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  • How Air Superiority Over Nazi Germany was Really Won

    Posted by Trent Telenko on September 1st, 2019 (All posts by )

    I sometimes write history posts on the Quora.com site.  I did that yesterday with  Colonel Hubert “Hub” Zemke’s “Fighter Pilot Conspiracy” in the Combined Bomber Offensive that I’ve mentioned in a previous post here on Chicagoboyz.

    This is the cover of Col. Hubert “Hub” Zemke’s book “Zemke’s Wolf Pack” on the exploits of the 56th Fighter Group in the Combined Bomber Offensive.  Zemke is pictured under his P-47D.

    .
    Effectively, starting from July 1943, Zemke organized an expanding mutiny to 8th Air Force commanding General Ira Clarence Eaker’s orders that USAAF fighters stick close to the bomber stream.
    .
    By it’s end, the Zemke’s Mutiny had an international cast of hundreds that included the signals intelligence spooks of the RAF and elements of the following USAAF organizations: the VIIIth & IXth Fighter Commands, three USAAF fighter wings, and a large number of the 8th and 9th Air Force’s fighter groups under those wings and the signals section of 8th Air Force Headquarters AJAX.
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    The story of how this came about and ended is at this link:
    .
     

    17 Responses to “How Air Superiority Over Nazi Germany was Really Won”

    1. Mike K Says:

      Very interesting, Trent. My cousin was a bombardier in WWII and flew 50 missions from north Africa.

      I asked him one time who his escorts were. I was a kid at the time. He said, ” P 38s and ME 109s.”

      There was a movie about P 47s and drop tanks in 1948 called “Fighter Squadron.”

    2. John Henry Says:

      Very interesting Trent. Thanks for posting.

      I spent an hour or two reading it and the internal links. Learned a lot

      John Henry

    3. Trent Telenko Says:

      It took a while for me to figure out the involvement of the RAF Y-Service’s Kingsdown Switch “Hook Up Service” in what Col. Hubert “Hub” Zemke was up too.

      I had thought originally he was playing radio compass games and had extra crystals so he could listen in on Luftwaffe radio traffic, as Col Zemke was a German speaker from childhood.

      When I looked up the various equipment specifications. The frequencies the Germans used and the Allied radio compass equipment was tuned for were too different…

      …and the radio compass really needed a dedicated operator to pull off consistent performance. This was simply not something a single seat WW2 fighter pilot could pull off.

      So once you figure out the RAF’s role, you had to hunt down the USAAF signal officer who was working the communications gig at VIIIth Fighter Command’s HQ AJAX.

      That last bit was pure luck.

    4. Tom Holsinger Says:

      Well done.

    5. Lexington Green Says:

      Very interesting to see the RAF freelancing to help a USAAF leader also freelancing. The Bomber Mafia looks worse and worse the more you learn about it. How many of our own people were they willing to sacrifice to advance their interests? Did they really believe that they were right despite all the evidence? Did they think we would win the war no matter how big the butcher’s bill was, and it was worth all the blood? I find it hard to get inside the head of guys like Hap Arnold, who made these decisions.

    6. Trent Telenko Says:

      Lex,

      I’ve been on the trail of what Zemke did since 2016, when I ran across Zemke’s interview with Paul A Ludwig in the later’s book “P-51 Mustang: Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter, First Edition.”

      I picked up on the role of the RAF Y-service in the Zemke Mutiny in 2018, when I started corresponding with author John Stubbington through the Association of Old Crows.

      Stubbington’s book ‘Kept in the Dark: The Denial to Bomber Command of Vital ULTRA and Other Intelligence Information During World War II’ addresses the “Hook up service” with both RAF Bomber Command and within the 8th (and 15th) AFs at Chapters 7 and 8 respectively, pages 216-286 including Chapter 9 addressing “The Value of Signals Intelligence.”

      (See a book review here: https://dalyhistory.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/kept-in-the-dark-by-john-stubbington/_

      When I wrote my “BIG WEEK, Plus 75 Years” series in February 2019 and my “How Allied Planes Got Their D-Day Invasion Stripes and Other “Retro-High Tech” Secrets of the Normandy Invasion” piece back in June 2019, I was also busy ruling out any other technical possibility.

      The specs for the Luftwaffe Night fighter force radio beacons and the limitations of the RAF’s radar hunting “Project Abdullah” Typhoons (See: http://vc.airvectors.net/ttwiz_09.html) were such that the only possibility that worked was active support for Zemke.

    7. Trent Telenko Says:

      FYI,

      There are the Amazon links to buy the two books I mentioned. Paul Ludwig does not have a kindle edition of his book, which looks like a table top picture book but is oh so much more.

      ‘Kept in the Dark: The Denial to Bomber Command of Vital ULTRA and Other Intelligence Information During World War II’
      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B007ZD13CY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

      P-51 Mustang: Development of the Long-Range Escort Fighter
      https://www.amazon.com/P-51-Mustang-Development-Long-Range-Fighter/dp/1903223148/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=P-51+Mustang%3A+Development+of+the+Long-Range+Escort+Fighter%2C&qid=1567683138&s=books&sr=1-1

    8. Trent Telenko Says:

      Lex,

      >>The Bomber Mafia looks worse and worse the more you learn about it.

      Yes they do. Figuring out how bad requires learning the flight, radar and radio technology of the period to learn exactly how bad.

      >>How many of our own people were they willing to sacrifice to advance their interests?

      The 8th AF by itself in 1943-1945 lost more mean killed and wounded that the US Marine Corps lost in the entire war.

      I posted this text…

      Between February and May 1944 the 8th Air Force would lose 89% of those 1,113 heavy bomber crews listed in January 1944. At 10 men each, 8th Air Force lost ~9906 men and yet come June 1944 they still had 20,070 heavy bomber crewmen. Such was the skilled air crew replacement pipeline from America in 1944.

      …in this “Big Week” post:
      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/59234.html

      >>Did they really believe that they were right despite all the evidence?

      The “fair haired boys” are always right. Just ask them.

      Ryan Crierie found a very interesting letter in the microfilm records of the General Hap Arnold papers

      Reel 28152 Frame 96
      April 4, 1943 draft of letter for Arnold to Congressman Cannon (CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE).

      Arnold basically launched a PR counter offensive against a January 1943 book published by Allan A. Mitchie.

      Ryan Googled for the book and found that it had claims that were spot on regards the post-war criticisms of the USAAF bomber campaign in Europe 1943-1945.

      See:

      The Air Offensive Against Germany
      by Allan A Michie | Jan 1, 1943

      The book said:

      1. AAF Bombers cannot defend themselves on long missions into Europe
      2. AAF bombers cannot carry adequate bomb loads on long range missions
      3. Precision bombing not possible in face of German AA and fighter opposition
      4. Too few heavy bombers available to 8AF
      5. US planes, particularly heavy bombers and fighters, inferior to British and Axis planes.
      6. US officials stubbornly refuse to accept British tactical concepts and technical developments which are much better than ours.

      >>Did they think we would win the war no matter how big the butcher’s bill was, and it was worth all the blood?

      The 14 October 1943 second Schweinfurt raid taught the Army Air Force they could not win without fighters.

      It took the Zemke Mutiny to teach the AAF Bomber Barons how to win with them…

      …and they have been lying about it ever since.

    9. MCS Says:

      Lexington: I agree with you to a point about the “Bomber Mafia”. I suppose that I qualify as a member by decent, my father was medically discharged because of injuries from a wheels-up landing in a B-17. He was G-2 then A-2 (Intelligence) from just after V-J until just before Korea. He met most of the players that Trent mentions and knew a few well. The major tenants of the faith weren’t quite bedtime stories but were in circulation in the house. Trent’s many posts have convinced me that they were wrong and that some of the obfuscation since might even have my fathers finger prints on them in a small way.

      All of the bomber proponents saw how the air war, if it even deserved the name, of WWI became a sort of chivalric tournament played for the gratification of the participants; virtually devoid of consequence on the ground. They wanted to make a difference on the ground and saw the inter-war development of aviation with its emphasis on races and speed as an obstacle to developing the sort of power that would make a difference. They were closer to being right than wrong. Both Germany and Japan would have been far stronger in 1945 without the heavy bombers. Their major error was in pushing the doctrine of self defending formations far past the point that it was disproven and standing in the way of correcting it. The last does approach, at least, the unforgivable.

      My larger point is that wars have been ever so. What have the last 30 years of U.S. involvement in the Middle East been but a succession of generals ridding their own or someone else’s pet hobby-horse into battle? Some seemed to work for a time, some not. I’ve said before that the most remarkable aspect of the American direction of WWII was the almost negligible churn in the highest command ranks.

    10. Kirk Parker Says:

      Trent,

      It was a little unclear from the formatting whether this quote vis your own, or someone else’s:

      *Alliances contrary, to bureaucratic belief, are a complex mesh of personal relationships between individuals. That is the glue that makes them work. Not centralized BS by top level bureaucrats.

    11. Trent Telenko Says:

      Kirk,

      It’s a quote from an academic I know.

      It’s not…professionally advantageous…to him for me to tag him with it.

    12. rcocean Says:

      The bomber boys made a lot of mistakes. First, they overestimated the damage any one bomber raid could do. Second, they underestimated the German capacity to repair their factories and disperse production. Third, It took them until May 1944, to target the key German target, synthetic Oil. Finally, they it took massive losses in 1943, before they realized that escort fighters – all the way to the target – were needed.

      One thing I’ve always wondered is whether the B-17/B-24 really needed the waist gunners. How many planes did these guys really shoot down. They had 1 handheld machine gun. Take these guys out, and you reduce your personnel losses by 20%.

      As for the P-38, it had a major problem as a high altitude fighter. The German fighters could always escape by diving. The P-38 took a long time to go into a dive, and once in a dive it had a fairly low “Not-to-Exceed” speed. The P-47 by comparison not only was fast in a dive, it could reach almost 500 MPH before it had to be leveled out. No German fighter could escape just by diving at 20,000 feet.

    13. rcocean Says:

      BTW, if the bomber boys were wrong about the European Air war, they were right about the Pacific one. The B-29’s didn’t really need air escorts over Japan, because they bombed at night.

    14. David Foster Says:

      MCS…”I’ve said before that the most remarkable aspect of the American direction of WWII was the almost negligible churn in the highest command ranks.”

      But there was considerable churn at the very beginning of the war, or maybe just before, when Marshall took a look at what he had and didn’t like it very much.

    15. Trent Telenko Says:

      Rcocean,

      The issues with the P-38 were more training, rules of engagement and fuel related.

      The three-shift mission profile and “kill them where you find them” ROE would have gone a very long ways to fixing them.

      All those issues went directly to the leadership problems of 8th AF that caused the Zemke mutiny.

      See:

      Der Gabelschwanz Teufel
      Assessing the Lockheed P-38 Lightning
      Technical Report APA-TR-2010-1201
      by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng

      December, 2010
      Updated April, 2012
      Additions by Corey C. Jordan, 1999.
      Text and Diagrams © 1992, 1999 Carlo Kopp,
      Text and Diagrams © 1999 Corey C. Jordan; Updated 2010
      https://www.ausairpower.net/P-38-Analysis.html

      With a large proportion of Pacific and Med P-38 operations flown at medium to low altitudes, Lockheed and Allison had little operational experience with the aircraft at high altitude and low ambients and this was quickly revealed. The Allisons misbehaved quite consistently, ‘throwing rods, swallowing valves and fouling plugs’ while the intercoolers often ruptured under sustained high boost, and turbocharger regulators froze at 10 in. or 80 in. of boost, the latter often resulting in catastrophic failures. Even with the arrival of the P-38J, engines and turbochargers continued to fail. The new intercooler/oil cooler design was actually too efficient and the enlarged radiators became a new problem. Fuel too, was a source of trouble, it is believed by many knowledgeable people that the majority of fuel used in Britain was improperly blended, the anti-knock lead compounds coming out of solution (separating) in the Allison’s induction system at extreme low temperatures. This could lead to detonation and rapid engine failure, especially at the higher power settings demanded for combat.

      Many of the P-38’s assigned to escort missions were forced to abort and return to base. Most of the aborts were related to engines coming apart in flight. The intercoolers that chilled the fuel/air mixture too much. Radiators that could lower engine temps below normal operating minimums. Oil coolers that could congeal the oil to sludge. These problems could have been fixed at the squadron level. Yet, they were not. It took the P-38J-25-LO and L model to eliminate these headaches. Add sub-standard fuel, green pilots, poor tactics and the 8th had a serious problem in the making. Having had their numbers seriously reduced by aborts, the remaining fighters were all the more hard pressed by vastly superior numbers of Luftwaffe fighters. The single inexperienced 55th FG often fought the JGs outnumbered 5:1, and the operational debut of the 20th FG in late December 1943, equipped with a mixed inventory of P-38H and P-38J-5/10-LO did not dramatically improve the situation.

      There is little wonder that loss rates were relatively high and the kill to loss ratio was below that of the P-47’s which could be massed by the hundreds (700 P-47’s flying escort was not uncommon). The Luftwaffe quickly learned to position the bulk of their fighters just beyond the range of the Thunderbolts and repeatedly flew aggressive small unit ambushes against the handful of P-38s tied to close escort and thus denied the freedom to engage at will.

    16. Trent Telenko Says:

      Rcocean

      Regards this —

      >>The bomber boys made a lot of mistakes. First, they overestimated the damage any one bomber raid could do. Second, they underestimated the German capacity to repair their factories and disperse production. Third, It took them until May 1944, to target the key German target, synthetic Oil.

      and this —

      >>BTW, if the bomber boys were wrong about the European Air war, they were right about the Pacific one. The B-29’s didn’t really need air escorts over Japan, because they bombed at night.

      See my post here:

      Industrial Electrification and the Technological Illiteracy of the US Army Air Corps Tactical School 1920-1940
      Posted by Trent Telenko on January 1st, 2019
      https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/58334.html

      It is hard to find anything at all right according to the pre-war ACTS theories.

      It was the systematic and simultaneous striking of all the nodal Reichbahn railroad marshaling yards that finally collapsed the German economy in March-April 1945.

      It took capturing a lot of German prisoner’s telling Allied intelligence exactly what USAAF strikes on the railway marshaling yards were doing to the logistics of the Operation Watch on the Rhine offensive AKA the Battle of the Bulge.

      Plus a systematic review of Ultra messages in Feb 1945 on the “surprise” offensive finding that the UK “Oil First” bombing advocates were systematically leaving out any Ultra intelligence to SHAEF on what USAAF strikes on Reichbahn railway marshaling yards were doing to German logistics from Late Oct 1944 through January 1944, for SHAEF and the 8th AF to order those systematic nodal strikes.

      As for Japan, the bombing campaign was the 180 degree antithesis of the US Army Air Corp Tactical School (ACTS) “Industrial Web” theory of strategic bombing.

      It was not “precision”. It was area bombing.

      It was not in massed formations. It was a singleton stream of bombers.

      It was not at high altitude. It was at low altitude.

      It was not in daylight. It was at night.

      And it was not the pre-war 500-lb high explosive bomb. It was incendiary cluster munitions.

      There was no need for lots of bomber machine guns. There were no enemy fighters to shoot at in night time raids.

      The only thing they got right was no need for fighter escort…and that is only because they were fighting Japanese and not Germans in the Pacific.

    17. rcocean Says:

      Trent,

      Great stuff! I appreciate all your posts.