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The Bombing of Germany

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by Steve Petersen, Mar 29, 2010.

  1. Steve Petersen

    Steve Petersen Member

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    Watched this documentary the other night and learned a little.

    This documentary seems to indicate that USAAF Commanders stubbornly resisited the pressure to attack purely civilian targets up until January of 45 when they caved and undertook Operation Thunderclap.

    I am speaking only of the ETO here, not the Pacific.
     
  2. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    Please note Doolittle tried his best to select as many military targets inside the city as he could.
     
  3. Steve Petersen

    Steve Petersen Member

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    I do recall that, yes.

    So it was really the politicians pushing indiscriminate bombing?
     
  4. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    You know, I worked with a Steve Petersen in the AF in ABQ at Kirtland AFB way back in the Eighties....Is that you?
     
  5. Steve Petersen

    Steve Petersen Member

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    No. Sorry.

    Army, Europe, 83-86.
     
  6. Greg Canellis

    Greg Canellis Member

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    The way I understand it, in the very early days of the war, the British RAF Bomber Command tried daylight bombing raids with appalling loses. With the arrival of the American 8th Air Force in UK, equipped with the Norton Bomb sight, the Americans took over the role of "precision daylight bombing" of targets of military value, armaments factories, and infrastructure. The British, meanwhile, resorted to night time raids, or "area bombing" as they referred to it "to destroy German morale." There was very little "precision" in night time area bombing, where incendiary bombs were dropped. The fire bombing of major German cities: Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg, and Dresden have been criticized as indiscriminant, but its defenders countered that there is a fine line between civilian and targets of military value. In Cologne, for example, the huge railway marshalling yard, even today, is situated only a stone's throw from the landmark medieval cathedral (which survived the war with only minimal damage). Commander of RAF Bomber Command Sir Arthur Harris, dubbed "Bomber Harris" or "Butcher Harris" has come under criticism for his stubborn adherence to area bombings even when others in high command began to realize its ineffectiveness. A good read of a critique of the bombing campaign in Europe is A. C. Grayling's Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan. New York: Walker Publishing Company Inc., 2006

    Greg C.
     
  7. Steve Petersen

    Steve Petersen Member

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    But you will have to say that the British expended a lot of money and time on ways to improve their night bombing accuracy.
     
  8. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Perhaps it needs to be pointed out again that there was very little 'precision' in European bombing generally. Europe is a very cloudy place at all times of year which renders all bombsights useless.

    In good conditions, the 8th could achieve spectacular results ( eg the Focke Wulf factory etc ) and so could the RAF ( the Dams ).

    Waiting for perfect conditions wasn't an option - the result was area bombing and the 'toggler' system.
     
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  9. mhuxt

    mhuxt Member

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    Without wishing to re-open yet again an old can of worms, the first area target attacked by the USAAF was Emden, IIRC September 1943.

    Have a look at Davis' work here:

    http://www.au.af.mil/au/aul/aupress/Books/Davis_B99/Davis_B99.pdf

    He has a number of things to say about targets being re-adjusted ex post facto from area to precision descriptions. Also have a look at the spreadsheets he provides elsewhere on that site. A little Excel-fu will give you some insight into targeting methods on raids into Germany.

    In brief, Thunderclap had nothing to do with it, sorry to be blunt.
     
  10. dawallace

    dawallace Member

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    I find it interesting that the only country in Europe where the issue of the morality of Allied bombing arises (and it constantly does) always concerns only the bombing of Germany.
    My father was an RCAF Navigator who was attached to RAF Squadrons on his two tours of duty in 1943 & 44. When I look at the 90 bombing operations he flew on, only 40 of them were to targets in Germany. The other 50 were into France, Holland & Belgium. 60 of those were night operations and 30 of them were daylight. Those Nazi-occupied countries he bombed 50 times lost tens of thousands of their own civilians to Allied bombing but instead of their citizens regarding those airmen as murderers they treated them as heros, often risking their own lives to protect them and help them escape. To this day they meticulously maintain thousands of small memorials to the airmen killed in and over their countries because they died helping them defeat a common and brutal enemy. It seems the morality issue of Allied bombing depends mostly on which side of the German border you lived at the time. To the Germans they were terror-fliers, to the French, Dutch, Belgians, Danish, British, Canadians, Americans and many others they were and still are heros.
    Regards
    Dave Wallace
     
  11. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    please revise your figures, I get our point y and respect it but sourced figures would be appreciated: your Soviet and Chinese figures are exagerated, Korean casulaties are between 378.000 and 53.0000 not millions , Yougoslaves 1.7 million and Mongolia had ......300 casualties , not millions :confused:

    World War II casualties - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  12. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Personally I see it as a means to end the war. But some things like this make it look like it was also a matter of shame to Britain....

    ---------

    "In 1946, Harris was appointed Marshall of the RAF. However, he felt that Bomber Command was never given the recognition that he believed it deserved. Whereas the men of Fighter Command were applauded, the men who flew with Bomber Command never received a similar recognition and at the end of the war, they were not given a campaign medal - something that greatly angered Harris."

    "Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, strongly objected to Churchill's comparison of the raid to an "act of terror," a comment Churchill withdrew in the face of Harris's protest."

    Bombing of Dresden in World War II - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
     
  13. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Steve Petersen,


    The 8th AF dropped over a million incendiaries in the ETO. Is that "precision bombing'?



    John.
     
  14. Steve Petersen

    Steve Petersen Member

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    Precision bombing is a relative term. The Allies spent a lot of time and money developing methods for better accuracy. 'Precision' compared to methods employed to that point. As I said at the outset, the emphasis on military targets was the US doctrine until early 1945. Obviously there were cases when this did not happen, but that does not negate the fact that the US had made a strategic choice not to deliberately attack targets of no military value.

    Why undertake risky daylight missions if the only objective was the indiscrimate slaughter of civilians using indendiaries.

    I am relatively new to this topic, though. What are the statistics on when and where the US dropped incendiaries in the ETO?
     
  15. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Think the British made more use of incendiaries in the ETO than 8th Air Force, PTO would be a different story. AFAIK a big reason for the daylight choice was to attrition the Luftwaffe day fighter force, the Germans fighters, overloaded by the heavy cannons required to attack the bombers, suffered high losses.

    But the base fact is that given current technology and aircrew training levels precision bombing was just not going to happen and the commanders were likely to be well aware of it, so any "statement of intent" sounds empty.
    The bombers even dropped on a couple Swiss cities by mistake, and AFAIK in bad visibility anything that came up as large enough on the instruments was considered a legittimate target of opportunity for US aicrews.

    I have never been able to come to a conclusion of wheter this was considered "collateral damage" to be possibly avoided or there was was a "any dead German is a good thing" attitude. From my readings, but the air campaign is far from my favourite subject, there was a lot of both.

    Given sufficient effort and training the capability for precision bombing, even at night, existed, just look at the the story of 617 squadron, but small highly trained units are not compatible with an attrition strategy.

    I have never seen the term terror bombing in contemporary US documents, while it appears in some British ones, but as stated it's not an area I researched much, terror bombing targets morale rather than infrastructure and precision is not a highly stressed requirement.
     
  16. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Steve Petersen,


    United States Army Air Forces in World War II


    Have a wander through this fascinating and enormous site. It is a gold mine of info and send you cross-eyed eventually.

    How the hell they ever collated all that info amazes me.



    John.
     
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  17. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    TOS,

    I have some sympathy for Harris and his Bomber Command.

    Britain had endured many months of indiscriminate "terror bombing" by the germans and in those years had no other way of striking back.

    I read somewhere many years ago that the REAL goal was to stop the machines producing stuff for the enemy. That meant one of many things, killing the operator, stopping him from sleeping, cutting the supply of parts, stopping the electricity, stopping the product getting to the front line, stopping him getting food, and so on.

    If an industrial area had a workers housing area nearby, which they often did, then well and good, it was possible to achieve most of those goals with the same bombs on the same mission.

    After enduring many months of the 'Blitz', I doubt that the British had ANY qualms about killing german mothers and babies in exchange for the British mothers and babies killed.

    I am certain Americans would feel the same way, as they did over Tokyo in 1945.



    John.
     
  18. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    I have none.
     
  19. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    Did you read the rest of the post?
     
  20. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    It is a myth that the US did 'precision bombing' whilst the RAF bomber indiscriminately.

    From Carl A. Spaatz and the Air War in Europe by Richard G. Davis. Smithsonian Institution Press, , 1994.

    A further look at Eighth Air Force operations has revealed two egregious
    examples of the gap between bombing practice and stated bombing policy: the
    target categories “city areas” and “marshaling yards.” The two most cited Eighth
    Air Force statistical summaries that cover the entire war do not list a target cate-
    gory “city areas” or “towns and cities.” Both summaries were prepared from
    the same set of data within a month of the end of the war in Europe.
    Monthly statistical summaries of the Eighth’s operations prepared during the
    war, almost contemporaneously with the events they recorded, tell a different
    story. The Eighth Air Force Monthly Statistical Summary of Operations, gener-
    ated at the end of each month from May 1944 to April 1945, listed a “city areas”
    target category. For calendar year 1944, the summary reported that the Eighth
    dropped 43,611 tons on “city areas.” Nor did these reports make any bones
    about their targets. The report for the May 8, 1944, Berlin raid baldly states,
    “Berlin city area attacked. Bombing raid done through 10/10 undercast on PFF
    markers. Believed that the center of Berlin was well hit.”
    After reaching a
    high of 9,886 tons (41 percent incendiaries) in July 1944, when the Eighth con-
    ducted a series of H2X raids on Munich, the monthly “city area” totals steadily
    declined to 383 tons in December.
    A summary in a working paper from a USSTAF file, “Review of Bombing
    Results,” shows a similar dichotomy according to time period. From January
    1944 through January 1945, the Eighth dropped 45,036 tons on “towns and
    cities.” From February 1945 through the end of the war, this summary
    showed not a single ton of bombs falling on a city area. Unless the Eighth had
    developed a perfect technique for bombing through overcast,[ such a result was
    simply impossible. Obviously, the word had come down to deemphasize reports
    on civilian damage
    .
    For instance, when Anderson cabled Arnold about USSTAF’s
    press policy on the Dresden controversy in February 1945, he noted, “Public rela-
    tions officers have been advised to take exceptional care that the military nature
    of targets attacked in the future be specified and emphasized in all cases
    . As in
    the past the statement that an attack was made on such and such a city will be
    avoided; specific targets will be described.”
    The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, although not explicitly listing a target
    category such as cities or towns, had an interesting definition of “industrial
    areas.” The survey placed three types of targets in “industrial areas”: (1) cities,
    towns, and urban areas; (2) public utilities (electric, gas, water, and telephone
    companies); and (3) government buildings. Given that definition the survey even
    managed to describe RAF area raids as strikes against “industrial targets.”
    The target category “marshaling yards” received more of the Eighth’s bomb
    tonnage than any other, somewhere between 175,000 and 200,000 tons of bombs.
    At least 25 percent of all the Eighth Air Force bombs dropped over Europe fell on
    “marshaling yards.” One-third of the American incendiary bombs dropped over
    Germany fell on the same system. As a matter of directive and policy for most
    of the period between September 1944 and April 1945, the same period in which
    the Eighth delivered 90 percent of the total tonnage dropped on the system, mar-
    shaling yards had the highest nonvisual bombing priority. During that period the
    Eighth Air Force dropped 168,038 tons of bombs, 70 percent (117,816 tons)
    blind
    and 30 percent (50,222 tons) visually. Postwar research showed that
    only 2 percent of bombs dropped by nonvisual means landed within 1,000 feet
    of their aiming points.
    Rail yards as such, however, were poor targets for
    incendiaries. If the fire bombs landed directly on or near rail cars, they destroyed
    or damaged them; otherwise, they could do little harm to the heavy equipment or
    trackage. The Eighth realized this. Of the 9,042 tons of bombs dropped on
    French rail yards, mostly during the pre-OVERLORD transportation bombing
    phase, when the Americans took scrupulous care to avoid French civilian casual-
    ties, 90 percent were visually sighted and only 33 tons were incendiaries.
    Even over Germany itself, during Operation CLARION, when the Eighth bombed
    dozens of small yards and junctions in lesser German towns, it dropped, over a
    two-day period of visual conditions, 7,164 tons of bombs in all, but less than 3
    tons of fire bombs.
    In contrast, using H2X, the Eighth pummeled marshaling yards and rail sta-
    tions in large German cities with high percentages of incendiary bombs. For
    example, rail targets in at least four major cities garnered the following percent-
    ages of fire bombs out of all bombs dropped on them: Cologne, 27 percent;
    Nuremberg, 30 percent; Berlin, 37 percent; and Munich, 41 percent.
    “Marshaling yards” undoubtedly served as a euphemism for city areas. Because
    the yards themselves were not good targets for incendiaries, the prime purpose
    in employing such weapons was to take advantage of the known inaccuracy of
    H2X bombing in order to maximize the destruction of warehouses, commercial
    buildings, and residences in the general vicinity of the target. Large numbers of
    planes scattering their bombs around their mostly unseen and unverifiable aim-
    ing points surely would cause great collateral damage to any soft structures
    located nearby.
     
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