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The Battle of Lemberg, also known as the Lemberg Raid, was a major engagement on January 14, 1940 during the French Civil War at the city of Lemberg in the southwestern Eastern Department. While the ground fighting in and around the city was sporadic and featured few casualties, it marked the most substantive victory for the European Alliance's air force over the better armed and more numerous Imperial forces.
The success at Lemberg is directly tied to the daring raid at the crack of dawn by Allied fighters against the airfields northwest of the city, where twenty heavily armed Air Command airships were moored along with eighty fighters. Thanks to the clever use of incindiaries, seventeen of the airships burned at their moors and numerous fighter planes were destroyed on the tarmac and many hangars and two radar stations were destroyed. Having lost the Lemberg Aerodrome, the French Air Command was forced to withdraw from the southern Eastern Department, paving the way for the eventual occupation of Lemberg and later the Crimea by Allied forces that same spring. It also significantly altered the Imperial aerial strategy, gradually moving highly flammable airships away from the front to the point where they almost became useless in battle.
Following the losses at Prievnya and the subsequent Imperial retreat during 1939, the French Imperial Air Command established their major base of operations in the southern Eastern Department at Lemberg. Lemberg was a modest industrial center with a large population (as much as half of the city) of conservative Polish and Ukrainian Jews, who generally were inclined to favor the Imperial government over the typically anti-Semitic Russian population that composed the bulk of the nascent European Alliance. Imperialist Colonel Heinrich Hesse thus moved an army of 80,000 into Lemberg in the early fall of 1939 and an expansion was ordered for the aerodrome northwest of the city, which was already a bustling air travel hub for the region.
As the European Alliance advanced across the Ukraine during the fall of 1939, the French Air Command used Lemberg as the staging ground for raids against Allied supply lines, soldiers and civilian targets. The chemical warfare campaigns that were so devastating against rural Russia during 1939 was especially tied to Lemberg, with as many as 10,000 gas canisters travelling through the aerodrome per week. By December 1939, the five airships based out of the city had been expanded to twenty, and eighty fighters - or ten squadrons - were stationed at the newly constructed hangars.
The Allied Commander in the Ukraine, Feodor Litsinkov, recognized Lemberg's importance, especially that of the airships, which operated as airborne weapons platforms that could bombard Allied forces, which were underequipped and outnumbered as it was, from a great distance while fighter planes directly engaged ground forces. By mid-December, the Allies had arrived about fifty miles from Lemberg, where they came under fire of the entrenched ground forces and the overwhelming airpower.
Litsinkov and his top aerial warfare advisor, Feodor Ruzhalenko, began planning a daring raid with the limited resources at their disposal to knock out the Lemberg Aerodrome's tactical advantage.