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Old 5th August 2009, 13:22
tcolvin tcolvin is offline
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Re: VIIIUSAAF and BC failures at the Wesel bridges.

Originally Posted by Bill Walker View Post
In general terms, bridges were too small for strategic bomber aiming methods available in 1945, and too big for the weapons carried by tactical aircraft (like 2 TAF). Any bridges destroyed by air attack in the Second World War, by any air force, were more a result of luck than skill. (Just my opinion.)
Your opinion is open to question.

Surely when the final, and dispassionate, history of WWII air warfare is written, (which means probably not in the lifetime of us contributing here) "bridges" will be found written on the RAF's gravestone.

From first (1940, Meuse bridges, Fairey Battles) to last (1945, Rhine bridges at Wesel, B17/Lancaster/Mosquito/Mitchell) bridge destruction was demanded by the army and the RAF/USAAF could not reliably deliver it. The RAF had implicitly promised it to Churchill when he denied the British army its own airforce. The RAF believed that a strategic bomber force could always destroy a fragile bridge.

The Germans used the Ju-87, which was "ordered to attack road junctions, and especially bridges to hinder the movement of Allied ground forces" (, and Ju-88. AFAIK, a squadron of Ju-87 could reliably bring down a bridge. Ditto Russian Pe-2s.

The British army demanded accurate support from dive-bombers and the RAF categorically refused to operate them, although they possessed them in the ETO, and operated them in Burma - see Peter C. Smith's books for this complicated story.

The RAF and USAAF instead provided the army with bombing support also from retired air-superiority fighter aircraft which dropped quite heavy bombs without benefit of bomb sights.

In Operation Veritable, heavies were used to destroy Cleve and Goch, and successfully so from the RAF's point of view. The army had other views, which they expressed in the report quoted from above;
"To Bomb or not to Bomb
a. From the Infantryman' s point of view, heavy bombing has every disadvantage and no advantage, unless carried out immediately before his assault. Then air photographs lose some of their value and the danger area for heavy bombs precludes the immediate rushing of the objectives as the last bomb falls. Craters and rubble preclude the use of tanks, CROCODILES or WASPS and make the evacuation of casualties even more difficult; it makes the drill of clearing through the back gardens impracticable, and clearing houses from the top, impossible. It also makes the enemy's task of hiding and camouflaging himself many times easier; his snipers always preclude the use of a bulldozer till very late in the operations.
b. From our experience in clearing a town not bombed, to one that has been heavily bombed, there is little doubt the Infantryman would ask the airman to go elsewhere, particularly as he does not kill or even frighten the defenders the Infantryman is going to meet."

To conclude, the record seems to show that heavies and mediums could not provide the battlefield support needed by the army (destruction of bridges and dams), and the support they could provide and was accepted faute de mieux actually hindered the army's progress.

This conclusion is swingeing, but is it inaccurate?

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