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Was lend-lease essential in securing a Soviet victory?


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Some of the famous "bizarre" decisions, like not having armour on the Zero, which are sometimes attributed to cultural factors like "samurai spirit" were really about compromises. In the Zero's case they couldn't achieve the range required (remember the Pacific is huge) with armour, at least not given their engine tech, so it was either or.

Completely agree. The Zero is actually an example of an area where I think the Japanese were way ahead of everyone else in the early war -- they evaluated the need (an extremely long range, carrier-capable fighter that nevertheless was an effective dogfighter), and came up with an innovative engineering solution given the technology then available. While I think the actual technological dominance of the Zero in the 1940-1942 period sometimes gets a little inflated due to the fact that many of the Zero's early successes were against second-rate airframes flown by pilots with less training and experience than the Zero pilots, there's no doubt it was a formidable airframe. Certainly the best carrier-based fighter in the world in 1940 by a substantial margin, and the fact that it was still competitive in 1945 is remarkable.

What blows my mind is that the Japanese, having employed considerable ingenuity developing the Zero, seem to have never put serious consideration into what would happen after they unveiled the Zero, when the rest of the world and especially the Americans went to school on their design and tried to do it one better.

The Japanese were very good at adopting and improving innovations from elsewhere -- many of the best Japanese military technology innovations in the period leading up to war with the U.S. were improvements on concepts that originated in e.g., the U.S. and Germany. But they seem to have never considered the possibility that others would do the same to them. By the time they figured out that the U.S. had leapfrogged them in the tech race, it was too late.

It's an odd kind of blindness... I guess it's all related to the Japanese desire (for obvious reasons) to fight a short, decisive war. They thought that if they hit the U.S. hard early, causing enough damage and grabbing enough territory, the U.S. would decide the cost of fighting all the way back across the Pacific would just be too high, and the U.S. would then be willing to agree to a peace on Japan's terms.

So Japan seems to have put a lot of effort into developing and building e.g., innovative aircraft designs right up to 1941, but then kind of stops innovating and tries to win the war quickly with the weapons they had on hand, rather than maintaining a constant stream of steadily improving innovation and production, as the U.S. did.

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A relly interesting discussion. When it comes to 4-engine bombers being 'ineffective'--I think that is a very bold and unsupported claim. The strategic bombing of Germany basically shaped the war as a

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Hi. Few days ago I read a great article from famous Czech historian Jiri Rajlich (focused on WWII) regarding Lend-Lease and it's impact on Soviet Union. All with numbers and nice information. I'm away next four days, but I'd like to translate it and post here. Without Lend-Lease, USSR may not necessarily lose the war, but the should be very lucky to be on eastern Ukraine in summer 1945... The amount of trucks, clothes, food, steel and other stuff was enormous! They could build 80k T-34 tanks from US steel if they used it just for that.

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YD - The Japanese strategy, such as it was, was hoping that Germany would win the war in Europe and the Pacific would be less important for the allies than that theater. Remember when they attack there are German recon units within sight of the Kremlin and the Germans have yet to lose a battle, against anyone.

It was still a less than rational decision. The army was made pro war with illusions by a steady diet of victory over unprepared and weak enemies in China, and its hotheads were always assassinating anyone in favor of restraint or peace, which tends to dissuade leaders from advocating restraint and peace. Its army had poor equipment and tactics because a line of men with bolt rifles advancing steadily and firing at visible targets had been met by "run away, run away!" up until then. Add an air force vs none, artillery vs none, LMGs vs nothing but rifles, and they didn't think ground combat was all that complicated or all that hard - because they had been fighting against third rates for a decade.

In the early 1942 fighting they approximated the same effect by controlling the air and the seas around every major combat. As soon as that was no longer true, they stopped winning on the ground.

I agree on the Zero discussion, it was a brilliant design for its time. It is interesting that the Americans countered it largely by innovating in tactics, before also just outmatching it technologically (with the Hellcat).

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Hello guys, Im writing this because I came across your discussion of an article I wrote a few years ago (Im Phil OBrien, the author of East Versus West in the Defeat of Nazi Germany--mentioned above). I really enjoyed reading your discussion of it--I can say that nothing I wrote was an attempt to defend airpower in the 1990s.

 

Anyway, I just published a longer book in which the argument of machines versus men--east versus west--are developed in much greater depth. Its been released by Cambridge University Press and its called, How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II. You can read alot of it online through google books. 

 

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9hh2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PR4&lpg=PR4&dq=phillips+o%27brien+how+the+war+was+won&source=bl&ots=gNdGucQdb9&sig=JxDdMVgm1sRLlVpLTmTJRswaMPE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7BDfVLTLCMrpapifgpgO&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=phillips%20o'brien%20how%20the%20war%20was%20won&f=false

 

If anyone takes a look and has some thoughts, Id like to hear them. cheers,

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In the ETO Germany's allies (and to a degree Germany itself) where also quite constrained, and in several cases unable to manufacture e.g. armour plate. Plus of course there was never enough oil to go around, which answers some of the classical "why didn't they...? questions (e.g. "why didn't Germany build a strategic bomber force?").

 

Worse than oil even was food. Which caused Germany's defeat in the last war. A big reason for the Holocaust came down to Germany just snuffing out as many mouths as possible so the Aryan race wouldn't have to suffer for food. All of Europe was net food-importer in the 1930s-40s and Germany had made the super smart decision to go to war with all 3 of its major suppliers for industrial fertilizers and grains. This ended up ruining Germany in 1918 and the Nazis were keenly aware of this. Hence their overwhelming push to murder as many people as possible in a short span of time. I don't think i'll have the problem here, but anyone who doesn't believe me can simply look up the Wannsee Conference.

 

Germany did not build a strategic bomber because the Luftwaffe wasn't configured for it. It takes a lot more than just oil to build hordes of B-17 fleets. The organization must be built top-to-bottom for that sort of thing. For one, you need to have a highly organized and efficient industrial base that's already found its way in mass producing lots of multi-engine, high-payload aircraft w/facilities to support those kinds of planes. Who builds the engines? Who builds the airframe? Who builds the countless small parts and complex bits of machinery that make this airplane practical? The Nazis were utterly inept at achieving the kind of industrial cooperation that prevailed in the US.

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Hello guys, Im writing this because I came across your discussion of an article I wrote a few years ago (Im Phil OBrien, the author of East Versus West in the Defeat of Nazi Germany--mentioned above). I really enjoyed reading your discussion of it--I can say that nothing I wrote was an attempt to defend airpower in the 1990s.

 

Anyway, I just published a longer book in which the argument of machines versus men--east versus west--are developed in much greater depth. Its been released by Cambridge University Press and its called, How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II. You can read alot of it online through google books. 

 

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9hh2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PR4&lpg=PR4&dq=phillips+o%27brien+how+the+war+was+won&source=bl&ots=gNdGucQdb9&sig=JxDdMVgm1sRLlVpLTmTJRswaMPE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7BDfVLTLCMrpapifgpgO&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=phillips%20o'brien%20how%20the%20war%20was%20won&f=false

 

If anyone takes a look and has some thoughts, Id like to hear them. cheers,

Thanks Phil, it looks interesting.

 

Jon

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Hi Jon,

 

Thanks for that. Ive been reading some of the discussions on the webpage and Im impressed with the level of knowledge. So, if anyone does have comments, let me know. Im turning now to write a biography of William D. Leahy (first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) so I might come back and run ideas by you guys.

 

As for the idea of Germany and strategic bombing. The Germans did develop quite a sensible strategic bombing plan for the Battle of Britain (imho) the problem was always hardware more than software. They simply couldnt design a bomber capable of doing the job--or even a fighter capable of the range needed for escort duty even if they had the bomber. THey certainly tried to come up with a 4 engine bomber. Though its really hard to find the exact costs, probably the most expensive aircraft the Germans ever produced was the 4-engine HE-177--a true dog if there ever was one. It has its four engines in two linked front to back casings, and often exploded. Some Luftwaffe experts claim that they had worked out the kinks by 1944 (its certainly possible) but by then it was too late. 

 

Development costs of the aircraft were probably equal to a few years of German AFV construction during the war.

 

OH, there was one other supposed German strategic bombing plan--at least according to Albert Speer. And that was an attempt to hit Soviet Power production near the Urals using the HE 177, but the German army was pushed out of range before it could be attempted. As its Speer making the case, you can never be sure if it was a small idea that he exagerrated after the war to make himself look like a genius.

 

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OK, I'll bite.  Why is developing a strategic bombing capability using WWII technology (before the atomic bomb) in any way important or in any way a desirable military capability?

 

What evidence is there that strategic bombing was militarily effective during WW II, against anything but a defenseless opponent?

Or, if it was effective as a way to bring excess industrial capacity to bear in a war of attrition vs the enemy nation's economy, at what actual exchange ratio in cost did it do so?

Can the side with less total industrial capacity or less total economic income actually benefit from an attrition exchange of resources where it pays the bombers' side of that ratio?

 

Next, clearly long range fighters were far more important than heavy bomber technology, even for strategic bombing and certainly for general control of the air.

 

Next, clearly general interdiction and armed recce and support of the armies was more effective than strategic bombing for each unit of inputs allocated to that role, in its direct military effect on the enemy armies.  Prove to me that proposition isn't true.

 

It is fair to say some of the German bomber types were marginal by midwar and obsolete by its later stages.  But e.g. the Ju-88 worked just fine in its roles.  Even aging He-111s were OK as night bombers, until facing sophisticated night fighters with airborne radar late in the war.  Such air power as Germany did field proved sufficient to contest the seas around their controlled territory until the Luftwaffe was defeated in battle.  And proved extremely effective in support of the ground armies, by all sides' accounts, in the first half of the war - that is, as long as their fighters were winning the important part of the air war, which had little to do with bombing.

 

Germany was also able to field effective guided air to surface weapons by late in the war, some in operation as early as September 1943.  Not in sufficient numbers to be more than an attrition weapon vs ship targets, but certainly effective enough to inflict far more economic loss on their targets than was spent developing and fielding them.  That would have been a more promising avenue for technological innovation within the war than playing "me too" with frankly extremely inefficient fleets of 4 engine bombers.   The same can be said for jet fighters.  In fact, German jet fighter innovation was held back by an over fixation on the importance of bombing in WW II warfare, compared to the air to air combat, air superiority mission.

 

They didn't need "me too" B-17s.  Me-262s sooner and in greater numbers, radio controlled bombs launched from Ju-88s, and more multi role FW-190s with upgraded engines, would have made far more of a difference.

 

On the other side, arguably the biggest contributions to the Allied victory made by the long range heavy bombers were (1) closing the Atlantic gap and providing anti U-boat patrol cover in long range B-24s - using only a handful of those available and over strong air force resistance (these mattered because U-boats *were* an economically efficient weapons, even for the overall poorer side, where strategic bombing was not), (2) burning down Japan very late, though victory was by then overdetermined, (3) just getting the Luftwaffe to come up and fight (in a war of attrition) against long range single seat fighters over Europe, especially early in 1944.  I can allow that after the Luftwaffe was already defeated, strategic bombers were able to help keep them down once they figured out they should go after the oil target set, instead of the fifty others they have wasted their time on up until the summer of 1944.

 

What the 4 engine bombers didn't do was break the Germany economy on their own, or wipe out German aircraft production in its production plants, or have a prayer of causing as much military or even economic loss as the whole operation cost, before long range fighters swept the skies clean in front of them.

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The bombing was keeping a large number of Germans at home fixing the damage all of the time instead of working in the factories or being sent to the Eastern Front. Germany industrial output rose during the war until 1945 when defeat was imminent but the point of strategic bombing was to prevent it from rising as high as it could. It was the suppressing effect of the campaign that produced the result, not the outright destruction. One might argue that this wasn't worth all the effort but I think the chronically under strength Divisions off in the Eastern Front might disagree. The Americans and British did not indeed, reap the benefits of their bombing until very late in the war. It was the Russians who probably seeing and getting the most from it. 

 

This is why I have no love for the "Russians/Americans/British won WW2" nationalist chest-thumping tripe. The war was won by the collective effort of the Allied powers. Not by the singular struggle of any one of them. 

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I think the point JasonC is making is that given the shortage of manpower and raw materials, developing a strategic bomber force would have been a useless distraction for Germany and one that would not help to win the war. Developing a large and technically superior U-Boat force would have been a better investment IMHO.

The Allies had the excess production capability to build a heavy bomber force, but it really only started to show results after mid-44 when the Luftwaffe was defeated and the Allies could mount daily 1,000 bomber raids.

Edited by Sgt Joch
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Worse than oil even was food. Which caused Germany's defeat in the last war. A big reason for the Holocaust came down to Germany just snuffing out as many mouths as possible so the Aryan race wouldn't have to suffer for food. All of Europe was net food-importer in the 1930s-40s and Germany had made the super smart decision to go to war with all 3 of its major suppliers for industrial fertilizers and grains. This ended up ruining Germany in 1918 and the Nazis were keenly aware of this. Hence their overwhelming push to murder as many people as possible in a short span of time. I don't think i'll have the problem here, but anyone who doesn't believe me can simply look up the Wannsee Conference.

Tooze in "Wages of Destruction" describes in detail the German "Hunger plan" which was fed in part by a worry of a Grain shortfall. This led to an acceleration of the "Final solution " against Jews and Russian POWs. Of course, there were also ideological reasons behind the Genocide. As it turns out, there were record harvests in the early 40s so there was enough food to go around.

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Developing a large and technically superior U-Boat force would have been a better investment IMHO.

 

I have often wondered—but am very glad we never found out—how the war would have gone if Germany had instead of building capital ships started the war with 50 more U-boats, quickly ramping up to 200 more. And that's with existing models. Possibly Britain would have had to exit the war, for a time at least. With the UK out of the war, it becomes very much harder to defeat Germany. Even if Britain re-enters the war after Pearl Harbor, Germany might have found the defeat of the USSR more nearly within its grasp. I don't think Germany wins, but it becomes harder to defeat.

 

Michael

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I think the point JasonC is making is that given the shortage of manpower and raw materials, developing a strategic bomber force would have been a useless distraction for Germany and one that would not help to win the war. Developing a large and technically superior U-Boat force would have been a better investment IMHO.

 

I agree on the first part. If Germany had to plan for a strategic war then the only plan would be to lose, because Germany could not sustain a long war where that sort of campaigning would be a factor. 

 

The Z plan was (lol pun) dead in the water long before it cast off. A big navy and reliance on the U-Boats didn't save Germany last time and it wasn't going to this time either. Hitler liked his big battleships but he liked his Panzer hordes more, and saw them as much more instrumental to his plans of Lebensraum than the Kriegsmarine. TBH the U-Boat menace in the WW2 was totally overblown by Churchill and British leaders in their post-war books. Though I think much of this came from how successful the U-Boats had been in 1916 rather than 1942. 

 

The U-Boats hadn't advanced much since 1918 while ASDIC and anti-submarine tactics had. Motivated by (apparently well founded) paranoia of another sub war. Just as the USAAF couldn't pummel Germany into submission with bombers as long as the Luftwaffe was around, the Kriegsmarine couldn't shut down and isolate Britain as long as the Royal Navy existed. Suppress maybe, but suppression sort of implies you plan on following up with a coup de'grace. Which Germany would deliver with...something other than He-111s and their enlarged Bayern class battleships I would hope. 

Edited by CaptHawkeye
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Theres alot going on here. Starting with strategic bombing. Certainly in 1943 it fails to meet the (ludicrously high) expectations put forward by commanders such as Harris or Eaker. However, at least imho) it plays a crucial role in determining the outcome of the landwar as the Germans are forced to strip the battlefield of fighter cover. 

 

Im struck by the larger question of German strategy, however. I wonder if actually we dont realize how potentially strong Germany could have been had it been able to relatively efficiently organize Europe's resources, without the threat of strategic bombing in 1943 and 1944. For instance, even though people throw around the idea that Germany had to beat the USSR in 1941 or 1942 because it couldnt fight a long war against the Russians, the opposite might actually have been true. If Germany fights just the Russians it would have been able to significantly and increasingly outproduce the USSR (take a look at how much more steel and bauxite the Germans were producing on an annual basis in 1943 than the Russians). Germany actually has far greater resources than Russia in everything but manpower, they just cant use them efficiently, which was one of the great benefits of the failed strategic bombing campaign of 1943--you are spot on about this Capt Hawkeye. The longer that Germany and the USSR have a war a deux, the more likely it becomes that the Germans would wear the Russians down.

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No, the more likely it becomes the Russians would wear the Germans down. More of them just die doing it. The longer the war goes on the more irreplaceable German soldiers die. Their was no greater threat to the Wehrmacht than time and the longer a campaign went on the more men would die. As it was the plan was to disband over 40 infantry divisions at the start of 1942 so those men could be sent back to the factories. They'd be needed to build the Luftwaffe's fighters to protect Germany from the planned swarms of American and British bombers that would be trying to do exactly what they did historically. The reason for this plan was that Germany could not sustain a large industrial workforce and the  3.7 million men of the Wehrmacht at the same time. Attempts were made to plug the gaps with slave labor which were actually pretty successful, and since you just expend the slaves after working them to death that all fit well and nice into the Nazi Murder Empire's hunger plans. 

 

Historically Germany's conquests did not contribute much to the war though. If anything they were a burden because as I said before, all of Europe was net food-importer in 1940 and Germany now had to feed all those mouths or undermine any potential benefits from its own conquests. In 1943 the French coal industry collapsed and Germany had to prop it up in order to enable the construction of the Atlantic Wall. By 1944 the rations of Polish workers had been cut so drastically that it was physically impossible for many of them to work on anything. Energy for many of them was as low as 400 calories a day. 

 

Maybe Germany could have achieved some kind of strategic equilibrium after France fell by just continuing to rely on Russian oil and grain imports. In order for this to happen though you basically can't have Hitler in charge anymore since he is invariably going to turn Germany east. Even so I know plenty of guys who still think the "Fortress Europa" theory was crank even without an Eastern Front killing very many Germans. 

Edited by CaptHawkeye
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The longer the war goes on the more irreplaceable German soldiers die. Their was no greater threat to the Wehrmacht than time and the longer a campaign went on the more men would die. As it was the plan was to disband over 40 infantry divisions at the start of 1942 so those men could be sent back to the factories.

 

That, I think, is the case. For Germany to have any chance at all for victory it has to win big and more importantly to win fast. Hitler got the jump on the other major powers in rearmament, but nearly drove Germany into bankruptcy doing it. In order for this gamble to pay off, he has to defeat all his enemies before they can get their act together and catch up. This he manifestly failed to do. As long as the UK was on the other side of the Channel and the US on the other side of the Atlantic with no real way for his armies to get at them, the writing was on the wall. Absent those two, might he have defeated the USSR? Impossible to say really. I think that issue remains forever in the balance, but to win Germany would have had to do everything right, and it didn't and probably couldn't due to basic policy decisions taken even before the war began.

 

Michael

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The same can be said for jet fighters.  In fact, German jet fighter innovation was held back by an over fixation on the importance of bombing in WW II warfare, compared to the air to air combat, air superiority mission.

 

A long-ago debunked myth. The requirement to make the Me 262 a fighter-bomber delayed its combat introduction by mere weeks, not months or years. It was always the engines that were the weak point in the design. 

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Murray, Williamson, Strategy for Defeat; the Luftwaffe, 1933-1945, Air University Press, 1983

pp. 252-3

 

########

One element of German aircraft production and development that has consistently appeared in historical discussions is the development of the Me 262. That fighter was a design and engineering marvel for its time. However, it is doubtful whether its impact on the war could have been much different than what it was. As with most new concepts, word of the aircraft's potential percolated slowly up the chain of command only after its initial flights. Galland flew the aircraft in May 1943 and became an enthusiastic supporter of the aircraft as the savior of the fighter force.[179] What Galland's enthusiasm could not recognize was the difficulty involved in transferring a design model into production, especially since the Me 262 was not its designer's highest priority. Willi Messerschmitt had involved himself in a running battle with Milch from 1942 on and was particularly upset at cancellation of the Me 209 in favor of his new jet.[180] Moreover, there were serious problems with the engines, which is not surprising considering the fact that they represented a quantum leap forward in technology. Not surprisingly, as with all new weapon systems, the Germans found it difficult to get the Me 262 into series production because they were still making design changes at the same time they were working up production lines.

 

Hitler's interest in the jet became apparent in September 1943 when Messerschmitt suggested that it could also serve as a fast bomber to attack Britain.[181] An aircraft demonstration at the end of the year and some casual remarks that the jet could serve as a fighter bomber put the Führer completely on the wrong track.[182] From that point, he considered the Me 262 as the answer to Allied air superiority over the invasion beaches in the coming spring. In late December, he exclaimed:

 

Every month that passes makes it more and more probable that we will get at least one squadron of jet aircraft : The more important thing is that they [the enemy] get some bombs on top of them just as they try to invade . That will force them to take cover . . . and in this way they will waste hour after hour? But after half a day our reserves will already be on the way.[183]

 

The real explosion did not come until the end of May when Hitler discovered that the Luftwaffe was manufacturing the Me 262 as a fighter that could not carry bombs. He drastically intervened and ordered major design changes in the aircraft.[184] It is doubtful, however, whether this decision had much impact on the war's final outcome. The engineers had only worked the flaws out of the production line by March with the first models appearing in that month. Output for April was 16 Me 262's, rising to 28 in June, and 59 in July.[185] Even under the best of circumstances, it is unlikely that a massive output of Me 262's could have occurred in 1944. By the time its production began, Allied escorts had already savaged the German fighter forces, and the Germans had irrevocably lost air superiority over the continent. The losses in experienced pilots during the spring make it especially doubtful whether the Luftwaffe could have manned an Me 262 force with effective, skilled crews.

 

[179] Galland, The First and the Last, p. 253

[180] See Irving's interesting discussion, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, pp. 217-18

[181] Ibid., p. 237

[182] Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 313

[183] Irving, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, p. 266

[184] Ibid .,p .281 .

[185] Air Ministry, The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force, p. 313

########

 

To be fair Luke, it's only been three decades.

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JonS - that was all a much nearer run thing that the description you gave pretends,  because it pretends all other elements of the time table are set in stone.

 

The Luftwaffe is only decisively defeated in the air in early 1944, in the March and April period.  It has been under stress on the pilots fronts since the last quarter of 1943, but its numerical strength at the start of that period is still high.

 

The Me-262 missed being available for that decisive period by about 6 months.  If its production curve were 6 months to the left /  earlier, the outcome of that bit of the battle becomes a much dicier thing.

 

The effect of the Me-262 on the balance of the war was quite limited because it was crippled by fuel shortages and was vulnerable to American fighters while on the ground.  Both reflect the prior defeat of the rest of the Luftwaffe, which opened up the oil target set to destruction and grounded or eliminated the propeller driven fighter force.  Basically it lost its shield on the ground and its fuel just months before it became operational.  

 

The quotes and the previous poster's comments notice the stupidity and incomprehension behind Hitler's actual support for the project.  While that may have only occasioned a few weeks of delay, it needs to be compared to an accurate understanding of its importance, earlier, and what that might have done to increase resources from the program.

 

At any rate, it was a much more promising bit of kit than a 4 engine bomber ever was...

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On the general comments about strategic bombing, spinning off into imaginary alternate histories and the observation that actually, the German lost, they do not understand my comments about 4 engine bombers and the lack of effectiveness of strategic bombing in WW II.

 

The US alone produced over 50,000 heavy and medium bombers at a cost north of $10 billion; dedicated about a million men to keeping them in the air; built and moved millions of tons of bombs to drop on Germany - and got an average of about 25 missions out of each of those aircraft.  Most of them are very long ranges with limited bomb loads in the range of 2-3 tons, not their theoretical short range maximum loads.  20% or more of them aborting before reaching the target, when they didn't simply fail to find them under cloud cover.  And then dropping their load so inaccurately that only a few percent of the bombs landed within a mile of their target. Some of the targets being so hardened and unpromising (e.g. concrete u boat pens) or dispersed and irrelevant (e.g. V-1 sites) that the accurate bombs might as well be misses too, and many more of them quite marginal targets (much of the transportation target set e.g., which was a highly redundant network and readily repaired).

 

When you pay that much, of course it has some military impact.   But it has to be compared not with getting flat nothing for those resources, but with competing possible uses of those resources.  A heavy bomber cost 3 times as much as a fighter (5 times earlier in their production cycles when the unit costs were higher), more than that much extra to maintain, flew fewer sorties over its operational life, etc.  Instead of 3 fighter planes you could also get a tank platoon or an entire artillery battalion for the same price, and those were much less expensive to man, operate and supply.

 

Meanwhile on the other side of the field, The Germans could build 2 88mm FLAK and wait for the bombers to fly over, and expect them to take out one heavy or medium bomber between them.  The guns cost an eight as much as the planes they shot down.  (Adding operating costs complicates that - the ammo cost more than the guns - but then the plane's crew and ground support cost way more than the plane etc.  It would pull the ratio back toward unity, but not all the way to it).

 

Or compare a u-boat, which cost about as much as 4 bombers.  They fielded 1156 of them (all types) and each sank 3-4 merchant vessels worth more than they were (the larger vessels were 2.5 times as expensive as a u-boat).  They thus inflicted an attrition roughly an order of magnitude above the cost spent on them.

 

In pure attrition terms, heavy bombers were an ineffective weapon system, in several distinct senses.  First, they inflicted less actual military loss on the enemy than the same resources could have inflicted on them spent on more efficient weapons - above all, more *accurate* weapons and weapons that operated for longer than 25 missions.  Second, they inflicted less loss on the enemy than the cost to build and operate themselves.  Third, their counters were more efficient in exchange terms than they were - the manned fighters that intercepted them especially so, but even the Flak firing inaccurately at them.  They were a rich man's way of throwing production capacity at the enemy to "exchange down" cost spent for a marginal increment of the enemy's military wealth - but at a ratio stacked against the bomber's side, inflicting most of its actual cost on enemy civilians from their wild misses, not their military from hits.  And a method that was followed not because it was an efficient use of those resources but despite the fact that it wasn't, because its advocates consistently overpromised and overestimated their effectiveness.

 

All of which was meant to substantiate my comment that the last thing *Germany* needed was a similar extravagant boondoggle of a mistake, itself.  Which it did not have the spare industrial capacity to afford, which it could not afford to exchange vs its richer enemies on less than unity rates of exchange, etc.

Edited by JasonC
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Instead of 3 fighter planes you could also get a tank platoon or an entire artillery battalion for the same price, and those were much less expensive to man, operate and supply.

 

I don't disagree with the general thrust of your post at all, but as I understand it, the limitation on ground forces deployed was port throughput rates, which (especially early in the Normandy campaign) sharply limited how many divisions could be supported in action. I suppose my question is if this was understood and accounted for, thereby providing some rationale for American/British emphasis on heavy bombers based out of England at the expense of fighting troops in Italy, Normandy, southern France, etc.?

 

Obviously, this would not take any shade off Germans for pursuing the same ends.

Edited by Apocal
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The Me-262 missed being available for that decisive period by about 6 months.  If its production curve were 6 months to the left /  earlier, the outcome of that bit of the battle becomes a much dicier thing.

Sure*, and if the production curve is moved 6 months to the right - a not unreasonable hypothetical, given the difficulties the Germans were having (because of, amongst other problems, the ... tada ...CBO) - then the 262 would have missed the war entirely. We can play hypotheticals all day if you want?

 

Anyway, the point is that Hitler's desire for it to be used as a fighter bomber impacted the timing of the fielding of the 262 only slightly, if at all. That's been known for roughly three decades now, despite Speer's immediate post-war efforts to alter the narrative. Tooze for example, writing in 2007, didn't bother to mention it at all, not even as a myth.

 

Jon

 

* actually, not really. The GAF was crushed in Feb-Mar '44, but mass production of the 262 only really got going in 1945. Mass prodn of the 262 would have had to have commenced a full year sooner than it actually did to seriously affect the outcome of the early '44 aerial battles.

Edited by JonS
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There can be no doubt that if it had gone into action in sufficient numbers in the fighter role, the Me 262 could have brought to a halt the daylight attacks on German industry by B-17s and B-24s. In May 1944 it had seemed that the large-scale operational use of the Me 262 was imminent. Components for airframes were being turned out in large numbers at numerous small factories dispersed throughout the country, and final assembly of Me 262s was moving ahead rapidly. The restricting factor was the Jumo 004 engine that powered the new fighter. The 004 was the first turbojet engine in the world to enter pilot production and initially its average running life was only about 10hr.

 

That was too low for general service use, and until it was improved the design could not be frozen for mass production to begin. When engineers face technical problems never previously encountered, it is impossible to predict how long it will take to find a solution – hence the over-optimistic noises being made in May 1944 on when the 004 would be ready for mass production. It has become part of the accepted wisdom about the Luftwaffe that Hitler’s decision was instrumental in preventing the large-scale deployment of the Me 262 in the fighter force. In fact his edict was not the main reason, or even a major reason, for the failure to deploy the fighter in the hoped-for numbers. Not until August 1944 was the average running life of the 004 jet engine raised to 25hr; that was still a very low figure, but it meant that the design could be frozen and mass production could begin. In September Hitler rescinded his order that all new Me 262s be delivered as fighter-bombers.

 

By then more than a hundred fighter airframes were sitting around without engines, and as soon as 004s became available these aircraft were completed and delivered to the Luftwaffe. In fact Hitler’s order delayed the introduction of the Me 262 into service in the fighter role by only about three weeks. For the real reason for the failure to deploy the fighter in large numbers, we must look elsewhere.

 

As a completely new combat aircraft, the Me 262 suffered its share of teething troubles when it entered service. Despite energetic efforts to eradicate these, serviceability was poor and its sortie rate was correspondingly low during the latter part of 1944.

 

http://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/wwii-myths-the-me262-jet-fighter.html

 

And...

 

The latest state of development of the Me 262 incorporating the new findings and requirements had in the meantime been summarized in Project Submission IV. The specification for the "Me 262 fighter and fighter-bomber" drawn up on May 9, 1943 largely determined the shape of the aircraft from then on.

 

The following is a brief outline of salient points of the improved version:

 

-strengthened armament of 4 X or 6 X MK 108 cannon,

-strengthened undercarriage with larger wheels,

-auxiliary tanks for 650 l and 125 l,

-bomb-carrying installation for 1 X 500 kg, BT 700 or 2 X 250 kg bombs,

-cockpit heating,

-improved armor protection,

-expanded radio installation

 

...

 

On November 2 [1943] at the company's Regensburg works Goering came right to the point without beating around the bush:

 

Goering: "Gentlemen! Today I would like to clarify the situation concerning the Me 262, and in two directions. One, with regard to the rate of production of this machine, as this is planned at this time and appears assured. Two, what things can eventually be done to produce this aircraft more quickly and in greater numbers while cutting back in other areas. But the main question is a very important technical question, namely is the 262 jet fighter capable of carrying one or two bombs so as to be able to operate as a surprise fighter-bomber. Here I would like to convey the thought of the Fuehrer, who spoke to me about these matters several days ago and who would very much like to see this issue settled....

 

I would now like to steer this discussion in another direction and speak first not of production and so on, but rather discuss in detail the technical possibilities of the Me 262 carrying bombs externally - any other way is probably impossible - and what weight of bombs we are talking about in two configurations: one bomb in the center and in the other case two bombs right and left. The machine was designed by Professor Messerschmitt and I would therefore like to ask for your view."

 

Messerschmitt: "Herr Reichsmarschall! It was intended from the beginning that the machine could be fitted with two bomb racks so that it could drop bombs, either one 500 kg or two 250 kg. But it can also carry one 1,000 kg or two 500 kg bombs. But for the time being the bomb racks and necessary electrical circuits are not being installed, as the machine is about to enter production."

 

Goering: "That answers the Fuehrer's main question. He is not thinking of 1,000 kg, indeed he once said to me that he would be extremely grateful if we could carry even two 70 kg bombs. Naturally he will be very pleased to hear that two 250 kg bombs can be carried. 

 

Now on to the second question: When would it be possible to retrofit the machines now under construction, meaning the first ones, with these racks?"

 

Messerschmitt: "The design work has not yet been done. I must first design the bomb racks and electrical circuits and then retrofit the first machines with them."

 

Goering: "You said that it has already been planned, therefore you must have given it some thought...How long do you estimate for the design of the racks and the circuits if it really becomes a matter of do or die?"

 

Messerschmitt: "It can be done relatively quickly, in 14 days. The installation isn't much. It's just a matter of fairing the bomb racks."

 

...

 

Of the planned use of the Me 262 as a fighter-bomber, Adolf Galland states in his book Die Ersten und die Letzten:

 

"...Hitler was right. In fact none of us had thought of it [using the 262 as a fighter-bomber]."

 

But why not? A Fuehrer Order had been on the table since February of that year [1943] which unequivocally required that all fighters - including the Me 262 - should be able to carry bombs. Hitler never withdrew from this requirement. Accordingly Messerschmitt had planned bomb-carrying installations for almost every one of his Me 262 variants. Even if Hitler's order was forgotten in the meantime or pushed into the background, all of the participants were reminded of it emphatically on November 2 at the latest. And finally, several days later, Hitler even involved the Luftwaffe Operations Staff in the question of using the Me 262 as a fighter-bomber. After giving the matter consideration the latter reached the following conclusions on November 18:

 

"...As the carriage of bombs by the Me 262 fighter is already in the planning and the potential in fact exists, the demand by the Fuehrer for a jet aircraft for bombing missions against ground and sea targets during a coastal battle can be fully met by retaining the aircraft's high production priority without disrupting development or production as would be the case if priority were shifted from bomber to fighter or if special production of a jet fighter-bomber was to begin.  

 

In the event that enough of these aircraft could be produced this solution has an advantage in that this aircraft would probably also be capable of restraining the numerically far superior enemy fighters and clearing the skies to a degree that existing bombers would be able to operate effectively along our own coast. Based on these considerations it is recommended that:

 

Series production of the Me 262 fighter be accelerated. Preparation of conversion kits for use of the Me 262 in the fighter-bomber role."

 

The signs were all there that is was intended that the Me 262 be used as a fighter-bomber initially, but apparently no one knew or suspected anything at Insterburg on November 26. Reference should be made to the claims by many authors that Hitler sowed the seeds of the German fighter arm's demise that day. What was the immediate effect of the "Fuehrer's inspiration," as it is often called: absolutely nothing! Operational testing as a fighter or fighter-bomber was simply not feasible with the prototypes. Such a program could not begin until after series production had begun, and no measures were initiated by Messerschmitt, such as the designing of conversion kits, to accommodate Hitler's demand. Everyone kept quiet about the fact that production planning was still focused on the pure fighter version.

 

...The bomb burst on May 25, 1944. Under pointed questioning by Hitler, Milch was forced to admit that none of the machines built so far could be employed as fighter-bombers. Hitler's reaction to the disregarding to his order was predictable and found its logical sequel in Goering's statements to representatives of the Luftwaffe, the E-Stelle Rechlin and Messerschmitt four days later:

 

"I have had to call you gentlemen here as the matter of the Me 262 must be cleared up once and for all...The Fuehrer is rightly quite upset and says that everything he ordered has not been carried out...The Fuehrer wants the aircraft as a high-speed bomber and not as a fighter at first. Nevertheless, he does not want further development as a fighter to be completely halted...He only wants all production aircraft to be bombers until further advised and that all emphasis be placed on the bomber sector...

 

Petersen: (as to the question of fighter operations): "There is still a problem relating to operations, and it involves the engines. The bugs have not been worked out of the engine controls and the throttles cannot be closed above 9,000 m without the engines flaming out immediately. Combat above 9,000 m therefore poses difficulties."

 

Galland: "That's true."

 

Goering: "Therefore it is clear that at present the aircraft can best be used as the Fuehrer proposes. I will say it once again so that we all understand: the Fuehrer does not want a complete paralyzation of the Me 262 as a fighter. It is just that he needs the aircraft for other purposes at this time, and as it is not ready to be used as a fighter, as we now hear again about the 9,000 m altitude, he says correctly: at 4,000 or 6,000 meters I have the full advantage of the machine as a high-speed bomber which cannot be caught...When the day comes that I can tell the Fuehrer that the first Staffel of high-speed bombers is ready and that production is in full swing, then the Fuehrer will authorize the machine as a fighter..."

 

...All discussions of this theme are basically academic: the Allied landings took place before an operational unit had been formed. Thus history must be responsible for proving or disproving Hitler's thesis....

 

The question must now be asked as to the possible course of the air war had all the machines built between May 25 and November 4, 1944 been incorporated into Germany's air defence. Absolutely reliable sources show a production of 239 Me 262s during this period. But only about 60(!) aircraft were in fact delivered to KG 51. This is the figure that must be used in any calculations or speculations. These 60 Me 262s would undoubtedly have been a great advantage in the careful retraining of fighter pilots and in a logically-designed front-line testing program; but no one will seriously contend that they could have brought about a decisive change in the air war.

 

-Manfred Boehme, JG 7

 

60 Me 262s and a 2-week difference would not have made one iota of a difference in the prosecution of the air war. 

Edited by LukeFF
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The problem with these "what if" scenarios is they assume the Allies would remain static and not react.

 

The Allies had their own jet program, the RAF had the Gloster Meteor which entered service in july 44 and the USAAF, the P-80 which was deployed in Europe beginning in late 44. Both had similar performance to the ME-262.

 

-Meteor flying over England, summer 44:

Royal_Air_Force_Fighter_Command%2C_1939-

 

 

-USAAF P-80s:

Production_P-80s_af.jpg

 

 

If the 262 had entered service earlier and in larger number, the Allies would just have accelerated their own jet program to counter the threat.

Edited by Sgt Joch
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