how Much did the strategic bombing campaign help the Allies in WW2?

hop

Jun 2012
796
I see little correlation between the bombing attacks in 1941, '42, and '43 with the German surrender in 1945. It wasn't until the destruction of the Luftwaffe, the attacks on the oil industry, and maybe the transportation system, all in 1944, that I see bombing attacks and results that are making a difference in how long Germany can keep fighting.
The attacks in 1940, 41 and 42 had little effect because they were on such a small scale. Bomber Command dropped 13,000 tons in 1940, 32,000 in 1941, 46,000 in 1942. To put those figures in perspective, the Luftwaffe dropped about 50,000 tons on the UK in 9 months of attacks between the start of the Battle of Britain and end of the Blitz.

It wasn't until 1943 that the attacks became large enough to have a significant effect. In 1943 Bomber Command dropped 157,000 tons and in 1944 526,000 tons. German armaments production, which had been growing rapidly, stagnated from the summer of 1943 until early 1944, when Bomber Command were diverted to support invasion preparations.

The mid point for bombs dropped on Germany was September 1944. Half the bombs were dropped in the 5 years before September 1944, half in the 7 months after.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,575
Dispargum
The attacks in 1940, 41 and 42 had little effect because they were on such a small scale. Bomber Command dropped 13,000 tons in 1940, 32,000 in 1941, 46,000 in 1942. To put those figures in perspective, the Luftwaffe dropped about 50,000 tons on the UK in 9 months of attacks between the start of the Battle of Britain and end of the Blitz.

It wasn't until 1943 that the attacks became large enough to have a significant effect. In 1943 Bomber Command dropped 157,000 tons and in 1944 526,000 tons. German armaments production, which had been growing rapidly, stagnated from the summer of 1943 until early 1944, when Bomber Command were diverted to support invasion preparations.

The mid point for bombs dropped on Germany was September 1944. Half the bombs were dropped in the 5 years before September 1944, half in the 7 months after.
It wasn't just the tonnage. It was also the types of targets being bombed. According to the post-war survey, targets like aircraft factories and ball bearing plants that were being bombed in '42 and '43 were not the type of targets likely to have a significant impact on Germany's wartime performance. Oil refineries and transportation targets made a difference, but the Allied strategists didn't get around to bombing those targets in any large numbers prior to '44. Targets that effected multiple sectors of the economy had more impact than targets that only effect one sector of the economy.

Section "Some Signposts"
5. "The importance of careful selection of targets for air attack is emphasized by the German experience. The Germans were far more concerned over attacks on one or more of their basic industries and services -- their oil, chemical, or steel industries or their power or transportation networks -- than they were over attacks on their armament industry or the city areas. The most serious attacks were those which destroyed the industry or service which most indispensably served other industries. The Germans found it clearly more important to devise measures for the protection of basic industries and services than for the protection of factories turning out finished products."

If the OP's question is 'Did the bombing campaign make a difference in deciding who won and lost the war?' my answer is that it didn't make a difference until 1944. Tonnage was a factor but so was target selection. If Churchill had been told in 1940, "We can do a strategic bombing campaign, but the first four years will be largely a wasted effort except for the experience gained and the build up of our bomber forces," I wonder if he would have bothered to start such a campaign. He had strong memories of WW1 - four years of bloody wasted effort in the trenches. There were political factors such as avenging the German bombing attacks on Britain and doing something prior to D-Day to help the Soviets. All of these must be considered as part of the answer.
 
Nov 2019
78
United States
Not disagreeing Hop with your general premise, but you point about the money spent on "Flak" munitions would have included funds spent for the 88mm which by this point was probably more important in it's role as a anti-tank, and anti-infantry role than any other. It would be an interesting breakdown to see how those funds were actually expended.
 
Nov 2019
78
United States
I don't have the data, but it would be useful to discriminate the U.S. expenditures and efforts between the European Theater and the Pacific Theater. I do recall reading about the enormous expenditures required to create an effective B-29 aircraft and fleet. Somewhere it was said that the B-29 program cost more than the Manhattan Project.
Important to remember that until the B-29 there was no real effective location to base bombing missions for Japan. The result was that until late 1944 bombing of Japan was pretty sporadic and poorly effected. Attempts to use China as a base was mostly ineffective due to the problems of supply and the lack of personnel.

B-29 was a game changer.
 

hop

Jun 2012
796
It wasn't just the tonnage. It was also the types of targets being bombed. According to the post-war survey, targets like aircraft factories and ball bearing plants that were being bombed in '42 and '43 were not the type of targets likely to have a significant impact on Germany's wartime performance. Oil refineries and transportation targets made a difference, but the Allied strategists didn't get around to bombing those targets in any large numbers prior to '44.
Oil was Bomber Command's number 1 priority for much of 1940 and part of 1941. Attacks were on a small scale because the overall effort was on a small scale. BC dropped 96,000 tons on oil targets in 1944 and 45 (and the 8th almost as much again). That means BC dropped more on oil in a 12 month period than it dropped on all targets combined in 1940, 1941 and 1942.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey details attacks on 3 German oil refinery complexes in 1944/45. Those 3 refineries were attacked with 30,000 tons of bombs. That's about what BC dropped in the whole of 1941. A successful oil campaign prior to 1944 just wasn't possible because there simply weren't enough bombers available.

If Churchill had been told in 1940, "We can do a strategic bombing campaign, but the first four years will be largely a wasted effort except for the experience gained and the build up of our bomber forces," I wonder if he would have bothered to start such a campaign.
I suspect he would. In hindsight the bombing campaign wasn't strictly necessary because the combined British, Soviet and US forces invaded Germany in 1944/45. But without the benefit of hindsight, that did not look at all inevitable in 1940/41.