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Could the Luftwaffe win their air war?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by T. A. Gardner, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Have you subtracted imports from the available numbers? IE both the Soviet Union and Britain got US planes. Also the difference between numbers available would include those retired as no longer fit for service. All in all rather interesting. "Losses" were higher on all categories than I would have expected. Just thought of another one. Does your aircraft available for the RAF include the Fleet Air Arm?
     
  2. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    No, you will have to work out imports yourself. It took me 45 minutes to compile the numbers from the two tables into that post & I dont have the time to work LL numbers into it so that a percentage point will change.

    Correct, aircraft lost due to obsolesence are lost the same as aircraft that simply wear out past being worth repairing. Ellis counted "First line combat aircraft. This was defined differently in each airforce so losses for this reason in the Soviet AF wont be the same as in the RAF

    Ellis simply provided gross combat aircraft built for each year, and the number of combat aircraft in service at the end of the year. The 'lost' are all those unavailable for any reason. Often they were being lost faster in accidents than in combat. The US lost thousands in transfer flights across the US and overseas, and thousands more lost when the cargo ships carrying them were sunk. Germany lost large numbers in accidents due to deteriorating pilot training. Then there were planes lost to enemy air raids, or being overrun on a airfield somewhere.

    As far as I know Ellis counted all combat aircraft in that category. He did have a seperate column for all aircraft including trainers and transports, but using it just makes the German situation look worse in 1942-43. :(

    My post is not a refined analysis, Just a combination of part of the numbers from the two tables in Ellis's book. Enough to show the German situation was going to hell in 1943-44 while the Allies losses declined a bit. Wish I had the time to burn taking it down to the nth degree, But...
     
  3. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Thank you, for what you have done anyway :)
     
  4. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Alfred Price may have incuded a similar analyiss in his Luftwaffe book. I've had some folks quote stats to me from it.
     
  5. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    There was no way for the Luftwaffe to succeed against neither England nor Russia. The Luftwaffe can’t be blamed for it, but the political strategy of Hitler.

    The Luftwaffe was build up by Wever according to the air war doctrine of General Douhet, just as most other countries after the 1st WW.

    England was not planning on going into a war towards expansion in continental Europe and due to its historical empire view and its “splendid isolation”– it rather emphasized on strategic components such as its navy and four engine bombers.

    The Douhet doctrine simply emphasized on the theory that the air force had the capability to decide and win a war and as such needed to be equipped in such a way to ensure air supremacy and to dictate the ground war.
    Wever’s tactical layout to gain air supremacy was to destroy the enemy’s air force in the first round, then to destroy the industrial and infrastructure centers followed by engaging into the ground war.

    This meant in the first place to have bombers that could fulfill these 3 main tasks. Wever’s strategy was therefore a tactical layout of a Luftwaffe fleet that could fulfill these three tasks in an economical way as possible. One has to keep in mind that during Wever’s command, Russia was not a defined target. In view to expanding the war towards Russia or any other larger country Wever knew about the need for a four engine Bomber. However Hitler had not openly defined or forwarded a war strategy that would include Russia or even England till then. After Wever’s death the Strategic expansion of a war was also not placed on the war gaming agenda till 1940. Hitler IMO did not have in mind to attack Russia before 1942 and definitely not before reaching a peace agreement with Britain.

    The economical and industrial aspects in regards to Germany’s capability in 1933 did not allow for the buildup of a strategic Luftwaffe – this would have endangered the initialization of the Douhet doctrine towards Hitler’s openly forwarded military goals – which were the annexation of Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. In case of a war declaration by France and England the Luftwaffe had to be able to win a war in Western continental Europe.
    According to Hitler’s believe this would have been the case the moment France falls and Britain would be forced to withdraw from continental Europe.

    The two engine bombers possessed the ability to fulfill these three tasks. The fighter arm was seen more as a defensive component (See RAF during BoB) or as a protective function for the bombers.
    The sudden strike (Blitz) therefore incorporated the elements of destroying the adversaries air force on the ground by bombing them, eliminating counter strikes with the fighter arm and Flak, destroying or hindering the enemies industrial output, destroying and disrupting the infrastructure and supporting by ground attacks the own land forces advance which primarily included the occupation of the enemies airfields.

    Therefore as history teaches us the Blitzkrieg was a highly successful strategy but was in no way suitable against a country such as Russia or England. As such the war as it continued to develop from July 1940 onward did not meet the political expectations or planning’s of Hitler and thus the military strategy of the Wehrmacht and that of the Luftwaffe was bound to fail after 1940.

    An “if” would mean to change Europe’s or even the world’s military mindset in the 1920s and 30’s in regards to the Douhet doctrine.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  6. kongman

    kongman Member

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    there is only 1 reason why the german air force lost the war of the sky's.......during the battle of britain if the luftwaffe had of stuck to attacking the RAF instead of changing the plans half way thru , they could have destroyed the RAF and had air superiority........but the brits where a cleaver bunch and lauched a raid against a civi target with made the germans so angry that they stoped attacked the RAF directly and started bombing cities , which gave the RAF time to regroup and start to make a dent in the luftwaffe .......and another thing if the germans had of been smart they should have knock the radar instalations out along the coast in would have made a huge difference
     
  7. Lippert

    Lippert Member

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    Kruska,

    I like that you bring up Douhet. I believe your point needs some clarification. Luftwaffe planners subscribed to the Douhet doctrine only in the fact that air superiority/air supremacy could be the deciding factor in a war, and that it should be used to dictate ground events. However, that is only one part of Douhet's theory. He also focused on the use of the airplane as a strategic weapon, not an operational one, and his writings called for no integration of the air and surface forces. Additionally, one might argue that the only doctrine that the Luftwaffe really took from Douhet was the eventual bombing of British cities, but even this would prove to be folly and was not the original intent of the buildup of the air forces.

    Much of the Luftwaffe's initial buildup focused on the development of a tactical/operationally integrated air force, based on the war games of 1924, where it was assumed any nation Germany would face would have a potentially stronger air arm. As a result, planners saw the need to bomb military targets, specifically aircraft production and storage facilities and airfields (hmm, kind of sounds like the Battle of Britain.....) Luftwaffe creators therefore based their forces around a regional conflict strategy, that was designed to occur at the operational level (something never done before on so grand a scale), and as you mentioned - twin engined bombers and short range fighters allowed for this.

    Douhet did help to pioneer the concept of the necessity of air superiority prior to the execution of a prolonged bombing campaign. The meat of his work, though, focuses on the indiscriminate bombing of civilians to reduce enemy morale, and bring a quick end to the war (he even originally theorized the attacks should use poison gas). It is a common misconception that the Luftwaffe ever really adopted any of Douhet's theories, much because of what occured in Guernica and Rotterdam, both of which were bombings with military targets that went a bit awry (this misconception is evidenced in the work The Luftwaffe War Diaries by Cajus Bekker and many feel it was due to mis-translation, and perhaps information at the time was not as complete since it was so recent after the war).

    Thus was the advent of the big four-engine Flying Fortresses and Liberators, etc. with dozens of guns and relatively large bombloads. Ironically enough, the US adopted the strategy of a Brit, Air Marshal Trenchard who believed strategic bombing should target military targets, while the British adopted an Italian strategy! There are many critics of the modern day who argue the validity of large scale strategic bombing, and whether it is worth the cost. Obviously today we have cruise missiles, stealth aircraft, and much more developed tactics, techniques and procedures, but in his day, Douhet was seen as a revolutionary thinker. Douhet didn't do too bad for a guy who probably never even learned to fly.

    As far as whether or not the Luftwaffe could have won the war, as many have mentioned, it rests entirely on the large scale plans laid out by German high command. The fact that the Luftwaffe was an operational level force meant that for any given length of time, it could have air superiority over only a specific geographic area. That they were able to have such a good effect early on is a testament to their experience level and technology. However, they lacked the industrial base and did not plan for large scale growth/new aircraft development on the scale necessary to create a sustainable strategic level force. As such, the force was spread thin over so many fronts (as were the rest of German forces). Had the air power been used as intended and fewer fronts been open, it is possible that they could have been much more successful.

    Bekker, Cajus, The Luftwaffe War Diaries, Translated by Frank Ziegler, Gerhard Stalling Verlag, 1964

    Buckley, John, Air Power in the Age of Total War, Indiana Univ Press, 1999
    PP 74-77, 81, 125, 204

    Corum, James, The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940, Univ. Press of Kansas, 1997
    PP 7, 74, 89-95, 101-103, 211-212, 214

    I have been wanting for quite some time to make a thread to get the argument going about whether or not strategic bombing is actually an efficient/successful doctrine. As well as whether Douhet's theories were proven right or wrong, but I feel like I'd probably have a lot of people on the side of strategic bombing because of the conception that it won the war.
     
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  8. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello Lippert,

    My view of interpreting or reading Douhet would be as such:

    Douhet's doctrine is Air Supremacy (Not Strategic bombing). Born out of the trenchwarfare scenario and stalemate situation of the 1st WW as you know, Douhet believed that only air power could be able to break the stalemate on the ground in a future war.

    In order to implement air power, air supremacy is needed. So in logic consequence the enemies air power must be destroyed. This according to Douhet will be achieved by detroying the enemies existing air power by attacking (bombing) the airfields and the industrial potential in regards to producing aircrafts (Such as the USAAF did in ww2). The bombers need to be protected by fighters and the fightes as such are one main factor to defend against the enemies bombers.
    Thus by bombing/destroying the enemies airforce and destroying his industrial centers (In regards to building aircrafts) the own air power then is free to assist the groundforces to break an existing stalemate.

    I would say that is the core of the Douhet doctrine.

    During the Spanish civil war the Italians and Germans noticed the moral effect of bombings towards civilian targets and incorporated this into their air war strategy. Furthermore the Germans took notice of the close ground support role of the airforce towards assisting the ground forces to break through and also to use the air power to destroy/disrupt the enemies infrastructure. As such preventing reeinforcments from building up and or reaching the frontlines.

    However IMO one has to keep in mind that Douhet has only viewed upon the air power as the only or appropriate means to decide upon the ground war. As such without an accompaning ground force the Douhet doctrine was in question. Due to this the Germans strictly bound to the Douhet formula could not suceed in the BoB.

    As for Russia the Douhet formula could not be applied since the Luftwaffe bombers did not have the range (And also not the numbers needed due to a grossly underestimation of the Russian strength and fighting quality)to eliminate the Russian airforce on the ground, nor to destroy the aircraft related industry or to disrupt the infrastructure way behind the frontline. Thus the Germans were sucessfull only in the initial attack that was within their range of the Luftwaffe and its groundforces.
    This excluded the possibility of gaining and keeping air supremacy and as such the douhet doctrine was not fullfilled, in consequence Douhet was proven right.

    The British bombing raids were indeed terrible for the civilian population but had no imminent effect on the outcomming of a war since it was not pointed towards the aircraft industry, therefore the RAF was not in a position to obtain air supremacy, this task was fullfilled by the USAAF by directing its attacks in priority towards the Douhet targets.

    The weaker the Luftwaffe got the higher the chances for the Allies to gain air supremacy - thus enabling the allied air power to assist its ground forces in the direct ground attack. Through this the Allied ground forces were free to move and engage in superiority the Germans, driving them back wherever they encountered them.

    Therefore I would conclude that strategic bombing alone was not able and is not able to win a war on its own. (See Vietnam). The USAF assisted their ground troops in Vietnam in defending their positions sucessfully, however due to never occupying North Vietnam's territory the war could not be decided in Americas favor.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
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  9. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    Kruska, Lippert, nice takes on the air war. Your exchange of thoughts has brought and taught this reader to look at the situation in a different way. To both of you, thanks!
     
  10. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    By all means do. I'll certainly put in more than a nickel's worth of input into such a thread. I enjoy discussing the roots of strategy and tactics and their effectiveness on actual warfare.
     
  12. Lippert

    Lippert Member

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    Kruska,

    You make an excellent point. I must say though that something has come up that is interesting to me, and I wonder if it is because of a geographic difference in the source of literature. I was always taught, and always read that while the fundamental premise of Douhet's doctrine was indeed air supremacy and it's influence over/connection with the ground war, the real meat of his theories was the strategic bombing bit.

    While studying for my masters most courses I took had this view point, and most course texts did as well. I wonder if the emphasis being on one or the other is the product of where such books are published? I know I will for one be purchasing a book from overseas on the matter to find out!

    Thanks,

    Lippert

    PS - T.A. I will certainly do that. It will take me a bit of time to get together enough resources, links, etc to form a good basis for the discussion, but I look forward to the resulting conversations.
     
  13. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello Lippert,

    good point too on your side.

    I agree that the practical adoption of the Douhet doctrine would center around strategic bombing - necessary to destroy the enemies air power capability in the first wave. (Douhet has however developed this doctrine in view of an ongoing war for a longer period in review of the 1st WW).

    Once this air superiority - even if only for a limited period of time is achieved) the ground troops are able to break a stalemate due to the support of the airforce by aiding in the ground attack role. Therefore enhancing or adding to the groundforces battle capability to advance on the enemies territory - taking posession of his airfields and air industry - which in turn will then decide on victory since the enemies air power would be permanantly or continualy weakend or disabled by the combination of advancing ground forces and the continuation of the Douhet doctrine by the Air force.

    Douhet IIRC has developed this strategy exactly in the above mentioned followup, meaning in conjunction with the branches, - it is the Germans (Goering amongst others) who concluded that in assumtion of the obvious deciding factor Luftwaffe (Forwarded by Douhet) - that the Luftwaffe or air power based on its own (By pure means of bombing or strategic bombing), could therefore decide the outcomming of a war.

    And IMO this "Goering" assumption (Not the Douhet doctrine) proved to be wrong since the BoB or later Russia have shown that without the involvment of advancing ground forces a war or battle could not be won, since the ground forces are needed to occupy the enemies territory and in priority his airfields and air industry to continiously ensure air superiority.

    I hope I am not creating to much of a confusion :D

    Regards
    Kruska

    BTW, I love that new avatar of yours :D how on earth did you manage to hold the camera :D
     
  14. Lippert

    Lippert Member

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    I see. :) So it was Douhet according to Goering. Or, in some sense, the interpretation of the doctrine at that time (similar to how we've been having issues with interpretation).

    Much like Van Gogh according to Picasso, perhaps. Great discussion!

    I wonder if the German forces had focused on a series of small limited wars rather than a singular massive expansion, should the results be different.
     
  15. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Lippert;
    I see. :) So it was Douhet according to Goering.
    Much like Van Gogh according to Picasso, perhaps......

    Yes that's the way I would see it.

    I wonder if the German forces had focused on a series of small limited wars rather than a singular massive expansion, should the results be different.

    IMO, that is exactly what Hitler and the Wehrmacht had in mind - one by one, just as he did till 1940, due to Churchills peace refusal and Hitlers fear of Stalin getting too strong the initial concept was thrown overboard.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  16. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello C.W.S.

    yes you got a good point there. I have a fotocopy in regards to the interpretation or let's rather say citing Douhet by the German author K. Gundelach who is also the author of the book General Wever KG 4.

    In the German Bundeswehr Archiv (Army Archive) it is side noted on his original Book (Title: Airsuperiority) that the means of bombing the enemy into submission is strongly emphasised upon, however that he has no clear opinion towards the size percentage or a feasability study in regards to the industrial spreading and allocation to the different arms branches, in order to achieve a superior powerfull air power without endangering the ability of the other branches.

    Thus it is noted: it is a theory that is not backed by an existing or relevant industrial and military setup of a repective country and does not differentiate between an agressor or defensive character mode.
    It is therefore a common based theory that allows itself to be interpreted or modelled according to the respective countries political intensions or needs.

    Regards
    Kruska
     
  17. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    I see. So Douhet did not discuss things like number of aircraft required, quantity of bombs, a guess at accuracy hittng targets?
     
  18. Kruska

    Kruska Member

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    Hello C.W.S.

    1921 "Dominio dell'Aria" Command of the air. It is just a doctrin taking the general assumtion of airpower being the only means to break a stalemate on the ground and as such shortens a future war were he elaborates on Bombing loads, optimal height for bombers, appropriate number of Bombers per unit to gain an optimum radius of destruction for ground targets such as 250m.

    In order to implement the airpower he forwards that airsupremacy is needed and describes/formulates the nessesary tactical steps to achieve it. The priority is given to the task of bombing, as such he concludes that a war can even be won only by airpower.

    Douhet takes on a hypothetical country and its airpower. What he totally neglects is the financial and industrial aspect of an existing country in order to evaluate correct proportions in respect to the other branches and what would be an adequate offensive airpower in regards to an enemies airpower and the other existing armed branches.
    He is not able to specify or determin a value towards airpower in relation to battle values. Nor does he reconsider the financial aspect (C) of financing such a force (V). General Bastico forwarded this feasibility problem as the C=V dogma. (C/V = A rmy + AF orce + N avy)
    It would therefore be an individual's judgement upon one's own armed forces and the respective opponent to determin the right proportions amongst the necessary forces (battle value) of the A + AF + N = Value and if this V = C total defense budget.

    Douhet already forwarded his "position" about the war being decisevly determind by airpower even before the 1st WW. In the beginning of the Italian/Austrian confrontation he suggested to build a fleet comprising of 500 Bombers, that could drop a daily load of 125 tonnes, without placing a feasability study behind it in regards to C or V.

    In case you have some reading time - maybe you already read Douhet?
    It is a 35MB document so I can't upload it here, it includes the updates of 1926 and 1928

    Annotations Template

    Just click on Command of the Air
    Regards
    Kruska
     
  19. justdags

    justdags Member

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    if Hitler had concentrated more on the ME 262 maybe or if he didn't stop research with the 109 and 190's thinking that they were the best fighter possibble also a fighter designed strictly for air to air combat too take on the spitfire instead he made V-1s and V-2s
     
  20. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    How the Third Reich could have won the war in one paragraph :lol:

    You haven't read the rest of the thread, did you? As for your last part, yes, the Germans did have a fighter "designed strictly for air to air combat to(o) take on the Spitfire" (it has a capital S, see?), it was the Me109 and it failed to do that in that thing called the Battle of Britain, so bollocks.
     
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