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Old 19th April 2022, 11:36
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

I wonder if anybody can help me address questions about comparative air crew survival rates (i.e. across nationalities, during different operations throughout WWII). Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is in the specific context of my ongoing research about ‘Steinbock’. (see other forum threads) But it would be interesting to have reference points from other Luftwaffe, or Allied, operations between 1939 and 1945.

As far as I can tell, the Luftwaffe lost about 275 aircraft destroyed during the ‘Steinbock’ raids (interpreted widely to include the Bristol, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Torquay and Falmouth raids as well as the 14 attacks on London, but EXCLUDING planes lost in transfer flights as well as aircraft destroyed in Steinbock-related training or Allied attacks on bomber unit airfields). One can certainly argue about that figure – for example, it includes KG 51 Me 410s lost when they were part of a ‘main raid’ attacking force, but excludes them when they were involved in a ‘harassing raid’ or intruder mission; it also excludes Fw 190 types entirely. However, given that discrepancies between sources are unlikely ever to be fully resolved, 275 two- and four-engine aircraft seems like a reasonable basis to work from.

From the (approximately) 275 two- and four-engine aircraft lost during the ‘Steinbock’ raids, there were 130 survivors who became prisoners (131 if the survivor from a 1./F)/121 recce aircraft sent to photograph the results of the first Portsmouth raid is included). These came from:

KG 2 = 35 PW / number of planes from which at least one PW survived = 15
KG 6 = 25 PW / 15
KG 30 = 12 PW / 6 (incl. 1 plane that returned to base)
KG 40 = 6 PW / 2
KG 51 = 0 PW / 0
KG 54 = 27 PW / 10
KG 66 = 4 PW / 3
KG 76 = 4 PW / 2
KG 100 = 17 PW / 6
KG 101 = 0 PW / 0

So that’s a total of 130 PW from 59 different aircraft (or 131 from 60 if the 1.(F)/121 aircraft is counted). As a proportion, that means that about 21.45% (59 of 275) of the two- and four-engine aircraft destroyed during ‘Steinbock’ produced at least one prisoner.

From 275 planes lost, as far as I can tell, the entire crew survived (to become PW) from only FOUR of the 59 aircraft that produced at least one prisoner:

2./KG 2, Do 217 M-1, U5+DK (23/4 February, abandoned plane that subsequently glided to Cambridge).
5./KG 2, Ju 188 E-1, U5+EN (27/8 March, first Bristol raid)
6./KG 30, Ju 88 A-4, 4D+EP (27/8 March, first Bristol raid)
3./KG 54, Ju 88 A-4 Trop, B3+PL (18/19 April, last London raid, crash-landed at RAF Bradwell)

From 275 planes lost, as far as I can tell, the entire crew was KILLED when the aircraft was destroyed in the following cases:

KG 2: 32 aircraft
KG 6: 40 aircraft
KG 30: 21 aircraft
KG 40: 1 aircraft
KG 54: 34 aircraft
KG 66: 17 aircraft
KG 76: 2 aircraft
KG 100: 3 aircraft
KG 101: 4 aircraft

That’s 154 aircraft. Really, to this figure should be added KG 51 Me 410s lost in the ‘Steinbock’ main raids. It’s a bit difficult to isolate these from aircraft lost in harassing raids and intruder missions, but I reckon about 9 Me 410s were lost in the ‘Steinbock’ main raids. So that would raise the overall total from 154 to 163 aircraft. As a proportion, 163 of 275 is a little over 59%.

Self-evidently, that means that about 19.3% of Steinbock aircraft losses (275 minus 59 minus 163 = 53) produced neither any prisoners nor involved the loss of the aircraft’s entire crew. This is explained by those aircraft that made it back to NW Europe, permitting crew members either to bale out before their plane crashed or to survive a crash-landing that wrote off the plane.

So, to my questions:

A. Please can anybody provide me with comparative data for other reasonably large-scale Luftwaffe bomber campaigns? I guess the most obvious comparisons would be with earlier raids against the UK (1940-41 or Baedeker raids?), but sustained operations over other areas of enemy-held territory (especially USSR) might also be interesting.

B. Please can anybody provide me with comparative data for broadly comparable Allied bombing operations? It would be interesting to know, for example, the proportion of British or U.S. bombers that were lost over enemy-held territory from which the entire crew survived, or the proportion that produced at least one prisoner, or the proportion that were lost along with their entire crew.

C. In the absence of ready answers to the above questions (which would be understandable, for several reasons), please can anybody suggest focused sources that I might look at that could help me? I don’t have the resources (time etc) needed to carry out detailed research, but it occurs to me that TOCH forum users might either have carried out similar research about Luftwaffe operations other than ‘Steinbock’ and know about relevant publications, or know of sources of consolidated (but not-yet-analysed) data about Allied bombing operations that I could use for my own purposes.

Whatever the case, I hope the information presented above is of interest to some forum users and perhaps it might prompt research into other Luftwaffe operations about which users are already knowledgeable, but about which I know very little indeed.

Thanks,

Simon
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Old 19th April 2022, 13:08
Adriano Baumgartner Adriano Baumgartner is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Simon,

If memory does not fail me "Middlebrook's works" did have some kind of statistic behind its massive information and first hand accounts. This is not 100% what you are looking for (Steinbock raids), but can gives you an overall picture.

Of course, statistics varied during the war years and stiffening (or not) of the defences...so maybe you will need more precise data (guess unavailable) for the period in question you are looking for (RAF versus LW KG units versus USAAC - 8th AF for instance).

If you have not read yet, I do recommend "Bomber Command War Diaries" from Middlebrook and another historian, whose name I forgot by heart now.

There was even a study about the % of crews that survived bailing out from Lancasters or Halifaxex and Stirlings. The chance of survival if one had to bail out from those machines. I have read it somewhere and quoted on the biography of a Bomber Command Wing Commander and CO, but do not have it now at hands.

Maybe you could, in the futur and your coming book, add something about the survival probability and chances for each LW sub-type of bombers used on Steinbock campaign. It would be a good suggestion and welcomed.

I guess that at least one member of this board is writing about the BAEDEKER RAIDS or to publish something about.

Humbly yours,
Adriano
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Old 19th April 2022, 14:44
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Thanks Adriano,

I had a quick look at Middlebrook (& Everitt) before I posted. He/they say that 47,268 Bomber Command air crew were killed in action or (I guess a fairly small number) died as prisoners of war. Against this, there were 9838 prisoners of war.

Superficially, that suggests that about 1 in 6 Bomber Command air crew survived the loss of their aircraft and became prisoners, although if some thousands of the dead actually died in crashes NOT over enemy territory (i.e. over the North Sea or UK) then it might be more like 1 in 5.5.

As far as I can tell (my figures are not precise and I doubt it is possible to come up with absolutely accurate data), around 900 Luftwaffe air crew died during 'Steinbock' (just on operations - at least another 125 died in accidents, transfer flights, training sorties that went wrong and Allied attacks on bomber geschwader airfields). If 130 survived to become prisoners, that suggests that about 12% (or 1 in 8) of the Luftwaffe's 'irrecoverable losses' during Steinbock survived to become prisoners.

So a very superficial comparison suggests that for the war as a whole (there must have been some significant differences between different bomber campaigns, as well - as you indicate - some differences between survival rates for different aircraft), 1 in 5.5 RAF Bomber Command air crew survived the experience of having their aircraft destroyed over enemy-held territory and became prisoners, whereas about 1 in 8 Luftwaffe air crew involved in Steinbock did so.

One can speculate on reasons for this. It's evident that quite a few Steinbock air crew had the misfortune to come down in the English Channel or North Sea, and I suspect that in January or February 1944 that was pretty much lethal (though a few seem to have been rescued both by the British and Germans). So they survived the loss of their plane but not the bit that followed. I also imagine (I've never tried it) that landing by parachute at night is more dangerous than during daylight. That might explain some of the difference too (bearing in mind Bomber Command's various day-time raids at various points in the war). It might also be relevant in the context of comparing USAAF bomber air crew losses with RAF Bomber Command and Luftwaffe ones.

Another thing that might be relevant is parachute failure. There are certainly accounts in the British intelligence sources of finding the bodies of Steinbock air crew who managed to bale out, but whose parachutes failed them. More research needed here too.

I agree that it would be interesting to compare survival rates for various types of German bomber, and I'll try to do that. I'm also working out whether survival rates differed according to where one sat in the plane and the job one did. I would imagine that being the pilot reduced one's chances, as these people often needed to (or chose to) stay with their stricken aircraft in order to give their crew mates the chance to bale out. Having said that, there are certainly pilots among the 130 Steinbock prisoners and at least one case where the only person who survived from the crew was the pilot.

I'd be interested to hear if you recall the source that relates to Halifax / Lancaster / Stirling survival rates.

Any equivalent data about USAAF heavy bomber crews, comparable to Middlebrook's about RAF Bomber Command, would also be interesting.

Thanks again for the suggestions and thoughts.

Simon
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Old 19th April 2022, 15:06
SteveR SteveR is online now
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Survival rate studies (for lack of a better term) were done for both RAF 'heavies' and USAAF 'heavies', in both cases by type of bomb and crew position.

It's been quite a number of years since I read either of them so I may be wrong but I think I read the one for the RAF in Bomber Command by Max Hastings.

For the USAAF it might have been in one of Freeman's books, maybe The Mighty Eighth War Manual.
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Old 19th April 2022, 15:20
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Steve R,

Thanks for the suggestions. Logical that those books should contain that sort of information. I have both in my work office and will have a look when I'm next there.

Best,

Simon
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Old 19th April 2022, 15:55
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR View Post
Survival rate studies (for lack of a better term) were done for both RAF 'heavies' and USAAF 'heavies', in both cases by type of bomb and crew position.

It's been quite a number of years since I read either of them so I may be wrong but I think I read the one for the RAF in Bomber Command by Max Hastings.[/i].
I think that Len Deighton's novel "Bomber" also quoted some figures.
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Old 19th April 2022, 16:33
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Thanks Nick, I'll look at that too.

Just by way of an update.

Of the 130 PW (excluding the Me 410 recce survivor):

22 were pilots.
30 were observers.
35 were wireless operators.
15 were Bordmechaniker (not a role identified for Ju 88 crew, therefore not possible to be a Ju 88 Bordmechaniker prisoner).
28 were air gunners (bearing in mind that He 177 had two, not one of these).

Of the 59 planes from which they originated:

32 were Ju 88.
13 were Ju 188.
8 were Do 217.
6 were He 177.

This is just the raw data. Much more analysis is needed to make any sense of this, and some of that is more than difficult. For example, one would need to know precisely how many sorties were carried out by each type of aircraft during 'Steinbock' in order to establish the ratio of PW survivors per type of aircraft per loss (Ju 88s were most common but some units switched plane types during Steinbock and lots of Ju 88s were switched to Italian operations in late January). I doubt that it is possible to establish that. And as noted above, the data for Bordmechaniker prisoners is rather affected by the fact that Ju 88s didn't have them (at least, insofar as British interrogators were concerned). And some Ju 88s were S-1s with only three, not four crew. And so on.

Still, a superficial glance suggests that since every plane had a pilot, observer and wireless operator, plus at least one air gunner, being a pilot was the 'least survivable' position to occupy in a stricken aircraft, whereas being a wireless operator was possibly an enhancement to survival chances. And since more than half of all aircraft from which survivors originated were Ju 88s, the proportion of Bordmechaniker who survived also seems (at least in relative terms) quite high. Wireless operators and air gunners seem to have been somewhere in-between, and since He 177 had two of these I'd be inclined to guess that it was marginally better to be a wireless operator than an air gunner.
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Old 19th April 2022, 16:35
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Sorry, towards the end I meant observer and air gunner, not wireless operator and air gunner. And marginally better to be an observer than an air gunner.
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Old 19th April 2022, 18:11
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Ju 88s did have Bordmechaniker-some times recorded as BS. The deeper one digs into such raw data, the more muddied the water. I am a firm believer in such matters as keeping it simple! BF on the Ju 88 tended to jettison canopy and go out that way while the BM/BS went out through the gondola. However, this depended on who was still alive/capable and the orientation of the aircraft
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Old 19th April 2022, 19:42
Adriano Baumgartner Adriano Baumgartner is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Simon, I shall dig that info for you.I will be on short holidays from next Monday, so please do allow me some days to find on some HD's and books. But it was a nice statistical report (study).

Chris, I bet you are right! On this kind of situation (gladly we had never to face this kind of situation whilst flying), one tends to save his skin (and quickly as possible)! I remember a HUET training I did some years ago, simulating a night landing on the "Drink" or sea (wearing full painted black swimming glasses)..in spite of all the theoretical training, just before the events, when the hull capsized and turned upside down, I unbuckled my seat-belt and went the other way, passing in front of the "Captain" and exiting through his door (instead of mine) in record speed time (like a Champagne cork), to breath freely over the water some meters above....Boy, I doubt if Michael Phelps would have beaten me this day....

A.
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