WW 2 History Club The Air War 22 – Feb - 2012
Before WWII • What is “Aircraft”? • For purposes of this lecture, air craft includes any object that can rise above the local terrain and can perform a military role • Does not have to be powered nor does it have to be manned
Before WWII In The Beginning • Use of aircraft by military goes back centuries • First use of balloons – French 1790s • Balloons used during Civil War • Wright Brothers first flight is 1903 • Within 10 years the military role of aircraft was emerging
Before WWII • 1903 to 1918 • Powered flight started in USA but we quickly lost the lead (except perhaps in sea planes) • No planes used by US during WWI were made in USA
Before WWII • WWI developed • Theories and tactics • Recon was the initial use of aircraft • Bombing (both heavier-than- and lighter-than-air craft) • Ground support • Dog fighting – many of the classic techniques were developed during WWI
Before WWII • WWI developed • Equipment • Rapid development of air frames: Vickers, Hadley Page; Sikorsky; Gotha • Rapid development of engines: air cooled rotary engines and water cooled in-line engines (Liberty), • Rapid development of weapons -- synchronizer
Before WWII • WWI developed • Heros • Eddie Rickenbacker “The American Ace of Aces” • Frank Luke “The Balloon Buster” • Raoul Lufbery (probably did not invent the Lufbery Circle) • Rene Foch (75 kills) • Charles Bishop (72 kills) • Baron Manfred von Richthofen “The Red Barron” (80 kills)
Before WWII • Legacy of WWI • The War To End All Wars • A horror for ground-war carnage: • Artillery and machine gun changed ground warfare • 10 million soldiers died • Casualty rates (% of mobilized forces) were horrific: • Allies: • Britain 36% • France 74% • Russia 76% • USA 7% • Central Powers • Austria-Hungary 90% • Germany 65% • Puts current casualty rates in perspective WWI did not start the endless squabble among the armed services for ownership and $, but it certainly did not slow it and probably exacerbated it.
Before WWII • Legacy of WWI – Military Role of Aircraft • Observation and Recon • Ground Support (airborne artillery) • Bombing (strategic) • Interdiction • Bomber escort • Transport
Before WWII • Post WWI Attitudes • WWI was the war to end all wars so military capability was not necessary • US isolated by 3,000 miles of ocean so military capability was not necessary • US was tricked into participation … • Not surprising that US became isolated and isolationist
Before WWII • Post WWI Theories • Blitzkrieg: rapid deployment of coordinated armour and use of tactical air as a form of mobile artillery; the goal is to make the enemy “inoperable” vs the classic “wearing it down” • Fuller (UK) … Plan 1919 was the first written and detailed plan for rapid armoured thrusts (supported by aircraft) focused on command centers and communications (“a shot through the brain”); a more efficient method of fighting which ultimately changed how wars were fought.. • Guderian (Ger), Achtung-Panzer!, 1937 • Lidell-Hart (UK) • DeGaulle (France)
Before WWII • Post WWI Theories • Tactical Air power (Mitchell – early) • Controlled by ground troops • Command of the air • Isolate battlefield • Interdict
Before WWII • Post WWI Theories • Strategic Air Power (Giulio Douhet “Command of the Air” ) • All war changed during/after WWI – it is the bomber that does it • “The bomber will always get through” • Divide enemy territory into zones and bomb each zone with ten planes each carrying 1 to 2 thousand bomb • Will crack the will of the people • Other advocates: • Mitchell – later • Trenchard (UK) • US Army is not comfortable with theories where they are not obvious player
Before WWII • US Thinking – Air Corps Tactical School (Maxwell Field, AL) • “talk in the AM, shoot in the PM” • Many years before aviation technology would match airpower theory • Primacy of bombardment accepted by 1926 • Focus shifted to “self-defending bomber” 1926 – 1934 (dawn of B17) • Fighters and escorts typically of secondary concern • Bombers would operate above FLAK and interceptors • Claire Chennault was one of the handful of dissenters
Before WWII • Billy Mitchell • Very effective tactician during WWI and focused on tactical air power • Became Douhet disciple: Air power is the future • Airpower is cheaper than a two ocean Navy (budget argument) • Can attack/sink anything including a battleship • Both Army and Navy are unconvinced • Tested on German battleship • Not the best test as ship was immobile • First day was inconclusive; but ship was sunk on the second • Navy was astonished; Army leadership was embarrassed • “Winged Defense” (1925) predicted war with Japan • Shenandoah disaster: Mitchell publically accused USA and USN of professional incompetence • Mitchell court martialed for insubordination and eventually resigned.
Before WWII MacArthur-Pratt Agreement: USA Chief of Staff (MacArthur) and USN Chief of Naval Operations (Pratt) agreement re aviation responsibilities; in particular placed coastal air defense under the Army
Before WWII • 1930s - Continued development of aircraft and technology • Mono wings and aluminum airframe structures • 4 engine, long range bombers (US & UK) • Fighters with wing-mounted machine guns, e.g., ME109, Hurricane, Spitfire, P40, Zero • Engines: • Water cooled, in-line V12: RR Merlin, Allison 1710, MB 601 • Single Row Radial: P&W, Curtiss-Wright, BMW 801 • Jet Engines: UK initially way ahead but RAF lost interest, gov’t funding waned and Germans gained the lead • Weapons: Browning 50 cal and (UK) .303 [big mistake], 20mm cannons • Japanese torpedoes (best in the world) • Norden bombsight • RADAR and other radio-wave based technologies for both identification and “steering” of airborne objects • Radio
Before WWII  Footnote to Norden Bombsight Accurately putting a bomb on target is a very complicated operation. Bomb trajectory is affected by bomber speed, bomber altitude, instantaneous bomber motion (pitch, yaw, roll), wind speed and direction, and bomb aerodynamics. The Norden bombsight was one of the most closely guarded secrets of WWII. It could not (as was suggested) put a bomb in a pickle barrel from 30,000 feet (hitting an aircraft carrier from 30,000 feet would have been amazing) but was probably the best bomb sight available at the time.
Before WWII • 1930s - Continued development of theory and tactics: • Heavily armed bombers (US and UK) • Assumed: Can fly above FLAK; can defend themselves from fighters • US thinking influenced by expectation of having to fly 5,000 mile round trips: XB-15, XB-19, B29 • More practical designs prevailed: B17 and B24, and eventually B-29 • UK: Halifax, Lancaster • Unarmed bombers • If sufficiently fast and mobile, no defensive armament is needed • DeHavilland Mosquito (best aircraft of WWII) • Tactical Bombers • US: B25, • UK: Vickers Wellington • Germany: Ju88, Stuka, • Japan:: • Light and agile fighters (Japan) • Fast and rugged fighters (others)
Before WWII • 1930s - Spanish Civil War: Modern Airwar Comes of Age • Strategic use of modern bombers • Tactical use of modern bombers • Tactical use of modern fighters • Bombers Often Got Through (no real air defenses) • But damage to morale was not as expected
Before WWII • 1939 Status • Germany: best overall air force; very strong tactically, but fatally lacking in strategic theory and equipment; • Japan: best naval aviation • Italy: elegant designs, but … • Britain: ramping up from years of neglect; probably the best structure and organization; working hard on air defense; two excellent fighters (Hurricane & Spitfire); good medium bombers; heavy bomber development underway • US: best position re resources and potential – US manufacturing know-how is best in the world; US aircraft industry will soon be swamped with orders from Europe; several good fighters “in the pipeline” and B17 in early production; B24 under development; front line capability pretty poor
WWII Air War • Blitzkreig and the success of German tactical airpower • German air/land synchronized war machine was unstoppable • Poland, Nordic countries, low countries and France swept aside • The Battle of Britain and the first failure of strategic airpower • Germany unprepared for longer range strategic bombing • Lacked the strategy, tactics, equipment and personnel • Britain had been preparing for a defensive air war battle for ten years • Radar, command & control, excellent aircraft and personnel • The Bomber Did Not Always Get Through
WWII Air War • German Advanced-Technology Weapons • V1: first tomahawk/cruise missile • V2: first long range, strategic missile • ME 262: first operational jet fighter (UK was a few months behind, US was a year or more behind). Good airframe design w/ swept-back wings; very unreliable engines; about 15% of aircraft flight-ready at any time; required a significant rethinking of tactics and logistics – too little, too late • Flying wings and stealth aircraft: Horten brothers thinking paralleled Jack Northrup; although the designs get a lot of current attention, they were far from production ready (typical misunderstanding of how long it takes from prototype to deployed combat system)
WWII Air War • Allied Air Offensive in Europe • UK night bombing • Only way British could hit Hitler on European continent • Daylight, precision bombing had failed • Reverted to night time area bombing • Generally successful • US daylight bombing • Believed that flying fortress model (large, well-gunned bomber) did not need fighter protection • Initially successful but once US tried deeper penetration and fighter cover fell back, theory fell apart. Attempts to develop massively gunned escort ships like XB40 failed. • Appalling and unsustainable loses (40% on some missions) • Long range escort (P51) saved USAAF from defeat and fundamentally changed US air offensive in Europe • Generally successful
WWII Air War • Allied Air Offensive in Europe -- Analysis: • Needed more focus on fewer strategic industries • Less than 5% of bombs hit target (within 1,000 yards of aim point). Statistic was actually known as early as 1942 but was suppressed for morale and political reasons. • Large % of US loses could have been prevented if USAAF brass actually examined 1930s assumptions in light of 1940s capabilities. More deadly to be in USAAF aircrew in Europe than to be a Marine in the Pacific • Aviation capability often drove theory and doctrine, e.g., don’t have a long-range escort for bombers so we obviously do not need one • “facts” continue to be argued because data gathered was quite flawed and often biased (politically or for other reasons).
WWII Air War • Air War in the Pacific • Naval Aviation • Comparison of bombers • Comparison of fighters • Comparison of torpedos • Comparison of carriers • Strategic Bombing of Japan • USAAF B29s from Marianas (Guam, Tinian, Saipan) • Atomic Bombs
WWII Air War • The Manufacturing and Logistics Miracle • 3,000 planes built by US manufacturers in 1940 • 300,000 planes built 1941 to 1945 with production peaking in mid/late 1944 • Willow Run B24 Plant gets the most attention but many aircraft plants put out an amazing number of aircraft • 100+ octane aviation fuel • Ability to build airfields and bases quickly (mechanization) • US industrial base was too far from battle fronts to be threatened but West Coast plants were camaflauged and virtually all new manufacturing plants were well inland • Significant use of women in both manufacturing and transport
WWII Air War • Strategic Bombing Surveys • Did the bomber win the war? • Was Douhet right after all? • Did US and UK sacrifice the moral high ground by resorting to bombing of civilian population centers? • Germans and Japanese started it (Germans in Spain; Japs in China) • US and UK finished it
WWII Air War Air Power Legacy from WWII • Clash of theory and reality • Rapid reaction to shortfalls, e.g., reverse engineering of Zero (tactics and Grumman F6F Hellcat) • Inability to react to shortfalls, e.g., lack of long range escort in Europe • Convergence of science/technology and military for both offense and defense). Military typically paid more attention to the scientists • Importance of air power and control of airspace • USAF created as separate military arm • Continued bickering over ownership and $
Post WWII • Post WWII Conflicts: • Korea – jet fighters, limited strategic bombing (can it be truly effective if you are denied the enemy’s heart?) • Viet Nam – helicopters, limited strategic bombing (can it be truly effective …) • Desert Wars – stealth and precision munitions (approaching Douhet’s ideal?) • Precision Munitions – How Much Better? • In 1944/45 it took 50 to 100 B17s to destroy a large power plant (less than 5% of the bombs dropped will fall within 1,000 yards of the intended target) • It takes 1 aircraft with precision munitions to do the same job today • Few structures today are “bomb proof”
Post WWII • Rise of the drones and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles … and the decline of manned fighters? • Another attempt at sanitary warfare? • Who operates the drones and how is that working? • Pilots want to fly … • No “war zone to home” decompression time for operators • Aviation plays an ever increasing role in all services • Airpower critical but still not decisive in a non-nuclear war … still needs “boots on the ground” • Carrier replaced battleship 70 years ago, but traditional navy still crucial (role of missile subs?) • Tanks and helicopters vie for prominence in land conflicts but neither can survive without the other and boots on the ground is still the final step
Post WWII Lots of Change: The equipment and tactics have changed beyound recognition in the last 100 years Not So Much: But the services continue to squabble, do not cooperate as they should and are not above cutting each other’s throats for $