Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914-1945

By Tami Davis Biddle | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FIVE
The Combined Bomber Offensive: 1943–1945

BY the end of 1942 no theory of strategic bombing had been proven or disproven. The Americans were just out of the starting blocks with their nascent air campaign. Sir Arthur Harris had helped bring Bomber Command through the many crises it faced in 1942, and he was gearing up for the vast campaign he planned to implement. But losses in Bomber Command remained high enough for Chief of Air Staff Sir Charles Portal to insist that the statistics be confined to “the smallest number of people.” In the early months of 1943, only 17 percent of Bomber Command crews could be expected to complete the required thirty-mission tour of duty, and the life expectancy of new bombers was only forty hours flying time. Bomber Command was held together by the courage and determination of its crews. 1

Competing claims and rivalry between the British and the Americans had characterized the closing months of 1942, as various interested parties in the bombing debate sought to assert the soundness of their own ideas and to lobby for influence. Clashes over how best to utilize bombers would become a central feature of the Anglo-American air campaign, and these would become particularly intense during the latter stages of the war. Harris would continue his steadfast commitment to city bombing and would lose no opportunity to convince those around him that his path was the correct one. Other Allied air commanders would survey a wider range of options, looking for whatever clues to German vulnerability they could find in available intelligence information. In the Far East, the Americans would first try to pursue the selective targeting of key industries, but poor results and the attractions of applying fire techniques to vulnerable Japanese cities would move the American Twentieth Air Force toward the prosecution of a campaign that, in practice, had little to distinguish it from Bomber Command's nighttime city raids over Germany.


IDEAS AND REALITIES:
THE COMBINED BOMBER OFFENSIVE IN 1943

British doubts about daylight “precision” bombing made the Americans all the more determined to press the case for it. The issue was taken to

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