Pointblank directive

The Pointblank directive authorised the initiation of Operation Pointblank, the code name for the primary portion[2] 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 when the Allies met 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" by day 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.[3][4]

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.[5]

Operation Pointblank
Part of Strategic bombing campaign in Europe
62d Fighter Squadron P-47 Thunderbolts - 1944

USAAF P-47 Thunderbolt fighters, assigned to protect 8th Air Force bomber formations and to hunt for German fighters.
Date14 June 1943 – 19 April 1944[1]
Location
Result Disputed
Belligerents
 United Kingdom
 United States
 Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Arthur Harris
United States Carl Spaatz
Unknown

Casablanca directive

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 050602-F-1234P-005
Luftwaffe Fw 190, one of the German single-engine fighters targeted by Pointblank.

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".[6]

On 14 June 1943, the Combined Chiefs of Staff issued the Pointblank directive which modified the February 1943 Casablanca directive.[7] Along with the single-engine fighters of the CBO plan,[7] 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.[8][9]

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

Notes

Notes
Citations
  1. ^ Gruen, pp. 4(Round 1),5(Round 2) 24.
  2. ^ Emerson 1962, p. 4.
  3. ^ Varley 2005, p. 32.
  4. ^ Zaloga 2011, p. 12.
  5. ^ Zaloga 2011, p. 85.
  6. ^ Harris & Cox 1995, p. 196.
  7. ^ a b Darling, p. 181
  8. ^ Valour and Horror staff 2005 cites "Strategic air offensives", The Oxford Companion to World War II
  9. ^ Delleman 1995–1998.

References

Further reading

91st Bombardment Group

The 91st Bomb Group (Heavy) was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces during the Second World War. Classified as a heavy bombardment group, the 91st operated B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft and was known unofficially as "The Ragged Irregulars" or as "Wray's Ragged Irregulars", after the commander who took the group to England. During its service in World War II the unit consisted of the 322nd, 323rd, 324th, and 401st Bomb Squadrons. The 91st Bomb Group is most noted as the unit in which the bomber Memphis Belle flew, and for having suffered the greatest number of losses of any heavy bomb group in World War II.

The 91st Bomb Group conducted 340 bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force over Europe, operating out of RAF Bassingbourn. Inactivated at the end of the war, the group was brought back in 1947 as a reconnaissance group of the United States Air Force, and then had its lineage and honors bestowed on like-numbered wings of the Strategic Air Command, the Air Force Space Command and the Air Force Global Strike Command.

From 1 July 1947, until its drawdown in February 1952, the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Group provided worldwide surveillance, flying RB-29s, RB-45s and RB-47s as a subordinate component of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, consisting of the 322nd, 323rd, and 324th Strategic Recon Squadrons, and the 91st Air Refueling Squadron (Medium). The group was inactivated on 28 May 1952, as part of an SAC-wide termination of groups as an organizational echelon, while the wing and all subordinate units remained active until 8 November 1957.

The group was activated in 1991 as the 91st Operations Group. Between 1991 and 1994, and since 1996, the 91st Operations Group, initially as part of the 91st Space Wing, and since renamed the 91st Missile Wing, maintains the alert force of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles maintained at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Its three missile squadrons, however, have no traditional link to the 91st Bomb Group and were previously part of the 455th Strategic Missile Wing and 455th Bomb Group.

Battle of Leuthen

The Battle of Leuthen was fought on 5 December 1757, at which Frederick the Great's Prussian army used maneuver and terrain to decisively defeat a much larger Austrian force commanded by Prince Charles of Lorraine and Count Leopold Joseph von Daun. The victory ensured Prussia control of Silesia during the Third Silesian War (part of the Seven Years' War).

The battle was fought at the Silesian town of Leuthen, 10 kilometers (6 mi) northwest of Breslau. By exploiting the training of his troops and his superior knowledge of the terrain, Frederick created a diversion at one end of the battlefield, and moved most of his small army behind a series of low hillocks. The surprise attack in oblique order on the unsuspecting Austrian flank baffled Prince Charles; the Prince took several hours to realize that the main action was to his left, and not to his right. Within seven hours, the Prussians destroyed the Austrian force, erasing any advantage the Austrians had gained throughout the campaigning in the preceding summer and autumn. Within 48 hours, Frederick had laid siege to Breslau, which resulted in that city's surrender on 19–20 December.

Leuthen was the last battle at which Prince Charles commanded the Austrian Army, before his sister-in-law, Empress Maria Theresa, appointed him as governor of the Habsburg Netherlands and placed Leopold Joseph von Daun in command of the army. The battle also established beyond doubt Frederick's military reputation in European circles; it was arguably his greatest tactical victory. After Rossbach (5 November), the French had refused to participate further in Austria's war with Prussia; and after Leuthen (5 December), Austria could not continue it by herself.

Bombing of Dresden in World War II

The bombing of Dresden was a British/American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, during World War II in the European Theatre. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed, although larger casualty figures have been claimed. Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March aimed at the city's railway marshalling yard and one smaller raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.

Immediate German propaganda claims following the attacks and post-war discussions on whether the attacks were justified have led to the bombing becoming one of the moral causes célèbres of the war. A 1953 United States Air Force report defended the operation as the justified bombing of a strategic target, which they noted was a major rail transport and communication centre, housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort. Several researchers claim not all of the communications infrastructure, such as the bridges, were targeted, nor were the extensive industrial areas outside the city center. Critics of the bombing have claimed that Dresden was a cultural landmark of little or no strategic significance, and that the attacks were indiscriminate area bombing and not proportionate to the military gains. Some in the German far-right refer to the bombing as a mass murder, calling it "Dresden's Holocaust of bombs".Large variations in the claimed death toll have fuelled the controversy. In March 1945, the German government ordered its press to publish a falsified casualty figure of 200,000 for the Dresden raids, and death toll estimates as high as 500,000 have been given. The city authorities at the time estimated up to 25,000 victims, a figure that subsequent investigations supported, including a 2010 study commissioned by the city council.

Combined Bomber Offensive

The Combined Bomber Offensive (CBO) was an Allied offensive of strategic bombing during World War II in Europe. The primary portion of the CBO was against Luftwaffe targets which was the highest priority from June 1943 to 1 April 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, 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.

The Pointblank directive initiated Operation Pointblank that was the code name for the primary portion 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 Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces 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.

Commanders of World War II

The Commanders of World War II were for the most part career officers. They were forced to adapt to new technologies and forged the direction of modern warfare. Some political leaders, particularly those of the principal dictatorships involved in the conflict, Joseph Stalin (USSR), Adolf Hitler (Germany), Benito Mussolini (Italy) and Emperor Hirohito (Japan), acted as supreme military commanders as well as dictators for their respective countries or empires.

Gerhard Raht

Gerhard Ferdinand Otto Raht (6 June 1920 – 11 January 1977) was a German Luftwaffe military aviator during World War II, a night fighter ace credited with 58 aerial victories claimed in 171 combat missions making him the tenth most successful night fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare. All of his victories were claimed over the Western Front in Defense of the Reich missions against the Royal Air Force's (RAF) Bomber Command.

Born in Reinfeld, Schleswig-Holstein, Raht grew up in the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany. Following graduation from school, he joined the military service in 1939 and was trained as a pilot. In early-1941, he transferred to Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing) where he became a night fighter pilot and claimed his first aerial victory on the night of 26/27 July 1942. In Oktober 1943, Raht was appointed Staffelkapitän. Following his 34th aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 24 June 1944 and was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of I. Gruppe (1st group) of Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 (NJG 2—2nd Night Fighter Wing). He claimed his last five aerial victories on 15/16 March 1945 and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves on 15 April 1945.

Raht, who later served as a Hauptmann der Reserve (captain of the reserves) in the German Air Force, died on 11 January 1977 in Reinfeld, Schleswig-Holstein.

Hermann Buchner (pilot)

Hermann Buchner (30 October 1919 – 1 December 2005) was a former Luftwaffe fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Buchner is credited with 46 tank victories and 58 aerial victories, including 12 while flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter, accumulated in 631 combat missions.

North American P-51 Mustang

The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang is an American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War, among other conflicts. The Mustang was designed in 1940 by North American Aviation (NAA) in response to a requirement of the British Purchasing Commission. The Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation to build Curtiss P-40 fighters under license for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Rather than build an old design from another company, North American Aviation proposed the design and production of a more modern fighter. The prototype NA-73X airframe was rolled out on 9 September 1940, 102 days after the contract was signed, and first flew on 26 October.The Mustang was designed to use the Allison V-1710 engine (which had limited high-altitude performance in its earlier variants). The aircraft was first flown operationally by the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a tactical-reconnaissance aircraft and fighter-bomber (Mustang Mk I). Replacing the Allison with a Rolls-Royce Merlin resulted in the P-51B/C (Mustang Mk III) model and transformed the aircraft's performance at altitudes above 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (without sacrificing range), allowing it to compete with the Luftwaffe's fighters. The definitive version, the P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the two-speed two-stage-supercharged Merlin 66, and was armed with six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2/AN Browning machine guns.From late 1943, P-51Bs and P-51Cs (supplemented by P-51Ds from mid-1944) were used by the USAAF's Eighth Air Force to escort bombers in raids over Germany, while the RAF's Second Tactical Air Force and the USAAF's Ninth Air Force used the Merlin-powered Mustangs as fighter-bombers, roles in which the Mustang helped ensure Allied air superiority in 1944. The P-51 was also used by Allied air forces in the North African, Mediterranean, Italian and Pacific theaters. During World War II, Mustang pilots claimed to have destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft.At the start of the Korean War, the Mustang, by then redesignated F-51, was the main fighter of the United Nations until jet fighters, including North American's F-86, took over this role; the Mustang then became a specialized fighter-bomber. Despite the advent of jet fighters, the Mustang remained in service with some air forces until the early 1980s. After the Korean War, Mustangs became popular civilian warbirds and air racing aircraft.

Operation Bellicose

Operation Bellicose targeted the German Zeppelin Works in Friedrichshafen, and the Italian naval base at La Spezia. It was the first shuttle bombing raid in World War II and the second use of a Master Bomber. In early June 1943, a Central Interpretation Unit photo interpreter (Claude Wavell) identified a stack of ribbed baskets (Würzburg radar reflectors) at the Zeppelin Works. After Winston Churchill viewed the photos at RAF Medmenham on 14 June, No. 5 Group RAF received the surprise orders on 16 June to attack Friedrichshafen during the next full moon.After take-off from Britain, Wing Commander Gomm (No. 467 Squadron RAAF) took over when the aircraft of Group Captain Slee developed trouble. The Avro Lancasters bombed from 15,000 feet (4,600 m) rather than the planned 10,000 feet (3,000 m) due to heavy flak. First the Pathfinder Force (PFF) dropped offset markers at a distance from the target for the main bombing force to use unobscured by smoke. The second stage was to use 'time-and-distance bombing runs' from a location on the Lake Constance shore along a measured distance to the target.The attack hit the V-2 rocket facility of the Zeppelin Works, which made Operation Bellicose the first mission that bombed a long-range weapon facility. From Friedrichshafen the planes refueled at El Bouleïda, Algeria. On 23–24 June, eight of the original Operation Bellicose force of sixty Lancasters remained in Algeria for repairs and the remaining 52 bombed the Italian naval base at La Spezia, damaging an "oil depot" and an "armaments store" and continued to Britain without loss.

Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine

Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine (French: Charles Alexandre Emanuel de Lorraine; German: Karl Alexander von Lothringen und Bar; 12 December 1712 in Lunéville – 4 July 1780 in Tervuren) was a Lorraine-born Austrian general and soldier, field marshal of the Imperial Army, and governor of the Austrian Netherlands.

RAF Bassingbourn

Royal Air Force Bassingbourn or more simply RAF Bassingbourn is a former Royal Air Force station located in Cambridgeshire approximately 3 mi (5 km) north of Royston, Hertfordshire and 11 mi (18 km) south west of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.

During the Second World War it served first as an RAF station and then as a bomber airfield of the Eighth Air Force, of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). It remains the home of the Tower Museum Bassingbourn.

Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission

The Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission was a strategic bombing mission during World War II. Carried out by Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces on August 17, 1943, it was an ambitious plan to cripple the German aircraft industry. The mission was also known as the "double-strike mission" because it entailed two large forces of bombers attacking separate targets in order to disperse fighter reaction by the Luftwaffe, and was the first American "shuttle" mission, in which all or part of a mission landed at a different field and later bombed another target before returning to its base.

After being postponed several times by unfavorable weather, the operation, known within the Eighth Air Force as "Mission No. 84", was flown on the anniversary of the first daylight raid by the Eighth Air Force.

Mission No. 84 was a strike by 376 bombers of sixteen bomb groups against German heavy industry well beyond the range of escorting fighters. The mission inflicted heavy damage on the Regensburg target, but at catastrophic loss to the force, with 60 bombers lost and many more damaged beyond economical repair. As a result, the Eighth Air Force was unable to follow up immediately with a second attack that might have seriously crippled German industry. When Schweinfurt was finally attacked again two months later, the lack of long-range fighter escort had still not been addressed and losses were even higher. As a consequence, deep penetration strategic bombing was curtailed for five months.

As soon as the reconnaissance photographs were received on the evening of the 17th, Generals Eaker and Anderson knew that the Schweinfurt raid had been a failure. The excellent results at Regensburg were small consolation for the loss of 60 B-17s. The results of the bombing were exaggerated, and the high losses were well disguised in after-mission reports. Everyone who flew the mission stressed the importance of the escorts in reducing losses; the planners grasped only that Schweinfurt would have to be bombed again, soon, in another deep-penetration, unescorted mission

RAF strategic bombing during the Second World War
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