This is essentially a combat narrative which endeavors to explain the course of the war as affected by the course of the air war, to evaluate what has been achieved, and to outline the role played by the AAF in full co-operation with our Ground Forces, Service Forces, Navy and Marine Corps, and with our Allies.
The AAF does not for a moment forget that the AAF is one part of a well-balanced team. No accomplishment described here is exclusively that of the AAF; it is the result of the combined efforts and contributions of the Armed Services and civil populations of the United States and the Allied Nations.
This document contains military information that could not be released previously for reasons of military security.
The week of February 20 to 26, 1944, may well be classed by future historians as marking a decisive battle of history. Early in 1942, recognizing the threat in the AAF's emphasis on the heavy-bomber and precision-bombing techniques, and in the RAF's conversion to heavy bombers, the German Air Force had concentrated on production of fighter planes for defensive purposes. The German plan was to quadruple the monthly output and keep their industry inviolate.
On Sunday, February 20, in the first good weather in weeks, we struck.
Nearly 1,000 AAF bombers escorted by fighters attacked fighter-plane factories at Brunswick, Oschersleben, Bernberg, and Leipzig in our heaviest assault of the war up to that time. A large part of the force was directed at the Messerschmitt Me-109 assembly factory and aircraft component plants at Leipzig. Defenses there had been alerted by an RAF area attack the night before and the Nazis rose in force.
Bombing results were good.
Production was stopped at the Leipzig and Bernberg factories, which together had been making 30 per cent of all single- and twin-engined fighters. Output at Brunswick fighter assembly plants had been interrupted by previous attacks and Sunday's bombardment put them out of business four more months.
The RAF bombed that night.
On Monday, Lieutenant General Doolittle's 8th Air Force heavies were over in force again. Tuesday they were joined by members of the 15th Air Force, based in Italy, in the first coordinated attack of the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe. On Thursday the 8th and 15th struck another coordinated blow at German aircraft production. On Friday, for the fifth time in the week, we struck at aircraft factories. More than 2,000 planes from the 8th and 15th Air Forces set out for Regensburg, Augsburg, Furth, and Stuttgart. The operation set a new record for size; it climaxed five days of assault against one of Germany's most vital and well-protected industries; yet, significantly, official reports said; "Enemy fighter resistance was on a reduced scale."
Those five days changed the history of the air war.
From this time on, the Luftwaffe, converted to a defensive air force, was no longer an effective defensive air force. From that day the Luftwaffe rose to battle only when it believed it had local superiority or when high-priority targets were under attack.
Instead of fighter-plane production being quadrupled as planned, the German output for March, 1944, was less than in August, 1942, and the April figure was lower than March. By frantic dispersal of plants and desperate repairs the Luftwaffe maintained considerable capacity but it never recovered from those five days in February.
We paid a price for the air, We lost 244 heavy bombers and 33 fighter planes during five days. The Germans lost 692 aircraft in the air, many more on the ground. Beyond that, they lost to a great extent the capacity to replace their losses.
In April our strategic air forces in Europe the 8th and 15th destroyed 1,300 enemy aircraft in aerial battles. The fighters also developed special bombing techniques. Only a fighter can swoop low and drop a bomb within the entrance of a railroad tunnel to collapse a mountain upon a railroad line, or glide in diagonally to skip a bomb into the piers of a great bridge, or against the gates of a canal lock. Lightning fighter groups also developed a technique of precision high-altitude bombing, with their speed making enemy interception extremely difficult.
The Luftwaffe could not prevent us from attacking any portion of the Reich. We were ready to begin a major offensive against the oil refineries and synthetic plants which pumped the lifeblood of Germany's mechanized army.
On May 12, AAF heavy bombers escorted by fighters attacked synthetic oil-production facilities at Brux, Merseburg, Bohlan, Zeitz, and Lutzkendorf. On May 28, and again the following day, a combined total of 1,756 heavy bombers struck oil targets. Meanwhile, from Italy the 15th Air Force had begun attacking the major refineries of the Ploesti area.
There were many other things to do at the same time. They all led directly to D-Day June 6, 1944.
In the initial phase of the Normandy operation, Ninth Troop Carrier Command dispatched 1,662 aircraft and 512 gliders; 17,262 troops were landed behind enemy lines, 110 jeeps, 504 artillery weapons, and over 2,000,000 pounds of combat equipment and supplies. Only 41 powered aircraft were lost.
With the beachhead secured, the ground-air team went into action. To use gridiron terminology, heretofore air power had carried the ball. Now the roles were reversed. The Ground Forces carried the ball and the Air Forces became the downfield blockers to help the ball carrier score. One aspect of this was taking out the enemy's bridges.
The AAF was ready for the big attack of July 25 at St Lo.
As a prelude, fighter-bombers attacked all the bridges crossing the Vire River south of St Lo, isolating the area. At 1040 hours Thunderbolts with bombs and incendiaries crossed east to west in seven waves, two or three minutes apart. Then for an hour more than 1,500 Fortresses and Liberators dropped 3,431 tons of explosives. Lightnings followed in eight waves lasting 20 minutes, laying more incendiaries. Then 400 medium bombers attacked the southern end of the area with 500-pound bombs, concentrating on crossroads and the German concentration of tanks and troops in the village of St Giles.
As our ground troops went forward, fighters and fighter-bombers in closest communication and under common direction ranged ahead of them destroying military targets. Pilots carried maps strapped to their legs and were notified by radio when our advance changed the bomb line. This was called armed reconnaissance.
Fighters in direct radio communication with tanks flew constant alert over our armored columns. Ground officers called on the fighters to bomb or strafe artillery or armor in their path. Pilots warned tank commanders of traps at crossroads or woods. German armored units, without aerial eyes, fought at a disadvantage.
The German troops called our fighter-bomber the Jagdebomber, or Jabo. They lived in terror of it. The Germans tried to escape on the afternoon of August 17 under cover of heavy low clouds. Thunderbolts caught German tanks and trucks in column moving three abreast, bumper to bumper, on three highways of Argentan. The planes bombed the leaders of the columns, blocking the roads, and then roamed over them strafing and bombing. German soldiers fled for hedges and ditches, horses stampeded, overturning their wagons. AAF fighters kept up the attack all day despite intense flak and foul weather. The smoke was so thick along some roads that pilots could not tally the destruction exactly, but they estimated 1,0000 vehicles destroyed. Next day in the RAF area, Spitfires, Mustangs, and Typhoons destroyed another thousand.
Large fighter forces were assigned to stop escape over the Seine. After the liberation of Paris, the Germans began to cross the Seine by pontoon, barge, ferry, and by swimming. The difficulties of crossing created pockets of motor trucks and troops along the river from Paris to Rouen. They were attacked. Thousands of German troops were cornered in the big loop of the river. Great numbers of vehicles were destroyed, thousands of troops with no way to escape were captured. German units which escaped across the Seine had so disintegrated that unit command was no longer possible.
During August, when the Third Army made its remarkable drive through France, Lieutenant General Patton purposely left an exposed flank as he swept along the north bank of the Loire. When this drive began General Patton told Brigadier General Weyland, commanding the 19th Tactical Command, "I am going to depend on you to protect my right flank with your airplanes." General Weyland did just that. Some 30,000 Germans south of the Loire who might have driven into the Third Army's rear were frustrated by our fighters and light bombers, prevented from attacking Patton, and hit hard every time they tried to organize for battle.
For three weeks the German commander below the Loire tried to move his divisions by night to attack but he could not, and it became obvious that to save his own organization he must retreat. In desperation he began moving by day and the incessant air attacks broke up his forces. Although at no time had he been engaged by any sizable element of our ground forces, his position became hopeless and he surrendered, in fact, to an air force. In giving up his sword to a 9th Army Corps commander, who had come from Brest for the task, the German general asked, to maintain German honor, that General Weyland's aircraft which had conquered his units should fly over his men before they laid down their arms.
With every mile of our advance supply became more critical.
Skytrain transports and troop carriers took off from England, filled with five-gallon gasoline cans. Heavy bombers were pressed into transport service. Ordinary values in air transport were turned upside down. Gasoline was first priority. Ammunition came second. Food was third. After that came an amazing list of cargo, including whole blood, telegraph poles, belly tanks, helmet liners, fire trucks, shoe-stitching machines, rockets, watches, and mail to the men at the front.
On the return trip the planes brought back the wounded.
Ninth Troop Carrier Command alone evacuated 11,937 patients from the Normandy area before the St Lo breakthrough, and Air Service Command of the US Strategic Air Forces in Europe evacuated 26,347 men to the United Kingdom from June 11 to September 30, flying them from field stations close to the battle area to well-equipped hospitals. Evacuation was carried on close to the front, and a lighter plane, the Norseman, was flown to advanced temporary strips unusable by the Skytrains,
Aerial aid to the French Maquis was another important element in the battle of France. Eighth Air Force heavy bombers flew four major missions and scores of smaller ones to Maqui territory, their bomb bays filled with food and equipment and guns and ammunition.
One of the strangest stories of air activity has to do with a transport service between England and France which operated regularly during German occupation, Certain things could only be accomplished by direct contact. Some items could not be dropped by parachute. The job was entrusted to the 8th Composite Command. A Skytrain landed in a half-harvested wheatfield in France with the aid of Maquis on the ground. The plane was taxied to a grove of trees and uprooted saplings were immediately planted all about it to conceal it from the air. Thereafter, this transport service operated for many months on regular schedule, round-trip from England with stop-over in France, until the area was liberated.
The liberation of the Paris area presented the first opportunity to study the results of strategic air assault at firsthand on an important industrial area.
The Renault automobile plant had been a target since the RAF bombed it on March 3, 1942. Before the war Renault had produced 200 passenger cars and 120 trucks a day, and employed 42,000 workmen. Upon occupation, the Germans converted it to war production of light tanks, marine and aircraft engines, trucks and automotive components, The main Renault plant was bombed three times, once at night by the RAF and twice in daylight by the 8th Air Force. Ground inspection showed that previous estimates of damage done, based on aerial photographs, had been accurate. Roof areas had been blown off, leaving Renault equipment exposed to the elements under masses of twisted beams and metal. Because many of the bombs dropped by the AAF had delayed fuses, they came down inside before exploding and dislodging building foundations, the bases for the light and heavy machines, and the machines themselves. Power lines, water systems, pipes, power drives were destroyed. Those machines which were damaged but not destroyed had to be painstakingly tested before they could be rebuilt. After the AAF and RAF bombings, the Germans put huge salvage crews to work in the sheet-metal and radiator shops, the casting foundry, forges, airplane engine and assembly shops, chemical products section, and other units.
But despite the vast effort and the German engineering skill brought to bear, Renault was never thereafter able to employ more than 12,000 workmen, one-third of its normal complement. Damage to the Renault plant had other repercussions. Each of the first two attacks blew out 30 acres of windows. The output of a glass factory was requisitioned for replacement. Steel was needed, also brick, cement, copper wire, and electrical appliances. Precision parts were needed for damaged machines. When the Germans could not replace destroyed machinery, one lathe or gear cutter or drill press was required to do the work of two, creating a bottleneck.
And the bombing caused Germany to reap a secondary effect, the penalties of slave labor. Shortages and poor workmanship and sabotage could be conveniently explained as the result of bomb damage. It was a blanket excuse for an organized slowdown by the French workmen.
Dispersal of industry, planned as a defense against strategic bombing, ran into the complication of our attack on transport. After bombing of the Hispano-Suiza plant at Bois Colombes had ruined the foundry, all castings had to be shipped from a foundry in the Pyrenees, subject to all the vicissitudes affecting the transport system. When the Germans fled they left behind, rows of aircraft engines in the Bois Colombes factory boxed and ready for shipment but with no transport to get them delivered to the hard-pressed German Luftwaffe.
The V-1 robot bomb storage depot near Isle-Adam was made as bombproof as surface installations could be constructed. Buildings were low, with thick brick walls and reinforced concrete roofs. Sloping earth embankments held by wickerwork were built around each structure up to the flat concrete roofs. Buildings were spaced from 100 to 200 yards apart, dispersed over an area of three square kilometers, with a little railroad connecting them. The whole thing was camouflaged.
AAF and RAF heavies began hammering it. After the 8th Air Force assault of August 5 it was put out of commission. Hardly a square yard of earth in the whole area was undisturbed.
In April, the 15th Air Force attacked the Ploesti refineries in Romania in considerable force. On May 12 the 8th Air Force made its first large-scale bombardment of synthetic production in Germany. From May through September the 8th Air Force made six major attacks on 32 plants and refineries. The 15th Air Force bombed 41 oil plants and refineries. RAF Bomber Command made night and day attacks on oil.
We know that because of the 8th Air Force's six great operations from May 12 to September 12, the bombing and loss of Ploesti, and RAF attacks on oil plants in Germany, the production of German oil was reduced 75 per cent for September.
Up to January, 1945, over 100 major marshaling yards, airfields, bridges, railroad cuts, communication centers, and troop concentrations from the central battle area back to the Rhine area were bombed repeatedly. The largest day's effort was December 24 when we flew 5,102 sorties. These figures represent the combined effort of the Tactical Air Force and of the 8th Air Force which joined in the tactical operations.
In German headquarters it must have been felt that, cost what it might, something had to be done to stop the galling air attacks. On January 1, 1945, the Germans sent over from 500 to 600 planes to attack RAF and AAF airfields in France, Belgium, and Holland. The Nazis lost almost 300 planes but they succeeded by this well-planned and well-executed attack in destroying 155 Allied planes. The operation did not interfere with the Allied air effort but it illustrated once again the fact that the German Air Force is not to be underestimated.
The AAF takes pride in the message sent by General Eisenhower to General Marshall on September 3: "The air has done everything we asked."
The 15th Air Force was activated November 1, 1943, and the next day flew its first mission, bombarding the Messerschmitt fighter plants at Weiner Neustadt. By midwinter new groups were crossing the Atlantic, to be trained in Africa and join in the strategic assault on Europe.
April, 1944, saw the beginning of the campaign by the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, under Lieut Gen Ira C Eaker, with the 15th Air Force, under Maj Gen Nathan F Twining, to attack the strategic targets beyond working range of our British-based bombers. By the end of May the MAAF could send 850 escorted heavy bombers against German war production throughout Europe. In the year's operation, ended November 1, 1944, 15th Air Force Flying Fortresses and Liberators and long-range fighters flew 150,000,000 miles to hit 620 targets in 12 different countries and dropped 192,000 tons of bombs.
In its first year, 3,635 enemy aircraft fell before the firepower of the 15th's bombers and fighter escorts, and 2,016 more enemy aircraft were destroyed on the ground. Forty per cent of Adolf Hitler's oil has gone up in the fires set by 15th Air Force bombers. His war machine once consumed 1,400,000 tons of fuel (gasoline and oil) per month. One-half of that came from the Romanian oil fields and synthetic oil refineries in southeastern Europe and the Balkans. Since last April, when the campaign began, the German fuel supply has been cut by approximately 564,000 tons a month in attacks on oil refineries in Romania, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, and Yugoslavia.
One-third of the German oil supply came from the rich fields of Romania centered at Ploesti. Protected by 250 heavy guns, interceptor nets and smoke screen, it was the third most heavily defended target on the continent.
Ploesti was finally knocked out in a three-day assault in August. In 23 attacks, 19 of which were by the 15th Air Force, the bulk of its production had been denied to the Nazis. The cost was 2,277 airmen lost and missing and 270 aircraft. A conclusion to the operation was to be found in the return of 1,000 missing airmen from Bucharest, riding in the same Flying Fortresses that 12 days before had taken part in the last Ploesti bombing.
A significant development in our aid to the Soviet Union was the inauguration of the shuttle bombing operations. On June 2, Flying Fortresses escorted by Mustangs flew to Soviet bases and bombed Hungarian rail yards en route. From the USSR they attacked air bases on the lower Danube and on their return to Italy June 11 bombed airdromes in Romania. The trail thus blazed was later expanded into a three-way shuttle by 8th Air Force bombers from England.
The cost of the one-year campaign by the 15th Air Force has been approximately 2,247 planes in combat, for a ratio to sorties flown of 1.6 per cent.
The role of the 12th Air Force, primarily, has been to operate with and assist the ground forces in their penetration of Axis Europe. The 12th has also demonstrated, in "Operation Strangle," the ability of an air force to create an interdiction on such a scale as to affect the battle for Germany itself.
The scope of 12th Air Force operations in 1944 is indicated by the advances of the Allied forces on the ground to the present line across northern Italy; the destruction or capture of thousands of enemy trucks, rolling stock, and materiel; and the destruction, probable destruction, or serious damage of 973 enemy aircraft in the air and on the ground. The 12th flew 182,122 sorties and dropped 75,495 tons of bombs in 1944. It lost 1,081 planes through enemy action, antiaircraft, and other losses on missions during the same period.
Preparatory to the invasion of the Marshalls, land-based aircraft pounded the Japanese strong points for 90 days. During that time the 7th Air Force's heavy bombers alone flew 1,135 sorties. On Kwajalein our Liberators demolished the radar installations so effectively that when the time came for our amphibious forces to strike the fleet was able to make its approach undetected. The Navy's planes brought these attacks to a climax with a series of massive strikes.
In addition, the 7th undertook to destroy aircraft and air facilities on Maleolap, Wotje, Roi, and Kwajalein, should they still be operational on D-plus-2 day. Thereafter, the primary mission was to keep the Wotje and Maleolap bases neutralized.
With the islands of Kwajalein and Eniwetok in the Marshalls occupied by our ground troops, we established an aerial blockade of the by-passed atolls still held by the Japanese. This enabled our ground troops to consolidate their positions and make further advances unmolested by enemy air action. Combined Army, Navy, and Marine air forces thus isolated 20,000 square miles of Japanese-dominated area in the Marshalls. By the time of our invasion of the Marianas, Japanese bases such as Nauru in the Gilberts, and Mille, Jaluit, Maleolap, Wotje, Rongelap, Aur, Arno, and Likip in the Marshalls were not considered to be targets for sustained air attack. A continued harassment was carried on with fighters, dive bombers, and occasional medium-bomber raids. At this writing, scores of thousands of enemy troops are being held in virtually complete isolation in the Ocean Islands, the Marshalls, Marianas, and Carolines.
Truk, once the most heavily-defended island in the Carolines and the keystone of the entire Japanese defense system in the central Pacific, is now to a large extent neutralized. It is dangerous to the extent that it is willing to commit its dwindling fighter force against our regular bombardment. Other enemy bases in the Carolines Kusai, Ponape, Puluwat, Woleai, Yap and Pingeolap have been bombed into impotence. Iwo Jima, in the Volcano islands, underwent the same systematic bombing before the recent invasion. Wake and Marcus islands are no longer serious threats.
The mission of the 7th Air Force fighters in the Marianas was the defense of. the islands, special raids against airfields, gun positions, and communications on Saipan, Tinian, Guam, Rota, and Pagan. Some of our Thunderbolts flew daylight shifts, and Black Widows, new in the Central Pacific, operated at night. From July 1 to July 31, when Tinian was secured, 7th fighters flew 3,430 sorties, some of the men averaging two or three a day.
Weather hazards have been chief factors in curtailing the operations of our 11th Air Force based on Alaska and the Aleutians. To date, the mission of the 11th (commanded by Maj Gen Davenport Johnson) has been to force the Japanese to deploy precious air strength in the area of the North Pacific. By mounting, in the face of harsh Arctic conditions, a series of harassment raids against the Kuriles, the 11th has drawn a part of the Japanese Air Force to the defense of the Kuriles and Hokkaido. At the same time, we have succeeded, in establishing a chain of operational bases which sealed off a vital sector in our continental defense system.
In January, 1944, our most advanced AAF base in the South and Southwest Pacific was on Stirling Island, 100 miles south of a fighter field established at the United States beachhead on Empress Augusta Bay, Bougainville Island, in the Solomons. In the Bismarck Sea area, the enemy's airdromes on western New Britain Island had been captured. The AAF had several advanced fighter fields located in the Ramu River Valley, at Nadzab, in the Markham River Valley, at Finchhafen on the Huon coast in New Guinea, and on the Trobriand and Woodlark Islands, and Goodenough Island.
Opposite these sectors, the Japanese Air Forces had deployed approximately 700 aircraft, concentrated primarily in Rabaul on New Britain and in Wewak and Hollandia on New Guinea.
As a result of previous American air action, these forces were definitely on the defensive. Due to continuing attacks by the 13th and 5th Army Air Forces, the enemy's dispositions both at Rabaul and Wewak were somewhat topheavy in fighter planes.
During January and through most of February, General Streett's 13th and the US Naval air forces, based in the Solomons, concentrated on the job of knocking out Rabaul as a major air threat. Just before the end of February after having lost nearly 900 aircraft in defense of the base the Japanese withdrew their remaining air strength from Rabaul, In consequence, Japanese ground forces on New Britain were forced to abandon virtually all of the islands. The shipping lanes which had supplied the doomed Japanese garrisons in the Bismarcks and the Solomons were controlled by us.
Simultaneously, the 5th Air Force was knocking out Wewak as a major enemy base. In four days of concentrated attack the 5th Air Force put Hollandia out of the running. The entire enemy force of approximately 400 aircraft was destroyed mainly on the ground. The 5th Air Force then turned its attack on the islands of Biak, Noemfoor, and Owi in the Geelvink Bay area of Dutch New Guinea. Again enemy air was neutralized, and our amphibious forces moved in with light casualties.
The next objective of the 5th Air Force, now commanded by Major General Whitehead, logically became the Mindanao area of the Philippines. Here the enemy had based approximately 250-300 aircraft on partially-completed fields. We were able to inflict substantial losses before the Japanese withdrew again, this time to the Visayan area.
The 7th Air Force brought heavy bombers to the Palaus and joined in pounding the central Philippines. In November, units of the 5th Air Force were on Leyte, operating from airdromes constructed with remarkable speed under great difficulties.
The Far Eastern Air Force (the 5th and 13th combined under the command of Lieut Gen George C Kenney) had flown from January 1 to December 31, 1944, 155,107 combat sorties. During that period they dropped 90,087 tons of bombs. Through November, 1944, 326,490 tons of enemy shipping were sunk, 197,982 probably sunk and 540,500 tons damaged. Also through November they consumed 143,257,000 gallons of gasoline. From January 1, 1944, through December 31, 1944, they destroyed 2,414 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed 563, and damaged 692 while losing in combat 818 of our own.
No account, however sketchy, of the Far Eastern Air Forces, would be complete without reference to the superior work of the troop carriers who, in addition to dropping paratroops, fly men, ammunition, food, and supplies into bitterly contested forward areas. On return flights they evacuate the sick and wounded to hospitals in the rear. One troop carrier group, the "Jungle Skippers," has flown over 3,000,000 miles, transported over 24,000,000 pounds of high priority equipment, and carried more than 50,000 combat soldiers on missions involving 20,000,000 passenger miles.
Throughout the year the 14th Air Force was opposed by approximately 500 Japanese aircraft operating out of large, fully supplied, powerfully supported bases.
The basic fact to be considered in an appraisal of the operations of our 14th Air Force and the Chinese-American Composite Wing is that they had access only to such supplies as could be flown across the Hump to China. In consequence they had to contend with chronic shortages of gasoline, replacement parts, base equipment, and virtually everything else. By heroic exertions we managed to increase our Air Transport Command tonnage across the Hump from 13,399 tons in January, 1944, to 43,896 in January, 1945. With the addition of a supplemental route via Myitkyna further increases may be expected.
The 14th Air Force was able to provide vital tactical cooperation to the Chinese Army. During a representative period (May 29 to July 5) the 14th was able to interfere with the progress of the advancing Japanese armies to the following extent: 60 enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged, 900 river boats destroyed, 32 bridges destroyed, 26 storage dumps destroyed, 139,400 tons of supply dropped to the Chinese ground forces, 14,740 Japanese troops killed or wounded, exclusive of personnel lost on ships and boats sunk or strafed.
As the current Japanese offensive pushed back the Chinese ground forces, General Chennault was forced to evacuate and destroy most of his forward fields, including the modern ones built under desperately trying circumstances at Hengyang, Kweilin, Tanchuk, and Liuchow. In spite of the fact that Japan threw some of its best pilots into this offensive, the 14th was able to establish a favorable combat ratio.
An outstanding contribution of the 14th has been the brilliant achievement of a handful of specially equipped Liberators. Beginning their operations during late spring against Japanese shipping in Formosa Strait and the South China Sea, each of these airplanes has averaged about 800 tons of shipping sunk per sortie. This attrition has put a fearsome burden on the long Japanese lines of communication to the Southwest Pacific and on Japan's dwindling merchant fleet in general. The work of these few Liberators may be said to have produced effects of far-reaching strategic importance. During 1944 the overall claims of the 14th Air Force against Japanese shipping were 640,900 tons sunk, 237,050 tons probably sunk and 396,950 tons damaged.
The air transport route from Assam to China has been virtually free from interference by enemy fighters since the end of 1943. American and British transport planes have served as the principal and often the sole source of supply and reinforcements for ground forces fighting on the widely scattered Burma fronts. Japanese road, rail, and river communications throughout Burma have been so thoroughly held down by round-the-clock air attacks that the enemy has repeatedly been forced to abandon attempted offensives. Strategic bombing and mining has denied to the Japs the use of the principal Burma coast ports, including the harbors of Moulmein and Rangoon. Cooperation of fighters, dive bombers, and medium bombers with campaigning ground troops has been carried to a high degree of precision and has been extremely effective.
Air supremacy over Burma was essential, and to this end all RAF and AAF combat units on the Burma front were formed into the Eastern Air Command under Maj Gen George E Stratemeyer.
The Eastern Air Command's counter-air-force measures were successful. By early spring the Japanese were avoiding air combat. Their offensive raids against our ground forces and transports flying the Hump route practically ceased. Today the character of the Japanese air effort in Burma continues to be sporadic, reluctant, and ineffectual.
The accomplishments of the First Air Commando Group, under Col Philip G Cochran, represent one of the spectacular operations of the war. To disrupt the Japanese lines threatening General Stilwell's North Burma operations, the AAF transports towed gliders loaded with airborne engineers and equipment and infantry more than 150 miles behind the Japanese lines. On the night of March 5, 1944, the gliders landed at "Broadway," a clearing in the jungle, carrying 539 personnel, three mules, and 29,000 pounds of stores. In 24 hours the engineers had built a strip on which transports were able to land with cargoes of troops, supplies, and pack animals. Other trips behind the Japanese lines were made regularly for a period of two months. At the same time, long-range penetration groups, also supplied by air, slashed at the Japanese communication lines. The Japanese airfields in the Mandalay area were kept under continuous attack.
The Eastern Air Command kept approximately 200,000 troops supplied with food, ammunition, and equipment. In 758 sorties transports flew an entire division, complete with pack animals, from the Arakan into Imphal. During the 80 days that Imphal was cut of, 28,120 tons of supplies and 61,000 men were flown in. By ground-air combination the Japanese offensive was turned into a retreat with three of their divisions virtually annihilated.
In the important capture of the Myitkyina airfield, Major (then Brigadier) General Merrill's Marauders were supplied by air. A few hours after the Myitkyina strip had been captured, troop-carrier planes were towing in gliders filled with airborne aviation engineers and their specialized equipment. Within five hours, using miniature bulldozers and graders, the engineers had the field in shape for use by transports. The Myitkyina strip became one of the busiest in the world. From May through October the air lift into North Burma by Major General Davidson's 10th Air Force totaled 98,823 tons. More than 75,000 men were flown in and over 10,000 casualties evacuated.
While engaged in these operations, the 10th Air Force also supplied air cooperation to General Stilwell's forces, the British 36th Division, and various Chinese units. Converted Liberators of the 7th Bombardment Group also flew more than 1,500,000 gallons of aviation fuel from India to the gas-hungry 14th Air Force.
On June 5, just two days less than a year after the Army had flown a Superfortress for its first time, the 58th Wing took off on its first bombing mission to Bangkok, Thailand. Then, on June 15, as part of the newly formed 20th Air Force, they bombed Yawata and brought the attack directly to the Japanese homeland.
On August 10, the Superforts of the 20th Bomber Command staged the longest-range bombing operations in the history of aerial warfare and what was a joint operation covering the widest range between targets ever bombed simultaneously by a single organization. The targets were Nagasaki and Palembang, the former in the Japanese homeland on the southern island of Kyushu and the latter at the outermost limit of the Japanese empire on the island of Sumatra.
In November, 1944, just after the 20th Bomber Command under Maj Gen Curtis E LeMay had completed its 17th successful mission, Brig Gen H S Hansell's 21st Bomber Command, flying out of Isley Field on Saipan, joined forces with the 20th Bomber Command by striking the Japanese mainland. On November 24 they bombed Tokyo. By January 9, 1945, Tokyo targets had been bombed six times. Maj Gen Curtis E LeMay now heads the 21st Bomber Command with Brig Gen Roger Ramey commanding the 20th Bomber Command.
The central fire-control system, the "magic little black box," takes much of the guesswork out of gunnery. In the first six months of combat operations on]y 15 Superforts were lost by enemy fighter action in the air. In contrast, 102 Japanese planes were destroyed, 87 probably destroyed, and 156 damaged in air combat.
As 1944 drew to a close each plant producing Superfortresses was completing on the average of more than one plane every 24 hours. As production increased cost decreased. The first B-29 cost $3,392,396.60. Those coming off the production lines today cost approximately $600,000. A total of 157,000 man-hours were required to produce the first Superfortresses to roll off the line; those produced today require only 57,000 man-hours.
We have organized floating maintenance and repair shops manned by experienced airplane mechanics, propeller specialists, sheet metal workers and other skilled craftsmen who can be moved to any spot where they are needed. Such a ship designed to service Superfortresses carries a stock of 137,000 spare parts and can do just about any repair job necessary to keep the big bombers flying,
Strategically, except for the much greater distances involved, the B-29 is being employed against Japan in much the same way that our Fortresses and Liberators are being used against Germany to destroy the enemy's ability to fight by destroying his production of critical war equipment and his facilities for transporting this equipment.
The problem of destroying Japan's industrial power is not simple. Her inner empire the islands plus Korea and Manchuria covers more than 730,000 square miles and is a highly developed, almost self-sufficient industrial and agricultural unit three times the size of Germany. By December 31, 1944, the B-29 and the 20th Air Force had completed 39 strikes. These strikes, some large, some small, are continuing on almost a daily basis.
DURING a stay in England early in 1941 I had occasion to examine various research and development projects on gas turbines and jet propulsion for aircraft. The possibilities of this new means of aircraft power led to the decision that we must initiate a similar gas-turbine and jet-propulsion program in this country without delay. To accelerate such a program from the start it was thought advisable to procure from England the production rights as well as an actual engine which had already been successfully test flown this was the Whittle engine.
Therefore, on Thursday, September 4, 1941, an initial conference was held in AAF Headquarters to determine the feasibility and desirability of going into immediate production in this country on the English Whittle engine project, as well as to determine which airplane manufacturer was at that time best qualified to carry out the jet propulsion development in conjunction with the General Electric Co, which had had extensive experience with steam turbines and turbosuperchargers.
Present at this conference were (the then) Maj Gen Carl Spaatz, Maj Gen O P Echols, and other members of the air staff as well as Messers Muir, Shoults, Stevenson, Jr, and Puffer of General Electric. After an examination of the preliminary data and drawings received from England, General Electric agreed that it would be possible to produce a duplicate engine in six months with two more engines in an additional two months, the latter two engines to be flight articles. The vital necessity for absolute secrecy was stressed. A cable was dispatched to England to obtain complete information. It was further decided to invite Mr Bell, of the Bell Aircraft Corporation, to Washington the following morning.
On Friday, September 5, 1941, Mr Bell and his chief engineer, Mr H M Poyer, reported to my office, together with Mr Shoults of General Electric and the AAF officers present the day before. The proposition was presented to Mr Bell and after a brief discussion he stated his desire to participate in the project. It was then decided to build 15 engines and three twin-engined airplanes designated as XP-59A. The Bell and General Electric companies were to work in close collaboration. The contracts, under absolute secrecy, were prepared by (the then) AAF Materiel Command. Col D J Keirn was project officer.
Never has a plane been built in this country under greater secrecy. At both General Electric and Bell, the men who worked on the project were investigated even as to their personal habits. so that not even through careless conviviality could mention of the project leak out. The workers were segregated in blacked-out, heavily-guarded buildings. Even so, some of the workers were unaware of what they were doing. For instance, the men at Bell who were fabricating the wing sections were never allowed to see the fuselage. A year later the first jet plane was disassembled, crated, and sent west with military police riding on the train with it. On the bed of a dry lake in the Western desert it was put together, ground tested and flown.
The absence of vibration and engine noise makes for less pilot fatigue. It appears that the planes are outstandingly safe the use of kerosene as a fuel greatly reduces the fire hazard, and the low center of gravity facilitates braking and minimizes ground looping. The jet engine is of simple construction it has only about 10 per cent of the moving parts of the usual reciprocating engine, it has no ignition system, no carburetor, no automatic throttle control and, since there is no propeller, there is no need for prop controls and instruments. No warm-up of the engine is needed a highly desirable feature militarily.
Since that first Airacomet, many other jet planes have been projected, built, flown. So rapid has been our advance that the P-59 is today classed as a trainer.
To match strides with aviation, AAF weather forecasting has become global in coverage. The usefulness of such an analysis was apparent when the Weather Division was requested by the commanding general of the 20th Air Force to forecast the weather for the movement of Superfortresses from their United States bases to their operational bases in China, a flight of more than half the distance around the globe. Forecasts for this flight called for weather analysis over an area much greater than that covered by any single chart that was then in existence.
The Weather Division evolved a new method in weather investigation "synoptic climatology." This technique demanded the acquisition and handling of great quantities of past weather data, a problem which was solved by the use of International Business Machines. Once all of the available weather data had been punched on IBM cards, the establishment of any weather relationships demanded by military operations could be readily performed. At the end of 1944, the Weather Division had in its files 35,000,000 cards (105 tons of them) representing weather observations for between 2,000 and 3,000 weather stations over the world.
It is not generally known that mobile weather stations mounted on jeeps and trucks are now operating in Italy, France, and in the Pacific. These units go ashore with the first troops since their operations are vital to tactical air operations, bombardment, and the like. In the Southwest Pacific the weather men go in carrying their equipment on their backs, if necessary, through the jungles. Weather stations in the Pacific are operating in jungles, on mountain tops of the Himalayas, and on the plateau of central China. The weather men may enable an outfit to make 11 missions on the gas for 10, by using tailwinds. This can be of great importance to an outfit flying on the China side of the Hump.
These strides in weather forecasting on a global scale have been made possible by the use of electronics. Two of its principal applications are:
Airborne rockets were first used in the Army Air Forces by the 14th Air Force in China during March. These 4½-inch rockets were fired from tubes mounted on fighter planes. Targets were Japanese supply dumps, hangars, parked aircraft, bridges, and river boats and other transports. In July the 9th Air Force first used in combat the new five-inch HVAR rockets, with Type Zero rail installations, developed by the National Defense Research Committee for the Navy. Employed against locomotives, tanks, armored cars, gun emplacements, and concrete defenses from Thunderbolts, these rockets proved extremely effective. In the Mediterranean theater Thunderbolts firing 4½-inch rockets from tubes at point-blank range have been used for ground-air operations. They have also been successful on targets of opportunity. The 10th Air Force has recently reported from Burma that 12 launcher tubes have been mounted on Mitchells and that these aircraft have been very effective against ground targets. At the present time the Army Air Forces are cooperating with the Office of the Chief of Ordnance in the development and adaptation of still more powerful rockets for use by aircraft. Far more extensive use of existing types of rockets is also anticipated during 1945.
Based on experience gained in the invasion of Sicily and Italy, special aircraft supply compacs were worked out for the invasion of France. Each compac supplied a complete airdrome for 30 days and was loaded into special trucks. These trucks went across with the invasion and rolled up to the airdrome where the drivers simply lifted the lids on the various boxes and went into business.
For the invasion of small islands in the Central and Southwest Pacific, one- and 10-day repair pack-ups were designed and prepacked for various types of airplanes.
Steel pierced-plank has continued to perform outstandingly in all theaters of operation. Production of this type of runway surfacing totals 662,000,000 square feet to date, a quantity sufficient to surface a four-lane motor highway from New York to San Francisco. During 1944, 589,000,000 square feet have been shipped overseas. This quantity would be sufficient to surface 785 runways 150 by 5,000 feet in size.
In anticipation of airborne operations, aluminum pierced-plank has been developed under the direction of the Air Engineer during the past year, the first overseas shipment being in September. Requirements from the theaters for aluminum mat, for this year and next, already total 18,000,000 square feet, enough to surface 10 Superfortress runways.
It can now be stated that the Air Transport Command has delivered a total of 40,000 planes overseas up to January 1, 1945. In 1942 it was flying 4,800,000 miles a month in ferrying operations, by 1943 the rate was 12,500,000 a month, and in 1944 through November it was 21,872,000 miles a month. ATC flew 28,000,000 miles a month in transport operations in 1944, or 340,000,000 miles for the year. Totaling ferrying and transport operations, the ATC flies about 51,000,000 miles a month, or approximately 70 times around the world at the equator each 24 hours.
In 1944 some 560,000 tons of high priority passengers, cargo, and mail were carried by ATC and most of the 1,200,000 passengers flew over foreign routes. Some 80,000,000 pounds of mail, or more than 3,500,000,000 letters were included in this total. The ATC network of routes now totals 161,000 miles of which 118,900 is beyond the continental United States. A plane is crossing the Atlantic every 13 minutes, carrying whole blood for the wounded, along with vital personnel and cargo, and bringing back casualties. In 1944 the ATC carried an estimated 130,000 patients from the Ground, Service, Air Forces, Navy, and Allies.
Thousands of pounds of military cargo are flown by ATC over the Hump from India to China each month. During one 24-hour period some 2,500,000 pounds of freight were flown, or one flight every 2½ minutes. From foreign countries the planes have brought back vital war materials for domestic production, such as tungsten for armor, shells and filaments; mercury for detonators; tin; industrial diamonds; mica, and many other cargoes.
The above are regular cargoes. Here are some emergency ones:
In January, 1944, the Navy required additional engine parts on short notice for landing craft in the Pacific. Within 24 hours the ATC flew five tons of the parts to Hawaii. In May, 1944, the ATC diverted 11 planes to carry an emergency cargo of 55,000 pounds of mine-cutting equipment to the United Kingdom for use on D-Day. In June, 1944, the WPB said there was only enough of a certain critical material on hand to keep the radio-radar production going for two weeks. The ATC diverted three Commandos from the Central African Division to lift 23,000 pounds of the material in India, and the first lots reached Miami four days later. As fast as they could be manufactured at Edgewood Arsenal, Air Transport Command rushed mortar propellant charges to Paris to help check the German breakthrough in December-January. Seventy thousand pounds of this vital cargo was delivered in the European theater two days after it left the factory.
The contribution of medical service to tactical success is not only proper care for the sick and wounded but also includes measures to protect and improve the efficiency of combat airmen and to prevent casualties.
During World War II, both the Allied and Axis air forces have experimented. with various methods which would combat black-out. Since the pursuit plane is able to withstand more G than the human body, the pilot with superior G tolerance should be able to outmaneuver the enemy. The earliest workable G suits were introduced by the Canadian and Australian air forces, followed closely by the US Navy. The AAF modified and adapted the 18-pound Navy suit after extensive tests on the human centrifuge at the Aero Medical Laboratory, Wright Field, OH, and evolved the G-3 suit.
Several thousand G-suits were shipped overseas to fighter groups in 1944 and, unlike many items of personal protective equipment, they achieved immediate popularity among the men who have to wear them. Pilots have contributed case histories of kills attributed to the extra margin of clearheadedness the G suit gave them during pull-outs and turns. Equally important, the device reduces the fatigue frequently resulting from aerobatics.
More than 600,000 flak suits and helmets have been procured for the Army Air Forces by the Army Ordnance Department since this type of body armor for bomber crews was originated in the 8th Air Force by Brig Gen Malcolm C Grow. A flak suit, made of overlapping steel shingles in a quilt-like cover, was designed to protect the vital areas of the body after it was observed that low-velocity shell fragments from antiaircraft and aircraft cannon were responsible for 79 per cent of all wounds occurring among heavy bomber crews.
The AAF is now battle-testing a new combat helmet, also developed by General Grow, with excellent results thus far. Unlike the conventional one-piece model, this helmet is a flexible, five-piece, close- fitting helmet. The older type weighed three pounds, the new one weighs two pounds, but experiments are being made with thicker steel.
Flier's fatigue is an ailment peculiar to air combat. To cure it, AAF convalescent hospitals have developed a specialized treatment, the results of which are returning our men weeks and months ahead of schedule to assume positions in the AAF or in civilian life.
To his regular corrective exercises, a patient adds as much additional exercise as he wishes. He is encouraged to play golf, ride, fish, swim, and hike. Hospital authorities are continually looking for new therapy outlets. Farms are operated in conjunction with many of the convalescent hospitals the patients managing them and doing the work. Recently, an AAF cow and AAF pig won blue ribbons at a county fair.
|Lost in aerial combat vs Germany||6,989|
|Lost in aerial combat vs Japan||1,296|
|Lost by antiaircraft vs Germany||5,002|
|Lost by antiaircraft vs Japan||440|
|Destroyed on ground vs Germany||92|
|Destroyed on ground vs Japan||354|
|Lost by other causes vs Germany||2,663|
|Lost by other causes vs Japan||994|
|Destroyed in aerial combat||24,393|
|Probably destroyed in combat||6,294|
|Damaged in aerial combat||8,569|
|Destroyed on ground||7,153|
|Probably destroyed on ground||730|
|Damaged on ground||3,519|
This report is written at the end of the third year of a long and bitter struggle. We enter the fourth year with full realization that the end is not in sight and that unnumbered months of effort throughout the world and of grim fighting on all fronts are necessary to final victory.
Certain basic principles underlying our air power needs and on which our air superiority rests must be known and understood by every American. It is on these principles that the AAF's planning and operations have been conducted in this war and its responsibilities will be sustained until the day of Axis collapse.
The AAF and the nation must encourage private flying. We must make available to educational institutions aircraft and equipment that can be spared to help familiarize American young men and women with the fundamentals of aviation for it is obviously upon youth that the nation must rely for its protection against attacks of aggressors. The AAF can take pride in what has been accomplished in the past three years but these accomplishments have cost the lives of many brave men. Air Force men have been in violent combat every minute since Pearl Harbor. Individually, they have crossed enemy lines to carry the fight to the Axis 6,500,000 times through December 31, 1944. Our men overseas have done their utmost and we shall not forget. It is with sober determination that we of the AAF undertake to increase our contribution to the total war effort of the United Nations.
Part 1 of this article was originally published in the May, 1945, issue of Flying magazine, vol 36, no 5, pp 24-27, 84, 86, 88, 90.
Part 1 includes a photo of a B-24 over the Philippines, a bombing attack on barges off Burma, B-24s attacking Hanover, and a two-page diagram of a typical bomber mission over Germany
Part 1 photos credited to AAF, USN, United Airlines, USMC.
Part 2 of this article was originally published in the June, 1945, issue of Flying magazine, vol 36, no 6, pp 43-45, 91, 94, 96.
Part 2 includes a photo of an anti-aircraft station looking at contrails, a to-page map of ATC routes around the world, and a graph showing the decrease in accident rate over time.
Part 2 photos credited to US Signal Corps, AAF, Lockheed.
The PDF of this article includes both Part 1 and Part 2.