Category German Jets, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

The jet aircraft was hailed as Germany’s best chance of turning round a lost war, at a time when Allied armies were already on German soil, fighting in what – to them – was clearly a devastated country. The advent of jet-propelled aircraft, especially the Me 262 A and the larger Ar 234 В in 1943, became a symbol of advanced technology. They were believed powerful enough to be developed both as close-support bombers against Allied forces on the ground, and as a lethal weapon against the Allies’ four – engined bombers and fast fighters. However, only a few small units were established at first, to compile data and introduce new strategies for jet missions. Poor production rates made it impossible to send a sufficient number of Me 262s and Ar 234s to Luftwaffe units.

Operational evaluation was initially carried out by Erprobungskommando 262 (EK 262 – Tri­als Unit 262) and Kommando Nowotny. EK 262 was established on 19 December 1943 at Lech – feld under the command of Hauptmann Thier – felder, but did not receive its first jets until May 1944. Thierfelder died in a Me 262 crash on 18 July 1944. Hauptmann Geyer then became the commanding officer of the Erprobungskom­mando, small detachments of which operated from different airfields to gain operational experience. The Kommando Nowotny was built up mainly from elements of EK 262 and achieved a number of air victories. It was cred­ited with twenty-two Allied aircraft destroyed, including fast reconnaissance aircraft and Mos­quito bombers. Most of the pilots belonging to these units were later sent to Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7), to train a new generation of pilots to sur­vive jet-propelled missions over the Reich while the Allies enjoyed air superiority.

A first small Me 262 jet bomber formation was already available in late summer 1944. After Willy Messerschmitt had told Adolf Hitler, on several occasions, that his revolu­tionary Me 262 could carry bombs up to 500 kg, Hitler decided that jet bombers would be able to destroy the advance spearheads of Allied ground forces. However, the limited number of Me 262 A-la/Bos operated by Kom­mando Schenk (part of Kampfgeschwader 51 – KG 51) meant that only local attacks could be carried out over western Europe at that time, to combat the Normandy landings and cover the German retreat from France.

Hitler thought he could win the war on the ground with the help of ‘Wunderwaffen’ (‘won­der weapons’), and did not heed General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland, who pleaded with him that the Me 262 should be produced solely as a fighter. Hitler insisted that both the Me 262 and the Ar 234 were suitable for use as low-level attack aircraft. But during the early period of jet bombing they were prohibited from flying low-level attacks because the Luft­waffe High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe – OKL) wanted to prevent high-tech aircraft falling into enemy hands. Furthermore, the ‘Identification Friend/Foe’ radio equipment, FuG 25, was removed from many German bombers operating over Belgium and the Netherlands, causing German anti-aircraft (AA) batteries close to the front lines to shoot down their own aircraft by mistake.

British and American air raids on the Reich, and several missions flown against key German industries, caused the destruction of many important factories engaged in jet develop­ment. In particular, sites all over Bavaria were

hit by strongly escorted four-engined bom­bardment aircraft. The Allies’ air superiority in late 1944 and early 1945 made it possible for them to carry out air attacks on German fuel refineries and the transport system. This led to the fuel shortages that would increasingly cur­tail German air and ground activities. Neverthe­less, many Me 262s were produced in dispersed factories and underground production sites near Augsburg, Regensburg and elsewhere, especially in central Germany. Under SS super­vision, jet production was increased by an army of slave workers (ie concentration camp inmates). Factories manned by slave labour were the last stronghold of German aircraft production by the end of World War II. How­ever, the loss of important resources and the lack of experienced manpower ensured that the ‘wonder weapons’ remained but paper dreams.

Operational policy remained entirely defen­sive because of the lack of new tanks, ammuni­tion and fuel after the Wehrmacht retreated from France and Belgium. Until the start of the Ardennes offensive the German High Com­mand (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht – OKL) tried to conserve its strength for an effective response to the advancing Allied forces on the north-western German border. The majority of day fighter forces, including II. Jagdkorps and 5. Fliegerdivison, were transferred from Luft – waffen-Kommando West (the command in charge of air operations against the advancing Western Allies) to other parts of Germany. Among those forces remaining in the north­west were the bulk of the jet bombers. Their crews operated at minimum strength over Bel­gium and the Netherlands, to little effect. Most of Germany’s Me 262 fighter units were oper­ated by I. Jagdkorps, 2. Jagddivision or 7. Jagddivision. Their main task was the defence of central Germany and its industries, espe­cially the vital oil targets in the east.

At the end of October 1944 the Luftwaffen – Kommando West comprised fewer than twenty – five operational Me 262 bombers and some 620 more fighters, bombers and other military air­craft. For home defence the Luftflotte Reich (responsible for internal defence against bomb­ing raids) and all of its subordinated Luftwaffe formations could field approximately 900 sin­gle-engined fighters, 830 night fighters, and, lastly, only about ninety jet – and rocket-pro­pelled single-seat aircraft. In addition, some 1000 single-engined fighters were still in oper­ation along the Eastern Front.

During November and December 1944 Reichsmarschall Goring ordered the establish­ment of a massive defence against the Allied bombardment forces, and some more units were transferred to western Germany. Despite the concentration of about 650 fighters, the Allies’ overwhelming strength prevented the Luftwaffe achieving even limited air superior­ity, and Allied heavy bombers remained fairly safe from attack. There were too few available Me 262 fighters to have any noticeable effect during the final stage of the air war over the Reich. The same applied to the few Me 262 close-support aircraft operating over western territory now retaken by strong Allied divi­sions.

By late November the German ground forces had lost major towns in the west, including Metz and Strasbourg. During that desperate time the Wehrmacht leadership was planning a big offensive in the Ardennes. The famous Ger­man Panzerdivisions, supported by as many Panzergrenadierdivisons as possible, would attempt to destroy all Allied forces north of the Antwerp-Brussels-Luxembourg line. The Luft­waffe command was ordered by Hitler to pro­vide close air support for the ground operations. At that time some thirty Me 262 bombers had been transferred west to forward airfields. This was far too few to achieve more than a very limited success. Although a second Me 262 bomber unit had become operational, the strength of German airpower was broken. But a last offensive was opened early in the morning of 16 December. The Luftwaffe sup­ported the ground operations with 2360 air­craft, of which only forty were Ar 234 and Me 262 jet bombers. Most of the aircraft belonging to Luftwaffen-Kommando West were single – engined day fighters (1770 of them). Addition­ally, about 190 day and night ground-attack aircraft (Fw 190s and Ju 87s) were deployed around the German airfields.

Despite gaining some ground in late Decem­ber, the German forces were pushed back again and could not prevent the Allied advance early in 1945. The devastating Soviet offensive launched in the east in mid-January 1945 also caused the withdrawal of many day fighter for­mations from the west.

Meanwhile, more Me 262s had been pro­duced and were handed over to front-line Luft­waffe units. Between January and February 1945 the Allies kept up the pressure on the Reich. Only occasionally were the Allied spear­heads attacked by Me 262 A-l and A-2 bombers, mainly equipped with fragmentation bombs carried in AB 250 containers. Important bridges which had been captured by the Allies were attacked with larger SD 500 bombs, with mostly limited success. During March 1945 some fifty to sixty operational missions were carried out by German jet bomber forces, with many more being mounted by Fw 190 F fighter – bombers acompanied by the Ju 87 D ground – attack units by dawn or by night.

The number of jet fighters was too low to mount a powerful air attack on a bomber divi­sion of the Eighth USAAF over central Germany. But several small attacks carried out by pilots of JG 7 ‘Nowotny’ resulted in German jet pilots claiming some four-engined bombers destroyed. To enlarge the number of jet fighter units within a short period of time the German supreme Luftwaffen staff started the reorgani­sation of their own forces. The II. Jagdkorps was disbanded and replaced by both the 14. and the 15. Fliegerdivision. The strategic air defence of Germany was similarly reorganised. After the I. Jagdkorps was also disbanded, its function was taken over by IX. Fliegerkorps (Jagd), which was to be equipped at first with single-engined day fighters, but then increas­ingly with fast and powerful Me 262 jets.

The final Russian offensive was aimed at the German capital. By the end of February 1945 the Red Army had reached the general line of the Oder River not far from Berlin. The meagre remaining strength of the German forces was no match for the concentrated enemy attacks. Only a few German jets ever operated against the Eastern Allies, and only shot down a hand­ful of Soviet aircraft.

Attacks on the bridge of Remagen failed despite many desperate low-level raids carried out by Luftwaffe pilots flying all kinds of air­craft. Bombs dropped by Me 262s and Ar 234s scored a number of near misses but Allied ground forces continued to cross the Rhine until the bridge collapsed into the river. Fur­ther south, some of KG 51’s jet bombers were concentrated at the main Frankfurt airfield to fly attacks on the bridgehead in the Oppenheim area.

While these bombing actions were being car­ried out, Me 262 jet fighters were engaged in attacking four-engined bombers all over central Germany. By April і 94 5, hopelessly outnum­bered and suffering from fuel shortages, only a limited number of Me 262s of JG 7 could con­tinue the home defence. At this time, the forces operated by JG 7 were supported by the first Kampfgeschwader (Jagd), the KG (J) 54. But the unit was severely hit by many Allied air raids during its working up. Furthermore, it lost many poorly trained fighter (ex-bomber) pilots in action due their lack of operational experi­ence of fighter tactics, most having previously piloted medium bombers, such as the He ill or the Ju 88 A-4.

Other Kampfgeschwader (Jagd) units were established early in 1945, but there were not enough Me 262 A-la fighters to supply more than a few jets to these formations. Therefore most of the new KG (J)s received Bf 109 G-6, G – 10 and G-14 aircraft instead to carry out day fighter operations until more Me 262s could be produced. Only a few Me 262 jets were handed over to KG (6). Parts of III. Gruppe became oper­ational in April 1945. KG (J) 30 had started jet training early in 1945, but possibly never flew missions in action.

Despite the output of Me 262s and of the Ar 234 bombers, the Allied forces were never opposed by strong formations of either Ger­man jet type. The operational roles, the air-to – air combat and low-level attacks split the weak forces of the Luftwaffe once more. Hitler’s early obsession with close-support action hindered a more successful air strategy, as did Goring’s failure to support Adolf Galland’s requests for a large-scale concentrated piston-fighter attack against one of the Eighth USAAF raids and for the employment of the Me 262 solely as a defensive fighter aircraft. Late in the war Hitler changed his mind and ordered as many jet fighters as possible to be built. Germany’s war power had been virtually destroyed, but the last resources were thrown into the battle.

However, early in 1945, Reichsminister Speer issued a secret report which forecast the ulti­mate defeat of German power in April 1945 without Allied forces having to occupy the remaining territory held by the Wehrmacht.

The first very clear signs of the dissolution and disintegration of the German Luftwaffe forces in the remaining war theatres were seen early in April 1945. The further course of the war split German forces into a southern and a northern region. More and more Luftwaffe air­fields were being overrun. Retreating supply units were overtaken by enemy ground forces. On 26 April, the Western and Eastern Allies met near Torgau on the Elbe.

Meanwhile, two new Luftwaffe formations had entered the jet war. In the north the first Staffeln of Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) had handed over their Fw 190 As to other units and received their first He 162, the ‘Volksjager’ (‘people’s fighter’). The lack of jet fuel (J2) meant that this single-engined jet fighter could only be used for a very few missions against RAF intruder and low-level attack aircraft. The surviving parts of JG 1 surrendered during the last days of May 1945. Most ‘Volksjager’ were handed over to the RAF authorities.

General Adolf Galland had meanwhile taken over the command of JV 44 (‘Jagdverband’ – ‘fighter formation’ – because it was not a stan­dard ‘Jagdgeschwader’ – ‘fighter unit’), and gave many pilots the opportunity to fly a supe­rior jet aircraft during the last days of a lost war. His unit operated – as did many others – from the Reichsautobahn near Munich, and was quickly withdrawn to Salzburg airport in May 1945. Before American ground forces overran the unit’s new airfield some Me 262s had been evacuated to meadows near Inns­bruck, and later became war booty. The order sent to JV 44 to join JG 7 as a fourth jet fighter Gruppe and to move to Prague-Rusin was never carried out.

The last, weak German jet formations were concentrated around Prague. These forces com­prised parts of JG 7, KG (J) 6 and KG 51. Fate in April 1945 the jet pilots carried out low-level attacks against Russian ground forces in cen­tral Germany but suffered many losses due to a high concentration of AA units operated by the Red Army. Fate in April 1945 the Gefechtsver – band (‘battle unit’) Hogeback (operating the remaining aircraft of KG (J) 6, minor parts of I. and II./KG (J) 54 and the KG 51) was ordered to support German ground forces after Czecho­slovakian resistance fighters had attacked all German-held positions in the Prague area. After the final ground attack sorties had been carried out early in May 1945, the last jet planes took part in a final mission. Then the pilots flew to British-held positions in northern Germany near Fassberg.

Apart from the units already mentioned, a number of others had been established by the OKF. Besides the Erganzungsjagdgeschwader 2, a training unit for jet pilots, the III. (Erganzungsgruppe)/Kampfgeschwader was set up in order to train more jet fighter-bomber pilots. In addition, some more experimental units flew the Me 262 or other German jets. For example, the Kommando Stamp tested the bombardment of Allied bomber formations with the help of small fragmentation bombs or larger GP bombs towards the end of 1944. The results were poor, and so the pilots and aircraft were given to other units.

The 1 ./Versuchsverband of OKF started experiments to carry out short-range recon­naissance missions. Eater on, the Nahauf- klarungsgruppe 6 was established in Herzogenaurach in November 1944. One of its two Staffeln was commanded by Hauptmann Braunegg, the commanding officer who oper­ated the Kommando Braunegg from the Mun­ster area early in 1945. The establishment of other short-range units was ordered early in 1945, but these units saw only limited opera­tional deployment.

These formations and all of the fighter and jet bomber units were dissolved during the last days of World War II. The operational experi­ence of the personnel was not lost, despite the War’s disastrous end for Germany, as it was taken over by the Allies and used for combat training by all the victorious nations. Most of the jet aircraft still airworthy were sent to France, Great Britain and the USA. Many paper projects and jet engines were also captured by advancing Allied ground formations. These war prizes formed the basis for the construction of more powerful jet aircraft in the following years.

Подпись: LUFTWAFFE AT WAR: GERMAN ) ETS 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

The new Me 262 V7 (WerkNr. 170303), which joined the Messerschmitt flight evaluation on 19 October 1944. This was the prototype for the rebuilt conversion Me 262 A-
la/Bo. The aircraft was tested at Lager Lechfeld with і 000 kp take-off assistance rockets and different heavy military loads. Two rocket propulsion units can be seen

Подпись: sO(left) under the camouflage netting.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Another Me 262 A awaits trials at Lager Lechfeld, where most of the Me 262 test programme was carried out. The flight test programme was worked out in close co-opera­tion with the Kommando der Erprobungsstellen (KdE) at Rechlin, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) and the air­craft producer to save time. In the meantime the develop­ment of the Ar 234, Ju 388 and a few other aircraft was also being undertaken at Rechlin.

Below: One practice GP bomb, in the size of a SC 500 but without explosive load and fuse, is prepared for loading action by employees of the Messerschmitt works at Lager Lechfeld. The air base was bombed several times by Allied bombers, and most of the buildings were severely hit, but this did not stop the work on the new generation of jet fighters.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Right: A view into the cockpit of a Me 262 A – la single-seat day fighter which was cap­tured by American forces at Lager Lechfeld in April 1945. On the left side of the panel are the flight instruments, and on the right side are two rows of instruments to monitor both Jumo 004 В turbo-jets. The engine controls were installed on the left console, the electric systems on the right.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Left: After a flight with a performance of more than 1000 km/h the Messerschmitt fac­tory pilot Heinz Herlitzius enjoys a cig­arette. Together with Herlitzius, Dr Hermann Wurster, Fritz Wendel, Wilhelm Ostertag and many other experienced fly­ers succeeded in com­pleting the ambitious test programme in a remarkable period of time, considering the handicaps imposed by wartime conditions.

Подпись: LUFTWAFFE AT WAR.: GERMAN JETS 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Early in 1945 two Me 262 A-las of III. Gruppe of Erganzungsjagdgeschwader 2 (III./EJG 2), ‘White 6’ and ‘White 13’, take off to intercept bombers of the Fifteenth USAF
approaching the area of Munich-Augsburg-Landsberg. As well as training new jet pilots, the instructors, under the command of Oberstleutnant Heinz Bar, also flew oper-
ations against enemy planes over Bavaria.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: This fin section, fitted with woollen tufts, was tested at Lager Lechfeld. As well as the prototype Me 262 V2 (WerkNr. 170056), which was tested there to check improved side rudders, eight other re-designated prototypes were also used for different evaluations. These included the new Me 262 VI with various wooden tail surfaces, and both Me 262 A-2a/U2 two-seat bombers.

Below: A close-up view of the Jumo 004 В turbo-jet engine c a Me 262 A-la. The first Jumo 004s were installed under thf wings of a Me 262 prototype, the V4, which took off for the first time with two Jumo 004 А-Os on 15 May 1943. On 17 October 1943 the Me 262 V6 took off with the help of two improved Jumo 004 В-Os. After first series Jumo 004 B-ls had arrived at Lager Lechfeld, trials were carried out with the Me 262 V8 on 18 March 1944.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Подпись: LUFTWAFFE AT WAR: GERMAN |ETS 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

The night fighter prototype Me 262 V2 (WerkNr. 1700S6) was tested with FuG 216 and FuG 218 radar installations and a complete weapons bay to evaluate the influ­ence of the fire power resulting from four 30 mm machine cannon. There is no proof that this prototype was ever used in combat action against British night bombers

or fighters.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

The fin and rudder of a He 162 single-seat day fighter captured by British forces at Leek in northern Germany and later hand
ed over, together with a few more ‘Volksjagerto the French Allies. The Allies had their own jet-propelled designs, and used
the He 162s solely to examine Germany’s military jet aircraft technology.

 

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The He 280 prototype jet fighter, which joined flight development on 22 September 1940, and crashed, after sixty-four towed flights, on 13 January 1943. The He 280 VI had no tendency to flutter and attained a maximum speed of 800 km/h. The installation of four Argus As 014 units under the He 280’s wings was later proposed.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Right: Under the leadership of Mach and Regner, this mock-up and one other had been constructed by June 1939. As of July 1939 more studies were carried out featuring a twin – engined jet aircraft with a nose wheel. At that time the future He 280 was still designated He 180. By late summer 1940 numerous details had been resolved and Heinkel offered the hitherto private project to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM).

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Left: The third prototype, with the registration GJ+CB, which joined the evaluation phase on 30 March 1941. It was propelled by two Heinkel He S8A jet engines, but these did not perform well and were replaced by more powerful Jumo 004 jets. On 26 June 1943 the aircraft was very badly damaged on a test flight, due to the failure of one engine.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Opposite page, bottom: During the weapons adjustment the forward section of the He 280’s fuselage was fixed on a movable trestle in order to check the behaviour of all three MG 151 machine guns being installed in the nose. Several attempts had to be carried out before a sufficient ammunition supply was finally achieved.

Below: The He 280 V3, towed by an old tractor and accompanied by several maintenance personnel. The He 280 V3 (GJ+CB) was first flown on 5 July 1942. At the end of World War II parts of the prototype were captured at Schwechat near Vienna.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Above: As well as the He 280 VI to V3, two other He 280 aircraft were assembled. The He 280 V7 (D-IEXM, NU+EB), seen here, am the He 280 V8 (NU+EC), joined flight testing by April and July 1943 respectively. The seventh Hi 280 had made 115 towed flights by early 1945. The He 280 V8 was also tested with a V-tail unit with the help of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fur Segelflug (DFS) near Vienna.

Left: The experimental department of the Messerschmitt works in Augsburg-Haunstetten. Behind a Bf 108 (TJ+AY) liaison aircraft is the first prototype Me 262 powered by a Jumo 210 G piston engine (production numbe – WerkNr. – 42 012). A Caudron ( 445 belonging to the factory is in the background. On 4 August 1941 the Me 262 VI prototype (PC+UA, WerkNr. 262 00 001) wa flown by two pilots, Bader and Beauvais, from Rechlin.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The second prototype Me 262 jet aircraft, which had the registration PC+UB (WerkNr. 262 00 002). The aircraft was still named ‘P 1065’, although it received its official number 262 by February 1941. The aircraft, which was fitted with two Jumo 109- 004 turbo-jets, crashed on 18 April 1943, killing factory test pilot Ostertag.

Below: The third prototype Me 262, which was completed early in 1942. The lack of turbo-jets kept it at the factory while production of the Me 262 V4 and V5 continued. On 18 July 1942 the first jet – powered take-off was made, by Fritz Wendel at Leipheim air base. The factory pilot returned to Leipheim with no difficulty some ten minutes later. In the background of this picture a Me 321 transport glider can be seen.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Another view of the third prototype Me 262, placed before one of the huge Me 321 gliders being built at Leipheim near the Reichsautobahn leading to Munich. The third Me 262 was damaged on 11 August 1942 during take-off on its seventh flight, with Dipl.- Ing. Heinrich Beauvais at the controls. The engines overheated and neither delivered the necessary thrust for take-off. The aircraft was repaired and flew again on 5 March 1943.

Below: Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring (in light uniform, left) visiting Lager Lechfeld near Landsberg/Bavaria on 2 November 1943, accompanied by Willy Messerschmitt and General Adolf

Galland. The evaluation of the Me 262 continued at this air base until April 1945, with only minor interruptions despite several Allied air raids.

Opposite page: A detail of the forward landing gear of the Me 2( V6 (VI+AA, WerkNr. 130001), which could be fully retracted by і hydraulic system. This picture was taken at Augsburg – Haunstetten. In the background, artificial trees camouflage the factory airport. The V6 was first flown on 17 October 1943 and crashed after twenty-eight test flights during a further test by Ku Schmidt on 8 March 1944.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Left: Gerd Lindner brings I his flight demonstration ol the grey-painted Me 262 VI to an end, observed by a I group of Luftwaffe officers I inspecting the factory site! Lager Lechfeld. G5ring ami many officers sent by the I RLM were reportedly amazed bv the performam and manoeuvrability of th twin-engined jet plane, which was fitted with two Jumo 004 B-0 turbo-jets.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Below: The Me 262 S3 (VI+AH, WerkNr. 130008) which was first flown on 1 April 1944. It was the thiri pre-production series aircraft and differed not much from the later Me 2( A-lb aircraft, which was also fitted with four heavj MK 108 machine cannon. I The Me 262 S3 was handeA over to Erprobungs – v kommando 262 (EK 262) anf] was damaged after shedding a turbo-jet v following a nose-gear n collapse.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The sixth Me 262, called S6 (VI+AK, WerkNr. 130011), which was first flown in April 1944 and crashed on 18 July 1944. The aircraft was given to EK 262, an experimental fighter unit formed at Lager Lechfeld on 19 December 1943. Its first commander was Hauptmann Werner Thierfelder who was killed on 18 July 1944 and was replaced by Hauptmann Horst Geyer in August 1944.

Below: A few Me 262 fighters and bombers were evaluated not at Lager Lechfeld but at Rechlin near Lake Muritz near Neustrelitz. In the latter war years almost all evaluation took place at Lager Lechfeld, and in early 1945 only one Me 262 (WerkNr. 111609) was operated by the Kommando der Erprobungsstellen (KdE) at the Rechlin Luftwaffe base. The aircraft was used to compile performance data.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Left: Herr Luttgau, the main factory photographer, took this photograph during the flight evaluation of the third prototype Me 262. Many additional installations increased the flight weight of the early prototypes too much and resulted in the development of larger retractable landing gears.

Opposite page, bottom: Oberstleutnant Heinz Bar, the commanding officer of III. Gruppe of Erganzungsjagdgeschwader 2 (III./EJG 2) based at Lechfeld, flew the ‘Red 13’ several times to intercept Allied war planes over southern Germany. He invariably numbered his machines (from Bf 109 and

Fw 190 to Me 262) ’13’ for good luck. Bar shot down his last P-47 on 28 April 1945. He claimed a total of 220 air victories and completed over 1000 missions.

Below: Heinz Bar sitting on the wing of his famous jet fighter. He made his first jet flight in September 1944 at Wenzendorf near Hamburg. Then he took over the command of III./EJG 2 and additionally tested rocket-armed Me 262s and also wing bombs and other new weaponry. His first air victory flying a Me 262 A-la was on 19 March 1945 when he succeeded in destroying a P-51 fighter.

Below: Another view of Oberstleutnant Bar’s Me 262 at Lager Lechfeld. By the time he took over the command of Jagdverband 44 after General Galland was wounded in action, he had shot down, in the Me 262, one P-51, three P-47s, two B-26s and two B-24s. As commander of JV 44 he claimed his next B-26, two P-47s and two P-51s over Bavaria. Heinz Bar died after the war, when his light – plane crashed near Brunswick, on 28 April 1957.

Bottom: A Me 262 A-la of Jagdverband 44. JV 44 existed from 24 February 1945 to 1 May 1945. Commanded by Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, the former General der Jagdflieger (GdJ), it had a provisional strength of sixteen Me 262 A-la fighter aircraft. The ground personnel was taken from 16./JG 54, Industrieschutzstaffell (Industrial Defence Squadron 1) and from III./EJG 2. After operating from the Munich region the JV 44 moved to Salzburg fd its final missions.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The junk yard at Prague after the end of World War II. Most of the Me 262 fragments seen in the foreground would formerly have belonged to aircraft operated by the Gefechtsverband (‘battle unit’) Hogeback, which was responsible for attacking enemy positions around the Czech capital early in May 1945. As long as supplies lasted, the strongholds were bombed with small fragmentation SD Is. Several low-level attacks were also flown.

Below: During the Allied advance through Bavaria there were a lot of displaced Me 262 A-la jets captured along the roads. This one was found near Leipheim before taking off from the local Reichsautobahn.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: A jet at the Neuburg air base belonging to Kampfgeschwader (Jagd) 54, a former bomber unit which had to change its operational role at the end of 1944. Enemy action also forced KG (J) 54, which consisted of three Gruppen, to change its bases.

Flying from Gardelegen, Kitzingen, Neuburg and Munich-Riem, the unit suffered many losses to Allied P-51 and P-47 piston fighters during take-off and landing.

Opposite page, top: This Me 262 A-la was operated from Neuburg by KG (J) 54. The air base was hit by fragmentation bombs during many Allied air raids, and several Messerschmitt jets were damaged. This one stood at Neuburg until summer 1945, waiting to be scrapped.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Right: These jets belonged to KG (J) 54, commanded by Oberstleutnant Volprecht Riedesel Freiherr zu Eisenbach. On 9 February 1945 he and many others were killed in action against American bombers. Major Hans-Georg Battcher became the new commanding officer on 27 February 1945. Enemy action forced his Geschwaderstab to move from Giebelstadt to Zerbst and Ftirstenfeldbruck. It was finally disbanded at Holzkirchen in Bavaria.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Opposite page, top: To avoid destruction during Allied raids, many Me 262 were dismantled and put beside the air bases all over the Reich in order to replace the casualties occurring on the ground or in the air. The aircraft shown had been part of the KG (J) 54 and were formerly operated by the 2. Staffel at Prague.

Left: Together with five to ten instructors, Oberstleutnant Bar carried out final attacks over Bavaria at the end of World War II, flying the Me 262 A-la series as shown. He was said to be one of the few pilots to fly the rocket-assisted Me 262 C-l conversion.

Above: The ‘Green V was operated by staff of III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 7 ‘Nowotny’ (III./JG 7), which was based at Parchim in March 1945. There, a few Me 262 had been tested with rocket launchers fitted under the forward part of the fuselage. Note the small trolley (left) delivering more rockets to the aircraft.

Many more Me 262 A-las were equipped with R4M-missiles fixed under the wings.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The huge tent behind the Me 262 A-la had formerly belonged to a circus. After British and American bombers of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Force had damaged the Luftwaffe infrastructure early in 1945, provisional shelters like this were utilised, but it became impossible to maintain and service the remaining Me 262 jets in central Germany and Bavaria.

Below: During the final weeks of World War II the improved airport of Munich-Riem, together with Erding and Fiirsten – feldbruck, became the home of German jets. The taxiing Me 262 A – la is here returning to Riem from an interception mission over Bavaria in April 1945.

Opposite page, top: Hermann Goring, accompanied by Adolf Galland (left), visited units in Bavaria which were chosen to
become a part of German jet fighter forces. The first Me 262 units were set up from the III. Gruppe of the Zerstorergeschwader 26, whose pilots were familiar with twin-engined aircraft (Bf 110s and Me 410s). This was considered an advantage when converting to the Me 252 twin jet.

Opposite page, bottom: Rear view of a Me 262 fighter-bomber with two bomb racks. Orders were issued late in 1943 for the development of fast jet-propelled aircraft other than the Me 262 fighters. On 12 December 1943 Adolf Hitler had called for commitment of the Me 262 as a single-seat fighter-bomber to counter the long-awaited invasion of the Allies in western Europe.: On 8 June 1944 the Fiihrer restricted the further development of day fighter versions of the Me 262, as he intended it to be used as al retaliatory bomber.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: In July 1944 the delivery of the new jet-propelled fighter-bombers like this one began. Under the designation ‘Stormbird’, the first ones were delivered to Kommando Schenk, which was ordered to launch bombing raids with only a few Me 262 As fitted with ETC pylons to carry SC 250 bombs or AB 250 bomb containers. The Allied forces had won a large bridgehead along the Normandy coast and concentrated a lot of AA forces to protect their own positions against Me 262s.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Opposite page, top: A Me 262 A-la/Bo carrying a SC 250 general purpose bomb on ETCs commonly called ‘Wikingerschiffe’ (‘viking ships’). Bombing raids had little effect at this point, because Adolf Hitler prohibited low-level raids behind the front lines in western Europe, and from an altitude of several thousand feet there was no chance of hitting important individual targets such as bridges.

Right: A close view of a Me 262 A-la/Bo with two SC 250 bombs hanging beneath the forward fuselage. In order to reduce weight two of the MK 108s have been removed. The openings were later faired over to reduce air drag. German resources had diminished to the extent that only a limited number of jets were converted into fighter bombers. The planned definitive series, called A-2a, was also built only in limited numbers.

 

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: This photograph was taken in Bavaria late in 1944 during the evaluation of the Me 262 jet bomber. Trials were undertaken to service the jets outside well equipped bases, with a minimum of materiel and special equipment. The small starter trolley was needed to charge the batteries of this Me 262 A-la/Bo and to enable the ignition of both Jumo 004 turbo-jets.

Below: On 5 December 1944 Major Wolfgang Schenk, the former operational leader of’Sonderkommando Edelweiss’ who had tested Me 262 fighter-bombers like this one, became the new command­ing officer of Kampfgeschwader 51. During winter 1944/45 the operations of KG 51 were limited by many factors, including weather conditions and the lack of fuel and spare parts. From Rheine and Flopsten the Me 262 A-l and A-2 jet bombers had to attack Allied positions all over Belgium and the Netherlands.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The Me 262s were maintained under poor conditions before being involved in operations when the German offensive in the Ardennes began on 16 December 1944. Six days later Me 262 pilots of KG 51 started their attacks against Allied supply lines leading to the battlefields in the Ardennes. In mid-December 1944 the preparations for ‘Unternehmen BODENPLATTE’ entered an important phase. On 1 January 1945 some of these aircraft took off to attack targets in the Brussels and Arnhem-Eindhoven area.

Below: Several low-level attacks were carried out after Hitler finally gave permission for them. In the meantime some parts of KG 51 had been moved back to Giebelstadt and Frankfurt, to mount bomb attacks against targets in Alsace where French units moved forward to the Rhine and threatened southern Germany.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: One of tFie rare Me 262 A-2a/U2 two-seat high-speed jet bombers, and a second Me 262 aircraft behind it, are towed into position by an Opel ‘Blitz’. Note the (partially covered) new glazed nose designed to accommodate a prone bomb aimer. Only two prototypes of this aircraft were constructed, and they never saw any operational usage with the Luftwaffe. During a test flight, one of them, designated Me 262 V 555, crashed near Marburg and was later captured by American ground forces.

Below: The abandoned ‘White 14’ early in 1945 after being captured by American troops. A training aircraft, this was possibly
operated first by Kommando Nowotny, then by JG 7 and finally by III./EJG 2. Structural defects finally prevented any further operational missions.

Opposite page, bottom: Selected high-ranking NSDAP leaders in autumn 1944 were invited to visit a Luftwaffe base to see the new ‘Wunderwaffen’ that would supposedly win the War. The aircraft shown here is coded E2+02. It was part of the inventory of the Erprobungsstelle Rechlin near Lake Miiritz in central eastern Germany.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Me 262 aircraft marked with a small or large ‘S’ (seen here within the fuselage cross) could only be used for training missions. Several of these were former operational aircraft which had been

damaged. Such aircraft were handed over either to III./EJG 2 or to the Erganzungskampfgeschwader which was responsible for training jet bomber pilots at the end of World War II.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: A small number of two-seater Me 262 training aircraft like this one were produced by Blohm & Voss at Wenzendorf near Hamburg after it became clear that the Deutsche Lufthansa at Staaken could not fulfil the task. First a pre-series aircraft (WerkNr. 130010) was built, followed by other B-ls rebuilt from A-ls despite a severe air raid in January 1945.

Below: The production of Me 262 aircraft continued in 1945, despite severe Allied air raids. The former production sites were split up into several smaller ones which were dispersed around Stuttgart, Ulm, Augsburg, Munich and Regensburg. One of these,
shown here, was the ‘Waldfabrik Obertraubling’ (‘Obertraubling forest factory’) east of Regensburg, where the final assembly took place.

Opposite page, top: At Obertraubling Me 262 A-la fighters were produced in a well-camouflaged woodland assembly site called ‘forest assembly’, which was finally captured by American ground troops late in April 1945. In the course of the War some 1430 Me 262s were built, of which more than 800 reached the Luftwaffe’s front line units.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Right: The first stage of his huge construction, rear Landsberg on Lech, was finished early in 1945. Two huge bunkers, railed ‘Weingut Г and Weingut ІГ were planned, for the production of greater :han ever numbers of Me ’62s, under safe ronditions and a thick ayer of concrete. Slave abour was used in a bid о finish the work, but he Allies ended all such ittempts in April 1945. ГЬе completed parts vere later used as upply stores by the lew, post-war German Ur Force.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The right combustion chamber of the composite engine explodes during testing of the sole Me 262 C-2b interceptor at Lechfeld on 25 February 1945. The first flight of the C-2b took place on 26 March 1945. Climbing at a speed of 120 m/s the home defence aircraft reached an altitude of 8200 m in not more than V/z minutes.

Below: American specialists checked the remains of the Lechfeld testing site at the end of April 1945. Besides several other Me 262 prototype and series aircraft, the former Me 262 V074 (WerkNr. 170074) was captured. Its engines had been removed. Additional material was found describing a third
home defence aircraft, ‘C-3a’, a Me 262 A-l fitted with a jettisonable rocket engine and two 600-litre drop tanks.

Right: The Me 262 V083 was captured at Lechfeld in April 1945. This and another jet fighter were designed as ‘Piilkzerstorer’ (‘pack destroyers’), equipped with a huge 50 mm Mauser cannon in the nose designed to attack and break up ‘boxes’ of American bombers. By 21 March 1945 the first of these prototypes had made nineteen flights. When a second aircraft became available, Major Wilhelm Herget did in fact attack a pack of B-26 bombers, on 16 April 1945.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Below: The first photo-reconnaissance unit equipped with Me 262 A-la/U3 aircraft, like the one shown here, was set up in November 1943 at Herzogen- aurach near Nuremburg. It was decided to form a Gruppen-staff together with two Staffeln under the

command of Major Heinz Schiitze. A small evaluation unit, Kommando Braunegg, was also established to gain operational knowledge for future combat action over western Europe.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Opposite page, top: In February 1945 the Kommando Braunegg, perating under the command of Oberleutnant (later Hauptmann) [erward Braunegg, saw combat action over north-west Germany rbordinated under the command of Versuchsverband OKL. The ommando was integrated with its few Me 262 A-las and Me 262 – la/U3s into the short-range reconnaissance unit 2. Nahauf – arungsgruppe 6 (2./NAG 6).

Opposite page, bottom: The NAG 6 operated from Kaltenkirchen ear Hamburg, Hohne in Schleswig, Burg near Magdeburg, and issberg. The unit was then forced to retreat to Bavaria, where the rst reconnaissance Me 262s of 2./NAG 6, like this one, landed on 5 April 1945 at Lechfeld, where staff and the first Staff el had been ationed since 27 March 1945. The last missions were flown in pril 1945.

Above: This Me 262 A-la/Ul possibly belonged to l./NAG 1, the second short-range reconnaissance unit. A few Me 262 A-la/Uls were delivered to the unit in March 1945 and flew a limited number of operational missions from Zerbst in central Germany. Only about thirty aircraft were handed over to l./NAG 1, NAG 6 and 3./NAG 13 in the closing days of the War.

Below: To secure the close defence of the Me 262 key production sites some small Industrieschutzstaffeln (ISS) – Industrial Defence Squadrons – were raised. The first was established in late 1944. One of them was based at Lager Lechfeld, shown here. The aircraft were flown by factory pilots from the local Messerschmitt works.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Aircraft outside one of the huge hangars at the Erding air base. The Allied forces found the Me 262s gathered before one of these severely damaged hangars in May 1945. Several Luftwaffe aircraft were made operational at Erding. The ‘Frontschleuse’ (Forward Air Depot) there was responsible for installing the weapons and the wireless operation systems. Another task was rebuilding operational aircraft.

Below: The shattered remains of the Luftwaffe filled many air bases. Only a few Me 262s could be taken to America for further evaluation.

Right: A old wooden mock-up of the Ar 234 B-2 twin-engined jet bomber, with the cockpit roof removed to reveal the interior to visiting officers sent by RLM and the Kommando der Erprobungs – stellen (KdE), the main evaluation unit of the Luftwaffe.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Jettisonable rocket sets greatly aided taking off with heavy bomb loads. At smaller bases these packs assumed an added significance because Allied bomb raids caused the demolition of the main runways. In order to secure a limited operational action over western Europe it was necessary for all forward air fields to have rocket sets in stock.

Below: The ground crew of III./KG 76 carries a 1000 kg GP bomb to one of the Ar 234 Bs hidden in a forest near Rheine. Loads like this were often towed with the help of a Kettenkrad (tracked motorcycle combination). The bomber in the background is already loaded for its next action over the front.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

ove: An Opel ‘Blitz’ lorry, used also as a refuelling vehicle, here re an Ar 234 В photo-reconnaissance aircraft to the runway, long the first experienced reconnaissance pilots were Horst tz, Erich Sommer and Werner Muffey. Oberleutnant Muffey flew th the Kommando Sperling. His Ar 234 В had the designation ■tKH. It was often fitted with two drop tanks to enlarge its ^rational range in combat.

Below: Refuelling one of the Ar 234s of Kommando Sperling from an Opel truck. These reconnaissance jets became the sole source of up-to-date information about Allied supply lines behind the front. They were also called upon to watch British harbours and monitor hits by the German Vergeltungswaffen, the Vis and V2s, all over southern England, and especially in the London area.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

ft and above: Two views of the wooden mock-up of the camera itallations inside the rear section of the Ar 234’s fuselage. These lOtographs may have belonged to a series of prints sent to the, M before a first prototype jet reconnaissance aircraft was rebuilt
from the Ar 234 V5 (taking off with the aid of a pair of jettisonable wheels, and landing on a sprung skid attachment). A ‘Rustsatz (conversion kit) later became available, comprising two cameras (Rb 50/30 or 75/30).

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: An Ar 234 В of the first Staffel of Femaufklcirungsgruppe 123. This was one of the few jet reconnaissance aircraft that took part in the last retreating action from northern Germany and Denmark to Norway. On 1 May 1945 it was flown from Rendsburg near Kiel to Stavanger, where it was captured by British and Norwegian forces shortly after.

Below: One of the late Ar 234 C prototypes – the V21 – powered by four BMW 003 A-l turbo-jets. This aircraft (WerkNr. 130061, PI+WZ) first took off on 24 November 1944 and was still in action in February 1945. It was mainly used for testing the flight behaviour and performance of the four-engined conversion, until 18 February 1945.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

rve and below: The exterior of the wooden mock-up of the jected Ar 234 C-5, which differed from the series C-3 cabin in iy ways. The main instrument board was now located in front he pilot. The C-5 was a two-seat bomber whose second crew
member could perform the duties of a wireless operator, navigator and bomb aimer. This enabled the pilot to concentrate on his own task, flying the bomber to the assigned target.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

iposite page: Two further •ws into the cockpit of an 234 bomber mock-up. In ier to improve the abilities the two – and four-engined mbers, ever more modern itruments were installed, ch as the FuG 101, a very act altimeter for precise v-level attacks. A rear irning system, improved mb sight and fixed •ward firing armament ;re also proposed.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945ght and below: Constant :empts were made to iprove the range of vision a second crew member, ting not far behind the lot in the Ar 234 C’s ckpit. The radar stallation is near the bulge r the observer, who would iter his compartment from eps at the side of the rward fuselage while the lot took his seat from the her side of the cabin. This rangement differed not uch from the night fighters : the proposed P-series.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: The damaged Ar 234 prototype, which was hit during the American air raid at Wesendorf on 4 April 1945. The aircraft belonged to a new series of prototypes equipped with four BMW 003 engines. The Ar 234 V20 was first flown on 5 November 1944 with Ubbo Janssen at the controls. On 28 March 1945 it was transferred to Warnemiinde and then Wesendorf.

Opposite page, top: This badly damaged Ar 234 C crashed near Bad Worishofen, probably in late April 1945. It is believed that this was one of the C aircraft flown to Bavaria to prevent them falling
into the hands of Allied forces in northern Germany. Others landed at Munich-Riem, and were captured a few days later.

Opposite page, bottom: The Ju 287 VI was the first prototype of a German heavy jet bomber. The lack of more powerful turbo-jets forced Junkers to install four Jumo 004 engines. The prototype was rebuilt from the fuselage of an He 177 and utilised parts from many other aircraft. The landing gear of an American B-24 heavy bomber was used to enable it to begin flight evaluation as quickly as possible.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945
Above: A front view of the first Ju 287 prototype. It was flown for eggs’) fixed under the wing nacelles and one of the forward turbo-

the first time on 8 August 1944, propelled by four Jumo 004 В jet engines. This huge jet bomber had a top speed of 370 km/h. The

engines and three rocket engines called ‘Krafteier’ (literally ‘power Ju 287 VI was flown by Flugkapitan Siegfried Holzbauer.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Left: Two Ju 287 prototypes were destroyed by German soldiers at Brandis air base. The aircraft in this picture was the second prototype, equipped with double engine nacelles under both wings and single turbo-jets side by side on the forward fuselage. In September

1944 it was ordered that all Jumo 004 В jet engines should be removed and brought to Rechlin, to provide propulsion for Me 262 aircraft being evaluated. In February

1945 both Ju 287 prototypes were blown up.

Below: The unpowered Horten H IX VI was towed to its start position by a heavy truck before its first flight over Gottingen. On 5 March 1944 the prototype was towed by a He 111 up to an altitude of some 4000 m. It was later transported for testing at Oranienburg on 23 March 1944.

Bottom: The H IX V2 taking shape in a hangar at Gottingen in November 1944. The aircraft was fitted with two Jumo 004 В turbo­jets. The first take-off was on 18 December 1944 at Oranienburg with Erwin Ziller at the controls. A few months later the aircraft was captured by advancing American soldiers at Brandis near Leipzig.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: TFie second FF IX was flown for the first time by test-pilot Leutnant Erwin Ziller at Oranienburg air base near the German capital. On 2 February 1945 one of the two Jumo 004 В engines failed. During the emergency landing the H IX V2 crashed, killing Ziller.

Below: There were further proposals to build as many of the improved Gottinger Ausfuhrung (‘Gottingen Variant’) as possible. Now built by the Gothaer Waggonfabrik, it was known as the Go 229 A-l. The third prototype was captured before flying and was brought to the USA after Germany’s unconditional surrender in May 1945. The Go 229 V5 shown here was under construction at Friedrichsroda near Gotha and was scrapped in 1945.

Opposite page, top: The early He 162s, like this one, were constructed by Heinkel Stid in the Vienna region in October 1944. The first of these, the He 162 VI (WerkNr. 200001, VI+IA), had its maiden flight on 6 December 1944. It was followed by more than twenty prototypes until a first series He 162 A-l was ready on 25 March 1945. It was built by the Heinkel works at Marienehe.

Opposite page, bottom: During the first part of the He 162 flight evaluation three pilots crashed. Fhigkapitiin Dipl.-Ing. Gotthold Peter (here in the cockpit) was killed in the first prototype on 10 December 1944. On 4 February 1945 Oberleutnant Wedemeyer’s He 162 M6 was lost, followed by Flugzeugbaumeister Full’s He 162 М2 on 25 February 1945 while testing an enlarged fin section. The Heinkel works also reported other, lesser, damages during the testing phase.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Below: The Erprobungskommando 162 at Ludwigslust. On 1 January 1945 EK 162 was established by the Generalquartiermeister of the Luftwaffe, with the principal aim of allowing Luftwaffe pilots to test the new jet fighter. On 25 February 1945 the OKL ordered it to raise a first operational Gruppe, the I. /Jagdgeschwader 1. The unit was sent to Parchim to take over the first "Volksjager’ in March 1945. The first series He 162 was not available until 1 April 1945.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Right: A front view of one of the new Heinkel jet fighters being delivered to Jagdgeschwader 1 ‘Oesau’ at Ludwigslust. The first Gruppe of JG 1 was stationed there in April 1945 while the second one was due to be based at Garz. Lack of fuel made the jet pilots’ training phase very short and caused further losses. The commanding officer of II./JG 1, Knight’s Cross holder Hauptmann Paul H. Dahne, was killed during a training flight.

Opposite page, bottom: Lined up at Leek in Schleswig-Holstein, the He 162s of Einsatzgruppe Jagdgeschwader 1 await the arrival of British soldiers after news of the unconditional surrender. The explosive loads had been removed from the aircraft the previous night, by the order of the commanding officer Oberstleutnant Herbert Ihlefeld. At that time the entire Jagdgeschwader comprised just two Einsatz – Staffeln.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

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GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

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GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Opposite page, top: Another view of the He 162s at Leek. During the last days of the War little flight action had been reported. A few pilots had been ordered to shoot down British piston fighter-bombers over the Flensburg – Heide-Schleswig region since 25 April 1945. They were also ordered to intercept DH Mosquitos which operated over northern Germany.

Left: A few days earlier, Leutnant R. Schmitt had damaged an RAF fighter in action; now the Luftwaffe officers looked back on a lost war and contemplated new professions. Here in front of their former fighters are (left to right) Major Zober, Oberleutnant Demuth and Hauptmann Kiinnecke.

Above: This He Д62 A-2 was one of those handed over to the RAF for flight evaluation. Two of the ‘Volksjdger’ could be transported without wings and fin sections on captured Reichsbahn twin-bogie flatcars. The Geschwader, Gruppe and Staff el emblems have been painted on the side of this aircraft’s fuselage.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945Above: In 1944 Allied air raids made it necessary to disperse all major aircraft factories across the country. Key industries were also moved into the natural or artificial caverns of former mining companies. At Modling, near Vienna, an underground factory called ‘Languste’ had been established in this way. He 162 fuselages and wings could be transported on little trolleys through this narrow drift.

Left: A view into the underground production site at Modling. Slave labourers had to construct wooden spare parts for the ‘Volksjager’ programme on these wooden working tables. After German forces retreated the underground factory was destroyed by its own personnel. Most of the assembled He 162s were flown to Linz and then to Memmingen.

Opposite page: A couple of these training systems were constructed to teach ‘Volksjager’ pilots to handle the propulsion, since they were familiar only with the flight behaviour of piston engines. The static training rig presented the main instruments of the He 162 A aircraft and the BMW 003 turbo-jet. A glider conversion of the ‘Volksjager’, without propulsion, was proposed for actual flight training.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Above: Members of the ground crew of Jagdgeschwader 1 work on an early He 162 A-2 jet fighter on 15 May 1945. Under Oberleutnant Wolfgang Wollenweber’s supervision the men prepare the jet fighter carrying a ‘White 3’, still armed with two 20 mm guns, for future flight training of RAF pilots. At that time most of the crews were in a camp near Schmorholm, from which most of the former JG 1 officers were discharged early in July 1945.

Below: Most of the airworthy He 162s like this one were captured by British ground forces at Leek; some others were found by American soldiers in the Kassel region and at Munich-Riem. Soviet troops also found several aircraft in central Germany, where the He 162 was constructed by Heinkel, Junkers and the Mittelwerke.

GERMAN JETS, 1944-1945

Mitchell and the Foundations of Progressive Air Power

The Ostfriesland episode demonstrated much more than simply Mitchell’s commitment to Air Service autonomy. It also revealed that the vestiges of progressivism remaining in postwar America had enveloped many airmen, and none more so than Billy Mitch­ell.2 Far more ambitious than their muckraker predecessors, Mitch­ell and the air progressives aimed to reform the most violent of man’s activities—war. Rifled artillery, the machine gun, and poi­son gas had made war an endless nightmare that killed millions, as typified by the unremitting fury of the Western Front. Technol­ogy was the demon responsible for the slaughter, but, Mitchell and his cohorts believed, technology was also the key to salvation. The bomber would be their instrument of change. Not only would it prevent a naval force from attacking the United States, it would obviate trench warfare, single-handedly achieving a victory that was quicker, cheaper, and hence more humane than one gained by ground combat. The wartime application of air power would, Mitchell contended, “result in a diminished loss of life and trea­sure and will thus be a distinct benefit to civilization.”1

Mitchell’s unabashed faith that air power had altered the charac­ter of war caused him to demand an air force separate from Army or Navy control to guarantee its proper use. Ffe continually voiced progressive notions in his appeals for service independence, and used the term directly in the foreword to his book Winged De­fense: “The time has come when aviation must be developed for aviation’s sake and not as an auxiliary to other exiting branches [of the service]. Unless the progressive elements in our makeup are availed of, we will fall behind in the world’s development.”4 Much like the muckrakers, Mitchell took his case for autonomy straight to the American public. In the aftermath of the “War to End All Wars,” however, he found that his message could not per­suade a populace beset by isolationism, pacifist tendencies, and, ultimately, the Great Depression.5 Still, his progressive ideals en­dured among airmen, and provided the foundations for the bomb­ing doctrine they developed during the interwar years.

Mitchell was an apt choice to serve as the messiah of Amer­ican air power. With a United States senator for a father and a railroad tycoon grandfather, he possessed ties to leaders in both government and industry. World War I provided him with con­siderable experience as a combat air commander, and he had ex­celled at it—most of the pilots who flew in his units adored him. Brimming with confidence in any situation, he could charm most audiences, often by relying on his fluent French or his expert polo. Yet his overwhelming self-assurance did not stem entirely from expertise. Mitchell was a driven man, a man on a mission, a man with little time to waste. He wrote his mother in December 1919 that he “was practically the only one that can bring about a bet­terment of our national defense at this time” and noted with pride in his diary on Christmas Eve five years later: “Supposed to be a half-holiday, but I worked hard all day in the office neverthe­less.”6 Those who interfered with his promotion of air power—or his boundless ego—incurred his wrath. “Mitchell tried to convert his opponents by killing them first,” observed British Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard, who served as Mitchell’s air power mentor during World War I.7 During the war, Mitchell’s vanity produced bitter clashes with fellow airmen Benjamin Foulois and “Nap” Gorrell, both of whom, he believed, snubbed him after obtaining high Air Service positions.8

After the Armistice Mitchell turned his temper toward those who opposed his ideas and his methods of espousing them. His quick tongue and steadfast beliefs prevented him from command­ing the Air Service; he had to settle for Assistant Chief, which car­ried with it a brigadier general’s rank. As such, he refused to de­fer to Major General Charles T. Menoher, a non-flying Air Service chief who had led the Forty-second “Rainbow” Division in World War I. Mitchell published his report of the Ostfriesland sinking despite Menoher’s warning not to do so. Instead of confronting Mitchell afterward, Menoher resigned his post. His successor, Ma­jor General Mason Patrick, was an engineer, the West Point class­mate of General John J. Pershing, and the Air Service commander during the last six months of the world war. He learned to fly at age sixty to enhance his image with his subordinates.

Upon replacing Menoher, Patrick stated that he would be chief in deed as well as name in a remark aimed at Mitchell. When Mitch­ell responded with an offer of resignation, Patrick told him that the offer would be accepted, and Mitchell reconsidered.9 Patrick realized his deputy’s brilliance and even came to share his views on an independent air force, but he did not appreciate Mitch­ell’s unorthodox methods of pursuing his goal. Patrick sent him to inspect European air forces to prevent Mitchell from disrupt­ing the 1922 Washington Naval Conference, and also dispatched him to the Pacific in early 1924. In the end, though, the Air Ser­vice chief proved incapable of curbing his deputy’s penchant for seeking public support.

Because his ideas conflicted with traditional Army views on the “proper” role of air power in war, Mitchell believed that the Army leadership would never endorse air force autonomy. He un­derstood full well the Army’s desire to guarantee that it received adequate air support for its ground forces—he had provided that backing in France during the war, and he did not dismiss the need for it afterward. Yet the auxiliary application of air power of­fered meager prospects for overcoming the murderous technol­ogy of modern land warfare—or for justifying an autonomous air force. As long as ground advance remained the primary means to achieve victory (and Army leaders had little incentive to change that emphasis), the bomber’s ability to revamp war remained lim­ited. “Should a War take place on the ground between two indus­trial nations in the future,” Mitchell wrote in 1919, “it can only end in absolute ruin, if the same methods that the ground armies have followed before should be resorted to.”10 In contrast, inde­pendently applied air power presented an opportunity to win a war by avoiding stalemate and slaughter.

Mitchell maintained that air power alone could defeat a na­tion by paralyzing its “vital centers,” which included great cit­ies, factories, raw materials, foodstuffs, supplies, and modes of transportation.11 All were essential to wage modern war, and all were vulnerable to air attack. Moreover, many of the targets were fragile, and wrecking them promised a rapid victory. Mitchell as­serted: “Air forces will attack centers of production of all kinds, means of transportation, agricultural areas, ports and shipping; not so much the people themselves. They will destroy the means of making war, because now we cannot cut a limb out of a tree, pick a stone from a hill and make it our principal weapon. Today to make war we must have great metal and chemical factories that have to stay in one place, take months to build, and, if destroyed, cannot be replaced in the usual length of a modern war.”12 Only an air force possessed the means to attack vital centers without first confronting enemy surface forces, and destroying those cen­ters would eliminate the need to advance through enemy territory on the ground. “The influence of air power on the ability of one nation to impress its will on another in an armed conflict will be decisive,” he insisted.13

Like many Army officers of his time, Mitchell could recite Clause – witz’s dictum on the objective of war, and he did so with a paro­chial twist. Air power would wreck an enemy’s will to fight by de­stroying its capability to resist, and the essence of that capability was not the army or navy, but the nation’s industrial and agricul­tural underpinnings. Eliminating industrial production “would deprive armies, air forces and navies .. . of their means of main­tenance.”14 Air power also offered the chance to attack the will to fight directly. Mitchell equated the will of a nation to the will of its populace, but he vacillated about the propriety of bombing civil­ians. On the one hand, he called for attacks on “the places where people live and carry on their daily lives” to discourage their “de­sire to renew the combat at a later date,” advocated burning Jap­anese metropolitan areas in the event of a war with Japan, and noted that poison gas could be used to contaminate water sup­plies and spur evacuations from cities. On the other hand, in a 1922 bombing manual written for Air Service officers, he argued that attacking a factory was ethical only if its workers received “sufficient warning that the center will be destroyed” and that “in rare instances Bombardment aviation will be required to act as an arm of reprisal.”15

The dominant theme emerging from these discussions was not the desire to attack civilians directly, but rather the desire to sever the populace from the sources of production. “It may be neces­sary to intimidate the civilian population in a certain area to force them to discontinue something which is having a direct bearing on the outcome of the conflict,” Mitchell observed in his bomb­ing manual. Achieving that goal might cause some civilian deaths, but the number would pale compared to the deaths produced by a ground war between industrialized powers. Moreover, once bombed, civilians were unlikely to continue supporting the war effort. “In the future, the mere threat of bombing a town by an air force will cause it to be evacuated and all work in munitions and supply factories to be stopped,” he asserted.16 In Mitchell’s eyes, civilian will was exceedingly fragile, and its collapse would cause a corresponding loss in war-making capability. In addition, civilians did not have to be attacked directly to produce a direct impact on an enemy’s will to fight.

Although adamant about the fragile nature of civilian will, Mitchell was less than explicit about how breaking it would trans­late into a rapid peace. He thought that air raids would trigger evacuations of hundreds of thousands of people from urban ar­eas. Those refugees would not be able to obtain adequate food or shelter, and their plight would cause a war to end. “There is only one alternative and that is surrender,” he wrote in 1930. “It is a quick way of deciding a war and really much more humane than the present methods of blowing people to bits by cannon projec­tiles or butchering them with bayonets.”17 Yet Mitchell neglected to say whether “surrender” would occur because the government of the battered nation was sympathetic to the plight of its people, feared overthrow by an irate populace, or had in fact been dis­placed by a new regime demanding peace.

In many of his futuristic examples, he depicted the United States as the country undergoing air attack, so the presumption was that surrender would stem from a sympathetic government. Mitchell claimed that America’s “strategical heart” consisted of the man­ufacturing complexes within a triangle formed by Chicago, Bos­ton, and the Chesapeake Bay, and that destroying those centers and their transportation links would not only wreck industrial productivity but also lead to widespread starvation if the nation chose not to capitulate.18 In such projections, war-making capa­bility ceased once bombs destroyed vital industries and agricul­tural areas, or once civilians left the factories and fields. Mitchell dismissed stockpiles of materiel, especially food, and he also re­jected reserves of morale.19 He bestowed on the governments un­der attack a degree of rationality that ignored the enemy’s war aims and the possibility that the population would willingly suf­fer to avoid capitulation. His examples intimated that all indus­trial powers were alike—and that all resembled his view of the United States. He thus overlooked crucial distinctions between nations—and the types of wars they fought—that would directly affect bombing’s ability to achieve an independent victory, much less a rapid one.

For Mitchell, the key prerequisite for achieving victory through air power mirrored the requirement stipulated by the Italian air theorist Giulio Douhet: gaining control of the sky. Mitchell later stated that he had “frequent conversations” with Douhet during his 1922 visit to Italy; whether those conversations actually occurred, he was well acquainted with Douhet’s confidant, Gianni Caproni, and received a synopsis of Douhet’s classic book, The Command of the Air, in late 1922.20 Much of Mitchell’s and Douhet’s writ­ing was remarkably similar.21 Both agreed that “nothing can stop the attack of aircraft except other aircraft,” and that after achiev­ing air supremacy, an enemy’s vital centers—a term used by both men—could be wrecked at will.22 They differed, however, about how best to achieve air control. For Douhet, the best method was to destroy the enemy air force on the ground, either at its bases or before it left factory assembly lines.21 Mitchell countered that air combat was also a suitable means, and that attacking a crit­ical vital center would compel the hostile air force to rise in de­fense, whereupon it could be overcome.24 Both initially thought that escort fighters for bombers were essential to ward off the en­emy’s fighters, although Douhet would later advocate an air force based on a single type of aircraft, a bomber bristling with ma­chine guns that he dubbed the “battleplane” in his 1926 revision to Command of the Air.

Like Mitchell, Douhet argued that an independent air force em­phasizing the bomber was the cheapest and most efficient means to defend his nation. Yet unlike his American counterpart, Douhet had to consider that his country was susceptible to air attack.25 The Italian asserted that a defending air force could not protect all of a nation’s vital centers, because the defender could never be certain what centers the attacker would choose to strike.26 His answer was to attack first, with as much air power as possible, and destroy the enemy’s ability to retaliate in kind. Once enemy bombers took to the air against an unknown target, attempting to stop them was probably futile.27 Mitchell realized that advanc­ing technology would ultimately overcome the limitation on range that protected the United States from air attack by a European or Asiatic power. Under his guidance, Air Service Colonel Townsend F. Dodd prepared an April Г9Г9 study evaluating the need for a separate air force that concluded: “The moment that [an] aircraft reaches that stage of development which will permit one ton of bombs to be carried from the nearest point of a possible enemy’s territory to our commercial and industrial centers, and to return to the starting point, then national safety requires the maintenance of an efficient air force adapted for acting against the possible en­emy’s interior.”28 By the time that trans-oceanic flight had been perfected, Mitchell aimed to make Americans an “air-going peo­ple,” ready to conduct “war at a distance” through a Department of the Aeronautics equal in status to the Army and Navy Depart­ments in a single Department of National Defense.29

Mitchell tried to transform the American populace into air power advocates by emphasizing the progressive notions of order and effi­ciency. Not only could an autonomous air force protect the United States and achieve an independent victory in war, he insisted that it could do so more cheaply—and more effectively—than either the Army or the Navy. Yet the Air Service could not perform an independent mission, Mitchell argued, as long as the Army con­trolled it. Because the Army divided air units among its various corps and divisions to assure that they received adequate air sup­port, air units had a meager chance of being massed together for a long-range independent mission in which Army commanders had little interest. “To leave aviation essentially under the domi­nance and direction of another department is to absolutely stran­gle its development, because it will be looked on by them merely as an auxiliary and not as a principal thing,” he protested in De­cember 1919.30 Mitchell provoked the Navy’s ire with his persis­tent claims that the sea service provided minimum defense for a maximum price tag. In 1922 he contended that an average bat­tleship cost roughly forty-five million dollars to build and equip, while bombers cost twenty thousand dollars each. Thus, the na­tion could either build one battleship or two thousand bombers— each of which could sink a battleship!31 Mitchell’s argument omit­ted a great deal, such as the rapid rate of obsolescence of aircraft compared to capital ships, and the high costs of training aircrews and building air bases, but its simplistic logic touched a receptive chord in many Americans.

In December 1924 Representative Julian Lampert, chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee, began hearings in re­sponse to Representative John F. Curry’s bill for a unified avia­tion service. Mitchell testified extensively at the hearings, making some of his most inflammatory accusations. “All the organiza­tion that we have in this country really now is for the protection of vested interests against aviation,” he told the committee. He added that some individuals testifying for the government had showed “a woeful ignorance. . . and in some cases possibly a falsification of evidence, with the evident intent to confuse Con­gress.” When asked by Secretary of War John W. Weeks to elab­orate on his testimony in writing, Mitchell declined to provide specifics and added additional charges. He berated the Navy for the conduct of its bombing tests, remarking that it “actually tried to prevent our sinking the Ostfriesland.”32 Mitchell had recently angered Secretary Weeks by publishing an explosive series of avi­ation articles, unreviewed by the War Department, in the Satur­day Evening Post. The confrontational testimony following on the heels of those articles caused Weeks to deny Mitchell’s reap­pointment as Assistant Chief of the Air Service when it came up for renewal in March 1925.33 At the end of the month Mitchell reverted to his permanent grade of colonel and was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, as aviation officer for the Army’s Eighth Corps Area.

Mitchell, however, had no intention of remaining dormant in the Texas hinterland. In August 1925 he published Winged De­fense, which expanded many of the arguments that he had made in the Saturday Evening Post. Although stressing the importance of an independent air force built around the bomber, the book continued the attack on Army and Navy leaders opposed to such an organization.54 It also contained cartoons lampooning Sec­retary Weeks, who at the time of publication had become seri­ously ill. Mitchell had been unaware that the cartoons would be published in the book, and on 4 September received a letter from his wife, Elizabeth, who was in Detroit with their infant daugh­ter. Elizabeth was greatly distressed about the appearance of the cartoons and contended that no one would believe that Mitch­ell had not approved them. “I don’t very well see how they can avoid court-martialing you now, my sweet—but I’m sorry it will have to be over something sort of cheap like those cartoons,” she lamented.35 Mitchell’s receipt of his wife’s letter coincided with the crash of the Navy dirigible Shenandoah in an Ohio thunder­storm and perhaps influenced his decision to make the Navy di­saster his personal Rubicon. On 5 September he told San Antonio newspapers that the crash resulted from “the incompetency, crim­inal negligence, and almost treasonable administration of the Na­tional Defense by the Navy and War Departments.”56 Two weeks later he was court-martialed.

For Mitchell, the trial and the “Morrow Board” that preceded it were anticlimaxes. An enraged President Calvin Coolidge, who called Mitchell a “God-damned disturbing liar,” proffered the court-martial charges himself.57 Coolidge summoned friend and J. P. Morgan banker Dwight Morrow to conduct a formal investi-

gation of American aviation that would undercut the publicity of Mitchell’s trial.58 The president directed Morrow to produce a re­port by the end of November, and Morrow’s hearing concluded on r 5 October, thirteen days before the court-martial started. Mitch­ell testified for the Morrow Board but chose to read long passages of Winged Defense rather than to engage in the verbal sparring at which he excelled. Although he returned to form at his trial, the verdict was a given. Found guilty on 17 December—ironically, the twenty-second anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first pow­ered flight at Kitty Hawk—he retired from the service on 1 Feb­ruary 1926 to continue his crusade sans uniform.59

While newspapers gave the court-martial proceedings extensive coverage, no outcry for an independent air force erupted follow­ing the verdict. The Morrow Board, which had received testimony from an array of civilian and military aviation specialists, had in­deed diminished interest in the court-martial. Winged Defense sold only 4,500 copies between August 1925 and January 1926 dur­ing the peak of sensationalism.90 Mitchell received many support­ive letters in that span, but few individuals were willing to back his cause with a demand for legislation.41 Future general Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, then an Air Service major and a close personal friend of Mitchell’s, later speculated on why the American people failed to act on Mitchell’s recommendations: “the public enthusi­asm. . . was not for air power—it was for Billy.”42 Flamboyant, intrepid, and cocksure, Mitchell appealed to New Era America. His message, though, struck an uncertain chord. His argument that bombers could now defend the nation more efficiently than battleships seemed to make sense, as did his assertion that bomb­ers could defeat an enemy without the need for a ground invasion. Yet questions remained—defend against whom? Whom would air power defeat? The Morrow Board’s conclusion, “that air power… has yet demonstrated its value—certainly not in a country situ­ated as ours—for independent operations of such a character as to justify the organization of a separate department,” reflected con­cerns held by the bulk of Americans regarding Mitchell’s ideas.43 In Г925, the public realized that no enemy threatened the United States, and airplanes could not cross the Atlantic or Pacific. The mood endured for more than a decade.

Prospects for Peace through a Thunderclap

As Allied armies pushed toward the German frontier, the ques­tion of how best to use the heavy bomber force to speed the end of the war surfaced yet again. In early July, the Combined Chiefs of Staff determined that a time might come when a massive as­sault against German morale might prove decisive. A month later, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles “Peter” Portal, Chief of the Brit­ish Air Staff and the ranking officer in the raf, produced a pro­posal for such a catastrophic blow from the air. Portal argued that a massive attack on the German civilian populace was unlikely to produce an overthrow of German leadership; at best it might spur rioting, but the rioting would probably occur among foreign workers only. Direct attacks on the morale of political and mili­tary leaders themselves, though, might lead to significant results. “Our object must be to influence the minds of German high po­litical and military authorities in the desired direction to the point where the High Command must either accept the necessity of sur­render or be replaced by an alternative Command which does so,” Portal maintained. He believed that heavy attacks on government and military control centers in Berlin (five thousand tons of high explosive ordnance on a 2 Vi-square-mile area), backed by “well judged propaganda,” could lead to German capitulation.71

Codenamed “Thunderclap,” the proposed operation received intense scrutiny from Spaatz’s usstaf staff in the United King­dom, as well as from Arnold’s air staff in the Pentagon. Spaatz’s officers examined the British proposal from a progressive mind­set that presumed a faster end of the war meant a better end of the war—at least as far as Allied combatants were concerned. “If the operation should succeed in curtailing the duration of the war by even a few weeks it would save many thousands of Allied ca­sualties and would justify itself many times over,” their critique stated. They further noted that a large portion of the German gov­ernment had evacuated Berlin, making the operation’s ability to cause a sudden administrative breakdown problematic. Still, the daylight population of the targeted area was roughly 375,000, of whom 275,000 would likely die or be seriously injured, and “it may well be that an attack on the proposed area of Berlin would have a greater effect upon national administration than is at pres­ent appreciated.”72

Spaatz disagreed. In March, he had shunned a British plan to attack “political targets” in the Balkans to reduce Nazi support there,73 and felt that Portal’s current proposal was unsound as well. He informed Eisenhower that American bombing policy con­doned attacks on military objectives, not morale. “I am opposed to this operation as now planned,” he declared. “We are prepared to participate in an operation against Berlin, but in so doing will select targets for attack of military importance.”74

Eisenhower had initially been receptive to Thunderclap. After reviewing the proposal on 7 August, he penciled: “Since conditions stated are ‘that military defeat is certain and obvious’—I agree the project would be a good one. (We would no longer require bomb­ing strictly military targets.)”73 Once he received Spaatz’s critique, Eisenhower hedged—but only slightly. The Supreme Allied Com­mander acknowledged that he had always insisted on bombing precision targets, yet he was “always prepared to take part in any­thing that gives real promise to ending the war quickly.” Given the losses suffered during the invasion and breakout from the Nor­mandy beachhead—with the likelihood of tougher fighting as his troops neared Germany—Eisenhower found air power’s prospects for achieving a rapid victory enticing. He told Spaatz: “The poli­cies under which you are now operating will be unchanged unless in my opinion an opportunity arises where a sudden and devastat­ing blow may have an incalculable result.”76 On 9 September, he directed Spaatz to make certain that Eighth Air Force would be ready to bomb Berlin at a moment’s notice. Spaatz then had Jimmy Doolittle, the Eighth Air Force Commander, scrub plans to attack military objectives in Berlin and prepare for bombing “indiscrim­inately on the town” when Eisenhower gave the order.77

Major General Laurence Kuter, one of awpd-i’s designers who now served as Arnold’s assistant chief for plans and combat oper­ations, critiqued Thunderclap as well, awpd-i had included the possibility of attacking German civilians directly if their morale weakened during the war, but cautioned that a miscalculation of their resolve could cause bombing to stiffen their desire to resist. Kuter was therefore reluctant to endorse Thunderclap. He surmised that the impetus for the British proposal stemmed from their de­sire to retaliate for the recent buzz bomb attacks against England. Although he realized that Thunderclap’s intent was to break the will of the German leaders, he noted that civilians would bear the brunt of the attacks. “The bombing of civilian targets in Germany cannot be expected to have similar effects to those which might be expected in a democratic country where the people are still able to influence the national will,” he asserted. Kuter reiterated that it was “contrary to our national ideals to wage war against civil­ians.” Yet—consistent with awpd-i’s caveat three years before— he conceded that a time might arrive when attacks “against other than objectives immediately related to the battle” might tip the balance and end the war. Thus, while opposed to the British pro­posal, he recommended planning for it—just in case.78

After examining the arguments, General Arnold directed usstaf to develop a plan for including British and American air forces in an “all-out, widespread attack” against Germany that would last roughly a week. Its purpose would not be to obliterate cit­ies or towns, nor would Berlin be the sole target. Rather, the as­sault would strike “military objectives of numerous types… to give every citizen an opportunity to see positive proof of Allied air power.” Arnold stated that such an operation could be “de­cisive” if conducted at the proper moment.79 In mid-September, Spaatz’s headquarters began working on a plan for attacking mo­rale that did “not harbor the cold-blooded slaughter of civilians.”

Planners selected targets “designed to destroy such necessities of life as are normally required from day to day [to] produce a mo­rale effect over a longer period of time than would an indiscrim­inate direct attack on a town.”80

Warden and the New Progressives

The concept of “the enemy as a system” originated with Colonel John A. Warden III, the modern Air Force’s intellectual heir to the progressive notions developed by Mitchell and the Air Corps Tactical School.21 Warden had flown as a forward air controller in Vietnam, and his frustrations in that restrained conflict caused him to consider a new approach for applying air power to achieve quick success. During the decades that followed he developed ideas that would form the basis of America’s air campaign plan for the 1991 Persian Gulf War—and for much of the Air Force’s planning in subsequent conflicts.

Like Mitchell, Warden stressed air power’s “revolutionary” characteristics, and he fully shared Mitchell’s progressive vision. For both men aerial technology was the key to reforming war. The incredible accuracy possible with an array of precision-guided “smart” munitions was a linchpin of Warden’s ideas. He believed that those munitions, which included bombs with significant pen­etrating power, and the development of stealth aircraft gave the United States a dramatic capability to fight limited wars by rely­ing almost exclusively on air power. He argued that those tech­nological developments enabled American air forces to attack a prospective enemy’s “centers of gravity” directly, which they could do by circumventing its surface forces. “Air power then be­comes quintessentially an American form of war; it uses our ad­vantages of mobility and high technology to overwhelm the enemy without spilling too much blood, especially American blood,” he insisted.22

For Warden, the key center of gravity of a nation—or any or­ganized group capable of fighting—was leadership. That element comprised the center ring of his five-ring model that specified the major components, or systems, essential to war-making capabil­ity. Surrounding leadership was a ring of key production, which for most states included electricity and oil. Surrounding key pro­duction was a ring of infrastructure, comprising transportation and communications, and surrounding it was a ring of popula­tion, which included food sources. Finally, a ring of fielded mili­tary forces surrounded the population.

Warden contended that leadership was the most critical ring because it was “the only element of the enemy. .. that can make concessions” and that attacking it promised “the quickest and cheapest” path to obtaining victory.23 If that ring could not be attacked directly, the goal then became to confound the leader­ship’s ability to direct war-making activities, and air power could target the outer rings. Yet the focus of the attacks remained their impact on the center ring. He cautioned against attacking mili­tary forces, which he labeled “a means to an end,” and urged that they “be bypassed—by strategy or technology.”24 Warden also es­chewed direct attacks on civilians, and his rationale for attacking industry mirrored an Air Corps Tactical School text: “If a state’s essential industries (or, if it has no industry of its own, its access to external sources) are destroyed, life becomes difficult, and the state becomes incapable of employing modern weapons and must make concessions.”25

Warden’s beliefs reinforced the Air Force’s progressive vision, and that vision has meshed well with the war aims of American presidents during the last two decades. Beginning with the 1991 Persian Gulf War, American presidents have consistently embraced air power’s progressive notions in their pursuit of victory. At the time of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Warden was the Air Staff’s deputy director of “Checkmate,” its plans and war-fighting division. A combination of factors led to his ideas forming the basis for the Desert Storm air campaign against Iraq, and chief among them was that his notions comple­mented President George H. W. Bush’s objectives. Bush viewed Saddam’s aggression as a grave threat to the energy needs of the United States and its allies, but he would not condone devastat­ing Iraq to remove the threat. Bush also viewed America’s need to respond as a moral crusade, part of “the burden of leadership and the strength that has made America the beacon of freedom in a searching world.”26 He outlined his war aims as the removal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait, restoration of the Kuwaiti regime, protection of American lives, and conditions that would provide “security and stability” in the region.27 An air campaign that tar­geted Saddam—whom Bush equated to Hitler—or his power base would help fulfill those goals.

Bush intended to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in the most effective, inexpensive way possible. Thirty-seven days of bomb­ing by a vast coalition air armada against targets in Iraq and Ku­wait facilitated a four-day ground offensive that liberated Kuwait for a cost of only 148 American combat deaths.28 Although an estimated 2,300 Iraqi civilians died in the forty-one-day air cam­paign,29 the image that much of the world—and, in particular, the U. S. Air Force—took from the war was one of a remarkably effi­cient, high technology air offensive that rapidly produced maxi­mum results for minimum costs.

That image resonated with Bush’s successor. Beginning in 1993 in Bosnia, President William Clinton committed American air power to un and NATO efforts to preserve a multiethnic state in Bosnia and halt Bosnian Serb ethnic cleansing against Mus­lim and Croat populations. He eschewed sending ground forces, convinced that such an option might prove too costly in terms of lives risked and damage inflicted. Air power’s sensational preci-

sion capability promised to minimize both concerns. In Opera­tion “Deliberate Force” against the Bosnian Serbs—twelve days of bombing in August and September 1995 in which 708 of 1,026 bombs dropped were precision-guided munitions—NATO aircraft struck forty-eight Bosnian Serb targets.30 Bosnian Serb leaders halted their attacks against Bosnia’s Croat and Muslim popula­tions, and Clinton declared that “the NATO air campaign in Bos­nia was successful.”31

His announcement omitted the likely impact of a fast-moving hundred-thousand-man offensive from the Croatian army against the northern areas of Serb-held Bosnia, as well as an invasion from the south mounted by the Muslim-Croat forces of the Bosnian Federation. Those ground assaults reclaimed significant chunks of Bosnian territory that the Serbs had controlled and threatened to take more.32 To the president, though, air power rapidly achieved success and eliminated the need for American ground forces. The air attacks risked few American lives—only one aircraft was shot down and its pilot rescued—plus enemy civilians emerged rela­tively unscathed—the Bosnian Serbs claimed that bombing had killed just twenty-five noncombatants.33

Clinton’s perception that air power had coerced the Bosnian Serbs caused him to return to that formula in response to Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and his motivations for bombing in 1999 paralleled his 1995 objectives. “Why are we in Kosovo?” he asked rhetorically during the midst of the air campaign desig­nated Allied Force. “Because we have a moral responsibility to oppose crimes against humanity and mass ethnic and religious killing where we can. Because we have a security responsibility to prevent a wider war in Europe, which we know from our two World Wars would eventually draw America in at far greater cost in lives, time, and treasure.”34

Although the 1999 Kosovo conflict was a periodically waged guerrilla struggle unlike the conventional war that Bosnia had be­come by 1995, Clinton believed that air power offered the best chance to accomplish his Kosovo goals at a minimum cost. He fur­ther thought that bombing was a more acceptable solution than a ground invasion not only to the American public but also to the nineteen states comprising NATO, and he placed a high premium on preserving the alliance. Yet he understood that maintaining NATO support—as well as an endorsement from the global com­munity at large—would be difficult “at a time when footage of airstrikes is beamed to homes across the world even before our pilots have returned to their bases, a time when every accidental civilian casualty is highlighted.”35

The seventy-eight-day Allied Force air campaign produced mixed results, but the impression of a rapid, efficient application of air power persisted with many observers. Much of the bomb­ing targeted Serb installations in the vicinity of Belgrade. Ameri­can aircraft flew the bulk of the sorties and dropped most of the twenty-eight thousand munitions expended, 38 percent of which were precision-guided.36 The war did not end, however, until the Serbs had expelled eight hundred thousand Kosovar Albanians from Kosovo, and Serbia’s loss of Russian backing and the threat of a NATO invasion may have contributed to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s decision to stop fighting.37 Precision bomb­ing also did not guarantee infallibility, as b-2 pilots mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy on the evening of 7 May, and sev­eral instances occurred in which bombs injured civilians. Still, the bombing killed just five hundred Serb noncombatants, and only one American aircraft—and no pilots—were lost.38 Given that air power was the sole instrument of military force used, some onlook­ers, like the distinguished British military historian John Keegan and Dartmouth professor Andrew Stigler, claimed that bombing had achieved a dramatic solo victory.39 “There are certain dates in the history of warfare that mark real turning points,” declared Keegan. “Now there is a new turning point to fix on the calen­dar: June 3, 1999, when the capitulation of President Milosevic proved that a war can be won by airpower alone.”40

Such seemingly antiseptic displays of air power led President George W. Bush to rely on bombing as a significant component of his military ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush’s father had relied heavily on bombing to liberate Kuwait, and the elder Bush’s use of air power likely heightened his son’s perception that bombing could achieve dramatic results. Against Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, U. S. Air Force and Navy aircraft in Operation “Enduring Freedom” were by far the dominant com­ponents of American military force marshaled in the aftermath of the 11 September terrorist attacks. Bush relied on twenty thou­sand troops of the Afghan Northern Alliance for support on the ground, supplemented by small numbers of American and nato Special Forces.41 The collapse of the Taliban regime in December 2001 after two months of bombing, and with only twelve fatali­ties suffered by American ground forces, further vindicated Bush’s belief that air power could achieve a quick, inexpensive victory.42 He commented in December 2001 that precision-guided muni­tions offered “great promise” and “have been the majority of the munitions we have used. We’re striking with greater effectiveness, at greater range, with fewer civilian casualties.” Thus, he insisted, America was “redefining war on our terms.”43

The president concluded from the destruction of the Taliban re­gime that air power could help in deposing a recalcitrant Saddam Hussein thought to possess weapons of mass destruction. Bomb­ing provided the initial thrust of Operation “Iraqi Freedom” in March 2003. When intelligence reports indicated the Iraqi dic­tator was in a farm near Baghdad, Bush ordered an air strike on the facility. The attack by two F-117 stealth fighters with laser – guided bombs failed, but precision bombing remained the cen­terpiece of the “shock and awe” air campaign that began on 21 March. More than 1,500 bombs and cruise missiles struck Iraqi governmental and military installations that night in a fantastic display of American military prowess. Although the raids caused few civilian casualties, they garnered widespread media atten­tion, and much of the coverage from around the globe was highly critical.44 Bush was upset that many observers failed to appreci­ate the American ability to apply lethal doses of air power pre­cisely. He later remarked that “it was not understood that the United States had found a way to wage war that as much as pos­sible spared civilians, avoided collateral damage and targeted the leaders and their means to fight and maintain power. Wars of an­nihilation, carpet-bombing, and fire-bombing of cities should be a thing of the past.”45

Incremental Interwar Developments

The failure of the American public to respond directly to Mitch­ell’s outcry did not mean that the issue of air autonomy disap­peared, but it did mean that the steps taken during the interwar years would be incremental. National boards and committees con­tinued to study the issue of how best to organize Army aviation. The Air Corps Act of July 1926 changed the Air Service’s name to the Air Corps and provided an Assistant Secretary of War for Air and special representation on the War Department’s General Staff. It also authorized an Air Corps of twenty thousand men and r,8oo aircraft, but Congress failed to fund the expansion.

The Great Depression further slowed the Air Corps’ growth. From Г927 to Г931 annual budgets ranged from $25-30 million; in Г934 appropriations fell to $r2 million; in Г938, $3.5 million.44 Manpower, which averaged 1,500 officers and r 5,000 enlisted men during the first three Depression years, stood at only 1,700 officers and t7,ooo enlisted men as late as Г939.45 Aircraft totaled r,6r9 in Г933, of which 442 were obsolete or nonstandard.46 Still, the recommendation of the 1934 aviation board chaired by former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker led to the creation of a Gen­eral Headquarters (ghq) Air Force, containing all Air Corps com­bat units, in the spring of Г93 5. Although the air power compris­ing the ghq Air Force was never significant—in 1939 it owned just Г4 four-engine в-17 bombers—it nevertheless was one step closer toward Mitchell’s progressive vision of an autonomous air force capable of achieving an independent victory.

Establishment of the ghq Air Force did not indicate that either the nation or the Army accepted Mitchell’s air power ideology. The Baker Board’s final report cautioned: “The ideas that avia­tion, acting alone, can control the sea lanes, or defend the coast, or produce decisive results in any other general mission contem­plated under our policy are all visionary, as is the idea that a very large and independent air force is necessary to defend our coun­try against air attack.”47 The primary bomber assigned to the ghq Air Force’s three air wings at the end of the decade was the Doug­las B-18 “Bolo,” a dual-engine aircraft designed for short-range interdiction or battlefield support. The War Department ordered 217 B-i8s in 1935 over the objections of the Air Corps, which had endorsed the в-17.

To most General Staff officers, “air power” meant preventing enemy aircraft from attacking friendly troops, or using friendly aircraft to attack enemy troops and supplies near the battlefield. It did not mean achieving an independent victory from the sky— a proposition that many Army leaders viewed with thinly veiled scorn. Mitchell’s public outcries led many Army officers to reject future proposals for air force autonomy out of hand. Arnold re­marked that “they seemed to set their mouths tighter, draw more into their shell, and, if anything, take even a narrower point of view of aviation as an offensive power in warfare.”48 Army Brig­adier General Charles E. Kilbourne, chief of the General Staff’s War Plans Division, critiqued Mitchell’s impact on Army lead­ership in harsher terms. In 1934, Kilbourne remarked that “for many years the General Staff of the Army has suffered a feeling of disgust amounting at times to nausea over statements publicly made by General William Mitchell and those who followed his lead.”44

While Mitchell may have repelled many Army officers, most airmen gravitated to his message if not his methodology.50 The coterie of “believers” who surrounded him during his tenure as Assistant Chief of the Air Service—Hap Arnold, Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, William Sherman, Herbert Dargue, Robert Olds, Ken­neth Walker, Harold Lee George, and Ira C. Eaker—were not only many of the Air Corps’ future leaders, but also many of its future theorists. Together, they refined Mitchell’s notions and con­veyed them throughout the close-knit community of the airmen, and they found their audience receptive. Strong ties bonded the small number of aviators—the dangers of flying, even in peace­time, made the Air Service responsible for almost 50 percent of the Army’s active duty deaths between 1921 and 1924.51 Airmen realized as well that advancing in rank was tenuous as long as the Army controlled promotion lists, given that most Army leaders viewed the air weapon as an auxiliary feature of a ground force. After Arnold and Dargue received reprimands in 1926 for send­ing Congressmen pro-autonomy literature, most airmen adopted a stoic posture that reflected Mitchell’s ideas, but they hesitated to speak those thoughts too loudly outside their clan.

Air chiefs also absorbed Mitchell’s notions. Mason Patrick, who initially shunned Mitchell’s ideas on Air Service autonomy and regarded him as “a spoiled brat,”52 submitted a study to the War Department in December 1924 advocating “a united air force” that placed “all of the component air units, and possibly all aero­nautical development under one responsible and directing head.” As for its wartime usage, Patrick asserted that “we should gather our air forces together under one air commander and strike at the strategic points of our enemy—cripple him even before our ground forces come into contact.”53 Patrick’s successors as Chief of the Air Corps—James E. Fechet, Benjamin Foulois, Oscar Westover, and Hap Arnold—were equally committed to Mitchell’s goal of an independent air force and shared his faith that air power could single-handedly win wars (although Foulois disliked Mitchell per­sonally). Brigadier (later Major) General Frank Andrews, who commanded the ghq Air Force from 193 5-39, was an air power disciple who relentlessly spouted Mitchellese to both the War De­partment and the public, and like Mitchell was banished to Fort Sam Houston. Aside from Andrews and the outspoken Foulois, however, air leaders restrained their advocacy. Most worked to improve relations with the War Department while securing high visibility peacetime missions that stressed air power’s ability to defend the nation.54 Although Mitchell the prophet remained up­permost in their minds, so too did Mitchell the martyr.

Focus on Oil, September-December 1944

In September Eisenhower returned operational control of the usstaf to Spaatz, and the usstaf commander intensified his assault on the target that he thought would end the war most rapidly—oil. Eighth Air Force launched “thousand bomber raids” on synthetic oil plants, refineries, and related industries on 27 and 28 September and again on 3, 6, and 7 October, with the last day’s effort total­ing more than 1,300 heavies, of which 52 were lost, and most of those to flak.81 The weather, though, refused to cooperate. In Oc­tober American bombers launched only three entirely “precision” raids on oil targets, and Germany’s synthetic oil production tri­pled from its output the previous month. Radar attacks produced dismal results—of 81,654 tons of bombs dropped by Eighth Air Force using H2X between i September and 31 December 1944, only 674 tons—0.8 percent—fell within one thousand feet of the aiming point.82 Clear skies did not guarantee good bombing, how­ever. Despite the large size of the oil facilities, only small parts of them contained equipment truly vital to production. Those com­ponents were hard to hit, even with the Norden bombsight, and flak bursts made the task especially difficult.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff kept oil as the top target for both usstaf and raf Bomber Command when they met in late Octo­ber. Germany remained overcast for most of November, and Al­lied ground forces continued to demand air support. In addition, the Luftwaffe revealed a new threat—the Me-262 jet fighter— that could fly 100 mph faster than the Mustang and could also fly on cheap, plentiful kerosene. Despite those concerns, Eighth Air

Force flew four raids a week throughout November that averaged more than one thousand heavy bombers against oil and transpor­tation targets, which occupied the second spot on the Combined Chiefs’ target list.8’ Eighth Air Force heavies dropped 39 percent of their bombs that month on oil targets, and the Fifteenth’s heavy bombers did the same with 32 percent of their ordnance, but ra­dar bombing occurred on most attacks, raf Bomber Command also contributed 24 percent of its November ordnance to the oil campaign, again by radar techniques. The German oil system that had suffered so severely in the summer continued to rebound.84

Still, Spaatz thought that the weight of ordnance dropped on oil and transportation targets might prove decisive. On 13 De­cember he informed Arnold: “There is increasing evidence that the attacks on rail communications and industrial areas in Ger­many are having a cumulative effect. There is [a] possibility that the breaking point may be closer at hand than some of us are will­ing to admit.”85 Three days later Spaatz realized that the desired breaking point remained elusive.

Twenty-First-Century Dilemmas of Progressive American Air Power

Progressive sentiments have continued to guide America’s appli­cation of air power in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but the results have not matched the rhetoric. Both conflicts have evolved into struggles against irregular units in which ground combat has dom­inated. Enemy fighting techniques have varied from guerrilla war­fare, replete with suicide terrorism, booby traps, and roadside bombs, to occasional massed uprisings. Generally, when the en­emy chooses to fight, civilians are likely to be close at hand, which increases the chances of bombing mistakes even with the sophis­ticated technology now available in the likes of Predator drones and satellite-guided bombs. In Iraq, an estimated 1,560 civilian deaths resulted from air strikes between 2006 and 2008.46 In Af­ghanistan, according to un assessments, air raids killed 116 civil­ians in 2006, 321 in 2007, and 522 in 2008.47

The trend is especially discouraging in Afghanistan, where ef-

forts to compensate for the lack of ground troops with air power have given way to increased restrictions on bombing near civil­ians, and in Pakistan, where American drones have attacked Tal­iban and al Qaeda forces in the tribal areas on Afghanistan’s bor­der.48 America’s success in stabilizing Afghanistan depends in large measure on how public opinion—both locally and throughout the Muslim world—perceives America’s use of force. Afghan Presi­dent Hamid Karzai has condemned American air strikes on sev­eral occasions, noting that civilian casualties continue to under­mine the support of the Afghan populace for the American war effort.49 Episodes of collateral damage in Pakistan, where air strikes that killed fourteen terrorist leaders have also killed an estimated seven hundred civilians, have produced intense anti-American protests in an already fragile nation that possesses nuclear weap­ons.30 Aware of the negative impact of civilian losses, Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents have tailored their tactics accordingly, and work hard to guarantee that the news media broadcast bombing mistakes to the world at large.

Besides dealing with collateral damage, American political lead­ers and air commanders today still face the same great problem that confronted Roosevelt and his air chiefs—determining how bombing that destroys the desired targets will speed the end of a conflict. The odds that current precision-guided munitions will hit their desired target are exponentially higher than they were for the high explosive and incendiary bombs carried by в-17s and B-29S. Yet determining the ultimate impact of such bombing that does strike home—whether the target is a supply of roadside explosives, a suspected nuclear facility, or a notorious terrorist leader—remains incredibly difficult. The task is especially ardu­ous when confronting enemies, reminiscent of the Germans and Japanese in World War II, who are utterly committed to the cause that they support. Historian Robert F. Futrell, in his analysis of the Air Force in the Korean War, commented on this problem that remains a great dilemma for those who tout air power’s ability to achieve rapid, inexpensive success: “Air intelligence could tar­get physical objectives for attack and could calculate the physi­cal damage done to the air targets by air strikes, but it was not able to determine what significance a particular physical objec­tive might have to the Communist regime nor could it project the effect of a given amount of destruction upon the hostile regime’s primarily political decision to end the fighting.”51

The progressive vision that has shaped American air power dur­ing the past eight decades has created enormous challenges for it in the years ahead. That vision portrays bombing as a rational, just military instrument that helps achieve victory more quickly, with less destruction and fewer lives lost—on both sides—than surface combat. This notion of efficiency has had an enduring ap­peal to American air commanders and presidents alike. In many respects those political chiefs have found air power’s siren song even more enticing than have the airmen, for it seemingly offers political leaders a way to eliminate a perceived evil cheaply, and without having to inflict undesired pain. In the classic phrasing of Johns Hopkins professor Eliot Cohen, “Air power is an un­usually seductive form of military strength, in part because, like modern courtship, it appears to offer gratification without com­mitment.”52

Much like President Roosevelt, Presidents George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush all turned to bombing to help fight wars that each viewed as a just crusade, and each believed that air power’s progressive ideals blended well with the war’s righ­teous cause. President Barack Obama has also relied on bomb­ing to thwart America’s enemies.53 The presidents have all tried to achieve success by risking the fewest American lives, and re­lying on air power has risked fewer Americans than turning to armies or navies. Yet the war aims sought and the type of war en­countered have profoundly affected bow air power could be ap­plied. Roosevelt pursued unconditional surrender in a total war. That political objective condoned such methods as area bomb­ing to produce victory as rapidly as possible. His successors have all pursued goals far more circumscribed in conflicts far more constrained. Despite having vastly more sophisticated technology available, presidents can no longer apply it in unlimited fashion— limited goals demand limited applications of violence. In the age of cnn and al Jazeera, collateral damage is an American enemy’s best friend, and perceptions of damage inflicted often count more than reality. The limited goals sought in the wars that America is most likely to fight will demand not only extreme precision from air power, but also, in many cases, infallibility, and that is a very tall order for any type of military force.

Ultimately, tying air power’s progressive ideals to a wartime crusade leads to a strategy based more on faith than sound reason­ing. Episodes of collateral damage will continue to offset positive pronouncements of air power accomplishments made by Amer­ican leaders. Although proponents may proclaim that air power can end wars quickly and cheaply, skeptics—in particular, non – American skeptics—can argue that such progressive views ap­ply only to proponents who are also U. S. citizens. The emphasis on the speedy conclusion of hostilities and a small loss of life ap­pears ideally suited to Americans, who have the world’s greatest air power and have displayed a willingness to use it, in the last two decades, as their first choice of military options.

To some observers, the espoused progressive notions are mor­ally bankrupt, and really equate to assuring the smallest possible loss of life for American combatants, rather than guaranteeing no civilian casualties—as was indeed the case during the last years of World War II. Author David Halberstam summarized Opera­tion “Allied Force” against Serbia as follows: “The war may have started with Milosevic’s brutality against the Albanians, but what much of the world was soon watching was a big, rich, technolog­ically advanced nation bombing a poor, little country, and doing it in a way that showed its unwillingness to accept casualties it­self.”54 Air Force Lieutenant General Michael Short, the air com­mander responsible for conducting Allied Force, seemingly con­firmed that assessment by listing one of his primary objectives as “zero losses. … I wanted to destroy the target set and bring this guy [Milosevic] to the negotiating table without losing our kids.”55 Many of the world’s onlookers likely nodded at Short’s admis­sion, and believe that such emphasis will continue to guide appli­cations of American air power.

Many around the globe also discount American assurances that precision bombing will not threaten noncombatants. Although American political and military leaders continue to make such promises, bombing mistakes consistently prove them wrong. The more limited the conflict, the greater the progressive rhetoric seem­ingly becomes, and the greater the probability that “collateral damage” will undermine the political goals sought.

The key problem in stressing progressive air power as an as­pect of American military prowess is that it does not suit war’s basic nature, much less the types of war that America now faces. As Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz observed, the fundamental nature of war is constant, a swirling mix of vio­lence, hatred, and enmity; calculated reason; and probability and chance.56 No amount of technological wizardry can remove those components, no matter how sophisticated the technology, or how sound the intentions of those who apply it.

Clausewitz added: “Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy with­out too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst.”57 More than half a cen­tury after Spaatz stood on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay, American air commanders and their political leaders still control the world’s mightiest air force. As long as they continue to rely on it to help achieve their objectives in war, they must emphasize Clausewitz’s realism, not the progressive notions of Mitchell and his successors. In the end, progressive air power is an enticing idea waiting to be victimized by conflicting goals, uncooperative ene­mies, and the imposing momentum that every war generates.

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[2]

[3]

Refining the Ideals: The Air Corps Tactical School

Mitchell’s prophecy not only endured among air leaders, it also was the fundamental underpinning of the Air Corps Tactical School (acts), the focal point of American air power study during the in­terwar years.55 The school provided an intense, nine-month, air power-focused curriculum to the Air Corps’ top mid-level officers, and graduated 261 of the 320 generals serving in the Army Air Forces at the end of World War II.56 Initial classes were small. An average of 22 students attended while the school was located at Langley Field from 1920 to 1931, and they learned “the air tactics and techniques necessary for direction of air units in cooperation with other branches of the armed forces.”57 By 1926 the curricu­lum’s focus had begun to shift to independent air operations, and by 1935 it stressed the bomber as a war-winning weapon.58

In concert with the new emphasis, the school moved to Max­well Field, Alabama, and also acquired more students: the aver­age increased to fifty-nine in 1931, and jumped to one hundred in 1939, when a series of four twelve-week courses began.’9 Mitchell had been instrumental in founding the school, and his bombing manual still served as a textbook in 193 9.60 Many of the school’s officer-instructors were his proteges. Sherman, Dargue, George, Olds, and Walker—the latter two had served as Mitchell’s aides— filled key positions on the faculty, and all promoted Mitchell’s vi­sion of independent air power founded on the bomber.

From the student perspective, the Tactical School opened new vistas in air power thought. Laurence S. Kuter, who left the Forty- ninth Bombardment Squadron at Langley Field to begin school in the class of 1934-35 as a new first lieutenant (and the second youngest member of the class), later commented that “imagina­tions were released, aroused at Maxwell, when they were dormant at Langley. I think I’m speaking for all of my generation at the time. We had our first introduction to any sort of air strategy.”61 Major Ira C. Eaker, a distinguished pilot sporting a Southern Cal­ifornia journalism degree who graduated from the Tactical School in 1936, remarked: “If military education may be likened to a bad pill, it is not too much to say that a very satisfactory sugar coat­ing is put on it at Maxwell Field.”62

Students attended classes Monday through Friday from 0900- 1200, with afternoons reserved for flying and Wednesday after­noons off. For much of the 1930s horsemanship was a mandatory course, although most of the curriculum explored more serious subjects. Between 1931 and 1938, courses the first half of the year focused on specific branches of the Army, such as the infan­try, cavalry, and artillery, while naval topics also received atten­tion. The study of air power dominated the second half of the curriculum. The Department of Air Tactics and Strategy was re­sponsible for that instruction, and the “Air Force” section was its primary subdivision. Other branches included “Observation,” “Attack Aviation,” “Pursuit,” and “Bombardment,” with the most hours devoted to “Bombardment.” A faculty and staff consisting of twenty-two officers in 1935 oversaw the school’s program. Of that total seventeen were in the Air Corps.63

The Air Corps officers serving on the Tactical School faculty played an enormous role in shaping air power convictions. Most students arriving at Maxwell needed little convincing that Air Corps autonomy was a worthwhile goal, although the notion of a separate air force did not receive an overriding emphasis in fly­ing squadrons.64 Entering students also likely agreed that the inde­pendent application of air power was the key to achieving separa­tion from the Army. What the Tactical School—“the only common location of experienced air corps officers who had enough time for creative thinking”65—provided them was a distinctive meth­odology for applying air power to achieve victory independently of surface forces, and hence a rationale for service autonomy. The officers who developed the unique approach were an eclec­tic group, possessing disparate backgrounds and large amounts of flying time. Lieutenant Kenneth Walker, who began teaching the “Bombardment” course in 1929, had developed bomber forma­tion tactics just before his arrival at Maxwell while serving as the Second Bombardment Group’s operations officer; Major Donald Wilson, who taught the “Air Force” course from 1931 to 1934, had worked for American railroads before entering the military. Walker and Wilson typified those who passionately believed in an independent air force and who openly debated its merits in the kitchens of student and faculty quarters late at night over ma­son jars of moonshine. Yet in the classrooms—which contained a smattering of students w’ho were not airmen—the appeal for air autonomy rested on the logic of the school’s unique approach to bombing.66

No instructor made that pitch better than Major Harold Lee George. Before teaching at the Tactical School, George flew day bombers in World War I, helped Billy Mitchell sink the Ostfries – land and testified at his court-martial, and served as a bomber test pilot at Aberdeen Proving Ground. He directed the school’s Bombardment section from 1932 to 1934, and then doubled for two years as the director of Air Tactics and Strategy and its “Air Force” subdivision. The holder of a George Washington Univer­sity law degree and winner of a national competition in typing and shorthand, he played a major role in structuring the curriculum that formed the basis of America’s World War II strategic bomb­ing doctrine. His progressive views on the nature of war and air power paralleled those of Mitchell—with whom he corresponded frequently—and were manifest in his opening lecture for the “Air Force” course. He began by telling his students:

The question for you to consider from today onward, to have con­stantly before you as you continue your military careers, is substan­tially this:

Has the advent of air power brought into existence a method for the prosecution of war which has revolutionized that art and given to air forces a strategical objective of their own, independent of ei­ther land or naval forces, the attainment of which might, in itself, ac­complish the purpose of war; or has air power merely added another weapon to the waging of war which makes it in fact only an auxil­iary of the traditional military forces?67

George then outlined the probable answer. “Modern inven­tions” such as the machine gun and rapid-fire artillery signifi­cantly increased the power of defensive land warfare, he asserted, and a conflict similar to the world war “might mean a breakdown of civilization itself.” Yet he also argued that achieving victory did not require defeating an enemy’s army. Pointing to 1918, he stated that Germany surrendered because its populace lost the will to resist, not because its army had been destroyed. Overcoming hostile will was the true object of war. “The continuous denial of those things which are essential, not only for the prosecution of war but to sustain life itself” compelled the German people to yield. The Allied blockade threatened Germany with starvation, but George did not believe that such drastic measures were nec­essary to cause national will to collapse. “There is plenty of indi­cation that modern nations are interdependent,” he maintained, “not so much for the essentials of life as for those ‘non-essentials’ needed to conduct their daily lives under the existing standards of living.” Because most aspects of modern society were not self – sufficient—for example, many workers in large cities depended on public transportation to get to work, and many factories and homes received electric power from distant locations—eliminat­ing the interdependent features of normal life might suffice to crack civilian morale.68

Moreover, George insisted, the key elements that sustained nor­mal life were the same ones that enabled a nation to wage modern war. Interrupting this economic web would likely defeat a nation, and air power could attack it directly, preventing an exhaustive ground campaign or a time-consuming sea blockade. “It is possi­ble that the moral collapse brought about by the break-up of this closely knit web would be sufficient fto cause defeat],” he pos­tulated, “but connected therewith is the industrial fabric which is absolutely essential for modern war. To continue a war which is hopeless is worse than an undesirable peace, because the lat­ter will come soon or late anyway; but to continue a modern war without machinery is impossible.”69

Despite his obvious conclusion, George stopped short of say­ing that air power could win a war single-handedly. He noted that the prospect remained “an academic question,” but added: “That the air phase of a future war between major powers will be the decisive phase seems to be accepted as more and more plausible as each year passes.”70

The belief, widely shared among Tactical School instructors, that the industrial apparatus essential to a state’s war-making ca­pability was also necessary to sustain its populace was a funda­mental tenet of the school’s “industrial web theory.” In brief, its main points were: (i) in “modern warfare,” the military, polit­ical, economic, and social facets of a nation’s existence were so “closely and absolutely interdependent” that interruption of this delicate balance could suffice to defeat an enemy state; (2) bomb­ing, precisely aimed at these “vital centers” of an enemy’s industrial complex, could wreck the fragile equilibrium and hence destroy the enemy state’s war-making capability; and (3) such destruction would also wreck the enemy nation’s capacity to sustain normal day-to-day life, which would in turn destroy the will of its pop­ulace to fight.71 Those notions would guide American strategic bombing for the next half century.

Although seemingly straightforward, the industrial web the­ory stemmed from a hodgepodge of ingredients, and the Tactical School cooks who stirred them together sometimes added more of one item than another. Clausewitzian frameworks and Marxist economics, set against the backdrop of World War I’s totality, fla­vored the instructors’ thoughts on war. George’s lecture echoed a 1926 school publication that viewed the objective of war as “un­dermining the enemy’s morale, his will to resist,”72 yet George also noted that destroying the capability to fight might be the key to wrecking will. The school attempted to differentiate between the “national” objective of wrecking will and the “military” aim of destroying “the enemy’s material and moral means of resis­tance,” but the multi-layered goals overlapped and distinctions between them were subtle—especially when discussing air power that promised victory in one fell swoop.73

According to the Tactical School, the capability to fight mod­ern war stemmed from a nation’s economic prowess, and eco­nomic concerns generated war’s impetus. А Г934 lecture asserted that “world conflicts arise over outlets for over-production”; an­other added that modern wars “are essentially economic wars, caused by the clash of rival production machines.”74 Using air power to destroy those machines would eliminate the motive for conflict—hence removing the will to keep fighting. “Air power is the only means of waging war which has the capability of strik­ing directly at the will to resist of a hostile nation, by paralyzing its economic structure and threatening its very existence,” con­cluded a school text.75 Instructors further elaborated: “The prin­cipal and all important mission of air power, when its equipment permits, is the attack of those vital objectives in a nation’s eco­nomic structure which will tend to paralyze that nation’s ability to wage war and thus contribute directly to the attainment of the ultimate objective of war, namely, the disintegration of the hos­tile will to resist.”76

Besides Clausewitz and Marx, the industrial web theory hear­kened to Nap Gorrell and Billy Mitchell. In 1935 the mustachioed Lieutenant Kuter, now an instructor in the school’s Bombardment section after graduating first in his class, discovered a copy of Gor – rell’s plan and decided to devote an entire lecture to it. He con­tacted Gorrell—who had become president of the American Air Transport Association—to verify that the lecture conveyed the es­sence of the 1917 proposal, and Gorrell invited him to his Chi­cago office to discuss it. When Kuter arrived he found that the re­tired colonel had distributed copies of the lecture to many senior officers from the First World War. All expressed satisfaction that it accurately represented the past, as did Gorrell himself.77 An in­vigorated Kuter then returned to Maxwell. “No principle or doc­trine in the Confidential Air Force text that is being written today was missed in that plan,” he proclaimed to his students. “We may return to our steel desks considerably refreshed by the knowledge that our school plans and our theories are not only supported by, but identical with the plans of the level-headed commanders in the field when the grim realities of actual war demanded effec­tive employment.”78

Like both Gorrell and Mitchell, most Tactical School instruc­tors equated the will of the nation to the will of its populace. They also presumed that civilian will was fragile, and that bombs could crack it without killing large numbers of people. Air power would instead break morale by putting people out of work. “The effects of an attack against the industrial facilities on the social life of a nation can not be overestimated,” stated a 1934 text. “The psy­chological effect caused by idleness is probably more important in its influence upon morale than any other single factor.”79 Un­employment further offered a gauge to determine when civilian will was on the verge of collapse. “The effectiveness of an air of­fensive against a nation may find its yard stick in the number of people which it will deny work,” a 1936 lecture asserted. “Idle­ness breeds discontent—and discontent destroys morale.”80

Tactical School instructors considered the prospect of destroy­ing enemy will by attacking the populace directly, but dismissed the idea because they believed it less effective than an attack on key industries. In addition, many thought that such an approach was inhumane. Major Muir S. Fairchild, like George a veteran of World War I day bombers, told students in 1938 that “the direct attack of civilian populations is most repugnant to our humani­tarian principles, and certainly it is a method of warfare that we would adopt only with great reluctance and regret. . . . Further­more, aside from the psychological effects on the workers, this at­tack does not directly injure the war making capacity of the na­tion.” Fie also argued that it was difficult to determine the amount of bombs needed to terrorize a population to such a degree that it forced its government to surrender. Thus, Fairchild advocated at­tacks on the industrial web, which would have “the great virtue of reducing the capacity for war of the hostile nation, and of ap­plying pressure to the population both at the same time and with equal efficiency and effectiveness.”81

To George, efficient bombing was the overriding concern. He rejected the direct attack on populations, “not because of the fact that it might violate some precept of humanity,” but because at­tacking the industrial web promised greater dividends, and prom­ised them sooner, than killing civilians. Railroads, refineries, elec­tric power, and key industries were his targets of choice; “no highly industrialized nation could continue existence” without them. Yet George also provided a caveat that left the door ajar for attacks that did more than just disrupt normal life. He remarked that “any sane nation” would capitulate once the key threads of its indus­trial web were severed. If surrender did not occur—implying that the enemy was not rational—as a last resort the attacker might de­stroy the enemy’s water supply system. George acknowledged that doing so would have grave implications. “The results and conse­quences of such an attack are too terrible for any nation to bring about unless it offered probably the only means in which it could be successful in the prosecution of the war,” he cautioned.82

Much like Mitchell, the Tactical School instructors presumed a uniform code of rationality for both the government and the pop­ulace of any modern nation attacked from the air. The government would “sense” the discomfort of its people and would act to end their pain. Accordingly, the attacker should avoid bombing gov­ernment centers, because “the political establishment must remain intact if the attitude of the people at large is to be rapidly sensed and given appropriate consideration.”83 Instructors expected the attitudes of a beleaguered government and its populace to resemble

those projected for “the greatest industrial nation in the world— the United States.” Major Fairchild observed that America’s vul­nerability to a well-conceived air offensive mirrored that of other industrialized powers. He asserted that the key elements of Amer­ican production were 11,842 “critical” factories, almost half of which were located in New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachu­setts. Destroying the factories in those three states, or the trans­portation or power systems linking them, would “apply tremen­dous pressure to our civilian population while at the same time seriously imparing [sic] our ability and capacity to wage war.”84 Tactical School instructors thought that such destruction would fatally affect American morale. “With life unbearable or perhaps not even supportable, it seemed that even the sturdiest people in our own Northeast country with their army and navy could soon be persuaded to yield to the will of an enemy with effective inde­pendent air action,” Kuter remembered.85

The school devoted much time to determining which particu­lar elements in the industrial web would have the greatest impact if destroyed. Here too, the United States served as the predom­inant example for the theorizing. Fairchild noted that without adequate raw materials and the power to drive machinery, the American industrial complex could not function. A precarious balance held the system together even in peacetime; a strike in a small factory producing door latches for automobiles had halted production in many automobile factories across the country. The demands of war strained that balance to the utmost, as could be seen from the failure of American industry to provide more than token support to the Allied cause in 1917-18.

“A careful and complete scientific analysis” would identify the proper targets, Fairchild insisted.86 The key was to pinpoint ba­sic commodities essential for both public services and war-fight­ing. Once identified, air power could attack them in a variety of

ways. Factories manufacturing essential commodities were usually found in specific locales, adjacent to raw materials, markets, la­bor, or lines of communication. They were generally large enough to allow easy identification from the air and too numerous to al­low “an efficient local defense.”87 Examples included the steel in­dustry in Pittsburgh and Birmingham, and the brass industry in Connecticut. Besides destroying the factories, air power could eliminate essential commodities by attacking the raw materials needed to produce them. Removing either coal or iron ore would prevent the production of steel. A school text concluded: “Air power could thus defeat a nation by depriving it of just one com­modity, [such as] steel, because no nation can successfully wage war without it.”88

Because Tactical School instructors based the industrial web theory on American projections, they have since been criticized for “mirror-imaging”—substituting America’s economic and social make-up for that of all other industrialized nations. Kuter later remarked that they had little choice. A small number of officers (seventeen total) from Britain, Canada, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey attended the school, and their presence prevented in­structors from focusing their analysis on potential enemies Ger­many and Japan. “It would have been unthinkable in peacetime to have U. S. Army Air Corps officers estimating the national fab­ric of an industrial nation, searching for critical and vulnerable elements and concluding how many long range heavy bombers would be required to overcome their will to resist our objectives,” Kuter recalled. “Not only would it have been politically unthink­able to assume that another nation was our enemy, but at the acts it would have been downright embarrassing.”89 Haywood S. Han – sell, a first lieutenant fighter-pilot-turned-bomber-advocate who taught with Kuter in the Bombardment section, remembered that instructors deemed target selection a problem for industrial econ­omists. Since the school had none, it “did the best it could. It rea­soned that other great nations were not unlike our own, and that an analysis of American industry would lead to sound conclu­sions about German industry, or Japanese industry, or any other great power’s industry.”90

Yet in the final analysis, Hansell, Kuter, and their compatriots did not project American characteristics onto the socioeconomic infrastructure of their potential enemies. They instead replicated their perceptions of the United States, and those perceptions in all likelihood did not conform to reality. Like Billy Mitchell, the in­structors assumed that the American populace had a low thresh­old of pain, that it would demand surrender once key industrial centers in the Northeast were destroyed, and that the government would acquiesce to the request. Such assumptions ignored—as had Mitchell—the nature of the enemy and its war aims, and Amer­ica’s own goals in the conflict, which may have been that high – priced survival was preferable to occupation. Those assumptions also underestimated the resilience of industrial complexes and the possibility that dispersal and deception might keep them running in spite of bombs. In short, the enemy state portrayed by the Tac­tical School was a generic one, stripped of fundamental elements like culture and ideology. Overcoming its “will to resist” became a straightforward goal with quantifiable results.91

The instructors realized that their vision of the future rested on theory rather than fact, but countered that the lack of proof for their claims was no certainty that air power could not achieve them.92 To bolster their convictions they relied on large doses of progressive philosophy. “Air power is the natural enemy of a well-organized state,” they asserted in 193 5.93 Technological ad­vance had made the various facets of a modern state interdepen­dent, linked together by strands of a delicate web. Air power was the ideal means to severe those threads quickly. “The more speed­ily a war is over and the world can revert to its normal peace­time pursuits, the better it is for the entire world,” George re­marked.94 Mitchell had said much the same, and so had Douhet, whose translated works were available at Maxwell.95 Yet neither Mitchell nor Douhet placed the overriding emphasis on accurate bombing that came from the Tactical School. Although Mitchell stressed precision attacks against a hostile fleet, he also advocated the development of “aerial torpedoes,” self-propelled, remotely controlled bombs accurate enough only to “hit great cities.”96 For Douhet, population centers were legitimate targets, and victory would come from terrorizing the enemy populace into demand­ing peace. Tactical School instructors believed that such random bombing could not rapidly snip away the key strands of the in­dustrial web.

In 1930, the school shunned night bombing as inefficient; texts stated that daylight was necessary to pinpoint key targets.97 But attacking in daylight exposed aircrews to enemy defenses, forc­ing them to attack at high altitudes to avoid anti-aircraft artillery (aaa) and in formation for mutual protection against enemy fight­ers. High altitude bombing was also inherently more inaccurate than that conducted at lower levels, and in 1930 the Air Corps did not possess a bombsight that assured a reasonable degree of precision. Nor did it possess a bomber that could deliver a sub­stantial bomb load against an enemy’s economic web. Neverthe­less, Tactical School instructors continued to refine the industrial web theory, confident that air technology would ultimately pro­vide them with a means to implement it without suffering crip­pling losses.

In the days before radar, air maneuvers appeared to show that even antiquated bombers could attack targets in daylight and emerge relatively unscathed. The defending fighters often failed to locate the bomber formations, and if they did so, it was often too late to intercept them. Major Walter H. Frank, the Tactical School’s Assistant Commandant, remarked after watching Г929 air maneuvers in Ohio: “There is considerable doubt among the umpires as to the ability of any air organization to stop a well – organized, well flown air attack.”98 Mitchell’s former aide, Lieu­tenant Kenneth Walker, echoed this sentiment as a Bombardment instructor from Г929 to 1933, and the notion found its way into Tactical School texts. Most instructors believed that the defensive firepower of tight formations would ward off any fighters that happened to intercept a bomber attack. Still, they considered the possibility of an escort fighter that could accompany bombers to target, but dismissed the notion for two reasons: (r) they could not envision an aerodynamic design that successfully melded a fighter’s speed and maneuverability with a bomber’s range; and (2) money for both fighter and bomber development simply did not exist during the Depression, and fighters were not going to gain the independent victory that would lead to an autonomous air force.99 Major Claire Chennault, who directed the Tactical School’s Pursuit section from Г934 to Г935, adamantly opposed using fighters as escorts—in his mind, their sole mission was air defense.100 Dogmatic views also prevailed regarding anti-aircraft artillery. Kuter recalled teaching that “anti-aircraft gunfire may be important but should be ignored.” He also remembered that in classroom exercises instructors deemed “bombing inaccuracy”— not enemy defenses—the greatest threat to a successful air offen­sive. “Nothing could stop us,” he reflected. “I mean this was a zealous crowd.”101

The confidence displayed by faculty and students at the acts would intensify during the decade with the development of the four-engine в-17 “Flying Fortress” and the sophisticated Norden bombsight. Together, those technological marvels seemingly of­fered the means to validate the industrial web theory. Yet before that theory could be put to the test, the Army’s leaders had to en­dorse it. A difficult challenge loomed for the believers in progres­sive air power—one that was far more demanding than Mitchell faced in sinking the Ostfriesland.

The Ardennes and Its Aftermath

On 16 December 1944, the Germans demonstrated in convinc­ing fashion that they still possessed both the capability and will to continue the war. The Ardennes offensive stunned Allied lead­ers, most of whom had assumed that Germany was on the brink of collapse. Spaatz shifted usstaf’s focus from oil to transporta­tion centers west of the Rhine, and Eighth Air Force flew only one mission against oil targets between 16 December and 8 January.86 By 28 January the “Battle of the Bulge” claimed eighty-one thou­sand American casualties—making it the bloodiest engagement in American military history.87 Soon after it began Eisenhower con­sidered asking for ten additional divisions. Although he decided against the extra manpower, he ordered the first American execu­tion of a deserter in eighty years to stiffen the resolve of his troops against the German onslaught.88 Intelligence appraisals now esti­mated that the war might last until 1946, while the Selective Ser­vice upped draft quotas for January and February 1945 from sixty thousand to eighty thousand.89 In early January, Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall stated: “We now face a situation requiring major decisions to prevent this war from dragging on for some time.” He asked for Eisenhower’s “broad personal esti­mate of the resources required and the steps to be taken to bring this war in Europe to a quick conclusion.”90

As Allied losses mounted the progressive rationale originally presented for Thunderclap became more and more appealing: an aerial Armageddon might actually wreck Germany’s will to fight, end the war, and save Allied lives. Arnold had expressed similar sentiments in waxing about how America would approach fu­ture conflicts to scientist Theodore von Karman a month before the Bulge attack. “It is a fundamental principle of democracy that personnel casualties are distasteful,” Arnold opined. “We will continue to fight mechanical rather than manpower wars.”91 The European struggle now threatened to become an extended battle of attrition on the ground, and the bomber seemingly offered the mechanical means to stop the slaughter in one fell swoop. More­over, the goal of unconditional surrender dictated the destruction of the Nazi government and its administrative apparatus, and that government appeared more than capable of continuing the con­flict. The planned air assault would wreck key Nazi offices in Ber­lin. Their location near the city’s main residential area guaranteed that the civilians supporting that government would feel the full fury of a raid that illustrated the bankrupt nature of the Nazi re­gime. Marshall agreed, and also recommended that a similar at­tack on Munich “would probably be of great benefit because it would show the people that are being evacuated to Munich that there is no hope.”92

In the meantime, the Red Army’s advance in the East had reached the point where it would benefit directly from the destruction of transportation hubs like Berlin—and Arnold wanted to demon­strate the impact of American air power to the Soviets.93 He was dismayed over bombing’s failure to defeat Germany on its own, writing to Spaatz that despite a five-to-one superiority in the air, and “in spite of all our hopes, anticipations, dreams and plans, we have as yet not been able to capitalize to the extent which we should. We may not be able to force capitulation of the Germans by air attacks, but on the other hand, with this tremendous strik­ing power, it would seem to me that we should get much better and decisive results than we are getting now.”94 Arnold further de­spaired over the paltry results achieved thus far by the в-29 offen­sive against Japan—stress that would help trigger his fourth heart attack on 17 January. The proposed attack on Berlin promised independent success that could overshadow the meager perfor­mance in the Pacific. A bombing-induced German collapse would not only save a multitude of Allied lives, it would cause political and military leaders around the world to acknowledge air power as the source of salvation. Thunderclap thus offered the chance to satisfy numerous concerns. A 31 January 1945 directive made selected cities in eastern Germany, “where heavy attack will cause great confusion in civilian evacuation from the east and hamper reinforcements,” the Combined Bomber Offensive’s highest pri­ority targets after oil.9S

Those factors, together with the abundance of bombers avail­able, led Spaatz to attack Berlin, Leipzig, and Dresden in February 1945. Yet the magnitude of the 3 February Berlin assault did not approach Thunderclap proportions.96 The expectation of clouds over the city precluded precision attacks on oil targets and made transportation facilities and an array of government buildings— both of which had larger “footprints” than individual synthetic oil plants—the primary objectives for radar attacks. Once over Ber­lin, however, crews found the skies predominantly clear, and most bombed visually. Almost one thousand B-17S dropped 2,279 tons of bombs on the city, causing heavy damage to the Reichschancel – lery, Air Ministry, Foreign Office, Ministry of Propaganda, and Gestapo headquarters, as well as to many railroad marshalling yards.97 The raid may have killed as many as twenty-five thou­sand people.98 Against Leipzig and Dresden, the Eighth Air Force again attacked rail yards. In the 14-15 February raids on Dres­den, clouds obscured the target, and crews mistakenly dumped their bombs on Dresden’s main residential district, which had been heavily bombed the night before by the raf. Refugees fleeing the Russians clogged the city, and between twenty-five thousand and thirty-five thousand civilians perished in the multiple assaults.99

Technically, the attacks on Berlin and Dresden were aimed at military objectives. Two days after the Berlin mission, Spaatz re­vealed that he had little faith in the notion that a single, mas­sive bombing raid could compel German surrender, telling Ar­nold: “Your comment on the decisiveness of results achieved by air power leads me to believe that you might be following the chimera of the one air operation which will end the war. I have concluded that it does not exist. I also feel that in many cases the success of our efforts is unmeasurable, due to our inability to ex­ploit the decisive results achieved.”100 Nevertheless, Spaatz showed that he had viewed the Berlin assault as more than simply an at­tempt to destroy German war-making capacity. When asked by Doolittle before the raid if he wanted “definitely military tar­gets” on the outskirts of Berlin hit if clouds obscured oil installa­tions, Spaatz replied: “Hit oil if visual assured; otherwise, Berlin— center of City.”101 Dresden’s marshalling yard bordered the city’s major residential district, virtually guaranteeing that bomb misses would kill civilians.

Moral qualms and the conviction that attacks aimed at war­making capability were more productive than those aimed at the enemy populace combined to prevent American air leaders from launching a wholesale campaign to kill German civilians. Air com­manders maintained that the essence of German morale was pub­lic support for the war, and that such support was fragile, but they agonized over how best to attack it. While Eaker, with ra­dar bombing in late 7943, and Spaatz, with the 3 February raid on Berlin, attacked civilian morale directly, it was not their pref­erence to do so. They, as well as their counterparts, believed that attacking civilians indirectly—by terrorizing people rather than killing them, or by depriving them of needed goods and services— was the answer to breaking their will.

Yet the difference between attacks intended to terrorize and those intended to kill was a fine one, and the distinction blurred as the war progressed. The impetus to end the war quickly led to the selection of targets—like Dresden’s rail yards—that would also have a maximum impact on civilian morale. When Secretary of War Henry Stimson learned of Dresden’s devastation, he re­quested information on the attacks and asked that “the City be thoroughly photographed to establish that our objectives were, as usual, military in character.” Arnold received the request while recuperating in Coral Gables and scribbled across it: “We must not get soft—War must be destructive and to a certain extent in­human and ruthless.”102 By 1945, German civilians had no argu­ment with Arnold’s assessment. For them, no distinction existed between the raf Bomber Command’s area attacks and American raids against specific targets in or near cities.

For Eighth Air Force, the 3 February raid on Berlin was the tenth against the German capital. More than 600 bombers had attacked it on several occasions; on zi June 1944 935 heavies had pummeled the city; and on 26 February 1,100 more would strike it.103 Spaatz understood that whether his crews bombed ur­ban targets using the Norden bombsight or radar, they would kill many civilians, and “dehouse” many more. To him, though, in­tent mattered. Why counted more than how in evaluating success, and the purpose of the raid provided criteria by which to judge re­sults. With photographic reconnaissance and Ultra intercepts, he could calculate the damage rendered to Germany’s oil producing capability caused by bombing a specific synthetic oil plant. What he could not do, however, was translate those figures into an ac­curate estimate of when Germany’s oil supply would cause it to quit fighting—and the time factor was the ultimate judge of suc­cess. He had faced a similar dilemma the previous spring in trying to determine when his bombers and fighters might gain daylight air superiority, and resorted to aerial attrition to achieve his goal in the time allotted. Now, in the aftermath of Hitler’s Ardennes offensive, the impetus for quick success—in this case, quick vic­tory—helped to mold the intent of his actions.

The desire for a rapid end to the war courtesy of American air power was nothing new to Spaatz—or Arnold—or any Army Air Forces commander. They entered the war with that goal in mind, but they also sought to dictate when the war ended, and the de­mands of the ground war had upset their calculations. Ideally, they had wanted to build an enormous bomber force and then pound the key nodes of German industry with it for six months, after which they thought Germany would surrender. The diversion of bombers to support ground advances in the Mediterranean, fol­lowed by requirements to support the Normandy invasion, not only prevented air commanders from testing their theory, but also from estimating when bombing would end the war. While rapid victory remained the airmen’s goal, they wanted an air power – induced success, and the opportunities for that result diminished the closer Allied troops came to Berlin.

In early 1945, whh the Anglo-American armies poised to ad­vance into Germany, Spaatz was uncertain that his oil campaign could stymie Germany’s capability to fight before those forces ad­vanced deep into the Reich. His 3 February Berlin raid may have mirrored his other attacks against the city in terms of conduct, but his intent paralleled Eaker’s desire in late 1943 to win the war by shattering German morale through radar bombing.104 As for the attacks on Dresden ten days later that achieved much more noto­riety, statements made afterward by Spaatz and other American air leaders were closer to the mark—those raids were little differ­ent in either conduct or intent from American bombing missions that began more than a year before.

Gradually, though, the mindsets of American air commanders morphed into a mentality that viewed radar bombing in the same vein as precision raids. Regardless of the equipment used, the em­phasis remained on the targets attacked rather than on the meth­ods used to attack them. American air leaders retained their con­victions regarding the importance of Germany’s industrial web and devoted considerable attention to pinpointing the key connections in it—even though they knew that they lacked the capacity to at­tack those strands with true precision bombing. What they did not lack were numbers. By fall 1944 Spaatz could regularly send one thousand bombers against a particular target, and did so.

The demand for rapid results—part of which stemmed from the airmen’s own desires to demonstrate that they could achieve “in­dependent” success—pushed them relentlessly onward, and the overriding war aim of unconditional surrender condoned the mas­sive destruction that followed.105 Arnold had told his command­ers in June 1943,“We are not in a position to ignore the costs and win by brute force.”106 A little more than a year later, Spaatz and usstaf could try to do exactly that. Throughout their portion of the Combined Bomber Offensive, American airmen failed to note that the emphasis on rapid results distorted the progressive ideals of efficiency and economy at the heart of their beliefs about the virtues of bombing. American bomber crews paid a heavy price for achieving dominance in the European skies, and radar bomb­ing wreaked a terrible toll on the German civilian populace. Still, the public statements of air leaders, as well as much of their pri­vate correspondence, often sounded as if their efforts were be­yond reproach.

In private, though, they also frequently agonized over the pros­pects of using brute force to secure victory—especially in terms of the legacy that it might foster. Eaker, who contributed the heavy bombers of Fifteenth Air Force to Spaatz’s campaign against Ger­many, commented at length on the dilemma. Spaatz had requested his views on “Clarion,” a plan designed not only to disrupt trans­portation links in small towns, but also to showcase the might of Allied air power to German citizens unfamiliar with its fury. Eaker did not mince his words on the proposal:

It [Clarion] will absolutely convince the Germans that we are the bar­barians they say we are, for it would be perfectly obvious to them that this is primarily a large-scale attack on civilians as, in fact, it of course will be. Of all the people killed in this attack over 95% of them can be expected to be civilians.

It is absolutely contrary to the conversations you and [Air Secre­tary] Bob Lovett had with respect to the necessity of sticking to mil­itary targets. . . .

If the time ever comes when we want to attack the civilian popu­lace with a view to breaking civil morale, such a plan as the one sug­gested is probably the way to do it. I personally, however, have be­come completely convinced that you and Bob Lovett are right and we should never allow the history of this war to convict us of throwing the strategic bomber at the man in the street. I think there is a better way we can do our share toward the defeat of the enemy, but if we are to attack the civil population I am certain we should wait until its morale is much nearer [the] breaking point and until the weather favors the operation more than it will at any time in the winter or early spring.107

Eaker—who had himself attempted to subdue German morale with bombs—did not completely dismiss the possibility that air power might break civilian will, but he thought that the current odds were low. Despite his concerns, Operation Clarion transpired in early 1945. On 22 February more than two thousand usstaf bombers, with heavy fighter escort, roamed over Germany bomb­ing and strafing railroad stations, marshalling yards, and bridges. The raf supported the effort with intense attacks on lines of com­munication in the Ruhr. The pattern was repeated the next day and produced a temporary halt to rail traffic throughout much of the Reich. Yet it did not significantly affect the morale of the pop­ulace. The bland statement appearing in the Army Air Forces’ of­ficial history, “Nothing in particular happened after the German people beheld Allied warplanes striking towns which usually es­caped bombings,” made a fitting epitaph for the operation.108

The remainder of America’s contribution to the Combined Bomber Offensive continued with the same intensity that Spaatz had displayed since taking command of usstaf a year before. Oil and transportation remained the two top targets. Winter weather made attacks on both difficult, but the magnitude of the air of­fensive ultimately made a difference. Every day between 19 Feb­ruary and 4 March Eighth Air Force attacked targets in Germany with more than one thousand bombers; Fifteenth Air Force heav­ies raided Germany on twenty days in February. Germany’s syn­thetic oil production fell from thirty-seven thousand tons a month in January to thirteen thousand in February, less than 4 percent of the production total for January 1944.109

usstaf actually dropped more bombs on transportation targets than it did on oil, with 54,000 tons out of the 74,400 dropped in February going to roads, bridges, rail lines, and marshalling yards.110 Marshalling yards in particular received an abundance of ordnance, most of which fell via radar bombing during peri­ods of poor weather.111 Those attacks produced telling results be­cause the sheer amount of bombs dropped disrupted rail traffic to such a degree that trains could not deliver loads of coal to Ger­man factories—and most industries, including synthetic oil pro­duction—operated by burning coal.

Coal delivery emerged as the truly vital strand of Germany’s industrial web, and the attacks against transportation lines and marshalling yards eliminated what remained of Germany’s indus­trial capability more by happenstance than design.112

From Prophecy to Plan

To understand Air Power, it must be realized that the airplane is not just another weap­on. It is another means, operating in another element, for the same basic purpose as the application of Military Power or Sea Power—the destruction of the enemy’s will to fight. The true object of war has never been merely to defeat an army or navy. Such defeat is only a means to an end. That end is the destruction of the enemy’s will.

The fundamental difference between Air Power and Military Power is that Air Power can be applied directly against the objective sought, without first having to overcome bar­riers and obstacles such as swamps, rivers, mountains, and enemy surface forces.

• MAJ. GEN. FRANK ANDREWS, 15 OCTOBER 1936

I do not believe that air attacks can be stopped by any means known….The best defense is a strong offense. We must have an airforce capable of going out and meeting an ene­my before he can get under way.

■ MAJ. GEN. FRANK ANDREWS, 20 MAY 1937 12 May 1938

Army Air Corps First Lieutenant Curtis LeMay felt his stomach churning as he trudged through a heavy morning downpour toward the в-17 bomber designated “Number 80” and parked at Mitch – el Field, Long Island. LeMay was a handpicked member of three в-17 crews who would fly their bombers as “blue force” aircraft in the Army’s spring maneuvers against a fictional “black force” invasion fleet bound for the northeastern United States. The Navy, participating in a simultaneous exercise in the Pacific, had been unable to provide any ships for the black fleet. To remedy that problem, the enterprising Lieutenant Colonel Ira Eaker, Chief of Air Corps Information, had devised an intriguing substitute. He learned that the Italian luxury liner Rex, traveling from Gibral­tar to New York City, would be roughly seven hundred miles east of New York on 12 May, making it a superb double for an ene­my aircraft carrier. The Air Corps had received permission from General Malin Craig, the Army Chief of Staff, as well as from the Italian cruise line to intercept the vessel. LeMay, as lead naviga­tor for the mission, was to guarantee that the three B-17S found the Rex in the Atlantic Ocean at the appointed time.

The idea of intercepting the Rex before its theoretical aircraft would be in range to attack the east coast delighted Major Gen­eral Frank Andrews. As Commander of the General Headquar­ters (ghq) Air Force, the Air Corps branch containing all com­bat aircraft, Andrews touted the merits of the в-17 as the nation’s first line of defense to all who would listen. The Rex intercept would emphatically demonstrate the bomber’s ability to thwart an invading carrier force far from American shores, and Andrews aimed to assure that it received maximum publicity. The Navy had downplayed the successful results of an “attack” on the battle­ship Utah by seven в-17s during maneuvers the previous August. For the Rex mission, an nbc radio crew would ride in “Number 80” and broadcast the event live to millions of listeners across the country, while newspaper reporters, including the New York Times’s Hanson Baldwin, would also fly in one of the bombers. In addition, Major George Goddard, the Air Corps’ ace photog­rapher, would record the scene using a specially modified Graf – lex camera.1

Shortly after 8:00 a. m. on 12 May, the aircrews and journalists crowded into the three B-17S on Mitchel Field. Sheets of rain cas­caded across the runway, and clouds clung just above the frothing Atlantic Ocean. Besides the vile weather, the Rex had not updated its position from the day before, causing the thirty-two-year-old LeMay to want “to go somewhere and hide.” General Andrews had emphasized the mission’s importance to his crews before they boarded their aircraft, telling them that the Navy had buried the results of the Utah bombing last year, and that the American pub­lic needed to understand bomber capabilities. As the crews de­parted the operations building, Andrews looked directly at LeMay and said, “Good luck.”2

Fortunately for LeMay, an update of the Rex’s position arrived just before takeoff, allowing him to revise his calculations as he bounced along through turbulence so severe that the aircraft’s al­titude often shifted by more than five thousand feet in a matter of seconds. He found that his original estimate placed the ship much closer to shore than was actually the case; now the intercept would occur more than 750 miles out to sea. Moreover, an intense headwind slowed the projected ground speed of the в-17s. Before takeoff LeMay estimated sighting the Rex at 22:25 p. m., and nbc decided to begin its live radio broadcast based on that prediction. But like any good navigator—and LeMay was deemed the best in the Air Corps—his original estimate contained a time cushion. At t2:2i the aircraft entered a squall. Two minutes later the clouds began giving way to patches of sunlight. Dead ahead was the Rex. “It was all a movie. It was happening to someone else, it wasn’t real, wasn’t happening to us,” LeMay recalled.3

The impact of the intercept was immediate. Goddard’s photo­graph of two B-17S flying past the liner at mast level appeared on page i in newspapers around the nation. Hanson Baldwin’s fea­ture in the New York Times noted that the в-27s “roared through line squalls, hail, rain and sunshine today in a r,300-mile overwa­ter flight unprecedented in the history of the Army Air Corps.” The mission was “a striking example of the mobility and range of modern aviation.”4 Andrews was elated, yet realized that most officers on the Army’s General Staff—who saw bombers only as vehicles for providing close air support to ground troops—would probably view the episode differently. “I notice from some press reports that there is a tendency to indicate that the Army ghq Air Force is planning to fight a war by itself. I would like to correct that impression,” he diplomatically remarked to journalists af­ter the flight. “We must realize that in common with the mobili­zation of the Air Force in this area, the ground arms of the Army would also be assembling, prepared to take the major role in re­pelling the actual landing forces…. I want to ask that you do not accuse us of trying to win a war alone.”5