The raid on Schweinfurt-Regensburg demonstrated the learning curve facing the USAAF as they developed their bombing campaign in conjunction with the RAF. Lessons learned here helped to develop a system of joint operations that saw US bombers operating in daylight with RAF bombers taking over during the night to subject selected high value targets to continuous bombardment over several days.
NAME: The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, The American Raids on 17 August 1943
CLASSIFICATION: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Martin Middlebrook
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, 1939-1945 War, European air war, 8th Air Force, B-17, German air defence
DESCRIPTION: When the first units of the USAAF 8th Air Force arrived in Britain, the aircrews were yet to experience combat. Their bombers were armed with 50 cal heavy machine guns and it was assumed that this would enable them to bomb targets in Europe in daylight where the 303 cal armed RAF bombers were forced to operate mainly at night. It was soon discovered that the B-17 needed improved armament and that the close box formations, intended for mutual defence, were still inadequate to defend against German fighter attack. It was not until the arrival of long range fighter escorts, notably the excellent P-51 Mustang, that the USAAF was able to operate over Europe in daylight at acceptable loss rates. Even in the closing stages of the war in Europe, the American bombers faced heavy opposition from anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft. In addition to improved armament for defence, crews had to use body armour to reduce serious injuries, although in the later stages, the Allies maintained general air superiority and by that time there were sufficient numbers of fighter and strike aircraft to maintain low level roving patrols to strafe and bomb German airfields and targets of opportunity, taking some of the pressure off the B-17 and B-24 crews. The raid on Schweinfurt-Regensburg demonstrated the learning curve facing the USAAF as they developed their bombing campaign in conjunction with the RAF. Lessons learned here helped to develop a system of joint operations that saw US bombers operating in daylight with RAF bombers taking over during the night to subject selected high value targets to continuous bombardment over several days. This wore down the German defences and impeded the production of war materials. There continues to be debate as to the real effectiveness of aerial bombardment and the worth of the RAF dam busting raids, but those who suggest bombers were ineffective fail to see how far German industry could have developed its capacity without the destruction of factories and homes and the killing of workers. They also fail to appreciate the effect on the development of new advanced weapons that could have caused the Allies serious problems had bombing not delayed their availability and reduced the numbers available. The author has produced a well reasoned and comprehensively research analysis of this classic USAAF raid and the challenges involved in co-ordinating the RAF and USAAF bombing campaign in its early stages. The text is supported by illustrations and a black and white plate section. By combining research and interviews with US and German veterans, the author has introduced some valuable new material and a fresh perspective. He has also addressed the important question of why the RAF did not support and follow up the raid as originally planned. A very readable analysis that holds the reader’s attention.