On the strength of your source — would you cite it?
It's the war diary of the Wehrmacht High Command/National Defence Branch, as translated by Klee for the USAF. It's on one of the USAF web sites as a numbered historical diary. It's not the full diary, it only concerns the air war and Sea Lion from the summer of 1940 to Spring 1941.
Thus, even if my "centers of Capitals" understanding is valid, the attack on the city was no more "below the belt" than Germany's previous attacks against military targets around London.
Exactly. The British were responding with similar attacks to the ones the Germans were delivering, although due to the much greater ranges and smaller British bomber force, their attacks were on a much smaller scale than the Germans were delivering against Britain.
So, it would seem I cannot claim Churchill "flagrantly" goaded Hitler. Howevever, there is still the fact, from my video sources, that Churchill's bombings of Berlin — however piddley they might have been — coupled with Nazi boasts about no enemy bombers flying over the Reich were creating unrest amongst Berliners. The Nazi leadership not only was discredited, but feared riots.
I've never seen anything to suggest that was the case. Indeed Irving, who of course has a poor reputation because he distorts the truth in favour of the Nazis, claims Goebbels had extra fires lit around the Reichstag and Brandenburg gate to make Berliners think the attacks were heavier than they really were (in order to justify the mass bombing of Britain)
Hitler did try to make alliances with England.
Early on, and he even began to get somewhere. But his goals of conquering large parts of Europe were incompatible with alliances with democracies.
And he viewed it as a Holy Crusade by Divine Providence's chosen agents (German Folk) to win their just deserts (Lebensraum, GrossReich) by defeating a despicable foe (Communists, Jews) in a Holy War (Barbarossa). The absolutely most synnical way to put it is, Hitler wanted to exploit Europeans' fears of Communism to buoy German expansion.
Oh, I'd agree with that. But that means Germany was an aggressor, not merely defending itself against communism.
What about the fourth and final RAF raid vs. Berlin on either 5/6 Sept or 6/7 Sept, after Hitler's speech at the Sports Palace?
Can you extend the diary entries you posted up top a few more days?
6th Sept: "About 80 British aircraft penetrated into Germany last night" (no mention of where of if they bombed)
7th Sept: "A heavy air attack was carried out against Berlin last night. The London docks were attacked during both the past nights"
Note though the later entry:
8th Sept: "The heaviest attack ever conducted on Berlin took place. During this attack, 50 demolition and 48 incendiary bombs were dropped and 25 persons killed, 50 persons were injured"
That sets an upper limit (and a rather low one) on any of the raids in September.
The impression I have is that the RAF was never being attrited fast enough for a 1940 cross-channel invasion by Germany.
Yes, that's correct.
In fact, apart from brief periods, Fighter Command was actually growing stronger for large parts of the battle.
Why is it, then, that every single DVD I've watched on the BoB claims that the 7 Sept. switch to the Blitz vs. London was a miracle God-send for the RAF?
Because it makes a good story. It makes a much better story than saying that the British had organised their defences very well, operated with great efficiency, and in the end had a rather comfortable victory.
It also owes something to the perception in Britain at the time. Most stories about the BoB are written from a British perspective.
The RAF intelligence branch greatly overestimated German strength. They thought the Luftwaffe had thousands of aircraft in reserve (in fact they had almost none), they believed the Germans were producing about 3 times as many aircraft as they were, and that they were training 3 times as many pilots as they were. In short, they bought in to the Nazi propaganda about the invincible Luftwaffe.
The RAF of course knew their own losses, and they had a fair idea of German losses. But based on what they believed about German production and training, they thought the Luftwaffe was either growing stronger, or at least maintaining its strength. They didn't know that the Luftwaffe was actually bleeding itself white.
Why do they all say that the RAF pilots were on the brink of physical collapse, that they were having to put pilots into the air w/ sub-minimal training...
The training organisations were not working well. Or rather, the Operational Conversion Units were not. They were where qualified pilots went to learn a particular type, eg Spitfires or Hurricanes. Later on in the battle pilots were sometimes leaving these units with as little as 7 hours flying in a Spitfire or Hurricane.
However, the British had an advantage in that they had squadrons in the North and West who were far from the combat area, and Dowding changed the system so that those squadrons, as well as patrolling for lone German bombers and recce aircraft, would also finish the training of those pilots before they were posted on to the front line.
n fact, now that I think about it, I think that was a point raised. Sure, England could churn out new fighters... but they were losing their veteran pilots, and were having to rush-train pilots..
Yes, but so were the Luftwaffe. Erhard Milch toured the Luftwaffe units in France and found that they were being sent replacement fighter pilots who had only carried out 10 landings in a Bf 109 (which suggests a similar number of hours to some of the rush trained Spitfire and Hurricane pilots)
And the British had one more advantage, the pilots from countries conquered by the Germans. Many of the Poles and Czechs were added as the battle went on (for example, 303, a Polish squadron, only joined the battle on 31st August).
so where does this "We're almost lost, but wait Hitler saves us hurray" attitude come from?
Over dramatisation of the British point of view. And the German point of view.
Whilst the British greatly overestimated the Germans, the Germans greatly underestimated the British. They underestimated aircraft production, they underestimated the pilot training programme, and they greatly overestimated the numbers of British planes they were shooting down.
Richard Overy, in The Battle, sums this up:
The British fought the battle as if it was a last ditch struggle against an overwhelming enemy, the German side fought against a force persistently misrepresented as technically and tactically inept, short of aircraft, pilots and bases
The Germans thought they were winning, the RAF thought they might be starting to lose. That colours portrayals of the battle, particularly the less scholarly ones.
Look for a book called The Most Dangerous Enemy by Stephen Bungay.
So you are claiming there is a double falsehood here — (1) the RAF was never in danger, (2) Hitler's desperate gamble was never a "blunder".
Yes to the first. As to the second, Hitler listened to the Luftwaffe, who wanted to attack London. As such it certainly can't be called Hitler's blunder. And in many ways it wasn't a blunder at all. The Luftwaffe would have had to scale back the scale of their daylight ofensive anyway (in fact, they already were, RAF losses fell from 165 in the last week of August to 141 in the first week of September). Night bombing of Britain was just about the only option left to Germany to press the war against Britain.
The only sense in which it was a blunder was that it started the area bombing campaign between Britain and Germany, which the British later expanded greatly.
True or false — the BoB cost the RAF many veteran, experienced pilots... who were then replaced by hurredly trained replacements w/ only minimal flight experience?
I'd have to say false on that, because the RAF didn't have many veteran experienced pilots to begin with.
Unlike the Luftwaffe, which had cut its teeth in Spain, and had victorious campaigns in Poland, Norway and the West behind it, the RAF fighter pilots had little experience. Some had served in France, but not that many. Some had seen combat over Dunkirk, but again not that many, and not for very long.
So whilst the RAF was losing pilots, the pilots that survived were becoming veterans, rather than the rookies they had been.
As it stands, it looks like the data seems to support that the RAF was never "on its last legs" in terms of numbers of fighters available, although I would like to see the raw data.
A quote from Bungay:
Knowing that their enemy was preparing to 'go down hill' would have been cold comfort to the Luftwaffe. They assumed the enemy had been doing that for some time. In fact they believed he ought to be at his last gasp. General Stapf had reported to Haider on 30 August that the British had lost 800
Hurricanes and Spitfires since 8 August out of a front-line strength of 915. Given Schmid's estimate of their production capacity of 200-300 a month, the British could therefore only have 3-400 left at the outside. After another week of pounding in September, they must indeed be down to their last 200 machines.
In fact, on the evening of 6 September, Fighter Command had over 750 serviceable fighters and 1,381 pilots available to it, about 950 of whom flew Spitfires or Hurricanes. It needed 1,588 pilots to be at full establishment, which is of course what Dowding wanted, so from his point of view he was 200 short. From the Luftwaffe's point of view, he had almost 200 more pilots and 150 more planes than he had had at the beginning of July when they set out to destroy him.