Did the LW achieve air superiority over the 8th AF after the Schweinfurt missions?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by airminded88, Aug 18, 2013.

  1. airminded88

    airminded88 Member

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    I've read conflicting information about the subject.

    Some sources claim the 8th indefinitely postponed strategic bombardment deep into Nazi Germany thus ceding air superiority to the Luftwaffe for the reminder of the year.

    Others claim the 8th air force soldiered on, albeit on a smaller scale while it replaced its losses, had a change of commanding officers and tactics but did not really abandon the strategic campaign and maintained air parity until the big battles of 1944.

    Gentlemen, what are your thoughts?
     
  2. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    I believe the initial long range USAAF continental fighter sweeps by P-38s and P-51s began in December '43. Not sure if they intruded into German airspace. But I believe P-51 escorted missions followed shortly after.
     
  3. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    A couple of web sites to look at,
    United States Army Air Forces in World War II
    United States Army Air Forces in World War II

    Combat sorties flown in the ETO, Army Air Forces in World War II

    1943
    Jun - 2,107 - 1,268 (airborne - effective)
    Jul - 2,829 - 1,743
    Aug - 2,265 - 1,850
    Sep - 3,259 - 2,457
    Oct - 2,831 - 2,117
    Nov - 4,157 - 2,581
    Dec - 5,973 - 4,937

    1944
    Jan - 6,367 - 5,027
    Feb - 9,884 - 7,512

    As can be seen there was a dip in Oct '43 but there was a steady increase in the number of bomber sorties flown.
    Fighter sorties are also given.
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I've a far better understanding of this from the Luftwaffe's point of view. I don't think that it had any idea of having anything as nebulous as air superiority even over the Reich. It had the ability to contest its air space, particularly when the USAAF's bombers ranged beyond the protection of their fighters.

    The 1st Schweinfurt/Regensburg raid is often considered a complete disaster for the 8th AF but it was not. The Regensburg raid caused substantial damage and by flying on to North Africa avoided prohibitive losses, despite being opposed by 404 fighters, of which 197 made contact. It was unfortunate that the Schweinfurt raid was delayed and actually flew into Luftwaffe units assembled on the presumed exit route of the earlier raid. 13 of the 16 Jagdgruppen available to the RLV force were waiting on bases within 75 miles of the raids course as the bombers left the English coast. The ensuing carnage is well documented.

    The 8th AF flew on six of the 19 days following this and suffered another set back on 6th September on the raid on Stuttgart. They didn't fly to Germany again until the 27th. Now they had 6 Groups of P-47s all with drop tanks. Lessons had been learnt and the 8th AF would contest Germany's air space throughout the coming months. This was probably the time of maximum resistance from the Luftwaffe but it never stopped the Americans and ultimately, despite giving some bloody noses, the Luftwaffe was forced to cede control of its air space to the enemy. By the end of 1943 the writing was on the wall.

    I don't believe that the Luftwaffe achieved air superiority over the 8th in August/September/October 1943. It was still able to vigorously contest German air space, particularly when the bombers out ranged their escorts. It was a battle that it eventually lost.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  5. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    not sure Steve where you get your info about carnage on the first raid over Schweinfurth. as the area was attacked several more times by US forces as well as BC before out of commission. LW superiority ? might want to rephrase your question really. sufficient numbers to overwhelm unescorted heavies over the Reich possibly in 1943 surely not in 1944 due to increased P-51B activity and removing the needed T/E night fighters which were getting slaughtered in ops as they were aiding their day fighter cousins, removed by April of 44 to return to night missions. Tactically the LW did everything really wrong even in 43 with head on attacks by S/E's mis-use of rockets firing T/E's without high cover protective escorts .
     
  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    The 8th AF lost 64 bombers that day, 17th August. That's 17% of those dispatched and 20% of those that bombed. That I would suggest was carnage.

    Of the 468 fighters scrambled against the second (Schweinfurt rather than Regensburg) mission 244 made contact. The Luftwaffe lost 38 aircraft but only 15 KIA. 21 of those lost aircraft were night fighters, operating during the day, and those disproportionate losses were a lesson the Luftwaffe did not learn.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  7. cimmex

    cimmex Member

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    And how many were damaged beyond repair?
    cimmex
     
  8. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    carnage is what the bearings factories went through is what I meant not total for US heavies lost. the :LW lost 25 fighters this date from German sources, though it would not surprise me it needs adjusting we still do not know the accurate day T/E losses. 21 lost or damaged NF's, 10 kills reported, the LW NF's flew till being almost wiped out by spring of 44.......what a waste. during this op the US 56th FG really put on a show against the LW NF's.
     
  9. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    24 failed to make North Africa from the Regensburg raid and 1 was written off there
    36 failed to return from the Schweinfurt raid and three were written off back in the UK.

    My total of Luftwaffe losses, via Caldwell is 9 from the Regensburg raid and c. 38 from the Schweinfurt raid. The second is not certain. Total Luftwaffe KIA was 18.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  10. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    the losses totals were never be achieved for the LW. 14 KIA and wounded for the Nachtjagd alone....
     
  11. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    August through September 1943 drove home several lessons to 8th AF but did not diminish conviction that a.) Strategic Daylight bombing must continue, b.) the Luftwaffe was too strong to leave intact for D-Day by abandoning the focus on daylight operations, and c.) long range escorts had to be The major part of the equation to destroy the Luftwaffe Day fighter arm.

    Eaker was a victim of the Command re-shuffle more for his insistence that escort must remain close to the bombers versus Doolittle belief that escorts must be permitted greater freedom tactically against the Luftwaffe in order to take enough toll to achieve air superiority over the Normandy/Invasion front.

    The question posed of 'lost air supremacy' for August through September is not the right question. The question was 'could 8th AF daylight strategic operations continue 'as is' without major political intervention by Roosevelt, with Churchill as the Great Persuader, for night ops due to unacceptable losses. The 8th never had air superiority to lose until May, 1944 when they more or less achieved daylight air supremacy over Germany after five bloody months of attrition - which Germany could not sustain.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Caldwell agrees with that total of KIA for the Nachtjagd. I'm sure that you are aware of the sources for his other numbers. The personnel numbers are accurate, there is some doubt about the aircraft losses for the units opposing the Schweinfurt raid for the usual reasons. 38 is the best estimate.
    In any case it was a bloody nose for the 8th AF who sustained unsustainable losses of aircraft and more importantly, aircrew.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #13 parsifal, Aug 18, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2013
    The LW lost air superiority in the west in 1941 and never regained it. But they retained the ability to excercise air denial very effectively until the end of 1943 over germany. from early 1944 to mid 1944, there was a battle of air supreriority over Germany, with the allies winning that by the time of D-Day. As 1944 drew to a close the allies established air supremacy (yet another different concept), both day and night and never lost it after that.

    Ther is bound to be a lot of debate over this, but people need to be mindful of what the definitions are. The german ability to deny air space to the Americans in the latter part of '43 is not consistent with the definition of air superiority. for clarity, the accepted definition is "air supremacy means the ability to operate air forces anywhere without opposition. Local air superiority gives basic air freedom of movement over a limited area for a finite period of time. Theater air superiority, or supremacy, means that friendly air can operate any place within the entire combat theater. Air neutrality suggests that neither side has won sufficient control of the air to operate without great danger. We also have a condition we might call defensive air superiority or air denial -- in which enemy air cannot operate over some part of one's territory, and where one's own air force (if one exists) is equally unable to operate against the enemy".

    This is an article dealing with the theory. i dont agree with everything the Major writes, but it does serve as the theoretical base on which to make balanced assessments. Losses have little to do with determining the air state, at least not directly. Shooting down more enemy than ones own losses does not gurantee air superiority, as the germans found.

    http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/docs/98-128.pdf
     
  14. airminded88

    airminded88 Member

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    It seems I did not explained myself sufficiently, for that I apologize, and will try to clarify the idea behind the thread.
    I know the Allied air forces did not achieve air superiority until mid 1944 and prior to that, a sort air parity or neutrality as parsifal mentioned was taking place over most of Europe.
    After Schweinfurt, Stuttgart and Schweinfurt II the 8th did not venture deep into Nazi Germany but operated within the already improving effective range of VIII FC escort fighters on short to medium range operations over occupied territories.

    Does this mean the 8th top COs became wary of sending unescorted bombers into the jaws of the LW deep into Germany conceding that the LW could derail the entire campaign or was merely absorbing its losses and preparing to assault Germany once again with greater numbers regardless of a marked improvement in fighter protection.
     
  15. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    The Allies held air superiority from June 41 on. I dont mean or suggest that th Germans were being defeated by saying that, its just that outside of germany, insufficient losses were being inflicted on the Allies to prevent them from undertaking wide ranging air operations all across occupied Europe. The Germans, due mostly to inadequate resources could not so operate throughout the TO. Of the two forces, the Allies were operating closer to the definition of air superiority, whilst the Germans were operating closer to the definition of air denial. This has nothing to do with who was more effective or who was shooting up more enemy planes. Neither of these matters have any direct relevance to determining who has air superiority (though they can affect the equation indirectly). Air Superiority is about who can undertake air operations and who cant. Its that simple. If the german air denial campaign in 1941-2 had been successful enough to curtail operations for the allies, they could argue that they had achieved a local air superiority. That never happened.

    These comments relate to air operations outside of Germany, on the western front. Over germany a very strange situation developed. for the RAF, in BC, they came close to defeat at the end of 1941, similar to the US experience post Schweinfurt. For a short period the operations were curtailed for about 3 months, only to be followed by a massive counterattack, that saw the RAF back in action, and punching quite effectively all the way through to the Battle of Berlin. German losses were a fraction of those of BC, but such losses were never enough to curtail BC operations. The Germans lacked the reources to respond in kind. So, once again, losses have not much to do with it, unless such losses are able to curtail enemy oerations. Once again, the germans were effective at waging an air denial campaign, but that didnt translate to air superiority.

    In the Scwinfuert situation, my understanding is that there was a slight pause or curtailment of US air activity until they solved the main problem....providing effective fighter escort for their bomber formations. It is arguable I guess, that the germans achieved a degree of supeiority for a vbrief period,, because their air denial campaign was temporarily successful. But i stop short at wholeheartedly suggesting it was german Air Superiority...unless you want to argue the Baby blitz was somehow a return to normal operations by the LW. or that their V-1 campaign was somehow comparable to the constant heavy bombing being meted out on German cities almost nightly (and day).
     
  16. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    As you concede above the Luftwaffe successes of August/September 1943 clearly did force the 8th Air Force to re assess its tactics. I agree that this does not amount to Air Superiority, which is a fairly nebulous concept and not really achievable against an opponent who has a functioning air force. By mid 1944 the Luftwaffe barely functioned and by the end of that year it didn't. American formations could usually fly unchallenged in German air space.

    Shooting down enemy aircraft and killing aircrew is a relevant numbers game. The Luftwaffe inflicted losses on the 8th AF which it could not sustain. Not even the Americans could lose 17% of their aircraft and hundreds of expensively trained air crew on a mission by mission basis. The 8th AF would very quickly have ceased to exist as an operational unit and its commanders were well aware of this. This was a victory for the Luftwaffe whilst not being a total defeat for the 8th AF, which continued to operate, albeit with more limited objectives.

    After Shweinfurt/Regensburg of 17th August the 8th AF flew 6 times in the next 19 days and only to targets in France and the Low Countries. It tried Stuttgart on the 6th September and was badly mauled again, losing 45 B-17s which were shot down or crashed and a further 10 written off back in the UK. They didn't go back to Germany until the 27th when Emden had the dubious honour of becoming the first German target of USAAF area bombing, there were no specific targets, just the town centre. Being escorted only 8 B-17s were lost or scrapped.

    Encouraged the 8th AF launched a second raid on Schweinfurt on 14th October. There are many reasons why this went badly wrong for the Americans and right for the Germans. Every single Luftwaffe fighter unit in Western Europe except one confronted the raid. 882 fighters took off and 672 made contact. After three hours and fourteen minutes of continuous attack the Americans had lost 67 bombers. It could have been worse. None of the RAF or USAAF escorts for the withdrawal took off due to bad weather, but it was the progress of this weather front across the Channel that also prevented the Gruppen of JD 3 taking off to administer a coup de grace to the retreating bombers.

    It was the death knell for the doctrine of the self-defending bomber. The lesson was finally learnt. The USAAF didn't become "wary of sending unescorted bombers into the jaws of the Luftwaffe deep into Germany", it realised that it could not afford to do it at all.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  17. OldSkeptic

    OldSkeptic Active Member

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    Yes, and they did the did the same at night to Bomber Command at the same time.

    But it was a fragile win. Fragile in the sense that in the day they depended on their, by that time obsolete, twins to carry the heavy armament (heavy cannons and rockets), many of which were also night fighters.
    They broke up formations so the lesser armed SE fighters could kill them.

    When the escorts got increased range (longer ranged P-47s and of course the Mustang) then those twins were slaughtered and the Luftwaffe was stuffed. If they put more guns (and rockets) on their SE fighters their performance was too low to beat the escort fighters, so they got slaughtered like the twins. And the Luftwaffe did not have enough SE fighters to do both, that is have light ones for fighter to fighter combat and heavy ones for the bombers.

    That decision was made years before, so when they really needed them .. they were not there.

    This helped, as did the oil campaign, British Bomber Command as many, very successful, German night fighters got lost in day battles.
    Given the RAF's reluctance to use night fighter support this was a god send to BC, so later on, when they got back to making rubble bounce and dehousing people they had more limited opposition. And their hated 'army' helped them just a bit by invading (over their nearly dead bodies) and taking out the German forward radar network.

    So, in the end the USAAF won the air war (by a lot of accidents) and BC did its best to bankrupt Britain doing a lot of useless things and stopping efforts towards far, far better use of resources.

    Even right to the end, Portal (head of the RAF) was writing to Churchill and 'Hap Arnold' telling them that a 'long range fighter was impossible' .. 2 months before the P-51B came into operational service.

    So later on, and with some night (finally after much opposition) fighter support, BC could go on its merry way making 'rubble bounce' and occasionaly doing something useful.

    Take credit Americans, took a long time and a lot of mistakes , but it was the USAAF that finally won the European air war and they were 100% correct to reject the (by this stage bomber dominated) RAF's mad ideas.
     
  18. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Well that's one way of looking at it I suppose :)

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  19. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    Ummm... I'm not sure that 'useless' is a word I would attach to Bomber Command's campaign.
    In any case WW1 bankrupted Britain.
    Cheers
    John
     
  20. Erich

    Erich the old Sage
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    interesting but not factual talk to any BC crewman vet.......... the Allied forces worked in total combination from 43 onward to reduce the Reich to dog-meat.
     
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