Day or night strategic bombing?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Poor Old Spike, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. Poor Old Spike

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    #1 Poor Old Spike, Feb 28, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
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    I'm talking about the heavy bomber offensive against Nazi Europe, America by day and Britain by night.
    I've never got round to researching the subject fully, do members think day or night bombing was most effective?
    For example daylight bombing meant the bomb aimers job was much easier because he could actually see the target.
    Also the bombers gunners could easily see any intercepting German fighters coming.
    The downside of daylight bombing was that German fighters and flak guns could easily see the bomber formations.

    By contrast, night bombing was far less precise against the largely invisible target, and radar-equipped German night fighters could sneak up on the bombers unseen.
    The upside of night bombing was that the night fighters were relatively few in number and were half-blind, having to spend time finding the bombers on radar and stalking them.
    Also flak guns couldn't estimate the bombers altitude and were therefore also half-blind until searchlights showed them the bombers.

    Does anybody have reliable figures for what percentage of day and night bombers were shot down?
    And regarding ground targets, was it found that day bombing was more accurate?

    The bottom line is why didn't the Allied commanders sit down and work out whether day or night bombing resulted in fewer losses of aircraft?
    For example if they found day bombing was safest, why didn't they completely halt night bombing and switch everything to day bombing, or vice-versa?
     
  2. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Was there a choice for the RAF?
    It tried bombing in day light in 1939/40 and just like the Luftwaffe was forced to concede that the bomber would not infact always get through. Initially night time bombing was wildly inaccurate but as time,technology and techniques advanced could be as accurate as bombing carried out in daylight.

    When the Americans arrived a few years later they too were forced to limit and very nearly abandon,at least temporarily, their own day light campaign.

    The Allied commanders persisted with their choices because the RAF had invested a huge amount of effort,training and treasure in it's nightime operations,just as the USAAF had in it's daytime effort.

    The two complimentary campigns were a double edged sword for the Luftwaffe. Limited resources were split between two defensive systems,only some elements of which overlapped. flak is flak but most nightfighters couldn't operate with any chance of survival during the day (certainly after mid 1943). What use is a searchlight in daylight,or a day fighter whose pilot can't fly on instruments at night?

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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  4. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    Daylight bombing achieved one vital outcome that night bombing never could have – it forced a major reaction from the Luftwaffe. This not only put the German fighter force into the air where the USAAF could engage them in a war of attrition they could never win, thereby ensuring air superiority over Normandy come D-Day; it also diverted recourses from the Eastern Front, hobbling the tried and true tactic of Blitzgreig which relied on German air superiority and leaving German ground forces there dangerously exposed growing Soviet air power. No discussion of day v night bombing should ignore this vital aspect.
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    RAF night bombing did the same thing and three years earlier then diversion of day fighters caused by U.S. 8th Air Force.

    Creation of Nachtjagd derailed use of Me-110 as bomber escort during BoB and absorbed most Me-110 production for the remainder of the war. Large numbers of Ju-88s were diverted to Nachtjagd from 1941 onward. Even some Do-217 heavy bombers got pressed into service as night fighters.
     
  6. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    I would contend that the Me-110 was pretty much useless as a BOB bomber escort in any case. I know there have been posts pointing out that its kill/loss ration was actually pretty good, but my understanding is that this depended on it entering the fray from a favourable situation and avoiding tangling with single engined fighters on equal terms - a bit limiting for an escort fighter. In any case, while night bombing may have pulled in some twin engine production - and single engine fighters too - it did not place those fighters in a situation where they could be swatted out of the sky in their hundreds, as did daylight bombing. I cannot see how night bombing could ever have given the Allies air superiority for Overlord, as daylight bombing did.
     
  7. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    I do not believe day or night bombing was all that precise. Especially early in the war with fewer bombers. Later in the war, the Allies could put far more bombers on a target and so a much better chance of hitting the targets. And advances in electronics. The Germans where defending the skys pretty well up to 1944. German night destroyers being guided to the night bombers by ground and air radar. But the single most important thing that happened, in my opinion, was the 1944 order to destroy the Luftwaffe. This made the strategic bombing of Germany effective.
     
  8. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    A post war analysis of the effects of allied bombing on German industry revealed that throughout the bombing campaign German factory output actually increased all the way through until the industrial regions were over-run by ground forces. To be fair, output may well have increased very much faster had the bombing campaign not occurred, as the Germans did not place their economy on a true 24-7 war footing until after Stalingrad, and bombing proabaly dampened the resulting surge in production. Nonetheless, German industry was still producing plenty of fighters, for example, right through to 1945. What they weren’t producing were replacements for the pilots who had been killed and wounded trying to halt allied daylight bombing.
     
  9. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    This is a myth. It's well covered in The Wages of Destruction, by Adam Tooze.

    As for German production increasing despite the bombing, it's simple: it would increase much more if the bombing didn't take place.
     
  10. Poor Old Spike

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    Thanks mate, I'm trying to get my crotchety PC to open it..;)

    Hey everybody let me put this simple question to you-
    If you were a heavy bomber airman in WW2 would you have preferred flying by day or night?

    Personally I think I'd have plumped for night, BUT I'd want my pilot to keep making minor zigs and zags every few minutes to and from the target, and do gently dives and ascents to throw off any stalking night fighters.
    If he insisted on flying straight and level all the time I'd ask to be assigned to another aircraft!
     
  11. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I don't think i'd like flying as a crewman on a night mission, spending hours looking in the night for something you'd likely only see when it opened fire. If your aircraft get's terminal damage, you're likely going to have to put on your parachute, and blunder you're way out of a tumbling aircraft in the dark. No thanks.

    Most positions in a bomber crew would be enlisted, not officers. Enlisted goes where they're told to go, there's not much asking where you want to be assigned.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    No,but it used a good portion of total aircraft production capacity to produce these two engined types which fairly obviously require two engines (plus spares) which could have been used elsewhere. It also put a strain on Germany's electronics industry. Other more obvious investments in anti aircraft defences have been well documented. Defence of the Reich,by night,was a monumental effort.

    I agree that the night bombing wouldn't have minced the Luftwaffe in the same way as the USAAF campaign did but the RAF imagined it was hitting the Luftwaffe's means of production rather harder than it actually was. Harris did say that noone knew if a war could be won by bombing alone because noone had tried. It turned out that in the 1940's it couldn't be done.

    In response to your other post,total aircraft production barely and rarely kept pace with losses. Even with the large increase in single engined fighter production in the latter stages of the war the Luftwaffe's strength in these types never significantly increased.It didn't nose dive until near the end. The more fighters they produced the more the allies,particularly the USAAF shot down. The aircraft were replaceable......just about. The pilots were not as you rightly point out.

    This was not just a late war problem. The Luftwaffe embarked on Barbarossa with fewer aircraft than it had for the Battle of Britain.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    Not with RAF Bomber Command during 1941 to 1944 but that's a particularly murderous example.

    German night bombers over England during 1940 to 1941 averaged less then 1% loss rate per mission. B-29 loss rate over Japan during final year of war was also considerably lower then RAF Bomber Command. German and U.S. night bombing was probably more effective on average too.

    Could RAF improve bombing accuracy while reducing loss rate by employing different night bombing methods?
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    They improved accuracy as the technology and techniques developed.

    The Luftwaffe faced no meaningful coordinated night time defence over Britain in 1940 and into 1941. By the time such systems were beginning to be established,and operate effectively,there were bigger fish to fry in the East. The skies of England were hardly a target rich environment for the RAF nightfighters.
    The RAF on the other hand faced a well coordinated and agressive defensive system,ever evolving. Their doctrine was also usually to deliver massive raids with hundreds of bombers. Plenty of targets,and inevitable carnage on the occassions when luck,circumstance and skill favoured the defenders.
    It is often forgotten that even on some of the most disastrous raids (for the RAF) most crews flew completely uneventful missions and had no inkling of the losses suffered until later.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  15. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    Round-the-clock bombing kept the Luftwaffe tied up and out of London? I don't know to what degree it did that but it makes sense it did it to some degree.
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Once the war with the Soviet Union started the Luftwaffe's offensive resources were largely diverted there. The tonnage of bombs dropped on the UK fell considerably.

    Later the combined RAF/USAAF operations in the west forced the Luftwaffe into an almost entirely defensive posture. The whole balance of the Luftwaffe changed and is reflected in the huge increase in production of fighters,principally single engined dayfighters and fewer two engined nightfighters,which came at the expense of other types.

    To that extent it kept the Luftwaffe out of London,and everywhere else, by reducing its offensive capabilities and denying it the opportunity to ever develop a meaningful strategic bombing capability.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  17. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    'Most positions in a bomber crew would be enlisted, not officers. Enlisted goes where they're told to go, there's not much asking where you want to be assigned'.

    Maybe in the USAAF but, in BC I'm pretty sure the crews were all volunteers.

    Would you volunteer to fly in a bomber night or day?

    If I had to...I would fly at night as darkness gives some element of cover.
    Cheers
    John
     
  18. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Would you volunteer to fly in a bomber night or day?

    If I had to...I would fly at night as darkness gives some element of cover.

    'To that extent it kept the Luftwaffe out of London,and everywhere else, by reducing its offensive capabilities and denying it the opportunity to ever develop a meaningful strategic bombing capability'

    I can see your point Steve, but the German assault on London in particular continued with the V flying bombs.

    Cheers
    John
     
  19. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    In the USAAF all flyers were volunteers also, but beyond volunteering for flight duty, you never had much, if any choice about where you flew, or who you flew with.
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    In Bomber Command crews selected themselves at the end of training,beyond that they did what they were told and went where they were told to go.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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