Chapter 10: Over Germany
THOUGH the Casablanca directive clearly stated the missi.on of the combined bomber force and provided for it a tentative list of priority target systems, the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) is not customarily dated from 21 January 1943. Rather it is considered to have begun with the directive of 10 June 1943, issued after detailed plans had matured and the American force had been substantially augmented. Between those dates, Eighth Air Force operations continued to be essentially experimental. The American bombers were engaged in extending the scope of their effort into Germany proper, in feeling out the quality of German opposition, itself desperately experimental, and in adjusting their tactics and techniques to the broader plan and increased scale of the daylight operations projected by the Combined Chiefs of Staff. It is this progressive mastery of the problems of strategic bombardment over Germany that characterizes this new phase of Eighth Air Force activity more than the weight or even the effectiveness of the operations themselves.
The fact was that the strength in effective aircraft did not increase so rapidly as had been hoped. Allied air strategists understood that, in order to put the proposed combined offensive into effect, it would be necessary to have a sufficient force ready to strike enemy installations as soon as the fine spring weather made heavy daylight operations feasible. But it was not until May that the build-up of the American force began in earnest. Meanwhile, the Eighth Air Force continued to fight a battle of critical importance with too few bombers for economical operation. During the months of January, February, and March, its average combat strength sank lower than at any time since October 1942; in February it could claim an average daily combat strength of only seventy-four operating combinations (combat crews and aircraft).
It was not until March that a force of more than 100 bombers could be put into the air with some consistency. The situation improved somewhat in April, yet up to the end of that month six operating groups (four B-17 and two B-24) remained the total effective bombing strength. Moreover, prior to 8 April, the 4th Fighter Group, re-equipped in March with P-47's, was the only U. S. fighter unit consistently available.1 During April two more P-47 groups became operational and in May began to escort the bombers regularly. By the end of that month operating strength in bombers had gone up to twelve heavy groups, and on 29 Maya record force of 279 bombers was dispatched against the enemy objectives.2 But as these facts indicate, it was not until May that the Eighth Air Force began to acquire the strength appropriate to its mission.
Meanwhile, the difficulty experienced was greater than that occasioned merely by failure to acquire additional operational units. A more immediate and acute problem was that of replacements. During the winter months the Eighth Air Force had been starved in this respect because of the insatiable demands of the TORCH operation, and by February attrition was beginning to wear down the operating groups to an alarming extent. This was especially noticeable in combat crews where total effective strength suffered not only from actual combat losses but from war weariness. Prior to the first of February, the Eighth received only twenty replacement crews as against sixty-seven lost, and it was estimated that by March seventy-three combat crews would have to be considered war weary. Spring found some of the groups down to 50 per cent strength, with the fatal statistics of attrition undermining the morale of the remaining crews. During 1942 crew availability had not seriously limited the force that could be put into the air at any given time. Beginning with February, however, the situation changed appreciably, and from then until May availability of trained crews generally governed the number of bombers that could be dispatched.3
With this situation in mind, General Eaker and Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, who had succeeded General Eisenhower on 5 February as commander of ETOUSA, urged the War Department to accelerate the air build-up in the United Kingdom in any way possible. It was, they argued, essential that the Eighth Air Force be increased at once to permit the simultaneous dispatch of at least 300 heavy bombers, an objective which would require an estimated 600 to be on hand in the
theater. These figures were not dictated by the ultimate requirements of the combined offensive but by the nature of the immediate task. It became apparent by April 1943 that German fighter strength in the west had been augmented by increased production and by the transfer of units from Russia and the Mediterranean, and a force of 300 planes was considered the minimum that could operate economically and effectively in the face of this growing fighter opposition. Moreover, a basic strength of 600 planes was held necessary to insure continuity of action against vital German targets. Until it could be attained, the day bombers could only "nibble at the fringes of German strength" and inadequately exploit German weaknesses.4
The British expressed even more profound concern regarding the rate of the build-up of the U. S. day bomber force. Air Chief Marshal Portal in letters to General Arnold (though intended less for him personally than for the CS)5 repeatedly emphasized the strategic importance of the day and night bomber offensive. Continued Soviet successes, together with the hard struggle in the Mediterranean, had given the enemy a fundamental shock, and it behooved the Allies to do everything in their power to prevent him from recovering. The only weapon available for the purpose, Portal maintained, was the bomber force, of which the American day bombers constituted an essential part. The operations of the Eighth Air Force had been "strikingly successful," considering the limited number of planes General Eaker had been able to put in the air. But therein lay the problem. "My one fear is that their efforts may be curtailed or even brought to a standstill by lack of numbers." Portal then added a warning, of special significance to American ears. If, despite the build-up to date and the proved keenness of the American units, the efforts of the Eighth Air Force should come to nothing as a result of lack of numbers, it would greatly strengthen the arguments of those who advocated an increase in night bombing "rather than the combination of day and night attack in which you and I so firmly believe." 6
Several factors, however, operated during the period prior to May 1943 to retard the flow of replacements and new units to the Eighth. It must be remembered that the build-up of that air force (a project now commonly referred to by the code name SICKLE) was peculiarly subject to external influences. Admittedly the largest in the entire AAF program, the project was scheduled to receive all heavy bombers not specifically required in other theaters.7 That, of course, meant that
any increase in the essential requirements elsewhere would immediately affect the bomber force in the United Kingdom. Consequently, diversions to other theaters continued to be a factor which only the fortunes of war could determine. Two B-17 groups, the 99th and the 2d, which had been scheduled as the February quota for the Eighth Air Force, were diverted to the Twelfth in North Africa. A group of B-24's, the 308th, originally destined for the Eighth, was sent in March to the CBI theater. Also in March it was decided to reinforce the Southwest Pacific by one of the B-24 groups out of the May quota to the United Kingdom.8 In addition to these diversions, the mounting antisubmarine war in the Atlantic put an increasing strain on B-24 resources, thus further delaying the flow of that type to the Eighth Air Force.9
Each proposed diversion met stiff resistance on the part of Andrews and Eaker in the theater and of Arnold's staff in Washington.10 The argument for a speedy augmentation of forces in the United Kingdom in time for the lengthening days of spring and summer was a cogent one. But overriding strategic considerations, coupled with considerable pressure exerted in favor of the Southwest Pacific and Asiatic areas, in most instances forced the issue.ll
Diversions undoubtedly reduced over an extended period of time the availability of bomber units for commitment to the United Kingdom. But it does not appear that lack of availability acted as the immediate determining factor in the slow growth of the day bomber force during the spring of 1943. There was actually an average daily strength of 337 heavy bombers on hand within the theater in April 1943, 23I in tactical unitS.12 Yet the fact remained that the Eighth Air Force during April still operated with but six heavy groups, which provided a fully operational, average daily strength for the month of only 153 planes13 So the delay in creating even a moderately effective striking force in the United Kingdom between January and May 1943 must be explained with reference to certain contingent factors, chief of which was the lack of available shipping for the transport of ground personnel.*
The Strategic Contribution
Small though the forces were, the operations of the Eighth during the first half of 1943 were by no means negligible. The day bombers continued to devote their attention primarily to submarine installations. They were still charged with carrying out a policy which dated from
the fall of 1942 when shipping losses, especially in the Atlantic convoy lanes, had begun to assume alarming proportions.* It will be recalled that, since 20 October 1942, the Eighth had been under orders to attack the submarine operating bases as a matter of first priority. On 19 November the submarine building yards at Vegesack, Bremen, and Kiel had been added to the day bombardment program as top priority objectives,14 but before January 1943 it had not been considered feasible to attack targets in Germany proper. At Casablanca it was decided to throw the primary emphasis of the combined offensive against submarines, concentrating especially on the bombing of the building yards in the Reich. The operating bases on the French coast were to continue to be subjected to bombardment until it might be conclusively determined whether or not they constituted a profitable system of objectives. On that score both British and American observers entertained profound doubts. It was generally conceded that the roofs of the submarine shelters, constructed as they were of reinforced concrete sometimes over a dozen feet thick, were impervious to any projectiles then available. But many still hoped that by disorganizing the service installations, transport facilities, and laboring population in the port areas the turn-around of s in the operating bases might be slowed down to such an extent that the number of s actively engaged in the Allied shipping lanes would be in effect reduced.15
Accordingly, the Eighth Air Force and the RAF continued to strike at the Biscay bases, especially Lorient and St. Nazaire. Generally speaking, the day bombers attacked the French bases only when weather conditions made missions to the German shipbuilding ports impracticable-which circumstance, of course, still left them ample opportunity.16 As for the construction yards, it was conceded that their destruction would have only a very delayed effect on the operating strength of the fleet, but it was considered that the submarine had become so serious and chronic a menace that it warranted long-term measures. Meanwhile, attacks on the s at sea were coming to be recognized in some quarters as the most direct and possibly, in the long run, the most effective method of coping with the submarine counterattack, but it was felt that they needed to be supplemented by attacks on the submarines at their point of origin. In addition, the British, while admitting that the component parts industry did not constitute by itself a suitable target for strategic bombardment,
* See above, Chap. 8.
hoped that by means of area bombing of key manufacturing centers significant delay might also be effected in the delivery of essential components as well as in the production of such basic materials as steel. Also intended as of indirect significance in the antisubmarine bombing campaign were attacks on enemy transportation as a whole, especially on the vulnerable supply lines extending from the Low Countries to the Atlantic coast.17
It was, then, a relatively large and coordinated attack that the combined bomber forces launched against the sources of the menace during the first half of 1943. More than 63 per cent of the total tonnage of bombs dropped by the Eighth and 30 per cent of that dropped by the RAF during the first quarter of the year were directed specifically toward submarine facilities. In the second quarter, 30 per cent of the RAF and 52 per cent of the American effort were so expended. These figures do not, of course, include the weight of attack applied against transportation, civilian morale, and basic industry, all considered to have an indirect, albeit an incalculable, bearing on the main issue.18
Until August 1943 the German submarine industry was not a separate entity. Rather it functioned as an integral part of the shipbuilding industry, which, however, was converting a rapidly increasing proportion of its facilities to the construction and maintenance of underwater craft.19 In addition to heavy RAF raids against facilities at Emden, Wilhelmshaven, Kiel, Hamburg, Flensburg, Lübeck, Bremerhaven, and other construction centers, the Eighth Air Force, from 23 January 1943 to June of that year, executed twelve separate attacks against submarine construction yards. Seven of these operations resulted in appreciable damage to the target. The day bombers struck four effective blows at Wilhelmshaven, where the submarine construction yard at the Marinewerft constituted the most interesting of a number of important naval targets. It was not always easy to distinguish the effects of Eighth Air Force attacks from those of the RAF, but photo reconnaissance revealed heavy, though scattered, damage to installations in the port area. The last of these missions, conducted on 21 May, was believed to have been especially effective, extending the areas of damage already inflicted and contributing to a general reduction of submarine construction capacity from sixteen hulls to less than eight. On 14 May, 126 bombers dealt considerable damage to two of the submarine yards at Kiel--Germania Werft and Deutsche Werke. Almost every major building
in the former received damage, some of it severe; destruction at the latter concern, though less extensive, was substantial.20
Probably the most significant and certainly the most dramatic attack made during these months was executed on 18 March against the yards of Bremer Vulkan at Vegesack. Situated on the right bank of the Weser River, some seven miles below Bremen, that yard had been engaged since mid-1940 entirely in submarine building. At the time of the bombing the slipways contained fifteen submarines in varying stages of construction. Photo reconnaissance after the raid revealed a most favorable picture of the destruction wrought. It had been an unusually accurate job of bombing, and of the fifteen hulls on the slips it appeared that seven had been damaged severely, one having actually capsized. Six others were thought to have been slightly damaged. Judging from the extent of the destruction, Allied observers believed that instead of completing seven submarines during the ensuing six months, as apparently planned, the yard would probably finish only four; and they estimated that Bremer Vulkan would be of little importance for at least twelve months.21
But this more than normally efficient attack illustrates both the limitations of photo reconnaissance and the difficulty of doing permanent damage to shipbuilding yards. Information gained subsequently from German records indicates that, although interpretation reports were accurate enough in identifying the points of damage inflicted on the yard and on the unfinished hulls, they quite failed to measure the quality of the destruction and consequently overestimated its effect on production. Actual damage suffered by the submarines on the slipways was slight, for most of the bombs that hit the ways either broke open, with resulting low-order detonations, or penetrated below the concrete and were dissipated underground. Damage to the camouflage over the submarines caused destruction of the vessels themselves to be overestimated from thin air. In reality only a few holes from fragments resulted. The interpretation reports failed also to appreciate the recuperative capacity of submarine plant facilities. For, despite the admittedly severe damage to buildings and equipment (the company claimed compensation to the extent of RM 4,365,470), considerable productive activity was resumed at the yard after one week, and within six weeks production had returned virtually to normal.22
A similar story may be told of the entire effort against the building yards during the first half of 1943. Although comparatively heavy, the
attacks of the RAF and USAAF had in fact little effect on production of submarines. Only in the last months of the war did submarine production fall off seriously, and then the paralysis of the industry stemmed in part from a vastly increased weight of attack and in part from the general disruption of transport facilities which in those latter days affected all enemy industry.23
Even more frustrating to Allied hopes were the attacks made against the operating bases on the French coast, for it now appears that these attacks had practically no effect on the activity of the fleet at any period, no matter how much inconvenience and ultimate expenditure of materiel and manpower they may have occasioned.24 It is true, of course, that the sub bases were treated during the first half of 1943 as targets of secondary importance in comparison with the building yards. But they were nonetheless subject to a crushing weight of bombs. Of the total bombs dropped by the Eighth Air Force on submarine and naval objectives from 23 January to 10 June 1943--amounting to well over 3,800 tons--approximately 1,645 tons fell on the operating bases. Of thirteen separate attacks, nine may be considered successful; and of these successful blows, four were inflicted on Lorient, three on Brest, and two on St. Nazaire.25 In addition to this weight of USAAF daylight attack, the RAF Bomber Command conducted a vigorous campaign of night raids, concentrating mainly on Lorient and St. Nazaire. Between 14 January and 16 February the British bombers hurled nine night area attacks at the town of Lorient, three of which were executed by forces of from 300 to 500 planes. Late in February they turned their attention to St. Nazaire, delivering even more concentrated destruction to that unhappy town than to Lorient.26
The results of this combined effort, coming as it did on top of repeated bombardment of bases during the fall of 1942, were truly devastating. By the end of March 1943 destruction was already widespread in the town areas as well as among the port installations, railway facilities, and public utilities, and it was becoming evident that both St. Nazaire and Lorient were rapidly becoming uninhabitable by the ordinary civilian population. By the end of May not a single important building in St. Nazaire remained intact, and many had suffered serious and lasting damage. Repair work had been persistently attempted but had not been able to keep pace with the bombing.27 Grand Admiral Doenitz summed up the situation with some finality in a meeting of the Central Planning Office on 4 May 1943: "The Anglo-Saxons" attempt
to strike down the submarine war was undertaken with all the means available to them. You know that the towns of St. Nazaire and Lorient have been rubbed out as main submarine bases. No dog nor cat is left in these towns. Nothing but the submarine shelters remain." 28
But the submarine shelters did remain, and constituted an obstacle to Allied bombing that proved for all practical purposes insurmountable. As Doenitz went on to say, they had been built by the Todt organization as a result of the "far-sighted orders of the Fuehrer," and the submarines were repaired entirely beneath the protection of their concrete. Instead of abandoning the bases, the Germans had moved all essential facilities inside the pens.29 And so the Allies were doomed to disappointment in their hope, persistently held, that destruction of repair shops, power plants, living quarters, and other port facilities could be counted on to increase the turn-around time necessary before a could again become operational. In the absence of conclusive evidence (the work of the bases was shrouded in the deepest secrecy),30 that hope remained fresh and green for some time. Despite an occasional report from European sources to the effect that the submarine shelters were working uninterruptedly, an AAF intelligence report dated 1 July 1943 stated confidently that "it is increasingly difficult for the enemy to turn around their submarines on scheduled time." The Admiralty, it continued, had just written to the chief of the U. S. Air Staff pointing out the great value of these attacks and requesting that they be continued. "There is no doubt whatsoever that they have contributed materially to the marked diminution of the effort and the resultant reduction in our shipping losses." 31 By the end of the year, however, Allied intelligence analysts had already begun to take a more conservative view of the bombing of operating bases.32 As for the pens themselves, they remained impervious to anything but the six-ton bombs dropped occasionally in the later stages of the war by the RAF.33 But by that time the antisubmarine war had been won, and by other means than strategic bombardment.
The submarines suffered substantial defeat in the late spring of 1943, and it now appears that their failure resulted primarily from improved Allied detection methods, convoy techniques, and sea and air antisubmarine warfare on the high seas. According to Admiral Doenitz, who, as commander of the fleet, was in a position to speak with authority, it was air attacks at sea in particular that stopped his desperate bid for victory in the Battle of the Atlantic. The U.S. Strategic
Bombing Survey reached a similar conclusion: in wresting victory from the enemy submarine, "strategic bombing can at best be considered only an incidental contributing factor." 34
By June 1943 the submarine menace had greatly subsided and the main effort of the Eighth Air Force thereafter was directed elsewhere. Only 16 per cent of its bomb tonnage was devoted to submarine targets during the latter half of 1943. The percentage dropped to 4 during the first quarter of 1944. It was not until late in that year that the intense activity noticeable in the German submarine building yards warned the Allies of the enemy plan to create a fleet of new-type submarines and caused the industry to be considered once more a principal target system.35 But that is another story. For all intents and purposes the antisubmarine campaign carried out by the Eighth Air Force prior to 1944--an essentially defensive phase of its activity--was completed between October 1942 and June 1943. The CBO Plan, drawn up in April 1943 and approved in May, still placed submarines in first priority, but before it could be carried out to any important extent the submarine situation had for the time being greatly improved.
Compared to the antisubmarine campaign, the remaining efforts of the Eighth Air Force during the period under review appear tentative, scattered, and light. Although second only to submarines in order of urgency, aircraft installations sustained little more than 15 per cent of the total bomb tonnage dropped by the American bombers. Of the seven attacks made on targets of importance to the German Air Force, only four can be considered successful and only three--against the Erla aircraft and aero-engine works at Antwerp, the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen, and the airframe factory of S.N.C.A. du Nord (formerly Avions Potez) at Meaulte--were of significant weight. All three of these heavier attacks, ranging from approximately 431,500 pounds to 526,000 pounds, resulted in concentrated and severe damage. Heaviest of all was the mission executed on 17 April against the Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau at Bremen, at the time believed to have been devoting its entire facilities to constructing FW-190 fighters.36 According to plant officials subsequently interviewed, this attack destroyed approximately half the factory and several completed aircraft.37
Axis rail transportation, given third priority at Casablanca, suffered almost as great a weight of bombs as did aircraft installations. Transport objectives in occupied France offered a constantly attractive alternative when weather prevented attacks on German targets and on the
Biscay submarine bases. These attacks may well have caused the enemy more trouble than those against aircraft objectives. Of the seven major attacks made by the Eighth Air Force, four--delivered against Hamm, Rennes, and Rouen--caused acute, if temporary, dislocation to marshalling yards and heavy damage to repair facilities.38 Most spectacular were the results at Rennes when on 8 March sixty-seven bombers struck at the railway yard, cutting it at both ends and bringing all traffic to a standstill for three or four days. It was several days more, possibly two weeks, before normal traffic could be resumed. Meanwhile rail communications with Brest peninsula, and in particular with the submarine bases, were seriously disorganized, for Rennes constituted the strategic key to the whole railway network of Brittany.39
It was easy, however, to overestimate the traffic delay resulting from these missions. Repair gangs were large, efficient, and ubiquitous. Consequently, it appears that in no instance during the spring of 1943 was traffic held up longer than three to four days. The strain on German resources in skilled labor was, of course, considerable. Probably more important than track damage was the destruction of repair facilities, which undoubtedly contributed to a reduction in the number of operating locomotives and freight cars.40 But, effective as they were in individual instances, the Eighth Air Force missions against rail centers were not carried out in sufficient strength nor frequently enough to produce more than a local and temporary dislocation. Although the RAF made several light raids specifically on rail objectives and a few heavy night attacks, especially during March, which involved rail installations, their effort failed to alter the situation materially.41
Practically all the bombing of rail objectives was done in March. After March the Eighth Air Force turned its marginal effort toward factories in France and Belgium producing motor transport vehicles for the German army. On two occasions (4 and 14 May) it damaged the plants at Antwerp formerly operated by Ford and General Motors. More important, however, was the bombing of the Renault motor vehicle and armament works at Billancourt, Paris, on 4 April. It was the first relatively heavy attack on this plant (85 bombers dropped 502,100 pounds of high explosives over the target area) since the RAF had bombed the same plant on the night of 3/4 March 1942. Almost every major building was damaged, in some instances the greater part of the shops being destroyed. According to contemporary estimates, considered conservative at the time, this attack cost the Wehrmacht at least
3,000 trucks; and it appeared unlikely that the factory could resume pre-raid production for more than seven months. British industrial analysts believed it to have been a more effective blow than that delivered the spring previous by the RAF, although the latter had done much to cast a creditable light on strategic bombardment in those days of doubt and experimentation.42 In this instance, in contrast to the Vegesack raid of 18 March, contemporary intelligence reports proved reasonably accurate, even overly cautious. Subsequent investigation of German documents has disclosed that 81 of the 251 tons of high explosives dropped were effective against the target and denied to the enemy approximately 3,075 trucks, or 38 per effective ton and 35 per aircraft attacking. Corresponding figures for the earlier RAF attack showed 33 trucks denied the enemy per effective ton of bombs and 10 per aircraft.43
Although, as subsequent surveys discovered, 7.2 per cent of the plant floor space was structurally damaged, reduction of floor space was not a serious matter in this instance because of the availability of excess floor space. Of much greater importance was the problem of debris clearance, which required the equivalent of the total man-hours of the plant for 1¼ weeks. Reconstruction naturally constituted a major item, too. But the expenditure of labor in both types of work interfered very little with production because most of the reconstruction was done by outside contractors and because Renault man-hours spent were spread over a period of 4 to 5½ months so that no more than 1,000 Renault employees were used on this kind of work at one time. Destruction of machine tools did not interfere with production at all seriously except when it involved concentrations of specialized equipment, as, for example, where destruction of machines for making cylinders made it necessary for the plant to resort to general-purpose machinery which could perform only one part of a complex operation at a time, thus slowing production considerably.44
The American bombardment campaign in 1943 forced renewed consideration of the question of bombing civilians in occupied territory. In the spirit of the directive of 29 October 1942* the Casablanca directive had recognized the serious political implications of the problem and had placed control over operations against strategic objectives in those areas in the hands of the British War Cabinet, which would presumably be in a position to react promptly and authoritatively to developments
*See above, pp. 238-40.
on the political front. Generally speaking, the American bombers had been restricted in their activity over occupied territory to days when weather conditions made attacks against objectives in Germany unfeasible. Priority among the targets elsewhere was, of course, given to the submarine bases on the French coast, the strategic importance of which was believed to justify any measures necessary for their complete destruction.45
Strange as it may appear at first glance, it was not the bombing of the submarine bases, devastating as it was, that roused the severest criticism from the French population. The latter took a grim satisfaction in contemplating the discomfiture of the German operatives left in the bombed areas, most of whom belonged to the unpopular Todt organization. The people of Brittany knew only too well the strategic importance of the Brest peninsula, and despite their losses and their inevitably mixed feelings, many of them hoped an Allied invasion of the continent would come soon, and in Brittany.46
Elsewhere the bombings prompted an increasing undercurrent of protest among a population generally pro-British and pro-American. March had been an especially hard month, for it was then that the AAF made most of its attacks against rail objectives in occupied France; and since marshalling yards were normally embedded in populous areas it was inevitable that those areas would suffer seriously, even though accidentally. At Rennes, for example, the AAF mission of 8 March left nearly300 civilian casualties. The French population not unnaturally felt that this was a terrible price to pay for "un si court delai et ralentissement du trafic." 47 Resentment tended to become concentrated against the Americans, whose high-altitude attacks seemed inevitably and appallingly inaccurate to those on the ground. The RAF, on the other hand, was regarded as "une arme de precision remarquable." This notion is not so paradoxical as, in view of the more familiar British doctrine of area bombardment, it might seem, because the RAF had for obvious reasons refrained from subjecting French cities to heavy night attacks, except in the cases of Lorient and St. Nazaire, from which the French population had been largely evacuated, and had made a number of accurate raids with four or five planes at low altitude against specific objectives.48
Criticism reached a climax in April. The Belgian ambassador to the United States protested the inaccurate bombing done by the USAAF at Antwerp on 5 April which had resulted in heavy civilian casualties.49
And among the French in London, criticism of American bombings in France tended to increase along with criticism of U. S. policy in North Africa.50 Late in April the problem came before the British War Cabinet for general review. That body was unwilling to permit bombing of occupied countries except insofar as it could be accomplished without excessive danger to the civilian population, a policy which, although differing little from the position originally taken in October 1942, would, if strictly interpreted, have made it necessary to abandon all such bombing, since strays could hardly be helped even under the most favorable conditions. But strong arguments pointed toward continuing the bombardment of strategic objectives in occupied Europe. Not only were those objectives of sufficient importance to the Axis economy to warrant bombing but to attack them periodically would force the Germans permanently to disperse their defensive strength. The logic of military necessity in a total war proved unanswerable; and in June the CCS agreed that objectives in occupied countries, the inherent military importance of which justified such action, would under suitable conditions continue to be subjected to precision bombardment.51
The Tactical Experience
To grasp the true significance of the early 1943 operations performed by the Eighth Air Force, it is necessary to look at them from the point of view of the tactician rather than the strategist. The day bombers were still learning their trade. During the months prior to February 1943 the Eighth had grappled with the basic problems of daylight strategic bombing for the first time under combat conditions and had elaborated certain basic tactical principles: Now, during the months from January to June, the main tactical problems were to extend operations, both in scope and weight, and to adjust basic practices to the shifting circumstances of the air war. Though not intentionally so, it was a period of final experimentation before the big offensive.
The Eighth continued to labor under certain handicaps. Its commanders would have preferred to increase the weight and range of its missions steadily and rapidly, but prior to May 1943 it received few reinforcements. Even replacement crews and aircraft arrived at a rate much slower than the losses incurred in operation or combat. In February the effective strength of the organization sank lower than it had been for many weeks. The service command was still devoting a substantial
portion of its time to the preparation of units and replacements for TORCH; and during April and May its facilities were further strained by the arrival of new groups, the ground echelons of which had been left behind owing to the currently acute scarcity of shipping.52 Nor were the new groups adequately trained. General Eaker was anxious to have units sent from the United States as soon as transportation became available, regardless of their training status; but the fact remained that he faced a serious and annoying problem in completing their training. Though better trained than the units that arrived in the ETO in 1942, those arriving during the spring of 1943 still fell far short of minimum requirements in all phases of gunnery and armament.53
Finally there was that perennial bogy, the weather. In January only four out of fourteen planned missions were carried out, the remainder having been canceled because of unsuitable weather. In February five were completed. With the advent of spring, the situation improved slightly, allowing nine missions to be completed in March, four in April, and nine again in May.54 Experimentation in blind-bombing methods continued, but "moling" operations* proved unsatisfactory and were abandoned after March. It was not until the end of SeptemberI943 that Pathfinder missions† began to be flown.55 Moreover, for want of a strong force of long-range escort fighters, the Eighth Air Force lacked the flexibility possessed by the RAF and was confined in its choice of target areas, a fact which only compounded the weather problem. There were always those among both British and American authorities (the Prime Minister, for example, and General Andrews) who insisted that the Eighth would have to resort to night bombing in order to increase the flexibility of its operations, for the atmosphere was generally clearer at night than by day. And, in fact, Eaker and his commanders continued to train and equip their units for night operations should such become clearly necessary.56
It would not have been surprising had morale declined in the face of these chronic handicaps. To a certain extent it did, of course. Commanders were impatient and often discouraged at the slow rate of Eighth Air Force operations and at the delay in build-up. combat crews saw in the statistics of attrition and replacement the likely prospect of a short career. To make matters worse, commanders and crews alike were eager to strike at the German homeland, but hitherto they had been
* See above, p. 262.
prevented from doing so by tactical and strategic considerations the validity of which they did not always appreciate. In this restlessness they were joined by a considerable segment of British opinion.57
It came, therefore, as a tonic to all but the enemy when, late in January, the Eighth Air Force bombed Wilhelmshaven. Specific plans had been laid as early as November of 1942 to extend operations beyond the occupied areas, and the list of priority targets had been enlarged to include objectives in Germany proper. At Casablanca it had been decided to concentrate daylight bombardment as far as practicable on objectives in the Reich. Accordingly, on 27 January, ninety-one heavy bombers from both the 1st and 2d Bombardment Wings at last set out for Germany. Of this number, fifty-three succeeded in bombing the port of Wilhelmshaven.58
The uncertain weather prevailing that day over northern Germany may well account for the fact that the mission met much less opposition than had been anticipated. Flak was encountered almost continuously over Germany and the Frisian Islands, and several of the bombers suffered slight damage; but at no time was it intense enough or accurate enough to have deterred the attacking force in any way. At Wilhelmshaven, especially, the flak defenses appear to have been thoroughly confused, their effort at a predicted barrage being what a British observer who flew in one of the B-17's called "pathetic." 59 Considering the number of guns the enemy was known to have in the area, this poor showing came as a complete surprise to the American force. The only losses that occurred during the day's mission resulted from enemy air action. Both the B-17's of the 1st Bombardment Wing and the B-24's of the 2d Bombardment Wing brought up a sizable force of enemy fighters, estimated in all at more than 100 aircraft. In the resulting combats the Liberators lost two of their number and the Fortresses one. Yet even the German fighters proved less dangerous than had been feared, for they seemed much less experienced than those the bombers had encountered in France.*
It was, if not an especially well-executed mission, a very interesting one. A relatively small force of heavy bombers, their crews no more experienced than they should have been, had penetrated by daylight, and necessarily without benefit of escort, well into the enemy homeland
* AAF gunners shot down perhaps seven of the enemy fighters, and the mission may have been responsible for the loss of two other planes and for one damaged. (Information through courtesy of British Air Ministry.) Original claims were 22/14/13.
and had, moreover, done so without prohibitive loss. Operations of this sort had generally been considered feasible only for a large force of highly trained units. But, as Eighth Air Force commanders knew only too well, they might expect heavier and more efficient resistance in the future. And so it happened. During the mission of 4 February, when the Eighth attacked Emden, the bombers stirred up a hornet's nest of fighters. For the first time they were opposed by twin-engine fighters (Me-110's and Ju-88's) in addition to the usual Me-109's and FW-190's.60
On 26 February, one month after their initial plunge into German territory, the day bombers revisited Wilhelmshaven. They had intended to strike Bremen, but finding that objective completely obscured by clouds, they turned back to Wilhelmshaven where sixty-five of them bombed the harbor area to some effect. But it was a very different mission from that of the month previous. Flak was not much more dangerous than it had been on that occasion, although it may have accounted for one of the bombers lost. Enemy fighters, on the other hand, reacted in strength. Not only were the fighters of the affected area engaged but help was enlisted also from units as far south as Flushing. The concentration of purpose with which the attacks were launched was61 clearly evident from intercepted German radio messages.
Two factors undoubtedly simplified the task of the enemy dispatchers. Almost from the point of rendezvous the bombers had been in the German RDF screen, with the result that the enemy was well prepared to intercept as soon as the bombers came within reasonable range. The danger of early interception was also aggravated by the fact that the planned route led around the coast line of northwestern Europe not far from the Frisian Islands, and the actual course clung apparently even closer to the coast. At any rate, in the ensuing battle the bomber force lost seven of its planes, possibly as many as six of which fell as a result of enemy air action.62
Despite the determination with which the German pilots pressed their attack, they were still reported as being more cautious than the more seasoned units in France. Nor did they attack so consistently from the front.63 The Eighth Air Force had reacted promptly to a disturbing tendency of the enemy to concentrate on frontal attacks and, by fitting as many bombers as possible with additional nose guns and by stacking its formations with a view to providing mutual firepower forward, it had succeeded at least in reducing the menace. It is possible
that the less-experienced enemy units stationed in Germany at that time had been cautioned to respect this increased defensive power. The bomber crews had noticed a similar tendency on both previous missions to Germany.
During the mission of 26 February the Germans experimented with two new defensive techniques. The bomber crews reported encountering a box barrage of antiaircraft fire over Wilhelmshaven which contained several black bursts, each of which released a parachute bearing an explosive charge. One group also reported an unsuccessful attempt on the part of an Me-109 to drop bombs on the B-17's from special external bomb racks. On 16 February during the raid to St. Nazaire a report of a similar nature had been rendered, but it was thought on investigation that the missiles in that instance consisted of self-destroying ammunition. The bomber crews again reported air-to-air bombing when on 22 March they returned to Wilhelmshaven. Again the tactic failed to cause damage.64
On 4 March an incident occurred which demonstrated, if demonstration were needed, that small formations could not hope to penetrate the fighter defenses in the Reich without crippling losses. The target for the day's mission was the marshalling yards at Hamm. It was the first time the Eighth had set out to bomb an objective in the Ruhr industrial area, and so the mission was planned with a view to reducing as far as possible the danger from enemy fighters that the necessarily long flight over enemy territory would entail. In order to confuse the enemy defenses the main force of seventy-one Fortresses headed out in a northeasterly direction over the North Sea roughly along the route taken on previous missions to Bremen or Wilhelmshaven. In addition, fourteen B-24's flew a diversion along a similar route but followed it for a much greater distance, keeping an eye out for incidental shipping targets. When about halfway between England and the Netherlands coast, the main force turned southeast toward Hamm. But from that point on, the weather upset these carefully laid plans, with the result that of the four groups of B-17's one returned to England without bombing and two others bombed the last-resort target at Rotterdam. The fourth group became separated from the main formation while flying on instruments, so that when it reached clear weather over Germany it found itself quite alone. It continued on to the primary target, however, and succeeded in bombing with unusual accuracy. So far it had met only light opposition, and it is probable that the carefully
planned route prevented the German fighters from becoming prepared far in advance. But on the route home they began to attack the fourteen Fortresses with the utmost determination, coming in, contrary to their recent custom in that area, mainly between 10 and 2 o'clock and sometimes making coordinated attacks by three planes all aimed at individual bombers. In all, some fifty enemy fighters, of both single-and twin-engine types, attacked the lone formation and shot down four of its planes. It was a costly operation, but considering the weight and determination of the attack, it is remarkable that more of the B-17's were not lost. Claims indicated that in the air battle the bombers may have destroyed upwards of thirteen of the enemy planes.65
The attack on objectives in the German homeland had been the engrossing fact to all concerned since the latter part of January. The missions had been relatively successful but, except for the first one, the cost had been high. On the first four the rate of loss, expressed as a percentage of the planes attacking, had been a little over 10 per cent. And most of the losses had resulted from air combat.66 Yet the Eighth Air Force commanders were not unduly discouraged, for, they argued, a force of 300 or more planes (the number originally planned for such operations) would lose few if any more than did the small forces then being employed. Moreover, these missions had not been escorted, and a reduction in losses could be confidently expected as soon as long-range fighter support could be provided.67
Their optimism received considerable impetus when, after a two week absence, the day bombers again flew to a German target and, on 18 March, bombed the submarine building yards at Vegesack. The route had been carefully planned in order to bring the bombers into contact with the enemy defenses at the latest possible moment; and, giving the Frisian Islands a wide berth, they succeeded in avoiding interception until they had reached Helgoland. Then the German fighters of all available types (FW-190's predominating) engaged the bomber formations in a running battle to the target area, and again on the return trip, some following the American force over water to distances of sixty to eighty miles beyond the coast line. Yet these attacks, persistent though they were, for the most part lacked the skill and daring of experienced units, suggesting that the four missions flown by the Eighth to French objectives during the preceding fortnight had drawn off the few well-trained units then stationed in northwest Germany. The gunnery of the bomber crews seemed, moreover, to have
improved.* Best news of all to the tactical commanders was the relatively small loss (two planes) sustained by the bomber force. Considering that it provided also an example of very accurate and apparently effective bombing, it was a reassuring mission.68
Meanwhile the day bombers had been running into equally powerful defenses during missions to the submarine bases on the French coast. Indeed, crews reported defenses in the neighborhood of those objectives to have been more experienced in the ways of the American heavy bombers than those met in Germany. Flak at St. Nazaire, Lorient, and Brest had on more than one occasion caused the bombers serious trouble, and at St. Nazaire on 3 January it had been thrown up in a predicted barrage that destroyed several of the attacking planes. During January, February, and March flak at those points continued to cause much damage to the bombers and in. a few instances destroyed them. For the most part the fire-control method used was a continuous following, and it was frequently so accurate that the bomber formations could hope to escape serious trouble only by taking violent evasive action.69
Yet it was the fighters here, as in Germany, that gave the Eighth its toughest battles. Since it was not possible for the bombers to have escort much beyond the French channel coast, they had to do their heaviest work (namely at Lorient and St. Nazaire) without fighter support over the target area. More important than the lack of full-scale escort was the experience and ingenuity of the enemy fighter units stationed in those parts. They pressed their attacks fearlessly and were constantly trying out new tactics. At Lorient, for example, on 23 January, they tried coordinated attacks in groups of six planes, the elements of which came in simultaneously from both sides and from above. Most frequently, however, the German pilots employed the nose attacks which worked so well against the inadequately protected bomber formations in December and January.70
To be sure, the bomber crews were also increasing in experience. By preserving as good a defensive formation as possible, by turning into the attacks, and by varying altitude as much as was consistent with tight formation flying, they managed often to evade otherwise lethal passes. In addition, the twin nose guns now installed in many of the bombers
* Claims of 52/20/23 apparently reflected the confusion of a protracted air battle rather than an accurate count, for probably no more than fifty or sixty of the enemy intercepted.
were credited with breaking up many attacks. Yet even with these improved defensive tactics, the Eighth lost heavily in combat in the neighborhood of the bases. At Lorient on 23 January an attacking force of fifty-four bombers lost four to enemy aircraft and one to flak. Of the eight planes lost by the force of sixty-five that attacked St. Nazaire on 16 February, two definitely were shot down by enemy fighters, four were probably destroyed by fighters, and another two by a combination of fighters and flak. On only two occasions did the bombers have a relatively easy time in dealing with the German aircraft. On 27 February the RAF provided escort of such high quality that sixty bombers were able to complete their mission to Brest without loss of a single plane. And on 6 March the main force, sent to bomb Lorient, benefited materially when the bulk of the fighter defenses were diverted by a few B-24's dispatched to Brest for that purpose under heavy Spitfire cover71
Fighter escort rendered missions flown during March to other targets in occupied France and the Low Countries a relatively simple matter. During March, six such missions were dispatched to points which, with the exception of Rennes, lay within escort range. On two occasions, at Rouen on 12 March and at Amiens and other points on the day following, forces of sixty-three and seventy-four bombers, respectively, completed their missions without loss.72 By this time the prevailing doctrine of fighter support was based on the assumption that all rearward defense of the bomber formations would be the responsibility of the bombers and that the fighter support would so place itself as to defend the bomber formation from head-on attack, still the most dreaded enemy tactic. This method at the same time left the bombers a clear field, free from problems of identification, in which to engage all hostile aircraft approaching from astern. It represented also an effort to provide closer escort. The RAF fighters had been supporting the American bombers from the beginning in considerable strength (400 to 500 planes), but they had normally flown an "umbrella" type of cover, developed primarily to protect Wellington bombers which lacked overhead defense. This procedure made it possible on many occasions for the enemy to avoid the escort and, coming in beneath it, to engage the bombers with little interference. The Spitfires had, moreover, been warned not to come too near to the bombers, whose gunners tended to shoot first and identify afterwards. That problem remained, but the need for closer escort had come to be one of overriding importance.73
Despite fighter cover, the German defenders occasionally pressed their attacks with cleverness and determination, employing deceptive tactics and experimenting with a variety of approaches. A formation of sixteen B-24's ran into an especially well-planned and well-executed fighter attack during their attempt to bomb Rouen on 8 March. It was too small a force for ordinary purposes, but the heavy escort provided should normally have been enough to protect it. The enemy had apparently weighed that factor, for as the fighter escort approached the target to clear the way for the bombers, it was engaged by a considerable force of FW-190's. While the supporting fighters were thus occupied
(and the German force was enough temporarily to saturate them), another swarm of German aircraft, which had evidently been waiting for just that opportunity, attacked the bomber formation with the utmost ferocity just as it was executing its bombing run. This defensive attack succeeded very well, for it destroyed two of the bombers, including the lead plane, and quite disrupted the bombing run.74
During April, the Eighth Air Force encountered increasingly fierce and versatile opposition from enemy fighters. The first three missions--to Paris on the 4th, to Antwerp on the 5th, and on the 16th to Lorient and Brest--had strong RAF withdrawal support but no escort over the target area, and it was mainly while the bombers were thus unprotected that the heaviest fighter attacks occurred. The fighters reacted in strength of fifty to seventy-five planes of all types and came in to the attack from all directions, with frontal attacks, though less exclusively employed than heretofore, still predominating. Their most effective tactic was the coordinated attack executed by waves of four to seven aircraft, approaching from the front at intervals of from 1,000 to 1,500 yards. Coordinated attacks had hitherto been the exception. Now they became frequent enough to be considered the result of a consistent plan. They had the effect of dividing the fire of the bombing formation; and they made it difficult for the pilots to take effective evasive action, for if the bombers turned into one attack they were left in no position to repeat the maneuver before the next batch of fighters was upon them. At Paris, too, the enemy concentrated on the poorly protected low squadron in one of the two combat wing formations and destroyed three of its six planes.75
The most effective defense the bombers could employ was to fly as close a formation as possible, with two to three combat boxes flying in combat wing formation so as to give each other the utmost support. Improved
forward firepower also helped a great deal. In the case of the Paris mission just mentioned, the low squadron would probably have lost even more heavily had not each aircraft been provided with twin nose guns in anticipation of just such an attack. Good results appear also to have stemmed from the careful planning of routes in these cross Channel missions. The B-24's of the 2d Bombardment Wing flew effective diversions, and even the main attacking force executed feints on its way toward the enemy coast. These maneuvers no doubt account for the fact that fighter attacks became serious only after the target area had been reached. Defensive action on the part of the bombers seems, indeed, to have balanced the increasing ferocity of the enemy fighter opposition during these first three April missions, for total losses amounted to no more than 5 per cent of the attacking force, a rate of cost considered by no means prohibitive for daylight operations.76
Things did not go so well when on 17 April the Eighth once more drove into the Reich in order to attack the Focke-Wulf plant at Bremen.It was the largest mission mounted to that date. One hundred and fifteen B-17's of the 1st Bombardment Wing were dispatched, 107 of which attacked. But this force also sustained a record loss: sixteen of its planes were shot down and forty-six damaged to some extent. Never before had the Eighth encountered such heavy or such well-coordinated defenses. While the Germans had undoubtedly recognized the tendency of the American bombers to attack targets in the Bremen-Wilhelmshaven area, the enthusiasm of the welcome on this occasion appears to have stemmed from advance warning provided in part by suspiciously favorable weather in the target area and probably in even larger part by a German observation plane which discovered and reported the bomber force while the latter was over the North Sea far beyond RDF range.It is known that this plane radioed the location, direction of flight, speed, and altitude of the bombers; and this information, coming more than an hour before the bombers, permitted the enemy to organize and concentrate his forces. This he did with skill and dispatch. A small detachment of fighters met the formation at a point beyond the Frisian Islands and accompanied it to the target, where a mass of German fighters, no doubt kept constantly informed of the bombers' course, were already assembled ready to attack at the critical moment of the bombing run.It seems to have been their main purpose to vitiate the effectiveness of the bombing by knocking down the leading planes and breaking up the bomber formations, because all attacks
were withheld until that moment. Over the target, also, the Germans threw up an unusually intense, though not always accurate, concentration of flak.77
Reports suggested that perhaps as many as 150 aircraft intercepted. They made their first full-scale attack just as the leading bomber groups entered the flak concentration immediately over the target. Most of them drove in from the front, flying recklessly through their own antiaircraft fire in a variety of coordinated attacks. Flak added to the confusion and accounted for one bomber. In addition, it probably caused some of the bombers to become stragglers and therefore an easy prey to attack by fighters later on in the battle. But it was of minor importance in comparison with the fighter opposition, and the quantity rather than the quality of the barrage was responsible for whatever success it may have had in confusing the bomber crews. Despite the severity of both fighter and flak attack, however, the first groups managed to maintain formation and to bomb with remarkable accuracy.78
On withdrawal from the target, the bomber formations sustained constant attacks, executed from all directions and maintained persistently well past the Frisian Islands. The enemy fighters concentrated on stragglers and on formations too loosely flown for effective mutual support. Especially significant was the experience of the two combat wings in which the bombers had flown, except on the bombing run itself. The concept of the combat wing formation, consisting of three combat boxes of eighteen to twenty-one planes each, had emerged during the preceding winter as a possible answer to the enemy's frontal attacks. Early experiments were marked by a tendency on the part of the individual elements to string out, thus destroying the compactness necessary for purposes of defense. During February and March much thought had been given to this problem, and by April the Eighth was able to fly a fifty-four plane combat wing in such a way that any fighter approaching from the front should encounter a solid wall of fire. In the Bremen mission it was believed that the more scattered formation maintained by the leading wing accounted in large part for the fact that it had suffered all the losses sustained that day. The elements of the second wing, flying in close support of one another, had gone free. It was true that the leading wing bore the brunt of the attack at the target and took some of its losses at that time. But the virtue of a tight defensive formation appeared nonetheless to have been clearly demonstrated.79
There remained, of course, serious objections to such relatively large
Combat Box Views
and closely flown formations. The upper and lower squadrons obviously had the least protection, being in fact in a comparatively exposed position, and during late March and April the enemy fighters concentrated on them. Moreover, the formation was an unwieldy one, difficult to maintain-especially on turns-for it involved at best a wide variation in altitude. But for the time being the demands of defense had to be met before those of maneuverability.80
At the time, it had seemed to the crews returning from the Bremen mission that the Germans had suffered losses even heavier than those of the Americans. Claims were made for sixty-two destroyed, fifteen probably destroyed, and seventeen damaged. German figures, however, show total losses for the day, exclusive of those obviously not connected with the U. S. attack, of five fighters destroyed and five damaged as a result of "enemy action" and three fighters destroyed and four damaged for reasons not attributed to "enemy action." 81 Yet the mission had perhaps some effect on German tactics thereafter. Since February there had been a tendency for German planes to attack from some quarter other than the front. After April, nose attacks ceased to be the preferred method, except for the specific purpose of breaking up the bombing run.
By May the German fighter force was recognized as the primary obstacle to any extension of the daylight precision bombing campaign. In January, German fighter disposition on the western front was about what it had been in August 1942. It consisted of a shallow coastal defense from Brest to Helgoland Bight, weighted heavily in the Pas de Calais area. Indeed, owing to the urgent demands of the eastern and Mediterranean fronts, the total single-engine fighter strength on the western front, according to contemporary Allied estimates, dropped from about 270 in August 1942 to 215 in January 1943, a fact which led many U. S. air observers to underestimate for a time the capacity of the GAF.82 But the slight tinge of optimism visible in January gradually faded out during the following months. By the middle of the year German fighter defenses on the western front had increased substantially and reflected the extended scope of Eighth Air Force operations into northwestern Germany. German figures indicate that there were on the western front and in Germany at the beginning of 1943 not many more than 350 fighters; by the middle of the year the total had risen almost to 600. During the first quarter of 1943, one-fourth of the total enemy fighter strength was located in Germany and the western front.
During the second quarter the proportion had risen to approximately one-third and was rapidly increasing-this at a time when the Germans, long believers in ground cooperation as the best use of air power, were suffering appalling defeats in the ground battles on the eastern front.83
More significant, however, than the increase in fighter strength was the rapid, if still somewhat chaotic, development in enemy tactics. The deadly nose attacks had been effectively thwarted (in fact, the enemy pilots were unwilling to close individually with the bombers unless absolutely necessary); but in their place there had emerged a Pandora's box of assorted ills, some of which were already proving embarrassing to the American force. Coordinated fighter attacks were a fruitful and infinitely versatile source of trouble. Twin-engine fighters were being used in the hope that their heavier firepower might be effective against the bombers. Parachute mines had been tried out, and air-to-air bombing had by May become an inveterate habit, characterizing almost every major engagement. And the Germans were rapidly increasing the effectiveness of their standard fighters by adding to their armament and armor. The Me-109 remained roughly equivalent in firepower to the P-47, but the FW-190 had been more heavily armed as a specialized weapon against intruding bombers. By mid-year of 1943 the American bomber force could measure the results of the increase in strength of the GAF in the west and of its mounting effectiveness. During 1942, 13.6 per cent of attacking bombers had been hit by German fighters; by the following June the proportion had risen to 18.2 per cent.84
The increasing effectiveness of the Luftwaffe's fighter defense pointed imperatively to the need for long-range escort. From as early as 1941, AAF leaders had recognized that need, but during the latter part of 1942--perhaps making a virtue of necessity--the Eighth Air Force had tended to minimize the value of fighter escort and to argue that heavy bombers, suitably armed and accompanied by a few escort bombers of the YB-40 type, could if necessary penetrate enemy defenses. Early RAF fighter cover, though heavy, had not been close enough to prevent German fighters from engaging the bombers if they chose. Moreover, prior to January, the bombers had come off well in combat with the enemy fighters.85 But from that point on, the Germans began to improve their technique and the cost of unescorted missions began to increase. Conversely, fully escorted missions gave comparatively good results-in some cases outstanding results--owing in large part to an improving technique of close escort.86 Long-range fighters
came, therefore, more than ever to be considered, if not essential to long-range daylight bombing, at least essential to its complete success.87
But the long-range fighters were slow in arriving, and even slower in achieving operational status. The TORCH project had drained the Eighth of all P-38 fighters. Their place was to be taken by P-47's equipped with long-range tanks. But unexpected design difficulties delayed delivery of the Thunderbolts, and although they began to arrive in the United Kingdom in January it was many weeks before "bugs" could be removed and the planes successfully adapted to operations in that theater. Trouble with the VHF radios was the principal cause of delay, although serious difficulty was also experienced with engines. For weeks radio experts worked on the offending equipment and at times enlisted aid from the British; but their effort was to little avail, as was demonstrated when on 10 March a few P-47's took part for the first time in a fighter sweep. Otherwise uneventful, that operation proved that plane-to-plane communication was virtually impossible among the P-47's. Since such liaison constituted the key to successful fighter tactics in the ETO, the new fighters could not be put into combat until the difficulty had been surmounted. On 8 April, however, two P-47 groups, the 56th and the 78th, joined the 4th Fighter Group (recently converted from Spitfires to P-47's) on operational status and were set to flying fighter sweeps over the Dutch and French coasts, largely for the purpose of training.88
A week later, during one of these operations, the P-47's had their first engagement with the enemy. Two composite groups, totaling sixty-three planes and led by experienced pilots of the 4th Fighter Group, flew a fighter sweep at 30,000 feet over the northern French coast and in the process encountered a number of FW-190's. On the whole the results were encouraging, for the Thunderbolts stood up very well in comparison with the German planes. The pilots reported superiority in diving ability and believed their P-47's showed great promise in turning as well. One pilot declared he was able to outrun the enemy at 17,000 feet. The P-47's shot down two FW-190's and damaged one, at a cost of one of their number. Two other P-47's were believed lost as a result of engine failure rather than enemy action.89
This first brush with the enemy seemed encouraging mainly because it came off better than many observers had feared. The P-47 had still not provided the solution to the problem of the long-range fighter. Engine failures continued to occur with discouraging, though decreasing,
frequency, and the radio experts were overcoming but slowly the difficulties that had earlier beset them. Much modification had yet to be done on both engines and radios before all available P-47's could be made operational. Worst of all, the new fighters as yet lacked auxiliary tanks, which meant that they could not go much farther than the Spitfires in accompanying the bomber formations. It was not until after May that these difficulties were overcome and the P-47 could be classified as a long-range fighter.90 Meanwhile, with long-range fighters still in the future, hope continued to be pinned on the YB-40, that experimental, heavily armed escort bomber by means of which it was believed the tendency of the enemy to attack the lead groups and units in exposed positions in the bomber formations might be frustrated. Their arrival was eagerly awaited, but their entry into combat was delayed until May.91
Meanwhile also, the P-47's began to escort the bombers up to a range of about 175 miles. Their first effort was eminently satisfactory. Six squadrons of Thunderbolts joined six squadrons of RAF fighters in support of the mission executed by sixty-five B-17's against the Ford and General Motors factories at Antwerp on 4 May. The P-47's provided high cover and withdrawal support and shot down one FW-190. In the course of sixty-nine offensive sorties that day they lost one plane, and that one not apparently as a result of enemy action. The RAF Spitfires also destroyed one FW-190, probably destroyed another, and damaged three, at a cost of three of their own aircraft. A force of thirty-three bombers flew a diversionary feint over the Channel, under cover of three more P-47 squadrons. Thanks in part to this diversion and in part to the excellent fighter cover, the main force encountered only twenty to thirty enemy fighters, although total enemy reaction to the day's mission had been large. As a result, the bombing force was able to do its work accurately, with little disturbance from enemy action, and to return to base without losing a single plane.92 The P-47's helped to ease the task of the bombers on other occasions during the rest of May. When, for example, on the 13th, the VIII Bomber Command attacked aircraft objectives at Meaulte and St. Orner, the VIII Fighter Command executed 124 offensive sorties in conjunction with cover provided by thirteen RAF squadrons. Total bomber losses were consequently held to less than 3 per cent of the attacking force.93
But missions beyond fighter range remained hazardous, and during the rest of May six were flown either to targets in Germany without
escort or to those in France with partial fighter cover. That partial cover was not much better than no cover at all was demonstrated on the 29th when a force of fifty-seven bombers attacked a railway target at Rennes and, although escorted by P-47's almost to the target, lost six of its planes to enemy aircraft between the time the escort turned back and the time when withdrawal support of RAF Spitfires was picked up at the coast on the return trip. The enemy had deliberately refrained from attacking until the bombers were left without fighter protection.94 Losses had also reached the 10 per cent mark on 21 May when the bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven and Emden. As at Bremen in April, the enemy fighters concentrated their efforts on breaking up the bombing run. And at both targets they succeeded, so that bombing results were satisfactory at neither target. At the former a few of the enemy met the force of seventy-seven bombers as they approached the German coast, and as the bombers reached the initial point, preparatory to turning toward the target, from forty to sixty fighters appeared and queued up, twenty to thirty on each side of the leading bomber formation. As the invaders drew near to their target the defenders began to peel off and to execute frontal attacks in waves of four, six, and eight planes at a time, each wave flying in loose echelon formation. The fighters made seven or eight separate attacks during the bombing run with results disastrous to the Americans. Several Germans also tried air-to-air bombing, and some appear to have employed rocket guns and large-caliber cannon.95
The rest of these unescorted or partially escorted missions conducted during the latter half of May suffered much less severely from fighter attack. The reason is twofold. In the first place, improvement in defensive formation flying undoubtedly cut down losses considerably. (On the last mission in May, flown to St. Nazaire, the YB-40 put in its initial appearance, but, as it happened, fighter reaction to this mission was light and the flying dreadnoughts had little chance to demonstrate their ability.) In the second place, the Eighth Air Force was able during the latter part of May to send much larger forces against the enemy than hitherto. Not only were the forces bombing individual targets increased in size but simultaneous attacks on two or more objectives with effective forces were now possible. This latter tactic would, it was hoped, split the German defenses, thus rendering them less formidable at any given point.96
The expansion of the bomber force was the fact of primary significance
in Eighth Air Force operations in May. During the month five new B-17 groups--the 95th, 96th, 351st, 94th, and 379th--became operational, and the 92d, which had been used for training since November, resumed combat operations. The new groups, organized into the 4th Bombardment Wing under Brig. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson, took part in their first mission on 13 May. In addition to the heavy groups, May also witnessed the temporary addition of one medium group to the strength of the VIII Bomber Command. B-26 crews of the 322d Bombardment Group (M), representing the 3d Bombardment Wing under the command of Brig. Gen. Francis M. Brady, were ready on 13 May to fly their first combat mission.97
As General Eaker wrote in a letter to General Arnold on that date, the 13th of May was "a great day for the Eighth Air Force. Our combat crew availability went up in a straight line from 100 to 215." And he was well pleased with the caliber of the new units, for the heavy groups had all received a quality of preparation for high-level bombing superior to that enjoyed by any of the earlier groups. "If the groups prove to be superior in combat to the old ones," Eaker added, "it will scarcely be a fair fight!" In view of these reinforcements he was able to plan a change in bombing policy. Whereas in the past he had been forced to match rate of operations to the rate of replacements in order to prevent the Eighth Air Force from wasting away and had therefore waited for good bombing days when the primary target might with reasonable luck be identified and bombed, now he was able to plan operations for days of doubtful visibility when secondary or last-resort targets might be bombed and the GAF engaged in combat even if the targets of high priority were obscured. It was, moreover, a policy strongly urged by Air Chief Marshal Harris, whose night bombing force found opposition much less severe on nights following large-scale daylight raids.98
The Eighth Air Force was ordered to put its maximum force in the air on the 14th of May as part of a great combined attack against the German war machine. That attack, in fact, turned out to be the heaviest 24-hour air attack made yet by the Allies during the war. The RAF sent large forces against Berlin and against targets in the Ruhr and in Czechoslovakia, and the Eighth made an impressive display of its newly acquired strength in simultaneous attacks on four separate targets situated at Kiel, Antwerp, Courtrai, and Ijmuiden. In all it dispatched a record bomber force of 236 aircraft (including 12 medium bombers)
of which 209 (including 11 mediums) attacked-also a record to that date. In addition to the bombers, VIII Fighter Command P-47's flew 118 offensive sorties in conjunction with RAF Spitfire squadrons to protect the smaller forces bombing Antwerp and Courtrai. Results on the whole were good, each mission in its way meeting with a measure of success. The British press reacted enthusiastically, referring to the day's combined activities as the opening of a great "blitz" against Germany and featuring the unprecedented effort of the American force.99
In attacking Kiel, the main force of 126 heavy bombers (109 B-17's and 17 B-24's) struck the most distant target yet attempted, at a radius of some 460 miles. This fact may have thrown the German defenses off balance, for only a few of the antiaircraft guns known to be located in the vicinity of the objective were operating and the resulting flak was of little consequence. Nor were the fighter attacks, although numerous, pressed with the quality of determination observed on previous occasions in northwestern Germany. Claims against enemy aircraft were, however, very high (sixty-two destroyed, twenty-four probably destroyed, and twenty-seven damaged), indicating a heavy air battle even after allowance has been made for duplication in claims.* It was the B-24 group, carrying incendiaries, that drew the heaviest enemy attacks, partly because it was in a relatively unprotected position (below the lowest group of the second combat wing formation) and partly because the performance characteristics of the B-24's prevented them from staying close enough to the Fortresses for protection. The group alone lost five of the eight aircraft shot down on that mission, a fact which led tactical observers to conclude that it was unwise to fly B-17 and B-24 units together in a single formation unless the latter were large enough to take care of themselves if separated.100
Although a minor part of the operations on the 14th, the attack executed by eleven B-26's of the 3d Bombardment Wing against the Velsen generating station at Ijmuiden attracted much official attention because it constituted an experiment which might easily have decided
* Once again the German records fail to support the American claims. But relatively high figures are indicated in German losses (exclusive of those obviously not the result of AAF action) of nineteen fighters destroyed and thirteen damaged in combat, with one other destroyed and two damaged for reasons not directly charged to "enemy action." It should be emphasized that these figures represent no more than the total losses which could be credited to the AAF gunners; some of the losses, as with two night fighters destroyed and another damaged in combat, may well belong in the RAF's column. They have been included here because the AAF mission was flown late enough in the day to have involved night fighter action. (Information through courtesy of the British Air Ministry.)
whether or not the medium bombers could be used effectively in the strategic bomber offensive. AAF Headquarters had been advocating for some time the fullest possible use of the mediums in minimum altitude raids against suitable coastal objectives. In the Pacific they had been employed, often with brilliant effect, in deck-level attacks against naval targets, and it was believed that, if properly integrated with other air action, they might be equally effective against such installations as airfields and power plants in near-by coastal areas of Europe. Eighth Air Force headquarters, while not entertaining such high hopes, declared itself ready to investigate the possibilities inherent in these tactics. It was accordingly planned to send the mediums out against coastal installations in operations closely coordinated with heavy bombardment missions. Targets were chosen for initial operations which would necessitate only shallow penetration of enemy territory. The Eighth Air Force suggested enemy airfields situated near the coast as objectives of first priority, but the RAF urged that the American medium bombers be directed against the same type of installations the British light bombing units were attacking, namely, transportation objectives and power stations. Plans were also laid to integrate medium bomber operations with those of the heavies. With coastal targets in mind, combat crews were especially trained in the techniques of minimum altitude navigation and attack. Those immediately responsible for launching the mediums advocated the extensive use of fighter cover, for it was likely that, after their initial attack, the B-26's would be met by dangerous fighter opposition. But their requests were unfavorably considered on the ground that zero-altitude fighter support would be impracticable and that if escort were required the bombing would have to be done at altitudes of 10,000 to 14,000feet, depending on the antiaircraft defenses provided for each target.101
The experiment of 14 May led only to tentative conclusions, however. The B-26's performed their task with indifferent results, but without the loss of a single plane. They encountered no fighter opposition-a fact which was not surprising since the largest force of heavies in the history of the daylight offensive was abroad that day. And had the navigation been more exact, they might have escaped the minor flak damage sustained by most of their number.l02 Much more conclusive indications were obtained three days later when eleven B-26's were sent in two flights to attack respectively the same target at Ijmuiden and the power station at Haarlem. Again the mediums flew at zero
altitude and without fighter support. One plane turned back on account of mechanical difficulty. The rest were lost, including all personnel except two enlisted crewmen who were rescued at sea some four days later. Little is known about the fate of these planes except that they ran into fighter opposition in addition to a heavy concentration of flak. Nevertheless, the mission served to clarify the place of medium bombardment in the strategic bombing campaign. It was considered evident that worth-while coastal targets were too heavily defended to be profitably attacked at low altitudes, and it began to look as if the mediums could contribute only incidentally to the success of the strategic bombing campaign. General Eaker consequently decided to place them in VIII Air Support Command and to train them primarily as part of a tactical air force for the purpose of supporting the ground forces in the forthcoming invasion of the continent. Meanwhile, crews could continue to gain experience in medium-altitude attacks (10,000 to 15,000 feet) against strategic objectives under heavy fighter cover.l03
Viewed as a whole, the success with which the Eighth Air Force solved the problem of penetrating rapidly stiffening enemy defenses may be estimated in terms of the losses and battle damage incurred. For the five months from January to May, inclusive, the bomber loss rate, expressed as a percentage of credit sorties (i.e., sorties in the course of which the aircraft has entered areas normally defended by the enemy or has in any way been subject to attack) was 5.6 per cent. This figure includes both those bombers lost in action and those listed as falling in Category E, that is, damaged beyond economical repair while engaged in an operational mission. Expressed as a percentage of aircraft actually attacking the target, the figure rises to approximately 6.4 per cent. Fighter losses ran much lower, amounting only to about.7 per cent of credit sorties, but then many of the missions on which the new P-47 groups were sent had been planned in such a way as not to expose the inexperienced units needlessly to enemy action. Of the bombers missing in action (not including Category E) over half were known to have been lost to enemy aircraft, and several of those listed as lost to unknown causes doubtless met a similar fate. Flak, on the other hand, could be credited wholly or in part with the destruction of slightly over14 per cent.104
Regarding battle damage the story is somewhat different. A trifle over 29 per cent of all credit sorties resulted in reparable damage, not more than one in five of which cases could be considered damaged to
any major extent. Of these damaged aircraft, approximately 59 per cent were hit by flak; and flak damage no doubt made it possible on many other occasions for enemy fighters to destroy the bomber entirely.105 Thus flak, while of relatively small importance as an immediate cause of bomber losses, was a major source of damage, and since a damaged plane easily became a straggler, flak often proved an important indirect cause of losses. Enemy fighters remained nonetheless the principal obstacle in the path of the daylight bombers.
If the Eighth Air Force tactical experts had to grapple with the problem of penetrating enemy defenses as a matter of most immediate urgency, they by no means forgot that the primary purpose of bombardment is to strike the enemy--and of precision bombardment, to do so with the utmost accuracy. The basic bombing techniques had been elaborated during the first five or six months of operations, and their close relationship with the requirements of defense had been initially explored. During the first half of 1943 it was therefore mainly a question of increasing the skill of the combat units, of developing established techniques, and of adapting them to the needs of a larger operating force.
For reasons of defense it had become standard operating procedure for the bombing force to bomb in some sort of formation, and by February a considerable weight of opinion favored bombing by combat box or group, each aircraft dropping its bombs on a signal from the lead bombardier. But during the period in question a variety of sighting methods continued to prevail. Group formations frequently dropped on the leader, who sighted for both range and deflection, but often individual bombardiers within the formation performed independent range sighting, and often also individual squadrons dropped on the sighting of their own lead bombardier. In March the Operational Research Section of the Eighth, after a careful study of results, recommended strongly that, when bombing in formation, bombs should be dropped on the leader rather than according to individual sighting for range. It also suggested that the effectiveness of bombing on the leader would be enhanced if the length of the resulting bomb pattern could be reduced, either by flying closer formations, or by dropping more promptly on signal, or both. Thereafter, bombing on the leader became the normal technique, although some units continued to favor other methods. Of course, particular problems called for different solutions. When attacking small targets, for example, the units often bombed in
flights of six or even fewer because a group bomb pattern would necessarily be too large to be at once effective and economical,106
In March, also, the Eighth began successfully to employ the automatic flight-control equipment (AFCE) as an aid to accurate bombing. The purpose of this automatic pilot, which could be controlled by the bombardier on the bomb run, was to synchronize sighting and pilotage with mechanical precision and to provide a steadier bombing run than could be achieved even by veteran pilots. The few seconds immediately before the bombardier released his bombs obviously constituted the critical moment in the entire mission, for it was then that the bombardier performed his final sighting operation. So it was essential that the aircraft should be held as nearly as possible to a steady course without slips, skids, or changes in altitude, and that the pilotage be as free as possible from the influence of flak and of attacking fighters. Perfection of this sort was impossible even with the best of pilots. With those produced by the hasty training program into which the AAF had been forced it could not even be approximated.l07
Promising as it was in theory, the AFCE had proved disappointing in its earlier trials. By March, however, certain modifications had materially increased its usefulness and on at least two missions during that month it was used by a group bombardier with very good results. At Vegesack on 18 March the most surprising results were achieved. On that mission the 305th Group, dropping on the signal of its lead bombardier who had used the automatic pilot, succeeded in placing an estimated 76 per cent of its bombs within a radius of 1,000 feet of the aiming point. The results of the Vegesack action, while not attributable entirely to the use of the new equipment, did much to overcome a prejudice against AFCE still prevailing in many quarters. Although it continued to fail occasionally, and although unforeseen circumstances sometimes prevented its employment on the bombing run, the automatic pilot continued to give good results; and as it became available it was installed in the lead planes of most bombing formations.l08
Partly because of improved techniques and partly on account of the increasing experience of the few groups operating from the United Kingdom since November 1942, bombing accuracy in the Eighth Air Force improved appreciably from January to May of 1943. The records are of uneven value, but it is possible to see that, whereas in January and February a group could consider its bombing above average if 20 per cent of the bombs identifiable by photo reconnaissance fell
within 1,000 feet of the preassigned aiming point, in March and April it was not uncommon for groups to record 30 to 40 per cent in that category, and several instances were reported above the 50 per cent mark. Improvement is also noticeable in the concentration of the bomb patterns. Some of the better results were obtained under trying conditions, even in the face of stiff enemy resistance as for instance at Bremen on 17 April when, in spite of very heavy flak over the target, fierce enemy fighter attacks, hazy weather, and clever camouflage, very satisfactory bombing was accomplished--one group placed 60 per cent of its bombs within the 1,000-foot radius. Over-all results of outstanding accuracy were obtained at Rennes and Vegesack in March, at Paris in April, and at Meaulte in May.109
A number of bombings, of course, continued to result in complete failure. More than once in three times a bombing unit would place the center of its bomb pattern over 3,000 feet from the aiming point. Many of these so-called gross errors were not entirely the fault of the bombardiers. In several instances poor visibility made accurate bombing impossible. In others, fighter opposition was so effective that it broke up the bombing run, as at Rouen on 8 March when the lead bombardier was shot down just as he was approaching the target and the rest of the unit recovered from the confusion of the moment only to scatter their bombs as far as ten to fifteen miles from the target. Sometimes, too, the bombsight in the lead plane would not function properly, thus causing the entire group, if the other planes were dropping on the leader, to bomb inaccurately.110
But on many other occasions the trouble lay with the negligence or inexperience of the crews themselves. Confusion at the bombing run, failure to follow instructions or to test instruments, overconfidence, or simply lack of adequate training occasionally led groups astray. Inexperience became especially noticeable when in May the 4th Bombardment Wing began operations. Later on, as the 3 d Bombardment Division, these groups were to do distinguished service, but in May their work was erratic in the extreme. On the 19th for instance, they performed one of the most accurate missions made in the ETA to that date. Then two days later, everything went wrong, and in the confusion the target escaped completely unscathed.111
Indeed, the latter part of May witnessed the beginnings of a temporary decline in bombing efficiency. But the inexperience of new units was only one of the factors involved. More important was the fact that
B-17 Combat Formation
B-17 Combat Formation
B-17 Combat Formation
a larger operating force raised new problems. For a curious thing about formation bombing, noticed in May by Eighth Air Force tactical analysts, was that the leading group or groups tended to achieve better results than those following them over the target. The trouble was later found to decrease appreciably as experience was gained in the handling of large bombing forces. But the tendency remained. It is difficult entirely to account for it except on the ground that succeeding formations, insofar as they are unavoidably influenced by those preceding them, are subject not only to the adverse conditions ordinarily expected on a bombing mission but to conditions created by the mistakes of the leading groups as well. At any rate, regardless of the state of training of the units involved in a mission, the incidence of gross errors was likely to increase in direct proportion to the size of the operating force; and the problem of securing maximum accuracy in the over-all attacking force became an entirely separate one from that in the individual bombing unit. That being the case the ideal solution would have been never to allow more than two groups to bomb a single target in a single action. But dictates of defense made larger forces imperative, and so the solution had to be sought during the succeeding months principally in experience cumulatively acquired in large-scale operations.112
Another problem was raised in May by the employment of incendiary bombs on a relatively large scale by large bombing formations. Incendiaries had been employed sporadically in the fall of 1942 but had not been used since then. Now, in May, it was coming to be recognized that incendiaries might, by destroying the temper of steel plates and machinery, cause more industrial damage in certain circumstances than high-explosive bombs. On three occasions, at Kiel on the 14th, at Emden on the 15th, and at Kiel again on the 19th, part of the bomber force carried incendiaries. This practice caused certain difficulties. Since the ballistics of incendiaries is quite different from that of high-explosive bombs, requiring a closer approach to the target before release, a longer bombing run was required by units carrying them, which meant that the leader of the wing formation had to take into account the extra distance to be flown by the unit carrying incendiaries and had to plan his withdrawal accordingly. That unit had also to be placed in the last position in the formation in order to prevent other groups from flying through the cluster adapters from the falling incendiaries. There were two difficulties with these tactics: the incendiary group was likely to
be in the least well-protected position in the formation; and the longer bombing run necessary when incendiaries formed part of the bomb load left the formation open to enemy attack for an additional unprotected period. Here again the problem of bombardment tended to merge with that of defense.113
At the end of May, the Eighth Air Force could look back over the record of the past five months with a certain degree of pride. The case for daylight bombing had not been conclusively demonstrated but the operational experience had on the whole substantiated the theories argued by Eaker at Casablanca in January. The fact that U. S. bombers could operate over Germany had won over many British airmen114 and occasionally--as at Vegesack--bombing results had seemed brilliant enough to impress the Air Ministry and Churchill.115 The latter's hearty congratulations must have been especially welcome because of his vigorous opposition to the daylight bomber campaign at Casablanca, but for that matter any public British praise was appreciated.
For despite the official sanction granted the daylight bombing experiment in January, skepticism concerning its chance of success died hard. An intermittent barrage of criticism, not always too well informed, had continued on both sides of the Atlantic. AAF leaders found especially galling, and of real disservice to their planning, a book written by Mr. Allan A. Michie of the Reader's Digest staff and published early in 1943.116 In his book, The Air Offensive against Germany, Michie accused the AAF of holding up the aerial destruction of Germany's war potential by a stubborn and doctrinaire rejection of RAF methods in favor of daylight operations which were tactically unsound and currently impracticable. These charges provoked a flurry of concerned comment in the American press and were not overlooked by the House appropriations committee.ll7 Highly sensitive to unfounded criticisms which might prejudice its position in top-level deliberations on strategy and logistics, the AAF thus welcomed the continued support given to the Eighth's program by British authorities,118 and such public statements of RAF-Eighth Air Force accord as that made in an address at New York on 28 April by Air Vice Marshal W. F. MacN. Foster.ll9 And the same sensitivity goes far to explain the AAF's desire that the operations of Eaker's force be accorded a full and favorable press coverage.120
Whatever the flavor of public opinion, when early June brought a matured plan for the CEO, the Eighth was ready to take a fuller share
in the campaign. That the Germans had come to have a growing concern for daylight strikes at their war potential could be sensed from the increasing size and ferocity of their fighter reaction. Similarly the Americans had enlarged both the scale and the scope of their operations though hardly as rapidly as they had hoped. During May, VIII Bomber Command had flown 1,340 bomber sorties as against 298 in February, and had lengthened its radius of action to a maximum of 460 miles from the East Anglian bases. But readiness for a new phase in the bomber campaign could not be expressed wholly in sorties or miles. More significant, if less easily measured, was the experience gained in bombing, in penetrating enemy defenses, and in handling the larger forces now available. And the Eighth had learned that, to profit from such experience, tactical doctrine must be kept flexible and sensitive to the slightest change in a fluid tactical situation still dominated by a powerful and resourceful enemy. These lessons, rather than intrinsic damage wrought in Germany, give meaning to the operations of early 1943.Two basic and complementary propositions had emerged from the months of battle: one, that the GAF constituted the gravest threat to the daylight strategic bombardment offensive; and, two, that this offensive had as yet encountered no insuperable obstacle. From these propositions it could be reasonably argued that daylight bombing was tactically feasible but that the GAF must be destroyed before the bomber offensive could accomplish its strategic purpose. Such arguments did much to shape the CBO plan in its subsequent form.
Notes to Chapter 10
1. Hq. AAF, Statistical Summary of Eighth Air Force Operations, European Theater, 17 Aug. 1942 to 8 May 1945, 10 June 1945 (hereinafter cited as Stat. Sum., 8th AF).
2. Figures have been taken from Stat. Sum., 8th AF, and from Tactical Mission Reports (hereinafter cited as T/M Rpts.).
3. Stat. Sum., 8th AF, p. 14; CM-IN-1215 (2-3-43), London to AGWAR, 977, 2 Feb. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Stratemeyer, 19 Feb. 1943; rpt., Brig. Gen. F. L. Anderson, n.d., quoted in excerpt in R& R, Dir. of Bomb. to AC/AS, A-3, 12 Feb. 1943. For the problem of crew morale, see interview with Brig. Gen. H. S. Hansell, 9 Aug. 1943.
4. CM-IN-302 (3-1-43), USAWW to WAR, 55, 1 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-2926 (4-5-43), London to WAR, 8463, 5 Apr. 1943. Cf. ltr., Anderson to Stratemeyer, 2 Mar. 1943.
5. AFSHO Special File 77 (ltrs.).
6. Ibid. (msgs.).
7. CM-OUT-3936 (3-11-43), AC/AS, AFDPU to CG ETO, R6562, 11 Mar. 1943.
8. The following extract from the summary of tentative assignment of tactical units, made in accordance with Revised Troop Basis, ETOUSA, and dated 16 January 1943, shows the monthly quotas planned at that time for the Eighth Air Force in heavy bomber groups:
9. JCS 238/3, 21 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-13932 (3-26-43), London to AGWAR, 8194, 26 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-7241 (2-14-43), London to WAR, 7248, 14 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-5113 (2-15-43), Hq. AAF, A-3 to London, R5889, 15 Feb. 1943; CM-OUT-2033 (4-5-43), AFAEP to CG ETO, R7303, 5 Apr. 1943; ltr., Stratemeyer to Eaker, 8 Mar. 1943; ltr., Arnold to Eaker, 15 Mar. 1943; ltr., Lovett to Harris, 28 Apr. 1943.
10. Ltr., Stratemeyer to Eaker, 7 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-2562 (2-5-43), London to WAR, 6989, 5 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-2178 (4-4-43), London to WAR, 8433, 3 Apr. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Stratemeyer, 26 Feb. 1943.
11. Ltr., Stratemeyer to Eaker, 7 Feb. 1943; memo for Arnold from AC/AS, Plans, 25 Apr. 1943; CM-OUT-2033 (4-5-43), Hq. AAF to CG ETO, R7307, 5 Apr. 1943. The direct effect of diversions, as far as heavy bombers were concerned, was felt mainly in the B-24's, which were considered more suitable than the B-17's for service in the Pacific and Asiatic areas and for antisubmarine patrol. (FormSC-X-62's for Feb., May, and June 1943 [HB Allocations]. See also AAF Reference History No. 7, The Antisubmarine Command [hereinafter cited as AAFRH-7].)
13. Stat. Sum., 8th AF, p. 14.
14. Target Sec., Dir. of Intel., 8th AF, "Target Priorities of the Eighth Air Force, a Resume of the Bombardment Directives and Concepts Underlying Them," 15 May 1945.
15. Intel. Service, Hq. AAF, An Evaluation of the Air Effort against Submarines, 8 Mar. 1943 (hereinafter cited as Evaluation).
16. Beginning with February, cables during this period which report Eighth Air Force missions to submarine or other objectives in occupied territory usually state that, weather conditions having made missions to Germany impossible, targets in occupied countries had been selected. (E.g., CM-IN-14209 [2-28-43],USAWW to WAR, 10, 27 Feb. 1943.)
17. Evaluation; info. supplied by British Air Ministry, Air Hist. Br. (hereinafter cited as BAM [AHB]).
18. Info. supplied by BAM (AHB); USSBS, Munitions Div., Submarine Br., German Submarine Industry, 3 Nov. 1945.
19. USSBS, German Sub. Ind.
20. T/M Rpts. 31, 37, 46, 56, 59.
21. Ibid., 45; Ind. Dmg. Rpt. 69, 30 Apr. 1943.
22. USSBS, Munitions Div., Submarine Br., Bremer Vulkan, Vegesack, Germany, 30 Oct. 1945.
23. USSBS, German Sub. Ind.
25. T/M Rpts. 30, 36, 38, 40, 51, 53, 55, 58, 61.
26. Info. supplied by BAM (AHB).
27. OSS Rpt., 15 Mar. 1943; T/M Rpt. 61. See especially Interp. Rpt. K.S. 87A, 2l June 1943.
28. Quoted in USSBS, German Sub. Ind., p. 19.
30. Naval Attaché Rpt., 17 Feb. 1943.
31. AC/AS, Intel., Summary of Eighth AF Heavy Bomber Operations as Called for in the CBO Plan, First Phase, 1 July 1943. Cf. Navy Intel. Rpt., London, 6 May 1943, which embodied the report of a Polish official who was supposed to have had information from an eyewitness.
32. AC/AS, Intel., The Strategic Aerial Bombardment of Europe, 10 Dec. 1943.
33. AAF Eval. Bd., ETO, Rpt. of 28 Oct. 1944.
34. USSBS, Sub. Ind. Rpt.; USSBS Interview 59, Grand Adm. Karl Doenitz, 28 June 1945.
35. USSBS, Sub. Ind. Rpt.
36. T/M Rpts. 43, 50, 52, 55, 56, 58.
37. USSBS, Airframes Plant Rpt. 5, Focke-Wulf Aircraft Plant, Bremen. Cf. 8th AF Semi-monthly Rpt., 1-15 June 1943.
38. T/M Rpts. 39, 41, 42, 43, 47; ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 15 Mar. 1943.
39. T/M Rpts. 41, 42, 47; Ind. Dmg. Rpt. 69, 30 Apr. 1943; OSS Rpt. 881/43, 7 Apr. 1943; additional data from BAM (AHB).
40. Ind. Dmg. Rpt. 74, 11 Nov. 1943.
41. Info. supplied by BAM (AHB).
42. T/M Rpts. 49, 54, 56; Ind. Dmg. Rpts. 70 (29 May 1943), 72 (12 Aug. 1943).
43. USSBS, Munitions Div. Rpt. 2, Renault Motor Vehicle Plant at Billancourt (Paris), France.
44. Ibid. Cf. 8th AF Semi-Monthly Rpts. for (16-31 July and 1-15 Aug. 1943.
45. See CCS 166/2, 15 May 1943, and incl. msg. 9013, Andrews to Marshall, 23 Apr. 1943.
46. Navy Intel. Rpt., 9 Dec. 1943; OSS Rpts. P.1/4061 (9 Feb. 1943), P.1/4651 (25 Mar. 1943).
47. U. S. Liaison Rpt. from France, 23 Apr. 1943.
48. Ibid.; Navy Intel. Rpt., 9 Dec. 1943.
49. JCS 341, 27 May 1943.
50. Navy Intel. Rpt., 9 Dec. 1943.
51. CCS 166/2; CCS 166/3 (embodying proposals presented originally as JCS 341), 2 June 1943; CCS 97th Mtg., 4 June 1943; memo for all AC/AS from C/AS, 30 Apr. 1943. See also ltr., Eaker to Portal, 22 Apr. 1943; ltr., Andrews to Arnold, 28 Apr. 1943; correspondence attached to ltr., Eaker to Maj. Gen. 1. H. Edwards, C/S ETOUSA, 8 June 1943.
52. Ltr., Eaker to Stratemeyer, 19 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-4057 (3-8-43), USSOS to WAR, 300, 8 Mar. 1943.
53. Ltr., Col. B. E. Beaman to CG VIII BC, 15 May 1943; memo for Andrews, 24 Apr. 1943.
54. T/M Rpts.
55. Eaker Rpt.
56. Ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 15 Feb. 1943; ltr., Andrews to Arnold, 26 Feb. 1943.
57. Hansell interview; interview with crew of 324th Sq., 91st Bomb. Gp., 19 Mar. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Andrews, 27 Feb. 1943.
58. T/M Rpt. 31.
59. Ibid.; 8th AF Weekly Air Intel. Sum., 13 Feb. 1943.
60. T/M Rpt. 32.
61. Ibid., 37.
64. Ibid., 36, 37, 46.
65. Ibid., 39; CM-IN-2432 (3-5-43), USAWW to WAR, 221, 5 Mar. 1943; ORS Day Raid Rpt. 39.
66. T/M Rpts., passim.
67. CM-IN-14665 (2-28-43), USAWW to WAR, 41, 28 Feb. 1943.
68. T/M Rpt. 45; CM-IN-11505 (3-22 43), USFOR to WAR, 771, 21 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-10753 (3-20-43), USAWW to WAR, 707, 19 Mar. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 19 Mar. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Longfellow, 24 Mar. 1943.
69. T/M Rpts. 30, 36, 38, 40.
72. Ibid., 39, 41, 42, 43, 47, 48; ORS Day Raid Rpt. 4.
73. T/M Rpt. 43; 8th AF and AAF Eval. Bd., ETO, Eighth AF Tactical Development, Aug. 1942 to May 1945,9 July 1945, chap. ii.
74. T /M Rpt. 41.
75. Ibid., 49, 50, 51.
77. Ibid., 52; CM-IN-12237 (4-20-43), USFOR to WAR, 867, 20 Apr. 1943.
78. T/M Rpt. 52.
80. 8th AF Tac. Devel., chap. i. Cf. interview with Col. S. T. Wray, VIII BC, 20 Aug. 1943.
81. T/M Rpt. 52. Information supplied through courtesy of British Air Ministry from records of General Quartermaster's Department, German Air Ministry.
82. 8th AF Tac. Devel., chap. v. Cf. ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 1 I Jan. 1943; memo for CG AAF from AC/AS, Intel., European Theater Officer, 6 Apr. 1943.
83. USSBS, Military Analysis Div., The Defeat of the German Air Force; 8th AF Tac. Devel., chap. v.
84. USSBS, Defeat of GAF. Opns. Anal. Sec., Hq. 8th AF, An Evaluation of Defensive Measures Taken to Protect Heavy Bombers from Loss and Damage, Nov. 1944, p. 94, gives 18.9 per cent for the month of June 1943. (See also T/M Rpts., passim; ltr., Lt. Col. R. L. Curtice to CG VIII BC, 7 June 1943.)
85. Memo for Dir. of Bomb. from Brig. Gen. F. L. Anderson, 31 Jan. 1943; interview with Capt. H. L. Stouse, 10 June 1943.
86. See T/M Rpts., especially 38, 42, 43.
87. Memo for Dir. of Bomb. from Anderson, 31 Jan. 1943; ltr., Stratemeyer to Eaker, 7 Jan. 1943; Hq. VIII BC Intel. Memo, 3 May 1943.
88. History, VIII FC, Aug. 1942-Apr. 1945; 8th AF Tac. Devel., chap. ii; Eaker Rpt., Tab C; CM-IN-4168 (3-9-43), USAWW to WAR, 331, 8 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-450 (2-2-43), London to WAR, 933, 1 Feb. 1943; ltr., Stratemeyer to Eaker, 7 Jan. 1943; msg. 408, Allied AF to AGWAR, 25 Jan. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Giles, 13 May 1943; CM-IN-5642 (5-9-43), USAWW to WAR, 815, 8 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-5880 (3-12-43), USAWW to WAR, 427, 11 Mar. 1943; CM-IN-7903 (3-15-43), USAWW to WAR, 570, 15 Mar. 1943.
89. CM-IN-10127 (4-17-43), USAWW to USFOR, 744, 17 Apr. 1943; History, VIII FC.
90. 8th AF Tac. Devel.; Eaker Rpt., Tab C; ltr., Eaker to Giles, 13 May 1943; CM-IN-5642 (5-9-43).
91. CM-IN-7811 (4-14-43), USFOR to WAR, 375, 8 Apr. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Giles, 17 Apr. 1943.
92. T/M Rpt. 54; History, VIII FC.
93. T/M Rpts. 55, 56.
94. Ibid., 61. Cf. Hq. VIII BC Intel. Memo, 3 May 1943.
95. T/M Rpt. 60.
96. Ibid., 56, 57, 58, 59.
97. Stat. Sum., 8th AF.
98. Ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 13 May 1943.
99. T/M Rpt. 56.
101. Ibid.; CM-OUT-4825, CG AAF to CG ETO, R6631, 12 Mar. 1943; CM-IN8565 (3-17-43), USAWW to WAR, 607, 16 Mar. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Portal, 4 Mar. 1943.
102. T/M Rpt. 56.
103. Ibid., 58; ltr., Eaker to Giles, 28 May 1943; CM-IN-18992 (5-29-43), USAWW to WAR, D-II84, 29 May 1943; Col. Harold A. McGinnis, IG, Rpt. to CG 8th AF, 7 June 1943.
104. These figures are taken where possible from Stat. Sum., 8th AF. However, some breakdowns in Evaluation of Defensive Measures, compiled by ORS, Eighth Air Force, are handier and have consequently been used. The two sources seldom agree in detail, but they are usually not far enough apart to affect any general conclusions based on them.
105. See sources in n. 104.
106. Opns. Anal. Div. Rpts., Volume I, No. 2, ORS Rpt. on Advantage of Dropping on the Leader over Sighting Individually for Range When Bombing in Formation, 20 Mar. 1943; ibid., No. 3, ORS Memo as to Desirability of Shortening Group Bomb-fall Patterns , 7 May 1943. See also ORS Rpt., Analysis of VIII Bomber Command Operations from the Point of View of Bombing Accuracy, 1 Jan.-15 Oct. 1943.
107. Ltr., Eubank to Eaker, 31 Mar. 1943; interview with Lt. Col. J. B. Montgomery, 13 Apr. 1943; CM-IN-14043 (4-23-43), USAWW to WAR, 5656, 23 Apr. 1943; CM-OUT-9045 (3-24-43), CG AAF to CG 8th AF, A-1873, 23 Mar. 1943.
108. See sources in n. 107. See also ORS Rpt., VIII BC Bombing Accuracy, 1 Jan. 15 Oct. 1943.
109. ORS Rpt., VIII BC Bombing Accuracy, 1 Jan.-15 Oct. 1943.
110. Ibid.; see also T/M Rpts., passim.
111. T/M Rpts., especially 59, 60.
112. Ibid. Cf. ORS Rpt., Comparison of Bombing Results in Relation to the Order in Which Participating Groups Reached the Targets, 12 May 1943.
113. T/M Rpts. 56, 57, 59; CM-IN-18701 (5-29-43), USAWW to WAR, D-1174, 28 May 1943.
114. Interview with A/Cdre. A. C. H. Sharpe, 12 Oct. 1943.
115. CM-IN-10753 (3-20-43), USAWW to WAR, 707, 19 Mar. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Arnold, 19 Mar. 1943; CM-OUT-8161 (3-22-43), CG AAF to CG ETO, R6840, 22 Mar. 1943.
116. Allan A. Michie, The Air Offensive against Germany (New York, 1943).
117. New York Herald Tribune, 19 Feb. 1943, editorial. Cf. memo for Arnold from Lovett, 19 Feb. 1943, and attached ltr., AVM W. F. MacN. Foster to Arnold, 22 Feb. 1943; CM-IN-9573 1 (1-21-43), USFOR to AGWAR, 6595, 21 Jan. 1943. See also memo for Stratemeyer from Col. E. P. Sorensen, 13 Apr. 1943 and ltr., Francis Drake to Eaker, 7 Apr. 1943.
118. Ltr., Eaker to Lovett, 8 Apr. 1943.
119. New York Sun, 29 Apr. 1943, quoted in ltr., Eaker to Portal, 13 May 1943.
120. Interview with Maj. James Parton, aide to Eaker, 28 Nov. 1943; 8th AF Commanders' Mtg., 19 Apr. 1943; ltr., Eaker to Harris, 31 May 1943; hr., Devers to Marshall, 1 June 1943.