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No Bomber Command Berlin Campaign 1943/1944

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  • No Bomber Command Berlin Campaign 1943/1944

    Dear All,

    I have just finished reading (once again) 'The Berlin Raids' by Martin Middlebrook, a really excellent book and one I thoroughly recommend.

    Anyhow, my question is this: Can any fellow ACG members suggest an alternative campaign that Bomber Command could have pursued in the winter of 1943/1944? Given that the Command was under the orders of Arthur Harris and that he had some VERY definite ideas about how the bomber war should have been conducted and that he was probably lucky that his boss (Portal) didn't relieve him of command during its course, let us consider in this alternate history the possibility that Harris pushed his luck and was indeed relieved of his duties (quite probably prodded into action by Churchill) by a more bullish Portal. Who would have been put in his place and how would Bomber Commands role in the air war change, if at all?

    I look forward to your thoughts.


    PS - I wonder how the reputation (which has been much maligned by some revisionist historians and others who should really have known better - and here Mr Churchill played a role of his own much to his detriment in my opinion), of Bomber Command and its members would have fared post war?

    http://www.controltowers.co.uk/Books...rlin_Raids.htm
    HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

    "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

  • #2
    Hi Andrew

    I agree that Churchills handling of Bomber Command after the war in terms of how they were percieved and left out in the cold, is not Winston's finest hour.

    Its easy to say stop area bombing but not so easy to come up with an effective alternative. The RAF did continue daylight bombing in various forms throughout the war and I believe a few 4-engined raids took place in daylight aswell. However utilising RAF BC in the type of 'precision' (and I used that word guardedly) wasn't a pratical option. The Lancs would have to be upgunned and the number of escort sqns increased Xfold for them to survive in a daylight environment. Also one has to remember that the air can only accomodate so many missions and aircraft at once. It would be very easy to overload the system by simply adding RAF daylight raids to the USAAF raids.

    In one small way RAF Bomber Command could have helped was by diverting more planes to Coastal Command, to bring about the death of the U-Boat earlier or certainly blunted its edge more quickly.

    On the other side of the coin, the German LW could concentrate greater resources on daylight fighters rather than having to build (in quantity) night fighters. I would summise that losses to flak in daylight were greater than night-but I could be wrong-so greater planes losses from that area alone must be expected.

    Finally we have the physcological element, where Germany would have a 12hr respite from bombing, if all Allied bombing was concentrated within daylight hours. What effect would this have on production? Equally the civilians killed in area bombing were also the factory workers killed in area bombing. So would the decrease in civilian/worker deaths caused by area bombing bring about an production increase in German factories?

    Regards
    "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

    "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

    Comment


    • #3
      Those who've read my posts know I have changed my stance from no area bombing, to pro area bombing to smarter enemy bombing.

      There are some targets of bomber command that are not well known. In Richard Overys Bomber Command he states that 40% of the entire Kriegsmarine effort went on clearing up the mines dropped by Bomber Command, whether in the Danube, Baltic or other strategically vital areas of water. Just a fraction of that 40% on more U Boats could really have harmed major Allied projects, perhaps delaying D-Day and radically altering the face of Europe.

      However, after being forced to read Tooze and Ellis, I believe a different strategy targetting specific targets using Mosquitos would have been more productive. Fuel additive, electricity generating and other specialist and necessary assets would have been my first priority. I would have also used Grand Slams to earthquake mineshafts in the fairly nearby Ruhr, and any rail hubs within range.

      Without getting sentimental, it is a waste of resources to kill the elderly, mothers and babies who are a drain on an enemy war economy, and a drain on yours to do so.

      Arthur was too close to The Blitz, having watched London burn, and I believe was motivated primarily by revenge. That narrowed his ability to entertain suggestions that could have actually shortened the war imo.

      How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
      Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

      Comment


      • #4
        Well I think BC could have been used more effectively than on blasting Berlin in Winter of 43/44

        Berlin was not a centre of heavy industry and its hard to see how attacking the city on such a scale had that much of an effect of Germany's War making capacity.

        Attacking the Ruhr made sense as did any city with heavy industry, as did attacking places like Peenmunde.

        - as did the U Boat pens.

        IIRC from that book was the RAF were taking pretty heavy casualties over Berlin too!
        http://www.irelandinhistory.blogspot.ie/

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
          However, after being forced to read Tooze and Ellis, I believe a different strategy targetting specific targets using Mosquitos would have been more productive. Fuel additive, electricity generating and other specialist and necessary assets would have been my first priority. I would have also used Grand Slams to earthquake mineshafts in the fairly nearby Ruhr, and any rail hubs within range.
          I've also thought the Mosquito idea had merit, with a concentration on the petroleum industry.
          If you can't set a good example, be a glaring warning.

          Comment


          • #6
            The aim of the Berlin raids was to re-create the firestorm that engulfed Hamburg. Not possible due to different mix of building materials in Berlin. A better target was always the Ruhr. It is the heavy industry heart of Germany and devastating this region devastates the German economy - coal, steel and some electrical generation. Bomber command needed someone to do some pointed economic analysis of the targets.

            Comment


            • #7
              IIrc, the 'Berlin Campaign' was preceded by 'The Battle of the Ruhr' which was very successful. I think Bomber Command was flexing its muscles and felt it had something to prove. Hitting Berlin repeatedly was expected to disrupt production and damage the morale of the people living there. Just as in the UK, it largely failed. Given that Portal and Churchill were of a similar mindset to Harris I would expect the 'de-housing' strategy to continue, maybe not Berlin though, just a series of smaller cities around the Reich.
              Signing out.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you all for your opinions.

                For what it is worth, I think that when it came down to it Bomber Command as it existed was left with few options other than those it pursued in its Area Bombing campaign which (by extension) effected the enemies wider ability to wage war, be it in diverting resources to combating the night bombers, disrupting transport links, dehousing (a euphemism that would almost be amusing if it didn't hide a grimmer reality for the occupants of those dwellings) and the actual disruption and destruction of Germany's manufacturing capability.

                As it stood, the Berlin Campaign was a failure - Harris stated that if the Americans came in on it as well then he could end the war using bombers alone ('It will cost us 500 aircraft but it will cost Germany the war.') He was wrong and refused to see that he was wrong even as the campaign over that winter developed yet still, amazingly, his men largely kept thie faith in him in spite of the horrific losses they were suffering (comparable to the U-Boat crews who also had the odds of survival firmly stacked against them and yet they too remained true to Doenitz). The fact is that during several of the Berlin raids, the Berliners themselves hardly knew they were the target as the bombing was scattered so badly. Harris was looking to recreate conditions similar to the Hamburg raids earlier in '43 but the sheer layout of The Big City meant that such concentration of the bombers loads would fail to ignite Berlin as they had done so successfully at Hamburg (and other cities). Harris also just didn't have the numbers of Heavies available to him either and was forced to rely on the Short Stirling squadrons to make up the numbers in the early part of the campaign which was asking too much of the aircraft and their unfortunate crews as was reflected in their losses. Berlin - too far and unsuitable for a firestorm.

                So, what else to hit? Well, despite Harris' abhorrence of 'Panacea' targets, concentrating on heavy industrial targets such as those in the Ruhr valley (even though the Ruhr had already undergone a sustained hammering) still made sense as was hitting places such as Schweinfurt following on from the raids conducted by the USAAF, synthetic oil plants and infrastructure and transport targets such as the Kiel Canal. I would add to this however that had I been in charge of BC then I would also make sure the German worker was targeted on a regular basis and if that meant that civilians were 'Dehoused' with all the connotations that apply to that awful word, then so be it. The German people had, by and large, felt little if any sympathy for the citizens of Rotterdam, Coventry, Belgrade, Guernica (different war I know but one which paved the way for what was to follow), London etc etc, and should have been made to feel the consequences of going to war and supporting the regime be it actively or passively. Let us not forget, if Germany had not started the war then nobody would have been bombing anybody at all.

                As picked up on by Nick and others, the Mosquito bomber could have been utilised to greater effect than it was (which in no way detracts from the brilliant service they achieved) and fleets of these agile, fast aircraft attacking more specialised targets requiring greater accuracy could have been of real benefit towards shortening the war. Just think of the bombload these marvellous aircraft could carry compared to that of the Flying Fortress & Lancasters and their at time hapless crewmen battering their was across Germany at the mercy of the Luftwaffe and the weather. Even if this aircraft were used in greater numbers their would still have been a place for such aircraft (but for goodness sakes give the Lancaster .5 calibre machine guns and maybe even 20mm cannon armed tail turrets (as was experimented with on operations but never implemented with the wider fleet - to his great credit Harris was continuously bagdering at the air ministry on this subject but even he made little headway).

                And lastly, at wars end, give thanks to the men who served in BC, issue them with a campaign medal and put up a decent memorial to them to make sure their sacrifice was remembered for all time long after the last of them has faded away.
                HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Having just flicked through the brilliantly written 'Business In Great Waters' by John Terraine while looking for some information it occurred to me (as it did to others at the time), that Harris' Bomber Command could have played a much wider and direct roll against the U-Boat menace and their Pens on the French coast.

                  Harris was aware of others eyeing his Halifax and (especially) his Lancaster squadrons and fought successfully against any suggested deployment against such despised 'Panacea' targets. He was probably right to do so for it took a different approach when it came to hunting for U-boats as the crews of Coastal Command could testify so to be effective any BC crews would hve to be transferred on a long term or permanent basis to such duties - which in itself would have been possible had Harris' objections been over ruled.

                  Other options could have been a sustained bombing campaign against the U-boat pens while they were still under construction in order to slow or stop the work altogether and an awful lot more 'Gardening' Ops over the Bay Of Biscay approaches to the French ports where the U-boats were based. It goes without saying that an increased number of raids against construction yards would also have been a good idea. That said, it should be remembered that BC was hardly idle during this period and its members were doing everything asked of them with the utmost professionalism, often paying the ultimate price as they did so.

                  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Business-Gre.../dp/0850527600

                  Any thoughts?
                  HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                  "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                    Dear All,

                    I have just finished reading (once again) 'The Berlin Raids' by Martin Middlebrook, a really excellent book and one I thoroughly recommend.

                    Snip...

                    I look forward to your thoughts.


                    http://www.controltowers.co.uk/Books...rlin_Raids.htm
                    Middlebrook's books are very good.

                    Whilst under the command of Harris, I can't see BC doing anything other than what it did. However, I believe it could have been put to better use.

                    The Mosquito could have been put to use to carry out "precision" raids on targets such as oil, transportation centres, and ball bearings - Harris' "pancea" targets.

                    In 1943 BC had some very good successes. The Battle of the Ruhr in the late winter/spring of '43, followed by the joint Battle of Hamburg with the 8th Air Force were very successful. BC then carried out the "precision area" raid on Peenemunde. In October, BC again joined forces with the 8th AF to bomb Hanover.

                    I believe more raids such as these should have been carried out instead of the Berlin raids. Continue bombing the Ruhr, and other targets within range of OBOE as the results seemed to be better. Carry out raids on targets in the Point Blank Directive - Schweinfurt, Regensburg, Augsburg, Leipzig, Brunswick, and Gotha - targets that were important to the German war machine.

                    Berlin, and other cities, should still have been the targets on occasion to keep the Germans guessing and to prevent them from gathering their air defences around certain targets.

                    As has been mentioned earlier, more emphasis should have been placed on the "Gardening" sorties - especially in the Bay of Biscay, Skagerrak and Kattegat. Mining of the Kiel Canal, Elbe and Rhine rivers would have been more difficult - and more costly - but could have had an impact on the movement of German resources.

                    Iirc, BC's losses during the Battle of Berlin amounted to 1,047 aircraft. Would they have lost as many if they had used an alternative strategy? I believe not.
                    Last edited by michammer; 05 Feb 11, 14:37. Reason: Forgot the Gardening

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      3 points:
                      1) were there any alternatives available during the winter of 1943-1944?
                      2) was Harris willing to go over to these alternatives and to abandon Berlin ? IMHO,very dubious,because (IMHO)Harris choosed Berlin to show the world that,by destroying Berlin,BC could win the war on its own .
                      3)was Berlin destroyed :NO.Some post-war informations:
                      There were in Great Berlin 245300 buildings
                      on 1 may1945,11.3% were totally destroyed,8.2 heavely damaged,and 9.3% were damaged but could be repaired .
                      There were big destructions in the centre:34.6 % of the buildingd in the Tiergarten district were destroyed,but in the Pankow district only 2.9%.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                        3 points:
                        1) were there any alternatives available during the winter of 1943-1944?
                        2) was Harris willing to go over to these alternatives and to abandon Berlin ? IMHO,very dubious,because (IMHO)Harris choosed Berlin to show the world that,by destroying Berlin,BC could win the war on its own .
                        3)was Berlin destroyed :NO.Some post-war informations:
                        There were in Great Berlin 245300 buildings
                        on 1 may1945,11.3% were totally destroyed,8.2 heavely damaged,and 9.3% were damaged but could be repaired .
                        There were big destructions in the centre:34.6 % of the buildingd in the Tiergarten district were destroyed,but in the Pankow district only 2.9%.
                        You are probably right about Harris - I doubt he would have willingly given up on Berlin unless given clear and unmistakable orders to do so - he may even have resigned or been sacked.
                        As to alternatives, then yes, there were many - some of which have been mentioned in this thread. Although Harris was scathing of 'Panacea Targets', hitting synthetic fuel plants, U-Boat construction yards etc etc would have paid dividends.
                        HONNEUR ET FIDÉLITÉ

                        "Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won." - Duke of Wellington at Waterloo.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Dogsbody67 View Post
                          You are probably right about Harris - I doubt he would have willingly given up on Berlin unless given clear and unmistakable orders to do so - he may even have resigned or been sacked.
                          As to alternatives, then yes, there were many - some of which have been mentioned in this thread. Although Harris was scathing of 'Panacea Targets', hitting synthetic fuel plants, U-Boat construction yards etc etc would have paid dividends.
                          I know,but Harris did not want dividends,he wanted the jackpot:to prove that he with HIS BC,could win the war,without the intervention from the army and the navy .

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ljadw View Post
                            3 points:
                            1) were there any alternatives available during the winter of 1943-1944?
                            Yes. Oil, ball bearing, aircraft factories, U-boat pens, and marshalling yards could all have been attacked. Minelaying could have been increased and the industrial heartland of the Ruhr could have been destroyed. Many of the Ruhr targets (Aachen, Duisburg, Dortmund, etc) were all in range of OBOE - which should have lead to greater accuracy.


                            2) was Harris willing to go over to these alternatives and to abandon Berlin ? IMHO,very dubious,because (IMHO)Harris choosed Berlin to show the world that,by destroying Berlin,BC could win the war on its own.
                            Therein lies the problem. No, Harris did not want to abandon Berlin -even when the Americans refused to come in on it. He had to withdraw the Stirlings and Halifaxes from the raids, leaving just the Lancasters which he thought could, just, complete the job on their own. So in short period of time he went from "Bomber Command could wreck Berlin, if the USAAF came in on it" to "the Lancaster force, alone, should be enough to force a decision" (heavily paraphrased from memory).

                            I think his determination, and single-mindedness, is well summed up by his decision to attack Nuremburg on March 30/31 1944. It can be argued that BC should not have operated that night due to the weather and moon conditions, but it was the last night available before BC was subordinated to Overlord - and Harris wanted to launch one last, heavy attack on a German city.


                            3)was Berlin destroyed :NO.Some post-war informations:
                            There were in Great Berlin 245300 buildings
                            on 1 may1945,11.3% were totally destroyed,8.2 heavely damaged,and 9.3% were damaged but could be repaired .
                            There were big destructions in the centre:34.6 % of the buildingd in the Tiergarten district were destroyed,but in the Pankow district only 2.9%.
                            Berlin was too large to be destroyed by the BC of 1943/44.

                            Comment

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