Category German Jets, 1944-1945

Introduction

In October 1910, former president Theodore Roosevelt was in St. Louis campaigning for the Republican governor of Missouri, Herbert Hadley. Upon learning of an “International Aeronautic Tournament” outside the city, the energetic and always inquisitive Roosevelt demanded to see it. “TR” and Hadley arrived at Kin – loch Field on 10 October by an eighty-automobile motorcade— the largest such procession St. Louis had then seen—just as one of the Wright brothers’ six aircraft landed near the grandstand. The pilot of the fragile machine was Arch Hoxsey, a pince-nez- wearing aviator who earlier that year had made America’s first recorded night flight, and who had recently set an endurance rec­ord of 104 miles by flying non-stop to St. Louis from Springfield, Illinois. Hoxsey jumped out of the Model В biplane and walked to Roosevelt’s car through an array of Missouri National Guard troops surrounding the vehicle.

“I was hoping, Colonel, that I might have you for a passenger on one of my trips,” Hoxsey said to Roosevelt.[1]

“By George, I believe I will,” Roosevelt replied. He accompa­nied Hoxsey to the Model В and, to the surprise of those who had arrived with him at the air show, sat down in the passenger seat and said, “Let her go!”

After a four-minute spectacle above Kinloch Field that included a series of climbs and dives—punctuated by “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd below—Roosevelt became the nation’s first pres­ident to fly in an airplane. During the flight he pointed to a Sig­nal Corps building close by and had Hoxsey pretend to attack it. “War, army, aeroplane, bomb!” Roosevelt shouted as Hoxsey

flew back and forth above the installation. Onlookers mobbed TR once he landed, despite the best efforts of the Missouri guards­men to keep them away. When the crowd finally parted enough to give him a chance to speak, he triumphantly exclaimed, “By George, it was fine!”2

Roosevelt’s flight befitted the sense of American adventurism that he embodied, and it also befitted his role as a leader of the progressive movement in the United States. Indeed, as a standard – bearer of the progressives, Roosevelt was on the lookout for ways to improve the daily lives of American citizens, and the airplane offered to do just that. The “flying machine” portended revolu­tions in transportation and communications; commerce and trade would benefit enormously from its continued development. Yet as Roosevelt’s comment to Hoxsey above Kinloch Field indicated, the airplane also offered tremendous potential as an instrument of war. A generation of American airmen would view the airplane’s military promise in progressive terms—as the key to winning con­flicts quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.

For most Americans, though, progressivism had nothing to do with war. The movement, which spanned the nation during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, affected many different groups and encompassed several disparate threads. All focused on progress and reform, and included efforts to reduce inefficiency and waste in manufacturing and business practices, eliminate corruption from government and business, increase the responsiveness of government institutions, promote fairness and equality for all social classes, improve working conditions and protect workers, and enhance the public’s general well-being. At its heart, progressivism promised change that was just, rational, positive, and efficient. Roosevelt emerged as a progressive leader of the Republican Party famous for his “trust busting” and would

later break away from the Republicans to form his own “Pro­gressive Party” in 1912. Democrat Woodrow Wilson, the winner of the 1912 election, also considered himself a progressive, and worked hard to assure the success of the “individual entrepre­neur” against the perceived evils of “big business.” The progres­sive movement’s span across political party lines demonstrated its wide national appeal.

The devastation and ugly realism of World War I ended the progressive era for most Americans; the repudiation of the Ver­sailles Treaty and Wilson’s League of Nations exemplified the pub­lic’s postwar rejection of the movement’s ideals. Yet for Army Air Service officers like Edgar Gorrell and William “Billy” Mitchell, the carnage and waste that they witnessed on the Western Front sparked the beginning of a progressive effort that was unique—an attempt to reform war by relying on its own destructive technol­ogy as the instrument of change. They were convinced that the air­plane—used as a bombing platform—offered the means to make wars much less lethal than conflicts waged by armies or navies.

The airmen contended that a clash of armies, with its subse­quent slaughter, was unnecessary to fight and win future conflicts. Instead, the truly vital ingredients of modern war—the essen­tial industries that produced weapons and fuel, key communica­tions centers, and lines of transportation—were vulnerable to at­tack from the air. The loss of those installations would not only wreck a nation’s ability to fight, it would also sap the will of the populace, because the same facilities needed to wage modern war were also those necessary to sustain normal, day-to-day life. Air­craft would destroy the vital centers through precision bombing— sophisticated technology would guarantee that bombs hit only the intended targets, and few lives would be lost in the process. The finite destruction would end wars quickly, without crippling [2]

manpower losses—maximum results with a minimum of death— and thus, bombing would actually serve as a beneficial instru­ment of war.

To assure the success of their ideas, the advocates of “progres­sive air power” also called for reforming America’s defense struc­ture, with the establishment of a separate air force as a new armed service. They set out to convince the nation of that perceived need, and along the way recruited a core of like-minded officers who took their ideas and further refined them. The conviction that the “strategic bombing” of vital centers offered the solution to fight­ing and winning future wars efficiently blended with the belief that service autonomy was essential to assure the bomber’s proper wartime use against industrial targets—not against armies or na­vies. Ultimately, the two notions became inseparable—the ability of air forces to fight and win wars independently of armies and navies justified an autonomous air force—and an autonomous air force was necessary to assure that air power could efficiently achieve victory on its own.

By the eve of Pearl Harbor, Mitchell disciples like Henry H. “Hap” Arnold and Frank Andrews, and a legion of officers in­culcated with Mitchell’s notions refined by the Air Corps Tacti­cal School, combined to produce a substantial coterie of airmen who subscribed to a belief in “progressive air power.” Most would not have used such a term to describe their convictions; Mitchell himself used the term rarely. Yet they were just as committed to reforming war as the muckrakers had been to reforming indus­trial working conditions.

Collectively, the airmen subscribed to the following central tenet: air power was a more efficient military instrument than land or sea power because it offered a way to fight and win wars more quickly and less expensively (in terms of lives lost on both sides) than did armies or navies. The plan devised by former Tac­tical School instructors in August 1941 for using American air power in the ongoing European war called for strategic bomb­ing to wreck Germany’s war-making ability to such a degree that an invasion of the continent might prove unnecessary. Arnold, by then Commanding General of the Army Air Forces, approved the plan, as did Army Chief of Staff George Marshall and Secre­tary of War Henry Stimson. The promise of progressive air power had broad appeal.

The reality of war—which revealed that American bombers and their crews were rarely capable of pinpoint destruction during com­bat conditions, and included an overarching political objective of “unconditional surrender” that allowed unlimited devastation— generated a momentum of its own that undermined several of the progressive notions that had guided American airmen before the conflict. By 1945, “progressive air power” meant quickly ending the war to reduce American casualties. Still, many air command­ers continued to believe that the destruction of vital centers— despite the accompanying death and desolation—not only has­tened the war’s end, but also ultimately saved lives on both sides. As a result, the progressive mindset that guided airmen on the eve of war never really disappeared during its conduct.

The progressive notions of beneficial bombing—germinated in World War I and tested in World War II—became the basis of doctrine for an independent Air Force in the immediate postwar era, and continue to guide Air Force thought today.

Target Germany, January-June 1943

On 27 January 1943, Eighth Air Force finally launched its first raid against Germany when heavy bombers attacked naval facil­ities at Wilhelmshaven. Only 91 bombers flew on the raid, and of those, only 53 located the cloud-obscured target. Still, only 2 B-24S and і в-17 were lost, and crews claimed 50 German fight­ers shot down.52 After dismal weather grounded the bombers for much of February, the Eighth attacked the submarine construction yard at Vegesack on 18 March with 91 в-17s and B-24S, record­ing many hits on the target while losing only 3 aircraft.53 When 107 B-17S raided the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen a month later, fierce German defenses claimed 16 bombers, with another 46 dam­aged.54 Eaker tried to husband his strength in early 1943 by inter­spersing his attacks on Germany with raids on targets in France and the Low Countries, where he could count on fighter escorts. The Bremen mission indicated that stern tests awaited Eighth Air Force over the Reich.

Eaker faced the challenge of trying to achieve positive results with a bombing force lacking in potency, and to assist him in tar­get selection, Arnold created the Committee of Operations An­alysts (coa) in December 1942. The group was a mix of civilian professors, lawyers, industry executives, and Army Air Forces officers based in Washington DC who received intelligence infor­mation on German war-making facilities and tried to determine which ones to attack to achieve maximum impact. Major Gen­eral Muir S. “Santy” Fairchild, an Army Air Forces officer on the Joint Staff who had taught bombing theory at the Air Corps Tac­tical School, prodded Arnold to create the committee to deflect criticism from Army and Navy intelligence officers who ques­tioned the utility of Eighth Air Force bombing. Arnold directed Colonel Byron E. Gates, who oversaw the coa, to prepare a re­port analyzing how bombing could systematically wreck the Ger­man war effort and to determine “the date when the deterioriza- tion will have progressed to a point to permit a successful invasion of Western Europe.”55

In Arnold’s mind—as Flansell had likewise reflected in awpd – 42—the proper application of air power would dictate the tim­ing of the invasion, and that meant wrecking German capability and will to such a degree that the invasion would occur against minimal resistance—if any. Substantial ground forces might be needed to fight German defenders, but, if bombing did its job, they would become more important as an occupying force. “Even if we believe that Germany can be defeated by air power alone,” the coa’s Colonel Ed Sorenson wrote to Brigadier General Law­rence Kuter, the Eighth Air Force’s First Bomb Wing Commander in early January 1943, “we must concede the practical necessity of the presence of the strong ground forces of our own to take control, if not to fight, [then] to obviate the undesirable neces­sity of occupation being taken over by our allies from the farther East.”56 Kuter sent the letter to Hansell, who had just replaced him as First Wing Commander, and noted that Hansell should re­lay its contents to Eaker.57

In the meantime, the coa members divided themselves into groups examining the individual components of what they deemed Germany’s “Priority A” targets—those offering the most prom­ise in terms of wrecking German military power in 1943. Their conclusions paralleled Hansell’s earlier findings in AWPD-42. The coa initially placed aircraft, electric power, oil, rubber, transpor­tation, chemicals, and electric equipment at the top of their Pri­ority A list.58 Arnold placed enormous weight on their priorities, and directed that his commanders follow the committee’s recom­mendations in selecting targets.59 Initially skeptical of the group and prospects that it might “try to run the air war from Washing­ton,” Eaker relented after meeting many committee members, and for the remainder of his tenure as Eighth Air Force commander he frequently consulted the coa on targeting possibilities.60

Besides considering coa suggestions, Eaker also had to address Allied concerns. His success at Casablanca in preserving a day­light offensive had resulted in an official acknowledgment of day­light bombing in the “Casablanca Directive.” Issued at the con­ference by the Combined Chiefs of Staff, the directive merged the American and British air efforts in a “Combined Bomber Offen­sive” that had as its objective “the progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic sys­tem and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weak­ened.”ei The directive came with its own set of target priorities, similar to those outlined in AWPD-42 and by the coa, but not ex­act. The directive’s priorities were, in order of importance: sub­marine construction yards, the aircraft industry, transportation facilities, oil plants, and other components of war industry. The directive further noted that its priorities would likely shift as the war progressed and “other objectives of great importance either from the political or military point of view must be attacked.” Ex­amples included submarine bases on the Bay of Biscay and “Ber­lin, which should be attacked when conditions are suitable for the attainment of especially valuable results unfavorable to the mo­rale of the enemy or favorable to that of Russia.”62 Also at Casa­blanca, General Marshall agreed that, until Army Air Forces air­craft outnumbered British airplanes—and Americans had proven the efficacy of daylight bombing—American bombers in Britain would remain under the operational direction of the British, who would dictate targets and times of attack, while operational pro­cedures and bombing techniques would remain the prerogative of American commanders.63

In reality, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles “Peter” Portal, Eaker’s nominal commander in the aftermath of Casablanca, did little to interfere with Eaker’s target choices, but the vagaries of weather, increasing strength of German defenses, and continued diversion of bombers to other theaters made Eaker’s successful orchestra­tion of an air campaign a thorny prospect. Dense banks of winter clouds frequently obscured targets in Germany. Meanwhile, the Germans increased their homeland fighter strength by transfer­ring units from the Mediterranean and Russian fronts to defend the Reich. Eaker had told Arnold at Casablanca that with three hundred heavy bombers per mission he could attack any target with a low rate of loss.64 He believed that a strong bombing force guaranteed an efficient air campaign and informed Arnold’s dep­uty, Brigadier General Barney Giles, that his bombers had a six – to-one kill ratio against German fighters.65 Not only were such claims excessive, but at the time of Casablanca, Eighth Air Force had still not bombed Germany, and the experience that bomber crews had thus far received did not compare to what awaited them over the German heartland without escorts. Indeed, statistics in early December 1942 revealed that Eighth Air Force bombers had a 2 percent loss rate when escorted, compared to a 7 percent loss rate without the “little friends.”66

Eaker appreciated the value of escorts to a degree, writing that “it is most important to have some fighter protection” on raids with fewer than three hundred bombers.67 His preference, though, was to increase the size of the bomber force until its own defensive firepower would suffice to protect it. On the eve of Casablanca he learned that Spaatz’s Twelfth Air Force would receive twenty – eight в-17 replacements originally slated for the Eighth. Eaker no­tified Arnold’s air staff that his average bomber group strength had shrunk from thirty-five to eighteen aircraft—the total needed to put in the air on combat missions—which meant that he now had zero bombers available for spares or as a reserve force.68 For the next four months he refused to commit more bombers and crews than he could replace with the meager numbers of aircraft and men heading his way.69

Eaker’s struggle to obtain more bombers merged with efforts to determine how best to use the force that he had. In early Feb­ruary he met with coa representatives to exchange views on tar­gets that Eighth Air Force might attack with precision bombing. Eaker offered that “no judgment could be made as to the results obtainable through precision bombing at this time inasmuch as the force requisite to put it into effect had not been available.”70 He asserted that more bombers would saturate German defenses and reduce the percent of bombers lost on a raid; with one hun­dred bombers on a mission he would likely lose 5 percent of his attacking force, while with three hundred only 3 percent would be lost, and one thousand would produce a negligible loss rate.71 Eaker’s calculations presumed that more bombers attacking would produce a corresponding increase in bombs on target and hence reduce the need to return to it; otherwise, his decreasing loss rates actually produced an increase in the number of bombers lost. The Eighth Air Force Commander initially persuaded the coa mem­bers to include a call for additional bombers in the March report that they submitted to Arnold, but that paragraph disappeared in the final draft that listed sixty key targets for attack.72 Eaker re­sponded with an angry memorandum to Arnold that proclaimed, “The current position of the Eighth Air Force is not a credit to the American Army. After 16 months in the war we are not yet able to dispatch more than 123 bombers toward an enemy target.”73 While he did not dismiss Eaker’s outcry, Arnold chose instead to focus on the prospects of an efficient air campaign portended in the coa report. Unknown to Eaker, the Army Air Forces Com­manding General had suffered his first heart attack at the end of February. Roosevelt waived the regulation that would have re­quired Arnold to leave the service, provided that the Command­ing General provided monthly updates on his health to the presi­dent. Accordingly, Arnold aimed to accent not only his fitness for command, but also the distinctive contributions of air power to the war effort. After receiving the coa report, he wrote Roosevelt’s trusted assistant, Harry Hopkins, that bombing could paralyze Germany’s war-making capability “by the destruction of not more than five or six industries, comprising not more than fifty or sixty targets.” As an example, he noted that “a stoppage, or a marked curtailment, of the production of ball bearings would probably wreck all German industry.”74

Arnold also wrote Eaker: “We know that the strength of our striking force will always be relatively limited. We must, there­fore, apply it to those specially selected and vital targets that will give us the greatest return.” Arnold added that the president, as well as the American public, was very aware of Eighth Air Force’s bombing and wanted to know its specific accomplishments. Thus, he told Eaker to provide him with bi-monthly bombing summa­ries that “will help us a great deal in defending your operations and in building up a correct picture of the results being accom­plished.”7-5

With his public relations background, Eaker appreciated the need to “sell” the air campaign, but his first priority was to as­sure that the effort had a reasonable chance for success, and that meant securing more bombers for it. His quest for additional aircraft ultimately reached the highest level. Lieutenant General Frank Andrews—who had moved from commanding Caribbean defenses to Commanding General, U. S. Forces in the Middle East in November 1942, and had also appealed for daylight bombing to Churchill at Casablanca—replaced Eisenhower as Commander of U. S. European Theater of Operations in February when Eisen­hower became Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Med­iterranean. The change thrilled Eaker because it placed an avid air power proponent in a high command position. He wrote Arnold that Andrews’s appointment “will be a big boon for us. We have been about bled to death by the African operation.”76

After arriving in Britain Andrews wasted no time in notify­ing his friend Marshall of how bomber diversions had depleted Eighth Air Force.7 The Army Chief of Staff, in turn, took that message to the president. “Up to the present time the Army Air

Forces have never been able to even approximate the technique on which they have built up the proposition of daylight precision bombing,” Marshall informed Roosevelt in March. “I might fur­ther say, without greatly exaggerating, that Army Air elsewhere in the world, except in the Australian theater, has been somewhat misused by the employment of Army planes and crews in a manner for which the planes were not designed nor the crews trained, all of which has been a constant embarrassment to the Air Corps.”78 Marshall’s blunt notice, Eaker’s continued clamor, and the real­ization among Allied leaders that an invasion of Europe could not occur without control of the air finally produced noticeable in­creases in Eighth Air Force bomber strength.

Bolstered by the rising numbers, Eaker came to Washington DC in late April to brief his plan for a Combined Bomber Offensive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His proposal reflected extensive collab­oration with members of the coa, as well as assistance from raf analysts and commanders. Fie gave top emphasis to the destruc­tion of German fighter strength—“an intermediate objective sec­ond to none in priority”79—and then outlined a series of phased attacks on industrial centers and war-making facilities that would wreck the essential components of Germany’s ability to fight. A steady increase in bomber strength was vital to success. Eaker ar­gued that he would need a total force of at least 800 bombers to dispatch 300 on a regular basis, and ultimately he would require a force of 2,700 “heavies.” After limited debate, the Joint Chiefs concurred. They approved Eaker’s plan in early May and recom­mended “implementing it to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with aircraft production, available shipping, and cur­rent strategic commitments.”80

At the Trident Conference later that month, the Combined Chiefs of Staff endorsed Eaker’s plan as well. Moreover, they tied a cross­channel invasion—tentatively set for May 1944—to the successful conduct of the Combined Bomber Offensive.81 For American air­men, the approval of the Combined Bomber Offensive plan was a bittersweet success, because two of their leaders were not pres­ent to witness it—Frank Andrews had died in а в-24 crash in Ice­land on 3 May, and Arnold had suffered his second heart attack seven days later.82 Still, Eaker’s plan portended a significant in­crease in bomber strength for Eighth Air Force and the chance for it to have a decisive impact on the war. By the end of May 1943 Eaker wrote his British counterpart, Air Marshal Arthur Harris, that bombers and crews had begun to arrive “according to sched­ule” and expressed optimism that Eighth Air Force would receive 2,700 heavy bombers by April 1944.83

The plan that spurred Eighth Air Force’s bomber total was a masterpiece of mechanistic logic solidly anchored to progressive roots. It noted that the coa had identified sixty targets, the de­struction of which “would gravely impair and might paralyze the Western Axis war effort.”84 Eaker added sixteen targets to the mix and divided them all into six “systems,” comprising seventy-six precision targets that, once destroyed, would critically damage the German war machine. Those systems included: submarine con­struction yards and bases, the aircraft industry, ball bearings, oil, synthetic rubber and tires, and military transport vehicles. The plan linked Germany’s aircraft industry to the overriding inter­mediate objective of eliminating fighter strength in Western Eu­rope. Wrecking the associated targets would destroy 43 percent of Germany’s fighter capacity and 65 percent of its bomber ca­pacity and “produce the effect desired.”85

The plan also highlighted ball bearings, which the coa had em­phasized since early February. “The critical condition of the ball bearing industry is startling,” the plan observed. “The concentra­tion of that industry renders it outstandingly vulnerable to air at­tack.” Eaker noted that the destruction of the plants at Schweinfurt would eliminate almost half of Germany’s ball-bearing produc­tion and instantly stymie the production of tanks, airplanes, ar­tillery, and “all the special weapons of modern war.” Because of Schweinfurt’s importance, he recommended attacking it as one of two “deep penetration” raids in the first phase of combined op­erations. Yet he cautioned: “It would be most unwise to attempt it until we are perfectly sure we have enough force to destroy the objective in a single operation. Any attempt to repeat such an at­tack will meet with very bitter opposition.”86

While acknowledging the strength of German air defenses, Eaker insisted that they would not prevent effective bombing, provided that he received adequate bombers and crews. Once more he turned to statistical analysis to make his case. Eaker contended that the twenty daylight bombing missions that the Eighth Air Force had flown from з January to 6 April 1943 “definitely establish the fact that it is possible to conduct precision pattern bombing opera­tions against selected precision targets from altitudes of 20,000 feet to 30,000 feet in the face of anti-aircraft artillery and fighter defenses.” He rated twelve of those missions as “highly effective,” and added that the destruction produced by an average of eighty – six bombers was “highly satisfactory.” Thus, he surmised, “From this experience it may be definitely accepted that too bombers dis­patched on each successful mission will provide entirely satisfac­tory destructive effect of that part of the target area within 1000 feet of the aiming point; and that two thirds of the missions dis­patched each month will be successful.”87

Eaker likely knew that he had overstated his case. His First Bomb Wing Commander, Hansell, had written Arnold’s intelli­gence chief in February regarding the difficulty of discerning the number of bombs that fell in the target area and noted, “To date we have been unable to account for approximately fifty percent of the bombs which we take out.” He added that future bombing analysis should “not harp too much on small precision targets. We find they are hard to hit, particularly in the face of heavy aa [anti­aircraft] fire and determined fighter opposition.”88 Besides enemy defenses, Hansell remarked that the wind and sun also played a role in bombing accuracy. The Norden bombsight could not com­pensate for cross-wind bombing approaches when the winds ex­ceeded 80 mph, and on crystal clear days a haze developed that was “frequently literally impenetrable toward the sun.”89 The “pre­cision pattern bombing” that Eaker had mentioned in his April briefing to the Joint Chiefs was fantasy; LeMay’s technique signif­icantly increased the odds that a group formation bombed in uni­son, but even ideal conditions could not guarantee “precision.”90 Too many variables affected bombing accuracy, and Eighth Air Force bomber crews had no control over most of them.91

Eaker privately acknowledged that limitation as Allied leaders prepared to endorse his plan for the Combined Bomber Offen­sive. But he downplayed the significance of his admission by fo­cusing instead on the growing strength of Eighth Air Force, writ­ing Arnold in May 1943:

As a result of the additional force we have just received and the in­creased rate of supply of replacement aircraft and crews, we are chang­ing our operating policy. In the past as 1 told you, we have matched our rate of operation to our receipt of replacements, so that our Air Force would not waste away and go downhill. We have, therefore, in the past, waited for good days when we could be reasonably sure of seeing our targets from high altitude. We are going now on a new ba­sis when we will go out in force on days when we may not he able to bomb our exact small point targets due to more than y/ioths cloud cover, but we will at any rate be able to hit our second or last resort targets, the built-up industrial area, and what is even more important, we will be able to work on the German Air Force in combat.92

Eaker refused to allow paltry numbers, German defenses, and poor weather to halt the American experiment in daylight bomb­ing that he had fought so hard to preserve, but he could do little to improve the accuracy of his bomber force. Now, with the strength of that force increasing, he faced new challenges—to gain con­trol of the skies over Western Europe by spring 1944 to facilitate an invasion—and to demonstrate, in a year’s time, that air power could wreck an enemy’s war-making capability and will to resist. He still lacked the numbers that he felt were essential to accom­plish those objectives efficiently; the buildup envisioned in awpd – 42 had suffered substantial delays. British bombing would help to offset that deficiency to some extent, but the RAF would contribute little to achieving daylight air superiority. Still, adopting British area bombing methods during daylight might damage some vital industries on days when clouds obscured precision targets.

Eaker knew that area bombing was a bludgeon, not a scalpel, but he lacked the time and equipment to create an aerial razor. The longer he waited, the stronger his enemy grew. Intelligence reports revealed that increased production now bolstered Germa­ny’s homeland fighter force by more than one hundred airplanes each month.93 Trident, meanwhile, had started the clock ticking for air power to achieve decisive results. If the Combined Bomber Offensive defeated the Luftwaffe, air power could wreck Germa­ny’s vital centers with impunity, perhaps scoring a knockout blow that ended the war. Hansell believed that bombing could achieve an independent victory;99 so too did Brigadier General Frederick Anderson, Eaker’s new Commander of VIII Bomber Command. Anderson contended in late July: “The VIII Bomber Command is destroying and will continue to destroy the economic resources of Germany to such an extent that I personally believe no inva­sion of the Continent or Germany proper will ever have to take place with the consequent loss of thousands and possibly mil­lions of lives.”95 Provided the buildup of Eighth Air Force con­tinued, Eaker believed that his bombers might fulfill that progres­sive goal. Regardless, he had little choice in the matter—indeed, he had put himself in his current predicament with his successful arguments to Churchill and the Joint Chiefs. It was his turn to transform faith into fact.

Aerial Deluge

While much of the credit for the 9 March raid against Tokyo went to LeMay, in reality he simply implemented a strategic design set in motion by the Committee of Operations Analysts, approved by Arnold, and pushed forward by Norstad. Arnold endorsed area attacks because they offered the best prospect for rapid, tangible results—results that he also believed would prove decisive in end­ing the war. LeMay’s low-level tactics and stripping armament and gunners from his B-29S conserved fuel and doubled the bombs that his aircraft could carry. Yet the key decisions—the choice of targets and the type of ordnance to drop on them—came from Arnold and Norstad. As Michael Sherry notes, LeMay “had the illusion of making his own choices. . . because the details were left to him. LeMay would also sincerely believe that he made the command decision.”118 Arnold and Norstad were content to have him believe it. LeMay demonstrated that he could achieve the de­struction that they demanded and continued to display that ca­pability in the raids that followed. After returning to Washing­ton dc in mid-March, Arnold addressed his letters to LeMay as “My dear Curt.”119

LeMay’s low-level, night campaign continued against Japan’s major urban areas. More than three hundred B-29S attacked Zone I in Nagoya on n March and burned down two square miles of the city. Two nights later 274 Superfortresses torched the heart of Osaka and wiped out eight square miles. On 16 March 307 bomb­ers attacked Kobe, destroying three square miles. Finally, on 18 March, 290 B-29S again bombed Nagoya, wrecking another three square miles and completing the series of incendiary attacks on Japan’s four most populous cities. Combined, the five raids incin­erated nearly thirty-two square miles of urban real estate—which equated to 4 г percent of the destruction inflicted on German cities by the Army Air Forces during the entire war. The devastation re­quired less than i percent of the total bomb tonnage dropped on Germany, and it cost twenty-two B-29S and their crews.120 From the progressive perspective—as it had evolved among American airmen by 1945—LeMay’s series of five incendiary attacks marked the epitome of efficient destruction.

Arnold and Norstad now focused on how others would per­ceive that destruction—and how rapidly it would translate into decisive results. Banner headlines in many newspapers announced the devastation of Japanese cities. While grateful for the attention, Arnold cautioned LeMay and Norstad that “editorial comment [is] beginning to wonder about blanket incendiary attacks upon cities therefore urge you to continue hard hitting your present line that this destruction is necessary to eliminate Jap home industries and that it is strategic precision bombing.”121 Norstad continued that mantra in a 23 March press conference after he returned to Washington dc. Resorting to statistical analysis, he noted that the Tokyo raid alone resulted in “1,200,000 factory workers made homeless [and] 369,000 square feet of highly industrialized land… leveled to ashes.” Incendiary bombing was just “the econom­ical method of destroying the small industries in these areas. . . of bringing about their liquidation.” When asked if any change had occurred “in the basic policy of the Air Forces in pin-point bombing [and] precision?” Norstad replied, “None.”122

Many American newspapers accepteci that explanation and stressed the “precise” nature of attacks “to cripple the enemy’s war potential.”123 Yet Norstad and fellow Army Air Forces lead­ers knew the all too obvious truth—that LeMay’s bombers killed tens of thousands of Japanese civilians in some of the most hor­rible ways imaginable. Moreover, intelligence reports stated that most Japanese factories lacked the necessary resources to oper­ate them, and that cottage industries now made a meager contri­bution to the limited amount of front-line war production that remained.124

Still, the message that Army Air Forces commanders presented— both to themselves as well as to the rest of the world—was one highlighting their progressive faith in efficient precision bombing to wreck Japan’s industrial web. For the n March raid against Nagoya, Twentieth Air Force headquarters described the city as “home of the world’s largest aircraft plant.. . with the Mitsubi­shi aircraft engine works exceeding in size our own Willow Run plant,” even though the Mitsubishi factory was not in the target area and received only “minor damage” during the attack.12’ Like­wise, the XXI Bomber Command report summarizing the raids on Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and Kobe observed: “It is notewor­thy that the object of these attacks was not to bomb indiscrimi­nately civilian populations. The object was to destroy the indus­trial and strategic targets concentrated in the urban areas of these four cities.”126

Such internal statements demonstrated the depth of the convic­tion among Army Air Forces leaders to their progressive ideals. Indeed, for some, the vision had become reality—they saw no dis­tinction between the theory of precision bombing against specific industrial targets to achieve rapid, efficient results, and the reality of area attacks on residential districts to achieve the same goal. Colonel Cecil E. Combs, a member of the XXI Bomber Command staff with both Hansell and LeMay, wrote his former boss: “With­out abandoning the concept of precision destruction of priority targets the Twenty-first [wings] have been experimenting with in­cendiary missions and the results. . . indicate the high degree of vulnerability of Japanese industry as a whole.”127 After the war LeMay added: “Japanese targets being largely inflammable, we hit vulnerable areas with firebombs. Let me emphasize that this was not a deliberate deviation from precision to area bombing. We hit only areas when enemy war-making capacity was spread over large areas, as in the ‘cottage industries’ surrounding facto­ries or when weather forced us into radar bombing, visual preci­sion being impossible.”128

LeMay’s postwar comment was disingenuous, for at the time he knew that his four-city series of attacks had targeted Zone I in each—the densest area of population that also contained the least amount of industry. Norstad wrote him on 3 April with a new list of targets, noting that those assigned in March “were selected on the basis of a compromise between industrial importance and susceptibility to fire,” but that new areas “represent more nearly the top industrial areas. They also appear to be most susceptible to fire attack, but they do not represent any compromise.”129 Like Tooey Spaatz, his counterpart in Europe who had unleashed savage area attacks against German cities, LeMay hoped that his raids’ intensity would pay dividends with a quick end to the war. “The destruction of Japan’s industry by air blows alone is possible,” he declared on 15 April in a comment that drew a reprimand from Norstad for openly predicting victory through air power.130

While Spaatz did not announce that prospect, he harbored the same hope, and both he and LeMay could claim that their bomb­ing had a tangential connection to industrial capability. Yet Spaatz knew that his radar-directed area attacks missed most of the fac­tories that he targeted, and LeMay knew that his low-level area raids hit the parts of Japanese cities contributing the least to the war effort in terms of industrial production. For both, achieving rapid results had become the overriding concern, and brute force became the methodology to assure speed.

The enormous bomb tonnages, aimed at urban areas, ably sup­ported the overarching political objective of unconditional surren­der, while against the Japanese, the desire for retribution further condoned area attacks. As long as the Japanese (and the Germans) refused to yield, they would pay an indelible price. Roosevelt be­lieved that memories of such destruction would help dissuade the Axis populations from pursuing future war.131 Against the Japa­nese, American airmen generally reflected the sentiments of most Americans and felt little compassion for an enemy that they in­creasingly viewed as treacherous.132 By early 1945, the American public had learned of atrocities that the Japanese had commit­ted against captured American troops in the Philippines, which heightened the hunger for revenge that had emanated from Pearl Harbor.

Kamikaze attacks that began at Leyte Gulf in October 1944 also intensified the call for retribution. Arnold, who visited the Philippines in June 1945, noted in his diary: “There is no feeling of sparing any Japs here, men, women or children: gas, fire, any­thing to exterminate the entire race exemplifies the feeling.”133 Rosy O’Donnell wrote LeMay a week after the war ended that his service in XXI Bomber Command “gave me an opportunity, not only to repay the humiliating experience which I suffered at the hands of the Japs in the early days of hostilities, but also to put in a lick for the many fine men who were not so fortunate in get­ting out of their clutches.”134 The priority on quickly ending the war to save Allied lives meshed well with the desire for revenge. Yet even without the yearning for retribution, the emphasis on achieving rapid results with air power, when combined with the goal of unconditional surrender, virtually guaranteed the devas­tation of an urbanized, militaristic society that viewed the war as a righteous endeavor.

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.

и

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.