The Contribution of Bomber Command to Bringing About the Defeat of Germany

The Contribution of Bomber Command to Bringing About the Defeat of Germany

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The Contribution of Bomber Command to Bringing About the Defeat of Germany


It can be safely said that Bomber Command played an important role in
the overall defeat of Germany in World War Two. However, it is
unlikely that the contribution of Bomber Command was decisive in
bringing victory for the allies. There were other factors in the war,
which were equally, if not more, important than Bomber Command's
input. Probably the main points being; the Eastern front holding out
longer than the Germans had expected, the Western, North African and
Italian Fronts spreading the German resources too thin, the huge
amount of resources of the US coming into play along with the aerial
supremacy of the USAAF, all definitely played major parts in the
defeat of the Axis powers.

In 1939 the tensions within Europe had got to such a stage that the
onset of war was inevitable. Bomber Command were under such strict
instructions to minimise the number of civilian casualties that they
were reluctant to bomb German warships while docked for fear of
killing dock staff that might have been nearby. This goes to show just
how much Bomber Command changed as the war began. For instance, by
August 1943 close to 40,000 German civilians were killed in Hamburg
and then in February 1945 an even larger number of civilian casualties
was reported as Dresden was bombarded. By the end of the war they
could dispatch over 1500 aircraft compared to the mere 280 at the
beginning. Despite the massive improvement in the quality of Bomber
Command it is hard to say whether they achieved their aims. Arthur
Harris had said at the start of the war that they would try to " Bomb
Germany out of the war" but as the war came to a close Bomber Command
had not made a very significant difference to the outcome of the war.
In the final quarter of 1944 Bomber Command dropped more bombs than it
had in the whole of 1943. In the last 3 months of 1944 they dropped
163,266 tons of bombs out of 525,518 tons in the year.

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All they had to
show for it was large numbers of innocent German lives taken and a
slight decrease in the German resources. For example, Germany's coal
production decreased by less than four million metric tons, which
hardly mattered because it had increased by more than 20 million the
year before. Although it is hard to say whether this was down to
Bomber Command or the USAAF. They did, indeed, try many different ways
of bombing Germany out of the war.

After beginning the war with a mentality of sparing civilians Bomber
Command switched from Precision Bombing, which they deemed to be
ineffective, time consuming and not cost effective (Every 10 tons of
bombs dropped 1 aircraft was lost), to Area Bombing. The difference
being that instead of aiming at specific, small targets (e.g.
Factories) they would bomb much larger areas like cities such as
Dresden. Albert Speer, Germany's Minister of armament and war
productions, said after the war that he was astonished at the
inconsistency of the allied air attack saying that " The vast but
pointless area bombing" had no significant effect on the German war
effort. He also testified that when Bomber Command attacked oil plants
it caused greater damage than the US 8th Air Force. But Arthur Harris
had continued with his bombing of cities throughout the war. 18.9% of
RAF bombs dropped on oil plants failed to explode so only 14% of
Bomber Command's effort was focused on oil plants, in 1944 compared to
56% on cities in the same year. There were very small advantages to
area bombing like night bombing. The accuracy also improved as the war
went on. In 1942 the average bomb error was twice as much as in 1944.
In terms of success for Bomber Command it varied. The attack on
Hamburg caused the loss of 1½ months of war production in the
factories. The attacks on U-boats at St. Nazaire were extremely
ineffective though due to the concrete shields over the harbours. Due
to the insufficient land and sea forces a lot of money was pumped in
to Bomber Command and it is questionable whether it was money well
spent. It is very hard to judge just how much money was used and how
successful they were. We can compare the production of Tanks and Self
Propelled guns (27,896) and aircraft (131,549) and this gives us an
idea of the difference. I would say that Bomber Command was just about
cost effective but there is a possibility that the war would have
ended sooner with more ground troops. The USAAF and the Germans were
also putting a lot of money into their air forces.

If we want to see if Bomber Command was successful then we need to
look at the other two major air forces, USA air force and the German
air force. The combination of the 8th and 15th US air forces had
dropped more tons of bombs than Britain despite only joining the war
in 1941. Britain had dropped 883,328 tons and the US dropped 956,192.
This along with their very accurate strategic bombing shows that they
were more effective than Bomber Command. The USAAF favoured strategic
bombing to prevent the deaths of civilians. A problem was that it was
easier for the enemy to predict where they would attack next because
they attacked specific targets and the Germans could prepare. To
compare the number of people serving in the air forces of these
countries we have to look at these statistics:

1 American in 38 served in the air force, 1 in 22 Germans and 1 in 40
Brits. This is interesting as Britain actually had the lowest average
for men in the air force yet they appeared to spend the most money for
their population. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that Bomber
Command was decisive in the defeat of Germany and other factors were
more important.

I now think that there were definitely more important factors that
brought about the defeat of Germany, than Bomber Command. For example,
the war on the Eastern front was certainly one of the key moments.
Hitler committed about 3 million men in 117 divisions in his 6- week
campaign to conquer the Soviet Union. This combined with the Western,
North African and Italian Fronts meant that the German resources were
spread too thin. This was an error of judgement on Hitler's part. He
didn't realise that war with Britain would mean war with her Empire.
The survival of Britain in "The Battle of Britain" in 1940 kept the
western front in the war. This was a tactical mistake by Germany as
they sent forces to Russia before finishing Britain off meaning they
had to fight two wars instead of one. There were also battles to be
won in North Africa and Italy. Then in 1941 when the US joined the war
after the bombing of Pearl Harbour the Axis simply had too much to
take on with their resources becoming increasingly spread out. These
resources compared to the vast resources of the allies meant that the
longer the war went on the less chance the Axis powers had. The
allies' (US, USSR and UK) coal resources made up 62% of the worlds
coal compared to Germany and Japan's 20.2%. Allies oil was 71% against
Germany and Japan's pathetic 0.3%. Iron ore was 56.7% for the allies'
and 6.3% for the Axis. This goes to show the scale of resources the
allies had. On the 6 June 1944 the invasion of France began and was
known as D-Day. This was a turning point in the war the allies got a
major foothold in Europe. Italy had been defeated, the U-boats were
under control and the air superiority belonged to the allies. The time
was right to begin the land offensive. They landed by sea and by air
along the beaches of Normandy and were met by strong resistance but
eventually 3 million men safely landed. Within just a few weeks the
allies regained most of northern France. The Germans were now on the
back foot and the assault on Germany soon followed. From here on the
rest of the war was fairly simple and the fall of the Axis was
looming. D-Day was won by ground troops showing that the war probably
would have been over sooner had Britain put more money into the army
as opposed to the more than often ineffective Bomber Command.

After studying the evidence, some of which might not me very reliable,
I have come to the conclusion that Bomber Command did play an
important role in the defeat of Germany but I do not agree that it was
decisive. In order for it to be decisive the result of the war needed
to be resting on the shoulders of Bomber Command and this was not so.
The war relied on the result of many different battles and decisions
within it that all came together to bring down Germany. I believe that
the only single factor that came close to being decisive was the
involvement of the US and not the attacks on Germany carried out by
Bomber Command. Max Hastings sums up Bomber Command's contribution
when he says, "In the last months of the war Bomber Command
contributed more to the punishment of the enemy than to the defeat of
the enemy."
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