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Was RAF night bombing campaign unnecessary and misguided?


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The presumption the British had after some bad experiences in daylight bombing, was that the night time would provide better protection for their bombers. But then their lost rates were almost as high as the USAAF 8th Air Force which was bombing during the day. The RAF had a 44% death rate, 55,000 killed, 8325 aircraft loss vs 8th Air Force 26,000 killed, 4000 + heavy bombers lost. Its amazing to me that the night did not appear to protect the RAF Bomber Command, and that the Luftwaffe was so successful in shooting bombers down at night with primitive air intercept radar. Many German night fighter pilots must have made double ace, and the flak shooting in the dark could bring so many bombers down is astounding. In the face of these casualties, did no one in Bomber Command figure out that the lost rate meant that they were probably no better off bombing in daylight. If they had co-ordinated daylight bombing rates with the Americans, would they not have been able to stretch the German air defences and collectively reduce their losses?

During the large raids, the Americans were attacking one target a day in Germany. If the RAF had concluded the protection of night was mythical and has instead joined the daylight raid campaign, then as an example, a timed raid with the Eight Air Force attacking Berlin and say the RAF attacking Hamburg at the same time would split the German fighter response. Would this not have resulted in a lesser loss rate? Instead of concentrating on just one bomber stream, there would be 2 streams. Both with large aircraft numbers. The German defences would have to split their resources to tackle two streams attacking 2 targets widely separated. In addition, American fighters in general all had longer ranges then RAF fighters, and could have been assigned to escort RAF bombers.

And as a side note, why the heck were night fighter versions of the Mosquitoes and Beaufighters not assigned to RAF Bomber escorting? These planes would more then hold their own against the common German nightfighters like the ME 110 and JU 88.

 

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You are looking at the loss rate in total, which is the wrong way to look at it. The loss rate per raid is the right way to examine the loss. I think, and im going on memory here, the RAF could absorb 6 percent loss of force every raid and keep going, and the USAAF could absorb 8 percent (I might be out on that so my apologies if I am). The point being that bombing by night WAS safer, but if you ended up doing more raids, and the RAF had been flying over Germany for 2 years before the USAAF even got there, then the total  loss rate looks higher. There is also some justification to the idea that the German night fighter force remained more viable till the end of the war than the day fighter force, simply because they werent tangling with the 8th Air Force, and they had longer experience pilots rather than guys out of training school.

In actual fact the RAF (and some RCAF squadrons) ONLY flew by day towards the end of the war. Ive a book on Lancaster squadrons and was interested to note several only conducted day operations. But there was a limitation on what the RAF could do by day, simply because of the number of aircraft and deconfliction. You could do it today in an era of computers, but imagine trying to work out the movements over over 4000 aircraft over Southeast England and Europe within a few hours in the sliderule era. There was also a certain logic of bombing around the clock, and for both those reasons, night bombing went on.

There is an Osprey book by Robert Forczyk that makes the same mistake, he talks about Me110 vs Lancaster, when really its a question of Nightfighter Force vs Bomber Command. There is a very good book by Alfred Price called 'Instruments of darkness' that relates an RAF test postwar against Luftwaffe radar systems in the the netherlands or Denmark (possibly both, neither were destroyed at the end of the war), and found that for large periods, RAF jamming was so effective the Luftwaffe were using gut instinct to find the RAF bombers. On one instance they scrambled forces towards an RAF force that wasnt even there. RAF electronic warfare has been woefully regarded by American historians, but it really worked.

Night Fighter versions of Mosquito's and Beaufighter were assigned to RAF Bomber escorting, by night. Loosely, which was the only way you could do it by night. They were using Serate, which If memory serves was an early ESM, to home in on German nightfighters. OTOH, by day, the Mosquito was not quite as nimble as 633 squadron would have you believe. It was a first rate bomber, and a first rate long range fighter. But it probably was not as effective as a day fighter as P38, and even P38 was not remotely as effective as P51 or P47. Ditto Beaufighter. Its horses for courses really.

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It all came down to different doctrine.  The US air force believed in 'Percission Daylight Bombing' which could theoretically destroy a target in one air raid. To do this the US army built a extremely large and well defended heavy bomber which flew in mass in tight formations to provided mutual support between aircraft during the raid.

The RAF believed that percission bombing was impossible and decided that carpet bombing was the answer and flew aircraft in small packets at night which could hide aircraft in the darkness. That only changed during the later years of the war when the Pathfinder squadrons appeared which dropped flares onto a target for other night RAF bombers to drop their ordnance onto the flared targets. 

Different approaches but they both seemed to work ok.

 

Edit : After the war the RAF captured lots of Luftwaffe documents and found out that due to COMINT from miles away the Germans were able to mass fighters against the RAF bombers as the RAF pilots didn't use communications silence and instead chatted between aircraft during the whole mission. God knows how many aircraft were destroyed were destroyed and airmen killed from not using radio silence. 

Edit 2: There's a great film about this topic staring Gregory Peck called 'Twelve O'Clock High' about the US airforce fight against Germany during WW2. I highly recommend it.

 

Edited by TrustMe
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3.6 mb pdf The Cost of (Britain's) Strategic Bombing. 

https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/664/2/adt-NU20050104.11440202whole.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwi8mpjH_uvvAhWXhv0HHaSTBBQQFjABegQICBAB&usg=AOvVaw0IJeBrCuMC2JIxnxDQpq3V

 

Without the benefit of hindsight it sounded like a good idea at the time and even the US bombing campaign had IMO it biggest effect by baiting German fighters, who were then shot down by US fighters opening the skies for fighter bombers to effectively interdict movement of the ground. The US bombing survey after the war noticed that German factories were rather intact but had to cease production because subcontracted parts didn't come in. 

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1 hour ago, On the way said:

The presumption the British had after some bad experiences in daylight bombing, was that the night time would provide better protection for their bombers. But then their lost rates were almost as high as the USAAF 8th Air Force which was bombing during the day. The RAF had a 44% death rate, 55,000 killed, 8325 aircraft loss vs 8th Air Force 26,000 killed, 4000 + heavy bombers lost. Its amazing to me that the night did not appear to protect the RAF Bomber Command, and that the Luftwaffe was so successful in shooting bombers down at night with primitive air intercept radar. Many German night fighter pilots must have made double ace, and the flak shooting in the dark could bring so many bombers down is astounding. In the face of these casualties, did no one in Bomber Command figure out that the lost rate meant that they were probably no better off bombing in daylight. If they had co-ordinated daylight bombing rates with the Americans, would they not have been able to stretch the German air defences and collectively reduce their losses?

During the large raids, the Americans were attacking one target a day in Germany. If the RAF had concluded the protection of night was mythical and has instead joined the daylight raid campaign, then as an example, a timed raid with the Eight Air Force attacking Berlin and say the RAF attacking Hamburg at the same time would split the German fighter response. Would this not have resulted in a lesser loss rate? Instead of concentrating on just one bomber stream, there would be 2 streams. Both with large aircraft numbers. The German defences would have to split their resources to tackle two streams attacking 2 targets widely separated. In addition, American fighters in general all had longer ranges then RAF fighters, and could have been assigned to escort RAF bombers.

And as a side note, why the heck were night fighter versions of the Mosquitoes and Beaufighters not assigned to RAF Bomber escorting? These planes would more then hold their own against the common German nightfighters like the ME 110 and JU 88.

 

I think you are misunderstanding how the campaign was fought by looking at total losses, but these were not constant over time, at different times one side or the other had the upper hand, so the Battle of Hamburg was high point for Bomber Command and the Battle of Berlin, a low point. In terms of doctrine and precision, Bomber Command started out badly but technological and procedural improvements meant its accuracy ended up being comparable or better than the Americans.

Re your questions:

If they had co-ordinated daylight bombing rates with the Americans, would they not have been able to stretch the German air defences and collectively reduce their losses?

No, overall loss rates per raid weren't high on average for daylight bombing, but the formation that was hit, could be wiped out by concentrated fighter attacks. And the RAF hadn't practised formation flying, so they would have to start from scratch and improve the armament of the bombers as well as devise air escorts.

What could have been done and wasn't, was use the Mosquito for daylight precision raids, since its payload and range pretty much made it comparable to a heavy bomber while its speed made interception difficult.

why the heck were night fighter versions of the Mosquitoes and Beaufighters not assigned to RAF Bomber escorting?

That would be terribly inefficient, if not impossible, as the fighters didn't know where the bombers were, instead the RAF used intruders to harass the nightfighters at their bases and sweeps to clear the path of the bombers. 

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20 minutes ago, Markus Becker said:

3.6 mb pdf The Cost of (Britain's) Strategic Bombing. 

https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/2123/664/2/adt-NU20050104.11440202whole.pdf&sa=U&ved=2ahUKEwi8mpjH_uvvAhWXhv0HHaSTBBQQFjABegQICBAB&usg=AOvVaw0IJeBrCuMC2JIxnxDQpq3V

 

Without the benefit of hindsight it sounded like a good idea at the time and even the US bombing campaign had IMO it biggest effect by baiting German fighters, who were then shot down by US fighters opening the skies for fighter bombers to effectively interdict movement of the ground. The US bombing survey after the war noticed that German factories were rather intact but had to cease production because subcontracted parts didn't come in. 

Thanks very much, Ill read that with interest.

 

TM, the problem was the USAAF concept of precision bombing (right in the pickle barrel) worked great in American skies, but remained somewhat unworkable in European skies at least some of the time. And when the lead bomber was bombing on radar, they were arguably no more accurate than the RAF were flying by night. Perhaps even less so, because whereas the USAAF would bomb in formation on a given target, then they ALL bombed the wrong target if it was poorly indicated (which happened to a number of unfortunate towns near Berlin) Whereas with Pathfinders, if they DID find the right target (which wasn't always a given admittedly) you could be sure at least some of the force would bomb on the right indicators, even if it wasn't enough to do serious damage.

The most devastating critique of the USAAF method is they completely abandoned it for the war against Japan. They found high altitude precision bombing was unworkable in the B29 because of the jetstream, something that remained unknown hitherto. But rather than persist with accurate bombing at low level, they threw out precision bombing, went for RAF style saturation bombing, and whats more, went by night. And yes, the results were horrific, but it seemed to deliver results. Which leads one to the obvious conclusion, if the USAAF method was right for Europe, and the RAF method completely wrong, why did the USAAF embrace it so completely for Japan?

That isn't saying the RAF method was perfect, and the USAAF a complete waste of time, because there is a good case for saying both were complimentary, and both did useful work. But I do honestly think the USAAF method of accurate bombing was embellished postwar to safeguard reputations, at the same time as SAC was moving wholeheartedly into the same methodology of the RAF and the USAAF campaign on Japan, but using thermonuclear weapons.  Daniel Ellsberg pointed this out very strongly in his book on cold war nuclear strategy, yet it seems to have been missed by Cold War Historians. Its kind of saying 'Well the RAF were completely wrong, which is why we are copying them'. :D

 

Its perfectly true the Luftwaffe picked up signint that let them know the RAF was on the way. But the same was also true best I can tell of the USAAF. The Luftwaffe sigint service rarely gets credit, but that the Soviets dismantled their equipment and made use of it themselves (I believe it may have proven the foundation for the subsequent krug radio location system) suggests they were really onto something.

12 O Clock High is a great film. Also see 'Target for Tonight', 'The Way to the Stars' and  'Appointment in London'. Im also a sucker for 'Hanover Street' , but that's only due to a lifelong fondness for B25's and Lesley Ann Down, but not necessarily in that order.

 

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17 minutes ago, RETAC21 said:

I think you are misunderstanding how the campaign was fought by looking at total losses, but these were not constant over time, at different times one side or the other had the upper hand, so the Battle of Hamburg was high point for Bomber Command and the Battle of Berlin, a low point. In terms of doctrine and precision, Bomber Command started out badly but technological and procedural improvements meant its accuracy ended up being comparable or better than the Americans.

Re your questions:

If they had co-ordinated daylight bombing rates with the Americans, would they not have been able to stretch the German air defences and collectively reduce their losses?

No, overall loss rates per raid weren't high on average for daylight bombing, but the formation that was hit, could be wiped out by concentrated fighter attacks. And the RAF hadn't practised formation flying, so they would have to start from scratch and improve the armament of the bombers as well as devise air escorts.

What could have been done and wasn't, was use the Mosquito for daylight precision raids, since its payload and range pretty much made it comparable to a heavy bomber while its speed made interception difficult.

why the heck were night fighter versions of the Mosquitoes and Beaufighters not assigned to RAF Bomber escorting?

That would be terribly inefficient, if not impossible, as the fighters didn't know where the bombers were, instead the RAF used intruders to harass the nightfighters at their bases and sweeps to clear the path of the bombers. 

Yes absolutely right. You only have to compare the raids on Hamburg where on the first night they lost 12 aircraft (arguably due to the success of Window) and on Nuremburg, they lost something like 96, kind of shows how wide the disparity could be.

Luck basically played a large hand in RAF success and failures. Although hitting Berlin for months at a time did show Harris in a fairly intractable light, and clearly cost the RAF dear for very little return other than giving Goering sleepless nights.

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21 minutes ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Thanks very much, Ill read that with interest.

 

TM, the problem was the USAAF concept of precision bombing (right in the pickle barrel) worked great in American skies, but remained somewhat unworkable in European skies at least some of the time. And when the lead bomber was bombing on radar, they were arguably no more accurate than the RAF were flying by night. Perhaps even less so, because whereas the USAAF would bomb in formation on a given target, then they ALL bombed the wrong target if it was poorly indicated (which happened to a number of unfortunate towns near Berlin) Whereas with Pathfinders, if they DID find the right target (which wasn't always a given admittedly) you could be sure at least some of the force would bomb on the right indicators, even if it wasn't enough to do serious damage.

The most devastating critique of the USAAF method is they completely abandoned it for the war against Japan. They found high altitude precision bombing was unworkable in the B29 because of the jetstream, something that remained unknown hitherto. But rather than persist with accurate bombing at low level, they threw out precision bombing, went for RAF style saturation bombing, and whats more, went by night. And yes, the results were horrific, but it seemed to deliver results. Which leads one to the obvious conclusion, if the USAAF method was right for Europe, and the RAF method completely wrong, why did the USAAF embrace it so completely for Japan?

That isn't saying the RAF method was perfect, and the USAAF a complete waste of time, because there is a good case for saying both were complimentary, and both did useful work. But I do honestly think the USAAF method of accurate bombing was embellished postwar to safeguard reputations, at the same time as SAC was moving wholeheartedly into the same methodology of the RAF and the USAAF campaign on Japan, but using thermonuclear weapons.  Daniel Ellsberg pointed this out very strongly in his book on cold war nuclear strategy, yet it seems to have been missed by Cold War Historians. Its kind of saying 'Well the RAF were completely wrong, which is why we are copying them'. :D

 

Its perfectly true the Luftwaffe picked up signint that let them know the RAF was on the way. But the same was also true best I can tell of the USAAF. The Luftwaffe sigint service rarely gets credit, but that the Soviets dismantled their equipment and made use of it themselves (I believe it may have proven the foundation for the subsequent krug radio location system) suggests they were really onto something.

12 O Clock High is a great film. Also see 'Target for Tonight', 'The Way to the Stars' and  'Appointment in London'. Im also a sucker for 'Hanover Street' , but that's only due to a lifelong fondness for B25's and Lesley Ann Down, but not necessarily in that order.

 

I certainly agree with you. I don't know much about the strategic bombing of Japan (it's not really my thing nor really WW2 history) but i've seen pictures of Tokyo after a fire bombing mission and it certainly produced results, destroying whole cities for miles around. 

I'll definitely watch these films when they come on TV 😀

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First, BC losses included operational and non-operational losses.

Second, NFs were dispatched at night with some attacking Lw NF bases while the NFs were taking off and landing and others with the bomber stream.

Third, the USAAF often attacked several targets in a single day.

Example: Sunday Jan 9 1944

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO) STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 182. Three aviation industry targets in Germany are hit; fierce opposition estimated at 500 Luftwaffe fighters is encountered and 60 bombers and 5 fighters are lost.

1. 177 B-17's are dispatched to Oschersleben; 139 hit the primary and 20 hit targets of opportunity; they claim 174-32-63 Luftwaffe aircraft; 34 B-17's are lost, 2 damaged beyond repair and 83 damaged; casualties are 9 KIA, 11 WIA and 349 MIA.

2. 114 B-17's are dispatched to Halberstadt; 52 hit the primary and 55 hit targets of opportunity; they claim 35-11-19 Luftwaffe aircraft; 8 B-17's are lost, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 42 damaged; casualties are 1 KIA, 18 WIA and 81 MIA. 177 P-47's and 44 Ninth Air Force P-51's escort; they claim 29-11-14 Luftwaffe aircraft; 2 P-47's are lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 4 P-47's and 1 P-51 are damaged; casualties are 2 KIA and 2 MIA. Major James H Howard, a P-51 pilot of the 354th Fighter Group, shot down an Me 110 and then found himself the lone escort for a B-17 group being attacked by 30 Luftwaffe aircraft. For the next 30 minutes, he kept turning into the enemy fighters and firing until only one gun was firing; by this time, he was credited with 2-1-2 Luftwaffe aircraft and saved the B-17's. Major Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor.

3. 234 B-17's and 138 B-24's are dispatched to Brunswick; 47 B-17's hit the primary, 114 hit Osnabruck, 25 hit Bielefeld, 22 hit Peine, 10 hit Herford and 1 hit Nienburg; no B-24's hit the primary, 58 hit Meppen, 1 hits Lingen and 7 hit other targets; they claim 19-17-16 Luftwaffe aircraft; 16 B-17's and 2 B-24's are lost, 1 each damaged beyond repair and 47 B-17's and 7 B-24's damaged; casualties are 5 WIA and 176 MIA. This mission is escorted by 49 P-38's and 322 P-47's; they claim 2-1-2 Luftwaffe aircraft; 1 P-38 and 2 P-47's are lost and 1 P-47 is damaged; casualties are 1 MIA. Among the PFF aircraft are 4 B-24's, this being the first time B-24's are used in this capacity.

HQ 96th Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy) is activated at Horsham St Faith, England.

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Yes, thats a really good point about non operational losses. I recently researched the death of an airman in my local churchyard (I think I posted the article up here some time ago?), and I asked the 'we have ways' podcast whether there was any separate loss figures for those on training sorties with Bomber Command, and their conclusion was there probably wasnt. I do question whether the losses in training in the US were lumped in with those lost on operations with the USAAF in Europe. Im guessing not. I suspect it would shoot up if they were.

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4 hours ago, TrustMe said:

I certainly agree with you. I don't know much about the strategic bombing of Japan (it's not really my thing nor really WW2 history) but i've seen pictures of Tokyo after a fire bombing mission and it certainly produced results, destroying whole cities for miles around. 

I'll definitely watch these films when they come on TV 😀

Japan was a really different environment from Germany though -- Japanese air defense was negligible, weather was a much bigger issue. Trying low-level mass-fire-bombing raids with largely (totally?) unarmed B-29s against Germany would have been a total bomber massacre. 

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Forgive me, but my point was not that they went in at low level, the point is that at low level they could bomb targets accurately using conventional bombs. But they rejected that, and preferred firebombing. It's almost as if the USAAF decided it was fully entitled to fight that way against Japan, but for politics sake decided it couldn't get away with it in Germany. Which is pretty weird when you remember the US embarked on the atomic bomb program with the apparent intent to use it on Germany.

That's pretty strange reasoning, right?

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Japanese cities were then lightly built with most residential and small business buildings being wood and paper rather than stone and brick like Germany.  Besides, the RAF and USAAF weren't exactly shy about using incendiaries on German cities.  The HE was mostly to open things up to create better conditions for fire.

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1 hour ago, R011 said:

Japanese cities were then lightly built with most residential and small business buildings being wood and paper rather than stone and brick like Germany.  Besides, the RAF and USAAF weren't exactly shy about using incendiaries on German cities.  The HE was mostly to open things up to create better conditions for fire.

That's right, the RAF used HE to open roofs for incendiary.

I get the impression the USAAF got more sanguine about area bombing as the war went on. The irony is the Americans seemingly accepted inaccuracy and never owned up to it, whereas the RAF became arguably more and more accurate, but rarely exploited it as they could have done. I'm led to understand the RAF bombing of Dresden was highly accurate. If it had been dispersed, the city probably could have soaked it up.

 

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The Germans did it to us to as well. The Luftwaffe's attack on the UK city of Coventry in 1940 during the blitz where the whole city centre was so devastated by fire bombs that theirs not a single building that predates WW2 still standing.

The heart of the city was just wiped out except for a bombed out church that was left derelict as a monument to the dead.

Edited by TrustMe
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I saw Coventry cathedral when I was about 7. It was so moving it's stuck with me quite clearly. If you visit Bath, you an see similarly cleared and rebuilt areas.Strategic bombing against civilians was and remains horrific. I do hope I don't sound blaise about it.

I'm biased about our bombing for another reason. My Grandfather was a POW of the Germans. When he came home, courtesy of Bomber Command, they had to keep him in the Army for 2 or 3 months, just to get him up to weight. My view, and I'm biased, is strategic bombing shortened the war. If it did not, quite possibly he wouldn't have survived and I wouldn't be here. Then think of all those in the concentration camps, those on the Western and Eastern front. It's a not inconsiderable number. We can't know that it saved more people than it killed, but it seems likely on balance it did. 

They could and should have ended the war. The bombing would have stopped as soon as they had. The guilt was and remains purely on the Nazis.

 

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10 hours ago, RETAC21 said:

 

Re your questions:

 

why the heck were night fighter versions of the Mosquitoes and Beaufighters not assigned to RAF Bomber escorting?

That would be terribly inefficient, if not impossible, as the fighters didn't know where the bombers were, instead the RAF used intruders to harass the nightfighters at their bases and sweeps to clear the path of the bombers. 

Were not radar equipped Mosquitos prohibited from intruder missions as the RAF feared giving Germany access to their radar technology if one was shot down or otherwise literally fell into German hands?

Any detection electronics carried by Mosquitos over Germany were of the passive variety.

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6 hours ago, Stuart Galbraith said:

Forgive me, but my point was not that they went in at low level, the point is that at low level they could bomb targets accurately using conventional bombs. But they rejected that, and preferred firebombing. It's almost as if the USAAF decided it was fully entitled to fight that way against Japan, but for politics sake decided it couldn't get away with it in Germany. Which is pretty weird when you remember the US embarked on the atomic bomb program with the apparent intent to use it on Germany.

That's pretty strange reasoning, right?

That's a new can of worms!

1) Is precision bombing at low level even possible?

2) LeMay was a very savage mofo (and quite competent, and it may have served us well) but that probably had something to do with going to fire-bombing. 

3) I've really been interested lately in whether The Bomb would have been used against Germany.  From what I've read, the idea that it was designed by Jewish expat scientists in a quest for vengeance is very overrated (my German professor in grad school was pretty big on this, and positive about it!), but yeah, I think racism actually had something to do with it. (Although it wasn't anti-Asian racism, just massive anti-Japanese racism by that point for the US). 

Edited by Angrybk
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They were happy enough to burn German cities with white phosphorus and Germany was the presumed target from the beginning until it became obvious the Bomb wouldn't be needed.

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6 hours ago, Angrybk said:

That's a new can of worms!

1) Is precision bombing at low level even possible?

2) LeMay was a very savage mofo (and quite competent, and it may have served us well) but that probably had something to do with going to fire-bombing. 

3) I've really been interested lately in whether The Bomb would have been used against Germany.  From what I've read, the idea that it was designed by Jewish expat scientists in a quest for vengeance is very overrated (my German professor in grad school was pretty big on this, and positive about it!), but yeah, I think racism actually had something to do with it. (Although it wasn't anti-Asian racism, just massive anti-Japanese racism by that point for the US). 

1 Yes. Mosquito proved it was viable. The Pathfinder Force was using them to mark targets in a dive. The subsequent main force attack was often highly concentrated, despite coming in at higher altitude where it was less vulnerable to attack.There is no reason to suppose the same couldnt have worked in Japan (assuming they used something like a B25 or P38) They clearly knew enough about British tactics to realize accurate targeting was possible, because we had been doing it since 1943 (Peenemunde is a really good example of a fairly accurate night main force attack using HE).

2 Undoubtedly. But lets say he was in charge instead of Doolittle, and had backed up the RAF targeting also with firebombing, but more concentrated. Its possible that might just have been enough to start more firestorms. Remember what Speer said about only needing another 6 Hamburgs and the war was over? Judging by the results of bombing Japan, is it not more likely the RAF was onto something when they went for city destruction, and the USAAF insistence on accurate targeting only slowing that process down?

Again, I really did not ought to knock the effects of accurate targeting, even the RAF was doing it with a few specialist heavy squadrons, so it very clearly had utility on important point targets. I just sometimes idly wonder if city destruction probably was the faster way to end the war. After all, it was a lot easier to rebuild a plant, particularly by dispersal, than it was a city and all the associated transport links. Where we went wrong I think was getting obsessed by the morale question which as far as Germany, clearly didn't work.

3 Well, there were some Jewish expat scientists, not least Niels Bohr. Its clearly more complicated than that. The reason to build the bomb was the understanding Germany was ahead in the race, and would probably get one at some point. The expectation was that the bomb would be used on Germany. As it turned out the war ended before that was the case, and Japan got it by default. But yes, its clearly  problematic for the Americans having so many German immigrants. Having not been directly attacked in the same way as Pearl Harbor by Japan, would they political have had the balls to do it? Or would they just hand the damn thing over to Harris and blame him for how it was used? I dont know, but I do now that the expectation they would use a weapon of mass destruction on Germany is completely at variance with the stated aim to only hit relevant military targets with maximum accuracy over Germany, something they again tried to justify postwar with the US strategic bombing survey. Its a very strange schism, and I dont know that historians have every really examined why two branchs of the same force were thinking so completely differently. Security is the most likely explanation I suppose.

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8 hours ago, DougRichards said:

Were not radar equipped Mosquitos prohibited from intruder missions as the RAF feared giving Germany access to their radar technology if one was shot down or otherwise literally fell into German hands?

Any detection electronics carried by Mosquitos over Germany were of the passive variety.

I dont know the answer to that one. I do know the Germans already had Centrimetric Radar from the Stirling that was shot down over Rotterdam, but of course they probably didn't know that. TBH, I think serrate (ESM) equipped mosquito's would have been more effective anyway, a radar equipped aircraft would probably have needed a vector to intercept an enemy aircraft, and none of our radar reached that far into the Reich. There is also the question on how easy it would have been to IFF allied aircraft to ensure they weren't vectoring onto an allied bomber.

I think by and large serrate and intruder operations would have been far more effective without them.

Interesting thing, the Squadron using that equipment actually transferred to Bomber Command, which clearly indicates their perceived usefulness in the support role. That really is escorting, just done in a different way.

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

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8 hours ago, Angrybk said:

That's a new can of worms!

1) Is precision bombing at low level even possible?

2) LeMay was a very savage mofo (and quite competent, and it may have served us well) but that probably had something to do with going to fire-bombing. 

3) I've really been interested lately in whether The Bomb would have been used against Germany.  From what I've read, the idea that it was designed by Jewish expat scientists in a quest for vengeance is very overrated (my German professor in grad school was pretty big on this, and positive about it!), but yeah, I think racism actually had something to do with it. (Although it wasn't anti-Asian racism, just massive anti-Japanese racism by that point for the US). 

3) Racism was not a or the reason. At that time only the B29 had had the range and payload to carry "Little Boy." And the B29 doctrine was that it was going to be used against Japan due to the distance from captured (or Chinese) airfields.  

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The Lancaster had the payload capacity to drop on Germany, and undoubtedly the range to reach the Ruhr. In fact, we were discussing some time ago, there are strange stories (probably internet bullshit but still...) about a secret RAF unit in Oxfordshire, late in WW2 that may have been working up nuclear delivery tactics in the event of the bomb becoming available. We know that Los Alamos was working against the Germans as far the bomb is concerned, so it seems entirely likely that we were going to drop on Germany first. That clearly was the intent. It was only when Germany rather intelligently surrendered that it was Japan by default. And I think the choice of Japan was at least as much about demonstrating to the Soviets how butch we were, as it was to the Japanese it was in everyone's interest to throw the towel in.

There is a lot more I could say about bombing Germany but it probably has already been said. I think it would have been right to have bombed them as early as possible with an atomic weapon just to end the fucking war as quickly as possible. Quite how the US Army would have reconciled that with precision bombing  to the American public would have been a delight to behold. Presumably they would have insisted it was precision delivered...

 

Edited by Stuart Galbraith
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1 hour ago, Rick said:

3) Racism was not a or the reason. At that time only the B29 had had the range and payload to carry "Little Boy." And the B29 doctrine was that it was going to be used against Japan due to the distance from captured (or Chinese) airfields.  

Well at least someone disagrees with you about the B-29 being the only aircraft capable of delivering atomic weapons in 1945...

 

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