Chapter 22: Mission Accomplished
IN THE weeks following the official proclamation that the strategic air war was over, the various air forces of the United Nations continued to be active. They were needed from time to time to remove strongpoints in the way of advancing ground forces, to block enemy railway movements, and to make certain that surviving Luftwaffe units could not deliver farewell blows of retaliation against the conquerors of Germany. The vast forces of the Eighth Air Force were on call for whatever missions SHAEF might require. During the last three weeks of the war the Fortresses and Liberators occasionally assisted the tactical air forces in bombing airfields and marshalling yards. There were not many demands of this nature, however, for Germany was rapidly becoming friendly territory and all Allied aircraft were strictly limited to targets that seemed sufficiently distant from the lines of the Russians and the western powers.
Two important special missions devolved upon the Eighth in the last of April. On 14 through 16 April more than 1,200 American heavies went out each day to drop incendiaries, napalm bombs, and 2,000-pound demolition bombs on stubborn German garrisons still holding out around Bordeaux.1 The bombing was effective, and French forces soon occupied the region. The last attack on an industrial target by the Eighth Air Force occurred on 25 April, when the famous Skoda works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, received 500 well-placed tons. Because of a warning sent out ahead of time the workers were able to escape, except for five persons. American aircrews grumbled a little at what seemed to be more concern for civilian safety than their own,2 but the Luftwaffe was no longer able to take advantage even of such an obvious opportunity. In fact, the few prize jet aircraft that appeared during these last weeks offered no opposition but hopped almost comically from one airfield to another or to the empty Autobahnen behind
German lines. By the beginning of May the Eighth Air Force had no further combat assignments. Instead, mercy missions to drop food to the famished population of the Netherlands became the overriding priority. Excellent hits were made on the race track outside The Haugee and a golf course near Rotterdam.3 Then, the weight of effort turned to the heartening task of evacuating liberated prisoners of war, thousands of whom were flown out of the defeated Reich within a few weeks. And more than 30,000 ground personnel of the Eighth Air Force whose overseas duties had been limited to England were taken on aerial sightseeing tours over Germany to see with their own eyes the results of their efforts.4 Much of the Eighth Air Force was by that time on its way to Okinawa.
The Fifteenth Air Force was absorbed in tactical air force operations after March 1945. On 9 and 10 April this command dispatched 825 and 848 heavy bombers, respectively, to attack German positions prior to the ground force operation of crossing the Senio River.5 On 15 April the largest operation ever undertaken by the Fifteenth Air Force proved a smashing success. This was WOWSER, the air phase of the breakthrough at Bologna. Practically every flyable heavy bomber, in all 1,235, took to the air and bombed troop concentrations, gun positions, and strongpoints which faced the ground forces.6 After this huge mission, the efforts of the Fifteenth were directed at preventing German escape from Italy.7 Marshalling yards in Austria received repeated bombardments, and the Brenner Pass line was finally broken for good.8 When the Gernims in Italy surrendered on 2 May 1945,the Fifteenth Air Force was concerned with dropping food to the inhabitants of northern Italy and evacuating prisoners of war. Never overly publicized, the Fifteenth had fought a hard war and had completed its assignment neatly.
The chief tactical air operations in Germany during the last weeks of the war were carried out by the U.S. Ninth Air Force. To the end its fighter-bombers provided close air cover for the armored columns that pierced the Reich. For a time during April the Allies were worried about a possible redoubt for the die-hard Nazis, and the Ninth planned to bomb bridges along the Danube and Lech rivers from Vienna to the Swiss border. But it became clear that the Germans were not going to be able to entrench themselves in the south, and the bridge campaign was not necessary. Interdiction of enemy north-south traffic, much of which was designed to prevent German reinforcement of the Russian
front, occupied much effort and was generally successful. When, toward the last of April, the U.S. First and Ninth Armies reached the positions where they had been ordered to await the Russians, the Ninth Air Force shifted its attention to southern Germany and Czechoslovakia, the scene of the U.S. Third Army advance. Ground force requests for attacks in that area came in rapidly and were met with dispatch, but targets there, as elsewhere by that time, were quickly engulfed by the armies and bomb lines sometimes became out of date ten minutes after they had been established.9 The air forces were soon left with nothing to do but conduct surveillance over the dying Wehrmacht. Fittingly, General Spaatz and other air officers participated in the surrender ceremonies at Reims on 7 May 1945 2nd at Berlin two days later.
Germany, the Subject of an Autopsy
The interrogation of captured enemy personnel was an opportunity long and eagerly awaited by air force leaders. The war they had fought had been of a weird, unprecedented type, one which had been costly to the British and American nations, and one from which lessons might be deduced for the bombing of Japan. Furthermore, as Air Chief Marshal Harris said,10 the air war had placed an unusually frightful strain on the commanders, whose forces had to be risked and engaged almost every day for years. They were anxious to find out from the enemy, beyond what they knew already, precisely how their efforts had contributed to the victory and what mistakes they had made. Lengthy questionnaires and skilled interrogators were ready when the forlorn leaders of Germany’s lost gamble surrendered in May 1945. The mood of these prisoners at that time seemed generally to conform to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht’s lament that Germany was forever ruined.11 Therefore, there was little to be gained by withholding information. And while their attitudes varied from sullen reserve to eager ingratiation, most of them were willing eventually to tell what they knew, and more. A professional approach to the art of war was often a factor in inducing even the most frigid German general to discuss the recent past. A desire to find a scapegoat, usually Hitler or Goering, was apparent, and doubtless some of the prisoners hoped to win better treatment for themselves by being cooperative. In any event, their statements could be matched against each other and checked by the vast piles of documents that fell into the hands of the Allies. When used
critically, these interrogations were a priceless source of information.
Adolf Hitler was not available for comment. Hermann Goering, however, was extremely voluble and, when he knew what he was talking about, informative. He told Spaatz and Vandenberg that the Allied selection of targets had been excellent, that precision bombing had been more effective than night raids.12 Yet, the bizarre Luftwaffe commander, who had failed to break England in 1940–41, said he believed Germany could never have been defeated by air power alone.13 In another interview he described the Führer, with his ignorant interfering and bungling, as a great ally of the Anglo-American air forces. For that matter, Goering himself had many detractors among his former subordinates and various other German officials. But it was the size, skill, and methods of the Allied air forces that wrecked Germany, he admitted, and he corroborated most of the beliefs of the commanders of those forces regarding the various successes and shortcomings of the air war.14 Other Luftwaffe officers, such as Sperrle, Galland, Junck, Milch, and Koller, filled out the history of the mistakes and failures of their arm, a story that officers from other organizations were only too eager to enlarge upon, and paid tribute to the effectiveness of the Allied air forces.
Germany’s second and last Führer, Grand Adm. Karl Doenitz, said the air power of the Allies was the decisive element in the failure of the Nazi submarine war.15 Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt listed air power as the first of several ingredients in the triumph of the United Nations.16 Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl said the winning of air superiority altogether decided the war and that strategic bombing was the most decisive factor.17 Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel assigned to the Allied air forces the chief credit for the victories in the west.18 Of a dozen German generals who surrendered in Italy, all but one regarded air power as chiefly responsible for the defeat.19 Albert Speer, the redoubtable minister of armaments production and by far the most valuable source for the effects of strategic bombing, emphatically stated his opinion that such bombing could have won the war without a land invasion.20 The list of interrogated German generals and industrial officials was long. From Goering and Doenitz down to division commanders and factory managers they praised the achievements of Allied air power. Most of them regarded it as the decisive factor in Germany’s defeat.
The picture of Germany’s war effort that emerged from the
interrogation of captured leaders and the examination of enemy ruins and documents underlined the magnitude of the strategic air success. Germany had been much stronger economically than the Allies had ever realized. Her industrial capacity was so huge that she had been able to mobilize at a leisurely pace, winning spectacular victories as she did so, and then, when Hitler’s diplomatic madness arrayed the world against her, she set about strengthening her war machine to a point that seriously threatened her enemies. As her war production progressed to its peak in mid-1944, so the strategic air offensive against that production increased in weight. Of all the bombs that struck the Reich during the war, 72 per cent fell after 1 July 1944.21 In the following nine months USSTAF and RAF Bomber Command wrecked this enlarged German economy until it could not support military operations or supply the basic needs of the population. Actually, Germany had been almost paralyzed economically by January 1945, and she was ruined by April.
The greatness of Germany as an industrial power became all the more evident with the postwar surveys of her former resources. It was her abundant strength that enabled her to arm so vigorously when she finally concentrated, far too late, on the task. She had, for example, a comfortable sufficiency in capital equipment.22 Quite unlike the United States and Great Britain, she seems never to have suffered from a shortage of machine tools. She had rarely found it necessary to depart from the single-shift basis in most of her industries at any period of the war.23 The Germans possessed ample capacity in factory space, enough to carry out complicated dispersal programs without being handicapped in this respect.24 These factors alone had greatly compounded the problem of the strategic air forces because they allowed the Germans such a large cushion for expansion or conversion after they had been bombed out of certain areas. Also, Germany disposed of adequate labor forces during all of the war period. She did not mobilize her manpower, and still less her womanpower, to the degree her chief enemies did.25 The availability of foreign workers and prisoners permitted considerable flexibility in manpower resources, and Allied destruction of industrial areas created labor surpluses which finally amounted to large-scale unemployment. Germany’s supply of raw materials was usually adequate for war purposes, at least until late 1944, except for oil and rubber, which were obtained partly by the synthetic industries until air bombardment demolished them.26 Finally, the level of civilian goods remained considerably above minimum requirements,
comparing favorably with Germany’s enemies, at least until 1944.27 And food supplies for Germans were astonishingly well maintained until the general transportation collapse late in the war.28 The magnitude, resilience, and reserve strength of the German economic system enabled it to withstand enormously heavy air raids and forced the Allies to expend their greatest efforts before they finally crushed it.
Turning from the destruction of this target system to a study of its remains, the victors were surprised to find out how tardily Germany had built it up. The Germans had begun the war in 1939 with many misconceptions about the probable reaction of the rest of the world, and for several years afterward they amazingly refused to prepare for the prolonged struggle they had precipitated. Their brilliant successes in 1939–41 seemed to confirm the opinion of optimists that there was no need for a truly drastic mobilization, and none took place. Meanwhile, in the dark Allicd years of 1940, 1941,and 1942, Great Britain alone surpassed Germany in most categories of armainents output, including aircraft.29 Hitler even ordered a reduction in war production in 1941, a year in which the Germans improved on their 1940 record by a mere 1 per cent while the anti-Axis world was straining desperately to turn out weapons for a protracted war.30 In December 1941, however, when Germany declared war on the United States and suffered setbacks in Russia and the Middle East, the overconfidence of the Nazi leaders began to subside. They talked a great deal ahout total mobilization, but actually they undertook only to tighten up the war effort. In February 1942, Hitler took the important step of appointing his personal architect, Albert Speer, as minister of armaments production, thus inaugurating the so-called Speer period in Germany’s war effort.
Speer became one of the favorite subjects for Allied interrogation in the weeks following the German surrender. His extraordinary memory, willingness to talk, and obvious mastery of the facts made him a prize authority. Other German leaders, as well as the impounded documents, furnished an even more flattering appreciation of his career than he himself offered. It was largely because of his efforts that intelligent planning succeeded the optimistic imporovisations of the early war years. German war production trebled under Speer’s supervision, the most significant rise beginning in December 1943 and reaching its peak in July 1944, when the index hit 322 and gave promise of going much higher.31 It was the German intention to produce enough weapons to fight off the United Nations until political developments or V agents
rescued the Reich. The appearance in 1944 of jet aircraft, impregnable and fast submarines, and V-1 and V-2, along with the impressive increase in armaments output through July, reveal how formidable was Germany’s final challenge. The growing weight of Allied bombings Speer hoped to counter by dispersing Germany’s most vital plants or by placing them underground, and he was making great progress in this direction. A few weeks after the Normandy invasion the strategic air forces of the western powers and Germany’s resurgent war economy began the crucial phase of their strange combat. The victory that went to the Allied air forces was not won by default.
The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey
For more than a year before the end of the war in Europe the Americans had been preparing to conduct a comprehensive study of the effects of the bomber offensive on Germany when that indispensable piece of evidence became available for an autopsy. Common sense suggested the importance of an undertaking of this nature, since the true potentialities of air power needed to be measured against actual achievement, and curiosity about the real effectiveness of strategic bombing was high in view of the cost, publicity, and heavy share of the war effort associated with this new type of warfare. Besides, the wreckage of the European Axis might yield lessons for the war against Japan and for postwar national defense. Toward the end of March 1944, both AAF Headquarters32 and USSTAF33 began to formulate proposals for a survey of bombed German targets and a critique of the bomber offensive. General Spaatz was the first to approve and sponsor the suggestion, which became the subject of a “Dear Hap” letter of 5 April 1944. Spaatz’s original idea was to invite a well-known personage of unimpeachable reputation for intelligence and integrity to head a small committee composed of military and civilian experts who would know what to seek and how to interpret what they found. Everything was to be done to make their work acceptable to the government and the public alike as an unbiased appraisal of the bomber offensive.34 Arnold readily agreed to the proposal,35 and planning began under the direction of General Anderson in USSTAF and General Kuter in AAF Headquarters.
It was going to be necessary to draw to some extent upon British agencies for technical assistance and to secure, if possible, permission from the British and the Russians to survey targets located in their
probable zones of occupation. But the air forces strongly hoped to keep the inquest in American hands.36 A British offer to participate was parried37 and eventually the RAF developed its own survey in the Operational Research Section, which unfortunatcly never attained the size of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey and was not able, it seems, to do justice to Bomber Command’s lengthy war against Germany.38 It was not so easy for the AAF to resist the wishes of its sister services to share in the survey, and on 6 June 1944 the Joint Chiefs informally approved the idea of allowing a somewhat autonomous group with senior officers from the Navy, the Army Ground Forces, and the Army Service Forces to conduct the examination of the bomber offensive.39 Thus, such officers as Gen. Omar N. Bradley, Vice Adm, Robert L. Ghormley, Lt. Gen. Lucius D. Clay, Rear Adm. Richard E. Byrd, and Maj. Gen. Orvil A. Anderson (chairman) were included as military advisers to an organization which became known as the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. By the end of the summer it became clear that the USSBS would transcend the sphere of the Army Air Forces and make its report directly to the Secretary of War and the President, an arrangement which accorded with the wishes of Spaatz and Anderson.40 One final area of possible conflict disappeared when the AAF evaluation boards, which were composed of officers dispatched to various theaters to study the air war, were subordinated to the USSBS and made responsible for the study of tactical rather than strategic bombing.41
President Roosevelt signed the directive which cleared the way for establishing the survey on 9 September 1944.42 A few weeks later Franklin D’Olier, president of the Prudential Insurance Company, accepted the invitation of Stinson43 and Arnold44 to become chairman of USSBS. Soon afterward D’Olier went to London and set up his headquarters in the former SHAEF seat at 20 Grosvenor Square. Authorized 350 officers, 350 civilians, and 500 enlisted men, the survey spent the winter of 1944–45 recruiting and preparing personnel for the task ahead. By April 1945 trained teams were entering Germany with or just behind the military forces to pick up government and business records and to locate prisoners who could reconstruct the history of the bomber offensive as experienced by the Germans. During the three months following V-E Day the survey engaged in extensive field work, supervised from a forward headquarters at Frankfurt, which involved dispatching specialized groups to examine the ruins of cities and factories, to gather statistics and data, and to interview thousands of former
officers, officials, businessmen, and technicians.45 Except for several forays just after the surrender the survey was not allowed to enter the Russian zones of Germany, despite a Yalta promise that targets behind Soviet lines would be available for inspection.46
In the late summer of 1945 most of the survey transferred to Washington in order to prepare more than 200 reports, which were submitted to the Secretary of War as soon as they were completed and, in some cases, published. Meanwhile, the American air headquarters in Europe drew up its own recapitulation of the war, the voluminous and admirable study known as The Contribution of Air Power to the Defeat of Germany. The USSBS reports, however, were regarded as the definitive findings concerning the effects of strategic bombing.
With candor and objectivity USSBS brought out both the achievements and the mistakes of the air war. It publicized various unflattering aspects of the American strategic bombing campaign, such as the failure of the attacks on submarine pens, the misdirection of the campaign against ball bearings, mistaken choices of key targets in major systems and of aiming points within those targets, the relatively low degree of bombing accuracy, occasional failures of intelligence to grasp the interconnections of important systems, and the lamentable lack of continuity in prosecuting various offensives that might have brought about decisive results sooner if they had been waged more persistently and skilfully. While the air leaders knew or suspected many of these points, the criticisms of USSBS could not be shrugged off as mere hindsight; clearly, some of the errors could have been avoided. Yet it was painful to see several famous raids which had been difficult and costly dismissed as unnecessary or ineffective. And the deprecating tone with regard to the contribution of the RAF which ran through much of the survey’s work, especially its specialized reports, did not reflect a judicious appraisal of the RAF effort. From his retirement in Rhodesia, Sir Arthur Harris, the outspoken former chieftain of Bomber Command, took spirited exception to some of the survey’s conclusions.47 After laying bare the weaknesses of the prosecution of the air war, however, the survey’s final report affirmed with much more authority than could be claimed by any other agency that the victory in the air was complete and that Allied air power had been decisive in the war in western Europe.
So emphatic is the statement of this conclusion, and so marked has been the inclination of some writers to cite particular criticisms made
by the Straregic Bombing Survey without reference to its over-all conclusion, that there would seem to be some reason for restating in full the final judgment here:
Allied air power was decisive in the war in western Europe. Hindsight inevitably suggests that it might have been employed differently or better in some respects. Nevertheless, it was decisive. In the air, its victory was complete; at sea, its contribution, combined with naval power, brought an end to the enemy’s greatest naval threat – the U-boat; on land, it helped turn the tide overwhelmingly in favor of Allied ground forces. Its power and superiority made possible the success of the invasion. It brought the economy which sustained the enemy’s armed forces to virtual collapse, although the full effects of this collapse had not reached the enemy’s front lines when they were overrun by Allied forces. It brought home to the German people the full impact of modern war with all its horror and suffering. Its imprint on the German nation will be lasting.48
The Strategic Achievcrnent
Of all the accomplishments of the air forces, the attainment of air supremacy was the most significant, for it made possible the invasions of the continent and gave the heavy bombers their opportunity to wreck the industries of the Reich. Defeating the Luftwaffe had demanded the best in Allied airmen and planes. No other phase of the war had quite the deadly earnestness and multiple peril for participants as the lonely duels fought miles above Europe during 1943 and early 1944. Such aerial combat and the steady toll of German fighters taken by gunners in the bomber fleets wrecked Hitler’s fighter force By the spring of 1944. After this, though Allied leaders at times feared a revival of the Luftwaffe, U.S. bombers were never deterred from Bombing a target because of probable losses. The best German pilots were dead or crippled; they could not be replaced, for Germany was never again able to provide proper training, even when she could assemble the aircraft. The industry which produced and supported the German fighter force did not fully recover from the shattering bombings of early 1944 which destroyed or damaged three-fourths of the plants.49 Under Speer’s direction the Nazis worked wonders in the reconstruction and dispersal of the aircraft industry, so that production rose rapidly until September 1944, but their efforts did not eventuate in an effective Luftwaffe and therefore were failures. Also, from the summer of 1944 on, the attacks on synthetic oil plants deprived the German Air Force of aviation gasoline so that operations were possible only on rare occasions. German bombers practically disappeared from
the air, and whenever fighters tried to interfere with Allied air fleets they invariably got the worst of the battle. And the Luftwaffe performed very inadequately when it presented itself at Anzio, Normandy, the landings in the south of France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Weser crossings. Even the much-dreaded jets failed to disturb the pace of Allied air operations. With no small degree of satisfaction men of the air forces could look upon their mastery of the air as an overwhelmingly important factor in attaining the final victory over the Axis.
Although claims of German airplanes shot out of the air amounted to 11,481 in the case of the Eighth Air Force50 and 3,946 in that of the Fifteenth,51 and countless thousands were destroyed in the air by other air forces, on the ground, and by antiaircraft guns, the main strategic attack was directed at the aircraft industry. This gigantic complex, which manufactured 40 per cent of all Germany’s munitions and which had been laid out in the 1930’s with a view to reducing exposure to aerial bombardment52 was the target for 29,000 tons from the RAF, 47,671 tons from the Eighth Air Force, and 14,000 tons from the Fifteenth Air Force.53 The magnitude and location of this system made it exceedingly difficult to injure. Yet, faulty strategy and blunders of the Germans had played their part. Hitler and Goering refused for years to believe the most definite evidence of the air offensive being prepared by their enemies. When they finally accepted the reality of this danger, it was too late.* Even with their last chance to retrieve air supremacy by means of jet aircraft, the Germans had first dawdled with developing the new weapon and then had erred foolishly in plans for use of the jets as bombers instead of fighters. No amount of good management or energy on the part of the Speer ministry in 1944–45 could overcome the fateful mistakes of the earlier years. Probably nothing would have saved Germany from Allied air power, but advantages were needlessly thrown away.
The Allied air campaign against the German aircraft industry was not without its flaws, some of which were apparent contemporaneously but most of which became evident with the postwar surveys. Intelligence of the German system, after proving reliable for the early war years, became faulty in 1944. In that crucial year the Allies underestimated German aircraft production by half, and they were largely ignorant of the extent and details of the vast dispersal of the industry which was being carried out.54 After the war, Goering, Speer, and many other
* See the discussion above, p. 60.
qualified Germans said that aeroengine plants would have been better targets for the air offensive in early 1944 than the airframe assembly installations, a judgment confirmed in most respects by the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.*55 Also, the Allies tended to overestimate the amount of damage they had inflicted on German plants56 and to make optimistic assessments regarding the amount of production denied their enemy because of structural damage.57 furthermore, it become clear with the postwar surveys that larger demolition bombs than the usual 500-pound variety would have brought about more damage to industrial machinery and that more incendiaries should have been used.58 But air force leaders had been limited during most of the war in the matter of bomb supply and had found it necessary to use what they had rather than what was choice. In any event, they defeated German air power. The Allied air forces enjoyed a thorough mastery of their own element after the spring of 1944, and because of this advantage the initiative passed completely to the United Nations.
The air offensive against German oil production was the pride of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces. Initiated through the insistence of its officers, effective immediately, and decisive within less than a year, this campaign proved to be a clear-cut illustration of strategic air-war doctrine. In April 1944, Germany possessed barely adequate supplies of crude oil and was producing a growing volume of synthetic oil. In the following year the Eighth Air Force aimed 70,000 tons, the Fifteenth Air Force 60,000 tons, and RAF Bomber Command 90,000 tons at oil targets. By April 1945, when Germany was being overrun by the ground forces, her oil production was 5 per cent of the preattack figure.59 She had been starved for oil, as her captured commanders and officials testified, often with genuine emotion, for the last year of the war. Her air force seldom flew after the first concentrated attacks on synthetic oil plants, which produced aviation gasoline. Tanks and trucks had to be abandoned. Toward the last, even the most august Nazis in the hierarchy were unable to find gasoline for their limousines. Germany’s industries were badly crippled, and an enomous amount of effort was absorbed in the furious attempt to defend and rebuild oil installations. The Allied oil offensive had been quite as devastating as Spaatz had predicted in March 1944,† but it had taken longer than the and the British had expected to produce collapse.60 The Germans, never easily beaten, used passive and ground defenses skilfully in protecting
* But see above, p. 65.
† See above, p. 78.
their oil producers, and they reconstructed their bombed plants faster than the Americans anticipated. Nevertheless, the offensive had gone on as a first priority until the desired results were attained.
The USSBS was able to find defects and imperfections in the offensive waged by the air forces against German oil production. A serious mistake had been the failure of intelligence to comprehend how closely the German oil, chemical, and rubber industries were related. As it happened, accidental damage to methanol and nitrogen plants proved exceedingly harmful to German production of synthetic rubber and explosives.61 A systematic attack on such targets undertaken earlier in the war might have been far more decisive. And if five plants which produced ethyl fluid had been bombed out, the effects on Germany’s fuel situation would probably have been catastrophic.62 The USSBS suggested, as did a number of captured Germans and, emphatically, many USSTAF officers, that the oil offensive should have been begun sooner. The German Air Force, in fact, might have been restricted more by attacks on its sources of aviation gasoline in early 1944 than by the bombings of the aircraft industry.63 To fuel experts of the USSBS it seemed that more bombs should have gone into the oil campaign and fewer into blind attacks on industrial areas.64 To the economists it appeared that the crude-oil refineries and the Fischer-Tropsch synthetic plants, which made only a small percentage of gasoline, had been bombed beyond the point of diminishing returns.65 Accuracy had certainly not been high. In three major plants carefully studied it seemed that perhaps only 3 per cent of all bombs dropped actually struck damageable targets.66 On the other hand, most of the raids took place at night or were carried out through clouds and smoke, from extreme altitudes, and in the face of worse flak than such bristling targets as Berlin could put up. The Americans used too many small bombs, too few incendiaries, and too many (about 14 per cent) defective bombs.67 British raids were often more effective, because the RAF used larger bombs and more incendiaries and because it remained over the target so long the Germans could not emerge from shelters in time to extinguish fires.68 While intelligence concerning synthetic oil plants was usually good, the planners did not know enough about the targets to choose the best aiming points and structural damage was usually overestimated.69 And the Allies allowed too much time between bombings of the plants, for the Germans often enjoyed two weeks or so of production before they were bombed out again.70 Yet, when every mistake
and omission had been underlined, the USSBS conceded the heartening conclusion: “The Allied air offensive effectively stopped oil production with decisive military consequences.”71
The air forces also had wrecked Germany’s transportation system. By the spring of 1945 only the highest-priority military movements could be started with any prospect of getting them through to their destination. Economic traffic, even such essential movements as bringing in food to stricken cities, was at a standstill following a precipitous decline which began in the autumn of 1944. With or without other forms of attack, Germany would surely have collapsed within a short period because of her transportation paralysis, a result of her enemy’s air power. Soon, captured German leaders were chorusing their lamentations about the transportation bombings, which sometimes caused them to overlook other factors in the defeat of their nation, including their own mistakes. There was no question about this devastation by the spring of 1945, nor of its effects. Yet, the air campaign against German communications had been begun only after much debate in Anglo-American circles and had been carried out in spite of frequent periods of discouragement. Ironically enough, it had been projected not so much for its strategic effect on Germany’s economy, which proved to be the most notable result, as for its influence on land battles, where its effects had usually been disappointing.
Germany had begun the war with one of the finest systems of railways in the world. This system bore up easily, partly because of plundered stocks from conquered neighbors, through all the campaigns of the war until the late spring of 1944, when its efficiency in various respects began to decline very slowly. This complication probably was a result of the increased wear and tear on the system caused by the vigorous land campaigns and the air offensives against Axis-controlled railways in the Balkans, Italy, and the western countries. By September 1944, when Allied ground forces reached the borders of the Reich, the air forces undertook to damage marshalling yards in western Germany preparatory to the offensives toward the Rhine. While the tactical effect of these bombings was very slight,72 since until the very last the Germans were able to move their troops more or less on schedule, the economy of western Germany began to suffer severely almost immediately.73 The attacks continued, usually when weather conditions prevented raids on higher-priority objectives, and in November German transportation became a second priority for the strategic air forces.
Again, the purpose was tactical, to isolate the German ground forces, and again, as the Ardennes counteroffensive proved, this purpose was not attained.74 Yet, the strategic effect on Germany’s industry and war effort in general was overwhelming. The decline in carloadings and marshalling capacity in the chief industrial areas of western Germany spelled catastrophe for the Germans. Meanwhile, the RAF successfully blocked the main north German canals, which had usefully supplemented the railway system, and river traffic on the Rhine was interdicted. During the Battle of the Bulge itself the air forces achieved one of their rare successes in interdicting military traffic over a large area, but in January 1945 the Allies took a very sober view of the transportation campaign and determined to concentrate on certain key regions so as to reduce what seemed to be wastage. Nevertheless, the impact of the earlier raids continued to magnify Germany’s problems. The products of the Ruhr, especially its hard coal, found their way to other parts of the Reich with increasing difficulty. By mid-March 1945 the Ruhr was economically isolated by air power, but this victory lost significance in view of the rapid envelopment of that valley by the ground forces. Meanwhile, the bombings of rail centers leading to the Russian front, low-priority attacks on marshalling yards in all parts of Germany, and Fifteenth Air Force missions against southern European railways piled up calamity for the Germans. If they produced they could not haul. Their dispersal programs strangled, and the country became helpless. The Germans did not give up easily. Their will to operate the railroads was strong to the very last, and they worked furiously and efficiently to keep up their most vital movements. But nothing could save their transportation system.
The price of the transportation victory was huge. A total of 603,463 tons of American and 272,355 tons of British bombs was directed at land communications targets. The Eighth Air Force had aimed approximately one-third of its bombs, 235,312 tons, and the Fifteenth Air Force almost half of its lift, 149,476 tons, at such targets.75 The tactical air forces had played a considerable and sometimes critical part in these campaigns, breaking bridges, lines, and shooting up facilities. The mine-laying campaigns of the RAF in the Danube had been successful and, after much discouragement, so had the British mine-laying enterprises in the North Sea. It was clear toward the end of the war that the transportation campaign had paralyzed Germany. The USSBS pointed out that certain areas had been overbombed, that the marshalling yard
raids usually failed to achieve the desired tactical effects, and that the campaign had not been scientifically based on the flow of German economic traffic.76 But the over-all success was so great that, in retrospect, it seemed reasonable to suggest that the attacks on Germany proper should have been begun sooner, thus saving the French and Belgian systems and bringing about at an earlier date the long-sought progressive dislocation of Germany’s war-making capacity.77 As it was, the USSBS concluded, the attack on transportation was the decisive blow that completely disorganized the German economy.78
The air offensive against German tank and truck production and ordnance depots did not bring about the consequences that might have followed a more sustained effort. Before August 1944 only occasional bombings and spillage from area or other types of attacks had injured this composite target system. Possibly the Germans had been denied several hundred units of armored vehicles by these raids before the beginning of a concerted offensive in the late summer of 1944. This campaign was undertaken mainly because the German armies had lost enough equipment in France and Poland to make large-scale refitting necessary before they could defend the homeland. With the hope that this process could be hampered or even prevented, and also because they were aware of gigantic expansion programs, the Anglo-American air forces bombed assembly plants and ordnance depots often as a second priority between August and 1 November 1944. The raids were usually successful as air operations, and conspicuous ruin was wrought on several of the leading tank assembly and truck plants. But the Germans succeeded in supplying their combat units with essential equipment in time to meet the invaders of the Reich.79
Hence the priority was dropped on 1 November in favor of the transportation campaign, and there was a tendency in air force headquarters to look upon the offensive as inconclusive or worse. Thereafter, very few raids on this system were carried out until March 1945, when a considerable tonnage fell on the plants and depots. In all, 14,000 tons were directed at tank assembly plants, 2,600 tons at tank components plants, 1,780 tons at tank engine plants, 11,452 tons at motor vehicle installations, and 9,516 tons at ordnance depots.80 Such tonnage had been effective in many individual cases but did not seem to restrict the German armies in the field in defending the Reich vigorously to the last. After the war the USSBS studied the remains of several plants and indorsed the conclusion that the bombings had been very severe, destroying
possibly 64 per cent of the tank plants and a larger percentage of the truck plants.81 Undoubtedly, the attacks had prevented the fulfilment of Speer’s ambitious expansion program, and it was calculated that they had deprived the Germans of 2,250 tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled guns and 40 per cent of the motor vehicles they had planned to turn over to their combat units.82 Also, the destruction of tanks and trucks by the tactical air forces had been great, amounting in the ETO to 5,293 tanks and 70,631 motor vehicles,83 and therefore more effective than the strategic bomber offensive against the sources of production.84
While air force headquarters had a low opinion of this offensive, encouraging testimony came from captured German leaders. They offered no picture of catastrophic breakdown in obtaining their equipment, but one of manifold and infuriating difficulties. The forty raids or more had apparently proved of some effect in crippling the German armies, and it seemed clear that a determined campaign undertaken earlier in 1944 and pursued without interruption might have been decisive.
Against three other important target systems – German steel production, submarine assembly, and V-weapons – allied air power achieved considerable but not complete success. Germany’s steel-producing plants suffered a loss in output of approximately one-fourth during 1944 because of the direct and indirect effects of aerial attacks, and large plans for expansion were blocked.85 Steel itself was never an inportant priority during the bomber offensive, and most of this damage came about from RAF area attacks and USSTAF blind bombings of urban industrial areas. After the war a number of qualified Germans said they had regarded steel plants as highly vulnerable,86 supporting the belief of the Committee of Operations Analysts (COA) in March 1943.87 As for the submarine industry, it was obvious that air attacks had achieved notable effects. The misdirected bombings of submarine pens in France in 1943 was by no means the whole story of the offensive. In all, more than 100,000 tons had been dropped on targets that contributed to U-boat warfare, and Germany had been delayed and hampered in many ways in producing the underwater craft.88 Of 423 planned Types 21 and 23 submarines, the huge fast type the Allies never learned to contend with, only 180 were built.89 The chief cause of the discrepancy between scheduled and actual production was aerial bombardment, and Admiral Doenitz’ previously cited tribute to air power was altogether sound. With reference to the attack on V-weapons,
air bombardment probably had delayed by from three to four months the launching of the V-1 assault on Britain.*
The campaign against Germany’s antifriction-bearing industry, mainly a phase of the offensive against aircraft production, illustrated the varied factors which must govern the selection of targets for strategic bombardment. The German ball-bearing plants, few in number and well concentrated, seemed to offer an ideal opportunity. The COA had singled them out as outstandingly vulnerable to air attack and had estimated that their destruction would have immediate and critical effects that would pervade the enemy’s entire industrial system.90 A mission of 17 August 1943 had achieved impressive results at Schweinfurt, but the destruction was not complete and the cost was high.† A return attack, delayed until 14 October, proved considerably less damaging than the earlier one and cost no less than 60 of the 229 bombers attacking.91
An exposed target system such as this one called for simultaneous and sustained assaults, but it was concluded that the Eighth, which as yet lacked long-range escort, did not dispose of sufficiently large forces at that time to fly in the face of such prohibitive losses. Renewal of the attack was postponed until the spring of 1944. German production meanwhile declined by 40 to 50 per cent,92 chiefly as a result of moves to disperse the industry. In this effort at dispersal the enemy was largely successful, as he was also in acquiring substitutes for his own ball bearings when needed. Though missions flown during the remainder of the war, most of them in 1944, ran up the bomb tonnage to an impressive total, German armaments production suffered no serious effects from a shortage of antifriction bearings.93 After the war several captured commanders attributed the high level of tank unserviceability to defective bearings94 but this was almost the only comfort for those Allied air officials who had begun the ball-bearing campaign with such hope.
It is not surprising that the Germans were able to inform the Allies after the war of several target systems that might have been easy to destroy and whose destruction would have been gravely serious. For example, Goering95 and Speer96 believed the electric power stations of Germany had been highly vulnerable to air attack. Their point was fortified by the findings of the USSBS97 and the conclusions of The Contribution of Air Power to the Defeat of Germany.98 Yet the system
* See above, p. 106.
† A total of 36 out of 183 bombers attacking. See Vol. II, pp. 682–86.
was never selected as a priniary bombing objective, although AWPD-42 of September 1942* had recommended it for fourth priority and the COA report of March 1943 had underlined the fact that the power stations were mainly concentrated in the Ruhr. Apparently, American air authorities in England believed the system was more highly developed, and therefore less vulnerable, than it really was,99 or they expected the numerous raids on industrial cities to produce whatever damage to power stations that was possible. In the case of powder and explosives plants, too, strong presumptive evidence came to light after the war that they would have constituted an excellent target system for strategic bombing.100 Officers of the German quartermaster general department said they would have rated it second only to oil.101 Another missed opportunity, as it was judged after the war, was the failure to conduct a full-scale aerial offensive against Germany’s chief chemical plants, especially those which produced nitrogen and methanol.102 As it was, they suffered considerably but only incidentally from attacks on synthetic oil installations.103 And the USSBS pointed out that concentrated attacks early in the war on synthetic rubber plants would probably have proved effective.104 In considering these matters, however, it should be emphasized that Allied intelligence was often uninformed of potential German weaknesses that seemed very obvious once the war was won, and that systematic campaigns against any of the exposed target systems would probably have produced the same energetic and often successful countermeasures that served the Germans so well in other instances.
Aside from the complete and partial victories of air power against specific target systems, the ruined cities of Germany offered mute testimony to the effectiveness of the bombings. Obviously, the burning and blasting of the chief industrial areas in cities had seriously diminished war production, although the precise effects could never be measured. The tremendous requirements of air-raid defense had absorbed German manpower, scientific energies, and guns and ammunition from war activities that might have been much more dangerous to the United Nations.105 The air raids on cities had brought death to perhaps 305,000 Germans and serious injury to 780,000, and approximately 25,000,000 had been subjected to the terror of the bombings.106 Yet the humanitarian protest might be parried by pointing out the far more fatal effects to civilian populations of the naval blockade of the
first world war.107 While the Allies would undoubtedly have been pleased if German civilian morale had broken under the bombings, this morale had not been the primary target. The RAF was primarily interested in destroying the sources of German war production, which logically enough were located in the main industrial cities, and the homes of workers were considered legitimate objectives. The AAF, which repeatedly enunciated its opposition to terror bombing (although it is unlikely the Germans ever gave it credit for this stand) had also produced wide-scale damage to dwellings and nonmilitary targets during blind-bombing raids on industrial plants and marshalling yards. German morale had not broken, as captured leaders proudly pointed out after the war. Nor had it been stiffened and inspired. So tight was Nazi police control and so complete were the docility and discipline of the population, men and women continued to perform war work as long as the plants and machinery existed, no matter how fully they had despaired of the national cause or cursed their rulers.108 Thus the hideous ruin visited on German cities by Allied bombers was in both purpose and result not a matter of breaking morale but of depriving the enemy of the means to produce and transport the materials of war.
The problem of checking claims of Civilian aircraft destroyed in combat proved vexatious and, in the last analysis, impossible of resolving in any definitive way. Eighth Air Force claims, since the early days of operations in ETO, had been viewed with marked skepticism within the AAF as well as by the general public. As part of a continuing effort to tighten up the system of interrogation and reporting and thus to reduce to a minimum the unavoidable duplication of claims among crews fighting in ever larger bomber formations, the Eighth repeatedly revised its estimates downward. Even so, a preliminary check of GAF records undertaken at the request of the U.S. Air Force Historical Division by the British Air Ministry for the second volume of this history indicated that official claims through 1942 and most of 1943 remained altogether too high. A comprehensive investigation by this writer on two visits to London in 1949 and 1950 confirmed this conclusion, although by examination of the worksheets from which final reports of the General Quartermaster Department of the
Luftwaffe109 were compiled, it proved possible at points to establish a probability somewhat closer to the official Eighth Air Force claims. The hope that it might be possible to follow one such authoritative source through the entire war for purposes of comparison ended in disappointment, for the above-mentioned quartermaster file in possession of the Air Ministry is incomplete. All entries for 1944 and the first two months of 1945 are missing, and a search for those records in the air historical office at Wiesbaden and the army historical files at Karlsruhe proved unproductive. Other GAF records available are both incomplete and contradictory. It was possible, however, to place some boundaries around the problem by comparing American claims for a given period of time with several sets of consolidated German records.110 The results of this approach, as in the case of the critical air battles of February 1944,† established a strong probability that the claims advanced by U.S. strategic air forces from the close of 1943 were not too far off if allowance be made for the trying circumstances under which the original observations were made.
As 1944 wore on, the claims of these air forces diminished in relation to the losses admitted in the German files. Several explanations immediately occur. S-2 officers, upon whose interrogations the final claims depended, were by then both better trained and more experienced. The continuing effort of higher headquarters to bring about improvement of interrogation and reporting had had its effect. American fighters, whether on escort duty or on tactical missions, were over Germany in increasing numbers and took a heavy toll of German defensive planes; fighter pilot claims, especially when confirmed by camera gun photos, tended to be more accurate than those of flexible gunners in bomber formations and thus to narrow the gap between AAF and GAF statistics. By the last quarter of the year most of the German records play out and efforts to segregate losses by type of aircraft reflect the confusion which beset the Reich. Statistics summarizing the losses for the year 1944 are, however, available. A file of the Luftwaffe chief of
* Thus in the Lille mission of 9 October 1942 (see Vol. II, pp. 220-22) while the final record compiled by the General Quartermaster Department showed only 1 fighter destroyed in that action, the worksheets indicate a probable loss in the west that day of 11 fighters with 11 more damaged as much as 60 per cent. The original American claims were 56 fighters destroyed, 26 probably destroyed, and 20 damaged for a grand total of 102, but were revised downward to 21/21/15.
† See above, pp. 46-47.
staff, based on the records of his intelligence reporting section, lists 3,057 German fighters as destroyed and 649 as missing in the daylight defense of the interior zone of the Reich.111 This evidently records victories for the most part of the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces, since night losses and those sustained on the various ground fronts are listed separately. Those organizations claimed almost 10,000 air victories during the year. Their claims include planes not counted in the Luftwaffe file: German fighters shot down outside of the Reich, fighters of other Axis air forces destroyed, and even bombers which the GAF sometimes had to use for interception. Perhaps the conclusion is warranted that during 1944 the U.S. strategic air forces shot down half the number of enemy airplanes they thought they had.
And whatever the disparity in the figures for the earlier period may be, it is evident enough that the cumulative attrition imposed on the GAF contributed to its defeat early in 1944. Indeed, the reduced activity of the GAF after February of that year may be partly responsible for the improvement in AAF reporting. As a study of the Battle of Britain has revealed,112 periods of furious combat tend also to be periods of frenzied claims. When interception is only occasional, the fighter pilots and bomber gunners seem to make more accurate assessments of their victories.
The Tactical Achievement
The strategic bombing offensive at no time enjoyed official recognition in U.S. war plans except as a preliminary to the invasion of western Europe or as a program undertaken in support of that invasion. It followed that all air forces were subject from the spring of 1944 forward to an overriding dedication to the fulfilment of Eisenhower’s mission, and that the diversion of bombing effort from strategic targets to tactical operations in behalf of the ground forces would be heavy. But if the strategic campaign was thus rendered less effective than it might have been, the final victory was no less complete.
The removal of the German air threat to Allied land operations on the continent, primarily an achievement of the heavy bomber commands, was decisive in permitting those operations to begin. There was no question that the diminution of such critical enemy supplies as fuel had proved of inestimable benefit to Allied ground forces. The participation of the strategic air forces in preinvasion bombings and in the wrecking of transportation facilities had helped to make the victory on
the ground certain. More than that, there had been a superb coordination of effort between the advancing ground forces and the most powerful tactical air forces ever assembled. It is not intended to suggest that the air forces won the war, or even that they could have won singlehandedly a war deliberately planned on the principle of interdependent land, sea, and air forces. Rather, the purpose is to emphasize that the final triumph owed much of its completeness to an extraordinarily effective coordination of the ground and air effort.
The beaten German ground commanders were almost unanimous in their testimony that their defeats had stemmed above all from their enemy’s air power. Indeed, so extravagant was their praise, the suspicion sometimes arose they were attempting, unconsciously or otherwise, to explain away their own mistakes. Long before their final surrender, as in Field Marshal Model’s reports to his superiors at the close of the disastrous summer of 1944,113 they had dwelt repeatedly upon the especially depressing effect upon their troops of the Allied superiority in planes and tanks. Allied ground commanders mixed with their generous compliments a few criticisms regarding the machinery for securing air assistance and the value, in some instances, of mass bombing attacks on the battlefield,114 but this last point merely confirmed the judgment of air commanders who more than once had objected to proposals from ground commanders for this employment of air power.* As this is written, only one volume of the official U. S. Army history of the European war has been published, H. M. Cole’s admirable study The Lorraine Campaign.115 That study covers a period when the atrocious weather of late 1944 seriously limited the air effort, but the volume gives much credit to the supporting air arm for its work in tactical reconnaissance, in close collaboration with tank units, in the cover of ground troops, in the bombing of enemy concentrations and the strafing of enemy movement, in blasting a way through village barriers, and in the interdiction efforts. The author also emphasizes the enormous advantages enjoyed by the Allied ground forces as a result of the general air supremacy maintained by the Allied air forces. “Few of Patton’s troops ever saw more than a single German plane at a time,” we are told, “although they may have been subjected to a short night bombing or may have heard a few enemy reconnaissance planes chugging overhead in the darkness, making their rounds as ‘bed check Charlies.’ The supremacy in the air achieved by the Allied air forces
before the invasion of Normandy, and retained after D-day, allowed the Third Army a degree of tactical mobility and logistical freedom that was nearly absolute insofar as any threat from the Luftwaffe was concerned.”116
Ironically enough, it had been the Germans themselves who demonstrated to a stunned world how easily land victories followed the attainment of air supremacy, the blocking of transportation, and the skilful use of airplanes in battles. The swift campaigns which brought most of continental Europe and much of northern Africa under Axis control were conspicuous for the effective employment of the Luftwaffe. And in the several critical instances where the Nazis failed – Dunkerque, Britain, Moscow, Stalingrad, and El Alamein – they had not been able to establish an air situation favorable to themselves.117 Clear as these lessons were, the enemies of Germany seem to have learned more from them than did the Germans themselves, and they were eventually in a position to put them to highly effective use.
The British system of centralizing the control of available air forces under an air commander who was made equal in authority to the ground and naval commanders represented a distinct advance over the German doctrine and proved outstandingly successful in the African desert campaigns. Even when setbacks occurred, as in mid-1942, the RAF was chiefly responsible for preventing the defeat from being turned into a disaster. When the Eighth Army took the offensive at El Alamein the RAF, with some aid from AAF units, had won air supremacy and was able to strike concentrated blows at the enemy without having its strength dissipated on unsuitable targets which ground commanders might have designated. The great success which ensued, and the continued freedom which General Montgomery permitted the RAF to enjoy, re-emphasized the lesson that an air force functioned better in a tactical role if its commander had full power to direct it according to its capabilities in close cooperation with the ground forces but in no way subordinate to them.
Convinced as they were that the RAF principle was sound, AAF leaders were not able before 1943 to secure its adoption by the War Department. The United States had gone to war with an outmoded doctrine of air support which subordinated the air force to the ground force. In the area of battle not only did the air commander come under the army commander, but air units might be specifically allotted to the support of subordinate ground units. It was recognized that a contest
with an opposing air force for supremacy in the battle area might be necessary but, according to Field Manual 31–35 of 9 April 1942, “the most important target at a particular time will usually be that target which constitutes the most serious threat to the operations of the supported ground force.” And in any case, the “final decision as to priority of targets” rested “with the commander of the supported unit.” Such principles as these inevitably fostered distribution rather than concentration of force, encouraged an “umbrella” concept of defense which invited defeat in detail by the opposing air force, tended to commit the airplane to missions ill suited to its capacities, and robbed the air commander of full freedom to exploit the inherent flexibility of his weapon.
Tried and found wanting in the generally unsuccessful first months of the North African campaign, this doctrine was rewritten with the advice of men trained in the school of the Western Desert. The organization in February 1943 of the Northwest African Air Forces, a combined British and American command embracing all Allied air forces committed to that area, gave the control of air operations into the hands of commanders who were to cooperate with ground and naval commanders as equals and were subordinates only to the over-all command of Eisenhower.* Thus, as the doctrine was finally made official in @@@ /../USA/ref/FM/FM100-20/index.html -- FM 100–20 of 21 July 1943, air power and land power became “co-equal and interdependent forces,” neither of them “an auxiliary of the other.” This principle represented a lesson taught by experience, and the men whose experience had taught it – Eisenhower, Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton, Spaatz, Tedder, Coningham, Brereton, Doolittle, Vandenberg, and Quesada – carried the new doctrine, after a further test of it in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, into western Europe as the guide to policy in one of the most effective collaborations known to military history.
It is hardly necessary to review in detail the varied achievements recorded in the preceding pages. Two great amphibious operations were staged virtually without opposition from a once powerful enemy air force. The GAF, moreover, was kept at a point of weakness that left it little military significance in the subsequent development of the ground campaigns. Indeed, the American infantryman became so accustomed to this state of affairs that he was likely to take the appearance of a single enemy plane as a special cause for grievance against the air force. Interdiction of the enemy’s communications, if seldom absolute,
repeatedly was achieved on a scale sufficient to affect profoundly the balance of forces on the ground, and where interdiction failed, an alert reconnaissance gave notice of the enemy’s movements. The employment of aviation in intimate teamwork with ground units improved as experience was acquired; in some areas of activity, notably in the collaboration of plane and tank crews, the record was a distinguished one. Aviation engineers and service organizations made certain that air support kept pace with the most rapid of the ground advances. Air transport services lacked the strength and equipment to meet larger emergencies, but day in and day out they delivered from rear areas critical items of supply which often meant the difference between a halt and a further advance. Airborne operations at times met with disappointment, but this new method of warfare in the end had been well mastered. Finally, the frequent summoning of the heavy bombers from their strategic war to render direct assistance to the ground forces revealed as never before the flexibility and versatility of air power.
Altogether, the Allied air forces, in tactical operations as in the fulfillment of their strategic mission, more than justified the faith placed in them by their peoples and their governments.