European Allied Strategic Bombing Campaign: Around the Clock Bombing (1943)

Figure 1.--President Roosevelt and Prime-Minister Churchill at the Cairo Conference (Januarry 1943) announced the Arond the Ckock bombing of Germany. Americans by day and the British by night. The British had been nombing Germnany for some time, but only with small numbers of obsolete aircraft. With the arival of the Lancaster, Bomber Command escalted the air war (February 1942). At the same time, American began building up the Eighth air Force in Briain. After Cairo the Eighth Air Force with its B-17s were committed to battle. Here Germans women and children prepare for the air offensive. The American newspaper caption read, "Beliners Get Sand to Fight Bomb Fires: Information accompanying this picture received froim Germany by way of Sweden and London, describes it as showing women and children of Berlin gathering sand in paper bags. They are said to be preparing to fight bomb ignited fores. The fact the pgotograph was permitted to leave Germany gives rise to speculation wether the Berliners, who delighted in the bombing of London , now are seeking to arouse synpathy."

The combined Allied air assault on Germany was planned and coordinated by Air Marshall Harris and the American commanders General Hap Arnold and Ira Eaker. The British would continue to bomb at night and the Americans would begin daylight raids. This would put aditional stress on the Germans defenses, forcing them to defend 24 hours a day. The fires from the American bombs could be used as navigational guides by thge British at night. The American 8th Air Force began initial opearions against the Germans in 1943. The Americans opened their full-scale daylight bombing campaign on January 27, 1943 with an attack on Wilhelmshaven. Througout 1943, German cities were exposed to "round the clock bombing" inflict serious civilian casulties. The Americans bombing by day, attempting to hit specific targets using their Nordon bomb sites. The British bombed by night and at best could hit specific cities. There was agreement on the major targets: 1) the Ruhr in western Germany, 2) major cities in the interior of Germany, and finally 3) Berlin. Actual results in terms of impairing German war production was limited. The Ruhr was heavily hit, but producton increased. Allied bombers attempting deepenetration raids were savaged. Althoughcloser targets like Hamburg were devestated. Attacks on Berlin were largely unsuccessful and cstyly. Large numbers of German civilians were killed, injured, or rendered homeless. While the main objectives of the campaign were not being achieved. The Luftwaffe was being driven out f its forward bases along the Channel and back to Germant. In addition, it was being strenched to an extent that it could not provided needed support to the Wehrmacht on the titantic battles on the Eastern Front. The American and British air crews suffered very heavy casulties against German fighters and increasingly effective anti -aircraft guns. At times it was unclear if the bombing campaign could be sustained. Long range fighters were not available in 1942-43 to escort the bombers to their targets in Germany, but the United States by the end of the year had begun to introdyce the long-range P-51 Mustang which had the capavility to accompasny the bombers all the wat, even on deep-penetration raids. Göring had assured the Führer that this was not possible.

Hitler's New Year's Message (January 1)

Hitler had begun the War with a powerful airforce capable of wreaking destruction throuhout Europe. Beginning with Munich he had threatened to use his Luftwaffe to destroy the great cities of those who resisted. He had shown that he would do just this omce the War began. In his tradition New Year's message for 1943, however, he spoke of smolderung German cities and wreked cathedrals as well as dead civilians. He had once told aids after seeing Warsaw in ruins that he could do this to any European city. This was not supposed to happen to German cities. He promissed terrible reprisals, a theme he had begun during the Battle of Britain. But now the Liuftwaffe no longer had the capability to carry out these treats. And the Allies were ammassing the force capable of doing just that to Germany. Hitler had been a fixture on German radio since 1933, but in 1943 as more German cities were subjected to Allied air attacks, he gradually disappeared from the radio as well as public opinions. Goebbels increasingly replaced him on important occassions.

The Cairo Directive (January 1943)

The Casablanca Conference is best known for the issuance of the demand for Unconditional Surrender. Also hat Casablanca, the difference between the Americans and British over air operations was finally settled. The issue was placed on the agenda for Churchill and Roosevelt to decide. Hap Arnold, the Chief of Army Air Forces, was with Rossevelt. He ordered Eaker to Casablance to try to win over Churchill to the American day-light precission bombing plan. Eaker had come to know Churchill. He boiled down a 23-page paper to only 1 page knowing that Churchill did not like long-winded brirdf papers. Churchill was struck with one sentence, "By bombing the devils around the clock, we can prevent the German defenses from getting any rest." Churchill told Eaker that he was not convinced, but that he believed that Eaker and the 8th Air Force should be given a chance. The result was the Casablanca Directve which formally endorsed around-the-clock bomning (January 21). The Americans would attack by day and the British by night. Priority targes would be U-Boat construction yards and air-craft plants. The Allied air commanders were instructed, "Your primary objective will be the progressive destructionand dislocation of the German military, industrial, and economic system, and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a pointwhere their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened."


Germans huddled around their radios listening for the latest news from Staligrad. The surender there was a shock to the German people so accustomed to victory. They watched as the Allies closed in on the Afrika Korps in North Afrika. They learned that the Allies would demand Unconditional Surrender. For most the War still seemed distant. The Allied strastegic bombing campaign had done only limited damage in 1942. Britain and America were, however, steadily expanding fleets of heavy bombers that would bring the War home to Germany in 1943.

RAF Bomber Command

Bomber Command for the first half of 1943 was still the dominant partner in the strategic bombing campaign. The bombing campaign during the first months of 1943 were primarily conducted by Bomber Command. The 8th Air Force joined the campaign in strength (May 1943).

8th Air Force

The American 8th Air Force was eventually to muster larger number of bombers than the British, but in 1943 was still a smaller force. The 8th Air Force began initial opeations against the Germans in 1943. The 8th Air Force was still a relatively small force for the objective assigned. The average daily strength of the 8th Air Force was only about 100 bombers for the first half of 1943. American air commanders were convinced that the heavily armed B-17s and 24s could fight their way into Germant against fighter oposition. Thus in addition to the assigned targets the destruction of the Luftwaffe was a secondary objective. [Rumpf, pp. 61-62.] British air comanders were doubtful, but could not convince the Americans who did not yet have experience with raids into the heavily defended Reich.

Around-the-Clock Bombing

Througout 1943, German cities were exposed to "round the clock bombing" inflict serious civilian casulties. The Americans bombing by day, attempting to hit specific targets using their Nordon bomb sites. The British bombed by night and at best could hit specific cities. Large numbers of German civilians were killed, injured, or rendered homeless. The combined Allied air assault on Germany was planned and coordinated by Air Marshall Harris and the American commanders General Hap Arnold and Ira Eaker. The British would continue to bomb at night and the Americans would begin daylight raids. This would put aditional stress on the Germans defenses, forcing them to defend 24 hours a day. The fires from the American bombs could be used as navigational guides by the British at night.

German Civil Defense Measures

The Germans effectively prepared their civilans for the Allied bombing. Many children were evacuated in the Kinder Land Verschickung (KLV). The air warning network gave adequate advanced notice of the approach of Allied bombers. The German system, however, only was set up to give full alerts. Thus the alarms were constantly going off, even when only a few bombers were involved. There were thus almost constant alerts [Rumpf, p. 63.] This was especially a problem in the heavily contested Ruhr where few days went by without at least some Allied bombers penetrating the area. I am not sure about the air raid shelters. The for services were skilled and well drilled. Older Hitler Youth boys would assist the fire and rescue services after the raids. As a result, even after major raids, the number of people killed was often a suprisingly small figure. Here there were some exceptions. The major one in 1943 was Hamburg.

Civilian Morale

One of the goals of the strategic bombing campaign was to break German civilan morale. The campaign did affect Italian morale, but German morale held steady, not oly in 1943, but also in 1944 when the bombing intensified. Air commanders in World War II were engaging in a new kind of war. There was no way of knowing how bombing would affect civilian morale. It was effective in some instances, but usually when combined with approaching land forces, in the modern parlence "boots on the ground". Warsaw, Rotterdam, amd Belgrade surrendered because of the approach of the Panzers. London morale did not crack because of the Channel. The British hoped that Germam civilian morale would break again as it did in 1918. But this time the NAZIs by pilligaing food supplies in occupied countries and strict rationing had prevented the wide-spread hunger that had occurred in 1918. A German authote says it is the excellent civil defense effort that maintained civilian morale. [Rumppf, p. 86.] The question of German morale in World war II is an interesting one. Some authors claim the Allied demand for unconditional surrender was a factor. Surely these are factors that need to be taken into account, but I am not they are the prime factors that kept the Germans fighting. More important I think is the twin forces of German patriotism and the fact that there were a substantial numbers of NAZI stalwarts and the NAZIs controlled the security forces. German civilians it strikes me had little choice. And fear of the advancing Red Amy was another powerful factor.


There was considerable disagreement among the Americans and British as how to carry out the Cairo Directive. Harris wanted the 8th Air Force to join its campaign of night time area bombing of German cities. Eaker was convinced that the armament on American bombers was powerful enough to fight through Luftwaffe fighter defenses and conduct precession raids on German industrial targets. Discussions were heated. Eventually Churchill had to intervene to prevent a breech between Allied ar commanders. The Americans would bomb by day to deliver precession attacks on key industrial targets. The British would bomb by night using area bombing tactics. The two approaches sound radically different. In the cloud-filled skies over northern Europe, harrased by anti-air craft fire and Luftwaffe fighters, the results proved less different than would be expected.

Bombing Campaign

There was agreement on the major targets: 1) the Ruhr in western Germany, 2) major cities in the interior of Germany, and finally 3) Berlin. [Rumpf, p. 61.] Bombing campaigns on these targets unfolded as 1943 progressed. Operations were not limited to these targets. There were strikes at Norwegian targets and German coastal cities, especially those with shipyards building U-boats. The devestasting raid on Hamburg shocked the Germans. Hitler refused to give civil defense a priority, but the Luftwaffe developed more effective fighter tactics. The Americans also targeted Ploesti in the first attempts to concentrated on Germany's petroleum supply. Allied air crews sustanined terrible casualties. It soon became apparent that the American bombers could not fight through fighter defenses without unacceotable losses. The 8th Air Force suffered appauling casualties in attacks on Swinfurt and other interior cities. Fighter escorts were needed. In addition, the Luftwaffe developed increasingly effective night fighting techniques and equipment. A British attack on Peenemünde sets back the German production of V weapons. The ballance of power in the skies over Germany only began to change at the end of the year when fighter escorts finally began to be deployed. Güring assured Hitler that this was not feasible. The Allied escorts were still limited during 1943, but this was to change in 1944. The British ipened the campaign against Berlin in laste 1943, but the target proved difficult for Bomber Command. Berlin unlike many other German cities would not burn.

Curtis Le May

The commander of the 305 Bombbardment Group was Colonel Curtis LeMay. He was a demanding officer whose men took to calling "Iron Ass" The reporters cleaned this up a bit for the readers back home as "Iron Pants" LeMay believed in bombing as the route to defeating Germany. He came up with innovations which became standard tactics throughout the 8th Air Force. One was the Combat Box. The Combat Box was a close formation of either heavy bomber (B-17s and B-24s). Up to 21 bombers would be flown tightly in staggered positions so their guns would have field of fire offering maximum protection from Luftwaffe fighters. Another innovation was to put his top crews in the leading planes of the combat box. They would be most likely to put their bombs on the target. The bombers in a combat box all dropped their bombs at the same time on the command of the lead crew. LeMay's reputation would earn him the assignment of resurecting the flagging bombing campaign against Japan (1944)

Allied War Planning

While there was debate among among British and American commanders, it was decided not to challenge the Wehrmacht with a cross Channel invasion in 1942 or 43. American planners wanted an immediate invasion when America entered the War. Thankfully Churchill and British commanders discuaded them. Britains political leadership even after Churchill became prome minister were determined to avoid a blood letting on the levels of the Somme and other world war I battlefields, This is one of the main reasons that Britain put such a sunstantial emphasis on strategic bombing. President Roosevelt and other american planners made the same determnation which is why the United States place such a huge emphasis on aircraft production, including heavy bombers. The results through mid 1943 were not encouraging. Air commanders were still optimistic. Churchill was, however, becoming doubtful that the War could be won from the air. Churchill on one of his frequent trips to America spoke to Congress with a none to optimistic assessment. He said, "Opinion is divided as to whether the use of air power by itself bring about collapse in Germany and Italy. The experiment is worth trying, so long as other methods are not excluded." (may 1943). I'm unsure as to President Roosevelt's assessment at this stage. As Churchill spoke, however, the battle of Kursk was shaping this. In this and other battles on the Eastern Front, the Wehrmact and its Panzer arms would be so desimated that the Western Allies would be anle to enter the Continent. And the turn of the air war in 1944 would provide the fighter cover to make that possible.

Pointblank Directive (June 10, 1943)

American aircraft plants were producing an increasing number of all categories of planes. There were, however, many competing demands for these planes. There was a need for bombers in the Pacific. A high priority was given for long-range bombers for the campaign in the North atlantic Against U-boats. Eaker was only able to muster about 100 bombers a day for combat operations and replacement crews and planes because of the competing priorities were not arriving in the numbers permitting him to expand combat operations. He was forced to raise the required number of missions from 25 to 30 to complete a tour of duty. Eaker began demanding a higher priority and Arnold supported him. They prepared the Combined Bomber Offensive Plan which sought to give the 8th Air Force numerocal parity with Bomber Command. The Plan called for 944 new planes by July 1 and nearly twice as many by the end of the year. There were some operational changes. Increasing success against the U-boats in the North Atlantic and stiffening Luftwaffe fighter opposition resulted in aircraft plants replacing U-boat shipyards as the priority target. They also raised the need to prepare for the cross-Channel invasion that had been resheduled for 1944. Arnold made a persuasive case and the U.S. Joint Chiefs approved (May 4). Anglo-American agreement was achieved and the Plan was issued as the Pointblank Directice (June 10). Even before final approval, new planes and crews were reaching the *th Air Force. One one memorable day in May the operational daily strength increased from 100 to 215 bombers.

Hitler's Reaction

Hitler's reaction to the Hamburg dissaster as well as other raids was apauling. There are many photographs of Churchill as will as King George VI and Queen Mary visiting the East End and other heavily bombed areas. There are no such images of Hitler. Hitler refused to even look at bombed out areas and normally pulled the shadeson his train down when passing the areas. Some felt that the level of the devestation in Hamburg called for a visit from the Führer. He adamently refused, even afer pleas from the Gauleiter there. Nor would Hitler receive and be photographed with the civil defense workers, including HJ boys, who did their best to fight the fires and resue people buried in collapsed buildings. Hitler did approve the Gauleiter's request to deport Hamburg's Jew so their homes could be used to house a few of those displaced from the bombing. Minister of Armaments Albert Speer met with Hitler to warn him that bombing raids like that on Hamburg could bring the Germany's war industry to a hault (August 1). Hitler dismissed this a told Speer that he had confidence that Speer could "sraighten all that out". Not only did Hitler refuse, but so did Göring. It was Göring of course that enemey bombers would never reach German cities.


Reich Marshal Herman Göring as head of the Luftwaffe was one of Hitler's most trusted advisers. Göring's Luftwaffe led the NAZI Blitzkrieg in Poland (1939) and the West (1940). Hitler's trust in Gòring was shaken by the Lufwaffe's failure in the Battle of Britain (1940), but the Luftwaffe continued to major roles in the Balkan's campaign (1941) and Barbarossa (1941). It was at Stalingrad (1942-43) that Göring place in the NAZI heirarchy was irrevocably changed. Göring eager to curry the Föhrer's favoor assured Hitler that the Luftwaffe could supply the 6th Army in the Stalingrad pocvket. Göring knew that Hitler did not want to withdraw and success would allow him to recover lost esteem. The Luftwaffe had done this earlier with smaller units that had been surrounded for short periods. In this case The Luftwaffe did not have the air-lift capability to supply the 6th Army. Göring's Luftwaffe commanders told him that they did not have the capability after he had assured Hitler without consulting them. Göring ordered the Luftwaffe to fly in supplies. The pilots did everything humanly possible, but without adequate planes and pilots, the effort was a dismal failure. The relationship between Hitler and Göring was never the same. At the same time, the Allies began their around-the-clock bombing campaign. As the level As head of the Luftwaffe an responsible for Germany's air defenses, again Göring was responsinle, the same Göring that had publically assured Germans that his Luftwaffe made it impossible for the Allies to bomb German cities. As the Allied attacks increased, Göring's stature continued to decline. His response was largely to withdraw to his Karinhall hunting estate nrth of Berlin and enjoy both morphine and the art trasures and jewwls that he had pilfered from Jews and museums in occupied countries.

Rastenburg Conference (July ?, 1943)

One impact of the Hamburg attack was to gode Göring to take some action. Even Goebbels propaganda machine could not conceal a sissaster on the scale of Hamburg. He summoned top Luftwaffe commanders to Rastenburh--Hitler's Wolf's Lair command center in East Prussia. Göring wanted a plan to ensure that no other German city would suffer the fate of Hamburg. Göring had dismissed reports from Luftwaffe staff that the Allies were not only closing the technological gap, but was even surpassing the Germans and that the Luftwaffe's limited resources were being streached beyond it's capacity. The Luftwaffe commanders suggesed two primary courses of action. The first was to increase fighter production from 500 a nonth in 1942 to 1,000 a month. The second was to concentrate Luftwaffe figher strength for the defense of the Reich. This would mean reducing close-air support for the Wehrmacht's already beleagered ground troops. Field Marshal Erhard Milch, the Luftwaffe's Deputy Commander said, "The soldier on the battlefield will just have to dig a hole, crawl into it and wait until the attack i over. What the homefront is suffering now cannot be suffered very mucvh longer." Göring then went to the Führer Bunker to get Hitler's approval who he thought would quickly endorse it. This time he misjudged the Führer. Hitler was having none of it. Hitler told Göring that the Lufwaffe had disappointed him too often. There would be no shift from offense to defense in the West. Hitler even in an early instance of the irrationality to come, ordered the Luftwaffe to resume the bombing of England. When the Luftwaffe commanders met with Göring they found him with his head buried in his hands. The Luftwaffe was thus left with its existing air defense system and fighter force. They were able to devise new tactics.

German Defenses

Hitler would not allow the Luftwaffe to draw back from the Eastern Front to defend German cities. The Luftwaffe did adapt tactics and weaponry with the existing air defense system.Freya long-range radar was able to give ample waring to the fighters. About 300 fighters were available to oppose the American daylight raids. The Me-109s and FW-190s were armed with 30 mm cannons. Slower ME-110s stood off from the bombers and fired time-fused rockets. Fighters flying over the bombers droped bombs into the frmations. The idea was to breakup the tight American formations so the bombers could be attacked in isolation. There also were new tactics. Damaged American bombers were repaired and tested to determine their weak points. A special unit, the Reavelong Circus, went to fighter units and flew training missions with the fighters. German pilots coordinated their attacks more and often focused on the "coffin corner, the weakest point in the combat box. he Germans also worked on night tactics against the British. The number of night fighters equipped with radar and directional equipment was increased. A new group given more independence, the Wilde Sau (Wild Bohrs) was formed. To defeat Window, the Germans began holding back until the raids on the cities had actully begun. The search lights and fires would then help the fighters find the night raiders.

War Production

The Allied bombing caused considerable damage and dislocation. German war production, however, actually increased. There were several reasons for this. The Allied bombing was still relatively limited. The British bombing at night could not well target their raids and the Americans were still sending over relatively small forces. In addition, the Luftwaffe was developing increasingly effective fighter defenses. The principal reason that Germany war production increased, however, was that the German industry had been so inefficently harnassed for war. It was not until Speer was appointed Armaments Minister that the full capability of Germany industry began to be used for the war effort. Analysts assessing the strastegic bombing campaign often site the increase n production as proof that the campaign failed in 1943. This is an over simplistic assessment. A important element in aircraft construction which was not part of the Speer armaments Ministry was the result of investments made in 1940-41 to expand cobstruction facilities. The high construction figures were the result of mass production efforts which required tooling dor a single aircradt type. Unfortunately for the Germans this meant the Me-109 hich was increasingly obselete with the arrival of the American P-51. And the Version produced in such numbers was thge Me-109G Gutavus--a version wiyh slugish controls not up to the chllenge of the P-51. {Tooze] A valid assessment must include a calculation of how much greater German production would have been if the Allied had not been bombing. Inaddition, an assessment would have to consider the impact on front-line operations of diverting the Luftwaffe and large numbers of artillery and munitions to defend German cities.

Bombing Italy

Italy with France preparing to surender joined NAZI Germany and entered the War (June 10). Italy unlike Germy was not set in th middle of Eutope, It was a peninsula and thus vulnerable to naval and air attack. Mussolini did not consider this. He thought that the War was won. The British begn bombing Italy early in the War with a raid on Turin in the north (June 11, 1940). The British bombed Palermo in the south (Sicily) with bombers from Malta (June 23). These were pin pricks. Naples was struck for the first time (November 1, 1940). This was a more imprtant raid by RAF and Fleet Air Arm Bristol-Blenheim twin-engine light bombers flying out of Malta. It was part of a coordinated British effort to reduce the supply of Italian forces in North Africa. Naples and Brindisi were important ports used by the convoys to Tripoli. Strategic bombing in earnest did not begin until America entered the War anbd the massive build up of Allied air forces. The fall of Axis air bases in North Africa after El Alamein meant that the United States could begin bombing Italy (1943). And by this time the entry of America into the War was massively increasing the striking power of Allied air forces. The RAI had played a major role in bombing Malta which was protected by only a small force of British fighters. The badly outclassed RAI was unable to offer effective resistance to the massive air power being assembled by the Allies. One of the major targets was Naples, the largest port in southern Italy and important for getting supplies through to the shrinking Axis bridgehead in Tunisia. The fall of Tunisia and then Sicily further increased the ability of the Allies to bring the War home to Italy. Many Italian cities were bombed. Heavy raids started with the American bombings as the 0th Air Force became established. Naples was struck on force (December 4, 1942). The American sent the long range B-24 Liberators. The first raid killed 900 people. They were daylight raids so the bombers could find the port and other targets. Compared to the British raids on Italy the American raids were massive. Naples aqnd other Italian cities were not well-prepared for such intense air-raids. Most of the al anti-aircraft fire cane from ship-mounted guns at the port. There were air-raid shelters, but only because a network of underground train stations, quarries and caverns already existed. (photo, left), including sections of the old Roman aqueduct. One author writes, " The honeycomb of caverns and passageways below were converted into air raid shelters under Mussolini's UMPA or civil defense program. Whole families spent weeks below ground, often emerging into daylight to find their homes and entire neighborhoods turned to rubble ... so they returned to the cavernous shelters to survive. Evidence of DC battery power, showers and crude health and kitchen facilities can still be seen in many of the shelters." [Ray] Foggia was another important target vecause of the major air base there. The Allies also bombed Rome with several raids before the Italians surrendered (1943). The Germans also bombed Rome to a much lesser extent as the Luftwaffe was ovrealmed by Allied air power. Hitler appear to have ordered the detruction of the Vatican. The Allies flew 110,000 sorties against Rome. Some 600 aircraft were lost and 3,600 air crew members died. Some 60,000 tons of bombs were dropped. Pope Pius XII suceeded in having Rome declared an open city, through negotiations with President Roosevelt via Cardinal Francis Spellman. Rome was declared an open city (August 14, 1943). American bombings of Italy never took on the massive scale of the strategic bombing campaign against Germany, but they dd wreak considerable damage on Italian cities.

Allied Casualties

The expanding American and British forces meant increasing numbers of bombers were striking at Germany. The Luftwaffe was also refining its tactics. Strikes into the Reich which had to be conduced without fighter esort proved very costly. The American and British air crews suffered very heavy casulties against German fighters and increasingly effective anti-aircraft guns. NAZI propaganda heavily publicized the number of bombers being shot down. An American air crew on average comppleted about 5 missions before being shot down. One historian assessing the air war estimates that 70 percent of the men who flew bombing runs before D-Day were casualties. [Miller] German civilian casualties were substantial, but kept to limited dimensions by an excellent civil defense effort. It is difficult to assess German civilian feeling about the air war. Anyone expressing doubt about the war effort were dealt with harshly. At times it was unclear if the bombing campaign could be sustained. Long range fighters were not available in 1942-43 to escort the bombers to their targets in Germany.

German Flak

Germany installed massive batteries of anti-aircraft batteries called Fliegerabwehrkanone. The Allies began calling the resulting shells and shell fragments tearing through their planes flak. The Germans produced a range of these artillery pieces, including light, medium, and heavy artillery pieces. The artillery ranged in size from 12.7-128 mm flak guns. The light and medium guns were used to protect German field armies as well as facilities like important bridges, ports, and dams fim low-level attck. The heavy batterie were used to target the high-altitude strategic bombers. The Germans by 1942 had installed . over 15,000 88 mm flak guns in cannons Flak belts stretching across the route into the Reich's industrial heartland. They streached grom the Netherlands through Belgium and western Germany. At some points they were 20 km thick. The Flak batteries were an important part of the Kanhuber Line. The Germans had radar directed batteries and searchlights to direct the fire. There were also Flak batteries installed around major German cities and high priority tasrgets like Ploesti and U-Boat facilities. Some Luftwaffe analysts were dubious about the huge effort involved. It was very difficult to shoot diwn a bomber. One Luftwaffe study estimated it took over 3,300 88 mm shells to sucessfully shoot down a bomber. The principal German anti-aircraft weapon was the 88 mm artilery piece. These weapons were in great demand as early in the war it was discovered to be a very effective against tanks. Thus these weapons were needed on the Eastern Front to stop the steadily increasing Red rmy armor driving the Wehrmact east. The Germans also begn deploying 128 mm guns which were even more effective. The Luftwaffe deployed rectactular frmations of 40 AA pieces in Grossbatterien able to deal out box bax barrages. These defenses were manned by the diverse personnel, but included many Hitler Youth boys.

Rescuing Downed Airmen

One of the most romantisied aspect of the air war is the recue of downed Allied airmen. Unlike many Hollywood accounts of the War, this rescure did occur and it was every bit as dangerous and courageous, if not more so than portrayed by Hollywood. It was an important aspect of the War. Until D-Day, the airwar was the principal Allied effort to relieve NAZI pressure against the Soviets on the Eastern Front. British and American airmen suffered greviously. During the War the Germans succeeded in killing about 100,000 Allied airmen and held 30,000 in POW camps. Thus recuing downed airmen was very important to contine the air war. The Ressistance established a number of rescue lines: Comet, O'LeaRY, and Shelburne. About 2,000 Allied airmen shot down in the Betherlands, Belgium, and France were rescued, transported through occupied France over the Pyranees to neutral Spain and then on to Gibralter. (Spin had been a virtual NAZI ally in 1940, but in 1942 as the War began to turn against the NAZIs developed a more neutral stance.) The courageous men and women of the Ressistance paid a dreadful price in this operation at the hands of the Gestapo and collaborators. The Gestapo developed very ruse including dressing English speaking agents up as downed Allied airmen. Resistance mnembers arrested faced gruesome tortures and put theie entire family at risk. Hundres were shot or sent to horrific concentration camps. [Eisner]

American Change in Tactics

The 8th Air Force one committed to daylight raids against heavily defened German cities began rto realize realize that the British were right. Daylight raids deep into the Reich against heavily defended cities were untenable without fighter escort. This was finally brought The disastrous 8th Air Force raids on Ragensberg and Swinefurt (August 17, 1943). American air commanders began to attach drop tanks on P-47 Thunderbolts, but this was an interim step as even with drop tanks, they could not accompany the bombers all the way on deep penetration raids. Instead priorities were shifted to push ahead with the contruction of P-51 Mustangs which could accompany the bombers all the way. Initually these planes were not given priority because Anerican commanders thought the bombers did not require escorts.


Luftwaffe commanders and German propaganda took heart from the increasing toll of Allied bombers. After the dissaster at Hamburg, the Luftwaffe had apparently gained back control over the skies above Germany. Allied bombers were attacking Germany in increasing numbers, but were paying a steadily increasing price and one that could not be sustained. While the Allies expectations of bombing Germany out of the War had proven faulty, a number of developments in late 1943 had created a radically different situation that would tottaly change the situation in the skies over England in 1944. First and most importantly, the Allies had solved the fighter escort problem. P-51s by December 1943 were beginning to reach the 8th Air Force in numbers. Second, the Allies had invaded southern Italy (September 1943). The new 15th Air Force was established at Foggia. This brought outhern Germany within in range, complicating the Luftwaffe's problems in defending the Reich. Third was the scale of the Allied build up in England. The 8th ir Force was beginning to reach parity with Bomber Command. The 8th Air Firce by the end of the year had the capability of staging raids composed of over 700 bombers on a sustained basis.


The actual impact of the campaign was disappointing. German civilian morale did not crack under the British area bombing and the Americans found it much more difficult to hit specific industrial targets than anticipated. Even so, the air campaign forced the Luftwaffe to deploy major assetts defending German cities rather than on the critically important Eastern Front. Especially important large numbers of Luftwaffe fighters and even more important trained pilots were being shot down by the bombers. In addition large numbers of artillery pieces, which could have been used against Russian tanks, had to be diverted to anti-aircraft defenses.

Individual Experiences

A French reader tells us about the famous Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois (PCCB) boys' choir who the NAZIs allowed to vosit French POW camps during 1943. The boys during one of their concerts in northern Germany had to head for the cellars during an Allied bombing raid.


Eisner, Peter. The Freedom Line: The Brave Men and Women who Rescued Allied Airmen from the Nazis during World War II (Morrow, 2004), 340p.

Goodwin, Dorris Kearns. No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1994), 759p.

Miller, Donald. Masters if the Air.

Rumpf, Hans. Edward Fitzgerald, trans. The Bombing of Germany (Holt, Rinehart and Winston: New York, 1962), 256p.

Schaffer, Ronals. Wings of Judgement: American Bombing in World War II (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 272p.

Tooze, Adam. The Wages if Destruction: The Making and Breaking of th Nai Economy (Penguin Group: New York, 2007), 800p.


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Created: 8:03 AM 6/21/2005
Last updated: 7:30 AM 5/27/2019