Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Gen Carl Spaatz and D Day

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Gen Carl Spaatz and D Day

Article excerpt

THE RECIPE FOR a successful flag officer includes four essential ingredients: (1) the luck of Vince Lombardi, who said, "Luck is the residue of hard work and skill"; (2) the killer instinct of Robert E. Lee-not just the desire to destroy one's enemy, something any soldier must have, but the ability to send men one admires and respects to their death; (3) the perseverance of George Washington; and (4) the ability of George C. Marshall to inspire the trust of both subordinates and superiors. A survey of the actions and decisions of Gen Carl A. Spaatz, US Army Air Forces (AAF), during the first six months of 1944 confirms that he had these qualities.

Luck boils down to the favorable resolution of uncontrollable variables. The manner in which generals exploit these gifts determines their fate. The shortcomings of Spaatz's enemies presented him an opportunity. The breaking of high-level German ciphers, sent via the supposedly secure Enigma code machine, vouchsafed all Allied commanders unparalleled knowledge of their enemies' intentions and situation. Vital German targets, such as synthetic oil plants and large marshalling yards, used the Enigma machine to pass damage reports to Berlin, giving the Americans instant and accurate bomb damage assessments. Intercepts of Luftwaffe traffic also validated the effectiveness of American air tactics.1

The very nature of the Nazi state and ideology played into the hands of Allied air leaders. Hitler's personal isolation, coupled with his propensity to divide responsibility for the war economy into competing fiefdoms, all dependent upon himself, resulted in staggering mismanagement. With the notable exception of Albert Speer, the highest Nazi leadership had little conception of the industrial process. Almost all major German war-production decisions and priorities rested not on economic efficiency, but on the self-interest of the entities involved.

Not only did the Nazis fritter away their industrial strength, but also their ideology and individual outlook sapped their efforts. Having gained power using tactics of terror and intimidation, Hitler preferred retaliation to passive defensive measures. Resources expended on V weapons produced technical triumphs-but at the direct expense of aircraft production. Had the Germans decided to focus on fighter production and to concentrate that production in defense of the industry in 1942 instead of 1944, Spaatz's task would have proved far more formidable.2

Spaatz possessed resources far greater than those of his predecessor Ira Eaker, for whom increases in force had come slowly. Indeed, the pipeline overflowed for Spaatz. Eighth Air Force needed 17 months to reach 20 1/2bomb groups, and its first long-range P-38 fighter escorts did not become operational until the day after the second Schweinfurt raid of 14 October 1943. Fifteenth Air Force, established on 1 November 1943, began life with the six heavy bomb groups that had been in the Mediterranean since May 1943. By May 1944, the Eighth had grown to 41 heavy groups, and the Fifteenth to 21. Fighter groups in Eighth Air Force and Ninth Air Force, the latter on call to fly escort for the Eighth, grew from 12 to 33 groups. Many of these groups were equipped with the extremely long range P-S1 fighter and were capable of using rangeextending drop tanks, whose production bottlenecks had been solved.3 Finally, the introduction of radar bombing devices in the fall of 1943 allowed for bombing through clouds, but only with extreme inaccuracy. Bombing through complete overcast caused only one bomb in 70 to land within one-half mile of the aiming point.4 Bombing a target a mile in diameter in good visual weather, however, was 50 times more accurate.5 Spaatz and his lieutenants James H. Doolittle (Eighth Air Force) and Nathan F. Twining (Fifteenth Air Force) capitalized on German inefficiency and American prodigality by greatly increasing their rates of operation. The combination of more sorties and more aircraft gave Spaatz a far bigger hammer than Eaker's. …

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