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OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/27/2013 10:32:02 PM   

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There hasn't been much of a discussion of what the 8th Airforce and Bommber Command did in the war?

What are your thoughts?

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/27/2013 11:22:28 PM   


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Well the obvious answer to the Question "What did they do?": is that their primary mission was to strategically bomb Axis production/industry; 8th Army during the day and Bomber Command at night. But occassionally (and reluctantly) they perfromed other missions, such as the carpet bombing of German positions at the commencement of Operation Cobra.

But I suspect what you really want to discuss was how successful they were at their primary mission. Or perhaps you want to discuss the ethical use of strategic bombing against non-military targets, such as the fire-bombing of Dresden. Either way I should warn you that these are very controversial topics in Canada. Because the Commonwealth Air Training Program was situated in Canada a high proportion of Bomber Command were Canadian, including my father. Several years ago the CBC ran a program critical of the Allied Strategic bombing campaign. It claimed (perhaps with some merit) that Strategic Bombing was ineffective in it's primary mission and it's use against civilian targets was unethical. A display to this effect was erected at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. This caused a major uproar among our Veterans, a fierce letter writing campaign to the CBC and the removal of the display from the museum.

Off topic, the Veterans are a very powerful lobby group in our country. When Walmart expanded from the States to Canada several years ago it did not allow the sale of poppies (a fund raising venture for Veterans) outside it's stores. To be fair it did not allow anyone to sell anything outside it's stores. This led to a major protest and Walmart quickly backed down. To make amends Walmart was the major contributor to the construction of the Canadian Memorial and Museum at Juno Beach in Normandy.

< Message edited by Harrybanana -- 1/27/2013 11:23:43 PM >

(in reply to Footslogger)
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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 1:36:21 AM   

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The question I was asking was, were they strategically essentail in bringing down the German war machine?

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 3:44:02 AM   
Rebel Yell

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Absolutely. /thread


Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don't.

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 8:31:48 AM   


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Dropping 'dumb' bombs from 20000 feet wasn't as effective as hoped. The bosses in charge of everything made mistakes and the crews paid for it, without results being decisively effective.

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 2:00:45 PM   

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I think that the number one result was that they destroyed the German Air Force?



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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 5:14:45 PM   


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The impact of the strategic air war is greatly debated but the growing belief is that it did not return the value for the resources committed:

1) German production continued to grow. Several studies during the war and after the war determined that the bombing campaign destroyed the building - primarily the walls and roof - with little impact to the tools. This allowed the Germans (and Japanese) to either get back on line quickly or move the tools and get back on line quickly.

2) While limited disruptions in supplies and equipment happened, in general, the Germans never really suffered due to a lack of production due to industrial capacity.

3) The attack on marshaling yards, rail ways, and rail centers outside of the tactical zones had little, if any, long term impact. Despite all the hype about this being a critical component showing the effectiveness of the air strikes, this doesn't show up in the post war reports. In the tactical war zones, the FB and low level bombers really made a mess of the German day light movement.

4) This changed after the firebombing of Dresden. In that raid (and the firebombing in Japan), large areas were literally destroyed. Dropping iron bombs didn't work, dropping firebombs did.

5) The strategic air campaign contributed to a shipping shortage after Normandy. The shipping space ended up being really tight after the invasion as the demands increased dramatically. And the Strategic Air Forces took up a lot of space in hauling bombs, spare parts, and ammo to support the effort. At times, it required a trade off between shells for the big guns on the ground or bombs for the big planes.

6) The Strategic Bombing campaign destroyed the German Air Force as an effective fighting force. It took away any space for it to train its pilots, required it to use it fuel up in defense, and literally ended up shooting it out of the air. Nearly 1/3 of all combat losses suffered by German Air Force in WWII was caused by Allied Strategic Bombers (not escorts - bombers).

7) Germany's devoted nearly 450,000 people to man the AAA guns. While nearly 90% of these would never have served in the front lines (too old, women, or really young boys), the number of guns, amount of shells, and training were missed, especially on the Eastern front.

8) And, to be fair, it did delay production at time and did delay transportation at times. Whether these delays represent critical issues is open to debate.

9) And it added to the British morale in knowing that Germany's were under attack in Germany.

Finally, a number of people have suggested that these resources be devoted elsewhere. The question would be where? The Allies had all the tactical air support that they needed. Most of the fighter support would still be required as the German Air Force would NOT have been destroyed over Germany defending against the bombing campaign, and moving these men and equipment to ground forces doesn't really look like it would have ended the war any faster as logistics was the primary brake on the Allies after the invasion.

At the end of the day, I'm not sure you had a better "investment" in resources. Could it have been deployed more effectively? Sure, with 20/20 hindsight and given the information we have now. But it was the first "truly strategic bombing campaign" in history.

In the end, it destroyed the German Air Force - which was a big help to the Allies. It provide a major air front that suck up resources that the Germans could have used elsewhere more effectively. And it did impact production although not to the extend that the Air Forces at first claimed or set out in their objectives.

As far as ethics goes, not a question I considered here. WW2 and WW1 both represented total war - and that includes attacking the means of production for war material.

(in reply to Toby42)
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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/28/2013 9:11:57 PM   

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The attacks on oil and transport crippled German industry in the last months of the war, grounding much of the Luftwaffe for lack of fuel.

Similarly the whole German aviation industry was massively distorted due to the bombing campaigns. See for example Daniel Uziel's 'Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II'. Huge resources had to be devoted to dispersing manufacture to avoid bombing, the whole balance of the Luftwaffe was thrown off as production had to concentrate on defensive fighters, and German aircraft quality fell sharply due to massive use of unskilled slave labour.

Strategic bombing didn't win the war on its own as the Bomber Barons had predicted, but it added a major contribution to the defeat of Germany.

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/29/2013 12:38:28 AM   


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Fuel shortage in late 44 and 45 was driven more by the advance of the Soviets. The Rumanian oil fields - which produced 45% of the German fuel - and the Galcia oil fields which produced 15% of the Germany's fuel - were captured by Soviets.

And in 45, especially after the weather broke in January, both the Soviet and Allied tactical air forces could range over virtually all of Germany. The FBs shot the transportation network up and rail stock left in Germany.

Daniel Uziel's 'Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II' is an excellent book. But my take away from it was that the German pilot shortage was far more serious than any equipment shortages. By the "Big Week" (2/44) when the Allies went after the German air production factors, average pilot training time had already fallen to less than 120 hrs (US time was minimum of 250 hrs although 300 seems to be more common).

And the lower qualty aircraft - He162, ME163 and others - while making economic sense by using less strategic war materials were a military mistake - they simply didn't perform or required pilots with too much experience to use them effectively. Many of these ended up in production due to the control of the production facilities by production managers rather than the military. Once the military started taking control of what was produced, many of these only remained in production due to the cost of changing the production lines.

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/29/2013 5:52:22 AM   


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A shifting of some long range fuselages from bomber work ( in 1942 ) to ocean patrolling would have closed up some of the nasty air gaps months sooner; those worrisome times of Churchill in 1942 may not have been necessary.

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/29/2013 5:21:04 PM   


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randallw -

An excellent point. Virtually all the air assets deployed against the U Boats returned a huge ROI in just keeping ships afloat - they didn't even have to kill anything. In many cases, their mere patrols saved ships and lives.

And interesting factoid often overlooked:

According to the AAF Statistical Digest, in less than four years (December 1941- August 1945), the US Army Air Forces lost 14,903 pilots, aircrew and assorted personnel plus 13,873 airplanes --- inside the continental United States. They were the result of 52,651 aircraft accidents (6,039 involving fatalities) in 45 months.

They average 1,170 aircraft accidents per month---- nearly 40 a day. (Less than one accident in four resulted in totaled aircraft, however.)

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RE: OT: 8th Airforce & Bomber Command - 1/29/2013 11:37:56 PM   


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I think the strategic bombing campaign was crucial.

Firstly, resources. If memory serves, there were around 15000 AA pieces deployed defending the Reich. That's a lot of gunners, and all of those weapons could have served AT or AA roles on the front line, or as tactical air cover.

Large amounts of concrete went into flak towers and bomb proofing potential targets. One suggestion I've seen for the state of defences on the Atlantic wall in January 1944 was that large amounts of concrete had been diverted to repair the Dambusters damage in the crucial period they were supposed to be being used to strengthen western defences.

By 1945, 1.5 million people were employed clearing Germany up. If they hadn't been doing this, they would have been building AT ditches.

Hundreds of thousands of people were employed in the AA effort. There were nearly 50000, for example, blowing smoke into the air to shroud targets. One source contends 1.2 million people were involved by the end of the war. To be fair, the majority, perhaps vast majority would not have been capable of front line duty, but it was still a significant effort.

This also involved a significant production effort to produce the flak pieces and associated ammunition.

Speer managed to prevent the industrial output collapsing until the end, but without bombing, he would have succeeded in expanding German production by a much greater measure than he managed.

Finally, transport. FBs may well have ranged over Germany in the final months of the war, but it was the bombers that (whilst destroying major population centres) took out miles and miles of track, destroyed major junctions and marshalling yards, destroyed workshops and idle locomotives and brought by 1945 the entire network to a halt. By the last months of the war production was suffering because raw materials could not be transported about the Reich, a situation compounded by the dispersion of industry in the face of the bombing.

Add to that the attrition and eventual decimation of the Luftwaffe fighter arm, a force that could not adequately protect front line troops and fight this second front over the reich at the same time, and you have the last of bombing's crucial effects.

It got a raw press because of the civilian casualties inflicted, but the bombing hastened the end of the Reich, and I've tended to view it positively as a result.



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