My History Independent Study

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Watanbe, Apr 11, 2008.

  1. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Some of you may or may not recall me asking for some help with a History piece I had to write, for those who cant hear is the link.

    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviation/airpower-dominat-force-warfare-39-41-a-8749.html

    I handed it up about 6 months ago and only found it again today. Someone of you expressed interest in seeing so I thought id post it up. Thanks to the forum for some help, it helped add some needed polish haha

    For some background we had to choose a topic on anything in modern history and complete and independent study on it. I chose this topic obviously because I love planes, it was a huge part of our year comprising 30-40% of overall mark. I did quite well with this piece and got 18/20. Yeh its a final year high school piece so be easy on me.

    The European theatre between 1939-41, saw the emergence of airpower as the dominant force in warfare. How valid is this statement?

    ...World War 2 (WW2) saw the emergence of airpower as the dominant force in warfare. The First World War had seen the introduction of aircraft to military conflict. While these early planes provided important reconnaissance and acted as the eyes for artillery, they were too primitive in design to prove a dominant force for either side. Despite this planes showed enormous potential and this coupled with the people’s fascination with flight led to post-war world powers investing heavily in designing both military and commercial aircraft. In the First World War the tactics implemented by both the Axis and Allies failed and produced a devastating stalemate, resulting in enormous casualties for little territorial gain. This failure of traditional battle tactics resulted in the need for new decisive tactics, in which aircraft and armour were viewed as integral. Airpower emerged as dominant for a number of reasons. Planes could swiftly provide support for ground and naval forces and unlike tanks were able to perform both defensively and offensively. They were crucial in achieving victory in decisive battles which turned the war, and could take the war to the enemy over vast distances. They could supply troops and equipment, destroy production and infrastructure, provide a canvas for propaganda and instill fear and destroy morale in the opposition. Another crucial offensive capability of aircraft was the ability to deploy paratroopers, who proved incredibly effective when dropped behind enemy lines in an invasion, a famous example the Battle of Crete in 1941...
     
  2. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    During WW1 and pre WW2 the battleship dominated warfare. These powerful, towering and imposing naval monstrosities were hideously expensive and only the most powerful navies could produce them in any real quantities. Battleships were created for large scale fleet conflict. Their value was significantly undermined by changes in naval warfare, particularly in Europe. Unrestricted submarine (U-boat) warfare was used by the Germans to attack British supply lines from America. Battleships were useless against U-Boats and quickly became replaced by smaller and faster Destroyers and accompanying naval patrol planes such as the American Consolidated Aviation Catalina and Short Sunderland. Long range allied aircraft would later play a key role in defeating the U-Boat menace. Planes could be assembled quickly using mass production techniques and could eliminate battleships using either dive or torpedo bombing tactics. The redundancy of battleships was confirmed by the sinking of the German ‘Bismark’, the largest battleship ever built. The British Navy had been unsuccessful in tracking or engaging the Bismark, but in May 1941 British ‘Swordfish’, two seat torpedo bombers obsolete before the war, were largely responsible for the destruction of the pride of the German Navy. As noted by British Prime Minister Churchill in 1940, “The Navy can lose us the war, but only the Air Force can win it.” Churchill had seen the limitations of ships, and recognized the potential of the air force to take the fight to the enemy.

    The development of new technologies in the fields of radar and aircraft production materials provided aircraft with significant advantages. Radar was perhaps the biggest new technology of the war, proving highly effective in complimenting the actions of planes. Rather than fly in the hope of finding an enemy force of unknown size, radar could detect and quantify forces coming and fighter planes could be mobilized to intercept. This was used to great effect in the Battle of Britain. Incoming Luftwaffe (German Airforce) planes were spotted and flights of RAF (British Airforce) fighters scrambled to intercept.
     
  3. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Aircraft could be devastatingly effective when combined with ground forces to deliver tactical attacks on enemy forces. This was mastered by the Germans in the early years of the war with the ‘Blitzkrieg’ tactic, which involved rushing an enemy with armour supported by tactical attack aircraft such as the Junkers 87 ‘Stuka’.

    “In a typical Stuka attack, several planes would circle above the target, then one plane after another would peel off to dive almost vertically before releasing its bombs, pulling up, and returning to the circle to dive again.”
    air warfare :: Ground attack --  Britannica Online Encyclopedia

    Using these tactics and with the Luftwaffe dominating the skies, the Germans were able to quickly capture European powers such as Poland and France. Combining air and ground forces was not limited to large scale conflicts. In smaller skirmishes and battles calling in ‘close air support’ could quickly change the tide of battle for soldiers fighting on the ground. Tactical bombers used for such support appeared in the armory of every WW2 nation. Dedicated ground attack planes such as the British Hawker Typhoon and Russian Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik emerged later in the war and proved lethal to enemy forces. The other candidate for the dominant force in warfare, the ‘tank’, could easily be destroyed by such planes.

    Such was the dominance of airpower in WW2 that it was a common belief that a nation could not be conquered until air superiority was achieved. At the beginning of the war the Germans had gained air superiority over France and were able to create effective maps, attack enemy armour and defences, and assist soldiers fighting on the ground with ‘air support’. The necessity for air superiority was evident in the Battle of Britain, where Hitler believed it necessary to eliminate the RAF before an invasion could be attempted. It is no coincidence that the Germans first defeat of the war coincided with their loss of air superiority.
    “In the Battle of Britain changing priorities and a failure to achieve air superiority assured the Luftwaffe's defeat”
    Lutwaffe Doctrine and Air Superiority Through World War Two

    The emergence of airpower as the dominant force on the battlefield can be showcased by the decisive battles in which airpower was crucial for victory. Whilst in almost every battle airpower was crucial, some were fought entirely using planes. The Battle of Britain and (away from Europe) the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour were both large scale and war turning events fought almost entirely using airpower.. The war in the pacific was indeed ultimately concluded when American Boeing B-29 Super fortresses dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan.
     
  4. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Frequently underestimated in warfare is the importance of supply, transport and logistics. This involves ensuring an army is provided with materials, men, organization and equipment. Aircraft in WW2, particularly the American Douglas C47 “Skytrain” and German Junkers JU-52, played very important roles for their respective armies. These rugged aircraft transported both men and equipment to the front. To be a fight there has to be people at the fight. Churchill made this point more eloquently “Victory is the beautiful brightly coloured flower. Transport is the stem, without which it could have never have blossomed.”

    If one revolutionary and dominant new tactic emerged from the Second World War it was ‘strategic bombing’. Strategic bombing involved sending large formations of heavy bomber aircraft deep into enemy territory to bomb infrastructure, production facilities, cities and various other important targets. This tactic was introduced in WW1 with the airship bombings of London. These attacks showed enormous potential and led the powers of Europe to establish strategic bombing doctrines. The tactic was first introduced in a large scale by the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain. In this case though it proved a failure, largely because it decided to attack English cities rather than follow the initial plan of targeting radar stations, ports and airfields, but it did show promise. It wasn’t until the Allies, particularly the British and Americans started large scale bombing in areas of France, Italy and Germany that the true potential of strategic bombing was revealed. Whilst large casualties resulted from this form of conflict the effects were devastating. A country could be economically neutralized without being physically invaded, a notion clearly evident to Sir Arthur Harris.

    “Sir Arthur Harris had taken over the British Bomber Command while America was yet twiddling its thumbs. At this point he contended, that since England could not hope to invade Europe, the only options remaining were to destroy the German economy from the skies, or to sue for an acceptable peace while they still could.”
    Was the Allied Bombing in WW2 a [email protected]

    An outcome was Germany’s inability to produce tanks and aircraft in competitive quantities by the war’s end. Strategic bombing had also been useful in creating fear, generating confusion and destroying morale.
     
  5. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    The nations contesting WW2 required heroes and idols to maintain morale and support for the war effort. To maintain the flow of recruits into the armed forces and to provide inspiration for people to work to help the nation role models were needed. People of the 1930’s and 1940’s were fascinated with flight and aircraft. Fighter planes were seen as symbolistic of a nation’s fight and determination. The best example is provided by the British Supermarine Spitfire, a light, agile and heavily armed plane built for protection against air superiority. At the time it was the pinnacle of aircraft design and it successfully saved Britain from potential German invasion, often in full view of the public watching below. The plane itself became a symbol of Britain’s rigorous defence. Fighter pilots were idolized and every young man dreamed of being a fighter ace. Propaganda departments loved them and promoted them gloriously. Accounts of daring air attacks and raids inspired the populace. The raid on the Italian Mediterranean fleet at Taranto in 1940 has been immortalized as an inspiring show of daring and skill against the odds. Taranto was also notable for being the first all-aircraft naval attack in history. It inspired the later Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. It launched the reputation of the aircraft carrier, the military dominance of which remains to this day.

    “Taranto…should be rememberd forever as having shown once and for all that in the Fleet Air Arm the Navy has its most devastating weapon.”
    Andrew Browne Cunningham, 1st Viscount Cunningham of Hyndpe-Admiral.
    Taranto

    The other significant weapon to emerge from WW2 was armour. The Germans revolutionized the use of armour on the battlefield. However it is unfair to say that armour emerged as the dominant force in warfare. Firstly, for armour to operate effectively it was important that air superiority was achieved. If operating without air superiority tanks became an easy and defenceless target for ground attack aircraft. This was revealed to Germany, Italy and Britain in North Africa in 1941. Tanks could also not operate effectively in all theatres and all terrain. In jungle fighting or urban warfare their effectiveness was greatly reduced. An aircraft however, could operate under almost all conditions and could operate effectively in a variety of roles. Whilst Tanks could travel short distances and operate only within range of supply depots, planes had extensive ranges and could be based at airfields within the home country. They could take the fight to the enemy over their own territory. Tanks were only effective on the battlefield, whereas planes could supply and transport troops, attack ground troops, naval vessels and enemy planes, and also attack key economic targets.
     
  6. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    In summary The European Theatre of WW2 between 1939-1941 clearly saw the emergence of airpower as the dominant force in warfare. Whilst doctrines involving air power had already dictated its importance pre war, the European Theatre provided the stage to showcase the brute force available through air superiority. The period 1939-1941 witnessed the emergence of airpower which was consolidated in later years of the war. The versatility and potency of aircraft become apparent during the time as they were adapted to different roles. Whilst victory in Europe in WW2 ultimately still required a ground force invasion, as shown by the costly Normandy landings it is hard to consider a single arena in which air force involvement was not critical. The emergence of airpower in early WW2 set the scene for the development of ‘strategic’ bombers and missiles commissioned during the ‘The Cold War’, and air warfare tactics and strategies devised in WW2, supplemented by the later development of helicopters, are still prevalent today.
    Words 1,990




    Bibliography

    Internet
    Was the Allied Bombing in WW2 a [email protected]

    Lutwaffe Doctrine and Air Superiority Through World War Two

    air warfare -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia

    ::paratroopers and World War Two::

    Taranto

    http://www.spitcrazy.com/Spitfire2Labusch.jpg

    http://www.anesi.com/hiro1.jpg

    Aircraft of World War II (yeh thats right guys)

    Books

    Pitt, Barrie, 1989 The Illustrated History of World War II, published by Temple Press/Aerospace, London.

    Condon, Christopher, 1987, the Making of the Modern World, Australia.
     
  7. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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  8. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    Wish I could get essay topics like that!! I always get non-sense
     
  9. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Watnabe, great read! Top stuff!

    Only point I would add is that air power doctrine between the wars was a very hard nut for many countries to accept including US and UK. It wasn't until late 30s and into the war when it was totally accepted as an integral part of warfare.

    Again, a great read!
     
  10. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    Thanks guys for the comments and constructive criticism. Remember I didnt wan't to get specific and not everyone who reads it is going to be a WW2 freak like ourselves. Having said that Njaco, that is something I would of liked to have included but didnt really know much/think much about it!
     
  11. Heinz

    Heinz Active Member

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    Great stuff Mate!

    I should done History in my last year of school!
     
  12. Watanbe

    Watanbe Member

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    yeh you should have! Was pretty chilled!
     
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