SHAEF's Air Problems, January-June 1944

Before General Eisenhower could put into effect the preparatory air plans for the OVERLORD attack, he found it necessary to deal with a number of problems relating to air command, the employment of strategic air forces, and measures to be used against enemy long-range rockets and pilotless aircraft. COSSAC had tried to settle some of these matters earlier, but had found, as in the case of landing craft and additional divisions for the assault, that it was necessary to wait until the Supreme Commander was appointed to get action.

Problems of Command

The Combined Chiefs of Staff in November 1943 had postponed a decision on the command of the strategic air forces in OVERLORD. The delay had arisen in part because the British were unwilling to hand over control of their bombers for OVERLORD until a time nearer the assault. They feared that measures might be taken which would diminish the effect of the combined bombing offensive against Germany. They were also anxious that nothing be done to affect the program of bombing rocket-launching sites or to remove forces of the Coastal Command from British control. There appeared to be even stronger feeling--shared by U.S. bomber commanders--against entrusting the bombers to Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory, whose war experience had been in the Fighter Command.1

This last point of opposition stressed a problem which had confronted General Eisenhower since his arrival in the United Kingdom. He personally would have preferred Air Chief Marshal Tedder as chief Allied air commander for OVERLORD, and he had made such a recommendation before Tedder was chosen Deputy Supreme Commander. Eisenhower was influenced by the fact that Tedder, as his air deputy in the Mediterranean, was aware of the problems involved in the air support of ground troops. Near the end of December the Supreme Commander had noted the importance of having a few senior officers with such experience. "Otherwise," he warned, "a commander is forever fighting with those airmen who, regardless of the ground situation, want to send big bombers on missions that have nothing to do with the critical effort." While admitting that "a fighter commander of the very highest caliber" like Leigh-Mallory would be badly needed in the battle, he deplored the tendency "to freeze organization so that the commander may not use trusted


and superior subordinates in their proper spheres. . . ."2

General Eisenhower initially approached the British with "long and patient explaining" to show that he had no great interest in controlling the Coastal Command, no possible desire to diminish the bombing offensive against Germany, and no intention of permitting the big bombers to be misused on targets for which they were not suited. Toward the end of February he became more insistent in his requests that RAF Bomber Command be placed under his control. The Prime Minister, however, desired to keep this command independent of SHAEF or at least to limit the number of bombers under the Supreme Commander. General Eisenhower at length declared that, inasmuch as the U.S. air force in the United Kingdom, which was larger than that of the British, had been given to the Supreme Commander, he could not face the U.S. Chiefs of Staff if the British withheld their bomber force. During the period of discussion General Eisenhower declared that if the British were for anything less than an all-out effort for the cross-Channel attack he would "simply have to go home." The Prime Minister near the end of February agreed to accept any agreement that Portal and Eisenhower found satisfactory.3

Apparently in an effort to overcome what he believed to be the Prime Minister's reluctance to place strategic air forces under Leigh-Mallory, General Eisenhower said on 29 February that he was prepared to exert direct supervision of all air forces through Tedder. Under this arrangement Air Chief Marshal Tedder would be the directing head of all OVERLORD air forces with Leigh-Mallory, Spaatz, and Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur T. Harris, Commander, RAF Bomber Command, operating on a coordinate plane. Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory's position would be unchanged so far as assigned forces were concerned, but those attached for definite periods or tasks would not be placed under his command.4

On 9 March Chief of the Air Staff Portal, in consultation with Air Chief Marshal Tedder, produced a draft agreement on the use of the strategic air forces which General Eisenhower described as "exactly what we want." To still any lingering fears, the Supreme Commander formally accepted intervention by the Combined Chiefs of Staff if they wished to impose additional tasks on the bomber forces, or by the British Chiefs of Staff if the requirements for the security of the British Isles were not fully met. Tedder was to coordinate operations in execution of the OVERLORD strategic air plan, and Leigh-Mallory was to coordinate the tactical air plan under the supervision of Tedder. It was understood that, once the assault forces had been established on the Continent, the directive for the employment of strategic bombing forces was to be revised.5

The draft agreement was passed on to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in mid-March. In presenting it, the British Chiefs of Staff declared that when the air program


developed by the Supreme Commander for the support of the cross-Channel operation had been approved jointly by Eisenhower, as the agent of the Combined Chiefs of Staff in executing the cross-Channel attack, and by the Chief of the Air Staff, as executive of the Combined Chiefs of Staff for the execution of the Combined Bomber Offensive against Germany, "the responsibility for supervision of air operations out of England of all the forces engaged in the program, including the United States Strategic Air Force and the British Bomber Command, together with any other air forces that might be made available, should pass to the Supreme Commander." Those strategic forces which would not be used in support of the cross-Channel attack, the British Chiefs of Staff declared, would be committed in accordance with arrangements made by Air Chief Marshal Portal and General Eisenhower, with supervision of the effort being shared by both of them. The explanatory statements added that the British were unlikely to use the proposed reservation over the control of strategic air forces unless they were needed for attacks on rocket launching sites or for a similar emergency, in which case they would inform the U.S. Chiefs of Staff immediately.6

The U.S. Chiefs at once protested that the new proposals did not give General Eisenhower "command" of the strategic air forces. The British, reminding the Americans that the Supreme Commander had approved their draft and had even written parts of it, explained their desire to leave in the control of the strategic air commanders those air forces not assigned to the cross-Channel attack. Despite General Eisenhower's original acceptance of the British draft, he became disturbed by the question raised over the matter of "command" and insisted that no doubt be left that he had authority and responsibility "for controlling air operations of all three of these forces during the critical period of OVERLORD."7 He had now reached the point where he was ready "to take drastic action and inform the Combined Chiefs of Staff that unless the matter is settled at once I will request relief from this command."8

The point at issue was settled ultimately on 7 April by the Combined Chiefs' statement that "the USA Strategic Air Force and British Bomber Command will operate under the direction of the Supreme Commander, in conformity with agreements between him and the Chief of the Air Staff as approved by the Combined Chiefs of Staff."9 With this arrangement made, the Chief of the Air Staff notified the commanders of the British and U.S. bomber forces that he and General Eisenhower had approved, with the exception of certain targets in enemy-occupied territory, the air plan developed to support the cross-Channel attack. The direction of RAF Bomber Command and USSTAF forces assigned to the Combined Bomber Offensive and the cross-Channel attack


was to pass to the Supreme Commander on 14 April.10

Tedder on 15 April defined the over-all mission of the strategic air forces as the same as that for POINTBLANK: to prepare for the cross-Channel attack by destroying and dislocating the German military, industrial, and economic system. USSTAF's primary job was described as the destruction of the German Air Force, with the secondary aim of bombing the enemy transportation system, an objective which had been accepted only a short time before after weeks of discussion.11 The RAF Bomber Command was to continue its main mission of disorganizing German industry, with its operations complementing the operations of USSTAF as far as possible. Responsibility for dealing with the threats of long-range rockets and pilotless aircraft was placed on the commander of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force, who was authorized to ask for strategic bomber aid through the Deputy Supreme Commander.12

Once control of strategic and tactical air forces was settled, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory sought to unify the control of tactical air forces for the assault period. On 1 May, over the protests of General Brereton, the Ninth Air Force commander, Leigh-Mallory set up an Advanced Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Air Force, under Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham, commander of the 2d Tactical Air Force, to plan and coordinate the operations of those British and U.S. tactical air forces allotted to him. In late May, the Supreme Commander directed the 21 Army Group commander to deal with only one air chief during the assault period. Ground force requests for air support were now to go directly to the Commander, Advanced Headquarters, AEAF, at Uxbridge, where advanced headquarters of the 2d Tactical Air Force and the Ninth Air Force were also located. Information on targets of special importance not directly connected with the battle area was to be sent by the 21 Army Group to the Commander-in-Chief, Allied Expeditionary Air Force.13

At the beginning of the cross-Channel attack, therefore, General Eisenhower had under his control those portions of the strategic air forces of RAF Bomber Command and USSTAF allotted him for the POINTBLANK and OVERLORD operations. His tactical support--under the control of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force--consisted of the Ninth U.S. Air Force, the 2d Tactical Air Force, and such forces as should be allocated from the Air Defence of Great Britain. The Allied air forces were coordinated after 1 May through the Air Operations Planning Staff of SHAEF located at Stanmore, main headquarters of AEAF. At Stanmore daily conferences were held by the Deputy Supreme Commander, the commander of AEAF, and the Allied strategic and tactical air force commanders. The Allied tactical air force


commanders held similar daily meetings at Advanced Headquarters, AEAF, Uxbridge, to coordinate operations of the 2d Tactical and Ninth Air Forces. A Combined Operations Room, consisting of representatives of the two tactical air forces, and a Combined Control Center, including representatives of the fighter units and commands in support of operations were also established at Uxbridge. The control center "planned, coordinated and controlled all fighter operations in the initial phases of the operations; it was also responsible for issuing executive instructions for the fighter bombers." The Combined Reconnaissance Center at Uxbridge coordinated photographic and visual reconnaissance.14

Railway Bombing Plan

SHAEF's chief contribution to air support for the assault came from its strong insistence on the adoption of a railway bombing plan.15 In getting the proposal adopted, Eisenhower, Tedder, and Leigh-Mallory were vigorously opposed, on both strategic and political grounds, by most of the bomber commanders, by members of the 21 Army Group staff, and by the Prime Minister and most of the War Cabinet.

Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory's staff in January 1944 presented SHAEF with a plan for destroying railway marshaling yards and repair facilities in the invasion area. Based on an analysis by Professor S. Zuckerman, scientific adviser to the Allied Expeditionary Air Force on railway bombing in Italy, the proposal provided for a ninety-day attack against thirty-nine targets in Germany and thirty-three in Belgium and France for the purpose of dislocating railway systems supplying the enemy forces in the west.16

As soon as it was presented, the railway bombing plan was attacked by U.S. and British bomber commanders who feared that their bombing forces would be diverted from the Combined Bomber Offensive and used on targets which did not give a satisfactory return. General Spaatz, commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces, had previously expressed the belief that if the Allies could use their full bombing forces against the enemy they might be able to conquer Germany without an amphibious invasion.17 Air Chief Marshal Harris feared that if there was any major shift of strategic bomber forces to purely "army cooperation work" the Allies would soon lose, the combined bombing offensive's effect for the past year. The AEAF planners, on the other hand, believed that the strategic bombing forces had already


completed enough of their programs to spare planes that would help the ground forces insure the success of their assault operations.

There were two specific objections to the railway bombing plan:the proposed offensive would have no effect on the OVERLORD battle during the first twenty days when it was most needed; peoples of the occupied countries might react unfavorably to the attacks over their territory. The first objection was countered by eliminating targets in Germany and by increasing the number of objectives in France, including fourteen in southern France to be attacked from the Mediterranean theater. The Allied Air Bombing Committee, to which the plan was submitted for study, on 24 January accepted Leigh-Mallory's conclusion that the proposed plan was the "only practicable method of dealing with the enemy's rail communications and that it satisfied army requirements." Because of possible War Cabinet opposition to bombing targets in enemy-occupied territory, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory agreed that there were political implications which the British Chiefs of Staff would have to consider. He proposed to start the bombing program as soon as their sanction could be received.18

The Allied Expeditionary Air Force on 12 February 1944 formally presented its plan for destroying enemy rail transportation by striking at the "traffic flow potential" (main repair centers, servicing centers, and signaling systems). Opposition from the United States Strategic Air Forces, and the hint of disapproval from the British Chief of the Air Staff, brought Air Chief Marshal Tedder into the picture as the leading proponent of the plan. Acting with the full support of the Supreme Commander, Tedder made the proposal his own, and in late February and early March was probably chiefly responsible for saving it.19

In March and early April, the opposition to the railway bombing plan mounted until it seemed to be doomed. Field Marshal Brooke doubted the effectiveness of the proposed attack, pointing to experience in Italy which left serious doubt that it would be possible to reduce the capacity of railroads decisively. Far more telling against the plan was the political objection. Air Chief Marshal Portal reminded the planners of a War Cabinet ruling of 3 June 1940 which forbade attacks in occupied countries if any doubt existed as to the accuracy of bombing and if any large error involved the risk of serious damage to a populated area. In the light of an estimate by the Ministry of Home Security that the proposed plan would cause 80,000-160,000 casualties, of which one fourth might be deaths, political approval of the plan seemed unlikely.20

Air Chief Tedder brought matters to a head on 24 March. He cut through many of the objections with the reminder that the Allies had to destroy the enemy's air forces before D Day and delay his movements toward the lodgment area. POINTBLANK, already contributing to this end, had to be adjusted to "prepare the way for the assault and subsequent land campaign."


To do the job effectively a target system was required against which all available forces could be directed, on which the maximum number of effective hits could be made, and from which the widest possible choice of targets would be provided. Tedder thus questioned the view of the strategic bombing commanders that there was no need of OVERLORD if the strategic bombing program against industry in Germany could be carried on actively for several more months. Tedder next examined General Spaatz's proposal for increased concentration on targets in Germany, with particular emphasis on the petroleum industry. This "oil plan," which became the chief alternative to the railway bombing plan in the discussions that followed, aimed not so much at immediate aid to an amphibious landing on the Continent as at an offensive which might in itself destroy the German war potential. On that issue Air Chief Marshal Tedder decided to make his fight. He held that the worth of any plan at the moment lay in the aid it would bring to OVERLORD before D Day. After considering alternate plans, he concluded that the scheme to bomb railway marshaling yards and repair centers offered a reasonable prospect of disorganizing enemy movement and supply and made it easier to block traffic with tactical air strikes after D Day. In reaching these conclusions he swept aside U.S. proposals, submitted on the basis of information that the tonnage of bombs required for the purpose would be prohibitive, for attacks that would be confined to railway and road bridges.21

In presenting these arguments before the Bombing Policy Conference on 25 March, Air Chief Marshal Tedder asked for continuance of the highest priority for POINTBLANK attacks deep into Germany which would weaken the German Air Force. After these requirements were fulfilled, however, he wanted the remaining air effort used to "delay and disorganize enemy ground movement both during and after the 'NEPTUNE' assault so as to help the army get ashore and stay ashore." To achieve this objective, he urged second priority for the railway bombing plan, although he admitted it would not prevent all enemy traffic from reaching the beachhead. These arguments impressed General Eisenhower who, as the commander responsible for getting troops firmly established ashore, was interested in short-range as well as long-range bombing results. The Supreme Commander insisted that, since the first five or six weeks of OVERLORD were likely to be most critical, it was essential to take every possible step to insure that the assault forces landed and held their ground. The air forces' greatest contribution in this period was hindrance of enemy movement. In the absence of a more productive alternative, Eisenhower asked for the adoption of the AEAF plan. He agreed to a War Office suggestion that a study be made to determine whether bombing of a smaller area would be more effective, but held that it was "only necessary to show that there would be some reduction of German transportation, however small, to justly adopting this plan, provided there was no alternative available."22

General Spaatz now strongly urged the attack on the oil resources of the enemy as an effective alternative plan. He maintained that the strategic bomber attacks


on the railways, in the time and with the forces available, would neither affect the course of the initial battle nor prevent the movement of German reserves from other fronts. The oil plan would weaken enemy resistance on all fronts, hastening the success of OVERLORD after D Day. Furthermore, it would force the German Air Force to fight, thus giving the Allies an opportunity to reduce the remaining air strength of the enemy. General Eisenhower now intervened to say that it was clear the railway bombing plan "meant very little change in the present Bomber Command Program," and that the main question was whether the U.S. forces could carry out their part in it. In the light of Air Chief Marshal Harris' and General Spaatz's doubts that the Tedder plan could be completed before D Day, the Supreme Commander asked General Spaatz to consider information which Air Chief Marshal Tedder would supply regarding the contribution of the U.S. bomber forces and to report whether the requirements could be met. The Deputy Supreme Commander was then to prepare a draft directive based on the Spaatz study, and the Supreme Commander and the British Chief of the Air Staff would make their final decisions.23

In preparing his report to Air Chief Marshal Tedder, General Spaatz revealed one of his major worries over the railway bombing plan. He was willing to see it adopted for France where the bombing effort could be shared with Bomber Command and the tactical bomber forces of AEAF, but he wished to keep a free hand for the use of his surplus forces in Germany. On 31 March he accepted the attack on the German Air Force and on the railroads in France as prerequisites to the success of OVERLORD, but held that no conclusive answer had been given to the question of whether attacks on railroads or oil in Germany would have more effect on OVERLORD. Although he agreed that the oil attack might have been a less definite impact in the time allotted, he believed it certain to be more far-reaching in the long run. He asked, therefore, that the priority for attacks by USSTAF be given to: (1) German Air Force and bail bearings, (2) rail transportation in occupied countries, and (3) synthetic oil plants.24

The railway bombing plan next came under fire from British quarters. The Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, already doubtful about the proposal, reported in early April that despite bombings which had already taken place on enemy railroads there was no sign of any serious failure on their part to move vital military and economic traffic. Admitting that the shortage of railway cars was critical, the subcommittee nevertheless held it was not so severe as to prevent the system from handling the enemy's minimum rail requirements in France and the Low Countries after D Day. This report led Field Marshal Brooke to question whether the Allies were justified in taking bombers off German Air Force targets and placing them on railroads.25

A more serious threat to the execution of the AEAF plan was the political objection to it which became increasingly pronounced in April and May. The War Cabinet on 3 April took "a grave and on the whole an adverse view of the proposal . . ." because of possible injuries and


deaths to thousands of French civilians. Pressed by the War Cabinet to refer the matter to the Defence Committee, President Roosevelt, and the Department of State, Mr. Churchill expressed his fear concerning the wisdom of the plan to General Eisenhower. The latter, aware of the serious implications of the railway bombing scheme, reminded the Prime Minister that one of the chief factors leading to the acceptance of the OVERLORD plan was the belief that "our overpowering air force would make feasible an operation which might otherwise be considered extremely hazardous, if not foolhardy." He asked that they proceed with the plan. While sympathetic with the views of the French, he noted that, since they were "now slaves," no one should have a greater interest than they in the measures leading to the success of the invasion.26

Although targets in France were still subject to War Cabinet control, the Supreme Commander and his staff moved steadily toward the implementation of the plan. The decision on 27 March by the Combined Chiefs of Staff that the strategic air forces would pass to the Supreme Commander in mid-April made the situation easier. When Air Chief Marshal Tedder objected to further delay in starting attacks on rail centers, General Eisenhower decided to use the occasion of his assumption of the strategic bombing forces to announce that the plan had been approved with the exception of certain listed targets. He made clear that the political effects of the plan would be kept under continuous review. An advisory committee consisting of the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, a scientific adviser, and representatives of the Air Ministry, USSTAF, Bomber Command, AEAF, Railway Research Service, SHAEF G-2, and SHAEF G-3 was appointed to aid the Deputy Supreme Commander supervise the railway bombing plan.27 The issue, however, was not yet settled.

Hopes for speedy approval of all proposed targets in occupied countries were not realized. Less than two months before D Day, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory reported that of twenty-seven targets on which clearance was requested only fourteen had been approved for attacks, and of this number only five had been listed for unrestricted bombing. SHAEF announced an enlarged list of selected targets on the following day but withdrew it on 29 April, apparently in the face of War Cabinet opposition. With the exception of the Secretaries of State for War and Air, the entire Cabinet held the plan to be of doubtful military value and likely political disadvantage. The members suggested instead that the United States Air Forces prepare a plan for the strategic air forces which would not cost more than 100 lives per target. Mr. Churchill forwarded this recommendation to the President and the Supreme Commander, sending the latter in addition a report by Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart's Political Committee that recent Allied air raids in France had been "catastrophic" for French morale. General Eisenhower and Air Chief Marshal Tedder stood firm in the face of these objections, the Supreme Commander declaring, "I have stuck by my guns because there is no other way in which this tremendous air force can help us, during the preparatory period, to get ashore and stay there." He


pointed out that suggested alternatives for bombing troop concentrations and supply dumps would probably kill four Frenchmen for every German.28

To the warnings of Mr. Churchill and the War Cabinet were next added the request of the French Committee of National Liberation that the French command be consulted on targets, and the suggestion that it take control of the bombing. The latter proposal was not taken seriously, but General Smith in early May arranged for Maj. Gen. Pierre Joseph Koenig, head of the French forces in the United Kingdom, to consult with Air Chief Marshal Tedder on bombings Which might involve the loss of French lives. General Smith reported that, to his surprise, General Koenig took a "much more cold-blooded view than we do." The French commander had remarked, "This is war and it must be expected that people will be killed. . . . We would take twice the anticipated loss to be rid of the Germans."29

General Eisenhower and Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory at the end of April. pressed once more for a final decision on all their targets. With the aid of Air Chief Marshal Portal, they were able to get the Prime Minister's reluctant approval for the bombings, provided the casualty list in occupied countries did not rise above 10,000. Mr. Churchill was disturbed, however, and continued to watch the operations closely, demanding only a week before D Day why the Deputy Supreme Commander had not examined the Political Committee's report on French reactions to the bombings, and adding, "I am afraid you are piling up an awful load of hate."30

Opinions of airmen and students of the railway bombing plan differ greatly as to its effect on German movement. The strategic air forces hold that it was the attack on the bridges and not the railway bombings which wrecked the German supply plan. Even the German commanders, while strong in their belief that the various air attacks were ruinous to their counter-offensive plans, disagreed as to which were the most successful. As to the general effectiveness of the bombings, both tactical and strategic, there can be do doubt.

By D Day some 76,200 tons of bombs had been dropped on rail centers (71,000), bridges (4,400), and open lines (800). The bridges were down the length of the Seine from Rouen to Mantes-Gassicourt before D Day, and on 26 May all routes over the Seine north of Paris were closed to rail traffic and remained closed for the following month. Railway traffic dropped sharply between 19 May and 9 June, the index (based on 100 for January and February 1944) falling from 69 to 38, and by mid-July dropping further to 23. Although French collaborationists roused some feeling against the Allies as a result of losses from bombings, there is no evidence that pro-German sentiment increased sharply because of the transportation attacks. The fears of USSTAF that it would have to bear the burden of transportation attacks did not prove correct: Bomber Command struck at a greater number of targets and


AIR ATTACK on the railway yards at Domfront, France (above). Shattered railway bridge over the Seine at Port du Gravier (below).


dropped a larger tonnage of bombs on the occupied areas in the pre-D-Day period than did the United States Eighth Air Force. General Eisenhower, writing later, had no doubt that it had been wise to press for the plan. In his postwar report he declared:

The fate of the Continent depended upon the ability of our forces to seize a foothold and to maintain that foothold against everything we expected the enemy to throw against us. No single factor contributing to the success of our efforts in Normandy could be overlooked or disregarded. Military events, I believe, justified the decision taken, and the French people, far from being alienated, accepted the hardships and suffering with a realism worthy of a far-sighted nation.31


Prominent among the enemy weapons against which General Eisenhower found it necessary to turn the Allied air effort before D Day were the long-range rockets and pilotless aircraft known by the Germans as vengeance weapons (Vergeltungswaffen). General Eisenhower, fearful of attacks by these weapons on Allied marshaling areas during the critical period of concentration of assault forces, urged strong bombing attacks on their launching sites to prevent enemy forces from disrupting his invasion plans.32

In the spring of 1943, Allied intelligence discovered a German research station at Peenemuende on the Baltic Sea engaged in experiments with guided missiles. General Morgan was informed of these activities, but the responsibility for dealing with them was apparently given to the British Bomber Command. An effective raid on Peenemuende on the night of 17-18 August 1943 forced the enemy to disperse his experimental activities and set up underground sites.33

Allied apprehension was increased in the late fall of 1943 when sixty-nine "ski sites" apparently intended as launching platforms for pilotless aircraft were photographed within a 150-mile radius of London, chiefly in the Pas-de-Calais and Cherbourg area.34 At the rate of construction which had been observed, it appeared


that the enemy would have twenty of the sites completed by early January 1944, and the remainder by February with the possibility of a full-scale attack by that time. Attempting to counter these new menaces, the British Chiefs of Staff ordered bombing raids against them as early as 5 December 1943. These were not completely successful, as a result of unfavorable weather.35

General Morgan was asked in December 1943 to study the probable effect of the enemy's vengeance weapon, which might be equal to the force of a 2000-ton bombing raid every twenty-four hours, on the launching of OVERLORD. He was to examine the steps that could be taken to mount the cross-Channel attack from British bases outside the range of the pilotless aircraft. The COSSAC staff members, after considering the probable effects of the V-weapon attacks, concluded that they might prejudice, but not preclude, the launching of the assault from the south coast of England. Although they recommended maximum dispersion before and during embarkation, a movement of assault forces outside the range of the enemy weapons, they believed, would have serious effects on training and efficiency. General Morgan declared that it was not possible to launch OVERLORD in its existing form unless the forces assembled and sailed from the south coast.36

British air attacks begun on 5 December 1943 were strengthened after the middle of the month by the Eighth Air Force, which was ordered to hit the NOBALL targets when weather conditions were not suitable for deep penetration of Germany. Attacks on the approximately one hundred ski sites reported between St. Omer and Neufchâtel and a small area south of Cherbourg were intensified and top priority was given the attack on five active larger sites apparently designed for the launching of rockets. Reports of successful results in January 1944, and a decline in German claims of a new weapon of reprisal, led Allied intelligence agencies to conclude near the close of the month that there was no likelihood of an attack by the new weapons for at least four weeks.37

The Supreme Commander was asked in early February to submit a revised report on the possible effect of CROSSBOW on OVERLORD. Impressed, perhaps, by satisfactory reports of recent Allied raids, SHAEF reported in late March that the direct effects of enemy V weapons were among the "smaller hazards of war to which OVERLORD is liable" and that the probable casualties did not make it necessary to move the assault forces west of Southampton. The Allies received additional encouragement in mid-April when the air forces reported that of the ninety-six ski sites attacked, sixty-five were in damage category A, which was believed sufficient to prevent the enemy from launching weapons before making extensive repairs. Despite this assurance, the


British Chiefs of Staffs were apprehensive over a reduction in the scale of Allied attacks on these targets in March and April. They estimated that repair and construction of launching sites were gaining on the damage made by the bomber forces. Availing themselves of a provision in the Supreme Commander's directive permitting them to intervene in matters affecting the security of the British Isles, they asked that attacks on these sites be given priority over all other operations except POINTBLANK until the threat was overcome.38

Shortly before D Day, the British Chiefs of Staff reviewed the V-weapon situation and made the following recommendations: that the percentage of tactical air force efforts (10 percent of the total) then being expended against ski sites be continued until about D Day unless some unforeseen development arose; that a decision be made about 1 June concerning the attack on supply sites or "modified" sites, of which approximately fifty had been located. The Deputy Supreme Commander asked that visual attacks be carried out at the first favorable opportunity against some of the larger sites.39

Between August 1943 and 6 June 1944, more than 32,000 sorties were flown and 31,000 tons of bombs were dropped in the attack on launching sites. In March and April 1944, the tactical air forces expended 22 percent and the Eighth Air Force 13 percent of their total efforts in operations against these targets. However, Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory noted that this activity had not interfered with his preparatory operations for OVERLORD, and the Eighth Air Force reported that on only two days between 1 December 1943 and 1 September 1944 was there any substantial diversion from its attacks on German targets. The AEAF commander concluded that by D Day eighty-six out of ninety-seven pilotless aircraft sites and two of the seven identified rocket sites had been neutralized. At least seventy-four modified site were not revealed by photographic reconnaissance until after D Day, and these remained as targets for future air and ground attacks. The combined efforts of the tactical and strategic air forces succeeded in delaying enemy attacks with pilotless aircraft until one week after D Day and were a strong factor in reducing the effectiveness of the ultimate assault.40

Effect of the Air Program

While the Supreme Commander was attempting to get full approval of the railway bombing program, the POINTBLANK operation continued in full force against its primary objectives in Germany. The USSTAF oil plan went into effect in April and was beginning to yield some results before D Day. Experiments in the bombing of bridges in occupied countries showed that these operations were much less costly than had been predicted, and the program was pressed with great success by the air forces. This, and the railway bombing operations, which at length got into full swing, effectively damaged enemy communications and interfered with


the Germans' freedom of movement to threatened areas. The bombings of launching sites for pilotless aircraft aided the invasion forces at least negatively by postponing bombardment of the marshaling areas by these weapons. The ground forces were also helped greatly in their planning by the information on enemy movements and defenses gathered by photographic reconnaissance units. All air activities were supplemented immediately before and after D Day by the raids of thousands of tactical aircraft over the lodgment area. These combined efforts reduced almost to zero the enemy's ability to conduct aerial reconnaissance over the marshaling area or to launch any effective aerial countermeasures against the invasion forces. By D Day the Allied air forces had established their superiority over the enemy in western Europe, and the effects of months of pounding German industry and wearing away the German Air Force were to be seen at last when the invasion was launched.


Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (6) * Next Chapter (8)


1. Diary Office CinC, 29 Feb, 22 Mar 44.

2. Eisenhower to Marshall, 17 Dec 43; Eisenhower to Marshall, W-8550, 25 Dec 43. Both in Eisenhower personal file. Diary Office CinC, 29 Feb, 3 Mar 44. The latter entry contains a memorandum by the Supreme Commander explaining the problems which faced him on his arrival in London.

3. Diary Office, CinC, 3, 11, 22 Mar 44.

4. Memo, Eisenhower for Tedder, 29 Feb 44, Diary Office CinC.

5. Diary Office CinC, 29 Feb, 3 and 11 Mar 44. Ltr, Portal to Eisenhower, 9 Mar 44; Br COS to JSM, 13 Mar 44; CCS Memo, Control of Strategic Bombing for OVERLORD, 27 Mar 44. All in SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

6. Br COS to CCS, CCS 520, 17 Mar 44, SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

7. JSM to War Cabinet Office, JSM 1581, 17 Mar 44; Br COS to JSM, COS(W) 1220, 7 Mar 44. Both in SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

8. Eisenhower Memo, Diary Office CinC, 22 Mar 44. This memo seems not to have been passed on to anyone.

9. CCS to Eisenhower, W-19763, 7 Apr 44, SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command. (This CCS message contains a reference to the CCS 520 series, which includes the statement presented to the CCS by the representatives of the British Chiefs of Staff on 17 March 44; see above, n.6.)

10. Ltr, Portal to Spaatz, 13 Apr 44; Air Marshal Sir Norman H. Bottomley to Comdr, Bomber Comd, 13 Apr 44. Both in SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

11. See below, pp. 127-31.

12. Directive by SHAEF (prepared by Deputy SAC and issued by the Supreme Commander) to USSTAF and Bomber Command for the support of OVERLORD during the preparatory period, 17 Apr 44, SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

13. AEAF to 2d Tactical Air Force and Ninth Air Force, 9 May 44, sub: Establishment of Advanced AEAF, with atchd dir of 1 May 44; SAC Dir to 21 A Gp and C-in-C AEAF, Control of air forces during the initial phase of NEPTUNE--general principles [date uncertain--may be 18, 19, or 20 May 44], SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

14. Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Despatch to the Supreme Commander, AEF, November 1944, Supplement to The London Gazette. December 31, 1946, pp. 1-3.

15. The plan was known by several names: "the transportation bombing plan," "the Zuckerman plan," "the AEAF plan," "the Tedder plan," and "the railway bombing plan."

16. Rpt of Conf at Norfolk House, 13 Jan 44, dtd 14 Jan 44, USSTAF files. (The author is indebted to Col. Charles Warner, USAF, and Dr. Gordon Harrison for these and other notes taken from the USSTAF files.) For the U.S. Air Force account of the railway bombing plan, see Wesley Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II: III, Europe: Argument to V-E Day (Chicago, 1951), pp. 77-79, 149-62.

17. Butcher, My Three Years with Eisenhower, p. 447, quotes General Spaatz as saying in 1943 that, after the weather cleared in the spring so that bombing could be persistent and continuous from both the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean, he was confident that Germany would give up in three months. As a result he did not think OVERLORD necessary or desirable. Apparently Air Chief Marshal Harris shared this view although, once it was decided that an invasion was to be made, he "did not quarrel with the decision to place the bomber force at the disposal of the invading armies. . . ." Harris, Bomber Offensive, p. 192.

18. Allied Air Force Bombing Com, Norfolk House, 6th Mtg, 24 Jan 44, USSTAF file. Morgan to Leigh-Mallory, 10 Jan 44; Leigh-Mallory to Morgan 31 Jan 44; Maj Gen P. G. Whitefoord to Morgan, 25 Jan 44. All in SHAEF SGS 373.24 Military Objectives for Aerial Bombardment, I.

19. The importance of the work of Tedder is confirmed by entries in Diary Office CinC, Sir Arthur Harris' Bomber Offensive, and statements to the author by Sir James M. Robb, Lord Portal, and others.

20. Note by Maj Gen Hollis on mtg of Br COS, 19 Mar 44, COS(44) 273 (0), 19 Mar 44, SHAEF SGS 373.24 Military Objectives for Aerial Bombardment, I.

21. Memo by Tedder, 24 Mar 44, SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command.

22. Bombing Policy Conf Mtg, 25 Mar 44, CAS Misc/61/Final, U.S. Air Force files.

23. Ibid.

24. Memo, Spaatz for Eisenhower, 31 Mar 44, Diary Office CinC.

25. JIC Report, 3 Apr 44, COS(44) 112th Mtg, 6 Apr 44, SHAEF SGS 373.24 Military Objectives for Aerial Bombardment, I.

26. Churchill to Eisenhower, 3 Apr 44; Eisenhower to Churchill, 5 Apr 44. Both in Diary Office, CinC.

27. Dir, 15 Apr 44, SHAEF SGS 373/1 Policy re: Control and Employment of USSTAF and Bomber Command; Mtg of air comdrs, 15 Apr 44, SHAEF SGS 373.24 Military Objectives for Aerial Bombardment, I.

28. Ltr. AEAF to SHAEF, 19 Apr 44; Dir, Eisenhower to AEAF, 20 Apr 44; Memo, SGS to CofS, 20 Apr 44; Dir, Eisenhower to Leigh-Mallory, Spaatz and Harris, 29 Apr 44; Ltr Churchill to Eisenhower with incls, 28 Apr 44. All in SHAEF SGS 373.24 Military Objectives for Aerial Bombardment, I. Eisenhower to Marshall, 29 Apr 44. Eisenhower personal file.

29. Memo. French Com of National Liberation 5 May 44, File of Air Chief Marshal Robb; Interv with Sir James Robb, 3 Feb 47; Smith to Marshall, S-51984, 17 May 44. Eisenhower personal file.

30. Copy of note, Churchill to Tedder, OCMH files.

31. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, Ch. 6, has drawn heavily on German sources in addition to the other information used in other reports. His account gives strong backing to the effectiveness of the railway bombing plan. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, Ch. 6, are inclined to the strategic air forces view, but they have not made use of some of the enemy records used by Harrison. The author has used statistical information from the two books. Other material on the subject may be found in "The Effects of the OVERLORD Air Plan to Disrupt the Enemy Rail Connections," 4 Nov 44, BAU Report I, SHAEF SGS BAU 334; Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 44; 12 A Gp Air Effects Com, Effect of Airpower on Military Operations, 15 Jul 45; Minutes of the THUNDERBOLT Conference held in London summer of 1947 to examine the effectiveness of air operations in OVERLORD; Report by the Supreme Commander to the Combined Chiefs of Staff on the Operations in Europe of the AEF, 6 June 1944 to 8 May 1945 (Washington, 1946), p. 16; Army Air Forces Evaluation Board in ETO, Summary Report on Effectiveness of Air Attack Against Rail Transportation in the Battle of France, 1 Jun 45, p. 3, Air University, Maxwell Field. Ala. Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 14, says that in the period of the operation of the transportation plan, 9 February-6 June 44, AEAF dropped 10,125, Bomber Command 44,744, and U.S. Eighth Air Force, 11,648 tons. From the Mediterranean, the Fifteenth Air Force dropped 3,074 tons of bombs on targets in southern France. The SHAEF Bombing Analysis Unit, reporting on the period 6 March-6 June 1944, shows that AEAF dropped 10,486, Bomber Command 40,921, U.8. Eighth Air Force 7,886, and U.S. FIfteenth Air Force 3,074 tons of bombs.

32. These weapons and the German operation employing them were referred to initially by the Allies as BODYLINE. Later the name was changed to CROSSBOW, a general term that was applied as well to Allied countermeasures against the German long-range weapons program. The air forces in referring to target sites in their attacks spoke of NOBALL targets.

33. For a convenient summary of early developments of the V weapons and Allied operations against them, see War Office, MI 4/14, The German Long-Range Rocket Programme, 1930-45, 30 Oct 45, G-2 Document Library; Harris, Bomber Offensive, pp. 182-85; United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), Report on the CROSSBOW Campaign: The Air Offensive Against the V Weapons, 24 Sep 45. Also see detailed story of the operation prior to D Day in Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. III, Ch. IV; Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, p. 140n.

34. The sites were so called because "of a big store room construction which from the air looked very like a ski. . . ." Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 53.

35. COS (43) 760 (0), 14 Dec 43, SHAEF files; Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 53.

36. Ltr, Price to Morgan, 16 Dec 43; Interim rpt by COSSAC on effect of CROSSBOW on OVERLORD, 20 Dec 43. Both in SHAEF SGS 381 CROSSBOW.

37. USSBS, Report on the CROSSB0W Campaign, pp. 6,19; Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 53; Rpt, Asst Chief of Air Staff (Intelligence) to Br COS, War Cabinet, 28 Jan 44, SHAEF SGS 381 CROSSBOW.

38. Memo, SHAEF for Br COS, 23 Mar 44, sub: Effects or CROSSBOW on OVERLORD; USSTAF to Arnold, U-61015, 16 Apr 44; Ismay to Eisenhower, 18 Apr 44; Tedder to Spaatz, 19 Apr 44. All in SHAEF SGS 381 CROSSBOW. USSBS, Report on the CROSSBOW Campaign, p. 19.

39. COS (44) 460 (0), 26 May 44; Ltr, Hollis to CofS SHAEF, 30 May 44, SHAEF SGS 381 CROSSBOW.

40. COS (44) 460 (0), 26 May 44; Note by Air Staff, CROSSBOW Effect of Diversion of Air Effort on OVERLORD; Leigh-Mallory Despatch, p. 54; USSBS, Report on the CROSSBOW Campaign. pp. 2-3. Cf. Craven and Cate, The Army Air Forces in World War II, III, 104-06.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Charles Hardinger for the HyperWar Foundation