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"lions Led By Donkeys" - Topic Close To Billb's Heart


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Lot of it was due to improvements in pathfinder ops. I recall reading in a book on 617th squadron that the raid on Munich where they did "pathfinders for pathfinders" with glide bombing Mosquitoes had almost half the usual dispersion of bombs. Raid on Peenemünde also showed that night bombing could be pretty accurate (esp. next to large body of water), but placement of markers was crucial.

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Colin, the topography of Western Russia does not favor the defender very much. I used to point out in class that it you drew a line E from Amsterdam, following the latitude line, you can traverse all the way to the Urals before you exceed 100m above sea level! That's an extreme example, of course. The only thing that improves slightly is that the left bank of the major rivers tends to be higher than the right [Coriolis effect?], of slight use to the defender, attacker from the East. The Pripet Marshes have to be bypassed and the Valdai Hills exist between Moscow-Leningrad, but these do not turn back any invader. Of course, the further one advances into Russia, the wider becomes the front. The German plan for Barbarossa called for advancing to the line Murmansk-Astrakhan, after which it presumed the enemy would collapse into a rump Soviet republic in Siberia and the border would be patrolled by a few armored divisions. More fantasies, from the experts.

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It's less different than you think. Real "area attacks" were in fact very rare in WW2, as far as operational planning is considered. Nearly all air attacks were at least nominally targeted against military or strategic targets (garrisons, HQ's, railyards, factories etc). It's just that it was very difficult to actually hit anywhere close to those targets (often even find them), and most of the bombs "accidentally" ended up levelling city blocks around the target. Which was very unfortunate, yes, but it was collateral damage and we didn't really mean it, and that's what counts, right??

Er - not really. It was recognised quite early that night bombing wasn't accurate enough to hit factories (at the time, it wasn't accurate enough to hit cities much of the time,,but it got better), but early in 1942 it was decided that bombing cities was justified even if it was unlikely that factories, rail yards etc. would be destroyed, because the workers' housing would be destroyed, production would thereby be disrupted, & the spirit of the people would be broken by them being made homeless, It was called "dehousing". The fact that very many workers & their families would die in their homes was glossed over.

 

So,levelling city blocks wasn't collateral damage for Bomber Command, it was the objective.

 

I'm well aware of the 'dehousing' objective. I've however understood that even then, nominally the target was usually a railyard, dock or manufacturing centre (for example, big Hamburg 1942 raid was nominally targeting the docks, Dresden raids were mostly towards manufacturing and rail yards, etc). Although I guess it's possible that even this thinnest pretense was abandoned eventually,

Look up Cherwell's Dehousing Report, & the Area Bombing Directive (14 Feb 1942). From early 1942 onwards, the targets were the biggest German cities. Rail yards etc. may have been chosen as aiming points, but if so that would have been for the benefit of the bomber crews & public consumption. The targets were explicitly the industrial work forces, not the industries. It says so in the directive, though it refers to the morale of the workers, rather than their lives. Portal said about the directive the day after it was issued "ref the new bombing directive: I suppose it is clear the aiming points will be the built up areas, and not, for instance, the dockyards or aircraft factories where these are mentioned in Appendix A. This must be made quite clear if it is not already understood."

 

Precision night bombing came in later, with the Pathfinders, but given the dispersion of bombs in large attacks, & 'creep back', it was known that even the most precise aim point still resulted in area destruction in large raids.

 

Dehousing was controversial among the planners, BTW, but the opponents of it had to contend with the likes of Portal, who'd claimed that his bombers could defeat Germany unaided, & when it became obvious that was untrue, were desperate to find a new justification for a massive bomber force.

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The reason for Germany attacking France is because it is the most dangerous opponent, being the most modern of them, and in nothing more than basic Napoleonic strategic doctrine had to be eliminated first. The greater latent enemy was Russia, though. This is because of its larger population and resources under control of the autocratic Tsar, and if any time in the future the Russians happened to improve R&D, industrial engineering, or just double their rail trackage as the new French loans were supposed to facilitate, all was lost. These were the thoughts of the militarists above all, and why the Great General Staff could brook no wavering on the part of the hereditary prince who just happened at that time to be on the throne of the German Empire.

 

Remember, Germany had its notions of Drang nacht Osten long before the first Nazi was born. For pre-1914 Germans, the concept and incipient ideology was Mitteleuropa, the combining of the resources and population of the region from the Rhine to the Donetz, all under the obviously enlightened and superior knowledge and leadership of Guess Who. Although the 1914 war came not out of this, its losses, cost and sacrifices reinforced Mitteleuropa thought in both German empires, hence the particular severety of the Treaty of Berst-Litovsk in 1918.

 

These similarities in the German view toward the east is only part of what caused many historians to speak of the continuity of German History through 1945, and of course the many references to the Long Armistice, 1919-1939.

But the mistake the Germans made was tying their mobilization plan to a single war plan. They could not respond to any situations other than a war with both France and Russia at the same time. The infamous French Plan XVII was only a concentration plan, with Joffre deciding to launch attacks north and south of Metz. Similarly, even though Conrad created a disaster by trying to ad lib a third plan during mobilization, even the Austro-Hungarians had the choice of concentrating greater strength against the Russians or the Serbs.

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To be fair, the dehousing concept did work in the case of Japan, where firestorms were patently easily obtained. Absenteeism of the workforce became significant.

Yes, but by the time the USAAF was able to burn Japan's cities to the ground, Japan had already lost. The leadership just didn't know it yet.

 

The blockade had already crippled Japanese industry. Japan's merchant fleet was largely rusting on the sea bottom by the time the bombing campaign got underway at the end of 1944. Fuel was critically short (imports down to ca 10% of the mid 1943 level, 90% of what was shipped not reaching Japan), & other raw materials were insufficient to maintain industrial production. Rations were below the minimum to sustain effort, even if materials had been to hand. By autumn 1944 Japan no longer had the ships to carry imports, & couldn't replace lost ships because it couldn't import the materials to build new ones.

 

The industrial war had already been won by the time the first B-29 took off from the Marianas - and it had been won mainly by USN submarines. Aircraft & surface ships made a significant contribution, but submarines sank most. The USN submarine campaign against Japanese shipping was extremely effective, & extraordinarily cost-efficient.

 

Japanese military logistics were also crippled by the campaign against SLOCs.

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To be fair, the dehousing concept did work in the case of Japan, where firestorms were patently easily obtained. Absenteeism of the workforce became significant.

 

It worked against the Germans too, over a longer period of time. The Tokyo firebombing was just five months before the end of the war. German industrial absenteeism for all of 1944 was 20% of scheduled hours, according to Speer.

 

This leads to another factor that most people either forget or simply never understood. Where strategic bombing is concerned, 1944 was basically the only year worth mentioning, as far as destructiveness is concerned. Over half of all the tonnage dropped on Germany and Austria was dropped in that year. And that was five times the tonnage dropped in 1943 -- which is usually the year people focus on WRT the success or failure of strategic bombing.

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It worked against the Germans too, over a longer period of time. The Tokyo firebombing was just five months before the end of the war. German industrial absenteeism for all of 1944 was 20% of scheduled hours, according to Speer.

 

This leads to another factor that most people either forget or simply never understood. Where strategic bombing is concerned, 1944 was basically the only year worth mentioning, as far as destructiveness is concerned. Over half of all the tonnage dropped on Germany and Austria was dropped in that year. And that was five times the tonnage dropped in 1943 -- which is usually the year people focus on WRT the success or failure of strategic bombing.

 

Extremely good point Tony, kudos to you for that!

 

In an analytical sense, it is unfortunate that the Allies chose to carry out NEPTUNE and DRAGOON, otherwise we likely would have a better sense of the effectiveness of a conventional strategic air campaign versus a European industrialized power. :D

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Well, Japan effectively lost WWII at the PH attack, but that's from Ned Willmott; I can see his point. The Japanese cities proved the targets best illustrating Douhet's theories and Bomber Command's doctrines. Whether the USN sub campaign or the USAAF mining campaign also worked I'd say is beside the point. Japan continued to refine fuel in 1945, including from significant island natural and synthetic sources. Shipping in the Sea of Japan continues relatively free, except for mined ports in the Home Islands. Aircraft, ships and tanks were built and ammunition assembled; albeit far from the programmed 1945 quantities. The USSBS for Japan proved substantial absenteeism.

 

Not reliable would be Evans' citing of Speer's writing, decades later from Spandau Prison, a definitive 20% absenteeism from German factories in 1944. This is not corroborated by the USSBS, which did the fact-finding in 1945-46. As usual we don't know what "people" he is talking about this time, but it must be his people?

 

There were more cities burned out than just Tokyo. <sigh> The XXI Bombardment Command was strained to identify any more major city targets by mid year 1945.

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1. Not reliable would be Evans' citing of Speer's writing, decades later from Spandau Prison, a definitive 20% absenteeism from German factories in 1944. This is not corroborated by the USSBS, which did the fact-finding in 1945-46.

 

2. As usual we don't know what "people" he is talking about this time, but it must be his people?

 

3. There were more cities burned out than just Tokyo. <sigh> The XXI Bombardment Command was strained to identify any more major city targets by mid year 1945.

 

1. Buckley, citing Overy and USSBS Report 64B, gives an absenteeism figure of 20-25%.

 

2. The Nazis are my people, Ken? Vaya con dios seems to be an appropriate sentiment here...

 

3. I mentioned Tokyo because that was the beginning of effective attacks on Japanese cities.

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Well, Japan effectively lost WWII at the PH attack, but that's from Ned Willmott; I can see his point. The Japanese cities proved the targets best illustrating Douhet's theories and Bomber Command's doctrines. Whether the USN sub campaign or the USAAF mining campaign also worked I'd say is beside the point. Japan continued to refine fuel in 1945, including from significant island natural and synthetic sources. Shipping in the Sea of Japan continues relatively free, except for mined ports in the Home Islands. Aircraft, ships and tanks were built and ammunition assembled; albeit far from the programmed 1945 quantities. The USSBS for Japan proved substantial absenteeism...

 

There were more cities burned out than just Tokyo. <sigh> The XXI Bombardment Command was strained to identify any more major city targets by mid year 1945.

Aircraft, ships & tanks continued to be built, but in inadequate numbers (far too few to replaces losses), of greatly reduced quality, & there was too little fuel to train anyone to operate them. Fuel was refined, but not enough to keep the civilian economy going, or supply the military. Local shipping continued - but at a rapidly decreasing rate. The economy was spiralling down, & starvation was setting in.

 

Mrs S's mother remembers being carried to a shelter as her home town burned. Strained to find major targets? They were strained to find any targets at all. That was a town where the main industries were pearls, fishing, & catering to visitors to the major shrine there. The only reason I can think of for bombing it was that it had a harbour.

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Major city targets. They were shifting to some 50+ smaller cities, looking for anything worthwhile of targeting. So, of course you have it right, but is remains the sole case of strat bombing causing population movement away from the cities and serious absenteeism.

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Why say 'according to Speer' when there are better sources??

 

As best I can tell from the USSBS reports I have access to, strategic bombing in Germany may have reduced the workforce in any particular industry studied by about 5%.

 

Nevertheless, Tony's overarching point remains valid.

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“The mental reaction of the German people is significant. Under ruthless Nazi control

they showed surprising resistance to the terror.”

USSBS Over-All, 108


------------------------

The Report of the Area Studies Division of the USSBS:


[Opening paragraph]


"The major cities of Germany present a spectacle of destruction

so appalling as to suggest a complete breakdown of all aspects of

urban activity. On the first impression it would appear that the

area attacks which laid waste these cities must have substantially

eliminated the industrial capacity of Germany. Yet this was not

the case. The attacks did not so reduce German war production

as to have a decisive effect on the outcome of the war."


-----------------------


The attack upon Stimmung or attitude was remarkably

successful, but this success did not have much meaning for

the things that counted. Depressed morale, plus the problem

of coping with the physical deprivations resulting from bomb

ing, significantly increased absenteeism of industrial workers

beyond the normal. It also significantly lowered the productivity

of those who reported for work. In combination, these

effects-and notice that morale was depressed by defeats in

the ground battles as well as by air raids-resulted in a loss

of output of at least 25 per cent during the last year of the

war. That looked serious enough to those responsible for

keeping the war machine going. But as for stopping or vitally

impairing the functioning of that machine, the effects were

spread too broadly across all industries, were at best marginal,

and therefore counted as nothing compared to the knocking

out of a single essential industry such as oil production or

transportation.

From at least the beginning of 1944 the average German

had become disillusioned with the Nazi leadership, increasingly

frightened by the war's toll and its potential threat to

himself and his family, and persuaded with growing certainty

that all would end in defeat. Yet he stuck to his job

and his machine for as long as it was physically possible to

do so, and in so doing kept a disastrous war going to its ultimate

ruinous conclusion. Why did he do so? The answer is

to be found in need combined with habit, in coercion, and

in propaganda-in descending order of importance-all adding

up to the plain circumstance that the German worker

had no real alternative open to him.



Bernard Brodie, "Origins of Air Strategy," in Strategy in the Missile Age (1959), p.


132.

-----------------------------------------

The Japanese experience suggests also that to compel huge

evacuations is more profitable as well as more humane than

to produce corpses. During the American air campaign, some

eight and one-half million Japanese left their homes to be-

I come refugees. This figure must be considered not only in

relation to the whole national population but even more to

the populations of those larger industrial cities which mainly

I fed the exodus. Although evacuations also took place in

Germany, the flight of urban dwellers from Japanese cities

was more concentrated in time and hence more disorganized,

and it included very much larger proportions of workers

previously engaged in war industries. These panicked humans

not only spread throughout Japan the full account of the

horrors occurring in the cities, but they also created for the

government burdens with which it showed itself unable to

cope.




Brodie, p.142

Edited by Ken Estes
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Major city targets. They were shifting to some 50+ smaller cities, looking for anything worthwhile of targeting. So, of course you have it right, but is remains the sole case of strat bombing causing population movement away from the cities and serious absenteeism.

My mistake, I should have read more carefully.

 

I'd say that the bombing accelerated movement away from the cities. People had started moving into the countryside before the bombing, looking for food. Because many of the urban population still had families in the countryside, it was much easier to move out of towns than it was in, e.g., the UK. There was also official evacuation of children to rural areas where food supplies were better.

 

All this greatly increased when the bombing began.

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Why say 'according to Speer' when there are better sources??

 

Because it's the reference that came into my head first, Ken. I knew I'd seen it enough other places that it was probably reliable, but I just couldn't put my finger on them at the time. So sue me.

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  • 3 weeks later...

 

This leads to another factor that most people either forget or simply never understood. Where strategic bombing is concerned, 1944 was basically the only year worth mentioning, as far as destructiveness is concerned. Over half of all the tonnage dropped on Germany and Austria was dropped in that year. And that was five times the tonnage dropped in 1943 -- which is usually the year people focus on WRT the success or failure of strategic bombing.

 

I will say that in addition to the increased drop of bombs on targets, there was the fact that close escort became widespread on that time-frame, helping the campaign in the long run.

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A lone General against 50 divisions! Now wonder in the ACW there were entire corps defending places called the Wheat-field and Peach Orchard.

 

Sorry Andres, you need to brush up on your Gettysburg. The Wheat Field was initially undefended, but later was fought over by essentially a division on the Union side (1st Division, 1st Corps) and about the same number of Confederate troops from McLaws' and Hood's Divisions. The Peach Orchard was defended by a brigade of the III Corps and assaulted by elements of Wofford's and Barksdale's brigades of McLaws' Division. No "entire corps", just minor parts of them. Just supplying some of that historical detail. :D

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A lone General against 50 divisions! Now wonder in the ACW there were entire corps defending places called the Wheat-field and Peach Orchard.

 

Sorry Andres, you need to brush up on your Gettysburg. The Wheat Field was initially undefended, but later was fought over by essentially a division on the Union side (1st Division, 1st Corps) and about the same number of Confederate troops from McLaws' and Hood's Divisions. The Peach Orchard was defended by a brigade of the III Corps and assaulted by elements of Wofford's and Barksdale's brigades of McLaws' Division. No "entire corps", just minor parts of them. Just supplying some of that historical detail. :D

 

Rich: 1st Division, Ist Corps was Wadsworth's Division which was virtually destroyed on July 1 and the remnants spent the next two days on the north side of Cemetery Hill. The Wheatfield was defended by the 17th Maine (3/1/III) by itself until reinforced by the brigades of Cross (1/1/II) and Kelly (2/1/II) and then later came Sweitzer (2/1/V) and Burbank (2/2/V).

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A lone General against 50 divisions! Now wonder in the ACW there were entire corps defending places called the Wheat-field and Peach Orchard.

 

Sorry Andres, you need to brush up on your Gettysburg. The Wheat Field was initially undefended, but later was fought over by essentially a division on the Union side (1st Division, 1st Corps) and about the same number of Confederate troops from McLaws' and Hood's Divisions. The Peach Orchard was defended by a brigade of the III Corps and assaulted by elements of Wofford's and Barksdale's brigades of McLaws' Division. No "entire corps", just minor parts of them. Just supplying some of that historical detail. :D

 

Rich: 1st Division, Ist Corps was Wadsworth's Division which was virtually destroyed on July 1 and the remnants spent the next two days on the north side of Cemetery Hill. The Wheatfield was defended by the 17th Maine (3/1/III) by itself until reinforced by the brigades of Cross (1/1/II) and Kelly (2/1/II) and then later came Sweitzer (2/1/V) and Burbank (2/2/V).

 

 

Yep, I meant 1st Division, 2nd Corps. Brain Fart.

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