The Royal Air Force (RAF) and United States Army Air Force (USAAF) bomb tonnages dropped on Germany during 1939-1945 had a catastrophic effect on their country. The Allied air forces dropped over 2.3 million tons of bombs on Germany, with most of the bomb tonnage occurring during the last two years of the war. Germany’s aircraft industry was one of the Allies strategic targets. The German aircraft industry was specifically targeted and resulted in 3.95% or 90,671 million tons of RAF and USAAF bomb tonnage being dropped on them. Combined with other strategic targeting, such as oil, transportation, and communications helped the Allies to attain air superiority and then air domination.
Table of Contents
Why the Aircraft Industry
The United Kingdom and the United States targeted the Luftwaffe, Germany’s air force, as one goal in their overall strategic bombing plan. The rationale behind this was that until Allies had at least air superiority their planes and airmen would be unable to fully attain the other strategic goals. Therefore, priority was given to destroy the Luftwaffe’s ability to be a force in the skies over Europe. This targeting took many forms. Luftwaffe bases were attacked destroying planes on the ground plus the supporting infrastructure. Luftwaffe training bases were also prime targets hoping to interrupt the pipeline of new airmen. The Luftwaffe aircraft and airmen were attacked in the air, on the ground, while being transported, and while be maintained.
But it was the aircraft factories that were especially targeted hoping to destroy the pipeline of new aircraft, replacement parts, support equipment, and maintenance items in reaching the frontline Luftwaffe. Often German factories were able to come back online after the Allied raids within a few days. But even this proved to be beneficial to the Allies attaining their strategic goal. Some product had to be scrapped, others of lower quality as manufacturing equipment sustained damage, or due to personnel losses/absenteeism.
The effect was not readily apparent early on. These raids caused personnel to be assigned to factory repair versus plane assembly, manpower expended to build dispersed factories, loss or degraded equipment, and skilled labor attrition. Through 1943-44 the German aircraft industry was not as functional as it could be even though their production numbers were increasing. It wasn’t enough, Germany’s production numbers were increasing, but the Allies were increasing at a greater rate with better quality product.
As the war evolved so did the Allies bombing tactics. The RAF took a nighttime bombing shortcoming called “creep back” and turned into part of the bombing technique. Human nature caused bombing crew to release their loads a slightly before it was time. Each subsequent plane in the bombing run would also release early compounding the effect. The solution was to have the initial target flares be released on the far end of the target so that the creep back would encompass the target.
Bomb Tonnage Dropped on Aircraft Industry by UK and US Air Forces Data
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Source: Aircraft Division Industry Report – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.” Second Edition January 1947, Chapter V, Table V-1, Page 56, https://www.angelfire.com/super/ussbs/airrep.html/index.html, data accessed on June 28, 2022, RAF data sourced from Air Ministry News converted to short tons, 8th Air Force sourced from Eighth AF Statistical Summary, 15th AF data sourced from “Air Power in Mediterranean”
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