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Gunner_361st
06-27-2005, 10:12 AM
Greetings all. I recently finished reading the book "The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as told by the Men who fought it" by Gerald Astor. The last chapter has an interesting couple pages I'd like to share with you all.

"Chapter XXII - Debriefing

A total of 350,000 airmen served with the Eighth Air Force in England, and of this number, 26,000 were killed, or 7.42 percent. Compared to the percentages of the other military branches - U.S. Marines, 3.29 percent, the US Army, 2.25 percent and the Navy .41 percent - The Air Corps sustained the heaviest losses. More airmen with the Eighth Air Force lost their lives than in the entire Marine Corps, whose enrollment included 250,000 more people. Strictly measuring the mortality rate for the 210,000 air crewmen the casualty figure soars to 12.38 percent and in addition, 21,000 from the Eighth Air Force wound up in POW camps. Of those who flew the original twenty-five-mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35 percent survived: the twenty-five to thirty-mission requirements of 1944 saw 66 percent completed, and by 1945, 81 percent of the combatants flew their full thirty-five engagements.

The planes themselves averaged a shorter period of survival than their occupants, with the typical bomber listed in service for only 147 days. All together the Eighth logged 6,537 B-17s and B-24s lost and another 3,337 fighters destroyed.

With such devastating numbers for men and machines, the obvious question is what did the Eighth Air Force accomplish. Postwar investigation by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey indicates that in spite of the enormous amount of explosives rained down upon the military-industrial complex of the Third Reich, not only by the Eighth but also the other U.S. outfits and the RAF, the belief in victory through strategic warfare which began with Billy Mitchell, was not vindicated. German armament production rose over 300 percent between January 1942 and July 1944. Even in November 1944, as strategic bombing crescendoed to a peak, the output of the armaments industries still rose to 260 percent above the first days of 1942.

The researchers allowed that at best, the assaults slowed the rates of increase. That of course does not take into account what might have come off the production lines had there not been a strategic bombing campaign.

Right up to V-E Day, however, the German ground forces never seemed seriously hampered by a shortage of weapons, bullets, shells, or armor. Even the intensified efforts to pulverize the key ball-bearing plants, with the awful costs from the Schweinfurt raids, brought only a moderate return upon the investment of men and aircraft as the Nazi supply meisters cobbled together sufficient quantities from outside sources and from their own well-dispersed factories.

The effect upon overall production facilities aside, the Eighth Air Force and its compatriots, however, struck two vital blows. While the rain of bombs upon industry could not obliterate it, the Luftwaffe was obliged to commit all of its resources to the protection of the manufacturing and transportation sites along with the workers and nearby residents. That brought the German planes up against superior numbers and overwhelming firepower. Anoher effect of the bombing was to mandate withdrawal of resources from the armies of mena nd guns on both the eastern and western fronts to fight off the overhead hordes. An estimated two million people, soldiers and civilians, engaged either in anti-aircraft defenses or in the cleanup and repairs after the bombers.

Although the pinpointed attacks on the essential ball-bearing industry did not keep the war machine from functioning, the concentrated assaults upon the fuel complexes, first at places like Ploesti and then the synthetics plants, critically weakened the German forces. According to Albert Speer, the mastermind of Nazi war production, the May 1944 attacks on the ersatz oil-production facilities signified doom. "On that day the technological war was decided. Until then we had managed to produce approximately as many weapons as the armed forces needed, despite their considerable losses. But with the attack of 935 daylight bombers of the American Eighth Air Force on several fuel plants in central and eastern Germany, a new era in the air war began." Mechanized units on the ground lost their freedom of movement as oil and gasoline became scarce. Vulnerable and slower-moving animal-drawn vehicles moved vital reinforcements and supplies. Part of the scenario from the breakthrough in the Ardennes during the winter of 1944-45 depended upon the capture of Allied fuel dumps. When the spearhead seized only a small amount of these supplies, it creaked to a halt, affording the Allies precious time to regroup and counterattack.

Overmatched against the Allied bombers and the fighters, the Luftwaffe was defeated in the air. While the Germans still had a considerable number of first-line fighter planes at the end of the war, they began running out of men to fly them. The massive American fighter sweeps, the posses of P-51s and P-47s seeking out "bandits" overwhelmed the enemy. Even on a one-for-one basis, and the Luftwaffe incurred ever higher ratios of casualities, it could not afford the losses of men in the cockpits while trying to fend off attacks on urban and production centers. There were many more Americans in the flight-training pipeline than the Geramns could hope to match. With bombers constantly ranging overhead, there was no safe training facility, and there was always a shortage of fuel. Student fliers in the Luftwaffe could only fly one hour a week in training in the latter stages of the war, not nearly enough to meet their foes with equal proficiency.

Winning the war in the air protected Allied ground forces from being savaged by the German aircraft and certainly assisted greatly in the conquest of the Third Reich. Furthermore, by taking control of the skies, bombers and fighters could freely wreck the enemy transport system, demolish readily available supply dumps and prevent reinforcements from plugging gaps in the lines. Thus, the direct, intended results of strategic bombing while not accomplishing their avowed purpose of snuffing out the power to make war, nevertheless struck a mighty blow for Victory."

Hope it has been a good and enlightening reading for those who have read it. I recommend the book very much if you want to learn about the Eighth Air Force, there are many stories as told by the veterans who fought it inside. ~S~

361st TeaWagon / Gunner

Gunner_361st
06-27-2005, 10:12 AM
Greetings all. I recently finished reading the book "The Mighty Eighth: The Air War in Europe as told by the Men who fought it" by Gerald Astor. The last chapter has an interesting couple pages I'd like to share with you all.

"Chapter XXII - Debriefing

A total of 350,000 airmen served with the Eighth Air Force in England, and of this number, 26,000 were killed, or 7.42 percent. Compared to the percentages of the other military branches - U.S. Marines, 3.29 percent, the US Army, 2.25 percent and the Navy .41 percent - The Air Corps sustained the heaviest losses. More airmen with the Eighth Air Force lost their lives than in the entire Marine Corps, whose enrollment included 250,000 more people. Strictly measuring the mortality rate for the 210,000 air crewmen the casualty figure soars to 12.38 percent and in addition, 21,000 from the Eighth Air Force wound up in POW camps. Of those who flew the original twenty-five-mission bomber tour in 1942-1943, just 35 percent survived: the twenty-five to thirty-mission requirements of 1944 saw 66 percent completed, and by 1945, 81 percent of the combatants flew their full thirty-five engagements.

The planes themselves averaged a shorter period of survival than their occupants, with the typical bomber listed in service for only 147 days. All together the Eighth logged 6,537 B-17s and B-24s lost and another 3,337 fighters destroyed.

With such devastating numbers for men and machines, the obvious question is what did the Eighth Air Force accomplish. Postwar investigation by the United States Strategic Bombing Survey indicates that in spite of the enormous amount of explosives rained down upon the military-industrial complex of the Third Reich, not only by the Eighth but also the other U.S. outfits and the RAF, the belief in victory through strategic warfare which began with Billy Mitchell, was not vindicated. German armament production rose over 300 percent between January 1942 and July 1944. Even in November 1944, as strategic bombing crescendoed to a peak, the output of the armaments industries still rose to 260 percent above the first days of 1942.

The researchers allowed that at best, the assaults slowed the rates of increase. That of course does not take into account what might have come off the production lines had there not been a strategic bombing campaign.

Right up to V-E Day, however, the German ground forces never seemed seriously hampered by a shortage of weapons, bullets, shells, or armor. Even the intensified efforts to pulverize the key ball-bearing plants, with the awful costs from the Schweinfurt raids, brought only a moderate return upon the investment of men and aircraft as the Nazi supply meisters cobbled together sufficient quantities from outside sources and from their own well-dispersed factories.

The effect upon overall production facilities aside, the Eighth Air Force and its compatriots, however, struck two vital blows. While the rain of bombs upon industry could not obliterate it, the Luftwaffe was obliged to commit all of its resources to the protection of the manufacturing and transportation sites along with the workers and nearby residents. That brought the German planes up against superior numbers and overwhelming firepower. Anoher effect of the bombing was to mandate withdrawal of resources from the armies of mena nd guns on both the eastern and western fronts to fight off the overhead hordes. An estimated two million people, soldiers and civilians, engaged either in anti-aircraft defenses or in the cleanup and repairs after the bombers.

Although the pinpointed attacks on the essential ball-bearing industry did not keep the war machine from functioning, the concentrated assaults upon the fuel complexes, first at places like Ploesti and then the synthetics plants, critically weakened the German forces. According to Albert Speer, the mastermind of Nazi war production, the May 1944 attacks on the ersatz oil-production facilities signified doom. "On that day the technological war was decided. Until then we had managed to produce approximately as many weapons as the armed forces needed, despite their considerable losses. But with the attack of 935 daylight bombers of the American Eighth Air Force on several fuel plants in central and eastern Germany, a new era in the air war began." Mechanized units on the ground lost their freedom of movement as oil and gasoline became scarce. Vulnerable and slower-moving animal-drawn vehicles moved vital reinforcements and supplies. Part of the scenario from the breakthrough in the Ardennes during the winter of 1944-45 depended upon the capture of Allied fuel dumps. When the spearhead seized only a small amount of these supplies, it creaked to a halt, affording the Allies precious time to regroup and counterattack.

Overmatched against the Allied bombers and the fighters, the Luftwaffe was defeated in the air. While the Germans still had a considerable number of first-line fighter planes at the end of the war, they began running out of men to fly them. The massive American fighter sweeps, the posses of P-51s and P-47s seeking out "bandits" overwhelmed the enemy. Even on a one-for-one basis, and the Luftwaffe incurred ever higher ratios of casualities, it could not afford the losses of men in the cockpits while trying to fend off attacks on urban and production centers. There were many more Americans in the flight-training pipeline than the Geramns could hope to match. With bombers constantly ranging overhead, there was no safe training facility, and there was always a shortage of fuel. Student fliers in the Luftwaffe could only fly one hour a week in training in the latter stages of the war, not nearly enough to meet their foes with equal proficiency.

Winning the war in the air protected Allied ground forces from being savaged by the German aircraft and certainly assisted greatly in the conquest of the Third Reich. Furthermore, by taking control of the skies, bombers and fighters could freely wreck the enemy transport system, demolish readily available supply dumps and prevent reinforcements from plugging gaps in the lines. Thus, the direct, intended results of strategic bombing while not accomplishing their avowed purpose of snuffing out the power to make war, nevertheless struck a mighty blow for Victory."

Hope it has been a good and enlightening reading for those who have read it. I recommend the book very much if you want to learn about the Eighth Air Force, there are many stories as told by the veterans who fought it inside. ~S~

361st TeaWagon / Gunner

sgilewicz
06-27-2005, 10:53 AM
That was a great read. Some very amusing stories as well. My favorite was the B17 gunner who couldn't "hold" it any longer and started pi**ing in his drain funnel which was made of metal. A burst of flak jolted his plane and caused him to touch the side of the funnel with his d**k. Since they were at altitude it immediately froze to the funnel. he now had to decide to let it stay that way or rip it off the metal. He chose the latter option and bled all the way home. He immediately, upon landing, ran to the infirmary where a medic bandaged him. He asked the medic if this qualified him for the Purple Heart. The medic said "No that's a self inflicted wound."! Oh, the agony!

tascaso
06-27-2005, 11:00 AM
OUCH! I am at work! OUCH! Good read! Also, read Adolf Gallands acount in his book, he has good insight on his theories on how he would have stopped the bomber stream.

The strategic daylight bombing by the Mighty 8th was nearly called off because of unsustainable casualties....research the Schweinfurt Raids.

History is great!

123_Tony_123VEF

TgD Thunderbolt56
06-27-2005, 11:23 AM
I picked up that very book at the 8th Airforce Museum in Savannah Georgia a couple years ago. There's quite a bit of good stuff in there to read if a bit bland at times.


TB

jarink
06-27-2005, 11:54 AM
I've read that book and others by Astor. All of them have been good to read.

My opinion is that the 8th AF heavies were what won air superiority in western Europe for the Allies. The actual bombing raids, while not inconsequential, did not have as great an effect as their planners had hoped. By the time the 8th AF had enough planes to mount significant raids, Speer had started dispersing German industries (those that could be, like weapons manufacture), minimizing their impact. However, the threat of their possible effect was what caused the Luftwaffe to switch permanently to the defensive. Defenses do not win wars, offensives do.