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Could the Luftwaffe win their air war?

Discussion in 'What If - European Theater - Western Front & Atlan' started by T. A. Gardner, Apr 7, 2008.

  1. mikebatzel

    mikebatzel Dreadnaught

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    I think a couple of factors could have made a difference. First off is Hitler. Hitler could not except a strategic withdrawl so there are instances when the LW had to divert resources to supply cut off armies. But in my mind that is minor. Adding to what Falcon stated earlier, a strong defeat early in the war may have had the advantage of allowing Germany to react to the Allies, coming up with better doctrine, tactics, technology, etc. before the crunch of depleated supplies could affect them.
     
  2. Vanir

    Vanir Member

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    Show me the sentence/paragraph which directly contradicts my contention. Mate, it offers an interesting new perspective on the Battle of Britain, it doesn't appear intended to irreconcile either wartime records or previous assertions. It appears intended to compliment them, controversially as is the modern format for general publication.

    Even Tony's figures and the article relate:
    the Luftwaffe started with less fighters
    the RAF lost more fighters than the Luftwaffe
    the Luftwaffe had more fighters than the RAF in September, when attacks on airfields and production facilities were switched to cities.

    All the points in the conclusion I agree with. None of them contradict my assertion.
    It's a great link. It gives a far more comprehensive view of the BoB from the British point of view than I did. It still doesn't contradict the commonly published point reiterated by several historians over the past half century. I'm just still unconvinced, I've been around fighter planes, vet pilots and the air force my whole life and none of this sounds like anything I haven't heard before, far more credible than your usual British back patting but I mean you should read British aerospace publications, you actually have to go find a Messerschmitt blueprint to show those guys that the aeromechanical screw is far more advanced than the constant speed propeller, the flight management system quite literal and no, the constant speed propeller and a ratchet drive prop pitch lever isn't anywhere near the same thing.

    I don't know what you want me to tell you. I'm unconvinced as to the argument "No the Luftwaffe could never have won the Battle of Britain, it never stood a chance and that battle was conclusively won back in the mid-thirties."
    Firstly the article doesn't say anything like that. Show me the sentence where it does. Secondly, such a sentence just sounds like a wartime "information film" to me and about as objective.

    I can relate arguments in physics about what a thesis says, but nobody's ever going to reconcile QP with GR because anything printed necessarily supports both, because they're both true.
    I'll once again draw your attention to the very opening sentence, which ought to have been a strong hint:
    You've written a thesis before? Where you start with a contention, outline a methodology, assert a new idea, summarise and make a conclusion (again, copy-pasted above for clarity). Then you get it marked by the lecturer whom writes upon it, A-nice opinion, well presented. Comprehensive bibliography.
     
  3. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Without alot of explaination at this point here is a laundry list of a number of things the Luftwaffe did wrong pre- and early in the war that really hamstrung their operations:

    1. The Luftwaffe started rearming earlier than other European powers. This left them in 1939 with a series of well developed but half to a full generation behind the other powers in terms of front line equipment.
    Some examples of this are the He 111 and Do 17. Both were good aircraft in the late thirties. By 1940 they were obsolesent. The Me 109, likewise was a good interceptor in the late 30's. It should have had a replacement in the pipeline by 1940. The He 100D would have fit the bill but shortsightedness and politics kept the 109 in service.

    2. The Luftwaffe was poorly served by its technical staff. They missed critical developments like the jet engine. They were overly enamored of cutting edge technologies in many other areas. This led to the Bomber A and B programs having unrealistic expectations of the designs called for. Excessive tinkering and trying out novel ideas like the Fw 191 or the dive bombing feature on the He 177 were just plain stupid given the war situation.
    This is also made clear in their under utilization of electronics. The Luftwaffe largely ignored the potential of radar even while developing some very efficent sets early in the war. After that, they myopically tried to product improve existing sets losing focus on potential developments like microwave radar.

    3. Pilot training was not realistically scaled to cover losses. The Germans should have trained far more reserve pilots in the pre-war period and then maintained a constant flow of skilled replacements once the war started.
    Instead, they kept the numbers down and repeatedly used instructors and students in operational missions causing not only a disruption of the training cycles but a loss of instructors and poorly trained student pilots unnecessarily.

    4. The Luftwaffe never clearly specified their aircraft to what would be the missions and operational requirements of the war. For example, what mission could justify the large number of Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers in service? Tactical support outside Richtofen's VIII Flieger Korps was non-existant as a mission in 1939. As a strategic bomber the Ju 87 was worthless lacking both payload and range. So, other than being a product of personality that enthuastically adopted dive bombing as a mission in itself what purpose did building more than a small number of this aircraft serve?

    5. The inclusion of anti-aircraft units into the Luftwaffe was also a mistake. These should have been the pervue of the Wehrmacht entirely. This would have forced a focus on aircraft by the Luftwaffe. What the hell were the Germans thinking putting ground forces in the Luftwaffe?!! This reaches a height of absurdity with the Field Divisions and the crown jewel of stupidity the HG Panzer Division.

    As for the Battle of Britain, it isn't arguable that it was lost for the Germans before the war started. It was lost before the war started. The only two fighters in service were a short range interceptor (the Me 109) and an unsuitable twin (the Me 110). Of the bombers, the Ju 87 was totally worthless as an offensive platform for any mission other than possibly limited tactical support (of which there was none in the BoB) or anti-shipping. The He 111 and Do 17 were both marginally capable bombers lacking payload and ability to defend themselves adequitely. The Ju 88 was the sole bright spot being a modern fast attack bomber that by its combination of defensive armament and speed could generally make attacks on targets without excessive losses.
    The only area the Germans genuinely had an advantage in was reconnissance. The Ju 86P and Ar 240 were both essentially uninterceptable as reconnissance aircraft. But, this is hardly a war winning niche for an airforce.
     
  4. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    On the day of the Luftwaffe switch to bombing cities instead of the airfields, Fighter command had approximately 150 more serviceable single seat fighters, and around 200 more operational pilots than at the start of the Battle, while the Luftwaffe fighter arm had less single seat fighters and pilots than at the start. In a battle of attrition that means only one thing.... the Luftwaffe was losing the campaign

    According to the calculations worked out by Air Commodore Douglas Evill,( Dowding's chief of staff) on the 2nd September (just before the switch of targets), the RAF at the rate of loss they were suffering, would have still have had 725 serviceable single-seat fighters during the 3rd week of Sept, the last date planned for the invasion.

    So even if the Luftwaffe still continued to cause the same amount of casualties to Fighter Command in September, as they had done previously, they were going to lose. ;)
     
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  5. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    Hey Redcoat. I don't get it T.A. stated
    "Given history, what could have been changed in the Luftwaffe's strategy to make them successful, if anything"

    Everything I mention was based in historical events. There's no telling how events could have been different. Why couldn't GB and Germany not had peace, uneasy or not. There was no irreversible commitment to war in 1935.

    You can't have a "what if" if you don't allow historical events to be changed or modified for other possible outcomes. Otherwise T.A.'s statement becomes

    "Given history, without changing anything, what could have been changed in the Luftwaffe's strategy to make them successful, if anything?

    The answer is and always will be "nothing," end of topic thread, because we're operating in the same actual perameters instead of alternate possibilities.
     
  6. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    The question as posed was clearly limited to changes in the Luftwaffe's strategy, rather than anything more fundamental, like a peace-loving Hitler.

    As I've pointed out, the strategy would have to have been changed quite significantly several years beforehand, to ensure that the Luftwaffe was properly constitued and equippped to win a battle of attrition over England. By the time the war started, it was too late to do that.
     
  7. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    Exactly. It makes it a moot point without allowing the change of any other factors because that's simply not enough to make any demonstrable difference to change an outcome as big being "successful" in the air war. He stated "the Luftwaffe's strategy" and that was partially thwarted by Hitler, Milch, Himmler, Speer and even Goring to greater or lesser degrees. With those perameters people like Galland, Wever, Kammhuber or Udet could never change "Luftwaffe strategy" to a degree sufficient to make huge differences.

    While the above mentioned certainly would have done things differently and better it is impossible to say so because our parameters of strategy involve Hitler, Milch, Himmler, Speer and Goring and there is no geting around them.

    "Given history, what could have been changed in the Luftwaffe's strategy to make them successful, if anything?"

    And it comes down to every one's definition of what successful is. Did they usually do the best with the assets they had? Probably. Since it is far out of any Luftwaffe commander's control to dictate production, modifications, deployment, approve new designs, etc. we are stuck ever returning to our controling influences Hitler, Milch, Himmler, Speer and Goring who flock things up.

    The 1st time I talked with Gen. Galland in the 1980s some similar form of this question was asked....and no doubt by everybody who interviewed him. Even when Galland was made General of the Fighter Pilots he didn't have power to change the already set organizational details of the whole damned branch of service.

    Going back and pointing out faults that were not readily apparent at the time 65 years ago is more voodoo logic. Deciding now which planes should have been deployed is a complete unfair advantage since back at that time no one had the luxury we do today of knowing how things would turn out!

    No one knew the Bf 110 would suck in 1939. In the 1930s the worldwide concept was that a fast bomber would always get through popping off enemy interceptors like flies. So how can we fault the Luftwaffe or any other air force for then "needing" escorts. Plenty of puny Brit bombers that couldn't hold their own against fighter attack existed. Should we damn the RAF that they should have known? How is that fair?

    The Americans were almost stupid enough to believe the prevailing 1930s propaganda that bigger bombers with more guns would get through without escorts. The inneffective Luftwaffe in late 1943 nearly annihilated them to the point that the 8th was a hair's breath away from switching to night time only bombing.

    Every country experimented with things that ultimately proved unsatisfactory. How can we say that they missed development of the jet engine when they were the 1st to field both fighter and bomber aircraft with superior 2nd generational engines and aircraft in prototype stage in 1945?

    Damning the Luftwaffe's aircraft in hindsight is fruitless since the decisions of what planes could or should be produced and with with what characteristics wasn never in the hands of the Luftwaffe beyond tokenism. Hitler, Milch, Himmler, Speer and Goring were the characters with input on what aircraft were produce, where they were deployed along with all organizational BS of the Luftwaffe itself.

    Men Like Gunther Lutzow, Adolf Galland, Ernst Udet, Werner Moelders, Gunther Rall and quite a few others had organizational and leadership skills along with strategic and tactical battle planning yet they had no say in how may Ju 87 were built or where they were deployed, how pilots were trained or decided what technology should be pursued. The Luftwaffe was simply not set up in that way any more than the RAF or USAF was!

    What the Luftwaffe did was exploit their resources as best was was possible and deploy them in the best ways to do damage to the enemy.

    We can't damn the Luftwaffe because they didn't develop a strategic bomber when the main proponent for such, Walther Wever, was killed in 1936. If Billy Mitchell had died around then how great, or poor, would the USAF have been?

    Luftwaffe wing commanders and squadron commanders prosecuted the air war to be best of their abilities with the resources they had at any given time.

    Given the circumsatnces of the way things were there is nothing in strategy or tactics that anyone below Reichsmarshall could have changed. And even Goring was thwarted by Hitler and Speer!

    It was General Galland himself that reaffirmed the fact that to me "even had the 262s been in service a year earlier the outcome would have been the same, ableit, the war would have gone somewhat longer."

    "Hitler and Goring bickering. Milch personally meddling in certain projects. Speer out maneuvering them all in order to keep the industry moving. It was like a dishonest carnival. Everything was rigged. It was madness. And all the while units like JG 7 were beating the odds in one small corner of the war."
     
  8. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    He did. He died 19 Feb 1936 after being out of the Army since 1926.
     
  9. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    Errrm - but that's the whole point of "what if?" threads....

    As far as I can see, no-one has criticised the Luftwaffe for doing anything wrong in the circumstances in which they found themselves. The question which kicked this off might be reformulated as: "if they had known what we know, could they have changed matters enough to make a difference?"
     
  10. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    There you go, you've answered T.A. Gardner's 'what if'.
    Using historical realities there was nothing the Luftwaffe could do, to enable them to win the air war they actually found themselves fighting, instead of the short war the Nazi leadership wanted to fight.
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Not completely true. For example, the dive bombing mania that gripped the Luftwaffe could have been changed even at the time. The USAAC realized the limitations of dive bombing and short ranged dive bombers quickly after purchasing the A-24 (an Army version of the Navy SBD dive bomber). These were quickly relegated to secondary duties due to lack of range and unsuitability.
    The Wever v. Udet argument over a more tactical airforce and one with more strategic aircraft strikes at the heart of this idea. Even at the time given the known range of missions and their potential distance from available bases the Luftwaffe could have easily realized that the Ju 87 was of extremely limited potential. They could also have easily rejected the very advanced proposals for the Bomber A and B programs in favor of more flexible design criteria giving manufacturers wider latitude in getting something that worked out the door. As I pointed out, the Fw 191 was mainly, if not totally, a failure due to the RLM making idiotic technical demands on Focke Wulf just so they could experiment with the aircraft. This was ludicrious given that Germany was at war already.
    Even something as simple as better target selection could have helped immensely. What if the Luftwaffe spent more effort in Russia right from the start trying to identify and take out critical factories and rail junctions in a coordinated campaign like the US and Britain did (for the most part)?
    On the whole, the Luftwaffe made so many bad decisions at so many levels....and recognized that fact in many of them after they occured.... that their strategies could have changed simply on the basis of having more competent or even just more precient leadership at the time.
     
  12. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    Re: Mitchell edit- I meant "If Billy Mitchell hadn't died".....ie., did he have an impact and would strategic bombing have been different?

    Interesting how the carrier war was different in that it allowed creaky planes like Vals and SBDs to actually function in their designated roles though, far longer than the Stuka did.
     
  13. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Wish I had time to look up the numbers for sorties, bomb weight, and damage of the USAAF/RAF in the several anti transportation campaigns. My first thought was the Luftwaffe did not have the number of bombers needed, but I'm probablly misguessing the requirements.

    My father was a ordinance officer in the 9th Air Force & I've always been struck by his remarks about how the weight of ordinance required to significantly curtail the German and French railroads was several times what they had assumed up through 1942. Groups of 24-30 medium bombers making level attacks from altitudes from 10,000 feet down to 500 feet and below caused far less damage than they expected to bridges and rail yards.
     
  14. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    2/3rds of high level aimed bombs also missed their targets in WW II. Part of the reason that fighters were turned lose to cause as much tactical damage as possible.
     
  15. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Thats been oft mentioned. Single engine aircraft making diving attacks on point targets... Maybe I can dig up some numbers on this later in the week.:(
     
  16. mavfin

    mavfin Member

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    A lot of the damage done by the 9th AF was done by single-engine tactical fighters that continued the work that the Stuka started, in a faster package. The Jug really found its home here, with 8 .50s and a ton of bombs or rockets, and the ability to take a fair amount of flak damage and still get home. The Typhoon was another notable here, especially with rockets. I guess you could say the 9th AF continued what the Luftwaffe taught the Allies about close air support, *but*, it was only one force of several that the Allies had. That was the difference. The Luftwaffe was originally set up in the late 30s to do what the 9th Air Force did, with very little provision for all the other things the Allies did with air power. And by the time they knew it, it was too late to fix.
     
  17. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    I don't know if this has been raised but what level of photo-recon was done prior to Operation Adler, especially the locations of the British Aero-industries, such as production lines, maintenance/repair facilities, it amazes me that the Luftwaffe made no serious attemp to attack these vital facilities during the BoB, the reports i have read suggest that the Luftwaffe made only one attack and that was on the Supermarine Spitfire production line in Southampton, which suffered moderate damage.

    Had the Luftwaffe had decided to actually put a strategic list together of preferred targets, such as Radar, Airfields, Ports, Aircraft Production, Roads and Rail, Energy (Power Stations) and Communications (Radio and Telecommunications).

    Also i have read accounts of that Fuhrer Adolf Hilter refused Il Duce Benito Mussolini request to send Bombers (Especially S.M-79 Torpedo Bombers)and Fighters to help in the BoB, now i don't know how much that would have helped, but it may have taken the slack off the Luftwaffe a little.

    v.R
     
  18. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Hitler didn't refuse the help. The Regia Aeronautica sent the Corpo Aero Italiano to help. Not that it was any LOL.
    Here is a great site about it.

    Håkans Flygsida - The Falco and Regia Aeronautica in the Battle of Britain

    "Italian dictator Benito Mussolini insisted on providing an element of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to assist his German ally during the Battle of Britain. Mussolini's expeditionary air force was called the Italian Air Corps (Corpo Aereo Italiano, or CAI). The CAI went to Belgium on 10 September 1940 and first saw action in late October 1940. The Italian aircraft took part in the latter stages of the battle. The Italian equipment, which included biplane fighters, did not compare favorably with the aircraft of the British Royal Air Force or of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). As a result, the CAI achieved limited to no success. The aircraft of the CAI were redeployed in early 1941. The last Italian fighters were redeployed by mid-April."

    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Military_history_of_Italy_during_World_War_II#4.
     
  19. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    Exceptional information, but by late October 1940 it was far to late the tide had turned against the Germans.

    What might have been had the Italians had sent in their S.M-79 bombers and sent them by say June or July.

    I can put a list of participating units together and have them deployed in France & Low Countries.

    v.R.
     
  20. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    The end result would have been the same. The S.M-79s would have suffered the same fate as the Ju-88s,HE-111s and Do-17s. All with the same results.
     

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