ATTRITION ON THE PERIPHERY:
NOVEMBER 1942-AUGUST 1943
The German successes in the spring and summer of 1942 deceived the participants at that time as thoroughly as they have historians since. For the British, Rommel's advance to El Alamein represented a part of German strategy in which a second great pincer arm advancing from the Caucasus would link up with the Africa Corps in the Middle East.1 Such megalomania was, of course, part and parcel of Hitler's approach to grand strategy, but the means simply did not exist for such wide-ranging aims.2 Arguments between Hitler and his generals in the summer reflected a divergence between the latter's more realistic assessments and the Führer's intuitive dreams. There was, however, no showdown; Hitler removed those who raised uncomfortable issues. Thus, German strategy in 1942 was entirely of his own making (unlike the previous year); and in November, Hitler's miscalculation of the balance in the Mediterranean and in the east led him to make major strategic mistakes. These decisions forced the Wehrmacht to fight on the periphery against enemies who enjoyed a rising numerical superiority. For the Luftwaffe, Hitler's resolve was a catastrophe, for he committed his air force to an avoidable battle of attrition under great disadvantages. The impact of the resulting attrition was immediate and direct. Not only did these air battles savage frontline squadrons but aerial transport operations to supply Stalingrad and Tunisia mortgaged the entire training program. For losses suffered in various theaters in 1943, see Tables XXX3 and XXXI4.
THE WAR IN THE EAST: NOVEMBER 1942-AUGUST 1943
While the advance into the Caucasus slowed because of logistical difficulties and while Sixth Army exhausted itself at Stalingrad, the Soviets built up their reserves and prepared for a great counteroffensive. Unlike the previous winter during which the Red Army had sought after far-reaching goals and as a result had achieved none of them, the Russians now planned a limited offensive: its target, the German Sixth Army. Despite the desperate situation of Stalingrad's defenders, the Soviets fed in minimal replacements, enough to keep the defenders going but no more.5
Soviet intentions and capabilities remained veiled to the Germans. Hitler was confident that his summer offensive had broken the Red Army and that the Wehrmacht could go over to the defensive without fear. On October 14, he signed "Operational Order Nr. 1" in which he argued that the Soviets could no longer rebuild their shattered forces and that the German army must hold the line over the
German Losses by Theater, Jan-Nov 1943
German Fighter Losses, 1943 (Number of Aircraft)
winter "to create the conditions necessary for the final destruction of our most dangerous opponent."6 But Hitler was hopelessly optimistic. Sixth Army was enmeshed in Stalingrad and was seriously short of ammunition, fuel, and reserves.7 These shortages severely limited that army's strategic and tactical mobility. Even more threatening was the fact that both flanks were up in the air. To the south lay the Fourth Rumanian Army with few reserves and little German support. To the north, on the great flank sweeping from the Russian city of Voronezh along the Don, lay three allied armies, the Second Hungarian, Eighth Italian, and Third Rumanian, with the barest corseting of German troops. Nowhere on the southern front did the Germans possess a strategic reserve, while tactical reserves along the entire front were few.
In explaining Stalingrad and the refusal to allow a breakout, one must understand the relationship among theaters. At the beginning of November 1942, Hitler's attention centered on the Mediterranean. The front at El Alamein had collapsed; and on November 2, Rommel informed OKW that he could no longer hold. A failure to inform Hitler immediately caused a blowup,8 but Hitler's tantrum could not restore the situation. Meanwhile, intelligence reported a massive movement of Allied shipping into the Mediterranean. No one in OKW was sure of Allied intentions, but Hitler and Göring ruled out the possibility of a strike against French Northwest Africa.9 In the following week, disaster piled upon disaster: Rommel's retreat continued, Anglo-American forces landed in Algeria and Morocco, French resistance collapsed, and events forced the Germans to occupy Vichy France. In this desperate situation, Hitler's attention remained glued on the Mediterranean as German forces seized Tunisia to counter Allied occupation of Algeria and Morocco.
For our purposes here, one need only note these distractions on Hitler when the storm in the east broke--and break it did! On November 19 after a hurricane bombardment, four Soviet armies led by the Fifth Tank Army, smashed into the Third Rumanian Army. By early afternoon, the Rumanians had collapsed and Russian armor was driving rapidly to the southeast.10 Soviet tanks swamped the 22nd Panzer Division and the 1st Rumanian Armored Division (the only reserves available). By afternoon, OKW headquarters--located with the Führer near Berchtesgaden--had received "alarming reports" from army headquarters, still in East Prussia.11 On the following day, Fifty-seventh and Fifty-first Russian Armies attacked the Rumanian VI Corps south of Stalingrad. The Rumanians collapsed in a welter of confusion. Thus, within two days both of Sixth Army's flanks had dissolved. At this juncture, the only hope was a swift withdrawal. Hitler refused to give permission for a retreat, while Generaloberst Friedrich Paulus would not take the initiative himself. On the 21st, Hitler ordered Sixth Army to stand, but for the next several days vacillated. On the 23rd, Russian spearheads completed the encirclement; Hitler sealed the pocket's fate on the next day when he ordered Paulus to hold Stalingrad and assured him that an airlift could meet Sixth Army's supply needs.
Two days before, on November 21, Sixth Army had examined the possibility of aerial resupply should an encirclement occur. However, Luftflotte 4 immediately
warned Paulus and his staff that the Luftwaffe did not possess the transport capacity for such an effort. On the 21st, Richthofen cautioned both Sixth Army and the general staff that such an effort was not in the offing. On the next day, Luftwaffe commanders on the southern front again warned Sixth Army that they could not support an encircled army by air. However, Paulus' Chief of Staff commented that there was no other choice other than aerial resupply.12 While the warning signals at the front were unambiguous, the situation was far from clear in the high command. Despite notice from Richthofen to the OKW that unfavorable weather conditions in concert with Russian numerical superiority would make an airlift doubtful,13 Hitler received Göring's assurance that the Luftwaffe could supply the encircled forces. When the army's Chief of Staff, Kurt Zeitzler, objected, Göring would not knuckle under and reported that his staff knew Sixth Army's needs and believed the Luftwaffe could meet them.14 Göring's promise seems to have resulted from a hope of restoring his tattered prestige. The success of the Demyansk and Kholm efforts in the previous winter also bolstered the hope that air supply could maintain Sixth Army.
While Göring was the main culprit, Jeschonnek and the general staff agreed to the airlift with scarcely a comment on its long-range impact on the Luftwaffe.15 On the 24th, Richthofen noted a series of conversations with Zeitzler, Field Marshal Maximilian von Weichs (Army Group B), and Jeschonnek; he urged an immediate breakout by Sixth Army. Weichs as well as Zeitzler agreed. Jeschonnek, however, Richthofen noted, had no opinion.16 The result of Jeschonnek's silence was that OKH received no air staff support in its effort to persuade Hitler to abandon Stalingrad. The Führer held his belief that the Sixth Army could hold the banks of the Volga with air supply. The Luftwaffe thus received an impossible task.
Moreover, the Russian winter offensive caught the Luftwaffe in an exposed and difficult situation. Beginning in late August, a diminution of German air strength in the east in favor of other theaters had taken place. Between mid-August and early November, the eastern front lost four and two-thirds bomber Gruppen (approximately 140 bombers) and five and one-third fighter Gruppen (160 fighters). The collapse in Egypt and the invasion of French Northwest Africa caused a withdrawal of further three and one-third bomber Gruppen (100 bombers) and one and one-third fighter Gruppen (40 fighters).17 Much of the withdrawal came from Richthofen's Luftflotte 4, thereby diminishing air support for forces fighting around Stalingrad. Further weakening Luftflotte 4 was the fact that the general staff created a needless headquarters, Luftwaffe Command Don, to provide an air assignment for one of its favored officers.18
The collapse of Sixth Army's flanks enabled the Russians to complete a deep encirclement around Stalingrad. Soviet troops seized the airfields that Luftflotte 4 had prepared for winter operations and pushed many support and maintenance personnel into the pocket. As a result, Richthofen's units had to establish themselves on new airfields that were soon overcrowded and did not possess the support needed for the operations now beginning. The arrival of transport and
bomber squadrons only exacerbated these difficulties.19 Moreover, Richthofen's flying units faced intense demands to support hard-pressed ground forces. Appalling weather conditions contributed to the losses and strain on flying squadrons.
On November 23, at Göring's behest, the Luftwaffe staff began the task of improvising an air transport force to supply Sixth Army. From the start, it was apparent that only in the best circumstances was an airlift capability of 350 tons per day possible (Sixth Army estimated it needed 600 tons). However, only by stripping training units of all aircraft and by removing transport aircraft assigned to duty in Germany could the Luftwaffe reach such a level. An assortment of Ju 52's, Ju 86's, and He 111's (now being assigned to some transport units) moved from the Reich to support the airlift.20 In addition, the first operational Gruppe of He 177's and several He 111 bomber Gruppen joined the force.21 The former aircraft proved itself as dangerous to crews in combat as it has proven in testing.
The distance from Berlin to Stalingrad, 2,225 kilometers, exacerbated the problem. To reach forward operating bases, transport crews--many new to flying and few with experience in Russia--had to fly nearly 2,000 kilometers to the front. Crew inexperience, the weather, and marginal airfield conditions caused a high accident rate. Perhaps the only mitigating aspect of such bad weather was that operational ready rates rarely reached 50 percent, with most remaining at the 30 to 40 percent level, thus limiting flying opportunities for inexperienced crews. In some cases, when the weather was particularly atrocious, in-commission rates sank to the 10 to 20 percent range.22 Landing possibilities in the pocket proved unsatisfactory, because not only did Sixth Army fail to maintain the airfields adequately but also Russian fighters often attacked the transports on landing.
The airlift operation remained under Richthofen's control, but Berlin gave little latitude. While admitting that "an order was an order," Richthofen noted bitterly on November 25 that he was little more than "a highly paid noncommissioned officer."23 Luftflotte 4 received transport reinforcements from Germany at a slow rate; not until December 2 did the number of transports reach 200 aircraft, and it was not until December 8 that aircraft strength reached 300. Thereafter, reinforcements barely prevented a collapse in unit strength.24 Throughout the airlift, transport squadrons remained well below authorized strength, which undoubtedly distorted Berlin's view of the situation. Richthofen was close to despair over differences between himself and senior commanders removed from the front. On December 18, he noted:
Important conversations take place at Luftwaffe and OKW headquarters. One talks about the Duce!--no one is available that I seek. I especially no longer telephone Jeschonnek, since all my recommendations are rejected or, after oral agreement, something else is ordered. Moreover, I now have irrefutable proof that certain things that I have said have been turned around and passed along. I now send only teletype messages, today one four pages long about the situation. In it I ask for orders for the conduct of operations,
The Soviet Counter Attack: Stalingrad
because recently I received only criticism rather than directives. Probably, they [the staff in Berlin] were themselves without a sense of what to do.25
Under these conditions, it is not surprising that the airlift failed. On only three days, (December 7, 21, and 31) did the transports fly over 300 tons into Stalingrad. On most days, the effort hovered around the 100-ton level; on some days, it sank to no deliveries at all.26
In mid-December, the Germans mounted a relief expedition towards Stalingrad. The forces were only of corps strength but did surprisingly well. By December 19, LVII Panzer Corps reached Mishkova, only 35 miles from the pocket. Manstein urged Hitler to allow a breakout; Hitler refused to make a decision, while Paulus would not disobey the Führer.27 In response, the Russians launched a major offensive along the Don. The Soviet's Sixth Army quickly broke through the Italians, and the deteriorating situation along the Don threatened the entire southern front. On December 24, the Russian advance overran the forward operating field at Tatsinskaya and brought the other major airlift field at Morozovskaya under artillery fire. Göring refused permission to abandon the airfield until under tank fire; only the flying units barely escaped and many supplies were destroyed.28 On December 26, flying units at Morozovskaya broke up Russian tank forces that approached within 6 kilometers of the airfield. Göring's interference and minimization of the threat so embittered Manstein and Richthofen that the former urged Hitler to give the Reichsmarschall control of Luftflotte 4 and Army Group Don, "since he always asserts that the situation neither here nor in Stalingrad is as strained as is reported. Motto: The optimistic leader at the place, over which he is optimistic!"29
By the first week of January 1943, the Germans had lost Morozovskaya, and transport squadrons were operating from Novocherkassk--350 kilometers from Stalingrad. Meanwhile, the situation within the pocket was deteriorating. On January 10, the Russians attacked the encircled defenders. Within two days, the pocket's major airfield had fallen, and landing supplies became an increasingly difficult task. Henceforth, the Luftwaffe relied almost exclusively on airdrops. By mid-January, the maintenance situation was desperate. On January 18, less than 7 percent of Ju 52's were in commission, 33 percent of the He 111's, 0 percent of the Fw 200's, and 35 percent of the He 177's.30 At this moment, Milch arrived. He brought some relief to the hard-pressed Luftflotte 4, and the field marshal got along well with Richthofen.31 His managerial skills raised operational ready rates and supplies to Stalingrad, but the situation had been hopeless from the beginning. The final collapse came in late January. On February 2, the last Germans surrendered, and Paulus, a recently promoted field marshal, was the first German officer of that rank captured by an enemy. Hitler was more upset over Paulus' capture than the fate of the 200,000 other Germans killed or captured in the pocket.32
In every sense, Stalingrad was a grievous defeat. Beside the boost to Russian morale and the blow to the German army's strength, it had no less of an impact on the Luftwaffe. The air transport forces suffered devastating losses. By February 3,
the Luftwaffe had lost 269 Ju 52's, 169 He 111's, 9 Fw 200's, 1 Ju 290, 5 He 177's, and 42 Ju 86's, for a grand total of 495 aircraft.33 These losses represented the equivalent of five flying wings or an entire Fliegerkorps.34 Perhaps as important was the negative impact on training programs, especially those training multiengine pilots. Particularly devastating were crew losses among instrument instructors.
During the resupply effort to Stalingrad, Luftwaffe bomber and fighter units engaged in heavy fighting to support ground forces. These missions, compounded by bad weather, resulted in a steady attrition of aircraft. The Luftwaffe helped keep the escape route through Rostov open for First Panzer Army, while along the Don the collapse of allied armies caused a desperate situation.35 By mid-February, the Soviet offensive was in full flood; it now aimed at encompasing destruction of the entire southern front. First Panzer Army held along the Mius River, but to the north a yawning gap opened between Army Group South (now renamed from Army Group Don) and Army Group Center. Russian spearheads approached the city of Dnepropetrovsk; Soviet troops retook Kharkov and pushed the Germans back towards Poltava, while the Germans lost their last hold on the Don near Voronezh.
But as in the previous year, the Russian winter offensive overextended itself, and the Germans recovered their balance. Moreover, Hitler was somewhat chastened and more open to suggestions and advice. As a result, Manstein obtained greater operational freedom than had senior commanders in 1942. Rather than attempt a patched-together response, he waited until substantial forces formed up under Generaloberst Hermann Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army. Meanwhile, Luftwaffe capabilities underwent a remarkable recovery from January's difficulties. The end of the Stalingrad relief operation freed considerable bomber and fighter strength for tasks other than supporting the airlift, while Richthofen completed a thorough reorganization of his forces in early February. He ended a confusing welter of different commands, all competing for resources, and withdrew a number of depleted formations for rest and refit. Their flying personnel returned to Germany to form new units, but their support personnel and aircraft transferred to other squadrons. Thus, maintenance capabilities and squadron strength improved considerably. Finally, the Germans were now operating off more permanent fields and were closer to supply depots.36 Milch's visit also did much to shape up Luftflotte 4's rear area organization. Several less competent commanders, including Richthofen's Chief of Staff, von Rohden, lost theirjobs.37 Milch characterized the situation when he warned his subordinates that, "It is a great error to suppose that we possess a ground organization."38
Luftflotte 4's capabilities improved dramatically. In Janaury, the air fleet managed only 350 sorties per day. However, from February 20 through March 15, Richthofen's forces averaged 1,000 combat sorties daily with over 1,200 on February 23. Aiding the Luftwaffe's task was the fact that Russian advances had carried them far beyond their airfields and supply organization.39 Thus, the Russian air force had little impact on operations now taking place; Luftflotte 4 could give undivided attention to supporting ground forces. For command of air units
supporting the counteroffensive, Richthofen kept long-range bomber units directly under himself, Fliegerkorps I, Fliegerkorps IV, and Fliegerdivision Donetz divided up close air support duties, but Richthofen remained flexible, transferring available assets back and forth between commands as the situation changed.40
In the last ten days of February, the German counterattack rolled into high gear. By the end of February, First Panzer Army was driving the Russians in confusion back to the Donets River.41 Luftflotte 4 played a significant role in delaying and softening up Russian armor until ground forces could counterattack.42 The more important drive came from Hoth's Fourth Panzer Army. This force contained a number of the Wehrmacht's best divisions and included SS divisions Das Reich and Totenkopf. Beginning near Dnepropetrovsk, Hoth's forces sliced to the northeast towards Kharkov. By March 14, they had retaken that city; by March 18, the Germans had retaken Belgograd, but the spring thaw ended operations.43 Richthofen's aircraft substantially aided the advance and managed to destroy large Soviet forces attempting to escape.44 The counterattack represented a major victory for German arms and restored the highly dangerous situation that had existed at the end of January. It was, however, the Wehrmacht's last meaningful victory in the east.
The victory in late winter did not come without cost. In mid-February, aircraft strength in the east had totalled 275 dive bombers, 484 bombers, and 454 fighters.45 Losses in February and March, mostly in support of the counteroffensive, were 56 dive bombers, 217 bombers, and 163 fighters.46 As a percentage of the Luftwaffe's total strength at the end of January, such losses represented 17.1 percent of available dive bombers, 12.3 percent of fighters, and 17.2 percent of bombers.47
Yet, the fighting in southern Russia need not obscure the fact that combat was occurring elsewhere on the eastern front. The results were less spectacular but certainly of importance. For the Luftwaffe, this aerial combat, like the daily wastage on the western front in the First World War, imposed a steady and wearing pressure on its capabilities. The battle around Velikiye Luki on the upper Lovat River from November 25 through January 15 indicates this factor. In late November, Russian forces had isolated 7,000 troops in that undistinguished town. By the time that the Germans brought out a few hundred survivors in mid-January,48 supporting air squadrons had lost 55 aircraft destroyed (including 3 Ju 87's, 8 Bf 109's, and 20 He 111's) and 26 aircraft damaged.49 The strategic result was virtually nil, but a further attrition had taken place.
For the next three months, ground operations slowed as both sides prepared for the summer. For the Luftwaffe, however, the period was anything but quiet. Hitler's inability to tailor strategy to the means at hand forced needless commitments on overstrained air squadrons. The Don collapse in January had finally convinced him to withdraw from the Caucasus; but while First Panzer Army pulled back through Rostov, Seventeenth Army remained on the Kuban Peninsula across from the Crimea. The battle to hold this useless territory, which Hitler hoped would serve as a jumping off point for another offensive into the Caucasus, tied down ground and air forces desperately needed elsewhere and contributed to a
heavy attrition rate throughout the period.50 Elsewhere, fighter sweeps, bomber interdiction missions, and close air support attrited air units despite an absence of major ground operations. From April to June, the Luftwaffe lost 256 fighters, 245 bombers, and 115 dive bombers in the east.51 As a percentage of total air strength (all theaters), these losses represented 18.3 percent of fighters, 17 percent of bombers, and 31.8 percent of dive bombers on hand at the beginning of April.52 What seems to have happened is that, despite a lower scale of combat and a chance to relieve the pressure on the flying units, the Germans found the urge to use their air assets in insignificant operations irresistible.
The spring thaw raised the question of strategy for the coming summer. Manstein later claimed that he urged a defensive/offensive strategy: The Wehrmacht would adapt a defensive posture and allow the Russians the first move. Then using the armored reserves that were rebuilt by rising tank production, the Germans would slam the door shut.53 Such a strategy was too risky for Hitler and certainly did not appeal to his aggressive instincts. If the Germans were to attack, however, the question was where, when, and with what. On January 23, 1943, armored strength on the eastern front totalled only 495 useable tanks.54 Considerable resupply took place over the next months, but operations in late winter caused heavy losses. Hitler initially considered three possible spoiling attacks, but by the end of April had settled on "Operation Citadel," aimed at clearing the Kursk salient.55 Manstein had suggested this possibility as a means of inflicting such heavy losses on the Russians as to prevent a summer offensive. Instead of launching "Citadel" in May, Manstein's suggested date, Hitler postponed it, eventually choosing July 5 in order to strengthen his armored forces in the east.
By June, troops preparing for the offensive had received 900 tanks and 300 self-propelled guns,56 but by then "Citadel" had raised serious doubts. On June 18, OKW staff urged Hitler to cancel the offensive and to establish an operational reserve in Germany to meet any reverse in the Wehrmacht's three theaters.57 Guderian argued strenuously that the Russians had built up their defenses, and even Hitler admitted that thinking about the pending offensive made him sick to his stomach.58 But he did not cancel the offensive. Perhaps the rhetoric of his April operational order for "Citadel," announcing that a "victory at Kursk must serve as a beacon for the world," indicates the underlying reason for his decision.59 He could not publicly admit that the initiative had slipped from his hands.
The pause to build up armored strength allowed the Russians time to prepare. The Central Front, on the northern half of the Kursk bulge, controlled no less than six Russian armies and on the critical northern neck of the salient deployed three armies in two echelons. The Voronezh Front on the southern half of the salient held the line with four Russian armies with a second echelon of two armies behind the neck. Three Soviet armies lay in reserve within the salient, while three more armies lay north of Orel and one to the south of Kursk. In addition, the Russians had dug two or three lines of trenches in the main zone of resistance, and to the rear were second and third zones constructed in the same fashion.60
By July, there was no hope of surprise. The greatest land battle of the war opened on July 5; Soviet artillery inflicted heavy casualties on German infantry moving into jumpoff positions. What now occurred was a great battle of attrition.61 The Germans slowly fought through the first lines of defense; only in the south did they make significant gains, although at great cost. On July 12, the Russians, sure that the raging Kursk battle had entangled German reserves, attacked the northern side of the Orel salient. Their offensive posed an immediate threat to the German northern pincer. That move, combined with the invasion of Sicily on July 10, caused Hitler to shut down "Citadel."62 Troop withdrawals to both Sicily and to support a desperate situation developing south of Kursk forced an abandonment of the Orel salient. In fact, the most dangerous situation arose in the region south of Kursk. At the beginning of August, Soviet armies went over to the offensive. The cities of Belgorod and Kharkov soon fell, and the entire German position along the Donets unraveled. By the beginning of September, Army Group South was in headlong retreat; its withdrawal carried it to the Dneper by early October.63
The Luftwaffe's role in these events was symptomatic of the decline in German power. As with army preparations for "Citadel," the air force gave top priority to rebuilding units scheduled for the offensive. But the effect of high attrition and the drop in training hours for new pilots had an obvious impact on combat effectiveness. A rueful Jeschonnek admitted to Göring that despite high deliveries of aircraft to fighter units, losses due to noncombat causes were severely affecting capabilities.64 A substantial portion of the Luftwaffe strength still remained on the Russian front. Of the total aircraft available at the end of June, 38.7 percent were in the east; more specifically, 84.5 percent of all dive bombers, 27 percent of all fighters, and 33 percent of all bombers were serving in the east.65 For the offensive, the Luftwaffe concentrated nearly all this strength in the two Luftflotten deployed near Kursk. In the north, Luftflotte 6 possessed 750 aircraft, while Luftflotte 4 controlled 1,100 aircraft to support the southern drive.66
The air fleets opened the offensive with a massive strike. On the first day, German aircraft flew 3,000 sorties, and some "Stuka" pilots flew up to six missions. Nevertheless, unlike previous years, the Luftwaffe did not gain air superiority.67 If German pilots inflicted heavy losses on Soviet fighters and bombers, their opponents simply put up more aircraft, while German losses inexorably mounted. Soviet "Sturmoviks" struck German ground forces, while Russian bombers hit transportation points. Moreover, the subsequent German failure at Kursk and the Russian summer offensive then forced the Luftwaffe to divide its assets to meet the desperate situation on the ground. The retreat from Orel, the Kharkov battle, and a massive Soviet offensive along the lower Donets made extensive demands on Luftwaffe resources in three widely separated areas. As a result, the large striking force assembled for "Citadel" now became three small forces engaged in bolstering the situation on the ground. For the remainder of the war, as Russian offensives ripped German defenses to shreds, this was to be the fate of the Luftwaffe. With decreasingly skilled pilots but increasing commitments, the eastern Luftflotten became the backwater of German efforts in the air.
The losses that Luftflotten 4 and 6 suffered in July and August underline the Luftwaffe's overcommitment. In this two-month period, the Germans lost 1,030 aircraft in the east, 16 percent of their total force structure as of June 30, 1943 (351 fighters, 19 percent of all fighters; 273 bombers, 16.4 percent of all bombers; and 202 dive bombers, 38.6 percent of available dive bombers). But the losses should not be viewed in isolation since the air battle in Russia was only one of the three massive commitments that the Luftwaffe faced in the summer. While we shall discuss the implications of fighting on three major fronts simultaneously at the end of this chapter, one must note that total losses for all theaters in July and August were 3,213 aircraft (50.6 percent) and 1,313 fighters (71 percent).68 This was a loss rate that no air force could sustain. Consequently, the Luftwaffe had to cut its losses and commitments; to meet the threat at home, it surrendered air superiority on the periphery to Allied air forces.
In the summer of 1942, Churchill and Roosevelt settled on a Mediterranean strategy. American planners, however, gave heavy emphasis to landings in Morocco, while the British pushed for a landing as far east along the coast of Africa as possible to prevent a German move in Tunisia.69 The compromise between these views insured that the Allies would gain control of Algeria but could not prevent the Germans from seizing Tunisia.
The OKW did not have a clear picture of Allied intentions as the invasion convoy sailed into the Mediterranean. Once, however, the landings occurred, the Germans acted with usual dispatch. Ju 52's flew paratroopers into Tunis; the French governor general collapsed, and the Germans rapidly established control throughout the country. Jodl buttressed Hitler's decision to hold North Africa. At the end of November, he argued that "North Africa is the glacis of Europe and must, therefore, be held under all circumstances."70 Hitler himself suggested two factors motivating his decision to maintain an Axis presence in Africa: fear that its abandonment would cause an Italian collapse and a desire to keep the Mediterranean closed to Allied shipping.71 The Germans rushed in paratroopers, Luftwaffe field troops, and soldiers from replacement pools, but at the end of November more structured reinforcements began arriving. Tenth Panzer Division was in place by the end of the month; and in early December, Colonel General Jürgen von Arnim assumed command of what was euphemistically called Fifth Panzer Army.72
In retrospect, the decision to hold in Africa was a dreadful mistake.73 At Stalingrad, Russian armies had executed a massive encircling movement to trap Sixth Army. In Tunisia, the Germans were in an equally indefensible position with tenuous supply lines from Sicily and the mainland. Since the Italian navy was in no position to defend convoys, the Luftwaffe had to assume the burden of protecting supplies moving by sea as well as the aerial movement of men and matériel sent into Tunisia. Finally, Luftflotte 2 faced increasingly powerful Allied air forces closing in
from the east as well as the west. The result, as we shall see, was a thoroughly needless attrition of German air strength. The ground forces and matériel eventually lost were, arguably, replaceable. Losses in aircraft and pilots were not.
The deteriorating position at El Alamein led to a significant augmentation in Luftflotte 2's air strength. In the three months of July, August, and September 1942, Rommel had received 40,000 troops and 4,000 tons of supplies by air. The exhaustion of crews and aircraft, the collapse of sea supply lines to Libya as "Ultra" information allowed the Allies to devastate convoys, and the combination of the Africa Corps' defeat and "Torch" forced the Luftwaffe to send 150 Ju 52's to the Mediterranean in early November; and an additional 170 followed at the end of the month. This movement of transport aircraft, combined with the Stalingrad airlift, effectively shut down instrument and bomber transition schools.74 The development into the Mediterranean also explains why the Luftwaffe found it difficult to transfer more transport aircraft to Luftflotte 4 and the Stalingrad supply effort. In November and December, transport squadrons flew in 41,768 troops, 8,614.8 tons of equipment and supplies, and 1,472.8 tons of fuel. The cost, however, was prohibitive. The Luftwaffe lost no less than 128 Ju 52's in November and December, with an additional 36 destroyed in January (13.9 percent of the Luftwaffe's total transport strength). When combined with those lost at Stalingrad, the Germans had managed to lose 659 transport aircraft (56 percent of the transport force as of November 10) by the end ofJanuary.75
The German response to "Torch" led to a major transfer of bombers and fighters into the theater. As early as November 4, Luftflotte 4 gave up a fighter group to the Mediterranean.76 Moreover, the North African invasion forced the Germans to shut down attacks on the Murmansk convoys and to send additional antishipping units into the Mediterranean.77 German bomber and fighter forces operating from Tunisia, Sicily, and Sardinia inflicted considerable damage on Allied shipping and ground forces. The Allies faced two problems in bringing airpower to bear on the bridgehead. The first was one of logistics. Tedder's air forces, still located on Egyptian bases, were too far away to intervene effectively, while the bases that Eighth Army captured in its march along the North African littoral took time to repair and stockpile. Similarly, the air forces in Algeria and Morocco found it difficult to marshal the logistical effort needed in eastern Algeria where it counted.
The second problem involved command and control. Anglo-American units in French Northwest Africa operated under different procedures, while Tedder's forces in Middle East Command operated differently. The solution to the first problem was a matter of time. By early January 1943, Allied air forces from Algeria were intervening with greater effectiveness, and Tedder's forces soon joined up. The second problem was also easily solved. As early as December 19, the Mediterranean naval commander, Sir Andrew Cunningham, cabled London that, "There is one solution and that is to put Tedder in here." Eisenhower brought "Tooey" Spaatz out from England as his deputy, but at Casablanca the Combined Chiefs appointed Tedder as Commander of Allied Mediterranean Air Forces.78
Thus, began a partnership between Eisenhower and two of the premier airmen of the war, Spaatz and Tedder.
Allied air commanders in the Mediterranean proved themselves pragmatic, willing, and eager to draw on battlefield experience. Such attitudes enabled Tedder, Spaatz, and their staffs (in the American case, particularly Doolittle, Norstad, and Quesada) to address critical issues in realistic terms.79 By the spring of 1943, Doolittle was already pressing for long-range fighters to support medium and heavy bombers. He argued that the presence of such fighters would significantly reduce bomber casualties, while their use "as intruders would greatly increase the effectiveness of our strategic operations."80 The result of such leadership was soon felt. Tedder and Spaatz used their air resources in a coherent campaign to gain air superiority in the Mediterranean. Their strategy aimed at supporting the overall theater objective of destroying Axis forces in Tunisia rather than a more cavalier "independent" air strategy. As was the case throughout the war, air strategy proved most effective when integrated into an overall strategy in which air, land, and naval forces worked closely together. This does not mean that Mediterranean air forces were subordinated to naval and ground forces, rather they were subordinated to a general strategic framework within which all three services worked.
In February, the Germans launched a spoiling attack at Kasserine Pass, but growing pressure around the Tunisian pocket stretched German ground forces to the limit. Allied air units played an important role in disrupting the Kasserine attack, while the shock of the German offensive resulted in considerable improvements in cooperation between American ground and air forces.81 Meanwhile, Allied antishipping strikes, attacks on harbors, and mine laying operations added to the difficulty of bringing convoys over from Sicily. By February, Allied air operations so impeded the supply situation for Axis forces that most German fighters were limited to protecting ports and convoy routes; this growing failure of sea transport forced the Germans to depend increasingly on aerial resupply.82 Allied air and naval forces were creating a situation analogous to Stalingrad, except that in the case of Tunisia, the agony lasted longer and imposed a higher attrition on Luftwaffe assets.83
In March, the German's desperate situation in North Africa became hopeless. The growing quantitative superiority of Allied fighters reduced the survivability of "Stukas," while the deteriorating ground situation resulted in more calls for air support. As a result, German bombers ceased attacks on Allied ports so as to support the hard-pressed troops at the front. This change in bomber strategy not only eased Allied supply troubles but also probably increased German bomber losses as well as being of doubtful utility for the ground situation.84 Moreover, Allied air and naval attacks on convoys from Sicily halted naval movement by the end of March. Making the supply of Tunisia, in the face of overwhelming Allied air and naval superiority, almost impossible was the fact the "Ultra" provided Anglo-American commanders with accurate and timely information on military convoys from Sicily. So well prepared were Allied air forces that Fliegerkorps Tunis concluded in mid-March "that the course for convoys D and C were betrayed to the
enemy."85 The Germans, however, refused to believe to the end of the war that the problem might lie in their electronic communication signals.
There was, then, no other choice for the Germans but to fall back on airlift. This aerial supply of Tunisia in the spring represented the third disaster for the Luftwaffe's transport fleet within a six-month period. In April and the first week of May, as the Tunisian pocket burned itself out, the Luftwaffe lost 177 more Ju 52's, along with a number of specialized aircraft such as the Me 323, the "Giant."86 Particularly noteworthy was the loss of 6 "Giants" and 25 Ju 52's flying to Tunisia ferrying 800 German troops.87 The third slaughter of German transport aircraft within a six-month period had a wider impact than just on the transport force. As one ranking officer told another after capture: "You cannot imagine how catastrophic the air personnel [situation] is. We have no crews; all the instructor crews were shot down in the Junkers."88
The impact of the Tunisian campaign on the Luftwaffe far outweighed whatever strategic advantage the Germans gained in closing the Mediterranean for six more months. In the period between November 1942 and May 1943, the Germans lost 2,422 aircraft in the Mediterranean theater (40.5 percent of their total force structure as of November 10, 1942). Table XXXII89 gives the Mediterranean losses in terms of major aircraft types during the period and suggests their significance for the Luftwaffe.
German Aircraft Losses, Mediterranean
Theater-November 1942-May 1943
|Aircraft Losses||Percent of Total Force Structure
What makes such losses so appalling is the fact that Luftwaffe strength in the Mediterranean varied from 200 to 300 fighters and from 200 to 300 bombers throughout the period.90 Thus, combat wastage was well over 200 percent of unit strength. Admittedly, some losses were unavoidable. Nevertheless, the impression left by the North African debacle is that had the Germans cut their losses at Libya, they could have defended Sicily with ground forces deployed to Tunisia. In the air, the Luftwaffe could have used the strategy it had waged so successfully in western Europe over the past year and a half: fighting only on its own terms or for a decisive strategic object. However, the commitment to Tunisia placed the Luftwaffe in a position where it had to fight at great disadvantage with a resulting high rate of attrition.
Germany's troubles in the Mediterranean were not yet over. At Casablanca, Allied statesmen and military commanders had determined that after Tunisia, their forces would invade Sicily and give the Italians a shove that would take them out of the war. For Hitler, the problem was where the blow would come. The Axis collapse in Tunisia destroyed the few good remaining Italian divisions, while the Germans lost heavily enough to prevent establishment of a significant reserve in the Mediterranean. "Citadel" held the priorities, and Allied deception efforts persuaded the Führer that the next attack would be in the Balkans.91 Nevertheless, he did not rule out the possibility that the blow might fall closer to the Italian homeland. Kesselring formed German troops awaiting shipment to Tunisia into three scratch divisions. Despite Mussolini's demand for equipment rather than soldiers, two new panzer grenadier (motorized infantry) and two new panzer divisions moved into the peninsula during June 1943.92 As all had just received equipment and men, they hardly represented a combat-tested military force. Again the temptation, which proved irresistible, would be to use the Luftwaffe to bolster weak ground forces.
While Allied armies rested and trained, Anglo-American air forces attacked German bases in Sicily and Sardinia and raided coastal targets to soften up defenses. Beginning in mid-May, Allied air forces began a bombardment of the Italian island of Pantelleria, located 70 miles southwest of Sicily. After three weeks, Italian forces surrendered before landing operations began; the only casualty was a soldier bitten by a jackass.93 While Pantelleria provided a base to extend fighter coverage to Sicily, its real value lay in conditions it provided for the study of the effects of aerial bombardment.94 Allied airmen, using the recommendations of scientists in these air operations, particularly over Sicily and Sardinia, gave no respite to the Luftwaffe. Germany's June fighter losses were 131, while a further 72 bombers were lost.95 July brought the invasion of Sicily and the greatest air battle of the Mediterranean war.
The Tunisian defeat caused a reorganization of German air forces in the south. Luftflotte 2 divided in two, with Luftflotte South East controlling the Balkans and a new Luftflotte 2 controlling Italy, Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily. A general replacement of commanders also occurred. Richthofen arrived as Luftflotte 2 commander, accompanied by a number of staff officers and commanders from the eastern front. Galland, now inspector of fighters, went to Sicily to control fighter operations. Along with these changes, considerable reinforcements arrived in the theater. Fighter bombers transferred from operations against the British Isles, while the number of fighters increased from 190 in mid-May to 450 in early July. Considering the heavy losses in May and June, such transfers were even heavier than the above figures suggest. Close to 40 percent of all fighter production from May 1 through July 15 went to the Mediterranean and two newly formed wings, probably scheduled for Germany's defense, went south.96 Yet, the movement of fighters to redress Allied superiority achieved nothing more than to cause a rise in German losses--a reflection of how overwhelming the superiority of Allied production had become.
At the end of June, air operations in the Mediterranean heated up. The Germans launched a number of bomber and fighter bomber sorties against Allied shipping. In addition, they attempted to neutralize the air forces building up on Malta and Pantelleria; such efforts required strong fighter support. Facing numerical superiority, German fighters had difficulty in fending off enemy fighters much less protecting bombers and fighter bombers. The air struggle soon turned into a battle for air superiority over Sicily and Sardinia.97 By the start of Operation "Husky" on July 10, the Allies had achieved general air superiority over the island. German fighters had trouble protecting their own airfields from high and low level attack. Sorties against the invasion achieved little and suffered exorbitant losses. Within a week, much of the Luftwaffe had withdrawn to the mainland and used Sicilian bases only as forward operating areas.98 Losses for the month were heavy. In July, the Luftwaffe lost 711 aircraft (10 percent of the German air force at the end of June) of which 246 were fighters (13.3 percent of all fighters) and 237 bombers (14.4 percent of all bombers). In August, Allied air forces, now operating from Sicily, pounded southern Italy and inflicted a further 321 losses.99 At this point, reinforcements and resupply to units in Italy dried up, while a number of squadrons (with total complement of 210 aircraft) withdrew from Italy after a severe mauling over Sicily. Only one unit returned to the Mediterranean; the rest remained at home to help defend the Reich.100
Irrationality marked Hitler's conduct of operations during the Tunisian and Sicilian withdrawals. In both cases, he forbade retreat until the last possible moment. As a result, ground crews escaped from Tunisia by the desperate expedient of packing two to three individuals behind the pilot's seat in fighters.101 In Sicily, ground personnel fled across the straits of Messina by ferry. Nevertheless, the Führer's order that no withdrawal preparations occur forced retreating squadrons to abandon nearly all their maintenance equipment and most spare parts.102
These victories in the Mediterranean played a critical role in the winning of the war. They provided American ground forces with an invaluable lesson on the quality and competence of their opponent. Without that experience, bought at high but not exorbitant cost, it is hard to imagine a successful lodgment on the coast of France.103 Also important for eventual victory was the attrition of Luftwaffe strength. Admittedly, the Germans themselves aided and abetted that process by placing their Mediterranean forces in strategically indefensible positions. They thus insured that the Luftwaffe would fight at a disadvantage. Much of this failure was directly attributable to Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, Germany's Mediterranean command deserves its share of responsibility. Kesselring's optimistic reporting throughout the period misled both the OKW and Hitler.104 By the summer of 1943, even the Führer seems to have had doubts. He refused to believe "smiling Albert's" assurrance that Mussolini's overthrow did not indicate a shift in Italy's attitude towards the war. Nevertheless, Kesselring remained in a position of high responsibility to the end; the fact that Keitel was the only other of the field marshals created in July 1940 still around at the end of the war is ample testimony to Kesselring's integrity and realism. His messages to the hard-pressed air units in the
spring campaign summarize his brand of leadership. In March, he threatened "court-martial proceedings owing to the negligence in the escort provided for valuable merchant vessels," while earlier in the campaign he suggested to his aircrews that Japanese fanaticism was an excellent example as to how they should fight.105 Such attitudes hardly fit most definitions of leadership, but they certainly fit within Hitler's.
THE AIR WAR IN THE WEST: THE COMBINED BOMBER OFFENSIVE
Bomber Command's 1942 performance had at best been spotty. If it had achieved successes in attacking at Lübeck, Rostock, and Cologne, the vulnerability of those cities was due to their location and construction rather than to their overall importance to the war effort. Nevertheless, those successes provided Harris with the time and political clout to turn his command into an effective weapon, although the 1942 campaign bought that time at considerable cost. The command's strength seems to have varied between 400 and 500 aircraft in 1942;106 losses for the year were 1,404 aircraft shot down and 2,724 damaged. Air raids during 1942 directed against Essen in which British bombers caused no significant damage cost Bomber Command no less than 201 bombers.107 Of the new four-engine bombers now reaching frontline squadrons, the British wrote off 228 "Stirlings," 249 "Halifaxes," and 202 "Lancasters."108
Despite these depressing statistics, Bomber Command entered 1943 on an upswing. Squadrons were receiving four-engine bombers in quantity, and introduction of Oboe, a directional aid, H2S, a radar target locator, and target marking techniques in the pathfinder force gave British bombers the capability to place bombs in the area of the target under certain conditions. As Harris later noted, the command was "at long last . . . ready and equipped."109 But he had little intention of integrating its operations with others except on his own terms, an attitude he had displayed since the war's beginning.110 Harris, by now a firm advocate of "area" bombing, would wage his campaign in 1943 with ruthless determination.
Beginning in March 1943 and for the following three months, Harris' forces battered the Ruhr. As the official historians note, this attack "marked the beginning of a famous Battle in the course of which Bomber Command was to show itself capable of achieving not only an occasional victory, as had previously been the case, but a whole series of consistent and pulverizing blows among which the failures were much rarer than the successes."111 Nevertheless, while British bombers inflicted serious damage on German cities, mission failures pointed up the limitations on operations. Two separate attacks against the Skoda works (beyond the range of navigational aids) achieved nothing. The first mistook a lunatic asylum for the works, while the second attack in May achieved an excellent bombing concentration in open fields 2 miles to the north.112
While the May 1943 raids on the dams in the Ruhr Valley paved the way for subsequent successful operational developments in 1944, Bomber Command
overall in 1943 could only act as a bludgeon. It possessed the ability to hit large cities with devastating blows; but with the exception of Essen and a few other cities, German industry lay on the outskirts of major towns. In fact, it is probably an accurate estimate of the command's capabilities to say that it did more collateral damage to industrial targets in the 1943 "area" bombing than would have been the case had it waged a campaign directly aimed at destroying German industry. The dams raids point out a major factor in the failure of bombing to achieve decisive results. Luck eliminated most of the aircraft ordered to take out the critical Sorpe Dam; as a result, only the Möhne and less important Eder Dams received damage. To their surprise, the Germans were able to repair the Möhne Dam by the fall of 1943 with no interference against the vulnerable reconstruction work.113 Allied air commanders still tended to overestimate raid damage and underestimate German recuperative powers.
Bomber Command pounded Germany in the spring of 1943 at a terrible cost to itself. Losses in the "Battle of the Ruhr" reached the point where Harris' forces flirted with defeat. In 43 major attacks, the RAF lost 872 bombers with 2,126 damaged. Despite these losses, frontline strength rose from 593 crews and aircraft in February to 787 in August--a reflection of the massive production and crew training programs.114 These heavy losses prompted the British to introduce "Window" (the use of chaff) to confuse German radar. The British official historians have criticized the fact that "Window" was introduced at such a late date; whatever the merits of the case, one can still doubt whether "Window's" use at an earlier date would have equaled the stunning effect that its introduction had in late July 1943.115
"Window" enabled Bomber Command to deal the Germans a series of devastating blows at the end of July. The most terrible of these, code-named appropriately "Gomorrah," began on July 24 with an attack on Hamburg. "Window" blinded the entire defense system, and intercept operators of 'Y' Service listened to the rising frustration of German controllers and radar operators, attempting to make sense of radar screens that indicated thousands of bombers.116 But the destruction of Hamburg came not from any one raid but from the cumulative effect of several raids conducted under perfect weather conditions.117 On July 25, three American bomb groups attacked the city with the aim of plastering the Blohm and Voss U-boat yard and the Klockner aircraft engine factory. On the following day, another attack by four bomb groups added to the destruction within the city, but both American attacks had difficulty in finding their targets. In the first case, smoke from the still-smoldering fires obscured much of the city; in the second raid, the Germans laid a smoke screen as the bombers began their approach.
On the evening of July 27, the second great RAF attack occurred. This time destruction took place on a wholly different scale from anything in previous experience. Much of the fire-fighting force was on the city's western side to fight smoldering coke and coal fires; this factor, combined with the occurrence of warm, dry weather and the disruption of the water system by the previous bombing, created the right conditions for the start of a massive fire storm. Within 20 minutes
The Strategic Bombing Offensive
of the raid's start, a growing area--probably centered around a timber yard in the city's center--exploded. Further bombing spread the fire storm to the northeast as the phonomena of "creep back" occurred (late bombers dumping their loads short of the first bombings). By the next morning, fire had burned an enormous 4-square-mile hole in the city with considerable peripheral damage to areas adjacent to the great fire.118 Between 30 and 40,000 people perished.119 Yet, the ordeal was not over. On the evening of July 29, a third great raid occurred. Bomber Command again heavily bombed the city; material damage came close to that of the July 27 raid. Loss of life, however, was considerably less; no fire storm occurred, and the Gauleiter--the Nazi Party's official on the scene--had begun a substantial evacuation of the population.120 One final raid followed early in August, but bad weather spared Hamburg further devastation.
Bomber Command achieved this terrible success at little cost. The missing rates in the four raids on Hamburg were 1.5 percent, 2.2 percent, 3.5 percent, and 4 percent. The rise in losses did reflect a surprisingly quick recovery by the defenses, but aircraft losses were fewer than those suffered during the Battle of the Ruhr.121 The destruction was the greatest success that Bomber Command would achieve for the next year and a half. It represented "area" bombing in its most devastating and awesome aspects. Out of 122,000 apartments, the raids destroyed or damaged 40,000 and out of 450,000 houses, 250,000. Seventy-five percent of the electric works, 60 percent of the water system, and 90 percent of the gas system were
knocked out of commission. The fall off in industrial production was considerable: 40 percent for large firms and 80 percent for medium and small concerns.122
The impact on German leadership was considerable. Goebbels could not believe the first reports of the second raid's effects.123 Speer informed Hitler that six more attacks on this scale would "bring Germany's armaments production to a halt." Hitler, however, replied that Speer would straighten things out.124 In retrospect, Hitler was correct, not because Speer was wrong in an estimate that six more Hamburgs would halt armament production, but because Hamburg was a unique success, depending on peculiar circumstances: a period of warm, dry weather; the blinding of German defenses; and the location of the city on the Elbe estuary which gave an excellent radar echo. The success, however, was misleading for the conditions rarely reoccurred. For Harris, Hamburg represented the final confirmation that his "area" bombing campaign was on the right track. He would persevere on this course and take his command and crews down a long, dark corridor in the Battle of Berlin.
Bomber Command's subsequent success in smashing the rocket experimental station at Peenemünde indicated both the dangers ahead as well as the possibility of other avenues. For the first time in a major attack on Germany, the command used a "master bomber," who remained over the target throughout the raid and controlled the bombing. A new and improved marker bomb also contributed to the success. Whatever the delay the raid caused the rocket programs, and there is some question on this point,125 there is no question that the new methods contributed to an accurate, well-placed bomb pattern. However, the German defenses were already on the road to recovery; the raiding force of 597 aircraft lost 40 bombers (6.7 percent) with a further 32 damaged (for a loss and damage rate of 12.1 percent).126 Thus, at the end of August, Bomber Command was fresh from its great triumphs of high summer, but additional problems and questions arose that required resolution before Harris could be proven correct in his belief that "strategic" bombing would be the decisive factor in the war.
While Bomber Command was posing an increasing threat to the security of Germany's cities at night, American daylight "strategic" bombing forces were also building up in England. By late spring 1943, considerably later than Allied planners had hoped, American bombers were ready to try out the theories of precision bombing attacks by self-defending formations in the skies over the Reich. The considerable delay in the launching of this offensive resulted from the siphoning off of American air resources to the Mediterranean in November 1942. The forces remaining in England represented a fraction of what American airmen felt they needed to accomplish their campaign. Nevertheless, as suggested earlier, Eaker had seen nothing in the first operations that suggested that daylight, precision, unescorted bombing was not a viable proposition. In fact, Eaker firmly believed that Eighth Air Force could eventually dispense with fighter protection and operate in the depths of the Reich in great unescorted formations. In October 1942, he wrote Spaatz that:
The second phase, which we are about to enter, is the demonstration that day bombing can be economically executed using general fighter support . . . in getting through the German defensive fighter belt and to help our cripples home through this same belt; the third phase will include deeper penetrations into enemy territory, using long-range fighter accompaniment of the P-39 type in general support only and continuing the use of short-range fighters at critical points on a time schedule; the fourth phase will be a demonstration that bombardment in force--a minimum of 300 bombers--can effectively attack any German target and return without excessive or uneconomical losses. This later phase relies upon mass and the great firepower of the large bombardment formations.127
With limited numbers of aircraft and beset by maintenance problems, Eighth Air Force launched relatively weak raids onto the continent. Between November 1942 and mid-March 1943, only two attacks numbered more than 100 bombers.128 Only in May 1943 did its force structure allow Eighth to launch 200 bombers on a regular basis. Nevertheless, in the early spring of 1943, American bombers began more dangerous forays into continental airspace. These first raids quickly indicated the price that German fighter forces could extract. On April 17, 115 aircraft attacked the Focke Wulf factory near Bremen; the Germans shot down 16 bombers (13.9 percent) and damaged 46 (40 percent).129 The sortie loss rate in May dropped because the targets were less dangerous and because the number of available aircraft climbed faster than losses inflicted by the Germans. Finally, in late spring of 1943, Eaker received reinforcements that raised his dispatchable strength to 300-plus bombers--a level which he and other Eighth Air Force commanders believed would allow daylight, unescorted missions into the heart of the Reich. As Eaker had written Spaatz in October 1942, his senior officers were "absolutely convinced that 300 bombers can attack any target in Germany with less than 4 percent losses."130
As with the concept of deep penetration, unescorted raids, American target selection showed the imprint of prewar doctrine as well as ongoing war-time experience. In the former case, the size of deep penetration formations showed a great increase over prewar estimates as to what was necessary to insure the survival of bombers. In the latter case, the target priority list laid down by the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) Plan was a mixture of doctrine and reality. Because the discussions leading to selection of bombing priorities have received attention elsewhere,131 an examination of the final list will serve our purposes. The priority list of targets in the final plan was:
- Intermediate Objectives:
German fighter strength.
- Primary Objectives:
German submarine yards and bases.
The remainder of the German aircraft industry.
Oil (contingent upon attacks against Ploesti from Mediterranean).
- Secondary Objectives:
Synthetic rubber and tires.
Military motor transport vehicles.132
The placement of German fighter strength at the top of the list was a recognition that the Luftwaffe's fighters represented a critical threat to the daylight bomber. The targeting of U-boat yards and bases reflected the military reality of the Battle of the Atlantic in which Allied sea and air forces were only now beginning to dominate the submarine. Further, the presence of petroleum, synthetic rubber, and ball bearing industries drew directly from prewar theories which had attempted to identify "bottleneck" industries, the destruction of which would cause the failure of the whole economic structure. The ball bearing industry itself was the classic weak link posited by American Air Corps Tactical School thinkers. This is not to say that the selection of ball bearings was entirely an American idea; there were important figures within the Air Ministry who argued persuasively in 1943 that Bomber Command also should attack the ball bearing factories.133
In June 1943, Eighth Air Force launched two major raids into German airspace beyond fighter escort range. The first, on June 13, attacked two targets: the main force, Bremen; and a smaller force, Kiel. Of the 228 aircraft dispatched, Eighth lost 26 (a loss rate of 11.4 percent). Nine days later, B-17's and B-24's struck the I. G. Farben synthetic rubber plant at Hüls. While the main and secondary forces lost 20 bombers (6.7 percent), the raid was one of the more successful in the war. It shut down the plant for a full month and reduced rubber stocks to a one-and-a-half month supply. As with the Möhne Dam, Allied bombers did not return and the Germans repaired the damage. In March 1944, Hüls reached peak production for the war.134
For most of July, weather conditions prevented Eighth Air Force from attacking Germany. In the month's last week, however, excellent flying conditions occurred and Eaker mounted his most ambitious operations. Eighth attacked Hamburg on July 25 and again on the 26th (along with Hanover). On July 28 and 30th, the American bombers hit Kassel and assorted targets and on the 29th attacked Kiel and Warnemünde. These operations did not come lightly. Ferocious German opposition cost Eighth Air Force 87 bombers.135 Despite the losses, these operations signalled the arrival of American fighters as a factor in the air battle. On July 28, P-47's, equipped for the first time with drop tanks, caught German fighters attacking B-17 stragglers; on the 30th, escort fighters again caught the Germans and inflicted heavy losses. While these first drop tanks only extended P-47 range by 30-plus miles, the presence of American fighters deeper on the continent portended serious implications for German defenses.136
Extensive operations at the end of July exhausted and attrited Eighth's forces so that available strength fell below 300; not until August 12 did the Americans return to skies over the Reich. The attack on the Ruhr indicated no weakening of German opposition; 25 bombers out of 330 dispatched fell (a 7.5 percent loss rate).137 On August 17, Eaker launched his bombers against Schweinfurt and Regensburg in one of the most famous and costly raids of the war. The latter attacks aimed at destroying the Messerschmitt complex--an obvious effort to strike at the source of Luftwaffe fighter strength. Within Schweinfurt, three major concerns produced 45 percent of the ball bearings used by German industry (52.5 percent in terms of net
Escort Fighter Range
worth).138 The Schweinfurt-Regensburg attack was the most ambitious and deepest penetration by Eighth Air Force thus far in the war. Its results shattered the theory that the German defensive system lacked depth.
Both formations suffered heavy losses. The Regensburg force lost 24 bombers out of 146 dispatched (16.4 percent) and only the fact that they flew on to North Africa, thereby disconcerting German defenses, prevented heavier losses.139 In fact, the number of aircraft written off was higher than 24, for the Regensburg forces left approximately 20 B-17's in North Africa when they returned to Europe.140 The second force, attacking Schweinfurt, received no benefit from the first attack because bad weather had delayed its departure. As a result, German fighters savaged it as thoroughly as they had the Regensburg force. Out of 230 bombers, the Schweinfurt groups lost 36 (15.7 percent). The loss of 60 bombers in one day represented the loss of 10.3 percent of the aircraft in Eighth's operational units and 17.5 percent of its crew strength.141 By themselves these percentages explain why Eighth did not go back to Schweinfurt until the following October. While the attacking force inflicted substantial damage on the ball bearing works, the bombing concentration and the number of aircraft attacking were insufficient to eliminate Schweinfurt as a production center.
The conduct of the Schweinfurt/Regensburg attack raises interesting questions. The size of the attacking force and dual targets reflect an overestimation of both the accuracy and effectiveness of bombing.142 Thus, there was a tendency to underestimate the aircraft needed to destroy a target and to overestimate the damage inflicted. A second point has to do with the ineffectual cooperation between the British and American strategic bombing forces in England. Despite the friendship between Eaker and Harris, and Eighth Air Force's earlier cooperation in the assault on Hamburg on July 25 and 26th, Bomber Command headquarters showed no interest in supporting the precision bombing offensive by hitting at night what Eaker's forces had hit in the day. It is worth noting that the Air Staff's Director of Bombing Operations, Air Commander S. O. Bufton, was strongly urging in the summer of 1943 that Bomber Command follow up any American attack on Schweinfurt. He suggested that RAF crews be told that history might "prove that tonight's operation, in conjunction with the day attack which is taking place at this moment, will be one of the major battles of this war. If both operations are successful, German resistance may be broken and the war ended sooner than could be possible in any other way."143 But Harris had set his face against bombing any "panacea" target, and Eight Air Force went down the dark road to Schweinfurt twice in 1943--alone.
The heavy losses that American bombers suffered in the summer directly reflected the insufficient range of escorting fighters. This was a result of Anglo-American attitudes that regarded the use of long-range fighter aircraft not only as technologically impossible but in some cases as not really necessary. As late as mid-June, even after the heavy losses on the Kiel raid, Eaker placed range extension tanks for fighters fourth on his list of priorities. In fairness to Eaker, his conversations with Robert Lovett, Assistant Secretary of War for Air, led the latter
to give the long-range fighter escort program strong support when he returned to Washington.144 Such lassitude and lack of direction marked the drop tank engineering program in the United States that VIII Fighter Command and V Fighter Command, operating in New Guinea, had developed rough and workable tanks before the engineers at Wright-Patterson.145 The results for the bombers of Eighth Air Force show clearly in Tables XXXIII146 and XXXIV.147 As we shall see in the next section, the loss rate for Luftwaffe units in the west was equally appalling. The question was who could best stand up to the attrition. In the high summer of 1943, the answer was still in doubt.
While Eighth Air Force mounted increasingly powerful raids, American air forces in the Mediterranean entered the struggle over Europe. On August 1, Ninth Air Force launched five B-24 groups, 177 bombers, against Rumanian oil fields and refineries near Ploesti. Unfortunately, due to errors, the attack suffered from bad timing and alerted the defenses. While damage was considerable, bomber losses were so heavy, 41 due to enemy action (23.2 percent) and 54 overall (30.5 percent), that American air commanders could not intensify the damage with further raids.148 Thus, the Germans repaired critical areas and utilized capacity not in use. On August 13, these five groups, diminished in strength, struck the Wiener Neustadt aircraft assembly plant in Austria. Catching the defenses by surprise, they inflicted serious damage with the loss of only two aircraft.149 The Germans were on notice that American aircraft based in the Mediterranean could strike deep onto the continent.150 The situation would become increasingly serious for the Reich as Allied armies invaded the Italian mainland and captured airfields in southern Italy.
THE DEFENSE OF THE REICH
The period with which this chapter deals was a time when quite literally the roof over the Reich caved in. How Germany's defenses and its leaders responded determined the fate of the Reich's cities and the length of the war. While military events and production decisions taken in the 1940-41 time frame had sealed Nazi Germany's fate, strategic decisions taken in 1943 determined how events would unfold. With the exception of the Battle of Britain, the western air war had remained a peripheral theater, arousing the interest of Hitler and the Luftwaffe staff only after a particularly egregious British success such as the May 1942 Cologne raid. However, the threat in the west remained no more than that for the remainder of 1942. There were some who recognized the danger. However, in the fall of 1942, the Germans had accepted battle on the periphery, and as a result the Luftwaffe suffered enormous losses on the Mediterranean and Russian fronts. But in the summer of 1943, and for the first time since 1940, aircraft losses in the west reached a sizeable proportion of total losses.
Before examining the conduct of the Reich's air defense, the Luftwaffe's organizational structure in the west deserves attention. That structure did not reflect the strategic needs of 1943 but the bureaucratic growth of the Luftwaffe after the French collapse and the invasion of Russia. In 1941, Luftflotte 3 remained behind in
Aircraft Written Off: Eighth Air Force, 1943 (Heavy Bombers)
Crew Losses Eighth Air Force, 1943 (Heavy Bombers)
the west to handle the British and to defend the skies over occupied France; it also held responsibility for Belgium and Holland. Meanwhile, in 1941, the Germans established a catch-all organization in northern Germany, whose commander received the lengthy and imposing title "Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte."151 This command was responsible for defending Berlin and controlled the night fighter division and flak divisions throughout northern Germany. However, for bureaucratic reasons the general staff turned two air districts (Luftgau) in south Germany over to Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle, Commander of Luftflotte 3, in order not to disturb his vanity.152 From the first, creation of two authorities responsible for air defense in the west proved mistaken. As early as the fall of 1941, Mölders argued for a unified fighter command to defend western Europe.153 In 1943, Milch urged Göring to unify under one commander all the Luftwaffe's air defense assets, a system which he suggested would possess similarity to the British Fighter Command.154 Göring, however, refused. As a result, until the collapse in France in August 1944 effectively eliminated Luftflotte 3, the Reich's air defense remained split between two competing organizations. While this splitting of responsibility presented serious problems for day fighter operations, it really exacerbated the difficulties of coordinating operations of scarce night fighter forces between two separate commands, adding enormously to the burden of an effective night defense.
While the German high command had ignored Bomber Command's depredations in 1942, it could not do so in 1943. The attacks on the Ruhr in March and April pointed out that Germany faced an extraordinary threat to her cities. Hitler was furious at the Luftwaffe's failure to protect the Ruhr, and Göring's prestige was nearly exhausted as the Führer made clear to Goebbels.155 The response of many German leaders to the March attacks was that Germany must launch reprisal raids at such a level that the British would call off Bomber Command. Even Milch, who throughout 1943 was the most clear headed on the need for an effective air defense, called in March for reprisal raids. As he told his staff, "Our entire armaments effort . . . is dependent on whether we can clear our own skies by carrying out the appropriate attacks on the British home base--either on their airfields or on their industry or on their civilians and cities."156 Hitler's immediate response to the British attacks was to demand that the Luftwaffe drastically strengthen the flak forces despite objections from his air force adjutant.157 That debate continued throughout the year.
Bomber Command's ability to swamp the night fighter defenses of the tightly controlled Kammhuber line led several Luftwaffe officers to suggest radical changes. In late spring, Major Hajo Herrmann, a former bomber pilot, pushed a scheme to concentrate a force of day fighters directly over a target and to use searchlights as well as light reflecting from the bombing to attack the bomber stream. Such a tactic, he suggested, would allow night defenses to throw a concentration of force at the bomber stream at the point where it was most vulnerable to visual interception.158 In a late June report on fighter defenses in the west, Milch supported Herrmann and suggested that the night fighter corps receive responsibility for the night defense over France.159 Others argued for a more basic
German Air Defense--Oct 1943
restructuring of the defenses. Shortly before Hamburg, Göring's staff was requesting better radar sets to support a pursuit force that would not be tied directly to GCI sites but would search out and follow the bomber stream.160
The use of "Window" over Hamburg forced the Germans to restructure the defense system far more quickly than they would have otherwise. Herrmann already had begun to gather and to train his force before the raids; the collapse of the night defense system caused the Luftwaffe to commit his small unit on the night of the fire storm. A number of night fighters also freelanced over the burning city. Unfortunately for the Germans, these forces were not numerous enough to inflict substantial damage on the bomber force, although raid losses did increase from 1.5 percent to 2.2 percent. However, many German night fighters in their boxes to the north and to the south of the inferno were not allowed to freelance despite the fact that they could see bombers.161
Substantial reforms were soon in motion. Herrmann's force rapidly increased in size. As early as July 27, a staff paper urged creation of a large night fighter force in Holland that controllers would vector into the bomber stream. It would then fly with the bombers, shooting down British aircraft until it ran out of ammunition or fuel.162 This tactic, soon known by the code name "Tame Sow," eventually became the keystone of the Reich's defense system. The possibilities of the new system showed clearly in the Peenemünde raid of August 17. Because German controllers fell for an RAF spoof and reported that Berlin was the main target, they vectored the defending forces to the capital. Not until the last minutes of the raid did fighters arrive over the target. Nevertheless, they shot down 24 bombers over Peenemünde and a further 16 elsewhere along the raid's path.163
Along with the British night offensive, the Germans now faced an American daylight offensive. Because of a desperate shortage of day fighters, the Luftwaffe threw its night fighter force into the battles against Eighth Air Force. The use of the night fighters to meet the American threat typified the short-sighted, short-range calculation of much of the Luftwaffe's effort in the latter period of the war. Night fighter aircraft represented a sizeable investment in terms of equipment, technology, training, and the specialized skills needed by the crews. The commitment of the night force to daylight operations brought with it corresponding high losses. As early as April, an "Ultra" intercept indicated a willingness to use night fighters during daytime when Göring forbade the use of night pilots with more than 20 victories on day operations.164 Anglo-American attacks on August 17 and 18th caused the loss of 30 night fighters with 35 more damaged. Twenty-one were lost in daylight operations alone, and a senior staff officer remarked that the Bf 110 should not be used in daytime when it might come into contact with British or American fighters--a remark that might have had some uniqueness in the summer of 1940 but seems somewhat out of place in 1943.165
Hamburg brought to the fore the question of Germany's response. On July 30, Milch warned his staff in the Air Ministry that Germany could only look forward to an intensification of the enemy's air offensive. "What has happened in Hamburg had never before happened [in air war]." If Germany could not master the threat,
she would face a desperate situation. Milch further announced that Hitler had put top priority on air defense and on production of day and night fighters as well as the flak. Fighter productions was to rise to 2,000 aircraft per month by the summer of 1944, and the eastern front would have to make-do until the Luftwaffe mastered the air threat.166 Milch had earlier in the war not found his desire for increased fighter production to the liking of everyone on the Air Staff. He now discovered a less-than-unanimous agreement with his emphasis on the defense of the Reich. One colonel suggested that a diversion of Bf 110's from the front to night fighters was "unthinkable." Milch replied that the front would have to make-do--the threat was over Germany.167
Milch and other advocates of air defense faced more substantial opposition to their policies from Hitler's natural inclinations. As suggested above, the Führer had become increasingly upset in the spring of 1943 over the scale and success of RAF raids. He warned his military aides shortly after the first Hamburg attack: "Terror can only be broken with terror." Attacks on German airfields made no impression on him, he commented, but the smashing of the Reich's cities was another matter. It was the same thing with the enemy. "The German people demanded reprisals."168 Hitler's attitudes had a disasterous impact on air strategy after August 1943, but his line of argument was already clear. Moreover, efforts to build up the night fighter force were further complicated by Göring's sheer ignorance. It is worth noting that by late August, the Reichsmarschall was doubting whether night fighters were worth the considerable expenditures in man-hours and materials.169 Considering that his staff was wasting them in daylight operations, one can only wonder at the muddle at the top.
As for daylight operations, the Allies--for the first time--placed significant pressure on the Luftwaffe. The fighter sweeps of Fighter Command, accompanied by American fighters in large numbers, had combined with Eighth Air Force's bomber operations to make Western Europe the critical theater of air operations by the late summer of 1943. Neither Göring nor many of his more sober commanders had expected this development. In January 1943, the Reichsmarschall suggested increases in the day fighter forces but not because of worries over Allied aircraft production, rather the emphasis was on fighters for the fighter bomber mission.170 Even Galland, who was pushing for a major increase in the fighter force, did not appear to recognize the threat in the west. In January, he predicted that the main weight of the air war would lie in the Mediterranean throughout the year.171 Thus, the heavy commitment of fighter forces to the defense of Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy received support from the man who later in the year became one of the strongest advocates of beefing up the Reich's defenses. Why Galland held such a position is clear from a remark he made in February that his fighters had solved the problem of fighting four-engine bombers (by day).172 What the Luftwaffe had not yet faced was the problem of dealing with hundreds of bombers that American industry would throw at the Reich in the summer of 1943 as well as the thousands in 1944.
In early 1943, the Luftwaffe with major commitments in the Mediterranean and on the eastern front left the day defense of the west on the same basis on which it
had rested in previous years. Some 250 to 300 fighters, scattered from Holland to Brittany, scrambled in small formations to meet the American thrusts.173 The resulting lack of fighter concentration made it difficult to dent the "Fortress" formations and put the Germans at considerable disadvantage in fending off Allied fighters. By June, the western fighter defenses were breaking down as Luftflotte 3 reported that its fighters were suffering heavy losses in intercepting "Fortress" formations accompanied by numerous fighters.174 In mid-June, Milch reported after a trip to the west that morale among the fighter pilots was excellent, but the number of available aircraft was "much too weak." He urged that the Luftwaffe quadruple fighter forces in the west and that as a minimum a full month's production of Bf 109's and Fw 190's go to units in western Europe.175
Fighter losses in the west showed an alarming rise as early as March, and in that month the Luftwaffe began to transfer experienced pilots from the east to compensate for its losses in the west. The real pressure arrived in late spring with the first penetrations into German airspace.176 The rise in fighter losses showed a direct correlation with Eighth Air Force operations. By June, it was clear that the American bombers represented a very different threat to Germany than did Bomber Command. The attack on Hüls suggested that the American bombers were going after specific segments of the German economy. By the end of the month, Jeschonnek recommended that the Luftwaffe request an updated list from Speer as to the critical points in the economy needing additional air defense protection.177
Eighth Air Force's operations in July and August created a crisis. For July, Luftflotte 3 noted that the size and defensive power of bomber formations penetrating into its airspace had reached a level where the only possibility of attack required a timely, massed concentration of German fighter forces.178 Arguments over exactly how many aircraft B-17 and B-24 gunners shot down in defending themselves have obscured what really occurred in these air battles. First, it is clear bomber crews claimed many more aircraft than in fact they shot down, but the cumulative effect of German fighter losses in these battles was impressive. In July, the Luftwaffe lost 335 single-engine fighters in the west.179 Admittedly, a percentage of these losses was not directly attributable to combat, but the pressure of stepped-up air operations and losses forced the Luftwaffe to rely increasingly on partially trained pilots. Thus, noncombat losses reflected the pressures of combat attrition. July's losses in the west represented 18.1 percent of all single-engine fighter strength on July 1, reflecting not only the impact of the heavy daytime raids but also the fact that drop tanks on the P-47's had extended escort range. With new range capability, American fighters could catch German pilots deeper within the Reich's airspace. This escalation in the level of fighting over German airspace had an effect on all theaters. By the end of July, the Luftwaffe had put limitations on the employment of fighter aircraft on tasks other than defense of the Reich, while it pulled Bf 110 squadrons out of Brittany and the Battle of the Atlantic to return to Germany.180
July's efforts placed a great strain on Eighth's capabilities, and in August the aircraft dispatched to targets in Germany showed a significant drop.181 Losses,
depressingly for the crews involved, showed no such decline. The Schweinfurt/Regensburg disaster added measurably to the month's losses, and for the third straight month crew losses were in excess of 30 percent (see Table XXXIV). The German situation was not much better. August 17 cost the Germans no less than 24 single-engine fighters shot down, 12 Bf 110's destroyed, plus an additional 10 single-engine fighters and 2 Bf 110's written off because of battle damage. Thus, the Germans lost no less than 48 fighters destroyed with a further 25 damaged. The German success over Schweinfurt had not come cheaply nor did fighter operations over the course of the month. By the end of August, the Germans had lost 248 single-engine fighters (16.2 percent of their then available total single-engine fighter force) along with 86 twin-engine fighters (11.6 percent of the twin-engine and night fighter force) in air battles in the west.182 In fact, the whole emphasis in the European air war had shifted radically away from a contest on the periphery to a massive battle of attrition over the Reich. Concurrently, Allied fighter forces were feeling their way deeper into the Reich and consequently restricting the area over which German fighters could intercept the bombers. Thus, at the end of August, the daylight air war in the west was peaking with each side inflicting serious damage on the other. It still remained an open question as to which air force could last the course.
LOSSES, PRODUCTION, AND STRATEGY
On August 18, 1943, the Luftwaffe's Chief of Staff, Jeschonnek, placed a gun to his temple and blew his brains out. His suicide was the direct result of the two massive blows Allied bombers had launched the previous day and evening (Schweinfurt/Regensburg and Peenemünde). While neither raid represented a decisive blow, together they clearly indicated the bankruptcy of Germany's air strategy. If there were others who deserved a significant share of the blame, and Hitler as well as Göring spring readily to mind, then Jeschonnek's role typified the part that so many of the officer corps had played in Germany's fate. Like too many of his brother officers, Jeschonnek had ignored the industrial, logistical, and technical basis on which modern war between industrialized states since the American Civil War has been fought. That curious blindness which led him in early 1942 to wonder what the Luftwaffe would do with 360 fighters had now led his air force and nation into a hopeless situation. The battles on the periphery had quite literally stripped the Luftwaffe of whatever chance it had to build up a reserve, and Jeschonnek had accepted those commitments with scarcely a murmur.
In addition, it is worth taking a closer look at the general picture of German losses; they reveal that in this period the Luftwaffe had suffered a terrible rate of attrition throughout the force structure. From January through June 1943, the average monthly attrition rate for all aircraft was 13.6 percent. For combat aircraft, the statistics were even more depressing: the bomber attrition rate was 16 percent per month and for fighters it was 19.9 percent.183 Crew losses were no less significant and more dangerous. While one can replace aircraft, crew replacements
and skill level became increasingly difficult to maintain. This was the fourth straight year in which heavy attrition had taken place. It is, therefore, remarkable that the Germans maintained the level of tenacity and competence that they showed throughout the year. While pilot losses for most aircraft types are difficult to determine because crew loss reports included all flying personnel, the situation with regards to single-engine aircraft indicates what was happening to the force structure. For the first three months of 1943, fighter pilot losses ran at a fairly constant rate of between 6 percent and 9 percent per month. However, as a result of heavy fighting in Tunisia, pilot losses climbed to over 12 percent in May and by July were 16 percent. Thus, in the first half of the year, fighter pilot losses equalled 67 percent of the crews present at the beginning of the year.184 For overall loss trends, see Tables XXXV,185 XXXVI,186 XXXVII,187 and XXXVIII.188
This attrition was only a foretaste of what happened in July and August. In those two months, the Luftwaffe fought three great air battles and on each one of the three fronts the Germans lost more than 1,000 aircraft.189 In combat units, the attrition rate reached a level that no military force could long sustain. Fighter losses were 31.2 percent for July and 36 percent for August, while bomber losses were 27.3 percent in July and 32 percent in August.190 As with the January through June period, only fighter pilot losses are readily attainable. They are clear enough: In July, the Germans lost 16 percent of single-engine fighter pilots available on July 1; in August, they lost 15.6 percent.191 The impact of the pressure exerted by three different fronts forced the Germans to shut the air war down somewhere. Given the threat posed by the American bombers, there was no other alternative but to defend the Reich. Thus, the air war in the east and in the Mediterranean, with one final gasp in September to meet the invasion of Italy, became subsidiary theaters for the Luftwaffe. Allied air forces dominated the skies over and behind these two fronts, and the German soldier would see little of his air force for the remainder of the war.
The disastrous rate of attrition was a reflection both of combat losses and numerous aircraft losses through noncombat causes. In fact, the Luftwaffe seems to have almost been in a race with its opponents to see who could destroy the most German aircraft. After a fairly respectable showing in 1940, from 1941 through 1944 the Luftwaffe lost between 40 percent and 45 percent of its total losses through noncombat causes.192 The surprising element in such an accident rate is the fact that until the spring of 1944, few in the general staff seem to have been particularly worried about the implication of such a level of noncombat losses. At that point, however, a number of authorities awoke and began to examine the problem in detail.193 The German safety record, however, deserves no smugness from an American audience. The Army Air Forces managed in 1943 to have no less than 20,389 major accidents in the continental United States with 2,264 pilots and 3,339 other aircrew members killed. The record for 1944 was not much better with 16,128 major accidents (1,936 pilots and 3,037 other aircrew killed).194 The ability of crews transitioning into B-26's to destroy their aircraft and themselves resulted in a couplet still current among flying crews at MacDill AFB, Florida: "One a day in Tampa Bay."195
German Aircraft Losses 1943 (All Types)
German Bomber Losses 1943
German Fighter Losses 1943
Fighter Pilot Loss, Jan-Aug 1943
The defeat in the air war represented by the above figures is perhaps a fairer evaluation of Jeschonnek's failure than the Schweinfurt/Regensburg and Peenemünde attacks. Jeschonnek and his staff had ignored the mess that Udet made of production and had as a result voiced no alarm about continued production stagnation as the Luftwaffe prepared to attack Russia. The growing gap between German and Allied production began to emerge in devastating form in the attrition battles of summer 1943. Since late 1942, Milch had indeed done wonders with German production. In 1943, the aircraft industry produced 64 percent more aircraft than in 1942, with a dramatic increase of 125.2 percent in fighter production and 31.4 percent in bombers. By May 1943, industry produced 1,000 fighters for the first time; by July, production reached 1,263.196 It was not enough. The attrition was such that for the first half of the year, there was a slow but steady increase in fighter and bomber strength. However, in July and August, despite production efforts, the number of aircraft in frontline units began to decline noticeably. In addition, the percentage of authorized aircraft also began to fall (see Table XXXIX197).
|Feb 28, 1943||1,660||1,336||80.5||2,025||1,443||71.3|
|Mar 31, 1943||1,712||1,535||89.7||2,025||1,522||75.2|
|Apr 30, 1943||1,848||1,582||85.6||2,034||1,574||77.4|
|May 31, 1943||2,016||1,786||88.6||2,109||1,588||75.3|
|Jun 30, 1943||2,172||1,849||85.1||2,111||1,663||78.8|
|Jul 31, 1943||2,172||1,528||70.3||2,122||1,419||66.9|
|Aug 31, 1943||2,228||1,581||71||2,025||1,134||56|
As had happened in 1942, increased production made little difference; losses at the front swallowed what industry produced.
Milch again stands out in his recognition of the danger. He seems to have made a sustained effort to make Hitler as well as Göring understand the problem.198 Hitler, however, remained unconvinced. In early July, Kammhuber presented him with a proposal for a radical restructuring of Germany's air defenses to meet massive Allied air production. Hitler, however, demanded the origin of these "crazy numbers" and added that "if the numbers on Allied production were correct, then he would have to stop the offensive in the east and concentrate everything on air defense." The figures, however, he assured Kammhuber were false.199 Milch did get Hitler's approval for an infusion of aircraft into western air defenses in July but was unable to get a firm commitment from the Führer to build up air defenses for the long term. Hitler's response to Bomber Command's devastating attacks was that the only way to get the British to cease the destruction of Germany's cities was to pay them back in kind. Thus, any suggestion that industry increase fighter
production at the expense of bombers was doomed to failure. Interestingly, there was a recognition for a time on the part of some bomber commanders that their air units might find better employment in defending the Reich than in raiding Britain.200
Hitler's emphasis on retaliation rather than air superiority led the Germans into another serious error. The army and air forces were both about to produce their own retaliation weapons: the army with the A-4 (later called the V-2) and the Luftwaffe with the V-1. The V-2 was a triumph of German engineering but certainly was not a monument to good sense. As a weapon, it represented extremely complex technology, it was expensive, it used scarce raw materials, and its production overloaded the instrument and electrical components industry. However, the V-1, a simpler piece of technology, was inexpensive and did not place a serious strain on German industrial production. In addition, because of its vulnerable launch and flight characteristics, it provided a much greater distraction to British defenders.201 The last point deserves further elaboration: There was no defense against the V-2. However, the V-1 with its requirement for both a launching ramp and its vulnerable flight path kept a significant portion of Allied air forces busy in 1944 bombing the European continent and chasing V- 1's through the skies over Great Britain.
Unfortunately for Germany's cities, the critical production choices that German air strategy faced in the summer and fall of 1943 were made by individuals who did not possess the background to make intelligent decisions. Hitler, while he knew much about army weaponry and the conduct of ground operations, did not understand the technology or conduct of the air war. The fact that he consistently relied on Göring did nothing to enhance his knowledge, for the Reichsmarschall's technical expertise was severely lacking. Having once admitted that he did not know how to turn on his radio, he exhibited his scientific knowledge for his staff in discussing German radar sets: "I have frequently taken a look inside such sets. It does not look all that imposing--just some wires and a few other bits and pieces--and the whole apparatus is remarkably primitive even then . . . ."202 In another case in February 1943 after Milch urged the inclusion of more women in the production process, Göring suggested that perhaps the best method to include women in the war effort would be to allow them to do the work at home where they would also be able to watch their children. A somewhat flabergasted Milch could only reply that German industry was more advanced than that.203 The failure to understand modern production and technical problems resulted in a failure to include fully scientists and technicians in the war effort. The services often drafted highly trained and skilled individuals and used them in positions in which their gifts and expertise were minimized.204 Finally, there was often a failure of designers to talk to production people. The most remarkable example of this was the interaction between the developers of the A-4 rocket and those who were attempting to get it into production.205 The lack of cooperation between these two groups may, in fact, have been more damaging to the rocket's progress than the raid on Peenemünde.
As this study has suggested at several points, one of the critical elements in modern warfare is the productive capacity of industry and its use. By the summer of 1943, German strategy was already severely hampered by the choices and decisions
made in the 1940-41 period that had failed to mobilize the European economy for a great struggle. Now in the summer of 1943, German leaders faced the choice of either radically restructuring the aircraft industry for a massive output of day and night fighters at the expense of other types or facing defeat in the air over the Reich. Milch himself had suggested a target of 5,000 fighters per month to Hitler in March.206 But the top leadership was unwilling to address a military threat with a military response. In fact, the real triumph and impact of Bomber Command's "area" bombing campaign in 1943 was the fundamental distortion it caused in German armaments programs. The anger and desire for a retaliation strategy was particularly clear in the case of Hitler, but even as intelligent and rational an individual as Speer could not resist the attraction of paying the British back in kind. At the end of May 1943, the Armaments Minister suggested to a most enthusiastic and appreciative audience in the Ruhr that while "German mills of retribution may often seem to grind too slowly, they do grind very fine . . . ." Speer had just seen a successful firing of an A-4, and his continued support for the rocket program throughout 1943 and 1944 caused a major diversion of German production capacity and raw materials that would have been far better spent in defending German airspace.207
While in a larger sense, the moral questions involved in the "strategic" bombing offensives can never be satisfactorily answered, the question of the military utility of the campaigns is, however, easier to address. By late summer 1943, British "area" bombing attacks and the American precision bombing campaign were having a major impact on the war. In the first case, the real contribution of Bomber Command was indirect, even though it caused more direct damage to the German nation. The problem was the fact that so much of German industry lay on the fringe areas of the cities that the command was blasting into rubble. This distortion that the campaign caused in the German war effort, however, was enormous. Not only did it result in such highly unproductive efforts as the A-4 program but it pushed the Germans into continuing production of bombers for retaliatory raids far too long. Moreover, the A-4 program kept the Germans from ever properly investigating a promising antiaircraft rocket system.208 Also important was the fact that the growing number of British raids caused a substantial distortion in the manufacturing process for artillery and ammunition. By summer 1943, no less than 89 flak batteries defended Berlin.209 The growth from 1940 in the number of flak batteries was sizeable. From a level of 791 heavy batteries (88's, 105's, and 128's) in 1940, to 967 in 1941, to 1,148 in 1942, and to 2,132 in 1943, German flak forces represented an enormous investment in equipment and manpower.210 All of these batteries expended prodigious amounts of ammunition 24 hours a day. Unfortunately for the Germans, the results were more visually spectacular than damaging. The 88mm flak 36 weapon seems to have required an average expenditure of 16,000-plus shells to bring down one aircraft flying at high altitude, and that was the weapon with which most flak batteries were equipped.211
As for the Allied effort, American daylight precision bombing had not yet achieved the spectacular results that Bomber Command had thus far caused. In fact,
the American campaign had only recently begun and was in serious trouble, considering American losses in deep penetration raids. Nevertheless, Eighth's forces represented a more immediate threat to German armament production as well as a longer range danger to the Luftwaffe as an effective military force. In the first case, as the Germans recognized early on, the Americans were going after critical elements within their economic structure. The attack on the rubber factory at Hüls had underscored this intent. Speer found the August attack on Schweinfurt even more dangerous. As he told RAF investigators after the war, a concentrated offensive on the ball bearings industry would have had the following results:
Armaments production would have been crucially weakened after two months, and after four months would have been brought completely to a standstill. This, to be sure, would have meant:
One: All our ball bearing factories (in Schweinfurt, Steyr, Erkner, Cannstatt, and in France and Italy) had been attacked simultaneously.
Two: These attacks had been repeated three or four times, every two weeks, no matter what the pictures of the target area showed.
Three: Any attempt at rebuilding these factories had been thwarted by further attacks, spaced at two-month intervals.212
The difficulty was that no matter what the prospects, Eighth did not have sufficient strength to carry out such an offensive even had it done nothing except bomb ball bearing factories. One Schweinfurt every two months came close to destroying it as an effective force. Another Schweinfurt in this period might have ended Eighth's entire daylight offensive. Thus, the August raid warned the Germans to look for alternative sources of supply; the second attack in October redoubled their efforts at dispersal and substitution. The February 1944 bombing by the RAF did more damage than the American raids but came well after Speer's precautionary measures had taken effect.
The assault on the German aircraft industry was probably in retrospect more damaging to the war effort. The July-August attacks on factories producing aircraft resulted in a fall off in production of approximately 200 fighters. By November, fighter production was 300 under peak production in July.213 Also important was the attrition that Eighth's attacks were already imposing on the defending fighter forces. If for the short run it was questionable as to who was taking the more severe beating, there was no question that in the long run Eighth Air Force had better prospects. And month by month, American fighters were extending their range to the east.
The period between November 1942 and August 1943 was the last opportunity that the Luftwaffe had in the war to build up a reserve so that it could maintain air superiority at least over the Reich. The unwillingness of Germany's leaders,
however, to trade space for time forced the Luftwaffe into a battle of attrition on the periphery. The results of those battles bled the German air force white. At the very moment when the air battles in the Mediterranean and in the east peaked, a terrible new danger appeared in the west. While the German war economy could bear the damage that Bomber Command meted out to German cities (except perhaps in psychological terms), the bomber thrusts of Eighth Air Force aimed at the industrial heart. The Luftwaffe had no choice but to come up and to fight. In the process, its destruction had already begun.
1. Michael Howard, Grand Strategy, Vol. IV, August 1942-September 1943 (London, 1972), p. 46.
2. This did not prevent the German high command from contracting for maps and pamphlets in Persian that a German printer was still turning out in 1944--no one had bothered to cancel the order. See Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 238.
3. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1185-I 195, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle and Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
5. The origins and conduct of operations around Stalingrad are discussed in a number of significant works; among the best are: Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad; Kehrig, Stalingrad; Earl F. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin: The German Defeat in the East (Washington, 1968).
6. KTB OKW, Vol. II, Document #26, Operationsbefehl Nr. 1 vom 14. Oktober 1942 Betr.: Weitere Kampfführung im Osten, p. 130.
7. For the transport and supply problems of Sixth Army, see: Kehrig, Stalingrad, pp. 69ff.
8. KTB OKW, Vol. II, entry for 3.11.42., pp. 894-96.
9. Walter Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939-1945 (New York, 1964), pp. 270-71. Hitler did regale Speer with comments about what he would do were he in command of Allied forces. See Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 246.
10. The following account of ground operations is drawn from Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 52-55; Erickson, The Road to Stalingrad, pp. 464-72; and Kehrig, Stalingrad, pp. 131-60. Kehrig's account is particularly enlightening because it is accompanied by an outstanding set of maps.
11. KTB OKW, Vol. II, entry for 19.11.42., p. 988.
12. Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr, v. Richthofen, notations for 21.11.42. and 22.11.42. with quotation from Richthofen's diary from 21.11.42., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9; and Feldgericht des VIII. Fliegerkorps, Br. B. Nr. 7/43, Im Felde, den 26.1.43.; and Abschrift Wolfgang Pickert, Paderborn, 11.1.56., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v.9.
13. KTB OKW, Vol. II, entry for 25.11.42., p. 1019.
14. "Generaloberst Zeitzler über das Zustandekommen des Entschlusses, Stalingrad aus der Luft zu versorgen," letter from Zeitzler to Professor Suchenwirth, 11.3.55., AFSHRC: K 113.3018-4.
15. Suchenwirth, Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort, pp. 102-03.
16. "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr. v. Richthofen," notation from Richthofen's dairy from 24.11.42., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
17. KTB OKW, vol. II, entries for 17.8.42., 6.11.42., and 21.11.42., pp. 601, 911, and 999. Figures given in these entries list aircraft that were "startbereit." Since operational ready rates were running at approximately 60 percent, the figures somewhat distort total strength, although they do reflect actual capabilities.
18. Suchenwirth, Historical Turning Points in the German Air Force War Effort, p. 101.
19. Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1942, pp. 280-81.
20. Kehrig, Stalingrad, p. 219.
21. Russlandkrieg, "Die Luftversorgung Stalingrads," 10.3.56., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
22. See Kehrig, Stalingrad, p. 287; and Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1942, pp. 320-21.
23. Richthofen diary entry for 25.11.42., quoted in "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr. v. Richthofen," AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
24. For a complete listing of transport aircraft authorized strength, actual strength, and tonnage provided Stalingrad on a day-to-day basis, see: "Luftversorgung der 6. Armee vom 24.11.42. bis 3.2.43.," NARS T-321/18/4758846.
25. Richthofen diary entry for 18.12.42., quoted in "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr. v. Richthofen," AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
26. "Luftversorgung der 6. Armee vom 24.11.42. bis 3.2.43.," NARS T-321/18/4758846.
27. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 64-65.
28. See particularly "Tagebuch, Generalleumant Fiebig, Kommandeur VIII. Flieger Korps," entry for 24.12.42., for a description of the wild conditions involved in abandonment of Tatsinskaya, AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9; see also "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr. von Richthofen," entries for 23. and 24.12.42.
29. "Luftflotte 4 vor Stalingrad: unter Gen. Oberst Frhr. von Richthofen," entry for 26.12.42., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
30. "Luftversorgung der 6. Armee vom 24.11.42. bis 3.2.43.," NARS T-321/18/4758846.
31. For a somewhat colored account of Milch's activities, see Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, Chapter 13.
32. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 78-79.
33. "Luftversorgung der 6. Armee vom 24.11.42. bis 3.2.43.," NARS T-321/18/4758846.
34. "Auswirkung der Luftversorgung Stalingrad auf die Luftwaffe," aus einer Ausarbeitung von Gen. a. D. Plocher, AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 9.
35. For the fullest discussion of operations in late winter, see Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, Chapter V. See also Erich von Manstein, Verlorene Siege (Bonn, 1955).
36. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 227-28.
37. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 189.
38. Milch was referring to the weather organization, but it is clear that he felt the same way about much of the Luftwaffe's ground support organization in the east: see "Bodenorganisation und Wetterdienst im Osten 1942/1943," aus GL-Besprechung am 16.2.43., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 13.
39. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 231; see also "Ultra, History of the US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," June 1945, SRH-013, p. 51, for a message on the number of sorties flown on February 21.
40. Ibid., p. 228.
41. KTB OKW, Vol. III, entry for 27.2.43., p. 164.
42. "Das VIII. Flieger-Korps im Osteinsatz 1943," AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 11; "Luftwaffe im Osten 1943, 1.3.43.-13.9.43.," Auzüge aus KTB LFLA, März-August 1943 als Arbeitsunterlage, AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 12; "Luftflottenkommando 4., Kriegstagebuch und persönliche Aufzeichnungen des Ob. der Luftflotte 4"; and BA/MA, RL 7/487, Lw. Führungsstab Ia Nr. 01130/43, 22.3.43., "Zusitze Chef Luftflotte 4 zum Befehl des Herrn Reichsmarschalls vom 5.3.43."
43. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 96-97.
44. "Das VIII. Flieger-Korps im Osteinsatz 1943," AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 11; "Luftwaffe im Osten 1943, 1.3.43.-13.9.43.," Ausüge aus KTB LFLA, März-August 1943 als Arbeitsunterlage, AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 12, "Luftflottenkommando 4., Kriegstagebuch und persönliche Aufzeichnungen des Ob. der Luftflotte 4"; and BA/MA, RL 7/487, Lw. Führungsstab Ia Nr. 01130/43, 22.3.43., "Zusätze Chef Luftflotte 4 zum Befehl des Herrn Reichsmarschalls vom 5.3.43."
45. Zuteilung von fliegenden Verbänden an die Ostfront, Stand 20.2.43., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 13.
46. Based on loss reports in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1186, 1187, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
47. Luftwaffe strength on 31.1.43. in Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Table, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.
48. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 108-09.
49. BA/MA, RL 7/549, Luftwaffenkommando Ost, Führungsabteilung Ia op, 26.3.43., "Gefechtsbericht über die Schlacht um Vel. Luki vom 24.11.42. bis 19.1.43."
50. See Hermann Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1943 (Maxwell AFB, Alabama, 1967), Chapter 2.
51. Based on loss reports in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1188, 1189, 1190, and succeeding volumes, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle and Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
52. Luftwaffe strength on 31.3.43. in Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.
53. Manstein, Verlorene Siege, pp. 480-82.
54. KTB OKW, Vol. III, entry for 23.1.43., p. 66.
55. For the most complete account of the Battle of Kursk, see E. Klink, Das Gesetz des Handelns, 'Zitadelle' 1943 (Stuttgart, 1966).
56. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, p. 131.
57. Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters, p. 333.
58. Guderian, Panzer Leader, p. 309.
59. KTB OKW, Vol. III, Document #10, "Operationsbefehl Nr. 6 (Zitadelle) vom 15.4.43.," p. 1425.
60. The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union, 1941-1945, pp. 179-80.
61. For a view of the battle's terrible impact on the frontline infantry (in this case the army's Gross Deutschland division), see: Guy Sager, The Forgotten Soldier (New York, 1971).
62. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, p. 137.
63. Ibid., Chapter VIII.
64. "Überlegungen des OKL über den Kräftebedarf für das Untemehmen Zitadelle 1943 an der Ostfront," Auszug aus einer Besprechungsnotiz vom 26.6.43., AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 10.
65. Based on "Einsatz fliegender Verbände der deutschen Luftwaffe an der Ostfront 1943, 30.6.43.," AFSHRC: K 113.309-3, v. 13; and Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.
66. Plocher, The German Air Force Versus Russia, 1943, pp. 77-79.
67. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 234-35.
68. The above tabulations are based on loss returns for July and August 1943 in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1191, 1192, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden"; and Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation No. VII/107.
69. For a clear, fairminded discussion of the issues involved, see Howard, Grand Strategy, Vol. IV, pp. 244ff.
70. See Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters, p. 282; and KTB OKW, Vol. II, entry for 1.12.42., p. 1062.
71. Howard, Grand Strategy, Vol. IV, p. 355.
72. I. S. O. Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, Vol. IV, The Destruction of Axis Forces in Africa (London, 1966), pp. 172, 184.
73. For another view, see Howard, Grand Strategy, Vol. IV, p. 355; or Kesselring, A Soldier's Record, pp. 161-88.
74. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 158-59.
75. Based on the quartermaster general's loss tables for November-December 1942, and January 1943, BA/MA, RL 2 III/1184, 1185, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
76. "Ultra, History of the US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," June 1945, SRH-013, pp. 32-33. This is an extremely important source for the Luftwaffe, since it is based on "Ultra" intercepts and quotes many of them at length.
77. See Chapter IV of this book, p. 136.
78. Howard, Grand Strategy, Vol. IV, pp. 185-86.
79. See the particularly revealing discussions in Solly Zuckerman, From Apes to Warlords (London, 1978), pp. 173-96.
80. Letter from Doolittle, Subject: Escort Fighters; To: Commanding General, US Army Air Forces; Thru: Commanding General, Northwest African Air Forces, 22.5.43., Xerox copy of the letter in possession of the author. For an interesting discussion of the development of fighter escort for bomber formations in the Mediterranean and the early conclusion of Doolittle about the importance of fighter escort, see: Bernard Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," unpublished manuscript (Maxwell AFB, 1955), AFSHRC, pp. 74-76.
81. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 153-61.
82. Air Historical Branch, "The Luftwaffe in the Battle for Tunis, A Strategical Survey," a study prepared by the 8th Abteilung, 17.10.44., Translation No. VII/v.
83. For the steady attrition of Luftwaffe forces both in combat and through accidents, see the daily reports of F. d. L. Tunis for November, December, and January in BA/MA, RL 7/30, 31, 32.
84. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 252-53.
85. "Ultra, History of the US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," June 1945, SRH-013, p. 54.
86. Losses for transports based on the loss tables of the quartermaster general for April and May 1943 in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1188, 1189, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
87. BA/MA, RL 8/262, Gen. Lt. a.D. Osterkamp, "Vorbemerkungen zum Einsatz des 'Jagdfliegerführer Sizilien'."
88. "Ultra, History of the US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 62.
89. Based on the loss tables of the quartermaster, BA/MA, RL 2 III/1184, 1185, 1186, 1187, 1188, 1189, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden"; and Air Historical Branch, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-1945," Translation No. VII/107.
90. See the figures on Luftwaffe strength in "Die deutsche Luftwaffe auf dem Mittelmeer-Kriegsschauplatz," USAF Historical Study #161, AFSHRC.
91. See Ewan Montagu, The Man Who Never Was (London, 1953). For the success of these deception efforts, see KTB OKW, Vol. III, Doc. #12, p. 1429, OKW/WFST/OP Nr. 661055/93, 12.5.43., which gave priority to the defense of Sardinia and Greece.
92. Warlimont, Inside Hitler's Headquarters, pp. 332-33.
93. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, p. 428.
94. See Zuckerman, From Apes to Warlords, Chapter 10, and particularly p. 195 for Spaatz's reaction. See also Tedder, With Prejudice, pp. 440-44.
95. Based on the loss tables of the quartermaster general (6. Abteilung) for June 1943, BA/MA, RL 2 III/1189, "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
96. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 257-58.
97. BA/MA, RL 8/262, Gen. Lt. a.D. Osterkamp, "Vorbemerkungen zum Einsatz des 'Jagdfliegerführers Sizilien'."
98. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 260-61; see also "Ultra, History of the US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 76.
99. Based on the loss tables of the quartermaster general (6. Abteilung) for July and August 1943, BA/MA, RL 2 III/1190, 1191, "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
100. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 261.
101. BA/MA, RL 8/262, Gen. Lt. a.D. Osterkamp, "Vorbemerkungen zum Einsatz des 'JagdfliegerFührers Sizilien'."
102. Galland, The First and the Last, pp. 146-47.
103. See John Grigg, Invasion 1943: The Invasion that Never Was (London, 1980), for a restatement of the old but fallacious argument that without the diversion into the Mediterranean, the Allies could have landed in France in 1943.
104. For a critique of Kesselring's leadership, see the study by General von Senger und Etterlin, "Liaison Activities with Italian 6th Army--A Post-War Study," AHB, Translation VII/166; see also Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, p. 333, for Kesselring's optimistic reports, but more sober on the scene analysis.
105. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," pp. 33, 53-54.
106. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, Appendix 39, p. 428.
107. Ibid., Vol. II, p. 91.
108. PRO AIR 22/203, War Room Manual of Bomber Command Ops 1939/1945, compiled by Air Ministry War Room (Statistical Section), p. 9.
109. Harris, Bomber Offensive, p. 144.
110. In commenting on the plans coming out of Casablanca for a combined bomber offensive, Harris noted in his memoirs that "the new instructions therefore made no difference." Ibid., p. 144.
111. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 108.
112. Ibid., p. 133.
113. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, pp. 280-81; see also Max Hastings' Bomber Command (New York, 1979), p. 208, for Barnes Wallis' frustration on this point.
114. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 110-11.
115. Ibid., pp. 143-46. For the arguments about the use of "Window," see in particular Jones, The Wizard War, Chapter 33.
116. Clayton, The Enemy is Listening, p. 269.
117. For the most complete account of the Hamburg raid, see Martin Middlebrook's excellent study, The Battle of Hamburg, Allied Bomber Forces Against a German City in 1943 (London, 1980).
118. Ibid., Chapter 15.
119. See among others, Hans Rumpf, The Bombing of Germany (London, 1963), pp. 82-83; Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg, p. 272; and OKW Wehrwirtschaftsstab, "Erfahrungen bei Luftangriffen," von Oberst Luther, WWi D/WK Kdo X, 15.1.44., NARS T-79/81/000641. Milch on 30.7.43. estimated the dead in Hamburg as high as 50,000: "Ansprache Milchs am 30. Juli 1943 über verstärkten Jägereinsatz im Heimatkriegsgebiet," Generalluftzeugmeister-Besprechung, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2 v.3.
120. Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg, pp. 290-93.
121. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 155-56.
122. OKW Wehrwirtschaftsstab, "Erfahrungen bei Luftangriffen," von Oberst Luther, WWi O/WK Kdo X, 15.1.44., NARS T-79/81/000641.
123. Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries, p. 419.
124. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 284.
125. See Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 282-83.
126. Ibid., p. 159.
127. Letter from Eaker to Spaatz, October 1942, quoted in Fabyanic, "A Critique of United States Air War Planning, 1941-1944," pp. 129-30.
128. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 842-44. The dates were December 6 and 20.
129. Ibid., p. 330.
130. Quoted by Boyland, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 68.
131. See, in particular, Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Chapter II; Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 10-21.
132. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, p. 367.
133. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 59-64.
134. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 670-72.
135. Ibid., pp. 846-47.
136. Ibid., pp. 79-81; see also Eighth Air Force, "Tactical Development, August 1942-May 1945," copy in possession of the author.
137. Ibid., p. 847.
138. USSBS, "The German Anti-Friction Bearings Industry," January 1947, p. 18; for a detailed analysis of the German ball bearing industry from a more historical perspective, see particularly Friedhelm Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943 (Paderborn, 1980), Chapter II.
139. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, p. 848.
140. LeMay, Mission With LeMay, p. 296.
141. Percentages based on the losses as established in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, p. 848, and operational and crew strength in "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17.8.42-8.5.45.," AFSHRC.
142. For a particularly interesting discussion of the problem of evaluating bombing accuracy in the drawing up of plans for the Combined Bomber Offensive, see: Fabyanic, "A Critique of United States Air War Planning."
143. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 62. The British official historians claim that "Eighth Air Force chose a full-moon period to make their first attack on August 19 [sic], and, though they carried incendiary bombs in the hopes of lighting the target for a night attack, it must have been obvious that Bomber Command could scarcely carry it out in such circumstances." It is worth noting that on the evening of August 17th when Eighth Air Force bombed Schweinfurt, Bomber Command was over Peenemünde. Even should the moonlit night have been an obstacle to an attack in central Germany, some other date could have been arranged had Harris wished to do so.
144. Boyland, "The Development of the Long-Range Fighter Escort," pp. 90-91, 121.
145. Ibid., p. 30.
146. Based on figures in "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17.8.42.-8.5.45.," AFSHRC.
148. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 480-83.
149. Ibid., pp. 483-84.
150. For Göring's worries on this, see BA/MA, RL 3/63, Besprechungsnotiz Nr. 85/43, g. Kdos. vom 27.8.43., Jägerhof, p. 7061.
151. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 186.
152. For Hitler's care over Sperrle's welfare, see Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, p. 341, for a RM 50,000 gift that the Führer provided the Field Marshal in early July 1943. Sperrle, who had a reputation for a love of good living not short of Göring's, was not to be found at his headquarters but rather vacationing on the Atlantic coast south of Biarritz.
153. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943, pp. 106-07.
154. BA/MA, RL 3/50, Der Staatssekretar der Luftfahrt and Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe, gst. Nr. 847/43, 29.6.43., "Bericht über Besichtigungsreise 7.6. bis 12.6.43." See also BA/MA, RL 8/88, Generalkommando XII. Fliegerkorps, Ia Nr. 2700/43 Korpsgefechtsstand, 12.9.43. Betr: Tätigkeitsbericht und Erfahmngsbericht des Generalkommandos XII. Fliegerkorps im August 1943, p. 59.
155. Goebbels, The Goebbels Diary, entry for 7.3.43., p. 277, and especially entry for 9.3.43., pp. 278-91.
156. Quoted in Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 208.
157. Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, pp. 335-36.
158. Tag-und Nachtjagd, Besprechungsnotiz Nr. 63/43 am 27.6.43., Obersalzberg, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3; see also BA/MA, RL 3/45, Der Staatssekretär der Luftfahrt and Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe, St/GL 490/43 Bericht Nr. 80 über die Amtschefbesprechung am 6.7.43.
159. BA/MA, RL 3/50, Der Staatssekretär der Luftfahrt und Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe, Gst, Nr. 847/43, "Bericht über Besichtigungsreise 7.6 bis 12.6.43."
160. BA/MA, RL 3/54, Der Reichsminister der Luftfahrt und Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Br. 21 Nr. 8731/43, 21.7.43., Betr.: "Sofortmassnahmen für Verfolgungsnachtjagd über grössere Räume."
161. Middlebrook, The Battle of Hamburg, pp. 244-48.
162. BA/MA, RL 3/54, "Vorschlag für eine neue Nachtjagdtaktik," 27.7.43.
163. Auszug aus der G.L. Besprechung am 20.8.43. im RLM, "Der erste grosse Einsatz der 'wilden Sau,'" AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
164. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 59.
165. Auszug aus der G.L.-Besprechung am 20.8.43. im RLM, "Der erste grosse Einsatz der 'wilden Sau'," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
166. Generalluftzeugmeister-Besprechung, "Ansprache Milchs am 30.7.43. über verstärkten Jagereinsatz im Heimatkriegsgebiet," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
167. BA/MA, RL 3/45, Der Staatssekretär der Luftfahrt und Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe, ST/GI 551/43, Bericht Nr. 83 über die Amtschefbesprechung am 16.7.43.
168. "Hitler zur Frage der Gegenmassnahmen zur Beantwortung der alliierten Luftangriffe," 25.7.43., AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
169. BA/MA, RL 3/63, "Besprechungsnotiz Nr. 85/43 g.Kdos, vom 27.8.43., Jägerhof."
170. BA/MA, RL 3/60, Besprechungsnotiz Nr. 8/43, 25.1.43.
171. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 219.
172. Oberst Vorwald, Chef des Technischen Amtes, 19.2.43. "Kurzer Bericht über die Besprechung beim Herrn Reichsmarschall mit den Flottenchefs vom 15. bis 17. February 1943."
173. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 287.
174. BA/MA, RL 7/112, Luftflottenkommando 3, Führungsabteilung (1) Nr. 8480/43, 12.7.43., "Tatigkeitsbericht der Luftflotte 3 für den Monat Juni 1943."
175. BA/MA, RL 3/50, Der Staatssekretär der Luftfahrt und Generalinspekteur der Luftwaffe, Gst, Nr. 847/43, 29.6.43. "Bericht über Besichtigungsreise 7.6. bis 12.6.43."
176. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1187, 1188, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden," March and April 1943 and "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," March and April 1943.
177. Besprechungsnotiz Nr. 63/43 am 27.6.43. Obersalzberg, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
178. BA/MA, RL 7/113, Luftflottenkommando 3 Führungsabteilung (1), Ic Nr. 9960/43, 13.8.43. "Tätigkeitsbericht der Luftflotte 3 für den Monat Juli 1943."
179. The following figures are based on my calculations of the loss tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1191, 1192, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden," July and August 1943.
180. BA/MA, RL 3/61, Generalmajor Galland, 28.7.43., Aktennotiz über Besprechung beim Herrn Reichsmarschall am 26./27.7.43.
181. See the sorties dispatched for July and August in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 846-48.
182. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1192, 1193, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden," August-September 1943; and AHB, "Luftwaffe Strength and Serviceability Tables, August 1938-April 1945," Translation Nr. VII/107.
183. Based on the figures in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Gen. Qu. 6.Abt. (III A), "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste," January-June 1943.
184. Based on figures of fighter pilot strength and losses in the tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/722, 723, 724, 725, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
185. BA/MA, RL 2 III, Gen. Qu. 6.Abt. (III A), "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste," January-December 1943.
188. BA/MA, RL 2 III/722, 723, 724, 725, 726, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
189. Based on the author's tabulation of the losses in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1191, 1192, 1193, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle ünd Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden," July, August, September 1943.
190. BA/MA, RL 2 II/1025, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (III A), "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste," July-August 1943.
191. Based on figures of fighter pilot strength and losses in the tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/725, 726, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
192. Based on the figures in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (III A), "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste," 1941-1944. The percentages of noncombat losses work out as follows: Jan-Jun 1941, 44.5 percent; Jul-Dec 1941, 39.5 percent; Jan-Jun 1942, 45 percent; Jul-Dec 1942, 40.9 percent; Jan-Jun 1943, 45 percent; Jul-Dec 1943, 44.6 percent; Jan-Jun 1944, 37.2 percent. The decrease in the last period seems to have been the result of the fact that Allied fighters were shooting down German aircraft faster than their pilots could crash them.
193. Among other items, see: BA/MA, RL 2 II/181, OKL, Führungsstab, Ia/Ausb. Nr. 999/44, 11.4.44., "Herabsetzung von Flugzeugunfällen"; Ia/Ausb., 25.7.44., "Verhütung von Flugzeugverlusten ohne Feindeinwirkung"; OKL Generalquartiermeister, A2 52 b 10 Nr. 1370/44, "Tote und Verletzte der Luftwaffe im Flugbetrieb ohne Feindeinwirkung"; Ia/Ausb. (IIIA), "Studie, Herabsetzung der Flugzeugverluste ohne Feindeinwirkung," 30.9.44.
194. The above figures were provided by the Office of Flying Safety, Norton AFB, California.
195. I am indebted to Colonels Thomas Fabyanic (Ret) and Kenneth Alnwick, USAF, for this item.
196. USSBS, ESBGWE, Appendix Table 102, p. 277. German figures were calculated on a quite different basis than American and British figures. Aircraft that received major battle damage but which were still reparable were counted in production figures after they had been repaired. Nevertheless, an analysis of frontline strength, production figures, and loss tables creates the impression that there was some double bookkeeping going on.
197. Based on figures in BA/MA, RL 2 III/723, 724, 725, and 726, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I). "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
198. See Irving's account of the Milch-Hitler conversation occurring early in March, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, pp. 201-03.
199. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943, p. 115.
200. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 230. Obviously, the bomber force would provide crews for the night fighter forces, especially the "wild sow" force.
201. For further discussion of these points, see David Irving, The Mare's Nest (Boston, 1964), pp. 229-60.
202. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 210.
203. BA/MA, RL 3/60, Stenografische Niederschrift der Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall über Flugzeug-Programm-Entwurf, 22.3.43., p. 66.
204. See in particular BA/MA, RL 3/56, Der Leiter der Fachgliederung Elektrotechnik im Reichsforschungsrat, 23.10.42.
205. See Irving's, The Mare's Nest, pp. 30, 222.
206. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 202.
207. Irving, The Mare's Nest, pp. 58-59, 87-90.
208. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943, p. 157.
209. Irving, The Mare's Nest, p. 109.
210. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943, p. 153.
211. Ibid., p. 156. For other German high altitude cannons, the average ammunition expenditure was as follows: 88mm flak 41: 8,000 shells; 105mm flak 39: 6,000 shells; and the 128mm flak 40: 3,000 shells.
212. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 285.
213. Figures are based on the calculations made at Karlsruhe after the war by Germans working for the historical project on the Luftwaffe in World War II: "Alliierte Luftangriffe im Jahre 1943 auf Werke der deutschen Flugzeugindustrie," AFSHRC: K 113-2, v. 3.
Field Marshal Erhard Milch visiting the 55th Bomb Wing
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)
B-17 formation attacking Brunswick
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
B-17's under attack by Fw 190, 29 Nov 1943, target: Bremen
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
The cost: B-17 straggler under the guns of an Fw 190
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
The cost: B-17 falling out of formation
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
The cost: B-17 munition handling accident
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
The defenders: Galland and Hermann at war game with 1st Fighter Wing, Nov-Dec 1943
(Photo Credit: AFSHRC)
The defenders: the Fw 190
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
The defenders: mainstay of the night fighter force--the Bf 110G
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Air superiority: American fighters over B-17 formation
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Attrition: destruction of a Bf 109
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Attrition: Bf 109 pilot bales out
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Air superiority: He 177 under strafing attack
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Defeat: occupied German airfield, 1945
(Photo Credit: Official USAF Photo)
Göring in defeat: the Reichsmarschall removes his medals for his American captors
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Colonel Max van Rossum Daum, USAF, Retired)