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

Genesis in the Great War

Accurate bombing on a large scale is a new science and requires the entire time and study of the man who is to shoulder the responsibility for success or failure during the coming year. • LT. COL. EDGAR S. GORRELL, 2 JANUARY 1918

One of those chanting was Edgar Staley Gorrell, a diminutive nineteen-year-old “yearling” from Baltimore. Gorrell’s small stat­ure and boyish features had earned him the nickname “Nap” from his classmates, and Nap was mightily impressed by the spectacle. From the day he viewed Curtiss’s flight—which arrived in New York City after two hours and forty-six minutes of air travel—Gor­rell determined that he too would become an aviator. Assigned to the infantry after graduation, he transferred to the Signal Corps’ Aviation Section in 1914 and then completed flight training. Two years later, as one of eleven pilots in the First Aero Squadron, he helped track Pancho Villa’s hand of outlaws across northern Mex­ico. He became the first American to fly an aircraft equipped to take automatic photographs, the first to fly an aircraft while con­ducting radio experiments, the first American Army officer to vol­unteer for a parachute jump, and one of the first officers to fly at night. He also developed the first plan for an American bomber offensive against an enemy nation.2

The Realities of Air War, July-October 1943

The objectives that Eaker now sought did not exactly match those touted by airmen before the war. The limitations of his force and the unforgiving environment in which it operated altered the pros­pects for “efficient” results within the time constraints set by the Trident Conference. Anderson acknowledged Eaker’s problem: “There are unavoidable conditions, not immediately correctable, which preclude present attainment of the desired results and which necessitate acceptance of less than maximum efficiency.”96 The premium was on fast results, and fast did not necessarily guar­antee efficient. Moreover, the overall war aim did not lend itself to rapier thrusts of air power; bludgeoning with bombs better suited Roosevelt’s goal of “unconditional surrender.” That objec­tive called for speed, but only from the standpoint of ending the war quickly to save Allied lives. It also demanded enough destruc­tion to erase the future desire for war from the collective psyche of the Axis populations. Roosevelt and Churchill—as well as Jo­seph Stalin—intended not only to wreck Germany’s war-making capability and will to fight, but also to destroy the Nazi philos­ophy that fostered the German war effort—and to assure that a similar world view never again materialized. “Practically all Ger­mans deny the fact that they surrendered in the last war, but this time they are going to know it,” the president would tell journal­ists in summer 1944. “And so are the Japs.”97

To the Commander of RAF Bomber Command, the April 1943

Combined Bomber Offensive plan ably reflected the ideals that he believed should guide an air campaign. Air Marshal Arthur Har­ris had directed the raf’s bombing of Germany for more than a year, and had staged his first “thousand plane raid” in May 1942 against Cologne. He thought that the opportunity to employ two “highly specialised and well equipped” bomber forces in tandem simply made sense, plus it offered the chance to achieve maxi­mum efficiency. “There is no difficulty in achieving our object at minimum cost in life, material and effort,” Harris remarked to Eaker in April 1943. “There is difficulty only in convincing those in whose hands lies the power to grasp the opportunity.” Having received the blessing of Combined Chiefs in May, Harris set out to achieve aerial effects in concert with his American ally that he believed would “decide all.”98

In actuality the Combined Bomber Offensive, officially desig­nated “Operation Pointblank,” provided few instances of genu­ine cooperation between the two bomber forces. Their distinctive targeting philosophies, exemplified by the raf’s night bombing aimed at morale and the Army Air Forces’ daylight effort aimed at industrial production—along with the intense American desire to demonstrate independent success to bolster the bid for service autonomy—led to largely separate air campaigns.99 A notable exception occurred at the end of July when Harris turned his at­tention to Hamburg. For more than a week, the raf and Eighth Air Force pummeled the city, with the American raids occurring on 25 and 26 July against naval installations and an aircraft fac­tory. Army Air Forces crews had difficulty seeing their targets be­cause of the thick smoke created by raf attacks after midnight on 25 July, when 733 bombers had unleashed 2,290 tons of bombs, almost half of which were incendiaries. One-third of the 147 b – 17s dropped incendiaries as well.100 The series of raids ultimately produced a massive firestorm; 42,600 German civilians perished, and 75 5,000 more lost their homes.101 Harris deemed “Operation Gomorrah” a success, and colored away the city’s burned out sections in the “Blue Books” he kept that displayed aerial photo­graphs of Germany’s major urban areas.

Hamburg also made a distinct impression on American polit­ical and military leaders. Roosevelt saw the raids as “an impres­sive demonstration” of what American air power might accom­plish against Japan.102 Fred Anderson, who flew aboard an raf Lancaster bomber over Hamburg on the night of 27 July, offered that the raids showed the German populace “that we can hit any place in Germany anytime we propose to do so.”103 Hamburg por­tended that bombs might break German morale, much like the 19 July attack by Spaatz’s bombers on marshalling yards in Rome that Arnold believed “had a deep psychological effect on the Ital­ian people” and led to the overthrow of Benito Mussolini.104 Ar­nold’s perspective downplayed the impact of Allied landings in Sicily the previous week and conformed to his belief that bombing could achieve independent success. Indeed, the Army Air Forces Commanding General had asked the coa in March to determine what targets air power could destroy “to knock Italy out of the war,” and requested a similar study on Japan.105

Arnold further envisioned three uses for incendiary bombs by Eighth Air Force: “burning down suitable precise industrial ob­jectives; starting fires by day in the densely built up portions of cities and towns to serve as beacons for the R. A.F. to exploit at night; [and] burning down the densely built-up portions of cities and towns by day attack alone when the occasion warrants.”106 Al­though he emphasized to his commanders in June that the bomber, “when used with the proper degree of understanding, becomes, in effect, the most humane of all weapons,” Arnold had relayed a very different message to his air staff two months earlier: “The way to stop the killing of civilians is to cause so much damage and destruction and death that the civilians will demand their govern­ment cease fighting. This does not mean that we are making civil­ians or civilian institutions a war objective, but we cannot ‘pull our punches’ because some of them may get killed.”107

Arnold condoned ruthlessness only as long as it did not tarnish the image of the Army Air Forces. He returned to progressive ide­als in specifying the message that he wanted Eaker and the Eighth Air Force to convey to the American people: “It is very important, for whole-hearted public and official support of our Air Forces in their operations, that the people understand thoroughly our Air Force’s precepts, principles, and purposes,” he wrote. “Still more, it is important for the people to understand that our prime purpose is destruction of the enemy’s ability to wage war, by our planned persistent bombing and sapping of his vital industries, his transportation, and his whole supply system. And finally, it is im­portant for them to realize that this takes time, as well as money and planes and planning and work—but that it will win the war and save perhaps millions of lives which otherwise would be sac­rificed in bloody ground combat.”108 As the Eighth Air Force pre­pared to attack Hamburg, he told Eaker to guarantee that post­raid press releases stressed “the mission aiming point rather than the city or town in which the aiming point is located.”109

Eaker appreciated Arnold’s concerns, but the Eighth Air Force Commander placed his emphasis on assuring that his crews could actually drop their bombs in the vicinity of the aiming point. The weather in summer 1943 had turned especially nasty, with clouds covering Germany during the months that should have provided ideal daylight bombing conditions. The British had developed various methods of radar bombing that allowed them to bomb at night, and Eaker wanted to use those devices to enhance the Eighth Air Force’s daylight efforts during periods of poor weather. “We are looking for a considerable degree of accuracy, sufficient at least that we can dump our bombs in the heavily built-up in­dustrial areas,” he informed Arnold—a far cry from the notion of precision bombing that he had espoused less than a year be­fore.110 The best of the British instruments was his, a ground map­ping radar that the raf employed with great effect against Ham­burg. The British were reluctant to provide their allies with it for the same reason that American airmen refused to share the Nor – den bombsight with the raf—they feared that a downed bomber might reveal its secrets to the Germans. At the end of July, Air Chief Marshal Portal relented, and Eaker reported that he would soon have a squadron “ready to go with one of these gadgets” in the lead aircraft.111

In the meantime, whenever the weather cooperated, Eaker re­mained true to the principles that had guided the development of an American bombing force. In August Eighth Air Force partici­pated in two dramatic raids against perceived linchpins of the Nazi industrial web. The first occurred on i August against the com­plex of petroleum refineries at Ploesti, Romania, which refined 60 percent of Germany’s crude oil needs. Eaker had mentioned Ploesti in his brief to the Joint Chiefs in April, and the coa had long had it on its list of targets. Eighth Air Force contributed two groups of B-24S for the raid, plus another slated for the Eighth, and the remaining two groups came from Spaatz’s Northwest Af­rica Air Force. They took off from the Libyan base at Benghazi and flew across the Mediterranean at only one hundred feet to avoid radar detection.

Chance disrupted the plan from the start. The aircraft carry­ing the lead navigator mysteriously crashed in the sea on the way to Ploesti, and the bomber with the deputy mission navigator de­veloped mechanical problems and had to return to base. Mission navigation devolved to a new second lieutenant; two of the bomb groups refused to trust his skills and mistakenly flew to Bucharest when the lieutenant had correctly called for a turn to Ploesti. By the time the B-24S arrived in staggered disarray over the target, German defenses were primed and downed 41 of the 177 bombers dispatched. Other factors claimed an additional 13, and 55 more suffered major damage. Although the raid wrecked 42 percent of the refineries’ total capacity, the Germans had operated them at only 60 percent, which meant that Ploesti suffered a long-term loss of only 2 percent in production capability. Within weeks it refined oil at a higher rate than it had before the raid.112

Eaker’s own dual attack on 17 August against the Messer – schmitt factory at Regensburg and the ball bearing complex at Schweinfurt met a similar dismal fate and produced similar mea­ger results.

Ploesti, Regensburg, and Schweinfurt exemplified the carnage that Luftwaffe defenses inflicted on Eighth Air Force throughout the summer and early autumn of 1943. Eaker tried to offset the losses by increasing his total of bombers and crews. He possessed almost 700 bombers by July, allowing him to launch some raids with as many as 300 aircraft, but he still lacked the numbers to do so on a consistent basis, plus his crew totals remained insuffi­cient.113 Production problems in the United States left him short 240 bombers, and the diversions that had plagued him during the spring continued.114 At his April briefing to the Joint Chiefs, he stated that he would likely need to replace a third of his force each month because of attrition,115 but loss rates often neared xo percent on the missions flown against Germany in August. Losses among new crews were higher still—four new groups that arrived in April averaged a loss of 21 aircraft in eighteen missions, while four experienced groups on the same missions averaged 9.116 Eaker told Arnold that new crews needed at least two weeks of train­ing to make them mission ready and that several losses occurred because “the formations are not always flown as instructed.” Yet he also acknowledged that part of the losses stemmed from “the unusual ferocity of the defense put up by the German fighter over his homeland as contrasted with the defense put up by him over occupied territory.”117

In the summer of 1943, Eighth Air Force had no real answer for the German fighter force, which was responsible for the vast majority of bomber losses.118 The p-47 “Thunderbolt” and the p-51 “Mustang,” two single-seat fighters with promising capa­bilities as escorts, lacked the range to venture far beyond the Ger­man border, and German fighter pilots waited until the escorts turned back to pounce. Engineers thus far had limited success de­veloping “drop tanks” to extend the American fighters’ range. At­tempts to protect bombers with the YB-40, а в-17 that carried no bombs and sported extra turrets and machine guns, failed miser­ably—the aircraft’s performance characteristics differed too much from standard bombers to keep place in formation. Eaker believed that with more bombers he could ultimately overcome the Luft­waffe, and that his bomber crews had already inflicted substan­tial losses on the German fighter force. He surmised that more bombers and larger formations offered greater firepower to shoot down German fighters. Eaker also pressed for fighter escorts, but he did not completely dismiss the YB-40, which he thought was “a good idea but we have not quite gotten the correct aircraft for carrying it out.”119

To the pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and gunners who bat­tled the Luftwaffe, the prospects for success appeared grim in­deed. Most bomber crewmen did not focus on whether their ac­tions contributed to Germany’s demise. Instead, their definition of success was simple—survival. In January 1943, Eaker and Ar­nold gave heavy bomber crews a requirement of twenty-five com­bat missions, after which they would transfer to assignments free of combat duty. The crew of the Memphis Belle was the first to complete the requirement and departed England in May 1943 t0 fanfare that included immortalization in a classic documentary by Hollywood director William Wyler. Other crews were not so fortunate. By August 1943 the life expectancy of a typical bomber crewman had dipped to fifteen missions—and would stay at that number for the remainder of the year.120 Eaker wrote Arnold in October, “I think it is perfectly marvelous the morale we have been able to maintain,”121 but the truth was better revealed in the first stanza of a poem written by one of LeMay’s crewmen:

They call him the “Aerial Gunner.”

His hopes, they say, are dim

And his life is said to hang by a thread

That is long and weak and slim.122

The progressive tenets of the Air Corps Tactical School had forecast a bomber offensive that achieved success by minimizing crew losses instead of through attrition. Yet the longer the day­light campaign persisted, the more it resembled an aerial slugfest that would continue until only one side demonstrated that it could still respond after absorbing massive punishment. Eaker could not allow that fight to persist indefinitely, but he could see no way to avoid the slaughter in the sky given the time constraints that he faced. Indeed, based on his receipt of intercepted German mes­sage traffic, he believed that the Luftwaffe fighter force had suf­fered severe losses that threatened its ability to control the air.123 If he could break that force through continued assaults on vital centers, then he might yet achieve daylight air superiority within the allotted time. The time available, though, continued to slip away. In mid-August, the Combined Chiefs of Staff solidified the i May 1944 date for the invasion of France and reaffirmed that the successful prosecution of the Combined Bomber Offensive was a prerequisite for it.

Still, Eaker did not abandon his faith that bombing could wreck Germany’s war-making capability. He continued to attack Point – blank targets that the coa had recommended despite suffering losses that again neared ro percent for raids over the Reich in Sep­tember and the first half of October. On 14 October—a date that bomber crews would dub “Black Thursday”—Eighth Air Force returned to Schweinfurt. Of the 319 B-17S that attacked the ball bearing complex, 60 fell to German defenses.124 The magnitude of the loss caused even Roosevelt to remark that the United States could not afford to have 60 bombers shot down on a regular ba­sis.125 Arnold called a press conference proclaiming, “Now we have got Schweinfurt!” and added that losses as high as 25 percent on some missions could be expected—and accepted.126

In truth the damage inflicted on ball bearing production once again had little impact on German war production, and Eaker had to send a notice to his crews that Arnold had been misquoted about condoning such a high loss rate.127 The grim assessment of the Army Air Forces Commanding General also did not go un­noticed by Time magazine writers, who summarized Eaker’s new measure of efficiency in their 25 October issue: “Suddenly the cost of victory loomed large. . . . The price was not exorbitant: without bearings the mechanized German war machine would be helpless. But the cost was high enough to elicit a spate of ex­planation.”128

Arnold wanted an explanation as well. Eaker sent him a ca­ble in the immediate aftermath of the raid confirming the loss of sixty B-17S in combat and another five when their crews elected to bail out over England rather than attempt landing with heav­ily damaged aircraft. Eaker further noted that his crews had shot down ninety-nine German fighters, with another thirty proba­bly destroyed and fourteen damaged.129 “This does not represent a disaster,” he asserted. “It does indicate that the air battle has reached its climax.” Eaker then asked Arnold to expedite the ar­rival of additional bombers and crews, provide auxiliary fuel tanks for escort fighters, and “send every possible fighter here as soon as possible. We must show the enemy we can replace our losses; he knows he cannot replace his. We must continue the battle with unrelenting fury.”130 Arnold agreed that the Luftwaffe had also suffered much but wanted proof that its end was near. “It appears from my viewpoint that the German Air Force is on the verge of collapsing,” he cabled Eaker. “We must not (repeat) must not miss any symptoms of impending German collapse. .. . Can you send me any substantial evidence of collapse?”131

Momentum Builds

The Japanese refused to succumb to the massive March bombings, and LeMay lacked the capability to continue constant incendiary attacks. Despite the terrible toll of civilians killed and the enor­mous destruction rendered to their cities, the Japanese kept fight­ing w’ith the same intensity they had demonstrated before raids. American Army and Marine forces invaded Okinawa on i April and did not control the islands until 21 June—at a cost of almost fifty thousand American casualties, of whom more than twelve thousand were killed or missing.135

The mounting losses in the fight for Okinawa intensified the de­mand for an air power-generated victory that would forestall an invasion of the home islands. LeMay’s March attacks had expended most of his supply of incendiaries, and, with the exception of two mid-April raids against Tokyo and another against Kawasaki, no more firebombing occurred until mid-May after the Navy had re­plenished his incendiary stocks. In the meantime, he returned to precision methods with high explosive bombs to strike new tar­gets that he received from Norstad. Those targets consisted of air­craft engine plants, oil, chemical production facilities, and, after 16 April, airfields to support the Okinawa invasion.136 The B-29S also conducted extensive aerial mining operations in the Sea of Japan that severely restricted movement among the home islands and ultimately sank or disabled eighty-three ships.137

Arnold was eager to reignite the incendiary campaign, which, unlike mining, produced immediate empirical evidence of the dam­age inflicted. He urged LeMay to “put the maximum weight of ef­fective bombs on Japanese targets” and noted that the Army Air

Forces “alone are able to make the Japanese homeland constantly aware of the price she will pay in this futile struggle.” Observing that LeMay would control almost a thousand B-29S by July (he had received XX Bomber Command’s Superfortresses when Jap­anese troops threatened Chengtu early in 1945, and newly manu­factured aircraft continued to arrive in the Marianas), Arnold as­serted: “Under reasonably favorable conditions you should then have the ability to destroy whole industrial cities should that be required.” Arnold left no doubt that it would be. Yet he persisted in emphasizing attacks on industry, remarking that “it is apparent that attacks similar in nature to that against Tokyo have a most significant effect on industrial production.”1,8

LeMay returned to his incendiary campaign on 14 May with a daylight assault on Nagoya. A follow-on night attack against the city on 16 May was so successful that it no longer appeared on the Twentieth Air Force target list.139 Fire raids against Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Kawasaki followed, and by mid-June a total of 105.6 square miles in Japan’s six largest cities were smoldering ru­ins with an estimated 112,000 civilians in them dead.140 The dev­astation came at a price—in May alone eighty B-29S were lost, though many more made it to the emergency landing field on Iwo Jima.141 Meanwhile, the Japanese kept fighting.

New president Harry S. Truman called a meeting with the Joint Chiefs on 18 June to determine, “Can we win the war by bomb­ing?”142 Marshall answered that the United States could not, based on the example of the European war, and outlined the plan for an invasion.143 At the gathering—which Arnold missed because of touring Pacific bases—Truman expressed his intention “of econo­mizing to the maximum extent possible in loss of American lives” and that “economies in time and money [were] relatively unim­portant.”144 Time, however, was vital to Arnold. He sent LeMay to Washington DC in his stead to brief Marshall and the Joint

Chiefs on the progress of the в-29 campaign and its prospects for eliminating an amphibious assault on Japan.145 LeMay told the Chiefs, as he had told Arnold on Guam, that by 1 October B-29S would have destroyed all Japanese industrial facilities and Japan could not continue fighting with its reserve supplies wrecked.146 Marshall fell asleep during his briefing.147 Preparations for Oper­ation Olympic, the invasion of Kyushu scheduled for 1 Novem­ber, continued.

When LeMay returned to Guam he intensified his campaign against Japan’s urban areas. He began incinerating twenty-five of Japan’s smaller cities, often with as many as five hundred B-29S on a single raid. Arnold fully backed the effort, telling LeMay, “We have the Nip where we want him.”148 On 16 July Superfor­tresses attacked Oita, a town of sixty thousand that contained no industry and only “a vital naval air depot” that was not a tar­get.149 LeMay complemented his offensive in late July by having his B-29S drop leaflets that warned of attacks on potential target cities and urged surrender. The ability to announce future attacks and then conduct them made a powerful impression on the Japanese, and actually contributed to achieving the prewar progressive aim to avoid civilian casualties—many people who read the notices survived LeMay’s onslaught by evacuating the cities listed.1-50

While the B-29S mauled Japan, a debate over the viability of the incendiary effort raged in Washington DC between members of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (ussbs), a largely civilian research team analyzing the impact of American air cam­paigns, and the Joint Target Group (jtg), an intelligence organi­zation created by the Joint Chiefs in September 1944 to identify and evaluate Japanese air targets.151 Based on their examination of European bombing, the ussbs members argued that attacks on Japan’s transportation network, especially rail and watercraft traffic, would produce the most benefit, followed by raids on oil, chemical production, and electric power. They discounted the ef­fectiveness of the incendiary attacks, which they compared to the raf’s effort against German morale, and recommended that Twen­tieth Air Force return to precision bombing.152

Early Notions of American Air Power

Gorrell’s scheme for attacking Wilhelmine Germany called into question the basic purpose of an air force: whether to support the Army directly through air operations tied to the Army’s immedi­ate progress on the front lines or to conduct “independent” oper­ations, such as “strategical” bombing, that would ultimately im­prove the Army’s situation at the front but that also offered the prospect of a rapid, cheap victory by destroying the enemy’s war­making capability and will to fight. If air power could achieve victory independently of ground forces, it implied that the Ar­my’s “air” branch might deserve a measure of autonomy. Before World War I, however, such concerns were minimal, even among airmen. When Congressman James Hay proposed a bill in Feb­ruary 1913 to create an “Air Corps” equivalent in stature to the infantry, cavalry, or artillery, aviators were almost unanimous in condemning the proposal. Lieutenants Benjamin D. Foulois and Henry H. “Hap” Arnold testified that the Signal Corps’ control of aviation was satisfactory.5 Captain William “Billy” Mitchell, at that time a non-flyer and the lone Signal Corps representative on the Army’s General Staff, argued that aviation was essential to Signal Corps reconnaissance and communication. “The offensive value of this thing has yet to be proved,” he stated.4

The outbreak of war in Europe heightened interest in the air­plane’s military potential. That conflict, combined with a grow­ing rift between Signal Corps aviators and their non-flying su­periors, spurred Secretary of War Newton D. Baker to launch a General Staff investigation in April 1916 on the appropriate­ness of severing aviation from Signal Corps control. Many pilots bemoaned the “under 30, bachelor only” restrictions on flying, while many of their non-flying superiors regarded the young avi­ators as undisciplined. Baker decided that air autonomy was not the answer, but also admitted that combat in Europe had demon­strated that the air arm was more than just an auxiliary service.5 The next year, on the eve of America’s entry into the Great War, a joint Army-Navy panel recommended purchasing “a rigid air­ship of the zeppelin type” that could bomb an enemy’s homeland.6 Although the dominant focus of America’s air power vision re­mained on supporting the Army, that view did not exclude inde­pendent operations.

The failure of American civilian and military leaders to articu­late a definitive concept of military aviation likely stemmed from the paucity of military aviation available. When Congress de­clared war against Germany on 6 April 1917, the Signal Corps’ Aviation Section numbered only 65 officers on active duty, of whom 26 were certified pilots, backed by 1,100 enlisted men and 200 civilian personnel. The Army’s sole example of applying air power against an enemy was the use of eight Curtiss jnj train­ing aircraft in Brigadier General John J. Pershing’s expedition to Mexico, and all had broken down. That fiasco caused Congress to lavish appropriations of almost thirteen million dollars on the Aviation Section, but by the end of 1916 the Army possessed only 149 aircraft—mostly trainers and virtually all obsolete—while another 302 were on order but undelivered. Only twelve compa­nies were capable of building airplanes for the government, and they produced just 90 aircraft in 1916. In contrast, twenty-seven British firms built 5,716 airplanes that year. The chairman of the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, the civilian pre­paredness agency that initially coordinated Army wartime avia­tion policy with American industry, warned: “Though millions may be available for a specific purpose in time of great need, no amount of money will buy time.”

Yet time would not be forthcoming. On 23 May 1917, French Premier Alexandre Ribot, responding to pleas from his generals for American material as well as men, cabled his ambassador in Washington dc and requested 4,500 airplanes for the 1918 cam­paign, along with 2,000 replacements per month. Given the state of Army aviation, Ribot’s request bordered on the fantastic— multiplied out for just the first half of the year, it totaled 16,500 aircraft! Moreover, the cable failed to mention what types of air­craft the United States should produce. With Foulois, now a ma­jor, serving as Signal Corps representative, the Joint Army-Navy Technical Board hurriedly sketched out a program for a 9,000- aircraft force with a reserve of 3,000 airplanes. Of those totals, the board slated 1,000 and 333 respectively as bombers; the remainder would be fighters and observation aircraft. The program’s magni­tude disheartened many members of the Army’s General Staff, who believed that the emphasis on aviation might limit the nation’s ca­pability to manufacture other needs for the service.8 Their reser-

vations led Brigadier General George O. Squier, the Army’s chief signal officer, to present the board’s proposal directly to Secretary of War Baker. Baker then took it to Congress, which appropriated a staggering $640 million to fund the entire program. President Woodrow Wilson signed the measure into law on 24 July.

Even before Congress approved the plan, an American mission departed for Europe to obtain information on the best aircraft de­signs to produce in the United States. Arriving in Liverpool on the twenty-sixth, the mission spent the next five weeks interviewing air officers and industrialists in Britain, France, and Italy. Led by Major Raynal C. Bolling, a former U. S. Steel lawyer who had or­ganized the National Guard’s first aviation unit, the group con­sisted of 105 military and civilian aviation experts. One of them was Captain Nap Gorrell, fresh out of мі г and sporting a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering.

Despite the group’s qualifications, Bolling faced a difficult task. Besides the time constraint demanding an immediate start to full – scale American production, the mission suffered from two key problems. First, it would not finish its work before the arrival of General John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force (aef) staff, which would evaluate air requirements from the vantage point of the force that would do the fighting. Bolling’s mission reported to General Squier in Washington DC, not Pershing, and the mission’s conclusions would not match those of Pershing’s of­ficers. Second, the group’s departure for Europe almost a month before Congress approved the air arm’s structure compelled its members to devise a structure of their own, and doing so required making determinations about air strategy that would dictate air­craft roles and the types needed to fulfill them.9 Many of their de­cisions stemmed from the ideas of Allied airmen. For Nap Gor­rell, the insights gained would endure, and would form the basis of his plan for a bomber offensive.


Bolling’s group spent its first week in Britain meeting with Brit­ish Director-General of Military Aeronautics and General Officer Commanding the Royal Flying Corps, Sir David Flenderson. He suggested that the Americans concentrate exclusively on bomber production and not try to develop a balanced force of fighters, bombers, and observation aircraft.10 The first attack on London by German Gotha bombers a fortnight before the Bolling mis­sion arrived may have triggered Henderson’s recommendation. In two minutes, fourteen Gothas had dropped nearly two tons of bombs, killing 162 people and injuring 432.11 The bombers attacked in daylight and with impunity; none fell to antiaircraft fire or fighters. Many of London’s East End workers, fearing the bombers’ return, stayed away from their factories. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and his War Cabinet ordered two squadrons of fighters home from France. Britain’s leaders also looked to pay the Germans back in kind. Before the Gotha assault, the British had shunned the development of an independent bombing force. In April 1917, their air strength in France consisted of twenty-seven fighter squadrons, twenty-one army support squadrons, and two bomber squadrons. After the Gotha raid, the British government’s Air Board recommended de­veloping forty squadrons of long-range bombers.12

In France and Italy, Bolling’s group also discovered a strong preference for bomber development. The French could not pro­duce enough aircraft to satisfy both the demand for additional air support at the front and the desire for bombers to attack Ger­many. They hoped that the 4,500 figure mentioned by Premier Ribot could form a strategic force—that intent had been mistak­enly omitted from the cable—and they made certain that Bolling’s mission understood their wishes.13 In Italy, the Americans found bombing operations that were more than mere speculation. The Italians had begun a long-range air campaign against targets in

Austria and were, at the time, the only Allied nation conducting “strategic” bombing. Their air offensive, sporting as many as 140 aircraft on a single raid, impressed Bolling’s group.14 The group was also impressed by the man who had molded the Italian bomber force, the designer and theorist Gianni Caproni. Gorrell in par­ticular was inspired by Caproni’s vision of air power, which par­alleled the thoughts of Giulio Douhet, Caproni’s close friend and confidant.15 Caproni maintained that for bombing to be effective it had to be “systematic, thorough, and consistent.”16 This asser­tion became a cornerstone of Gorrell’s plan.

Submitting his initial report to General Squier on 15 August 1917, Bolling called for the production of training aircraft, air­craft to support American troops in the field, and “aircraft in ex­cess of the tactical requirements of the Army in France.”17 His group had selected four types of Allied aircraft for American pro­duction: the British Dehaviland DH-4 for day-bombing and obser­vation; the British Bristol and French spad for air-to-air combat, and the Italian Caproni Tri-motor for long-range night bomb­ing. He recommended that the United States build as many of all types as possible. Bolling contended that the number of airplanes needed to support the ground forces depended on the size of the Army and would vary in proportion to it. Combat aircraft in ex­cess of those required for Army support could conduct “indepen­dent” air operations, such as night raids on Germany. He further suggested a precise apportionment of aircraft types for this inde­pendent force: 37.5 percent of its aircraft should be fighters ca­pable of escorting bombers, 25 percent should be day bombers, and the remainder should be Caproni night bombers.18 He found the prospects of night bombing especially appealing, and noted that if it were conducted “on a sufficiently great scale and kept up continuously for a sufficient time, there seems good reason to believe that it might determine the whole outcome of military operations.”19 Yet Bolling’s “third-place mention of the strategic force was apparently taken to mean that it was third in order of relative importance,”20 and bombers did not appear in the initial American aircraft manufacturing program.

One individual had no intention of allowing the notion of an American air offensive to wither away—Billy Mitchell. Since op­posing an autonomous air service four years earlier, Mitchell had come to believe that air power might hold the secret to winning wars. After finishing his General Staff assignment in June 19×6, he became General Squier’s deputy in the Signal Corps’ Aviation Section and was promoted to major. He then took advantage of a provision in the 1916 National Defense Act lifting the ban on flight training for servicemen over thirty (Mitchell was thirty-six). From September 1916 to January 1917, he paid a dollar a min­ute for 1,470 minutes of off-duty flying instruction at the Curtiss Aviation School in Newport News, Virginia.21 His flying “exper­tise” likely caused the War Department to send him to Europe as an aeronautical observer, and he arrived in Paris four days after America’s declaration of war.22 Two weeks later he spent ten days at the front lines observing French General Robert Nivelle’s disas­trous offensive and visiting French aviation units. He recalled his thoughts after first viewing trench warfare from the air:

A very significant thing to me was that we could cross the lines of these contending armies in a few minutes in our airplane, whereas the armies had been locked in the struggle, immovable, powerless to advance, for three years. To even stick one’s head over the top of a trench invited death. This whole area over which the Germans and French battled was not more than sixty miles across. It was as though they kept knocking their heads against a stone wall, until their brains were dashed out. They got nowhere, as far as ending the war was concerned.22

In May, Mitchell visited the headquarters of Major General Hugh Trenchard, commander in the field of Britain’s Royal Fly­ing Corps (rfc). Mitchell arrived abruptly, wearing an extrava­gant uniform that he designed himself, but his unbridled exuber­ance persuaded the general who was “decided in manner and very direct in speech” to give him a three-day dose of RFC operations and Trenchard philosophy. Mitchell was particularly impressed by Trenchard’s commitment to a single, unified air command that would allow him to “hurl a mass of aviation at any one locality needing attack.” For the British air leader, a tightly controlled, con­tinuous aerial offensive was the key to success, and assigning air units to individual ground commanders for defense was a mistake. Trenchard highlighted the rfc’s General Headquarters Brigade, a force designed to destroy the German army’s means of supply and reinforcement, but which possessed too few aircraft to do so in the spring of 1917. He argued that air power should attack as far as possible into the enemy’s country, and noted that the devel­opment of new airplanes with greater ranges would make Berlin a viable target. He did not, however, contend during his first en­counter with Mitchell that the quickest way to defeat the German army was through an air offensive aimed at the German nation. While others around Trenchard stressed a “radical air strategy” against the German homeland, he remained focused on using air power to defeat the German army on the Western Front. None­theless, Mitchell emerged from his initial contact with Trenchard profoundly affected by the general’s ideas and convinced that an aerial offensive was a key to winning the war.24

As a result of observing Allied operations, Mitchell proposed dividing the American air contingent into categories of “tacti­cal” and “strategical” aviation. He made his proposal to Persh­ing’s chief of staff, who arrived in France with the commanding general in mid-June. Tactical aviation would consist of squadrons

attached to divisions, corps, or armies and would operate as any other combat arm. In contrast, strategical aviation “would be bom­bardment and pursuit formations and would have an independent mission very much as independent cavalry used to have…. They would be used to carry the war well into the enemy’s country.”25 This mission, he insisted, could have “a greater influence on the ultimate decision of the war than any other arm.”26 Soon after re­ceiving Mitchell’s plan, Pershing selected a board of officers to de­termine the proper composition for aef aviation. Because Mitch­ell was the senior American aviator in Europe, the general made him chief of the newly created Air Service, which had replaced the Signal Corps as the Army’s air organization in the aef.27 Mitch­ell’s appointment did not, however, guarantee his proposal’s ac­ceptance. On 11 July, Pershing outlined a comprehensive plan for aef organization that authorized fifty-nine squadrons of tactical aircraft for service with the field armies. It made no mention of an independent force for “strategical” operations.

The Intensifying Demand for Results, October-December 1943

Arnold’s request crystallized the great dilemma for Eaker as the clock continued ticking toward Operation Overlord, the codename given for the invasion of France. Intelligence assessments indicated that his bombing—and the air battles that accompanied it—had a detrimental impact on the German war effort, yet the question re­mained—how much of an impact? Eaker could not say with cer­tainty. He could express success in numerical terms—the amount of bombs dropped, the percentage that hit the target, the numbers of enemy fighters shot down—but even with photographic recon­naissance and Ultra intercepts he could not know for sure whether the destruction that he claimed had actually occurred, or, more importantly, if the actual destruction had produced the desired ef­fect on Germany’s capability and will to keep fighting.

Eaker’s inability to divine his enemy’s response to bombing was a problem that did not lend itself to easy solutions. Besides scru­tinizing intelligence reports, he examined German newspaper ac­counts of raids to determine if the tone of articles revealed the German public’s willingness to keep supporting the war.132 Many coa members relied on their knowledge of American industry to determine the likely impact of destroying similar features of Ger­man war production. Planning for the first Schweinfurt raid typ­ified the mirror-image approach. “Industrialists think in terms of what destruction of American ball bearing plants would mean to them, and they are completely unable to suggest a method by which they could long continue in operation if this [destruction] should occur,” wrote the coa’s Colonel Guido Perera. “There is every reason to believe that the German situation is identical, for in both countries the industry has the same essential character­istics.”133

Such logic ignored actions that the Germans might have already taken to forestall production losses or that they would take after­ward to replace their capability; it also presumed that German in­dustry operated at peak capacity (it did not, and would not until 1944). Thus, determining when aerial destruction would produce tangible results remained a tall order. Regarding future attacks on Ploesti and the German oil system, coa members concluded, “It is impossible to state the precise time when the effects of such de­struction would become apparent. German military leaders would at some point realize that the future was hopeless.”134

Until they did so, Eaker would keep bombing. With the onset of winter, the dismal weather that had plagued Eighth Air Force over northern Europe deteriorated even further. Eaker had no in­tention of giving the Germans a respite from his daylight cam­paign, but the losses that he had suffered limited his ability to at­tack deep inside the Reich. In addition, Arnold stripped away replacement aircraft and crews to help create the Fifteenth Air Force that would attack Germany from Italian bases.135 The cre­ation of the Fifteenth cut deeply into an already depleted Eighth.136 To preserve his bomber force, Eaker confined most raids to tar­gets within range of his escort fighters. Dense clouds compelled his crews to use radar bombing for the majority of those missions.

The need to protect bombers and use radar methods limited Eaker to attacking coastal targets in Germany, where the contrast be­tween land areas and water produced the strongest radar images and the distances were short enough to provide escorts most of the way. Bomber losses declined as a result, but bombing accuracy declined as well. Eighth Air Force analysts estimated that for the twenty-seven radar bombing missions flown between the end of September 1943 and the end of January 1944, only 5 percent of the bombs fell within one mile of the aiming point.137

Yet Eaker refused to believe that he had lost his chance for suc­cess. The emphasis remained on achieving rapid results, and he believed that radar bombing could help achieve that objective. On 16 November he wrote Arnold: “I am concerned that you will not appreciate the tremendous damage that is being done to the Ger­man morale by these attacks through overcast, since we cannot show you appreciable damage by photographs. . .. The German people cannot take that kind of terror much longer.”138 If the de­struction rendered to Germany’s industrial web and its homeland fighter force failed to wreck its capability to fight in the allotted time, the radar attacks appeared to offer the prospect for quickly breaking Germany’s will to keep fighting.

Eaker understood that his radar raids resembled the raf’s night area bombing in terms of destruction, but to him they were unique— and hence more terrorizing—because they demonstrated the abil­ity to bomb a city enshrouded in a dense cloud cover.139 He knew such raids killed large numbers of civilians but was untroubled by that result. “I have always believed that civilians supporting [the] national leadership were equally responsible with the mili­tary,” he reflected after the war. “I thought, and still believe, that the man who builds the weapon is as responsible as the man who carries it into battle.”140

Although many air leaders likely felt the same way, Eaker’s de­cision to stress radar bombing revealed how the war’s momentum had altered the progressive ideals that initially guided American airmen in World War II. Eaker had not abandoned those beliefs, but he had helped transform them into notions that stressed speed over all else, including the goal of minimizing casualties on both sides. The desire for an efficient air campaign that limited losses gave way to an air offensive that produced high American ca­sualties and now condoned a direct attack on urban areas that was certain to produce widespread civilian deaths. The failure to achieve air superiority, combined with the vagaries of weather, was largely responsible for the loss of lives that occurred both in the air and on the ground from the American portion of the Com­bined Bomber Offensive, and the emphasis on controlling the air as quickly as possible led to further losses in both domains. Fast results became the sine qua non of a victory through air power, but fast did not necessarily equate to efficient, especially in terms of lives spared. The emphasis on achieving rapid success endured for the remainder of the war.

Eaker’s shift to radar bombing did not impress Arnold, who downplayed the impact of the weather on Eighth Air Force. The aaf Commanding General wanted fast results as well, but thought that the best way to get them was by attacking aircraft factories. Air Chief Marshal Portal confirmed airframe and engine plants as the top targets in Germany at the end of October, stressing that “the success of ‘Overlord’ hangs on the extent to which, by the date of the operation, we have been able to achieve a reasonable reduction of the enemy fighter forces.”141 The coa echoed Por­tal’s message, noting that Overlord placed “increasing emphasis on the need for short-term results.”142 Accordingly, Arnold di­rected Eaker on i November to conduct radar bombing, when cloud cover prohibited precision attacks, against area targets that would adversely affect the Luftwaffe fighter force.143

Germany’s aircraft factories, though, were all small, “preci­sion” targets scattered deep inside the Reich. Eighth Air Force could not hit them using radar techniques; furthermore, Eaker lacked the strength to send bomber formations across Germany unescorted.144 At the end of November, after contemplating a mission against Berlin as a part of Harris’s offensive against the city, Eaker decided against it.14’ He continued to highlight the de­struction that his radar bombing had rendered to German cities, and hence to German morale.146 He further confided to Air Sec­retary Lovett, “I think those who discount and discredit the ef­fect that our overcast bombing on German cities is having on the enemy are unrealistic and unwise.”147 Yet he also acknowledged to Major General Barney Giles, who directed Arnold’s air staff, on 13 December:

There seems to be a feeling there of great irritation that we have not attacked the fighter factories recently. The plain truth of the matter is that there has been no day since November 1 when we could see these factories well enough to bomb them visually. We have not reached a state of either technical or tactical development where we can attack fighter factories with overcast devices. These factories, as you know, are scattered and isolated and they also require deep penetration. We are not justified in striking at them unless the conditions augur for success. These deep penetrations and the impossibility of fighter es­cort will cost us 80-120 bombers. We will suffer this loss any time we penetrate in force to these targets. We must, therefore, be reason­ably certain of their destruction before we launch any expedition en­tailing such cost.148

The Army Air Forces Commanding General—who had never commanded any force in combat—failed to empathize with Eak – er’s plight. Arnold could also hear the clock ticking to produce air power results, and he did not like his chances. Even though his di­versions of bombers to the Mediterranean and Pacific had helped emasculate Eaker’s force, Arnold felt that the situation demanded a new commander for America’s bomber offensive against Ger­many. Eisenhower would soon arrive in Britain to command the forthcoming invasion and had asked that Spaatz, who had served as his air commander in the Mediterranean, accompany him. The overall Allied air commander in the Mediterranean, Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, would join Eisenhower as well, creating a vacancy that needed to be filled by an experienced airman. In addition, Arnold had long desired a single air commander for “strategic” air operations, and with the creation of the Fifteenth Air Force, he now had two bomber forces engaged in the bombing of Ger­many. His solution was to make Spaatz the Commander of the “U. S. Strategic Air Forces,” which would encompass the bomber commands in the Eighth and the Fifteenth, and shift Eaker to com­mand the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces.

Eaker, who had received a promotion to lieutenant general in September, was bitter over the transfer. He learned of it on 18 December, just as Eighth Air Force had finally begun to receive many of the bombers and crews originally promised in the сво plan, and fighters with long-range drop tanks had begun to arrive that would enable them to accompany bombers deep into Ger­many. Four days later, he wrote his friend Major General James Fechet, a former commander of the Army Air Corps: “I feel like a pitcher who has been sent to the showers during a world se­ries game.”149

Eaker, though, had done much to shape how the remainder of the “game” would be played. Spaatz and his subordinate com­manders, Lieutenant General James “Jimmy” Doolittle, the new Commander of the Eighth Air Force, and Lieutenant General Na­than Twining, Commander of Fifteenth Air Force, would adhere to the methods that Eaker had established for bombing the Third

Reich. The Air Corps Tactical School’s progressive proposition that bombing could precisely sever the strands of an enemy’s in­dustrial web to produce quick, inexpensive results had morphed into an air campaign that placed a higher priority on rapid suc­cess than it did on producing inexpensive gains. The emphasis on speed would guarantee—for the both the attacker and the at­tacked—that the American air offensive against Germany was anything but “cheap.”

Culminating Devastation

Tooey Spaatz, now wearing four stars and in Washington DC en route to the Pacific to command the United States Strategic Air Forces there, agreed with the ussbs representatives when he met with them in late July. Arnold had yielded control of Twentieth Air Force to Lieutenant General Nate Twining, and Eighth Air Force would reconstitute on Okinawa, commanded by its former European commander, Lieutenant General “Jimmy” Doolittle, while Spaatz oversaw both organizations as usstaf Commander, with LeMay serving as his chief of staff. Yet when Spaatz arrived on Guam at the end of the month, he continued the incendiary campaign in addition to attacking precision targets. Indeed, on the night of i August, B-29S burned Hachioji, another town of roughly sixty thousand people.

Spaatz also arrived on Guam with written orders to drop the atomic bomb. He was uncertain that such a device was necessary to induce Japanese capitulation. After examining the post-strike photographs from LeMay’s raids, he sent a message to Arnold that “unless the Japanese were intent to commit national suicide they would surrender under the present strategic bombing.”153 When they might surrender, though, remained the great unknown. LeMay believed that the bomb offered the chance to end the war but was skeptical that it would work as advertised. “I knew we had a big bang coming,” he later recalled, “but it really was a little be­yond my comprehension how big a bang it was going to be.”154 In planning the Hiroshima raid, LeMay determined that the mission would attract less notice from the Japanese if it appeared as a typi­cal attempt to gather weather information. Accordingly, only three B-29S participated on 6 August, with the bomb-laden Enola Gay flown by Colonel Paul Tibbets Jr.—the same officer who had pi­loted the lead aircraft in the Eighth Air Force’s first heavy bomber mission against Hitler’s Europe. Once over Hiroshima, the care­ful Tibbets polled his crew to verify that he was indeed above the target city, and then began the bomb run.155

Between seventy thousand and eighty thousand people, mostly civilians, died from the bomb dubbed “Little Boy,” though many others would later perish from burns and radiation sickness.156 Norstad’s thoughts on the attack revealed just how far his commit­ment to air power’s progressive ideals had taken him. In a private message to Spaatz on 8 August, he noted that he wanted pictures of Hiroshima released showing the aiming point in the city’s cen­ter so that “the accuracy with which this bomb was placed may counter a thought that the Centerboard [atomic bomb delivery] project involves wanton, indiscriminate bombing.”157 Spaatz dis­played a different mindset and tried to prevent a second atomic attack on an urban area. After Hiroshima, he called for dropping the second atomic bomb outside a city as a show of force.158 His plea went unheeded, and on 9 August at least thirty-five thousand people died instantly in the atomic raid against Nagasaki.159 On 14 August, with peace negotiations ongoing, 449 B-29S attacked Japan that day and 372 that night.160 Arnold “wanted as big a fi­nale as possible” and aimed to guarantee in no uncertain terms that air power played the decisive role in ending the war.161

Following Hiroshima, Spaatz informed reporters that the atomic bomb probably precluded an invasion of Japan and that a sim­ilar bomb against Germany could have shortened the European war by at least six months—remarks that drew the ire of George Marshall.162 After Nagasaki, had the Japanese failed to surren­der, Spaatz now wanted to drop a third atomic bomb on Tokyo to compel a rapid end to the war.165 Most American air command­ers agreed that the atomic attacks broke Japan’s will to fight and saved an enormous number of Allied lives.164

Allied political leaders reflected those sentiments as well. Tru­man claimed after the war that Marshall had estimated an inva­sion might cost five hundred thousand American lives,165 though in the 18 June 1945 meeting with the Joint Chiefs (that Arnold had missed), the president had received conflicting projections. Marshall’s calculation of thirty-one thousand casualties in the first thirty days of fighting on Kyushu was among the lowest totals, but that estimate omitted potential Navy losses and did not proj­ect when the fighting would end; Admiral William Leahy antici­pated Kyushu losses exceeding two hundred thousand.166 Ultra in­telligence intercepts in the month after the meeting indicated that triple the number of estimated Japanese troops actually defended the selected Olympic invasion beaches, and Marshall likely noti­fied Truman of the update in late July.167 The impetus to obtain a rapid, inexpensive victory—from the American perspective—led Truman to approve the atomic attacks even if his numbers were indefinite. Yet he framed the first atomic raid from a progressive perspective resembling Norstad’s and noted on 9 August that Hi­roshima was “a military base. . . because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.”168 Brit­ish Prime Minister Winston Churchill provided a similar progres­sive view of the atomic bomb’s utility—with questionable num­bers as a rationale—in his typically vivid prose:

To quell the Japanese resistance man by man and conquer the coun­try yard by yard might well require the loss of a million American lives and half that number of British…. Now all this nightmare pic­ture had vanished. In its place was the vision—fair and bright in­deed it seemed—of the end of the whole war in one or two violent shocks. … To avert a vast, indefinite butchery, to bring the war to an end, to give peace to the world, to lay healing hands upon its tor­tured peoples by a manifestation of overwhelming power at the cost of a few explosions, seemed, after all our toils and perils, a miracle of deliverance.169

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