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A calculation Flak vs. B-17


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1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

The economic cost of the bombing campaign runs to much more than the aircraft cost and that of their crews. 

I once saw a figure that said the UK spent a billion pounds on civil defence in WWII, or more than the cost of the 4 engined bombers built.

1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

They required airfields to be built, using up valuable agricultural land that could otherwise have been productively used, and additional foodstuffs imported.

The UK went from 29,359,000 acres (11,991,000 arable, 17,368,000 grass) pre war to 28,758,000 in 1945 (17,866,000 arable, 10,892,000 grass), how big are the airfields?  How many of them were in fact partially farmed?

 

In order to handle the supplies the US Army in England had just under 20 million square feet of covered storage and shops, 43.5 million square feet of open space and hard
stands, POL storage of 173,325 tons, 448,000 tons of ammunition storage, and storage for 48,350 vehicles. To the end of May 1944 the US had spent $668 million on
construction projects in England, the air force used $440 million, troop accommodation $59.2 million, hospitals $57.2 million, depots and shops $50.8 million.

 

To handle the supplies in southern France the US army opened up the never used WWI US Army depot at Mirimas, 20 miles from Marseilles. 

 

1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

except they can't travel by pipeline but on railways, contributing massively to the over-use of the railway system that ended with it being severely run-down. 

That was a deliberate policy of systematic under investment across the economy.  The loss of the road vehicle fleet as well. (Though the number of tractors etc, for the farming sector went up to about 4 times pre war in 1942, then declined.)  The rail lines saw passenger traffic decline to about two thirds pre war, freight largely static in terms of train miles but the average distance travelled went up.  There was also the stress of having to change where things were and where they needed to go, things like the shutting of the port of London.  The big stress was in the first half of 1944.

 

Then comes the military.  For Example a convoy from the US to England, in March 1944, 18 full and 24 part ship Army cargoes (1,500 vehicles on wheels, 200 cased, 200 aircraft and gliders, 50,000 tons of supplies). Eight days to discharge, 75 trains using 10,000 cars to clear, plus some road transport, these land movements also generated the
need for 27 trains with 8,000 cars for things like inter depot movements and railway supplies.

 

The US shipped around 400 locomotives to England starting in November 1942.  By 28th September 1943 there were 341 in use plus 33 in shops and 26 awaiting alterations, apparently they were shipped needing alterations, like hand brakes, which meant they were not a complete bonus, competing with the local locomotives for repair facilities.  By 15th February 1944 398 of the US locomotives were in use.  Pre war the British railways put into service around 600 locomotives a year, but for 28 months to the end of December 1941 only 359 had been built, and the government had requisitioned 378 of which 138 were lost in France.  Thanks to holding onto older, normally retired locomotives the overall drop in numbers was around 200 but the military also wanted locomotives for other theatres.  Britain raised production of steam locomotives from 272 in 1940 to 1,050 in 1944, mainly using the Austerity design, 450 of which were in service on 14th March 1944.  By the end of June some  1,720 out of the expected requirements of 3,404 locomotives for continental operations (2,270 for the US forces) have arrived in England. In addition to the locomotives the US had sent 20,351 rail
cars to the UK by 31st May 1944 for continental operations, of which 7,106 had been assembled. 

 

Operation Overlord needed a lot of the British coaster fleet and despite the plans did not return much of it, resulting in Britain hanging onto US locomotives.

 

1 hour ago, Graham Boak said:

 In a more direct manner, the diversion of more educated and ambitious servicemen meant a drop in the overall quality of the Army's personnel, and after D-Day a failure to maintain the strength of the Army on the Continent.  Montgomery's plans for the advance were thus crippled by shrinking means.  This was while unemployed airmen were sitting around unused in the UK because the suspension of the deep penetration raids had lowered the loss rate. 

The army parachute, armour and commando units had a lot to do with the distribution of personnel.  Allied airpower did a lot to reduce German army effectiveness, cutting supplies, stopping daylight movements.  The employment of bomber formations a super heavy artillery.

 

While the most obvious beneficiaries of the lack of a Luftwaffe were the allied air forces themselves, the allied armies found more airpower could be used to support them and less needed to defend them.  General Quesada, commander 9th air force, sent General Bradley a photograph taken of the area of the Normandy front line, on the German side not a thing moved, no vehicles, nothing in sight, on the allied side trucks nose to tail, dumps clearly visible and so on.  You could tell the front line by where the traffic ended, that is a lot of work to hide and disperse that the allied armies did not have to do, plus being able to move traffic efficiently instead of dispersing it in case of air attack.  The cab rank system, small formations of heavily laden aircraft, low and slow near the front line was only possible with air superiority to supremacy.

 

Essentially you can talk "opportunity cost" of A instead of B but it all connects and gains in one area usually mean losses in another.  In August 1944 the key commodity in Allied France was fuel, that in turn meant jerricans, because return policy had been changed after the invasion as the US Army leaves Normandy it leaves behind over 2 million jerricans.  That hurt the pursuit.

 

To quote R V Jones, "in the first few weeks of proximity fuse operations the average number of rounds to destroy a [V-1} bomb was 77."

 

Finally there was rarely enough allied cargo capacity, even in 1945 the capacity of the US West Coast Ports, limited by the trans  continental railway capacity, meant ships for the invasion of Japan were to be loaded in the Atlantic and Gulf ports.

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Agriculture had suffered a severe decline after WW1, and WW2 saw much marginal land being brought back into use.  The airfields were predominantly placed on prime agricultural land, and whereas airfields are good for growing hay they are of little use for most vegetables, dairy or meat farming.

 

The air superiority argument has no connection to the over-supply of bomber crews in mid-1944.  The German failure to maintain air superiority in the West was partially due to its economic constraints and partly due to poor management at the top.

 

I agree the formation of elite units in the British Army was a further drain on manpower, particularly the fitter, more aggressive and intelligent soldier that would have formed the core of the NCOs - the same problem as the Germans in principle but the Germans took it further, although more willing to place such units in the front line.  However, the basic point remains that at the very time when "feet on the ground" were most needed the British Army was having to disband the infantry units in the theatre.

 

One minor point: Austerity locomotives were of at least three designs. an 0-8-0 and an 0-10-0 goods designs, and an 0-6-0 saddletank for industrial/shunting duties.

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40 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

Agriculture had suffered a severe decline after WW1, and WW2 saw much marginal land being brought back into use.  The airfields were predominantly placed on prime agricultural land, and whereas airfields are good for growing hay they are of little use for most vegetables, dairy or meat farming.

I know the airfields took room but how much relative to the total agricultural land? Then comes the deliberate policy to upgrade things like agricultural machinery to make the sector more efficient.

40 minutes ago, Graham Boak said:

The air superiority argument has no connection to the over-supply of bomber crews in mid-1944.  The German failure to maintain air superiority in the West was partially due to its economic constraints and partly due to poor management at the top.

Air superiority tends to drive down your losses.  Large air forces tend to achieve air superiority and open up other possibilities, that Hitler chose to fight outnumbered made it easier.  How big was the aircrew overhang in mid 1944?  Part of the reason for any oversupply was invasion support, with its usually lower loss rates than when attacking targets in Germany.  In turn no one in 1943 expected an extended period of of such operations, it took quite a while before Eisenhower had control of the bomber forces and the transport plan was, at the start, often viewed as the least worst way to use the heavy bombers in support of the invasion.  Bomber Command flew around 63,199 bomb and mine sorties in 1943, 6,022 January 1944, 4,899 in February, it grew to 16,446 in June, overall an average of 12,327 sorties a month for the year.  Bomber Command started 1944 with 1,175 aircraft and 1,126 crews, giving 882 aircraft with crews, the start of 1945 it was 2,210 aircraft, 2,092 crews, 1,611 aircraft with crews, so they certainly absorbed plenty of personnel given the concept of 30 mission tours.

 

The 8th Air force for one managed to end up with 2 crews per bomber by the end of 1944, the machines could be used more often than the crews and this was a way of keeping up the operational tempo.  Meantime the US Army in France, with a really long supply line, was coping with just about all the assumed supply consumption and loss rates were wrong.  Leading to shortages across the board.   Then add the inability to open up the French ports to the capacity needed, that units engaged in port work were switched to the supply runs to the armies.  Washington was counting supplies in ships unable to be unloaded and supplies in the US earmarked for Europe as belonging to the theatre.  One of the US official histories has chapter III Port Discharge and shipping problems, followed by chapter IV Port Discharge and shipping problems (continued).  To give an idea of the shipping situation a ship, presumably loaded with medical supplies arrives in Europe on 17 August, it finally begins unloading on 10th December.  Washington reacted by cutting shipments to Europe.

 

With General MacArthur requisitioning large numbers of ships for the Philippines campaign the big guns were hauled out.  On 22nd November General MacArthur is informed the President had been notified of the world wide shipping shortage and a directive has been issued to the Joint Chiefs to take immediate action on the problem. MacArthur has around 476 ships, Europe has around 220. In Europe's case the number of ships awaiting discharge has begun to fall, down to around 130 from 190 at the start of the month, but this was mainly due to the decrease in the ships being sent. 
 

On 21st September 1944, First army replies to a request on ammunition consumption by pointing out it has never been supplied at the authorised rate and so the army is not able to determine whether the rate is adequate.

 

Not to mention the Overlord plan assumed the allies would arrive on the German border, and hence winter snow areas, in the summer of 1945, not Autumn 1944, now suddenly winter clothing was becoming important.

 

When it came to bulk fuel stocks it was a steady juggle between tanker allocations and consumption.  Tankers could be “black oil” or “white oil” and changing between the cargo types required an extensive tank cleaning.  So it was quite possible for an excess of white products like avgas to build up while stocks of naval oil fuel went down.  Fuel consumption in the UK was generally below forecasts enabling stocks to be built up even as the average weekly imports fell from around 364,000 tons/week in mid 1943 to 250,000 tons/week in the first two months of 1944.  The trouble was tankers being in such short supply once they were allocated to another run it was very hard to get them back, and consumption rose significantly in early 1944.  In the period March to May 1944 weekly imports climbed to 402,000 tons but bunker fuel levels were still below the October 1943 level and stocks of “white” products, like avgas and MT80 continued to fall.  For the first time in the war avgas consumption exceeded the forecast.  The “white” fuel stocks were still below planned levels on D-Day, the result was a major increase in shipments in the middle of the year, putting stocks well above the agreed levels, some tankers were then withdrawn and the feast/famine cycle began again.  As an aside the UK oil imports in 1938 had been an average of 223,000 tons per week.

 

Humans keep trying to predict the future despite their long and obvious track record on the subject.

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The range and depth of knowledge, and the critical thinking skills, of Britmodeller members never cease to be anything but astonishing!

I find this discussion absolutely fascinating and relevant to where I live (northern Australia).

Some other items not mentioned in regard to the air campaigns of WWII and for which I don't have figures for but would be fascinated to know if anyone does include:

 

Life jackets/preservers (Mae Wests)

 

Maintainence tools (spanners etc)

 

Books (instruction manuals, fiction paperbacks for entertainment)

 

Wristwatches

 

These things were integral to the war effort and all had to be sourced, produced, and shipped.

 

This discussion would also beg the question of how the education of the millions of men and women into technical fields affected the development of economic and societal change postwar. An air-gunner from the back-woods or slums needed to understand not only how his weapon worked but the turret as an integral of the aircraft and the basic maths of getting rounds from a moving platform into or near another moving object.

Not to mention reading paperback novels delving into various philosophical ideas they hadn't been exposed to previously because there was limited or no other entertainment. This mass education program must have had a ah-hum massive influence.

 

DennisTheBear

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I may have quoted any of Geoffrey's posts to comment, they are all equally enlightening. And all these statistics point to a most important aspect of WW2, or any other large scale war of the industrial era: the huge quantities of resources of all kind needed to conduct and win such a war !

When looking at these figures, suddenly the more technical aspects we tend to focus on become much less important. Considering the resources that the Allies could field against the ones available to the Axis powers, would it have made much difference for Germany to field a type of tank instead of another ? Would it have made much difference if the Bf.109G was better or worse than the Spitfire IX ? Maybe such things would have changed the loss ratio by a small margin, but in the end the superior resources of the Allies would have still won the war.

 

Edited by Giorgio N
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24 minutes ago, Giorgio N said:

I may have quoted any of Geoffrey's posts to comment, they are all equally enlightening. And all these statistics point to a most important aspect of WW2, or any other large scale war of the industrial era: the huge quantities of resources of all kind needed to conduct and win such a war !

When looking at these figures, suddenly the more technical aspects we tend to focus on become much less important. Considering the resources that the Allies could field against the ones available to the Axis powers, would it have made much difference for Germany to field a type of tank instead of another ? Would it have made much difference if the Bf.109G was better or worse than the Spitfire IX ? Maybe such things would have changed the loss ratio by a small margin, but in the end the superior resources of the Allies would have still won the war.

 

Giorgio

this is exactly the point being made by the historian James Holland in the recent books written by him. 
John

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9 hours ago, Giorgio N said:

When looking at these figures, suddenly the more technical aspects we tend to focus on become much less important. Considering the resources that the Allies could field against the ones available to the Axis powers, would it have made much difference for Germany to field a type of tank instead of another ? Would it have made much difference if the Bf.109G was better or worse than the Spitfire IX ? Maybe such things would have changed the loss ratio by a small margin, but in the end the superior resources of the Allies would have still won the war.

The quantity has a quality of its own saying.  Brute Force by Ellis, the title makes the conclusions clear about the WWII allied way of making war.  Yet inferior quality tends to up costs, including in human terms.

 

In many ways WWII was the radio war.  In 1940, the average British infantry division had 75 radios, most morse, versus nearly 1,000 in 1944, despite having around the same firepower in 1944 as 1940, organisation matters.

 

The average quality of the Red Army and post 1941/42 Red Air Force equipment was often comparable or even better than what opposed them, yet look at the casualty ratio.  The average training, command and control systems were usually well in favour of the Axis, particularly radios.  The days of moving behind a Soviet tank/aircraft formation and attacking the rear elements safe in that there was little way for the rear elements to warn others or were allowed to deviate from the mission despite the new threat.

 

Yet the equipment matters, imagine the 1941 RAF flying Bristol Bulldogs or Hawker Hunters.  At some point, particularly in fighters, the performance gap becomes too much, if you like you start paying for inferiority with extra casualties and as the gap widens it makes things effectively impossible.   In 1941 over France the Luftwaffe managed something like 3 to 1 fighter versus fighter loss ratios, down to 2 to 1 in 1942, thanks to a combination of better equipment, better trained pilots, better tactics, fighting over friendly territory and a situation where it did not have to engage unless the environment was good.  Similar for the Western Desert.  Even in 1941 over France the Spitfire V was in trouble, in 1943 it did better, the arrival of a viable bomber force meant the Luftwaffe now had to engage and also shoot down numbers of bombers, not just fighters.  It also helped the Spitfire IX looked the same unless you were up close.

 

The USN discovered how dangerous particularly the first combat sortie was to aircrew and made changes, you need to be inflicting personnel casualties on highly trained opponents or else expect to take disproportionate losses over time to the more experienced opponent.

 

How well would the western allied air assault in 1944 have gone flying Hurricanes and Kittyhawks?  At least they would have needed lots of bombers and active ground operations to keep allied air casualties down.  There is of course no right answer.  And humans have a way of getting around limitations and squandering advantages.

 

8 hours ago, JohnT said:

this is exactly the point being made by the historian James Holland in the recent books written by him.

Went to his web site.

 

The page for “BIG WEEK It was to be the battle to end the air war, once and for all…" was not inspiring, given known bomb tonnages, casualties etc.  January to May 1944.  I hope the book mentions the way the USAAF kept attacking throughout the winter of 1943/44, denying what had been until then a yearly winter period for the Luftwaffe day fighter force to rest and rebuild, and so setting the scene for the spring fighting.  Also Bomber Command dropped 10,000 tons of bombs on Duisberg in 1 day later in 1944.

 

His Battle of Britain page is more detailed.  Some problems.  What seems to be missing is the fundamental flaw driving the decision to try and invade Britain in mid 1940.  That airpower was really as good as it was thought to be pre war, everyone was saying how decisive the Luftwaffe was in May and June.  So one attack should be enough to destroy or badly damage a target, operations to support the invasion, like attacking bomber airfields, ports etc. could be started early, with the bonus of giving the defence more targets to worry about protecting and so on.

 

French failings should be allied failings.  “Only sixteen of the 135 divisions used in the attack were mechanized and only these elite few were the highly trained units of popular perception.” Apparently the German infantry did not have highly trained or elite units.  With the experience of Poland the Heer had done a lot of corrective training over the winter.  “transport aircraft, losses which, due to slow German aircraft production, would put pay to any airborne invasion of Britain” rather ignores the transport units had over 400 aircraft as of end June.  The Dutch made sure all the paratroopers they captured were shipped to Britain as well as doing a nice line in destroying aircraft, plus the Luftwaffe pilots deciding the mission was more important than the aircraft..  Also the Luftwaffe lost 10 Ju-87 over the Dunkirk pocket 27 May to 2 June, from 807 sorties, 1.2% losses, the twin engine bombers 4.5%, the Bf109 1.8%, the Bf110 2% but it is the Ju-87 whose limits show up at Dunkirk?  Maybe Luftwaffe escort tactics?

 

"with aircraft production newly energized by the press baron, Lord Beaverbrook"  Or rather the fact Gloster had opened the second Hurricane production line in 1939 and Vickers the second Spitfire line in June 1940, the latter pushed by Beaverbrook, and everyone going onto emergency overtime.  Add the increasing arrival of the Beaufighter, Defiant and Whirlwind.  Fighter production, Jan-40, 157; Feb-40, 149; Mar-40, 177; Apr-40, 256; May-40, 325; Jun-40, 446

 

"Moreover, Göring’s concerns for the safety of his airfields were justifiable, because Bomber Command was sending aircraft to attack them every day.  German diaries are riddled with references to this. ‘The British are slowly getting on our nerves,’ Ulrich Steinhilper, a fighter pilot based near Calais wrote to his mother in September, ‘because of their persistent activity, our AA guns are virtually continuous use and so we can hardly close our eyes.’"

 

July 1940 The 292 Bomber Command day sorties to occupied countries included 210 to airfields (130 France, 58 Belgium), and 68 against ships and ports (44 Holland, 12 Denmark, 9 France)

August 1940.  The 338 sorties to occupied countries were all to airfields, 32 Belgium, 10 Britain (Channel Islands), 79 France, 95 Holland and 86 to "Europe".  The latter being sorties where no definitive target is given, rather an area is specified that usually is a mixture of Belgium, Holland and/or France.

September 1940.  The 186 sorties to occupied countries have 162 anti invasion, that is sorties against warships, merchant ships and ports.  These comprised 32 to Belgium, 50 "Europe", 44 France and 36 Holland.  Another 24 sorties were sent to airfields (4 Belgium, 10 France, 10 Holland).  Sorties against airfields essentially ceased on 8 September, anti invasion sorties began on 9 September.

 

When you divide the sorties by the number of airfields it is not a great deal per airfield but it was important in forcing the Luftwaffe to allocate units to defence.  Similar for the day sorties to Germany during the period.

 

"Messerschmitt 109E, ... crucially, had the ability to dive faster than either of the British fighters, "  Actually it could accelerate in and into a dive quicker and so disengage that way, the Spitfire had the higher limiting mach number.  I thought a 1940 fighter Staffel had 9 aircraft, not 12.  One reason Park was worried in early September 1940 was the loss ratio was heading towards parity.

 

The Germans also granted their pilots leave.  Remember the mindset of 1940, the Germans seemed to just need that one last push to win big, the British just had to survive.  Memories of the Miracle of the Marne come into play.  Also Appendix 17 of the Narrow Margin shows the RAF fighters were flying 2 to 4 times the number of sorties as the German ones in September and October 1940.

 

“While Dowding and Park constantly worked to sharpen both tactics and performance, Luftwaffe strategy became increasingly woolly. “ The RAF had a lot to learn about fighter tactics, throughout the battle they kept reporting vics of German fighters, not pairs or fours.  Meantime the Luftwaffe figured out the task was harder and reduced the target list to concentrate on Fighter Command, direction finding told them where the ground controllers were, on the RAF airfields (in above ground wooden huts) when noting airfield damage Park was much more concerned about loss of controller ability than anything else. The Luftwaffe deployed its radio navigation aids and increased night bombing, while upping the fighter to bomber ratio for day raids and changing escort tactics and raid sequencing.  Bombing aircraft factories.

 

“The stated aim of the Luftwaffe remained to destroy the RAF as a precursor to invasion – yet bombing London was in no way contributing to that primary goal”.  The attacks on London drew every RAF fighter within range, setting up the sort of mass combats that would inflict mass casualties (ignoring it is generally safer to be in a big air combat than a little one) and those combats happened, the Luftwaffe lost.

 

“As September gave way to October and still there seemed to be as many British fighters in the skies as ever, the Luftwaffe’s troubles grew progressively worse.  There were now over 700 British single-engine fighters, but the Luftwaffe was down to around 300."  The Luftwaffe strength figure is a joke.  13 July 1940, 1,077 single engine fighters, 899 serviceable, 28 September 932/721, 26 October 917/710.  Luftwaffe Quartermaster figures.  It is true the Luftwaffe suffered a greater drop in numbers and probably pilot quality than the RAF.  Talk of using captured French fighters due to a lack of Bf109s.

 

The evolution of the loss ratio, all causes

July 108 Spitfire and Hurricanes to 57 Bf109s, 1.9 to 1

August 350 to 232, about 1.5 to 1

September, 343 to 234, about 1.5 to 1

October, 174 to 136 (removing the training unit Bf109s), 1.28 to 1.

 

Switching to losses on operations that were definitely or possibly due to enemy fighters the results look like

July 73 Spitfires and Hurricanes (Including 19 crashes, many related to night fighter training and 1 unknown), to 43 Bf109 (2 crashes, 2 unknown)

August 242 Spitfires and Hurricanes (8 crashes, 7 unknown), to 185 Bf109 (4 crashes, 18 unknown)

September 267 Spitfires and Hurricanes (5 crashes, 18 unknown), to 195 Bf109 (8 crashes, 3 unknown)

October 117 Spitfires and Hurricanes (24 crashes, 3 unknown), to 112 Bf109 (9 crashes, 1 unknown)

 

“In reality, however, it was not just the RAF, heroically though they undoubtedly fought, but the Luftwaffe itself that had caused the damage."  What about the RAF self inflicted losses?

 

"Hitler had always intended to invade the Soviet Union at some point – … – but with the failure to beat Britain in 1940, he began turning his thoughts to a strike the following summer, "  Planning began in July 1940 as “Otto” after the fall of France, after all France held out in WWI whereas Russia did not and every Nazi and many others knew communism had weakened the country.

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I have a book "Britains war machine" by David Edgerton. Without quoting as extensively as @Geoffrey Sinclair is able to, the conclusion PM Churchill came to when he analysed the situation as he came into office, was that Britain and the Commonwealth would be able to outproduce Germany in terms of war materiel. So no reason to ask for peace.

 

That waste would occur was a given thing

 

/Finn

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As a summary:

Resources and not technology is the key to success.

Mass production instead of cutting edge of technology.

If you encompass the world you can change the availability of resources to one party side and influence the outcome of the game.

Conclusion to shift the European war to a World War made it to win for the Allies.

 

Each weapon was a matter of mass production and not quality.

 

The V1 and V2 over London could have been a game changer.

 

The operation research which is in this post opened is great. All of you THANK YOU!

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On 3/11/2021 at 12:11 PM, Graham Boak said:

The economic cost of the bombing campaign runs to much more than the aircraft cost and that of their crews.  They required airfields to be built, using up valuable agricultural land that could otherwise have been productively used, and additional foodstuffs imported.  These airfields required manning, the men requiring training in newly-built training bases.  The fuel is required to be imported on tankers and transports through U-boat infested-waters, and then transferred by a new pipeline across the UK to the bases in the South East. Ditto their bombs and ammunitions, except they can't travel by pipeline but on railways, contributing massively to the over-use of the railway system that ended with it being severely run-down.  The use of green pigment in aircraft camouflage meant that it was banned from Army and Navy use: which presumably cost something in substitution and additional losses through the results being less efficient: although this would be incredibly difficult to measure.  All of this effort was directed away from productive use to fund the economy and hence pay for the war.  In a more direct manner, the diversion of more educated and ambitious servicemen meant a drop in the overall quality of the Army's personnel, and after D-Day a failure to maintain the strength of the Army on the Continent.  Montgomery's plans for the advance were thus crippled by shrinking means.  This was while unemployed airmen were sitting around unused in the UK because the suspension of the deep penetration raids had lowered the loss rate.  

 

Similar features can be seen elsewhere of course: the growth of the SS and other elite units in the Wehrmacht left the average German unit considerably weakened in the important junior NCO ranks.  It has been mentioned how the diversion of resources to flak guns meant fewer AT guns and tanks, although I must admit not seeing a simple relationship between the two, and feeling that a simple ton for ton exchange is too simplified.  A more complex relationship must exist, though probably too complex for reasonable analysis.

An excellent summary of the challenges facing the UK during the war and the immense, nation bleeding, costs of the bomber offensive.  It still astonishes me that Arthur Harris was not properly challenged by those supposedly in authority when his dogmatic  narrow focus on strategic bombing - as he saw it - seriously impacted other vital areas. It makes it very clear that there was a lot of doubt and ignorance in high political circles. A dogmatic and determined officer, Harris was allowed far too free a rein!  

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On 3/11/2021 at 1:11 PM, Graham Boak said:

The economic cost of the bombing campaign runs to much more than the aircraft cost and that of their crews.

 

True, I've found an interesting dissertation a while ago (maybe it was even here on BM) which is dealing with the economic costs of the British strategic bomber campaign: https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/handle/2123/664/adt-NU20050104.11440202whole.pdf;jsessionid=3E92029EBFED3FE70C2FE698BA42419E?sequence=2

 

According to this thesis, the strategic air offensive cost Britain a whopping £2.78 billion (today £120.76 billion) in total. The "Conclusion" at the end of the document alone makes for an interesting read as it breaks down this number further and puts this spendings into perspective to the achieved outcome.

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The whole business of war production and the delivery of that production to those on the front line has begun to fascinate me in recent years. In particular how US production of ships, aircraft and tanks just swamped everyone else. Oil, and the transport of it around the world, has caught my attention. Without that almost nothing would have been possible. The quantities involved are simply staggering.

 

When it comes to aviation I’d recommend “Bases of Air Strategy, Building Airfields for the RAF 1914-1945” by Robin Higham published back in 1998. It looks at the whole world position and throws up a lot of stats and problems you never thought of (railways in India using different gauges east and west of the Brahmaputra River necessitating trans-shipment of goods). A few examples for Britain:-

 

Numbers of airfields under construction grew from 158 in 1939 to 353 in 1941 and further to support USAAF needs from 1942. From a 1934 total of 52 U.K. airfields the total grew to approx 750 by 1945. One of the best examples of reverse Lend lease.

 

In 1936 RAF fuel reserves were 8,000 tons, enough for 10 days war supply. By 1938 this had grown to 800,000 tons of aviation spirit and 50,000 tons of oil, and in Jan 1941 to 940,000 tons, Jan 1942 1,110,000 tons and by Sept 1943 to somewhere between 1.337m and 2.090m tons (sources vary on exact figure). Virtually all of that was being brought from N & S American and Caribbean oilfields. 100 octane aviation fuel production in the U.K. rose from 587k tons in 1942 to 2.009m tons in 1945. In the US it rose from 7.196m tons in 1943 to 19.239m tons in 1945.

 

And all of that fuel needed to be moved from the refineries to the airfields, and eventually to airfields on the continent. So a network of pipelines were laid in both the US and the U.K. and with PLUTO across the Channel. Add to that the numbers of rail cars needed and road tankers.

 

A prewar Airfield covered about 550-600 acres of usually prime arable land. In wartime that grew due to the need for dispersed sites. There were regular fights between the Air Ministry, Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries, Ministry of Food and individual landowners about their placement. In 1939 only 9 U.K. airfields had concrete runways. By the end of the war most had. And as new larger aircraft types entered service they needed lengthened (look at the extra taxiway loops and runway extensions on most WW2 airfields), widened and strengthened. Mechanisation helped immensely in achieving that, moving huge amounts of earth (500k cubic yards per Airfield on average), concrete etc that could not have been dreamed of by gangs of navvies prewar. All required miles of drains, heating, ventilation and electric cabling. Then add all the buildings needed. A copy of Paul Francis’ “British Military Airfield Architecture from Airships to the Jet Age” gives an idea of the variety from control towers and hangars to huts for living accommodation as well as specialised buildings for particular purposes like bombing, torpedo and gunnery training, usually to standardised designs.

 

Someone mentioned tractors on farms in Britain. 1942 = 117k. 1944 = 203k. Plus 122k tractor drawn ploughs (& 70k horse drawn. Horses were still a major part of the rural economy). The number of harrows, grubbers and cultivators grew from 196k to 1.5m in the same period.

 

In relation to the RN need for oil up to 1939 I came upon this which may be of interest.

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/2932258/408161.pdf

One of the appendices gives figures for the oil fuel storage the Admiralty had in the run up to WW2 and the plans to expand and protect it.

 

The US industrial effort is simply staggering. 50k Sherman tanks produced in just over 3 years (17k to Britain). The 27k ton carrier USS Essex laid down in April 1941 for completion in March 1944, actually completed in Dec 1942, with most of that acceleration occurring after Pearl Harbor. Plus 16 sister ships completed by June 1945 with more building. 500+ T2 tankers to move all that oil about. 18k Liberator bombers (the most produced 4 engined heavy of WW2) in 4 years, most after PH. This site about the US automobile industry in WW2 is enlightening highlighting as it does the non vehicle / aircraft things they produced.

http://usautoindustryworldwartwo.com

 

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Fascinating reading.  I would like to add that when asking oneself why were certain strategies pursued when they were perhaps uneconomic to do the word politics - or rather Geo-politics - comes to mind.  Both Churchill and FDR were much better at that than Hitler who was frankly pretty useless at it.  

 

It goes a long way to explain the massive Allied build and use of Air Power and the strategic air offensive in Europe.  In the short to medium time scale opening a land offensive was simply not possible and there was a real concern that the Russians might just come to a separate peace with the Germans.  Absent the much demanded "second front" the western allies had to do something.  As it was Stalin was pretty antsy over what he thought was a lack of action and the West allowing the Soviets to bleed white instead.

 

On the matter of weapons and costs we have all read of the costs of manufacture of the German MG42 which in turn was cheaper than the MG 34.  On some views the manufacturing costs plus the logistics of wear and ammunition usage from the high rate of fire would argue against its use.  My late father who was often on the receiving end of one and who had a close enough call to leave a burn mark on his chest had a different perspective however.

 

He also spent some time in Italy and Sicily fighting close by the Americans before the Normandy campaign.  He noted a different style.  If being held up by a sniper the British solution was to send a guy in to sort him out.  The US solution was less profligate with manpower but more so with munitions and the area where the sniper was thought to be was often hit with mortar or artillery/tank fire if available.  Sending guys in was the last option.  

 

In all three examples (Brit, US and German) he noted different styles of fighting and he knew which he preferred to be on the receiving end of while never once admitting of course that his unit was inferior in fighting skill or results to anyone else..

 

 

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The United States Strategic Bombing Survey Reports from Europe and Japan gave me a good picture of the overall situation.

From the German side I have it all around from my home in Austria.

In my life I was confronted with the results of the war.

The fruit of peace and the fruit of economy.

The todays knowledge about the war and war industry and many other stories behind changed this picture.

As all your posts showed me interesting facets from the British point of view.

Now a big step to todays discussion about world climate, so I assume that this war was the trigger for the economy to ruin our planet.

The Allies succeeded, but is the price which we will have to pay and future generations justified?

Happy modelling

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4 hours ago, EwenS said:

The whole business of war production and the delivery of that production to those on the front line has begun to fascinate me in recent years. In particular how US production of ships, aircraft and tanks just swamped everyone else. Oil, and the transport of it around the world, has caught my attention. Without that almost nothing would have been possible. The quantities involved are simply staggering.

A few years back I read a fascinating book about allied oil production and its strategic challenges during the war - I wish I could remember the name of it. (maybe you know it Ewen?) 

As oilfields and refineries became  harder to use or fell into other hands, some extraordinary efforts had to be made to blend usable fuels. This sometimes involved specific tankers ferrying particular crudes of a high strategic chemical mix value to allow blendings.  Individual vessel journeys were occasionally strategically vital ; losses could have meant major supply problems in some cases, There was some superb chemical engineering work done behind the scenes as well as superb logistical planning and execution involved! 

 

It also made clear how much our aircraft performance depended on the higher octane fuels we could get access to or make.

 

 

Thank you for the references Ewen - interesting stuff in there. 

John B

Edited by John B (Sc)
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16 minutes ago, John B (Sc) said:

A few years back I read a fascinating book about allied oil production and its strategic challenges during the war - I wish I could remember the name of it. (maybe you know it Ewen?) 

As oilfields and refineries became  harder to use or fell into other hands, some extraordinary efforts had to be made to blend usable fuels. This sometimes involved specific tankers ferrying particular crudes of a high strategic chemical mix value to allow blendings.  Individual vessel journeys were occasionally strategically vital ; losses could have meant major supply problems in some cases, There was some superb chemical engineering work done behind the scenes as well as superb logistical planning and execution involved! 

 

It also made clear how much our aircraft performance depended on the higher octane fuels we could get access to or make.

 

 

Thank you for the references Ewen - interesting stuff in there. 

John B

Was this it?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/068806115X/?coliid=I17UX11I67EQGT&colid=I38YUH7DZNUG&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

 

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15 hours ago, Geoffrey Sinclair said:

The quantity has a quality of its own saying.  Brute Force by Ellis, the title makes the conclusions clear about the WWII allied way of making war.  Yet inferior quality tends to up costs, including in human terms.

 

In many ways WWII was the radio war.  In 1940, the average British infantry division had 75 radios, most morse, versus nearly 1,000 in 1944, despite having around the same firepower in 1944 as 1940, organisation matters.

 

The average quality of the Red Army and post 1941/42 Red Air Force equipment was often comparable or even better than what opposed them, yet look at the casualty ratio.  The average training, command and control systems were usually well in favour of the Axis, particularly radios.  The days of moving behind a Soviet tank/aircraft formation and attacking the rear elements safe in that there was little way for the rear elements to warn others or were allowed to deviate from the mission despite the new threat.

 

Yet the equipment matters, imagine the 1941 RAF flying Bristol Bulldogs or Hawker Hunters.  At some point, particularly in fighters, the performance gap becomes too much, if you like you start paying for inferiority with extra casualties and as the gap widens it makes things effectively impossible.   In 1941 over France the Luftwaffe managed something like 3 to 1 fighter versus fighter loss ratios, down to 2 to 1 in 1942, thanks to a combination of better equipment, better trained pilots, better tactics, fighting over friendly territory and a situation where it did not have to engage unless the environment was good.  Similar for the Western Desert.  Even in 1941 over France the Spitfire V was in trouble, in 1943 it did better, the arrival of a viable bomber force meant the Luftwaffe now had to engage and also shoot down numbers of bombers, not just fighters.  It also helped the Spitfire IX looked the same unless you were up close.

 

The USN discovered how dangerous particularly the first combat sortie was to aircrew and made changes, you need to be inflicting personnel casualties on highly trained opponents or else expect to take disproportionate losses over time to the more experienced opponent.

 

How well would the western allied air assault in 1944 have gone flying Hurricanes and Kittyhawks?  At least they would have needed lots of bombers and active ground operations to keep allied air casualties down.  There is of course no right answer.  And humans have a way of getting around limitations and squandering advantages.

 

 

 

Of course a serious difference in equipment can make a huge impact, I am not advocating here the idea that Britain could have won the war using Hurricanes over Europe in 1944, Still even with equipment superior to what they fielded, I believe the Germany would have lost the war anyway, unless they could have fielded something that could have really turned the tables.

Not that Germany didn't introduce certain weapons that actually were game changers, for example the "sturmgewehr", but something like that could have a real effect on the outcome of the war anyway. The Me.262 was also potentially a game changer, but again with such limited numbers the impact was not sufficient. Maybe had this become operational earlier, when the production capability was still intact, it would have made a difference. Maybe... or maybe if would have just spurred a quicker introduction of similar types by the Allies,

Really the only kind of weapon that could have changed the situation for Germany that I can think of is probably the atomic bomb, as even with a limited number of these Germany could have completely changed the power balance. Anything else would have at best delayed the end.

 

A bit OT, I totally agree with your view on the radio, even more when looking at the experience of the Italian army and air forces in WW2, that were desperately inferior to German, British and US forces in this respect. Many times the lack of effective communications led to bad results both on the ground and in the air war. Italian forces also lacked radar technology and this also caused serious problems and losses, particularly in naval engagements.

 

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18 hours ago, dov said:

Resources and not technology is the key to success.

Mass production instead of cutting edge of technology.

If you encompass the world you can change the availability of resources to one party side and influence the outcome of the game.

Conclusion to shift the European war to a World War made it to win for the Allies.

 

Each weapon was a matter of mass production and not quality.

 

The V1 and V2 over London could have been a game changer.

It is a combination of resources and technology, you can substitute one for the other to an extent, the combination continually varies depending on the situation and what people know.

 

Mass production is rarely cutting edge, because by the time mass production is set up there is a new cutting edge option.  Sort of like the statement WWII was (largely) fought with obsolete aircraft, there was always something better around.

 

Control of resources is important, the Japanese captured most of the world’s rubber supply, the US synthetic rubber program was bigger than the Manhattan Project.

The shift to a world war came about by the Fall of France, which inspired Italy and Japan to enter.  Germany versus Britain and France alone would be a long term win for the allies at a much lower cost.  In 1939 light metals and oil were much more important than in WWI, Germany’s ability to build and use modern weapons from local resources was decreasing.

 

There is quality, the item is fit for purpose and durable, and there is performance, the two are separate, a well made Bristol Bulldog would not be of much combat use in 1940.

As for V-1 and V-2 as game changers that can apply to any weapon depending on the what if, however note for example the historical V-2 program used about a third of Germany's alcohol production, including potato alcohol, so ramping it up to game changer status requires a lot of adjustments, and then comes accuracy, London was important but most British direct war production was elsewhere.

18 hours ago, John B (Sc) said:

It still astonishes me that Arthur Harris was not properly challenged by those supposedly in authority when his dogmatic  narrow focus on strategic bombing - as he saw it - seriously impacted other vital areas. It makes it very clear that there was a lot of doubt and ignorance in high political circles. A dogmatic and determined officer, Harris was allowed far too free a rein!  

Simply put no one on the allied side had enough information to be sure enough Harris was wrong enough.

 

The allied bombing campaign in Europe certainly has a lot of passionate views, mostly around Arthur Harris.  It was a major step into the unknown, no one had tried to fly that many aircraft over those sorts of distances at those sorts of heights.  Early on new weather phenomena reports were regular.

 

In terms of actual operations the allies rarely received accurate reports of damage done, and economic intelligence was a weak area anyway.  The oil campaign was helped by the Luftwaffe reporting its fuel situation to units.  The ideas about key bottlenecks ran into the fact war economies were millions of workers and human ingenuity in working around shortages by things like substitution or redesign for example, plus the contingency stockpiling.  Everyone underestimated the amount of attack needed and the reality was if the bad guys retained possession of the area things could be repaired.  The USBS notes the oil campaign was like a multi round boxing match and in the end a number of weeks work could have put much of Germany’s oil system back into major production.  In 1940 three Whitleys carrying 3.5 tons of bombs were considered enough to do real damage to the Wessling oil plant, in 1944 it was 200 aircraft with 1,000 tons of bombs.

 

The bomb tonnages used for the oil campaign was comparable to the total 1943 tonnage dropped by Bomber Command and the Eighth Air Force combined  The campaign itself was very end loaded, in terms of bombs dropped on Germany Bomber Command reached its half way point at the end of September 1944, for the Eighth Air Force is was mid November 1944.

 

The fall back for the allies was using the reports of the damage done by raids on Britain, which showed that it was the disruption to the workforce that caused the most loss, things like machine tools could survive even near misses but fire would ruin them, the distortion from heat.  Next comes the allies continually increased the definition of flyable weather, but the worse the whether the worse the bombing was the usual result.

 

The USAAF daylight visual bombing attack on Huls, June 22 1943, which was a 541 acre site, or 0.845 square miles, the bombs were dropped over an area of 12 square miles, with 20 to 25% in the plant.  The damage caused, given how rubber burns, was very high and the strike is considered one of the best in terms of economic effects.  It also cost about 10% of the attacking bombers.

 

To around the end of 1943 Arthur Harris actually held the most realistic appreciation of what the heavy bombers could do, they were a blunt instrument that would need to destroy most things to stop a war economy, or at least destroy the things you really wanted to destroy.  His end the war without an invasion plan, The Battle of Berlin was a clear failure. He largely failed to understand what the accuracy results from the invasion support bombings meant for attacks on Germany once the ground based navigation aids were set up near the French/German border, yet was quite supportive of the 3 Group G-H raids on the smaller oil plants in the Ruhr.  In 1944/45 Harris was also more supportive of Eisenhower than Spaatz.  When you look at the number of Bomber Command area attacks in 1944/45 versus the USAAF attacks through total or near total cloud cover they are about the same.  Bomber Command knocked out all the oil targets assigned to it by November 1944, it was Portal asking for more to be assigned, not Harris.

17 hours ago, Shorty84 said:

True, I've found an interesting dissertation a while ago (maybe it was even here on BM) which is dealing with the economic costs of the British strategic bomber campaign: https://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/bitstream/handle/2123/664/adt-NU20050104.11440202whole.pdf;jsessionid=3E92029EBFED3FE70C2FE698BA42419E?sequence=2

 

According to this thesis, the strategic air offensive cost Britain a whopping £2.78 billion (today £120.76 billion) in total. The "Conclusion" at the end of the document alone makes for an interesting read as it breaks down this number further and puts this spendings into perspective to the achieved outcome.

It is a nice thesis, like all attempts it has problems with things like the actual cost of military equipment and for example 893 was the British military aircraft production in 1935, there were civil types being built.  It has the Boeing B-17 as being equivalent to £64,637 while the average price paid by the MAP for a Lancaster during World War II was £31,985. The US price seems to be the 1942 one, at $4 to the pound, USAAF Statistical Digest B-17 costs, $301,221 in 1939/41, $258,949 in 1942, $204,370 in 1944 and $187,742 in 1945.  Also note the US practice of modification centres, the fly away cost does not seem to include any post factory changes.  Similarly what the MAP paid for is a question, including Appendix A and Embodiment Loan items.  AVIA 15/950 1941 Treasury budget for 400 Lancasters was 17,700,000 pounds, or 44,250 pounds each.  AVIA 10/267 201st Lancaster estimated to require 74,319 man hours, Halifax 98,246, Stirling 129,944.  Then note the average British worker was paid less than the equivalent US worker.  Ford Willow Run was the most productive B-24 line, but also the most expensive, largely because it had the most extensive tooling.   Aircraft runs were too small versus automobile ones to justify similar tooling.

 

AIR 20/1981 has the Hurricane at approximately 8,000 pounds each in April 1942 and 21,000 pounds for a Beaufighter, and the Kittyhawk price, including freight from the US as approximately 15,500 pounds.  AVIA 15/950 in mid 1941 quotes the Hurricane at 8,500 pounds, the Spitfire 10,123 pounds

 

During the 1930's few aircraft firms were designing for efficient mass production and in any case the continual need for changes made it hard to justify extensive tooling, it is also clear some designs were cheaper to build than others, though again that has to be qualified to mean the airframe, not the engines, propellers, guns and electronics.  US Archives Record Group 18 Entry 10 Box 68, for 28 February 1943 P-40 cost, Airframe $26,709, Engine $7,714, Propeller $2,635, Government Furnished Equipment $2,068, Ordnance $2,646, Communications $2,904, Total $44,676.  (Or around 11,000 pounds)

8 hours ago, Giorgio N said:

Of course a serious difference in equipment can make a huge impact, I am not advocating here the idea that Britain could have won the war using Hurricanes over Europe in 1944, 

My apologies if my reply implied the above.  I was trying to address the topic in a generic way.

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What can we learn out of it?

 

Let us assume that around 1938 all countries in the world were trading and maintaining free trade. What would the world have looked like then?

Peaceful or so warlike?

 

In order to avoid major wars in the future, all human beings must have wide-ranging needs.

Oil is still an important resource today, but as electro mobility increases, it will be the materials for batteries.

Now that all of mankind is using computers and smartphones on a large scale, the materials for making them are in short supply.

Even today we are militarily securing these areas where the material is mined.

 

Only free trade without export bans can secure global peace?

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14 hours ago, Giorgio N said:

Of course a serious difference in equipment can make a huge impact, I am not advocating here the idea that Britain could have won the war using Hurricanes over Europe in 1944, Still even with equipment superior to what they fielded, I believe the Germany would have lost the war anyway, unless they could have fielded something that could have really turned the tables.

Not that Germany didn't introduce certain weapons that actually were game changers, for example the "sturmgewehr", but something like that could have a real effect on the outcome of the war anyway. The Me.262 was also potentially a game changer, but again with such limited numbers the impact was not sufficient. Maybe had this become operational earlier, when the production capability was still intact, it would have made a difference. Maybe... or maybe if would have just spurred a quicker introduction of similar types by the Allies,

Really the only kind of weapon that could have changed the situation for Germany that I can think of is probably the atomic bomb, as even with a limited number of these Germany could have completely changed the power balance. Anything else would have at best delayed the end.

Numerical superiority is only of use if your equipment and tactics are more or less on the same level as the ones of your opponent. A good example are the Soviets at the beginning of "Operation Barbarossa". While their equipment (aircraft, tanks, ...) outnumbered the Germans sometimes by a huge margin they could not make use of this fact as their equipment and tactics were inferior compared to the Germans. Only in 1942/43 the tide turned as their tactics and equipment improved, and they could make use of their superior numbers.

 

The main failure of the Germans was that they relied on too many "White Elephants". While equipment like the Me 262, V-1, V-2, Tiger II, ... were outperforming most of their opponents or had no equivalent, they mostly came too late and in too little numbers to make a meaningful contribution to the overall picture. To top this, they were often expensive, hard to maintain, requiring specialized tools and personnel and drew much needed resources which were required elsewhere. They were so invested to produce the next "revolutionary" weapon system that they did not take enough emphasize on mass-producing the equipment on hand, spreading their resources too thin.

 

The Allies on the other hand did exactly that, making sure to produce their equipment in huge numbers, even if it may was not the best in the world. A good example is the M4 Sherman tank. It was for sure not the best tank in the world but good enough and its relative ease of production allowed large numbers to be built, and significant investment in logistics (tank recovery and repair units) allowed disabled vehicles to be repaired and returned to service quickly. These factors, combined with numerical superiority, gave them the upper hand. It's better to have 10 average tanks than one "Supertank".

 

It is an interesting question what the Allies would have done if the Germans had "the bomb". Would they have stopped to negotiate peace or would they have pressed on even more to bring them down even faster, ensuring they could not use it (again)? In the end I guess they would have known that the Germans may only had one or two bombs at most (as the US) and in 1945 they were so close to win the war that I think they would have done everything to advance faster, even if the Germans had managed to hit, for example, London. But that is all quite what-if....

 

4 hours ago, dov said:

Only free trade without export bans can secure global peace?

So true, but unfortunately we are seeing the opposite happening. Building borders is en vogue again.

 

Cheers

Markus

 

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If it is the number which counts, and not the perfect technology to win a war.

But there is one thing more which counts. Information. Information, deciphering, radio, radar all the electronic devices made the main input in the war.

Beside this the mass production. Consider the BB or Mid Way without deciphering?

 

And they need the courage to take measures that disturb the opponent.

In 1940, for example, Germany decided not to use the foil strips, to disturb British radar.

With the argument that knowing about it could lead to disrupting German radar.

Or to think the opponent is stupid that he cannot come up with it himself. By itself.

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21 hours ago, EwenS said:

 

It could well have been that one Ewen - thanks. Shall hunt around.

 

'Geoffrey Sinclair' - I agree about the lack of reliable information, as far as bombing effectiveness was concerned. No-one knew, and later on they were horrified at how ineffective and 'blunt' it was.   Quite agree Portal also bears a burden in this..

 

I was thinking more of those who were supposed to think in true strategic terms - CIGS and  Churchill, who were along with the Sea Lords very concerned about the Atlantic U boat war, which very nearly defeated Britain.  The lack of patrol aircraft and the use of obsolescent types in Coastal for far too long was astonishing. Releasing a few squadrons of Lancasters to Coastal would have made a huge difference, much greater than losing them over Germany.  Just the equivalent of  a few nights losses...

 

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@Geoffrey Sinclairno need to apologise, on the contrary your very interesting comments have generated a lot more thoughts in my mind. They have also reinforced my view that whenever we look at an aircraft or any other weapon it is vital to understand the socio-economic system in which this is conceived, designed, built and used. Something that too often we enthusiasts tend to forget preferring instead to focus on the "basic performance" figures

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On 13/03/2021 at 19:51, John B (Sc) said:

 

+++ and  Churchill, who were along with the Sea Lords very concerned about the Atlantic U boat war, which very nearly defeated Britain.  The lack of patrol aircraft and the use of obsolescent types in Coastal for far too long was astonishing. Releasing a few squadrons of Lancasters to Coastal would have made a huge difference, much greater than losing them over Germany.  Just the equivalent of  a few nights losses...

 

 

Numbers vs. brains

 

In the Atlantic it was the number of U boats against the number of liberty ships (the U boats trying to strangle supply to Britain).

And it was the brains (Enigma, radar, combined effort of ...) that led to sinking Type IVX tankers that led to smaller numbers of VIIc boats at sea followed by hunting the VIIcs - but buiding more liberty ships than the U boats could sink helped on the other side too.

 

When it came to killing civilians in cities the benefit for the allied war effort seems "doubtful". It was probably OK for allied morale or something like that (or neccessary in order to engage the Luftwaffe in a war of attrition before D-day) but cutting off the axis powers' fuel supply was much more efficient. And even before that, the benefit of the Luftwaffe bombing Coventry and London seems "doubtful".

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  Getting back to ammo consumption, a Luftwaffe study of air combat showed that the average air to air burst of gunfire placed only 1% of shots on target, anywhere on the target...

 

  This weakness of air to air firepower had a major effect on air tactics; It meant the pre-war assumption that dogfighting was dead, to be replaced by high speed high angle approaches (the going assumption ever since monoplanes were introduced in the 1930s) was wrong, and an entire class of fast twin engine day fighters, which were to rely on hit and run from higher altitudes, were in fact useless, as the lethality of even a twin`s firepower was not enough at high approach angles: You had to follow in a turn to "pepper" for a while... All this due to the low hit rate... Of all the early war day fighter twins, only the P-38 barely managed to remain relevant in its intended day fighter role.

 

  That hit and run was the dominant assumption at the start of war, by ALL combatants (except Russians, who also avoided the twin day fighter pitfall), can be seen in the early appearances of the Mitsubishi Zero: Many Pacific historians (among them Lundstrom in "The first team") have found that, contrary to expectations, early in the war, the Zero obsessively avoided turns, to the point 1942 US pilots commented: "If only only they would cut their throttles and turn with us, they could just sit on our tail." 

 

  Exceptional pilots did manage to make hit and run high speed approaches work, but it was so problematic for the average pilot that a band-aid solution was attempted in 1944, to try to make hit and run at high angles workable for the masses: The K-14 gyro sight. While hailed as a great success, an equal number of pilots just set it on fixed, and engaged in what was by then the universal solution to low hit rates; Cutting the throttle and locking the target into low speed horizontal turns. (Once engaged in a turn, it was almost impossible to roll out of a turn fight, a fatal mistake many inexperienced pilots made)

 

  Low speed horizontal turns were so effective at foiling hit and run attacks that a 1944 Japanese front-line commander specifically asked for the cancellation of Ki-84 deliveries, to have those replaced by Ki-43-II or III Oscars... This was due to the inferior low speed turning performance of the Ki-84, not reliability issues (Ki-43 oscar aces of WWII Osprey: https://ospreypublishing.com/ki-43-oscar-aces-of-world-war-2?___store=osprey_ca). In that same passage, the Oscar ace described inexperienced Spitfire Mk VIII pilots attempting to do hit and run attacks, and having those easily defeated if the attack was spotted: Once they realized they were spotted while diving, experienced Spitfire pilots would interrupt their dives(!) and cancel their attack, while inexperienced pilots kept going...

 

  One account of one Ki-43 Oscar has it making continuous low speed turns, at reduced throttle, while 16 P-38s attacked for 20 minutes, until they are all forced to retire from lack of gas or ammo... 

 

  By 1945, turn fighting was so widely used to foil hit and run attacks, a FW-190A pilot had to correct a painting made of his aircraft in combat: The painter had depicted his aircraft in battle with the wings nearly level... He said: "No. In battle we turned continuously, without ever stopping: By 1945, it was the only way to survive..."

 

  While little acknowledged, all this derived from an over estimation of the effective hit rates before the war. 

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