Chapter 11: The CBO Plan
The Casablanca conference had given to the concept of a combined bomber offensive against Germany an unchallengeable place in Allied plans, but it left much to be done before the concept could become a reality. The American day bomber force had to be built up to the point where it could carry its share of the air war effectively and economically. A comprehensive plan of attack had to be worked out according to which the combined force might operate systematically and in the reasonable hope that within a given length of time the planned invasion of western Europe might be successfully launched. Since the RAF Bomber Command was already fully deployed in the strategic offensive against Germany and since most of the outstanding problems consequently centered upon the build-up of the U. S. bomber force and the nature of its part in the combined operation, the burden of planning fell mainly on the USAAF. On 18 May 1943 the CCS approved the “Plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom, “which in turn served as the basis for a directive of 10 June 1943 officially inaugurating the CBO proper.
Target selection was of the essence in laying detailed plans for the CBO. As Giulio Douhet, early prophet of air power, had foreseen, it was here that the air commanders would show their ability: “the selection of objectives, the grouping of zones and determining the order in which they are to be destroyed is the most difficult and delicate task in aerial warfare, constituting what may be defined as aerial strategy.”1 What may not have been quite so clear to Douhet was the paramount value of systematic industrial analysis as a basis for the selection of targets for strategic bombardment. Inasmuch as the aim of strategic bombardment was to reduce the enemy’s ability to wage war, it became
essential to analyze the economic sources of his war potential. And inasmuch as the USAAF was, by way of its doctrine of precision bombing, committed primarily to the destruction of industrial targets, it approached the problem of industrial analysis with peculiar gravity.
Indeed, during the months following Casablanca the USAAF took the initiative in planning for the strategic bombing of Germany, and the moving spirit in that effort was a concern for the scientific selection of targets. The CBO Plan was drawn up substantially on the basis of a report submitted to General Arnold on 8 March 1943 by a committee of analysts which had been working toward that end in AAF Headquarters since December of 1942. This report attempted to set forth the industrial objectives in Germany the destruction of which would weaken the enemy most decisively in the shortest possible time. If the results of the bomber offensive did not in every instance confirm the recommendations contained in the report, the attempt to apply a scientific method to the problem of target selection is nonetheless of considerable historical interest.
The Committee of Operations Analysts (COA), as the group came somewhat inaccurately to be called, brought to their task a clearly articulated methodology prompted by the feeling that a more selective system in the analysis of objectives was needed. The committee’s action was founded solidly upon faith in the scientific method and on the specific belief that that method could be applied successfully to aerial warfare. And its views were colored throughout by the preconceptions inherent in the American doctrine of precision bombing: industrial analysis should make it possible to destroy the keystone in the arch of German production without expending effort needlessly or indiscriminately on objectives of less than vital importance.
The first and most obvious step in the analysis of enemy industry was to bring the enemy economy into its proper focus for strategic bombing operations, to anatomize it, and to define the relationship of each part to the enemy war effort.2 Next it was necessary to eliminate as many industries as possible from selection as suitable targets, being careful the while that as good reasons were found for eliminating an industry as for including one. Then the individual industries were taken apart plant by plant, with a view to the feasibility of destruction in each instance. After the above steps had been completed, each industry could be listed in order of priority for bombing, and each target within each industry.
In the course of this investigation answers had to be obtained to the following questions: (1) What are the minimum requirements of the enemy? In other words, at what point would a shortage impair the front-line military effort of the enemy? (2) What are the production capabilities of the enemy? If every facility in every European country, including occupied U.S.S.R. , were utilized to the utmost, what would be the total? (3) How nearly self-sufficient is the enemy? That is, what relationship exists between capacity and minimum requirements, taking into consideration stockpiles and available substitutes? (4) Where are the enemy plants located and what percentage of total capacity is represented by each plant? (5) What are the physical characteristics of the installations themselves? To what extent are the buildings and machinery structurally resistant to high-explosive and incendiary attack? To what extent are they replaceable? (6) What is the time lag between the destruction of each plant and the effect on front-line strength? (7) What is the force required to effect the necessary destruction? What, in short, will be the cost?
Two of the above questions, that concerning the minimum requirements of the enemy in relation to his productive capacity and that regarding the time lag between plant destruction and effect on frontline strength, were of particular importance. It was not enough, for example, to establish the fact that Germany was producing a certain quantity of steel and that it would be feasible to destroy a certain percentage of its steel-producing plants. The critical problem was rather to determine whether and to what extent it would be possible for the Germans to make use of alternate capacity in the form of stand-by plants, to restrict nonessential consumption, and to draw upon stores of already processed material. Knowledge of the time factor was equally vital. If the full effect of a bombing program would not be felt for twelve months, it would be folly to attempt at the end of no more than six months a ground invasion which depended on the prior success of the air attack. Moreover, if the effects of a bombing program were too long delayed, there was every chance that the enemy could adjust his economy in such a way as to reduce or even erase the effect of the bombing on his front-line strength. So it was useless to attack an industry lying too deep in the economic process; and it was equally futile to strike indecisively, with a force and at a rate unequal to the task.
These, in brief, were the principles of target selection with which the COA undertook the task of analyzing German economy. The principles
were not the product of the moment, however. In fact they were fairly well developed when, in December 1942, that committee began to function. Back of its work lies a long history of target selection. Owing in part to their close proximity to the German-dominated continent of Europe and to their extreme vulnerability in event of war, the British had, since 1929, been at work analyzing the industries of potential enemies with a view to possible strategic bombardment. Their approach was substantially the same as that of the COA with one exception, namely, their emphasis on the bombing of areas rather than of individual installations. Just as the American analysts had their method shaped by their operational doctrine, so the British were influenced by theirs. British analysts were not, however, unaware of the virtues of attacks on key or “bottle-neck” industries. A paper prepared by the Air Ministry in July 1939 called attention to the value of these restricted objectives.3 There were, it said, “vital spots in industry as well as in the human body, “but it warned that these would probably be well guarded by natural circumstances or by artifice. In addition “there are.. many alternative manufacturing processes, and the manufacture of an essential commodity is frequently already undertaken or can readily be started in many different factories, particularly in countries which have made a deep study of their industrial economy and have organized their industry to meet modern war conditions.” Area attack, on the other hand, “is not intended to imply an indiscriminate scattering of projectiles over the whole or any part [of a specific industrial area] . . . On the contrary, there will be definite objectives in the area itself normally consisting of industrial targets [which] . . . constitute the chief vital spots of the industrial body.”
Despite a continued willingness to consider the destruction of specific industries vital to German front-line strength, the British, in emphasizing area attack, laid a basis for target selection which could not easily accommodate a force devoted to the attack of precision objectives. Just as the RAF plan of attack differed from that of the American, the industrial intelligence compiled by British analysts was likely to differ qualitatively from that demanded by the USAAF. During the period when the AAF was planning its day bombing campaign against Germany and during the earlier months of that campaign, the American force depended for its target planning largely on British intelligence sources. But it was inevitable that sooner or later it would have to make its own analysis of German industry.
Several American agencies had been performing studies of industrial objectives in western Axis territory: Military Intelligence Division of the War Department General Staff, research and analysis section of the Office of Strategic Services, and enemy branch of the Board of Economic Warfare. Target information for the use of the Eighth Air Force had been compiled largely by its own plans section, but the target information section of AC/AS, A-2, was by summer of 1942 being called upon increasingly for advice regarding the projected bombing program. It found itself with a great mass of factual data concerning German industry but without any rational system of selection. It therefore set out to compile for specific industrial systems a series of studies which would get to the heart of the problem of target selection.4 Roughly speaking, these air estimates, as they were called, began by establishing the importance of the industry in question to the enemy war machine as a whole. Then followed detailed statements of the enemy’s minimum requirements in that field and of the available supply. The industry was then analyzed with regard to its vulnerability to air attack, and an estimate was made of the time necessary before destruction from bombing would become effective in reducing fighting strength.5
One of the most difficult points to establish was the relationship between minimum requirements and supply. There was a tendency on the part of many industrialists who, in order to obtain a basis for comparison, were consulted on certain phases of the U.S. economy, to think in terms of supply alone and to assume that supply was generally determined by requirements and would therefore reflect requirements with some degree of accuracy. U.S. railway experts, for instance, when asked how much reduction in railway facilities the country could stand and still keep its armies effectively deployed, replied that U.S. railway capacity was already strained and that any reduction would have a serious effect. But apparent requirements and minimum requirements were often two different things; and on further study it was estimated that a reduction of almost one-third of U.S. railway capacity could be absorbed without impairing the war effort at all. Analysis of German rail transportation convinced the air analysts that no effect on German fighting ability could be expected until 31 per cent of rail facilities had been destroyed. Similarly, it was estimated that other German industries, no matter how vital to the war effort, were less tight than had generally been thought.6
The air estimates, by December 1942, had become the subject of considerable discussion. To some observers they seemed to smack of defeatism; to others they indicated a need for still more concentrated effort along the same lines. In either case they contributed to a mounting concern in the Air Staff regarding the problem of target selection in Europe. Also contributing was the controversy over AWPD-42. That document, essentially a statement of U.S. air requirements, had, it will be recalled, been built around the concept of a systematic bombardment of German war industry. It had come nearer than any document hitherto produced in AAF Headquarters to being a comprehensive bombardment plan; and insofar as it attempted to name each feasible target in the major industrial systems and to estimate according to a rational, if somewhat theoretical, method the size of force required to destroy the objectives, it represented a step forward in the direction of systematic target selection. But it had been completed in September, before the other efforts of A-2 had gone far enough to provide the systematic body of industrial intelligence considered necessary for that sort of study, and it suffered from the inchoate state of target information prevailing at that time. AWPD-42 was under discussion at the highest level during most of the fall of 1942, and as the discussions progressed, its limitations in the field of target analysis became the more readily apparent. Especially severe were the criticisms leveled against it by the Joint Intelligence Committee.7
On 9 December 1942, General Arnold signed a directive requiring Col. Byron E. Gates, AC/AS, Management Control,
to have the group of operational analysts under your jurisdiction prepare and submit to me a report analyzing the rate of progressive deterioration that should be anticipated in the German war effort as a result of the increasing air operations we are prepared to employ against its sustaining sources. This study should result in as accurate an estimate as can be arrived at as to the date when this deterioration will have progressed to a point to permit a successful invasion of Western Europe.8
At the time, no such group existed except in skeleton organization, but Colonel Gates was authorized to create one and to deputize civilian as well as service personnel for the purpose.9 This inclusion of civilian “experts” was in accord with a growing feeling in AAF Headquarters that staff officers did not have the time to devote to economic analysis and that such activity was of a type for which their regular army training did not provide the best preparation.10
Meanwhile, the problem of target selection had been brought to the
attention of certain eminent civilians. Elihu Root, Jr., of the New York financial firm of Root, Clark, Buckner, and Ballantine, and Edward M. Earle, of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, both showed an interest in the project and indicated their willingness to serve on the committee authorized by General Arnold. Dr. Earle was experienced as a historian of diplomatic and military affairs. Root had had unusually wide experience in the field of finance and in the general administration of industry. In a similar position was Thomas W. Lamont of J. P. Morgan and Company, who joined the committee on 7 January 194311 In addition to these men who served in an independent capacity, Fowler Hamilton was called in to represent the Board of Economic Warfare and Edward S. Mason to represent the Office of Strategic Services. The rest of the group consisted of Col. Edgar P. Sorensen, AC/AS, A-2; Lt. Col. Malcolm W. Moss, chief of target information section, A-2; Lt. Col. Thomas G. Lanphier, representing G-2; and Col. Guido R. Perera and Lt. Col. W. Barton Leach, both from Management Control. Colonel Gates acted as chairman. Strangely enough, the group did not include anyone whose special competence lay in the fields of industrial engineering and management. Originally called the Advisory Committee on Bombardment, it was this group which came to be known as the Committee of Operations Analysts.12
Administratively speaking, the creation of the COA was an important step because for the first time in the United States it made the assimilation of industrial intelligence from all sources and the analysis of that information for the purposes of air target selection clearly the responsibility of a single agency. It also did a useful service by removing the task of target selection from ordinary military channels and placing it where it could be performed free from the restrictions inherent in relatively obscure staff work.
Subcommittees were delegated to study each pertinent German industrial system. Much of the initial work consisted of bringing up to date, checking, and supplementing wherever possible the work already done in A-2 and in the various government agencies13 The sources of information tapped by the COA subcommittees were many and varied and included records provided by the War Department, OSS, BEW, WPB, ONI, OSRD, the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, the Department of Justice, and the State and Treasury departments. The British Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW), the Air Ministry, and the RAF continued to provide valuable data.14 Late in January
1943 four members of the COA flew to England where they compared notes with the British agencies and also with A-S of the Eighth Air Force and the Economic Warfare Division of the American Embassy, both of which had been working on target information in the theater.15 Assuming (not too soundly as events proved) that the industrial system in one highly industrialized country would be essentially similar to that of any other highly industrialized country, the COA paid close attention to the organization and physical characteristics of appropriate U.S. industries. Much of their information came from qualified experts in private industry.16 By March 1943 special studies had been completed, or were nearing completion, on nineteen German war industries.
On the 8th of that month the COA reported its findings to General Arnold. The directive of 9 December 1942 under which the committee had operated had specified that it determine as nearly as possible the date upon which the sustaining sources of western Axis military strength might be so reduced through aerial bombardment as to permit an invasion of the continent. This the committee declared itself unable to do for two reasons: first, it could not forecast with any degree of certainty the air forces which would be available and, second, the operational experience of the Eighth Air Force to date formed an inadequate basis for conclusions as to accuracy, attrition, and certain other operational factors affecting such a proposition. It did, however, present certain important conclusions. Concerning target selection it declared:
It is better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few really essential industries or services than to cause a small degree of destruction in many industries. Results are cumulative and the plan once adopted should be adhered to with relentless determination.17
Concerning the projected bomber offensive, it made two pronouncements:
1. The destruction and continued neutralization of some sixty targets would gravely impair and might paralyze the Western Axis war effort. There are several combinations of targets from among the industries studied which might achieve this result.
2. In view of the ability of adequate and properly utilized air power to impair the industrial sources of the enemy’s military strength, only the most vital considerations should be permitted to delay or divert the application of an adequate air striking force to this task.
The report stressed the need for continuing effort in the analysis of target information and for continuing close cooperation between British
and American agencies in that regard. It further recommended that, since operational factors such as weather and the disposition of the enemy, known only to commanders in the theater, played often a decisive part in choosing particular targets and since the Eighth Air Force was aware of and in agreement with the principles of target selection set forth by the COA, the current selection of specific objectives be left to the responsible authorities in England, subject only to such directions as might be called for by broad strategic considerations.
For reasons of security the committee refrained from stating a formal order of priority for the target systems considered. But it is clear from the arguments presented that the systems were listed in descending order of preference, and there is reason to believe that the committee did so as a result of a policy informally agreed upon.18
First on the list came the German aircraft industry. It was fully appreciated that an early attack on that system would be essential to the success of later bombardment operations. The force of this argument had been generally admitted ever since the GAF had begun to react effectively to the daylight operations of the Eighth. It was estimated with some degree of accuracy19 that, although fighter production had been given preference by the Germans, wastage and production in that industry were delicately balanced. But a diversity of opinion existed, both in the United States and in England, as to whether the attack should be directed primarily against fighter assembly plants or against fighter engine plants. The proponents of the attack on the former argued that, since the current ratio of German single-engine fighter strength to monthly production was 3 to 1, the German fighter force was having to re-create itself from fighter assembly lines every three months. Destruction of seven assembly plants, even if the enemy could repair the damage at the end of one month, would have to be repeated but twice to reduce substantially German strength in single-engine fighters. If five separate component erecting shops were included in this attack, production could be curtailed for approximately six months owing to the destruction of intricate jigs and other hard-to-replace machinery.
Proponents of attack on fighter engine plants pointed, however, to the recuperability of final assembly plants unless extensive damage were done to both assembly sheds and component erecting shops. On the other hand, engine assembly plants were believed to require six months or more for full recuperation; and an attack on them would strike at
replacements needed for operational aircraft. But it was conceded that, on the basis of American experience, the time lag between the completion of an engine and final assembly of a finished aircraft varied from one month to six weeks, during which time something over 500 enemy fighters could be produced. This question of time, in addition to the fact that engine plants constituted somewhat less vulnerable targets than final assembly plants, appears to have been given great if not decisive weight. For, although the COA recommended bombing all of twenty-two targets consisting of final assembly plants, component erecting plants, and engine assembly plants as part of a single target system, the first two categories were clearly given precedence over the last. All but one of these twenty-two targets lay within 400 to 600 miles from London, and together they were estimated to account for more than 90 per cent of single-engine production.
“It is difficult to determine whether an attack on aircraft engines would have been preferable to that delivered against airframes,” the report of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey declared in 1945. Considerable German opinion, however, held that it would have, and recent investigation of the German aircraft industry indicates that, although the capacity of the industry as a whole during the first years of the war was more than adequate, less excess capacity existed in engines than in airframes.20
Next to fighter aircraft, and closely related to their manufacture, came ball bearings. On the basis of American experience as well as according to British opinion, it was argued that ball bearings represented a potential bottleneck in German industry, especially in the manufacture of war materiel. It was the belief of both British and American economic authorities that stocking of ball bearings was not practicable and had not in fact taken place. It was believed that only the larger plants were capable of making a full line of ball bearings and that smaller plants concentrated on specialized types. Furthermore, the Schweinfurt plants alone were correctly reputed to manufacture in the neighborhood of one-half of the total Axis production, thus offering a peculiarly concentrated target within practicable flying range. While the effect on enemy front-line strength would not be immediate, the indirect effect would, it was felt, be great and pervasive, touching eventually all high-speed equipment. This effect could not be timed accurately, but it was believed that it would begin to be felt within one month. Subsequent intelligence indicates that the committee somewhat
overestimated the vulnerability of ball-bearing plants and underestimated the feasibility of effecting economies in the use of bearings, possibly also of stocking them.21
Petroleum was given third place. Germany’s oil position was rightly considered to be extremely tight, though not quite so tight as it later turned out to have been.22 It was pointed out that crude oil represented two-thirds of available Axis oil supplies, of which crude supplies 60 per cent was produced in the Ploesti area of Rumania and the rest widely dispersed in small amounts in other Axis countries. The remaining third of the Axis oil came from synthetic products, of which 80 per cent was believed to emanate from thirteen Bergius hydrogenation plants and the rest from numerous Fischer-Tropsch plants. The committee estimated that destruction of the thirteen hydrogenation plants would deprive Germany of about one-fourth of her available petroleum sources, including two-thirds of her existing production of aviation gasoline. Resort to stocks, substitutes, and working inventories could probably not delay the full effect of the destruction of these plants for more than four months. Although strongly constructed, they were believed vulnerable to air attack and difficult to reconstruct. If, in addition to the hydrogenation plants, some twenty-six refineries were also destroyed, supplies of petroleum products would be cut 90 per cent, with obviously disastrous consequences to the German war effort.
Oil was thus considered an important target. But it was not given the high place that the wisdom derived from later events indicates that it should have had. The COA apparently felt that Germany controlled enough stand-by refining capacity to cushion the immediate shock of bombing and to delay the effect on front-line strength beyond the point where the aerial effort would be immediately profitable.23 The committee was apparently handicapped here, more than in most instances, by lack of adequate intelligence data. It underestimated the importance of synthetic production; and it gave little attention to the close technical integration of both hydrogenation and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic oil plants with the chemical industry, especially that part of it producing explosives and synthetic rubber.24
The COA report gave fourth place to grinding wheels and crude abrasives. In doing so it reflected, as in the analysis of the nonfriction bearing industry, the committee’s preoccupation with bottlenecks in enemy industry. The report demonstrated the essential part played by grinding wheels in the manufacture of innumerable metallic parts for
war equipment. It pointed out that wheels were rapidly consumed, there was no substitute for them, they were difficult to stock, and they were produced in vulnerable installations. Crude abrasives could be attacked in order to heighten the effect of attack on the grinding-wheel industry, but the relative invulnerability and recuperability of that industry made it a less attractive target than the grinding-wheel factories.
Next came nonferrous metals: copper, aluminum, and zinc. Although neither aluminum nor low-grade zinc production was considered a high-priority target, it was believed that something could be said for attacking copper mines and smelters and alumina-producing plants in view of their importance in war production. It was admitted that the use of these metals lay too deep in the economic process to warrant priority attention. Nonetheless, the industry was believed, probably somewhat optimistically, to be very tight and the destruction of key factories feasible.25
It is very possible, as the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey later concluded, that the synthetic rubber industry might profitably have been given attention earlier in the war. That the COA gave it only sixth place is in fact a by-product of its failure to appreciate fully the close interdependence of synthetic rubber and synthetic oil plants. Had it been recognized, for example, that the former depended largely on the latter for hydrogen, both might have been elevated jointly to a higher priority.26 The committee also overestimated the probable amount of blockade-running the Germans would be able to conduct in order to import rubber supplies. Imports during the war appear to have been negligible, and Germany was consequently thrown back almost completely on three large synthetic plants and one small one for her requirements.27 The value of this target system, as contemplated by the COA, while high in terms of concentration and vulnerability and in view of the inadequacy of mobile stocks, was reduced by blockade-running, which was estimated to contribute, together with the reclamation of scrap, approximately one-third of Germany’s rubber supplies. It was believed that destruction of ten tire plants, which were susceptible to incendiary attack, would more immediately damage the enemy position than the destruction of the two major synthetic plants.
When it came to submarines, which it placed seventh, the COA expressed profound misgivings concerning the results to be expected from bombardment either of operating bases or construction yards. Construction
yards had for some time been considered both by American and British authorities to be targets of doubtful value.28 Admitting that complete and simultaneous destruction of all nineteen yards in Germany and three less important ones in Italy would probably delay by at least thirteen months the launching of any new U-boats, the committee argued that the quick recuperative capacity and large facilities available would minimize the effects of anything other than a devastation attack on the industry as a whole, and that even such complete destruction would not reduce the operating U-boat fleet for approximately one year. The five operating bases along the French coast offered not much more encouragement. They had been attacked at an increasing rate since October 1942 in the hope that repair and refitting work might be slowed up and the number of operating U-boats consequently be reduced. But evidence on this point, though admitted to be by no means complete, was considered to be of an essentially inconclusive nature. It appears, therefore, that the committee was well on the way toward the healthy skepticism regarding the bombing of submarine installations which by the end of the year had become very marked and which has since been amply confirmed by German records.29
In eighth and ninth place came respectively military motor transport vehicles and the transportation system in general. On the face of it, motor transport vehicles seemed to offer a fairly profitable target, for supply was estimated to fall considerably short of military requirements and 85 to 90 per cent of the truck production was believed concentrated in seven plants. It now appears that, if a concentrated attack had been planned on oil and rubber, motor transport vehicles might well have been ignored as a separate objective.30 As for rail and water transport, the committee labored under no illusions whatsoever. Without for a moment minimizing the vital importance of transport facilities to the entire enemy war economy, it maintained that limited and scattered attacks upon transportation targets would be of little consequence because the recuperative powers and flexibility of that system permitted rapid and successful readjustment. There were, it stated, no key or isolated transportation targets the destruction of which would be decisive. An attack would have to be widespread and sustained; and at that time the committee was unwilling to think in terms of mass attack or of attack on any but the most concentrated industries. Although the bombing of transportation has since been recognized as of decisive
importance in the defeat of the Axis,31 it is very probable that its effectiveness could not have been realized until a sufficient force had been built up to make the necessarily heavy and ubiquitous attack feasible, and until it was possible to take immediate advantage of a generally disorganized transport system by decisive ground action.
Owing to the large number of coke batteries in Axis Europe, coking plants were not considered a suitable target system, despite their vulnerability and the undoubtedly basic importance of coke production in a number of critical industries. Iron and steel, in the eleventh position, received still less favorable consideration. Wisely enough, in the light of later investigation,32 the COA assumed that the western Axis position with respect to steel was generally strong and that the destruction of even one-half of the steel-producing plants would have little effect on the military effort over a period of one year. Such plants were, moreover, relatively invulnerable to attack on account of the ruggedness of their construction and equipment. Even the production of high-grade alloy steels, which was at once more critical and more vulnerable than that of ordinary steel, was believed to involve enough potential alternate facilities to insure a substantial time lag between destruction and effect on front-line strength.
Machine tools were considered generally to lie too deep in the industrial process to constitute high-priority targets as long as the industries they supported were in operation. Tools required for new or changed types of final product might, however, become critical items. The destruction of twelve selected plants, it was stated, would reduce machine-tool replacement capacity by 40 per cent, with effects that would eventually be felt throughout Axis war industry. Although the machine-tool industry was only placed twelfth on the list, the fact that it was given consideration at all betrays a faulty understanding of that industry as carried on in Germany. At this point the assumption of essential similarity between industrial processes in Germany and the United States proved misleading. German manufacturers had a conception of the use of machine tools entirely different from that of their counterparts in America, where rapid turnover of plant inventory and a tendency toward early obsolescence in machine-tool types generally discouraged the accumulation of large replacement stocks. In Germany, where machine tools were treated as long-term investments, the industry had managed to build up a comfortable reserve, leaving excess producing capacity in the form of plants at one time devoted to manufacturing
for export. What might have been the case had machine tools been attacked systematically is hard to say, but the fact remains that at no time did German industry as a whole come anywhere near being short of machine tools.33
A curious omission in the list of high-priority targets was the electric power system. It was recognized, of course, that German industry was largely dependent on electrical energy for continued operations. But it was believed that in almost no instance was any single industry dependent on one electric generating plant. Rather each industry depended upon a network which pooled the greater part of the electrical energy within an area. It was considered that by destroying thirty-two targets in the Rhine-Ruhr area, for example, heavy industry in that area could be in large part eliminated. But an attack on the power industry as a whole was felt to be of questionable validity. Equally questionable was the vulnerability of electrical power plants to aerial bombing, judging from British experience during the “blitz.”
It is easy for the observer after the fact, equipped with wisdom that the knowledge of subsequent events alone can confer, to criticize conclusions arrived at without any such assistance. But the failure of the Allies to attack German electric power and the failure of the COA to recommend it both stem from a lack not of prescience but of adequate information regarding the situation as it currently prevailed – a distinction of the utmost importance in a historical study of this sort. It now appears that the Germans themselves were constantly concerned about the limitations of their so-called grid system, the difficulty of adding capacity, the relationship of curtailment and shortage of electric energy to production losses in industry as a whole, and, above all, the danger that the Allied command would discover the extreme vulnerability of their electric power industry. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey summed up the situation by saying that, in the state of critical shortage in which industry found itself, any loss of production in electric power would have directly affected essential war production, a fact which the Germans themselves readily admitted.34
Electrical equipment, optical precision instruments, food production, and antiaircraft and antitank machinery were treated by the COA, for good and sufficient reasons, as of little significance in the bombing program. But the chemical industry, and in particular the nitrogen industry, received equally scant recommendation. Separate studies had been prepared on several aspects of that complex, namely on coke, synthetic
oil, synthetic rubber, and nitrogen. Analyses of the production of explosives and other chemical products were not separately undertaken, either because of the known availability of substitute products, the number and dispersion of plants, the existence of large amounts of excess capacity, or the fact that the product had only an indirect relationship toward military activity. The COA’s views on coke, rubber, and oil have already been canvassed. Admittedly nitrogen was important to Axis military effort in the fields of explosives, synthetic oil, and fertilizer. But only 8 per cent of nitrogen production was believed used in the manufacture of explosives. And, although it was estimated that 42 per cent was devoted to synthetic oil production and that if twenty-one principal nitrogen plants were destroyed the effect would be felt in the oil industry within three months, no attempt appears to have been made to correlate the two for the purposes of strategic destruction.
The COA was in this instance again handicapped by a faulty understanding of the German chemical industry. Synthetic rubber, synthetic oil, nitrogen, methanol, and other important chemicals formed interdependent parts of a single industrial complex. The production of nitrogen and methanol, both of extreme significance in the manufacture of explosives, was heavily concentrated in synthetic oil plants. The attack on synthetic oil, when it finally came, in fact succeeded in producing, as a fortuitous by-product, a marked drop in the production of nitrogen, which in turn contributed to the shortage of explosives experienced by the Wehrmacht in the closing campaigns of the war. The nitrogen industry, according to the Strategic Bombing Survey, possessed “all the qualifications to have been a primary bombing target.” Not only was nitrogen essential but there were no possible substitutes for it, and most of its production was “unusually concentrated” in a few plants. Moreover, an attack on it would also have been an attack on the synthetic oil industry. It therefore appears that, had the interdependence of the synthetic oil, the synthetic rubber, and the principal chemical industries been fully appreciated, they might all have been subject to early and concentrated attack with much profit to the Allied cause.35
On 23 March 1943 the COA report, after being favorably considered by General Arnold’s advisory council, was sent to the United Kingdom for coordination with the British authorities and the Eighth Air Force. The report was reviewed by a committee created for the purpose, composed of representatives of the Air Ministry, the Ministry of
Economic Warfare, the RAF, and the Eighth Air Force. The general reaction of this group is indicated in the following statement: “The Report of the Committee of Operations Analysts is eminently sound. It is a magnificent piece of work. A careful review of it indicates that its conclusions coincide with the facts available to us, and with all information available to the RAF and the Air Ministry, which was freely placed at our disposal.” To this opinion Sir Charles Portal added his personal endorsement.36
To be sure, there were some points upon which British authorities disagreed. The MEW declared itself in “substantial or close agreement” with the COA’s conclusion on aircraft, ball bearings, petroleum, nonferrous metals, synthetic rubber and tires, transportation, and submarines. On the others the MEW spokesman, C. G. Vickers, expressed some reservations. Several, he said, “appear to have been based on what we regard as a somewhat superficial examination of the enemy’s position and show a certain divergence of opinion between us on questions of fact, which we are already in process of trying to reconcile by discussion here and in Washington.” But, he added, these divergencies mattered little because they related to industries which neither agency considered as likely candidates for adoption as primary targets. On three points only was there significant disagreement. The MEW took a less optimistic view than the COA of the damage an attack on grinding-wheel factories could inflict on Axis industry and based its argument mainly on the large number of plants and the probable existence of considerable stocks. In the second place it advocated closer study of the possibilities of attacking major transport and aircraft facilities by way of selected internal-combustion engine components and accessories. Finally, the MEW believed the possibilities of affecting aircraft production through attack on propeller factories worthy of further investigation. It is interesting to note in passing that on the subject of nitrogen the MEW was even less enthusiastic than the COA, claiming that some 20 per cent of enemy producing capacity was at the time lying idle.37
On the basis of the COA report – and on the advice of the MEW, the British Air Staff, and the Eighth Air Force – a final list of primary objectives was drawn up consisting of seventy-six targets in six systems arranged as follows in order of priority:38
Submarine construction yards and bases
German aircraft industry
rubber and tires
Military transport vehicles
It will be noticed that grinding wheels and abrasives and the nonferrous metal industry, given respectively fourth and fifth place in the COA report, were deleted from the final list of primary objectives, no doubt on the advice of the British. On what specific grounds submarines retained the priority given them at Casablanca is not apparent from the documents at hand; but it is safe to assume that the problem of shipping in the Atlantic convoy lanes, which had reached a climax in April, had forced the issue. Otherwise there appears to have been general unanimity of opinion. Concerning German fighter aircraft, especially, the British Air Staff agreed heartily, urging, indeed, not only an attack on the single-engine fighter industry but on all fighters. In a paper dated 9 April it argued that all British and American bombardment forces should, in the first stages of the proposed offensive at least, be concentrated against the GAF, especially the fighter force, to the exclusion of all other objectives. For, it maintained, “The most formidable weapon being used by the enemy today against our bomber offensive is his Fighter Force – his single engined fighters by day and his twin engined fighters by night – and the elimination or serious depletion of this force would be the greatest contribution to the furtherance of the joint heavy bomber offensive of the RAF and AAF.”39
After the principal target systems had been determined, there remained to be elaborated an operating plan to accomplish the destruction of the seventy-six specific objectives of which those systems consisted. For this purpose General Eaker appointed a committee composed of Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr., Brig. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson, and certain staff officers of the Eighth Air Force. To this group Air Chief Marshal Portal added, at Eaker’s request, Air Cdre. Sidney O. Bufton. The committee’s task was to decide, in the light of operating experience, what force of planes would be required to do the job and what chronological order of attack against the six target systems would make best use of the increasing forces being made available. This operational plan, together with the list of targets, became known as the “Plan for the Combined Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom,” or, more briefly, the CBO Plan. It received “unqualified endorsement” by the commanding general of ETOUSA, the
chief of Air Staff, RAF, and the air officer commanding in chief, RAF Bomber Command.40 The latter emphasized in a letter to Eaker the “exactly complementary” function of the two bomber forces – one specially trained and equipped for night bombing, the other for bombing by daylight. His endorsement was, however, qualified on one point, namely the high priority given to the attack on submarine bases as distinct from the submarine building yards and ancillary factories.41 Late in April, General Eaker brought the plan to Washington.42
It was a comprehensive and impressive report which Eaker presented to the CS on 29 April 1943.43 In order to accomplish the mission of the bomber offensive as set forth at Casablanca, the plan provided for the neutralization of a given percentage of each industrial system agreed upon. Destruction of the submarine building yards selected would reduce current submarine construction by 89 per cent. Destruction of 43 per cent of German fighter capacity and 65 per cent of German bomber production was provided for. Of the ball-bearing production, 76 per cent could be eliminated by destroying the targets selected. The attack on oil was made contingent upon plans to strike the Ploesti refineries from Mediterranean bases. Should that effort succeed, it would then, but only then, be necessary to attack the oil installations in the Ruhr in order to exploit the advantage gained in Rumania. Together these attacks would account for 48 per cent of Germany’s oil production. Provision was next made for destroying 50 per cent of the synthetic rubber capacity and nearly all of the tire production of Axis Europe. Finally, the elimination of seven selected plants producing military transport and armored vehicles should have a considerable, though not readily measurable, effect on enemy strength.
fighter strength must be considered as an Intermediate objective second to none in priority.”44 As finally determined, target priority in the CBO Plan stood as follows:
1. Intermediate objectives:
German fighter strength
2. Primary objectives:
German submarine yards and bases
The remainder of the German aircraft industry
Oil (contingent upon attacks against Ploesti from the Mediterranean)
3. Secondary objectives:
Synthetic rubber and tires
Military motor transport vehicles
It is not within the province of this chapter to evaluate the CBO in terms of positive results. But later events and subsequently acquired information cast on the planning phase a light the implications of which cannot at this point be entirely ignored. This is especially true with regard to target selection. Generally speaking, the bomber offensive succeeded. It is, therefore, not a question of explaining any failure in attaining ultimate objectives. But it now appears that over-all target selection might in a few instances have been improved and the bombing force have been utilized more effectively. Electric power might well have been given a high priority. Non-friction bearings might well have been accorded a lower priority. Probably more important than either the inclusion of bearings or the exclusion of electric power was the failure to concentrate at an earlier date on oil and to appreciate the vital interdependence of synthetic oil, synthetic rubber, nitrogen, and other elements in the vast chemical complex. Submarine installations received no doubt an undue weight of bombs. But in that case the choice was dictated not by industrial analysis but by what was felt to be strategic necessity. The attack on transportation, when it came, was decisive, but it is probable that it could not have been undertaken directly at an earlier date without overwhelming force and complete concentration of effort. It must be remembered, of course, that contingent factors of a purely operational nature which could not have been foreseen affected the results of the offensive. The day bomber force, for example, was not built up as rapidly as had been planned, a fact which made it impossible to strike the ball-bearing industry as rapidly and decisively as had been anticipated. The CBO Plan had made it very
clear that a successful initial attack on that industry would demand the immediate concentration of effort on the remaining elements of that system in order to exploit the initial success. The fact remains, however, that the final choice of targets in April of 1943 did not correspond in every respect to the points of most extreme vulnerability in the German war economy.
Was, then, the method of industrial analysis, in this instance identified especially with the COA, an effective instrument for the appraisal of strategic objectives? Did it result in a more penetrating choice of target systems than had hitherto been achieved? It may be instructive before answering these questions to examine some of the priority lists which had been drawn up by U.S. agencies (British examples, since they were developed according to a different strategic and tactical doctrine, will be excluded) prior to the work of the COA.
AWPD-1, prepared at AAF Headquarters in August 1941, had envisaged a strategic bombardment attack on German industry by an American bomber force and arranged the targets in the following order of priority: electric power, transportation, oil and petroleum supplies, the morale of the German population.45 Neutralization of the German Air Force, by attacks on air bases, aircraft factories (both engine and airframe), and aluminum and magnesium factories, was listed as an “intermediate” objective “whose accomplishment may be essential to the accomplishment of the principal objectives.” In addition, other lines of action, such as the bombing of submarine bases, might possibly be forced by the necessity of maintaining the security of bases.
A “Plan for the Initiation of Air Force Bombardment in the British Isles,” also emanating from Headquarters, AAF, and dated 20 March 1942, had selected some 144 targets within four categories in the following priority: munitions industry, electric and water power, petroleum and fuel, rail and water transportation. AWPD-42, issued 9 September 1942, constituted the most thorough effort made up to that date by U.S. agencies. It had arrived at the following list:–
The GAF: fighter factories, bomber factories, and engine plants
Submarine building yards
Transportation system: building shops, repair works, marshalling yards, and canals
It was becoming a commonplace in strategic thinking that destruction of the GAF would be a prerequisite to any systematic reduction of Germany’s war potential. And as the submarine menace mounted it was becoming clear that something drastic, involving temporary diversion of strategic bombing forces, would have to be done. These considerations in fact dictated the priorities for Eighth Air Force operations during the fall and winter of 1942. Both the directive under which the American bombers began their task and that of 20 October which supplemented it listed submarines, aircraft, and transportation in that order. Similarly, the Casablanca directive of 21 January 1943 had listed priority targets in the following order:† submarine construction yards, the aircraft industry, transportation, oil.
It is obvious that the CBO priorities came no nearer to the answer indicated by the postwar investigations of the Strategic Bombing Survey than did the earlier lists, and in some instances they failed to come as close. In other words, the systematic approach to the problem made by the COA attained in an over-all sense, if the conclusions of the USSBS be accepted as valid, an end result no more satisfactory than that achieved by the efforts of the earlier analysts. This fact, however, does not mean that the attempt to apply a more or less scientific method to the problem of target selection was badly conceived. It merely means that conditions were not entirely favorable to a project carried out at that level. Insofar as it was possible to solve the problem on the basis of facts, rather than of imponderables, there could be no limit to the valid application of a scientific method. And potentially the problem was one of ruthlessly factual investigation. But there existed in almost every instance a serious shortage of reliable information, and the resulting lacunae had to be bridged by intelligent guesswork and the clever use of analogies. In dealing with this mass of inexactitudes and approximations the social scientist finds himself in a position of no special advantage over the military strategist or any intelligent layman; and an elaborate methodology may even, by virtue of a considerable but unavoidably misdirected momentum, lead the investigator far afield. The moral of this story is obvious and has frequently been drawn. Strategic bombardment, probably more than any other strategic undertaking, requires the most complete body of intelligence data possible. Without it a strategic bombing campaign may succeed – the
* See above, pp. 213–16,237–38.
† See above, pp. 304–6.
one in question succeeded notably – but only at the expense of much ineffective effort.
The Operational Plan
As presented by General Eaker, the plan of operations was divided into four phases, each marked by an increase in the size and capabilities of the American bombing force. In estimating the force required, the authors of the CBO Plan had recourse to the experience of the Eighth Air Force which, by April of 1943, represented a very useful body of information. They were not therefore forced, as the authors of AWPD-42 had been, to resort to highly theoretical calculations. From the experience of the Eighth in twelve missions against assorted targets it was concluded that 100 bombers dispatched on each successful mission would effect satisfactory destruction on that part of the target area within 1, 000 feet of the aiming point when bombing from altitudes of 20, 000 to 30, 000 feet. Each target was accordingly evaluated in terms of the number of circles of 1, 000-foot radius in which destructive effect had to be produced, and the total number of sorties required for total destruction was calculated on that basis. As for the rate of operations, the Eighth Air Force had averaged six per month over the preceding half year. Experience also indicated that at least 800 aircraft must be in the theater to make possible the dispatch of 300 on operations, and that 300 planes constituted the minimum necessary for deep penetrations in the face of existing fighter opposition.
By 30 June 1943, the CBO Plan recommended, there should be in the theater 944 heavy and 200 medium bombers. It would not, however, be possible much before that date to train the crews for the force of 800 planes required for deep penetrations. Consequently, missions during the first phase of operations (April to July) would be limited to the range of fighter escort or to attacks on objectives not demanding flights deep into enemy territory. Targets in this phase would consist mainly of submarine yards and not too distant aircraft installations. Only two systems called for long missions: an attack on oil installations at Ploesti and a very long-range attack against the Schweinfurt ball-bearing industry. During the next phase, from July to October, the strength in heavy bombers should reach 1, 192 and objectives might be selected within a radius of 400 miles from the base area in England. Effort would be concentrated against German fighter assembly and fighter aircraft factories as well as airdromes and repair facilities. Probably 75
per cent of the striking force would be used for this purpose, the remaining 25 per cent being left to continue the attack on submarine construction yards. During the third phase, from October to January, the German fighter force would continue to be attacked and the other sources of German power would be undermined. During this phase the bombing force would have to be adequate to perform all its major tasks; by January 1944 it should number 1, 746 heavy bombers. The final phase, during the early months of 1944, should see the entire bombing force used to sustain the effect already produced and to prepare the way for a combined operation on the continent. To accomplish these tasks, 2, 702 heavy bombers would be needed by 31 March 1944.
The plan made no specific provision for the use of U.S. medium bombardment. But it clearly indicated that medium bombers would be required for supplementary attacks against all strategic targets within their range. They would be especially useful for attacking German fighter airdromes in order to aid the passage of the heavy bombers until the bombing of the enemy aircraft industry had made itself felt. For these purposes, and for the final phase in support of cross-Channel operations, an eventual force of 800 medium bombers should be in the theater by 31 March 1944. In addition, of course, there would at all times be a need for an extensive American fighter force to protect the bombers and to assist in the reduction of German fighter strength.
For the integration of RAF and USAAF operations in the combined offensive, the CBO Plan made only a surprisingly informal provision. “Fortunately, “it said, the capabilities of the two forces were “entirely complementary.” It argued that the most effective results from strategic bombing would be obtained by directing the combined day and night efforts of the U.S. and British bomber forces to all-out attacks against targets which were mutually complementary, in a campaign to undermine decisively a limited number of selected target systems. The American bombers would thus, in general, bomb specific industrial objectives by day, and the RAF would ordinarily attack by night the cities associated with these objectives, the timing to depend on the tactical situation.
This plan does not attempt to prescribe the major effort of the R.A.F. Bomber Command. It simply recognizes the fact that when precision targets are bombed by the Eighth Air Force in daylight, the effort should be complemented and completed by R.A.F. bombing attacks against the surrounding industrial area at night. Fortunately the industrial areas to be attacked are in most cases identical
with the industrial areas which the British Bomber Command has selected for mass destruction anyway. They include HAMBURG, BREMEN, HANOVER, BERLIN, LEIPZIG, WILHELMSHAVEN, BREMERSHIRE, [BREMERHAVEN?], COLOGNE, STUTTGART, and many other principal cities. They also, of course, include smaller towns whose principal significance is coupled with the precision targets prescribed for the Eighth Air Force.
In the course of its passage through the CS the plan encountered little opposition. Whatever discussion took place centered on the proposed commitment of forces. General Arnold advocated that allocation of U.S. bombardment to the combined offensive should be made substantially as set forth by General Eaker.46 The Navy members, however, raised some objection to making too firm a commitment in view of the acute shipping problem; and they recalled a decision of the CCS concerning priority of future operations in which SICKLE, together with TORCH and HUSKY, had been bracketed with operations in the Southwest Pacific. Nevertheless, on 4 May the CS approved the CBO Plan as presented by Eaker and recommended implementing it to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with aircraft production, available shipping, and current strategic commitments47 On 14 May the CS presented the plan to the Combined Chiefs, who were meeting in Washington in connection with the TRIDENT conference. In a memo dated on the preceding day, the CS had recommended, first, that the CBO be given top priority in build-up and its execution facilitated and, second, that its progress be watched continuously with an eye to determining a date for cross-Channel operations.48
Before the CCS could accept the plan, including the commitment of forces it required, certain strategic decisions had to be made involving the entire course of the European war. It was no longer a question of approving the concept of a combined bomber offensive. That had been settled at Casablanca, where that campaign was inseparably linked with the ROUNDUP operation; and since all parties still agreed at TRIDENT that a cross-Channel invasion was a prerequisite to defeat of the European Axis, the CEO remained unquestionably part of Allied strategy. Rather it was a question of determining what priority the bomber offensive should be given among other major undertakings in the allocation of forces. British and U.S. strategists had come to the conference with divergent views regarding the best disposition of Allied forces after the accomplishment of HUSKY. The American representatives argued, as at Casablanca, in favor of gathering forces in the United Kingdom as rapidly as possible in preparation for an invasion
of western Europe at the earliest practicable date. The British, with equal consistency, advocated further large-scale campaigns in the Mediterranean on the ground that such operations would, by eliminating Italy and seriously dispersing German forces, make ROUNDUP more certain of success. With the American view, the CBO Plan, calling as it did for a cross-Channel invasion as soon as the bomber offensive had completed its final phase in April 1944, was in perfect accord. The British, on the other hand, were reluctant to make too firm a commitment in that direction for fear it might “tie our hands” regarding plans in other directions.49
At the same time the British representatives agreed that the intensity of the bombing campaign would have a material effect on any land operation, whether in northwestern Europe or in the Mediterranean area, and that it should not be reduced except after “critical examination.” Sir Charles Portal, without maintaining that the utmost priority should continue to be accorded to SICKLE, expressed deep concern for the rate of that undertaking. The important thing about the CBO Plan, he emphasized, was to be found not so much in the “tremendous effect” it promised on German production and morale as in the proposed elimination of the German fighter force which, he believed, was growing so rapidly that every week’s delay made the task of defeating Germany more difficult, no matter where the principal effort was to be applied.50
On 18 May, after considerable discussion, the CCS approved the CBO Plan as presented.51 And the conference finally decided that the CBO would, as planned, culminate in a cross-Channel invasion for which 1 May 1944 was selected as the target date. Operations in the Mediterranean were to consist only of action calculated to eliminate Italy. In addition, it was decided to launch bombing attacks as soon as possible from Mediterranean bases against the Ploesti oil fields. The question of priority among these specific undertakings for 1943 and 1944 was happily avoided, for, after balancing available resources with requirements more thoroughly than at any previous meeting, the conference concluded that all were possible and that, broadly speaking, “there are sufficient air forces to meet all requirements in all Theaters.”52
In compliance with the decisions made at TRIDENT, the chief of Air Staff, RAF, in whose hands, as agent of the CCS, the direction of the bomber offensive rested, issued on 10 June 1943 to the commanding
officers of RAF Bomber Command and Fighter Command and to the commanding general of the Eighth Air Force a directive to govern the CBO. This paper confirmed the primary object of the bombing campaign as set forth at Casablanca and incorporated the essential elements of the CBO Plan as adopted at TRIDENT. It made clear, however, that the target priorities stated in the parent document were being assigned primarily to the Eighth Air Force. Of the “combined” nature of the projected operations, it was stated: “While the forces of the British Bomber Command will be employed in accordance with their main aim in the general disorganization of German industry their action will be designed as far as practicable to be complementary to the operations of the Eighth Air Force.” British Fighter Command would, “consistent with the needs of the air defence of the United Kingdom” (which, by the way, had been left entirely up to the RAF), be employed to further the bomber offensive. The American fighter forces would also be employed in the furtherance of the bomber offensive in accordance with the instructions of the commanding general of the Eighth Air Force and in cooperation with forces of RAF Fighter Command. The allocation of targets and “the effective coordination of the forces involved” was to be insured by “frequent consultation between the Commanders concerned.”53
Even if the operations of the British and American forces were, as it appeared in this directive, to be less closely integrated than had been envisaged in the CBO Plan, the problem of coordination remained an important one. At Casablanca it had been generally assumed that the chief of Air Staff, RAF, would supervise the combined offensive as agent for the CCS, but no specific machinery had been set up by which the two forces could coordinate their plans. In this respect the CBO Plan added nothing to the Casablanca discussions. On receiving the CBO Plan, General Arnold wrote to Sir Charles Portal urging the creation of “somewhat more formalized machinery for closest possible coordination, or rather, integration, of the two bomber efforts.” For, he added, “the increasing complexity of their operations would appear to me as soon to be beyond the capabilities of the commanders, in person, to coordinate.” He accordingly suggested that a permanent committee be established for this purpose, to operate within the limits of the Casablanca decisions.54
Under separate directive of 10 June 1943, the Combined Operational Planning Committee was set up. That body was to consist of representatives
from RAF Bomber and Fighter Commands, Eighth Air Force headquarters, VIII Bomber Command, and VIII Fighter Command. An Air Ministry representative from the Directorate of Bomber Operations would be available “to be co-opted as necessary for purposes of liaison with the Air Staff.” It was made clear that the committee was to be concerned with coordination and tactical plans for specific combined operations, which should be prepared well in advance of requirements, and with critical examination of the tactical execution of these plans. It was in no way responsible for the conduct of operations, which remained the responsibility of the commanders concerned. It was an advisory, not an executive, body.55 Furthermore, it was conceived primarily with the daylight bombing campaign in mind. The planning committee thus became, in effect, “merely an additional means of liaison with the Americans on any tactical questions which might be common to both.”56
Despite such arrangements as these, or perhaps because of them, a weakness remained in the organization of the CBO. The CBO Plan and especially the governing directive of 10 June 1943 purposely avoided committing the RAF to a rigid adherence to the particular objectives they set forth. The action of the Eighth Air Force, for which these target systems were primarily devised, would “as far as practicable” be complemented by that of RAF Bomber Command. It was “fortunate” that the objectives of the two forces would for the most part coincide, but it was also fortuitous: such coincidence of effort was not made explicitly a necessary part of the plan, however much the authors may have considered it desirable. The British and American forces were still engaged in bombing the enemy according to widely divergent operational theories; and, insofar as the RAF hoped to bring about a general disorganization of the German economy by attacking civilian morale as a primary objective, its strategic doctrine differed radically from that upon which the CBO Plan had been erected. It was probably inevitable, therefore, that the two forces would continue to operate along lines not so nearly parallel as some of the Americans originally had assumed. The combined bombing effort did not in fact achieve close integration until late in the campaign, when the weight of the American attack had made the distinction between pinpoint and area bombing a shadowy one and when the importance of enemy oil and transportation had become so apparent as to leave little doubt regarding the primary objectives. Meanwhile, the participants labored at
times under a sense of frustration originating in the largely unresolved dichotomy that continued to characterize the bomber offensive.
At the time of the issuance of the directives of 10 June, Maj. Gen. Follett Bradley, air inspector of the AAF, had already completed a study of the entire problem of the build-up for the bomber offensive and for the invasion of western Europe scheduled to follow hard upon the CBO’s completion. The logistical experience of the preceding months had exercised a sobering influence on all Allied planning, and at the TRIDENT conference it had been recognized that the discussions at Casablanca had taken too little account of limitations both in resources and in shipping.57 The TRIDENT debates reflected a deep concern over the problem of shipping and an understanding that if the bomber offensive were to be accomplished the USAAF would have to be given top priority in shipping.58 In the light of the detailed CBO Plan, the Combined Staff Planners had estimated that U.S. heavy bombardment in the United Kingdom would have to reach a maximum of fifty-one groups by 1 January 1944.59 This represented a marked increase over the hitherto generally accepted final figure of forty-five or forty-six heavy groups, which, moreover, had not been planned for complete deployment prior to March 1944. It appears, nevertheless, that the goal of fifty-one groups, advanced in date to March 1944, became in June 1943 the current planning objective.60
The effective bombardment strength of the Eighth Air Force had doubled during May, going from six to twelve heavy groups. HUSKY, scheduled for early July, and other operations “subsequent to TORCH” would continue to draw heavily upon AAF resources. But the overriding requirements of the Mediterranean operations had decreased appreciably, and both men and materiel had begun once more to flow toward the United Kingdom.* The AAF would soon face its long-awaited opportunity to prove its most cherished theories.
* Logistical problems are more fully discussed in chaps. 18 and 19 below.