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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Post by sid guttridge » Wed May 18, 2005 4:55 am

Hi Vagabond,

Like everyone else, the RAF was operting on theory until it had empirical evidence. The mst easily quantifiable evidence came with the first Italian raid on Barcelona. The Barcelona raid was the key trigger for the mass civil defence programmes begun in its wake across Europe, Britain prominent amongst them.

Handley Page heavy bombers were in development before the creation of an independent RAF in 1918. US strategic bombing in WWII was also not conducted by an independent air force, but by the USArmyAF. There is no necessary correlation between a penchant for strategic bombing and an independent air force.

Are weapons now only to be used if they "seriously affect" the outcome of wars? Surely, legality permitting, weapons only have to "affect" the outcome of the war to justify their use? War is not a handicap race. You throw the lot at the enemy in order to gain the edge. Strategic bombing undoubtedly gave the Allies an edge, even in its less savoury area bombing manifestation.

I don't think anyone would argue that the Allied (then effectively British) strategic bombing campaign in the early war years was ineffective. However, I also don't think anyone would argue that the Anglo-American strategic bomber offensive off 1944-45 was inneffective. The success of the latter was built on lessons learnt in the former. You would appear to be advocated drawing lessons that would have made the 1944-45 successes impossible.

Yup. Aggressive strategies were pursued where possible - over Germany being one area it was possible.

Yup. 10,000+ high velocity anti-aircraft guns were built because they were needed. Had they not been needed then the productive capacity would almost certainly have been used to produce other other high velocity guns needed in other areas. The most obvious demand being for high velocity anti-tank guns on the Eastern Front. 10,000 fewer high velocity anti-aircraft guns in the interior really does mean a similar number of fewer high velocity guns elsewhere.

It is a widely recognised fact that Germany was slow to mobilise for full war production. What is your point? It is also a widely recognised fact that later in the war Germany tried, with success limited buy strategic bombing, to rectify this. Amongst the notable aspects of this was a massive investment in high velocity anti-aircraft guns.

"Rather less significant" is not the same as "insignificant". I take it that you agree that a shortfall of tank production sufficient to re-equip the entire panzerwaffe in 1944 was to some extent "significant"?

German industry clearly wasn't up to the job of producing the necessary weapons in 1944. Panzer divisions had smaller and smaller establishments but were still usually understrength. Production of conventional bombers stopped completely. Captured weaponry was in use all over the place.

Yup. The USAAF's raids were chronologically separated from the early RAF raids. But strategic bombing is strategic bombing. Why is it OK for the US to have a large strategic bomber force in 1944, but not OK for the UK to keep one after 1942? If the USAAF had manned the Lancasters and Halifaxes of 1944, would this have been any better? I think not.

The Schweinfurt raid was not a failure. It was an extremely well chosen target that suffered considerable damage and lost production. Again, you want to abandon a target that the Germans feared would receive more and heavier attention.

Nope. The Blitz did not demonstrate that air assault could not bring about a nation's surrender. It demonstrated only that a particular country could not be brought down by a limited weight of bombs over a limited period.

But surely, the success of largely US raids against oil targets in 1944 compared with the failure of earler, smaller British raids just illustrates that that more strategic bombing was needed, not less>

Must go prematurely, Library closing.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Jake » Wed May 18, 2005 6:44 am

Hi Sid

Thanks for the reply. I agree with what you write, and I checked Joachim Fest's 'Hitler' again (a book I admire very much) and I want to retract any suggestion I made that the worst of the Holocaust 42-45 could be seen as a reaction to the military situation. I would only add that this doesn't necessarily mean the scale of the war didn't provide opportunity and impetus for the final scale of the Holocaust or that a German victory over the USSR in 1941 wouldn't have led to something on a much smaller scale, for the reasons I mentioned in my last post. Of course, it might've been even worse, as you suggest.

Regards
Jake

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Post by Vagabond » Thu May 19, 2005 1:09 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:Like everyone else, the RAF was operting on theory until it had empirical evidence. The mst easily quantifiable evidence came with the first Italian raid on Barcelona. The Barcelona raid was the key trigger for the mass civil defence programmes begun in its wake across Europe, Britain prominent amongst them.
Maybe the Barcelona raid served as an eye-opener to the public about what Europe's next war would look like, but the RAF et al. had been working on empirical evidence extrapolated from the very limited strategic bombing that took place in WWI. The RAF did not change priorities to strategic bombing because of the Barcelona raid. They had been firm believers in the power of strategic bombing for years.
Handley Page heavy bombers were in development before the creation of an independent RAF in 1918. US strategic bombing in WWII was also not conducted by an independent air force, but by the USArmyAF. There is no necessary correlation between a penchant for strategic bombing and an independent air force.
No, but in the inter-war years the RAF guarded its seperate arm status jealously - these were years of big defense cutbacks, and maintaining a role that no other arm could fulfill could well have been a leading motive in the RAF's firm belief in the power of strategic bombing. If the RAF had devoted greater effort to, for example, close tactical support of ground forces, it might also have become subservient to the army.
Are weapons now only to be used if they "seriously affect" the outcome of wars? Surely, legality permitting, weapons only have to "affect" the outcome of the war to justify their use? War is not a handicap race. You throw the lot at the enemy in order to gain the edge. Strategic bombing undoubtedly gave the Allies an edge, even in its less savoury area bombing manifestation.
I don't completely understand what you're getting at here, but a British parliamentary committee found that the RAF's efforts against selected production bottlenecks (the synthfuel industry and later German transportation hubs) had been very ineffective - i.e. inefficient use of a weapon that was thought to be very powerful.
I don't think anyone would argue that the Allied (then effectively British) strategic bombing campaign in the early war years was ineffective. However, I also don't think anyone would argue that the Anglo-American strategic bomber offensive off 1944-45 was inneffective.
Well no, the point is if the payback in the shape of the final destruction of the synthetic oil industry and the final wearing down of the Luftwaffe was justified by the losses of men and machines up to that point, and also if there were any measurable effects from continued bombing raids against German cities.
The success of the latter was built on lessons learnt in the former. You would appear to be advocated drawing lessons that would have made the 1944-45 successes impossible...
The learning process wasn't quite so straightforward. The USAAF made many of the same mistakes that Bomber Command had done in its early days: unescorted daylight raids that suffered unacceptable losses and some searching for the most vulnerable production bottleneck to target. The Schweinfurt raids attest that - and incidentally, the German U-Boat arm would have been one of the services least affected by the destruction of Germany's ball bearing industry. There appears to have been little regard for synergies with the needs and aims of the Allied war effort as a whole.

By 1944 Bomber Command's main effort was area bombing against civilian targets - after all, they had abandoned targetting the synthfuel industry several years earlier.
Yup. 10,000+ high velocity anti-aircraft guns were built because they were needed. Had they not been needed then the productive capacity would almost certainly have been used to produce other other high velocity guns needed in other areas.
"Almost certainly"? That is highly speculative. After all, the Germans would have been perfectly capable of producing such a high number of AA guns earlier had they so decided.
The most obvious demand being for high velocity anti-tank guns on the Eastern Front. 10,000 fewer high velocity anti-aircraft guns in the interior really does mean a similar number of fewer high velocity guns elsewhere.
At the most, it means a certain abstract production potential that might have served German armed forces elsewhere than protecting the skies over Germany. However, it could equally well mean production potential never made available for the German war effort. The Allies paid a horrific cost in trained aircrews and expensive airplanes to divert this German production potential from other sectors.
It is a widely recognised fact that Germany was slow to mobilise for full war production. What is your point? It is also a widely recognised fact that later in the war Germany tried, with success limited buy strategic bombing, to rectify this. Amongst the notable aspects of this was a massive investment in high velocity anti-aircraft guns.
It was certainly not recognised by the Allies that Germany was in fact not on a full war footing when it entered the war. The big increase in German AA gun production furthermore demonstrates that the Germans were able to follow suit as the Allies stepped up the SBC.
"Rather less significant" is not the same as "insignificant". I take it that you agree that a shortfall of tank production sufficient to re-equip the entire panzerwaffe in 1944 was to some extent "significant"?
Again, I was trying to illustrate that Germany could indeed increase its AFV production throughout the war regardless of the SBC. It's true that production fell short of projected totals, and it's equally true that the SBC can take some credit for that - but when comparing the small early war German production of war material with the late war massive production of war material with the similarly ever-increasing SBC, I think you could argue that a shortfall in a projected massive production increase is a poor dividend from an air campaign waged at such high cost.
German industry clearly wasn't up to the job of producing the necessary weapons in 1944. Panzer divisions had smaller and smaller establishments but were still usually understrength. Production of conventional bombers stopped completely. Captured weaponry was in use all over the place.
You're right that German industry could not keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the fronts, but that was due to even more increasing losses suffered at the same fronts. The Panzer divisions did not get smaller and smaller establishments because the SBC denied them their replacement vehicles - they got smaller because they were worn down chiefly on the Eastern Front on a daily basis.
Yup. The USAAF's raids were chronologically separated from the early RAF raids. But strategic bombing is strategic bombing.
Target selection - for example key industrial bottlenecks as opposed to more indiscriminate area bombing of enemy cities - has nothing to do with it?

Both the RAF and the USAAF changed their target selections several times. By 1942, the RAF had settled mostly for area bombing; by 1944 the USAAF had settled mainly for bombing of key production bottlenecks, a target type earlier abandoned by the RAF.
Why is it OK for the US to have a large strategic bomber force in 1944, but not OK for the UK to keep one after 1942? If the USAAF had manned the Lancasters and Halifaxes of 1944, would this have been any better? I think not.
It would have made no difference if the USAAF had used whichever aircraft available for levelling Germany's cities. I've been addressing the use of a strategic bomber force in all my postings on this thread, not its very existence.
The Schweinfurt raid was not a failure. It was an extremely well chosen target that suffered considerable damage and lost production. Again, you want to abandon a target that the Germans feared would receive more and heavier attention.
It was certainly viewed as a failure by the USAAF. The 8th Air Force suffered losses of 19% and 25% respectively in the August and October 1943 on the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt - losses that meant that daylight raids on Germany were temporarily halted altogether and only taken up again once long-range escort fighters were available. Speer's post-facto comments on what might have happened if the raids had been continued are moot; to the USAAF the cost was too high to carry on the raids.
Nope. The Blitz did not demonstrate that air assault could not bring about a nation's surrender. It demonstrated only that a particular country could not be brought down by a limited weight of bombs over a limited period.
Well, Trenchard's theories were extrapolated from raids much smaller than the Blitz. I think that could have led to some second thoughts on the part of the RAF - after all, Bomber Command started out going for much more specifically defined targets than simply aiming for city centres.
But surely, the success of largely US raids against oil targets in 1944 compared with the failure of earler, smaller British raids just illustrates that that more strategic bombing was needed, not less>
Maybe, but that was not the conclusion that Bomber Command appeared to draw. The RAF abandoned the oil industry as a viable target due long before 1944, instead settling for mass area bombing.

Best regards,

Jon

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Post by sid guttridge » Fri May 20, 2005 2:50 am

Hi Vagabond,

I only have limited time again and will be away for a week, so forgive me if I do not address your points fully .

Personally, I have always thought that strategic bombing was the only justification for an independent air force and that all tactical activity could be better left to air arms of the ground force they were supporting.

The main charge against the strategic bombing lobby is that it failed to be decisive on its own. Until the atom bomb this was undoubtedly the case.

However, there is a counter lobby, which I think you may belong to, that suggests that strategic bombing was ineffective. This is equally undoubtedly not the case.

In WWII trategic bombing with conventional iron bombs proffed effective if delivered with sufficient weight, but was not decisive on its own.

I presume you refer to the early war failure of RAF raids against selected production bottlenecks. There is no doubt these were key targets and it was right that a weapon be developed and used against them. Nobody argues that this weapon wasn't yet ready in 1939-42, but it was by 1944, and it had massive effect.

I note that you still haven't denied that such targets were important and, while objecting to the development of a strategic bomber force, you still haven't offered an alternative way of thrratening them.

I thought the Schweinfurt raids occurred AFTER the Battle of the Atlantic had been won, so the effect on U-boat production was by then a secondary issue.

The engineering and machine tools needed for high velocity barrel production are specific hi-tech skills to that task. If they are not to be used for that specific purpose they are effectively redundant. There is nothing "highly speculative" in suggesting that, had they not been used for producing high velocity AA barrels they would "almost certainly" have been used to produce other high velocity barrels, of which A/T barrels were most in demand.

What IS "highly speculative" is to suggest that, in the midst of war, when there was a proven demand for high velocity barrels,
and when you cannot point out a single case of a German factory being converted from military to civil production for the better part of a decade in peace or war, Germany was likely to try to convert these inappropriate facilities to produce goods for a civil market.

We are not talking about "abstract production potential", we are talking about real production facilities and machine tools.

Yup. The Allied air forces did pay a heavy price to deprive Germany of tens of thousands of aircraft, tanks, etc.. What is your point? Are air crew fatalities more important than those of other arms? Would you rather the Germans had tens of thousands more tanks and aircraft in the field killing Allied infantry?

On the contrary, German industry had been on as full a military
production footing as it could manage for several years before the war. Its problem was that it started from a very low base thanks to the Treaty of Versailles and it had to strain every industrial sinew to produce 100 divisions by 1939. Indeed, Hitler was told that if he did not use the Wehrmacht in the early 1940s or resort to massive exports it would be necessary to scale back armaments production.

That German war industry was susprisingly unproductive compared with that of Britain in the early 1940s (and was still so in aircraft manufacture even after the supposed productivity miracle of 1944) is undoubtedly true.

Must go. Ame beinf chucked off library computer.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by sid guttridge » Fri May 20, 2005 3:31 am

Hi David,

I have found another terminal.

If you consider the strategic bombing campaign prohibitively expensive - and it was undoubtedly more expensive for Germany in terms of human and material destruction than it was for the Allies - you have to advance an alternative that would produce the same major affects. Where are these ten thousand plus extra tanks going to be tackled? And the ten thousand plus extra aircraft? And so on?

Panzer Division establishment fell throughout the war, notably between the French and Russian Campaigns. Thus it was not only related to losses. It was also related to an expansion of the panzerwaffe beyond the ability of German industry to support at any stage of the war. Either way, German industry was unable to fill out the establishment of existing German panzer divisions, let alone increase the total after 1942. By 1944 the success of strategic bombing was undoubtedly a very major factor in this.

I am sorry, but my distinct impression was you believed that, as the Blitz was unsuccessful in achieving a German victory, the RAF should have drawn the conlusion that strategic bombing was not viable and should have abandoned it in 1941. This would necessarily have stopped the introduction of the large numbers of British four engined strategic bombers that had such impact in 1944-45. You cannot expect to have strategic bombers but no strategic bombing campaign, surely? That is like having your cake and eating it.

Absolutely. In terms of sustainability, the Shweinfurt raid, the first two Ploiesti raids and a number of others, were premature (like British raids over 1940-42). But this does not mean that the targets were wrongly chosen (quite the contrary) or that no significant damage was gone. Nor are Speer's opinions moot. Who else was in a better position to know these things than him? If we can't cite the German Minister of Armaments Prduction, who can we cite?

It is not true that the RAF abandoned the oil industry as a viable target long before 1944. For example, the USAAF was not the only force to bomb Ploiesti. The RAF did it as well. (See the book "Through Darkness to Light" by Macdonald.) What is true is that, because it could only rarely find and hit oil targets early in the war, it consciously switched to area bombing as an alternative in late 1942.

That Harris clung unduly long to area bombing when other, better, target priorities became viable in 1944 is probably true. However, it is not true that area bombing was ineffective. It was simply not decisive - something even Harris did not express absolute certainty in anyway.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Vagabond » Sat May 21, 2005 1:38 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:...Personally, I have always thought that strategic bombing was the only justification for an independent air force and that all tactical activity could be better left to air arms of the ground force they were supporting.
Well, I think you have the primary reason why the inter-war RAF insisted that strategic bombing would be a decisive weapon in future wars right there - essentially, a political/departemental reason, rather than a strategic reason.
The main charge against the strategic bombing lobby is that it failed to be decisive on its own. Until the atom bomb this was undoubtedly the case.
...and that was also against what the bomber barons had claimed prior to the war.
However, there is a counter lobby, which I think you may belong to, that suggests that strategic bombing was ineffective. This is equally undoubtedly not the case.
I've simply been questioning the wisdom of switching to area bombings of civilian targets when it turned out that hitting more specific targets was beyond Bomber Command's means. I've furthermore stated that the revenge motive in the early years should not be underestimated - so I am chiefly arguing against the continued area bombings of German cities. I've acknowledged throughout that the later strategic bombing campaign against various production bottlenecks was indeed effective, albeit effectiveness was bought at a high cost.
In WWII trategic bombing with conventional iron bombs proffed effective if delivered with sufficient weight, but was not decisive on its own.
In as much as volume bombing equals area bombing, I don't think the tonnage alone delivered accounts for that much. A few specially-designed bombs delivered on the Ruhr dams clearly had a much larger effect on the war than 3000 tons of bombs dropped over downtown Cologne.
I presume you refer to the early war failure of RAF raids against selected production bottlenecks. There is no doubt these were key targets and it was right that a weapon be developed and used against them.
Actually the early targets were not well-chosen. The RAF attempted knocking out the synthfuel industry at a time when Germany received large supplies of oil from the USSR, and attempting to grind Germany's rail network to pieces - a massive task that was never fully accomplished - is of less relevance without an open land front.
Nobody argues that this weapon wasn't yet ready in 1939-42, but it was by 1944, and it had massive effect.
But that reflects poorly on the RAF's pre-war ideas that the bomber would be a decisive weapon in its own right, no? I think the strategic bomber force could have been used more wisely in the early years, and I think the RAF would have been well served to search for objectives that would also benefit other arms, as well as Britain's war aims. For example, by devoting more air effort into bombing German U-Boat bases on the French west coast and by providing more aircraft for air cover over the Atlantic.
I note that you still haven't denied that such targets were important and, while objecting to the development of a strategic bomber force, you still haven't offered an alternative way of thrratening them.
These targets naturally make it high on any priority list - especially so in preparation for opening a land front in Western Europe. That was not really in the cards in 1940-1942.
I thought the Schweinfurt raids occurred AFTER the Battle of the Atlantic had been won, so the effect on U-boat production was by then a secondary issue.
I am tempted to ask where Bomber Command's efforts lay when U-Boat production was a primary issue?
The engineering and machine tools needed for high velocity barrel production are specific hi-tech skills to that task. If they are not to be used for that specific purpose they are effectively redundant. There is nothing "highly speculative" in suggesting that, had they not been used for producing high velocity AA barrels they would "almost certainly" have been used to produce other high velocity barrels, of which A/T barrels were most in demand.
So you mean that all the machinery for making high-velocity guns had just been sitting idle in the early war years? Until all the production lines etc. are in place, the effort that went into making all those guns can only be measured in far more abstract terms - namely as the existence of fine machine tools in quantity, and trained workers to operate them.

As a small aside, hollow-charged shells entered service in 1942, meaning that other guns became more useful in an AT role, and later the Panzerfaust etc. hand-held weapons systems became available too, meaning that whichever high-velocity guns didn't make it to the front could to a degree be substituted by simple means.
What IS "highly speculative" is to suggest that, in the midst of war, when there was a proven demand for high velocity barrels,
and when you cannot point out a single case of a German factory being converted from military to civil production for the better part of a decade in peace or war, Germany was likely to try to convert these inappropriate facilities to produce goods for a civil market.
Sigh. I have at no time proposed that Germany would have changed military production into civilian production. I have been arguing that the switch from civilian to military production could have happened at a slower pace if there had not been a demonstrated need for eg. high-velocity guns. After all, German production of war material rose throughout the war, irrespective of the SBC.
We are not talking about "abstract production potential", we are talking about real production facilities and machine tools.
And what did these production facilities build when they were not building AA guns?
Yup. The Allied air forces did pay a heavy price to deprive Germany of tens of thousands of aircraft, tanks, etc.. What is your point? Are air crew fatalities more important than those of other arms? Would you rather the Germans had tens of thousands more tanks and aircraft in the field killing Allied infantry?...
For the majority of the war German weapons were killing mostly Soviet soldiers - but the basic point is to which degree area bombing of German cities would mean that the Germans would field fewer tanks and aircraft against the Allies?

I will address your other points in a second posting.

Best regards,

Jon
Last edited by Vagabond on Sat May 21, 2005 2:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Vagabond » Sat May 21, 2005 2:14 am

Hi again Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:If you consider the strategic bombing campaign prohibitively expensive - and it was undoubtedly more expensive for Germany in terms of human and material destruction than it was for the Allies - you have to advance an alternative that would produce the same major affects. Where are these ten thousand plus extra tanks going to be tackled? And the ten thousand plus extra aircraft? And so on?
For the early part of the war I think Bomber Command's efforts could have been directed with the greatest effect against the German U-Boat menace. Roosevelt and Churchill were in fact in agreement about this; the U-Boats are I think the only German weapon explicitly mentioned on both the Arcadia and Casablanca conference declarations as an absolute top priority.

In fact the Casablanca conference produced a long shopping list of bombing targets for the USAAF and RAF, including Harris' much-cherished civilian morale, but it also ordered the combined air forces to strike at the U-Boats, an effort that proved wholly ineffective because the U-Boat pens had been given bomb proof shelters by then.

Prior to Casablanca the SBC was waged with more modest means, and accuracy was poor - but the U-Boat campaign was fought with very few boats in the early part of the war. Instead of going for the U-boats Bomber Command went for the comparatively esoteric synthfuel industry and later for the German rail network.

I think a determined series of strikes against the U-Boat bases on the French Atlantic coast would have been a better way to use the strategic bomber forces in the early part of the war. And targets on a coastline are comparatively easy to hit, even at night.
...German industry was unable to fill out the establishment of existing German panzer divisions, let alone increase the total after 1942. By 1944 the success of strategic bombing was undoubtedly a very major factor in this.
I don't know when the Germans fielded the largest number of tanks, but I suspect it was later than 1942. By 1944 defeat was written on the wall both in east and west. I would credit Allied and Soviet land forces for this, with the SBC being a very indirect contributor.
I am sorry, but my distinct impression was you believed that, as the Blitz was unsuccessful in achieving a German victory, the RAF should have drawn the conlusion that strategic bombing was not viable and should have abandoned it in 1941.
No, my point was that they should not have endeavoured to pursue a campaign of area bombing against German cities, at least not after public cries for revenge had been satisfied. That does not rule out a strategic bombing campaign.

In fact, the continued area bombings that Bomber Command decided to embark on after the synthfuel and transport plans had proven unsuccessful in turn provoked the German Baedeker raids on British culture towns - and that in turn tied down more than a few AA guns and first-class fighter aircraft already from 1942, when the RAF in the Middle East had to make do with second-rate airplanes. In that sense, area bombing was directly counterproductive to the Allied war effort.
This would necessarily have stopped the introduction of the large numbers of British four engined strategic bombers that had such impact in 1944-45. You cannot expect to have strategic bombers but no strategic bombing campaign, surely? That is like having your cake and eating it...
But I'm not really arguing against the SBC as such, only against its target priorities. For what it is worth, though, the efforts that went into designing the Stirling and earlier marks of the Halifax could probably have been put to better use elsewhere. B-17 Fortresses could have been acquired more or less off the shelf in the US.
It is not true that the RAF abandoned the oil industry as a viable target long before 1944. For example, the USAAF was not the only force to bomb Ploiesti. The RAF did it as well. (See the book "Through Darkness to Light" by Macdonald.) What is true is that, because it could only rarely find and hit oil targets early in the war, it consciously switched to area bombing as an alternative in late 1942.
Actually the Lübeck raid in March 1942, shortly after Harris had assumed command was what really marked the switch.

You're definitely right that Bomber Command didn't solely conduct area bombing after 1942. The dambuster raids and the amazing precision raids on German prisons and also the successful interdiction campagn leading up to D-Day all testify that strategic bombing can indeed be very effective.
That Harris clung unduly long to area bombing when other, better, target priorities became viable in 1944 is probably true. However, it is not true that area bombing was ineffective. It was simply not decisive - something even Harris did not express absolute certainty in anyway.
I agree that Harris believed too strongly in the war-deciding power of area bombing - but I am also tempted to ask if there were not other, better targets to go after (also taken poor RAF precision into account) earlier than 1944?

Best regards,

Jon

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Post by sid guttridge » Sat May 21, 2005 4:40 am

Hi Jon,

I have little more time now than to read the above. However, one anomally does stick out that I feel you might do well to address before I get back to you.

You say that the Baedeker raids tied down British AA guns at home and prevented the RAF in the Middle East from getting modern aircraft. Surely, if true, this is evidence FOR the efficacy of strategic (even area) bombing, not against it?

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Vagabond » Sat May 21, 2005 11:44 am

Hi Sid,
sid guttridge wrote:You say that the Baedeker raids tied down British AA guns at home and prevented the RAF in the Middle East from getting modern aircraft. Surely, if true, this is evidence FOR the efficacy of strategic (even area) bombing, not against it?
I think everybody on both sides from Hitler and Churchill and down knew that the Baedeker raids would not affect the outcome of the war in the slightest. That I think also applies to the later V-1 and V-2 campaigns, which by the way could explain the drop in German bomber production later in the war.

I don't know which criteria were behind the target selection for the Baedeker series of raids beyond targetting some of Britain's culture towns, such as York, Bath and Canterbury, but it almost appears that the Germans went out of their way to target towns whose contribution to the British war effort was minimal.

If anything, the Baedeker raids should have served as a reminder to the RAF that they were on the wrong track with their continuing, intensifying area bombing campaign against Germany.

It was likely public demand (which British leaders were more vulnerable to than German leaders) that kept the best RAF fighters and many AA guns at home in 1942; in any event the Germans accomplished a certain tying down of British resources for a much smaller investment than the SBC represented.

Best regards,

Jon

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Post by Hop » Sat May 21, 2005 12:11 pm

By 1944 Bomber Command's main effort was area bombing against civilian targets - after all, they had abandoned targetting the synthfuel industry several years earlier.
This isn't true.

Whilst it's true the RAF abandoned it's own oil plan early in the war, that doesn't mean they didn't resume attacks on the oil industry in 1944.

In fact, less than 185,000 tons out of Bomber Command's 525,000 tons in 1944 fell on German cities, with about 95,000 tons on German troops and fortifications, about 100,000 tons on transport, 10,000 on naval targets, 50,000 on oil, 20,000 on airfields and aircraft factories, 60,000 on military bases.
I think Bomber Command's eventual settling for hitting civilian targets (and before you put words in my mouth, I am not questioning the morality of bombing civilian targets) was a simple case of trial and error: the oil plan failed. So did the transport plan. That left only civilian targets to hit, even if the Blitz had demonstrated that aiming for such targets, while easier, is not likely to decide the outcome of war.
I don't think any single thing "decided the outcome of the war", so in that sense no need to build tanks, because tanks alone will not win the war, no need to build artillery, because artillery alone will not win the war, no need to build fighters....

What Britain learnt from the Blitz (and Coventry in particular) was that bombing cities did much more harm than just bombing a factory.

Here's what Herschel Johnson wrote to the US sec state in 1941:
The bombing of working-class residential districts in this
area has come to be accepted as an ingenious and effective move
on the part of Germany. Moreover, such bombing has come to be
viewed as even a greater menace than the damage actually done
to industrial plant. What happened at Coventry well illustrates
the devilish effectiveness of the bombing of districts inhabited
by working-class people. It seems to be pretty well established
that as many as 70,000 houses in the comparatively small city
of Coventry were affected by bombing and that of these 30,000
were made unfit for human habitation, and 7,000 demolished entirely.




The big raid on Coventry took place during the night of November
14-15, 1940. Since that time some weeks have elapsed and great
strides have been made in the direction of make-shift repairs
to damaged working-class residences. But there is not a sizeable
industrial enterprise in the whole of Coventry whose production
is not still being adversely affected by raiding has wrought
in the lives of Coventry working people. There hovers over that
city an apprehensiveness which has lingered since the raid took
place. This apprehensiveness is born of a realization that the
Germans can at will again do to Coventry what they did to it
during that one horrible night in November.




Intricate, costly, and heavy machine tools can be extricated
from the cellars of demolished manufacturing plants. Many of
them can be repaired and installed in new plant. But the workers
who man these machines, so long as they live as they do today,
can never attain the efficiency which, before the events in question
took place, they maintained as a mere matter of course.

The Germans naturally have as one object the annihilation
of the productive capacity of Britain's war enterprises. Their
attacks upon the operatives in this industry and the latter's
families has proven itself as being one effective method of achieving
this object. Indeed, recognition of German successes in this
field has for the last few weeks turned the minds of local industrialists
to the thought not of reprisal but rather of a like attack for
like purposes upon the working classes of Germany.


It is true enough that working-class people in this area make
e brave showing before the camera or to the eye of the official
visitor. However, when the camera shutter has closed and the
official eye has turned away, the picturesque scene vanishes
and the smiling faces of those who figured in it assume a grimness
born almost of despair. It is not the casual observer who sees
what air raiding is doing to Midland working-class people. But
the man or woman who daily hears from the very lips of these
people their simply told stories can discern not only how widespread
and deep se %ated their tragedy is but can also estimate how that
tragedy is impeding Great Britain's war effort.

Kitsune
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Post by Kitsune » Sat May 21, 2005 2:27 pm

It's seems to be senseless to reason with sid.

The problematic issue is the criminal British eradication of German cities. Was it effective? If by "effective" is meant that it had some effect...well sure it had. It killed and maimed countless civilians, women and children. Its effects are felt forever.
But its effects on the German ability to wage war were much more limited. One can dispense of the old, the very young, the sick (all those were the ones who suffered the most), one does not need many women or children, nor does one need statues, monuments or old houses to wage war.
If one asks wether this strategy was efficient, it was not. It used up an immense ammount of ressources and hurt the war industry of Germany not overly so. If the British had used the same ressources to create 1.5 million ground troops instead their rather timid contribution of 800.000 to the invasion of Europe, the war would have been over sooner. Without becoming barbarians themselves.
But perhaps one should not expect to much of them, that's more and more my impression.

Here is a survey of the Bombing campaign conducted by the US after the war. http://www.anesi.com/ussbs02.htm#pagei
Even considering that the US were biased as this matter is concerned (so the report is not overly negative) criticism and doubts of its efficiency are obvious. (That goes for the Schweinfurt-Raid, too. Actually its quite common today among historians to see the idea behind it as quite misbegotten, the losses were staggering, the effects were slim, no real industrial "bottleneck-effect" was achieved.)

Some exceprts concering the British city bombings:
Early Air Operations -- City Area Raids

The pioneer in the air war against Germany was the RAF. The RAF experimented briefly in 1940 with daylight attacks on industrial targets in Germany but abandoned the effort when losses proved unbearably heavy. Thereafter, it attempted to find and attack such targets as oil, aluminum and aircraft plants at night. This effort too was abandoned; with available techniques it was not possible to locate the targets often enough. Then the RAF began its famous raids on German urban and industrial centers. On the night of May 30, 1942, it mounted its first "thousand plane" raid against Cologne and two nights later struck Essen with almost equal force. On three nights in late July and early August 1943 it struck Hamburg in perhaps the most devastating single city attack of the war -- about one third of the houses of the city were destroyed and German estimates show 60,000 to 100,000 people killed. No subsequent city raid shook Germany as did that on Hamburg; documents show that German officials were thoroughly alarmed and there is some indication from interrogation of high officials that Hitler himself thought that further attacks of similar weight might force Germany out of the war. The RAF proceeded to destroy one major urban center after another. Except in the extreme eastern part of the Reich, there is no major city that does not bear the mark of these attacks. However, no subsequent attack had the shock effect of the Hamburg raid. In the latter half of 1944, aided by new navigational techniques, the RAF returned with part of its force to an attack on industrial targets. These attacks were notably successful but it is with the attacks on urban areas that the RAF is most prominently identified.

The city attacks of the RAF prior to the autumn of 1944, did not substantially affect the course of German war production. German war production as a whole continued to increase. This in itself is not conclusive, but the Survey has made detailed analysis of the course of production and trade in 10 German cities that were attacked during this period and has made more general analyses in others. These show that while production received a moderate setback after a raid, it recovered substantially within a relatively few weeks. As a rule the industrial plants were located around the perimeter of German cities and characteristically these were relatively undamaged.
The report accepts that later on the vastly increased dropped knocked the German industry out. But please, hold, lay back and consider this: Systematical destruction of one city after another and no considerable effect until Autumn 1944! (Something which is overlooked by many, among them this report but also sid, is, that the Bombing campaign did not only demotivate the people, on the contrary it created the perfect backround for the Nazi leadership to spur the German people to more effort. And it actually stabilized the system...confronted with catastrophes people flock together.)

Of course you can win a war by applying even the most barbaric and criminal methods. Just kill erveryone, in the end it will have some effect. And of course sid is right, one can win a war by systematically massacring civilians and flattening their homes by bombs. Its just a matter of quantitiy. By the same notion, the Nazis themselves were also right in their believe that they would win the war in the East by the appliance of brute force. Analog to sids line of thinking the mistake was just that they killed not enough Soviet citizens. In the end one can win every war this way.
But that does not imply that the used methods are efficient (and that is what one usuallly means if one says that a strategy is "effective", isn't it?) Because other, would have done better, without the neccesity to behave like savages.
Nazi-Germany stumbled over its cruelty. That's only fair. Unfortunately Britain got away with it. Well, life is not always fair. But still there is no reason to be proud of it.
What the British bombing terror was by no means an "overlooked success". Quite the opposite.
"Tell my mother I died for my country. I did what I thought was best."


John Wilkes Booth
April 12, 1865

sid guttridge
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Post by sid guttridge » Sat May 21, 2005 5:32 pm

Hi Kitsune,

You will never know whether it is senseless to employ reason unless you actually do employ it.

For example, your central accusation is always that British bombing is "criminal" and that the likes of Harris were war criminals. Criminality is a legal concept. What law was broken? I have asked you this repeatedly and you still haven't come up with an answer. The plain fact of the matter is that bombing cities was, regretably, not only carried out by both sides but was also legal. Therefore no crime was comitted.

As I have said repeatedly, there is a perfectly arguable case against area bombing on moral grounds, but not on legal grounds. It might reasonably be described as barbaric, but not as criminal.

However, you seem intent on trying to draw some moral equivalence between the "Holocaust" and area bombing. None exists.

I think we have already established that the damage to German war industry was not solely represented by detroyed production, but by lost production running into ten thousand plus tanks and aircraft in 1944 alone.

How on earth are you going to turn several thousand bombers into 700,000 infantry? And how are these going to get ashore without a strategic air force to cover and support them? Actually, when the time came, replacement manpower was gleaned from the AAA, not the bombers. How did this become available? Because the Luftwaffe had no strategic bomber force left.

So, we are are at least agreed that there was considerable effect from the autumn of 1944. This alone lays to rest the proposition that strategic bombing was ineffective.

"Efficient" and "effective" are not the same thing. One may effectively use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but it is not necessarily efficient to do so.

Of course there were probably more efficient ways to win the war. However, this is wisdom given us only with hindsight and post-war knowledge about events on the other side. Now, sitting back and waiting for the development of the atom Bomb looks like an efficient option, but who could have known that then?

Of course, this thread is about the overlooked effectiveness of Allied strategic bombing, not specifically British "terror" bombing, which was only a segment of it. Is your attack on the effectiveness of strategic bombing, or area bombing, or both?

Why are you still pretending anyone is proud of area bombing? You know perfectly well that this has never been the case and to continue to suggest it is simply dishonest. I challenge you to find a single expression of pride in area bombing. It was at best regarded as a grim necessity.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Post by Vagabond » Sat May 21, 2005 6:20 pm

Hi Hop,
Hop wrote:In fact, less than 185,000 tons out of Bomber Command's 525,000 tons in 1944 fell on German cities, with about 95,000 tons on German troops and fortifications, about 100,000 tons on transport, 10,000 on naval targets, 50,000 on oil, 20,000 on airfields and aircraft factories, 60,000 on military bases...
Your totals come out 5000 tons short. I also wonder just how finely you can distinguish between different target groups. Major rail centres are very often located in town centres for example.

I also wonder if the totals you provide were tallied up prior to or after bombing missions. Bombing crews often had secondary targets that they could go after in the event of eg. clouded skies. Secondary targets were often city centres.

Finally, the 1944 totals may be a little distorted by all the preparations for D-Day and the (successful!) interdiction campaign waged against French infrastructure - and by extension, one could also wonder how much of the 'transport' tonnage total was delivered on French civilians collaterally if not deliberately.

By the way, how do you distinguish between 'military bases' and 'German troops and fortifications'?
What Britain learnt from the Blitz (and Coventry in particular) was that bombing cities did much more harm than just bombing a factory.

Here's what Herschel Johnson wrote to the US sec state in 1941(...)
Assuming that his report was written prior to December 1941, we might accuse Herschel Johnson of some ulterior motives I think. His observations appear subjective and not very different from what the RAF's bomber barons had been advocating for many years.

Hop
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Post by Hop » Sun May 22, 2005 6:53 am

For example, your central accusation is always that British bombing is "criminal" and that the likes of Harris were war criminals. Criminality is a legal concept. What law was broken? I have asked you this repeatedly and you still haven't come up with an answer. The plain fact of the matter is that bombing cities was, regretably, not only carried out by both sides but was also legal. Therefore no crime was comitted.
The relevant laws of war at the time were the Hague conventions of 1907, which specifically banned the bombardment (by land or sea, no mention of air) of "undefended" towns.

In only banning the bombardment of undefended towns, they allowed the bombardment of defended towns.

There was also a temporary ban on bombardment from balloons (airships), but it was only scheduled to run for a 5 year period, and ran out before WW1, let alone WW2.
If the British had used the same ressources to create 1.5 million ground troops instead their rather timid contribution of 800.000 to the invasion of Europe, the war would have been over sooner.
Not possible. Despite the often quoted "40% of British war effort went on Bomber Command", the truth is very different. Between 7 and 9% of British war effort went on Bomber Command, remove it entirely and you aren't going to anywhere near double the size of the army in Europe.

(The 40% figure actually refers to 40% of RAF resources, not Britain's)

Of course, whilst the British army would be a bit stronger, you also have to realise they'd be invading Normandy against German forces that had not been cut off from reinforcement by the transport plan. All those railways still intact, funneling German troops straight to the front.
Even considering that the US were biased as this matter is concerned (so the report is not overly negative) criticism and doubts of its efficiency are obvious.
Of course the US were biased. They were biased against Bomber Command, not towards it. They sought to prove that the methods used by the US forces were superior.
The report accepts that later on the vastly increased dropped knocked the German industry out. But please, hold, lay back and consider this: Systematical destruction of one city after another and no considerable effect until Autumn 1944!
Whilst you are doing so, consider that bombing up to that point was relatively light.

Germany dropped over 50,000 tons of bombs on Britain in the 10 - 11 months of the BoB and Blitz.

It wasn't until the end of 1942/ begining of 1943 that Britain had dropped a similar amount on Germany.

The half way point for bombs dropped on Germany by the RAF was September 1944. Half the 657,000 tons were dropped in the 5 years prior to that (at an average of about 5,500 tons per month), half in the 8 months after that (at an average of 41,000 tons per month)

It's little wonder that the much lower totals earlier in the war had little effect (apart from Hamburg, of course)

If the RAF hadn't been diverted to supporting the invasion in 1944, I think you'd have seen the effect sooner, because it was in 1944 that the bombing campaign really began to deliver. (BC flew 22,000 sorties in 1940, 32,000 in 1941, 35,000 in 1942, 65,000 in 1943, 166,000 in 1944, 67,000 in 1945)
Your totals come out 5000 tons short. I also wonder just how finely you can distinguish between different target groups. Major rail centres are very often located in town centres for example.
The figures are all rounded, and ignore "misc targets" which recieved a few thousand tons.

As to diferentiating between targets, they're the official figures. Clearly though the area raids are seperated, as the official figures give "industrial towns" as a target type. I suspect most of the transport targets are in France, where the goal was to bomb the rail yard rather than do maximum damage to the town.
I also wonder if the totals you provide were tallied up prior to or after bombing missions.
After, in that they include non efective sorties (aborts etc).
Bombing crews often had secondary targets that they could go after in the event of eg. clouded skies. Secondary targets were often city centres.
That was USAAF practice, not the way the RAF did it.

Assigning secondaries was next to impossible at night, because it would be very hard to find them, and the RAF bombers navigated individually to target, not in a formation, so changing the target was very difficult (this doesn't apply very early in the war, but the tonnages were so small it's not going to affect anything much, less than 50,000 tons dropped in the whole of 1939, 1940 and 1941)

And remember that you can apply similar arguments to the USAAF too. When they claimed to be bombing an aircraft factory in the suburbs using part visual aiming, to the locals it was often indistinguishable from an area attack. (Using the USSBS survey example of attacks on 3 oil plants, less than 15% of USAAF bombs fell within the plant boundaries, which covered several square miles, iirc)
Finally, the 1944 totals may be a little distorted by all the preparations for D-Day and the (successful!) interdiction campaign waged against French infrastructure
Certainly, but the 1945 figures also show a similar proportion of bombs on "industrial cities", just over a third of total (and over 47,000 tons on oil targets in 1945)
and by extension, one could also wonder how much of the 'transport' tonnage total was delivered on French civilians collaterally if not deliberately.
Thankfully surprisingly little. The attacks on marshalling yards by the RAF in 1944 were pretty accurate (by the standards of the day, of course)

And again you need to apply the same criteria to the USAAF.
By the way, how do you distinguish between 'military bases' and 'German troops and fortifications'?
I don't know, that's the RAF again. (Actually "military installations" and "troops and fortifications")

(Actually, looking at the figures now, I think "military installations" must be V weapon sites, as the tonnage is almost exclusively in 1944, and sounds about right from the size of effort)
Assuming that his report was written prior to December 1941, we might accuse Herschel Johnson of some ulterior motives I think. His observations appear subjective and not very different from what the RAF's bomber barons had been advocating for many years.
It was Jan 41, I think.

No doubt there are ulterior motives, but those are the genuine conclusions that were drawn at the time in Britain.

It's worth noting that the Germans began with "precision" bombing, switched to area bombing. The British began with "precision" bombing, switched to area bombing. The Americans began with "precision" bombing, and whilst they didn't abandon it totally in Europe, they did to a certain extent, and switched to arwa bombing in Japan just as wholeheartedly as the RAF had in Europe.

So it's not just Johnson's conclusion, or the RAF's, it also seems to have been the conclusion of all the major players in strategic bombing in WW2.

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Post by Kitsune » Sun May 22, 2005 8:20 am

Sid,

- Proud of area bombing? you are the one that started a thread titled "strategic bombing - an overlooked success". wether that's pride is debatable (but it whould be...typical British, would it not?) But in any case it does not seem to be regret either. And that would be much more appropriate. Because the British Bombing war was more an overlooked warcrime than a forgotten success (who ever has overlooked it, anyway?)

- A crime? Why, which law was broken? Well, that is easy to answer. Its a crime against humanity. (I am using a term the Allies invented themselves, if you don't mind. Remember the "prparation of offensive war"? Nazis were hung for it, but since when had it been forbidden to start a war? By which law?). If you are seeing things in the strict legalist sense, we have the problem that the highest order of organisation that existed back then (and, despite the existence of the UN, exists today) is the national level. From that point of view, even the Holocaust is no crime. It was perfectly legal, since ordered by the "Führer". Same goes of course for the Stalinist meat-grinding GULAG. Perfectly legal. And if we are talking about international treaties, the Genevan convention forbids the deliberate killing of civilians. One is treading the line by shelling or bombing defended cities one is about to attack with ground troops or by destroying industrial facilites. The systematical destruction of inner cities and settled areas crosses that line, civilian deaths are not an essential byproduct anymore, they are becoming a prime obejctive. That is what the British did and "pioneered". And thats as much a warcrime as many the Germans committed. And should be treated accordingly.

- A parallel to the Holocaust? Where have I said this? But now that you mention it...there is indeed one. Women and Children, killed and burnt, just because they belonged to a certain ethnic group or nationality. Other things may be different, that is however a similiarity.

- How does one turn bombers into land troops? One does not. One spends the available ressources to build tanks, artillery and guns to equip ground troops instead of bombers. One trains more army soldiers than aircrews. Once you have the bombers and their crews, its too late. Britain had ample time to do it, even to change its obvious inhuman and ineffective strategy: all the time from 1941 to Autumn 1944. But "successes" like the horrid slaughter of civilians were just met with glee. Lack of results as far as Germanies war capabilities were concerned, only resulted in the demanding of more and more bombings, it obviously was not enough. And the strategy that originally had set out to win the war by bombings alone, without the need of any ground troops only got on its own, when the ground troops (and only very few of them British) had decided it.
There was time change it. (A good time seemed to be summer 1944. With the invasion underway the decision had been made to win the war WITH ground troops. So why not concentrate on indutrial facilites with the bombings? But the eradiaction of cities continued.) One could have decided to go another way. On every single day. But it was not done. Now does that sound familiar? At least one could aknowledge it after 60 years. Instead of pointing out alleged "overlooked successes".

- Effective and efficient? It's nice to see that you have started to think about these terms. It was about time. An efficient strategy is one that wins about an enemy as fast as possible, with as less costs as possible, without many losses, without needless slaughter and destruction. The classic example how NOT to do it: the British bombing campaign.
"Tell my mother I died for my country. I did what I thought was best."


John Wilkes Booth
April 12, 1865

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