Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

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Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Andy H » 02 Aug 2020 21:58

Hi

Hope this is of some interest and apologies if its been posted before:-

One of the key outcomes of the improved delivery of air power in the North African
campaign of the Second World War was the efect that it had on the morale of ground
forces. Morale can be understood as the willingness of an individual or group to prepare
for and engage in institutionally encouraged actions. The disasters that beset Eighth
Army in the summer of 1942 were signifcantly infuenced by a crisis in morale that fed
into inefective combat performance. This crisis in morale was turned around in dramatic
fashion at Alam Halfa and El Alamein leading to more efective performance and ultimately
victory in North Africa. The improved provision of air support for Eighth Army played an
important role in this recovery of morale and in the gradual erosion and destruction of
German and Italian willingness to fght. Practitioners, theorists and historians must take
account of the extent to which air power is a morale weapon if they are fully to understand
the past and utilise air power to its maximum efect today and in the future.


https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/ ... mpaign.pdf

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Andy H

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Urmel » 03 Aug 2020 12:53

Well yes, but no. Someone took 2+2 and calculated that the result is 'orange'. Just this quote shows a severe lack of understanding of the flow of the operation in North Africa.

Without looking at it, this was written by an air force bod?
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by jwsleser » 03 Aug 2020 14:03

Andy

I must agree with Urmel. After reading this paragraph in the article, all I could do was shake my head.
The desperate situation of the Axis forces, as a consequence of these bombing attacks, was illustrated by an Ultra intercept on 8 October 1942. Fuel and ammunition supplies were described as severely strained, but the rations situation was ‘extraordinarily bad’. Fats were entirely lacking, flour would last 11 days only if the bread rations were cut, ‘vegetables, fruit especially lemons, and extras such as jam either not available or completely insufficient’.73 The result of this, according to Gladman, ‘was under-nourishment, a sharp decrease in efficiency, high rates of sickness, and undoubtedly poor morale’.74 Indeed, a large proportion of German casualties, as was the case with Eighth Army in the summer battles of 1942, were attributable to issues related to morale. The statistics show that 40 per cent of German and 63 per cent of Italian casualties were missing or prisoners of war; the rate for British and Commonwealth troops during the battle was 17 per cent.75 In addition, extremely high sickness rates, a sure sign of morale problems, removed large numbers of men from the front line.76 Mark Harrison has estimated that nearly one in five Germans were listed as sick during the battle, with the elite German 15th Panzer Division suffering a sickness rate as high as 38 per cent.77 Problems with desertion and surrender prompted Rommel to encourage use of the death penalty at court marshal during July;78 these problems persisted into October and November. 79 The fighting ability of the Axis forces in both a ‘moral and material sense’ had been destroyed.80
Note the bold sentences. 40 and 63 percent sound high, but what were the total number of casualties? If there were only 10 casualties, that means only 4 Germans and 6 Italians. I guess the writer doesn't believe that the poor diet, extreme weather, and the hard work has nothing to do with sickness in the desert. This is surprising as in the line above the bold, he quotes a line saying that sickness was caused by these things and these things cause low morale.

Air power was certainly a factor, but if the RN could have achieved this level of destroying enemy resources, then it and not the RAF would be the big morale breaker. The Madilda and Tiger tanks held this distinction for a period of time as well, as did the Uboats and the V1/V2.

I like the methodology of using the data collected from the letters, but there is a huge leap between what they can tell us and the author's conclusions.

Pista! Jeff
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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Urmel » 03 Aug 2020 14:55

Leaps and bounds. Leaps from 'medical issues = morale' to bound to 'air power destroyed morale', with no evidence really. What happened in July of course is that there was a major setback in the form of first Alamein. But yeah, the Douglas Bostons did it...
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Andy H » 08 Aug 2020 22:02

Urmel wrote:
03 Aug 2020 12:53
Without looking at it, this was written by an air force bod?
Hi Urmel

Nope he's not an Air Force bod
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/fennell-dr-jonathan

I've not read the article myself, but posted it based upon his previous publications and gravitas within the MH community.

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Andy H

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Urmel » 08 Aug 2020 23:18

Ah. That's surprising.
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Aug 2020 00:33

I have heard Jonathan Fennel speak on morale in North Africa - good speaker and an academic making his mark. He fancies himself as the Gary Sheffield of Ww2. Ex banker?- nope: management consultant in the city of London./ (*) ! His big thing has been morale and his big book on morale is interesting but flawed. Unfortunately, he has limited grasp of how armies work. E.g. he argues that the 1935 FSR is brilliant and shows that the British army really understood combined arms because it said that tanks working with infantry was a good thing. Hie entirely misses the gap between broad statements of principle and the practical stuff of what the infantry and tanks were actually taught to do - or not do. But I guess his prior experiences was as a strategy consultant. :) the bit that really grips me about his unstinting praise for FSR 1935 is the utter bollox that was included about jungle warfare. - to paraphrase. It is difficult stuff, but mainly we will be fighting savages and if we meet other European armies they will have the same difficulties...

That paper may well have been written with an eye to picking up work from the RAF. Air historical branch, nice and well informed fellows that they are focus on presenting the a positive picture of air power.

Note
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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Dili » 09 Aug 2020 01:11

I don't see any Axis unwillingness to fight except at end in Tunisia in 1943.

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Urmel » 09 Aug 2020 10:20

The very very end
The enemy had superiority in numbers, his tanks were more heavily armoured, they had larger calibre guns with nearly twice the effective range of ours, and their telescopes were superior. 5 RTR 19/11/41

The CRUSADER Project - The Winter Battle 1941/42

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Sid Guttridge » 09 Aug 2020 13:43

Hi Guys,

It is difficult to argue that the enemy having air superiority is not demoralizing, so it is probably worth having another look at the subject.

His basic premise seems to be that air power was less physically damaging than popularly believed at the time, but more damaging to morale than was believed afterwards.

He correlates the big advances of both sides with air advantage and cites contemporary reports from both sides to back up the proposition that this was demoralsing to their opponents.

He doesn't seem to be saying air-induced lower morale was decisive, just that it may have been more significant factor than normally noted - that the air forces' contribution went beyond material damage inflicted.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Air Power and Morale in the North African Campaign of the Second World War

Post by Dili » 10 Aug 2020 18:26

What does he brings on the intensity of morale damage and consequences of it?
Saying the being bombed damages the moral is an almost La Pallissade.

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