Planning the Strategic
Air War for Europe
The Japanese aircraft that destroyed the U.S. Navy's battleline at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, produced reverberations that extended far beyond the Pacific. The attack roused an apathetic America into a fury of resentment, resulting in a tidal wave of emotion that swept over the carefully reasoned plans which had been prepared to meet a war emergency. This wave of emotion affected civilians and military alike. America had watched the progress of the war in Europe and Far East with bemused and pacific apprehension. Suddenly, after Pearl Harbor, there was a call for action, and the call riveted attention on the Pacific and Far East -- upon the Japanese -- not upon Hitler and his Nazis.
U.S. military planners had not been idle after the outbreak of war in Europe. Despite the pacifists prevailing in the country, the possibility of the United States being drawn into the conflict was very real. The plans devised in a calmer and more logical atmosphere specified that the initial effort be launched against Axis Europe. The war against Japan would be restricted to the strategic defensive pending the defeat of Hitler. Then, and only then, would America transfer her might to the Pacific and defeat the Japanese. During the defensive phase in the Pacific, the U.S. fleet would seek out and defeat the Japanese fleet if the opportunity occurred. However, the primary
effort and the priority of resources would be concentrated on crushing Hitler.
With the loss of the battleships on December 7, meeting the Japanese fleet on the high seas would have to be postponed. Even so, emotions were running high and reversal of the "Europe first" strategy and early assumption of the offensive against Japan appeared probable. The order of priority in building and deploying our forces was likely to veer in that direction.
Following the sneak attack, the Germans damaged their cause by promptly declaring war against the United States. Still, this act did not stem the tide of opinion that demanded instant retaliation against Japan in the Pacific. It was not the Germans who had attacked us -- it was the Japanese. The U.S. Navy understandingly welcomed this public surge toward reprisal. For over a generation the Navy had looked toward the day when it could sweep the Pacific Ocean of the Japanese. Now it had been seriously depleted of capital ships and patriotic men who manned them. Add to this the affront to the pride of an organization that had built the world's greatest fighting machine at sea. The logic of a "Europe first" strategy seemed surely to be overcome by the surging waves of emotion.
Almost immediately after Pearl Harbor, Prime Minister Churchill announced his intention to come to America to join President Roosevelt for consultations between the new Allies on combined grand strategy. He may have sensed the American impulse to turn west against Japan rather than east against Axis Europe in the new situation. He announced he would bring his military staff, the Chiefs of Staff Committee. It consisted of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Alan F. Brooke; the First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound; and the Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles F. A. Portal. They would be supported by the members of the British Joint Plans Committee and Joint Intelligence Committee.
We viewed this approaching visit with alarm and some misgiving. The British interservice staff organization was competent and experienced. As yet, we had no similar committee organizations prepared to confer with the British. Moreover, our plans and desires were in complete disarray as a result of Pearl Harbor.
The President met this situation by appointing the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Initially, it was to consist of the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations. On the initiative of General Marshall, the President accepted General Arnold, AAF Chief, on the committee. This would satisfy Churchill's suggestion that there be an American "opposite member" to the Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force. But Roosevelt issued no formal directive defining General Arnold's position. At the meetings, held between December 22, 1941, and January 14, 1942, Arnold remained in the background, speaking only on technical air matters.
Adm. William D. Leahy, U.S. Ambassador to France, had recently returned to become the President's personal Chief of Staff. Initially he attended the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee to keep Roosevelt informed of the committee's proceedings and discussions. Thus, he had much the same role as that of Lt. Gen. Sir Hastings L. Ismay, Churchill's military assistant, who attended the meetings of the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.
The new "Joint Chiefs of Staff' set up supporting committees. Chief among them were Joint Plans, Joint Strategic, Joint Intelligence, and Joint Logistics.
Joint Strategic Planning
The Joint Strategic Committee and the Joint Intelligence Committee supported the Joint Chiefs of Staff through the Joint Plans Committee, which initially consisted of Rear Adm. Richmond K. Turner, USN (Chairman); Col. Thomas T. Handy, USA; and Col. Harold L. George, USAAF. Colonel George assumed command of the Air Corps Ferrying Command in April 1942 (redesignated Air Transport Command in June 1942). Maj. Gen. Carl Spaatz then became the Air member, with Col. Howard A. Craig serving as his deputy.
The functions of the Joint Strategic Committee were described in these terms:To prepare such strategical estimates, studies, and plans as may be
directed by the Joint Staff planners, and to initiate such studies as the committee may deem appropriate.
The estimates and studies produced by the Joint US Intelligence Committee and the Joint US Strategic Committee should represent the considered, composite convictions of each committee. In their studies and deliberations preliminary to committee conclusions, it is intended that the members of these committees should present their individual views regarding the matter under consideration. When higher authority has reached a decision or had issued a directive, the committee concerned will be guided accordingly.
The original membership of the Joint Strategic Committee included:
Capt. Oliver M. Read, USN
Col. Ray T. Maddocks, USA
Capt. Bertram J. Rodgers, USN
Lt. Col. Jesmond D. Balmer, USA
Capt. Forrest P. Sherman, USN
Lt. Col. Albert C. Wedemeyer, USA
Maj. Homer L. Litzenberg, Jr., USMC
Maj. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr., USAAF
On a Friday morning, I received orders reassigning me immediately from the Army Air Forces, where I was Chief of the European Branch of the Air War Plans Division, to the War Department General Staff Corps. I was ordered to report to the Joint Strategic Committee at its new offices on Monday morning. As a member of this committee, I found myself in the midst of the massive machinery which was trying to deal with problems of worldwide proportions. I was told, that my loyalties in my new job were to be devoted to the Joint Chiefs of Staffs and that I must divest myself of service allegiances and all prejudices relating to one branch of the military service.
There were only four offices for the eight members of the committee. Each office had a large double desk at which two officers, of different services, sat. Each desk had one "in" basket, one "out" basket, and one "hold" basket. Every effort was made to force us into concerted action and to divorce us from service loyalties. We were a
group of strangers, four from the War Department and four from the Navy Department. The senior officer was Navy Captain Read. He acted as chairman initially, but alternated with Colonel Maddocks at the Army's insistence.
The military beliefs of the various members of the Joint Strategic Committee were as different as the members themselves, reflecting the divergent backgrounds of the individuals and their training. Of the eight committee members, I was unfortunately the only graduate of the Air Corps Tactical School, though the school had graduated many Army, Navy, and Marine Corps officers. I, for one, was familiar with Air Corps doctrine which taught that wars, once entered upon, should be won in the sense that victory should make possible the attainment of national war aims and that victory involved overcoming the enemy's "will to resist" and capability to continue the fight, while preserving one's own. That end could be sought by:
Of these options, air power might be employed to achieve 1, 3, 4, and 5, or to assist the Army and Navy in achieving 2 or 3. This Air Corps concept obviously was not unanimously adopted by the committee. In fact, there was no unanimity -- no common ground -- on which the members of the Joint Strategic Committee might move in unison toward recommending a joint overall strategy for the conduct of the war.
- Providing security for one's own sources of power.
- Defeating the enemy's forces in battle.
- Destroying (or cutting off) the war-supporting industrial structure supplying the instruments with which the enemy fought.
- Destroying or debilitating the industrial systems supporting both the war-supporting and the civil-social, life-supporting vitality of the enemy State.
- As a last resort, destroying great numbers of the enemy people or depriving them of the means to support themselves, particularly the masses dwelling in the cities.
With the exception of Colonel Wedemeyer, the members of the Joint Strategic Committee were unaware of the Air Corps' views on air power and certainly were not ready to accept them. The Army
members considered that victory could come only through invasion of the enemy's territory and defeat of the enemy's army. The Navy was prepared to go along with this view, with the clear understanding that invasion could not possibly be considered until the Navy had defeated the enemy navy and secured the lines of communication. Thereafter, the Navy was ready to support the amphibious assault and protect the lines of communication -- leaving the rest to the Army, supported by the air forces. As the Air Corps member, I contended the enemy could best be defeated by strategic air power. The Joint Strategic Committee was treading in troubled waters. The potential of strategic air power to be the decisive element in achieving victory continued to be disputed until the end of the war.
We were just getting acquainted when we received our first directive from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the meeting was called to order, a burly Marine captain entered, bearing a locked and sealed briefcase. He wore side arms and an armed guard accompanied him. With much ceremony, he removed a message from his briefcase and received a signed receipt. The message was from the Joint Chiefs of Staff by way of the Joint Plans Committee. It was a masterpiece of directness and simplicity asking in effect: "What should be the strategic concept of the conduct of the war?" Making no reference to previous plans or policies and making no effort to influence our views, the message left the field wide open. This was typical of the openmindedness of General Marshall. Unfortunately, however, the directive furnished no statement of national purpose or national objective of the war to serve as guidance for our formidable task. Nor did we, as the Joint Strategic Committee, seek to interpret national attitudes and statements of policy to serve as guidance. At our first meeting, however, we did agree upon a sensible first step: we called upon the Joint Intelligence Committee for a presentation of the world intelligence situation.
The Joint Intelligence Committee presentation was gloomy indeed. All of Western Europe had become a German citadel, and Hitler's armies were at the gates of Moscow. The Germans had suffered a rebuff, but this was attributed as much to the winter weather as to Russian counterattack. The Joint Intelligence
Committee estimated that Russian resistance would collapse within three months after fighting resumed in the spring. That would be in about six months. The Japanese were pressing relentlessly onward with no sign of weakening. Corregidor in the Philippines might hold out for a while, but it would simply be bypassed. The Joint Intelligence Committee estimated that the Germans and Japanese might join hands in the vicinity of Karachi, India, within the year. Taking note of these facts, opinions, and predictions, we sought to evaluate them. In our deliberations, the great question marks were the Russian Army and the capability of Britain to hold out.
The Russian Army gave no reason for optimism. Little was known of it, but that knowledge was hardly encouraging. Stalin had killed off great numbers of the professional military in the purges of the 1930s. Thereafter, the Russians had instituted the commissar system, whereby every military commander had a Party member at his elbow. This new Russian Army had not fared well against the very small adversary of Finland in 1939 and 1940. Rumor indicated the Communists had then abandoned the commissar system. Later, however, we learned this was not true. The Soviets were extremely secretive and treated their Allies as potential enemies.
The great Russian Army had permitted itself to suffer the disastrous effects of surprise the previous summer when Hitler had unleashed 163 divisions against them on June 22, 1941. How the Germans could amass 163 divisions on the Russian border without alerting the Russians to their danger remains a mystery. Actually Stalin had been warned, both by the British and by his own agents. The summer campaign of 1941 by the Germans had produced one of the wonders of military history. Using bold tactics of wide envelopment and deep penetration by Gen. Heinz Guderian's armored forces, closely supported by the Luftwaffe, the Germans cut out huge chunks of Russia. By following up with foot soldiers moving forward at an amazing pace, the Germans simply ingested over a million Russian prisoners at a rate which surely taxed the prisoner-of-war facilities to the utmost.
In the winter of 1941-1942, the hope of continued Russian resistance on any major scale seemed dim indeed. If Russian resistance
faded away, what then? Numerous Germans would be released for redeployment against the British. The British had preserved their security through the Battle of Britain. But it was problematical that Britain could succeed a second time. With the European industry available for producing new armaments, the deficiencies leading to the defeat of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain could be corrected. Heavier bombers and longer-range escort fighters might accomplish what the He-111 bombers and the Me-109 fighters failed to do. The submarine campaign might be extended until it did indeed starve Britain into submission or accommodation. Then all would be lost, and America would face either the extension of German power into South America, or the prospect of an uneasy peace subjecting the vast resources and markets of Europe to German exploitation. But what could be done about it? More specifically, what could the United States do about it?
The Victory Program 1 had shown it would take two years to raise the armies and build ships to transport them to Europe for massive combined invasion of Fortress Europe, even if the British were able to survive and persist. Two years seemed quite hopeless.
We had been spared the agony of deciding whether to go to war. The Japanese had made that decision for us. But the Joint Strategic Committee would have been well advised to preface its deliberations with a determination of national purpose and national military objectives. The first was, unfortunately, ignored. The latter was commonly agreed to be "victory over our enemies." The victory must be so convincing as to permit our statesmen and political leaders to set whatever course was best for the postwar world.
The committee faced two options in terms of national grand strategy: (1) strategic offensive against Axis Europe and strategic defensive against Japan; (2) strategic defensive of the Western Hemisphere and strategic offensive against Japan. The committee
further faced several options in terms of military force application, whether there should be primary emphasis on invasion, or sea blockade, or strategic air attack, or a combination of the three. Earlier, Roosevelt and Churchill had clearly favored a joint offensive in Europe as a first priority. But this was before the catastrophe of Pearl Harbor and the proximate defeat of Soviet Russia. At this point, the Joint Strategic Committee felt free to make a new military appraisal. In fact, the committee looked upon this as a requirement in view of the directive from the Joint Chiefs.
The direction most of the members of the committee would favor soon became evident. If the salvation of Europe was hopeless, then it would be stupid to waste resources on a doomed venture and leave the Japanese undisturbed while they consolidated their expanding areas of conquest. In short, insofar as grand strategy was concerned, the majority of the committee tended toward option (2) -- strategic defensive of the Western Hemisphere and strategic offensive against Japan, abandoning Europe as hopelessly lost. As to military force application, the Navy wanted primary emphasis on defense of the Western Hemisphere by the Navy and gaining naval domination of the Pacific. Ultimately, this meant gaining sea superiority in the critical areas vital to Japan and finally supporting an invasion. Army members stoutly contended that invasion, whether in Europe or Japan, was the decisive maneuver for victory.
I was the proponent of air power as the chief instrument of victory. Although my interests included air defense and air support of surface operations, they centered on strategic air warfare. And I was not prepared to write off Europe as already lost. There were many principal ways to apply air power. (We do not need to go into them here as they pertained to the air war against Germany. They are described elsewhere.) The significant point was that a Nazi victory in Europe would create a condition wherein we could not sustain a prosperous life in peace. Acknowledging this, authorities at the very highest levels had already approved the offensive against Germany as our main effort. To this end, our first military effort was an air offensive, as described in AWPD-1. Regardless of how black the picture looked, we simply had to do our utmost to save Europe to save
ourselves. In defense of my position, therefore, I briefed the committee in detail on the air plan, which proposed first priority on a sustained and unremitting air bombardment of Germany from English bases.
The purpose of the air offensive was (1) to debilitate the German war machine through destruction of war industries and undermine the "will to resist" of the German state by selective bombing, (2) topple the German state if possible, and (3) prepare for support of an invasion, if that should be necessary. More specifically, AWPD-1 called for the operation of 1,060 medium bombers (B-25s and B-26s), 3,740 heavy and very heavy bombers (B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s), and 2,000 fighters against Germany from bases in England, Northern Ireland, and Egypt. In addition, 3,740 very-long-range bombers (B-36s) would operate from bases in the Western Hemisphere. There would be 6 months of intensive and undiluted bombardment of 154 selected industrial targets:
German Air Force 30 German electric power system 50 German petroleum system 27 German transportation system 47 154
The primary air objectives were described in some detail with regard to Axis Europe; they were less definitive as to Japan.
Days and nights of bitter but earnest arguments ensued within the committee. The weight of committee sentiment and conviction gravitated steadily to the Pacific. Committee members had spent their professional lives studying military history, and most were inclined to accept a strict interpretation of the Joint Army and Navy Board's precept expressed in September 1941, in The Victory Program: "Naval and air power may prevent wars from being lost and, by weakening enemy strength, may greatly contribute to victory. By themselves, however, naval and air forces seldom, if ever, win important wars. It should be recognized as an almost invariable rule that only land armies can finally win wars." Invasion of Europe by land armies before the collapse of Russia appeared a very remote possibility.
Growing impatient, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent a message demanding an answer to their question. Colonel Wedemeyer and I favored a grand strategy of Axis Europe first, even though the prospects of victory in Europe looked very grim indeed. A head count showed that nearly all our committee members, three-fourths in fact, were for abandoning Europe as beyond salvation and for constructing a defense of the Western Hemisphere and an offense against Japan as soon as forces, especially naval ones, could be provided. They were ready to acknowledge the loss of Europe and Britain as a hopeless cause and assume the offensive against Japan at the earliest possible time, culminating in the invasion and conquest of the Japanese home islands.
I was motivated by a number of convictions to turn our maximum effort to the defeat of Hitler. A year's study as head of the Strategic Air Intelligence Section of A-2 led me to a firm belief that Germany was susceptible to defeat from the air. I had estimated and evaluated the force requirements to achieve this aim. I knew the air offensive would not have to be delayed two years; it could begin in the near future and reach massive proportions in a little over a year and a half if it were accorded top priority. I knew base areas could be furnished in Britain. And a tour in England as an observer of the war convinced me Britain would fight and go on fighting so long as there was one ray of hope. We could supply that ray.
I also felt that victory over Hitler was essential to America's future well-being. Failure to preserve Europe could produce a situation in which a Nazi-dominated Europe could become too strong for our economic competition or our military security. This was not so for the Far East. Failure to thwart Emperor Hirohito of Japan would lead to discomfort but not disaster. Colonel Wedemeyer also believed that we should do everything in our power to defeat Hitler and save Europe. He, too, felt that a Europe dominated and exploited by Hitler could prove to be a disaster for the future of America.
Together we persuaded our associates. The recommended grand strategy sent to the Joint Chiefs through the Joint Plans Committee envisioned a strategic offensive against Axis Europe as the maximum national effort until Nazi Germany was decisively defeated.
Concurrently, there would be strategic defensive operations in the Pacific with the least diversion of available forces from the main thrust against Hitler. An all-out strategic offensive would be launched against Japan immediately after Hitler's defeat. The initial mode of offensive operations against Axis Europe would be through a combined strategic air offensive by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces from bases in England. It would be directed against the German Air Force and the war-making and civic-sustaining resources of the German state. Preparations for an invasion of the Continent and sustained and combined air and surface warfare would be provided. Massive tactical air forces to support ground operations would be made ready in time. The proponents of strategic air warfare hoped an invasion would not be needed, but Allied grand strategy could not be pinned to that hope alone.
This grand strategy was accepted by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and was formally accepted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff on December 31, 1941. The agreement contained the following paragraph:The essential features of the American-British Strategy as adopted by the Combined Chiefs of Staff on December 31, 1941, based on the principle that only the minimum of force necessary for the safeguarding of vital interests in other theaters should be diverted from operation against Germany, were:
- The realization of the victory programs of armaments, which first and foremost requires the security of the main areas of war industry.
- The maintenance of essential communications.
- Closing and tightening the ring around Germany.
- Wearing down and undermining German resistance by air bombardment, blockade, subversive activities, and propaganda.
- The continuous development of offensive action against Germany.
- Maintaining only such positions in the Eastern theater as will safeguard vital interests and deny to Japan access to raw materials vital to her continuous war effort while we are concentrating on defeat of Germany.
It is interesting to note that the Combined Chiefs of Staff recognized that defensive security of the sources of power, the main areas of population, and war industry, must be ensured before any offensive operations could be sustained.
One would expect this would settle the dichotomy over early offensive against Japan, but this was not so. The U.S. Navy was not content with a defensive role and demanded the acceptance of a "limited active defense" against Japan, with forces assigned for this purpose. Specifically, Navy officials wanted a U.S. Army strategic air force assigned to support naval forces in the South Pacific. The crux of the disagreement focused on communications between Hawaii and Australia. I demurred against furnishing a strategic air force to the Pacific which would compete with requirements for Europe. Nonetheless, the other committee members agreed with the Navy's contention that the line of communication to Australia through New Zealand was vital to the war effort, and there must be provided a mobile air force of long-range aircraft to operate with the mobile naval surface forces. The idea was appealing and had merit -- if we had forces to support it.
I agreed that the area was important but could not agree that a long-range air force should be provided for operations in that area. Actually, we had no long-range air forces at all. The Eighth Air Force was to be organized for deployment to England at the earliest possible moment. But it was not even in existence. We were short of long-range bombers and trained crews, and we were straining to form such an air force for the air offensive against Axis Europe. To set up another long-range air force for operations in the South Pacific would dilute our sparse resources beyond recognition. This was the first of many efforts -- some of them all too successful -- to divert long-range bombers from their agreed first priority job: the attack on Germany.
The request by the Navy for creation of an Army Air Forces strategic air force to be deployed to the South Pacific to operate under naval command was approved by the majority of the members of the Joint Strategic Committee. This was, I suspect, the first "split-paper" submitted to the Joint Chiefs, and they were not pleased. Delivering an official admonition to our committee to be recorded on the personal record of each member, they directed us to reconvene and come up
with an agreed recommendation. General Arnold called me in and gave me a "personal admonition" to go on my record.
We reconvened in continuous session. Colonel Wedemeyer, who had always inclined to a "Europe first" strategy, recognized the danger in setting up a competing demand for a strategic air force in the South Pacific. He joined me and we worked as a team. Little by little the others came around -- the Navy members most reluctantly. Finally, we came to agreement on the need for concentrating forces for the chief effort against Axis Europe with a minimum of diversion elsewhere. We submitted our unanimous findings, which were accepted. I rather thougnt General Arnold would remove the record of my personal admonition, since I had won my point, and I am sure he would have if he had thought of it. But apparently it did not occur to him.
I do not think it wise to make too much of these incidents. I doubt if the Joint Chiefs would have endorsed the recommendation first favored by the majority of our committee -- abandoning Europe as irrevocably lost and turning our energies to defeat of Japan. But it is possible they might have. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill would certainly have overridden any recommendation to that effect. Yet, if Germany had not declared war on the United States so promptly, the President would have had to face alone the wave of anger against Japan. I think it quite possible that, under those circumstances, our main effort might have been in the Pacific. The incidents have, I think, two points of significance.
First, if Germany's declaration of war against the United States had been omitted entirely or had been delayed, Churchill would have found it difficult to arrange for immediate conversations on British American grand strategy on a worldwide basis. And it would have been difficult for him to bring the Chiefs of Staff Committee and their supporting committees with him. Since there would have been no immediate need for a U.S. air member to balance the Chief of Staff of the Royal Air Force, it is quite likely the initial composition of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (if such a committee were appointed at all) would have embraced only the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Chief of Naval Operations, together with the President's personal
Chief of Staff. Without air membership, the U.S. Joint Chiefs in their deliberations on grand strategy would have embraced the argument that Britain could not be saved by surface warfare, and they would probably have endorsed the decision to abandon support of Britain as infeasible and to make defeat of Japan the primary American military objective.
Second, the Navy never really abandoned its adherence to the concept that equal priority should go to the war in the Pacific -- to the defeat of Japan. By the time the final plans for invasion of the Japanese home islands were approved in 1945, the Navy had completed an enormous armada in the Pacific, including 10 new battleships and 13 rebuilt old ones and 109 aircraft carriers of assorted sizes. Nearly all of these ships had been committed or laid down in 1942 and 1943. They had enjoyed equal priority with the needs and demands of the Army and the Army Air Forces for new armaments, even though these resources were destined for the secondary, defensive effort in the Pacific, not to the principal offensive against Axis Europe. The enormous carrier force was equipped with multiple aircraft complements and combat crews for each carrier. These, too, shared equally in resources with the Army Air Forces, which were committed to the top priority strategic effort against Axis Europe. No one will deny the magnificent performance of these forces in the Pacific. But their production schedule was not in accord with the agreed joint strategy, and it competed with and jeopardized the buildup of forces for the chief effort.
My tenure with the Joint Strategic Committee was not long. In May, Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower asked me to head an air plans office in the European Theater of Operations, and in June I went to England where he promoted me to brigadier general. My replacement on the Joint Strategic Committee was Col. Earle E. "Pat" Partridge. I went from that job to command a wing and an air division in Eighth Air Force.
In August 1942 the President again asked for an estimate
involving aircraft. He wanted to know the number of military airplanes that should be produced in 1943 to attain air supremacy. I was temporarily called back from England to direct preparation of a new air plan (AWPD-42). Air War Plans Division-1 (AWPD-1), written in September 1941, had been a "contingency plan," in case we should go to war. But AWPD-42 was essentially a "requirements" plan specifying munitions, bases, and air needs to carry out an agreed strategy. This time the requirements would include aircraft for our allies as well as ourselves, since we continued to want the wherewithal to conduct significant air operations. AWPD-42 retained the basic structure of AWPD-1. The defeat of Germany remained the first priority and the air offensive against Japan was still deferred. Unchanged was the primary strategic purpose of undermining and destroying the capability and will of Germany to wage war. This would be done by destroying the war-supporting industries and economic systems upon which the war-sustaining and political economy depended.
The air operations contemplated for 1943 and 1944 were:
The air objectives were described as primary and intermediate, with overriding priority given to the intermediate ones:
- An air offensive against Axis Europe to:
- Defeat the German Air Force.
- Destroy the sources of German submarine construction.
- Undermine the German war-making capacity.
- Air support of an Allied land offensive in Northwest Africa.
- Air support of Allied nations' land operations to retain the Middle East.
- Air support of surface operations in the Japanese Theater to regain base areas for a final offensive against Japan proper, including:
- Land operations from India through China, reopening the Burma Road.
- Amphibious operations from the South and Southwest Pacific toward the Philippine Islands.
- Hemispheric defense, including antisubmarine patrol.
The primary ones were:
(German) Fighter aircraft assembly plants Bomber aircraft assembly plants Aero engine assembly plantsWhen inaugurated, the strategic offensive against Japan would resemble that for Germany. It would seek to undermine and destroy the capability and will of the Japanese people to wage war by destroying the industries and systems upon which the war industries and the civilian economy relied.
(German) Submarine yards Transportation targets (rail and canal in Germany) Electric power system Synthetic oil plants Aluminum plants Synthetic rubber plants
In comparison with operations and priorities called for in AWPD-1, worldwide operations revealed by 1942 some weakening of resolve to keep the maximum possible air strength directed toward the primary strategic air offensive, the destruction of the vital elements of Germany. Northwest Africa was drawing off air forces to support land operations. Land operations in the Middle East were likewise diverting air elements. And surface operations to regain base areas in the Far East, as distinct from operations for a strictly defensive purpose, were also absorbing air power. By necessity, all these absorbed air forces could have been employed in the primary strategic effort, the air offensive against Germany. Yet the latter had not even started in any meaningful sense, and the delay would be further extended if these diversions continued to grow.
As for the air offensive against Japan, it was too early to give anything more than general guidance in terms of objectives and targets. Nevertheless, AWPD-42 recognized that the strategic air offensive against Japan would follow the defeat of Germany, and proposed the following targets:
Aircraft engine plants
Naval and commercial bases
Alumina and aluminum plants
Iron and steel
There were two striking omissions from this list: the Japanese electric power system and the transportation system (including shipping, harbor and repair facilities, inland seas transportation routes and waterways, and railroads). The omission of the electric power system stemmed from the cursory analysis by A-2. This fostered the general belief that electric power was produced in a multiplicity of small hydroelectric generating plants which would render the system as a whole practically invulnerable to attack. The analysis had not been made in depth and did not include the distribution system. However, there was ample time for a further detailed examination, and failure to conduct it was a costly error.
The total approved aircraft production requirements for the Army Air Forces, the U.S. Navy, and our allies came to 127,000, of which 85,300 would go to the Army Air Forces.
The first threat to the air offensive against Germany came distressingly soon. Prime Minister Churchill vigorously advocated an invasion of North Africa. It would have to be supported with heavy bombers at the expense of the air offensive against Germany. The American Joint Chiefs took the position that an invasion of North Africa was militarily unwise. As General Marshall pointed out, it was a tangential thrust, at right angles to the proper axis of attack -- the assault of Germany itself. The North African invasion would swallow up vast military resources at the expense of the principal effort, while doing very little toward defeating the Reich in Europe. General Arnold vigorously supported this position with special stress on the cost to the strategic air offensive against interior Germany. Adm.
Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations, believed the margin of priority of Germany over Japan was very small and any diversion of resources away from Germany should go to the Pacific, not to the Mediterranean.
President Roosevelt weighed both the military arguments against diversion to North Africa and the political arguments calling for some visible evidence of military success. The air offensive against Germany was not well enough understood to meet political demands, nor were its true dimensions really grasped by the President. Invasion of France was out of the question in 1942 and probably in 1943. At this point (mid-1942), both the British and the Americans had only a string of stinging defeats -- except for the defensive Battle of Britain -- to show for their war efforts. Churchill was coming under increasing political attack at home, and his possible political defeat would be a dreadful disaster. The Prime Minister's arguments for operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean had two longer range objectives: freeing the sea lanes through the Mediterranean to India and Australia, and adoption of a main thrust toward Germany by way of the Balkans and the "soft underbelly." Such a push would run interference against the Russian drive that might engulf all of Western Europe. The President agreed to the North African venture.
The Air War against Axis Europe
The problems of grand strategy plagued Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker from the day in February 1942, when he and his small advanced staff of six people landed in England and set up the VIII Bomber Command, Eighth Air Force. Eaker lacked a clear, authoritative, written statement of purpose. What was the VIII Bomber Command expected to accomplish? What was the grand objective? Where did that grand objective fit into the scheme of international purposes? Did American air power have an independent but coordinate task to accomplish, or was it a supporting element, paving the way for and assisting the decisive campaigns of the ground forces? What was to be the relationship between VIII Bomber Command and RAF Bomber
Command, and between VIII Bomber Command and the U.S. Theater Commander?
Eaker himself understood well enough the objective General Arnold had in mind, from the latter's verbal instructions. But he had no written directive or letter of instructions describing his purpose and giving him the authority to pursue it. The VIII Bomber Command Commander had been a supporter and disciple of Billy Mitchell. He had attended the Air Corps Tactical School, where Mitchell's broad concepts had been translated into specific concepts and principles. He had also been thoroughly briefed on AWPD-1, the plan for the development of the Army Air Forces and their operations in the European Theater. As mentioned earlier, that plan expressed the objective of U.S. Army Air Forces in a war against the European Axis Powers in these terms: "To conduct a sustained and unremitting air offensive against Germany and Italy to destroy their will and capability to continue the war and to make an invasion either unnecessary or feasible without excessive cost." The primary targets were listed as the disruption of Germany's electric power system, transportation system, and petroleum system. The German Air Force, especially the German fighter force, might make it excessively expensive to make deep penetration to reach these primary targets. Hence, the German fighter force was described as an intermediate objective and given an "overriding priority," even higher than the primary targets whose destruction was expected to cripple the German state and its ability to continue the war. Neutralization of the German fighter force would have the added value of being absolutely essential to any consideration of invasion. To accomplish this aim, AWPD-1 specified building Eighth Air Force to 10 groups of medium bombers (850 B-25s and B-26s), 20 groups of heavy bombers (1,360 B-17/ B-24s) based in England, 12 groups of very heavy bombers (816 B-29s) based in Northern Ireland, and 10 groups of fighters (1,300 P-47s and P-38s) based in England -- a total of 4,328 aircraft,
including unit reserves. font size="-1">2 Clearly this was a concept of air power coordinate with any other forces, land or sea, and designed to have a war-winning role in Allied grand strategy. Obviously the Eighth Air Force would have to establish and maintain its individual identity and integrity if it was to perform such a role.
Eaker subscribed to this concept wholeheartedly and he never swerved from it. But AWPD-1 had been prepared before Pearl Harbor and had been approved by the President solely as part of the Victory Program, as a guide for production. When the Joint Chiefs of Staff organization was created in late December 1941, the Chiefs refused to approve AWPD-1 as a basis for strategic operations. The Navy particularly objected, saying the plan dealt with matters important to the Navy, but that Navy officers had not participated in its development. Furthermore, Pearl Harbor had radically changed the situation.
On January 13, 1942, the Joint Chiefs did approve dispatching a bomber force to England to join with RAF Bomber Command in attacks on the European Axis. On January 27 the Combined Chiefs agreed that the first two U.S. heavy bomber groups available were to be assigned to an American bomber command in the British Isles, to "operate independently in cooperation with the British Bomber Command."
Arnold probably had no authority to issue Eaker a "Letter of Instructions" to prepare to implement AWPD-1. Had Arnold made an issue of it at the time he most likely would have lost. What he may have told Eaker in private has not been disclosed, but there was no
need to explain intentions. Arnold, Spaatz, and Eaker had worked together for twenty years to develop air power. They understood each other. Probably Arnold was wise in waiting until he had deployed this massive force to England before raising the issue of grand strategy. As it was, officially he told Eaker to go to England to study RAF Bomber Command operations and to prepare the way for reception of U.S. bomber units.
When Eaker arrived in England in early February 1942, he reported to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Forces in British Isles, Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, an Air Corps officer. Chaney had received no special instructions regarding Eaker and proposed to quarter Eaker in his theater headquarters, staffed chiefly by ground officers, and to exercise command over him like all other U.S. Army elements in England. Eaker needed all his tact and ingenuity to avoid being absorbed. He succeeded in evading this fate by seeking headquarters near RAF Bomber Command, thirty miles outside London, in order to carry out his instructions from Arnold.
But there Eaker encountered his second major problem. Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, Commander in Chief, RAF Bomber Command, was the soul of hospitality, but he was bent upon having the American bombers join Bomber Command in night operations against German cities. This threatened the absorption of VIII Bomber Command into RAF Bomber Command and the abandonment of the American strategic air concept of selective target destruction, which required daylight operations so as to distinguish and attack specific targets. It was here Eaker displayed his remarkable talent for "amicable disagreement." He and Harris became and remained fast friends. But Eaker steadfastly refused to accept Harris' urgent recommendations and appeals.
When Generals Eisenhower and Spaatz arrived in England on June 24, 1942, to be the U.S. European Theater Commander and the Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, respectively, each carried a "Letter of Instructions." Spaatz had received verbal instructions from Arnold and the letter, signed by Arnold, was brief, dealing exclusively with channels of communication. Eisenhower's letter, more detailed, constituted the real directive under which all U.S. Army units in
England, including the AAF, were to operate in the United Kingdom. All air units initially based there were to be integrated into the Eighth Air Force. General Spaatz, as commander, was to have his own headquarters and staff, and provision was to be made for bomber, fighter, ground-air support, and air service commands. Eisenhower's letter talked about strategic control of AAF operations vested in the British government and expressed through Air Chief Marshal Portal, RAF, as agreed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It was assumed the instructions to Eisenhower meant general strategic directives on purposes and broad objectives. His instructions did not include designation of targets or tactical control of operations. The broad objective for the AAF in the European Theater of Operations was described in the letter. It was to gain air supremacy over western continental Europe in preparation for and support of a combined land, sea, and air movement across the channel into continental Europe.
The letter made no mention of a place for air power in grand strategy and gave no strategic objective or list of strategic targets save for gaining air superiority to prepare for and support an invasion of the Continent. Nor were there any instructions to Eisenhower to offer support for a strategic air offensive. No authority for strategic air decisions was specially vested in General Spaatz as Commander of the Eighth Air Force. As executive agent of the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Air Chief Marshal Portal exercised broad strategic direction. Final authority rested with General Eisenhower as theater commander, commanding all U.S. Army forces in the European Theater of Operations.
Spaatz and Eaker had no overriding authority or responsibility for directing the strategic air offensive of the Eighth Air Force, except as they were able to assume such authority by persuasion. Fortunately they were both able, persuasive commanders, but their freedom of action was limited and could be withdrawn at the discretion of the theater commander. Thus the prospects for an effective American strategic air offensive seemed dim, even if the forces promised for England should arrive on schedule and should not be diverted. When Eisenhower departed the European Theater to become commander in
MAJ. GEN. HENRY H. ARNOLD. Chief of the AAF, (center) meets with his staff to plan war strategy, ca. fall 1941. Staff members include: (left to right) Col. Edgar P. Sorenson; Lt. Col. Harold L. George; Brig. Gen. Carl Spaatz, Chief of Staff; Maj. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr.; Brig. Gen. Martin F. Scanlon; and Lt. Col. Arthur W. Vanaman.
AAF COL. STANLEY T. WRAY, Commander, 91st Bomb Group; Maj. Gen. George E. Stratemeyer, Chief of Air Staff, Headquarters, AAF; and Brig. Gen. Hansell, Commander, 1st Bomb Wing, attend a dedication ceremony at Bassingbourn, England, in April 1943.
BRIG. GEN. HANSELL listens to Maj. Gen. Follett Bradley, AAF Air Inspector, during a visit to 305th Bomb Group, Chelveston, England, on May 21, 1943.
BRITISH AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SIR ARTHUR HARRIS (left) meets with Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, Commanding General of U.S. Forces in the European Theater, and Maj. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, on March 25, 1943.
chief of the forces invading North Africa, he took Spaatz with him -- and more than half of Eaker's bombers as well.
Late in 1942, Maj. Gen. Muir S. Fairchild was a member of the prestigious Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that supplanted the Joint Strategic Committee. The committee was charged with examining the progress of and recommending changes in the grand strategy that had been formulated by the Joint Strategic Committee. General Fairchild was disturbed by attacks being made on the air strategy proposed in AWPD-42. He discovered that the Joint Intelligence Committee, containing no air member, was challenging the validity of the basic strategic airpower contention. Specifically, the committee questioned the effect on the outcome of the war of the destruction of industrial targets. Fairchild therefore proposed that a group of top U.S. industrial leaders be assembled to assess the impact of destruction of selected targets upon industrial production. His idea was to look at the primary targets listed in AWPD-42 and assess the impact of their destruction. He also proposed to list industrial targets, in priority, whose destruction would contribute most to the collapse of the German capability and willingness to continue the war.
During the first week of December 1942, General Arnold (without reference to the Air War Plans Division) sent Fairchild's draft proposal to Col. Byron E. Gates, head of the Office of Management Control. Arnold's memorandum read:
Have the group of operations analysts under your control prepare and submit to me a report analyzing the rate of progressive deterioration that could be anticipated in the German war effort as a result of the increasing air operations we are prepared to employ against its sustaining sources. This study should result in as accurate an estimate as can be arrived at as to the date [emphasis added] when the deterioration will have progressed to a point to permit successful invasion of Western Europe.
The emphasis upon invasion is significant, and was a source of some confusion to the Committee of Operations Analysts.
Meantime, the issue of incorporating U.S. bombers into RAF night operations continued to boil. The issue was not confined to RAF Bomber Command. Although Air Marshal Harris did not personally refer the matter to the British Air Ministry, the latter took strong opposition to General Eaker's daylight operational concept. Eaker was caught between two millstones. Over his bitter protest he had lost his most experienced and effective bomber groups to the North African campaign. Then the very people who had robbed him were castigating him unmercifully for failing to undertake effective air operations against Germany. Unfortunately, the criticism was just as caustic from the United States as from the Air Ministry. Whereupon that most powerful and persuasive personality, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England, entered the fray.
In early 1943, at the Casablanca Conference of the Allied heads of State and the Combined Chiefs of Staff, Churchill protested the Eighth Air Force daylight bombing at a luncheon with the President. He secured Roosevelt's tentative agreement that the Eighth should be directed to abandon the American air strategy of selective target attacks and join RAF Bomber Command in night operations against German cities. When General Arnold learned of it, he sent for Ira Eaker, now a major general and Eighth Air Force Commander since Spaatz departed to join General Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Theater. Arnold explained the situation. Eaker for once lost his customary aplomb. He told General Arnold that if he, Arnold, was prepared to abandon his objective and adopt an air strategy that could neither paralyze Germany's war-making industry nor make feasible an invasion, he, Eaker, wanted no part of it, and Arnold could find another air commander. Arnold grinned and said he had anticipated such a response and had arranged a meeting between Eaker and Churchill two days hence, to see if the Eighth Air Force Commander could dissuade the Prime Minister.
Eaker sequestered himself with his aide, Captain James Parton, and prepared his argument. He knew that Churchill preferred brevity; like most high officials he had neither time nor patience to wade through lengthy documents. The first draft of the digested arguments prepared by the two totaled some twenty-three pages. Eaker then called upon his skill of exposition, a natural talent sharpened by a year of law at Columbia University. The final draft consisted of eight simple, declarative assertions, filling half a page.
On the occasion of his momentous meeting with Prime Minister Churchill, General Eaker said he understood that the Prime Minister was always willing to weigh both sides of an issue, and he had prepared a brief paper. Churchill read the statements slowly and with evident relish at their pithy clarity. Eaker then had the opportunity to explain and expand his arguments. He raised no criticism of night bombing by the RAF, but argued that it would fit in with the daylight bombing by the Eighth Air Force to provide continuous pressure. "We'll bomb the devils day and night and give them no rest." At the conclusion of the meeting Churchill said:Young man, you have not yet convinced me you are right, but you have persuaded me that you should have further opportunity to prove your contention. How fortuitous it would be if we could, as you say, "bomb the devils around the clock." When I see your President at lunch today, I shall tell him that I withdraw my suggestion that U.S. bombers join the RAF in night bombing, and that I now recommend that our joint day and night bombing be continued for a time.It was, I believe, one of the most critical decisions of the war. If Prime Minister Churchill's recommendation had stood, if Eaker's argument had not been persuasive, the results would have entailed:
- Standing down the Eighth Air Force for modifying equipment and retraining. The B-17s and B-24s would need to be shielded against exposing exhaust and supercharger turbine light for night operations. That would have been quite difficult because they used exhaust gas turbines to drive their superchargers and the light would
have been quite prominent at night. Most of the guns and gunners would require removal, since they would be relatively useless at night.
- The navigators would need training for higher expertise in celestial navigation.
- The bombardiers would require retraining for night bombing.
- The bombardment aircraft would need British navigation and position equipment (Gee and Oboe) pending refinement and provision of American H2X radar bombing equipment.
- Provision would have to be made for night landing of large forces and for prevention of collision in congested air space being used by both forces.
But most important of all, it would have entailed abandonment of American grand strategy and a radical change in air strategy. Americans were convinced that solely by destruction of selected vital target systems could German war-making and war-sustaining capability be wrecked. Certainly the German Air Force could not be eliminated by night bombing; hence there could be no invasion. And the night attack of German cities might prove insufficient to cause German capitulation, as seemed probable in the view of American air strategists. If so, victory in Europe might elude the Allies, and the objectives of grand strategy would probably be lost entirely if this change in air strategy were adopted. It is even likely American strategic air priority would have shifted to the Pacific.
It was, in my opinion, the crucial turning point in the conduct of the war in Europe. Its outcome hung upon the convictions and the persuasiveness of Ira Eaker. He gambled his career that this was one of "the things that can be changed and should be changed," and ultimate success proved his wisdom. It was a testimonial to Eaker's forthright and courageous support of strategic purpose and objective. He succeeded in persuading the Prime Minister to reverse himself on a position that Churchill had emphatically endorsed and had committed himself to the President. Eaker's gift for "amicable disagreement and persuasion" never stood him in greater service. And in the process he earned the admiration and respect of the Prime Minister. It was a magnificent achievement.
The Casablanca Directive
The Casablanca Conference of January 1943 brought forth another signal accomplishment: the Casablanca Directive for the prosecution of the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO). It ranks, I think, with AWPD-1 and AWPD-42 as one of the finest air documents of the entire war. While Eaker's hand was discernible in its formulation, the document itself appears to have been fathered by a greatly gifted British airman, Air Vice Marshal Sir John Slessor, Assistant Chief of Air Staff for Policy. Eaker and Jack Slessor were close friends, and they shared a common view of air power. It was Slessor who had provided for "a sustained air offensive against Germany" as a key element in the joint strategy of the American-British Conference (ABC-1) agreed upon in February of 1941. Eaker had kept Slessor abreast of American strategic thinking. Slessor was thoroughly familiar with AWPD-1 and AWPD-42 and the objectives expressed in both American plans. He was thoroughly familiar with the target systems of each, the tactics proposed, and results expected. Eaker and Slessor were eye to eye in terms of airpower's contribution to victory and the place of strategic air power in grand strategy. Slessor said American plans and objectives had great merit, though they may have been somewhat optimistic in some respects.
Slessor's document, "The Casablanca Directive," specified vigorous prosecution by both British and American air forces toward a common grand strategic objective, optimizing the special strength and capabilities of each air force toward that common goal. As described in the directive, the ultimate objective of British and American strategic air forces was: "The progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened." Pending preparation and approval of a plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive, the Casablanca Directive called for destruction or neutralization of:
- German submarine construction yards.
- The German aircraft industry.
- German transportation.
- German oil plants.
- Other targets of war industry.
These targets were taken directly out of AWPD-1 and AWPD-42, with one important omission: German electric power. That target, however, could be included in "other targets of war industry."
The directive endorsed both American and British grand strategy for air power, and recognized both RAF doctrine and experience and American tactical doctrine. The Eighth Air Force and RAF Bomber Command could operate as coordinate members of a team progressing toward a common destination, without being literally tied together. RAF Bomber Command was free to continue its chosen air strategy using the bombers designed for that method; the Eighth Air Force was free to pursue its doctrine of destruction of selective targets by daylight bombing, using day bombers and fighters. Together they would contribute toward an agreed grand objective, the "fatal weakening" of Nazi Germany. The Combined Chiefs and the President and the Prime Minister approved the directive. At one stroke air grand strategy had been accepted and approved. Air power would take its place with land power and sea power.
No agreement was reached concerning an invasion of northern France, which the British opposed; but neither was there agreement against it; and the Casablanca Directive made no mention of it. The objective of the air forces was not directed to attainment of air superiority over European beaches and support of an invasion. It focused upon dislocation and disruption of the German state, and its capability and willingness to continue the war. If the German state was "fatally weakened," it was going to fall. It might or might not take a push in the form of an invasion to cause it to topple, provided the strategic air forces were built up on schedule and were fully employed without dilution or diversion from the intermediate objective and the primary targets for six months at full strength. Final decision on invasion of northern France was postponed. In the meantime, tactical air forces would be built up to support such an invasion. Eaker's cup was surely running over.
From Policy to Operational Plans
At General Arnold's suggestion, and with Air Chief Marshal Portal's endorsement, a joint U.S. Army Air Forces-RAF team was set up in Eaker's headquarters in 1943 to prepare a plan for carrying out the Casablanca Directive. The team consisted of members of Eaker's staff, the two B-17 wing commanders of the Eighth Air Force (Brig. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson and myself), representatives of the Air Ministry and RAF Bomber Command, and a representative from the British Ministry of Economic Warfare. I was chairman of the planning team.
Col. Charles P. Cabell, who had been one of Arnold's special advisors, arrived at General Eaker's headquarters on March 23, 1943, carrying the list of potential target systems prepared by the Committee of Operations Analysts. General Eaker then turned to the planning team to prepare the strategic plan of operations and select the target systems which would come within the capability of Eighth Air Force while contributing most to the accomplishment of the objective, after considering the scheduled growth of the force and the potential combat losses. The operational plan would also set up a proposed time schedule.
To direct this planning team, I had been called in from my 1st Bombardment Wing Headquarters. General Frederick Anderson was brought in from the 4th Bombardment Wing and, at General Eaker's request, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal furnished the very able Air Commodore Sidney O. Bufton, RAF, Director of Bomber Operations at the Air Ministry. Sidney Bufton was a most valuable addition to the planning team. He had been, and continued to be, an important contributor to the bomber offensive. Gp. Capt. Arthur Morley, RAF, was also a member, as were Maj. Richard Hughes (one of the original members of the Strategic Air Intelligence Section), Lt. Col. John S. Hardy, and Lt. Col. Arthur C. "Sailor" Agan, Jr., all from General Eaker's staff. Colonel Cabell also participated. Even though the team set up by General Eaker bore no official designation, it might be called the CBO Planning Team, seeing that it produced the
plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean.
The plan would differ from AWPD-1 and AWPD-42 in one important respect. The former were "Requirement Plans," designed to prescribe what should be accomplished and what was needed. The plan for the CBO was a "Capability Plan." Its purpose was to prescribe what should be done to achieve an objective with forces already committed to production.
The salient features of the plan were as follows:
- Objective: The Casablanca Directive.
- Primary Target Systems: The report of the Committee of Operations Analysts has concluded that the destruction and continued neutralization of some sixty targets, among nineteen target systems, listed in priority, will gravely impair and might paralyze the western Axis war effort. The priority list of the nineteen target systems is: German aircraft industry, with first priority on fighter aircraft, including assembly plants and engine factories; ball bearings; petroleum; grinding wheels; nonferrous metals; synthetic rubber and tires; submarine construction yards and bases; military motor transport; general transportation systems; coking plants; steel; machine tools; electric power; electric equipment; optical precision instruments; chemicals; food production; nitrogen and the chemical industry; antitank machinery and antiaircraft machinery. There are several combinations among the industries studied that might achieve this result. From the systems suggested by .the Committee of Operations Analysts, six systems comprising seventy-six precision targets have been selected: German aircraft industry; submarine construction yards and bases; ball bearings; oil; synthetic rubber and tires; military transport vehicles.
- Intermediate Objective -- German Air Force: The German fighter strength in Western Europe is being augmented. If the growth of the German fighter strength is not arrested quickly, it could become literally impossible to carry out the destruction planned for the strategic air offensive, and thus to create the conditions necessary for ultimate decisive action by our combined forces on the continent. Hence, the successful prosecution of the air offensive against the principal objective is dependent upon a prior (or simultaneous) offensive against the German fighter strength.
- Integrated RAF-United States Army Air Force Offensive: The combined efforts of the entire United States and British bomber forces could
produce the results required to achieve the mission prescribed for this theater. Fortunately, the capabilities of the two forces are entirely complementary.
The tremendous and ever-increasing striking power of the RAF bombing is designed to so destroy German material living conditions and economic facilities as to undermine the willingness and ability of the German worker to continue the war.
It is considered that the most effective results from strategic bombing will be obtained by directing the combined day-and-night effort of the United States and British bomber forces to all-out attacks against targets which are mutually complementary in undermining a limited number of selected objective systems.
- General Plan of Operations: The plan of operations is divided into four phases. The depth of penetration, the number of targets available, and the capacity of the bombing forces increases successively with each phase.
- Forces Required:3
First Phase -- 800 U.S. heavy bombers on hand by July. Depth of penetration -- generally limited to range of escort fighters. (There is one notable exception -- the ball-bearing factory at Schweinfurt.)
Second Phase -- 1,192 U.S. heavy bombers on hand by October. Depth of penetration -- 400 miles from bases in England.
Third Phase -- 1,746 U.S. heavy bombers on hand by January 1944. Depth of penetration -- 500 miles.
Fourth Phase -- 2,702 U.S. heavy bombers on hand by June 1944. Depth of penetration limited only by operating radius of action of bomber aircraft.
If the forces required as set forth above are made available on the dates indicated, it will be possible to carry out the mission prescribed in the Casablanca Conference. If those forces are not made available, then that mission is not attainable in mid-1944.
In view of the ability of adequate and properly used air power to impair the industrial source of the enemy's military strength, only the most vital considerations should be permitted to delay or divert the application of an adequate air striking force to this task.
Upon completion, the CBO plan was presented to General Eaker and, after considerable discussion, he approved it. It was later given to the new European Theater Commander, Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, and he also concurred. Meanwhile, the RAF members of the
committee made similar presentations to Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles F. A. Portal, Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force.
General Eaker took the plan to Washington and personally turned it over to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on April 20, 1943. In a masterful briefing made without reference to written matter, he won their approval and personal commendation for his performance.
Change in the Casablanca Directive
After the plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive was referred to General Andrews, and apparently after General Eaker left for Washington, a sentence was added to the Casablanca Directive. The source of the change is not clear, but it seems likely to have been added by Air Chief Marshal Portal. This new sentence read: "This is constructed as meaning so weakened as to permit combined operations on the Continent." The original Casablanca Directive, approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill, did not include this sentence. It is hard to believe that the approved directive could have been altered without their knowledge. But there is no proof that their concurrence was either sought or received.
Unaware of the change, the planning team that developed the CBO plan used the original Casablanca Directive as the air objective. Quoting from the plan circulated to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on May 15, 1943:1. Problem: To provide a plan to accomplish, by a combined U.S.-British air offensive, the "progressive destruction and dislocation of the German Military, industrial, and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened;" as directed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff at Casablanca.No reference is made to any amendment or appendix to the directive. However, the plan transmitted on April 15, 1943, by Air Chief Marshal Portal to General Arnold, Commanding General, AAF, has this quotation:
1.The Mission: The mission of the U.S. and British bomber forces, as prescribed by the Combined Chiefs of Stag' at Casablanca, is as follows:Air Chief Marshal Portal may have added the sentence after discussions with his associates on the Chiefs of Staff Committee. The addition may have been meant to win support for the strategic air offensive from the Army and Navy members, whose principal interest was in surface warfare. Or it may have reflected General Arnold's known concern for support of a cross-channel strategy, which General Marshall strongly endorsed. The invasion, tentatively scheduled for mid-summer 1944, was on the agenda for the upcoming Trident meeting in Washington.
To conduct a joint U.S.-British air offensive to accomplish the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened. This is constructed as meaning so weakened as to permit initiation of final combined operations on the Continent [emphasis added].
Whatever the cause, the added sentence cast doubt upon the real intention of the Casablanca Directive. If the sentence had said: "This is constructed as including so weakened as to permit initiation of final combined operations on the Continent," it would have been more palatable to the airmen. As it was, three basic interpretations of the Casablanca Directive were now in evidence.
For instance, RAF Bomber Command considered the " undermining of the morale of the German people" as the significant clause leading to the "point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened." This did not necessarily entail killing large numbers of people. It did entail depriving them of homes, heat, light, water, urban transportation, and perhaps food. Homeless, hungry workers and civilian employees, they reasoned, do not produce munitions and, like soldiers who are wounded, are a greater impediment to the state at war than dead ones. Also, factories deprived of workers and utilities as a byproduct of urban bombing are useless as sources of combat munitions. Finally, there was the added hope that
civilians might become so discouraged as to lose their willingness to support the war.
In contrast, the U.S. Strategic Air Forces looked upon "the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system" as the path to the "fatal weakening," and believed it could best be done by destroying selected targets in Germany. "Fatal weakening" meant the impending collapse of the entire German state, not simply a breach in the coastal defenses of France. A structure that has been "fatally weakened" is doomed to collapse.
The differences between British and American airmen were not so deep as might appear on the surface. The responsible air commanders generally agreed on the suitability of the strategic objective to be attained. The debate was over method and was related more to operational equipment and capability and survivability than to the need for "fatal weakening" per se. It will be recalled that at first the RAF was committed to the doctrine of daylight, precision attacks, but the bombers available to carry out the mission could not withstand the Luftwaffe's determined attacks. Hence the heavy British Stirlings and Lancasters, which sacrificed armament for bomb-carrying capacity, switched to night area type bombing. Indeed, the British were so sure bombers could not survive German fighter attacks by day that they repeatedly tried to convince the Americans that the basic doctrine of high altitude, precision bombing in daylight would fail.
On their part, the American planners felt they had fully measured the compelling desirability of precision bombing against the dangers inherent in daylight attack. As indicated earlier, they believed survival was possible through heavy defensive firepower and proper concentration of bomber formation flying. They knew it was risky, but destruction of selected vital targets through precision bombing was so important that the risk, as well as the reduced bombload caused by heavy armament, was regarded as acceptable. Effectiveness of the bomber offensive should be measured against the impact upon the German national war machine, not simply in terms of bomber losses.
Top-level soldiers and sailors of both nations -- and to a large degree the President and Prime Minister as well -- considered the chief
purpose of the Combined Bomber Offensive to be something quite different from that envisioned by the airmen. To them the real goal of the bombing offensive was making possible an invasion of the Continent. In their view, the "fatal weakening" meant the destruction and dislocation of the German military system which would ordinarily oppose the invasion. "This is construed as meaning so weakened as to permit initiation of final combined operations on the Continent."
From the standpoint of the airmen, the added sentence to the Casablanca Directive would have been more acceptable had it read: "This is construed as including so weakened as to permit initiation of final combined operations on the Continent." They believed the primary objective was "the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened." That purpose encompassed destruction of targets in Germany, not softening up beach defenses and restricting military movements in France.
After the Joint Chiefs of Staff accepted General Eaker's plan and the Combined Chiefs of Staff approved it at the Trident Conference on May 18, 1943, Sir Charles Portal, acting as executive agent for the Combined Chiefs, issued a directive to proceed with the Combined Bomber Offensive. The Eighth Air Force by day and the RAF Bomber Command by night were thus launched upon their parallel and coordinate efforts, to cause the fatal weakening of the willingness and capability of the German people to pursue the war. The Combined Bomber Offensive (code name Pointblank) was under way.
The two strands of strategic thought -- decisive weakening of interior Germany by air power, and air preparation for decisive airground operations on the Continent -- clashed with each other due to the restriction in timing. Originally, the plans had specified six months of air offensive before direct preparation for invasion. However, the campaign in North Africa and the Mediterranean (opposed by the Joint Chiefs on military grounds) delayed by about four months the crucial assault on the German air forces from bases in England. This telescoped by a like time interval the period between the completion of the offensive against the intermediate objective (defeat of the German
Air Force) and the readiness of the ground forces for invasion. The four months of air attack of the primary objectives (the industrial and economic targets in Germany) were postponed until after the invasion.
The dichotomy in strategic concepts for the prosecution of Pointblank came to a head about ten months after Trident, when General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces, demanded concentration of the strategic air forces upon targets in France to prepare for the invasion. This was right after the crippling of the German air forces in the last week of February 1944, but before the main assault upon the targets in interior Germany could be carried out in force.
The Casablanca Conference had brought another blessing to General Eaker and the Eighth Air Force. General Marshall selected Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, former Commanding General of the GHQ Air Force and an Air Corps officer, as European Theater Commander, replacing General Eisenhower who had moved to North Africa.
Andrews was the number one airpower leader and advocate of his day. Perhaps the most skillful pilot in the Air Corps, he was also the leading senior air strategist as well. His experience was broad. He had been the first GHQ Air Force Commander in 1935 and had organized and trained that pioneering element of American air power. In 1939 he had been selected by General Marshall to be G-3 of the War Department General Staff, the first airman to head a major WDGS division. Eaker hailed his arrival in England with joy. But joy turned to tragedy when Andrews was killed as his bomber crashed against a mountain in Iceland where he was making an inspection of American forces. At the same time, Eaker was flying back to London from Washington.
Andrew's replacement as European Theater Commander was Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, an Army ground officer. It is doubtful if any other officer in any guise, with or without pilot's wings, could have equaled Devers' contribution to the Eighth Air Force. He quickly absorbed and embraced Eaker's strategic airpower concepts and backed them to the limit of his authority. Eaker and Devers became a unified command team whose binding elements were dedication to
strategic purpose and friendship born of mutual admiration and respect.
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1. The response by the Secretaries of War and Navy to the President's letter of July 9, asking for "estimates of production required to defeat our potential enemies" was called The Victory Program, of which AWPD-l was Annex II. After Pearl Harbor only the Air Plan, AWPD-1, remained feasible to accomplish in the new situation.
2. The number of groups and aircraft were later described in AWPD--42 (August 1942) as: heavy bombers, 42 (2,016); medium bombers, 15 (960); fighters, 25 (2,500). Unit reserves would boost these totals an estimated additional 50 percent: 3,024 heavy bombers, 1,440 medium bombers, and 3,750 fighters in the theater. These changes reflected the decision to rely upon the continued security of bases in England. (AWPD-1 provided for the substitution of B-17s and B-24s for the B-36s in order to meet the contingency of the loss of England as a base area.) In AWPD-42 the B-29s were also replaced with B-17s and B-24s, since these bombers had adequate range to reach the targets in Germany, and the long-range B-29s, when they became available, would be needed in the Pacific. It also reflected the transfer of fighters from the air defenses of the Western Hemisphere. (Most of these fighters were transferred to the Tactical Air Forces, where they became excellent fighter-bombers). The total number of aircraft to be based in England became 8,214, including unit reserves.
3. Actually, this was a reflection of the total number of aircraft scheduled for delivery.