Osprey's Schweinfurt-Regensburg 1943
|Marshall Michel III|
96 pages, Air Campaign #14
When the US entered the war in Europe, the USAAF brass fully embraced the Douhet theory that bombing a nation would cause such devastation as to cause that nation's war effort to collapse. Not only that, they believed that daylight precision bombing by heavily armed bombers would be sufficient to do this.
The British had dabbled in daylight bombing early in the war with ruinous results to the bomber force. However, USAAF brass felt that their bombers (we are mostly talking about B-17s) would be able to do the job that the less heavily armed British bombers could not. US tactics included very tight formation flying in 'boxes' so that attackers would face the maximum number of guns per given area.
The American build up was, for many, horribly slow and initial raids were not very large. It wasn't until the middle of 1943 that sufficient planes were in place to involve several hundred planes. During this time, German defenses were able to build up as well and to evolve tactics that proved to be very effective against the unescorted bombers. These bombers were unescorted as the available fighters (P-47s for the most part) were unable to reach very far into Europe. As most German industry was located outside the range of these planes, the bombers had to fly most of the way there and back unescorted.
The result was what one might expect. Heavy losses of aircraft and of those that did make it back, many were damaged to some extent and unable to participate in planned raids. The Germans had two major weapons going for them. One was the 21cm rocket. These were lobbed into the bomber stream from Me-110 and Me-410 aircraft. Their 100 foot blast radius was sufficient to knock down bombers or at least cause the box to spread out, making the planes more susceptible to single-seat fighters. These single seat fighters learned to attack en mass and from the front where there were fewer guns aimed at them. It was not unusual for these two tactics to completely wipe out whole squadrons out of the groups that were in the bomber force.
So great were the losses that after the October 1943 raids of Schweinfurt and Regensberg, the USAAF stopped doing deep penetration raids and only did those missions where the bombers could be escorted to and from the target. It was almost the end of the US bombing campaign. They tried night bombing, but the B-17 was not well suited for this mission. B-24s, for the most part, had been relegated to the 15th Air Force in the Med as they were deemed unsuitable for Northwest Europe.
As we know, it was the introduction of the P-51 in early 1944 that completely changed everything and allowed US bomber streams to be escorted all the way to even the longest range targets.
This book is really not about just the two missions on the cover, but the entire US long range bomber campaign during 1943. It is a superb look at the changing tactics on both sides and a look into what worked and what did not. It was a time when the Luftwaffe was its most successful against the US bombing campaign. It also showed me that the 21cm rocket was a lot more successful than I'd originally thought. The downside of the weapon is that the planes carrying it were easy kills for escort fighters and so after the introduction of the P-51, these types basically disappeared from Reich Defense. As is usual with this series, you have great period photos along with excellent maps and artwork. You will definitely learn something new from this one. Most highly recommended.
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