Combined Bomber Offensive

Combined Bomber Offensive
Combined Bomber Offensive

alias: Allied Bomber offensive [sic]

Part of Strategic bombing campaign in Europe
B-17 Bombing Marienburg.jpg
100 B-17s destroyed all but one of the buildings at the Marienburg Focke-Wulf factory on October 9, 1943.[1]:280
Date June 10, 1943 - April 12, 1945
Location European Theatre of World War II
 United Kingdom
 United States
 Nazi Germany

The Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) was an Anglo-American offensive of strategic bombing during World War II in Europe. The primary portion of the CBO was against German Air Force targets which was the highest priority from June 1943 to 1944. The subsequent highest priority campaigns were against V-weapon installations (June 1944) and petroleum, oil, and lubrication (POL) plants (September 1944). Additional CBO targets included railyards and other transportation targets, particularly prior to the invasion of Normandy and, along with army equipment,[2]:241 at the in the final stages of the War in Europe.

The British bombing campaign was chiefly waged by night by large numbers of heavy bombers until the latter stages of the war when German fighter defences were so reduced that daylight bombing was possible without risking large losses. The US effort was by day - massed formations of bombers with escorting fighters. Together they made up a round-the-clock bombing effort except where weather conditions prevented operations.


Initial planning

COA report "vital industries"[3]
  1. single-engine fighter aircraft (22 targets)
  2. ball bearings (10)
  3. petroleum products (39)
  4. grinding wheels and crude abrasives (10)
  5. nonferrous metals (13)
  6. synthetic rubber and rubber tires (12)
  7. submarine construction plants and bases (27)
  8. military transport vehicles (7)
  9. transportation
  10. coking plants (89)
  11. iron and steel works (14)
  12. machine tools (12)
  13. electric power (55)
  14. electrical equipment (16)
  15. optical precision instruments (3)
  16. chemicals
  17. food (21)
  18. nitrogen (21)
  19. anit-aircraft and anti-tank artillery

Both the British and the US (through the Air War Plans Division) had drawn up their plans for attacking the Axis powers.

After the British Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW) published the "Bombers' Baedeker" in 1942 that identified the "bottleneck" German industries of oil, communications, and ball bearings,[4] the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed at the January 1943 Casablanca Conference to conduct the "Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom" with the "Casablanca directive" stating the objective as :

"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".

After initiating the preparation of a U.S. targeting plan on December 9, 1942;[1] on March 24, 1943, General "Hap" Arnold, the USAAF Commander requested target information from the British,[5][2] and the "Report of Committee of Operations Analysts"[3] was submitted to Arnold on March 8, 1943[6] and then to the Eighth Air Force commander as well as the British Air Ministry, the MEW, and the RAF commander[clarification needed].[4]:27 The COA report recommended 18 operations during each three-month phase (12 in each phase were expected to be successful) against a total of 76[specify] specific targets.[7]:19-13 Using the COA report and information from the M.E.W., in April 1943 an Anglo-American committee (composed of British Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff) under Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker; led by Brigadier General Haywood S. Hansell, Jr.; and including Brig. Gen. Orvil A. Anderson completed a plan for the "Combined Bomber Offensive from the United Kingdom", which projected the US bomber strength for the four phases (944, 1192, 1746, & 2702 bombers) through 31 March 1944.[7]:19-15[verification needed] Eaker added a summary and final changes such as: "If the growth of the German fighter strength is not arrested quickly, it may become literally impossible to carry out the destruction planned"[1]:206 ("Intermediate Objectives" section).[8]

CBO Plan

Eaker's "Combined Bomber Offensive Plan" was "a document devised to help Arnold get more planes and men[9] for the 8th Air Force" and not "designed to affect British operations in any substantive way." [1]:206 While the CBO Plan was being developed, the British independently drew up a plan in April 1943 titled "The Attack on the GAF" which envisaged attacks on airfields and aircraft factories and, in the case of the latter, may have influenced targets selection by the Eighth AF.[10] The Combined Chiefs of Staff [11] approved the "Eaker Plan" on May 19, 1943, and identified 6 specific "target systems" such as the German aircraft industry (including fighter strength):[1]:207

1. Intermediate objectives[12]
German fighter strength
2. Primary objectives:
German submarine yards and bases
The remainder of the German aircraft industry
Ball bearings
Oil (contingent upon attacks against Ploesti)
3. Secondary objectives:
Synthetic rubber and tires
Military motor transport vehicles
CBO committees
1942 December 9 onwards US Committee of Operations Analysts[13]
1943 Combined Operational Planning Committee[7]:19-40[verification needed]
1943 July 21 Joint CROSSBOW Target Priorities Committee
1944 July 7 Joint Oil Targets Committee[14]
1944 October Combined Strategic Targets Committee[2][clarification needed]

Beginning of operations

The Combined Bomber Offensive began on 10 June 1943[15] during the Battle of the Ruhr, Pointblank operations against the "intermediate objective" began on 14 June, and the "Effects of Bombing Offensive on German War Effort" (J.I.C. (43) 294) by the Joint Intelligence Subcommittee was issued 22 July 1943.[16][specify]

Losses during the first months of Pointblank operations and lower-than-planned U.S. bomber production resulted in Portal complaining about the 3 month CBO delay at the Cairo Conference, where the British refused a U.S. request to place the CBO under a "single Allied strategic air commander."[why?][17]:202 After Arnold submitted the October 9, 1943 "Plan to Assure the Most Effective Exploitation of the Combined Bomber Offensive"[18][specify] on October 22 the "Allied Joint Chiefs of Staff" signed orders to raid "the aircraft industries in the southern Germany and Austria regions".[19]:186[verification needed]

July 1943 was the first time that the USAAF would coordinate a raid on the same location as the RAF. They were to fly two daylight missions against industrial targets (U-boat pens and yards) following the opening raid of the RAF campaign against Hamburg. However smoke from the effects of the night's bombing obscured the targets.[20]

In October 1943 Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, C-in-C of RAF Bomber Command urged the UK government to be honest to the public regarding the purpose of the bombing campaign and openly announce that:

"the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive...should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilized life throughout Germany.[21]
It should be emphasized that the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories."[22]

On February 13, 1944, the CCS issued a new plan for the "Bomber Offensive", which no longer included German morale in the objective:[23]:52

progressive destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic systems, the disruption of vital elements of lines of communication and the material reduction of German air combat strength, by the successful prosecution of the combined bomber offensive from all convenient bases.
Section 2, "Concept"
Overall reduction of German air combat strength in its factories, on the ground and in the air through mutually supporting attacks by both strategic air forces pursued with relentless determination against same target areas or systems so far as tactical conditions allow, in order to create the air situation most propitious for OVERLORD is immediate purpose of Bomber Offensive.[24]
—Combined Chiefs of Staff, February 13, 1944

"The subject of morale had been dropped and [the number of cities with targets] gave me a wide range of choice. … the new instructions therefore made no difference" to RAF Bomber Command operations (Arthur Harris).[5]:154 The February 13 plan was given the code name "Argument", and after the weather became favorable on February 19, Argument operations were conducted during Big Week (February 20–25). Harris claimed the Argument plan was not "a reasonable operation of war", and the Air Staff had to order Harris to bomb the Pointblank targets at Schweinfurt.[6]:53

Overlord air plan

During the "winter campaign against the German aircraft industry … January 11 [-] February 22, 1944",[25]:266 review began on the initial "Overlord air plan" which omitted the requirement "to seek air superiority before the landings were attempted."[7] Instead, the plan was to bomb communications targets (primary) and rail yards and repair facilities (secondary).[26] Air Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory, who would command the tactical element of the invasion air forces had been assigned the responsibility on June 26, 1943, for drafting the plan, and at the February 14, 1944, meeting regarding the Overlord air plan, he claimed German fighters would defend and be defeated during the attacks on rail yards, and if not, air superiority would instead be won over the D-Day beaches.[8] Harris rebutted that even after the planned rail attacks, German rail traffic would be sufficient to supply invasion defenses; and Spaatz proposed attacks on industry in Germany to require fighters to be moved away from the Overlord beaches to defend the plants. Tedder concluded that a committee needed to study the pre-Overlord targeting,[27]:201 but when the committee met in March, no consensus was reached.[27]:203

On March 25, 1944 Portal chaired a meeting of the generals and restated the Pointblank objective of air superiority was still the highest CBO priority. Although the "Joint Chiefs of Staff" had previously argued that it was impossible to impede German military rail traffic due to the large reserve capacity,[7]:22-23 for the secondary priority Portal identified that pre-invasion railyard attacks only needed to reduce traffic so tactical airpower could inhibit enemy defenses during the first 5 weeks of OVERLORD.[28] Sir John Kennedy and Andrew Noble countered that the military fraction of rail traffic was so small that no amount of railyard bombing would significantly impact operations.[9] As endorsed on March 6 by the M.E.W. and the U.S. Mission for Economic Affairs, Spaatz again proposed that "execution of the oil plan would force the enemy to reduce oil consumption … and … fighting power" during Overlord.^19.50 Although "concerned that military transportation experts of the British Army had not been consulted"[27]:208 about the Transportation Plan, Eisenhower decided that "apart from the attack on the GAF [German Air Force] the transportation plan was the only one which offered a reasonable chance of the air forces making an important contribution to the land battle during the first vital weeks of Overlord".[10] Control of all air operations was transferred to Eisenhower on April 14 at noon.[7]:22-5

General Carl Spaatz had been insistent—and correct. The enemy would fight for oil, and the enemy would lose his fighters, his crews, and his fuel.[29]

USAF historian Herman S. Wolk, June 1974

However, after "very few German fighters rose to contest the early attacks on French rail yards"[27]:211 and the Ninth (tactical) AAF in England had dropped 33,000 tons of bombs through April on French railway targets, Churchill wrote to Roosevelt in May 1944 that he was not "convinced of the wisdom of this plan"[19]:207 Although Tedder's original Overlord air directive in mid-April listed no oil targets,[27]:211 Eisenhower permitted Spaatz to test that the Luftwaffe would defend oil targets more heavily.[30] During the trial raids of May 12 and May 28, German fighters heavily defended the oil targets, and after the invasion hadn't begun during the good weather of May, Luftwaffe fighters in France were recalled to defend Reich industry.[11]:78 The German plan was to await the invasion and then, "on the cue words 'Threatening Danger West',"[specify] redeploy fighter strength back to unused French air bases when needed against the invasion.[19]:211 The last two Jagdgeschwader 26 Fw 190As, piloted by Josef Priller and his wingman, that were to be recalled conducted the only Luftwaffe day sorties over the Normandy beaches on D-day,[12]:78 and on June 7/8 the Luftwaffe began redeploying c. 600 aircraft to France for attacking the Normandy bridgehead.[19]:214

Pointblank operations ended on the fifth day of the Invasion.[2] and the highest priority of the Combined Bomber Offensive became operations against the German rocket weapons in June 1944 and the Oil Campaign in September. Tedder's proposal to keep oil targets as the highest priority and place "Germany's rail system in second priority"[27]:260 was appproved by the CSTC on November 1.[27]:260[31][13] On April 12, 1945, Strategic Bombing Directive No. 4 ended the strategic bombing campaign in Europe.[17]:554-5

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Coffey, Thomas M. (1977), Decision over Schweinfurt: The U.S. 8th Air Force Battle for Daylight Bombing, New York: David McKay Company, pp. 204–7,236–7,264–5,354, "The Germans were caught by surprise at Marienburg … which was so far east they didn't realize it had to be defended … Only one building of the factory [was] not destroyed"  on October 9, 1943. (p. 465)
  2. ^ a b c Kreis, John F; et al. (1996), Piercing the Fog: Intelligence and Army Air Forces Operations in World War II, Washington DC: Air Force Historical Studies Office, pp. 154, 185, 242, ISBN 9781428914056,, retrieved 2008-12-11 
  3. ^ AAFRH-22 page 6
  4. ^ Ministry of Economic Warfare, The Bomber's Baedeker, PRO London, AIR 14/2662  (cited by Coffey, p. 237)
  5. ^ [tbd tbd], USAFA McDermott Library, Clark Special Collections Branch, tbd :
    ^5.10 ----- (10 April 1942), [letter to Spaatz & Eaker], "We must, therefore, apply [bombardment] to those specially selected and vital targets which will give the greatest return [and apply it] with precision"  (quoted by AAFRH-3, p. vii)
    ^5.20 Arnold, Henry H. (9 December 1942), [letter to "AC/AS, Management Control"]  (cited by AAFRH-10, p. 212)
    ^5.30 ----- (27 December 1943), "[letter to Spaatz: "Dear Tooey"]", Spaatz Collection (Box 14), "we must use our initiative and imagination with a view of seeking out, destroying the German Air Force in the factories, depots, on the ground, or in the air, wherever they may be."  (quoted by Mets note 51, pp. 191,383)
    ^5.40 ----- (March 24, 1943), [letter to Portal in London  (the letter "included a report by Arnold's operations analysts about strategic targets in Europe" (Coffey, p. 203-4) and was delivered by Col. C. P. Cabell, "It was … a week before he took the letter to Portal, along with one signed by General Eaker" (Coffey, p. 205):
    cover letter: Eaker, Ira C. (c. March 30, 1943), [letter introducing Cabell to Portal], "in order to build up an American Air Force of sufficient size in U.K. [Arnold] must be armed with two needs: first, a list of the industrial targets in Germany which, if destroyed, will cripple her ability to wage war; and secondly, the size of the air forces required for the accomplishment of this task."  (quoted by Coffey, p. 206)
    ^5.50 Arnold, Henry H. (March 25, 1943), [letter to Harry Hopkins at the White House], "a stoppage of, or a marked curtailment, of the production of ball bearings would probably wreck all German industry."  (quoted by Coffey, p. 237)
    ^5.60 ----- (20 August 1943), Command and Control of Strategic Air Forces operating against Germany [memo]  (identified in AAFRH-10, p. 82)
    ^5.70 ----- (c. 9 October 1943), Plan to Assure the Most Effective Exploitation of the Combined Bomber Offensive  (identified in AAFRH-10, p. 86)
  6. ^ AAFRH-10 page 13
  7. ^ a b c d e USAAF. "Army Air Force Research Histories". AAF Historical Offices. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
    • AAFRH-3: Cruickshank, Earl (19xx—AFHS No. 103) [1944], The Ploesti Mission of 1 August 1943 
    • AAFRH-18: tbd (tbd), The Early Operations of the Eighth Air Force and the Origins of the Combined Bomber Offensive 
    • AAFRH-19: Stormont, John F. (Capt) (1946 March) [1945 summer], The Combined Bomber Offensive: April through December 1943, AAF Historical Office; Headquarters, Army Air Force  (available at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in the "Collection of 20th Century Military Records, 1918-1950 Series I"; Historical Studies Box 35).
    • AAFRH-22: Norris, Joe L. (Capt) (1947 April) [1946 Winter-Spring], The Combined Bomber Offensive: 1 January to 6 June 1944, p. 6, "In December 1942 … Arnold … directed that the group of operations analysts under C/AS, Management Control, prepare … In compliance with this directive, the Committee of Operations Analysts submitted on 8 March 1943 a comprehensive report on Axis industry. … Nineteen vital industries were selected … which if destroyed would … stagnate the German war machine."  (p. 6))
  8. ^ Jablonski Vol II p 155
  9. ^ The "Bradley Plan" was for Eighth Air Force troop build-up (AAFRH-10, p. 84)
  10. ^ AAFRH-10 page 18
  11. ^ AAFRH-10 page 17
  12. ^ Infield, Glenn B. (1973), The Poltava Affair: A Russian Warning, An American Tragedy, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., p. 9, LCCN 72-93628 
  13. ^ AAFRH-10 page 13
  14. ^ Levine, Alan J (1992), The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 149, ISBN 9780275943196,, retrieved 2006-06-30 
  15. ^ "Birth of the Combined Bomber Offensive". Leaping the Atlantic Wall: Army Air Forces Campaigns in Western Europe, 1942-1945. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  16. ^ "Effects of Bombing Offensive on German War Effort", The William J. Donovan Papers, "J.I.C. reports 5, vil. 185" 
  17. ^ a b Davis, Richard G. (April 2006) (pdf), Bombing the European Axis Powers: A Historical Digest of the Combined Bomber Offensive 1939–1945, p. 202,554–5, ISBN 1-58566-148-1 
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c d Galland, Adolf (1968 Ninth Printing - paperbound) [1954], The First and the Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945, New York: Ballantine Books, pp. 186,201,207–8,211,214,232,237  (p. 201)
  20. ^
  21. ^ John V. Denson (1999-11-30), The costs of war: America's Pyrrhic Victories, p. 352, ISBN 9780765804877,, "further referenced to Garret, Ethics and Air Power in World War II pp.32-33" 
  22. ^ Getting MAD: Nuclear Mutual Assured Destruction, Its Origins and Practice, Strategic Studies Institute, p. 36, ISBN 9781428910331, 
  23. ^ Jablonski[specify]
  24. ^ Combined Chiefs of Staff (February 13, 1944), [Argument plan] [specify] (quoted by Jablonski p. 52 of Tragic Victories volume (Book I: Target Germany, Kites over Berlin chapter)
  25. ^ Shugg, Roger W.; DeWeerd, H. A.; Lieutenant Colonel (January, 1947—Second Edition) [January, 1946—First Edition], World War II: A Concise History, Washington: Infantry Journal Press, p. 266, "the aerial Battle of Berlin (November 18, 1943-February 15, 1944), dropping over twenty thousand tons of bombs on the city, destroying or damaging 326 factories, and losing nearly five hundred bombers." 
  26. ^ Zuckerman, Solly (1972), From Apes to Warlords, New York: Harper and Row, pp. 217–9  (cited by Mets note 87, pp. 200,385)
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Mets, David R. (1997 - paperback) [1988], Master of Airpower: General Carl A. Spaatz, pp. 201, 203, 209 
  28. ^ "Final Minutes of a Meeting held on Saturday, March 25, to Discuss the Bombing Policy in the Period Before 'Overlord'", Spaatz Collection (Box 14), not given, "apart from the attack on the GAF, [German Air Force] the transportation plan was the only one which offered a reasonable chance of the air forces making an important contribution to the land battle during the first vital weeks of OVERLORD"  (quoted by Mets, p. 208)
  29. ^ Wolk, Herman S. (June 1974), Prelude to D-Day: The Bomber Offensive, p. 65  (cited by Mets note 140, pp. 216,387)
  30. ^ Haines, William (Lt. Col.) (6 June 1945), ULTRA History of U.S. Strategic Air Force Europe vs. German Air Forces, SRH-013  (cited by Mets, pp. 212,386,392: "copy provided to author by Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Another copy is in the National Archives". p. 343: "Powell, Jr. was a member of General Spaatz's staff in England")
  31. ^ Cooney, Charles, Carl Spaatz: A Register of His Papers in the Library of Congress, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division,  (cited by Mets, p. 409):
    ^19.10 Spaatz, Carl (27 June 1943), Bombardment Directive 
    ^19.20 ----- (3 February 1944), Objectives for Area Attack [memorandum to Eaker] 
    ^19.30 Hughes, Richard D. (15 February 1944), "Conference Held at A.E.A.F Headquarters, Stanmore 15 February 1944 [letter and notes]", Spaatz Collection (Box 14)  ("letter" cited by Mets notes 49 & 50, pp. 190,383; "notes" cited by Mets note 89, pp. 201,385) ^19.35 Col. Richard D. Hughes was Eaker's "target-selection specialist." (Coffey, p. 237)
    ^19.40 Spaatz, Carl (24 March 1944), "Employment of Strategic Air Forces in the Support of OVERLORD", Spaatz Collection (Box 14), "We believe attacks on transportation will not force the German fighters into action. We believe they will defend oil to their last fighter plane."  (quoted by Mets note 100, pp. 204,386)
    ^19.50 "Final Minutes of a Meeting held on Saturday, March 25, to Discuss the Bombing Policy in the Period Before 'OVERLORD'", Spaatz Collection (Box 14), ""apart from the attack on the GAF,[German Air Force] the transportation plan was the only one which offered a reasonable chance of the air forces making an important contribution to the land battle during the first vital weeks of OVERLORD"  (quoted by Mets, p. 208)
    ^19.60 Kuter, Laurence S. (Brig. Gen.) (9 August 1944), "[memo to Arnold]", Spaatz Collection (Box 15)  Kuter quotes an Air Ministry memorandum for the July 5 meeting. (cited by Mets note 60, pp. 269, 394: at a "staff meeting the British Chiefs of Staff … 5 July 1944 … Portal had tried to move Harris away from area bombing to join in the attacks on oil. … the recommendation that emerged was a gigantic attack on Berlin")
    ^19.70 "Directives Agreed by DCAS, RAF, and Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz", Spaatz Collection (Box 15), 23 September 1944, "The German rail and waterborne transportation systems; tank production plants and depots, ordnance depots; and M.T. (motor transport) production plants and depots"  became the secondary priorities. (quoted by Mets note 23, pp. 260,393)


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