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  •  It's tragic, really. (6+ / 0-)

    At the end of WWII, the U.S. armed forces analyzed their performance and that of their opponents in the just concluded conflict. It's fascinating reading. The U.S. Army ground forces were brutally candid and forthright in their analysis, accurately noting that German ground forces were roughly twice as effective per man, with the exception of highly trained airborne divisions and a handful of extremely well led armored units. Part of the immense combat effectiveness of current U.S. ground forces is a result of absorbing some of the German lessons about unit cohesion and training.

    The U.S. Army Air Force, by contrast, analyzed its own performance through rose-colored glasses, grossy exaggerating the effectiveness of aerial bombing in general and strategic bombing in particular. This was intentional, part of a successful campaign to become a separate branch of the armed forces. They were aided by the scary new reality of nuclear weapons. The truth was that the U.S. strategic bombing campaign was relatively ineffectual in hampering German war production. This was partly due to poor bombing accuracy, partly due to German success at dispersing and concealing factories, and partly due to grossly incompetent target selection. (Example: huge losses were sustained in futile attacks on ball-bearing factories, when Germany could easily buy ball bearings from Sweden & Switzerland to replace any lost production). The air campaign did succeed in destroying the effectiveness of the Luftwaffe through grinding attrition, easily its greatest accomplishment. And bombing greatly reduced German oil production in the last 6 months of the war, but this could actually have been decisive if a concerted attempt to destroy
    Germany's extremely vulnerable petroleum industry had been undertaken. Giant, fragile, impossible-to-conceal oil refineries would have been quite easy to destroy compared to ball bearing factories. Yet no concentrated effort to do so was undertaken until very near the end of the war, by which time it was increasingly irrelevant.

     But the exaggerated assessment of strategic bombing led directly to U.S. folly in Vietnam.

    •  Great reply. The thing is, though, that oil (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PrahaPartizan, devtob

      refineries weren't actually all that vulnerable to bombing, for three reasons:
      1) The engineers that designed them recognized the day-to-day risk of fire, so built them out of non-flammable materials, mostly concrete and steel. Containment ponds and other features were standard due to ordinary risks, let alone bombing;
      2) Large and effective fire-fighting infrastructures were, again, SOP. This included weed and brush control, on-site fire-fighting equipment, and other measures both passive and aggressive;
      3) High explosive bombs rely on blast effect to do damage, and refineries offered few possibilities of blast containment. They were open to the sky, large networks of pipes and girders and such, where blast could dissipate easily. Much the same effect as when the Germans tried to bomb the radar towers in England in 1940.

      Nearly all the leaders in WWII just assumed that oil fields and oil refineries would be easy targets for bombers because they contained large amounts of volatile substances. This assumption led to some of the strategic directions the war took (like Hitler trying to hold on to the Crimea because the Soviets could use it to bomb the Romanian oil refineries.)

      But they were mistaken. Refineries were hardened targets, by their very nature. Oil fields, even more so.

      -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

      by Wreck Smurfy on Fri Dec 21, 2012 at 08:23:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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