World War II Bombers - RAF and USAAF, Night and Day?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Adjutant, Jan 14, 2007.

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  1. Can anyone tell me why, in general, The RAF's raids over occupied territory were mainly at night and the USAAF during the day?

    I suspect that this is blindingly obvious to those that know these things...
     
  2. The RAF started off in 1939/40 with daylight precision raids with the "heavy" bombers of the day (Wellingtons and Hampdens). However losses were so heavy that they soon switched to night raids, together with Whitleys, and this remained true for the Stirlings, Halifaxes and Lancasters, at least until 1945 when there were some daylight raids by heavies. Night raids were at first officially also "precision" but later area bombing became the official policy- the technology of the time, although it developed massively during the war (with innovations such as Gee, H2S and Oboe) just didn't allow for accurate bombing at night in all but a few cases (such as the Dams raid). RAF daylight raids over Europe never entirely ceased though and were continued by Blenheims (who took incredible losses in 1940/41) and later Venturas (briefly), Bostons, Mosquitos and Mitchells. These aircraft mainly carried out smaller precision raids over France, Netherlands, Norway etc. , with fighter cover whenever possible.

    When the USAAF heavies (B-17s and B-24s) arrived in the UK in 1942, they thought their heavy defensive armament and Norden bombsight would make mass daylight raids viable. They did okay in their first ops over France, but once they began attacking the more heavily defended German targets and penetrating deeper and deeper into the Reich, the losses started to mount fearfully. It was not until the advent of the P-51 Mustang a an escort fighter in late 1943 that things got better.
     
  3. In other words, the RAF learned the hard way, the USAAF ignored the lessons.
     
  4. A brilliant book on the subject is Bomber Command, by Max Hastings. Doing my Dissertation on the evolving role of strategic air power, realy interesting stuff!
     
  5. I wouldn't go that far. The RAF had entered the war with bombers made of doped canvas over an aluminium framework. Most were not adequate for the job and had armaments ranging from 2 x .303 - 6 x .303. It was perfectly reasonable for the US to try daylight bombing again because of the need for precision and using purpose built bombers which had better protection in terms of contruction, operational ceiling and defensive armaments.
     
  6. Trip_Wire

    Trip_Wire RIP

  7. As a footnote, the P51s offered the extended fuel range required to defend the USAF bombers during daylight attacks.

    The RAF never quite had the same range, and thus preferred the relative protection of night attacks
     
  8. blue-sophist

    blue-sophist LE Good Egg (charities)

    Massively profound topic - concur with Skinny_Bloke ... read Max Hastings. Tiresome, pompous scrote, but awfully good summary of this scenario.
     
  9. As has been said, the experience of daylight raids in the early part of the war pushed the RAF down the night bombing route, using the darkness as an additional form of protection.

    The USAAF went by daylight because this enhanced precision of attack, although the cloudbase in Europe often meant that the bombers released using radar (H2X) for 'bombing through undercast', something which degraded accuracy. The USAAF thought that B-17s and B-24s which were far more heavily armed that the RAF's initial bomber types, would be able to get through German defences, which wasn't a completely unreasonable approach, although I would suggest that it was perhaps a tad optimistic. The B-17C/D of December 1941 was a far different beast to the B-17E/F of December 1942 - the RAF's experience with B-17Cs in 1941 convinced the Americans that they needed heavier armament. Even this wasn't enough, of course.

    The Americans appreciated the need for escort fighters fairly quickly, and once the P-47 and P-51 (and to a lesser extent the P-38) were available, the balance changed in their favour.

    The value of going 'round the clock' with bombardment was appreciated (for the stresses and strains it would impose on the Germans' defence of the homeland), so this became a further factor in operating by day and night - and it made sense for the RAF to do the night bit.
     
  10. Radar - H2S?

    Nails, anyway.

    I recall reading the crew of Guy Gibson VC where as young as 19, he himself aged 24 at the time of the dams raid.

    I then try to picture the 19 year olds I work with doing the same.

    Its not easy.
     
  11. After the introuduction of the Lancaster the RAF had more than sufficient range and ceiling - with a much bigger payload than anything the US had. P51's weren't available though, they didn't enter service before 1944. Which is what the question is about really - why did the US decide on unescorted daytime raids when the RAF had decided they were too costly in terms of manpower and kites.
     
  12. blue-sophist

    blue-sophist LE Good Egg (charities)

    I believe because they thought we were wrong. There was, even then, a sense of American super-power-itis that would not accept opinions expressed by the little Brits. They remained convinced that their "heavily defended" bombers would be OK, flying their tight formations with mutual defence. Only after incurring massive losses did they start to see the light - oops. By then, a combination of factors kept them going: longer range escorts, a weakened Germany and the obvious advantage of the H24 operation.
     
  13. I don't think they believe we were wrong. I think they believed that the accuracy of daytimes raids was worth the risk with the kit they had. Yes they were proved wrong but that's a gamble they accepted.
     
  14. H2X was the US version of the British H2S centrimetric radar.
     
  15. Also, daytime precision reduced the potential for civilian casualties. The Americans under the rule(r) of the Bible thumpers at the time widely considered this. They hadn't been bloodied on the homeland and would never be. As we know the views changed. Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki etc.

    Related or unrelated quotes/opinions from some THINKERS on the subject. I quote these to enhance my favorite debate and not to prove a certain point. Wasn't there. My grandfather was and he doesn't talk about it.

    "I think it is well for the man on the street that no power on earth can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through." ~Stanley Baldwin, PM.

    Air Marshall Hugh Trenchard, RAF
    Major Points of Theory:
    The Bomber would always get through
    Bombing objective: terrorize the population
    Defense was one’s own bomber inflicting comparable damage on enemy

    Billy Mitchell, US Army Air Corp
    Major Points of Theory:
    Influence of Airpower is decisive
    Independent Air Force
    Strategic bombing of vital centers
    Destroy aircraft in air to air battles
    Multiple types of aircraft
    “We must relegate armies and navies to a place in the glass case of a dusty museum, which contains examples of the dinosaur, the mammoth, and the cave bear.”
    US President Calvin Coolidge, Oct 1925--“Mitchell is a G*dd*mn disturbing liar.”

    The US Air Generals at the time were all influenced by Billy Mitchell in some shape or form. He picked them.