Bomber Losses: USAAF vs RAF

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Marshall_Stack, May 20, 2009.

  1. Marshall_Stack

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    I have read that the British were trying to convince the USAAF to give up daylight precision raids due to the high losses incurred by the Germans. In looking at the high losses that the RAF suffered, their operations didn't look much better. Am I missing something?
     
  2. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Yes and no. The RAF tried high-altitude daylight precision bombing with Fortess I's (B-17C) in early 1941. These raids were carried out unescorted at 30,000ft, and were disastrous - not just because of combat losses, but because the aircraft really weren't up to the task and the crews were not trained or equipped for high-altitude work. Ironically, the USAAF had told the British that the B-17C was not sufficiently well-armed for unescorted bombing over Europe, and they were dead right. When the B-17E and -F came along, the USAAF promptly ignored it's own advice in 1942 and Schweinfurt ensued. At this point, the RAF were really getting into heavy night bombing assaults and were probably taking fewer casualties per mission than the USAAF. However, the introduction of long range US escorts would have reduced the risks of daylight raiding at a time when rapidly developing German technology was making night bombing an increasingly dangerous activity.

    In all, it's probably fair to say that at a certain point in 1942, the British had a point - but changes in technology from 1943 onwards reduced the advantages enjoyed by the night bombers and increased the security of US daylight raids, making the RAF argument irrelevant.
     
  3. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    it would be good to do a comparison study of the ETO USAF bomber vs Bomber Command losses for a true picture year by year.

    small notation the German Luftwaffe night fighter arm shot down some 7100 plus Bomber Command bombers during the war
     
  4. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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  5. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    On one of the earlier threads which I cannot identify, one member did a very detailed analysis of loss ratios by day and by night. To all intents and purposes the Lancaster and the B24 had exactly the same loss ratios by day and night whereas the B17 had a slightly better loss ratio.
     
  6. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    #6 Soundbreaker Welch?, May 21, 2009
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
    That means 71,000 airmen were downed by nightfighters alone!

    Incredible losses indeed, and I'm sure took quite a toll on the airmen. I'm suprised morale remained so good in the RAF, but I suppose flying by night in an aircraft beats huddling in the mud of the trenchs in WWI.
     
  7. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #7 Glider, May 21, 2009
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
    Not quite. The Bomber Command Diaries give the crew losses as follows

    Aircrew
    Killed in action or died whilst POW - 47,268
    Killed in flying or ground accidents - 8,195
    Killed in action on Ground - 37

    Total - 55,500

    POW 8,403

    Aircraft Losses 8,953 of which 7,953 were lost at night.
    What the split is between NF/Flak/Accidents over enemy airspace I do not know but 7,100 just to NF seems on the high side as 1,000 were lost in daylight raids

    Lancaster 3,431 (2.02%)
    Halifax 1,884 (2.28%)
    Wellington 1,386 (2.92%)
    Mosquito 260 (0.65%)
    Sterling 625 (3.39%)
    Hampden 424 (2.56%)
    Blenhiem 442 (3.62%)
    Whitley 317 (3.22%)
    Boston 42 (2.61%)
    Fortress 14 (1.04%)
    Manchester 64 (5.04%)
    Ventura 39 (3.91%)
    Liberator 3 (0.45%)
    Others 22
     
  8. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It's my understanding that morale wasn't terribly good among heavy bomber crews. Switzerland had dozens of Allied heavy bombers parked on airfields by the end of the war. Some of them landed on purpose to opt out of the war.
     
  9. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    It would be fascinating to see more info on that if you have it
     
  10. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I would also be interested to see any info you may have on that line.
     
  11. TheMustangRider

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    The stories I have read regarding bombers landing in Switzerland are those when the bombers were extremely damaged by flack or German fighters and the crew knew it was quite impossible to make it back to Britain so they decided to try landing in Switzerland instead of landing in Germany.
     
  12. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    the 7100 plus is confirmed through documentation
     
  13. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    #13 Soundbreaker Welch?, May 21, 2009
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
    On the Army Air Force site it says the USAAF lost 5,548 heavy bombers. To tell the truth, I thought the total would have been higher. Still heavy losses, since roughly 55,000 US airmen were lost over Europe. It's probably less since many USAAF bombers didn't have 10 crew members, only 9.

    If that is how many bombers the USAAF lost including both B-17's and B-24's, then their losses were actually quite lower than the RAF night bombers, which was 10,000 night bombers lost.

    Which can present the argument that in the end, strategic bombing paid off.
     
  14. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    You bet it payed off. The steady bombing of the refineries and the interference of Germany's logistics shortened the war considerably.
     
  15. HerrKaleut

    HerrKaleut Member

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    The RAF tried daylight and got hammered, the Luftwaffe tried it ..same result so when the USAAF decided to have a go, someone was missing something somewhere.!!
     
  16. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Bear in mind that those Bomber Command losses are not just for night bombers. All of the Boston and Ventura losses, many of the Mossie, Blenheim and Fortess losses, and a proportion of the Wellington losses would have been incurred in daylight - the Boston and Ventura were used exclusively by the light bomber groups in daylight tactical ops, in which role they largely replaced the Blenheim. Bear in mind also that Bomber Command was taking losses for over two years before the US entred the European war. Most of the Wellington, Hampden, Whitley, Blenheim, Stirling, Fortress and Manchester losses would have been incurred before the US even declared war, never mind before they started boming Europe.This goes some way to explaining the seeimingly huge disparity in losses.

    The strategic bombing campaingn did much to shorten the war, but it would have been far less sucessful had it not been 'round-the-clock'. The daylight and night strategies both had strengths and weaknesses - daylight was more accurate but more susceptible to massed fighter attack, while night bombers were harder to intercept, but incapable of hitting anything smaller than a city.
     
  17. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    There isn't a whole lot a RAF bomber can do against a radar operated NF it can't even see. The Germans had a considerable NF force that was well equipped and organised. The bombers best defense was to confuse them. Even RAF NF Mossies and Beau's were to little in number to provide adequate defence!
     
  18. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    Clearly the British NF were not able to stop the attacks that was impossible but my understanding was that the German NF's were very concerned about the Mosquito NF's over Germany. Considering they were on their own without any ground control the British NF's did pretty well. The best that I have heard about was on Mosquito that shot down four German NF's in one night.
     
  19. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    The bomber stream concept does not lend itself to dedicated escorts in any case. The best defense that can be provided for it is to have friendly NFs roaming the stream area hoping to catch an enemy NF. Hardly the most sophisticated system, but better than nothing, I suppose...
     
  20. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #20 Glider, May 22, 2009
    Last edited: May 22, 2009
    The British did have an organised plan for the defence of the bombers. In brief there were three levels of support:-
    1) Protecting the bomber stream
    Each NF fighter had a patrol area either side of the bomber stream at differing heights. This patrol area was almost sacrosanct and could only be left if they had a firm contact with a German fighter. When their period on the patrol line was up, normally because the stream was due to have passed the area, then and only then could they go freelancing.
    2) Intruders
    These tended to be MkVI Mosquito's without radar who would target known NF Bases or Beacons. Freelancing NF's often took up this action on their own initiative
    3) Decoy's
    Some mosquito's would try to decoy the enemy fighters into attacking them and for obvious reasons, this wasn't very popular. There was a period when the British used a tail warning radar 'Monica' which the Germans soon turned by designing equipment to home in on the radar pulses. Monica was fitted in some Mossie NF's to lure the Germans into a trap.

    Wilhelm Johnen a German NF Ace wrote about the Mosquito's in his book Duel Under the Stars one chapter is entitiled 'Auchting I Mosquito'

    Fast Moquito's were despatched to join the bomber stream and take over the task of air cover. The Mosquito's lived up to their name. They were the nightfighters greratest plague and wrecked havoc among the German crews. The radar equipment of this wodden aircraft surpassed everything that had previously been seen....
    It was incredibly difficult to get a bomber in our sights as the Mosquito's sought us out and led like rockets to the aid of the bomber. Not only had we the enemy in front of us but on our backs as well. All this was a great strain on the German crews, the losses rose appalingly....
    The Mosquito's not only pursued us in the bomber stream but waited for us as we took off from our airfields. They attacked us throughout the whole operation and interfered with our landing. It was almost a daily occurrence that shortly before divisional ops several mosquito's would fly over the airfields and shoot down the Messerschmitts as they took off.

    I should add here that I don't have the book 'Duel Under the Stars' its on order and that these quotes are from another book so some caution should be taken, but the general feeling is clear i.e. that the German NF's didn't have it all their own way and the RAF escort plans were pretty effective.
     
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