Operation Pointblank: Wikis

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Operation Pointblank
Part of Strategic bombing campaign in Europe
Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10 USAF.jpg
Messerschmitt Bf 109, single-engine fighter targeted by Pointblank.
Date June 14, 1943-April 19, 1944[1]
Location Germany, France
Result "…the effectiveness of POINTBLANK was greater than we had anticipated" (Carl Spaatz, July 1944).[2]
Belligerents
 United States
 United Kingdom
 Nazi Germany
Commanders
Carl Spaatz, Arthur Harris

Operation Pointblank was the code name for the primary portion[3] of the World War II Combined Bomber Offensive "to impose heavy losses on German day fighter force and to conserve German fighter force away from the Russian and Mediterranean theatres of war" (Casablanca directive) before the Normandy Landings. The 14 June 1943 Pointblank directive ordered RAF Bomber Command and the U.S. Eighth Air Force to bomb specific targets such as aircraft factories, and the order was confirmed at the Quebec Conference, 1943. The techniques and specific tactics were decided upon by the commanders and subsequently followed differing bombing doctrines. The RAF mainly carried out night-time area bombing and the USAAF carried out daytime precision attacks against small targets.[4]

Fw 190 single-engine fighter targeted by Pointblank.

Contents

Casablanca directive

CBO target types

(in priority order)[2]:154

  1. single-engine fighter aircraft[3]1
  2. ball bearings
  3. petroleum
  4. grinding wheels and abrasives
  5. non-ferrous metals
  6. synthetic rubber and tires
  7. submarine construction plants and bases
  8. military transport vehicles
  9. transportation
  10. coking plants
  11. iron and steel
  12. machine tools
  13. electric power
  14. electrical equipment
  15. optical precision instruments
  16. chemicals
  17. food
  18. nitrogen
  19. anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery

At the January 1943 Casablanca Conference, the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed to conduct the Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO), and the British Air Ministry issued the Casablanca directive on 4 February with the following objective:[5]

"The progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic systems and the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened. Every opportunity to be taken to attack Germany by day to destroy objectives that are unsuitable for night attack, to sustain continuous pressure on German morale, to impose heavy losses on German day fighter force and to conserve German fighter force away from the Russian and Mediterranean theatres of war". (Casablanca directive)

CBO plan

A committee under Gen. Ira C. Eaker; led by Brig. Gen. Haywood S. Hansell, Jr.; and including Brig. Gen. Orvil A. Anderson; drew up a plan for Combined Bomber Operations. Finished in April 1943, the plan recommended 18 operations during each three-month phase (12 in each phase were expected to be successful) against a total of 76 specific targets.[6] The plan also projected the US bomber strength for the four phases (944, 1192, 1746, & 2702 bombers) through 31 March 1944.[6]:15

The Combined Bomber Offensive began on 10 June 1943[7] during the Battle of the Ruhr, and a Combined Strategic Targets Committee was established in October 1944.[2]:185,242[8]

Pointblank directive

On 14 June 1943 the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank directive which modified the February 1943 Casablanca directive.[9] Along with the single-engine fighters of the CBO plan,[9] the highest priority Pointblank targets were the fighter aircraft factories since the Western Allied invasion of France could not take place without fighter superiority. In August 1943 the Quebec Conference upheld this change of priorities.[10][11]

Pointblank targets
Regensburg Messerschmitt factory

Schweinfurter Kugellagerwerke (ball bearings)
Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke (WNF) (Bf109s)

Pointblank operations

Following the heavy losses (about a quarter of the aircraft) of "Black Thursday" (14 October 1943), the USAAF discontinued strikes deep into Germany until an escort was introduced that could follow the bombers to and from their targets. In 1944 the USAAF bombers, now escorted by P-51 Mustangs, renewed their operation. Gen Eaker gave the order to "Destroy the enemy air force wherever you find them, in the air, on the ground and in the factories."[7]

Between February 20 and February 25, 1944, as part of the Combined Bomber Offensive, the USAAF launched Operation Argument, a series of missions against the Third Reich that became known as Big Week. As the American planners had intended, the Luftwaffe was lured into a decisive battle for air superiority through launching massive attacks by the bombers of the USAAF, protected by squadrons of P-51 Mustangs, on the German aircraft industry. In defeating the Luftwaffe, the Allies achieved air superiority and the invasion of Western Europe could proceed.

Battle of Berlin

The wording of the Casablanca directive and the Pointblank directive allowed Arthur "Bomber" Harris sufficient leeway to continue his campaign of Area Bombardment against German industrial cities.[11]

Between 18 November 1943 and 31 March 1944 RAF Bomber Command fought the Battle of Berlin which consisted of sixteen major raids on the capital, along with many other major and minor raids across Germany to reduce the predictability of the British operations. In these sixteen raids the RAF destroyed around 4,500 acres (18 km²) of Berlin for the loss of 300 aircraft.[12] Harris had planned to reduce most of the city to rubble, break German morale and so win the war. During the period of the battle of Berlin, the British lost 1,047 bombers across all its bombing operations in Europe with a further 1,682 aircraft damaged, culminating in the disastrous raid on Nuremberg on 30 March 1944.[13] The campaign did not achieve its strategic objective, and coupled to the RAF's unsustainable losses (from 7 to 12% of aircraft committed to the large raids), the official RAF history stated it was a defeat for the RAF.[14] At the end of Battle of Berlin, Harris was obliged to commit his heavy bombers to the bombardment of communications in France as part of the preparations for the Normandy Landings and the RAF would not return to begin the systematic destruction of Germany until the last quarter of 1944.

Outcome

Despite Operation Pointblank bombing, "German single-engine fighter production … for the first quarter of 1944 was 30% higher than for the third quarter of 1943, which we may take as a base figure. In the second quarter of 1944, it doubled; by the third quarter of 1944, it had tripled, in a year's time. In September 1944, monthly German single-engine fighter production reached its wartime peak – 3031 fighter aircraft. Total German single-engine fighter production for 1944 reached the amazing figure of 25,860 ME-109s and FW-190s" (William R. Emerson).[3]

However, Operation Pointblank did manage to end the Luftwaffe's control of the skies over Western Europe,[9] and by the Normandy Landings, the Luftwaffe had only 80 operational aircraft on the North French Coast, which managed about 250 combat sorties[3] against the 13,743 Allied sorties.[15]

Big Week and the subsequent attack on the aircraft industry reduced:

…not the production of aircraft but the fighting capacity of the Luftwaffe. The attack on the aircraft industry was, in fact, another example of the failure of selective bombing. This combat was provoked by the American heavy bombers which carried the threat of the bomb to the heart of Germany by reaching out to targets of deep penetration and leaving the German fighters with no alternative other than to defend them. But the combat was primarily fought and certainly won by long-range fighters of VIII Fighter Command….

Following Operation Pointblank, Nazi Germany dispersed the 27 larger works of the German aircraft industry across 729 medium and very small plants (some in tunnels, caves, and mines).[17]

Citations

  1. ^ Gruen, Adam L. "Preemptive Defense, Allied Air Power Versus Hitler’s V-Weapons, 1943–1945". The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II. p. 24. http://www.usaaf.net/ww2/preemptivedefense. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  2. ^ a b c Kreis, John F; Cochran, Jr., Alexander S. ; Ehrhart, Robert C. ; Fabyanic, Thomas A. ; Futrell, Robert F. ; Williamson, Murray (1996) (html—Google books). Piercing the Fog: Intelligence and Army Air Forces Operations in World War 2. Washington DC: Air Force Historical Studies Office. p. 241. http://books.google.com/books?id=rf_7ioBSUCgC&pg=PA241. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  3. ^ a b c d Emerson p. 4
  4. ^ "Aspects of The British and American Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939 to 1945.". http://homepage.ntlworld.com/r_m_g.varley/Strategic_Air_Offensive.html#17._Operation_Pointblank. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  5. ^ Harris & Cox (1995), p. 196
  6. ^ a b Stormont, John W. (March 1946) [summer of 1945]. AAFRH-19: The Combined Bomber Offensive; April through December 1943. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library: Collection of 20th Century Military Records, 1918-1950 Series I: Historical Studies Box 35: AAF Historical Office; Headquarters, Army Air Force. p. 13,15. "SECRET ... Classification Cancelled ... JUN 10 1959" 
  7. ^ a b "Birth of the Combined Bomber Offensive". http://www.usaaf.net/ww2/atlanticwall/awpg3.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  8. ^ Kev Darling. Aircraft of the 8th Army Air Force 1942-1945, Lulu.com ISBN 0955984009, 9780955984006. p. 181 "... When the Pointblank offensive resumed in early 1944 ..."
  9. ^ a b c Kev Darling. Aircraft of the 8th Army Air Force 1942-1945, Lulu.com ISBN 0955984009, 9780955984006. p. 181
  10. ^ Background: Combined Bomber - World War Two valourandhorror.com cites "Strategic air offensives. The Oxford Companion to World War II". Accessed 14 July 2008
  11. ^ a b Delleman, Paul. "LeMay and Harris the "Objective" Exemplified". Air & Space Power Journal (Chronicles Online Journal). http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/cc/delleman.html. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  12. ^ Harris (2005), p. 187,188. Harris says that after the war the total damage to Berlin during the war was 6,380 acres, 500 before the Battle of Berlin, 1,000 by the Americans, and additional damage by Mosquito light bomber nuisance raids which is not quantified.
  13. ^ Advanced Higher History Specimen Question Paper p. 22. quotes SOURCE C From Martin Kitchen, A World in Flames, published in 1990
  14. ^ Daniel Oakman Wartime Magazine: The battle of Berlin on the Australian War Memorial website
  15. ^ Staff D-Day 6 June 1944 The Air operations: Time line RAF website
  16. ^ Webster, Sir Charles; Frankland, Noble (1961), The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, 1939-1945, London, pp. II: 280–281; III: 131 
  17. ^ Galland, Adolf (1968 Ninth Printing - paperbound). The First and the Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 237. 

References

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