The Allied bombing campaign against Germany during World War II was one of its most destructive military operations. It was an integral part of Allied strategy to weaken Germany’s war effort by disrupting its industry and transportation while causing civilian casualties and psychological trauma. Over the course of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) bomb tonnage totaled 1,588,062 million tons of bombs on Germany.
Note 1 – There are many differing numbers for missions flown and bomb tonnage dropped. The following was used: Humble, Richard (1975). War in the Air 1939–1945. London: Salamander
Table of Contents
RAF and USAAF Bombing of Germany
Bashow noted that RAF, which included British, Australians, Canadians, Polish and French, airmen losses “Overall loss rates for the entire war averaged 2.58 percent per raid, which, ironically, would almost provide the ‘50-50 chance of survival’ upon which operational tour lengths would be first codified by the command in May 1943.”
Bashow, David, L. “None But The Brave The Essential Contributions Of RAF Bomber Command To Allied Victory During The Second World War”, Page 26, Canadian Defence Academy Press, 2009, Kingston, Ontario.
RAF bombing was concentrated on industrial and transportation targets in Germany’s heavily industrialized Ruhr region, with the aim of disrupting its war production. The RAF was heavily involved in the Allied bombing of Germany from 1939 to 1945, with notable successes including the devastating area bombing raids on Hamburg in July 1943, and the “Dambusters” raid on the Möhne and Eder dams in May 1943. The RAF also famously used radar-directed “Pathfinder” aircraft to mark targets for their bombers.
The USAAF joined the RAF in bombing Germany in 1943, initially focusing on strategic targets such as oil production, communications, and transportation centers. In 1944, the USAAF switched to a policy of “precision bombing”, targeting specific factories, marshalling yards and other key industrial sites. USAAF bombers also carried out the famous raids on the German cities of Dresden and Cologne in February 1945, which were among the most destructive raids of the war.
The Royal Air Force dropped the lion’s share, 61 percent, compared to the US Army Air Force’s 39 percent of bomb tonnage onto Germany. Overall in Europe the USAAF dropped more tonnage than the RAF, but it was the RAF that carried it into the German homeland.
Throughout the war, both the RAF and the USAAF were forced to contend with Germany’s increasingly sophisticated air defense system. Germany deployed a range of anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, and radar-guided fighter aircraft that frequently hampered Allied bombing efforts. The Luftwaffe also developed a series of guided missiles known as “V-weapons” that were used to target cities in Britain and France during 1944 and 1945.
Despite the German defensive counter measures the Allies succeeded in dropping almost 1.6 million tons of bombs on Germany. However, this campaign was costly for the Allies. The RAF had many more fighter flights whereas the USAAF had more bomber flights. The most striking statistics is the number of deaths for each air force. The RAF suffered sixteen more deaths than the USAAF out of a total 158,546. Nonetheless, strategic bombing was a major factor in Germany’s eventual defeat, as it disrupted the German industrial and transportation system, caused extensive damage to its infrastructure, and took a heavy toll on civilian morale.
RAF and USAAF Bomb Tonnages on Germany 1939–1945 Data
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Source: Wikipedia. “Strategic bombing during World War II”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_bombing_during_World_War_II, Data accessed on June 30, 2022
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