Thursday, April 23, 2015

Allied bombing and the German Aircraft Industry

The bombed-out Fieseler Aircraft Factory.

USSBS-- United States Strategic Bombing Survey

Here is some information I pulled out of the USSBS concerning the German aircraft industry and the effects on production from Allied bombing:

The Combined Bomber Offensive of the RAF & USAAF applied every known form of attack to cut off the flow of usable aircraft to Hitler's fighting squadrons. The RAF bombed cities and industrial areas by night to disrupt and to demoralize labour and to destroy such factories that might be located in the target area. The USAAF bombed airfields and factories by day to destroy as many finished aircraft as possible and to further cripple production. At the same time they were attacking the aircraft industry they were also attacking rail centers, bridges, marshaling yards, oil refineries, synthetic fuel plants and fuel dumps. "In the end the total weight was too much. Germany's industrial machine could not endure such punishment and finally collapsed. How much each form of attack contributed to the end result is impossible to determine. It appears from this study that some 18,000 aircraft of all types were denied the German Air Force in the period of intensive attack between July 1943 and December 1944."

"If the aircraft industry had not been dispersed it probable that an equal or even larger production loss would have been suffered." The USSBS best estimate that the 18,000 aircraft lost to the Germans could be evenly distributed between "direct losses caused by destruction of the airframe plants, and indirect losses caused by dispersal and by inefficient operation under dispersal conditions."

"Whether or not the German Air Force could have used all these additional aircraft effectively (because of the shortages of fuel or of pilots), it is obvious that the attacks against the German aircraft industry paid dividends. By keeping such a number of defensive fighters out of the air at times when the air war was critical, the job of wrecking Germany's manufacturing industries, her transportation system and her cities, was rendered that much easier and the war was probably shortened by some months."

In 1943 the total number of single engine German fighter aircraft to defend Germany doubled. However, this increase was not due to increased fighter production. Some 180 fighters were withdrawn from the Eastern Front and 120 from the Mediterranean. Even though the Western front saw an increase of about 380 aircraft, 80% of the increase was from fighters being transferred in from other fronts.

If you examine the German aircraft production numbers for 1944 it appears that aircraft production was stimulated by the air attacks. However, the German production increase in 1944 was planned six to nine months previously. "How much more the production curve would have risen had the attacks not been made is only a matter for conjecture."

"Before the Combined Bomber Offensive the German aircraft industry had at least a 100% excess capacity of plant and equipment. This is indicated by the fact that single-shift operation of most facilities was normal procedure prior to 1944."

In 1944 the Speer Ministry reported to Hitler that 39,000 aircraft were produced, of which 26,000 were fighters. There are 17,000 German aircraft (8,000 fighters) which the USSBS could not account for based on the number of aircraft delivered and the number destroyed. It was known that Hitler demanded miracles from his subordinates. Under these circumstances it is not entirely impossible that Messrs Speer and Saur, controlling aircraft production, "rigged" their accounting to make a satisfactory showing. The conclusion is than nowhere near 39,000 aircraft were produced in 1944.

"Strategic bombing forced the dispersal of the aircraft industry. This disruption alone paid the cost of Allied bombing. Disruption of production was caused by the physical movement of goods and machinery, the loss of efficiency due to the dilution of management, an increased load on the already overtaxed transportation system were all factors in the final result. In the end dispersal defeated itself, because once the transportation system failed, it became impossible to keep final assembly points fed with the necessary component parts and subassemblies to produce finished aircraft. It was largely after that system failed that they decided to re-centralize the plants underground, for efficient and economical operation. This decision came too late to be effective in the German war programs but the cost of the effort added tremendously to the strain on the national economy."

"Until early 1943 less than half the available capacity was utilized in the German aircraft industry. The industry was coasting along on a one-shift per day basis. The big push for expansion started in 1943 when the German High Command realized the potentialities of the Allied air attack. The realization came too late. The weight of attack that was delivered late in 1943 and early in 1944 set back production plans by many months and denied the German Air force some thousands of aircraft at a time when it needed them most."

"By the end of 1944 disintegration of the entire economy had set in. Transportation was disorganized to the point that essential materials could not be delivered to the manufacturers, nor could finished products be taken away. Airframe assembly plants, although relatively invulnerable to direct attack because of dispersal and underground installations, could not get deliveries of engines, accessories or subassemblies. Centralized planning broke down completely. Production of aircraft fell precipitously to a point far below the normal requirements of the German Air Force. By war's end the manufacture of aircraft was at a standstill."

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