World War II Air Campaign: Military Docrtine


Figure 1.--Sir Arthur Harris, commander of RAF Bomber Command, predicted at the time of the Battle of Britain that, "The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. At Rotterdam, London, Warsaw, and half a hundred other places, they put their rather naive theory into operation. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind." America and Britain built both tactical and strategic airforces. By the end of the War, the RAF and American air forces had torn the heart out of German cities. Up to 80 percent of the historic centers of all important German cities were destroyed. This included much ofGermany's industrial infrastructure. Germany was no longer and industrial country. After the War, the shattered buildings were torn down. Bricks and other materials were carefully sorted by the Ttrümmerfrauen so they could be used again. Military historians differ over the impact of the strategic bombing campaign, but one fact is crystal clear. Before the Allies crossed the Rhine, Germany was no longer capable of sustaining the war effort.

World War I saw the first appearance of combat air craft in modern war (1914). The airplane had only been invented 11 years earlier by the Wright Brothers in America. The War resulted in the rapid expanion in aviation technology. Air operations during World War I were mostly reconisance and tactical operations. The Allies were preparing a massive strategic bombing campaign. The War ended, however, before the strategic campaign could be launched. Military experts afer the War argued about the furure nature of war and the role of air power. One of the most influential thinkers was an Italian strategist, Giulio Doubet. He argued that a strategic bombing force could prevent another terrible land war which had caused millions of death. He argued that the heavily armed bomber would always get through fighter and other air defense systems. And thus a country before all else should buid a strategic bombing force because no country would dare invade a country with such a force. He argued that fighter defenses and close air support were wasted resources. [Doubet] It is difficult to assess the impact of Doubet's strategic thesis, but he did establish the basic alternatives avalable to military planners. The British pursued a dual track approach with both tactical and strategic arms. The United States at first gave great attention t building a strategic bomber, in part to avoid the casualties that would result from aland campaign. The result was thefamed B-19 Flying Fortress. NAZI Germany chose the other alternative and built a tactical force. This was not because some Luftwaffe planners did not want a strategic bombing force. It was because German industry did not have the capacity to build both a tactical and strategic force. And because Hitler and Göring formed the Luftwaffe by attracting Wehrmacht personnel, the Luftwaffe became a basically tactical force focused on close-air support of the Wehrmacht and its Panzers. This of course violated Doubet's thesis as he saw no need for close inter-service cooperation. The German Luftwaffe at the start of the War was the only national airforce that had engaged in this inter-service planning.

Tactical Operations

World War I saw the first appearance of combat air craft in modern war (1914). The airplane had only been invented 11 years earlier by the Wright Brothers in America. Planes played an important role in World War I, but almost entirely as a part of tactical operations. The War resulted in the rapid expanion in aviation technology. Air operations during World War I were mostly reconisance and tactical operations. The impact of aviation was important, but limited by still developing aviation technology and the lack of radios in planes. The Versalilles Peace Treaty prohibited Germany from building an airforce. Hitler and Göring began secretlyubuilding an air forcein violation of the Versailles Treaty (1935). They announced the Luftwaffe's existince along with the riintrioduction of comscription (1935). The Allies did nothing. NAZI Germany chose the to build a tactical force. This was not because some Luftwaffe planners did not want a strategic bombing force. It was because German industry did not have the capacity to build both a tactical and strategic force. A tactical force was less expensive to build because most fighters and light bombers required only one engine. Strategic heavy bombers were much larger, often requiring four engines. And because Hitler and Göring formed the Luftwaffe by attracting Wehrmacht personnel, the Luftwaffe became a basically tactical force focused on close-air support of the Wehrmacht and its Panzers. This of course violated Doubet's thesis as he saw no need for close inter-service cooperation. The German Luftwaffe at the start of the War was the only national airforce that had engaged in this inter-service planning. it was the esence of Blitzkrieg and would stun he world with its effectiveness. Not other country gave the attention to tactical close air support that the Germans did at the onset of the War. It proived to late for the French to learn from the mistake, but America, Britain, and the Soviets did. Germany began losing air superority (1942). And then the outpouring of advanced aircraft from American aircraft plants overwealmed the Luftwaffe (1943). Tghey even lost air superority on the combat bsttlefield and then over the Reich itself (early-1944). The result was that the Blitzkrieg tactics the Germans had developed were turned on the Whermcht itself. And with far greater force and mobility than the Wehrmacht possessed at the peak of its power. Tactical air power would also prove important in the Pacific War. The Japanese Army never mastered close-air support and like the Germans quickly lost air superority over Pacific battlefields. The prifussion of the new Essex-class carriers meant that the United States coukd introduce a withgering panaplay of air power anywhere in the vast Pacific against even the most remote Japanese island bastion. One tactical operation even suceeded in shoting down Admiral Yamamoto.

Strategic Operations

World War II saw the advent of strategic air operations. The combatant countries used aircraft primarilt in a tactical role during World War I. The Germans counducted some bombing raids, but they were of only minor imprtance. The Allies were preparing a massive strategic bombing campaign in 1919, but the War ended, however, before the strategic campaign could be launched. Military experts after the War argued about the furure nature of war and the role of air power. One of the most influential thinkers was an Italian strategist, Giulio Doubet. He argued that a strategic bombing force could prevent another terrible land war which had caused millions of death. He argued that the heavily armed bomber would always get through fighter and other air defense systems. And thus a country before all else should buid a strategic bombing force because no country would dare invade a country with such a force. He argued that fighter defenses and close air support were wasted resources. [Doubet] It is difficult to assess the impact of Doubet's strategic thesis, but he did establish the basic alternatives avalable to military planners. The British pursued a dual track approach with both tactical and strategic arms. The United States at first gave great attention to building a strategic bomber, in part to avoid the casualties that would result from a land campaign--just as Doubet argued. The result was the famed B-19 Flying Fortress. The Luftwaffe was first used in Spain. Tactical operations attracted little attention, the world was, however, horified with the destruction of Spanish cities, most notably the Basque town of Guernica (1937). The new German Luftwaffe was the principal force that cowered the British and French at Munich as well as the Czechs (1938). But it was fear of bombing, not tactical operations. With the outbreak of World War II, the NAZIs turned to terror bombing to subdue targeted nations (Warsaw, Rotterdam, London, Coventry, Belgrade, and other cities). The Luftwaffe flying close air support played a major role in the early German victories. The effectiveness of the Luftwaffe cas a terror weapon dependened largely on success of ground opetrations and the absence of a strategic bombing force led to defeat in the Battle of Britain. The fighters and medium bombers could not extend the victory in France across the Channel. Japan it its invasion of China turned to bombing of Chinese cities, apparently believing the terror impact would force the Chinese to surrender. THe Japanese bombing killed civians, but had only a minor impact on the War. The Nationalists simply withdrew into the interior where the the Japanese had difficulty ring their military superority to bear. Chinese cities did not have industries which were essential to the War effort. More importantly, the Japanese never threatened American industry with a strategic air campaign that would destroy or even impair the American war economy. Both German and Japanese leaders seemed to assume that only foreign cities would be the target of air raids. What was not clearly understood at the time was during the heigth of the Blitz, the British were building more planes than the Germans. With America's entry into the War, the initial German and Japanese superiority in the air was soon lost. The assumption that German and Japanese cities would never be bombed proved to be one of the great miscalculations in the history of war. Britain and America had the industrial capacity to build both tactical and strategic forces and the Soviets also had a substantial capacity. . Britain and America built substantial forces dedicated specifically to strategic bombing. The results were devestating. Some air commanders believed that air power could be used alone to defeat the enemy. This proved to be unrealistic. The role of air power in winning the war, however, was critical.

Terror Bombing

Terror bombing was not a new phenomenon to World War II. The Germans in World War I use Zephlin nd Gotha Bomber raids to attack London and other British cities. They had no impact on the war, but after the War in an era of military budget cut, motivated the British to build the world's first air defense system, the Chain Hime System which would be key to the British victory in the Battle of Britain. The first terror raids associated with World War II were conducted by the Japanese, mist prominntly bombing Shanghai after the Chimese there protested Japanese actions and attacked Japanese officials. The Germans would be the first to institute terror raids in Europe. Their first terror raid was in Spain (1936) and then Hitler threaten the Czechs with the destruction of Prague (1939). With the onst of the war there were multiple terror raids: Warsaw (1939), Rottersam (1940), London (1940), and Belgrade (1941). Terror bombing conformed perfectly with Hitler inclination for brutality. We are not sure about his peronal involvement in all of these raids, but we know he was involved with threantning the Czechs, bombing London, and Belgrade. Moscow and Stalingrad are other examples. A question arrises,was terrot bombing effective. The Allies (British and Americans) built strategic bombing forces far beyond the capacity of the Germansand Jpanese. And exponentially a far greater tonnage of bombs were dropped on German cities than the Germans dropped in the war. This raises the question as to what extent the Allied strategic bombing campaign can be called terror bombing. Does the fact that the Japanese and Germans began the War and began the indescriminate bombing of cities affect the legitimacy of the immense Allied use of force?. And do the Japanese and German goals in the War affect the legitimate use of force?

Sources

Doubet, Giulio. Command of the Air. Doubet, an Italian Fascist, was one of the first theorists of air warfare. At the time, no one really knew how civilian populations would react to bombing.







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Created: 9:19 PM 11/9/2011
Last updated: 1:47 AM 7/18/2017