Aviation of World War II
BRITISH ALLY, No. 43 October 22, 1944 Publication of the British Ministry of Information. The price is 2 rubles.
The eyes of the whole world were turned to Moscow last week. The meeting between Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, Mr. Eden and Mr. Molotov, the Foreign Ministers of Great Britain and the USSR, is regarded in all freedom-loving countries as an event of the greatest historical significance.
This meeting of the leaders of the two powerful allied states will further strengthen the bonds of friendship that bind our peoples, forged by the Anglo-Soviet Combat Alliance and the Tehran Declaration. Marshal Stalin spoke with great praise of the grand scale of the preparation and conduct of operations for the Allied invasion of Europe from the West, which became possible as a result of five years of hard work and sacrifice.
AVIATION OVER THE BATTLE FIELD
Major John Strachey
Recently, such a popular German military observer, General Dietmar, stated that the key to a successful German defense lies in the state of balance of their military equipment with the enemy. In the first place is the question of the equality of forces in the air.
The fact that in the days of the greatest battle of land armies the enemy is most worried about the state of his aircraft is of extraordinary interest.
Does this mean that the solution to the battle should not be sought on the ground? Of course not. The ground army decides the battle. Analyzing the various factors that led to the defeat on the ground, the "radio general" comes to the conclusion that the first and most important reason was the inability of the Germans to provide their ground search operations with strong air support. In other words, the Allies used their aircraft in such a way as to enable their armies to achieve decisive and brilliant victories.
Speaking of air force operations from the first day of the invasion to the landing of elements of the 1st Airborne Division in Holland, we are not going to oppose the air to the ground.
On the contrary, the facts show that we owe the victories we have won on the Western Front over the past three months precisely to the interaction of air forces and ground forces.
We did not have real experience on the basis of which it was possible to assess the role of the air force in an operation of this magnitude. We had conflicting views on the fundamental issues of the use of certain air formations. In fact, I had to check everything in practice, by studying my own mistakes.
The most serious problem to be solved was the nature of the work of heavy bombers at every stage of the coming battle. We knew what to expect from fighters and medium bomber formations. As for the heavy bombers, until then they had not participated in operations in direct support of ground forces.
Heavy bombers were intended and used for strategic bombing of targets located deep behind enemy lines. In carrying out these tasks, they certainly prepared fertile ground for the great campaign of the summer of 1944. So, at the beginning of the year, the American day bombers "Flying Fortress" and "Liberator" dealt crushing blows to German fighter factories. They did a lot to wrest their air weapons from the hands of the Germans.
Since we were going to land on the continent, this job had to be done. We could not move into Fraction without having complete air supremacy, just as we could not do this without securing equally complete command of the sea.
By the spring of 1944, the bombardment of distant strategic targets was close to completion. And then the question arose with all its urgency: is heavy bomber aviation such a versatile weapon that it can be successfully switched to perform the indicated tasks, to close interaction with ground forces, to their direct support over the battlefield? On the first day of the invasion, aviation showed many new products. But these were airborne operations, it was a triumph of tugs, gliders, transport vehicles that landed paratroopers. The true triumph of aviation on that day remained virtually unnoticeable. It was not what our aviation did that day. It consisted in the fact that on that day there was no German aviation in the air.
On the first day of the invasion, our aviation, dominating the air, provided ground and sea forces with reliable cover. Since then, it has not stopped even for a single hour.
For all the time that I had to be in Normandy, I did not see a single German aircraft in the air. We achieved this in part by patrolling large masses of our fighters, and in part by many months of preparation, by continuous strikes by our bombers against the bases of the German air forces.
Today the Germans, I'm talking about fighters now, have reappeared in the air. Let's see how long this will continue. Already the first attempts of the Germans to regain lost positions in the air brought them heavy losses.
The next task that we had to solve was a breakthrough from the conquered bridgehead. And again the question arose: how can heavy bombers help ground units? There is only one answer: you need to bomb the enemy's location to its entire depth, starting with the processing of the front edge.
In this kind of operation, it is not possible to aim bombs at certain small targets.
From the height at which a heavy bomber will go, you will not recognize either a separate tank or a gun, and, of course, a machine gun or a German. But even if you see him, you will not be able to hit him then.
However, strikes against such targets are possible. I had to observe two operations on the tactical interaction of heavy bombers with ground units in the area south of Caen. The task was formulated as follows. In a certain area, the enemy has significant forces and strong engineering structures. The bombing strike of heavy vehicles that entered the area of \u200b\u200bthe named area destroys literally everything that can resist the attackers.
The bomb load being dropped is so large that after "processing" the ability of the enemy to defend is logically excluded. All tanks, including those acting alone, all guns, ammunition depots, machine-gun nests, and so on, all die as a result of direct hits.
Much remains unexplored in the field of interaction between heavy bombers and ground units on the battlefield. But even now we can already say that such operations have fully justified themselves. The battle that I saw on the road to Falaise was not a ground battle in the old sense. He walked in the air above my head, he walked on the ground in front of me. It was a ground-to-air combat of a completely new type! Heavy bombers played in it, in fact, the same big role as tanks and artillery.
Such is the case with new applications for heavy bombers.
Usually, on the battlefield, the role of fighters, fighter-bombers, fighters with rocket launchers, light and medium bombers is to ensure that the enemy does not have a moment's rest day or night.
The interaction of these branches of aviation was worked out in Africa. In France, only the scale has increased. They have increased, however, to a great extent.
In addition to the previous types of combat vehicles, another one was added - extremely effective. I'm talking about aircraft equipped with rocket launchers. I don't know if the general public can imagine what the further development of these weapons means.
Briefly, this is the case. You cannot put a large caliber gun on a combat aircraft. It's not about weight, it's about recoil. Consequently, we had to talk not about firing, but about dropping a sufficiently large projectile capable of destroying, say, a tank or a ship.
You don't have to talk about aiming the fire until you get the ability to accurately aim the projectile, as is the case in the artillery system, and not just drop it.
Rocket projectiles pretty much solve this problem. Rocket shells used by Typhoons contain about the same amount of explosives as heavy gun shells. But the Typhoons accurately target them without actually experiencing a recoil effect.
"Typhoons", operating over land, destroy enemy tanks with missiles. Bofighters operating over water areas sink the largest ships with the same shells.
Since it was possible in principle to solve the problem of aimed release of heavy shells from aircraft, the possibilities of their use are virtually unlimited.
Now back to our main topic.
Neither day nor night the German army now has a respite. Remember the stages of our summer campaign. The enemy was thrown back through one, then through the next, through the third water barrier, through the fourth.
The German divisions were surrounded in the Falaise area. Some managed to escape from the ring. But where did they escape? To the south bank of the Seine. The bridges across the Seine were blown up. The Germans had to cross on improvised means under incessant cannon-machine-gun fire from aviation and under incessant bombardment.
Again, part of the Germans managed to escape. Where did they go and what happened to them? They ended up in the area of the English Channel coast near the Pas de Calais. But the British army had already occupied Antwerp. And again the road to the east, and Germany. was intercepted. The German divisions had a way to the north. They crossed the river Scheldt under the fire of cannons, machine guns, under bombs and again under bombs, under the fire of machine guns and cannons.
Of course, a part is gone. Where? To Holland. The surviving Germans definitely believed that now they would break out, now they would turn east and fall into their “third empire”.
They would be right if a new factor did not enter the scene. Aviation made it possible to strike far ahead of the front line, in the depths of the enemy's location. Airborne units were landed along the German-Dutch border.
Even assuming that not all the tasks assigned to the airborne formations were completed, the German divisions located to the west of our wedge again found themselves in a threatening position.
This, and I am sure much more that will become known much later, was achieved by the heroic battles of our airborne units.
Here are some examples of how we used air power to directly support our ground armies.
But it would be absolutely wrong to try to oppose the two forms of warfare in the air - strategic bombing and direct interaction with the ground. You don't have to choose one of these forms. It is not necessary to say that aviation can perform one kind of operation, but it is incapable of another. Aviation can and must do both, as both forms complement each other.
Direct engagement operations help ground armies drive the Germans and force them to fight, thereby forcing the enemy to use up available fuel supplies. Strategic bombardments burn, destroy oil refineries, synthetic fuel plants.
But in general, we are talking about pressure, about continuous pressure on the enemy, which he will not be able to endure for a long time.
Air power is not all-encompassing. Can we, however, doubt that air supremacy is now a prerequisite for achieving victory?
It is not surprising that General Dietmar cries out that the state of the air force is the chief of the many stumbling blocks over which the Germans are unsuccessfully racking their brains.
On the left in the photo - the beginning of the Beaufighter raid. On the right - "Rex", which received 180 hits, is on fire.
The Italian motor ship "Rex", with a displacement of 51,000 tons, at one time held the "Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic" for speed records on the Europe-USA route. Today "Rex" is a pile of iron. The British command knew that the Germans were preparing to sink the Rex in Trieste and thus block the entrance to the port. Beaufighters, armed with missiles, raided the Rex's parking area and destroyed this transatlantic giant.
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