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.


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



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

A Plan Evolves

Pershing’s failure to approve the proposal caused Mitchell to re­double his efforts. In August 1917 he asked the aef Intelligence branch to provide information on strategic targets in Germany, and later received a list of industrial targets in the Ruhr from the French.28 He also created a staff to explore the possibilities of bombing Germany in more detail. To direct the Air Service’s Technical Section, Mitchell picked the twenty-six-year-old Gor – rell, who had just completed his work with the Bolling mission. Gorrell’s job for Mitchell would be similar to his former work for Bolling: to determine Air Service requirements, including the various types of aircraft needed. In trying to estimate the correct number of bombers, Gorrell considered the prospects of strategic bombing, and ultimately produced America’s first plan for a stra­tegic air campaign. He developed this plan in relative splendor, for Mitchell chose the Chateau de Chamarandes, a magnificent hunt­ing lodge built by Louis XV, as his headquarters. Located within a mile of Pershing’s headquarters at Chaumont, the chateau pro­vided both living quarters and office space. It continued to serve as Air Service headquarters after Mitchell left in October to be­come Air Service Commander in the Zone of the Advance.29

Besides Mitchell, a variety of individuals helped Gorrell develop his plan. Gorrell stayed in contact with Bolling, who remarked in early September that the importance of “bombing operations with direct military ends in view” could not be overestimated.30 In addition, veteran pilots Harold Fowler and Millard F. Harmon, both Air Service majors, assisted Gorrell.31 Fowler flew with the Royal Flying Corps before America’s entry in the war, while Har­mon was an Air Service pilot in the Philippines before the conflict. Gorrell also received a large measure of support from three indi­viduals uniquely qualified to help develop an air campaign plan: Wing Commander Spencer Grey of the Royal Naval Air Service (rnas), Gianni Caproni, and Major Hardinge Goulborn Tiver­ton, a British Lord and, like Grey, a pilot with the rnas. Grey was a liaison officer attached to Air Service headquarters and had participated in raids against German inland targets from the rnas base at Dunkirk, plus he had helped develop a 1,650-pound bomb. Gorrell considered him the “world’s greatest authority on questions dealing with aerial bombardment” and relied heavily on his expertise.32

Caproni, whose bomber was slated for American production, met frequently with Gorrell in the autumn of 1917. Besides pro­viding Gorrell with a list of Germany’s major industrial targets,33 Caproni also sent him an English-text copy of a new book, Let Us Kill The War; Let Us Aim at the Heart of the Enemy, by the Italian journalist Nino Salveneschi. The book was a compilation of Caproni’s major thoughts on how air warfare could achieve an independent victory, and Gorrell embraced its message enthusias­tically. “I have read with great interest your book entitled ‘Let us Kill the War; Let us Aim at the Heart of the Enemy,’ which you so kindly gave me,” he wrote Caproni on 31 October. “May I ask you to let me have half a dozen copies of this book and I will guarantee to spread the gospel in all directions.”34

Salveneschi’s book—an unabashed endorsement for Caproni’s Tri-motor bomber—contained a number of perceptions that reap­peared in Gorrell’s plan. The Italian argued that victory in the cur­rent conflict meant destroying the enemy’s army rather than occu­pying his country, and that the key to destroying his army was to take away its means to fight. The Allies could thus obtain victory in one of two ways: by exceeding the enemy’s armament produc­tion, or by wrecking the factories that built the weapons.35 Out­producing Germany’s enormous industrial capacity would be dif­ficult, Salveneschi asserted. Air power, however, offered the means to destroy the factories, which were the “heart” of the enemy war effort. Stabbing the heart would in turn kill the war.36

Salveneschi warned that the Germans would build up their own bomber force for an offensive against Allied production centers unless the Allies first attacked German industry. He listed the major German factories as those in Essen, Munich, along the Rhine, and in Westphalia. Allied bombers did not have to destroy all of them, however, to achieve success—wrecking other facto­ries closer to the front might produce greater results. “In this war there is, among the factories, as far as the front, a mecha­nism like a perfect watch-making workshop,” Salveneschi wrote. “Enough to destroy a ‘specialized’ factory to obtain, in a short time, enforced inaction of the enemy.”37 Because the Central Pow­ers were likely to defend their key factories with fighter aircraft, the attacking air fleet needed to be as large as possible and com­

posed of sturdy aircraft (like the Tri-motor) so at least part of the bombers could hit their target. The Italian acknowledged that some bombs would miss their aim points and kill civilians, but cautioned that “one must not permit sentimentality to interfere with the destruction of factories. . . . [T]he life of every German labourer at work for the war has less value than one of our boys who is fighting for his country.”38 Yet Salveneschi did not advo­cate killing civilians to defeat the enemy. Rather, he moved past that question to assert, somewhat antiseptically, that Caproni’s dream of an aerial victory could “be converted into [the] reality of figures and formulae.”39

Salveneschi’s writings meshed neatly with those of rnas Major Lord Tiverton, whom Gorrell met in France during the autumn of 1917. While serving as technical liaison officer for the Royal Na­vy’s Air Department in Paris, Tiverton completed his own thor­ough study of long-range bombing in early September, and his analysis compared favorably to that provided by Salveneschi and Caproni.40 Gorrell found Tiverton’s views particularly compel­ling—so much so that he used Tiverton’s paper, virtually verba­tim, for the body of his own plan that he finished in late Novem­ber.41 Although Gorrell’s plan took into account Grey’s expertise and Caproni’s images, as well as Mitchell’s ideas, gleaned largely from Trenchard, about air power’s ability to destroy the German army’s means to fight, Tiverton’s notions had a telling impact on Gorrell’s thoughts. Gorrell added an introduction and conclusion to address strictly American concerns, but most of the remaining words came from Tiverton.42

Gorrell began by noting that three and a half years of conflict had produced a stalemate on the ground and at sea, and that only “a new policy of attacking the enemy” would affect the war’s con­duct.43 That new policy was “strategical bombing,” which he de­fined as air attacks on commercial centers and lines of commu­

nication to stop the flow of enemy supplies to the front. Much like Salveneschi, Gorrell asserted that “there are a few certain in­dispensable targets without which Germany cannot carry on the war.”44 The German army could be likened to a drill, whose point could continue to bore only if the shank—the German national ef­fort—remained durable. Four target groups were essential to keep­ing the shank strong: the industries surrounding Dusseldorf, Co­logne, Mannheim, and the Saar. If those vital factories and their transportation links were destroyed, the drill would become im­potent. “German shells are being fired at Allied troops and posi­tions over a large area of the Front,” he observed, “but the manu­facture of these shells and bombs is dependent upon the output of a few specific, well-known factories turning out the chemicals for them…. If the chemical factories can be blown up, the shell and bomb output will cease, to a greater or lesser degree, dependent upon the damage done these chemical plants.”45 In addition, Ger­many’s main aircraft engine factory and magneto plant were both in Stuttgart, and their destruction would severely hamper Germa­ny’s ability to sustain its air power on the Western Front.

The belief that the essence of an enemy nation’s war-making capability consisted of certain key components linking together its industrial complex was the crux of Gorrell’s proposal—and a conviction that ultimately became a central pillar of the Ameri­can approach to strategic bombing.

Although destroying German war-making capability was the focus of Gorrell’s plan, his scheme presupposed that attacks on in­dustrial targets would also break the morale of the German work force. His rationale stemmed partly from the effects of German air raids on the French factory at Pont-St. Vincent, where work­ers had been reluctant to return to their duties even though the bombs had missed the mark; he knew as well of the work stop­pages resulting from the Gotha offensive against London.4’’ Gor – rell believed that a concentrated air attack against the four enemy target groups would persuade the German populace to demand an end to the conflict, and called for one hundred bomber squad­rons to start the campaign by simultaneously attacking arma­ment works in Mannheim and Ludwigshafen for five continu­ous hours. “If immediately afterwards, on the next possible day, Frankfurt were attacked in a similar way, judging from the press reports of what has already occurred in Germany,” he contended, “it is quite possible that Gologne would create such trouble that the German government might be forced to suggest terms if that town were so attacked.”47

To Gorrell, a nation’s will to fight equated to the population’s willingness to endure the conflict. A mass revolution that threat­ened to dislodge the enemy government—and forced its govern­ment to make peace to stay in power—would certainly indicate that bombs had broken enemy morale. Yet a popular revolt was not necessary to break German will. For Gorrell, widespread ab­senteeism would suffice, and would have the same impact as fac­tories destroyed by bombs. The ultimate goal was to prevent the German army from waging war.

The enemy’s capability and will to fight were complementary objectives, and Gorrell’s offensive aimed at both. “From both the morale point of view and also that of material damage, concentra­tion of our aerial forces against single targets on the same day is of vital importance since it tends to hamper the defense and also to complete in a thorough manner the work which the bombard­ment is intended to perform,” he observed.48

Gorrell estimated that between three thousand and six thousand American bombers were necessary to carry out his plan, provided that the force received adequate logistical support and aircrew training.49 The armada would fly en masse, and concentrate on de­stroying a particular set of targets completely before assaulting a different target group. Hearkening to Trenchard, Gorrell stressed continuous, systematic bombing as the key to overwhelming Ger­man defenses while unnerving workers and preventing them from making repairs. Yet the Germans, Gorrell warned, also realized the potential of strategic bombing and aimed to launch a simi­lar large-scale effort against the Allies during the next year. Thus, the sooner the American campaign began, the better. “This is not a phantom nor a dream,” he wrote to Bolling in October 1917, “but is a huge reality capable of being carried out with success if the United States will only carry on a sufficiently large campaign for next year, and manufacture the types of airplanes that lend themselves to this campaign, instead of building pursuit planes already out of date here in Europe.”50

Gorrell submitted his plan on 28 November to Brigadier Gen­eral Benjamin Foulois, who had become Chief of the aef Air Ser­vice the previous day. The two had served together as pilots in the First Aero Squadron during the Mexican punitive expedition and knew each other well. Fike Mitchell, Foulois had changed his at­titude on the value of independent air operations since his 1913 testimony that Army aviation belonged under Signal Corps’ con­trol. He approved Gorrell’s plan in December and sent it to Gen­eral Pershing for his endorsement. Foulois also placed Gorrell— now a lieutenant colonel—in charge of Strategical Aviation in the Zone of the Advance. Persuaded that an independent bombing force would not deprive him of air support for American ground troops, Pershing approved the plan in early January. Gorrell then transferred to Pershing’s staff as the Air Service’s G-3 (War Plans and Operations) representative to oversee the plan’s implementa­tion, but he remained attuned to Pershing’s concern that the Air Service might neglect American armies.

To assuage this fear, Gorrell produced a written analysis of his plan’s impact on Army aviation for Pershing’s staff. Entitled “The Future Role of American Bombardment Aviation,” the study bor­

rowed heavily from a report that Trenchard had presented to the British War Cabinet in December 1917, as well as from a recent French bombing plan that American staff officers had translated into English.51 Yet Gorrell made certain that his paper addressed the Army’s anxiety over air support while emphasizing the great benefits of strategic bombing. He pointedly observed in the first paragraph: “The Air Service is an integral part of a homogeneous team, no portion of which, working by itself, can alone decisively defeat the enemy.”52 Gorrell then noted that air power would con­tinue to support ground combat operations by serving as a “long range gun” that could attack the enemy’s rear echelons beyond the range of fixed artillery, as well as by attacking the enemy’s front­line positions when necessary. Raids would also occur against important road and rail junctions near the front, which would prevent the flow of vital supplies and cause the enemy “grave re­sults.” Attacks against enemy industries would pay dividends at the front as well. “To successfully strike at such works, is to in­jure the source of the current which furnished the combative en­ergy of the enemy,” he maintained.53

Besides devoting a large amount of attention to “tactical” air power, Gorrell provided ample insights on “strategical bombing,” many of them courtesy of Hugh Trenchard. Gorrell stated that such bombing occurred mainly at long distances and was integral to the air offensive on the Western Front. It was not primarily a vehicle for retaliation. Instead, its basic purpose was “to weaken the power of the enemy both directly and indirectly; directly, by interrupting his production, transport, and organization through the infliction of damage on his industrial, railway, and military cen­ters and by compelling him to draw back his [aerial] fighting ma­chines to deal with the enemy’s; indirectly, by producing discon­tent and alarm among the industrial population. In other words, it aims at achieving both a material and a moral effect.”54

Gorrell reiterated that German war production depended on a few key links in its industrial complex and that destroying them would grind the German war effort to a halt. Pinpointing those links was the essence of successful bombing. Thus far, the lack of “proper scientific knowledge” and the failure to identify “the real object” of an air offensive had prevented bombing from achiev­ing its potential.55 Gorrell claimed that the necessary expertise now existed, and he was determined to use it. Aircraft would at­tack the industrial centers earmarked in his plan, and the bombs that missed would have “the desired moral effect” by depriving the enemy of “the enormous number of man-hours that a single aerial bombardment of necessity always causes.”5* Attacks would occur throughout daylight and darkness, with day bombers flying at high altitude in tight formation to overcome enemy defenses, while night bombers flew with the impunity that he believed al­lowed them to conduct the most accurate bombing.

Implementation Problems

As Gorrell worked to sell his scheme at aef headquarters, Lieuten­ant Colonel Ambrose Monell took over in late January as Chief of Strategical Aviation in the Zone of the Advance. An ex-president of the International Nickel Company, Monell was assisted in his new endeavor by Gorrell’s former compatriots Fowler and Grey. Meanwhile, Gorrell helped create an Office of Air Intelligence in the G-2 (Intelligence) Section of the aef staff. This section con­tained a “bomb target unit,” described by historian Thomas Greer as the “prototype of the organizations which played such an im­portant role in the strategic operations of World War II.”57 The unit produced target maps, antiaircraft defense maps, and maps of key German railroads and industries, all divided into “target folders” for specific installations.

While the Americans geared up to bomb Germany, the British had already launched the assault. In October 1917, in response to

the Gotha raids, Prime Minister David Lloyd George had promised London’s citizens: “We will give it all back to them and we will give it to them soon. We shall bomb Germany with compound inter­est.”58 Limited attacks began before the end of the year, and many of them were indiscriminate. Trenchard announced at a meeting with Gorrell and French representatives on 22 December that he aimed to establish a special force for bombing German industry and asked whether the French and Americans would contribute to it. Gorrell stated that the Americans planned to begin a sim­ilar effort but that he could not pledge the Air Service to a joint endeavor without Pershing’s approval.59 In contrast to the eager­ness for bombing Germany that they had displayed to the Bol­ling mission, the French were lukewarm now that the idea had be­come a reality. They stressed Germany’s ease of retaliation against French cities, and indeed in January 1918 German bombers at­tacked Paris for the first time in two and a half years.60 The Brit­ish then confined their raids to factories and rail yards, but they did not curb their plans for a separate bombing unit. On 5 June 1918, Trenchard took command of the Independent Air Force (iaf) of the newly created Royal Air Force. The need to devote half his sorties against German airfields, and the small number of aircraft available (his force varied between five and ten squad­rons), limited the amount of iaf bombs dropped on Germany to 550 tons, which were spread over fifty towns and cities.61 None­theless, Trenchard claimed that the “moral effect” of his bomb­ing outweighed its material impact by twenty to one.62

Because Trenchard took orders only from the British Air Min­istry, the iaf effort endeared itself to neither the French nor the Americans. The French were particularly incensed, as their Mar­shal Ferdinand Foch was Supreme Allied Commander. Trenchard’s restricted chain-of-command also led the aef Chief of Staff, Ma­jor General James W. McAndrew, to prohibit American bombing with the iaf once Air Service bombardment units reached suffi­cient strength to conduct separate operations. In January 1918 Pershing had agreed that British personnel could organize, train, and equip the thirty projected American night bombing squad­rons, and British flying schools also taught some American day bombing aircrews. In all, thirty-six Americans attached to the iaf flew combat “training” missions over Germany, and half of them were killed, wounded, or captured.63 Yet just as Pershing prohib­ited American ground combat units from amalgamating with Al­lied armies, he would not condone American bombers flying to achieve British objectives, especially when American ground forces needed air support. “In making arrangements with the British it must be thoroughly understood that when our [air] forces reach a certain importance the regions to be bombed will be designated by these headquarters and that the selection of targets will de­pend solely upon their importance with respect to the operations which we contemplate for our ground forces,” McAndrew told Major General Mason Patrick, who had replaced Foulois as aef Air Service chief.64 The issue of cooperative allied air operations was a sticky one, however, and Americans would revisit it with the British in the years to come.

In the end, America’s bombing contribution to the Great War consisted of day bombers raiding targets in France, and that con­tribution was meager. Eight antiquated Breguet-14 b-2 biplanes of the Ninety-sixth Aero Squadron flew in the first American bomb­ing raid, a 12 June 1918 attack on the rail yard and warehouses in Dommary-Baroncourt. Two planes returned to base with en­gine problems, while three others ran out of gas after dropping their bombs. Because of the Breguets’ feeble engines, it took sev­eral minutes for the tiny formation to climb to its bombing alti­tude of four thousand feet. Still, some of the aircraft hit the tar­get, and they survived attacks by three enemy fighters on the way home. This first attack typified those occurring for the remainder of the war. In August the Ninety-sixth flew twenty missions and dropped forty-three thousand pounds of bombs against transpor­tation and supply targets; in September and October it teamed with the Eleventh and Twentieth Aero Squadrons to support the American ground offensives at St. Mihiel and the Argonne.65

Colonel Billy Mitchell, who directed almost 1,500 allied air­craft at St. Mihiel as Chief of Air Service, First Army, now stressed air power’s auxiliary mission rather than its independent one. In February 1918, as Chief of Air Service, First Corps, he had ar­gued that the first mission of offensive air power must be the de­struction of the enemy’s air force. Thereafter, bombing operations “should be essentially tactical in their nature and directed against active enemy units in the field which will have a direct bearing on operations during this Spring and Summer, rather than a piece­meal attack against large factory sites and things of that nature. The factories, if completely destroyed, would undoubtedly have a very far-reaching effect, but to completely demolish them is a tre­mendously difficult thing, and, furthermore, even if they were ru­ined, their effect would not be felt for a long period of time (pos­sibly a year) upon the fighting of their army.”66

Although after the war Mitchell berated Pershing’s staff for “trying to handle aviation as an auxiliary of some of the other branches, instead of an independent fighting arm,”67 such criticisms during the conflict were infrequent. All his duties after leaving the Chateau de Chamarandes—Air Service Commander in the Zone of the Advance; Chief of Air Service, First Army; Chief of Air Ser­vice, First Corps; Chief of Air Service, First Brigade; once again Chief of Air Service, First Army; and finally, Chief of Air Service, Army Group—directly supported American troops at the front. As a result, his focus changed. “The Air Service of an army is one of its offensive arms,” he stated after taking command in the Zone of the Advance. “Alone it cannot bring about a decision. It there­fore helps the other arms in their appointed missions.”68

Late in the war, knowing that the Germans could not stop the continued American ground advance, Mitchell’s focus returned to the possibilities of strategic bombing. Yet as long as the Army’s progress remained uncertain, he devoted his full energies to pro­viding it with immediate air support. Of course, Mitchell’s ego had much to do with his pragmatic approach to air power—he craved a combat command, and the only combat air commands available were those attached to Army headquarters. Still, by the summer of 19 r 8, he realized that America’s major contribution to the Allied advance would be made by aef ground echelons, and that air support would enhance their impact.

McAndrew and Pershing agreed with Mitchell’s emphasis on supporting the ground battle. Besides limiting air operations with the British, in mid-June Pershing’s chief of staff had admonished Patrick that his officers who stressed an “independent” air cam­paign must realize that their views were contrary to the needs of the service. “It is therefore directed that these officers be warned against any idea of independence and that they be taught from the beginning that their efforts must be closely coordinated with those of the remainder of the Air Service and those of the ground army,” McAndrew stated.69 Recent savage fighting by the Amer­ican Second and Third Divisions at Chateau-Thierry had helped stop the German drive on Paris, and further bloodshed was im­minent as Pershing readied his troops to support Foch’s coun­teroffensive. When the assault began, the American commander wanted his soldiers to have maximum backing from their Air Ser­vice. The June name-change of the Strategical Aviation branch to the General Headquarters (ghq) Air Service Reserve reflected this continuing concern.

By the summer of 1918 Gorrell’s scheme for a massive Amer­ican air offensive had atrophied. Colonel Monell had, in Gor- rell’s words, worked on developing a strategic air force for only “a month or so,”70 and Major Fowler left Air Service headquar­ters to command the American air units operating with the Brit­ish. Discouraged by production deficiencies and convinced that an American strategic bombing campaign would never material­ize, Wing Commander Grey returned to a British assignment. Mo­nell succeeded during his tenure as Chief of the Strategical Sec – tion/GHQ Reserve only in selecting prospective airfields for his phantom force.71

After the war, Gorrell wrote that a major reason American stra­tegic bombing never materialized was that his plans “were not syn­chronized properly, especially from a mental point of view” with the Army’s General Headquarters.72 General Foulois concurred, declaring in October 1919: “The General Staff of the Army, either through lack of vision, lack of practical knowledge, or deliber­ate intention to subordinate the Air Service needs to the needs of other combat arms, has utterly failed to appreciate the full military value of this new military weapon, and, in my opinion, has failed to accord it its just place in our military family.”73 Even Mitchell, who had worked tirelessly to support the ground forces with air power, agreed that Army officers—with the sole exception of Ma­jor General Hunter Liggett, who had commanded the First Army— did not know what “air power” meant.74 In July 1918, Mitchell had insisted that the Chief of the Air Service, rather than the Ar­my’s General Staff, should direct the Air Service’s ghq Reserve. He based his argument on the need for unity of command, which would allow the Air Service chief to concentrate all available air power in a critical area for maximum impact.75 His plea went un­heeded, even though the ghq Reserve existed in name only—an American squadron of night bombers did not arrive at the front until 9 November Г918.

In his memoirs, Pershing articulated his views regarding the subordination of air power to ground combat. He remarked in his discussion of the Argonne offensive: “The tendency of our air force at first was to attach too much significance to flights be­yond the enemy’s lines in an endeavor to interrupt his communi­cations. However, this was of secondary importance during the battle, as aviators were then expected to protect and assist our ground troops.”76 To him, the main functions of an air force were to drive off hostile aircraft and provide the infantry and artillery with information on enemy troop movements. Many Army offi­cers agreed. One week before the Armistice, a General Staff anal­ysis noted that the meager number of American bombers at the front (the Air Service had six squadrons of day bombers at the end of the war) and the small number of bombs they carried made their destructive potential “practically the same as long-range ar­tillery.” Ignoring the issue of range, the study’s authors concluded that it took “two squadrons of bombing planes to equal the work of one 15 5mm. gun.”77

In the final analysis, the key reason that the United States never mounted a bomber offensive was indeed the failure to build bomb­ers for it. “Aircraft production [was] the greatest American air headache of World War I,” recalled Hap Arnold, who tracked the building of warplanes as a thirty-year-old colonel and assistant to the director of the Signal Corps’ Aeronautical Division.78 Ar­nold bemoaned the inefficient organization that divided respon­sibility for developing aircraft between the civilian Bureau of Air­craft Production and the Signal Corps’ Production Division. The Bureau, led by the former chief of Hudson Automobiles, How­ard Coffin, supervised engineering, supply, and testing, while the Production Division oversaw procurement. Neither organization had an aviator assigned to it on a full-time basis. Arnold remem­bered that after Coffin boasted forty thousand aircraft would be [3]

built by June 1918, he asked the industrialist how many spare parts he had ordered. “What do you need spare parts for?” was Coffin’s reply.7* Competing guidance from Americans in Europe matched the overlapping authority of production agencies in the United States. After the Bolling mission recommended building the Caproni bomber, General Pershing claimed final authority to determine aircraft types, and in November 1917 he recommended production of the British two-engine Handley-Page.80 Incredibly, despite the difficulties that would stem from building two types of bombers, the Joint Army-Navy Technical Board suggested pro­ducing both—and the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy approved the recommendation!81

European designs compounded American production problems. Most of the materials provided by the French, British, and Italian builders to serve as guidelines for Coffin’s manufacturers were in­complete or delayed. American production centered on the machine tools and detailed blueprints of the assembly line, whereas Euro­pean production stressed skilled craftsmen and individual work­manship.82 Not until 16 January 1918—almost six months after the Bolling mission’s initial selection—did Caproni’s representa­tives arrive in the United States. British designers for the Hand­ley-Page had arrived only two weeks earlier.83 The combination of differing production philosophies, delayed arrivals, and over­lapping authority produced construction programs with wildly fluctuating numbers of projected aircraft. The planned number of Caproni bombers went from 500 on 9 August 1917 to 9,000 a week later, to 2,000 on 24 August, to 50 on 19 February 1918, and to 250 on 3 May.84 In actuality, the United States built only one Caproni before the Armistice. As for the Handley-Page, plans to assemble 300 bombers in Britain resulted in only the shipment of parts for 101 before the war’s end, and none were assembled in time to fight.85 General Patrick’s July 1918 proposal of an Air

Service of 202 total squadrons, of which 41 would be bombers, compared to his proposal six weeks earlier for 261 squadrons, of which 101 would be bombers, reflected no loss of faith in the bomber’s ability to change the war. Rather, it displayed a realistic appraisal of America’s dismal production capability.86

That the war ended before American bombers had the chance to bomb German soil proved significant. Production deficiencies had prevented Gorrell’s dream of defeating Germany through strategic bombing from becoming a reality, yet the dream endured. Gorrell, Mitchell, and other Air Service officers could speculate about the probable effect that an American bomber offensive might have had on the outcome of the war, and blame the lack of aircraft as a reason why the offensive never materialized. Such difficulties could be overcome. Now air officers were aware of Gorrell’s post­war admonition that “money and men could not make an air pro­gram over night,”87 and they would make amends.

Had the war continued into 1919, Mitchell, certain that the Ger­man Army could not stop the American ground advance, planned an aerial assault against Germany’s interior. “I was sure that if the war lasted, air power would decide it,” he wrote after the Ar­mistice.88 According to his diary, he intended to combine incen­diary attacks with poison gas to destroy crops, forests, and live­stock. This air offensive, he mused, “would have caused untold sufferings and forced a German surrender.”89 Yet the likelihood of Mitchell’s vision becoming reality was remote. President Wil­son told Congress in his war message: “We shall, I feel confident, conduct our operations as belligerents without passion and our­selves observe with proud punctilio the principles of right and fair play we profess to be fighting for.”90 Secretary of War Baker re­flected those sentiments, telling Army Chief of Staff General Pey­ton March to notify the Air Service that the United States would not conduct any bombing that “has as its objective, promiscu­ous bombing upon industry, commerce, or population, in enemy countries disassociated from obvious military needs to be served by such action.”91 Moreover, in early January 1919, Mitchell re­vealed that his notion of strategic bombing had come to resem­ble GorrelPs. In a treatise entitled “Tactical Application of Mili­tary Aeronautics,” he argued that the main value of bombardment would come from “hitting an enemy’s great nerve centers at the very beginning of the war so as to paralyze them to the greatest extent possible.”92

Gorrell’s plan, which initially had won Pershing’s approval, borrowed heavily from Caproni and Tiverton in stressing attacks against key industrial centers rather than the German populace and its livelihood. By destroying those elements of Germany’s in­dustrial complex that were essential components of the army’s means to fight, Gorrell aimed to render enemy forces impotent. For him, the key to applying air power successfully was identi­fying those industries that made the German army tick and then wrecking them through accurate bombing. Such bombing would also terrify the German work force and keep it away from the tar­get factories. “Precision” bombing had proved far from precise, though.93 Night raids were notoriously inaccurate, despite Gorrell’s belief that accuracy increased because of immunity from enemy defenses. American day raids, which relied on formation bomb­ing aided by a primitive bombsight in the lead aircraft,94 also of­fered less than pinpoint accuracy. Still, the problem of bombing precisely appeared to be a mechanical one that could be solved through improved equipment, much like production problems could be eliminated through efficient organization.

For both Mitchell and Gorrell, scientifically applied air power of­fered the prospect of ending a war without the horrendous slaugh­ter of trench warfare. If bombing achieved that objective, the Ar­my’s air units might merit status as an independent service—and armies would perhaps become obsolete.

In the aftermath of the Great War, the clamor for air indepen­dence would become a roar, with Mitchell howling loudest of all. The Air Service had achieved an enduring measure of autonomy at the end of May 1918, when the Overman Act removed it from Signal Corps’ control and created a “Director of Military Aero­nautics” directly under the Army’s Chief of Staff. Three months later Congress named Jack D. Ryan, who had succeeded Howard Coffin as chief of Aircraft Production, as Second Assistant Secre­tary of War and Director of Air Service. Yet for Mitchell these steps were not enough. As his cry became increasingly shrill, it welded the bond between air power’s independent application and ser­vice autonomy until the link was impossible to break.

In October 1918, the twenty-seven-year-old Gorrell became the youngest American colonel since the Civil War. He served as As­sistant Chief of the Air Service until the Armistice, and then began writing the Air Service’s combat history. In March 1920 he left the military to try his hand as a corporate executive, ultimately becoming director and president of the Stutz Motor Car Com­pany and president of the American Air Transport Association. In the meantime, his plan for bombing Germany, and his 1918 analysis of it, inspired lectures for a future generation of air strat­egists at Maxwell Field’s Air Corps Tactical School. Three days after he died in March 1945, a single Army Air Forces airplane scattered Gorrell’s ashes across the plain at West Point, where he had sprinted almost thirty-five years before to catch a glimpse of Glenn Curtiss’s flying machine. The tribute befitted the man who laid the cornerstone for vast air campaigns then underway in Eu­rope and the Pacific.

Bludgeoning with Bombs

Germany, 1944-45

It has been an unhappy fact for the rest of the world that these gullible and warlike peo­ple [the Germans] should have developed a powerful industrial and technical organiza­tion to support a huge military machine. This machine depends on some 90-odd industri­al centers of which perhaps 50 are of major importance. If these centers can be destroyed or seriously damaged it must be obvious that her means to make war will be reduced. And in the process of destroying them the people can be given theirfirst searing lesson, in the heart of their hitherto untouched homeland that crime doesn’t pay. This should re­duce their will to fight. If, therefore, we can reduce the means to fight and the will to fight, the tasking of overpowering her is made easier or the time shortened. That, very simply, is the contention of the Air Forces.


Hit oil if visual assured; otherwise, Berlin—center of city.


As the crews of 311 B-17S approached their target, a smoky black haze arose from the city surrounding it and mingled with dense clouds. Dresden, the medieval capital of Saxony, was in ruins. More than 750 raf Lancasters had dropped 1,471 tons of high explo­sive bombs and 1,175 tons °f incendiaries on the refugee-filled city the night before, and now the Eighth Air Force would add to that total.1 The thick blanket of clouds across northern Europe had caused the target to change as the B-17S crossed the English Channel. Originally, it had been the vast marshalling yard on the southern bank of the Elbe. By the time crews could see the smoke rising from the city, the target had become a rail intersection in Dresden’s center, west of the main residential area.

Clouds obscured the rail junction, though, and when the lead bombardier signaled “Bombs away!” he was actually over Dres­den’s most densely populated district—the same area that the raf had pummeled just hours before. Using radar bombing techniques, the B-17S dropped more than seven hundred tons of bombs, al­most half of which were incendiaries. The next day, 211 B-17S at­tacked Dresden’s marshalling yard, and cloud cover once again prevented accurate bombing. Almost five hundred tons of high explosive bombs fell on the city’s center.2 The series of raids cre­ated a firestorm similar in intensity to the one almost two years earlier at Hamburg; between twenty-five thousand and thirty-five thousand German civilians died, and an estimated five hundred thousand lost their homes.3

On the afternoon of 15 February, raf Air Commodore С. M. Grierson conducted a press conference in Paris in which he high­lighted the Dresden raids. Grierson stated that bombing popula­tion centers caused the Germans difficulty because it forced them to send in trains carrying relief supplies and send out trains carrying homeless civilians, thereby disrupting transportation and contrib­uting “greatly to the break up of the German economic system.” Concerning Dresden, Grierson noted that the city was a commu­nications center that the Germans used to relay men and equip­ment to the Russian front, and that refugees fleeing the Russians clogged the city. He maintained that the principal reason for the raids was to stop communications rather than to kill refugees.4

Grierson’s comments had an immediate effect on the journal­ists in attendance. One of them, the ap’s Howard Cowan, wrote on page i in the 18 February edition of the Washington Star: “The Allied Air Commanders have made the long awaited decision to adopt the deliberate terror bombing of great German population centers as a ruthless expedient to hasten Hitler’s doom.” Cowan added that “more raids such as the British and American heavy bombers carried out recently on the residential sections of Ber­lin, Dresden, Chemnitz, and Cottbus are in store for the Reich, and their avowed purpose will be creating more confusion in the German traffic triangle and sapping German morale.”5 The arti­cle created an uproar at Army Air Forces headquarters in Wash­ington dc, and at Coral Gables, Florida, where recently promoted five-star General Hap Arnold was recovering from his fourth heart attack of the war. Arnold demanded an explanation. He cabled General Carl Spaatz, the Commander of the U. S. Strategic Air Forces (usstaf), and told him to “transmit as a matter of urgency the specific text of your present directive to usstaf, together with any further comments in order to clarify in my mind completely the entire present situation as to directives and priorities for stra­tegic bombing.”6

Spaatz was away from his headquarters near London visiting units in the Mediterranean, and his deputy commander, Major General Frederick Anderson, received the Cowan article as well as Arnold’s request from a Colonel Rex Smith, who lamented, “This is certain to have nationwide serious effect on the Air Forces as we have steadfastly preached the gospel of precision bombing against military and industrial targets.”7 Anderson replied to Ar­nold on 19 February, contending that Cowan’s article was an ex­aggeration that had slipped past the censors. “We have not, or do not,” he asserted, “intend to change the basic policy which has governed the direction of effort of the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe from the time they first started operations in this Theater. Our attacks have been in all cases against Military objec­tives.”8 Colonel Alfred R. Maxwell, usstaf’s Director of Opera­tions, followed with another message written on Spaatz’s behalf: “It has always been my [Spaatz’s] policy that civilian populations are not suitable military objectives.”9 An Army Air Forces spokes­man in Washington DC mirrored those replies in a zi February press conference, remarking that Americans stressed precision bombing over “wasteful and ineffective” indiscriminate attacks and adding, “We have never done deliberate terror bombing. . . we are not doing it now… we will not do it.”10

Such statements were half-truths at best. Since May 1943 when Ira Eaker, then the Commander of Eighth Air Force, acknowl­edged that cloud cover prevented precision bombing, the Amer­ican bomber force had often resembled raf Bomber Command on days that weather obscured the target area. The distinction between the two bomber forces became especially thin once the Eighth Air Force received radar bombing equipment in autumn 1943 an<-I Eaker informed Arnold of his intention to break the morale of the German public. Spaatz had refused to state such an objective since taking charge of usstaf in January 1944. Yet he consistently bombed Germany using radar whenever the weather was disagreeable, and he possessed many more bombers than had Eaker.

Moreover, the longer the war progressed, the louder the clamor grew to end it, and the closer Spaatz’s targets crept to residential districts in German cities. Both Dresden’s marshalling yard and the rail junction selected for the 14 February attack were less than a mile from the heart of the city’s residential area. Even with the Norden bombsight in excellent weather, bomber crews were cer­tain to hit more than just their aiming point; using radar against a “precision” target in the midst of a city guaranteed many civil­ian deaths. Indeed, the “last resort” target for the 14 February Dresden mission was: “Any military objective definitely identi­fied as being in Germany and east of the current bomb line.”11 By February 1945 the impetus to end the war quickly provided few limits to the definition of “military objective.”

Spaatz and the Battle for Air Superiority

When Arnold tapped Spaatz in late 1943 to lead usstaf, the new command comprising the heavy bombers of Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, both men understood that the paramount need for rapid results might forestall the conduct of an efficient air campaign. Spaatz had to gain daylight air superiority, and do so quickly— Overlord could not occur without it. He possessed a wealth of experience for the task at hand. A fighter pilot in World War I, Spaatz arrived at the front three weeks before the armistice and shot down three German aircraft, earning him the Distinguished Service Cross. During the interwar years, he commanded both a bomb group and a bomb wing, plus he helped set a flight endurance record of 150 hours (along with Ira Eaker and three other crew­men) aboard the Question Mark in 1929. He had been Arnold’s choice to command Eighth Air Force when it began the daylight assault on Hitler’s Europe, and competently led the Northwest African Air Force as it supported the American ground advance from North Africa to Italy.

Moreover, Tooey Spaatz was a man Arnold could trust, and trust implicitly, to get him the desired results. The two had es­tablished an enduring friendship through many assignments to­gether, and a 1920 incident in San Francisco typified the depth of that connection—after Colonel Arnold, who served as air officer for the Army’s Ninth Corps Area, reverted to his prewar rank of captain, Major Spaatz, who had been Arnold’s executive officer, requested a transfer rather than take command of a unit that he thought rightfully belonged to Arnold.12 Modest in appearance with a graying mustache, loyal and selfless, Spaatz commanded respect from all who knew him. Dwight Eisenhower rated him, along with Omar Bradley, as the two American generals who con­tributed the most in the war against Germany, and Bradley ranked Spaatz second, after Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Bedell Smith.15

Eaker, asked to rank Army Air Forces officers in November 1944 in terms of their merit for postwar leadership, listed Spaatz sec­ond behind Arnold.14

Arnold presented Spaatz with usstaf in January 1944 to achieve daylight air superiority over Europe and facilitate the Normandy invasion—and, if all went well, to score a knockout blow against German industry. Arnold had long believed that a single air com­mander was essential for the maximum efficiency of a heavy bomber force and to prevent ground commanders from taking air elements piecemeal to pursue their own objectives.15 With Spaatz he had the desired unity of command and the prospect that air power could make the decisive contribution to ending the European war.

Much like Eaker before him, Spaatz heard the steady ticking of a clock as he set out to snatch control of the European sky from the Luftwaffe. He would have preferred to have set his own time­table for destroying Germany’s capability and will to fight, and viewed the invasion “as a necessary temporary diversion of the strategic air forces, not a primary objective of strategic air war.”16 Indeed, when he heard that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had se­lected a date for Overlord, he reportedly said, “This means the death of the strategic air war.”17 Spaatz would support the inva­sion with all the force that he possessed, but to him, the primary reason for achieving air superiority was to enhance the bomber offensive’s prospects for independent success.

Compared to Eaker, Spaatz had a vast array of force at his command; American production had finally begun to catch up to wartime requirements. New crews began to arrive in theater as well. By the end of December 1943 Eighth Air Force possessed twenty-six heavy bomber groups compared to eleven the previ­ous May—so many aircraft and crews that Lieutenant General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, the new Eighth Air Force Commander, could regularly send out missions with a mix of seven hundred

B-17S and B-24S. Many of Doolittle’s B-17S were new “G” models, which had a combat radius of seven hundred miles—nearly three hundred miles more than most of Eaker’s B-17S—plus they could carry two thousand more pounds of bombs. The “G” model also possessed a chin turret under its Plexiglas nose to ward off head- on fighter attacks, a favorite tactic of the Luftwaffe pilots. The в-24 had received a nose-turret as well, though it was manned in­stead of remotely operated as in the в-17 and made the bomber a bit wobbly in flight, yet the “Liberator” could still carry the same seven-thousand-pound bomb load as the “G” model “Fly­ing Fortress.”18 B-24S comprised two-thirds of the heavy bomb­ers in Fifteenth Air Force, headquartered in Foggia, Italy, and ca­pable of attacking targets in southern Germany, Austria, and the Balkans. By February 1944, the Fifteenth possessed twelve groups of “heavies.”19

An increase in fighter strength for Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces matched the sizable gains in heavy bombers—and Army Air Forces engineers finally began to perfect 75- and 108-gallon drop tanks that allowed fighter escort for a distance of six hun­dred miles, enough to reach Berlin. The p-47 “Thunderbolt” and p-51 “Mustang” were the key escort fighters; both could fly in ex­cess of 430 mph above 25,000 feet, and the P-47 could approach 550 in a dive. At the beginning of 1944 Eighth Air Force possessed eleven fighter groups containing between seventy-five and ninety – six aircraft each, and by February Fifteenth Air Force would have four fighter groups of its own. In addition, Spaatz and Doolittle de­cided that Eighth Air Force fighter pilots, who had thus far flown escort by staying close to the bombers that they defended, could now roam freely to seek out Luftwaffe fighters. Eighth Air Force fighter pilots also received the same amount of credit for destroy­ing enemy aircraft on the ground as they did in aerial combat to encourage the strafing of airfields. Bomber crews were initially dismayed by these policies, but the new directives soon paid div­idends over Germany.20

Spaatz realized that “cutting loose” his fighters would produce increased combat—and hence increased losses—for his fighter force. Given the situation that he faced, he felt that he had little choice. He had three months to wrestle control of the air from the Luft­waffe; in April, General Eisenhower would take charge of usstaf (and kaf Bomber Command) for invasion support. Yet Spaatz also knew that he had an abundance of numbers and a steady stream of replacements, while Ultra intelligence intercepts told him that the German fighter force had suffered severely during Eaker’s fall offensive—so much that Luftwaffe commanders had reduced re­cuperation times for wounded pilots, and even ordered test and transport pilots to fly against American bombers.21

In late January, Spaatz wrote Arnold that he could not sim­ply wait for decent weather to bomb German aircraft factories— destroying them would not suffice to gain daylight air superiority in the time allotted. Thus, Spaatz would also bomb German air­fields, and he would further attack “objectives which force Ger­man fighters into combat action within range of our fighters.” In short, he would wage attrition warfare, and use his bombers as bait. “Losses will be heavy,” he stated, “but we must be prepared to accept them.”22 He was confident not just that he could sustain the losses, but also that the magnitude of destruction inflicted on the Luftwaffe would produce air superiority in the shortest amount of time. Spaatz even acknowledged a willingness to risk bombers without fighter escort if such attacks yielded corresponding dam­age to the Luftwaffe. “Under peculiar weather conditions when all of Germany is fog-bound,” he told Arnold, “raids might be made well beyond fighter cover on area targets, such as Berlin, to force the German fighters into the air under conditions which will re­sult in heavy operational losses to their fighters.”23

Until the weather cleared, Spaatz would continue radar bomb­ing, much like Eaker in late 1943. American engineers at mit had perfected their own version of the British H2S device, and the Amer­ican model, dubbed H2X, employed a shorter microwave length that resulted in a sharper radar picture of the ground. But H2X did not appreciably increase bombing accuracy, and the Army Air Forces official historians glumly noted that with radar “the aim­ing point became a highly theoretical term.”24

Arnold knew that radar bombing was far from precise, but he did not want his air commanders to convey that impression pub­licly. He directed Spaatz to avoid the phrase “blind bombing” when referring to raids with H2X, and Spaatz agreed to label such attacks “overcast bombing technique,” “bombing through the overcast,” or “bombing with navigational devices over clouds ex­tending up to 20,000 feet.”25 Regardless of the terminology used, Eighth Air Force bombers mounted six weeks of radar raids, in­cluding a mission by more than eight hundred B-17S and B-24S against Frankfurt on 29 January, which mirrored raf Bomber Command’s area attacks in terms of methods used and damage inflicted. Remarked the aaf historians: “It seemed better to bomb low-priority targets frequently, even with less than precision ac­curacy, than not to bomb at all.”26

While Spaatz likely agreed with that assessment, he could not wait indefinitely to achieve significant results. On 8 February he di­rected that “Operation Argument,” the anticipated assault against the German aircraft industry by the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, would conclude by 1 March 1944. Primary targets would consist of airframe and final assembly plants for single – and dual-engine fighters as well as ball bearing production facilities, which mem­bers of the Committee of Operations Analysts (coa) and usstaf planners alike deemed essential to aircraft construction.27 Those targets all demanded “precision” bombing, and to attack them successfully Spaatz needed a week-long stretch of decent weather. Thick clouds had canceled Argument on numerous occasions, but Spaatz could no longer wait for ideal conditions and accepted that poor weather might lead to losses exceeding two hundred bomb­ers for a single mission.28

On 19 February usstaf’s weather officers predicted a period of clear skies across Europe, in contrast to the forecast made by weather officers at Eighth Air Force. Major General Frederick Anderson, Spaatz’s deputy commander who had led VIII Bomber Command for Eaker, urged Spaatz to begin Argument. Spaatz gave the order and risked that clouds and icing might ground many of his escort fighters. His fears proved illusory. The next day, six­teen combat wings of heavy bombers—more than 1,000 aircraft— supported by seventeen groups of escort fighters took off for tar­gets in southern Germany, usstaf’s forecasters proved correct, and 941 heavy bombers attacked fighter assembly plants in the vicinity of Leipzig and Brunswick. German defenses claimed 21 bombers, but the bombing results were good.29

The 20 February mission marked the beginning of a six-day se­ries of attacks dubbed “Big Week.” Not only did Eighth and Fif­teenth Air Forces jointly participate in many of the attacks, but the raf contributed as well by pounding many of the target cit­ies the night before American bombers attacked specific installa­tions in them. The Luftwaffe fought back fiercely and losses were heavy. On 22 February the Eighth lost forty-one bombers and the Fifteenth lost nineteen; on 24 February the Eighth lost forty-nine bombers and the Fifteenth lost seventeen; and on 25 February, when both Air Forces jointly attacked the Messerschmitt plants at Regensburg, the Eighth lost thirty-one bombers and the Fif­teenth lost thirty-two, which was 19 percent of the Fifteenth’s at­tacking force. All told, Big Week cost the Eighth Air Force alone three hundred aircraft, most of which were bombers, and 2,500 airmen killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.30 Yet on Spaatz’s bal­ance sheet, the advantage was decisively his—in February the Ger­mans lost 33 percent of their single-engine fighters and 18 percent of their fighter pilots, many of whom had shot down more than one hundred aircraft.31 Improved P-47S with water-injection en­gines were responsible for most of the damage done to the Luft­waffe; only two groups of Mustangs participated in the air bat­tles.32 The Thunderbolts tipped the balance for control of the skies in favor of the Americans.

Besides inflicting substantial damage in the air, Big Week also hurt the German aircraft industry. Radar bombing occurred on few missions; crews conducted most attacks with the Norden bomb – sight.33 B-17S and B-24S dropped more than ten thousand tons of bombs during the six-day span—more tonnage than the Eighth Air Force had dropped on all targets for all of 1943.34 The attacks completely wrecked the Regensburg complex and damaged other facilities as well, but analysts’ claims that the attacks had reduced production to 650 aircraft a month were wishful thinking. In ac­tuality, the large amount of slack in the German aircraft indus­try enabled the monthly production rate to increase despite the raids; many factories with only one shift of workers changed to twenty-four-hour operations.35 Still, Big Week stymied German production plans. Nazi economic leaders had calculated that they could produce 80,000 aircraft a year by 1945, Уег they reached only 36,000 in 1944.36 Big Week was a key reason that they could not produce more.

Buoyed by Big Week’s success, Spaatz turned his attention to the target that American airmen had most wanted to bomb since their first raid over Hitler’s Europe—Berlin. The first raid against the German capital was a feeble one, when 29 B-17S failed to get a weather recall message on 4 March and pressed on to their tar­get; they survived because three groups of p-5 is stayed with them.

Two days later, Spaatz unleashed 730 heavy bombers and 800 es­corting fighters in an aerial stream sixty miles long. The Luftwaffe defended tenaciously, and 75 bombers were shot down, crashed, or written off. Yet the statistic that mattered most to Spaatz was enemy losses, and his fighter pilots claimed 82 German aircraft downed for a cost of 14 American fighters.37

On 8 March the onslaught continued. Spaatz sent 600 bomb­ers and 900 fighters against Berlin, losing 13 bombers and 17 fighters. Three hundred bombers returned the next day, bombing through the clouds with H2X. Nine heavies fell to flak—but none were lost to Luftwaffe fighters, which did not oppose the attack. On 22 March 650 bombers returned to Berlin, and flak claimed all 12 that fell.38 For the month, Luftwaffe fighter units wrote off 56 percent of their single-engine fighters, while crew losses reached almost 22 percent of the pilots present for duty at the beginning of March.39 American bomber crews suffered as well; Spaatz lost 345 heavy bombers in March alone.40 Yet, in blunt terms, he felt he could afford the losses; he knew the Germans could not. At the end of the month, with the Luftwaffe reeling, Arnold raised the tour length for bomber crews from 25 to 30 missions. Spaatz had given him daylight air superiority.

Spaatz had achieved what Eaker could not because Spaatz pos­sessed an abundance of resources that allowed him to conduct an air campaign based on attrition.41 Eaker had counted on the Luft­waffe’s aerial losses to spur his quest for air superiority as well, but anxiety about the survival of his bomber force prevented per­sistent attacks deep into Germany. Neither Eaker nor Spaatz com­pletely abandoned their progressive belief that the destruction of key targets like aircraft factories and ball bearing plants would produce rapid results; their concern was whether the results would occur rapidly enough. As the countdown toward Overlord contin­ued, a negative answer appeared likely. Spaatz chose to forego the progressive goal of “cheapness” to obtain the higher priority ob­jective of speed, and, in the end, was successful. Yet the cost was enormous. Eaker’s painstaking commitment of a weak bomber force that lacked escort fighters, and Spaatz’s ruthless use of the strength that he possessed, combined to make a staggering 77 per­cent of all American airmen who flew against the Third Reich be­fore D-Day casualties.42

Eaker and Spaatz had accurately surmised the importance of the German aircraft industry to Hitler’s war machine. The Luft­waffe was not going to risk losing its production centers without a fight—which was exactly what Spaatz hoped in early 1944. Be­tween January and the end of April, the Germans had 1,684 pi­lots killed, and Ultra intercepts made Spaatz aware of the loss.45 Eaker, who now “owned” Fifteenth Air Force as a part of his Med­iterranean Allied Air Forces (Spaatz, as usstaf Commander, di­rected the heavy bombers of the Fifteenth and coordinated with Eaker on all missions for that force), gained bittersweet satisfac­tion in knowing that the plan he had set in motion finally bore fruit. Without the damage that Eaker’s Eighth Air Force had in­flicted on the Luftwaffe, Spaatz could never have gained air su­periority in the time allotted.

In one sense, the achievement of air superiority that enabled Overlord fulfilled the progressive goal of inexpensive results by guaranteeing that fewer Allied soldiers would die in the invasion than if the Germans had retained control of the air. Whether the Allies would have attempted a cross-Channel assault lacking con­trol of the air remains doubtful, though, especially in light of the disastrous Dieppe raid in August 1942.44 American air leaders hoped that the bomber offensive might eliminate the need for an invasion by wrecking German capability and will to fight once the air campaign gained control of the sky. Army Air Forces plan­ners designed both awpd-i and AWPD-42 with that goal in mind, and that objective still resonated at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, when the Combined Chiefs of Staff defined the purpose of the Combined Bomber Offensive as destroying Ger­man military, industrial, and economic capability, and the morale of the German people “to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened.”45

By the time of the Trident Conference four months later, the Combined Chiefs defined “fatally weakened” as “so weakened as to permit initiation of the final combined operations on the Con­tinent.”46 Arnold, Eaker, and Spaatz would have defined it differ­ently if given the choice. Instead, they had to temper their expec­tations for independent success and hope that air power could still play a decisive role in Overlord’s aftermath. Arnold in particular would view the failure of the bomber offensive to forestall the in­vasion of France as impetus to make sure that a similar air cam­paign in the Pacific did not lead to similar results.

Progressive Legacies

It is a fundamental principle of democracy that personnel casualties are distasteful. We will continue to fight mechanical rather than manpower wars.


Only air power can frequently circumvent enemy forces and attack strategic centers of gravity directly. Other components, on the other hand, need to fight their way in— normally with large casualties. Air operations—especially with modern weapons and accuracy as used in the Gulf war—are very much likely to result in fewer casualties to either side. Air power then becomes quintessential^ 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.

• COL JOHN A. WARDEN 111,1992

2 September 1945

Tooey Spaatz stood on the deck of the uss Missouri and watched a seemingly endless stream of B-29S pass low overhead. The spec­tacle, which also included vast formations of Army Air Forces and Navy fighters, was an awesome display of American air power fol­lowing the formal Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. Spaatz was the only American representative present at each of the war’s ma­jor surrender ceremonies—at Rheims and Berlin in May 1945, as well as at Tokyo—and he could take grim satisfaction in know­ing that much of the devastation that he observed in the two en­emy capitals resulted from men and aircraft that he had led. As he watched on the Missouri with the other Allied representatives, he was the acknowledged commander of the world’s mightiest aer­ial strike force.

Postwar Perceptions

The American public and its political leaders also acknowledged the Army Air Forces’ contribution to concluding the Pacific War, and they viewed that contribution from a progressive perspective. Yet their definition of “progressive air power”—had they used such a term—would have now mirrored the definition that air com­manders would have given it since at least the summer of r943 in Europe and March 1945 *п the Pacific: air power designed to end the war as rapidly as possible with the fewest American lives lost in the process. Most Americans believed that the atomic at­tacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had accomplished exactly that. That conviction—along with the belief that the nation would rely on strategic bombers and atomic bombs to decide a future con­flict—enabled airmen to embrace the grail of service autonomy in September 1947. As Billy Mitchell had predicted, the new U. S. Air Force became the nation’s first line of defense, and the key to defending the country now rested on the ability to attack and de­stroy any potential aggressor with air power.

For American airmen, World War II did not perfectly fit the progressive ideals that many of them had held on the eve of the conflict. They had entered the war believing that they possessed the necessary technology and a blueprint for using it that would enable them to wage war in pristine fashion. Relying on high altitude, daylight precision bombing, they would sever the key strands of an enemy’s industrial web, bring its war-making ca­pability to a halt, and compel surrender—while at the same time they would validate the need for a separate air force. The entire process would be quick, inexpensive, and efficient—the precise destruction of a small number of vital targets would risk few air­men and would kill a small number of civilians, thus averting the carnage from a clash of armies like that generated by World War I’s Western Front.

Although the character of World War II matched that envi­sioned by Mitchell and Air Corps Tactical School instructors—a global struggle against enemies viewed as direct threats to Amer­ica’s security—the conflict soon developed its own momentum that proved difficult to restrain. “Unconditional surrender” was an outgrowth of the war’s evolution, and unconditional surren­der and rapid victory were not complementary objectives against fanatical foes like Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The former goal demanded the destruction not only of war-making capability, but also of hostile governments and the way of life that they fos­tered, and those objectives could not be obtained quickly. In addi­tion, the aim of unconditional surrender may have inadvertently lengthened the war by causing German and Japanese leaders to fight harder than they might otherwise have done since early ca­pitulation provided them with no benefit.1 When combined with the goal of rapid victory, unconditional surrender produced such brutal applications of force as the area bombing seen in both the­aters. In the meantime, unexpected “frictional” developments fur­ther shaped the air campaigns and undercut the progressive pre­dictions of prewar planners.2 Diversions and production problems delayed the buildup of heavy bomber forces; key industrial tar­gets proved difficult to identify and destroy under wartime condi­tions; weather, wind, and climate produced constant challenges to effective bombing; and bombers, especially in the European the­ater, were much more vulnerable than anticipated.

Given the aim of rapidly destroying the fascist regimes, the aer­ial technology available, and the impact of friction on the technol­ogy’s employment, air power was not the antiseptic instrument of finite destruction that Mitchell and Tactical School instructors had forecasted, nor was it necessarily “cheap” in terms of men or money. American bomber crews in Europe paid a heavy price for their attempts to gain daylight air superiority over the conti­nent in time to permit an invasion of France in spring 1944. The в-29 was the war’s costliest weapon, which contributed to Hap Arnold’s zeal to gain a return on the investment in it. The desire to achieve quick success, and hence limit American losses, con­sistently trumped the desire to limit enemy civilian casualties— and also produced losses among civilian populations in occupied countries.

Still, many airmen during the war continued to think in prewar progressive terms. They sincerely believed that their bombing ben­efited all concerned because they were certain that it guaranteed a quicker end of the war than a reliance on surface forces alone— and the sooner the killing stopped, the better for the world as a whole. Their assertion presumed a strategic equation: a quicker end of the war = fewer deaths. But that logic was uncertain, even regarding the likelihood of saving American lives, because other outcomes were possible. For instance, reducing the incendiary ef­fort against Japan, eliminating the atomic bombs, and increasing aerial mining might, in concert with a vigorous Soviet advance in Asia, have produced Japanese surrender later than mid-August but before the i November date scheduled for Operation “Olym­pic.” Such an outcome would have likely saved more American lives by exposing в-29 crews to less danger than they endured from overflying Japanese cities, and probably would have pro­duced fewer civilian casualties. Similarly, a less intense bombing of German urban areas, and greater emphasis on close air support, might have yielded victory in more time but with fewer losses— for all concerned—than actually occurred. The faith of air leaders in the perceived progressive merits of strategic bombing—which they viewed as the surest path to service autonomy—led them to dismiss alternatives for using heavy bombers in an auxiliary role to surface forces.

For most air commanders, the great dilemma was bow stra­tegic bombing would hasten the war’s end. Assuming that they correctly identified the targets that would fatally damage the en­emy’s war effort and destroyed them, what assurances did they have that the destruction would induce rapid surrender? Curtis LeMay told Arnold in June 1945 that the war would end by 1 October because by then B-29S would have destroyed all Japa­nese industry.3 Likewise, the Committee of Operations Analysts often estimated how the loss of certain industries in the United States would impact America’s war-making capability, and then applied those projections to Germany and Japan. Such mirror­imaging presumed “rational” behavior and downplayed the ene­my’s will to keep fighting (it downplayed American will as well). Most air commanders understood that will was an essential part of the enemy’s war effort and that breaking it would produce col­lapse. Indeed, awpd-i noted that an attack against German morale late in the war might prove decisive, and both Eaker and Spaatz launched area attacks designed to break Germany’s will to fight. LeMay’s initial incendiary raids—as well as the atomic bombs— targeted Japan’s will. Yet airmen could only guess at the impact such bombing might have on speeding the end of the war, espe­cially against the fanatical opposition that they faced.

The time element had a significant impact on the conduct of the air campaigns in both Europe and the Pacific, and Arnold was al­ways conscious of a ticking clock as he pressed his commanders to achieve results independent of land and sea forces—the pur­suit of service autonomy added to the impetus for rapid results. At great cost, the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces achieved air supe­riority over the European continent, but they could not forestall the Normandy invasion, nor could they score a knockout blow against Germany before ground forces overran much of the coun­try. Eaker and Spaatz relied on widespread radar bombing—preci­sion methods were useless for much of the weather encountered— against Germany’s war-making capability as well as its will, and radar bombing devastated the residential areas of German cities. The goal of rapid victory subsumed all other prewar progressive rationales; it sanctioned heavy losses of aircrews and civilians, and air commanders relentlessly pursued that goal convinced that it assured fewer losses than would the war’s continuation.

That logic guided the bombing of Japan as well as Germany. Against Japan, weather conditions foiled high altitude precision bombing, and the nature of Japanese industry would have made the utility of such bombing problematic even in the absence of jet stream winds. Air commanders on the Marianas could point to a nine-month campaign that was remarkably efficient from the American perspective. For the loss of fewer than 2,500 air­men, the в-29 offensive (punctuated by two atomic bombs) in­cinerated almost all of Japan’s most populous cities and helped to compel a surrender prior to an invasion of the home islands. Untold numbers of Americans—and Japanese—were spared from savage ground fighting that might have persisted for more than a year. Precluding that combat cost the lives of at least 330,000 Japanese civilians.

In the war’s aftermath, many airmen continued to view air pow­er’s contribution to victory in prewar progressive terms. Shortly after he replaced Arnold as Commanding General of the Army Air Forces in 1946, Spaatz wrote an article for Foreign Affairs that lauded strategic bombing’s ability to minimize the war’s to­tal costs:

Our land and sea forces, supported by air, could be expected to con­tain the most advanced echelons of our enemies, and gradually drive their main armies into their heavily fortified citadels. But the essen­tial question remained. How was their military power to be crushed behind their ramparts without undertaking an attritional war which might last years, which would cost wealth that centuries alone could repay and which would take untold millions of lives? . . . The devel­opment of a new technique was necessary. Some new instrument had to be found…. The outcome of the total war hung in the balance un­til that new technique had been found and proved decisive in all-out assault. The new instrument was Strategic Air Power.4

After the war, LeMay contended that his bombers had efficiently destroyed Japan’s war-making capability before Hiroshima, and noted that the atomic bomb “was anticlimactic in that the verdict was already rendered.”5 He also maintained that his bombing, in producing a quicker end to the conflict, had saved Japanese lives as well as American. LeMay further claimed—in his memoirs— that some postwar Japanese understood his motives and had re­acted positively to them.6

Ira Eaker agreed that civilian death and destruction caused by bombing was regrettable but necessary. He observed after the war that Allied leaders “deeply regretted the necessity of endan­gering ‘defenseless women and children’ in the vigorous prosecu­tion of their campaigns, but all realized that such was necessary to prevent a greater loss of human life.” Eaker also stressed that the goal of quickly ending the war dictated many of his decisions as an air commander, and he referenced the 1944 bombing of the medieval monastery at Monte Casino to make his point. “Our purpose in bombing Monte Casino was the hope that it would break the stalemate; save future U. S. and Allied casualties; and affect [sic] an earlier end of the campaign against the Germans in Italy,” he recalled. “Thus, we did not permit our knowledge that on top of Monte Casino was one of the oldest churches in Chris­tendom, prevent us from accomplishing our primary mission— the earliest end of the war.”7

Possum Hansell argued that the European war could have ended sooner if American political and military leaders had adhered to awpd-i, the plan that he had helped craft in August Г941 to guide a bomber offensive against Germany. “If we had followed the plan which was eventually approved the devastation which char­acterized Germany in March of 1945 might have been imposed by mid-summer of 1944,” he maintained. “Invasion, if it were needed under those conditions, might have been an operation of ‘occupation’ against slight resistance.”8 LeMay agreed that an in­vasion of France was not essential to produce Allied victory once the Army Air Forces had achieved daylight air superiority over the continent. “I believed that once we had the complete upper hand in the air we could have waited for an inevitable German capitu­lation,” he contended in 1982.9 Hansell remarked after the war that achieving control of the air sped victory in Europe, making it less costly for the Allies. “The air offensive did achieve the lat­ter part of the objective of awpd-i,” he wrote. “It did make an invasion feasible without excessive losses. It did achieve the de­feat of the German Air Force. Without that achievement, there would have been no invasion.”10

Progressive Prophecy

As air power can hit at a distance, after it controls the air and vanquishes the opposing air power, it will be able to fly anywhere over the hostile country. The menace will be so great that either a state will hesitate to go to war, or, having engaged in war, will make the con­test much sharper, more decisive, and more quickly finished. This will result in a dimin­ished loss of life and treasure and will thus be a distinct benefit to civilization.


There is one thing certain: Air power has given to the world a means whereby the heart of a nation can be attacked at once without first having to wage an exhausting war at that nation’s frontiers.

• MAJ. HAROLD LEE GEORGE, 1935 21 July 1921

For Billy Mitchell, the final attack on a relic of the Kaiser’s navy was as important as any he had directed on the Western Front. One by one, the six Martin mb-2 bombers and a single Fland – ley-Page flew past Mitchell’s Osprey, a blue and white DH-4 with a blue command pennant flapping from the rudder. The dual­engine biplanes formed the essence of the First Provisional Air Brigade, which Mitchell had created ad hoc in January 1921. For the next six months, its thousand men had devoted their full attention to preparing for the task that now awaited the seven bomber crews—sinking the rust-covered German battleship Ost – friesland. The Navy had received the dreadnought, along with sev­eral smaller warships, for testing as a result of the Versailles Peace Treaty, and Mitchell had convinced influential congressmen that the Air Service should participate in those tests as well. To him, though, only the Ostfriesland mattered. His goal was to dem­onstrate—unequivocally—that bombers could sink the world’s mightiest warships. By proving that air power had supplanted the Navy as America’s traditional first line of defense, Mitchell be­lieved that he would establish an ironclad rationale for his dream of an independent air force.

The challenge was formidable. The Navy anchored the Ost­friesland sixty-five miles off the Virginia Capes, requiring Mitch­ell’s aircraft, based at Langley Field, Virginia, to fly almost one hundred miles before arriving at their destination. Navy rules also limited the number of hits airmen could score against the imposing target. Launched in 1911, the twenty-seven-thousand – ton dreadnought sported a four-layered hull and numerous wa­tertight compartments. It had survived eighteen direct hits and a mine detonation at the Battle of Jutland. And it had withstood earlier attacks that morning and on the previous day by Navy air­craft and Mitchell’s Martins. The Martin bombers had scored three hits with 1,100-pound bombs, but Navy inspectors deemed that the ship remained seaworthy. Mitchell agreed; he knew that stan­dard bombs would not suffice to wreck the German behemoth. In his eyes, the previous attacks had been for the Navy’s benefit, as they permitted observers to scrutinize the damage inflicted at pe­riodic intervals. After the next bomb run, he aimed to make fur­ther inspections superfluous.

Slung beneath the fuselage of each bomber that flew past the Osprey was a specially built two-thousand-pound bomb. While those bombs would likely cause substantial damage to the Ger­man battleship if they hit it, Mitchell had directed his crews to drop their ordnance in the water near the ship. He planned to take advantage of the Navy’s limit on direct hits by relying on the hammer-like pressure of underwater explosions to crush the un­armored hull. The first of the massive bombs exploded one hun­dred feet off the Ostfriesland’s starboard bow, causing the ship to list 15 degrees before righting itself. The second detonated three hundred feet in front of the vessel. The third glanced off her port bow, exploded in the water, and ripped a gaping hole in the hull. The fourth landed off her port beam, and the fifth struck the wa­ter twenty-five feet off the port side near the waist gun turret. These last two blows raised the bow, causing the ship to roll from side to side while the stern disappeared below the waves. A sixth bomb landing off the starboard side blasted the stern out of the water. Suddenly, the bow began rising until it reached a height of one hundred feet above the surface, and the stern slid downward. Twenty-one minutes after the first two-thousand-pound bomb fell, the Ostfriesland sank.

Mitchell hovered over the battleship during the attack at an al­titude of three thousand feet, five hundred feet above his bomb­ers. From among the flotilla of vessels observing the tests he now picked out the Henderson, the Navy transport filled with admi­rals, generals, congressmen, and foreign dignitaries, and dived to within two hundred feet of the craft. Grinning widely, he doffed his goggles and helmet and waved his arms to the cheers of many of those on deck. All did not respond approvingly, however; sev­eral admirals wept. For Mitchell the moment was one of supreme triumph. “The problem of the destruction of seacraft by Air Forces has been solved, and is finished,” he wrote in his report of the tests. Fie was certain that his bombers had vindicated his faith in the supremacy of air power and justified the need for an indepen­dent air force.1

Ground Support versus Independent Operations

On i April 1944, with daylight air superiority secured, Opera­tion Pointblank officially ended, and two weeks later Eisenhower assumed operational control of usstaf and raf Bomber Com­mand. He retained the authority for the next five months. Dur­ing that span he used the heavy bombers to disrupt transportation routes in northern France that the Germans could use to thwart the invasion, as well as to spur the drive of Allied armies across France after the landings. Winston Churchill initially balked over the prospect of substantial French casualties from the bombing, but relented when President Franklin Roosevelt stated an unwill­ingness to restrict any military action that “might militate against the success of ‘Overlord’ or cause additional loss of life to our Al­lied forces of invasion.”47 Approximately 4,750 French civilians died from the bombing of transportation lines before D-Day.48 To

Roosevelt and Churchill, those deaths were a small price to pay for a successful invasion that would shorten the war, especially since both leaders placed a higher premium on the lives of their own combatants than they did on the lives of civilians in occu­pied countries. Eisenhower sympathized with those views. On 6 June, he used B-17S to demolish twelve French towns and block roads in them that the Germans could use to move reinforcements to the invasion beachhead.49

American air commanders shared the progressive desire for rapid victory, but continued to maintain that independent bomb­ing operations, rather than those devoted to ground support, of­fered the most inexpensive way to end the war quickly. Before departing England for his Mediterranean command, Eaker re­viewed the Overlord plan and deemed the proposed use of B-17S and B-24S to support ground forces a mistake. “Heavy bombers are inefficient artillery,” he observed. “They have a more impor­tant assignment in the war effort which, incidentally, is more im­portant to winning the battle on the beaches as well.”50 Arnold concurred in his response for “Eaker’s Eyes Only,” which Eaker received in the midst of his effort to prevent widespread use of Fif­teenth Air Force bombers as “flying artillery” in the Italian cam­paign. “I have reason to fear that we will be dragged down to the level and outlook of the Ground Forces,” Arnold fumed. “Our airmen thoroughly know the capabilities of their Arm. They, and they alone, must control the operations of their Air Forces. It is, in my opinion, impossible for Ground Force officers to fully uti­lize vision and imagination in air action, since they are not well acquainted with air capabilities and limitations.”51

Spaatz despaired as well over the extensive use of his bomber force to support Overlord. In June, he scoffed at Eisenhower’s suggestion to have B-17S drop supplies to partisans in southern France, and also complained that British ground commanders “vi­sualize the best use of our tremendous air potential as plowing up several square miles of terrain in front of the ground forces to obtain a few miles of advance!”52 Yet without a massive infusion of air power, Eisenhower’s invasion may well have stagnated in the Normandy hedgerows. For almost two months after D-Day, German troops and tanks prevented Allied armies from moving more than twenty miles inland from the invasion beaches. Oper­ation “Cobra” made the difference. On 25 July, 1,495 American heavy bombers, 380 medium bombers, and 559 fighters blasted German positions near Saint-Lo.53 A follow-up attack by 200 me­dium bombers and five fighter groups the next morning broke the spirit of the German defenders, enabling American troops to pour into the gap and begin their drive to the German frontier.

Although he realized that air power had played a useful role in supporting Allied armies, Spaatz wanted to use his bombers inde­pendently, not as an auxiliary force, and in a way that would have a more decisive impact on Germany’s capability to fight—as well as highlight the distinctive contribution of strategic bombing to the Allied war effort.’4 He was of course familiar with awpd-i, AWPD-42, and Eaker’s proposal for the Combined Bomber Offen­sive, and all stressed oil as a vital component of Germany’s war­making capacity. In January 1944, coa members had examined prospects for attacking oil production and refining centers. They rejected such raids because they estimated that the Germans would not feel effects from them for at least six months, too long a time to influence the battle for air superiority that Spaatz had to win by April.5S Once he had gained daylight control of the air, the de­sire to attack those targets resurfaced.

In late March, Spaatz argued that destroying Germany’s oil sup­ply would provide the greatest support to the invasion by restrict­ing enemy troop movements, but Eisenhower thought that attacks on transportation lines in northern France and Belgium would pay more immediate benefits.56 Still, in his initial bombing directive on 17 April, Eisenhower called for continued pressure on the Luft­waffe, and Spaatz reasoned that raids on oil facilities would com­pel the Luftwaffe to fight—and suffer attrition—much like the Big Week attacks on the aircraft industry. Spaatz pressed Eisenhower for limited attacks on oil—and even threatened resignation over the issue.57 Eisenhower relented, and gave him permission to use two good-weather days to attack synthetic oil facilities.

Spaatz knew that the plans for bombing Germany called for six months of concentrated attacks on key industries to produce tell­ing results, yet he thought that he could inflict significant damage to the Nazi oil system with intermittent raids while the focus re­mained on supporting Overlord. He now possessed a vast force of more than three thousand heavy bombers, and Fifteenth Air Force provided the capability to attack key Balkan targets like Ploesti on a regular basis.58 In fact, Spaatz had already begun the assault on Ploesti under the guise of attacking the city’s rail yards to support the Russian advance in Romania—most of the bomb­ing in three April raids caused “incidental” damage to Ploesti’s oil refineries.59 Despite the scattered nature of the oil system, com­prising more than eighty facilities in Nazi-controlled Europe, the coa determined that certain targets were system linchpins—for instance, four Bergius synthetic oil plants produced half of Ger­many’s aviation fuel supply.60

Spaatz began the oil offensive with Eisenhower’s blessing on 12 May against the synthetic oil plants at Merseburg-Leuna, Zwickau, Bohlen, and other cities. More than eight hundred B-17S and B-24S attacked, with heavy fighter escort, and three hundred Ger­man fighters rose to intercept them. Eighth Air Force lost forty – six bombers and seven escorts, while the Luftwaffe lost sixty-five fighters.61 The enemy response following the raid showed that Spaatz’s bombers had indeed hit a vital part of the industrial web.

On 16 May, Spaatz received an Ultra intercept that the Germans had canceled the movement of nine flak batteries to France and sent them instead to synthetic oil plants, along with ten other flak batteries—some of which had defended aircraft factories.62 The Nazi Minister of Armaments, Albert Speer, recalled: “I shall never forget the date May 12. . . . On that day, the technological war was decided…. It meant the end of German armaments produc­tion.” A week after the attack Speer told Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, “The enemy has struck us at one of our weakest points. If they persist at it this time, we will no longer have any fuel pro­duction worth mentioning.”63

The results of the raids pleased Eisenhower, and he not only approved additional attacks on German oil targets for 28 and 29 May, but also permitted Spaatz to make oil usstaf’s top priority target on 8 June. Heavy bombers knocked out nine-tenths of avi­ation fuel production before Spaatz had to return his focus to in­vasion support on 22 June.64 For the next month, attacks on oil facilities fluctuated according to the needs of the ground offen­sive in France.

coa members spent much of June examining Germany’s oil sys­tem and revised their earlier estimate. This time they determined that oil was particularly vulnerable to bombing. Analysts con­cluded that the Germans could not easily hide or disperse their sprawling refineries and synthetic production facilities. In addi­tion, the Germans possessed no excess refining capability. Ploesti was essential to the Nazi war effort, but other refineries in Ger­many, France, Belgium, and Hungary were also important. The coa identified twelve key refineries and five synthetic oil plants that, if destroyed in a single month, two months later would pro­duce “a very serious curtailment in German military operations.” One analyst estimated that after three months, if other refineries remained at current production levels, “you will have immobi­lized the German economy. They will not be able to either fight or manufacture.”65

Such assessments intensified Spaatz’s desire to wreck German oil. As the air power demands in the Italian ground war began to subside, he dispatched Fifteenth Air Force heavies to wreck the oil target at the top of the list once and for all. Fie had begun a di­rect assault on Ploesti’s refineries with attacks on 18 and 31 May, with almost 500 bombers participating in the latter raid. The last week of June he ordered three more strikes, and then five more in July. The July raids cost Fifteenth Air Force nearly 100 bomb­ers—by the end of the month it had lost 30 percent of its bomber strength. Spaatz, though, could count on a steady stream of air­craft and crews to replace the losses, and waged an attrition cam­paign against Ploesti similar to his Big Week battles against the aircraft industry. Four more attacks followed in August, with the raf joining in the assault with night raids. The Luftwaffe did not oppose the final mission against the refineries on 19 July; intelli­gence officers estimated that Ploesti’s oil production was now a mere 10 percent of its peak output. The Soviet army overran the smoldering complex at the end of the month. Fifteenth Air Force dropped almost fourteen thousand tons of bombs in the five – month campaign that eliminated nearly half of Germany’s ability to refine oil. In the process it lost 3 50 bombers, 200 fighters, and more than one thousand men.66

Spaatz wanted to continue hammering oil installations, but other requirements diverted him from that effort. Soon after D – Day, the Germans began launching v-i “buzz” bombs against Eng­land from northern France and Belgium. While the attacks caused little damage compared to the Luftwaffe’s blitz in the Battle of Britain, they killed almost six thousand civilians in two and a half months and produced widespread anxiety.67 Churchill persuaded Eisenhower to make the launch sites the top target for usstaf and raf Bomber Command. Spaatz began attacking them in mid – June, though he thought the effort yielded minimal results against well-camouflaged targets that had a minimal impact on the war. At the end of the month he met with Eisenhower and persuaded the Supreme Allied Commander to allow attacks against targets in Germany when the weather cooperated, the ground forces did not face an emergency, and the V-weapons did not demand the complete attention of the strategic air forces.68

Nonetheless, the demand for air support from Allied armies continued. Fifteenth Air Force heavies devoted substantial as­sistance to the “Anvil” landings in southern France in August. Operation “Market Garden,” the airborne assault in Holland, consumed much of Eighth Air Force’s heavy bomber fleet in Sep­tember. Spaatz reported to Arnold that using heavy bombers to resupply ground and airborne troops for ten days in Market Gar­den cost Eighth Air Force the equivalent of а в-24 wing for six weeks. During the ten-day span, Spaatz bemoaned, his bombers lost the chance to conduct precision raids against German targets on two days, and radar attacks on another six.69 Spaatz’s deputy commander, Fred Anderson, also voiced his displeasure over the need to provide air support to ground forces. “The Armies can­not move forward without help from the Air,” Anderson confided to Major General Curtis LeMay in early October. “They stay un­til we blast the way, and once the way is blasted they move the extent that their supplies allow; then they stop. And when they stop the German digs in, and the way must be blasted again be­fore they move.”’0

Progressive Doctrine

Following the war the views of air leaders like Spaatz, LeMay, Eaker, and Hansell solidified into doctrine for the new U. S. Air Force. Much of that doctrine reflected the progressive ideals that airmen had possessed before the war, and many airmen believed the war validated those notions. Their convictions, strengthened by the attainment of service autonomy soon after the conflict, made World War II a template for “victory through air power,” and that template highlighted the belief that bombing had scored a knock­out blow in the Pacific. Major General Fred Anderson typified the perspective of many postwar air leaders in a letter to Spaatz eight days after Nagasaki: “I wish to congratulate you and your staff on your superior handling of the final stages of the strategic war against Japan. I wish to congratulate you upon proving to the world that a nation can be defeated by air power alone.”11

Most airmen thought that America’s vast superiority in strate­gic bombers and atomic bombs assured that future wars would be quick, cheap, and efficient compared to the savagery that had killed tens of millions from 1939-45. Even in the aftermath of the Korean War—a “limited” conflict that did not conform to air­men’s expectations—the progressive notions underpinning Air Force doctrine remained little changed from the ideals espoused at the Air Corps Tactical School. The authors of the 1955 edition of the Air Force’s Basic Doctrine Manual anticipated a conflict with the Soviet Union but were mindful of the recent experience in Korea. Regardless of the type of conflict that next emerged, they believed that air power would decide it quickly and efficiently. They noted: “War has been characterized in the past by a general pattern of events in which military forces were engaged in an ex­tended struggle of attrition in surface battles. With air forces and modern weapons systems available, it no longer is necessary to defeat opposing armed forces as a prerequisite to conducting ma­jor operations directly against an opponent either in his sovereign territory or in any other locality.”12 The manual further stated: “Of the various types of military forces, those which conduct air operations are most capable of decisive results. .. . They provide the dominant military means of exercising the initiative and gain­ing decisions in all forms of international relations, including full peace, cold war, limited wars of all types, and total war.”13 The total war with the Soviets never materialized, but eight years of limited war in Vietnam produced no substantial changes to the Air Force’s progressive mindset. The 1984 edition of the Basic Doctrine Manual stressed that “aerospace forces have the power to penetrate to the heart of an enemy’s strength without first defeating defending forces in detail.”14 The manual identified the enemy’s heart as a “selected series of vital targets,” which, if destroyed, would wreck the enemy’s capability and will to fight.15 Of the ten possible targets listed, six were components of a na­tion’s industrial apparatus. The manual also noted that strategic bombing could occur successfully “at all levels of conflict,”16 an obvious reference to Vietnam and President Richard Nixon’s De­cember 1972 bombing of the North that many airmen believed produced the Paris Accords a month later. LeMay expressed that conviction when an interviewer asked him in 1986 if America could have won in Vietnam. “In any two-week period you want to mention,” he answered.17 LeMay believed—as did many other airmen—that the political controls restraining much of the bomb­ing in the North had prevented air power from producing a rapid, inexpensive victory much earlier in the conflict.18

For air commanders today, the political restrictions inherent in limited war are givens, yet service doctrine continues to stress a progressive viewpoint. The current edition of the Air Force’s Ba­sic Doctrine Manual, written in 2003, lists “strategic attack” first among a list of seventeen “air and space power functions.”19 The manual further emphasizes that strategic attack not only gives the United States a unique capability to defeat an enemy without bloody ground combat, but also provides the means to transform the character of war itself:

Air and space power is inherently a strategic force and an offensive weapon. Unlike other forms of military power, air and space power may simultaneously hold all of an enemy’s instruments of power at risk—military, economic, and diplomatic. Employed properly, it offers the capability of going to the heart of the enemy sources of strength, avoiding prolonged attrition-based surface combat operations as a precursor… . Strategic attack, as envisioned today, is more than just a function—it is also a different approach for thinking about war. It is the manifestation of the Airman’s perspective: thinking about de­feating the enemy as a system.20

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