Allied strategic bombing - An overlooked success?

The Allies 1939-1945, and those fighting against Germany.

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sid guttridge
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Allied strategic bombing - An overlooked success?

Post by sid guttridge » Sat Feb 21, 2004 5:51 am

There seems to be a widespread assumption on some Feldgrau threads that Allied bombing not only consumed large numbers of innocent German civilians but added insult to their injury by being ineffective.

I would suggest that Allied strategic bombing was far more effective than widely recognised. To set the ball rolling I offer a few statistics:

1) Effect of the Bomber Offensive on the Luftwaffe's offensive potential:

Bombers produced End 1939/1944/1945 - 737/2,287/0
Fighters produced End 1939/1944/1945 - 605/25,285/4,396.
(Source: "The German Aircraft Industry and Production, 1933-1945" by Ferenc A. Vajda and Peter Dancey, Airlife, UK, 1998)

In other words, in order to confront the Allied bomber offensive with the maximum number of fighters, Germany had given up bomber production by the end of the war altogether, thereby crippling its offensive potential at the front.

2) Effect of the bomber offensive on the diversion from the front of high velocity guns suitable for anti-aircraft and anti-tank use:

(Source: "Small Arms, Artillery and Special Weapons of the Third Reich" by Terry Gander and Peter Chamberlain, Macdonalds and Janes, London, 1978)

p.150 "When Allied bomber fleets started to grow in number and range, many Flak guns were gradually withdrawn from field units to home defence." Furthermore they detail how more and more guns were produced without mobile carriages, making them incapable of use with the army at the front.

p.152 contains monthly lists of details of heavy anti-aircraft gun holdings. These peaked in August 1944 at 12,000+ high velocity guns of 88mm and above. What might even a proportion of them have done for German anti-tank defences at the front?

3) Loss of Production due to Allied Bombing according to Reich Armaments Minister Albert Speer.

(Source: "Eagle in Flames" by E. R. Hooton, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1997)

p.262. "By the beginning of 1945 Speer calculated that the bombing had caused a 35% shortfall in tank production compared with potential, 31% in aircraft and 42% in trucks, meaning that in 1944 German aircraft production could have been 55,000 and tank production 30,000, while it was one reason why only 50% of aircraft scheduled in 1942 to be produced in 1944 emerged from the factories."

To this might be added U-boat construction etc. Allied strategic bombing damaged every German armed service.

4) Absenteeism in the German workforce due to Allied bombing.

P.263 of Wooton states that absenteeism in the industrial workforce increased from 4% in 1940 to 25% in 1944. Foreign workers, who were under a higher degree of compulsion, showed only a 3% absentee rate in 1944.

Whatever the moral and legal arguments, the terror effect of bombing seems to have been large.

5) The percentage of key armaments branches devoted to aerial defence according to Speer.

(Source: "The Air War 1939-1945" by R. J. Overy, Europa, London, 1980)

p.122. states that, according to Reich Armaments Minister Speer, in 1944 30% of total gun production, 20% of heavy ammunition, 50% of electrotechnical production and 33% of the optical industry were devoted to anti-aircraft defence, "starving the front" of essential communications resources in particular.

6) German human resources absorbed in anti-aircraft defence and clearing up the effects of Allied bombing according to Speer.

Anti-Aircraft defences absorbed some 2,000,000 people.
Clearing bomb damage absorbed some 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 people.

7) How miraculous was the increase of German production under Allied bombing?

(Source: Overy, p.150)

In terms of aircraft production there was, indeed, a massive rise in German aircraft numbers produced in 1943-44. However, this was in part because the production of multi-engined heavier types was drastically reduced and production switched to light, single-engined fighters.

To get a truer impression of the significance of Germany's increase in production it might be instructive to compare the German industry with the British industry (excluding the Commonwealth) at the time. The British continued to produce large numbers of heavy multi-engined aircraft.

Countries - German Reich : UK
Population - 90,000,000 : 47,000,000
Aircraft produced in 1944 - 39,807 : 26,461
Aeroengines produced - 54,600 : 56,931
Weight of aircraft produced - 199 million lbs. : 208 million lbs.

Thus Germany's 1944 air industry production levels, although impressive by its own modest earlier standards, were still no larger than British production levels. In terms of per capita production, Germany was still producing only about half the engines and weight of aircraft of Britain.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I appreciate some of the above is simplistic and completely evades the moral and legal issues surrounding the methodology of the bombing campaign, but I would suggest that whatever its other limitations, it did produce a major military dividend.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Freiritter » Sat Feb 21, 2004 6:57 am

Unfortunately, I don't have the numbers like I've seen some folks here have. But my view on the Combined Bomber Offensive is that it was effective. Not in the way that the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey painted it after the war. My theory on the CBO is that it succeeded against Germany by way of an " open bleeding wound ", suppressing German initiative, industrial output and forcing the Germans on the defensive. Secondly, it succeeded in drawing German assets away from the front, thusly, lessened combat power at the main area of battle. Pre-war strategic bombing doctrine held that bomber attacks would frighten the enemy population into forcing their government to make peace. That didn't happen. Secondly, despite CBO efforts, German industry was never crippled, only hampered by Allied bomber operations. I believe that strategic bombing at best, only supported the main battle against German military forces.

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Post by r. burns » Sat Feb 21, 2004 10:10 am

Soon after the British leveled Hamburg, Speer met with Hitler and warned him that if six other German cities were attacked on that scale it would bring armament production to a halt. Hitler agreed to Speer's plan of dispersing German industry which until that time was highly concentrated. The industries Speer considered vital to the German war effort but also vulnerable to bombing were ball bearings, oil production, synthetic rubber, chemicals, and communications.
In Aug. 1943 the US 8th Air Force bombed Schweinfurt and knocked out 34% of the ball bearing production in one day. Speer claimed if follow up raids had taken place it would have destroyed Germany's ball bearing manufacturing capability. The dispersion of industry had not yet begun. The 8th Air Force returned in Oct. and production dropped by 60% from the levels produced in July. After the August attack the Germans were forced to deplete their stockpiles and were living "hand to mouth". It was a crisis for the Germans.
Speer estimated that if the ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt, Erkner, Steyr, and Cannstatt were all attacked at the same time with attacks every two weeks to halt reconstruction, Germany would be defenseless in four months. Of course the US losses were so heavy it couldn't be done.

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Post by Patrick » Sat Feb 21, 2004 3:56 pm

Perhaps the Allied bombing campaign was misdirected. Although it is fairly easy to disperse manufacturing, the power distribution system is not. I recall a post-war analysis that concluded that there just a few hundred electrical powerplants in Germany. Concentrated efforts on destroying those and the power grid may have been more effective.
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Patrick

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Post by Freiritter » Sat Feb 21, 2004 5:59 pm

I had heard that the bombing campaign didn't really begin to be effective until the U.S. 8th Air Force began to concentrate on oil refineries, so perhaps my theory needs revision.

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Re: Allied strategic bombing - An overlooked success?

Post by Darrin » Sat Feb 21, 2004 8:37 pm

sid guttridge wrote:
Allied bombing not only consumed large numbers of innocent German civilians

1) Effect of the Bomber Offensive on the Luftwaffe's offensive potential:

In other words, in order to confront the Allied bomber offensive with the maximum number of fighters, Germany had given up bomber production by the end of the war altogether, thereby crippling its offensive potential at the front.

2) Effect of the bomber offensive on the diversion from the front of high velocity guns suitable for anti-aircraft and anti-tank use:

HV guns used as AAA

3) Loss of Production due to Allied Bombing

production compared with potential

4) Absenteeism in the German workforce due to Allied bombing.

P.263 of Wooton states that absenteeism in the industrial workforce increased from 4% in 1940 to 25% in 1944. Foreign workers, who were under a higher degree of compulsion, showed only a 3% absentee rate in 1944.

Whatever the moral and legal arguments, the terror effect of bombing seems to have been large.

5) The percentage of key armaments branches devoted to aerial defence according to Speer.

(Source: "The Air War 1939-1945" by R. J. Overy, Europa, London, 1980)

p.122. states that, according to Reich Armaments Minister Speer, in 1944 30% of total gun production, 20% of heavy ammunition, 50% of electrotechnical production and 33% of the optical industry were devoted to anti-aircraft defence, "starving the front" of essential communications resources in particular.

6) German human resources absorbed in anti-aircraft defence and clearing up the effects of Allied bombing according to Speer.

Anti-Aircraft defences absorbed some 2,000,000 people.
Clearing bomb damage absorbed some 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 people.

7) How miraculous was the increase of German production under Allied bombing?

(Source: Overy, p.150)

In terms of aircraft production there was, indeed, a massive rise in German aircraft numbers produced in 1943-44. However, this was in part because the production of multi-engined heavier types was drastically reduced and production switched to light, single-engined fighters.

To get a truer impression of the significance of Germany's increase in production it might be instructive to compare the German industry with the British industry (excluding the Commonwealth) at the time. The British continued to produce large numbers of heavy multi-engined aircraft.

Countries - German Reich : UK
Population - 90,000,000 : 47,000,000
Aircraft produced in 1944 - 39,807 : 26,461
Aeroengines produced - 54,600 : 56,931
Weight of aircraft produced - 199 million lbs. : 208 million lbs.

Thus Germany's 1944 air industry production levels, although impressive by its own modest earlier standards, were still no larger than British production levels. In terms of per capita production, Germany was still producing only about half the engines and weight of aircraft of Britain.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I appreciate some of the above is simplistic and completely evades the moral and legal issues surrounding the methodology of the bombing campaign, but I would suggest that whatever its other limitations, it did produce a major military dividend.

Cheers,

Sid.


I don´t mind conunting civilan loses which were over a mil dead and wounded. These were undoubtably conc in the last 1 year and 4 months when 80% of allied bombs were droped on ger. To put this in perspective this would almost equal ger combat mia,kia,wia, losses on the rus front in 1942. Ger was running out of civ to man the factories even if they couldn´t use this manpower directly on the front.

The ger luft really only had to conc on ftrs in 44-45 when the allied str bombing was the most intesive in germany. 80% of all bombs droped in what was just 16 months out of 68 months of war in total or just 20%. Even if you just want to count the US entry that would be 43 months of which 16 months would be just 30%. By the time the ger luft had lost its off potential in 44 the army and country already had as well.

The HVG used for AAA is a good point and one I would tend to agree with. But to have guns of even 1.5 tons like the 75 mm required more trucks, oil, crew etc all things ger was short on as the war was winding down.

The Prod pontetial is a good point as well but we must remeber that prod during the war except for a few things either stayed the same or went up. Even with SB most of the potential increses loses were in 44-45 when 80% of the bombs were droped. In other words prod incresed or stayed the same ulmost until the wrting was on the wall for ger and the decrease was maily in potential.

Good point about absenties but again to late in 44. There were probably many reason for them to stay away then just fear.

Good point about conc of AAA industry but they could not just switch the guns to the front as I mentioned earlier without other resources. The luft was running out of resources to defend the riech and hitler wanted to cover it with a forest of flak guns instead.

Also much of the rebilding teams were slaves and AA teams esp were workers women and children. There is no way they would all be able to go to the front.

Again there was no decrese in prod even from 43 to 44.

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Post by Darrin » Sat Feb 21, 2004 8:53 pm

r. burns wrote:Soon after the British leveled Hamburg, Speer met with Hitler and warned him that if six other German cities were attacked on that scale it would bring armament production to a halt. Hitler agreed to Speer's plan of dispersing German industry which until that time was highly concentrated. The industries Speer considered vital to the German war effort but also vulnerable to bombing were ball bearings, oil production, synthetic rubber, chemicals, and communications.
In Aug. 1943 the US 8th Air Force bombed Schweinfurt and knocked out 34% of the ball bearing production in one day. Speer claimed if follow up raids had taken place it would have destroyed Germany's ball bearing manufacturing capability. The dispersion of industry had not yet begun. The 8th Air Force returned in Oct. and production dropped by 60% from the levels produced in July. After the August attack the Germans were forced to deplete their stockpiles and were living "hand to mouth". It was a crisis for the Germans.
Speer estimated that if the ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt, Erkner, Steyr, and Cannstatt were all attacked at the same time with attacks every two weeks to halt reconstruction, Germany would be defenseless in four months. Of course the US losses were so heavy it couldn't be done.

The attack in oct des 20% of stock and 10% of equip. That seems pretty small even if it was of ALL ger ball bering production and not just limited to one factory or city.

To cause these loses the US lauched 291 ac of which 228 arrived over the target. 20% of the ac never made it to drop thier bombs on the target. 62 were shot down which was 20% of those sent. 138 of the survivors were seriously damaged of which 17 were beyond repair. 25% of the aircraft launched were never going to make a second run. 40% of the ac suffered severe loses for a combimed des and heavy loss percentage of 65%.

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Post by Freiritter » Sun Feb 22, 2004 8:32 am

Good posts, folks. So, perhaps the CBO failed to cripple German industry because of the pre-war assumption of " the bomber always gets through. " Thusly, the RAF and the USAAF didn't have the long-range fighter escorts for their heavy bombers. Without adequate fighter cover to and from the target, bombers on both sides suffered heavy casualties, such as the prohibitive losses the Luftwaffe had suffered during the Battle of Britain and the RAF during it's early war daylight operations. So, if the Eighth Air Force had sufficient fighter cover in the 1942-1943 efforts, maybe German industry could have been crippled before it became decentralized. Though from what I've been remembering, ( provoked by this thread ) the Eighth Air Force had concentrated major efforts in 1944 ( Big Week, I think ) on German oil refineries. This ( and the loss of Ploesti, when Romania went over to the Soviets. ) had depleted German fuel reserves to where the Luftwaffe had seriously curtailed training hours for replacements and seriously hampered the ability of the Luftwaffe to mount an effective operational program. This badly affected the Heer as well. ( As the design and procurement of wood burning tanks would attest. )

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Post by DrG » Mon Feb 23, 2004 1:09 pm

I've found an interesting essay, written by prof. Jurgen Brauer, about the Allied strategic bombings on Germany. There are a lot of graphics and tabels, I think it's worth reading (the links are to PDF files):
Total and Marginal Returns to Strategic Bombing: Germany 1939-1945
Appendix.
Here you can read the US Strategic Bombing Survey (European War).

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Post by Patrick » Mon Feb 23, 2004 4:22 pm

DrG,

Your links aren't functional. Could you please repost them? Thanks.
Cheers,

Patrick

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Post by DrG » Mon Feb 23, 2004 7:11 pm

Patrick wrote:Your links aren't functional. Could you please repost them? Thanks.
They haven't problems (I've checked them now), but are links to rather large PDF documents. You need the free program Adobe Acrobat Reader to see them.

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Post by sid guttridge » Fri Apr 01, 2005 8:12 am

Hi Freiritter,

I have brought this old thread to the surface for your information.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Freiritter » Sat Apr 02, 2005 7:00 am

Hello,

Thanks, Sid. I forgot that the question had already came up.

Cordially,

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Post by Qvist » Sun Apr 03, 2005 11:51 pm

Sid, good overview. I would add that it is important to remember that when the bomber offensive is judged as a failure, this is usually relative to the Bomber Barons' stated aims, which were extremely far-reaching, and seen against which the bomber offensive was a fiasco. However, as your overview illustrates, this does not mean that it did not have an important impact on the war.

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Post by sid guttridge » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:32 am

Hi Qvist,

Exactly. However, even the Bomber Barons' certainty as to the effectiveness of strategic bombing in winning the war on its own is sometimes overstated. For example, Harris sounded less than totally convinced when he stated "It has never been tried before and we shall see".

It is also sometimes forgotten that in the Far East strategic bombing DID end the war, albeit by using an atomic bomb. I don't know Harris's opinion on the A-bomb, but I would guess that it would have reinforced his conviction that he was right and that it was only his inability to deliver sufficient destruction early enough that prevented strategic bombing winning the war in Europe as well.

Has anybody got anything on Harris and the A-Bomb?

Cheers,

Sid.

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