Most hated Axis interceptor for American bomber crews

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Jerry W. Loper, Mar 9, 2015.

  1. Jerry W. Loper

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    Not including jets and rockets like the Messerschmitt 262 and 163, what German and Japanese (and any other Axis) interceptors did American bomber crews hate to see the most?
     
  2. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    Wonder if there is a difference between what interceptor was most effective and the one(s) the crews hated the most.
     
  3. Jerry W. Loper

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    Maybe not. For all I know, the bomber crews might have dreaded Bf 110 or Me 410 twin-engine fighters with rockets more than Bf 109s or FW 190s, since the fact that twin-engine fighters were easy meat for Allied fighters wouldn't matter to bomber crews.
     
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I think they may have hated flak the most.

    At least some of them could shoot back at the fighters, but there was little you could do about flak except sit and take it.
     
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  5. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I agree with that. For the USAAF operating by day the chances of being shot down by a fighter or by flak varied, in the last year or so of the war they were about even. However, a bomber was very much more likely to be damaged by flak. For example between June and August 1944, when escorts had become proficient and the Jagdwaffe was on the verge of defeat, the 8th AF lost 341 aircraft to flak but suffered 10,972 damaged by flak. Throughout the campaign far more aircraft were damaged by flak than by fighters. Inevitably aircrew members were also much more likely to be wounded by flak and of course, unlike fighters for the most part, flak was highly visible, causing a psychological effect which is what your question is really about.
    Flak scared airmen, and they were statistically right to be disconcerted. It also substantially and consistently reduced bombing accuracy, something fighters could rarely achieve.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  6. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #6 drgondog, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
    Steve - I don't have much of a problem with most of your opinion but disagree the 'reduced bombing accuracy' part. The lead bombardiers had control from the IP to the bombs away point. I would bet anything in the world that if a 12 O'clock attack by fighters was boring in, compared to flak, the he would be a lot more 'distracted' by the fighters.

    Regarding the original question of this thread - I would be inclined to say FW 190 as the single German fighter that was most dreaded from 1942 through late 1944. Certainly the 110/410 was effective when unmolested by fighters (rare after February 1944) and the Me 262 (few and marginally effective despite their great performance and firepower).

    In 1945 the Me 262 was the single threat that our fighters did not have a great answer for when they showed up and attacked - but they were insignificant compared to the toll extracted by the FW 190 first, Bf 109 second (with 20mm gondolas and 30 mm cannon)
     
  7. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Not according to reports by both the 8th and 15th Air Forces and the USSBS as well as a Bomber Command ORS report :)

    Specifically it led to repeated calls for bombers not to attempt evasive action during the bomb run, and that included the lead aircraft which was/were specifically targeted by German flak. Fighters could of course disrupt a bomb run, but flak did it more consistently.

    The USSBS actually makes a statistical estimate of the adverse effect on bombing accuracy of flak, but my copy is at home and I'm not. Westermann's conclusions are based on those reports and luckily I have a digital copy of his opus.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Returning to the original question, I wonder how accurately the average air gunner could distinguish between the Luftwaffe's two principle single engine interceptors under combat stress and with limited time. They often showed themselves unable to distinguish between friendly and hostile fighters. As a general rule they fired at anything that looked like it might be attempting to point its nose at them.

    Steve
     
  8. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #8 drgondog, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
    Steve - your extract referring to "COLONEL' Lemay is the source for Lemay developing the Lead Crew method which was instituted in early 1943, along with AFC autopilot slaved to the bombsight to take the control away from the pilot.

    His last assignment as Colonel was CO of the 305BG, ending May 1943

    Lemay also decided (correctly) that the mean accuracy of German 88 and 122 mm flak guns had a low probability of a hit and rammed home the necessity of maintaining Tight formations to defend against the primary threat - LW fighters. He is the inventor of the Box/Staggered/Overlap combat formations, Lead Crew and forced adaptation to the AFC autopilot slaving bombsight to flight controls
     
  9. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    As to distinguishing the fighter type - true the 8th AF recognition skills were not exceptional but to answer your question, there were more beam attacks than head on - and it wasn't like only the tail gunner had a view. B-17 formations placed the bombers left, right, high. low - and sometimes behind an attacking fighter, giving many observer a 'view' of the problem. Same for even a head on attack but far less time to identify - but still visible to many eyes to recount during de-briefing after a mission.
     
  10. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #10 stona, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
    All true, but it was a problem for the USAAF which he and others had to fight hard to eliminate. Bomber Command never solved the problem, in fact Bennett once scornfully accused half of Bomber Command's main force crews of not using their bomb sights at all.

    In 1943 Lemay was right. The quote is from shortly after he took over 3rd Air Division (September 1943?). I think he had developed his 'combat box' system earlier. Fighters destroyed bombers at a rate of 2.9 to 1 compared to flak. It shouldn't be forgotten that flak damaged nearly 10,000 bombers in this year a ratio of 9.3 to 1 in its favour. Also many flak damaged bombers were destroyed subsequently by fighters (and claimed by them) though accurate figures are impossible to find.
    Later in the war the ratios for destroyed bombers became much nearer parity. Better flak and better escorted formations facing fewer good Luftwaffe units.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  11. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    flak was generally isolated over targets. so while intense it was relatively brief. fighters could attack anywhere along the hundreds of miles to and from the target....and especially if the bomber was wounded and fell behind the group. flak was indirect fire that they could climb and decend to escape....fighters were aiming their fire. i would be more fearful of someone with their eyes and sites on me.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    No, they couldn't, particularly on the bomb run which given the 'computational' ability of sights like the Norden, was quite long. The approach to the target was also where flak was likely to be concentrated. As evidenced in the Luftwaffe's 1943 manual issued to the flak arm the lead aircraft of US formations were specifically targeted. It's point number 3 in the instructions. Most flak was not 'barrier' flak.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    you are right on the bomb run itself they had to fly straight and level... but at other times or up to that point they were able to take some evasive action. let me see if i can find the after action reports where pilots talked about it,,,,
     
  14. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #14 stona, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
    Flak intelligence was taken very seriously indeed and flak units were 'tracked and mapped'. All RAF and 8th AF formations were updated daily. Generally formations were routed to avoid flak concentrations, though obviously they became unavoidable at and around the target.
    Cheers
    Steve
     
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  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    The Me262 should be noted in there as one of the Axis interceptors that caused a great deal of apprehension amongst the bomber crews.

    While it never showed in any great numbers and it certainly didn't change the bombing strategy, it's presence was feared because of it's speed and the terrible destruction it could produce.

    I recall speaking to a 25-mission B-24 tail-gunner during one of Aluminum Overcast's visits here in Redding. He had mentioned his encounters with Luftwaffe aircraft and he also mentioned the flak they had to endure. He even mentioned seeing a Me163 Komet attack on one mission: which did no damage to the formation, but was amazed at it's sight.

    But when he spoke of encounters with the Me262, he actually had to stop a few times, because he was getting choked up when he recounted the horrible damage it did to his aircraft and his crewmates.
     
  16. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    After LeMay influenced 1st BD tactics, the other two fell in line. Steve is correct that routes were planned to avoid the major concentrations of flak and also correct that the major concentrations were around important cities - making certain that a gauntlet would be run. The bombers did Not take evasive action from the IP to the target simply because formation integrity through bombs away had to be maintained.
     
  17. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    found this in a google e book....

    flak.jpg
     
  18. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    #18 bobbysocks, Mar 9, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
    same book...and he isnt the only bomber pilot i have read that stated this....

    flak2.jpg
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I've always liked this image, captured over Schweinfurt, 24th February 1944.

    [​IMG]

    It shows many things not always easy to appreciate. First the amount of space inside the bomber formations. These were close formations, all supporting each other as Lemay intended, but not close in terms of an air display!
    Secondly you can imagine how difficult it would be to manoeuvre any one element whilst maintaining its own formation, let alone retaining mutual support for and of its neighbours, something vital for defence against fighters.
    Thirdly the density and accuracy of the flak barrage is easy to see.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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  20. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    what was the ratio of losses ( flak to EA ) on the bomber groups for the schweinfurt raids?
     
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