European Air War

Focus/Interest Group

During the 1920s and 1930s most air war experts prophesized that the next war would be marked by great fleets of bombers that would pound the enemy into pulp within a few weeks.  There would be no effective defense -- "the bomber will always get through"[1].  Hundreds of thousand of civilians would be killed by blast and gas.  Industries would be leveled, morale would be crushed and a country's ability to wage war would be eliminated.  A nice theory, but it did not happen.  In virtually every bombing campaign, industries found a way to rebuild, people coped and morale actually improved.  Most bombs failed to fall within a mile of their target and bombers were shot down by the thousands.

Unfortunately many powerful leaders on both sides believed the (bomber will always get through) theory even when faced with compelling evidence to the contrary.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of sorties were flown by tens of thousands of bombers with questionable real damage being done; but at a cost of tens of thousands of air crew lives.  It was more dangerous to be a member of a USAAF bomber crew in Europe than to be a US Marine in the Pacific.

Ironically, few of the problems and many of the deaths did not need to happen.  The evidence regarding how and what to bomb was evident to anyone who cared to look.  The Spanish Civil War had several lessons about the impact of bombing civilians.  The Battle of Britain and the Blitz clearly indicated that civilian morale actually increased when non-military centers were bombed.  The British quickly figured out that daylight bombing was suicidal but USAAF brass would not listen.  Bombing from 25,000 feet in clear skies over Utah is a lot easier than bombing over Central Europe with significant cloud cover, enemy fighters and FLAK. 

The European Air War Focus/Interest Group (EAWF/IG) will explore the European Air War in depth examining the strategies, tactics and results over the 6 years of fighting.  To the extent that EAWF/IG members are interested, individual campaigns, organizations, units, and aircraft will be discussed.  There will be some overlap between the EAWF/IG and the Manufacturing Focus Group which will explore the design and manufacturing of aircraft during WW2.


Club articles related to European Air War


1.    "Mr Baldwin on Aerial Warfare - A Fear For The Future", The Times, 11-Nov-1932, pg 7