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Old 5th August 2009, 15:42
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Bill Walker Bill Walker is offline
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Re: VIIIUSAAF and BC failures at the Wesel bridges.


This is an interesting discussion, hope the other Forumites don't mind the digression.

I never said the bombers didn't try to get bridges, I just said they were not reliable at it. Yes, both sides destroyed some bridges, but there are bridges and then there are bridges. Wooden bridges were relatively easy targets, stone and steel bridges were relatively hard.

Again, I think attacking bridges had advantages, even when the bridge itself was not destroyed. I find it interesting that several of the original sources you quote talk about attacking bridges, not destroying them.

I think a lot of historians, past and present, have fallen for the "bomb in a pickle barrel" propaganda popular in the 1930s. When a small bomber force fails to get a bridge it is easy to blame the skill of the bomber crews, but it was just the hardware they had to work with. When a large bomber force puts one or two bombs, out of hundreds or thousands, on a small target, this doesn't prove the "bomb in a pickle barrel" story. Instead, it shows how poor the available technology was for precision attacks back then.

This lack of precision is also the cause of the Army's dislike of heavy bombing you quote. Heavy bombing was an area weapon. The infantryman is concerned about the one guy shooting at him at the moment, if a large percentage of enemy in "the area" had been previously killed by heavy bombing that is of little help in the short term and small scale. It does, however, have some cumulative benefit to the long term, large scale picture.

I also think a lot of historians have also fallen for the propaganda, both German and in the western press, about the efficiency of the Stuka. This was largely based on early results, where Stukas attacked low-tech poorly defended targets. Why didn't these same Stukas stop the Russian army, and the Allied armies after Normandy? Why didn't they destroy the Bailey bridges thrown up by the Allies in Italy and France? Partly because (in my opinion) of the limitations of the weapons and aiming systems available to them. Still, they slowed the Allied armies to some extent, just like the Typhoons helped the Canadian Army, in some small way, to advance across Europe.

Also, in my opinion, the final defeat of Germany and Japan was more a result of volume of effort, not of any specific technology or tactic. Look at how much effort Germany spent on very advanced technologies (for the time), and look where it got them. With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, compare these German efforts to the effort that went into the BCATP and the mass production of any weapon even if it had problems, like the Typhoon. Yes, a Typhoon might be easily shot down or just plain fell apart, but there was always another Typhoon and fully trained pilot ready to take its place. Post war studies indicate that only about 5% of the rockets fired by Typhoons hit their intended target. The quick-fix solution selected by the RAF to this problem was just to fire more rockets, from more Typhoons.

A good chunk of military R&D budgets today still goes toward improving precision bombing methods, with all sorts of guided weapon technologies and special warheads for concrete targets. If we still can't reliably and efficiently take out point targets in 2009, it must have been very difficult in 1944 or 1945.
Bill Walker
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