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 (1939-1945) WWII Battles
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anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2????
Posted on: 1/14/2019 6:25:40 AM
During the third week of February 1944, the combined Allied air forces based in Britain and Italy launched their first-ever round-the-clock bomber offensive against Germany. The aim was to smash the main factories and production centres of the Luftwaffe and at the same time draw the German fighter force up into the air and into battle. Officially called Operation ARGUMENT, this monumental air assault was very quickly became known simply as Big Week.

In the six months up to its launch, for the Allies, the bomber war was not turning out as planned. Raids by the US Eighth Air Force and the RAF deep into Germany were being decimated and falling far short of its purpose. With D-Day drawing ever-closer, that was a massive problem. The Allies needed clear skies to invade. The clock was ticking inexorably.

Yet the Luftwaffe was also in crisis. Short of resources, of fuel, and on properly trained pilots, the strain on those still flying was immense, their losses severe. And despite the chaos of their leadership, they were achieving far more than should have been reasonably expected against the superior numbers of the Allied planes.

Big Week is the knife-edged story of bomber against flak gun and fighter, but also, crucially, fighter against fighter, as the stakes rose higher and higher.

What did this air assault achieve and at what cost?????

Regards jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

anemone
DONCASTER S. YORKS, UK
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Posts: 7532
http:// 82.44.47.99
Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/14/2019 10:44:24 AM
America was assisted by Royal Air Force Bomber Command, who bombed the same targets at night. RAF Fighter Command provided escort for the United States bomber formations.

However, the US 8th Air Force believed their bombers could defend themselves from German fighter attacks. Provided they flew in tight formations their armament would give them overlapping fire power.

Two examples proved that was not the case.

The Schweinfurt-Regensburg missions were the final straw for commanders. The Luftwaffe adapted their fighters with a pair of heavy-calibre unguided rockets which worked perfectly in breaking up the large US formations and could be fired out of machine-gun range.

In August 1943 during a raid on ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt and aircraft factories in Regensburg, out of 230 US planes, 60 were destroyed, and 87 had to be scrapped due to irreparable damage. Although the Germans lost 27 fighters, that number pales in comparison to American losses.


Regards--Jim
---------------
Pro Patria Saepe Pro Rege Semper

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4598

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/14/2019 2:29:05 PM
Hi Jim,

With losses like that, the "Big Week", didn't turn out that way especially for the US 8th Air Force Bomber Group!?

Here is a great computer simulation on what it would have been like!?

[Read More]

It had to be stressful for the USAF ? I think the US 8th misjudged how effective their self protection would be!??

Regards,
MD

BTW My late Uncle Leo, was with a US Bomber, shot down over Germany, he became a prisoner of war! very tuff on him!?
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 2244

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/15/2019 12:16:26 AM
MD, the Allied Bomber Offensive was stressful for just about everybody, not just for USAAF. We could talk, e.g., of the 600-800,000 German civilians killed by Allied bombs.

Yes, the USAAF misjudged a couple of things. The two biggest in the ETO, IMHO, were the ability to bomb precisely and the ability to self-defend. Both of these are linked to the very concept of daylight strategic bombing, which remained a mainstay of US Bomber action to the end of the war in Europe.

The US Norden M-series was a damned good bombsight, and could provide tremendous precision. In ideal conditions, any trained bombardier could drop with great accuracy. But European weather conditions limited the success of the Norden: fog, clouds, rain and combat conditions all affected its precisions adversely. Hold this thought.

The B-17, the "heavy" of the USAAF in Europe (sorry, B-24 lovers) was by 1943 a relatively old bird. Keeping in mind she was designed as a coastal defence a/c, her early Marks were poor defensive weapons, but by 1943 the B-17F reached operational squadrons. Typical crew: 10. As 1944 rolled around, crew often rose to 11. Defensive weapons by then: tail turret; waist guns (x 2); ball turret; upper turret; nose turret; chin turret; cheek turrets. Hold this thought.

USAAF air crew flew against occupied Europe as early as July 1942, though initially in small numbers. Of six US-crewed a/c attacking Dutch air fields on 4 July 1942, three were lost. It is worth noting that some days previous to this US action the RAF Millennium Raids — 1,000 bomber raids — were initiated. It took USAAF forces some time to build strength to partner fully with the RAF, and longer still before it felt comfortable undertaking its own bombing raids against German sites in daylight. Typically, most raids had been supported by some kind of fighter cover, but as distances increased fighter support fell off. This was the case with Schweinfurt/Regensberg, which was such a disaster. Sixty a/c lost (i.e., 600 personnel) and a greater number severely damaged led to some rethinking of USAAF policy, and played a significant role in the development of escort fighters and drop tanks. But officially, precision bombing by self-protecting bomber groups remained USAAF policy.

But the self-protecting box formations they flew in diminished the value of individual target laying. Example: USAAF raids on Hamburg during the devastating Fire Storm raids were largely ineffective. As US a/c approached, German defense forces released smoke screening, effectively obscuring targets set for US bomb aimers. A box of bombers perhaps 2 km+ long instead began dropping on the release of bombs as determined by the lead bombardier. The box dropped as one (in theory, of course) on release of bombs from the lead aircraft in the formation. This blew hell out of the idea of precision bombing, of course, something that US bombing assessment studies downplayed after the war.

Why did the USAAF continue to support self-defending boxes? In part, of course, because their defensive kill rates seemed so good. How many US gunners got a chance to shoot down each single German fighter? How many gunners would be prepared to claim a kill if they saw smoke from an a/c they fired at? The math is pretty simply.

I'm not mocking USAAF policy in the ETO by any means. I think there were a lot of factors and a lot of careers riding on demonstrating the success of self-defending air wings and self-supporting aircraft, and I think that there were few demonstrably better approaches available that might be adapted.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4598

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/15/2019 7:19:27 PM
Hi Brian,

Always good to have you pipe in, especially when it comes to the air war in Europe. I consider you a bit of an expert on the subject. I didn't mean to imply the USAF was going it alone against the dreaded Luftwaffe? Everyone know the sacrifices of the RAF & the Commonwealth nations in this conflict!? I agree self defending boxes without fighter support are just looking for trouble? Thanks for pointing out that extra drop fuel tank helped the distance into Germay that our bombers would have fighter support! Also much like the Japanese pilot losses, it was becoming much more difficult for Germany to replace experienced flyers, & it showed at the end of the war!? Also with all the German technical advance in weapons especially in the air, it's lucky the war ended when it did!? What say Y'all?

Thanks again for the excellent response,
Cheers,
MD (a Fan!)

BTW If you see Dennis Bader, ask him how his Border Collie is doing? Tell him Catain our Border Collie misses her!?
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 2244

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/15/2019 9:37:59 PM
Dave, I wasn't suggesting you were making comments about the RAF/USAAF relationship. I was responding obliquely to Jim's comment:
Quote:
America was assisted by Royal Air Force Bomber Command, who bombed the same targets at night. RAF Fighter Command provided escort for the United States bomber formations.

This comment bothers me, I will admit, and I'm not sure what Jim bases it on. I'm also not quite sure which period of the war he is applying that to, since his comments seem to span at least more than a year.

The Bomber Offensive became a joint offensive designed to cripple Germany's ability to continue to wage war. Until the latter third of 1944 RAF Bomber Command Main Force flew almost exclusively at night, while the preponderance of USAAF a/c flying out of Britain flew by day. But they did not necessarily share targets, even when they shared target areas. Look, for example, at the notorious assault on Hamburg beginning 24/5 July 1943. RAF bombing points, for at least two of the three night raids, was Hamburg's historic Ratskeller, and the angles of attack (on successive nights roughly from the N, NE and E) assured that creep-back would impact old, dense worker's districts. USAAF targets were to the SW of the city, an area rich with war manufacturing (a/c and naval).

A disaster befell Hamburg during the week of those attacks. It was, according to Martin Middleton, the kind of disaster the RAF hoped for during every series of raids on a major German city. At the same time, US bombers did not achieve their goals at all, during any of their raids. Their specific targets were obscured by smoke screens, and that often left US bombardiers with nothing to use their famed Nordens on. Ancillary targets were often chosen instead.

The Battle of Hamburg was one of the great watershed battlesof the air war, IMHO. It was so successful for the RAF because it was the first use of "window" (what the US called "chaff"). Germany was aware of the potential impact of "window", and had in its inventory a German equivalent.

A separate effect of the Hamburg assaults is that Germany was increasingly aware of the limitations of the Kammhuber Line. "Himmelbetts" were decreasingly effective as RAF streaming techniques overwhelmed defensive capability, and Hamburg was one of the assaults which led to the development of "Wilde Sau" — free-roaming German night fighters engaging targets of opportunity over well-lit targets — which became a norm for much of 1943 and into the early months of 1944.

Whether Hamburg also led the USAAF to employ toggliers dropping in unison, I can't say. But it is clear that Hamburg demonstrated one weakness of precision bombing. You can't precision bomb what you can't mark by Norden.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4598

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/16/2019 9:18:18 AM
Hi Brian,

Good points on USAAF-RAF Bombing of especially Hamburg, Germany! One thing for sure Allied Bombers made Hamburger out of Hamburg!?

[Read More]

[Read More]

Regards,
Dave

---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 8649

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/16/2019 1:05:29 PM

Quote:
Hi Brian,

Good points on USAAF-RAF Bombing of especially Hamburg, Germany! One thing for sure Allied Bombers made Hamburger out of Hamburg!?

[Read More]

[Read More]

Regards,
Dave


--Michigan Dave


The raids on Hamburg were devastating. Over 40,000 civilians were killed. Yes, there were legitimate military targets including submarine pens, I believe.

Misfortunes of war or criminal strategy? That debate has been going on for decades.

Cheers,

George

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 2244

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/16/2019 9:33:04 PM

Quote:
Yes, there were legitimate military targets including submarine pens, I believe.

Misfortunes of war or criminal strategy? That debate has been going on for decades.


George, a target is only a target when it is chosen for attack. Perhaps I place too much confidence in Martin Middlebrook, but he makes it pretty clear that RAF Bomber Command was not even paying lip-service to attacking targets on the Point-blank list. It was attacking the people of a city.

Of all the raids during this 8-day cycle of raids, the first should have been most effective. Effectiveness of "window" was almost 100%; of the 791 RAF bombers of the Main Force to undertake the Op on 24/25 July, only 12 (1.5%) were lost. The bomber stream approached from the NNW with an aiming point over Hamburg's Rathaus, on the north bank of the Northern arm of the Elbe.

567 bomb loads were known to have been dropped in the vicinity of the aiming point; a further 165 loads were dropped but the location of those drops are unknown. The 567 known loads can be located as within the following five groupings:
• 19 loads fell on or to the immediate NE of the aiming point;
• 11 loads overshot the aiming point by about a mile to the SE, straddling the North arm of the Elbe;
• 32 loads were off-target some 3 miles ENE of the aiming point;
• 65 loads were dropped slightly to the W of the aiming point, stretching for three miles from the south bank of the North arm of the Elbe; at the forward edge of this grouping some loads may have fallen on or near Blohm & Voss works, a legitimate target;
• 440 loads fell short of the aiming point along the line of attack from NNW, in an area some six miles long and up to three miles wide.

That means:
• Some 3.3+% of the bomb load fell on or near the aiming point;
• Some 77.5% fell on residential areas of the city;
• Some 5.5% were totally off-target;
• Some 2% overflew the aiming point and dropped in industrial areas;
• Of some 11.5% dropped to the west of the aiming point, and the leading edge of that percentage may have hit major industrial targets.

Ironically, the RAF flight path called for a turn to due south after crossing the aiming point. In theory, at least, that took the bomber stream N to S across Wilhelmsburg, which is where many of the military targets were found. Hundreds of RAF bombers thundered over Wilhelmsburg, and not one of them was a bit of use. They'd dropped their bombs on German apartments and grocery stores.

In fact, military targets in Wilhelmsburg were the subject of the visit by day on 25 July by the USAAF. Now either these two attacks were co-ordinated attack or were simply a bloody free-for-all, but I tend to believe the former. Whatever events messed up perfect coordination, this was meant to be a joint venture. The USAAF were slated to attack the various military targets between the North and South branches of the Elbe because the RAF had no intention of striking such targets. That they did not attack effectively was largely because of obscuring smoke from the previous night's Op.

George, we both know that in the UK and the commonwealth countries there continue to be debates over the legacy of Bomber Command.But I think we have to quit kidding ourselves about what happened. It was an open secret that the bomber offensive was designed to destroy familial, social, cultural and historical values. It might have been argued to be an assault on the sleep and comfort of German work workers, but that's a load of nonsense. Bottom line: the 1940 argument that a bomber offensive could impact the war was quickly proven incorrect. Britain survived the Blitz; the Germans would probably survive an RAF equivalent assault (though they were in no way equal in intensity, continuity or direction).


Quote:
Misfortunes of war or criminal strategy? That debate has been going on for decades.

I don't think it comes to this, George. A phrase like "misfortunes of war" in this case is even worse than "collateral damage". What happened in Hamburg was a deliberate action by a group of folks who accepted mass civilian killing as a legitimate act of war.

Whose has to carry the responsibility? It's gotta sit at the level of the Air Ministry at least, but probably at the level of the War Cabinet. I don't think that Bomber Harris is the one who should carry the can, though I am anything but a Harris fan and feel he should have been brought to trial as early as March 1944 for a number of reasons.

I think eventually we will accept that the Bomber Offensive was vile, nasty, and short-sighted. We should be at the point where at least a reasonable and unbiased assessment should be possible. I don't see that happening yet. And I think whoever bowed to the rage of Canada's RCAF vets from WW@ some years ago made a mistake.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 4598

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/17/2019 9:46:32 AM
Hi Brian,

Thanks again great information, and insight!?

Cheers,
MD
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

redcoat
Stockport, UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant


Posts: 323

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/18/2019 3:41:09 PM

Quote:


Whose has to carry the responsibility? It's gotta sit at the level of the Air Ministry at least, but probably at the level of the War Cabinet. I don't think that Bomber Harris is the one who should carry the can, though I am anything but a Harris fan and feel he should have been brought to trial as early as March 1944 for a number of reasons.
Trial ? for what !
One thing that is often forgotten is that the British were the first victims of area bombing, and it was seeing the effects of area bombing on their own war production that convinced the top brass that this type of attack was the only way to get worthwhile results from a night bombing campaign.

Being the first victims of this type of attack also ensured that the British were less concerned about German civilian casualties than the Canadians and Americans whose own cities were untouched.

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
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E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 2244

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/18/2019 9:02:16 PM
Redcoat, perhaps for deliberate disobedience of orders. Perhaps for deliberate misdirection of the war effort. Senior though Harris was, he was still under orders. By November 1943, with his self-declared Battle of Berlin, I believe Harris was deep into obsession concerning a bomber victory to war in Europe. With changes in focus required by the preparations for D-Day, Harris continued to interpret his orders to allow continued area bombing of city hearts, to such an extent that he received severe reprimands from the Air Ministry and IIRC threatened to resign as a result.


Quote:
One thing that is often forgotten is that the British were the first victims of area bombing, and it was seeing the effects of area bombing on their own war production that convinced the top brass that this type of attack was the only way to get worthwhile results from a night bombing campaign.

Well, I'm not about to deny The Blitz. But I might interpret it somewhat differently than you do, or at least draw different conclusions about its relation to the RAF bomber offensive.

The Blitz lasted just about eight months, from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941. I'm no prepared to describe The Blitz as area bombing: that is, IMHO, a false equation. Throughout, London was the primary and most frequently visited target city, though other cities were struck – at times, with what at the time was incredible ferocity. Coventry remains the poster city of a blitzed town even today. Estimated civilian deaths during the length of The Blitz: 43,000. Is it worth pointing out that that is about the number of German civilians killed during the three raids against Hamburg?

What were the lessons of The Blitz?
• Pre-war estimates of deaths per ton of bomb weight were vastly over-estimated (at least one source suggests that there were as many as 500,000 cheap coffins in storage to cover deaths during the first month of aerial assault on London).
• Civilians were mentally tougher than either government or military forces expected. No rioting; no mass insanity; no major threat to authority.

What this says about the relationship between British governments, military authorities, and the civilian population they governed in the name of is a matter of personal interpretation. We probably differ in that area. But I don't think it possible to argue that The Blitz was accepted as a format for RAF area bombing.

There is, of course, that old bromide about "winds" and "whirlwinds", with all the moral flags and implications folks wave around that. I find the visions associated with that bromide tedious, to be honest. Area bombing came about for much more questionable reasons than the German Blitz or assessment of industrial impact. Area bombing became the best means by which RAF limitations and Government misbeliefs could make use of a commitment to a massively expensive offensive weapon. There is even the possibility that the continued enforcement of area bombing is simply the WW2 equivalent of the WW1 British Army attitude to "Kitchener's Army". Train them to perform a basic task. Have thousands of them trained to perform the same task. Maintain a commitment to the task because we work with a common denominator.


Quote:
Being the first victims of this type of attack also ensured that the British were less concerned about German civilian casualties than the Canadians and Americans whose own cities were untouched.

You may be right, though I'm not sure what this has to do with the price of eggs. My father-in-law (a Canadian) supported Bomber Harris to the day he died. The US military showed little concern about burning entire Japanese cities though they paid service to assaults on strategic targets only in Europe.

I don't think British civilians were ever aware of what their bombing offensive was doing. I think they wanted Germany hit, and hit hard. I think they wanted the war to end. What a surprise!

We could wander through Harris's career, and/or through his time as the head of Bomber Command. And we would probably disagree on major and minor points. But I've read Bomber Offensive (1947), and his basic argument simply doesn't hold water. IMHO, Harris got it wrong, but he was given such operational authority that he was able to use his authority to enforce his errors.

Cheers
Brian G
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

brian grafton
Victoria, BC, Canada
top 10
E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 2244

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/18/2019 9:02:16 PM
dup
---------------
"We have met the enemy, and he is us." Walt Kelly.

"The Best Things in Life Aren't Things" Bumper sticker.

redcoat
Stockport, UK
top 30
E-5 Sergeant


Posts: 323

Re: Big Week-the Air Battle to end WW2
Posted on: 1/18/2019 9:25:25 PM

Quote:
Redcoat, perhaps for deliberate disobedience of orders. Perhaps for deliberate misdirection of the war effort. Senior though Harris was, he was still under orders. By November 1943, with his self-declared Battle of Berlin, I believe Harris was deep into obsession concerning a bomber victory to war in Europe. With changes in focus required by the preparations for D-Day, Harris continued to interpret his orders to allow continued area bombing of city hearts, to such an extent that he received severe reprimands from the Air Ministry and IIRC threatened to resign as a result.
Can you find an incident where Harris disobeyed a direct order?


Quote:
But I don't think it possible to argue that The Blitz was accepted as a format for RAF area bombing.
Lets see.
Using the center of town as an aiming point, using pathfinders armed with flares to mark the target, deliberate targeting of workers housing, mass use incendiaries, separate waves of attack first waves a heavier mix of HE over incendiaries to open up roofs, later waves more incendiaries to start fires.
This was the method used in the attack on Coventry in 1940, the attack on Dresden in 1945 used the exact same tactics, the only difference was scale.


The Luftwaffe orders for the Coventry raid in November 1940 made housing a target. From The Blitz Then and Now, vol 2, p257, instructions for KG4:
In addition to destruction of industrial targets, it is important to hinder the carrying out of reconstruction works and the resumption of manufacturing by wiping out the most densely populated workers settlements

Unfortunately for the German population the attack on Coventry was highly successful, so the British studied the attack and the methods employed by the Luftwaffe, and following the clear failure of their targeted bombing attacks on military related targets adopted Luftwaffe area bombing tactics for their own campaign.



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