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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Book review: Men who killed the Luftwaffe, Jay A Stout

Grabbed a copy of this book about the USAAF in Europe, for free from Amazon - you can't go wrong with free, right?

Never read a history of the USAAF strategic bomber force in Europe before, so I am no expert at all. 


Nearly gave up in the first five pages when the writer implied that by the time the US joined the war in 1941 the RAF had achieved virtually nothing (Battle of Britain aside!) against the Luftwaffe in either Africa, the Med or Europe , the RAF night bomber offensive in Germany was pointless and it was obvious nothing would change this until the US of A arrived in numbers (with its admittedly inferior P40s and P39s assumedly?). Not sure about that....


- the raf leadership did not have a plan for destroying the luftwaffe...
- after the battle of britain the raf and luftwaffe did nothing but engage in a series of tit for tat engagements that did neither of them great harm
- the soviet unions red air force was even less effective
- on the other hand the usaaf arrived in europe intent on killing the luftwaffe

Not sure about that either....

That jingoistic introduction aside, I persevered, he settled down a bit and I am 40% of the way through the book, and it is an interesting enough read though am definitely not convinced on his take on history, but lack comparisons to hold him up against... here is my take on what he is saying

- it took several months after Pearl before the 8th AF commander, Eaker, got his act together and got himself and his organisation to Europe ie he wasted a lot of time at a critical phase in the war just getting into the fight
- once he did, it took him nearly two years 1941-1943 before the 8th was a truly dominant force and he was criticised relentlessly by his commander, Arnold, for not getting enough aircraft over Germany often enough (compared to eg the Brits)
- eventually he was sacked by Arnold and replaced by Doolittle, because of these frustrations
- the US daylight bombing offensive could not be demonstrated to be any more effective than the British night bombing strategy. It allowed for more precision but at the cost of significantly higher casualties and key industrial targets like oil and aircraft production facilities were in any case quickly repaired and often produced more after being attacked (and subsequently optimised) than before they were attacked
- sheer weight of numbers, pilots and machines, defeated the Luftwaffe more than any other factor eg better aircraft, strategy or tactics

Hmmmm. If you too pick this up for free, let's just say, you'll get your money's worth.

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