Operation Pointblank


Operation Pointblank
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 and leaders
Carl Spaatz, Arthur Harris

Operation Pointblank was the code name for the primary portion[3] of the Allied Combined Bomber Offensive intended to cripple or destroy the German aircraft fighter strength, thus drawing it away from frontline operations and ensuring it would not be an obstacle to the invasion of Northwest Europe. The Pointblank directive of 14 June 1943 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.

Up to that point the RAF and USAAF had mostly been attacking German industry in their own way - the British by broad night attacks on industrial areas and the US in "precision attacks" on specific targets. The operational execution of the Directive was left to the commanders of the forces and as such even after the directive the British continued in night attacks and the majority of the attacks on German fighter production and combat with the fighters was down to the USAAF.[4][5]

In practice the USAAF bombers made large scale daylight attacks on factories involved in the production of fighter aircraft. The Luftwaffe was forced into defending against these raids, and its fighters were drawn into battle with the bombers and their escorts. It was these battles of attrition that reduced the Luftwaffe strength despite increases in German aircraft production.[6]

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]
  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 object of:

"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."[7]

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.[8] The plan also projected the US bomber strength for the four phases (944, 1192, 1746, & 2,702 bombers) through 31 March 1944.[8]:15

The Combined Bomber Offensive began on 10 June 1943[9] during the RAF's bombing campaign against the industrial Ruhr, and a Combined Strategic Targets Committee was established in October 1944.[2]:185,242[10]

Pointblank directive

On 14 June 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank directive which modified the February 1943 Casablanca directive.[11] Along with the single-engine fighters of the CBO plan,[11] 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.[12][13]

Among the factories listed were the Regensburg Messerschmitt factory (which would be attacked at high cost in August, the Schweinfurter Kugellagerwerke ball-bearing (attacked in October and also causing heavy USAAF losses) and the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke (WNF) which produced Bf 109 fighters.

Pointblank operations

Following the heavy losses (about ¼ 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-47 Thunderbolts and 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."[9]

Between 20 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 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and North American 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 both the Casablanca directive and the Pointblank directive allowed the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Bomber Command Arthur "Bomber" Harris sufficient leeway to continue the British campaign of night-time Area Bombardment against German industrial cities.[13]

Between 18 November 1943 and 31 March 1944, RAF Bomber Command fought the Battle of Berlin which consisted of 16 major raids on the German capital, interspersed with many other major and minor raids across Germany to reduce the predictability of the British operations. In these 16 raids the RAF destroyed around 4,500 acres (18 km²) of Berlin for the loss of 300 aircraft.[14] 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.[15][clarification needed] The campaign did not achieve its strategic objective, and coupled to the RAF's unsustainable losses (7-12% of aircraft committed to the large raids), the official British historians identified it was an operation defeat for the RAF.[16] At the end of Battle of Berlin, Harris was obliged to commit his heavy bombers to the attacks on lines 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 help to diminish the Luftwaffe's threat against the Allies,[11] 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.[17]

According to Charles Webster and Noble Frankland, Big Week and the subsequent attack on the aircraft industry reduced "the fighting capacity of the Luftwaffe" through threatening the bombing of strategic targets and "leaving the German fighters with no alternative other than to defend them" but "the combat was primarily fought and certainly won" by the US long range fighters. [18]

Following Operation Pointblank, Nazi Germany dispersed the 27 larger works[specify] of the German aircraft industry across 729 medium and very small plants (some in tunnels, caves, and mines).[19]:237

Notes

Notes
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). Piercing the Fog: Intelligence and Army Air Forces Operations in World War II. Washington DC: Air Force Historical Studies Office. p. 241. ISBN 9781428914056. http://books.google.com/?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. ^ Zaloga p12
  6. ^ Zaloga p85
  7. ^ Harris & Cox (1995), p. 196
  8. ^ 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. pp. 13,15. "Secret ... Classification Cancelled ... JUN 10 1959" 
  9. ^ a b "Birth of the Combined Bomber Offensive". http://www.usaaf.net/ww2/atlanticwall/awpg3.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  10. ^ Kev Darling. Aircraft of the 8th Army Air Force 1942-1945, Lulu.com ISBN 0955984009, 9780955984006. p. 181
  11. ^ a b c Kev Darling. Aircraft of the 8th Army Air Force 1942-1945, Lulu.com ISBN 0955984009, 9780955984006. p. 181
  12. ^ Background: Combined Bomber - World War Two valourandhorror.com cites "Strategic air offensives. The Oxford Companion to World War II". Accessed 14 July 2008
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Harris (2005), pp. 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.
  15. ^ Advanced Higher History Specimen Question Paper p. 22. quotes SOURCE C From Martin Kitchen, A World in Flames, published in 1990
  16. ^ Daniel Oakman Wartime Magazine: The battle of Berlin on the Australian War Memorial website
  17. ^ Staff D-Day 6 June 1944 The Air operations: Time line RAF website
  18. ^ Webster, Sir Charles; Frankland, Noble (1961). The Strategic Air Offensive against Germany, 1939-1945. London. pp. II: 280–281; III: 131 
  19. ^ 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. 237. ISBN 0553117092. 

References


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