Germany's most important source of molybdenum -- a vital element used in hardening steel and making machine tools -- was damaged severely in Tuesday's USAAF smash at enemy industry in Norway, photographs taken during the bombing revealed yesterday.
Power Plant Damaged
Film records made from Fortresses and Liberators showed bomb hits covering the entire area of the mine and pithead buildings at Knaben, 50 miles southeast of Stavanger.
Knaben was described by ETOUSA headquarters as "the most important industrial target in German-held Norway," and practically their only source of the vital ore, since the production of three other mines in the vicinity was processed here. The plant's entire output was used by the Germans.
Several fires were left burning as the bombers swung homeward on the return leg of their 1,200-mile sweep.
Hq. Praises Operations
Heavy damage was done to an enemy power plant at Rjuken, 75 miles west of the Norwegian capital of Oslo, and a war plant in the town making munitions essentials was thoroughly plastered, with direct hits on at least six buildings.
The bombers scored hits on penstocks and pipelines carrying water down to the Rjuken power plant's great hydro-electric turbines. The picture record showed water gushing out of the pipes where they had been hit and burst.
The Rjuken factory, controlled by the giant I. G. Farbenindustrie, is one of the world's largest electrolysis works and an important producer of hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and essential components of high explosives.
Eighth Air Force headquarters described the Norwegian operations as "conspicuous examples of navigation and bombing."
"The targets were small in area and the whole land was covered by snow," it was pointed out. "The bombers flew over water for most of the long trip and no land aids to navigation were available. The rugged country of hills and valleys also made location of the targets difficult."
The molybdenum plant was the day's prime target. This plant, successfully attacked by the RAF last spring and only recently rebuilt, is considered of greater economic and industrial importance to the German war machine than any other target in Norway. The Nazis have practically no other source of the vital steel-hardening mineral, for which there is no substitute in making satisfactory steel parts such as airplane engine crankshafts and camshafts.
The strong Fortress formations, which attacked the Knaben mines under command of Col. Julius K. Lacey, of Arlington, Va., were able to make several bombing runs because of the complete absence of fighter opposition. Flak was light.
Some crews complained of the cold. "It was the coldest trip I've ever been on," said 1/Lt. Leon Fields, of Owanay, Mich. "At 45 below zero I was certainly glad we had nothing else to bother us."
The Rjuken crews agreed unanimously that bombing was perfect. 1/Lt. Earl Mazo, of Charleston, S.C., gunner-observer on Raunchy Wolf, said the war plant "stood out like a sore thumb," and the bombs caused "at least one terrific explosion." 2/Lt. Harvey B. Barr, of Hope, Ark., navigator of Minnesota, described how bombs "plowed right into the buildings, and green, orange and red flames came up, together with black smoke."