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Was the S.B.C. a waste?


MiloMorai

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From Corum's mentioned book:

 

...This view of the Luftwaffe 's doctrine has become an established dogma in air power history today. One of the primary authors of this view of the Luftwaffe was the U.S. Air Force. In the official history of the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War I I it is asserted that "offi­cial policy regarded the airplane primarily as a tactical weapon for use in sup­port of ground armies" and that the Luftwaffe "bombers were suited to the close support for ground armies "
In the period right after World War II air power historians from the victorious -and strategically oriented air forces- promulgated the position that the Luftwaffe was designed to be purely an army support force, This interpretation of history has been carried on right into the most recent books on air power history.
The Luftwaffe would never have recognized this narrow definition of its doctrine, because it had developed a large body of theory and doctrine of strategic air warfare before World War II. While it was quite capable of sup­porting the army, the Luftwaffe never saw itself primarily as an army support force. Indeed, at the start of World War II, the Luftwaffe was the only air force in the world that had the equipment, the training for nighttime and poor weather operations, and the necessary long-distance navigation aids to enable it to conduct strategic bombing. The Luftwaffe even had a rudimen­tary pathfinder force. It took the air forces that were strategically oriented years to catch up with the skills for strategic air war that the Luftwaffe had in 1939-1940. When it conducted a highly successful, large night-bombing raid against the important British war industries of Coventry in November 1940, the Luftwaffe was the only air force capable of accurately locating and bombing such a target under night conditions. Putting 450 bombers on tar­get in the dark is scarcely the trademark of an air force that had been de­signed purely for army support.

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From Corum's mentioned book:

 

...This view of the Luftwaffe 's doctrine has become an established dogma in air power history today. One of the primary authors of this view of the Luftwaffe was the U.S. Air Force. In the official history of the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War I I it is asserted that "offi­cial policy regarded the airplane primarily as a tactical weapon for use in sup­port of ground armies" and that the Luftwaffe "bombers were suited to the close support for ground armies "

In the period right after World War II air power historians from the victorious -and strategically oriented air forces- promulgated the position that the Luftwaffe was designed to be purely an army support force, This interpretation of history has been carried on right into the most recent books on air power history.

The Luftwaffe would never have recognized this narrow definition of its doctrine, because it had developed a large body of theory and doctrine of strategic air warfare before World War II. While it was quite capable of sup­porting the army, the Luftwaffe never saw itself primarily as an army support force. Indeed, at the start of World War II, the Luftwaffe was the only air force in the world that had the equipment, the training for nighttime and poor weather operations, and the necessary long-distance navigation aids to enable it to conduct strategic bombing. The Luftwaffe even had a rudimen­tary pathfinder force. It took the air forces that were strategically oriented years to catch up with the skills for strategic air war that the Luftwaffe had in 1939-1940. When it conducted a highly successful, large night-bombing raid against the important British war industries of Coventry in November 1940, the Luftwaffe was the only air force capable of accurately locating and bombing such a target under night conditions. Putting 450 bombers on tar­get in the dark is scarcely the trademark of an air force that had been de­signed purely for army support.

 

 

Well I guess the Luftwaffe had longer than any other air force to work on these, as Germany had settled on a course towards a war of aggression and aggrandisement whilst everyone else was thinking defence and trying to not go to war.

 

Will you please tell me again why Germany had to go to war in 1939?

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I cant help but think the good citizens of Dresden or Hamburg might not be with you on that one. The USAAF and RAF were Strategic airforces because they had,

1 Range.

2 Accuracy (you didnt often find the RAF or the USAAF bombing the wrong country)

3 Weight of attack (and the carriage of the aircraft meant you were able to bring a significant amount of the weight of the attack in during a limited time period, which allowed target saturation, of defences and fire brigades)

4 Doctrine. A concept of warfighting using Strategic assets that, however faulty we may now gauge it, drove the development of the aircraft, the tactics and the targeting.

 

 

What are the good citizens are supposed to think? I would say that they realized, after the bombing of their cities, that the war was not over.

 

1) range.. so, they had "range", whatever that means. Well, the Lw had enough "range" to reach the strategic targets in Britain, France, Poland, etc.

2) Did you miss the part where the Germans did not even realize that their petrol industry was being targeted?. And I don't think any AF often bombed the wrong country, but I have to point out that the first civilian victims of the Bomber Command were not German, but Danish, when two good citizens of Ejsberg were killed on 6 September, 1939, after a navigational error of +100 miles, on broad daylight. So much for accuracy.

3) In 1939, the Luftwaffe's bombers carried pretty much the same bomb-load as the RAF bombers, and had more of them, coupled with better navigational skills meant that its "weight of attack" was much higher.

4) The strategic doctrine of the Lw was much more realistic than the American of the British. It did not have any illusions about the "always get trough concept" or the "knock-out blow". The strategic doctrine of the RAF had to be scrapped almost immediately, the USAAF's lasted a little longer.

 

That said, I don't think those four points define whether an AF is "strategic" or not. In any case are a way to measure the strategic capabilities of the AF in question (or lack of, in the case of the early war RAF)

 

 

After that Im not sure it had ANY reliable navaids other than sextant. Contrast to the USAAF and RAF that had Gee, Oboe and H2s.

 

 

So since you don't know, you assume they didn't have it?

 

Not that the Luftwaffe had no aids. For example they did adopt British Window, though Im unaware of the success. But significantly, thats an adopted British system, they didnt develop that on their own, and its only a defence aid, nothing to help bombing accuracy. And they never did seem to get around to adopting a version of Radar for anything other than night fighting. They dont seem to have adopted it as a bombing aid.

 

 

 

The didn't adopt the window, they have their own chaff or "düppel"

 

 

The Luftwaffe may have had a rudimentary Pathfinder force. The RAF perfected it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathfinder_%28RAF%29

 

Or "adopt it" :P

 

Rotterdam and Warsaw were bombings with a strategic objective, forcing capitulation of the opposing force. The request was FOR tactical air support, and the Luftwaffe, not for the first time, ended up doing doing its own thing.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotterdam_Blitz

From what ive read of Warsaw it was not much different. Yes the city was occupied, but the objective was to terrify its defenders into surrendering. That in my humble opinion is a strategic objective when the importance of Warsaw in German minds is considered.

 

You may want to expand your knowledge on those actions with sources other than wikipedia. I can recommend some books (as K-H Golla's "The German Fallschirmtruppe 1936-41). But, I'm not sure that even the wiki agrees with you on that.

 

The Luftwaffe had bombers that can only be considered of a tactical range, with bomb loads that were only really suited for tactical targets and the majority of its success was in support of tactical objectives. With these 2 exceptions (and im happy to have more pointed out to me) every strategic campaign they undertook was a failure, because it was NOT and never was a strategic force. It may have had doctrine for strategic warfare, but doctrine without capability is a concept, not reality. Im sure Goering had a concept for Strategic attacks on the US Eastern Seaboard. How realisable was that? Well if it was a 3 bomber attack it was doable, but other than a brief Doolittle style political effect, its achievements would be minimal.

 

Most of that was already answered, but I'm not sure what would be the use of a "concept" for bombing the US coast? Even Göring wasn't that stupid.

 

Dont get me wrong, the Luftwaffe did damn well with what it had. The centres of many English cities are testimony to that, and I do no deprecate their crews who were brave and pushed home attacks that for them, must have been as dangerous as for RAF crews over the Ruhr (towards the end, even more dangerous). But there is a side point to that. Not many Welsh cities that that weight of attack, and Ive not read of Scottish cities receiving the weight of attack that some Southern English cities (Bath, Exeter, Southampton) received. And in my view that points to not the lack of significance of Scottish cities, but some pretty clear limitations on what the Luftwaffe could achieve. Im aware they did do a significant attack on Belfast. But I dont believe it was much repeated. The numbers werent there, and the weight of attack when they arrived over the target wasnt there. The only time they ever really achieved that in the UK was Coventry. And looking back on it, that would appear to be a significant one off.

 

You disagree, thats fine. But im aware of a German fireman who had served in (if memory serves) the Hamburg Blitz who took a look at London in the 1950s. 'Ah' he said, not too sensitively but not inaccurately. 'This is nothing'.

 

 

 

Yes yes, eventually the RAF loaded a much greater bomb tonnage that over the German cities than the Lw on British's ones,, this was the result prioritize the Bomber Command over anything else, not having to fight a ground war against the USSR, etc; but this has nothing to do with what I'm arguing against, such as the Lw was a "tactical" airforce or that was incapable of conduct an strategic bombing campaign.

Edited by Meyer
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Well I guess the Luftwaffe had longer than any other air force to work on these, as Germany had settled on a course towards a war of aggression and aggrandisement whilst everyone else was thinking defence and trying to not go to war.

 

Will you please tell me again why Germany had to go to war in 1939?

 

 

 

Now, this is the first serious post of the whole thread.

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1) range.. so, they had "range", whatever that means. Well, the Lw had enough "range" to reach the strategic targets in Britain, France, Poland, etc.

2) Did you miss the part where the Germans did not even realize that their petrol industry was being targeted?. And I don't think any AF often bombed the wrong country, but I have to point out that the first civilian victims of the Bomber Command were not German, but Danish, when two good citizens of Ejsberg were killed on 6 September, 1939, after a navigational error of +100 miles, on broad daylight. So much for accuracy.

3) In 1939, the Luftwaffe's bombers carried pretty much the same bomb-load as the RAF bombers, and had more of them, coupled with better navigational skills meant that its "weight of attack" was much higher.

4) The strategic doctrine of the Lw was much more realistic than the American of the British. It did not have any illusions about the "always get trough concept" or the "knock-out blow". The strategic doctrine of the RAF had to be scrapped almost immediately, the USAAF's lasted a little longer.

 

1. The Luftwaffe could range French and Polish targets from airfields close to the borders of Germany. It could range Great Britain from airfields in France. The British could range Berlin from Southern England. The USAAF could range Central Romania from North Africa and the Danzig area (now Gdansk, in Poland) from Southern England. Both the British and the Americans could mount heavy, effective attacks with hundreds of aircraft at those renages. That's precisely what "range" means in the strategic airpower sense -- the ability to go where you can't send your armies. The capability to hit targets a couple hundred miles past where your armies have occupied is not strategic range, in air power terms. It's just a technical capability of the aircraft in question.

 

2 - 4. You apparently think that a snapshot of 1939 doctrines and capabilities defined the air forces for the entire war. Well, it's true that in 1939 the Americans and British had a fantastic view of strategic bombing, and hadn't paid much attention to any other capabilities, except for fighter defense. But the war wasn't fought in 1939. It was fought in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945. Over those years, the Luftwaffe never really grew out of its initial form, either in doctrine or equipment. The Americans and British evolved both their doctrine and technological capabilities to the point where they did have strategic reach and effectiveness. That's the difference that counts in the discussion of whether an air force was tactical or strategic -- could that air force actually do strategic attack, at ranges independent of army front lines, for as long as it took to get the job accomplished. The British and Americans could, in the end. The Germans never managed to.

Edited by Tony Evans
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The British and Americans could, in the end

 

 

Wasn't the point of the thread the question of whether or not we should have developed that capability?

 

It seems to me that we only began to meet the pre-war expectations of bombing in August 1945. But then Richard Overy argues it was worth the effort.

 

I've never been solidly convinced either way.

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Wasn't the point of the thread the question of whether or not we should have developed that capability?

 

It seems to me that we only began to meet the pre-war expectations of bombing in August 1945. But then Richard Overy argues it was worth the effort.

 

I've never been solidly convinced either way.

 

Imagine a Germany whose industrial heartland was just as safe as Detroit was during the war. Imagine a Germany that could put all of its airpower on its front lines, rather than dedicate the majority of it to homeland defense. Imagine a Germany that had substantially more artillery pieces on the fighting fronts, and substantiall less defensing airspace behind them. If that's not wholly convincing, then one has to wonder if someone could ever be convinced.

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The trouble was it took many years to get to the stage where German industrial output was reduced to decisive levels.

 

Of course you can argue that we'd not have developed the forces needed for the final decisive stage if it were not for the lessons of 1940-1943.

 

So my "not solidly convinced" stance stems from wondering if bombing should have been given the emphasis it was given before the kit and the machines were ready?

 

From a political stand point it seems impossible that it would not have been given such emphasis but it still seems to me to represent a waste in lives and resources for a good period of time.

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The trouble was it took many years to get to the stage where German industrial output was reduced to decisive levels.

 

Of course you can argue that we'd not have developed the forces needed for the final decisive stage if it were not for the lessons of 1940-1943.

 

So my "not solidly convinced" stance stems from wondering if bombing should have been given the emphasis it was given before the kit and the machines were ready?

 

From a political stand point it seems impossible that it would not have been given such emphasis but it still seems to me to represent a waste in lives and resources for a good period of time.

 

How long did it take the British army to develop a workable armored doctrine and equip its armored divisions with effective tanks? How long did it take the US to even build an army of the necessary size? You're applying unreasonable expectations on an evolving capability.

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No I'm suggesting that the bombing campaign expended resources striving for objectives it could not meet and unlike ground forces which remained engaged throughout there was no imperative other than political to fight with bombers not ready for the task.

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No I'm suggesting that the bombing campaign expended resources striving for objectives it could not meet and unlike ground forces which remained engaged throughout there was no imperative other than political to fight with bombers not ready for the task.

 

How were they suppoed to come up to the task without combat experience, both for the crews and the technologies? See, you're asserting that nothing is worthwhile if it doesn't have immediate and overwhelming effect. That's like saying that all the time and reources I spend at work developing and testing a piece of software is not worth it, because I somehow should have been able to code a finished project from the beginning, even if it's something I've never tried to do before. Doesn't make much sense, does it?

Edited by Tony Evans
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Software aside.

 

I said you could indeed make the argument you're making. But it's not a binary decision. It did not have to be all or nothing. I wonder if there had to be such high levels of exposure when a lot of the kit that was eventually used was already in development.

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Software aside.

 

I said you could indeed make the argument you're making. But it's not a binary decision. It did not have to be all or nothing. I wonder if there had to be such high levels of exposure when a lot of the kit that was eventually used was already in development.

 

One doesn't learn by not doing, Phil.

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... Over those years, the Luftwaffe never really grew out of its initial form, either in doctrine or equipment... The Germans never managed to.

While I agree with your argument, this is not correct, the Germans invested a huge amount of resources for little return on the He-177 which was supposed to provide them with the strategic bombing capability and in 1944 has assembled a force to start a strategic bombing campaign against Soviet installations, but the plane was a dog, and events intervened to force a diversion of the assembled force into the operational arena, interdicting Soviet rail in the Ukraine. A strategic bombing force such as the one that was put together by the UK and the US was impossible to produce in Germany, being as they were continuously engaged since 1939.

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... Over those years, the Luftwaffe never really grew out of its initial form, either in doctrine or equipment... The Germans never managed to.

While I agree with your argument, this is not correct, the Germans invested a huge amount of resources for little return on the He-177 which was supposed to provide them with the strategic bombing capability and in 1944 has assembled a force to start a strategic bombing campaign against Soviet installations, but the plane was a dog, and events intervened to force a diversion of the assembled force into the operational arena, interdicting Soviet rail in the Ukraine. A strategic bombing force such as the one that was put together by the UK and the US was impossible to produce in Germany, being as they were continuously engaged since 1939.

 

HE177s were also assembled for a 'mini Blitz' on London in late 1944 if memory serves. They didnt achieve very much there either.

 

January to May '44:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Steinbock

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While I agree with your argument, this is not correct, the Germans invested a huge amount of resources for little return on the He-177 which was supposed to provide them with the strategic bombing capability and in 1944 has assembled a force to start a strategic bombing campaign against Soviet installations, but the plane was a dog, and events intervened to force a diversion of the assembled force into the operational arena, interdicting Soviet rail in the Ukraine. A strategic bombing force such as the one that was put together by the UK and the US was impossible to produce in Germany, being as they were continuously engaged since 1939.

The scale just wasn't the same. Two times as many Stirlings were built as He 177s. Five times as many Halifaxes. Six times as many Lancasters. Ten time as many B-17s. Fifteen times as many B-24s. Compared to the British and US efforts, German long range bombing capabilities were absolutely negligible.
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I never said not doing. I said possibly not doing it so often.

 

The aircraft existed. So did the crews and the ordnance. Dispatching them on operations only made sense. Not doing things as often would have led to less bombs being dropped. Less bombs being dropped meant less damage to the enemy. It would also have meant less concentration, on the Germans' part, on homeland air defense. Which means that resources otherwise occupied would be sent to the fighting fronts. Your thinking, while possibly understandable on a sentimental level, simply doesn't make and kind of military sense.

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It's nothing to do with sentimentality. The bombing campaign did not start to see real results until a number of technologies came on line, drop tanks and P51s being one such technology. Before then we were losing enormous resources at little gain. Such heavy casualties drain combat experience and lessons they do not enhance it when the losses are consistently heavy. All I think is that economy of force measures would have preserved more combat experience and not seen such wastage of resources when no matter how hard we pounded them we weren't making progress.

 

By continuing to fly sorties and raids you continue the organisational learning process but not at such cost. My argument is based on organisational learning and economy of force not flag waving.

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Wasn't the point of the thread the question of whether or not we should have developed that capability?

 

It seems to me that we only began to meet the pre-war expectations of bombing in August 1945. But then Richard Overy argues it was worth the effort.

 

I've never been solidly convinced either way.

 

Imagine a Germany whose industrial heartland was just as safe as Detroit was during the war. Imagine a Germany that could put all of its airpower on its front lines, rather than dedicate the majority of it to homeland defense. Imagine a Germany that had substantially more artillery pieces on the fighting fronts, and substantiall less defensing airspace behind them. If that's not wholly convincing, then one has to wonder if someone could ever be convinced.

 

 

German war production capacity I believed increased all the way up until Mid '44.

 

EDIT: Not to say that alone made the bombing campaign ineffective, but at the very least it seemed to be less than decisive.

 

The question is whether the resources used in that campaign could have been better allocated, which involves analytical problems. What resources in Germany are then freed as a counter? What other direction could all that production capacity have been moved to?

 

I'd say the one glaringly obvious use that B-24's could have been used for is ASW work, and considering how mildly effective the bombing campaign was a good argument could be made for employing this particular type for closing the air gap rather than 'wasting' them in the bombing campaign, although even that tentative idea is in retrospect. No one could have had a good understanding of the effectiveness of the bombing campaign (or lack there of) at the time.

Edited by Josh
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Stuart I agree, I said there was no way we weren't going to throw everything at the Bombing Campaign because it was substituting for a Second Front. There were compelling political reasons for doing so. It's a terrible tragedy tens of thousands of bomber crewmen died to make a political point but that's part of the tragedy and horror of war.

 

Had the Allied leadership resisted the pressure to keep the peddle to the floor on the bomber front then I don't think the war effort would have suffered a jot and might have been more efficient since resources (men and machines) would not have been so spent and organisational learning would still have taken place. And by mid 1942 nearly all the kit that was used to more decisive effect in late 1944 onwards was already in the pipeline I believe.

 

I understand the political pressures. I understand there were many who believed it would work - but of those believers there were many who didn't think it would work yet in 1942-1944.

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1. The Luftwaffe could range French and Polish targets from airfields close to the borders of Germany. It could range Great Britain from airfields in France. The British could range Berlin from Southern England. The USAAF could range Central Romania from North Africa and the Danzig area (now Gdansk, in Poland) from Southern England. Both the British and the Americans could mount heavy, effective attacks with hundreds of aircraft at those renages. That's precisely what "range" means in the strategic airpower sense -- the ability to go where you can't send your armies. The capability to hit targets a couple hundred miles past where your armies have occupied is not strategic range, in air power terms. It's just a technical capability of the aircraft in question.

 

 

 

 

The Luftwaffe bombers could, already in 1939, reach targets over Britain from its bases in Germany. It's not that far. That doesn't mean that it is a good idea to do it if you have airfields in France. In fact, operations in 1944 against London and other targets were launched, for some units, from airfields in Holland and Germany.

 

2 - 4. You apparently think that a snapshot of 1939 doctrines and capabilities defined the air forces for the entire war.

 

 

I could say the same about you with the above quote: "effective", "heavy", "hundreds of aircraft", well, certainly not before 1942, with the only possible exception of "hundreds" for the RAF.

 

Well, it's true that in 1939 the Americans and British had a fantastic view of strategic bombing, and hadn't paid much attention to any other capabilities, except for fighter defense. But the war wasn't fought in 1939. It was fought in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945. Over those years, the Luftwaffe never really grew out of its initial form, either in doctrine or equipment. The Americans and British evolved both their doctrine and technological capabilities to the point where they did have strategic reach and effectiveness. That's the difference that counts in the discussion of whether an air force was tactical or strategic -- could that air force actually do strategic attack, at ranges independent of army front lines, for as long as it took to get the job accomplished. The British and Americans could, in the end. The Germans never managed to

 

Exactly, let's look at the entire war. I would postulate that, taking in account doctrine, technical capability of the aircraft and equipment, training, and number of bombers the Luftwaffe was the number one AF in terms of capacity of conducting a strategic bombing campaign, for the period 1939-some point of 1942.

An AF that was in top for a good part of the war, cannot be said that it could not do strategic attack, unless that the true strategic attack was only "invented" in 1943/4.

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Or it lacked the doctrine and technological capabilities, which was the case. You are looking only at the range problem, but that's just one variable.

 

There's the intelligence needed to target the enemy's resources (sorely lacking in 1940), there's finding targets despite enemy countermeasures (see how Knickebein was soon denied, then X-gërat, then Y-gërat), there's hitting the target once found and then there's flying back home, all of which had to be achieved without suffering prohibitive losses to night fighters. After the initial Blitz, German efforts went from bad to worse in the successive campaigns that eventually lost focus to become revenge attacks.

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Remember that the He-177 was also employed as an effective anti shipping platform - it could blind bomb ships accurately using radar or hit them with guided standoff weapons by day. Again there were just not enough of them to have enough effect.

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