Sunday, September 16, 2012

WWII Myths - Luftwaffe the tactical airforce part 2

The Luftwaffe was supposed to be a ‘tactical’ airforce that failed to invest resources in ‘strategic’ aircraft that could have won the war.

I’ve already criticized that opinion here. Throughout the 1930’s and 40’s the Luftwaffe spent the majority of its resources on the bomber arm. The best pilots were selected for the bombers.

Compared to the Allied airforces the Germans had superiority in technology and numbers at the start of the war. No other airforce had radio beam systems (like Knickebein and X-Gerat) for guiding bombers.

The Luftwaffe’s emphasis on the bomber force is mentioned in a postwar British study called AIR 41/10The Rise and Fall of the German Air Force (1933 to 1945)’

In pages 86-7 it says:
'The foregoing account of the Battle of Britain throws light on the main factors which contributed to the defeat of the Luftwaffe. It is as well, however, to enumerate those factors and to examine to what extent and to what degree each was responsible. The main factors may be summarized as follows:

(a) A fundamental failure in German air strategy and policy, which concentrated on the doctrine of attack, and thereby led to a disproportionate weakness of the fighter arm as opposed to the strength of the bomber and dive bomber forces. The armament of the German He 111, Do. 17 and Ju.88 bombers which, in conjunction with their speed, had been relied upon in part to offset the deficiency of fighters, proved inadequate and led to a wasteful use of the limited strength of the fighter escort and to disastrous quarrels at a crucial point in the Battle.'
While it is true that in the second half of the war the Anglo-Americans fielded large 4-engine bomber forces it needs to be remembered that the StrategicTM RAF only started getting its new 4-engine models in late 1941 and up to mid 1943 the operational numbers were between 200-300 planes.

So if the Luftwaffe was a ‘tactical’ airforce then that can only be true for the period 1943-45. This is understandable since from 1941 the Germans were involved in a life and death struggle in the East and had to spend huge resources on their land forces. Under these circumstances the Luftwaffe could not get the resources it needed nor could production facilities be allocated for aircraft that would take years to build and field in numbers.

Think about that next time someone says the Luftwaffe was a tactical airforce.

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