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Normandy Project- Strategic Bombing 

Introduction:

The battle  for the skies is what determined the winner of World War II. All the countries involved were racing to gain control of airspace, because like the eagle, whoever flies highest controls what is below. 

The U.S. Army Air Forces Intelligence Service sent teams to Europe where they were to gain information for studies in the U.S. about enemy aircraft, technical and scientific reports, and weapons. The AFI teams tried to gain this information by recovering it from a crash site. The AFIs shifted from tactical intelligence to post hostilities after the war. Operation Lusty began with the intentions of capturing German Scientific records, research facilities, and aircraft.


The History of Strategic Bombing

The earliest fighters depended on visual sightings, with the usage of searchlights and sound tracking. During World War II, the defenders were given a general area in which the enemy could be hiding in from information gathered by ground radars. The airborne radar was developed during the early stages of WWII by the United States, Germany and Great Britain.

The jet-powered Me-262 and the rocket-powered Me-163 were extremely much faster than the Allies airplanes. The B-17s and the B-24s are known for their long range shooting abilities. It had been planned for the B-26s to fly at minimum altitude but this tactic was changed. The B-26s bombed from a medium altitude of about 10,000 to 15,000. They suffered barely any losses from antiaircraft fire in comparison to the heavy bombers. The German fighter forces focused mainly on the heavy bombers. This allowed the medium bombers to encounter barely any opposition. 

A flak is an anti air craft gun, normally used in the war to defend railroads and bridges. Aerial operations focused mainly on Nazi submarine's along France's coast during 1942 and 1943. The Air Force at this time was still learning by trial and error. The British preferred night time bombing, whereas the United States preferred daytime precision bombing. The American Air Force gained experience attacking in contrast to the German Luftwaffes which gained experience on the defense.

June 12th and 13th the first V-1s were launched against London. This was Germany's answer to the invasion of France. This bomb besides killing 3,875 people did little to change the course of war in France. Some of the Allied forces were moved in order to divert some airpower to the V-1 bomb launching sites. The Allies also used both the air and the sea to take the French Riviera. This caused the Germans to begin evacuation of France. By air the Germans were continuously attacked and quickly followed on the ground. the Allied troops had to be supplied from the air in their pursuit. By September the Allies had most of France and Belgium.

The United States during the summer of 1943, began building up their heavy bomber forces in Europe. The B-17s and B-24s were sent out to destroy targets in Germany. Their P-47 escort kept them from the Luftwaffe fighters harm. The P-47s belly fuel tanks is the reason why protection past the western border of Germany was impossible. 

During the summer the tactical air units were able to help the ground forces in breaking out of the Normandy beachhead. The American Air Force lost 922 bombers and 674 fighters during the summer, while carrying out their strategic bombing offensive against Germany. From the moment the first Allied troops hit the shore of Normandy's beach, their was continuous air cover. They flew over the beach assaults and the ships. During the first couple days only a couple of Luftwaffes were sighted. This gave the Allies time to strengthenand   hold their ground positions. The American Air Force was used for beachhead support, carrying supplies and the bombing of German supply routes to the Normandy area. Heavy bombers were used for tactical bombing of the German front lines.


The B17 Flying Fortress
(Animation by Ken Blandon)


Fall of 1944, the Allies made slow but steady gains against the enemy along the Siegfried Line, where everything possible was attacked. This was done to reduce Germany's border control defenses. England and Italy also attacked Germany's fuel and lubricant factories. In late September, the Luftwaffe began intercepting the American Air Force heavy bombers. Germany began dispersing their fighter production from heavily targeted fields, to hundreds of small plants. 

The Luftwaffe are keep on the ground except to intercept American Air Force bombers. This gave American Air Force fighter pilots practical freedom of Germany's skies, enabling low level flying. This allowed practically everything possible to be targeted and bombed.

March 1944 is an important turning point in Europe's air war. The Luftwaffe lost the advantage they had maintained since the fall of 1943. This is because even though German production of fighters  increased, there was a shortage of skilled fighter pilots. The amount of fuel was also a concern for the Germans. 

During WWII Berlin, the capital of Germany, was a prime target for the American Air Force. This is because of Berlin's industrial importance and the hopes that the Luftwaffe would suffer heavy losses trying to defend it. March 4, 1944 the first attack began. Luftwaffe lost heavily to the American Air Force bombers.

The German strategic targets were continuously targeted throughout the winter of 1944-1945. The threat of German jet-propelled fighters is why the American Air Force added jet engines and aircraft plants to the list of targets. The American Air Force was lucky that the Luftwaffe was unable to put a large amounts of jets into the air at a time while the U.S. heavy bombers were able to continue their offensive. 

The cutting of German supply lines and transportation in northern Italy began in 1945. This was done by Allies to slow the retreating Germans, and to aid Allied armies. In April 1945 the Allies overran Germany from the west. The few strategic targets that remained were bombed quickly.

The role of the American Air Force changed then and they began flying mercy missions. In these flights food was dropped to people in Northern Italy and the Netherlands. The evacuation of released prisoners of war also began. On May the second the fighting ended, and on May the seventh, Nazi Germany surrendered unconditionally. This was after over five and a half years of fighting. The defeat over Germany and Italy was a major victory. The Germans destroyed the Me to prevent the Allies from capturing them intact. 

American Air Force losses- 27,694 aircraft, including 8,314 heavy bombers, 1,623 medium and light bombers, and 8,481 fighters were destroyed in combat

Battle Casualties- 91,105 personnel--34,362 killed, 13,708 wounded, and 43,035 missing or captured.