Strategic Bombing during World War 2

Nick Dalton

"World War 2 was a war fought in two distinct phases. The first was the last war of a new generation. The second was emphatically the first of a new era" .

"The British strategic bomber campaign was of doubtful cost effectiveness" . Bomber Command was by far the largest claimant on labour and factory space within the armed forces. Relative to their size they suffered more casualties than any other sector.

The Anglo-American bomber force was divided in terms of strategy. Bomber Command believed it was too risky to bomb by day, while the Americans believed it was too difficult to bomb by night. Initially both forces lacked accurate navigational equipment, which deterred them from precision bombing.

Germany developed a ?night fighter? force to counteract the bomber fleet. They were equipped with an on board radar, which enabled them to locate the bombers in the darkness. The German industry was sub-divided in an attempt to minimise the effectiveness of bombing raids.

Both the Britain and Germany made substantial scientific developments throughout the course of the war. Prior to the development of the Lancaster, the British Air Force lacked a long-range bomber, capable of carrying substantial bomb loads. Wattson Watt foresaw the need for an early detection system; he developed the ?Radiolocation? system, which alerted Britain to invading forces. The German Air Force developed an on board radar, called the ?Metric system?, which was equipped to German night fighters.

Bomber Harris believed in the theory of ?carpet bombing?. Nick named ?butcher Harris?; he was known as the man who supported such campaigns as Dresden. He believed in breaking the morale of the German people.

The strategic bombing campaign significantly shortened the length of the war. It disabled the production industry and weakened the German morale.

Between Jan. 12-23 of 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet at Casablanca, to plan the ?future global military strategy for the Western Allies?. The work of the conference was primarily military; deciding on the invasion of Silicy, apportioning forces to the Pacific theatre and outlining major lines of attack in the Far East. Most important of all was Roosevelt?s claims for the "unconditional surrender" from Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Hamburg was largely responsible for the production of German U-boats. Subsequently it was the target of numerous air raids. In an attempt to protect the fragile industry, three huge anti-aircraft artilleries were built.

Few foresaw the radical development the fighter would undergo after World War I. Such was the extent many of the doctrines established in the previous war were outdated by World War II. During the early phases of the war the Anglo-American bomber force readily accepted Douhets theory . Both the R.A.F and the U.S.A.A.F were to adhere to this doctrinal policy until they suffered severe losses in 1943-1944. The U.S.A.A.F believed unescorted bombers flying in well-designed formations could penetrate deeply over enemy skies. This theory was quickly dispelled in such battles as the Reich, where the Americans suffered significant losses. The 8th Air Force went into war with the assumption their tactical approach, although not yet proven in combat, would be successful.

Another pre-war assumption was that air attacks would be directed against specific military and economic targets. Initially civilians were avoided, as they played no part in the war, but as the campaign progressed civilian targets became of higher strategic importance, "Air raids involving indiscriminate killing of enormous numbers of civilians were the current step in the natural evolution of the art of war" . Sir Hugh Trenchard stressed the morale effect of bombing civilian targets "?German people deteriorated under aerial attack" . Official records showed that absenteeism within the work place didn?t increase until later in the campaign , therefore a conclusion can be drawn that the "?value of morale, or area bombing as a war winning strategy was certainly over estimated" . The morale of the German people was not affected enough to effect their war-waging capacity. "Neither a maintenance of productivity nor a rebuilding of industry could have been achieved by means of compulsive but only by virtue of the voluntary response of German workers" .

It was assumed that bombing raids would be made in the daylight. In August 1940 German bombers suffered heavily in daylight even though they were escorted. This helped to confirm to Bomber Command that night bombing was the best