In 1939 a daylight raid on Wilhelmshaven half of its 24 Wellington bombers were detected by German Radars and shot down. This lead to a change in strategy; night attacks. The targets for the planes were mainly industrial such as factories and railways but a good aim was difficult and bombers began to attack town centres even this seemed too much many didn’t hit the right towns. In 1941 only one in three bombers were hitting the target within 8km. In the Ruhr attacks this rose to one in ten. Many more raids were made on the Ruhr but few were a success.
Later a Pathfinder Force was created with elite crews who flew the Mosquito, a light bomber. With the help of Oboe a target marker the Ruhr’s factories suffered widespread devastation in 43 main attacks during March/July 1943. In May the “Dambusters” fired special bouncing bombs which collapsed two of the Ruhr’s three dams. However flood damage was less than expected and 8 planes (half the squadron) were lost.
In July 1943 a new fire storm bombing was introduced compared to the explosion of an atom bomb. Planes dropped window, anti radar metal before the RAF dropped high explosives to tear apart the fire proofed roofs then thousands of tonnes of fire bombs. In Hamburg a hurricane spread the fire over an area of 5.5km by 4km. 50,000 people died in Hamburg (the total death rate of all German raids) but a million fled from the city. One of the biggest air raid successes. 86 bombers were lost. The same tactics were used in Dresden and perhaps the death toll was double that of Hamburg: another triumphant success.
Later an attack on Berlin was needed but more planes were lost and many dropped their bombs in the North Sea and retreated. Anti radar methods were used and Germany could only see the bombers on clear nights but still they were easy to shoot down.
One pilot after being asked about the success of the bombing said “This is plain murder” Over 70,000 pilots had now been killed or captured. In the battle of Berlin the loss rate rose from 5% to 6%. More than a thousand bombers were lost, double the expected, a repeat of Hamburg as planned was not possible. This was Bomber Commands biggest failure.
When the Americans decided to join the war in 1942 they chose day attacks using heavy long-range bombers equipped with machine guns and cannons. However they too suffered heavy losses. The German’s main target was the lead bomber on whose signal it was to drop the bombs.
In Schweinfurt 1943 an attacked on ball bearing factories was crushed when more than a third of the American planes were lost or damaged. The American bombing effort stopped. They had been defeated.
In 1944 the Americans and British began escorting the bombers with P51 Mustangs that could destroy German fighters en route. In February the Americans made daylight raids again with few losses, by March they controlled the air over Germany. In the last year of the war the American sent about 4000 bombers a day and the British sent 1500 each night.
In 1944 the Allied bombers helped in the invasion of France bombing railways in and around France. There was much better accuracy now than ever before. However the bombing of factories and workers to lower morale had failed. Factories still produced with no roofs. After Germany lost Russia’s oil it depended on coal. This was severely slowed down by American bombing in 1944. In 1945 Germany synthetic oil making from coal was stopped. The war could have ended sooner if Harris had helped the Americans destroy the coal factories instead he concentrated on bombing cities. The bombing regime caused the deaths of 593,000 German civilians.
In Conclusion the bombing was both successful by levelling Hamburg and Dresden and also ending the production of Germany’s war machines when America gained controlled of German air and destroyed coal factories. It also cost the lives of many pilots and German civilians due to inaccuracy and bad planning. The accuracy improved as time went on.
To begin the Allied air attacks were a failure but as time progressed so did the bombing.