Title Banner: The Army Air Forces in World War II

Chapter 16: The Fifteenth Air Force

THE surrender of Italy and the conquest of the southern part of the peninsula brought to the Allies a number of actual and potential benefits. The first wedge had been driven into Hitler's Festung Europa; a heavy blow had been struck at German prestige. The elimination of thirty Italian divisions in the Balkans cut heavily into German reserves by forcing the Wehrmacht to police that area. With the Italian fleet out of the war and the Mediterranean virtually an Anglo-American lake, the Allies could release heavy naval units for service elsewhere. The prospects for a successful cross-Channel invasion were enhanced: men, materiel, ships, and planes could be spared for use out of the United Kingdom, and a pincer movement against the German armies in France could be planned. In the face of these threats the Germans would have to disperse further their air and ground forces.

For the air forces there were various advantages. From airfields near the Adriatic coast, heavy bombers could hit important targets in the Balkans, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and southern and eastern Germany. Ploesti's oil, the Danube supply route, and Wiener Neustadt's industries were within range. Allied air power from Italy could cooperate with the armies of the U.S.S.R. as they moved into Rumania and Bulgaria. Air bases on Sardinia and Corsica would allow NAAF to attack every part of northern Italy and to threaten, with fighter escorted mediums, the German-held littoral from Rome to Perpignan in France, and would assure air cover for any future amphibious operations between Rome and Marseille. NAAF's planes, flying from mainland and island airfields, could strongly aid the Allied ground armies as they continued their drive up the peninsula from the Volturno-Trigno line. It was the task of the air forces now to exploit those advantages.


Tactical Operations, October

During the month which followed the occupation of Naples on 1 October, NAAF's operations were on a smaller scale than they had been in September. For one thing, the weather was bad. The inclement days in October actually proved to be hardly more than a mild introduction to the miserable winter which lay ahead and which would give the lie to all that the American soldier had heard of sunny Italy, but there were enough bad days to interfere seriously with planned operations, both ground and air.1

There were other interferences. During September, NAAF's aircrews and planes had operated under a scale of effort so intense that now the demands of weary men and aircraft for a reduction in effort could not be ignored; too, there were fewer crews available, for many combat personnel had completed the required number of missions and had been withdrawn. Time was lost from operations while units moved to new bases on the mainland.2

Actually, the tactical situation was such that it was not necessary for the Allied air arm to continue to put forth its maximum effort. The battle lines were beginning to stabilize so that the need for tactical cooperation with the ground troops was less constant than it had been earlier, while the steady decline in the enemy's air effort reduced the demands on NAAF's offensive and defensive fighters. By the end of September the GAF was in no position to interfere seriously with Allied operations, whatever their character. Its bomber units had been forced back to bases in the Po Valley. Most of its fighters had been withdrawn only as far as the area between Rome and Pistoia, but units in need of refitting--and there were many--had been sent to northern Italy, entirely out of range of the battle zone. Noticeable deficits on the peninsula of airplane tires, engines, and fuel and airfield ground equipment bore testimony to the effectiveness of Allied bombing. The GAF was suffering from a shortage of crews, and many of the crews which it did have were of low quality.3

Under these conditions it was not surprising that the activities of the Luftwaffe during October were limited and spotty. Defensively, it offered only occasional opposition to NAAF's bombers until after the middle of the month; then, being better established at its new bases, it was able to attack about one-half of all Allied missions, although on a small scale and without aggressiveness. However, the enemy partly


offset his weak aerial defenses by an increased use of AA, so that NAAF's units reported heavier damage from flak than at any time in the past, one bombardment group, the 340th, having ten of twelve planes holed by AA fire on a mission against Venafro.

In offensive operations, the GAF's record was similarly poor. In the largest effort since the first week of AVALANCHE, its fighters and fighter-bombers on 15 and again on 16 October put in approximately seventy-five sorties against bridges and other Allied communications targets along the Volturno. But the effort quickly declined after NATAF shot down eleven of the enemy without loss to itself. Although in long-range attacks the GAF made a better showing, it accomplished little. For the first time since August its bombers staged a major raid on an Allied convoy--near Oran. This was followed by an attack on shipping near Cap Ténès, the bombers coming from the Istres-Montpellier complex in southern France. The two raids cost the Allies only one ship sunk, although three others were damaged by aerial torpedoes. On the night of 21 October the enemy staged his greatest offensive effort in more than two months (exclusive of his attacks in the Aegean) by laying on three separate attacks. Some twenty Ju-88's bombed the harbors at Naples and near-by Bagnoli; the only damage to installations was the destruction of a gun position, but some 50 military personnel were killed and 100 were wounded. Twenty-five Do-217's and He 111s attacked a convoy off Algiers, the raiders coming in at an unusually low altitude with torpedoes and radio-controlled bombs to damage two ships. Night fighters and AA knocked down six of the enemy. The third raid of the night was against bridges along the Volturno, but it was on a small scale and did little damage. The enemy's burst of activity ended on the 23d with a night raid on Naples; the twenty Ju-88's which attacked used strips of tinfoil (commonly known as Window or Chaff) in order to upset the Allies' radar control and succeeded in setting one vessel on fire.4

With the GAF reduced to such an innocuous state, NAAF was able to devote most of its attention during October to the needs of the Fifth and Eighth Armies as they continued to move up the peninsula. Following the capture of Naples the Fifth had quickly reached the Volturno River, and by the 15th had crossed to the north bank; a week later the Eighth was at the lower reaches of the Trigno above Termoli. By the end of the month the battle line ran roughly from Mondragone, on the Gulf of Gaeta, to above Teano, Piedimonte, and Boiano, and


thence northeast along the Trigno. In the latter half of October the advance had been slow in the face of stubborn German resistance and against the obstacles imposed by mountainous terrain, rivers, poor roads, blown bridges, and unfavorable weather.

Both NATAF and NASAF had aided the Fifth Army in its drive to the Volturno, Tactical by close support and Strategic by continuing its program of creating road blocks along and above the Volturno,5

Advance of the 5th Army: 7 October--15 November 1943
Advance of the 5th Army: 7 October-15 November 1943

Mediums and fighter-bombers attacked enemy supply lines along the Volturno and at a secondary defense line which ran from Formia to Isernia, Three main highways ran through this second line and into the battle area: the coast road through Terracina and Formia, the center road through Arce and Mignano, and the inland road through Isernia.* Strategic hit each of these towns and a bridge at Grazzanise and one near Capua. The attacks stopped all traffic on the coast road, slowed up traffic on the other two, and so jammed military transport that units of Tactical were able to claim the destruction of more than 400 vehicles. Going farther afield, B-17's and Wellingtons dropped 912 tons on the

* See map. p. 553.


yards at Pisa, Bologna, Civitavecchia, and Mestre, rendering all of them inoperative. The attacks brought out such an unusually strong GAF fighter reaction that, on the night of 5 October, Wellingtons dropped eighty-two tons on Grosseto airdrome, destroying eleven aircraft.

Photo reconnaissance having revealed that the GAF had increased its fighter and bomber strength in Greece and on Crete and the Dodecanese Islands to around 350 planes, Grecian airfields during the first week of October became targets of high priority. The enemy's buildup posed a triple threat to the Allies: to the port of Bari and the airfields around Foggia; to Allied holdings in the Aegean (the British had recently occupied the islands of Cos, Leros, and Samos); and to Allied shipping in the narrow waters between Crete and the Cyrenaican bulge. Between 4 and 8 October the Twelfth Air Force went for the larger fields,6 as B-24's, B-25's, and P-38's dropped thousands of frags and several hundred tons of GP bombs on Argos, Athens/Tatoi, Athens/Eleusis, Herakleion, Salonika, Araxos, and other fields in Greece, Crete, and Rhodes. A number of enemy planes were destroyed, and hangars, runways, and installations were well covered. Concurrently, two groups of B-24's, one of P-38's, and a squadron of B-25's were sent on detached service to the Bengasi and Gambut areas to strike at the enemy's Aegean shipping. The P-38's operated for only four days but claimed seventeen planes shot down; the Liberators and Mitchells remained through the month.7

The outstanding mission of the month was flown on 1 October against Wiener Neustadt. It was the third operation from the Mediterranean (the first two were the Ploesti attack of 1 August and the Wiener Neustadt mission of 13 August) undertaken in behalf of the Combined Bomber Offensive. The mission plan called for four groups of XII Bomber Command's B-17's to attack fighter aircraft plants at Augsburg and five groups of B-24's, which included the three on loan from the Eighth, to attack plants at Wiener Neustadt. Unfortunately, the B-17's failed to locate Augsburg because of a solid overcast, but many of them bombed alternate targets at Gundelfingen (Germany) and Bologna and Prato (Italy). A few others attacked transports and barges between Corsica and Elba. The B-24's, having found Wiener Neustadt, dropped 187 tons of bombs in the target area to damage assembly shops, storage areas, a hangar, and near-by rail lines. Both the B-24's and the B-17's ran into strong fighter opposition. The Fortresses were attacked over the Leghorn-Pontedera area by fifty to sixty planes,


but with the help of P-38's eight enemy planes were destroyed and five probably destroyed for the loss of three B-17's. The Liberators met heavy flak and around sixty fighters, some with 37-mm. cannon in their wings and others which lobbed rocket-type shells into the bomber formation with considerable accuracy. Fourteen of the bombers were shot down and fifty-two damaged. Enemy losses were undetermined, but apparently did not equal the Liberator losses. After this mission the B-24's which had been borrowed from the Eighth Air Force returned to England.8

During the first week of October, Tactical flew around 2,600 sorties for the Fifth and Eighth Armies. On the 1st and 2d, 160 U.S. P-40's paved the way for an Eighth Army landing at Termoli on the Adriatic by bombing and strafing troops and vehicles on roads north and west of the town. On the day of the landing (3 October) and the day after, despite bad weather, fighter-bombers with some help from B-25's inflicted severe punishment on enemy traffic. Fighters and fighter-bombers then went all-out to help the Eighth hold the bridgehead against a series of hard German counterattacks. On the two most critical days, the 5th and 6th, Spitfires and P-40's of the RAF and the U.S. 57th and 79th Fighter Groups flew approximately 950 sorties over the battle area. They broke up the main enemy concentration, struck hard against road movement, especially around Isernia, flew direct-support missions over the battle line, and protected the ground troops against a few Luftwaffe raids. Without their efforts it is doubtful that the bridgehead could have been saved. After the crisis had passed, P-40's bombed the German escape route through Palata.9

NATAF's operations over the Fifth Army were more routine. Fighters and fighter-bombers bombed and strafed bridges, towns, junctions, enemy positions, and transport, while fighters flew defensive patrols over the ground troops and the Naples and Salerno areas. Even ordinary activities were curtailed for four days after the 8th as heavy rains held up the advances of both Allied armies and sharply limited air operations. Tactical's fighters and fighter-bombers got in a few licks in the eastern battle area, while small groups of B-25's, Baltimores, and A-20's attacked roads, troop concentrations, and gun positions from Capua in the west to Vasto in the east.10 Strategic managed to make two attacks on Italian roads, Wellingtons hitting Formia and Terracina on the west coast, and to continue its operations against airfields in


Greece and the Aegean. The GAF made so few appearances over Italy that not more than one Allied mission out of six saw enemy fighters11

On the night of 12/13 October the Fifth Army attacked along its entire front in an effort to cross the Volturno12 The crossing would be accomplished by the 15th with but little aid from NAAF's planes, which were almost entirely grounded by the weather. The 13th was NAAF's best day, and then only 250 sorties were flown, half of them by P-40's. For each of the other two days, Tactical's fighters and. fighter-bombers flew scarcely more than 100 sorties. Strategic's bombers made a few attacks against communications behind the German lines and against targets in the battle zone. The heaviest attack was against Terni, where thirty-four B-17's dropped 102 tons and met the first opposition in almost a week; thirty to forty enemy fighters attacked, losing two planes while shooting down one Fortress. Conditions were no more favorable in the Eighth Army sector. Strategic flew two small missions against the Ancona-Pescara-Foggia line of communication, the enemy's only primary line of supplies on the east coast, and Tactical operated on a limited scale against transportation. B-25's were able to fly two very successful missions against Tirana and Argos airdromes in the Aegean.13

For the rest of October the weather continued to limit NAAF's operations.14 On the 15th and 16th, while the Fifth Army was consolidating its Volturno bridgeheads and beginning its effort to push Kesselring back, fighters and fighter-bombers of Tactical's 27th and 86th Fighter-Bomber Groups and 33d Fighter Group put in around 150 sorties against targets along the highways leading from Rome to the V olturno, and mediums flew 36 sorties, light bombers 96, and night-flying Bostons 16 in attacks on rail and road junctions between Rome and the bomb line. For the next four days, TAF continued to batter roads, rail lines, and towns immediately north of the Fifth Army, the targets being on or close to three highways which converged a few miles above Capua. On the 21st and 22d, with better weather, Tactical directed a heavy effort against the Cassino area. Between the 17th and 23d it also struck farther up the peninsula, hitting airdromes at Tarquinia, Viterbo, and Lake Bracciano and destroying some thirty enemy planes on the ground. The GAF was offering so little opposition that Tactical's bombers operating over the battle front now flew without fighter escort.15

On the Eighth Army front, from the 15th through the 22d, air


Central Italy: Principal Roads and Airfields
Central Italy: Principal Roads and Airfields


force operations were largely against the coast road in an effort to choke off Kesselring's flow of supplies into the easternmost part of the battle zone. P-40's also operated over the Adriatic, trying to interrupt enemy shipping to Italy, Greece, and Yugoslavia. On the 16th, P-38's of the 82d Fighter Group dive-bombed merchant vessels in the Levkas Channel. For the first time the Americans were escorted by Italian pilots, flying Macchi-205's.*16

During the last week of October the weather relented enough to permit Tactical to fly almost its normal routine--of defensive patrols and reconnaissance missions; of attacks on strongpoints, bridges, transport, stores, dumps, gun positions, troops, roads, rail lines and locomotives, radio and weather stations, and airdromes; of escort and Rhubarbs.† On some days the weather sharply reduced the number of sorties, but there was never a day when TAF's planes failed to record at least a few blows against the enemy. And at all times they were so completely masters of the air over the battle areas that one German general, noting that"they pick out each individual vehicle" in strafing attacks, described their superiority as"terrible." 17

NASAF during the latter half of October operated chiefly beyond a line running approximately from Rome northeast to the Adriatic.18 The command's operations were divided between lines of communication--mostly rail lines--in central Italy, communications and airdromes in Greece and the Balkans, and airfields used by the German fighter force, chiefly in the Rome area, but the emphasis was on communications in Italy, principally a group of bridges in the area between Grosseto and Ancona.19

The emphasis on bridges marked a change from previous tactics in which NAAF had concentrated on key marshalling yards. Marshalling yards no longer appeared to be the best type of target for the interdiction of rail traffic. It was estimated that the Germans, fighting behind

* With Italy's surrender, Italian pilots had flown about 225 of their planes to Sicily; they had immediately started training to fly with NAAF but had been held out of combat pending an Italian declaration of war on Germany (which came on 13 October) and a favorable decision by AFHQ on their employment. Early in October, AFHQ decided to use five squadrons of fighters, one each of bombers and torpedo bombers, two of seaplanes, and half a squadron of reconnaissance aircraft, mainly in support of the Italian armed forces and the Balkan patriots, as couriers and for air-sea rescue. The IAF planes would be serviced by IAF specialists, many of whom were from the old Regia Aeronautica. The technicians proved especially valuable to the Allied air forces, with which the IAF continued to operate until the end of the war.

† In a Rhubarb a fighter or fighter-bomber, flying at very low altitude, attacks targets of opportunity, notably enemy movement.


good natural defenses, needed only forty tons of supplies per day for each division, so that their purely military needs could be supplied by about 5 per cent of the normal rail traffic from central Italy and the Po Valley.20 Accordingly, to reduce drastically the flow of reinforcements and supplies it would be necessary for NAAF to cut a large number of rail lines and cut them quickly and as nearly simultaneously as possible--hence the decision to concentrate on knocking out bridges and sections of track so located that repairs would be difficult and timeconsuming. Heretofore, it should be noted, the critical communications targets had been located in southern Italy, where to keep out of operation a relatively few marshalling yards had presented no such problem as did the numerous yards of central and northern Italy. Conversely, the railroads above a line from Rome to Pescara as they filed through mountain passes or along a narrow strip of coast offered many vulnerable targets--bridges, tunnels, and trackage along the precipitous incline of a hill or mountain.

Fortunately, the targets were within reach. NAAF's heavies still were in Tunisia but within comfortable range. The three groups of B-26's (17th, 319th, 320th) operated from bases near Tunis but were preparing to move to Sardinia.21 The B-25's were scattered: the 310th Group and part of the 321st were in North Africa, the remainder of the 321st en route to Grottaglie on the Heel; from Sicily the 340th already was en route to Grottaglie and the 12th would move to Foggia Main during the first week of November. The 47th Group's A-20's had been at Grottaglie since the end of September and currently were moving to the Foggia complex. The American units could also count on the assistance of the four wings of RAF Wellingtons, now based at Kairouan in Tunisia.

Ample escort fighters were available. XII Bomber Command's three groups of P-38's (1st, 14th, and 82d) and one of P-40's (325th) were on the mainland. Four of XII Air Support Command's five groups of fighters, the 31st (Spits) and 33d (P-40's) in western Italy and the 57th and 79th (P-40's) in the east, had been on the mainland since early in September, while the other--324th (P-40's)--was to move in before the end of October. Also available were the RAF Spitfires and P-40's of Desert Air Force in eastern Italy. The fighters of XII ASC and DAF on the east coast could fly escort beyond their sector when necessary, all of them being within range of the bombers' objectives. The construction of new airfields was proceeding slowly, but the fields in the


Central Italy: Principal Rail Lines
Central Italy: Principal Rail Lines


Naples and Foggia complexes and around Lecce and Grottaglie, although crowded, provided accommodations for all planes which currently could not operate except from bases on the mainland.22

NAAF's decision to concentrate on bridges was in line with current thinking in Washington. General Marshall cabled Eisenhower on 29 October suggesting that an increase of operations by medium, light, and fighter-bombers would take care of the needs of the Fifth and Eighth Armies, leaving the heavies free to attack the nine rail lines entering the Po Valley; specifically, he suggested that the simultaneous destruction of several adjacent bridges on each line would stop traffic for a long time. Brig. Gen. L. S. Kuter, AC/AS, Plans, had suggested in a memorandum for Marshall prepared on 27 October that the destruction of eleven bridges on nine major rail lines in northern Italy and five bridges on a line approximately Pisa-Ancona might"starve" the Germans into withdrawing into the Po Valley.23

When Marshall's message arrived in the theater, NAAF's program of bridge-smashing already had been in operation for ten days. Strategic started the assault on the 19th, and for five days bridges on the central Italian rail system took a hard beating. The heavies and mediums which staged the blitz flew around 650 sorties and dropped 1,350 tons of bombs. Damage was widespread, almost all rail traffic north of the Rome area being interdicted pending extensive repairs. The enemy was forced to resort to an increased use of motor transport and coastal shipping--which in turn were attacked by light and fighter-bombers.

Effective maintenance of the road blocks which had been imposed depended, however, upon continuing steadily and relentlessly the assault on the lines. After the 23d this became increasingly difficult. The weather was variable but generally so bad that it became the practice to give the heavy bombers as many as four alternative targets.24 It grounded all of Strategic's bombers on the 27th and 28th, limited them to one mission on the 26th and again on the 29th, and on other days forced a number of planes to return without having bombed the primary target. On the four days of favorable weather which fell before the end of the month, Strategic continued to attack its targets of the preceding week. Six missions scored hits on three out of five bridges attacked between Grosseto and Ancona. Against a new set of targets farther north--between Pistoia and the French border--234 effective sorties unloaded 575 tons against Pistoia and towns along the Ligurian


coast: Genoa, Imperia, Porto Maurizio, and Varagge. The attack on Genoa was unusually heavy, 133 B-17's and 20 B-24's dropping 405 tons which severely damaged tracks, rolling stock, the Ansaldo steel works, the San Giorgio instrument factory, and electric and ordnance plants. Thus the interdiction program was extended to include the most direct line from Rome to northwest Italy and southern France. A third set of targets consisted of Civitavecchia and Anzio. The former took seven direct hits on rail lines and warehouses; the latter had all of the buildings on its north dock destroyed. An incidental advantage resulting from the bombings around Genoa and Imperia was the creation in the minds of the Germans of a fear that the Allies would launch an amphibious operation against the area between La Spezia and Imperia, a fear which would be present until the last days of the Italian campaign.25

It also proved possible for Strategic to undertake damaging attacks on German fighter bases in the neighborhood of Rome. Marcigliana and CaSale each were attacked twice and Cerveteri, Furbara, Perugia, and Guidonia once each. B-17's, B-25's, and Wellingtons flew more than 250 sorties, dropping 400 tons of bombs. Some forty aircraft were destroyed on the ground, the fields were well postholed, and a number of installations were smashed or burned. Supplementary raids were conducted by U.S. A-20's and A-36's of NATAF, which attacked Tarquinia airdrome, airfields at Cassino and Aquila, and other fields or grounds near Civita Castellana, Cerveteri, Viterbo, Acquapendente, Tarquinia, and Surri.

Continuing operations against the Balkans and Greece held significance chiefly for British forces on the islands of Samos and Leros, which the Germans had under air attack. The British rightly anticipated an early attempt by the Germans to seize the islands, and Strategic added attacks on communications targets to its Balkan airfield program. Hardest hit was Skoplje--a key city on the Nish-Salonika railway and the control point for all traffic from Yugoslavia to Greece--which was attacked by bombers and fighter-bombers on the 18th and by P-38's on the 21st in the first USAAF efforts against Yugoslavian targets.26 In the bombing raid twenty-one direct hits were scored on the yards by thirty-six B-25's; in the strafing attack forty-three out of forty-four locomotives present in the yards were reported destroyed or damaged. On the 20th the Nish yards were bombed by B-25's which cut the main lines to Belgrade and Sofia at many points and by P-38's


which left the roundhouse in flames. During the last ten days of October, NAAF's operations across the Adriatic were directed against airfields at Athens/Eleusis, Salonika/Seles, and Megalo/Mikra in Greece, Tirana in Albania, 27 and Podgorica in Yugoslavia. Results everywhere were excellent.

The attacks against Yugoslavian and Albanian targets were carried out by Italy-based planes, but most of the operations over Greece and the Aegean were by the USAAF B-24's and B-25's which had been transferred temporarily to Cyrenaica. Although they succeeded in destroying many GAF planes, they could not stop the Germans from continuing to bomb Samos and Leros so effectively that by the middle of November they were able to assault and take both islands.28

On 24 October one more mission was flown against Wiener Neustadt. A total of 111 B-17's and B-24's took off, but the target was hidden by 10/10 clouds so that only twenty-three Liberators of the 98th Bombardment Group bombed the objective and they did so by dead reckoning. Sixteen planes of the 301st went seven miles beyond Wiener Neustadt and hit Ebenfurth with excellent results. The weather kept the Luftwaffe grounded and there were no encounters. Strategic also flew a long-distance mission against the Antheor viaduct near Cannes in southern France on 3 October, thirty-eight B-17's placing a heavy concentration on the target and its approaches and scoring direct hits on tracks and near-by roads.

And so by the end of October,*29 NAAF's Strategic and Tactical Air Forces had established a pattern of operations that would endure with but little change almost to the following spring. Coastal, too, had its regular and routine duties, except that it had taken over from XII ASC the additional job of protecting harbors and other installations along the west coast of Italy. Photographic Reconnaissance Wing flew its daily missions, seeking out new targets and recording.the damage done to old ones. Troop Carrier continued to bring in supplies and personnel and to take out wounded. On the ground, air service had

* During the month, NAAF's planes flew approximately 27,000 sorties and droppedmore than 10,000 tons of bombs. The USAAF's share was between 14,000 and 15,000 sorties and 8,000 tons. Around 160 enemy aircraft were claimed destroyed incombat, 30 probably destroyed, and 60 damaged. On the ground, some 160 were claimed destroyed, 40 probably destroyed, and 80 damaged. Against these victories, NAAF lost some 90 planes, the majority of them to flak. The brunt of operations was borne by Strategic and Tactical, but Coastal also put in a busy month, its planes flying 5,222 sorties, shooting down 22 enemy planes, and escorting ships an over-all distance of 1,400,000 miles with the loss of only 3 vessels.


settled down to the prosaic but vital jobs which kept the air elements in shape to fly.30 The beginning of experimental supply drops to the patriot forces in France by modified B-24's of the 5th Bombardment Wing's special flight section was something new, but these operations would be on a small scale for many months.31 Small, too, would be the scale of effort in behalf of the Combined Bomber Offensive. The weather continued to interfere, and the efforts of the air forces to break the stalemate on the ground in Italy and to aid allies in the Balkans would demand the chief efforts undertaken by all planes. As men waited out the weather and on the better days returned again and again to the same targets, they would come to know as much of the monotony of war as of the tension of battle.

Commitments to POINTBLANK

Since the summer of 1942 a major consideration in the development of the Mediterranean strategy had been the capture of airfields from which Allied air forces could reach profitable targets in northern Italy, Germany, Austria, and the Balkans. And now that southern Italy had been conquered, one of NAAF's most important and urgent jobs was to repair and lengthen old fields and construct new ones for use by the units of Strategic, which continued to operate from bases in Tunisia. The responsibility devolved largely upon American aviation engineers, who, with assistance from British airdrome construction groups, had prepared before the end of October enough fields on the mainland to take care of the immediate needs of Tactical's planes.32 The burden upon the engineers became the heavier because of a decision to undertake a program of airfield development on Sardinia and Corsica. The work to be done on Corsica--whose occupation by the Allies was completed only during the first week of October--would be especially heavy. The Axis had made little use of the island save as an intermediate air base for planes flying from France to southern Italy and for bombers returning from missions over Sicily and North Africa. But Corsica's location would make it very useful to the Allies for air operations against northern Italy and southern France, and its fields, together with those on Sardinia, would relieve much of the pressure on the Italian fields.

Before 22 October all U.S. aviation engineers in the theater had been under the engineer of the Twelfth Air Force, who also was the engineer of XII AFSC. On that date the XII Air Force Engineer Command


(Prov.) was activated, and on the 26th it was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force. This new arrangement gave command status to the engineer, accorded him authority equal to his responsibility for airfield construction, and made it easier for him to obtain supplies and equipment. Various U.S. aviation engineer units in the theater were promptly assigned to the new command. On 4 November, Brig. Gen. Donald A. Davison became commanding general. Area engineers were then appointed for the west Italy, east Italy, Sardinia-Corsica, Northwest Africa, and Sicily areas. Subsequently, in November and December, the Sardinia-Corsica area was split into two areas, and a south Italy area was created, so that by the end of 1943 there were seven areas.33

The new command held responsibility for all airfield construction required by NAAF except the fields for Desert Air Force in eastern Italy, which were to be handled by the British. Near the end of October the engineers began the construction of heavy bomber fields around Foggia, in the Heel, and in the Cerignola area and medium bomber fields in Sardinia and Corsica. In spite of great difficulties imposed by rain and mud, insufficient equipment and personnel, and poor transportation (especially in Corsica where the Germans had blown every bridge, the one railway, and the roads and where there was only a single port on the east coast), the engineers during November and December completed or were in process of completing construction on more than forty-five airfields. The work ranged from repairs and drainage to building paved or steel-plank runways as much as 6,000 feet in length.34

A second major activity of XII AFEC was the construction of pipe lines for aviation gasoline. In October, an Engineer Petroleum Distribution Company began laying lines and setting up pumping stations in the Foggia area, and in December a second company started to lay pipe in the Heel. By 25 November the first line had been completed and was in operation; it ran from Manfredonia to Foggia and could move 160,000 gallons of 100-octane gasoline each week. By the time NAAF's heavy bombers were ready in December to move to their new fields in eastern Italy the problem of keeping them supplied with gasoline had been solved. Use of the pipe lines reduced the tonnage to be off-loaded at ports and relieved road and rail transportation of a heavy burden.

A pipe-line system also was set up along the east coast of Corsica, running from Bastia--the only port on that side--to the complex of airfields around Ghisonaccia. A small system was established at Naples.


Maintenance of the lines, and more particularly the handling of the gasoline at the fields, was the responsibility of XII Air Force Service Command. Both the engineers and service command were able to supplement their limited personnel by employing along the lines and at the airfields small numbers of French aviation engineers on Corsica and by using large numbers of Italian prisoners of war in Italy, Sardinia, and North Africa.35

The development of air bases in Italy not only created problems of airfield construction and of moving gasoline but also of handling supplies for the air forces, a problem which proved to be a peculiar one in eastern Italy. That area was to be a great base for the USAAF, the Mediterranean home of its heavy bombers. But eastern Italy was under the jurisdiction of the British because their Eighth Army was operating there; consequently, the American Services of Supply would not establish a base section for handling supplies common to ground and air, although British common items were altogether unsatisfactory to the American air units. The problem was solved by establishing the Adriatic Depot at Bari, a depot that operated under the control of XII AFSC but was staffed largely by ground forces service personnel. It got under way late in October and by the end of the year was supplying American air units with common items from numerous offices, warehouses, and dumps in and around Bari. Few operations in the Mediterranean were more unique--or more successful--than the depot, in which the American air forces ran a ground force activity in a British-controlled area.36

An operation somewhat like that of the Adriatic Depot took place in Corsica where the 320th Service Squadron, at Ajaccio, not only performed normal air service duties but also functioned as a base section from October 1943 until late in February 1944 when the Northern Base Section was activated.37 In fact, Corsica became distinctly an AAF responsibility. Its Allied garrison commander was an AAF officer. By the end of the year the 350th and 52d Fighter Groups were operating from the island, and 47 units and close to 10,000 men of XII Air Force Service Command were servicing its fields, most of which were along the east coast from Bastia southward.38 Similarly, in Sardinia, where there were no Allied ground troops, the air forces handled all military matters, Brig. Gen. Robert M. Webster, commanding the 42d Bombardment Wing, being the island's Allied garrison commander.39

The Mediterranean Air Transport Service, which had been developed


for the control of intratheater air transport, had established a service to Italy in October. In November, its services were extended to Sardinia and Corsica. A conference of 2 November, attended by Spaatz and Tedder, had decided that MATS should gradually turn over all of its North African traffic to ATC and RAFTC. Under the plan adopted, MATS by 1 January 1944 would operate only from North Africa to Italy and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica and maintain services between these points. An advance headquarters previously established at Naples became on 31 December the Continental Division of MATS.40

All this--the construction of airfields and pipe lines, the organization of special supply facilities, and the adjustment of Allied forces--acquired additional importance as the result of a decision to base a part of the Combined Bomber Offensive on Italy. At the QUADRANT conference in August 1943, POINTBLANK, with its objective of achieving the progressive destruction of Germany's economic and military power, had received the highest strategic priority as a prelude to the cross-Channel invasion of western Europe (OVERLORD).41 The particular developments which gave rise to a specific plan to base a large force of strategic bombers committed to POINTBLANK in Italy is considered elsewhere,* but it is pertinent here to consider the effect of that decision on the operations and organization of USAAF units in the Mediterranean.

Three weeks before the opening of QUADRANT, General Arnold had seemed to doubt that strategic bombardment from Italian bases could accomplish much. But it soon became evident that he was looking toward the creation of an over-all command to control all CBO operations, one under whose direction bomber units could be moved between England and Italy as weather and the choice of targets dictated,42 and at QUADRANT he questioned that the maximum use of heavy bombers committed to POINTBLANK could be made during the coming winter from English bases. Air Chief Marshal Portal agreed. In his opinion, the reduction of the German fighter force was of special urgency, for unless the fighters were"checked in the next three months, the battle might be lost." From bases in northern Italy, he argued, all of southern Germany would be within comfortable range, two of the largest German aircraft factories-which together produced almost 60 per cent of the enemy's fighters-could be reached, and

* See below, pp. 715-24.


Ploesti would be much easier to attack; half of the GAF's fighters currently facing the United Kingdom would have to be moved to the southern German front; and bombers flying from Italy would enjoy the shield of the Alps against the German radio warning system. The Americans expressed agreement with these thoughts, though they believed that the air offensive could be as effectively prosecuted from fields immediately above Rome as from bases north of the Po River, which the British had considered desirable43

Within a month after QUADRANT both Eisenhower and Spaatz had indorsed Arnold's plan to use Italian fields as bases from which to bomb German-held Europe. In a message to Marshall, Eisenhower noted a number of the advantages which had been mentioned by Portal and argued that a more intensive air effort against Germany could be maintained with proportionately smaller losses if a substantial part of the heavy bomber effort were applied during the winter from Italian bases. He pointed out, however, that new fields must be built, runways extended, and additional steel mat shipped in.44

By October plans were reaching their final form. On 9 October, Arnold submitted to the JCS, and subsequently to the CCS, a plan for splitting the Twelfth Air Force into two air forces--one tactical and one strategic--in order more effectively to carry out the Combined Bomber Offensive in conformity with the decisions made at QUADRANT. In support of the plan, he argued that by utilizing Italian air bases important targets beyond the range of bombers from the United Kingdom could be destroyed, enemy air and ground defenses dispersed, shuttle bombing made possible, and the offensive need not be held up by adverse weather in one theater. He recommended that the Twelfth become the tactical force and that a new strategic air force be established as the Fifteenth Air Force. Both forces would operate under the direction of the theater commander, but the Fifteenth from time to time would be given directives by the CCS governing its employment in the CBO. The six groups of heavy bombers presently assigned to the Twelfth would serve as a nucleus for the Fifteenth, and fifteen additional groups would be diverted from current allocations to the Eighth.45

Strenuous objections to the proposal came from General Eaker in England.* Alarmed at the prospect of losing bombers previously earmarked for the Eighth Air Force, he argued that the proposal, in violat

* See below, pp. 725-26.


ing the principle of concentration of force, would jeopardize POINTBLANK and so OVERLORD itself. He doubted that the necessary fields could be provided in Italy and that the problem of providing facilities for heavy maintenance could be overcome. He questioned too that the weather of Italy would prove generally more favorable for bombing operations.46 General Doolittle, on the other hand, joined Spaatz in his indorsement of the proposal. Doolittle maintained that for purposes of high-level bombardment of targets in southern and eastern Germany and the Balkans during the winter months the prospect favored Foggia as a base"from two to one to three to one" over bases in the British Isles. He felt that there would be little advantage in one area over the other during the summer, but he estimated that from November to 1 May the number of days on which bombers might be expected to operate was fifty-five for those in Italy against thirty-one for those based in the United Kingdom. The general supported his argument by noting that winter storm tracks were more frequent and more severe in England than in eastern Italy; that Foggia was better protected from the weather than were the East Anglian bases; that icing below 10,000 feet was worse over western Europe because planes had to pass through cold fronts, whereas from Foggia they generally could fly between fronts; and that in the Balkans some of the best weather was experienced during the winter months47

Following discussions with Spaatz and Maj. Gen. W. Bedell Smith (Eisenhower's chief of staff) in Washington, the JCS approved Arnold's plan and on 16 October sent to Eisenhower a proposed directive for the establishment of the new air force. The Fifteenth, to be created from the XII Bomber Command, would be under the command control of NAAF and when necessary could be used in support of ground operations, but its primary mission would be strategic bombing.48 On 22 October the question came before the Combined Chiefs of Staff, who exercised an ultimate control over the CBO. Agreement there was reached on the establishment of the force with its proposed build-up, but with a proviso (introduced by Air Marshal Welsh) that if"logistical potentialities" in Italy developed more slowly than was anticipated, the bomber groups for which there were no accommodations would be sent to the United Kingdom.49

On that same day, 22 October, a cable to Eisenhower informed himthat effective 1 November the Fifteenth Air Force (Strategic) would be established under his command. The provisions contained in the


proposed directive of 16 October were made more specific: the new air force would consist initially of six heavy bomber groups and two long-range fighter groups presently assigned to XII Bomber Command; by 31 March 1944 it would be built up to twenty-one bomber groups, seven fighter groups, and one reconnaissance group. These forces would be employed primarily against CBO targets as directed by the CCS, but the original units might be used, even chiefly, against objectives other than those called for by POINTBLANK until such time as air bases above Rome had been secured. In the event of a strategic or tactical emergency the theater commander in chief was authorized to use any part of the Fifteenth Air Force for purposes other than the primary objective. Coordination of operations with the Eighth, for the time being at least, would depend upon liaison.50

The decision did not pass without further objections from the ETO. Portal, who earlier had favored the plan, expressed strong opposition, as did Eaker and Harris. They were afraid that the build-up of the Fifteenth would cripple the CBO and jeopardize OVERLORD, and they did not believe that Italy either offered a better base for operations than did the United Kingdom or would be able to handle fifteen additional groups of heavies.51 But, again, there was renewed approval from the Mediterranean, Spaatz and Doolittle--like Arnold--believing that the Combined Bomber Offensive should be conducted from both theaters.52 And at this point the British chiefs, apparently convinced that the Fifteenth would be established"whether or no" announced that they"welcomed" the idea. The Prime Minister also approved, provided the build-up of the new air force did not interfere with the battle for Rome and the airfields of central Italy.53 The support in British quarters for Eaker's views seems to have caused Arnold to seek additional assurance from Spaatz that preparations in the Mediterranean for the proposed build-up of the Fifteenth could be made. This assurance having been given by Spaatz on 30 October,54 Arnold in a reply on the following day indicated that he had refused to reopen the question of basing the additional groups of heavies in the Mediterranean because of Spaatz' assurance that he could handle the build-up on schedule.55

On 1 November, pursuant to the CCS directive of 22 October, Eisenhower announced the activation of the Fifteenth. Spaatz was designated commanding general of the USAAF in the theater, and he inturn named Doolittle as the commanding general of the Fifteenth. Until administrative procedures could be clarified,56 Spaatz would continue


in command of the Twelfth.*57 Doolittle assumed command that same day and appointed Brig. Gen. Earle E. Partridge as his chief of staff.58 Physically, Headquarters, Fifteenth Air Force, was the same as Headquarters, NASAF, and Doolittle served both as commanding general of the Fifteenth and as commander in chief of NASAF.

When the Fifteenth was activated its headquarters was in the Lycee Carnot in Tunis, where the headquarters of the XII Bomber Command had been located. But an advance echelon had already been established at Bari, and on 22 November orders were issued for the entire headquarters to move there, beginning 30 November. The movement, except for motor vehicles, was handled by planes of Mediterranean Air Transport Service; it was completed on 3 December, except for a rear echelon of fifty troops who did not complete their move until 18 December. On 1 December, the headquarters officially closed at Tunis and opened in Bari, where it remained until the end of the Italian campaign.59

The initial personnel and equipment of the Fifteenth came from the Twelfth Air Force. The Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and the original tactical units were taken over from XII Bomber Command. The tactical units consisted of six heavy bombardment groups, five medium bombardment groups, and four fighter groups, divided among three wings. With the exception of the 82d Fighter Group and the headquarters of the 47th Wing, both of which were in Italy, all of the Fifteenth's tactical units were in Tunisia. Plans called for the 5th Wing and its four groups of B-17's and two of fighters to be moved to the Foggia area, the 47th Wing with its two groups of B-24's and one

* Administrative control of the new air force went from North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army (NATOUSA) to Twelfth Air Force to Fifteenth Air Force until 21 December, when the Fifteenth was removed from all control by the Twelfth and the Twelfth became a purely tactical air force. On that date the administrative channel was changed to NATOUSA--Army Air Forces, North African Theater of Operations (AAF/NATO)--Fifteenth Air Force, with the Twelfth having the same channel, the two air forces now being coequal commands. On 1 January 1944, AAF/NATO was replaced by AAF/MTO, but without changing the admimstrative setup. Operational control as of 1 November 1943 within the area under the operational jurisdiction of AFHQ (Italy, southern France, the Balkans) was: AFHQ-MACNAAF-NASAF-Fifteenth, and AFHQ-MAC-NAAF-NATAF-Twelfth. Effective 10 December 1943, MAC and NAAF were combined to form Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), and the operational channels then became: AFHQ-MAAF-MASAF-Fifteenth, and AFHQ-MAAF-MATAF-Twelfth. Operations outside of the area controlled by AFHQ were coordinated with the Eighth Air Force by direct liaison. This arrangement continued until 6 January 1944, when the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSAFE, later USSTAF) was established; thereafter, the chain of command was USSAFE (USSTAF)-MAAF-MASAF-Fifteenth Air Force.


of fighters to be based in the Heel of Italy, and the 42d Wing of B-26's to operate from Sardinia.60

The expectation that all of the Fifteenth's units would move quickly northward was not to be realized, for difficulties were encountered in addition to those which normally would be expected to impede such a large movement. Among the delaying factors were failure to obtain prompt approval for the requisitioning of buildings, slowness in enlarging and lengthening old fields, and delays in preparing new ones. Inability of the hard-working engineers to ready the fields is explained primarily by bad weather, plus the fact that only a few of the Italian fields initially were capable of handling four-engine bombers. Not until the end of December was it possible to complete the transfer of all of the Fifteenth's heavies from their old Tunisian bases to the Foggia and Manduria areas and its B-26's to Sardinia. After the movement northward, Tunisia became a staging area for new heavy bombardment groups arriving from the United States preparatory to their final movement to the Fifteenth.61

Fortunately, the build-up of the Fifteenth Air Force proceeded at a pace which did not outdistance the engineers in their preparation of fields and other facilities. AAF Headquarters had planned to divert three B-24 groups from allotments to the United Kingdom for shipment to the Mediterranean in each of the three months from November through January 1944; in each of the two following months there would be sent three groups of heavies to total fifteen new groups.62 The 449th, 450th, 451st, 454th, 455th, and 456th Bombardment Groups (H), each with sixty-two B-24H aircraft, were scheduled to leave the United States for the Mediterranean before the end of December. But though the first three of these groups reached the theater in mid-December, the others did not come in until mid-January. The 332d Fighter Group with seventy-five P-39Q aircraft, also scheduled for December, did not reach the Fifteenth until February. On arrival, it absorbed the 99th Fighter Squadron (Separate), which had been in the theater since April 1943.63

Also in November the Fifteenth was allocated for December and January a total of 739 B-24's with 937 crews and 200 B-17's with 178 crews; and for February and each month thereafter 171 B-24's with 217 crews and 60 B-17's with 87 crews. Filler personnel for December through February would amount to 572 officers, 37 warrant officers, and 7,043 enlisted men. In addition, the War Department authorized


Structure of the 12th and 15th Air Forces
Structure of the 12th and 15th Air Forces


the constitution and activation by the end of January of four heavy bombardment wings, two air depot groups, and three air service groups. The expansion of the wing organization of the Fifteenth began on 29 December when the 304th and 305th Wings were activated.64

The fighter force did not begin to expand until April 1944, although--next to decent weather--the Fifteenth's greatest need in its early days was for more escort fighters. In the beginning it had only four groups, at about half strength, when it needed seven at full strength. It might appear that with fourteen groups in the theater there were enough fighters to take care of both the Fifteenth and the Twelfth. Actually, such was not the case, for not only was there an over-all shortage in the theater of more than 200 fighters but the total number of available groups was far from a true index of the theater's fighter strength. For one thing, eleven of the fourteen groups had shortrange P-39's, 63s, and 40s, medium-range A-36 fighter-bombers and Spitfires, and early-model P-51s; only three groups had P-38's, which alone were suitable for long-range escort. True, the P-40 groups were being re-equipped with P-47's, but the transition was only beginning. For another thing, five of the eleven non-P-38 groups were scheduled to be transferred to the United Kingdom and CBL Thirdly, because of heavy losses suffered by the Eighth Air Force during the summer and early fall and the critical need of the Eighth for a fighter with longer range than the P-47, it had been decided that all P-38's and P-51s which were scheduled to go to the Mediterranean in October, November, and December would be sent instead to ETO, with NAAF receiving P-47's in their place. This would reduce the number of fighters available for combat until the P-40 pilots had completed the training incident to changing over to the Thunderbolts; it also would hurt the operations of NAAF's two A-36 fighter-bomber groups, which needed some of the P-51s as replacements.65 Eventually, the Fifteenth received enough long-range escort fighters to meet its needs, but in the meantime the scope and success of its operations were somewhat reduced.66

The photo reconnaissance group which had been stipulated in the CCS cable of 22 October was not given to the Fifteenth until eleven months after the air force was activated. Meanwhile, from 1 November to late in December 1943, photo reconnaissance was supplied by NAPRW. Beginning on 28 December, reconnaissance of strategic targets was handled by six aircraft from the 15th combat Mapping


Squadron (of the 5th Photo Group, 90th PRW) which was assigned to the Fifteenth in January 1944.67

Since 23 October, when Spaatz had informed NAASC of the plan to base additional groups of heavies in Italy, action had been taken to provide necessary service facilities. General Depot No. 5 was established at Bari on 24 October, and Brig. Gen. Harold A. Bartron, commanding XII AFSC, was planning to move to Italy before the end of November three depot groups, five service squadrons, and more than a hundred other service units in addition to those already on the mainland; early in December he stated that he expected to operate a sub depot at Foggia and one at Gioia for the Fifteenth. Until December air service responsibilities on the mainland rested with III Air Service Area Command (Sp.). But II ASAC soon would take over in eastern Italy; on 3 December it was transferred with all its units from the Twelfth Air Force (and XII Air Force Service Command) to the Fifteenth Air Force. The change was distinctly administrative. The headquarters and units of II ASAC already were in northeastern Tunisia where they had been servicing XII Bomber Command for months; hence, after the activation of the Fifteenth, II ASAC simply continued to maintain service facilities for the tactical units of the old bomber command under its new designation. On 8 December, headquarters of II ASAC moved to Bari, where it remained until the end of the war; by the end of December most of its units had moved to eastern Italy.68

As a result of all these developments the Fifteenth by the end of December had grown from an initial strength of 3,624 officers and 16,875 enlisted men to 4,873 officers and 32,867 enlisted men. Its expansion actually was greater than the figures indicate, because on 3 November two of the groups of medium bombers (B-25's) which had been assigned to it on 1 November had been returned to the Twelfth* without having flown a single mission for the Fifteenth. Then, early in January 1944, after three new groups of heavies had arrived in the theater, the 42d Bombardment Wing (M) and the remaining three groups of mediums (B-26's) were returned.69 It appears that the mediums were given to the Fifteenth primarily to provide the new air force with experienced wing organizations and to permit the use of the mediums in counter-air operations. The nature of the strategic objectives laid down for the Fifteenth, which emphasized the use of heavy bombers, made it logical for the mediums to be returned to the Twelfth

* See chart, p. 569.


for tactical employment.70 But as a result of the loss of the mediums, the slowness with which new groups of heavies arrived, and the failure of new fighter groups to come in, the Fifteenth had only 564 assigned aircraft at the end of December as compared with 931on 1 November.71

Meanwhile, on 5 November, the CCS had issued a directive which called for coordination between the Eighth and Fifteenth in order to expedite POINTBLANK and provided that a priority list of CBO targets should be established for the new air force.72 Accordingly, Air Chief Marshal Tedder and Generals Spaatz, Eaker, and Doolittle met at Gibraltar on 8 and 9 November to arrange for coordination between the two air forces, for allocation of POINTBLANK targets, and for a continuing interchange of ideas, experience, and data. The target systems to be attacked under the CBO plan having already been set up on the basis of extensive study, the conferees faced principally a problem of allocating specific targets between the two forces. Geographical considerations naturally tended to govern the allocations, and for the time being at least each force was left to establish its own priorities among the targets allocated to it. The newness of the Fifteenth and its commitment to objectives other than those of the CBO seem to have argued against an immediate attempt to effect some closer coordination of efforts with those of the Eighth Air Force. Insofar as the Mediterranean itself was concerned, the Fifteenth continued to serve as the American element of NASAF.

Subsequent to this conference, a NAAF directive of 14 November set forth the main objectives of the Allied air forces in the Mediterranean with the following order of priority: (1) to destroy the GAF in the air and on the ground, wherever it might be reached by NAAF's planes; (2) to support the Italian land campaign; (3) to participate in POINTBLANK, by the destruction, among other targets, of fighter aircraft plants, ball-bearing plants, oil, rubber, and munitions; (4) to weaken the German position in the Balkans.73

Objective No. 2--support of the land battle--was primarily the responsibility of Tactical Air Force. However, Strategic would operate against lines of communications above a line Civitavecchia-Ancona, with the B-26's taking this as their primary task. In this connection it should be noted that Eisenhower, in discussing with the CCS the buildup of his air forces, had wanted it"clearly understood" that the increase was not altogether for use in POINTBLANK but that much of it was for the purpose of assisting the land battle. Objective No. 4


operations over the Balkans--also was assigned to TAF, except for such special missions as might be given to Strategic. Important objectives which could be reached only by heavies-such as the Ploesti oil refineries and the Sofia marshalling yards--were to be assigned specifically toStrategic.74 SAF had a primary responsibility for the other two missions: the destruction of the GAF in being and in production, and participation in the achievement of the still broader objectives of the Combined Bomber Offensive. Ifthe initial emphasis tended to fall on the first of these missions, which promised substantial benefits for ground and other operations within the Mediterranean itself,75 the tendency reflected also a general inclination at the time to regard the primary task of the CBO to be that of overwhelming the GAF as an indispensable preliminary to OVERLORD.* Indeed, POINTBLANK, the code name for the CBO, would come in the usage of the next few months to mean for most persons the attack on the GAF.

Strategic was to wreck the GAF by destroying aircraft in the air and on the ground, by smashing fighter factories, air depots, aviation repair facilities, warehouses, and hangars, and by attacking ball-bearing plants. The destruction of planes on the ground would be accomplished by bombing and strafing airfields and depots. The assault on fighter production would be directed primarily against airframe and assembly factories.76 The main attacks to be delivered by the Fifteenth would be against single-engine fighter plants at Wiener Neustadt and Regensburg--which together produced an estimated 500 out of the enemy's total of 650 Me-109's per month--and at Brasov and Gyor. Factories in Italy also produced some 200 single-engine fighters. Also within range of the Fifteenth's heavies were twin-engine fighter and jet fighter plants around Augsburg, Budapest/Csepel, Schwechat, Oberpfaffenhofen, and Friedrichshafen.77 Ball-bearing targets at Steyr, Klosterle, Fuerstein, and Schweinfurt, as well as at Turin and Villa Perosa in Italy, lay within the reach of NAAF's B-24's and B-17's. Damage to the industry would affect not only aircraft but vehicles, tanks, heavy guns, and precision instruments.78 Under the POINTBLANK counter-air program the Fifteenth in November and December was assigned seven specific targets: aircraft factories at Wiener Neustadt, Augsburg, Budapest, Steyr, and Regensburg and ball-bearing plants at Turin and Stuttgart.79 Priority among these targets was subject to change

* See below, pp. 707-15.


as considerations of weather, air force capabilities, and coordination with operations out of the United Kingdom might dictate.80

The remaining part of the POINTBLANK program called for attacks on the German economic, industrial, and communications systems, with emphasis on the sources of production of such war essentials as oil, rubber, and munitions. Within a 700-mile radius of the Fifteenth's bases around Foggia were twelve countries, enemy or enemy-occupied, containing a wide variety of economic, military, and political objectives. Already they contained dozens of top-priority targets, and more would be available as Germany continued to move small but vital segments of her industries to eastern Europe. AC/AS, Intelligence considered that"qualitatively" more of the important targets now were closer to Italian bases than to bases in the United Kingdom and felt that the bringing of such targets within effective range of NAAF's bombers was"one of the outstanding recent developments of the war." For example, 31 plants, producing an estimated 44 per cent of the enemy's crude and synthetic oil, were less than 600 miles from Foggia, and an additional 21 plants, producing 32 per cent, were within 800 miles. Production of the 52 plants was 11,825,000 tons of fuel per year.81

NAAF studied these potential target systems and began the preparation of an initial list of targets; reconnaissance would reveal additional objectives. It was NAAF's plan to give the heavies alternate targets for each mission so that a regular scale of operations could be maintained.82 But weather and the demands of the Italian campaign so limited Strategic's CBO operations that it was well into 1944 before its heavies were able to devote more than a small part of their effort to attacks on industrial targets.


Table of Contents
Previous Chapter (15) * Next Chapter (17)

Notes to Chapter 16:

1. For the limitations imposed on NAAF during October by adverse weather, see NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 223-53; NASAF Intops Sums. 71-101; Ulllt histories, 12th, 310th, 340th, 320th, 319th Bomb. Gps. (M), 2d Bomb. Gp. (H), 82d Fighter Gp.

2. See the unit histories of various bomber and fighter groups and squadrons, October 1943.

3. RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Air Intel. Weekly Sums. 46-50; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 223-54; NASAF Intops Sums. 71-101; Air Ministry Weekly Sums. 217-22; Mare Nostrum, p. 6.

4. See n. 3.

5. Basic data on operations during the first week of October are from RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Air Intel. Weekly Sums. 46-47; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 223-31; MATAF Daily Intops Sums., Oct. 1943; NASAF Intops Sums. 71-78; Brit. Hist. Sec., Central Med., Operations of British, Indian and Dominion Forces in Italy, Pt. I, Sec. F; additional info. in files of BAM (AHB). Good data on these and many other October missions may be found in the October 1943 unit histories of the 12th, 310th, 319th, 320th, 321st, and 340th Bomb. Gps. (M), 47th Bomb. Gp. (L), and 14th, 79th, and 82d Fighter Gps.

6. CM-IN-1260, Eisenhower to AGWAR for CCS, 3 Oct. 1943.

7. RAF Med. Review No. 5; unit histories of 310th and 321st Bomb. Gps. (M) and 14th Fighter Gp.

8. See n.5.

9. See also unit history, 79th Fighter Gp., Oct. 1943; additional data from files of BAM (AHB).

10. Operations for the period 9 through 12 October are from RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Air Intel. Weekly Sum. 48; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 231-35; NASAF Intops Sums. 79-82.

11. Data from files of BAM (AHB).

12. History, Fifth Army, II, 15-37.

13. RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Air Intel. Weekly Sums. 48-49; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 235-37; NASAF Intops Sums. 83-84.

14. Operations of Tactical, 15-22 Oct., inclusive, are from RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 237-45; NASAF Intops Sums. 85-92; unit histories, 57th, 79th, and 82d Fighter Gps., Oct. 1943.

15. AFSHO Special File 77 (msgs.).

16. History, 82d Fighter Gp., Oct. 1943; G-3, AFHQ, Employment of Allied Forces, 3 Oct. 1943, P/109 (final), in Operations Record Book (ORB), MAC. See also CM-IN-3460, Air CP to Marshall for Giles sgd. Spaatz, 15 Dec. 1943. For the number of planes which were flown to Sicily, see Select Documents on Air Operations, 1940--1943, from Italian Air Ministry archives in Rome, Sec. 2, Report on Disposal of Italian Aircraft, trans. by W. M. Gould of BAM (AHB). The figure of 225 has been accepted, although Italian Air Ministry statistics put the number at 313. In addition to the 225 planes which escaped to the Allies, the Germans seized between 300 and 400 first-line planes, at least half of which were noncombat. Of the remaining 900 to 1,000 IAF planes, only about 80 were serviceable; the rest were in production, repair, or OTU or were wrecked by the Italians. ( Ibid. See also additional data in files of BAM [AHB].)

17. RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 245-54; NAAF, ORB, appendices; MAC War Room Monthly Sum.; transcript of tel. conversation, Gen. Wentzell and Gen. Westphal, 26 Oct. 1943, in Canadian Hist. Sec., Rpt. 18, The Campaign in Southern Italy, p. 37, in files of BAM (AHB); NASAF Intops Sums. 93-101; additional data from files of BAM (AHB).

18. NATAF, Note on the Employment of Tactical Bomber Force, sgd. E. C. Hudleston, air cdre.

19. Data on Strategic's operations during the last half of October are largely from RAF Med. Review No. 5; NAAF Air Intel. Weekly Sums. 49-50; NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 237-54; NASAF Intops Sums. 85-101; Air Ministry Weekly Intel. Sums. 217-18; unit histories, 2d, 47th, 319th, 30lst, 340th Bomb. Gps., 47th Bomb. Wing. Other sources are noted in subsequent footnotes.

20. File 77 (ltrs.).

21. The historian of the 42d Bombardment Wing (B-26's) claimed that the wing"led the way in the experimentation which was later to culminate in the introduction of a new philosophy of railway interdiction through the cutting of bridges." (See A History of the 42d Bomb. Wing.)

22. For the movement of mediums and fighters to Italy and Sardinia, see Administrative History, Twelfth Air Force, Pt. III, Volume I, and unit historical material for Sept. and Oct. of the 42d Bomb. Wing, 319th, 31st, and 340th Bomb. Gps. (M), 62d Fighter Wing, and 31st, Hd, 57th, and 82d Fighter Gps. See also History of No. 205 Gp., prep. by BAM (AHB); Minutes of Meeting at Hq. NATAF, 29 Sept. 1943, in TAF/113/ORS; Minutes of Conference B, Hq. 15th Army Gp., 12 Oct. 1943; and other docs. in files of BAM (AHB).

23. CM-OUT-13348, Marshall to Eisenhower, 29 Oct. 1943; memo for CG AAF from Gen. Kuter, 27 Oct. 1943. Subsequently, a memorandum on the subject of bridge-bombing was prepared for the President. (See memo for the President, Application of Air Power in Italy. See also Kesselring Questions, as cited in chap. 14, n.74.)

24. File 77 (msgs.)

25. Kesselring questions.

26. History, 47th Bomb. Wing, 25 Feb.--1 Dec. 1943.

27. This was the first attack on an Albanian target by an Italy-based USAAF unit. (See History, 47th Bomb. Wing.)

28. RAF Med. Review No. 5; Enemy Merchant Vessels Sunk in the Mediterranean by Allied Aircraft, prep. by BAM (AHB); File 77 (msgs.).

29. Stat. Control; Hq. AAF, Twelfth AF, Opns. of the Twelfth AF, 8 Nov. 1942-8 May 1945; Air Ministry Weekly Sums. 215-18; MAAF Monthly Opns. Bulletin 9; History, XII Ftr. Comd., 1 June 1943--1 Jan. 1944; Mare Nostrum, pp. 6, 10. Figures taken from GAF records by the British Air Ministry indicate that NAAF's claims were substantially correct.

30. NAAF Opnl. and Intel. Sums. 245-54; History, Original XII AFSC.

31. History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 38-39; AAFRH-21, Special Operations, AAF Aid to European Resistance Movements.

32. Hq. AAFEC/MTO (Prov.), History of Policies Affecting Aviation Engineers in the Mediterranean Campaigns, 20 Jan. 1945; History, XII AFEC (Prov.), Activation to 1 Jan. 1944.

33. See n. 32.

34. See n. 32; memo for Gen. Kuter from Col. Joe L. Loutzenheiser, 9 Nov. 1943; Hq. AAFSC/MTO, The Handling and Consumption of Aviation Gasoline in the MTO, 8 Nov. 1942--1 July 1944, p.15.

35. History of Policies Affecting Avn. Eng.; History, AAFSC/MTO, 1 Jan.-30 June 1944, pp. 95 ff.; Handling and Consumption of Avn. Gasoline; CM-IN-16645, Algiers to WAR, 25 Nov. 1943; Outline History, Corsica Air Sub-Area; History, Original XII AFSC; memo for Lt. Gen. F. E. Morgan from Brig. Gen. D. A. Davidson, 8 Nov. 1943; memo for Kuter from Loutzenheiser, 9 Nov. 1943; Logistical History, NATOUSA-MTOUSA, pp. 204-5.

36. Logistical History, NATOUSA-MTOUSA, p. 29; Hq. AAFSC/MTO, The History of Adriatic Depot Under AAF Control; History, AAFSC/MTO, 1 Jan.--30 June 1944, pp. 364 ff.

37. The Outline History, Corsica Air Sub-Area; History, Original XII AFSC, pp. 203 ff.

38. Air Ministry Weekly Intel. Sum. 215; Outline History, Corsica Air Sub-Area; flow chart, XII AFSC, 23 Dec. 1943; History, AAFSC/MTO, 1 Jan.--30 June 1944.

39. History, Original XII AFSC, pp. 205 ff.; History, AAFSC/MTO, 1 Jan.--30 June 1944, pp. 117-22; Logistical History, NATOUSA-MTOUSA, pp. 28-29; AFHQ Adm. Memo 80, 14 Nov. 1943; ltr., AFHQ AF 400-3 (General) GDS-AGM, Supply of Allied Forces in Corsica and Sardinia, 6 Oct. 1943.

40. Historical Data, MATS, 25 May 1943-31 May 1944; Hq. MATS GO 5, 31 Dec. 1943; MAC, ORB, Apps. 122-3, Minutes of Conferences Held at MAC, 2-3 Nov. 1943, in files of BAM (AHB).

41. CCS, 106th Mtg. (QUADRANT), 14 Aug. 1943; memo for JCS from CG AAF, To Assure the Most Effective Exploitation of the Combined Bomber Offensive,. 9 Oct. 1943.

42. File 77 (msgs.).

43. CCS, 106th Mtg. (QUADRANT), 14 Aug. 1943; Meeting of JCS with President Roosevelt and Secretary Stimson, 10 Aug. 1943.

44. CM-IN-14271, Eisenhower to Marshall, 19 Sept. 1943.

45. JCS 524, 9 Oct. 1943, and App. B to same; memo sgd. S/Sgt. G. V. Martin, Thoughts on the Formation of the Fifteenth Air Force, in file of Lt. Col. James Parton, Hq. AAF (hereinafter cited as Formation of 15th AF).

46. Formation of 15th AF, citing ltr., Maj. Gen. I. H. Edwards to Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, n.d., and other documents; memo for C/S ETOUSA from Eaker, 1 Oct. 1943.

47. CM-OUT-6433, Spaatz to Eisenhower, 14 Oct. 1943; CM-IN-7113, Doolittle and McDonald sgd. Eisenhower to Spaatz care of Arnold, 12 Oct. 1943.

48. JCS 524/1,16 Oct. 1943; CM-OUT-6433, Spaatz to Eisenhower, 14 Oct. 1943; directive, WD to AFHQ Adv. CP, 23 Oct. 1943, in History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 23.

49. CCS, I24th Mtg., 22 Oct. 1943; CCS 217/1, 19 Oct. 1943.

50. CM-OUT-9934, CCS to Eisenhower, 22 Oct. 1943.

51. Draft reply to FAN 254 and ltr., Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker to Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, CG ETOUSA, 25 Oct. 1943, both quoted in Formation of 15th AF; interview with Col. C. A. Young, AC/S, A-2, 15th AF, 27 May 1944, in History, 15th AF, Volume II; additional data from files of BAM (AHB).

52. Young interview.

53. 53. File 77.

54. CCS, 125th Mtg., 29 Oct. 1943; CM-IN-18272, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 30 Oct. 1943.

55. CM-OUT-14208, Arnold to Eisenhower for Spaatz, 31 Oct. 1943. See also CCS, 125th Mtg., 29 Oct. 1943; MC-OUT-9061, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 30 Oct. 1943. The British Air Ministry on 31 October expressed the opinion that lack of airfields would make it impossible for additional units of heavies to be sent to Italy before January 1944 and that the last of the fifteen groups to be added to the Fifteenth could not be handled before April. (Information supplied by BAM [AHB].)

56. Adm. History, 12th AF, Volume I, Pt. III; Hq. 12th AF GO 99, 3 Dec. 1943; History, 15th AF, Volume I, and History, 12th AF (Rev.), I, 19-21; memo, Hq. 12th AF, 21 Dec. 1943.

57. CM-IN-3117, Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 5 Nov. 1943. See also memo for Gen. Craig from Brig. Gen. O. P. Weyland, 28 Oct. 1943; ltr., S/W to CG NATO, 30 Oct. 1943; ltr. and CM-OUT-13908, both from AGWAR to CG NATO, 30 Oct. 1943. Activation was per Hq. NATOUSA GO 121, 1 Nov. 1943, and Hq. 12th AF GO 82, 1 Nov. 1943.

58. History, 15th AF, Volume I; Hq. 15th AF GO's 1 and 2, 1 Nov. 1943. General Partridge became deputy commander on 5 December 1943 per Hq. 15th AF GO 16, 5 Dec. 1943.

59. History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 46-47.

60. Hq. 15th AF SO I, I Nov. 1943; CM-IN-3l2, AFHQ to WAR, 1 Nov. 1943 (paraphrase); CM-IN-18094, Eisenhower to AGWAR for CCS, 29 Oct. 1943; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 22,41-44.

61. History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 41-43; Historv, AAFEC/MTO (Prov.).

62. R&R, AC/AS, Plans to S/AS, 13 Oct. 1943, and ltr., Arnold to Eaker, 22 Oct. 1943; ltr., Col. H. P. Dellinger, Chief, Supply and Maintenance Br., AC/AS, MM&D to CG ASCPFO, 28 Oct. 1943; CM-OUT-1613 and 386, Marshall for Eisenhower, 4 Nov. and 1 Dec. 1943.

63. CM-OUT-15l9, Arnold to Eisenhower for Spaatz, 3 Nov. 1943. See also CM-IN-15993, from Algiers, 21 Aug. 1943 (paraphrase) and the unit histories of the several groups.

64. Misc. doc. in WP-III-F-3 (Med.), AFAEP (n.d. or other info. on the doc.); R&R, Col. E. S. Metzel, Chief, Mil. Personnel Div. to AC/AS, OC&R, 6 Nov. 1943; R&R, Program Div., AC/AS, OC&R to Theater Commitment and Implementation Br., 22 Nov. 1943; History, 15th AF (Rev.), 1, 25; Hq. 15th AF GO 31, 29 Dec. 1943.

65. History, 15th AF, Volume I, and interview with Maj. Gen. N. F. Twining, 5 June 1944, in Volume II; CM-OUT-10117, Giles to Arnold, 24 Nov. 1943; memo for AC/AS, OC&R from ACjS, OPD, 2 Dec. 1943, and memo for AC/AS, Plans from AC/AS, OC&R, 26 Nov. 1943; chart, NAAF Operational Control, prep. by 23d SCORU, 24 Oct. 1943; CM-OUT-12538, to Fifteenth AF, 28 Oct. 1943; memo for Gen. Craig, AC/AS, Plans from Col. J. L. Loutzenheiser, OPD, 8 Dec. 1942; CM-IN-123, Algiers to WAR, 1 Nov. 1943 (paraphrase); ltr., Arnold to Spaatz, 20 Aug. 1943; msg., AGWAR sgd. Arnold to Eisenhower for Spaatz, 6126, 1 Jan. 1944.

66. 66. Interview with Maj. Gen. N. F. Twining, 5 June 1944, in History, 15th AF, Volume II.

67. History, 15th AF, Volume I; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 33.

68. Msg., CG XII AFSC to CO III ASAC, I1 Oct. 1943; msg., Spaatz to NAASC, 23 Oct. 1943; Hq. XII AFSC GO 57, 22 Oct. 1943; msg., Bartron to CG 12th AF, 7 Nov. 1943; msg. G47-L, sgd. Bartron, 30 Dec. 1943; History, Original XII AFSC; Hq. AAF/MTO GO's 1 and 2, Jan. 1944; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 77 ff.

69. History, 15th AF, Vols. I and III. The transfer of the mediums was per Hq. 12th AF GO 84, 3 Nov. 1943, and MAAF (Adv.) cable OP-452, 1 Jan. 1944, as cited in History, 15th AF, Volume I. (See also unit history, 47th Bomb. Wing, 25 Feb.-1 Dec. 1943.)

70. History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 24-25.

71. Ibid., p. 68, table 4.

72. CCS 217/2, 5 Nov. 1943.

73. CM-IN-5620, Spaatz and Eaker sgd. Eisenhower to Arnold, 9 Nov. 1943; CM-IN-13414 and 15394, Arnold to Giles, 22 and 25 Nov. 1943; CM-OUT-361, Arnold to Eaker, 1 Dec. 1943; AC/AS, OC&R Diary, 18 Nov. 1943.

74. Ltr., CG NAAF to CG 15th AF, 14 Nov. 1943; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 408; CM-IN-7340, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 10 Nov. 1943; CCS, 13lst Mtg. (SEXTANT), 26 Nov. 1943.

75. History, 15th AF, Volume II; CCS, 131st Mtg. (SEXTANT), 26 Nov. 1943; CM-IN-7340, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 10 Nov. 1943; Young interview, as cited in n. 51; History, MAAF, Dec. 1943--1 Sept. 1944; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 306-13.

76. History, MAAF; Young interview.

77. History, MAAF; 15th AF Historical Sum., First Year of Operations, 1 Nov. 1944; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 312-19.

78. History, MAAF; History, 15th AF (Rev.), I, 318.

79. History, 15th AF, Volume II.

80. Ibid.; CM-IN-7340, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 10 Nov. 1943.

81. AC/AS, Intel. to Gen. Arnold, Current Items of Air Intelligence, 11 Oct. 1943; AC/AS, Intel., Oil Installations Within Range of Italian Bases, 5 Oct. 1943.

82. CM-IN-7340, Spaatz sgd. Eisenhower to AGWAR for Arnold, 10 Nov. 1943; History, MAAF. See also, Report of Committee of Operations Analysts, 8 Mar. 1943.

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