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Targeting policy Bomber Command 1945

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  • Targeting policy Bomber Command 1945

    Just been looking at a memo produced in Feb 1945 by Air Commodore Satterly suggesting targets for 617 sqn. Many are production facilities for jet engines and are annotated as being on "Jet priority list" 1 or 4. Of Interest however is a proposal to hit Berchtesgaten in daylight with 3 tallboys with an annotation suggesting that the target is only of political importance! [I had been under the impression that by this stage of the war the Allies had concluded that Hitler was more use to them alive than dead due to his micro management and incompetence and schemes for his demise had been cancelled]. A number of the targets are however annotated as "of no importance" which leads me to wonder why they were on Satterly's list in the first place. What was the rational (if there was one) behind target selection?
    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

  • #2
    The rationale behind having even targets "of no importance" on a list may well have been (I use this turn of phrase because I'm conjecturing here) twofold:

    1. if the main objective has always been and still remains the enemy's morale, then any bomb dropped on the enemy counts for that - even if the practical effect is "of no importance", and
    2. you always need a list of secondary targets when you send out bombers. The cost of every mission is high, too high to have them come back with their bomb bays full (not to mention that landing with a full bomb bay might be less than safe for some models, especially if having suffered even minor damage). If the primary target is totally obscured by weather or otherwise not reached, let the bombers hit a secondary target, with a list that usually ended with "any target of opportunity". Now, by 1945 the list of undamaged, juicy and important targets was probably running short... so some of those secondary targets might well be "of no importance". But they were still worth hitting, because of #1 above.

    I'll repeat: only a conjecture.
    Michele

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Michele View Post
      The rationale behind having even targets "of no importance" on a list may well have been (I use this turn of phrase because I'm conjecturing here) twofold:

      1. if the main objective has always been and still remains the enemy's morale, then any bomb dropped on the enemy counts for that - even if the practical effect is "of no importance", and
      2. you always need a list of secondary targets when you send out bombers. The cost of every mission is high, too high to have them come back with their bomb bays full (not to mention that landing with a full bomb bay might be less than safe for some models, especially if having suffered even minor damage). If the primary target is totally obscured by weather or otherwise not reached, let the bombers hit a secondary target, with a list that usually ended with "any target of opportunity". Now, by 1945 the list of undamaged, juicy and important targets was probably running short... so some of those secondary targets might well be "of no importance". But they were still worth hitting, because of #1 above.

      I'll repeat: only a conjecture.
      In the case of a highly specialised unit such as 617 these conjectures do not hold good. The bomb loads vary so much from target to target that they do not seem likely as alternates for each other (so some are all Tallboy, others all 12,000 lb blast bombs). Some are daylight missions with fighter escort etc. Also some targets are in Norway!
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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      • #4
        Originally posted by MarkV View Post
        In the case of a highly specialised unit such as 617 these conjectures do not hold good. The bomb loads vary so much from target to target that they do not seem likely as alternates for each other (so some are all Tallboy, others all 12,000 lb blast bombs). Some are daylight missions with fighter escort etc. Also some targets are in Norway!
        They would not hold good in 1944, or earlier if a Tallboy equivalent had been available earlier. If we're talking about February 1945, the equation has changed significantly. You can see that pretty clearly, if you analyze not the list of proposed targets in February 1945, but the list of actual Tallboy raid targets in March and April 1945.

        The last targets for which a Tallboy was a good expenditure of specialized firepower were hit in March 1945, they were strategically relevant viaducts, and the "earthquake" effect of Tallboys was a good way to collapse them (it worked in the case of the Bielefeld one); and in April 1945, in an attack against hardened U-Boot pens in Hamburg.

        After that, Tallboys were used against coastal positions in Heligoland; against the Lützow; and against, yes, Berchtesgaden (on April 25!).
        None of these targets were exactly game changers.

        I think we might add among the reasons

        3. Don't end the war while being vulnerable to the post-war question of "what, you had these immense and costly ordnance types and you did not use them?!". Use all of your firepower until the enemy has raised a white flag.
        Michele

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        • #5
          Surely the Grand Slam was used against the Hardened U-Boat pens in hamburg, and Grand Slams/Tallboys on the viaducts, with the earthquake effect of the Grand Slam doing the main damage.

          Paul
          ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
          All human ills he can subdue,
          Or with a bauble or medal
          Can win mans heart for you;
          And many a blessing know to stew
          To make a megloamaniac bright;
          Give honour to the dainty Corse,
          The Pixie is a little shite.

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          • #6
            The "Jet Priority List", ...

            Originally posted by MarkV View Post
            Just been looking at a memo produced in Feb 1945 by Air Commodore Satterly suggesting targets for 617 sqn. Many are production facilities for jet engines and are annotated as being on "Jet priority list" 1 or 4. Of Interest however is a proposal to hit Berchtesgaten in daylight with 3 tallboys with an annotation suggesting that the target is only of political importance! [I had been under the impression that by this stage of the war the Allies had concluded that Hitler was more use to them alive than dead due to his micro management and incompetence and schemes for his demise had been cancelled]. A number of the targets are however annotated as "of no importance" which leads me to wonder why they were on Satterly's list in the first place. What was the rational (if there was one) behind target selection?
            ... as applied to RAF Bomber Command, was simply a concession to Carl Spaatz, who had visions of the hoards of German jet aircraft believed to be available by July 1945, attacking and overwhelming US bomber forces and their piston driven escorts. This was because at the time, USAAF bombers had largely been seconded to Ike for tactical purposes, to counter the German 2nd Ardennes Offensive i.e. "The Bulge", and unable to strike on their own priority. But Portal didn't really support Spaatz's contentions, he believed the war would soon end. U-Boat pens were on the list because of occasional setbacks to ULTRA and locating boats already on deployment; the pens were on the coast, and easy to find and bomb with H2S.

            There were so many spoons in the targeting pot, from MEW & its Oil Committee, to R.E.8, and the "Jockey" Committee that it's not easy to sort through to figure out the rationale and priority assigned for some targets to be on the list; "of no importance" is probably Bomber Command's opinion.
            "I am Groot"
            - Groot

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            • #7
              Bit off topic but some of 617 Squadron's Veterans, said that landing with a 'Grand Slam' still underneath, was one of their most interesting moments of WW2!

              The long toll of the brave
              Is not lost in darkness
              Over the fruitful earth
              And athwart the seas
              Hath passed the light of noble deeds
              Unquenchable forever.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Michele View Post
                1. if the main objective has always been and still remains the enemy's morale, then any bomb dropped on the enemy counts for that - only a conjecture.
                The official priority targets, as set by some of the bodies mentioned above, were oil and transport in that order. Harris still carried on his area raids but devoted far more effort to the oil and transport plans, when conditions were suitable, than is generally acknowledged. The weather in early 1945 was a serious problem and bombing 'precision' targets on radar through heavy cloud was pointless and Harris knew this.
                In fact, contrary to the prevalent received wisdom, between 1st June 1944 and the war's end, Bomber Command devoted a higher percentage of its raids to oil targets (15% dropping 99,500 tons of bombs on them) than the US 8th Air Force between 8th May 1944 and the war's end (13% dropping 73,000 tons of bombs).

                The jet and U-Boat attacks were the result of somewhat unwarranted concern (with hindsight not available to the decision makers at the time).
                No.617 Squadron attacked U-Boat pens on 12th January (Bergen), 3rd Feb (Pootershaven),8th February (Ijmuiden), otherwise they attacked transport targets, the usual canals, viaducts etc.

                Nobody really knew what to do with Bomber Command at the end of the war, but this didn't stop it dropping 67,637 tons of bombs in March 1945, nearly as much as in the first three years of the war combined!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Von Richter View Post
                  Bit off topic but some of 617 Squadron's Veterans, said that landing with a 'Grand Slam' still underneath, was one of their most interesting moments of WW2!

                  I wonder if the Lanc had provision for clean underwear.
                  Indyref2 - still, "Yes."

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ruspren View Post
                    The official priority targets, as set by some of the bodies mentioned above, were oil and transport in that order.
                    Obviously my remark applied to bombs dropped on targets that Bomber Command itself deemed "of no importance" - bombing such targets would still count as an attack on enemy morale. Targets that were in the priority categories such as oil and transport targets, by definition (i.e. by being in a priority list) are not "of no importance". Bombing them should have both practical results and morale effects.
                    Michele

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                    • #11
                      It would be interesting to know for whom the memo was intended.
                      In early 1945 Satterly was still AOC 5 Group (I think without checking) at (again, I think) Coningsby.
                      He didn't decide what 5 Group bombed.There may have been much input and numerous directives from the Air and other ministries and organisations, but Harris decided what got bombed and Harris alone. The fact that the morning meeting in 'The Hole' in High Wycombe at which the decision was taken was known as 'Morning Prayers' gives some idea of how it was run.
                      Is this a list of targets he is suggesting to a higher authority, in which case it would be strange to include those deemed of no importance, or a list of potential targets sent down to him?
                      Last edited by ruspren; 22 Dec 15, 13:15.

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                      • #12
                        Here's a couple of self explanatory charts covering the period around the invasion and then late war.



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