The Strategic Air Offensive and the Normandy Invasion, February-June 1944
The late winter and spring of 1944 was crowded with decisions and events powerfully affecting the strategic air offensive against Germany. The Americans, now supported by Bomber Command, had continued to attack the German aircraft and ball bearings industry and had won control of the air over Europe. In April and May they started a decisive offensive against enemy oil production, despite command changes and the diversion of much of the air effort to preparations for the invasion of France. All along, the aim of the strategic air offensive had been to pave the way for an invasion, but now it shifted to actions that promised a quick pay-off that would help the coming campaign. It did not change entirely, because General Eisenhower reposed great trust in Spaatz, accepting his suggestion that an offensive against enemy oil should begin in the midst of the preparations for D-Day. Nevertheless, there was a considerable reorientation of the strategic bombing effort, to attacks on airfields, V-weapon sites, and the railroad system in France and Belgium.
As the shift occurred, at the same time that the Americans were winning control of the air during the day, the British had suffered a shattering defeat at night. After the Nuremberg mission it was clear that without a radical change, Bomber Command could not continue attacks deep inside Germany. The independent area offensive had failed. The shift to targets in France and Belgium in support of Overlord hid the defeat, but it forced Bomber Command to belatedly develop, or perhaps discover, a capability for attacks on precision targets, something Harris had always denied was possible. In a short time the RAF was bombing more accurately at night than the Americans could even on a clear day, making area attacks obsolete. After the spring of 1944 the British could join the Americans against precise targets that were vital to the enemy war effort, and they could often hit them more effectively than the Americans could. But as we shall see, they did not always do so.