AS207_02_The European Theater WWII

The European Theater
in World War II
The Use of Airpower in
Europe: An Overview
US enters the war -- background
Allied strategy for winning WW II
The role of airpower in European Theater
and lessons learned
North African campaign
Strategic bombing of Germany
US Enters WW II -Background
Relations between US and Germany
deteriorate -- US destroyer sunk in Oct ‘41
Relations with Japan worsened in 1941
• Japan continues Asian aggression
• Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in US and
halts all American trade with Japan -- Jul ‘41
• Japan attacks Pearl Harbor -- Dec 7, 1941
Allied Strategy for
Winning World War II
Priority One -- Safeguard Britain and US
Priority Two -- Fight a decisive air
offensive against the Axis powers in
Europe and fight defensively in Asia
Priority Three -- Sustained air offensive
against Japan after the Axis powers were
defeated in Europe
• Use land forces when, and if, necessary
US First Offensive Action
of WW II North Africa
First use of US ground forces against the
Provided valuable combat experience for
ground and air forces
Opportunity for British and US to fight a
combined arms campaign
First defeat of the German forces since
North Africa
US learned some valuable lessons
concerning the employment of airpower in
tactical situations
Initial problems experienced by the Allies
Air units were split among ground units
Ground commanders didn’t share aircraft
Airpower was used defensively
Airpower was fragmented and inflexible
North Africa (Cont)
Allied airpower was reorganized in 1942
• Command of the air forces went to airmen
• The air officer decided the missions and allocated
• Missions became offensive in nature
Flexibility of Allied airpower was restored and
air superiority was attained
Allies achieve victory in North Africa in May
US Strategic Bombing
of Germany
Heavily influenced by ACTS and
bomber advocates
• Some felt strategic bombing alone would
defeat Germany
• Others believed strategic bombing would
weaken Germany and a ground invasion
would be required for her surrender
US Bombing Strategy
Committed to high-altitude, daylight precision bombing
Belief heavy bombers, flying in formation, could fight their
way to the target and back
• Fighter escorts were not necessary
Targets identified by AWPD were best hit in day time
Strategy ignored weather conditions, target obstruction,
fighter opposition and anti-aircraft artillery
Strategic Bombing of
Germany Early Efforts
Strategic bombing of Europe was responsibility of
the 8th Air Force
First raid were against marshaling yards in France
• little effect
Late ‘42 and early ‘43 -- 8th attacked small targets
in Europe -- good experience, little effect
Casablanca Conference (Jan ‘43) established
strategic bombing (destruction of German
industry) as a major objective
Strategic Bombing of
Schweinfurt Germany
8th Air Force bomb the ball-bearing plants at
Schweinfurt in Summer 1943
• Aug ‘43 -- 8th inflicts heavy damage but lost 36 B-17s
and 360 crewmen
• Oct ‘43 -- AAF lost 60 bombers, had 138 aircraft
damaged and 600 men lost
Losses were unacceptable
No fighter escorts - bombers vulnerable to
enemy fighters and anti-aircraft artillery
Strategic Bombing
in Europe: Ploesti
Aug ‘43 -- USSAF launch attacks against oil
refineries at Ploesti, Romania
• 180 aircraft launched, 55 aircraft lost
• Raids were costly but needed to shorten the war
Attacks were designed to reduce Germany’s
oil and lubricant production
• Generally ineffective and deliveries increased
until ‘44 when attacks resumed
Strategic Bombing
in Europe (Cont)
Long-range fighter escorts arrived in theater in
Dec ‘43
• Took significant toll on German aircraft and their
experienced pilot force
8th resumed raids into Germany in Feb ‘44
• Launched a 1000 plane raid by end of Feb ‘44
• Attacked Berlin in Mar ‘44
• German POL production was reduced to 25% capacity
by Sep ‘44
Strategic Bombing
in Europe: Lessons Learned
Target list was not what it should have been
• Attacks on sub-pens and ball bearing plants were
• Best targets were the POL production facilities and
sources of electrical power
Terror bombing of civilians was ineffective and
did little to lower morale
Bombers needed fighter escorts to and from the