From: email@example.com (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: What If Germany had pushed the FW190 insted of the Bf109??
Date: 22 Mar 1997
Rowland: the justification for the comments, as far as I can determine
which you are referrring to can be found in one of the books cited,
Murray's "Strategy for Defeat." I am assuming you are referring to the
comment that RAF Bomber Command's campaign had been defeated.
Referring to the Feb.-March, 1944 time frame, Murray writes: "American
fighters and bombers were close to breaking Germany's fighter forces.
Bomber Command, however, had lost the initiative over the Reich. The
night fighters had made the skies over central Europe so dangerous that
the British could only risk their bombers on deep penetration raids in
The key effort of Bomber Command was the "Battle of Berlin" in the winter
of 1943-44. Sir Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, hoped to win the
war that winter with Bomber Command alone. His plan for doing it was to
strike Berlin, a disasterous plan of action that maximized his bombers'
exposure to German countermeasures, that minimized the potential for
evasion (it was obvious to the Germans where the bomber stream was
heading), and that took place in the year's worst weather.
During the first three raids (in Sept and Oct.), on which 1,179 aircraft
claimed to have bombed the capital, when photos the bombers took were
examined, it was found that only 27 got within 3 miles of the aiming
point. The Germans shot down 123 RAF bombers, 7.2 percent (4 percent was
considered the maximum acceptable loss rate). During the remainder of the
campaign, weather conditions made it impossible for crews to identify
targets; they were forced to drop their bombs when they guessed they were
in the vicinity of their target.
In Nov. losses were lighter because the weather was so bad even the German
defense was hampered. But in Dec. Bomber Command lost 316 aircraft, "a
rate that no air force could long support" in Murray's words. By January,
the Germans were intercepting Bomber Command over the North Sea and they
had won the Battle of Berlin, although Harris did not admit defeat until
March. Losses on the Berlin raids were around 9 percent, more than double
what could be sustained. Harris ordered a last maximum effort during the
final week of March. The result was the loss of 190 bombers. The
"diversionary" strike against Nuremberg cost 108 bombers. Total bomber
losses during the "Battle of Berlin" came to 1,128 planes.
Between Jan., 1943 and March, 1944, Bomber Command lost 5,881 bombers on
raids against Germany.
By Jan. 1944, Bomber Command squadrons "had become short-stay, one-way
houses for crews on the way to their deaths." Morale plummeted and many
aircrew were cashiered for LMF (Lacking Moral Fiber). It became common
for bomber crew to pickle their "cookie" (4,000-lb bomb) over the North
Sea in an effort to gain enough altitude to get above the effective range
(20,000 ft.) of the 88 mm flak guns. As a result, Air Vice Marshall
D.C.T. Bennet, commander of the Pathfinder force, called Bomber Command
crews "fringe merchants"---they would get to the fringe of the German
defenses and unload their "wares," climb for altitude, fly more or less in
the direction of the target till enough time had passed and then return
home. Bennet has pointed out that, aside from himself (he had flown
bomber missions and been shot down, evaded and escaped), no other senior
officer had any grasp of the operational conditons under which the RAF
aircrews fought, because they did not fly combat missions (USAAF senior
officers did fly combat missions).
Another problem was that, unlike the USAAF day bombers which flew in
tight formations in which everyone was aware of what everyone else was
doing, once an RAF bomber took off and disappeared into the winter
weather, no one besides its own crew knew what happened to it. It was
easy for a burnt-out crew to just say the hell with it, dump the bombs and
circle in the clouds until it was time to come home.
During the Battle of Berlin, Bennett's elite pathfinder crews lost 150
percent of their strength, and even their morale was shattered.
Here's a list of Bomber Command crew fates, 1939-1945
Killed on Operations--51 percent
Killed in crashes in England--9 percent
Seriously injured in crashes in England--3 percent
PoW (probably injured as well)--12 percent
Shot down but evaded and escaped--1 percent
Survived unharmed (usually a 30-mission tour)--24 percent.
USAAF effort was much more successful in the role it was assigned in May,
1943--seize air superiority and command the sky over Germany so that
Operation Overlord could proceed unmolested by the Luftwaffe. The USAAF
did that. While Harris was initiating his "Battle of Berlin" the USAAF
began using long-range escort fighters to accompany its bombers. Bomber
losses plumeted. On Nov. 3, 1943, 539 bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven,
escorted by P-38s. Only 3 bombers were lost to the fighters (and four
more to flak). German fighter losses to the P-38s were so heavy that
Adolf Galland held a speical meeting with 1 Jagdkorps division commanders
the next day. They decided to pull "wild sow" nightfighters out of their
attacks on the RAF and throw them against the USAAF.
On Nov. 13, USAAF sent 143 bombers to Bremen, escorted by 45 P-38s. Only
two bombers were lost to fighters (14 to flak). On the 26th another
Bremen raid of 491 bombers to Bremen lost 25 aircraft (5.1 percent) but
only 4 to fighters. In contrast, during these raids, the Luftwaffe lost
21 percent of is fighter strength battling the USAAF, and 10 percent of
its pilots. Losses were slightly higher for the Germans in Dec., while
the USAAF bomber force continued to suffer light losses, mostly to flak.
Pressure was kept up on the Luftwaffe, reaching a peak during "Big Week,"
last week of Feb, 1944. During this week of savage fighting the USAAF
lost 226 bombers and 28 fighters. The German losses sustained in
achieving this became unmanageable--Luftwaffe lost 33 percent of its
fighters and 17.9 percent of its pilots. March was worse for the
Luftwaffe. It lost 56.4 percent of its fighters (on hand as of Feb.29)
and 22 percent of its pilots.
The points of my original post remain--that most allied bombers were
destroyed by flak, not fighters, that the destruction of the Luftwaffe
fighter force in battling the allies (and the Luftwaffe night fighters,
while much more successful at destroying allied bombers than their
daylight counterparts, suffered heavy losses while doing it) lost Germany
air superiority, allowing Overlord to proceed unmolested. Therefore, had
the Germans developed more effective, non-fighter anti-bomber weapons of a
type easily within their technical capability, in particular, and most
simply, larger caliber flak guns replacing the 88mm that made up the bulk
of their AAA, and perhaps, in a what-if vein,SAMs, they might well have
forced the allies to abandon their strategic bombing campaign while at the
same time preserving the Luftwaffe as an effective fighting force.
This is, of course, merely What-If speculation. Who knows?
Besides the books cited in my earlier post, you might enjoy reading Max
Hasting's "Bomber Command," a solid operational account.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (CDB100620)
Subject: Re: Precission Bombing
Date: 10 Jul 1997
One reason RAF city bombing had little effect on war production was that
Bomber Command targeted city centers, but most industry was on the
outskirts of the cities. The result was that the British destroyed
beautiful medieval town centers while leaving 20th century factories
Of course, for much of the war, Bomber Command was trying to do something
that was very difficult for then-current technology to achieve. In 1941,
only one aircraft in three was dropping its bombs within 75 square miles
of the target area, and only 1 percent of bombs fell in the target area.
That's why BC decided to adopt area bombing, the justification being that
this would break German civilian morale. The idea was advocated by "Boom"
Trenchard, former chief of air staff who argued that BC should only hit
targets in Germany because then every bomb that dropped would "kill,
frighten, damage or interfere with Germans in Germany." Trenchard
acknowledged throwing the full force of BC at Germany would result in
heavy casualties for the RAF, but, he said, "the counting of our losses
has nothing to do with the soundness of the plan." Lord Cherwell
presented the plan to Churchill, arguing that the best way to break German
resistance was to destroy civilian housing. "Having one's house
demolished is most damaging to morale," he said. "People seem to mind it
more than having their friends or even relatives killed."
"Bomber" Harris took over BC at the beginning of 1942, but didn't become a
convert to area bombing until almost the end of the year. He had great
hopes that navigational aids such as "Gee" would allow BC to make
precision raids. And it did, within its effective range.
However that may be, it is generally recognized that the Luftwaffe
defeated BC in the air even though BC was able to do terrific damage to
German cities with ever greater accuracy: By the fall of 1943 on a
typical raid 86 percent of crews would bomb within 3 miles of the target,
more than good enough to wreck targeted cities.
But when Harris targeted Berlin for obliteration he went beyond his
technological capabilities. Most navigational and target-finding aids
wouldn't work that far away. And H2S radar needed major terrain features
to be effective and Berlin offered none. And it was a long haul through
rotten weather with the defense easily able to figure out where you were
going. The first three raids, involving 1,179 bombers showed that BC had
extended its reach beyond its grasp by targeting Berlin. Only 27 of its
aircraft bombed within 3 miles of the aiming point and the Germans shot
down 123 (7.2 percent) of the force. During the five months of the
"Battle of Berlin" BC lost 1,128 aircraft while achieving almost nothing
of consequence. Air Vice Marshall D.C.T. Bennett called it "one of the
worst things that could have happened to the Command." By March 1944 BC
was in the same position the 8AF was in in Oct. 1943: bomber raids into
Germany without fighter escort suffered prohibitive losses. Night was no
8AF had better success. Even unescorted, they not only precision-bombed
factories but cost the Germans more than 17 percent of their fighter
strength in the West (in Sept and Oct. 1943) The Oct 14 Schweinfurt raid
alone cost the Germans about 4 percent of their fighter strength in the
West. Luftwaffe records indicate that the Germans lost 41.9 percent of
their fighter force in the West in Oct. 1943. Of course, 8AF bomber
losses were horrific, too.
Once fighter escorts appeared, the game was over for the Germans. The 3
Nov raid on Wilhelmshaven, escorted by only a handful of P-38s from the
55FG lost only 7 planes (just 3 to German fighters). The Nov. 13 raid to
Bremen, escorted by 45 P-38s, lost 16 planes--but only 2 to fighters. The
Dec. 5 raid against Hamburg lost only 5 aircraft. This raid was
significant because it was intercepted in force by Luftwaffe fighters, but
once they discovered the bombers were escorted by fighters, they refused
As an aside, it's interesting to note that while the P-38 is generally
considered a failure in northern European operations, it was the Lockheed
fighter that brought 8AF bomber losses down by a full order of magnitude
and so demoralized (for lack of a better word) the Luftwaffe fighter
pilots that they refused to fight.
In Nov., 1943, the Germans lost 21 percent of their fighter strength in
the West (this month 17 P-38s were lost to all causes) and in Dec 22.8
percent. Things only got worse--much worse--in 1944. The German fighters
were forced to come up because the 8AF bombers were hitting targets too
critical to the war effort to be left unprotected. That's why night
fighters were pulled away from attacking BC to fight 8AF. The reverse
It is interesting to speculate what would have happened had the RAF placed
heavy emphasis on developing a night escort fighter (perhaps based on the
Mosquito) and concentrated not on city centers, but precision targets
within range of its navigational and bombing aids. And for targets within
effective range, these aids could make BC bombing very accurate, as when
they bombed French rail yards or the Renault factory.