The "No Ball" Targets

V-2 rocket

Among the most important targets bombed by the Marauders were the mysterious "No Ball" targets in the French countryside. It was here that the Germans were constructing rocket (V-1 and V-2) launching sites from which they hoped finally to bomb England into submission. The targets were small, camouflaged by trees and earthworks, and thus very difficult for the navigator/bombardiers to find and hit. And there was obviously not always a complete understanding of exactly what they were. (This lack of knowledge is reflected in Billy's referring to them in different ways, beginning with "X targets.") But they were extremely important, as evidenced by the large number of missions devoted to them.

The importance was also explicitly reported in this February 11, 1944, article in Stars and Stripes, quoted by Moench, p. 108:

The Allied air offensive against the mysterious "military objectives in northern France" entered its fourth month this week with fleets of American and RAF bombers shuttling over the Channel sometimes twice a day to keep up the incessant pounding of the targets which neutral sources have described as the site of Hitler's secret rocket guns.

The paramount importance of the targets is emphasized not only by the frequency with which they are hit but by what the combat crews have been told: "Your bombs must get in there. We've got to smash these objectives at any cost, no matter what opposition they put up."

In three months, U.S. Marauders, under command of Brig. Gen. Samuel Anderson, have spearheaded the offensive, striking 23 blows in a total of 21 days, and dropping some 4,000 tons onto the secret targets.


On the home front, the importance of this work by the Marauders was not overlooked. Here is a copy of an article from the Houston Press, dated February 29, 1944, that spotlights Billy (second row, second from the right) and seven other Houston-area airmen who received Oak Leaf Clusters to add to their Air Medals "for meritorious achievement in combat over the 'Rocket Coast' of France." (Billy mentions the article in a letter to June dated July 4, 1944.) Unfortunately, this Cluster is one for which we do not have a copy of the order awarding it, so we do not have the official citation that was given with it.

To see a larger copy of this image, click here.

Moench concludes the entire chapter he devotes to a discussion of the No Balls (pp. 101-116) with the following sobering statistics:

The significant real (and potential) effect of the German V-weapons was not understood until WW II was history. Nearly 10,000 British civilians were killed and 25,000 injured. More than 200,000 British buildings were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

as well as the following ringing tribute to the B-26 crews:

Although it would never be recognized as such, for the Marauder Men of the Ninth Air Force "The War within a War" was a military campaign unique unto itself...a war that was clouded by secrecy, propaganda and politics--a war that was especially the Marauder Men's war and the Marauder Men's victory.
Houston Press clipping

The Allies were understandably concerned about the effect the relentless bombing would have on the French populace in the vicinity of the No Balls. One way they tried to warn them was by dropping leaflets. Billy saved a copy of one of the leaflets, the same one Moench reproduces on page 89, and it is reproduced below, next to a translation of its text. Thanks to Rosemary Clark, PhD., for the translation:

French leaflet

By authority of the Allied High Command


The Germans have begun to work on military construction projects in your region. The Allied air forces will begin an intense, unceasing bombardment which will continue until these construction projects are completely destroyed.

The workers who are, against their will, doing the work of the enemy, are risking their lives. This risk is even greater because the bombardments will continue until the result is satisfactory.

Therefore, the Allied High Command:

1. Orders every worker involved in the death organization [the German word for death--"Todt"--is used to emphasize the sinister nature of these projects] or any other German engineering group, or any German undertaking, to go into hiding immediately if at all possible.

2. Recommends urgently to the neighboring population that it leave the region immediately.

--Headquarters of the Allied High Command

I was unable to find definite confirmation about how the "No Ball" name came to be used for these sites. But, following up on a tip from Steve, I did find a somewhat off-color song that was popular among soldiers during World War II (sung to the tune of the "Col. Bogey march" made popular in the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai) that uses the phrase. Here is one version of the lyrics that I found in the Wikipedia:

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler has something sim'lar,
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.

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