The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5

The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5

The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5

The Strategic Air War in Europe and the War in the West and East Asia, 1943-1944/5


By the spring of 1943, after the defeat at Stalingrad, the writing was on the wall. But while commanders close to the troops on Germany's various fronts were beginning to read it, those at the top were resolutely looking the other way.

This seventh volume in the magisterial 10-volume series from theMilitärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt[Research Institute for Military History] shows both Germany and her Japanese ally on the defensive, from 1943 into early 1945. It looks in depth at the strategic air war over the Reich and the mounting toll taken in the Battles of the Ruhr, Hamburg, and Berlin, and at the "Battle of the Radar Sets" so central to them all. The collapse of the Luftwaffe in its retaliatory role led to hopes being pinned on the revolutionary V-weapons, whose dramatic but ultimately fruitless achievements are chronicled.

The Luftwaffe's weakness in defence is seen during the Normandy invasion, Operation overlord, an account of the planning, preparation and execution of which form the central part of this volume together with the landings in the south of France, the setback suffered at Arnhem, and the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes.

The final part follows the fortunes of Germany's ally fighting in the Pacific, Burma, Thailand, and China, with American forces capturing islands ever closer to Japan's homeland, and culminates in her capitulation and the creation of a new postwar order in the Far East. The struggle between internal factions in the Japanese high command and imperial court is studied in detail, and highlights an interesting contrast with the intolerance of all dissent that typified the Nazi power structure.

Based on meticulous research by MGFA's team of historians at Potsdam, this analysis of events is illustrated by a wealth of tables and maps covering aspects ranging from Germany's radar defence system and the targets of RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th Air Force, through the break-out from the Normandy beachhead, to the battles for Iwo Jima and Okinawa.


By the spring of 1943, the strategic initiative had passed from the states of the Tripartite Pact—Germany, Italy, and Japan—to the group of countries forming the anti-Hitler coalition. This change in the course of the war, which had progressed from being a continental-Atlantic conflict into becoming a global one, has been dealt with in detail in Volume VI of this series. After suffering substantial setbacks on the eastern front, the German armies managed to stabilize the situation for only a short while. At sea, the stark imbalance between the Kriegsmarine's own losses and the Allied shipping sunk meant that the U-boats had to be withdrawn from the North Atlantic; the Luftwaffe revealed its inability not only to mount any major operations against Britain and give adequate support to the war on land, but also to protect the homeland against the massed attacks by enemy bombers; the war in North Africa was lost, with heavy German and Italian casualties. Even before Mussolini fell and Italy left the war in September 1943, the outcome of the war in Europe was predictable. Hitler had his back to the wall.

In the East- and South-East Asian theatre, things were going just as badly for the Japanese. The American defensive success in the sea battle off the Midway Islands in June 1942 had sapped Japan's offensive strength, and from that summer had allowed the Americans to go over to the attack, with the landing on Guadalcanal. From then on, they largely dictated the moves in the game.

All that both Germany and Japan could still do was to wait to see where the enemy's next blow fell and, so far as their material and manpower resources allowed, react to it. All human experience showed that a change in the fortunes of war in their favour was no longer on the cards; how the global conflict would finally turn out had for some time past no longer been in the balance. Both of them had been gambling their all, and rating their political, ideological, human, and economic potential too highly.

The present volume is devoted to the German and Japanese conduct of the war when on the defensive. It paints an impressive picture of the decline in the warmaking ability of both powers, and demonstrates the wide variety of reasons underlying the sometimes astoundingly unprofessional decisions taken by the Germans. It describes the German collapse in the strategic air war and the landings by Allied troops in France and their advance to the borders of the Reich, and traces the victory over Japan up to that country's capitulation. Despite the German-oriented approach of the series as a whole, it seemed right to give a proper place to this latter aspect of the Second World War, especially since it always had a major importance for the Allies' strategy and substantially affected the way the war was fought in Europe. The German . . .

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