WWII Tactical vs. Strategic Bombing




 
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March 14th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 

Topic: WWII Tactical vs. Strategic Bombing


The General Question: Did strategic bombing have a greater impact on the outcome of WWII than tactical bombing? Did the Tempests or Stukas or Sturmoviks in fact prove more valuable weapons during the war? Or were the Lancasters and B-17s more important for Allied victory?

Some Qualifications:

(1) Strategic bombing refers to the independent use of airpower to defeat an enemy state. The use of Lancasters, etc. in a tactical role was of course attempted in Normandy.

(2) Tactical bombing refers to combined operations, namely, the use of airpower to assist the infantry in taking ground.

(3) It is of course possible to argue that neither played a role greater than infantry or tanks. What would this tell us about the nature of WWII warfare?

My Own Quick Opinion:

Tactical operations in support of the ground forces were far more important for the belligerents than the generally wasted effort on strategic bombing. Strategic bombing was an extremely expensive undertaking that consumed a healthy proportion of Anglo-Saxon industrial capacities without offering any real tangible returns.

Ollie Garchy
March 15th, 2006  
sven hassell
 
 
We'll never know the true extent of the effectiveness of strategic bombing because there is no way of measuring one of its most important effects.
Morale.
How can we tell whether German soldiers fighting in the east were debilitated knowing their loved ones were dying in firebombing raids or whether allied troops and civilians resolve was strengthened when they saw newsreels of the dambuster raids to name but two examples?
March 15th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sven hassell
We'll never know the true extent of the effectiveness of strategic bombing because there is no way of measuring one of its most important effects.
Morale.
How can we tell whether German soldiers fighting in the east were debilitated knowing their loved ones were dying in firebombing raids or whether allied troops and civilians resolve was strengthened when they saw newsreels of the dambuster raids to name but two examples?
I think you are mixing up strategic bombing with 'terror' bombing, although the two frequently overlap. Certainly with WW2 precision and technology, planned strategic raids were often also terror raids as collateral damage was unavoidable unless military raids were focused on isolated targets. Most targets of military value were located in high population centres for practicality, i.e. to make it easy for those industrial workers employed in miltary factories to get to work.

Strategic bombing in WW2 was only really practical if air superiority beforehand had already been established. In 1943, the Luftwaffe inflicted heavy casualties on the RAF bomber fleet. It was only in 1944, when with the arrival of the USAAF that ongoing air superiority and even air supremacy was established. However, Albert Speer demonstrated that the effectiveness of such bombing campaigns can be significantly reduced if industrial targets are dispersed, to limit the target area.

The Allied strategic bombing campaigns reduced German industrial output by 17% from July to December 1944. Whilst this had an impact on German output of planes, AFVs and so on the monetery cost to both the RAF and USAAF was extremely high - for the USAAF it cost $27.5 billion for the entire war. Moreover, the RAF lost 75,000 men and 40,000 planes in their strategic bombing campaigns, a very high price for what can only be evaluated as limited successes.

IMO, strategic bombing is only really effective when a) air superiority has been firmly established and b) the enemy is already largely defeated militarily. Certainly both these conditions were true when the Allied strategic bombing campaigns finally began to show some success.

For a more comprehensive view on the Allied strategic bombing campaign, please read the following excellent article:

http://www.historic-battles.com/Arti...ic_bombing.htm
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March 15th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
There was not a great need for Tactical bombing during the invasion and both Britain and America had thousands of fighter bombers stacked in the air every day just waiting to be called in for some target or other. The Typhon fighter bomber could deliver a punch equal to a broadside from a Naval Cruiser. Both British and American Bombers were used in a tactical role for a few weeks during the invasion, then they reverted back to their normal duties
March 18th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
There was not a great need for Tactical bombing during the invasion and both Britain and America had thousands of fighter bombers stacked in the air every day just waiting to be called in for some target or other. The Typhon fighter bomber could deliver a punch equal to a broadside from a Naval Cruiser. Both British and American Bombers were used in a tactical role for a few weeks during the invasion, then they reverted back to their normal duties
Tactical airpower was the needed ingredient for Allied victory. How do you think that useless armour and infantry should advance against German tactics....through willpower? Come on!

Strategic bombing, and I have looked through the US reports of the period, was useless. Doppleganger, and I respect his opinion, gives 17%. The figures of Abelshauser, the guru of the undertaking, gives 3%. This total is only based on a depreciation of German escalation anyway. It is, in other words, minimal or unimportant.

Ollie Garchy
March 18th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sven hassell
We'll never know the true extent of the effectiveness of strategic bombing because there is no way of measuring one of its most important effects.
Morale.
How can we tell whether German soldiers fighting in the east were debilitated knowing their loved ones were dying in firebombing raids or whether allied troops and civilians resolve was strengthened when they saw newsreels of the dambuster raids to name but two examples?
If you are interested, you can read through the 10 volumes of the USSBS or United States Strategic Bombing Survey. They are normally available at any university library. They make for really good reading.

Galbraith, one of the really cool figures of the period, actually visited German factories in the immediate aftermath of the war. He was shocked by what he found. Even Allied generals admitted that the strategy adopted during WWII failed. Why? The bombs were not big enough to destroy equipment made of steel. They could only breach and burn the factory walls. All of the figures and numbers concerning the impact on industry deal with disruptment and not destruction.

The impact on cities is different. The dambuster raid is a good example. It killed quite a few Germans, but did not hurt German industrial production. Forget the t.v. programs. I have read that German industrialists built power plants (coal-fired) near their facilities to offset any bombing effects. The dambusting (like all strategic bombing) made life hard for pensioners, families and civilians in general. Industry however moved forward.

Tactical bombing made life hard for German soldiers. There are a few good stories that can be told. German soldiers, as a joke, complained of sore necks...searching the skies for enemy aircraft puts stress on the neck. Even Rommel was severely injured through tactical air operations. No German soldiers in the west were safe.

I do not want to overemphasize tactical bombing. A good friend of mine looked into the subject at the archives in Britain. Tactical air power, he found out by looking through the records of the boys at operational research, did not achieve the results hoped for. The German system (hardly surprising since they devoted all their energies to tac air operations) was much better and more successful. OR came to that conclusion after much study.

Ollie Garchy
March 18th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
There was not a great need for Tactical bombing during the invasion and both Britain and America had thousands of fighter bombers stacked in the air every day just waiting to be called in for some target or other. The Typhon fighter bomber could deliver a punch equal to a broadside from a Naval Cruiser. Both British and American Bombers were used in a tactical role for a few weeks during the invasion, then they reverted back to their normal duties
By the way, OR studies literally demonstrated that typhoon rocket attacks could not hit the broad side of a barn. Not even 10 percent struck near the wall.

Ollie Garchy
March 18th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
The Typhoon was a deadly, and that is why there was a lot of trouble from Germany when Britain wanted to call the the New Eurofighter the Typhoon. There was a great deal of an outcry from from the Germans over that Name as this plane had killed so many Germans, the name was only agreed after it was pointed out to the Germans that they also had a plane called the Typhoon, but it did not make its way into full production.
March 18th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
The "Typhoon" was a good plane for the time. I only mentioned the data that a friend of mine dug up. OR in Britain found out that the plane could not destroy tanks or hit whatever was intended. Only through luck.

The same is true of strat bombing. Most of the bombs fell outside of the target area...and I mean FAR away from the intended area. The brits learned quickly enough. The Americans did not.

As a German, but one who has lived outside of the country for long periods, I know that the opinions of the general public are stupid. I would not rely on German attitudes to explain an historical phenomenon. Most Germans are so badly informed that it makes me shudder. Blah. The Brits or Americans are much better. It hurts me to write this, however.

Ollie Garchy.
March 18th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
The six inch rockets ran straight and true, they would flip a Tiger onto it's back even with a near miss. The Typhoon was a very effective ground attack aircraft and also it was very good in the anti shipping role. As far as saying it was a good for it's time then so was the Mustang, they all had their day during WW2 in some form or other.