AMERICA AT WAR

Aviation's War Communique No 17

Allies are now definitely on offensive, with air power spearheading all attacks … Axis commanders today face odds as iron fisted as those they ranged against Allies in early stages of war … Washington's green light to air generals sparks new multiple sky assaults.

American and British air power has reached great strength in England in preparation for assault on Nazi Europe. Maj Gen Ira C Eaker, commander of the Britain-based United States Eighth Air Force, says that American military aviation on the European front is just now coming up to equality with the RAF. It is quite likely that British air power alone is now superior to the entire aviation of Germany. RAF strength available for air battling over invasion points will be equal to, or superior to, whatever aviation the Luftwaffe can muster away from the Russian front, and other places, to meet the onslaught. When the United States air forces virtually double those of England, the odds against Germany will be something like that which the French and the Poles and the British had to face when they were first attacked by the Nazis' dreadful Stukas and witch whistles.

Air attacks on German cities by the Allied forces are now double the worst the Nazis were able to throw at London, Plymouth, and Coventry. The damage looks tremendous in reconnaissance photographs, as it is bound to be, compared with damage done to English cities. Militarily, it should be worse because the Allies are trying to hit production plants, water fronts, and transportation centers.

But there is still very little visible evidence of weakness in the Nazis resulting from the air attack upon them. True, some shortages of supplies have been reported hindering them on the Russian front, but that might well be laid to transportation troubles not affected by Allied air attack. Men and munitions and supplies keep on coming against the Russians and against the British and Americans and French in Africa, and they flow to all the thousand and one Nazi strongholds throughout Europe.

Despite constant attacks on German submarine works, undersea boats are still produced in sufficient numbers to seriously slow our expansions in England and in Africa, and most authorities say they will get worse this summer. We are getting most of our ships through and we are gaining weight against the enemy, yet our loss of life and property, with the prolongation of war, must continually mount.

But though the evidence of Nazi weakness as a result of air attack is very little, viewing the whole war on land, sea, and air, there are two pertinent points to be noted on our credit side. One is that the German air force appears to competent observers on the front to be growing weaker. The other point is that the whole gamut of Germany's production of tanks, guns, U-boats, supplies, and all, may have been curtailed and we wouldn't know it yet. Maybe these things are still coming out at the business end of the "pipeline" but are not going in as fast at the supply end.

When industry starts to pump weapons and food through supply channels toward the battle fronts, it takes a long time to fill the pipe. We ourselves have just learned this from experience. But maybe the process is now working in reverse for the Nazis, as their industry slows down under bombardment. A thousand units may still be coming out the front end, but perhaps only a comparative dozen are now going in at the supply end.

Besides weakening the Nazi war machine, our Continent air attack is helping the Allies in Africa; it keeps a large chunk of German aviation in Europe trying to fight off the Americans and the British, with the result that the Allies easily maintain superiority in the air over Africa. In the same way, the Allied air war against Europe is helping the Russians.

The Germans will have great problems on their hands when the invasion hour comes. They do not know, of course, where it is coming, so they are forced to prepare air bases and fuel supplies all the way around Europe from Greece to Norway. They feel sure they will be hit on the shores of France, but they don't know in how many other places. They will have to maintain patrol forces, and some reserves, all along these thousands of coast miles, and they will have to keep up some semblance of air war against the Russians. On the other hand, the Allies are, and will continue to be, heavily concentrated at points of their own choosing, for they no longer fear counter-attacks outside of Europe.

Gen Eaker goes so far as to say that our forces will be heavy enough by midsummer so that we shall not even care whether the Germans know when we are coming or not. And in that connection, you can expect more real news from now on. You will likely be told more of how many and what size machine guns a given airplane has; and you will probably learn more about airplane types and changes. The object of secrecy is to keep the enemy from learning of our equipment and our plans. But when he is so weakened or so on the defensive that he cannot do anything about it, even if he does know, then there's more good than harm in telling him.

For months now, the United States has been in transition from the ground-holding, time-gaining, planning stage to the offensive stage we are now entering. We are stepping alongside of the veteran Russians and the British to throw some telling punches.

In the air, we have completed the experiment of day bombing over Germany and it is now an institution, with losses not greater than those of the RAF's night losses. We are stepping up our training of United States Air. Forces night crews, however, and the British are increasing their training of day crews. The object is to have topnotch Allied day and night hitting power — plus still more when the occasion demands.

We are getting enough airplanes, together with the British so that before long we can fly a continuous merry-go-round aerial convoy over the Atlantic ship supply lanes. This will help to offset the submarine warfare which Hitler will press with all his might this summer. The quiet waters of summer on the Atlantic are far better than the turbulent winter seas for torpedo work. Ably assisting the merry-go-round convoy will be the Navy's blimps which now have moved into new offshore bases. Previously they had to sail as much as 3,000 mi out and back when plying their submarine hunting grounds.

In the Pacific, we are still holding ground and planning. Despite the brilliant successes our forces have had in the southwest, we have not regained more than a handful of the soil Japan seized. The bulk of our forces, particularly our airplanes, are going over the Atlantic to attack the bleary-eyed Hitler, who is the he-devil of the Axis.

Military authorities do not really take the Japanese empire seriously. True, it is a serious nuisance, because Britain and the United States are both punching at the Nipponese with their left hands only. Japan's aviation, you may be sure, is inferior, regardless of occasional rally talks by military and other officials. The Jap navy has been whittled down to something less than our own. Her industrial plant is not capable of processing the wealth of materials taken by force of arms. But Japan is strong in terms of positions gained during the initial weak period of the Allies. By sea, Japan is still 2,000 mi beyond our reach. Of course, we could bomb the Nips from certain positions in China, if we had the bombers and necessary ground services there.

There are so many speculative ways of tackling Japan, once we have finished the Nazis, that there is little use of wasting words on them. Gen. Delos C Emmons, commander of the department of Hawaii, Gen George C Kenney, commander of Allied air forces in the southwest Pacific, and their staffs, under the direction of the President and MacArthur, have held a conference in Washington. They were planning the war on Japan, much as the President and Mr Churchill planned war on Europe at Casablanca. Maybe they know just what they are going to do, and maybe they don't. You might get a surprise, like the invasion of Africa. For example, suppose the Russians had agreed to attack Japan as soon as they can get the Germans off their backs — so that we could bomb Japan from there.

Our present war of attrition against Japan's shipping is the only major hurt we are inflicting upon the little people. They are playing on their home field, while we are 6,000 mi from home. We have the moxie to wade into them, but we still have to bring up all the required "makings."

It was said on good authority some weeks back that our airplanes and surface ships and submarines had sunk one quarter of Japan's total shipping, which would seem to be a crippling blow. But then came the news that Japan had seized far more shipping during her conquests than we have sunk altogether. It looks as if the "sons of heaven" will have to wait a while for their licking.

Home Front Notes

Here at home, we have the Army Air Forces under reorganization so that Washington can dictate general policy. And accordingly, commanders at the front will exercise more authority and initiative. In other words, the Washington high command will tell the front what to do, but the front will decide how to do it. This change indicates nothing particularly wrong. It simply means that our air forces are on the offensive. They are moving around. When they see an opportunity to hit the enemy, as they will more frequently, they don't want to waste time sending a cable to Washington about it.

Next in importance at home, perhaps, is the Civil Aeronautics Authority's survey of the potentialities of the airmail pickup system. Everybody knows about the du Pont All American Aviation pick-up-and-drop development, which has been a big success. As soon as the war ends, we will want a market for planes and jobs for pilots. The public wants overnight airmail to all parts of the country, and it wants air cargo. The hook-on-and-drop system appears slated to be the feeder system, with hundreds of airline fingers reaching into the towns and hamlets. Inevitably, the direct lift machines will come into this service. The pickup service will take care of the mail, and much of the express, but probably not the small town passengers. (If you want to get your name in the paper, persuade Mr. du Pont to pick you up by air hook. —Ed.) For passengers the helicopters and the autogiros will come in. They don't need airports or hooks. There will probably be gliders in the new feeder system, too.

And that man is here again — Mr Kaiser. He became chairman of the board of the Brewster Aeronautical Corp, by agreement with the Navy, and his announced intention is to bring Brewster production up from a low level to equal the very top. People can argue all they want to about the merits and shortcomings of the famous shipbuilder, but nobody can deny that a man who will tackle a job like that in plain public view, with nothing to gain and his reputation to lose, is a mighty game sport. Kaiser gets no pay, no stock, and no bonuses. He had already purchased the Fleetwings company, and he still is pushing his three experimental heavy planes for the Army on the West Coast.

Meanwhile, a tug of war several years old was brought to an end the other day when the Civil Aeronautics Board gave Pan American Airways a certificate to operate a route from New Orleans right across the Gulf to Guatemala City, a shortcut from the mid-United States to the Canal Zone and South America. American Export had been contesting PAA for the job, but it was turned down because PAA already had the equipment and would need to do very little pioneering to start the service.

But — and this is a big but — the PAA certificate is a temporary one, for three years only. Presumably, with the war over, the whole business of foreign air services will be reshuffled.

All Aboard for Moscow

The surprise of the month — some people called it a prank — was Northeast Airlines' application to the board for a certificate to operate from Boston to Moscow, and other European cities. So far as could be learned, no one had even asked Mr Joe Stalin about it. Northwest Airlines, not to be outdone, applied for a line via Alaska to Calcutta. Board personnel said they expected other lines would apply, now that the gun has been jumped. But nobody can heat Northwest on this one — for it would be difficult to find any place on earth any farther from that line's home grounds than Calcutta.

This article was originally published in the May, 1943, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 42, no 5, pp 110-111, 386, 389-390.
The original article includes photos of A-20s in flight over Tunisia and of a Japanese destroyer under air attack in the Bismarck Sea.
Photos credited to International News.