and Gunner Major Robert Leckie shot down the L70 just north of Wells-next-the-Sea on the Norfolk coast. No one aboard survived.

Legacy

Strasser's impact on both the war and history was important for the future air warfare. He was instrumental in the development of long range bombing and the development of the rigid airship as an efficient, high altitude, all-weather aircraft. His doctrine of bombing attacks on military and economic infrastructure behind the front lines both as propaganda and as a means of diverting resources from the front line eventually led to the modern-day concept of total war. However, questions remain over whether airships (and more importantly, their irreplaceable crews) would have been better used as a purely naval weapon.

One possible but unconfirmed name for Flugzeugträger B, the unfinished sister ship of the WWII German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin, was Peter Strasser.

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