Strate­gic Bomb­ing Didn’t Work

Flight Journal - - 10 AVIATION MYTHS OF WORLD WAR II -

For decades af­ter the war, Western lib­er­als and paci­fists in­sisted that strate­gic bomb­ing played lit­tle or no role in de­feat­ing Nazi Ger­many.

Agenda-driven his­to­ri­ans, some un­doubt­edly suf­fer­ing from a mis­placed sense of col­lec­tive “guilt,” in­sist that some­how Adolf Hitler’s regime could have been top­pled with­out heavy bomb­ing. They note what seemed an in­verse re­la­tion­ship: the more the U.S. and Bri­tain bombed, the more Ger­man in­dus­try pro­duced.

And to an ex­tent that is true.

The mere num­bers of pro­duc­tion, how­ever, of­fer a sim­plis­tic “an­swer” to sim­ple-minded crit­ics. The fact is that Ger­man in­dus­try in­creased un­der the su­perb man­age­ment of ar­ma­ments min­is­ter Al­bert Speer, while pro­duc­tion cen­ters were dis­persed and hard­ened.

What is not ev­i­dent in the mere num­bers is that Al­lied (es­pe­cially Amer­i­can) tar­get­ing made the dif­fer­ence. Af­ter D-Day, which re­quired air su­pe­ri­or­ity over north­ern France, the Army Air Forces (AAF) in­creas­ingly struck Ger­man pe­tro­leum pro­duc­tion. In the end, the Luft­waffe still pos­sessed thou­sands of modern air­craft, in­clud­ing jets, but lacked the fuel to fly them fre­quently or to train enough new pi­lots.

Be­yond that, Axis trans­porta­tion was largely im­mo­bi­lized. It be­came al­most im­pos­si­ble to move trucks or trains by day­light.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the Com­bined Bomber Of­fen­sive rep­re­sented a sec­ond front long be­fore D-Day. Al­lied bombers in Re­ich skies forced a huge di­ver­sion of Wehrma­cht forces from the fight­ing fronts—per­haps three mil­lion per­son­nel. And ev­ery 88mm flak gun boom­ing away at Al­lied bombers was one less to op­pose the Soviet Union’s mas­sive force of tanks.

Below: B-24s sub­stan­tially out­num­bered the B-17s but suf­fered heav­ier losses. They par­tic­i­pated in early raids on the Ploieşti oil fields, among oth­ers. (Photo by John Dibbs/ planepic­ture.com)

Above: Mas­sive B-17 raids greatly limited Ger­many’s abil­ity to con­duct the busi­ness of war and nearly stopped pe­tro­leum pro­duc­tion. (Photo by John Dibbs/planepic­ture.com)

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