Did the 8th Air Force precision bomb or area bomb?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pattle, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. pattle

    pattle Member

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    We always hear that the RAF area bombed Germany by night and that the USAAF precision bombed Germany by day. This is the traditional belief, but was the 8th Air Force in reality area bombing?
     
  2. VBF-13

    VBF-13 Well-Known Member

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    They weren't dive bombing. But, yeah, I guess they could see better in the day than in the night.
     
  3. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    I've seen it stated that the RAF precision bombed area targets (Oboe and visually marked, individually bombed and master bomber helping correct for wind and creepback, etc) and the 8th AF area bombed precision targets (formation bombing, use of more numerous and smaller bombs).
     
  4. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Every lead bombardier in squadron lead ship had a specific target such as a cracking plant in the middle of a refinery or a machine shop in an Engine manufacturing complex - and the rest of the squadron toggled on his drop. All of the squadron Bombardiers were setting up from the IP in case the lead ships went down.

    Through 8/10 or worse cloud cover, there was a pathfinder assuming the lead ship bombardier responsibility but individual sight bombing could occur as the target may be exposed during the bomb run.

    While results frequently fell short of precision bombing, there were spectacular successes in which small footprint targets were obliterated (intentionally)
     
  5. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    There was nothing precise about the majority of U.S. level bombing during WWII but that makes a great war slogan.
     
  6. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The 8th and 15th AF's tried to be precise, but usually bombed all over the place. The RAF made no pretensions about it though.
     
  7. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    In targeting terms there are 2 criteria - precision and accuracy. These 2 criteria are often conflated to mean the same thing but they are not. Precision is the ability to hit the same point with multiple weapons whereas accuracy is the ability to hit what you're actually aiming at. The example below from a NOAA website might help explain:

    NOAA 200th: Surveying - Accuracy Versus Precision

    Although we often talk of the 8th Air Force using "precision bombing techniques", in reality the aspiration was for both precision and accuracy. I would argue that neither were really achieved.

    The bombs dropped by the Lead Bombardiers, equipped with the Norden bomb sight, could be considered as being accurately aimed but the unpredictable flight path of the bombs released from altitude automatically reduced precision. If the Lead Bombardier altered his aiming point to account for the massed formation behind him, then his weapons were not accurately aimed. The following aircraft simply toggled when the Lead Bombardier released, resulting in neither precision nor accuracy. Most of those bombs were likely to drop short of the target (and would also be dispersed due to bomb flight path issues).

    In short, as Davebender points out, precision bombing was an aspiration and a great slogan but had little to do with actually hitting the target with any degree of precision or accuracy.
     
  8. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    I predict 18 pages, and three bannings.
     
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  9. Hop

    Hop Member

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    Both.

    As well as "precision" attacks on German military/industrial targets, the 8th carried out command area attacks (where they went out with a German city area as the primary target) and attacks on city areas as secondary or targets of opportunity (where the primary target could not be bombed and so a city was attacked instead).

    Richard G Davis is an official historian of the USAF. He is currently Command Historian, U.S. European Command.

    And from American Bombardment Policy Against Germany:

    From Bombing the European Axis Powers:

    No one would claim the 8th AF devoted as much effort to area bombing as Bomber Command did, but it's wrong to claim they didn't do it at all. Until 1944 they were pretty open about their area bombing against Germany, after that they removed all reference to area bombing from their records, although they still carried out area attacks.
     
  10. Gixxerman

    Gixxerman Member

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    I think what we call 'precision bombing' now is very very different from what it was thought of back then.
    The tactics, tech training was being developed as the war happened.
    Everyone thought they could avoid civilian deaths at the beginning, nobody managed it.
    Even today tech fails /or intel is wrong non-combatants get hurt or killed.
    How much worse in the pre-digital age?
     
  11. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    As precise as was possible 70 years ago.
     
  12. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    (aka area bombing)
     
  13. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Exactly.

    Steve
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Only the Luftwaffe 'precision' bombed............................:)

    stukanrnovgorod.jpg
     
  15. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    Thats a Stuka dive bomber,an A-36 or P-40 Apache (Mustang) could have similar results, we are talking B-17s/B-24s, so the German equivilant is a group of HE 111s.
     
  16. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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    whoops, A-36 Apache, dont know why the P-40 got between there
     
  17. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Freudian slip? :)
     
  18. Procrastintor

    Procrastintor Member

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  19. pattle

    pattle Member

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    I think there was a tendency on the part of the Western Allies to wish to disassociate themselves from area bombing post war, the best example of this was the lack of recognition given to bomber command by Churchill. I think that the Americans had probably realised earlier than the British that it would be best to distance themselves from the tactic of area bombing and so created the myth that it was the British alone that area bombed. The thing that confuses me is that while I have witnessed much controversy over the area bombing of Germany I don't recall hearing anyone questioning the area bombing of Japan and I wonder why there is such a difference in attitude between the area bombing of these two countries.
    While I understand what a unpleasant event an area bombing raid was, I personally believe that they played a vital part in shortening the particularly unpleasant chain of events known as World War Two.
     
  20. CobberKane

    CobberKane Banned

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    #20 CobberKane, Jul 14, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2013
    The US came into the war with a genuine distaste for area bombing and a belief they could precision bomb in built up areas. Unfortunately they were wrong - the technology of the time meant that the difference between area bombing and precision bombing was largely a matter of semantics. As the realities of war setttled in the squeamishness at bombing civilians abated, until by the end of the war the USAF had pretty much done away with the idea of precision bombing as anything but a pretence, though propaganda for the folks back home still held that civilians were not being deliberately bombed.
    The British, of course, barely never needed a pretence at all - they had been on the receiving end of German area bombing and were more than happy to hand it back in spades. When studies demonstrated how few bombs were landing in the target zone the RAF tactic to increase the number of hits was simple - drop more bombs.
    I think the fact that US reticence regarding the bombing of civilians in Japan was markedly less than was the case with Germans is due to two main factors. Fistly, by the time the US was in a position to area bomb Japanese cities, the necessity of doing so had already been recognised in Europe - all the hand-wringing was done. Secondly, the people on the receiving end weren't Caucasian. This is uncomfortable, but wartime propaganda persistently portrayed the Japanese as bestial and sub-human. Not that the US was at all alone in portraying enemies this way, but the fact that the Japanese were of another race undoubtedly gave the idea more traction. To be fair though, Kyoto was eliminated as a potential target for the atomic bomb due to it's historical and cultural significance, so such factors were never entirely disregarded.
    Post war, peacetime niceties re-asserted themselves and no-one wanted to remember area bombing. Bomber Harris didn't get his knighthood and Bomber Command aircrew didn't get a mention in Churchill's victory speeches, in spite of sustaining the highest casualty rate of any branch of the services. To this day they have never received a campaign medal. The USA treated it's veterans better and the daytime heavy bomber crews are rightly lauded for their courage, but what was happening in the cities under the B-17s and B-24s is less considered, and for the layman at least, the myth persists of military targets being picked off in the middle of civilian centres.
     
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