Heavy Bombers In Normandy

Discussion in 'NW Europe' started by Dac, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. Dac

    Dac Senior Member

    Allied Heavy Bombers were used in the close support role in the area around Caen and in support of the American Cobra offensive. Considering the "friendly fire" causalties, civilian deaths and the destruction to road nets, was the use of Heavy Bombers counter-productive in Normandy?
  2. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  3. Dac

    Dac Senior Member

    Originally posted by sapper@Aug 23 2005, 08:30 AM

    After the successful assault on the City, we were taken back to Hermanville and Colleville, to clean up, replace lost gear and men, then to prepare our next assault over the Orne, on the Goodwood theatre of operations.

    [post=38033]Quoted post[/post]

    Would Goodwood have been neccessary if you had been able to move through Caen?
  4. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  5. Dac

    Dac Senior Member

    What was the terrain like around Caen? I've read there were ridges south of the city that gave the Germans a clear view of the British positions.
  6. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    There was actually a tactical reason for bombing Caan with the heavies. It saved Monty and the gang and possibly the entire invasion. There was an SS Panzer division sent to repel the Allies back into the sea. Had they have caught the forces on the beach and in the assembly areas, they would have decimated them. Recon spotted this massive counterassault, and seeing this, Eisenhower ordered Caan to be leveled by the Eighth Air Force to stop it. Upon reaching Caan Panzers were forced to go around the city because of the debris the bombing created. This not only slowed them down considerably but also allowed the fighter bombers to take a great many of them out. Interviewing some of the SS soldiers they said they were quite discouraged because they had thought there tanks were good but that they could so easily be annihilated by tactical bombing. Without the bombing of Caan, the invasion with at least the British and Canadian forces would have failed. This may have cost the entire invasion since Monty stalemated the German armor long enough to allow the capture of Cherbourg and the pincer move by Patton.

    There was also a heavy bombing of St Lo. It had a lot of friendly casualties (about 300 Americans killed in the raid). It takes a long time to get 1000 bombers over a single line. The problem is determining the lines. They are not marked easily so that the mark can be seen from the air. They used colored smoke to indicate the Allied lines. The wind blew the smoke and even though the American forces pulled back about a mile from the line, the wind still blew some of the smoke back to their front lines. It was a far more devastating attack on the Germans who were entrenched, the only problem is that the Allied Command could not endure “friendly losses” so heavy bombing was rarely used again. It was replaced by tactical bombing. But the question remains. If heavy bombing were used, you would still have friendly losses, but would those losses be less than if those same troops had “slugged” it out with the entrenched enemy? If heavy bombing like that saves men in the long run like the in the St Lo bombing, could you make that call?
  7. ham and jam 1

    ham and jam 1 Member

    Jeez Brian, its no wonder history gets distorted, I cant believe what ive just read :lol:

  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  9. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  10. mahross

    mahross Senior Member

    Dac - Sapper is quite right when he says they were a hinderous, and who are we to argue with those who were there. If you want more on the subject of the effectiveness of the use of Medium and Heavy bombers during the Normandy campaign, may I suggest you pick up a copy of Ian Gooderson's Air Power at the Battlefront (London: Frank Cass, 1998) or try his article in the Journal of Strategic Studies back in 1992. His research is based upon the reports of No. 2 Operational Research Section and it makes for some interesting reading.

  11. ham and jam 1

    ham and jam 1 Member

    From my reading of that post Brian I think jimbotosome has got a few battles mixed up in one. Seems to me a mixture of 21st PZ divs attack on D-day and Goodwood with Cobra thrown in, also the 21st were not SS.

    The second time I read it, it was'nt funny because this guy thinks this is what happened o_O

  12. angie999

    angie999 Very Senior Member

    Apart from the pre-invasion bombing campaign, the first use of strategic bombers was on D-day itself.

    During the night of 5/6 June, RAF Bomber Command had the task of bombing a number of German gun positions. As far as I can determine, there was nothing wrong with their aim in terms of the accepted level of accuracy, but I am not convinced that they put many German guns out of action.

    Next, on the morning of 6 June, the 8th USAAF, the American strategic bomber force, was tasked with bombing the German forward positions just as the Americans were on their way in to the beaches. My reading suggests that their mission included the British beaches, but you see little about this in most accounts. What is certain is that the US V Corps at Omaha Beach saw this as a key element of the bombardment plan.

    The idea was that they would drop a large number of small HE bombs to ensure maximum damage to German positions, while avoiding extensive cratering. However, they received no special training for this tactical mission at all and right up to the day before, they had been engaged on other missions. They only had their "D-day stripes" marking painted on during that night.

    In the event, they encountered heavy cloud cover, could not see their targets and bombed by H2X radar, which did not give a very clear picture of the target. Afraid of bombing short and hitting the landing craft coming in, they overflew their targets and bombed too far inland. This bombing was a total failure and it is one of several reasons for what happened at Omaha.

    However, 8th USAAF does not deserve too much criticism. They did their best to carry out a tactical operation which they were neither trained nor equipped for. They had no margin for error, but no means of ensuring accuracy in less than optimum conditions.

    Perhaps we have become too used in recent conflicts to expecting levels of bombing accuracy which were simply not achievable in WWII, particularly by strategic forces when taken away from their primary role.

    I think the same logic applies to the short bombings during Operation Cobra. The USAAF was bad at communicating the expected difficulties to the ground force commanders, who therefore had expectations that there would be unachievable levels of accuracy. Contrary to their boasts, the 8th AAF really could not hit a "pickle barrel" from 10,000 feet.
  13. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  14. spidge


    Originally posted by sapper@Sep 5 2005, 11:28 PM
    jimbo version is completely wrong in every detail....bar none!
    [post=38611]Quoted post[/post]

    Jimbo seems to have read a good number of reports/histories on many things. It is sad if such an important day can be bastardised by "historians" to such an extent.

    Jimbo may be able to put a finger on some of the culprits (authors etc) so their version of events can be openly refuted.
  15. jimbotosome

    jimbotosome Discharged

    Originally posted by sapper+Sep 4 2005, 02:42 PM-->(sapper @ Sep 4 2005, 02:42 PM)</div><div class='quotemain'>As you sat Andy!
    Wherever do these stories come from? Jimbotosome...My old fruit! Not that I blame you mate...I have read books where, quite plainly, absolutely stupid in what they claim.......
    If that's true, then most of what we "know" about WWII is dubious. But I guess debates about WWII have been going on since 1939.

    <!--QuoteBegin-sapper@Sep 4 2005, 02:42 PM
    Not a word of truth in what you say. The Caen raid was entirely made by British bombers, Lancasters mostly. I never saw any others, but Lancasters. And they came in quite low, I recall cheering at the time, not realising that we were killing only innocent French folk.

    Not an Us Eighth airforce plane anywhere. beleive me! They had nothing to do with this operation or this theatre of war. As to your SS panzer Division laying in wait in Caen? never existed mate, believe me!
    Ouch! :( You are too harsh, sapper. Too harsh (though your little British idioms tickle me!).

    The other oft repeated comment is that the bombers did little to help the capture of the city and may have hindered the advance of British and Canadian troops by blocking streets with rubble. Of course it also helped persuade Field Marshal Erwin Rommel that there was no possibility of reinforcing the 12th SS Panzer Division that was being ground into little pieces by the Allied assault. What mattered most to Montgomery and Harris is that for over an hour bombers had identified and hit a 1,000-yard-wide rectangle with virtually no spill over. They concluded that bomber crews who were well briefed could provide accurate close support.
    Source: Legion magazine, not Jimbo’s imagination. http://www.legionmagazine.com/features/can...story/98-11.asp.

    I don’t doubt that you were on the ground sapper (BTW: thanks for what you did buddy, we owe you a lot). But, I find that most of the time, on the ground, soldiers had very little tactical understanding and even less strategic understanding. They were told to take objectives without really knowing the importance of them. That was the role of the high command. I don’t remember if Bradley comments on the Caen bombing in his book or not. He didn’t say as much about Monty’s war. I do know (from his book) that he and Patton were both very pissed at Monty for not closing the Falaise gap fast enough when Von Kluge was trapped and this let about 40,000 troops escape (40%). Patton wanted to close the gap for Monty using Gen Haislip's XV corp, but since it was Monty’s territory and Monty had boasted he would close it, they had to stop and form a line on the road along the demarcation point in order to prevent an overlap that could have resulted in accidental targeting of each other. It took Monty too long to close the gap and this infuriated Patton who believed that Monty was “too conservative”. Patton’s philosophy was to never give the enemy a chance to escape nor a chance to dig in, you will incur more casualties if you do. Again, those are his words, not mine, save your mortar round sapper.

    I might not have all the i's dotted going from memory, but the gist of what I remembered is true, which was the point of the original question. I mistook Bomber Command for the Eighth. Is that such a major deal that every word I said was wrong? You wouldn’t be exaggerating here would you sapper? After all, you said it wasn’t to stop an advance of Panzers. It was. After all, what do you think Rommel was going to reinforce the decimated 12 SS Panzer with? If there were no Panzers Groups on the road to Caen as you infer, then why would that have been a consideration for Rommel? You can't reinforce a decimated Armor division with infantry alone. I think my point stands here. You may say it was not a correct conclusion having the benefit of hindsight, but you can't say that wasn't the intent of the strategists and that was what I had claimed. Read the article. Maybe on the ground you didn’t realize why it had been done. But if it had not have been done there is always a possibility you wouldn’t have be here today to slam me.

    The two main points, the crux of my post, seem to be supported by the article link I posted. 1) (At least one of the reasons) Caen was bombed was the intention to stop panzers from advancing through the city and reenforce 12th SS. 2) Eisenhower became reluctant to use heavies because ground losses (though minimal) were intolerable.

    To say the Eighth Air Force didn’t bomb in the ETO is ridiculous. I am amazed you would dare say something like that. Shame on you Sapper. Very few would have made such a brash statement. Maybe you resented the Americans but they did have an impact on WWII. Eighth was no exception. Go read the story of operations like Saint Lo (COBRA), read about the D-Day preparations, I know Doolittle mentions several missions called for in the Saint Lo time frame. You might be surprised to find that Eighth had a lot of activity not only in the ETO but also in Normandy campaign supporting the ground troops. Heck, they even made several missions to drop supplies at 200 feet to reinforce the FFI from B-17s! Friend, that’s low for a B-17.

    Let’s see, not a word of truth, :unsure: then this means (as you infer) that the bombing of Saint Lo didn’t result in 300+ American casualties on the ground. Where do you get these "facts"? Then could I to assume you also don't believe that “Totalize” did happened and that it did not cost the Canadian and Polish 400+ causalities either?

    My claim of the Eisenhower's reluctance to use heavies in tactical roles came from General James Doolittle’s book. He was there too, and though I know you have forgotten more about what was happening in the ground than I will ever know, I think Doolittle knows more about what Eighth Air Force did and what they feelings were on using heavies than anyone. He said that even though 90% accuracy of the bombing of Saint Lo (the Eighth mission you said didn’t happen) was successful, Eisenhower had decided that it was just too risky and that bombing using strategic (Eighth Air Force) bombers would be reserved for emergencies. I have to take him at his word. What other source do I have? Am I to doubt them all?

    Also sapper, you said that there were no Panzers that had intended to go through the city. If that’s true why didn’t you guys simply waltz into Caen and the idea of a bombing of Caen never even entertained? I remember reading in Bradley’s book that he was deeply concerned with the trouble Monty was having in Caen and if Monty had been thrown back, that his assault on Cherbourg could have turned into a disaster. Therefore, if Monty had “detoothed” all the Panzers, then why did it take so long for Caen to fall and why was a bombardment required (or believed by higher command that it was required) to “break up the stalemate”? I am almost certain, the documentary I watched on this invasion stopped the reinforcements from attacking you guys because had interviews with group leaders that were distressed that they had to go around the city since the debris had filled the streets from the bombing. I remember they interviewed Panther crews that were astonished that their tanks were so easily destroyed by fighter/bombers when they tried to go around the city. Is it possible, you don’t know of these because they were destroyed before you folks got there or maybe they were indeed on the outskirts of Caen destroyed where they would have been redirected? Do you know of another city in the area where this happened besides Caen? It has been over a year since I saw the documentary. I have to believe it was Caen. What other city was Monty in a stalemate that would have necessitated a bombing so close to your front lines?

    Anyway sapper, I am glad there are people like you here to tell a story that we could never tell and who have insight to straighten us out when we do get off the beaten path of facts. But a little more tact wouldn't hurt would it?

  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  17. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    the raid on Caen by aircraft of bomber command was made at the behest of Monty and was designed to prepare the way for the capture of the city
  18. ham and jam 1

    ham and jam 1 Member

    A few points, the link and article is ok but its your interpretation of it I see wrong Jimbo.

  19. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

  20. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


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