Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

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Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 09 Oct 2019 02:18

It seems that one of the biggest flaws in Germany's pre-war and early war strategy was its emphasis on producing medium bombers. Robert Forczyk states that Germany was producing over 300 medium bombers a month during the summer of 1940, compared to only 240 fighters (per James Holland). Narratives of the Battle of Britain usually marvel at how Britain was outproducing Germany 2:1 in fighters, but this is explained by Germany's insistence on continuing to churn out large numbers of medium bombers. With a different set of strategic priorities, 1940 Germany could have easily matched British fighter output if it had invested in fighter production instead of medium bomber production. Since single engine fighters cost less and require less manpower than medium bombers, this was well within Germany's physical capabilities during the first years of the war.

The reason this matters is that medium bombers made a negligible contribution to tactical operations. Forczyk estimates that under ideal daylight conditions, a level flying medium bomber at 15,000 feet might drop half of its payload within 820 feet of its intended target. The He-111 was designed to carry small 50kg bombs loaded face up, so that they would fall out and "tumble" over a wide surface area. The medium bombers were designed for a strategic bombing campaign against enemy civilian targets, not tactical battlefield support.

At the start of WW2 in September 1939, Lloyd Clark estimates that Germany had 1542 medium bombers, 361 dive bombers, and 788 fighters. Thus, Germany had made twice as many medium bombers as fighters at the start of WW2, and almost 5 times more medium bombers than dive bombers. Medium bombers were especially vulnerable in combat, with the Luftwaffe losing 30% of its medium bomber force during the Battle of France (521 lost, 203 damaged), and another 636 medium bombers from July-Sept 1940 against Britain.

Adam Tooze estimates that as of July 1939, the Luftwaffe accounted for at least 40% of Germany's military expenditures annually, and it's clear that a majority of this expenditure went into medium bombers, which were of minimal tactical value on the battlefield and were highly vulnerable to enemy fighters.

People often ask why the Luftwaffe failed during WW2, and the answer seems clear. The Luftwaffe invested far too much in medium bombers.

Sources:

Adam Tooze: The Wages of Destruction

James Holland: The Rise of Germany

Lloyd Clark: Blitzkrieg, Myth and Reality

Robert Forczyk: We March Against England

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Oct 2019 10:40

In order to understand the German thinking you ought to look in m ore detail at the development of the Luftwaffe at Phoenix Triumphant by E R Hooton or Williamson Murray's Strategy for Defeat here http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAF ... ffe-1.html

Here are some extracts from Murray
In May 1933, Milch, the key figure in the Luftwaffe's organization and development in the 1933-36 period, received a major study from one of his Lufthansa subordinates, Dr. Robert Knauss, on the strategic concept for the new air force............... To overcome German military weakness through rearmament, thereby re-establishing Germany's great power status, Knauss suggested the rapid creation of a strong air force. The decisive element in this force would be the deterrent effect of a fleet of 400 four-engine bombers. Knauss argued that modern industrialized society offered targets which, when destroyed, would halt the enemy's industrial production and that population centers offered the possibility of breaking the enemy's morale. .............
The creation of such a bomber force aborted for several reasons.

First, the army was hardly enthusiastic about such a strategic conception. Colonel Konrad Gossler, head of the Truppenamt's operation section, argued that a clear separation between the homeland and the combat front no longer existed. ........ Moreover, since the beginning of time, Gossler argued, each new weapon had led many to conclude that the old weapons of war were no longer needed. This had simply not happened.

More decisive for the actual establishment of the Luftwaffe was the discovery that German aircraft industry lacked the designers, industrial capacity, or experience to build such a "strategic" bombing fleet. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAF ... ffe-1.html pp6-7
In the 1930s it was more useful for Hitler to boast about the size of his air force and its rate of growth. It suited his policies which were to bluff the British and French.

It is also time to challenge the myth that the Germans could have won the battle of Britain if they had only built four engine bombers instead of twin engine mediums.

During the 1930s there were many who believed that strategic bombing would play a decisive role in any conflict. A British Prime minister declared that "the bomber would always get through." Movies such as Things to come and civil defence estimates in the Uk of 10,000 casualties per day from bombing fueled hysterical predictions. The RAF were big supporters of the concept espoused by "visionaries" for independent air forces in Italy and the USA. The British treasury liked bomber command too. It was cheap deterrence.

There was only one problem. Strategic bombing did not work. Bombing cities did not bring nations to their knees without any need for land or naval forces. Even with the resources of the USA and British Empire, the best efforts of the bomber barons Spaatz and Harris could not force Germany to surrender without a land campaign.

The air forces of 1939 had much less effective than those of 1945. They lacked accurate level bombing bomb sights, navigation aids , air-ground radar and sophisticated air-ground munitions. The RAF found it difficult to find targets the size of cities. Despite the intense London Blitz, the Germans failed to KO aircraft factories, communications centres or the seat of government. The Germans had no idea of where the major vulnerable targets were in the UK. The huge munitions and shadow aircraft factories constructed across the country don't seem to have ever been targeted.

The Germans did design some four engine bombers - Ju89 and Ju 90 with prototypes which flew in 1933. These could carry some 2,2000 - 3,500 lb bombs with a max speed around 100 mph slower than the He111 and Ju88 which carried 2/3 the bomb load for one half the price. How were these slow vulnerable aircraft going to survive in British skies? By day they would be slaughtered. By night they could be caught by AI equipped Blenheim night fighters that could not catch the German mediums.

The idea that the Germans could have won the battle of Britain if only they had four engine bombers is a myth perpetrated by British and US supporters of strategic bombing. What the Germans really needed were drop tanks for the Me109.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Cult Icon » 09 Oct 2019 14:00

The german luftwaffe's bombers were primary deployed as CAS (Close air support role). This was a major part of german offensive operations until late 1942, where up to 3,000 sorties a day were generated (maximum being at Stalingrad). The crimea campaign of 1942 was heavily reliant on air support at the 2,000 +/-/per day range.

The typical formula was to concentrate all air support in one small area (Fliegerkorps staff would observe and coordinate- there were also air liaison officers mounted in their own communications SPW and allocated to divisions) in order to facilitate an army, korps, or division sized attack.

By the standards of the allies these sortie numbers were very poor but this was what the limited german economy could generate. Strategic bombing was too expensive for Germany- close air support was really the only viable route. The main development between 1939-1942 was an increasing concentration of firepower/bombing to make the most of these resources.

A great first book on the subject is "Stopped at Stalingrad" by Hayward.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Oct 2019 15:13

Cult Icon wrote:
09 Oct 2019 14:00
The german luftwaffe's bombers were primary deployed as CAS (Close air support role). This was a major part of german offensive operations until late 1942, where up to 3,000 sorties a day were generated (maximum being at Stalingrad). The crimea campaign of 1942 was heavily reliant on air support at the 2,000 +/-/per day range.

The typical formula was to concentrate all air support in one small area (Fliegerkorps staff would observe and coordinate- there were also air liaison officers mounted in their own communications SPW and allocated to divisions) in order to facilitate an army, korps, or division sized attack.

By the standards of the allies these sortie numbers were very poor but this was what the limited german economy could generate. Strategic bombing was too expensive for Germany- close air support was really the only viable route. The main development between 1939-1942 was an increasing concentration of firepower/bombing to make the most of these resources.

A great first book on the subject is "Stopped at Stalingrad" by Hayward.
It is not true that the Luftwaffe was designed as a close support force. Read Williamson Murray's account on line
...the prevailing historical picture of a Luftwaffe tied closely to the army's coattails is no longer tenable. Most Luftwaffe leaders from Göring through the general staff believed, as did their counterparts in Britain and the United States, that "strategic" bombing was the chief mission of an air force and that in such a role they would win the next war.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Duncan_M » 09 Oct 2019 15:54

I think too much of the OP's conclusions, while true, were formed in hindsight.

Just to preface, I think the Douhet and the other "Air Power" fanatics, who thought they alone would win future wars without even needing ground or naval forces, were completely full of shit, specifically those in the RAF and USAAC/F, who even post war tried to juke the stats in an attempt to gain more credit then they deserved (while before and during the war trying to state they alone would be the instrument of German defeat!).

That out of the way, early war German strategical bombing was a success. By that I'm not referring to heavy bomber type, but the mission, specifically going after key population centers with the intent to break the morale of the people to diminish national resolve, in the hopes of causing or assisting in causing a surrender. The Germans bombed Warsaw during Case Yellow, and while they did not surrender because of that, it definitely assisted (as did the ground troops!). The bombing of Rotterdam led to the swift collapse of the Dutch govt (even though they were already plotting to do it). While the bombings during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz obviously didn't work, in hindsight we know the British definitely felt the pressure. Maybe had a weaker national govt been in power they might have attempted an early cease fire, but at the time they probably believed how close it had been, that if only they had a few more bombers they'd have won.

It was only later with the Allies against Germany itself and the Germans against the Soviet Union, and then the Allies against Japan, where the foundations of conventional non-nuclear strategic bombing fell flat on its face as a war-ender. But in 1940 that was still years away in terms of lessons learned.

Considering how heavy the US and British invested into strategic bombing with money, manpower, and resources, before the war, its actually pretty amazing that the Germans didn't focus more then they did, especially in the early stages when strategic bombing was actually getting results akin to what Douhet and the Air Power fanatics said it would.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Cult Icon » 09 Oct 2019 16:11

Sheldrake wrote:
09 Oct 2019 15:13

It is not true that the Luftwaffe was designed as a close support force. Read Williamson Murray's account on line
There was a pre-war debate about CAS vs. Strategic bombing, the actual force evolved and was deployed in CAS lines. IIRC 4 engine bombers were also debated and seen as economically nonviable.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Sheldrake » 09 Oct 2019 23:30

Cult Icon wrote:
09 Oct 2019 16:11
Sheldrake wrote:
09 Oct 2019 15:13

It is not true that the Luftwaffe was designed as a close support force. Read Williamson Murray's account on line
There was a pre-war debate about CAS vs. Strategic bombing, the actual force evolved and was deployed in CAS lines. IIRC 4 engine bombers were also debated and seen as economically nonviable.
Given that the topic title is Early War my statement is correct. The Germans carried out a range of strategic bombing assignments in 1940, notably, but not only against Britain.

The Germans did not stop their strategic bombing campaign in 1941. Britain was subject to repeated night bombing raids on strategic targets in the hope of breaking British will. This reached its climax with the V weapon offensives. Hitler's best bet to win the war in '44.
Last edited by Sheldrake on 10 Oct 2019 08:54, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 10 Oct 2019 00:26

Sheldrake wrote:
09 Oct 2019 10:40
In order to understand the German thinking you ought to look in m ore detail at the development of the Luftwaffe at Phoenix Triumphant by E R Hooton or Williamson Murray's Strategy for Defeat here http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAF ... ffe-1.html

Here are some extracts from Murray
In May 1933, Milch, the key figure in the Luftwaffe's organization and development in the 1933-36 period, received a major study from one of his Lufthansa subordinates, Dr. Robert Knauss, on the strategic concept for the new air force............... To overcome German military weakness through rearmament, thereby re-establishing Germany's great power status, Knauss suggested the rapid creation of a strong air force. The decisive element in this force would be the deterrent effect of a fleet of 400 four-engine bombers. Knauss argued that modern industrialized society offered targets which, when destroyed, would halt the enemy's industrial production and that population centers offered the possibility of breaking the enemy's morale. .............
The creation of such a bomber force aborted for several reasons.

First, the army was hardly enthusiastic about such a strategic conception. Colonel Konrad Gossler, head of the Truppenamt's operation section, argued that a clear separation between the homeland and the combat front no longer existed. ........ Moreover, since the beginning of time, Gossler argued, each new weapon had led many to conclude that the old weapons of war were no longer needed. This had simply not happened.

More decisive for the actual establishment of the Luftwaffe was the discovery that German aircraft industry lacked the designers, industrial capacity, or experience to build such a "strategic" bombing fleet. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/AAF/AAF ... ffe-1.html pp6-7
In the 1930s it was more useful for Hitler to boast about the size of his air force and its rate of growth. It suited his policies which were to bluff the British and French.

It is also time to challenge the myth that the Germans could have won the battle of Britain if they had only built four engine bombers instead of twin engine mediums.

During the 1930s there were many who believed that strategic bombing would play a decisive role in any conflict. A British Prime minister declared that "the bomber would always get through." Movies such as Things to come and civil defence estimates in the Uk of 10,000 casualties per day from bombing fueled hysterical predictions. The RAF were big supporters of the concept espoused by "visionaries" for independent air forces in Italy and the USA. The British treasury liked bomber command too. It was cheap deterrence.

There was only one problem. Strategic bombing did not work. Bombing cities did not bring nations to their knees without any need for land or naval forces. Even with the resources of the USA and British Empire, the best efforts of the bomber barons Spaatz and Harris could not force Germany to surrender without a land campaign.

The air forces of 1939 had much less effective than those of 1945. They lacked accurate level bombing bomb sights, navigation aids , air-ground radar and sophisticated air-ground munitions. The RAF found it difficult to find targets the size of cities. Despite the intense London Blitz, the Germans failed to KO aircraft factories, communications centres or the seat of government. The Germans had no idea of where the major vulnerable targets were in the UK. The huge munitions and shadow aircraft factories constructed across the country don't seem to have ever been targeted.

The Germans did design some four engine bombers - Ju89 and Ju 90 with prototypes which flew in 1933. These could carry some 2,2000 - 3,500 lb bombs with a max speed around 100 mph slower than the He111 and Ju88 which carried 2/3 the bomb load for one half the price. How were these slow vulnerable aircraft going to survive in British skies? By day they would be slaughtered. By night they could be caught by AI equipped Blenheim night fighters that could not catch the German mediums.

The idea that the Germans could have won the battle of Britain if only they had four engine bombers is a myth perpetrated by British and US supporters of strategic bombing. What the Germans really needed were drop tanks for the Me109.
You misunderstand my post. I am not arguing that Germany should have built a four engine strategic bomber force. I am arguing that Germany built a two engine strategic bomber force, and that this force did not serve Germany's strategic needs, which were for a tactical air force to support ground and naval operations. As you wrote in another post in this thread, the Luftwaffe was built with a focus on strategic bombing using twin engine bombers. As I tried to demonstrate, this strategy was flawed for a number of reasons:

(1) Strategic bombing was not a war winning strategy, but an errant view held by many military planners in the 1930s who believed that "the bomber will always get through". Goering and Hitler believed they could crush Britain's will to fight by terror bombing civilian populations, and they were proven wrong in this belief.

(2) The medium bombers were of negligible tactical value in land and sea operations. Level bombing was simply not accurate enough to contribute to combat on the ground or at sea. Germany sought to rectify this issue by turning the Ju-88 into a dive bomber, but its performance was disappointing.

(3) The medium bombers were extremely vulnerable in combat operations - Germany lost over a thousand medium bombers between the campaigns against France and Britain during the spring and summer of 1940. Given an opening force of 1,500 medium bombers at the start of the war, this was a catastrophic loss.

(4) Medium bombers sucked up far too many of Germany's scarce resources. Taking Tooze's figures, we can estimate that medium bombers accounted for 20% of Germany's annual military expenditures during the pre-war and early war years. A 20% annual investment into a force that provided negligible tactical support, no strategic value, and suffered a catastrophic loss rate of greater than two-thirds was easily Germany's greatest mistake in planning for WW2. Had that 20% been invested in just about anything else, 20th century history might have gone a lot differently.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 10 Oct 2019 01:11

Duncan_M wrote:
09 Oct 2019 15:54
I think too much of the OP's conclusions, while true, were formed in hindsight.

Just to preface, I think the Douhet and the other "Air Power" fanatics, who thought they alone would win future wars without even needing ground or naval forces, were completely full of shit, specifically those in the RAF and USAAC/F, who even post war tried to juke the stats in an attempt to gain more credit then they deserved (while before and during the war trying to state they alone would be the instrument of German defeat!).

That out of the way, early war German strategical bombing was a success. By that I'm not referring to heavy bomber type, but the mission, specifically going after key population centers with the intent to break the morale of the people to diminish national resolve, in the hopes of causing or assisting in causing a surrender. The Germans bombed Warsaw during Case Yellow, and while they did not surrender because of that, it definitely assisted (as did the ground troops!). The bombing of Rotterdam led to the swift collapse of the Dutch govt (even though they were already plotting to do it). While the bombings during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz obviously didn't work, in hindsight we know the British definitely felt the pressure. Maybe had a weaker national govt been in power they might have attempted an early cease fire, but at the time they probably believed how close it had been, that if only they had a few more bombers they'd have won.

It was only later with the Allies against Germany itself and the Germans against the Soviet Union, and then the Allies against Japan, where the foundations of conventional non-nuclear strategic bombing fell flat on its face as a war-ender. But in 1940 that was still years away in terms of lessons learned.

Considering how heavy the US and British invested into strategic bombing with money, manpower, and resources, before the war, its actually pretty amazing that the Germans didn't focus more then they did, especially in the early stages when strategic bombing was actually getting results akin to what Douhet and the Air Power fanatics said it would.
Yes, this is true. My post is based on hindsight. Military planners in the 1930s couldn't be expected to predict the strategic requirements of a future war with perfect accuracy, and Germany wasn't the only major belligerent to over-invest in strategic bombers. The only country that seems not to have fallen into this trap was the Soviet Union, which built only a few long range bombers prior to the war, and once the war began, strategic bombing was a fantasy it couldn't afford to entertain.

On that note, strategic bombing was a bit of a convenient luxury for the United States and Britain. They could afford to sit back and send bombers on relatively pointless missions over Germany to make it look like they were doing something while the Russians bled Germany to death. So it's harder to say that strategic bombing was really a mistake for the Allies, since it accomplished its primary purpose of boosting the Allies' morale (it also tied up significant German resources in air defense). And Stalin indirectly fell for this trap, since Churchill's offer of strategic bombing placated Stalin's demands for the western Allies to do something.

That said, the British wised up pretty quickly and prioritized fighter production over bomber production, something Germany failed to do until it was too late.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Sheldrake » 10 Oct 2019 09:16

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
10 Oct 2019 00:26
You misunderstand my post. I am not arguing that Germany should have built a four engine strategic bomber force. I am arguing that Germany built a two engine strategic bomber force, and that this force did not serve Germany's strategic needs, which were for a tactical air force to support ground and naval operations. As you wrote in another post in this thread, the Luftwaffe was built with a focus on strategic bombing using twin engine bombers. As I tried to demonstrate, this strategy was flawed for a number of reasons:

(1) Strategic bombing was not a war winning strategy, but an errant view held by many military planners in the 1930s who believed that "the bomber will always get through". Goering and Hitler believed they could crush Britain's will to fight by terror bombing civilian populations, and they were proven wrong in this belief.

(2) The medium bombers were of negligible tactical value in land and sea operations. Level bombing was simply not accurate enough to contribute to combat on the ground or at sea. Germany sought to rectify this issue by turning the Ju-88 into a dive bomber, but its performance was disappointing.

(3) The medium bombers were extremely vulnerable in combat operations - Germany lost over a thousand medium bombers between the campaigns against France and Britain during the spring and summer of 1940. Given an opening force of 1,500 medium bombers at the start of the war, this was a catastrophic loss.

(4) Medium bombers sucked up far too many of Germany's scarce resources. Taking Tooze's figures, we can estimate that medium bombers accounted for 20% of Germany's annual military expenditures during the pre-war and early war years. A 20% annual investment into a force that provided negligible tactical support, no strategic value, and suffered a catastrophic loss rate of greater than two-thirds was easily Germany's greatest mistake in planning for WW2. Had that 20% been invested in just about anything else, 20th century history might have gone a lot differently.
I agree with your point 1.

I do not agree with point 2 and the subsequent logic of points 3 & 4.

What is the evidence that the level bombers had NO effect on land or sea campaigns?

The air war over France and the Low countries was largely waged with level bombers. Stuka's created fear but only dropped a small proportion of tonnage of bombers. Twin engined bombers were a large part of the force which delivered highly effective close air support for the river crossing of the Meuse by Guderian's corps.

Level bombers played a big part in OP Paula, the destruction of the Armee de l'Air on 3 June which included attacks on aircraft factories etc.

The level bomber fleet was menacing enough and survivable enough to force the British into a fight for national survival in the summer of 1940. The British did not regard Battle of Britain as a walk over.

The modest twin engined bomber force deployed in the North of Norway menaced the arctic convoys.

The investment in bombers cuts both ways. The existence of large numbers of twin engine bombers forced the British to spend a huge effort protecting factories, ports and airfields from attack beyond the range of single engine fighters and tactical bombers. Without the Do 17, He 111 and Ju88 why bother with 250,000 strong AA Command or 750,000 members of the civil defence organisation? The Luftwaffe bomber force saved the German army from facing 2,000 high velocity 3" and 3.7" Anti tank guns.

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Peter89 » 10 Oct 2019 10:02

German industry was nowhere near to a reliable, efficient wartime economy in 1939/1940.

A lot of key personnel in research, development and production were drafted (later to be sent back), and the Nazi regime seriously undermined the intellectual capability and free thinking at the key structures like universities.

The Luftwaffe strategy was to fight short, sharp campaigns, mostly against ground-based military targets, pointed out by the land forces or aerial reconissance. The LW was thought to be something like an airborne artillery.

So to say, the Battle of France was too quickly and too decisively won to show the weaknesses of the LW. But those weaknesses were there.

When the Luftwaffe was facing Britain in the BoB, the problem wasn't the lack of single seat fighters. The Luftwaffe was totally uncapable to destroy or neutralize such targets they hadto deal with.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Contender » 10 Oct 2019 11:06

Cult Icon wrote:
09 Oct 2019 16:11
IIRC 4 engine bombers were also debated and seen as economically nonviable.
They were seen as passé hence the creation & development of the Do-217 & HE-177 (technically 4 coupled engines but 2 props).

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 10 Oct 2019 15:28

Sheldrake wrote:
10 Oct 2019 09:16
HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
10 Oct 2019 00:26
You misunderstand my post. I am not arguing that Germany should have built a four engine strategic bomber force. I am arguing that Germany built a two engine strategic bomber force, and that this force did not serve Germany's strategic needs, which were for a tactical air force to support ground and naval operations. As you wrote in another post in this thread, the Luftwaffe was built with a focus on strategic bombing using twin engine bombers. As I tried to demonstrate, this strategy was flawed for a number of reasons:

(1) Strategic bombing was not a war winning strategy, but an errant view held by many military planners in the 1930s who believed that "the bomber will always get through". Goering and Hitler believed they could crush Britain's will to fight by terror bombing civilian populations, and they were proven wrong in this belief.

(2) The medium bombers were of negligible tactical value in land and sea operations. Level bombing was simply not accurate enough to contribute to combat on the ground or at sea. Germany sought to rectify this issue by turning the Ju-88 into a dive bomber, but its performance was disappointing.

(3) The medium bombers were extremely vulnerable in combat operations - Germany lost over a thousand medium bombers between the campaigns against France and Britain during the spring and summer of 1940. Given an opening force of 1,500 medium bombers at the start of the war, this was a catastrophic loss.

(4) Medium bombers sucked up far too many of Germany's scarce resources. Taking Tooze's figures, we can estimate that medium bombers accounted for 20% of Germany's annual military expenditures during the pre-war and early war years. A 20% annual investment into a force that provided negligible tactical support, no strategic value, and suffered a catastrophic loss rate of greater than two-thirds was easily Germany's greatest mistake in planning for WW2. Had that 20% been invested in just about anything else, 20th century history might have gone a lot differently.
I agree with your point 1.

I do not agree with point 2 and the subsequent logic of points 3 & 4.

What is the evidence that the level bombers had NO effect on land or sea campaigns?

The air war over France and the Low countries was largely waged with level bombers. Stuka's created fear but only dropped a small proportion of tonnage of bombers. Twin engined bombers were a large part of the force which delivered highly effective close air support for the river crossing of the Meuse by Guderian's corps.

Level bombers played a big part in OP Paula, the destruction of the Armee de l'Air on 3 June which included attacks on aircraft factories etc.

The level bomber fleet was menacing enough and survivable enough to force the British into a fight for national survival in the summer of 1940. The British did not regard Battle of Britain as a walk over.

The modest twin engined bomber force deployed in the North of Norway menaced the arctic convoys.

The investment in bombers cuts both ways. The existence of large numbers of twin engine bombers forced the British to spend a huge effort protecting factories, ports and airfields from attack beyond the range of single engine fighters and tactical bombers. Without the Do 17, He 111 and Ju88 why bother with 250,000 strong AA Command or 750,000 members of the civil defence organisation? The Luftwaffe bomber force saved the German army from facing 2,000 high velocity 3" and 3.7" Anti tank guns.
Where is the evidence that medium bombers provided a meaningful benefit in tactical operations? Lloyd Clark describes the LW force deployed against Sedan on May 13, 1940 as follows: "The German aerial force included 600 bombers, 250 dive-bombers, 500 single-engine and 120 twin-engine fighters, most of which flew several sorties on 13 May." What was the result? "Only fifty-six men were listed as casualties during the raid, very few bunkers were destroyed and few guns were put out of action." The effect was purely psychological, and all accounts point to the screaming stukas as accomplishing this effect.

OP Paula doesn't seem to have accomplished much, according to Wikipedia: " The damage inflicted by the Luftwaffe was far less than the Germans thought. Only 20 French aircraft (16 of them fighters) were destroyed on the ground and 15 of their fighters were shot down in aerial combat, a loss rate of 19 percent, suggesting German over claiming of over 4:1 in the air and 16:1 on the ground. Six of the sixteen airfields hit reported serious damage, while fifteen factories reported slight damage.[2] French casualties on the ground were heavy, including 254 dead and 652 injured.[31] The French shot down 10 German aircraft, including four bombers. They claimed 16, suggesting mutual over claiming.[2] A further 21 vehicles were destroyed. All the French airfields were back in operation 48 hours later.[32]" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Paula#Aftermath

The only battlefield success I've seen attributed to the medium bombers is the capitulation of Poland and the Netherlands owing to the terror bombing of Warsaw and Rotterdam by medium bombers. Both countries were on the verge of defeat anyway. The Dutch were already negotiating their surrender, and the He-111's were called back but didn't get the order.

So what did the medium bombers accomplish that was worth 20% of Germany's annual military outlays and the loss of more than two-thirds of their force in the summer of 1940?

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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by Sheldrake » 10 Oct 2019 17:31

HistoryGeek2019 wrote:
10 Oct 2019 15:28
The effect was purely psychological, and all accounts point to the screaming stukas as accomplishing this effect.
Never under estimate the significance of the morale componant of fighting power. Guderian had an argument with the Luftwaffe about the fireplan. He wanted continuous air raids over a period of some hours - and got his way. Level bombers delivered much of that effect. Bombardment is fungible. Twin engine bombers - four engine bombers - heavy artillery - fighter bombers - dive bombers. Its the same stuff. After a while those under bombardment temporarily lose the will to fight.

With hindsight, the bomber forces of 1939-40 were far less effective than their protagonists claimed. However, at the time the threat of bombers you regard as a useless waste of resources forced the British to spend a huge amount of national resources on a retaliatory force, an air defence system and a massive civil defence programme. If the Germans had not invested in a large air-force based on medium bombers then the British might well have invested a bit more in their cash starved army and the Germans might well have lost the battle of France!

HistoryGeek2019
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Re: Early War Germany focused too much on medium bombers

Post by HistoryGeek2019 » 10 Oct 2019 21:12

Every account I've read of Sedan states that it was the Stukas bombing the front line French troops. The Germans were also bombing the French rear areas, and this must have been done with the medium bombers, because medium bombers were far too inaccurate to attempt to bomb the enemy front line - half their bombs would have fallen on the Germans. It was the collapse of the French front line that led to the Germany victory at Sedan, so that still doesn't leave us with any evidence that medium bombers provided a material tactical benefit.

Moreover, even if the medium bombers contributed to this or other tactical victories, I have not seen anyone suggest that they were more effective in the tactical role than Stukas. Everything I've read suggests that it is the Stukas that provided the "airborne artillery" that kept the panzers rolling in the Blitzkrieg years. Since a single engine Stuka is significantly cheaper than a twin engine bomber, has a smaller crew and requires fewer bombs and less fuel, Germany could have gotten at least the same tactical results at a lesser cost by switching from medium bombers to Stukas (and fighters), which would have also freed up money for other military needs or that could have been left unspent in order to prop up Germany's struggling financial situation in the late 1930s.

As for the opportunity cost inflicted on Britain by requiring Britain to defend against medium bombers instead of investing in other military needs, the first point I would note is that this opportunity cost lasted only briefly and was over by June 1941 when Germany turned East. Britain was then free to expand in other military areas, while having inflicted tremendous losses on the Luftwaffe and having gained valuable experience in strategic bombing operations that it could then turn around and use against Germany. Many of Britain's defensive measures against Germany's medium bombers yielded offensive benefits in the later years of war, as Britain maintained a decisive technological edge in radar and radar jamming that ultimately defeated Germany's night defense capabilities.

Moreover, it's not clear that Britain would have foregone its massive investment in fighters if Germany had focused on Stukas and Bf-109s instead of medium bombers. Britain would have still needed air superiority to defend its home islands, which was Britain's main concern in the early years of the war. The army was always last in priority behind the navy and air force for Britain, and it's not clear this would have changed simply because Germany made fewer medium bombers. And even if Britain had invested more in its army instead of home air defense, it's not clear this would have made much of a difference in the Battle of France, as the British Army consistently performed terribly against the Heer in the early years of the war, and the Heer would have been more effective if Germany's investment in medium bombers had been better spent. Any extra investment in the British army could have just meant more equipment and prisoners left behind at Dunkirk.
Last edited by HistoryGeek2019 on 10 Oct 2019 22:41, edited 1 time in total.

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