In March 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote to the Director of the Bureau of the Budget ordering each war agency to prepare "an accurate and objective account" of that agencyís war experience. Soon after, the Army Air Forces began hiring professional historians so that its history could, in the words of Brigadier General Laurence Kuter, "be recorded while it is hot and that personnel be selected and an agency set up for a clear historianís job without axe to grind or defense to prepare." An Historical Division was established in Headquarters Army Air Forces under Air Intelligence, in September 1942, and the modern Air Force historical program began.
Foreword to the New Imprint
With the end of the war, Headquarters approved a plan for writing and publishing a seven-volume history. In December 1945, Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Deputy Commander of Army Air Forces, asked the Chancellor of the University of Chicago to "assume the responsibility for the publication" of the history, stressing that it must "meet the highest academic standards." Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Frank Craven of New York University and Major James Lea Gate of the University of Chicago, both of whom had been assigned to the historical program, were selected to be editors of the volumes. Between 1948 and 1958 seven were published. With publication of the last, the editors wrote that the Air Force had "fulfilled in letter and spirit" the promise of access to documents and complete freedom of historical interpretation. Like all history, The Army Air Forces in World War II reflects the era when it was conceived, researched, and written. The strategic bombing campaigns received the primary emphasis, not only because of a widely-shared belief in bombardment's contribution
to victory, but also because of its importance in establishing the United States Air Force as a military service independent of the Army. The huge investment of men and machines and the effectiveness of the combined Anglo-American bomber offensive against Germany had not been subjected to the critical scrutiny they have since received. Nor, given the personalities involved and the immediacy of the events, did the authors question some of the command arrangements. In the tactical area, to give another example, the authors did not doubt the effect of aerial interdiction on both the German withdrawal from Sicily and the allied landings at Anzio.
Editors Craven and Gate insisted that the volumes present the war through the eyes of the major commanders, and be based on information available to them as important decisions were made. At the time, secrecy still shrouded the Allied code-breaking effort. While the link between decoded message traffic and combat action occasionally emerges from these pages, the authors lacked the knowledge to portray adequately the intelligence aspects of many operations, such as the interdiction in 1943 of Axis supply lines to Tunisia and the systematic bombardment, beginning in 1944, of the German oil industry.
All historical works a generation old suffer such limitations. New information and altered perspective inevitably change the emphasis of an historical account. Some accounts in these volumes have been superseded by subsequent research and other portions will be superseded in the future. However, these books met the highest of contemporary professional standards of quality and comprehensiveness. They contain information and experience that are of great value to the Air Force today and to the public. Together they are the only comprehensive discussion of Army Air Forces activity in the largest air war this nation has ever waged. Until we summon the resources to take a fresh, comprehensive look at the Army Air Forcesí experience in World War II, these seven volumes will continue to serve us as well for the next quarter century as they have for the last.
RICHARD H. KOHN
Chief, Office of Air Force History
This volume is the second of seven planned for The Army Air Forces in World War II. Elsewhere1 the editors have taxed the patience of the reader by describing in some detail the underlying concepts and the general design of this AAF history; here they have thought it sufficient to set the present volume into the context of the whole work. As the subtitle (Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK (August 1942 to December 1943) suggests, Volume II deals with the American air effort against Germany and Italy, a story which will be completed in Volume III. The chronological limits of the present volume, indicated by the operational code names and in the more familiar reckoning of the Christian calendar, were arbitrarily chosen. But they are not without their own logic.
In Volume I, the authors showed that plans and preparations made by the US. armed forces before Pearl Harbor for the war which then seemed imminent had been oriented toward Europe; defensive strategy in the Pacific, offensive strategy against Germany, had seemed to offer greatest hope for eventual victory in a global war against Axis powers formally linked in the Tripartite Pact of 27 September. The proposed mission of AAF heavy bombers against the two major enemies was suggestive of the general pattern of thought: in the Pacific a few groups of B-17's were to be used in an effort to impede Japanese expansion toward the south; in Europe many groups were to swell current RAF efforts to crush German war power by strategic bombing in what was planned as the initial offensive effort of the U.S. forces.
These plans had been sharply warped by the astounding string of Japanese victories which began at Pearl Harbor. Anglo-American strategists had stood firm on their over-all concept of the war, but immediate needs in the Pacific had focused Allied attention on that area.
For several months the Pacific had enjoyed a higher priority in the intertheater competition for the limited resources available that had previously been contemplated. By summer of 1942 this diversion of men and matériel--especially heavy in naval and air categories--had begun to bring results. The Japanese had been abruptly checked; their defeat at Midway was a turning point in the war, a fact apparently recognized at the time by some of their leaders. In early August the invasion of Guadalcanal by American forces had opened a period of local and limited offensives designed to provide bases from which more substantial efforts could be launched as forces became available.
The unexpectedly heavy demand for AAF resources in the Pacific had been complicated by threats to the Middle East. The British especially were alarmed lest German and Japanese advances allow the Axis to join forces somewhere east of the Red Sea and thus disrupt communications vital to the Empire, and had pressed the Americans to reinforce the RAF in Egypt with AAF units.
Under these conditions it had been impossible to put into effect earlier plans for the air offensive against Festung Europa; US. operations against Germany were limited to desperate efforts to check the U-boat campaign. The Combined Chiefs of Staff had committed Allied forces to an invasion of the continent from England--in September 1942 or spring 1943--however, and the AAF had begun the build-up of forces in the United Kingdom, while extending such aid as they might to the hard pressed British in Egypt. Plans for the offensive in western Europe had remained fluid in the face of Axis successes on the Russian front and in North Africa until the project was indefinitely postponed (in summer 1942) in favor of a grand invasion of Northwest Africa. It was thus against a background of strategic uncertainty that the AAF flew its first bombardment missions into Europe--against Ploesti from Egypt on 12 June, against Rouen from England on 17 August. And so in Europe, as in the Pacific, the summer of 1942 marked a new phase in the war: with those two missions began the AAF's offensive war against Germany, and with them begins this volume.
The organization of the volume reflects in its first four sections the geographical separation between the European and Mediterranean theaters symbolized by those initial missions. Sections I and III deal with the war in the Mediterranean, with the first coming to a natural conclusion in May 1943 as the Allies rounded up the last PWís in Cap Bon and stood poised for their northward spring toward Sicily.
Section III ends less decisively with the Allies temporarily stalled in their drive up the Italian peninsula.
Sections II and IV are concerned with the AAFís campaign of strategic bombardment against occupied Europe and Germany, the break coming, at a time conveniently near the Axis surrender in Tunisia, with the adoption of the Combined Bomber Offensive plan. During the earlier of those periods AAF operations from England were tentative in nature as the heavy bomber formations felt out German defenses and were attenuated in weight as the Mediterranean siphoned off much of the air strength previously allocated to the Eighth Air Force in the United Kingdom. Indeed, the fundamental tactical assumptions of the Eighth were brusquely challenged at the Casablanca conference (January 1943), and it was months after that crisis had been weathered before the promised build-up of forces had begun which was to make the CBO possible. The story of that build-up and of an ever accelerating air attack on Germany itself comes in Section IV which, like Section III, closes with the anticlimax of a December lull in air activities. By that time the imbalance of AAF deployments which had previously favored the Mediterranean had been wiped out, then reversed, and in the United Kingdom the Eighth Air Force was impatiently awaiting a favorable turn in the weather before launching its most telling blows. Friendly critics seem to have sensed something of the pulp magazine serial technique in the suspense in which the reader was left at the end of Volume I, and the editors must offer apology for again breaking off at so crucial a moment; but they are not above hoping that the reader may share vicariously something of the Eighthís impatience.
The volume follows then, with some hazard to its unity, the parallel stories of two campaigns widely separated in space but intimately connected in highest strategy and in their competing demands for resources. By the end of 1943 the distance between the active air fronts had been materially lessened and the essential unity of the two theaters--long a favorite maxim with AAF leaders--had become more obvious. The authors have attempted throughout to emphasize the interdependence of the two theaters, and in Section V they have brought together in a single chapter significant organizational changes in the MTO and ETO which presaged the grand invasions of 1944 and which coordinated more closely the efforts of heavy bombers based in East Anglia and in eastern Italy.
The threat to unity inherent in the dual organization of the volume is
accentuated by a sharp contrast in the nature of air operations in the two areas. In their campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy the Allies were possessed of a Strategic Air Force built around AAF heavy bombers. But their use of the term "strategic," and indeed of the bombers, bore little resemblance to current practice in the north. The Northwest African Strategic Air Force, like the Tactical Air Force, was used almost exclusively in support of (or "in cooperation with"--significantly enough, the AAFís ban on the former expression and approval of the latter grew out of experiences in the Mediterranean) ground and naval forces. That support (or cooperation) might be very close indeed as a squadron of fighters hovered protectingly over an armored column or as light bombers struck at a bomb line dangerously near an advancing infantry battalion. Or support (cooperation) might entail far-reaching strikes by medium and heavy bombers at shipping in the Mediterranean or at military installations in Sicily, Sardinia, or Italy. But in either case the function of air power was to aid in the defeat of an enemyís armed forces and in the occupation of his soil, and hence the story of the AAF is tied closely to the story of ground-and naval--operations. The few cases in which the strategic force was utilized in operations of the sort typical with the Eighth Air Force merely emphasize, by their rarity, the truth of this generalization. The happy circumstance that between El Alamein and Salerno army air and ground forces were finally welded into an effective team is in itself a clinching argument against attempting to divorce the narratives of air and of ground warfare. Similarly, it would be difficult (and often impossible) to distinguish wholly between the activities of the AAF and the RAF in those instances in which their units were amalgamated into a single striking force.
The story of the AAF in the Mediterranean thus takes on a rhythmic pattern imposed by the successive phases of the combined campaigns in the desert, in Northwest Africa, in Sicily, and in Italy. In each case there is a certain sense of movement, of definite accomplishment marked by the enemyís retreat or surrender and by the gaining of a land mass. Each phase has its beginning, middle, and end; and though the separate phases have in the air no such distinct pauses as come on the ground, the air historian still may follow here a narrative form which is as old as Thucydides.
In the ETO, during the period covered in this volume, AAF units were engaged exclusively in strategic bombardment as that term was
conventionally defined in American doctrine. Their aim was not to aid immediately a ground army; there were no Allied armies on western European soil, and the concept of the bomber offensive as a sort of second front to relieve pressure on the Red Army was an argument after the fact rather than an initiating motive. The true mission of the Eighth Air Force was to weaken Germany by hitting directly at its war potential--industrial, military, and moral--although this required the previous destruction of German air power. The nature of the bombardment campaign imposes on the historian a problem of presentation as novel as was that concept of war.
The heavy bomber offensive was an impersonal sort of war and monotonous in its own peculiar way. Day after day, as weather and equipment permitted, B-17's and B-24's went out, dropped their deadly load, and turned homeward. The immediate results of their strikes could be photographed and assessed by intelligence officers in categories reminiscent of high school "grades"--bombing was excellent, good, fair, or poor. But rarely was a single mission or series of missions decisive; whatever earlier theory had taught of sudden paralysis of a nation by strategic bombardment, in actual practice the forces available were in 1942-43 inadequate for such Douhet-like tactics. The effects of the bombing were gradual, cumulative, and during the course of the campaign rarely measurable with any degree of assurance. Thus there was little visible progress, such as Allied troops could sense as they pushed Rommelís forces back from El Alamein toward Cap Bon, to encourage the Eighth Air Force. Bomber crews went back time and again to hit targets which they had seemingly demolished before. Only near the end of the war when the bottom dropped out of the German defense did the full results of the Combined Bomber Offensive become apparent; before that the "phases" of the long-drawn-out campaign seldom achieved the sharp focus they had shown in the early plans. Drama hovered close to each plane which sortied (as the American public was never allowed to forget), but as drama the big show itself was in 1942-43 flat, repetitive, without climax. The bomber crew found its sense of accomplishment in the twenty-fifth mission, which, in theory, would bring rotation and relief, not in an island won, an enemy army's surrender.
Such being the nature of the war, it would not be profitable to chronicle each of the 171 missions staged by the Eighth Air Force in the period here under consideration--certainly not in the detail made
possible by the richly informative mission reports which constitute the basic sources for the operational narrative.2 A few missions stood out because of the size 30 December 1943), or because of ferocious defense (as Schweinfurt, 14 October), or because of brilliant bombing (as Marienburg, 9 October). For a mother who lost a boy in the Eighth's 121st mission, that operation was uniquely and tragically important, but for a more detached reader (as for many of the participants) it was pretty much like another. And hence in his effort to give meaning to the operational story the historian must often reduce to statistical summaries the details of many an air battle; figures on sorties and tons dropped and claims registered supplant blood and anguish and heroism. This method is not without its weakness, since the deliberate suppression of derring-do from the narrative may tend to obliterate the human element which is basic to all combat. But the method has this additional justification, that it seems more appropriate than a dramatic style to the matter-of-fact spirit of the boys who flew the missions and to the studied calculations of those leaders who dispatched them.
The authors have adopted in general the point of view (in the sense of perspective rather than of bias) of the AAF commanders and their staffs. Often their estimates of the enemy situation were wrong and their evaluations of damage inflicted were exaggerated; but it was upon such incomplete intelligence that the war was fought, and the frequent critiques and corrections imposed upon the narrative by the authors are essentially parenthetical. This point of view explains in some degree the manner in which enemy sources have been used in this volume.
The fortunes of war have put at the disposal of Allied historians a vast fund of official records of the European Axis powers. According to agreements made by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the United States kept the ground force files, Great Britain those dealing with the enemy air forces. After the collapse of Italy the Germans gutted the archives of the Italian Air Force so thoroughly that part of the story in the Mediterranean can never be fully documented. But in the swift debacle of May 1945 the Luftwaffe records fell almost intact into Allied hands. Since then the historical section of the British Air Ministry has been engaged in processing those records for more convenient use, but because they have proceeded in chronological sequence the
readily available materials deal as yet with the period before Pearl Harbor. Nevertheless the Air Ministry and the RAF have done all within their power to make available to the U.S. Air Historical Group Luftwaffe documents of the later period. Two of the present authors, Mr. Simpson and Mr. Goldberg, went to London to pursue investigations for themselves and for the other historians concerned. For the rest the authors have called on the Air Ministry for copies of needed documents and for spot research on specific problems. From their own experiences in the Air Historical Group both authors and editors of this volume realize how such requests intrude upon current duties, and they render thanks here, as they have done before, to Mr. J.C. Nerney and his staff for material help graciously given.
The authors have found most valuable those German reports which deal with enemy policy or which consolidate detailed information from the lower echelons. Practical considerations of time, to be sure, have inclined them to lean most heavily upon Allied sources and the generalized Axis reports, to the exclusion of diaries or journals of the lesser units of the Luftwaffe, for the operational story; it would require years of research for the authors to sift the German records as thoroughly as they have our own. But the deciding argument against attempting to follow each day's operations in the detailed enemy sources has been that the nature of the air war makes that a process of rapidly diminishing returns.
Even by infinite pains it would be impracticable to compile a day-by-day account of air operations by a comparative analysis of U.S. and enemy reports, as one might do for ground armies locked in an extended battle. The air war was continuous but in a real sense transient. On the ground, corps faced corps, division faced division for days, sometimes for weeks. In the air on successive days the aircraft engaged were drawn from different units; in the AAFís bomber offensive the planes were formed into a one-day task force which would never again be duplicated, and on the defensive each dayís effort was supplied by such German fighters as were available. It was especially true in the ETO that the air war was between rival air forces, not between mutually opposed groups or squadrons, and this fact tends to depreciate the immediate value of the detailed unit record.
As for the details of the actual air battle, the information, whether from American or German sources, is rarely as exact as the historian could wish. That fault, too, stems from the very nature of aerial combat.
A nineteen-year-old boy takes off in a "hot" plane, alone or with a crew, in accordance with a plan to bomb or strafe a specified target at a desired time; he must fly from his base, often at great distance from the target, through weather which frequently makes precise navigation difficult and through opposition from fighters whose passes are incredibly swift; he arrives over the target at as nearly the set minute as possible and performs his deadly task under circumstances which rarely permit him to take time out for the sort of entry so familiar in the shipís log. Even without the emotional strain of the battle, the boy would find it impossible on his return to give to his interrogating officer an accurate and detailed report of his own experiences, and the story of a large mission must be compounded of hundreds of such imperfect individual reports. So it is that the historian though literally swamped by the mass of his sources may raise for any mission questions as difficult to solve as if they dealt with the Battle of Hastings or Custer's Last Stand.
A case in point is the simple problem of checking AAF claims of losses inflicted on the enemy air forces. Eighth Air Force leaders, recognizing by autumn 1942 that accepted claims of German fighters destroyed or damaged by heavy bomber crews were too optimistic, made repeated efforts to scale down previous statistics and to correct procedures for reporting. As a check against the validity of the adjusted figures, the records of the General Quartermaster's Department of the German Air Ministry have been consulted for the present volume. These are based upon requisitions for replacement of planes lost or damaged, a type of information far more reliable by its very nature than battle claims, as can be shown by comparable AAF reports. It is true that these records can provide only an approximate figure for comparison with claims entered by Eighth Air Force crews. The form of the German documents in question is such that it shows for a given day the total number of GAF fighters lost to "enemy action" and of those lost for causes not attributed to "enemy action." It is possible to determine total losses in western Germany but not always to distinguish sharply between losses which should be credited to the AAF and to the RAF. But the German records seem to constitute a reliable outside maximum for AAF aerial victories, and, utilized for that purpose, they have proved invaluable.
Unfortunately those records became available only after the present study was nearing completion. Considerations of time and the present state of the records have forced upon the editors acceptance for the purposes of this volume of an imperfect spot check on a number of key
air battles. The results of this sampling have been so startling that the editors have been torn between regret at the tardiness of the discovery and relief that it was made before the book went to press. For the sampling has indicated that Eighth Air Force claims were far more exaggerated than even their severest critics had assumed. Indeed, the preliminary results of the investigations raise questions so fundamental to this history--and to evaluation procedures of the AAF itself--as to require closer study of the whole problem than can be made at this time. Rather than delay indefinitely the publication of the present volume, the editors have chosen to go to press with a study frankly written, as they have suggested above, from the point of view of the AAF records but with the disparity between those and enemy records noted. It is the sort of decision which all too often faces the historian working with contemporary materials, when any day may bring forth fresh evidence. The editors hope, however, that a wider use of the pertinent German documents can be made for the succeeding volume on the air war in Europe and that a closer study of the whole problem of claims can be included in the seventh and last volume of this history. At this writing steps have been taken to work out with the British Air Ministry arrangements to make possible both those objectives.
Fortunately, on the more crucial issue of bomb damage the available record is much more complete and satisfactory. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey has gathered and made accessible a great deal of information about the German war economy under air attack. Especially helpful has been the information taken from the Speer ministry papers. While the present authors may not have agreed in every detail with the over-all conclusions of the surveyís report, they have not felt it necessary to go behind the compilations and specialized studies upon which that report was based.
In the matter of antishipping claims in the Mediterranean the authors have been less fortunate. There was in that area no JANAC3 to sit in judgment on claims of ships sunk or damaged, and it has been necessary to check as often as possible the AAF and RAF mission reports against enemy records. This method was not wholly satisfactory, since the enemy was not always sure of the agent which sank this or that ship. But the general pattern is clear enough to suggest a possible revision of the dismal appraisal in Volume I of the capabilities of land-based bombers against shipping. Various explanations have suggested themselves--AAF rather than Navy operational control, better crews, better
weather, shorter missions, etc.--but for whatever reason, the B-24 and B-17, the B-25 and B-26, were more effective against ships in the Mediterranean than they had proved in the early months of the Pacific war.
These preliminary explanations having been given, there remains only the pleasant task of introducing those who have made this book. All four authors, in their several military grades, were connected during the war with the AAF historical program. Thomas J. Mayock carried the responsibility in the Historical Office, AAF Headquarters, for covering air operations in the North African theater. Arthur B. Ferguson, a member of the same staff, divided his attention between antisubmarine and Eighth Air Force operations. Albert F. Simpson served in Italy as historical officer of the AAF Service Command, MTO. Alfred Goldberg gained his knowledge of air logistics in the ETO as a historical officer first with the VIII Air Force Service Command and later with the United States Strategic Air Forces.
Once again the editors are happy to record their heavy indebtedness to Col. Wilfred J. Paul and Dr. Albert F. Simpson, military and civilian chiefs, respectively, of the Air Historical Group. All members of their staff have contributed loyally to the production of this volume and special acknowledgment is due to: Mrs. Wilhelmine Burch and Mr. P. Alan Bliss for invaluable editorial service; Miss Fanita Lanier, who did the maps and the jacket; Mrs. Juanita S. Riner for her cheerful aid in the preparation of the manuscript; Miss Juliette Abington for help in selecting the illustrations and in compiling the appendix; and, for a variety of helpful acts, to Lt. Col. Garth C. Cobb, Lt. Col. Arthur J. Larsen, Capt. John W. Miller, Capt. William A. Bennett, Dr. Chauncey E. Sanders, Miss Marguerite Kennedy, and Mr. Frank C. Myers. And again, as with Volume I, editors and authors have found at all times friendly and useful criticism from Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield and his military chief, Maj. Gen. Harry J. Malony, of the Historical Division, Department of the Army. Professors Richard A. Newhall of Williams College, Joseph R. Strayer of Princeton University, and John A. Krout of Columbia University, as members of the Air Force Advisory Historical Committee, have offered welcome advice.
WESLEY FRANK CRAVEN
JAMES LEA CATE
29 December 1948
Table of Contents ** Next Chapter (1)
1. Vol. I, pp. vii-xxii.
Notes to Foreword
2. A list of the missions, with a brief summary of the most important data, is provided below on pp. 841-52 for ready reference.
3. Joint Army-Navy Assessment Commission.