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From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-51 D   mustang vs F-4u corsair
Date: 12 Feb 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>It's completely ridiculous
> to compare situations at PTO and ETO. Neither USAAF nor
>USN never had to face such numeric odds than Luftwaffe,

In 1942 they certainly did.  The numbers on both sides were smaller, but the
odds against the Americans were very, very large.

Apparently, the point was lost in my post, so I will restate it. There are two
"tactical"  ways to handle a bomber threat:  1) Wait for it to come to you and
try to defeat it in the air over your own territory.  2) Destroy the bomber
threat on the ground on its own airfields

The USAAF chose course No. 2 in the Pacific and the MTO.
In the SWPA the 5AF became masters of the low-level surprise attack to destroy
enemy air assets on the ground.  The tone was set when the first USAAF fighter
squadron arrived at Port Moresby, New Guinea in April, 1942.  At that time, the
Japanese possessed air supremacy.   Rather than wait for their bombers to come
over and send his fighters up to contend with them, the very day they arrived
fighter director Col. Boyd Wagner  launched them on an attack on the Japanese
airfields whence the bomber threat originated.
 It didn't matter to Wagner that he was only able to attack the Japanese
airfields with 11 fighter planes that would  have only enough fuel for a single
straffing pass.  It didn't matter that he was sending them into a hornet's nest
of enemy air activity, against superior enemy aircraft (P-39s vs. Zeros)
piloted by expert pilots, while his pilots were novices on their first combat
mission.  What mattered was that such an attack offered the best chance of
destroying the maximum number of enemy bomber assets.
 Though its numbers were always small in 1942 and 1943, the 5AF began a
relentless offensive campaign to destroy the enemy air threat at its source.
It never adopted a defensive posture and so had no need for a point defense
fighter.  That's why when 5AF boss Gen. Kenney was offered the P-63 for his
forces--an excellent point-defense fighter--he refused it, instead requesting
the P-38, an excellent escort and ground attack fighter.
As the campaign was pursued, hundreds of Japanese aircraft were destroyed on
the ground at Rabaul, Wewak, Hollandia, and elsewhere.  The Japanese actually
fed more air assets into the "north of Australia front," as they termed it,
than the USAAF did (in fact, the Japanese Army Air Force was virtually
annhilated in New Guinea; Gen. Curtis LeMay said that the battle for air
superiority over Tokyo was won in New Guinea).  But the majority of these air
assets were destroyed on the ground, the USAAF never giving them a chance to
become an offensive threat.
In the MTO, the USAAF adopted similar tactics, taking the fight to the enemy.
For example, the raids on the huge Foggia airfield complex in Italy devastated
Axis air assets--on the ground.  In a typical action,  P-38s of the 1FG, flying
from North African bases on Aug. 25, 1943, swept in on a low level attack and
destroyed (as verified by photo recon), 43 Ju-88s, one Ju-52 and one Me-109
plus damaging some dozens of other aircraft for the loss of two of their own to
flak.  That was 43 Ju-88s that would not attack the allied invasion fleet off
Sicily the next month.  And no matter how good the air defense over the fleet,
shooting down 43 Ju-88s before they made their bomb runs would have been a
monumental task.
Such offensive actions are a much more effective use of your air assets to
counter a bomber threat than investing in point defense.  Once the enemy is in
the air and attacking--no matter how small his numbers might be--the risk is
great that he might get through and cause serious damage, no matter how good
your own defensive force might be.
In the ETO, the threat the USAAF needed to counter was enemy fighters, and once
its air assets were in place it switched from what might be called "air point
defense" (bombers trying to defend themselves with their own defensive
firepower) to attacking Luftwaffe fighters on the ground (as well, of course,
as in the air).

As far as the Luftwaffe attacking allied bomber assets on the ground in
England,  General of Night Fighters  Josef Kammhuber, creator of the
Luftwaffe's anti-RAF bomber defense force, as part of his strategy, immediately
created an intruder force of Ju 88s and Do 217s to attack British bomber bases.

 As he said, "If I want to smoke out a wasps nest, I don't go for the
individual insects buzzing about, but the entrance hole where they are all
 However, on Oct. 13, 1941, by direct order of Hitler, the Luftwaffe's attacks
on British bomber fields were stopped.  This was a fundamental blunder, as the
British Air Ministry's publication, "The Rise and Fall of the German Air
Force," points out.  It notes that the RAF's bombers were extremely vulnerable
to intruder operations.  'The German Luftwaffe's failure to exploit this
opportunity must be reckoned as one of its biggest failures."  It points out
that the fact that Bomber Command was able to operate undisturbed from its home
airfields throughout the war was crucial to the ultimate defeat of Germany.

Germany settled on point defense not because it made sense, nor because it was
unable to mount an offensive against allied air bases, but  for politcal
reasons.  Hitler reasoned that the German people needed to see wrecked allied
bombers on their own soil to be reassured that he was effectively directing the
defense of the country.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-51 D   mustang vs F-4u corsair
Date: 13 Feb 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>the German R4M. But wartime US rockets, especially the types with
>bazooke-style launchers, seem unpractical.

Right.  Highly inaccurate, and the drag of the launch tube seriously degraded
flight performance even after the spitball was launched to wobble off to miss
the target by 1,000 yards.

>The Germans had a good defensive
>system, the Japanese had too few good fighters, too few good pilots,
>radar, and inferior anti-aircraft guns.

See my follow-up post on Rabaul defenses.   In 1942 and 1943, the Japanese were
formidable, and were able to marshall enough strength to be so again during the
initial weeks of the PI campaign.

American pilots who flew in  the Pacific and then did a tour in Europe often
felt they were moving from hell to purgatory, noting particularly the lack of
aggressiveness of German pilots compared to Japanese.  American pilots who flew
a tour in Europe and then another in the Pacific got a nasty surprise, and many
were shot down.   This was not always the case, of course, but it was common
enough to be noted and talked about.  Many a group CO in the SWPA getting a
replacement squadron CO who had done a tour in the ETO had to caution the cocky
combat vet, who would ignore the advice and go out and duel with a Ki-43 and
suddenly find himself low and slow and very shortly dead.  And more than one
PTO tour vet who was never able to do much in the air against the Japanese
blossomed into a multiple ace against the Germans--George Preddy immediately
springs to mind.

>If the enemy protects its bases
>attacking enemy aircraft on the ground can be far more costly than attacking
>them in the air.

This is true. That's why there has been a relentless hunt over the years for an
accurate stand-off weapon.

One key weakness the Japanese exhibited was that they repeatedly allowed
themselves to be surprised.  This is not only because they did not devote
enough attention to developing defensive measures, but because of what appeared
to be a certain denseness.  While the Japanese pilot quality and leadership up
to the squadron and perhaps group level was quite good, above that level, the
Japanese AAF suffered from poor tactical and strategic thinking.   They never
seemed to quite grasp the nature of the 5AF's offensive against them.  Partly
this was because the boys running the 5AF were very smart, and made maximum use
of the range capabilities of their aircraft, and ever squeezed greater range
from their aircraft (P-40Ns were even fitted with 300-gallon drop tanks that
gave them time-in-the air of 7.5 hours; this was an impractical set-up, but
illustrates the drive to extend the range of every airplane in the 5AF's
arsenal), so enabling them to repeatedly strike bases the Japanese assumed were
safe from attack.  But, at some point the Japanese should have realized what
was happening and stopped feeding air assets into the theater and beefed up
airfield AAA defense, turning vulnerable targets into deadly traps.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-51 D   mustang vs F-4u corsair
Date: 13 Feb 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>at least for the Bf-109
>there was ALSO a /technical/ shortfall, in range.

Regarding range in an interceptor fighter, this thread has pretty much taken it
for granted that it was not important, rate of climb being the key factor.
Thus, comments  have been made that the P-51 would make a poor interceptor.
For interception purposes, the Luftwaffe considered its fighters to have a
flight duration of 70 minutes (an Me 109 typical had a total wheels up--wheels
down air time of 90 minutes and a radius of action of 170 miles).  At a March
21, 1944,  meeting of the Luftwaffe general staff, Gen. Karl Koller, chief of
the Luftwaffe Operations Staff, stated that in order for interceptions to be
successful, the Luftwaffe needed a fighter with a flight duration capability of
a minimum of four hours.  In his view, flight duration was the key to a
successful interceptor.
Had the Luftwaffe had a fighter with such time-in-air capability, it would have
also had a versatile fighter, one much more suitable for jabo attacks on allied
airfields in Britain.  One of the chief advantages possessed by the USAAF in
WWII was the force projection capabilities provided by its long range fighters.
  Germany never possessed  significant force projection capabilities, even
though, as Gen. Koller  himself said, "The only weapon that is strongest in
attack is air power."  He added, rather sarcastically--his comment was made to
Erhard Milch--"The Americans are giving us evidence of this fact every day."
Kammhuber's  choice for attacking British bomber bases was the Ju-88, since
German single-engine fighters didn't have sufficient range or payload
capability.  In the 1941-42 time frame, had the Luftwaffe devoted sufficient
numbers of these aircraft to interdicting RAF Bomber Command bases, it's likely
that, while the Luftwaffe would have suffered losses on the raids, they could
have inflicted  losses on the British large enough to justify their own losses.
Later in the war, at their peak of success against the 8AF during the second
Schweinfurt raid, Oct. 14, 1943, in shooting down 60 USAAF bombers, the
Luftwaffe lost 31 fighters (by their own count), or about 4 percent of the
total Luftwaffe fighter aircraft available in the West.  Had they been willing
to suffer similar losses of Ju-88s (or other suitable aircraft) in attacks on
8AF airfields, they might well have destroyed far more bombers than their
fighter interceptors were able to in the air.  Combine losses inflicted by
German interceptors with losses inflicted by Ju-88s attacking airfields and the
8AF might well have faced a crisis.
That said, Hitler may have been right to stop Kammhuber's original plan.  At
that time--1941-- the only effect Bomber Command's raids on Germany had was to
the morale of the civilian population.  So why not devote Luftwaffe efforts to
boosting civilian morale as an offset?  Unfortunately for Germany, that mindset
did not allow the Luftwaffe to evolve techniques and equipment to counter what
soon became a life-or-death threat.

>It should perhaps also be noted that if you come down into the
>enemy airframes (Focke and Messerschmitt again) optimum operating zone,
>where you are only marginally if at all superior, you will suffer
>comparibly worse odds than if you bring them hacking and wheezing up to

Luftwaffe pilots debriefed by allied intelligence after the war often opined
that if the war had been fought below 20,000 ft. they would have won.
Actually, a lot of it was fought below 20,000 ft., with the medium bombers
flying at 9,000 ft. or so (where they were able to place 26 percent of their
bombs within 500 ft. of the aiming point) and fighter-bombers down on the deck.
Low level attacks always were much more dangerous than high altitude
penetrations.  Attacks on airfields were particularly dangerous.  But the USAAF
was willing to suffer the losses. (On March 11, 1944, Hap Arnold told Carl
Spaatz that "the depletion of the GAF is the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in
Europe's sole purpose."  Spaatz was to do "everything possible" to destroy the
Luftwaffe.)  The Germans were willing, apparently to suffer huge losses over
their  own territory, but shied away from risking significant air assets over
allied territory.  The "Little Blitz" of 1944 was an exception to this, and it
cost them about 400 aircraft (by their count), but accomplished little; they
did not make dedicated attacks on allied bomber bases.  The allies were always
willing to risk high losses over Germany.

> Zero's/Oscars/Hien's etc. had the same on-hi problems but were
>also so much slower and less BnZ tolerant, even at low level, that the
>comparison of tactics may not be fair.

Not sure how this applies to destroying enemy air assets on the ground.  Zero
not all that much slower than Me 109.  Hien performance on par or superior to
the 109 within its (Hien's) altitude envelope.  Tojo a much better performer
than the 109, about equivalent to the FW 190, but with a superior rate of
climb.  Frank (encountered over the PI and later) was better than the 190.  The
Jack (PI and later) also had very good performance, as did the George. (The PI
campaign was brutal:  The 49FG alone lost 60 P-38s in the first two weeks of
fighting, and 35 pilots killed in the first two months.)
Regarding the effectiveness of Japanese counter air, when the Royal Navy
attacked Indonesian oil fields in Jan, 1945, when the Japanese Army Air Force
was a mere shadow of its former self, the British force of 48 TBFs escorted by
70 F4Us and 2 photo recon F6Fs was savaged, losing 17 TBFs, 8 F4Us and one of
the Hellcats to the intercepting Nicks, Oscars, Zeros and Tojos.  Fourteen more
made it back to their carriers but were pushed over the side as unrepairable.
The USAAF 5AF had raided this same target the previous fall with B-24s escorted
by P-38s and suffered minimal losses while dealing the defending fighters
serious losses.
The point is that the the USAAF (and USN) were successful agaisnt the Japanese
not because the Japanese were inferior to the Germans, but because they
developed tactics to deal with them.  But, as the PI campaign demonstrated,
they could be a dangerous adversary even late in the war. (It's worth pointing
out that the Japanese army air threat in the PI was effectively eliminated by
USN attacks that, by sheer luck, caught large numbers of Japanese fighters *on
the ground.*) When another air force (British) that had limited experience (if
any) fighting the Japanese, but was trained to fight the Germans, encountered
the Japanese they got slammed up against the wall pretty hard.

>Attacking the other guy at home is therefore much more viable,
>especially if he has relatively minimal 'depth' (associated fields and
>flak lanes etc.) in his basing/AD scenario.
When the 5AF went after Rabaul in the fall of 1943, it was a very heavily
defended target.  The harbor was generally more or less filled with IJN
warships loaded with AAA.  On land, the AAA consisted of 8 127mm, 15 120mm, 20
80mm, 75 70mm, 110 40mm, 92 25mm, 157 20mm, and one 13mm.  These were
distributed among 7 AAA battalions and five field machinecannon companies.
Many were mounted on the slopes of the two volcanoes dominating the harbor so
they could fire down on low level intruders.
Defensive air assets comprised 265 fighters, mostly Navy Zeros, based on five
airfields with 429 reinforced revetments.  200+ bombers were also based there.
5AF raids consisted of low-level B-25 attackers, high-level B-24s and P-38
escorts for both.  Total force available for Rabaul attacks consisted of 11
B-25 squadrons, 8 B-24 squadrons and 6 P-38 squadrons (note squadrons--not
"Most Secret" Sitreps of the actions concluded 448 e/a destroyed
on the ground and 112 in the air.  Highest mission losses to enemy action were
27.3 percent of the B-24, 40 percent for the B-25, 27.6 percent for the P-38
(Some missions had  few aircraft over the target due to aborts and weather, so
percentage losses appear inordinately high.  Actual loss figures are unclear,
but they weren't low.  There were some terrific air battles and low-level
losses were quite high.  Three or four Medals of Honor were won over Rabaul.)
Wewak was considered a far tougher target than Rabaul, and Hollandia was
tougher than Wewak.

>quite a bit of thought was put into drag and bag
>and feint attacks to ensure that the enemy (fighters) DID come up and
>WERE pounded, in air.

This was the strategy the USAAF finally settled on in the ETO to destroy the
Luftwaffe.  It has the advantage of killing the pilot as well as the aircraft.
And pilots are always tougher to replace than airplanes.

Very interesting and intelligent post.

From: (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: P-51 D   mustang vs F-4u corsair
Date: 14 Feb 1998
Newsgroups: rec.aviation.military

>The idea [Luftwaffe intruder operations] would likely have worked very
>well even when the RAF night fighter forces reached their Zenith.  You've
>got to consider the immense difficulty of locating, tracking, and then
>shooting down high speed, low-level intruders at any time.  If you add
>the difficulties of working in the aerial zoo ....

Some very good points made.  Had the Luftwaffe actually made a major effort to
disrupt allied bomber operations over Britain, failed, suffered heavy losses
and ended the attempt, that would be one thing.  But to  make a few promising
early attempts only to have the program ended for political reasons, and never
seriously make a sustained attempt to do it again....

>The presence of just a few German intruders would
>likely have proved catastrophic

Recall during the Berlin Airlift walking around the ruins of Dusseldorf and
Berlin in the company of ex-8AF bomb delivery boys and listening to them talk
about the war.  One of the big worries they had in those days was that the
Luftwaffe would pay them a visit  while they were sitting in line for some
mission, with bombers stuck nose to tail, fully gassed and bombed up, crews
aboard, all  with props turning over and going nowhere because of another snafu
somewhere along the line.  All that was necessary for a disaster was for, as
they would put it, "one kraut with a match" to show up and torch the whole
shebang.  But no kraut ever showed up.

> Consider the
>difficulties facing a dog-tired bomber pilot, low on fuel, trying to
>land a plane--that he had probably never really mastered--at night, in
>crowded skies.  Under the best of circumstances this was an enormously
>difficult task.

This is a point that needs to be highlighted and underlined--for all the air
forces involved in that war.  While discussions of hardware and which airplane
had a higher speed or greater range than another are interesting, they can be
misleading.  The war wasn't fought by machines, it was fought by people. That
may seem banally obvious but it doesn't get nearly the serious attention it

In stark constrast with the inertia of the Germans, the Japanese, even when
they were reduced to minimal air resources, never gave up efforts to interdict
American air fields.  When weary aircrews, low on gas, with battle damage, came
crowding home only to find their base closed and the sky filled with flak
because some cowboy in a Kawasaki had followed a flight of A-20s home and
torched one as it touched down, blocking the runway, chaos was usually the
result as planes jockeyed for position at other airfields, bombers came in at
fighter bases and vice versa, planes cut each other off on final....  The
situation could quickly go from the snafu to the momfu.
On Biak, a night intruder attack killed the entire headquarters staff of the
49th Fighter Group.  Zemke's Wolfpack never had to worry about anything like
that happening to them.
And while Bomber Command and the 8th Air Force got a free security pass from
the Luftwaffe for their home bases, the Japanese never gave up going after the
B-29 bases of the 20th Air Force  in the Marianas, giving the P-61s plenty of
customers.  They sent fast Peggy bombers in at night, and fighters in during
the day.  During night attacks, they used chaff or "window" as it was called
then, to disrupt radar intercepts, which the Americans countered with MEW.
As late as the spring of 1945, long after Rabaul had become a bypassed
backwater, the Japanese holed up there cobbled together a couple of torpedo
bombers from wrecks and used them to attack the fleet anchorage at Seeadler
Harbor in the Admiralties, three hours flying time distant.  These guys just
wouldn't quit.
One of the big shocks for ETO vets doing a tour in the PTO was that they were
not safe at night in their beds.  Slit trenches outside the tent were not for
show.  You could go over to a German's house and kick the crap out of him and
then go home, have a good meal and get a good night's sleep, with no worry that
the German would come visit you and  try to get a little revenge.  The Japanese
was a different story.  He was going to come back at you.  If he had only one
airplane and one bomb, then, by God, he was going to climb into that airplane
and fly over your airbase and drop that bomb on you.

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