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Was Bomber Command out of Control?

Discussion in 'Western Europe' started by scipio, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Having read information kindly provided by Drew on Montgomery, I find myself agreeing with him on vital aspect - the poor support provided by Harris and Spaatz to the prosecution of the ground war in Europe (and in Harris's lack of involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic - but that is a different issue).


    For me Monty has hit the nail on the head - Harris, at least, was out of control and fighting his own war.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    One could hardly call the transportation plan, Cobra, Caen, Goodwood, Epsom, Wesel etc poor support. Many historians now claim these to be overkill and the use use of strategic air power against tactical targets to be largely innefective.
     
  3. scipio

    scipio Member

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    OK I will show my ignorance - what was the transport plan?
     
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Strategic bombing of Rail, road and bridges, etc. to limit Wehrmacht movement after a Allied landing.
     
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    Although there is absolutely no doubt that Harris bitterly resented being deflected from what he saw as his main mission, there is no doubt that he gave total support to the invasion battle both before, during and immediately after D-Day ( a casual browse through the Bomber Command War Diaries reveals several occasions when the entire main bomber force was used to support the ground forces ). When the war moved into a far more mobile phase the four-engined bombers were simply too much of a 'blunt instrument'.

    However, I must agree that IMPO the weapon of Bomber Command should have been directed against oil targets in the latter part of 1944 and early '45 (instead of returning to area bombing German cities ) but that is another controversy......

    Perhaps criticism should be better directed against Portal as Chief of Air Staff who did, after all, have ultimate control, and to whom Harris was directly subordinate.
     
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  6. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Taking out the rail infrastructure was a great success at DDay - why then return to area bombing when as you say transportation network (and oil) was a critical factor in enabling Germany to prolong the war.

    Anecdotal comments from British land forces who had experienced the war in North Africa seem to complain that the close support afforded them in Libya was less effective in Northern Europe.

    Not that I know a lot about this but Portal seemed to be in awe of Harris. Was Churchill a factor as Harris seemed to have a direct line to him - dining together, often weekly.

    Why does Montgomery not mention Portal in his criticism?

    Was Montgomery justified in his criticism of lack of Direction of the Airwar and did the American commanders feel the same way?
     
  7. Doug Kirby

    Doug Kirby New Member

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    Slightly off topic but very much about the men of Bomber command

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    From a poster to a part in the film a copy of the DVD to a night at the premier!.

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  8. Dave55

    Dave55 Member

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    Wasn't the Battle of the Atlantic Costal Command's area of responsiblity? Did Harris command Joubert de la Ferté? I don't know.
     
  9. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    RAF Bomber Command was expanded and invested before war started. British political establisment was usually thinking in terms of "Bomber always will get through". It was also seen as a cheap and modern way of waging war instead of wasting men in trench warfare on ground. But in initial stages of war RAF Strategic Bombing was largely ineffective. When Air Marshall Arthur Harris took over RAF Bomber Command in 1942 he faced with a confidence crisis with in and against his arm. To prove himself and RAF Bomber Command he created his own myth , stamp and way of making war , greatly expanded and developed Bomber Command and waged huge area bombings against German cities to establish its own prestige. The problem was obvious in 1940 though. Strategic Air Campaigns although vital and greatly helpful to war effort would never be a decisive war winning factor. By 1944 Harris was listening no one , had an immense personal prestige and popularity in RAF and indeed waging his own war. He was not cooperating with RAF Coastal Command in Battle of Atlantic (RAF did not share H2H milimetric radar design with other arms until 1943 ) and even dragging his feet in supporting ground operations until bowing inevitable. Someone should have trimmed the RAF bomber squadrons and put him his place.

    Initially Montgomery had a great cooperation with RAF Desert Air Force when he assumed command of 8th Army in August 1942. He even moved his mobile caravan HQ next to Desert Air Force HQ. During Mareth Line battles in March 1943 he pointed flying bomber formations and said "They are winning the war for me" The problem was both he and DAF commander charismatic Vice Air Marshal Arthur Conningham had huge egos. That later during Normandy Campain in 1944 created a severe clash and bitter words plus back door politics to remove each other. (Conningham also clashed with George Patton in Tunisia also due to same factors ) Other RAF commanders like Leigh Mallory (who organized removal of his own chief Sir Hugh Dowding-Victor of Battle of Britain-from his post and exiled RAF 11th Fighter Group Commander Keith Park-defender of London Germans called him-) and Arthur Teddler were also no stranger to lobby / backdor politics. One of the reasons Montgomery's reputation suffered so much was all the negative output about Monty RAF commanders in SHEAF dribbed to Eisenhower's ear. Montgomery sometimes promised more than he could deliver but RAF indeed was waging his own war at that stage.
     
  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Harris often railed against what he called "panaceas", the idea that hitting some group of targets would win or profoundly impact the war, but he was just as bad as the panacea-mongers in insisting that he had found the one true formula by which air power could win the war. When he was definitively ordered to do something like ground support or the Transportation Plan, he did it with his usual competence, but as soon as he could get away with it he sent the bombers back to his preferred targets, German cities. He adamantly opposed the "diversion" or aircraft or technologies like radar to any other mission or theater.

    For the "bomber barons" - British and American - "winning the war through strategic bombing" seemed just as important as "winning the war". It was literally inconceivable to them that bombing campaigns would not be a major element of the Allied war effort. They were fighting for shares of budgets and resources, both wartime and postwar, and of course the USAAF were fighting for the Holy Grail of airpower, an independent Air Force. Information like the Butt Report in mid-1941 ought to have forced a reconsideration of the force structure needed in the 1943-44 time frame.
     
  11. Markus Becker

    Markus Becker Member

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    He would have liked nothing more than to fight his own war but he did not. When ordered to support the invasion, attack U-boat bases or V-weapon bases he did just that. He did lobbied hard for his plan of winning the war and often got what he wanted because the decision makers agreed with his ideas.
     

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