The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) 8th and 15th and the British Royal Air Force (RAF) strategically targeted Germany’s aircraft industry, in fact a successful D-Day required the Allies to have air superiority. The USAAF 8th and 15th Air Forces stepped up their attacks on German aircraft industry targets leading up to and then following D-Day. Not only were aircraft manufacturers, especially fighter manufacturers, targeted but also airfields and aviation fuel supplies.
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Prior to January 1944, the USAAF 8th and 15th Air Forces dropped a total of 28,030 tons on German aircraft manufacturers whereas in the first five months of 1944 they dropped a total 28,121 tons on that same strategic industry. The graphic shows two spikes in the USAAF bombing of the German aircraft industry, the months just prior to and the months just after D-Day. The months prior led to air superiority and the months after led to air domination.
The shape of the European battlefield was changing as the RAF and USAAF ramped up their bombing campaigns. Allied air forces strategically targeted Germany’s aircraft industry versus the Eastern Front where both Germany and the USSR primarily used their air forces to support army land actions. However, the German Luftwaffe gradually shifted their emphasis to the west.
Fighters and anti-aircraft guns, such as the famed 8.8 cm flax gun, more and more faced the UK and US Air Forces rather than the Soviet Air Force or Army. The 8.8 cm flax gun, better known in the west as the 88 mm, no longer was prioritized for the Eastern Front as an anti-tank weapon. Although a land front had not yet opened in France the Soviet Army saw some relief as weapon platforms and personnel were shifted west.
The 8th Air Force dropped a total of 47,671 tons of their total 691,470 tons (6.87%) on Germany’s aircraft industry. The 15th Air Force dropped a total of 14,352 tons (2.55%) of their total 545,000 tons on Germany’s aircraft industry. The RAF dropped a total of 29,000 tons (2.75%) of their total 1,060,000 tons on Germany’s aircraft industry. Overall, the Allies bomb tonnage dropped on Germany’s aircraft manufacturers total 91,047 tons or 3.95% of the 2,296,470 tons dropped.
Strategic Bombing Priority
Prior to May 1944 the German aircraft industry along with U-boat bases were the highest priority Allied strategic bombing targets. Post D-Day German aircraft industry sites were given a lower priority. Almost as many missions were flown against the German aircraft industry sites, but now they were secondary targets or even targets of last resort. Part of the reason for lowering the priority was that Germany had effectively dispersed their manufacturing sites making then less appealing a target.
In September 1944 Germany’s new wonder weapon, jet airplanes, were in the highest priority category after that of oil. Jets remained a high priority throughout the rest of the war. However, since jet production facilities were largely underground it was difficult to damage them.
USAAF 8th and 15th Tonnage Dropped on German Aircraft Industry Data
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|wdt_ID||Month||8th Air Force||15th Air Force||Total|
|1||Pre Apr 43||162||0||162|
Source: Aircraft Division Industry Report – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.” Second Edition January 1947, Chapter V, Table V-2, Page 58, https://www.angelfire.com/super/ussbs/airrep.html/index.html, data accessed on June 28, 2022, Source: 8th Air Force Statistical Summary; and for 15th Air Force, Tabulating Section, USSBS.
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