Strategic bombing campaign in Europe: Targets

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by gjs238, Jun 2, 2012.

  1. gjs238

    gjs238 Well-Known Member

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    With the benefit of hindsight, what were the "best", or what should have been the primary targets?
     
  2. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    You cannot fight a war without ammunition and explosives. Destroy the German Haber process plants and they will surrender for lack of ammunition.

    Not that I have much faith in RAF Bomber Command or USAAC ability to hit a munitions factory. But if they somehow manage a ten fold improvement in bombing accuracy then Haber process plants should be at the top of the target list.
     
  3. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Well, the obvious one is oil.

    The transportation plan in 1944 was also quite effective, and had flow on effects (like preventing coal from reaching the hydrogenation plants, components from being delivered from one dispersed factory to another).

    Production facilities for military equipment, and those of the suppliers.

    Ball bearings could have proved to be a bottleneck, as predicted by the USAAF planners, but that industry was well suited to dispersal so supply shortages may have been only temporary. Also, Germany had an over-reliance on ball bearings and could, if need be, redesign a lot of their equipment to use plain bearings (as was done historically).

    I think the RAF could have started hitting the synthetic oil plants and oil refineries (or chosen alternative target system) effectively from July 1943. The USAAF probably would not have been able to do much before late 1943 and the arrival of LR escorts.
     
  4. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    When? In 1941? or 1943?

    I'm guessing that you mostly mean when the US arrives in force in late '42...
     
  5. iron man

    iron man Member

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    The internal lines of communication within Germany...i.e.: the rail network and the interior waterway system (barge transportation on the canals/rivers).
    Almost all bulk commodity transshipment went by one of these two means and each of these systems had numerous identifiable "chokepoints" (most of which were attacked late in the war).

    The most obvious (achievable) target in the early war period when accuracy/lift capacity was limited, would be the marshalling yards of the DRG. Even a couple of dozen 500lb MC bombs (hitting within the target area) are more than capable of messing up the operational efficiency of such an installation for at least a week.

    Even if repairs to the trackage are effected in short order, you've got to also consider all of the "trickle down" effects on the finely balanced schedules employed by such a complex transportation system. You are now scrambling to re-route trains, changing assignments for motive power/wagons/loads and crews, pulling maintenance crews from their scheduled tasks, repairing damaged signaling/telegraphy equipment, shifting through traffic to other lines (which causes further delays and inefficiencies) and fixing facilities that deal with wagon repairs and motive power maintenance, if "Tommy" gets a few "lucky hits" on these structures.

    These facilities are sprawling areas; the larger of them occupying many square kilometers...perfect targets for "area bombing". Incendiaries are useless (with the exception of target marking), you need to saturate the general area with as much HE as is possible.

    If such attacks were prosecuted in a systematic manner (hitting these facilities in adjacent centers along the network on an ongoing basis), the effects noted above quickly become cumulative; the operational tempo will fall further and further behind the scheduled tonnage delivery requirements.

    Given the limited lift capacity/targeting accuracy of the early RAF effort, we're not "winning the war" with such a strategy; but we are going to eventually have a very severe impact on total German productive capacity, if this focused effort is maintained.

    Once the DH Mosquito enters the picture in numbers, you now have the platform needed to start attacking the previously noted "chokepoints" from lower levels (in daylight) with larger capacity demolition bombs.

    One such "choke point" example?

    Historically, the October 1944 dropping of the Mülheim Bridge (Koln) into the Rhine river, completely shut down barge traffic; in turn, strangling coal traffic from the Ruhr to all points south.
    NB: This particular railway bridge was a steel reinforced cast concrete suspension bridge; you can't just cut it up with torches and "clear it away". The desperate Germans made numerous attempts to demolish the structure in situ, using many, many tons of increasingly scarce explosives in the process...all to no avail.

    Nothing runs in WWII Germany without coal...

    I could go on forever here...but why should I bother?

    I'm just parroting what is contained in Alfred C. Mierzejewski.

    See: "The Collapse of the German War Economy, 1944-1945"

    Recent (2007), supported by primary documents throughout, authoritative, conclusive.

    IMO, the best $20 you'll ever spend... if you've got a serious interest in this aspect of the war.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    The problem here is "1944". That's far too late. RAF Bomber Command should be doing something useful NLT 1940. Otherwise they are a waste of British tax money.
     
  7. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The point I was making is that historically it proved to be very effective, and historically it was done in the first half of 1944.

    Because it was so effective, in hindsight we can say that transportation should have been a primary target earlier. Doubtful that the Transportation Plan could work in 1940, as RAF Bomber Command are yet to be strong enough or have the right equipment for the job.

    From late 1942, however, they are starting to get the tools to do the job - Lancaster and Mosquito were coming on line during 1942, Halifaxes from 1941. Halifaxes and Lancasters were too vulnerable by day, so their effectiveness is resticted until at least the middle of 1943. The Mosquitos are only available in small numbers, but they can bomb with far greater effectiveness, either at altitide or low level, in daylight.

    The 8th AF starts operations in mid 1942 too, but their strength is sapped by being stripped to support the Torch Landings. It wouldn't be until mid 1943 before they could do deep penetration raids into Germany - and they were expensive exercises.
     
  8. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    How was RAF BC suppose to do something useful in 1940 when they didn't have the a/c that they did in 1944?
     
  9. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I have no problem with the established targets that were attacked in WWII....except the sub pens. Those should have been left alone.
     
  10. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    Long lead time critical assets. While transportation targets/network centers are imposrtant short term (pre-Normandy, Battle of Bulge) they are far easier and cheaper to fix. labor, but not long lead critical parts.

    Cripple Aircraft Industry? Pre-decentralization, hit the plants and airframe assembly, engine manufacturers - and at lowest common denominator Ball bearings. Post Decentralization, engine manufacturing, and final assembly locations.

    Cripple Industry? major Power supply centers, Electric Utilities and Distribution near industril locations

    Cripple military capability? major Chemical and Fuel plants, all major engine manufacturing and assembly plants, Locomotive assy and repair facilites (all long lead time tooling/capital equipment and centralized locations

    Germany systematically de-centralized airframe manufacturing of discrete parts and Ball bearings. Not so the rest of the capital assets - only long term solution to Synthetic fuel/chemical was to bury them and somehow protect power and supply links. can't kill road tankers (at the expense of mechanized mobility at front) for fuel, but rail traffic is doable.

    If you choose One and focus all of airpower on It - Then Fuel/Chemical plants are the natural choice. destroys fuel, gunpowder/explosives, chemicals and fertilizer. RAF could have begun in 1942. USAAF in February 1944 (with higher losses). Had 8th AF NOT attacked Schweinfurt in Aug/October 1943 and waited until April/May 1944 it could have absolutely crippled Germany in paralle with Oil - with no breathing room to de-centralize. Speer only initiated the movement after the scary August 17, 1943 results but 8th was too weak to repeat until 60 days later, and then not again until spring 1944.

    After that, the Power Grid major source points.
     
  11. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Just to show that even in 1940 BC hit something important sometimes. The main damage done during the first 7 days in June 40 according to German secret reports, there were many more incidences but these were most important

    2.June 1940
    ...
    Kempen/Odt: 1 bombs on small railway Kempen – Odt, track-body damaged; 7 bombs on open field, light damage


    Damage-report allied air-attacks 3./4.Juni 1940:

    Düsseldorf: 13 bombs on the city, light damage; Power-line and 1 track on railway-bridge Neuss damaged
    Düsseldorf-Benrath: 1 bomb
    Neuss/Düsseldorf: 30 – 35 bombs on the city. Big fires in paper-factory and Standard-Oil factory (Tanks). Railway-station Neuss. Station and tracks heavily damaged. Main-switch building destroyed, station closed for uncertain period of time. Fires not yet under control. After the first flames were visible all aircrafts attack the city concentric.
    Elberfeld: Bombs on Elberfelder-water plant without damage
    Emmerich: about 70 bombs, city is hit hard and on fire. The fire started in the sawmill and the oil-factory.

    Mülheim/Ruhr: 10 bombs, station lightly damaged. Gasometer and German Röhrenwerke (Thyssen-Werke)damaged;The damage does not effect the output of submarine parts because the factory is 2 weeks ahead and the repairs will not take as long


    Odenkirchen: 3 bombs. Railway Odenkirchen – Neukirch both directions closed, 6 dead, 20 injured

    Türkismühle: Railway to Trier closed
    Keisterbach: Several bombs near power-switch installation. North-south line. High voltage line damaged. Power supply still up
    Aachen: bombs, railway Aachen – North-Jülich to Würselen closed, communication installation damaged

    Baumholder: 0:32, near Morbach (Hunsrück), railway cut
    ..
    Türkismühle: (Hunsrück) bombs on the railway-station. Cargo-train hit on the route Trier – Kaiserslautern
    Morbach-Hoxel: 3 bombs, 2 of them detonated, 1 dud or long-time-igniter beside the railroad. Railline temporarily closed.

    Marxheim: 3 bombs between Marxheim and Diedenbergen, 1 dud. High voltage line heavily damaged, 6 masts damaged, wires cut. Repairs will take several weeks. No blackout because of ring-system.

    Maxau: Rhein-km 366,9 at 17:20. 1 steamer (500t) damaged and towed away

    5.June 1940

    Ulm: 500 hours production-stop;

    IG-Farben Werke Ludwigshafen and Oppau: 9 bombs: 1 bomb on Buthanol-tank-depot – destroyed by fire; 2 bombs on firefighter building, destroyed, 1 bomb on lacquer building, burned down, 1 bomb on apprentice workshop, 1 bomb on loading ramp and marshalling yard, heavy damage, 1 ship sunk. 12 bombs near Giolini, clay-factory, no damage

    6.June 1940

    Mannheim-Ludwisghafen: 01:00 – 02:15 about 50 explosive- and incendiary-bombs. Neckarbridge in Mannheim hit; 10bombs on station Mannheim. One small garage destroyed. 16 bombs on station Ludwigshafen, light damage. 5 bombs on railway Mannheim – Ludwigshafen which is temporarily closed. 17 bombs on marshalling yard Ludiwgshafen, 2 main tracks and 2 marshalling tracks damaged, one switch-building destroyed.
    Anilin-factory of I.G.Farben Ludwigshafen hit by 9 bombs. 7 fires broke out. Most of them were extinguished. One joiner-workshop burned down. Some storages with Alkohol and chemicals destroyed and some pipes damaged. No major production loss. One injured.

    At 20:45 explosion at Klausthal-plant for chemicals. Nitriation-installations destroyed. 35 – 40 dead, 50 injured. The production is stopped for 8 weeks. Investigations running.


    Juha
     
  12. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    British bomber barons promised they could make a significant contribution in any future war. Parliament took them at their word and provided generous funding (by 1930s standards). Britain declared on on Germany during September 1939. Now it's time for RAF Bomber Command to do what the promised. If RAF Bomber Command cannot do what they promised then perhaps funding should be cut off. It makes no sense to throw additional military spending down a rat hole.
     
  13. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Striking back, in any capacity, might have seemed like a significant contribution in 1940.
     
  14. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Now the bombing war began earnest only in May 40, before that both Herr Hitler and Mr Chamberlain wanted to avoid all out bombing war because a) none could predict its effects for sure and b) FDR had asked the belligent to try to avoid as far as possible civilian casualties and both sides wanted to please USA. So BC at first concentrated its daytime attacks on KM warships out of harbours, that went into Dec 39 when BC finally believed that its twin engined bombers were too vulnerable to that kind of work , and noctural propaganda leaflet raids by Whitleys. Also the commander of BC, Hewitt-Ludlow, doubted the ability of the crews to find out targets at night. After May 40 to the end of the year was so hectic and desperate that British were happy if they could do something offensive and in matter of fact BC could inflict fairly heavy losses on invasion barges and before that during the BoF inflict some losses to Heer. Realistically it was sometimes in 41 than reasonable amount of proof was cathered that it was possible to gauge how little real damage was inflicted in spite of what aircrews claimed. In 42 some top officers in RAF thought that it would have been better to slow down the bombing campaign and concentrate more on sparing the crews for the time when better nav aids became available but Harris and maybe also Portal thought that BC would not survive that kind of strategy but its sqns would have been taken away and would have been sent to CC or to MTO.

    Juha
     
  15. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    I agree pretty much with the targets they selected ( with a few reservations ) for the time and intel they had at hand. with hindsight they may have elected different ones or taking them in different order. the reason for schweinfurt was everything ran on ball bearings...planes, tanks, trucks, sewing machines, industrial machinery, etc., etc., etc.,....with out them the country would literally grind to a halt...but for the time and resources of the day it was a target too far. had the russians been more "accomidating" and let the usaaf set up bomber and fighter bases in their territory a lot more targets could have been reached.
     
  16. iron man

    iron man Member

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    With all due respects, I think you missed my point.

    You've got to hit these targets hard to have tangible effects. This requires a level of precision/concentration that was proven impossible to consistently achieve with the methods and lift capacity/weapons of the times.

    For best use of the (admittedly limited) precision element early on? The switching stations that allowed for load balancing within the German power grid would have been a prime target for low level precision attacks. Knock these out and you've killed the grid dead. Productive capacity to replace this fragile equipment (on the scale that would be required) simply did not exist; also, there was no way to simply "ramp up production" of such devices. This was a major opportunity missed. A series of precision Mosquito raids (like the strike on Phillips in Eindhoven and the one that hit the Amiens prison) directed against the half dozen major load distribution centers in the German grid would have brought the German economy to it's knees. This was addressed in the USSBS.

    As for the best effect from the mass of "less than precise" lift capacity? I'm sticking to my guns on this one...allow me to elaborate.

    Marshalling yards are sprawling areas. Every single bomb that lands within the general target area is going to have an effect on the operational capabilities of the facility. You don't need concentration here...almost every single bomb hole in the facility has to eventually be filled and compacted, the debris has to be cleared away, the damaged wagons and motive power repaired, the tracks relaid, the signaling system repaired; only then is it back to "business as usual".
    It's just not as simple as you state in your post.

    In fact, there's far more to it than shoveling some dirt in the worst of the holes, laying track and carrying on. This was indeed the route taken in the immediate aftermath of a raid, with a primary focus on returning the main (through) lines to service as quickly as possible. However...To return the classification yard to its full throughput capabilities can take months if the damage is severe; the backlog of unsorted/delayed "trains" will continue to grow at such a choke point until such a time as full capability is restored. What the Reichsbahn did historically in such a case, was reassign as many of these extra duties as was practicable to adjacent facilities in the network. If the NEXT raid three or four nights later does the same thing to one of these adjacent facilities the resultant effects (on the system as a whole) are dramatically compounded. Hit another up or down the line with the raid after that (and so on) and it won't take long before rail traffic in the entire area becomes utterly paralyzed.
    And that immediately obviates all of the industries in the area so affected. They can keep on producing (until they run out of raw materials and coal) but all they can do is keep piling this output on their loading docks...until they run out of space. There's no way around this when you consider the scale of the problem that would be created. This is exactly what eventually happened historically. By late in 1944, train capacity was one of the most fought over assets in the Third Reich.

    You're back to the "same old, same old" when talking about accurately hitting almost all of the "options" that you're proffering here, especially if you're using the a "master bomber/target marking/area" approach of BC. Even a "danger close" near miss on a factory complex, synthetic process plant or power station does nothing more than dig a hole in the lawn.

    In support, I present a few direct quotes from A. Mierzejewski's "Most Valuable Asset of the Reich: vol 2": these are all supported by his research into the operating records of the DRB; the primary sources are held in various German archives and detailed in the bibliography.

    p159:
    And from p160:
    All bolded emphasis is mine; this is the resultant effect when marshaling is interdicted, as per my proposal.
    Note that the utter collapse Mierzejewski points to in March 1945 is admittedly a compendum of lost capacity due to a whole myriad of contributing factors; lost territory in the east chief among these.

    Regardless, you can't even fight, let alone expect to win a war, when this is the state of your transportation network.

    And it could have easily been done with the lift capacity/targeting methods in use historically...and much earlier.

    It would require nothing more than a methodical approach (as outlined above) and more medium capacity high explosive ordinance in the loadouts.

    Note that this is full on hindsight speaking...in conformance with the wording of the question that was posed in the initial post that started this thread.

    Respectfully, Ron
     
  17. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    It was never a waste of British taxpayers money when geman expenditures on their air defences, and bomb damage repairs are considered. On average the germans were spending 3 to 4 times the proportion of resources on their defences that the british were spending.

    The real "waste of time and resources" was the german decision to concentrate solely on fighter production. there were two problems. they built planes that were never used , because they failed to provide pilots and fuel for them. secondly building fighters only is highly wasteful and leads down a strategic blind alley for the germans. Fighters dont win wars, they dont even reduce damage or reduce losses. they just make it a bit harder for the enemy to complete their mission. A force without bombers, such as the luftwaffe largely was after 1943 was a huge waste of resources.

    The german flak arm was better value, but still expensive. it absorbe over 80% of ordinance production, and ammunition expenditure required huge manning levels.

    If you want to talk about wasting respources, lets talk about the leaders in that field....the germans.
     
  18. drgondog

    drgondog Well-Known Member

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    #18 drgondog, Jun 7, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2012
    Ron - with all due respect I will stick to my ground. We can agree to disagree.

    Labor is cheap and low lead time. Filling holes where track existed is easy, replacing rails are easy. Switching centers harder but not much requires long lead time to manufacture and deliver. Locomotives are expensive and long lead time, but candidly more of those were damaged/destroyed by strafing attacks than attacks on marshalling yards.

    Near the end of the war, when time was of the essence in restoring mass movement capability during a critical tactical timeframe (Russians just east of Dresden) may compel a strategic/tactical use of airpower but I don't see as much value as you do in 1941-1944 for such targets in Germany in contrast to oil/chemical refineries for example

    Alternates such as road and barge for transportation less efficient but doable while M/Y being restored to operations.

    Specialized achine tooling, forging/casting dies, jigs, fixtures, power generation turbines, catalytic crackers, hydrogenation units are much more difficult to replace.

    Of the above machine tools such as lathes, screw machines, milling machines, etc are easier to replace but stamping equipment for such parts as contoured cowls, etc are Not. Repairing a Ball Bearing manufacturing plant such as Schweinfurt much more difficult (and critical) than say Wessel marshalling yard.

    Regards,
     
  19. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Labour is also the easiest to damage.

    Skilled labour isn't that easy to replace, as it takes time to train, usually measured in years.

    Machine tools a quite solidly built and can withstand quite a lot. Damaging them requires close hits, damaging beyond repair/detroying them can require almost a perfect hit.

    Stamping machines are big heavy things. Would need a lot to destroy.
     
  20. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Depends - if you're talking something like a long milling machine, all you have to do is get it un-leveled and it would render it unusable. Assembly jigs are also precision made and any disruption of their foundation or un even movement could throw them out of tolerance.
     
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