ATTRITION OVER THE REICH:
SEPTEMBER 1943-MARCH 1944
Jeschonnek's suicide in August 1943 was symbolic of the collapse of Germany's air strategy. The Luftwaffe had committed itself to supporting ground forces deep in Russia and the Mediterranean, and the sustained combat on the periphery had decimated its forces. Meanwhile, the RAF's night offensive and the growing threat of Eighth Air Force represented a direct challenge to Nazi Germany's survival. The homes and lives of the German people became hostage to British bombers, while B-17's and B-24's posed a direct threat to industry. Admittedly, the nature of the American threat was just emerging, but it had already influenced production of fighter aircraft. Thus, the Combined Bomber Offensive represented a danger that the Germans had to meet. The response, however, was in no sense a clear-headed analysis of the Reich's strategic situation. Rather, it was a hodgepodge of expedients to defend Germany's airspace, combined with an effort to find a method of retaliation.
At night, these expedients sufficed to win a tactical victory over Bomber Command by March 1944. However, attrition of the day fighter force, already high in the summer of 1943, continued unabated throughout the year; and then in 1944 as American fighters flew deeper into the Reich, it reached a level that literally destroyed the Luftwaffe's fighter forces. As a result, the Americans won air superiority over Europe. For the German fighter pilot, there was no magic number of sorties or hours, the completion of which guaranteed a return home. He was already home, and in the skies over the Reich he faced an opponent who enjoyed overwhelming superiority. If he survived the first missions and his skills reached those of his opponents, he would fly until fatigue and strain led to a mistake that was more often than not fatal.
Jeschonnek's death resulted in Günther Korten's appointment as Chief of Staff. He possessed a better grasp of Germany's desperate situation, and his approach aimed at two strategic objectives: building up the air defenses and establishing a "strategic" bombing force to attack critical elements in Russia's economy.1 The latter strategy would hopefully hinder Soviet armaments production and relieve hard-pressed ground forces in the east. Korten established himself as a man of authority and strength, and Hitler relied increasingly on the Chief of Staff. Göring remained in the background in partial disgrace.2
Korten, however, faced an impossible task, for the Luftwaffe had already lost its chance for a successful aerial defense of the Reich. While Hitler had indicated some interest in defending Germany against Allied bombing, he refused to give top priority to increased fighter production. Hitler's refusal reflected a basic
unwillingness, even at this late date, to look at the major reason behind Germany's desperate plight: overwhelming Allied productive superiority. Hitler and Göring dredged up many excuses to explain why Allied bombers were flying deep inside the Reich, but one recurring theme was that of the cowardice of Germany's fighter pilots and their refusal to press home attacks on bombers.3 Korten himself discovered during the winter of 1943-44 that the desperate ground situation in the east as well as the temptation to use the bomber forces for retaliatory attacks on Britain made creation of a "strategic" bombing force totally impractical. Thus, although Korten accomplished a major restructuring of the air staff, he could not alter fundamental misconceptions governing the conduct of the air war.4
NIGHT DEFENSE OF THE REICH
Bomber Command's efforts continued full scale in the fall of 1943. In September and October, Harris' forces launched a series of devastating attacks on towns and cities in western and northern Germany. On September 5, British bombers achieved a heavy concentration on the Mannheim-Ludwigshafen area and destroyed both towns. On October 4, the command pulverized Frankfurt am Main and on October 8 destroyed most of Hannover's city center. The most damaging attack came on October 22 against Kassel when the pathfinders dropped target indicators so accurately that at least 86 percent of attacking crews bombed within 3 miles of the aiming point. The resulting concentration created a second fire storm within a three-month period. Seven days later, fires still burned.5 Despite these successes, when weather conditions were bad and pathfinders relied on H2S to find and to mark targets in cloud cover, results were less satisfactory. In fact, outside the range of Oboe, British bombers found it almost impossible to achieve accurate, concentrated bombing in bad weather.
Nevertheless, despite problems in the fall, Harris embarked on what he regarded as a war winning strategy. The lengthening nights provided his forces with the darkness needed for the long, deep penetrations to Berlin. Harris decided to destroy the German capital and in early November penned a note to Churchill in which he underlined his successes and future strategy. He listed 19 German cities, including Hamburg, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Hannover, Mannheim, Rostock, and Kassel, as virtually destroyed; 19 cities as seriously damaged; and a further 9 as damaged. "From the above," he minuted, "you will see that the Ruhr is largely 'out,' and that much progress has been made towards the elimination of the remaining essentials of German war power." He concluded:
I feel certain that Germany must collapse before this programme, which is more than half concluded already, has proceeded much further.
We have not much further to go. But we must get the USAAF to wade in in greater force. If they will only get going according to plan and avoid such disastrous diversions as Ploesti . . ., we can get through with it very quickly.
We can wreck Berlin from end to end if the USAAF will come in on it. It will cost us between 400-500 aircraft. It will cost Germany the war.6
Kassel 22/23rd October 1943
Harris was considerably underestimating the cost. As Table XL7 indicates, bomber losses in 1943 had been very heavy; and with the quick recovery of German night defenses from the effects of "Window," there was little prospect that matters would improve in the coming year.
|Present for Duty in
Harris' approach raises the question as to his interest in integrating science and analysis into the night bombing effort. He had displayed little interest in the scientific war in 1942, and as one historian of the bomber offensive noted: "The short point is this. When the Bomber Command missing rate started getting into double figures, then its chiefs got interested in the scientific war of wits, but not before."8 By 1943, conditions had forced Harris to use scientists but only on his terms. Solly Zuckerman, one of Britain's leading scientists, relates a remarkable story about meeting Harris in early 1944. Portal sent Zuckerman to High Wycombe, Bomber Command's headquarters, to pass along his scientific work on bombing in the Mediterranean theater. A bizarre evening began with Harris bitterly denouncing Eaker's transfer and characterizing the American as a man who "understood . . . the vital importance of the strategic bombing of Germany, which he thought that Spaatz appreciated not at all." During the entire evening during which reconnaissance photographs of bombed-out German towns appeared, Harris asked not one question about Zuckerman's studies. The next morning, Harris finally brought up the subject of the war in the south.
He had only one question to put, he said, and he wanted a straight answer, "yes or no--nothing more." "Could heavy bombers be used to bomb coastal defenses?" I paused a second, and then said, "yes." It was clearly not the answer he wanted, and no further word [on the subject] was spoken.9
One has the feeling that Harris embarked on the "area" bombing of Berlin as a matter of faith. Science and research were useful only insofar as they supported his campaign and arguments.
In retrospect, it appears that Harris hoped to win the war in the winter of 1943-44 with Bomber Command alone. He told one senior commander at the time that his (Harris') forces would have to show the world.10 Unfortunately, there comes a point where the maintenance of the objective crosses the fine line between realistic
perserverance and stubborn adherence to preconceived ideas.11 Haig had crossed that line in 1917; Harris now also crossed that line. In fairness to the Air Marshal, one must note that no other commander in the war bore greater strain. Every night from February 1942 through spring 1945, Harris decided whether his command would strike or not, a decision on which rested the lives and welfare of his crews. In the 1942-43 period, that strain was particularly heavy in view of difficulties facing Bomber Command. By the fall of 1943, Harris had held his position for a year and three-quarters; he was tired and under great stress. Thus far, he had waged his campaign for the most part with skill, and it is difficult to imagine the bombing effort achieving the same degree of success under another commander. Nevertheless, the Battle of Berlin suggests that a new commander in late 1943 might have shown greater flexibility (never Harris' strongest attribute), thereby avoiding the worst aspects of the defeat that now took place. However, Harris' popularity with the public and aircrews made his position invulnerable.
Harris could not have selected a more difficult target. Berlin lay deep in central Germany and thus demanded that an attacking force fly a considerable distance and time over hostile territory. On the long run in and out, the bomber stream provided a concentrated target to which German night fighters could react. The fact that Berlin was a great metropolitan center exacerbated the difficulties confronting its attackers. It was easy to bomb within city limits; it was another matter to achieve the concentration on which "area" bombing depended. Moreover, Berlin was beyond most British navigational and target-finding aids, while the city itself was too large and had too few terrain features for H2S to be as effective as it had proved in the Hamburg and Peenemünde attacks. Finally, the months of darkness occurred precisely during those months of dreadful weather conditions over central Europe. Thus, the Berlin raids took place during inclement weather that forced the pathfinders to mark and the main force to bomb through heavy overcast. In fact, the cloud cover over Berlin from November 1943, when the offensive began, until mid-February 1944 allowed reconnaissance aircraft to photograph the results only twice.12 Yet daunting as these difficulties were, the British faced a German night fighter force that was recovering rapidly from the defeat suffered over Hamburg. Thus, Harris embarked on a strategy that was direct and obvious, that maximized the exposure of his bombers to fighter attack, that minimized the potential of evasion, and that took place during the year's worst weather.
On the other side of the hill, the German night fighter forces also faced serious problems. They too had to fly during bad weather. They not only faced "Window" but a host of countermeasures and spoof raids designed to mislead the defenses. Finally, they did not receive undivided support from a high command that found the temptation to use them in daylight operations almost overwhelming. Despite these difficulties, the night fighter force inflicted on its opponent one of the few tactical victories won by German armed forces in the last years of the war.
The inception of the "wild sow" tactic in mid-August did not prove particularly auspicious. German controllers, misled by a "Mosquitoe" feint, concentrated Herrman's force and most of the night fighters over Berlin. Antiaircraft gunners
blasted away at the accumulation of aircraft over the capital which they mistook for bombers, while fighters fired off recognition signals at each other. The evening's proceedings ended with a pileup on the Brandenburg-Briest airfield.13 A few night fighters were not fooled and arrived over Peenemünde to wreak havoc among the last bomber wave.14 The Peenemünde operation pointed up the limitations under which night forces operated throughout the battle. Without timely information as to the main force's course and target, night fighters could not get at the bomber stream. If the controllers fell for a spoof raid, German night fighters were in for a long, unproductive evening chasing "Mosquitoes," while the main force pounded some unfortunate city. Conditions limited the "wild sow" force of day fighters even more. In single-engine, short-range fighters, they had to receive a vector to the correct city as limited range and lack of radar gave them little chance of intercepting the bomber stream. Almost from the first, the British caught on to the "wild sow" tactics. Their response was twofold. First, they launched more spoof missions to confuse and mislead defenses, and deception tactics became more complicated as the year continued. The second response reduced time over target to a minimum. In October, the British scheduled no raid to last more than 26 minutes over target.15 As a result, "wild sow" fighters had little time to identify and to attack bombers.
If "wild sow" tactics represented an expedient, the Germans were moving rapidly to redress the balance between bomber and fighter. In particular, they solved the "Window" problem. In the summer, German scientists had been developing a new radar set, the "SN2." It operated on a longer wavelength than older radars; and although it could lock on to targets at a relatively long range, it had the disadvantage of an excessive minimum range. However, "Window" had little effect on its wavelength, and thus it could distinguish targets in the clouds of aluminum strips. The Luftwaffe immediately began a crash program to re-equip night fighters.16 As with all new systems, there were teething troubles with the device, and frontline units squabbled with industry as to who was at fault for initial failures. Nevertheless, by mid-winter, technicians had resolved most defects.17 In addition, some Ju 88's and He 219's began to appear in the force as replacements for outdated Bf 110's. But the re-equipment program still lagged because night fighters received lower priority than the bomber force. Therefore, despite its limitations, the Bf 110 remained the backbone of night fighters.
One other major equipment change occurred that had a major impact on bomber losses towards the end of the Battle of Berlin. Frontline squadrons developed an upward firing cannon called schräge Musik. By aligning himself under and slightly behind the wing of an enemy bomber, a night fighter pilot could destroy the engines and set the fuel tanks on fire. Given the loads of fuel and explosives that British bombers carried and their lack of defensive armor, any attack was dangerous. The only possibility of survival was instantaneous, violent evasion. The new schräge Musik allowed fighters to approach bombers unobserved from underneath, as there were no turret gunners on the underside of most British bombers.18 RAF intelligence remained ignorant of the new tactics since debriefing officers refused to believe the
few reports that German fighters were firing upwards while flying underneath the bombers.
One critical factor facing the night fighter force was the level of attrition taking place in frontline units. In October, Kammhuber warned Göring at a meeting of fighter generals that crew losses were approaching unacceptable levels. In June, the night fighter force had lost only 12 crews. From then on, losses had climbed rapidly. In July, it lost 38 crews (6.8 percent), in August 57 (9.8 percent), and in September 53 (7.7 percent).19 These rising losses among night fighters reflected their use during daytime as well as the pressure of operations against the British homeland. The assembled generals found the losses worrisome, and General Martini commented that the night fighter defenses were eating into their capital. Göring, however, was not upset. He remarked that "today, there is a war on" and that losses were inevitable. Noting the loss of 160 crews in four months (including June's figures and missing the significance of the rise of crew losses), Göring took comfort in the fact that this worked out to only one and one-third crews lost per night. He claimed that this rate was not shocking when compared to the loss of life caused by the British bombardment. As to the efforts to get more equipment for training units, the Reichsmarschall lamely suggested that perhaps booty seized in Italy after its surrender might compensate for some of the equipment deficiencies.20
At the end of August and beginning of September, lengthening nights allowed Bomber Command to attack Berlin again. The results of three raids and the losses suffered should have served warning for future strategy. Out of 1,179 aircraft claiming to have bombed the capital, only 27 on examination of night camera photographs got within 3 miles of the aiming point. Losses showed a significant rise over the Hamburg raids: The Germans shot down no less than 123 bombers (an overall loss rate of 7.2 percent).21 By the end of September, Göring felt optimistic enough to congratulate his night fighter commanders and crews for their successful recovery and the losses they were inflicting.22
The real offensive against Berlin opened in November with four major raids. The losses in the first stage of the battle were surprisingly low (4 percent of sorties launched on Berlin and 3.6 percent for the overall sortie loss rate). Churchill offered congratulations to Portal and Harris.23 But loss rates were misleading. November's weather conditions were dreadful; and during some raids, German fighters could not get off the ground. The corollary to the safety advantage that such conditions offered was a corresponding drop in bombing accuracy. Conditions made it impossible to mark or to identify targets, and crews had no choice but to drop their loads higgledy-piggledy over Berlin. Considerable damage was done, but no concentrated bombing on the scale of Hamburg and Kassel took place.
The damage did shake Speer's confidence, however, and Goebbels after a major raid noted that: "The situation has become ever more alarming in that one industrial plant after another has been set on fire . . . . The sky above Berlin is bloody, deep red, and of an awesome beauty. I just can't stand looking at it." Nevertheless, the Propaganda Minister comforted himself in British overestimations of raid damage and forbade any denials in the hope that the "sooner London is convinced that there
is nothing left of Berlin, the sooner will they stop their offensive against the Reich's capital."24 The Germans confined post-bombing damage better than in earlier raids through lessons learned at Hamburg. Goebbels ordered evacuation of nearly 1 million Berliners in August and instituted a massive program throughout the Reich's cities to beef up air raid and fire prevention forces. In Berlin, such efforts helped to hold down casualties and damage.25
In December, Bomber Command's losses began to rise. The first raid on Berlin saw 8.7 percent of the attacking force missing with an average loss of 4.8 percent of sorties dispatched for all four attacks on the capital. Disaster struck in January. Harris launched nine major operations against Germany, six against Berlin, and one each against Stettin, Brunswick, and Magdeburg. The loss rates were terrible. The missing rate on six Berlin raids averaged 6.1 percent of sorties dispatched, while attacks on other cities lost 7.2 percent of their aircraft. The least costly raid was on Stettin. Nevertheless, even though the German controller was fooled into believing Berlin was the main attack, the raid still lost 4.2 percent of aircraft dispatched.26 Total bombers lost for the month came to 316 aircraft, a rate in terms of matériel and manpower that no air force could long support.
These losses reflected the German success in rebuilding the night defenses. New aircraft, new radar sets, and above all a new system of command and control tipped the balance against the bomber. As early as the end of September, General Schmid, now Commander of the I Jagdkorps (I Fighter Corps), felt that the "wild sow" tactics had reached their optimum and would not gain any greater success.27 Herrmann's system depended on a centralized control to give day fighters the location of the attack. During the fall of 1943, that control system evolved into a running commentary by the chief German controller as to the course and progress of the bomber stream. Meanwhile, "wild sow" and "tame sow" radar-equipped fighters scrambled. The controller vectored them to beacons located throughout Germany from which they could then move into the bomber stream. The fighter beacons for "wild sow" aircraft were flashing high-powered lights on the ground, while radio beacons provided concentration points for the twin-engine, radar-equipped fighters. Bad winter weather, however, made it possible to concentrate "wild sow" forces, as Schmid had suspected would be the case.28
The "tame sow" aircraft and the controllers became increasingly adept at earlier interception of raids and at feeding night fighters directly into the bomber stream. The development of a number of new devices aided the defense. The first step came with the use of British identification, friend or foe (IFF) transmissions to determine the bomber stream's course. When the British caught on and shut off such signals over the continent, the Germans moved to other transmissions that the bombers made. British scientists developed a device, code-named "Monica," to warn bombers that German airborne radar was scanning them; the Germans captured such a device early on and turned it. With the "Flensburg" apparatus, night fighters homed in directly on bombers using "Monica." In addition, the Germans provided fighters with a device called "Naxos," which homed in on H2S transmissions. Not all such measures were German. The British began to use fake controllers, first in
England and then airborne in specially built "Lancasters." They confused and gave contradictory information to German fighters.29 When that no longer worked, the British jammed the frequencies used by German controllers.30 Nevertheless, the general impression of scientific war in this period is that the defense had the upper hand.
By January, German night fighters were flying out into the North Sea to intercept the bombers.31 Their successes in that month forced the British to take drastic action. Raid planning became more complex with a number of spoof raids launched with the main effort to deceive defenses. Pathfinders no longer laid route markers to guide the bombers nor could markers indicate course turning points. Such marking devices had pointed out the raid's direction to German fighters and drew them directly into the bomber stream. While such changes helped keep losses down, they decreased bombing accuracy. By January, German commanders had recognized that "tame sow" tactics were proving most effective, although some problems remained with the "SN2" radar.32
The German success in January was such that it had virtually won the Battle of Berlin, although Harris did not admit defeat until March. Nevertheless, Bomber Command's operations in February suggest High Wycombe's recognition that Berlin had become a dangerous target. Most of February's attacks were against less dangerous objectives in southern and western Germany. The two missions along the northern route through the heart of the German defenses suffered heavily. The first lost 4.8 percent, while the second lost 9.5 percent of aircraft dispatched. Not until March 24 did a major raid against Berlin recur. Night fighter defenses thus forced the British to deflect the offensive from Berlin to attack what Harris regarded as subsidiary targets.33 Among these was a heavy raid on Schweinfurt. After great wrangling between the Air Staff's Director of Bomber Operations and Harris, Bomber Command finally attacked the ball bearing plants seven months after the first American raid.34
For the first part of March, Bomber Command's efforts centered on attacking targets in southern Germany. Moreover, the commitment to the invasion had already begun to draw attention to targets in France. At the end of the month, however, the British mounted several major deep penetration raids into Germany. They brought a sudden and costly end to the Battle of Berlin. The first on March 24 hit the German capital with one last massive blow. Losses were heavy, 73 bombers were destroyed for a missing rate of 9.1 percent of aircraft dispatched.35 On the 26th, Bomber Command again devastated Essen in an accurate Oboe attack carried out through dense cloud cover. German defenses were off balance, and the British lost only nine bombers.36 The accurate bombing of Essen, however, underlined again how dependent Bomber Command was on navigational devices to achieve accurate bombing patterns. In one raid against Stuttgart (beyond the range of Oboe) earlier in the month, not one aircraft dropped its bombs within city limits.37
On March 30, Bomber Command launched its last deep penetration raid for a considerable period of time as preparations for "Overlord" were about to begin.
This was indeed "a curious operation."38 It reflected serious errors in judgment which, when combined with circumstances such as weather and decisions made by German controllers early in the raid, caused a disaster. In the sense that chance lay largely on Germany's side, the Nuremberg raid was on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Hamburg raids of July and August 1943.
Harris initiated the mission in the early morning hours of March 30. Weather was not favorable and the moon would not set until nearly 0200 hours. However, most dangerous for the bombers' survival was the routing that High Wycombe selected for the attacking force. Turning south of Brussels, the bomber stream would fly a route that 5 Group advocated: a straight in, straight out flight plan with few course alterations. The long leg after the turn south of Brussels would carry the bombers between the Ruhr and Colbenz Flak concentrations. Unfortunately, this gap lay immediately in front of night fighter beacons, "Ida" and "Otto." There was nothing surprising about the bomber stream passing close by such beacons that now existed throughout Germany. What was surprising was the fact that the bombers after their turn south of Brussels flew straight at those beacons for 25 minutes and then continued on the same course for a further 35 minutes. Bennett objected to the route in strong terms.39 He later suggested that there was a near mutiny among his pathfinder crews when they saw the routing.40
At 2322 hours, the bomber stream crossed the coast. Within 20 minutes, the German controller ordered fighters to concentrate at "Ida."41 Adding to the doom awaiting the bombers were unusual weather conditions. For nearly the entire length of the long leg, the skies remained clear with few clouds. Moreover, strong contrails formed at the bombers' altitude, a rare occurrence considering the relatively low height at which Bomber Command operated.42 In such conditions, the bombers were in a hopeless position. German fighters, vectored to the "Ida" beacon from the west, found themselves in the bomber stream even before reaching station. Upon arrival at the beacon, fighters from the north and the west were among the bombers. All then flew with the main force to Nuremberg, while more fighters linked up and slaughter of the bombers took place. In Britain, 'Y' Service's listening stations picked up with distressing frequency interception plots and victory calls by German fighter pilots.43 By the time the bombers turned south on the attack leg, they had lost 61 of their aircraft. By the raid's completion, they had lost a further 47, a total of 108 altogether. The "Halifaxes" of 4 Group had a particularly rough night with 20 aircraft missing and a loss rate of 20.6 percent.44 As a fitting end to the disaster, not only did the attacking forces fail to achieve a concentration on Nuremberg but many aircraft blown off course bombed Schweinfurt.45
Losses over Nuremberg, when combined with those earlier in the week, meant that Bomber Command had lost 190 bombers in seven days (73 in Berlin, 9 in Essen, and 108 in Nuremberg). These were unsupportable losses and reflected not only the recovery of German defenses but also the heavy operations and losses suffered over the past year (see Table XLI46).
Plots on Bombers Passed Over RT & WT to Nightfighters
Raid on Nuremberg
Bomber Command Losses
January 1943-March 1944
In the five months of the Battle of Berlin, Harris' forces lost 1,128 aircraft, nearly all four-engine bombers. These losses were only marginally above the 813 bombers lost during the Battle of Hamburg and the 923 lost during the Battle of the Ruhr. The results, however, achieved over winter 1943-44 were not close to those of the earlier two battles. That alone contributed to a fall in morale: One can face terrible odds if the results are commensurate. In the Battles of the Ruhr and Hamburg, the achievements were obvious and palpable. The crews could not miss what was happening below to Essen, Hamburg, and Kassel. For the Battle of Berlin, there was no similar run of successes. Bomber Command was close to burning itself out. The losses in the Battle of Berlin were an indication of the scale of losses that the Command would suffer in 1944. Table XLII47 indicates the extent of British bomber losses for the year.
British Bomber Losses--1944
|Type Aircraft||Present for Duty in
Off in 1944
Another factor contributed to a decline in morale. Sustained operations had now continued for over a year and few crews completed their 30 mission obligation. January's losses turned squadrons into short one-way houses for crews on the way to
their deaths.48 The drop in morale resulted in more early returns and more aircrew members cashiered for LMF (lacking moral fibre). It also caused some crews to pickle their "cookies" (the 4,000-pound blockbuster) over the North Sea to gain the relative safety of higher altitudes. Air Vice Marshal D. C. T. Bennett, commander of the pathfinders, somewhat uncharitably called such crews "fringe merchants."49 But Bennett was as hard on himself as he was on his crews. Unlike other group commanders, he had flown a tour on operations and had been shot down over Norway in 1942. He walked out to Sweden. Recently, he observed that one of the great failings in Bomber Command's leadership was that no other senior officer besides himself had any grasp of the operational conditions under which their crews fought, because they had not flown combat missions in this war.50
In retrospect, the Battle of Berlin was a mistake--one in which Harris came close to wrecking his command. The objective was obvious and at the outer limits of bomber range. The pathfinder force lost approximately 150 percent of its strength; and as Bennett notes, the battle "had been the worst thing that could have happened to the Command."51 Thus, at the end of March, Harris had arrived at the same point that Eaker had reached in October 1943. At night, unescorted bomber formations on deep penetrations suffered prohibitive losses. As the official historians suggest: "The implication was equally clear. The German fighter force had interposed itself between Bomber Command and its strategic objective . . . ." For Harris, the message was unambiguous: His forces needed the "provision of night fighter support on a substantial scale."52 Yet, Bomber Command's defeat may have had a beneficial side effect. Harris, who so often balked at the Air Ministry's directives, followed his orders to the letter when it came to "Overlord," and Bomber Command provided essential support. Whether or not he did so willingly, Harris had no choice. Night raids deep into Germany were no longer possible except at prohibitive cost.
Bomber Command's losses during this period should not obscure the fact that the German night fighters also were having a difficult time. Bad weather, the low level of skill among new crews, and defensive fire from the bombers all took their toll. The worst enemy of night fighter crews seems to have been themselves. In a twelve-day period (March 15 to 26th), Nachtgeschwader 6 with two Gruppen (a total strength of between 50 and 60 aircraft) lost 6 aircraft that ran out of fuel, had 2 aircraft damaged by belly landings, and had 1 aircraft force-land in Switzerland. Only two aircraft were lost in combat.53 Crew losses ran at a steady rate, close to 15 percent for the first three months of 1944.54 While such losses were not light, German crews gained the impression that they were inflicting serious damage on the enemy. Moreover, they were defending German cities from the British bombers, and as a result their loss rate was probably easier to bear. By spring 1944, the night defenses had won a substantial victory over their opponent. They had made the skies over the Reich so dangerous that the British could only infrequently risk the losses involved in deep penetration raids. What the Germans were not able to do, however, was to transfer their success to the skies over the occupied western countries. In that region, Bomber Command posed a different threat and would
soon show that it could inflict important damage on those Germans preparing to meet the invasion.
THE DAY BATTLE: VICTORY, SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1943
We left our account of Eighth Air Force's campaign after the shattering experience of the Schweinfurt/Regensburg attack. Eaker's strength had declined to the point where he had to allow a major lull in operations. In September, only one major raid penetrated deep into German airspace; the results duplicated what had happened over Schweinfurt in August. Forty-five bombers and crews were listed as missing out of 338 aircraft dispatched to attack the bearing and aircraft factories near Stuttgart.55 For the remainder of the month, Eighth licked its wounds and attacked the occupied districts of western Europe. There, Allied fighters kept bomber losses within tolerable limits. Meanwhile, the flow of aircraft and crews from the States swelled Eighth's groups: Its effective aircraft strength climbed over the 300 mark, while the number of available aircrews went over 400, both for the first time.56
In October, the daylight air battle peaked, and American losses in deep penetration, unescorted raids ended illusions that bomber formations could protect themselves. Defeat over Schweinfurt sounded the death of prewar doctrine and the assumptions on which it had been built. Yet if October was a serious setback, the cost paid dividends. By carrying the war to Germany, the daylight bombers forced the Luftwaffe to come up and to fight. In the short run, bomber casualties reached unacceptable levels, but German fighter losses, relatively speaking, were even more costly as to their long-term effects. In essence, Eighth's operations imposed a high enough attrition rate to prevent the recovery of Germany's fighter arm after the losses suffered over the summer.
Eighth's October operations began on the 8th with an attack on Bremen and Vegesack. The attacking formations lost 30 bombers with a further 26 receiving major damage. Three-quarters of the 1st Bombardment Division's aircraft received flak damage. This attack initiated a week of heavy operations culminating with a second great attack on Schweinfurt on October 14. On October 9, Eighth's bombers flying over Denmark and the Baltic hit Danzig and Marienburg, and a diversionary force hit the Arado factory at Anklam. Both the Arado works and the Focke Wulf plant in Marienburg received extensive damage, while the depth and extent of the raid surprised German defensive forces. The main force lost only 10 aircraft with 18 more shot down in diversionary attacks.57 On October 10, Eighth bombed Münster. Relays of German fighters attacked the first task force on the way in and out, and blasted the lead formation flown by the 100th Bombardment Group out of the sky. Not one of the 12 aircraft returned. All told, out of 119 bombers in the first wave, the Germans shot down 29 (24.4 percent).58 The loss of 1 more aircraft on the second wave brought total losses to 30. So in three days of major operations, Eighth had lost 88 heavy bombers. This represented no less than 18.4 percent of available crews.59 For the next three days, the command stood down. On the 14th, it went
back to Schweinfurt and suffered a terrible mauling. German fighters and flak shot down 60 of its bombers, 17 received major damage, while 121 aircraft were damaged but reparable. The loss rate was 20.7 percent and the damage rate 47.4 percent.60 Thus for the week, Eighth Air Force had lost 148 bombers in deep penetration raids into Germany. Even by American standards that represented unacceptable attrition.
The Schweinfurt losses caused an outcry in the United States. "Hap" Arnold announced to the American press that "now we have got Schweinfurt." Arnold's assertion, however, could not cover up what Allied economic analysts soon recognized: that more sustained bombing of the ball bearings works was needed almost immediately.61 Yet, as suggested earlier, the first attack on Schweinfurt had alarmed Speer; but the second raid, with 67 percent of Schweinfurt's production knocked out, was even more disturbing.62 The Armaments Minister established a crash program to disperse the bearings industry and to substitute alternative roller bearings for ball bearings where possible.63 But Speer was worried that the bombing would soon recur. However, no matter what the target's value, Eighth Air Force could not return until fighter escort could reach Schweinfurt. Harris, involved in his offensive against Berlin, had no intention of attacking a "panacea" target. By February, those conditions had changed; Eighth possessed fighter protection that could take it all the way to Schweinfurt, while Harris was more amenable to attacking ball bearings after the losses over Berlin. By then, however, the raids had to begin all over again the process of damaging the production of ball bearings.
The disaster at Schweinfurt ended the nonsense about unescorted bomber formations. The losses over the summer had caused a rising chorus of demands for increased fighter range as well as a true long-range escort. The battles in October brought matters to a head. Unfortunately, the development and production of suitable drop tanks involved considerable muddle, particularly in the United States. While some in Washington recognized the importance of range extension tanks, there existed a lack of communication between Eighth and procurement officials at home. American drop tank production had progressed satisfactorily in early 1943, but supply authorities later in the year mistakenly believed that production in Britain could meet Eighth's needs.64 Meanwhile in England, British industry could not produce the numbers that procurement desired, while Eaker, somewhat as a result of his own emphasis, was left holding a rather empty bag.
On October 14, Eaker wrote Air Marshal Wilfrid Freeman at the Ministry of Aircraft Production to complain of shortfalls in drop tank production. Not yet aware of Schweinfurt's casualties, Eaker suggested that of 30 bombers lost over Münster on the 10th, the availability of drop tanks might have saved as many as 20. Freeman's reply was a model of restraint. He admitted delays but pointed out that current production would cover the shortfall by early November. This deficit, however, in his opinion, was not entirely the fault of the Ministry of Aircraft Production since British industry had not received approval for the required fittings until early October. Freeman pointed to his February warning that British industry, severely overstrained, could not complete a rush order for tanks. Only in June had
Eighth sought large numbers of workable drop tanks.65 Now after Schweinfurt, everyone pushed the drop tank program, and British production, helped by American efforts, made them available in rising quantities. From November 1943, Eighth felt its way into Germany, but it would go no deeper than its fighter escort could fly; as the escort range rose, the noose tightened.
One other element of the escort program deserves attention: the development of a true long-range escort fighter, the "Mustang." Like the "Mosquitoe," the P-51 was an orphan at birth.66 North American developed the "Mustang" in a rush to land a contract with the British. The initial variant, with an Allison engine, possessed good low altitude characteristics but lacked power to work at higher elevations. In the summer of 1942, British engineers, after studying the aircraft, decided that with a better engine, the "Mustang" would possess excellent characteristics at higher altitudes. By October, "Merlin" engines had been installed and the first test flights conducted. As things turned out, the Allies had developed the hottest piston engine fighter of the war. The road to production, however, was not easy; there was reluctance to push its development, since it was not entirely a home-grown product. However, tests conducted in the early summer of 1943 indicated the P-51's potential as a combat fighter and suggested that the aircraft did have the capability to provide long-range escort for the bombers.67 Tests and modification over the summer added an 85-gallon internal tank to the fighter which placed its range without drop tanks at over 400 miles. Problems remained concerning engine modifications and other design changes, but beginning in November 1943 "Mustangs" began to reach the United Kingdom.68
Meanwhile, the air battles in July and August forced the Germans to adjust their air strategy. They could no longer support the attrition of those months, while the American threat forced them to cut commitments in the Mediterranean and Russia. Defense of the Reich became the top priority, and beginning in July the Luftwaffe transferred Gruppen from Russia to the west. The process continued throughout late summer as the east and Mediterranean lost their fighter cover. The situation was so critical that transferred units received no time to transition into the western defense system. The III Gruppe of the "Udet" Geschwader left the eastern front on August 2. Arriving at Münster-Handorf, the unit met its new commander who announced his intention to make them combat-ready as soon as possible. Within four days, the Gruppe had flown its first mission and on the following day was declared combat-ready.69 Fighter strength in Germany rapidly rose. From barely 600 aircraft, fighter numbers rose to 800 by July and nearly 1,000 by early October.70 In addition, substantial numbers of twin-engine fighters redeployed to the Reich so that by mid-October the Luftwaffe had nearly 200 of them available in Germany of which 50 percent were "in commission."71 Finally, German commanders still used night fighters during the day despite the heavy loss of aircraft, radar equipment, and skilled crewmembers.
Along with a redistribution of fighters, substantial changes took place in the defending forces' tactics and weaponry. By September, the Germans had refined the defense system created in the summer to meet the day threat. Twin-engine
fighters, equipped with 21cm rocket mortars, flew at the edge of the B-17's defensive armament and fired rockets into the formations to break them up. The Germans had altered the armament of the Bf 109's and Fw 190's, and their new heavier armament made them a greater threat to the bombers. The single-engine fighters launched head-on and stern attacks in large groups, their cannon fire dangerous to slow-moving bombers. As for logistics, the Luftwaffe stocked a number of bases throughout western and central Germany with ammunition, fuel, and ground crews for quick fighter turnaround, thereby increasing their sortie rate against bomber formations.72 Interestingly, the Germans were also using drop tanks on their fighters to extend the range and time that the fighters could remain airborne. In October, however, Göring scotched the tactic and suggested that even the Americans would not be so wasteful of material. He suggested that crews not drop tanks when empty but only in combat.73 An intercepted "Ultra" message on October 12 warned fighter crews that they should only drop tanks in the most desperate circumstances.74
This refined and reinforced defense system enabled the Luftwaffe to win a series of substantial tactical victories. Warned by radar of an American raid, German fighters scrambled and concentrated. Twin-engine fighters fired rockets into the formations to break up flying cohesion and to hit aircraft. Single-engine fighters individually and in groups attacked from all directions. The aim was to break formation integrity; once German fighters had done that, individual B-17's were easy prey, while damaged aircraft that fell behind were in a hopeless situation. The defensive system proved remarkably effective in October, but it did contain weaknesses. Above all, it depended on the fact that no American fighters were present. Operations in July, when American fighters, using primitive drop tanks, had pushed deeper into the Reich and caught German fighters by surprise, underlined this factor. Luftwaffe fighters would only engage American bombers out of range of Allied fighter support. Using this rule of engagement, much of western Europe now had targets that were relatively free of Luftwaffe coverage. German success in the fall also depended on close cooperation between the single-engine and twin-engine fighters, with the heavier fighters playing a key role in breaking up the integrity of American formations. Without such support, the single-engine fighters faced a much more difficult task, but the Bf 110 had no chance of survival against enemy fighters. Thus defense of the Reich's airspace depended on the continued existence of a zone over which Allied fighters could not operate because of their inadequate range. There were already signs that this situation was breaking down.
German successes in September and October were won, moreover, at a high cost to themselves. The Germans lost 276 fighters in the west in September (17.4 percent of the total fighter force as of September 1) and 284 more in October (17.2 percent).75 Schweinfurt itself cost the Germans (see Table XLIII76) 31 aircraft destroyed, 12 written off, and 34 damaged. As a percentage, this was between 3.5 percent and 4 percent of total fighter aircraft available in the west.
|100 Percent||60-100 Percent||40-60 Percent||0-40 Percent|
Luftwaffe records indicate that the Germans lost no less than 41.9 percent of their fighter force (destroyed or written off) in October.77 Table XLIV78 indicates the losses among German fighter pilots in late 1943.
The level of attrition for both Germany's fighter forces as well as Eighth Air Force during September and October bordered on the point where both were close to losing cohesion and effectiveness as combat forces. In the long run, considering the massive influx of bombers, fighters, and crews already swelling American bases in England, Eighth held the strategic advantage. It was, of course, difficult for the crews who flew to Schweinfurt to recognize that advantage.
THE DAY BATTLE: THE PAUSE, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1943
Historians of airpower, like other military historians, tend to see their topics in terms of decisive battles and clear-cut turning points. The reality, however, is usually more complex. Thus, Schweinfurt often appears as a decisive defeat, followed by a lull in operations until February 1944 when Eighth Air Force's bombers supported by long-range fighters smashed the Luftwaffe during "Big Week." Schweinfurt was, of course, a turning point and forced fundamental changes in American doctrine and strategy. For the Germans, however, the pressure eased only marginally after Schweinfurt. Moreover, from the Luftwaffe's perspective, October 14 did not appear as important or decisive as it did for the Americans. The debate within the high command continued unabated, and Göring and Hitler--as they had throughout the summer--proved unwilling to address fundamental strategic questions.
In early November, Galland warned the fighter forces of Göring's dissatisfaction with their October achievements:
The fighter and heavy formations have not been able to secure decisive success in air defense against American four-engined formations. The introduction of new weapons . . . has not appreciably changed the situation. The main reason for the failure is that the Kommandeure and Kapitane [sic] do not succeed in securing attacks in close formation up to the shortest ranges . . . .
The Reichsmarschall has, therefore, ordered the setting up of an assault Staffel (Sturmstaffel). Its tasks will be to break up the enemy by using more heavily armored fighters in all-out . . . attacks . . . . Then there is no need to discuss here whether this is to be done by shooting down the enemy at the closest range, by employing a new type of weapon, or by ramming.79
Fighter Pilot Losses--Sept-Dec 1943
Göring's counsel of despair reflected an essentially negative attitude expressed frequently throughout the period: The day fighters were not doing enough. Speaking to an assemblage of senior officers at Obersalzberg, he announced that the people and frontline soldiers had lost faith in the Luftwaffe. They could understand the difficulty of finding British bombers at night, but the sight of American formations flying through Germany's skies was too much.80 Hitler's bitter reproaches undoubtedly contributed to the Reichsmarschall's disquiet. But misconceptions dotted Göring's speeches. For Göring, the solution for the Reich's defense lay not in increased fighter production or more crews but rather in a fanatical "National Socialist" approach to air defense; supposedly, German spirit and morale could beat superiority in numbers on which the materialistic Anglo-Saxons depended. Such an attitude helps explain Göring's refusal to recognize the danger that the loss of fighter pilots posed.81 The Reichsmarschall expanded his message in a series of conferences throughout the remainder of the year. He was even willing to speak in such terms to his fighter pilots. On November 23, he reproached the day crews of 3rd Jagddivision that he had brought them back from the front to defend the Reich. They, however, had disappointed him, while the German people could not understand what was happening and were embittered. Intermixed with such remarks were even less tasteful comments about the cowardice of the assembled pilots.82
Yet, the real problem lay beyond Göring at the highest level. While Hitler had left the Luftwaffe to Göring earlier in the war, he was now enmeshed in its decisionmaking process. The Reichsmarschall served as a buffer to reality and presented the Führer's latest demands to his subordinates. He admitted as much in the fall when, in exasperation to his staff's gloomy reports, he exploded:
I could also go to the Führer and to whatever he wished, say: No, mein Führer, this can't be done or that can't be done, this is impossible or that is impossible, . . . or that would cost too many losses, or that would exhaust the Luftwaffe. Thus, could I speak, [and] I could always contradict what he had proposed.83
Göring's approach went in another direction and his replies were punctuated with the refrain of "Jawohl, mein Führer." But perhaps the truly insurmountable problem was that Hitler's interest to the end centered on the ground battle. Consequently, he regarded the air war as an embarrassment, threatening arms production and the ability to hold off his enemies on the ground. At one point, he even argued that destruction of Germany's cities "actually works in our favor, because it is creating a body of people with nothing to lose--people who will therefore fight on with utter fanaticism."84
Such attitudes explain why the leadership placed little emphasis on air defense. A conversation between Göring and Milch in November further amplifies this point and underscores the dread that a defeat in Russia inspired throughout German society in late 1943. Milch suggested that alongside the life-and-death question of the eastern front, he was equally worried about what the homeland would do when American fighters came in the spring of 1944. Göring replied: "When every city in
Germany has been smashed to the ground, the German people would still live. It would certainly be awful, but the nation had lived before there were cities." Milch then suggested that such an occurrence might affect arms production, but Göring was not listening. He asked what was the greater danger, Berlin's destruction or the arrival of the Russians. The latter he noted was the "number one danger."85
Thus, interest at the top in air defense was but a fleeting occurrence. One can question whether the Reich's air defense ever received the emphasis promised by Hitler in response to Hamburg. In October, Göring suggested to his staff that the German people did not care whether the Luftwaffe attacked British airfields. "All they wished to hear when a hospital or a children's home in Germany is destroyed is that we have destroyed the same in England; then they are satisfied."86 With Hitler's predilection for retaliation, there was no chance of altering aircraft production in favor of fighters. In fact, conferences between Milch and Göring indicate the Reichsmarschall's definite bias towards bombers. In October, "der Dicke" bitterly reproached Milch for placing too much emphasis on the Reich's defense and for robbing production from the bomber forces. Göring could not believe that American production could ever reach estimated levels, because so many men and so much material would be required.87
Further conversations in November confirmed the leadership's desire for bomber production. On the 23rd, Göring underlined the importance of using fighters as fighter bombers. When the discussion turned to the distribution of future Ju 388 production between night fighter and bomber forces, he expressed himself in favor of the latter.88 On the 28th, Göring went even further and decided to hold down future fighter production in favor of bombers. The Reichsmarschall commented to Fritz Sauckel, Gauleiter and slave labor procurer for the Reich, that the Luftwaffe had to have bombers.
Göring: I cannot remain on the defensive; we must also have an offensive. That is the most decisive.
Sauckel: The only argument that makes an impression on a racial cousin [the British] is that of retaliation.89
Two factors were working against the defense. First, Hitler and Göring refused to consider an emergency effort to build fighters. This had particular significance in view of American attacks on aircraft factories. Those raids, beginning in the summer of 1943, had already caused a serious drop in fighter production (see Table XLV90).
Thus, November's production from factories and repair depots was only 78 percent of July's, while production in December fell to 54.4 percent of the July figure. This decline came at the same time that the Luftwaffe was suffering a high rate of attrition. New production was even more affected as a result of Eighth and Ninth Air Forces' efforts against the Messerschmitt and Focke Wulf factories (see Table XLVI91).
|Bf 109||Fw 190||Total|
The combination of declining production and attrition left Galland with a thin reed with which to defend the Reich. While the pressure eased somewhat in November, the Germans still faced a substantial threat. The shadow of American escort fighters and the gradual extension of their range lay over all Luftwaffe counterbomber operations. By early October, German intelligence had reported that American fighters were accompanying bombers as far as Hamburg.92 Eighth's losses in October led the Germans to conclude that during good weather American bombers would have to have fighter escort, and that because of the P-47's limited range the Americans would switch more of their operations to bad weather.93 A December intelligence evaluation warned that day operations, supported by fighters, were already reaching the middle ranges. The authors suggested, moreover, that the Americans were hard at work developing a true long-distance fighter.94 In the immediate future, the Germans estimated that Eighth would extend the range of "Lightnings" and "Thunderbolts" by increasing the capacity of their drop tanks. The solution, however, would have to await development of a true long-range fighter.95
German intelligence had no idea how close the Americans were to a solution. From the beginning of November, however, P-47's and P-38's, now equipped with better drop tanks, flew deeper into the Reich. Göring had no desire to recognize the implications. In early September, American fighters had reached Aachen and Galland reported the occurrence to Hitler. When Göring got wind of Galland's report, he was enraged. Speer recounts the ensuing discussion:
"What's the idea of telling the Führer that American fighters have penetrated into the territory of the Reich?" Göring snapped . . . .
"Herr Reichsmarschall," Galland replied with imperturbable calm, "they will soon be flying even deeper."
Göring spoke even more vehemently: "That's nonsense, Galland, what gives you fantasies? That's pure bluff!"
Galland shook his head. "Those are the facts, Herr Reichsmarschall! . . . American fighters have been shot down over Aachen. There is no doubt about it!"
Göring obstinately held his ground: "That is simply not true, Galland. It's impossible."
Galland reacted with a touch of mockery: "You might go and check it yourself, sir; the downed planes are there at Aachen." . . .
Göring finally declared: "What must have happened is that they were shot down much farther to the west. I mean, if they were very high when they were shot down they could have glided quite a distance farther before they crashed."
Not a muscle moved in Galland's face. "Glided to the east, sir? If my plane were shot up . . . "96
Now in November 1943, escort support for bomber formations reached deeper into the Reich. On the 3rd, despite bad weather, fighters escorted the bombers to Wilhelmshaven. Using radar control H2X, an American modification of the H2S system, the force bombed through the clouds. Two things were significant about the raid. First, the number of bombers involved, 539, points up how quickly the pipeline of crews and aircraft from the United States had compensated for October's losses; second, escort fighter support kept the bomber losses down to 7 (with only 3 due to enemy fighters).97 The Germans found the appearance of American fighters at this range most alarming. German losses were so heavy that Galland held a special meeting with I Jagdkorps' division commanders on November 4.98 Contributing to the day fighter losses was the fact that many German fighters did not possess direction finders to locate their bases in bad weather.99 The Wilhelmshaven raid resulted in several changes. Generaloberst Weise, commander of the central air district (Befehlshaber Mitte), thought that the single-engine fighters must engage protecting fighters so that the heavier fighters (Bf 110's) could close with the bombers. He recognized how dangerous the air environment over central Germany had become and suggested that many heavy fighter squadrons should re-equip with single-engine fighters. Finally, he admitted that the only force available to protect the "Destroyers" (Bf 110's) was Herrmann's single-engine night fighter force (the "wild sow" fighters).100
Over the next days, conferences among the leading fighter generals seconded Weise's suggestions. One colonel urged that the entire force possess single-engine
fighters. The conclusions, however, were that five light Gruppen were adequate to engage enemy fighter forces. General Weise asked whether the lighter fighters could hold off the supporting escorts so that the "Destroyers" could attack the unprotected bombers. General Schmid thought not since there were insufficient fighters.101 On the next day, the Jagdkorps I decided that the "wild sow" force would also have to support the Bf 110's during the day. The decision came immediately before an interesting discussion over the fate of II./JGS which had suffered heavy losses during the preceding week. Colonel von Lutzow suggested that II./JGS be pulled out of the line for rehabilitation. Another officer, however, urged that in view of shortages throughout the western fighter forces, the unit be broken up and its personnel and aircraft divided among other squadrons in the west.102 Given the German's emphasis on unit cohesion, this represented an important departure in policy and an admission that severe frontline shortages of pilots and aircraft existed. On November 20, Schmid warned his commanders:
One can estimate that for the foreseeable future, the provision of aircraft will be numerically so small so that for the future our inferiority compared to the British and Americans will remain. It is therefore the responsibility of the commander to act so that with the aircraft on hand . . . every possible loss will be avoided. With enemy attacks, it is important that the 3rd Division carries out timely aerial reconnaissance to report where the enemy formations are flying and whether they are accompanied by fighters. By such action, we will be able to avoid feeding night fighters against enemy day fighters.103
On November 13, Eighth went all the way to Bremen with fighter escort as 345 P-47's and 45 P-38's supported the 143 bombers. The P-47's provided the short-range cover while the P-38's, with two 150-gallon drop tanks, held off German fighters near the target. The attacking bombers lost 16 aircraft but only 2 to German fighters.104 A more massive attack on Bremen thirteen days later, despite fighter support, cost the attackers 25 bombers; but considering bomber strength, 491 aircraft, losses were only 5.1 percent. That was an attrition rate that Eighth could accept. The November 26 raid is important because for the first time, Eighth dispatched 600 bombers (128 aircraft also attacked Paris). In December, despite the weather, Eighth launched eight major raids against the continent. The size of these raids, in some cases, came close to doubling and, in many cases, actually did double October's attack on Schweinfurt. On December 11, 523 bombers hit Emden; on December 13, 649 bombers attacked a number of targets in Germany; on December 16, 535 hit Bremen; on December 20, 472 attacked Bremen again; on December 22, Eighth hit Osnabrück and Münster; and finally on the 30th, 650 bombers hit Ludwigshafen. The losses in these raids (162) approached those of October (179), but Eighth with fighter escorts and with the influx of new aircraft and crews could stand such attrition much better.105
This activity shows that the pressure on the Luftwaffe in the last two months of 1943 had eased only marginally. While much of Germany still lay beyond escort
range, American operations reaching further to the east caused the Germans serious embarrassment and heavy losses. The December 13 mission against Kiel and Hamburg suggests the increasing complexity and success of the fighter range extension program. Six hundred forty-eight heavy bombers flew the mission with 394 fighter escorts, 41 of which were P-51's. Flying in relays that met contact points along the route, the fighters provided continuous and effective support; Eighth lost only five bombers.106 German fighter formations refused to tangle with bomber formations supported by large numbers of fighters.
At the end of December, Galland and the staff of Jagdkorps I concluded that their new tactics against supported bomber formations had failed. The causes were "(a) the weather, (b) the considerable inferiority of German strength, (c) the impossibility of gathering sufficient strength in an area because of time and distance limitations; result: weak and dispersed fighter attacks."107 Moreover, German fighter losses, although dropping from October's high point, were still high enough to cause considerable worry. In November, the Germans had to write off 21 percent of their fighter aircraft because of battle damage and noncombat causes. In December, that percentage rose to 22.8 percent.108 In normal times, such losses would have been catastrophic. Compared with October and the summer, this loss rate did provide some relief to the fighter force. Nevertheless, this continued expenditure, combined with declining production, explains why there was no numerical recovery of the day fighter force at year's end (see Table XLVII109).
|August 31, 1943||2,228||1,581||71.0||1,019||64.4|
|September 30, 1943||2,228||1,646||73.9||1,080||65.6|
|October 31, 1943||2,288||1,721||75.2||1,193||69.3|
|November 30, 1943||2,244||1,789||79.7||1,140||63.7|
|December 31, 1943||2,244||1,561||69.6||1,095||70.1|
Losses of fighter pilots in November and December also showed a decline from the high point reached in the July-October period. They, however, remained at a level which under other conditions would have represented a crippling drain. In November, nearly 10 percent of the fighter pilots were lost, and in December there was a slight rise to 10.4 percent. That increase reflected American pressure and heralded the attrition that would occur in coming months.110 In 1943, the fighter force had averaged 2,105 full and partially operational ready pilots present for duty each month. Over the year, a total of 2,967 fighter pilots were killed, wounded, or missing in action.111 The fighter force's weaknesses at the turn of the year and its defeat in the spring of 1944 can only be understood in the context of past attrition rates. Table XLVIII112 suggests what these losses meant for a frontline unit.
DEFEAT: JANUARY-MARCH 1944
In January 1944, the tempo of operations picked up. American production now swamped Germany's defenders. The growth in Eighth's combat strength for both bombers and fighters was phenomenal (see Tables XLIX113 and L114).
|On Hand Oper
|On Hand Oper
Aircraft Written Off: Eighth Air Force
1944 (Heavy Bombers)
In addition to Eighth's fighters, there were so many tactical fighters and intermediate-range bombers in England that a new air force, the Ninth, was established. Finally, RAF Fighter Command offered substantial support over the occupied countries so that Eighth's long-range escorts only had to cover bomber formations deep in German airspace. Earlier in the war, America's announced production plans had met either derision from the Reich's propaganda service or amused disdain from military leaders. Now in early 1944, the Germans discovered what Americans meant by a real battle of matériel.
At year's end, America's European air forces underwent major command changes. At Eisenhower's insistence, Spaatz and Doolittle arrived in England from the Mediterranean, the latter as Eaker's replacement. Eaker, disappointed at leaving an Eighth receiving massive reinforcements, took over command of Allied Mediterranean air forces. His responsibilities included the newly formed Fifteenth Air Force that would launch "strategic" bombing attacks on Germany from the south. Eaker's replacement may have reflected dissatisfaction with his conduct of the campaign. It is more probable that the close relationship between Eisenhower, Tedder, Spaatz, and Doolittle played a major role in the command changes.
January's weather did not cooperate with American commanders who had hoped to launch their air forces against the Reich to win air superiority. Arnold made clear in a Christmas message what he expected to be accomplished in 1944. The overriding aim was destruction of the Luftwaffe: "Destroy the enemy air force wherever you find them, in the air, on the ground, and in the factories [emphasis in original]."115 Nevertheless, conditions were sufficient to allow the Germans a glimpse of what they could expect. As early as the start of 1944, Luftwaffe intelligence gave a clear picture of the pattern of upcoming day raids. They noted the following characteristics. First, fighter bombers and twin-engine aircraft, such as "Mosquitoes," "Mitchells," and "Marauders," would attack targets throughout France and the Low Countries. Concurrently, four-engine bomber formations would sweep into Germany while clouds of fighters, upwards of 1,000, would accompany the raids. Finally, the B-17 and B-24 formations would attack a number of targets to divide and to confuse the defenders.116
Because of bad weather, nearly all of the day raids in January used radar for bombing. In mid-month, conditions cleared for a short period, and Eighth dispatched its forces deep into Germany against the aircraft industry. Although only one-third of the 663 bombers dispatched bombed the primary targets, a major air battle did develop. Out of 174 bombers attacking the A.G.O. Flugzeugwerke at Oschersleben, the Germans shot down 34. The day's losses reached the level of the attacks on Schweinfurt in 1943--60 bombers. The cause of such losses were twofold: the masssive Luftwaffe opposition and the fact that only one group of P-51's could provide the deep support that such a raid required.117 The attack again showed the Germans the importance that Eighth Air Force attached to destroying Germany's aircraft industry. A decrypted "Ultra" message noted:
The attack against Oschersleben carried out beyond the effective range of fighter escort, for which the enemy must have counted on having heavy losses, again underlies the importance attached to the diminution of German fighter aircraft production . . . . The crushing of the attack and the very considerable losses will presumably limit American daylight activity for some time to the range of escort formations.118
A sharp rise in Luftwaffe aircraft and crew losses immediately reflected the pressure that Allied day operations exerted on defending forces. In January 1944, the fighter forces wrote off 30.3 percent of their single-engine fighters and had lost 16.9 percent of their crews by month's end.119 This high attrition of pilots resulted not only from combat operations but also from the continued dilution of the force by inexperienced, ill-trained pilots, who in winter's bad weather conditions were as dangerous to themselves as enemy fighters. One fighter Gruppe at month's end scrambled 21 aircraft for a second sortie at an American bomber formation. The Germans achieved two victories but had four aircraft missing, one crash landing (pilot killed), three pilots abandoning their aircraft by parachute, one aircraft damaged after a belly landing, and three aircraft crashing on takeoff.120 On January 29, the III Gruppe of the Jagdgeschwader Udet claimed 12 bombers, but out of 28 German aircraft taking off, at least 5 and probably 6 were destroyed; 2 pilots were killed and 1 wounded while 3 parachuted to safety.121 For the overall trends, see Tables LI,122 LII,123 LIII,124 and LIV125.
At month's end, the Germans still believed that they need not worry about American escort fighters accompanying the bombers to Berlin because they doubted whether escort fighters could go as far as Braunschweig.126 In fact, their assumption that part of the Reich would lie beyond escort fighters' range soon proved false. The delay that January's and February's bad weather imposed on American operations probably worked in favor of the Allies' coming offensive. Before the end of February, a crash program had transitioned a significant number of pilots into P-51's. By mid-month, Eighth possessed 539 P-38J's, 416 P-47D's, and 329 P-51B's.127 Toward the end of February, the extended period of bad weather broke and the greatest air battle of World War II began. At this point, Doolittle released his fighters from earlier restrictions that had tied escort fighters close to bomber formations.128 Fighters now attacked German fighters on sight, and Eighth went after the Luftwaffe wherever it existed. With drop tanks that would carry P-51's to Berlin, American operations attacked production facilities throughout the Reich. The bombing offensive did not, however, succeed in its direct mission to destroy aircraft production. German industry responded to the attack on aircraft factories in such outstanding fashion that fighter production rose dramatically in the coming months, but the nature of the target forced the Luftwaffe to come up and to fight. As a result, American fighter escorts decimated the Luftwaffe's fighter force.
What later historians called "Big Week," code-named "Argument," began on February 20 with a multitarget attack on the German aircraft industry. Most
German Aircraft Losses
Jan-Jun 1944 (All Types)
German Fighter Losses
Fighter Pilot Losses
German Bomber Losses
objectives lay in the Brunswick-Leipzig area. Over 1,000 bombers, 16 combat wings of B-17's and B-24's, sortied from their bases.129 All 17 fighter groups in England provided an escort of 835 fighters (668 P-47's, 94 P-38's; and 73 P-51's).130 German reaction was generally weak, and the attacking force lost only 21 bombers. Operations on the 20th opened a week of intense operations by Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces. The raids struck the German aircraft industry and its supporting infrastructure repeated blows. After a relatively easy mission on the 21st, opposition stiffened and Eighth lost 41 bombers and Fifteenth lost 14 on the 22nd.131
The final two raids of "Big Week" came on February 24 and 25th. Here again, American bomber formations ran into strong reaction from German fighters. Eighth Air Force lost 49 bombers (5 over Rostock, 33 over Gotha, and 11 over Schweinfurt), while Fifteenth Air Force lost 17, for a total of 66 bombers. The heavy emphasis that German fighters gave to attacking the bombers resulted in a loss of only 10 American fighters during the day.132 Opposition on the following day was no less severe. From England, Eighth launched 820 bombers and 899 fighters against targets located in or near Stuttgart, Augsburg, Fürth, and Regensburg. Only 17 bombers failed to return; but a second attack, later in the day, by Fifteenth received a severe mauling. Out of 116 bombers, supported by 96 fighters, the Germans shot down 41 four-engine aircraft. So in a two-day span, American air forces had lost 124 bombers, twice the number lost in the Schweinfurt raid. It was a mark of how greatly American bomber forces had increased over the past months that they could bear such attrition. Overall, during "Big Week," Eighth lost 137 bombers and Fifteenth lost 89, while the two air forces lost only 28 fighters.133
If Eighth could bear an attrition rate that was close to 20 percent (299 bombers written off) for February,134 the Germans certainly could not suffer the losses it required to inflict that punishment. In February, Luftwaffe fighter and pilot losses became unmanageable. The tactics that had worked when there was time to attack unescorted bomber formations were no longer effective. American fighters were nearly always present and eager to attack their opponent. As a result, there was little chance to use twin-engine day and night fighters without heavy losses. The experiences of Zerstörergeschwader "Horst Wessel," a Bf 110 fighter squadron, indicates what happened to twin-engine fighters in the new combat environment. The unit worked up over January and early February to operational ready status. At 12:13, on February 20, 13 Bf 110's scrambled after approaching bomber formations. Six minutes later, three more aircraft took off to join the first group. When they arrived at a designated contact point, there was nothing left to meet. American fighters had jumped the 13 Bf 110's from the sun and shot down 11. Meanwhile, two enemy fighters strafed the airfield and damaged nine more aircraft. Subsequent operations into March followed the same pattern. On the 22nd, "Horst Wessel" Bf 110's shot down two "Fortresses" but had six aircraft written off and two crews killed. On March 6, from nine aircraft scrambled, two returned with mechanical difficulties, one received damage in air-to-air combat, five were shot
down (four pilots wounded and one killed), and the commander landed his damaged aircraft at another airfield.135
For the Luftwaffe's single-engine force, "Big Week" ushered in a period during which sustained combat devastated its units over the long haul. "Big Week" was only the start of a process that lasted through April and was not the apogee but rather a beginning. Bf 109 and Fw 190 losses were the heaviest thus far in the war for pilots as well as aircraft. The Luftwaffe wrote off over 33 percent of its single-engine fighters and lost 17.9 percent of its fighter pilots during February.136
Attrition in March was even heavier as Eighth expanded its operations all the way to Berlin. On March 4, American bombers made their first major raid on the German capital and encountered only light opposition. Two days later, they returned to meet a more tenacious opposition, and the bombers lost 69 of their number while 11 escorting fighters were shot down. The third major raid on Berlin within six days occurred on the 8th; and despite excellent visibility, the attacking formations met relatively light opposition. Eighth's losses remained manageable, 37 bombers and 17 escorts.137 The appearance of American bombers over Berlin tried the imagination of even Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry. One newspaper suggested that: "If the inhabitants of the capital were surprised that, despite the heavy defenses and heavy losses, isolated enemy formations reached the capital in formation, it must be remembered that this need not be interpreted as a sign of strength at all." The Völkischer Beobachter, however, won the prize for biased reporting when it claimed that: "If occasionally they fly in clear sky without at the moment being pursued by the dreaded German fighters, only the layman is fooled, and then only for a few moments . . . . In their case, the closed drill formations is not a sign of strength."138
The attrition of German fighter pilots and aircraft reached a new high point in March. Luftwaffe units wrote off 56.4 percent of single-engine fighters available on March 1, while crew losses reached nearly 22 percent of pilots present on February 29.139 Nevertheless, the Germans did impose severe attrition on Eighth's bombers, Eighth wrote off 349 bombers in March. Not until May did a significant decrease in bomber attrition begin, reflecting the continued arrival of new crews and aircraft as well as the final collapse of the Luftwaffe's fighter force (see Table XLIX140).
The rising German losses in March reflected several factors. The most obvious was the tempo of operations. Although bad weather prevented the occurrence of another "Big Week," Eighth kept up an unremitting pressure on the defenses. The bombing raids forced the Germans to fight and imposed a continuing battle of attrition on their fighters. During the month, the Americans were active over Germany on twenty-three days, thirteen of which involved an all-out effort.141 Although the bomb damage may not have been as effective as during "Big Week," aerial combat results, including the achievement of air superiority over the continent, were of critical importance.
The second factor working against the Germans was the growing strength of the escort forces. By March, they had reached a point where American fighters, having accomplished their primary escort mission, dropped to low altitudes and attacked
targets of opportunity, particularly airfields.142 For the Germans, this was a dangerous development that strained not only the fighter force but its supporting infrastructure as well. As an intercepted "Ultra" message on March 8 revealed:
The enemy has recognized our own tactics of taking off and getting away from the airfield with all serviceable aircraft before attacks on our ground organization. In the west, he has recently put aside a part of the escorting force to attack these aircraft and has achieved successes in this connection.143
A message on March 24 indicated how widespread the threat had become. Luftflotte Reich reported:
During flights into the home war zone, enemy fighters have repeatedly carried out attacks on aircraft which were landing or on the airfields themselves. In doing so, they imitate the landing procedure of German fighters or effect surprise by approaching the airfield in fast and level flight. The difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe often makes it impossible for the flak artillery to fire on them.144
One must note here "Ultra's" impact in indicating to Allied air commanders the effectiveness of their tactics and the severe difficulties the Luftwaffe was facing. Intercepted messages did not always reveal what the Allies wished to know (such as bomb damage), but operational intercepts undoubtedly helped keep the pressure where it hurt the Germans the most.
One can glimpse what this pressure meant in the war diaries and messages of the fighter squadrons. The 2nd Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader II scrambled 16 aircraft on March 13. Returning pilots claimed two "Mustangs" as certain and two as probable, but one German aircraft crashed on return (pilot killed), two aircraft were missing, a fourth was lost when its pilot bailed out, and a fifth crashed near Lübeck. On the 6th, this same group launched 15 aircraft against a Berlin raid: one pilot was killed, one missing, and one wounded when he jumped from his aircraft.145 The war diary of the 3rd Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader Udet makes similarily depressing reading. On March 15, the Gruppe launched 20 aircraft; 2 pilots were killed (aircraft destroyed), 2 pilots had to parachute to safety, and 2 crash landings took place. On the next day, nine aircraft scrambled; two pilots were killed, four pilots were wounded (one severely), and one pilot parachuted to safety unhurt. On the next day, operations cost the unit one killed and two more pilots wounded (one badly). Thus, in a three-day span, a unit with about 25 pilots had lost 5 killed and 6 wounded (2 severely).146
Fighter pilot losses were not confined to the inexperienced. Given the overwhelming odds, the law of averages began to catch up with Germany's leading aces. In March, two Geschwader commanders with 102 kills and 161 kills were killed on operations.147 In mid-March, shortages of skilled pilots caused Galland to send the following message asking for volunteers:
The strained manpower situation in units operating in defense of the Reich demands urgently the further bringing up of experienced flying personnel from other arms of the service, in particular for the maintenance of fighting power to the air arm, tried pilots of the ground attack and bomber units, especially officers suitable as formation leaders, will now also have to be drawn on.148
The loss of aircraft was as serious a problem. Bombing attacks on industry had retarded production at the same time that the fighter force was suffering catastrophic losses in air-to-air combat and through the strafing of airfields. An "Ultra" message at the end of March indicated the severity of aircraft shortages.
The extraordinarily difficult situation in the air defense of the homeland requires with all emphasis: (1) The speedy salvage of all fighter and heavy fighter aircraft and their immediate return for repairs. (2) The unrestricted employment of salvage personnel for salvage tasks. Subordinate units are expressly forbidden to employ them for any other purpose. (3) That spare parts be acquired by repair and salvage units by removal from aircraft worth salvaging only in case of absolute necessity. (4) That repair of aircraft in your area be energetically speeded up in order to increase serviceability and to relieve supply.149
By the end of March, the daylight "strategic" bombing offensive had put the Luftwaffe on the ropes. It had retarded, although only for a short period, the expansion of fighter production. More importantly, it had caused an attrition that one can only describe as devastating. American forces were to continue that unrelenting pressure in the coming months. Thus, there was no hope of a recovery for Germany's daylight fighter forces, and the Allies were close to winning air superiority over all of Europe. Oberst Hannes Trautloff, serving as inspector of fighters and as a member of the "fighter staff" to increase aircraft production, told a group of factory workers:
The opponent now seeks to fix our fighter forces, the fighters, the "Destroyers," and the night fighters, and to destroy the factories. You know that he has partially succeeded. That has come about . . . because we do not have enough aircraft. We need aircraft . . . . I speak also your language because the language of the workers and the language of the front is the same. We must succeed--and I am convinced we will succeed when the new measures are in effect--in producing more aircraft in the near future.150
Unfortunately for Trautloff and Germany's cities, there was no method that could produce enough machines or pilots; the battle for air superiority was lost because the battle of production had been lost in 1940, 1941, and 1942--not 1944.
WAR IN THE EAST, THE MEDITERRANEAN, AND OVER BRITAIN
As cited previously, the Luftwaffe's heavy commitments to the defense of the Reich had forced it to scale back commitments elsewhere. Nevertheless, German
air operations at the front did continue, although on a much reduced scale. Russia attracted most of the attention because of the deteriorating ground situation, while in Italy the Germans managed to stabilize the front north of Naples. Despite the Allied landing at Anzio in January 1944, the Germans held the Allies south of Rome with little support. In addition to the Mediterranean and Russian theaters, the Luftwaffe opened a night offensive against Britain to retaliate for the devastation of the Reich's cities. The diversion of bomber strength from other threaters was considerable, the results meager.
The new Chief of Staff, Korten, had supported two strategies upon assuming office: the defense of the Reich and a "strategic" bombing policy on the eastern front. We have catalogued the course of the first strategy; the second element in Korten's policy is worth examining both for its assumptions and its failure. This reorientation in the Luftwaffe's employment began before Jeschonnek's death. In June 1943, Luftflotte 6, controlling aircraft on the central part of the eastern front, proposed a bombing offensive against Russia's armament industries. Its staff, while overestimating prospects for the summer, argued that the Wehrmacht could not achieve a decisive success with "Citadel." The Russians with their immense production would recover and go over to the offensive in winter. To prevent another winter attack, Luftflotte 6 argued that if it possessed sufficient strength, it could successfully attack targets such as the Gorki tank production center. An effective "strategic" bombing offensive, it argued, would injure Russian morale and production to such an extent that the disasters of the previous winters would not recur.151 Several days later, Jeschonnek himself echoed these points in a conversation with a staff officer. The Chief of Staff suggested that a systematic attack on the armaments factories of the Volga would weaken Russia's ability to launch a "great breakthrough offensive." It would, at least, force Russia's Allies to transfer material from other fronts to make up Soviet shortages. Jeschonnek found the possibility of terror attacks by 20 to 30 aircraft on population centers as a particularly enticing way to injure Russian morale. Nevertheless, his attention for most of the meeting centered on the ground battle.152
The growing interest in "strategic" bombing reflected a variety of factors. The most obvious was the general failure of German strategy in Russia. The Germans now had a tiger by the tail, and the tiger was showing signs of an ability to eat his attacker. Thus, there was every reason to look for a new strategy. A second factor, which had greatly contributed to Soviet successes, was the mobilization of Russia's immense economic and industrial resources. Not only on the ground but in the air, Soviet production was playing an important role. Aircraft production had grown from 9,780 in 1941, to 25,436 in 1942, and to 34,900 in 1943.153 In addition, deliveries from America and Britain added to the total number of aircraft available to the Russians. Soviet aircraft had played an important part at certain critical moments, most notably at Moscow in 1941 and in the fall of 1942. However, not until 1943 at Kursk did the Soviet air force show itself able to intervene in the air and ground battle in a sustained fashion. Despite a concentrated effort in support of
"Citadel," the Luftwaffe had not been able to win air superiority over the battlefield.
Korten did not find sentiment unanimously in favor of "strategic" bombing. The army with its enormous commitments in the east was loath to lose the air support that the Luftwaffe provided its troops.154 Conversely, Speer added his prestige to those urging creation of a force to attack Russian industry. On June 23, he formed a committee to look for vulnerable points in the Soviet economy. Because of the limited number of bombers available, the committee urged the use of precision bombing by small groups of aircraft. Like the Air Corps Tactical School theorists of the thirties at Maxwell Field, they selected the electric industry as a choke point. According to Speer, one electric plant on the upper Volga supplied Moscow's power, while the destruction of several powerplants in the Urals would halt much of Russia's steel, tank, and munitions production.155
Armed with Speer's support, Korten persuaded Hitler and Göring that "strategic" bombing could materially aid the war effort. A November study set forth the arguments. The cover letter admitted that the new approach was a poor man's strategy. It argued that the Luftwaffe's extensive support of ground operations had allowed the Russians to build up their armaments industry undisturbed, and thereby given the Soviets a vast numerical superiority in weapons. Despite an admission that the Red Air Force could defend Russia in depth, the paper optimistically suggested that even with its relatively weak forces, the Luftwaffe could launch precision bombing attacks that would have great impact. There was one premise on which such an offensive rested. The Luftwaffe must withdraw its bomber strength in the east from the close support mission and train it for a "strategic" bombing offensive against Soviet industry. The study itself examined in detail the structure of Soviet armament industries and gave special emphasis to the electric industry as the structure's weak link.156
These arguments convinced Göring and, for a short time, Hitler. On November 21, the Reichsmarschall signed a directive to Luftflotten 4 and 6 indicating his intention to launch a "strategic" bombing offensive against Soviet industry. He suggested that such a strategy offered better support for the ground forces than the present close support mission. Bomber units would pull back to rear echelon airfields as soon as possible and spend four to six weeks training for the deep penetration, precision bombing missions.157 Korten thus received authorization to pull bomber units out of the line and to establish a special pathfinder unit for the "strategic" bombing force. The general staff scheduled early February for the start of its "strategic" bombing effort.158 Nevertheless, the offensive only halfheartedly began in April. There were two reasons for the failure to meet the proposed schedule: First, the ground battle in the east deteriorated, and the Germans found it a virtual necessity to draw on bomber strength to aid hard-pressed troops. The second factor resulted from the diversion of bomber strength to the "Baby Blitz" retaliation attacks on London.
The Russian summer offensive had rolled into high gear after the victory at Kursk, and Soviet forces battered German infantry back to the Dneper. Hitler's consistent refusal to authorize timely withdrawals or the preparation of defensive positions in rear areas placed the Wehrmacht at a severe disadvantage. The tendencies that had marked late summer battles continued into the fall. Pushing across the Dneper in early October, Soviet forces drove on Krivoi Roy in the Ukraine and threatened to split the southern front in half. Using forces released from the west, Manstein possessed enough reserves to stem this Russian thrust.159 The defense of Krivoi Roy was successful not only because of ground reinforcements but because of substantial air support. On this front, the Luftwaffe concentrated all twin-engine bombers in the east along with a substantial proportion of ground attack units. By flying 1,200 sorties per day over a five-day period, the Luftwaffe aided Manstein's forces in halting the Russian offensive.160
The front's stabilization north of Krivoi Roy only brought momentary relief. In the south, a massive Soviet offensive engulfed Sixth Army, captured the city of Melitopol (near the northwest shore of the Sea of Azov), drove straight across to the northwestern shores of the Black Sea, and isolated the Seventeenth Army in the Crimea. Hitler refused requests to withdraw, and the Russians trapped one German division and seven Rumanian divisions. At the beginning of November, Soviet forces broke out from their bridgehead on the western bank of the Dneper near Kiev. The fighting that developed in this region threatened the entire southern front. Manstein's magic could only patch together inadequate solutions to the crises. All the while a terrible attrition of ground forces took place. First Panzer Army warned that its infantry strength had sunk to desperate straits; its divisions under heavy attack were losing a battalion a day.161
The fall disasters were a prelude to what would happen in the winter. In the south, Russian forces kept the pressure on and forced the Germans back from Kiev and the Dneper almost to the Bug River in the western Ukraine. They also cleared the Germans out of Nikopol in the east central Ukraine and finally captured Krivoi Roy. Hitler's refusal to allow any withdrawals until the last moment enabled the Russians to encircle four divisions near Cherkassy, located 100 miles southeast of Kiev; the Luftwaffe supplied the pocket from the air. In the first five days of aerial supply, its squadrons lost 44 aircraft to accidents and Russian fighters.162
While Army Group South received a severe battering, the Red Army launched a general offensive against the north. Between mid-January and the end of March, it drove the Wehrmacht entirely away from Leningrad and the positions that the Germans had held for two years. By spring, the Russians had advanced to Lake Peipus in eastern Estonia and had almost reached the Baltic countries. The final act in the catalogue of disasters befalling the Wehrmacht came in the winter when the Russians launched an early spring offensive against Army Group South. The Soviets drove the Germans from their last hold on the Dneper, cleaned the Wehrmacht from its hold on the western Ukraine, and finally came to rest on the foothills of the Carpathians and the Dnester--in other words, on the frontier of Rumania and Hungary.163
These defeats made the establishment of a "strategic" bombing force to attack Russia's armament industries virtually impossible. Throughout the winter, the Germans faced events on the ground that threatened destruction of not merely divisions and corps but armies and army groups. Only the most desperate expedients allowed the Wehrmacht to escape complete destruction. There was no choice except to use what was at hand, and the bomber forces were readily available. The location of the fighting in the south placed the Luftwaffe far from centers of supply, and difficulties in maintaining and supplying its forces there--especially after Army Group South and Army Group Center lost contact with each other--were considerable. Hitler's refusal to countenance withdrawals intensified the already considerable burdens on air units. His demand that the Crimea be held forced the Luftwaffe to maintain a considerable airlift by Ju 52's and He 111's, including some bomber units. The use of bomber units against Russian spearheads was at times successful and given the desperate situation on the ground, unavoidable. It was certainly not cost-effective.164 By this time, the Russians were conversant with Luftwaffe operations, and they not only possessed aircraft in large numbers but their troops were equipped with ample antiaircraft support. Thus, German air operations tended to be decreasingly effective and more costly. By mid-December, Luftflotte 6 reported that Russian air strength was such that the enemy was launching 3,200 sorties a day to support ground operations.165 Even more depressing for German ground forces was the fact that the Russians had noted the disappearance of German fighters and had therefore re-equipped many fighter units with ground attack aircraft. Those could now range over the battle areas with minimal fear of Luftwaffe fighters.166
The decrease in German aircraft strength in the east resulted in the remaining units being used as fire brigades, rushed from one frontline spot to another. A log book of an He 111 pilot on the eastern front during the 1943-44 period articulates this point. In his first 25 missions between August 8 and September 6, 1943, he did not fly a single mission lasting more than 10 minutes over enemy territory. In his next 25 missions between September 7 and 22nd, he flew only two missions lasting more than 10 minutes over enemy territory--one of 15 minutes and one of 2 hours duration. In his next 50 missions, he flew only three that lasted more than 10 minutes over enemy territory. For his second 100 missions, 32 lasted longer than 10 minutes, but many of these were weather reconnaissance flights over the Black Sea or supply missions into the Crimea.167 The Luftwaffe's specialized antitank forces, rushed from one section of the front to another, found it difficult to maintain their operational ready rates and suffered the cumulative effects of constant commitment to combat. One Luftwaffe pilot in an antitank squadron in Russia recalls that his unit lost as many aircraft as the number of tanks that it destroyed--hardly, he notes, a cost-effective employment of aircraft.168
The result of the defeats in Russia were twofold. First, there was an understandable reluctance to pull bomber units out of the line when ground forces were in trouble. Second, those forces that had pulled back from the front to begin special training programs soon found themselves asked to attack supply lines. For instance, in February when the Germans were in particularly bad trouble, Hitler used these specialized squadrons to bomb railroad tracks. These operations cost the
attacking forces heavy losses with no commensurate lessening of pressures on the front.169 Consequently, the special units did not complete training on schedule, and it was not until late March that the first attacks on Russian industrial targets began. By that time, however, Russian advances in the north had captured the forward operating fields from which the Germans had hoped to launch their air offensive. Gorki now lay entirely outside the range of German aircraft. Finally, hopes for the "strategic" bombing attacks had rested on the idle hope that the He 177 would finally arrive in the winter of 1943-44 in substantial numbers to augment the bomber squadrons. It did not, probably luckily for the crews, as Heinkel still had not solved the engine problems. By the time that the first He 177's (outside of the Stalingrad disaster) arrived on the eastern front in the summer of 1944, lack of fuel precluded sustained use of the aircraft.170
Meanwhile in the west, Hitler's decisions sealed the fate of the "strategic" bombing scheme. For the Nazi leadership, the terrible pounding that Bomber Command was inflicting on Germany's cities had reached intolerable levels. Goebbels sprinkled his diary and speeches with the hope that Germany would soon retaliate. In November 1943, Hitler, believing that his revenge weapons were ready, announced to the assembled Nazi faithful in Munich that, "Our hour of revenge is nigh! . . . . Even if for the present we cannot reach America, thank God that at least one country is close enough to tackle."171 The unfortunate truth for Hitler, however, was that none of the retaliatory weapons were close to being ready. Both the V-1 and V-2 were encountering difficulties in production, and final tests indicated distressing design problems. Tests of the V-2 carrying its payload for the first time failed completely. Through March 1944, of 57 rockets tested, only 26 got off the ground; of the latter, only 4 reached the target area. The others blew up on re-entry or simply disappeared.172
Troubles with the rocket program helped turn the Germans to a more conventional means of retaliation: the bomber. The continued emphasis on bomber production and preference for that aircraft type over fighters reflected a human desire to strike back at Germany's tormentors. In October, Göring passed on Hitler's demand that the Luftwaffe attack one of the major Italian towns occupied by the British (either Brindisium or Taranto) before the establishment of night fighter defenses. The Führer's purpose was not only to pay back the Italians for their betrayal but also to give neutrals and especially Germany's "rotten" allies an object lesson.173
In late November, Göring ordered the young bomber expert, Dietrich Peltz, to prepare for a retaliation offensive against London. He promised that units detailed for these attacks would receive a full complement of crews and aircraft. In conclusion, the Reichsmarschall asked Peltz whether he would accept Do 217's in the bombing force; Peltz replied that he would welcome anything that would carry a bomb.174 That was precisely what he got. Over December and early January, the Germans accumulated a conglomeration of 550 aircraft on the airfields of France for the offensive: Ju 88's, Ju 188's, Do 217's, Me 410's, Fw 200's, and even 35 brand new He 177's. The widely differing capabilities of these aircraft and the limited navigational and flying skills of the crews lead Peltz to make the attack as simple as
possible. Specially trained pathfinders, equipped with various marking devices, would locate and mark the target; the other bombers would hopefully bomb on these markers.175
Göring opened the offensive on January 21 with a typical gesture. He left Berlin to assume personal command of the operation. He might have saved himself the trouble as the offensive got off to a bad start. The Luftwaffe launched 447 bombers in two waves at the British capital. Navigation was poor, the pathfinder system broke down, and out of 268 tons of bombs dropped over England, only 32 tons landed in London.176 For the following four months, the Germans continued attacking with less than spectacular results. The next two attacks were dismal failures; on February 18th, the bombers managed to drop 175 tons within London's confines. Thereafter, the Germans managed to get 50 percent of bomb loads within the target area, but the decreasing size of the force gave better accuracy less significance.177 The scale of these attacks was miniscule compared to what Bomber Command was doing to German cities. The losses suffered, however, were not infinitesimal. In the "Baby Blitz" attacks, the Germans lost 329 bombers--a loss that was virtually irreplaceable. From 695 operational ready bombers in northern France at the end of December 1943, bomber strength had sunk to 144 by May 1944.178 The Germans could not replace these losses because American attacks on aircraft production had forced them to concentrate their industrial effort on building fighters. While it is arguable whether the bomber forces could have had a significant impact on Russia's armament production, there is no doubt that these bombers would have been a useful addition to German strength when D-day occurred.
The other major theater in which the Wehrmacht was locked in combat was the Mediterranean. Here, after a strong response by German fighter bombers to the invasion of Italy and a few solid shots at the Italians bailing out of the war, the Germans withdrew most of their air strength. This move had few repercussions for the troops on the ground. The mountainous nature of Italian geography and the German's skill in defensive warfare allowed the Wehrmacht to wage a protracted campaign. The Germans inflicted heavy casualties on their opponents and tied up considerable Allied resources. Allied efforts in using airpower to strangle the lines of communications caused some difficulty, but the restricted nature of the theater enabled the Germans to evade the full impact of these air interdiction efforts and to maintain a stable defensive system. That very stability minimized the requirements for fuel and other bulk items that would have complicated supply problems.
PRODUCTION AND TRAINING
This chapter has included a general discussion of major production issues along with operational matters. There are, however, several aspects of the production program best left to this last section. Milch's continued efforts to increase efficiency throughout the aircraft industry was generally successful. However, for the first time in the war, Allied bombing seriously hurt aircraft and particularly fighter production. Milch had by now recognized the desperate need for more
fighters to meet the American threat. The choice was either to meet the daylight offensive with enough fighters or lose air superiority over the European continent. Neither Hitler and Göring nor more sober military men like Korten were willing to recognize that they faced an either/or situation. Thus, emphasis remained on a bomber/fighter program until late winter 1944. By then, it was too late; while the aircraft industry under Speer's direction drove up fighter production, no coherent program existed to provide the pilots or fuel that they would require. The point of no return had come by the early fall of 1943; thereafter, it was too late.
One element of German aircraft production and development that has consistently appeared in historical discussions is the development of the Me 262. That fighter was a design and engineering marvel for its time. However, it is doubtful whether its impact on the war could have been much different than what it was. As with most new concepts, word of the aircraft's potential percolated slowly up the chain of command only after its initial flights. Galland flew the aircraft in May 1943 and became an enthusiastic supporter of the aircraft as the savior of the fighter force.179 What Galland's enthusiasm could not recognize was the difficulty involved in transferring a design model into production, especially since the Me 262 was not its designer's highest priority. Willi Messerschmitt had involved himself in a running battle with Milch from 1942 on and was particularly upset at cancellation of the Me 209 in favor of his new jet.180 Moreover, there were serious problems with the engines, which is not surprising considering the fact that they represented a quantum leap forward in technology. Not surprisingly, as with all new weapon systems, the Germans found it difficult to get the Me 262 into series production because they were still making design changes at the same time they were working up production lines.
Hitler's interest in the jet became apparent in September 1943 when Messerschmitt suggested that it could also serve as a fast bomber to attack Britain.181 An aircraft demonstration at the end of the year and some casual remarks that the jet could serve as a fighter bomber put the Führer completely on the wrong track.182 From that point, he considered the Me 262 as the answer to Allied air superiority over the invasion beaches in the coming spring. In late December, he exclaimed:
Every month that passes makes it more and more probable that we will get at least one squadron of jet aircraft: The more important thing is that they [the enemy] get some bombs on top of them just as they try to invade. That will force them to take cover . . . and in this way they will waste hour after hour! But after half a day our reserves will already be on the way.183
The real explosion did not come until the end of May when Hitler discovered that the Luftwaffe was manufacturing the Me 262 as a fighter that could not carry bombs. He drastically intervened and ordered major design changes in the aircraft.184 It is doubtful, however, whether this decision had much impact on the war's final outcome. The engineers had only worked the flaws out of the production
line by March with the first models appearing in that month. Output for April was 16 Me 262's, rising to 28 in June, and 59 in July.185 Even under the best of circumstances, it is unlikely that a massive output of Me 262's could have occurred in 1944. By the time its production began, Allied escorts had already savaged the German fighter forces, and the Germans had irrevocably lost air superiority over the continent. The losses in experienced pilots during the spring make it especially doubtful whether the Luftwaffe could have manned an Me 262 force with effective, skilled crews.
American bombing attacks on German aircraft production had begun in the summer of 1943. The target selection represented a direct threat to the Luftwaffe's production base and faced the Germans with a serious dilemma. The most effective use of resources and manpower to produce aircraft calls for a concentration of industrial effort to mass produce the items. The Ford Willow Run plant and the many other great industrial plants then operating in the United States underline this point. Milch, from early 1942, had pushed the German aircraft industry in the same direction. The problem was that such a concentration maximizing production was particularly vulnerable to bombing, especially the type that the Americans were waging.
The threat posed by the American bombing in the summer of 1943 caused the Germans to begin dispersing their aircraft industry to less vulnerable areas. Efforts, however, to scatter its industry to occupied or allied countries foundered on several difficulties. First, German occupation policies had robbed most foreign firms of workers and machines.186 In addition, bureaucratic squabbling within the Third Reich directly affected dispersal plans to occupied territories. At the same time the Luftwaffe was desperately trying to move production outside Germany, Sauckel was robbing occupied territories of the skilled workers such a dispersed production would require.187
The dispersal effort received added impetus from the great attacks made on the aircraft industry in the winter and spring of 1944. Critics of the "strategic" bombing campaign have often cited the growth of German fighter production in 1944 as evidence of the campaign's failure. In fact, attacks on German industry were effective in keeping production within tolerable limits and in helping to maintain Allied superiority. The mere act of dispersal reduced production efficiency. German industry's vaunted production of 36,000 aircraft in 1944 was only 8,000 above what the Japanese produced that year.188 The numerical increase in 1944 over 1943, consisting almost entirely of fighters (a percentage rise of 55.9 percent), hides the fact that German production rose only 23.9 percent in terms of airframe weight.189 Unhindered by Allied bombing, German production would have risen far higher and far faster. The target of 80,000-plus aircraft in production plans for 1945 gives an indication of the direction in which Milch and his planners were pushing.190
When all is said and done, however, the German achievement in increasing fighter production in 1944 was remarkable. "Big Week" had proven that the Americans aimed at nothing less than the destruction of Germany's aircraft
industry. The German response was to create a special group, the "Fighter Staff," to take control of all aircraft manufacturing in order to maintain and to increase production. The proposal for such a group came from Milch, and the Field Marshal's suggestion that Speer's assistant, Karl-Otto Sauer, head the staff, shrewdly insured that fighter production received maximum support from the Armaments Ministry. Under the battering of American bombers, the aircraft industry was in dangerous shape. Bombing attacks had obliterated factories, machines, roofs, and walls. Moreover, morale had sunk to such low levels that workers scurried for shelter at the mere appearance of fighters.191 Also, the attacks had destroyed much finished production still awaiting shipment to the front.192 The "Fighter Staff" began a desperate struggle to bring order in the wake of American raids. A circular from Speer's ministry warned that the fighter defenses were the only means to protect the armament industry from Allied air attacks.193 Frontline pilots called desperately for replacements for those aircraft that American escorts were so rapidly shooting out of the air. Galland, reporting that he had had only 250 fighters the day before to meet the American onslaught, pleaded for "fighters, fighters, nothing but fighters" from industrialists and managers.194 The "Fighter Staff" performed an extraordinary job in restoring order and dispersing production to less vulnerable locations. Where Milch and Sauer ran into bureaucratic red tape and recalcitrance, they hustled offending individuals off to the Berlin SS offices of Ernst Kaltenbrunner.195 German fighter production, even under the attack, began a dramatic rise.196 One must, nevertheless, interject a word of caution, for production figures in the Strategic Bombing Survey included aircraft that industry repaired after they had received major damage. Given the tempo of Allied air operations, the Germans had large numbers of aircraft to repair.
Concurrent with production problems went the difficulty of finding pilots to fill cockpits. Up to the summer of 1942, the training program had run on a peacetime leisurely basis, with dancing classes and skiing holidays for future pilots.197 Thereafter, the training program ran into difficulties. Fuel shortages and demands from the front for more pilots led to reductions in training hours. Air transport commitments to Tunisia and Stalingrad curtailed instrument and bomber training programs. In 1943, more fuel was available; and through better management, the Germans doubled the number of new fighter pilots coming out of training schools. The rise from 1,662 new fighter pilots in 1942 to 3,276 in 1943 was barely enough, however, to cover wastage at the front (2,870).198 In fact, training schools produced barely enough pilots to keep up with losses. Thus, there was virtually no opportunity to build up a pilot reserve. More dangerous for the future of the fighter force was the fact that flying hours in schools for German pilots were less than half of what British and American pilots received. Production shortages meant that German pilots received their training almost entirely in obsolete aircraft. Ironically, the massive production program of spring 1944 finally solved that problem in late summer. However, by that time there was no fuel left for training.
The result of these training weaknesses and the attrition taking place in early 1944 was that the experience and the skill level of German fighter pilots spiraled
downward. In July 1944, Luftflotte 3 discovered that with few exceptions, only Gruppen and Staffelen commanders had more than six months' operational fighter experience. A small number of other pilots had up to three months' experience, while the bulk of available pilots had only between eight and thirty days' combat service.199 All of these factors by 1944 had become mutually reinforcing. The declining skill of German fighter pilots pushed up the level of attrition taking place, which increased the demand that the training establishment turn out more pilots. The viciousness of the circle received its final impetus and the Luftwaffe its death blow when the May attacks on German petroleum sources robbed the training program of the fuel needed to produce new pilots.
All of the factors that had worked against the Luftwaffe in the early periods of the war and that had slowly worn away its strength came together to destroy it as an effective force in the period from September 1943 through March 1944. By refusing to recognize the full nature of the threat, the Germans placed their air force in a hopeless situation. The Luftwaffe did manage to make a remarkable recovery in its ability to defend Germany from night attack, but that tactical victory did little to change the war's course. However, despite such tactical victories, the steady, wearing, and growing pressure of the daytime American bomber and fighter offensive destroyed the German fighter force. There were no decisive moments or clear-cut victories. Rather, the American pressure put the German fighters in a meat grinder battle of attrition both in terms of pilots and of matériel. It was the cumulative effect of that intense pressure that in the final analysis enabled the Western Powers to gain air superiority over Europe; that achievement must be counted among the decisive victories of World War II.
1. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 239.
2. Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, pp. 350-51.
3. Among a whole host of evidence, one might consult in particular Göring's remarks on October 7, 1943: "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 7.10.43. Obersalzberg," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
4. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 239-40.
5. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 160-61.
6. Arthur Harris to Winston Churchill, 3.11.43., PRO/PREM/3/14/1.
7. PRO AIR 22/203, "War Room Manual of Bomber Command Ops 1939/1945," compiled by Air Ministry War Room (Statistical Section).
8. Verrier, The Bomber Offensive, p. 148.
9. Zuckermann, From Apes to Warlords, pp. 218-19.
10. Interview with Air Marshal D. C. T. Bennett, RAF Staff College Library, Bracknell.
11. Hansell, The Air Plan that Defeated Hitler, p. 136.
12. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 264.
13. For Milch's reaction to the less than distinguished effort, see: "Der erste grosse Einsatz der 'Wilden Sau', Auszug aus der G. L.-Besprechung am 20.8.43. im RLM," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
14. Irving, The Mare's Nest, p. 113.
15. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 203.
16. Bill Gunston, Night Fighters (New York, 1976), pp. 103-04.
17. BA/MA, RL 8/93, I Jagdkorps, "Niederschrift über die Divisionskommand eur-besprechung am 29.12.43.," p. 38; Air Ministry, The Defeat of the German Air Force, pp. 278-79.
18. See particularly the clear discussion of the schräge Musik tactics in Martin Middlebrook's admirable work, The Nuremberg Raid (New York, 1974), pp. 70-73.
19. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm, 1943," Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 8.10.43., Obersalzberg, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3; percentage losses presented on the basis of crews present at the beginning of each month in BA/MA, RL 2 III/725, 726, Genst. Gen. Qu. 6.Abt. (1), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände," July, August, September 1943.
20. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm, 1943," Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 8.10.43, Obersalzsberg, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3, p. 57.
21. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 163.
22. "Besprechung über Tag-und Nachtjagd 1943 beim R. M. Göring am 25. und 26.9.43.," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
23. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 203-04.
24. Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries, pp. 532-35.
25. Hans Rumpf, The Bombing of Germany (New York, 1961), pp. 132-35.
26. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 204-05.
27. BA/MA, RL 8/91, I Jagdkorps, "Kommandeurbesprechung am 29.9.43. im Zeist."
29. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 278-79.
30. Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, pp. 32-33.
31. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 200.
32. BA/MA, RL 8/93, I Jagdkorps, "Niederschrift über die Divisionkommandeur-Besprechung am 25.1.44. um 12.30 Uhr in De Breul."
33. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 205-06.
34. PRO AIR/20.5815. See in particular the draft reply for CAS signature to a Harris letter arguing about the tactical difficulties which mitigated against an attack on Schweinfurt, 24.1.44.
35. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 207; and Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, p. 86.
36. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 206.
37. Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, pp. 80-81. The bomb plots for the attacks on Stuttgart on March 15 and Berlin on March 24, on page 81, are most instructive on the limitations under which Bomber Command was still operating.
38. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, p. 207; for the most thorough description of the disaster, see Middlebrook's excellent The Nuremberg Raid.
39. Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, pp. 88-91.
40. Interview with D. C. T. Bennett, RAF Staff College Library, Bracknell.
41. PRO AIR 14/3489, Probable Reconstruction of German Night Fighter Reaction, Raid on Nuremberg 30/31.3.44.
42. Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, p. 140.
43. PRO AIR 14/3489, Plots on Bombers Passed Over R/T and W/T to Night Fighters, Raid on Nuremberg, 30/31.3.44.
44. Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, pp. 161, 277, 330.
45. Ibid., pp. 204-07.
46. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. IV, pp. 431-32.
47. PRO AIR 22/203, War Room Manual of Bomber Command Ops, 1939-1945, Air Ministry War Room (Statistical Section).
48. For a clear picture of what it was like to serve as a crewmember during this period, see Max Hastings, Bomber Command (New York, 1979), particularly Chapters VIII and XII.
49. See particularly Bennett's memorandum to Bomber Command, 3.11.44., quoted extensively by Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, pp. 195-96; see also Middlebrook, The Nuremberg Raid, p. 30.
50. Interview with D. C. T. Bennett, RAF Staff College Library, Bracknell. Bennett further suggests that all senior commanders be required to fly in wartime and that for every Air Vice Marshal lost on operations, Bomber Command would have saved 200 crews.
52. Webster and Frankland, SAOAG, Vol. II, P. 193.
53. Alfred Price, Pictorial History of the Luftwaffe, 1933-1945 (New York, 1969), pp. 52-53.
54. Based on the author's tabulations of figures in BA/MA, RL 2 III/728, 729, Genst. Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
55. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, p. 688.
56. "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 August 1942-8 May 1945," p. 14, AFSHRC.
57. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 696-97.
58. Ibid., pp. 698-99.
59. "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 August 1942-8 May 1945," p. 14, AFSHRC.
60. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 703-04, 850. For the most thorough, scholarly study of the second Schweinfurt attack from both sides, see Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg, 1943.
61. Ibid., pp. 704-05.
62. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 286.
63. For the most comprehensive examination of this process, see Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg, 1943, pp. 351-80.
64. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 129.
65. Ibid., p. 127.
66. For an excellent, concise description, see Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," pp. 146-61.
67. Emerson, "Operation Pointblank," pp. 32-34.
68. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," pp. 155-59.
69. BA/MA, RL 10/639, "Notizen zur Traditionsgeschichte der III. Gruppe des Jagdgeschwaders Udet, (Quellen: Kriegstagebücher der III./e)."
70. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 289-90.
71. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg 1943, p. 198.
72. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 290-91.
73. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm, 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 7.10.43., Obersalzberg," p. 16, AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
74. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe Versus German Air Force," p. 106. Date of the message was October 12, and it was obviously the result of discussions on October 7.
75. Based on the figures in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1193, 1194, 1195, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6. Abt.), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
76. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1194, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6. Abt), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den fliegenden Verbänden."
77. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt., "Front-Flugzeug-Verluste im Oktober 1943." Part of the confusion undoubtedly lies in exactly how German records were compiled and for what purposes.
78. Based on the figures of fighter pilot strength and losses in the tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/722, 723, 724, 725, Genst. Gen. Qu.6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände."
79. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe Versus German Air Force," pp. 112-13.
80. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 7.10.43., Obersalzberg," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
81. Ibid., Fortsetzung, p. 9.
82. BA/MA, RL 3/61, "Stenographische Niederschrift der Ansprache des Reichsmarschalls am 23.11.43. vor den fliegenden Besatzungen Tagjagd der 3. Jagddivision in der Halle des Flugplatzes Deelen"; see also Göring's comments in the war diary of the III. Gruppe des Jagdgeschwaders Udet, entry 12.10.43.
83. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 7.10.43, Fortsetzung," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
84. David Irving, Hitler's War (New York, 1977), pp. 574-75.
85. BA/MA, RL 3/61, "Stenographische Niederschrift der Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 28.11.44. in Karinhall," pp. 94-95.
86. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 7.10.43., Obersalzberg, Fortsetzung," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3; one must also note that not until the fall of 1943 did fighter production receive the same priority as U-boat production.
87. BA/MA, RL 3/61, "Stenographische Niederschrift der Besprechung des Reichsmarschalls mit GL and Industrierat am 14.10.43. in der neuen Reichskanzlei, Berchtesgaden."
88. BA/MA, RL 3/62, "Stenographische Niederschrift der Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 23.11.43. in Karinhall."
89. BA/MA, RL 3/61, "Stenographische Niederschrift der Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 28.11.43. in Karinhall," p. 88.
90. USSBS, ESBGWE, Appendix Table 102, p. 277.
91. "Alliierte Luftangriffe im Jahre 1943 auf Werke der deutschen Flugzeugindustrie," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
92. BA/MA, RL 2 II/365, Der Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Führungsstab Ic, Nr. 32487/43, 5.10.43., "Luftlagebericht West, Stand: 1. Oktober 1943."
93. BA/MA, RL 2 II/365, Der Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Führungsstab Ic, Nr. 4222/43, 2.11.43, "Luftlagebericht West, Stand: 1. November 1943."
94. BA/MA, RL 2 II/365, Der Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Führungsstab Ic., Nr 4611/43, 3.12.43., "Luftlagebericht West, Stand: 1.12.1943."
95. BA/MA, RL 2 II/320, "USA Fliegertruppe, die schweren amerikanischen Kampfverbände, Stand: Dezember 1943," Luftwaffenführungsstab, Ic/Fremde Luftwaffen West.
96. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 290. For Göring's own admission after the war that even in the spring of 1944 he could not believe American escort fighters went as far as Liege, see "Reichsmarschall Herman Göring--I," Air Ministry Weekly Intelligence Summary, issued by Air Ministry A.C.A.S. (1) (A.I.I.), No. 315, 17.9.45.
97. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, pp. 15-17.
98. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Niederschrift über Divisionkommandeur-Besprechung am 4.11.43., 14.00 Uhr in De Breul."
99. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Besprechung beim Bef. Mitte am 6.11.43., 15.00 Uhr in Berlin-Dahlem."
100. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Besprechung beim Bef. Mitte am 6.11.43. 17.45 Uhr in Berlin-Dahlem."
101. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Besprechung beim Bef. Mitte am 7.11.43. 10.30 Uhr in Berlin, Reichssportfeld."
102. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Besprechung am 8.11.43. 13.00 Uhr aufdem Gefechtsstand De Beul."
103. BA/MA, RL 8/92, "Besprechung in Stade am 16.11.43."
104. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 107.
105. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. II, pp. 848-52.
106. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 108.
107. BA/MA, RL 8/93, "Niederschrift über die Divisionskommandeur-Besprechung am 29.12.1943."
108. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste, reports for November and December.
109. BA/MA, RL 2 III/726, 727, 728, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), "Übersicht" über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
111. These figures are based on the tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/722, 723, 724, 725, 726, 727, 728, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (1)., "Übersicht" über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
112. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg, 1943, p. 217.
113. "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 August 1942-8 May 1945," AFSHRC.
115. Futrell, Ideas, Concepts, Doctrine: A History of Basic Thinking in the United States Air Force, p. 139.
116. BA/MA, RL 2 II/329, Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic Nr 13/44 (III A), 2.1.44., "Luftlage West Nr. 1 vom 31.12 und Nacht zum 1.1.44."
117. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, pp. 23-24.
118. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 136.
119. Based on loss tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste; and BA/MA, RL 2 II/728, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (1), Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
120. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 141.
121. BA/MA, RL 10/639, "Notizen zur Traditionsgeschichte der III. Gruppe des Jagdgeschwaders Udet (Quellen: Kriegstagebucher der III./e)."
122. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste, January-June 1944.
124. BA/MA, RL 2 III/728-731, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I), Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
125. BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste, January-June 1944.
126. BA/MA , RL 8/93, 1 Jagdkorps, "Niederschrift über die Divisionskommandeur-Besprechung am 25.1.44. um 12.30 Uhr in De Breul."
127. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 167.
128. Ibid, p. 168.
129. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, p. 33.
130. Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 168.
131. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, pp. 37-38.
132. This total is drawn from Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, p. 39; and Boylan, "The Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter," p. 172.
133. Boylan, "The Development of Long-Range Fighter Escort," p. 175.
134. Based on the tables in "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 August 1942-8 May 1945," AFSHRC.
135. BA/MA, RL 10/257, Kriegstagebuch Nr. 8 des Zerstörergeschwaders "Horst Wessel" Nr 26 vom 1.1.-30.9.44.
136. Based on loss tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste; and BA/MA, RL 2 III/728, 729, Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
137. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, pp. 51-53.
138. Ibid., p. 53.
139. Based on loss tables in BA/MA, RL 2 III/1025, Genst. 6. Abt. (III A), Front-Flugzeug-Verluste, and RL 2 III/729, Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
140. Figures based on aircraft written off and combat strength in "Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 August 1942-8 May 1945," AFSHRC.
141. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, p. 54.
142. BA/MA, RL 2 II/329, Luftwaffenführungsstab Ic, Fremde Luftwaffen West, Nr 1193/44, 18.3.44. "Luftlage West Nr. 32."
143. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 153.
144. Ibid., p. 156.
145. Ibid., pp. 153-54.
146. BA/MA, RL 10/639, Notizen zur Traditionsgeschichte der III. Gruppe des Jagdgeschwaders Udet.
147. Golücke, Schweinfurt und der strategische Luftkrieg, 1943, p. 218.
148. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 155.
149. Ibid., p. 157.
150. "Der Einsatz der Jäger in der Reichsverteidigung 1944, Ansprache des Oberst Trautloff vor Rüstungsarbeitern bei den Junkerswerken in Dessau am 15.3.44.," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 6, 1944.
151. BA/MA, RL 7/51, Der Chef der Luftflotte 6, Br. B. Nr. 241/43, 12.6.43., Bert. Bekämpfung der sow. russ. Kriegswirtschaft.
152. BA/MA, RL 7/521, Besprechungspunkte Oberst i. G. Kless am 17.6.43. in Robinson 4 mit Generaloberst Jeschonnek.
153. Olaf Groehler, Geschichte des Luftkrieges 1910 bis 1970 (Berlin, 1973), p. 345.
154. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 236.
155. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, p. 282.
156. BA/MA, RL 2 II/5, Luftwaffenführungsstab, Ia op Nr. 8865/43, 9.11.43., Anlage: "Kurze Studie: Kampfgegen die russische Rüstungsindustrie."
157. BA/MA, RL 2 II/5, Reichsmarschall, 21.11.43., An Lft. Kdo, 4, Chef d. Genst., Lft. Kdo, 6, Genst. Gen. d. Kampffl, Generalmajor Peltz.
158. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 240.
159. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 174-84.
160. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 241.
161. Ziemke, Stalingrad to Berlin, pp. 176-88.
162. Ibid., pp. 229-31.
163. Ibid., Chapters XII and XIII.
164. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 242-43.
165. "Ultra, History of US Strategic Air Force Europe vs German Air Force," p. 123.
166. Ibid., p. 126.
167. BA/MA, RL 10/544, Leistungsbuch, Leutnant Elmar Boersch, 3./K.G. General Wever. Boersch survived the war with 311 combat missions to his credit.
168. Letter from Oberst Walther Krause in possession of the author.
169. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, pp. 282-83.
170. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 242-43.
171. Irving, The Mare's Nest, pp. 177, 181. Hitler was assuring Goebbels in September that a "great reprisal campaign by rockets" would begin in January or February; Goebbels, The Goebbels Diary, p. 467.
172. Ibid., pp. 220-21.
173. "Heimatverteidigungsprogramm 1943, Besprechung beim Reichsmarschall am 8.10.43., Obersalzberg, Fortsetzung," AFSHRC: K 113.312-2, v. 3.
174. BA/MA, RL 3/62, "Stenographische Niederschrift über Besprechung unter dem Vorsitz des Reichsmarschalls am 28.11.43. in Neuenhazen bei Berlin."
175. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 321.
176. Groehler, Geschichte des Luftkrieges, p. 396.
177. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 322.
178. Groehler, Geschichte des Luftkrieges, p. 396.
179. Galland, The First and the Last, p. 253.
180. See Irving's interesting discussion, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, pp. 217-18.
181. Ibid., p. 237.
182. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 313.
183. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 266.
184. Ibid., p.281.
185. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall ofthe German Air Force, p. 313.
186. For further amplification of this point, see the excellent discussion of this point in Overy, "The Luftwaffe and the European Economy, 1939-1945," pp. 66-67.
187. See the discussion of this point in Speer, Inside the Third Reich, pp. 310-11.
188. Richard Overy, The Air War, 1939-1945 (London, 1980), p. 123.
189. USSBS, ESBGWE, Appendix Tables 101 and 102.
190. Overy, The Air War, 1939-1945, p. 123.
191. See particularly the discussion of what had happened to the factories at Braunschweig: BA/MA, RL 3/1, "Stenographischer Bericht über die Jägerstabs-Besprechung am 4. Marz 1944 im RLM," p. 47.
192. Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 270.
193. "Sicherung der Jäger and Zerstörerfabrikation gegen Luftangriffe," 16.3.44., Imperial War Museum FD 4352/45. See also Milch's speech in BA/MA, RL 3/1, VI Besprechung in Allach-München, 10.3.44.
194. BA/MA, RL 3/1, "Stenografische Niederschrift der Besprechungen während des 'Untemehmens Hubertus' v. F.-11.3.44.," p. 21.
195. See particularly the interesting exchange between Milch and Sauer on the one hand and an offending official on the other in BA/MA, RL 3/1, "Messerschmitt-Regensburg," Vorbesprechung im Sonderzug, 10.3.44.-0.30 Uhr, p. 178. Milch was also to suggest that if French workers gave trouble when the invasion came, 50 percent should be shot and if that did not work then the rest. Groehler, Geschichte des Luftkrieges 1910 bis 1970, p. 414. See also the discussion about getting recalcitrant workers back into the factories in BA/MA, RL 3/1, V. "Messerschmitt-Regensburg," Vorbesprechung im Sonderzug, 10.3.44-0:30 Uhr.
196. USSBS, ESBGWE, Appendix Table 102. See also Sauer's discussion of the "Fighter Staff's" success by the end of March in BA/MA, RL 3/3, "Stenographischer Bericht über die Jägerstabs-Besprechung am 25.3.44, 10 Uhr im Reichsluftfahrtministerium."
197. Letter from Oberst Walter Krause, May 25, 1981, in possession of the author.
198. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 314; and BA/MA, RL 2 III/722, 723, 724, 725, 726, 727, 728, Gen. Qu. 6. Abt. (I) Übersicht über Soll, Istbestand, Einsatzbereitschaft, Verluste und Reserven der fliegenden Verbände.
199. Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, pp. 316-17.
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