The use of barrage balloons began during World War I, but were most common during World War II. Barrage balloons were simple hydrogen or helium filled balloons which were erected over cities, fleets, and landing zones to protect against bomber attacks. They served little use against high altitude bombers, but were especially effective against low flying bombers, especially dive bombers. Providing an effective obstacle, the balloons either forced a pilot to release a bomb at a higher altitude, or run the gambit of flying through the balloon obstacles and running the risk of snagging on a balloon cable or crashing into a balloon itself. Sometimes, barrage balloons could be deployed holding a large net of cables, snagging any unfortunate dive bomber like a spiderweb.
Typically barrage balloons were deployed at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Below that altitude, anti-aircraft guns often had a hard time traversing fast enough to keep up with an airplane. Thus the balloons forced bombers to fly at an altitude that was optimum for anti-aircraft gun targeting. During the London Bltiz, around 500 were deployed over London alone. They were also commonly used to protect naval convoys, especially Allied landing forces during the D-Day landings.
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The Lancaster performed the role of softening up defenses of the Germans before the invasion fleet landed on the beaches giving the allies more of a chance at breaking through.
Handley Page Halifax Mk III
The Handley Page Halifax performed the role of towing gliders up into the air so that they could get to northern France, the gliders would contain troops that would go behind the lines early in the morning of the 6th of June to perform certain tasks such as destroying artillery pieces and securing towns.
Just like the Halifax the Short Stirling bomber was used to tow troop carrying gliders into the air so they could drop down with troops in northern France.
De Havilland Mosquito
The Mosquito performed the role of a light bomber on D-Day in which it would go out on ground strike sorties to take care of German defenses in northern France.