aviation in World War 2

bomber tactics
the Blitz
bombing of Coventry
bombing in the Bristol area
Combined Bomber (CBO)
Bomber Command
the Dambusters
bombing of Hamburg
1000 bomber raids
bombing of Dresden
bombing of Nuremberg
the Schweinfurt raids
German Night Fighters
the Pathfinders
Soviet bombing raids
Pearl Harbour
the Doolittle raid
the B-17 and B-29
fire bombing raids on Japan
Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

bomber tactics

The 1930s brought a rapid advance not only in the design of bombers but in the theories and tactics of how they were to be used: and for the Germans, in particular, participation in the Spanish Civil War gave the Luftwaffe an early chance to test many of its new ideas in combat.

Broadly speaking, the bomber of the Second World War was employed strategically (attacks on an adversary's communications, factories, sources of supply, civilian population), or tactically (attacks on an adversary's armed forces in support of one's own, and on an adversary's lines of communication and such specific targets as shipping).

The best demonstration of the tactical use of a bomber early in the war was the use of the German Junkers Ju87 dive bomber. It was the spearhead of the blitzkrieg which proved so successful during the Polish campaign of September 1939 and in the fighting which led to the fall of France in June 1940. Its task was to destroy targets in the path of the advancing ground forces and it did so with pinpoint accuracy-within 30 m. (100 ft.) of its target-by diving vertically at it. It then released its bomb(s) at low altitude at the bottom of its dive, a method that proved four times more accurate than normal horizontal bombing from altitude.

The RAF had no effective army support bomber during the fighting in France. This lack was rectified in 1941 during the Western Desert campaigns when Hurricane fighters were equipped to carry bombs. Their success led later to the wide scale employment of the RAF Typhoon and the P47 Thunderbolt and P51 Mustang of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) in the role of fighter and bombers, and these were often employed in cab ranks. Each could carry a bomb or rocket to a load of up to 907 kg. (2,000 Ib.; twice that of many 1939 twin engined bombers-and after the load had been released the aircraft had the performance and manoeuvrability to defend itself.

Another tactic for supporting ground troops was developed by Air Chief Marshal Tedder in the Middle East, and came to be known as 'Tedder's Carpet'. It was not unlike a rolling barrage, in that bombers saturated the ground ahead of the advancing forces with high explosive and napalm bombs, and was used to help the Allied break out (COBRA) from the Normandy beachhead during the Normandy campaign. After a preliminary bombardment by fighter and bombers, 1,500 US heavy bombers dropped 3,000 tons of bombs on German positions around St Lo. On both occasions some dropped short killing 100 servicemen, including Lt. General Lesley McNair, and wounding 600 others, but it was very effective in clearing the way for the advancing infantry and tanks, and certainly contributed to the success of the operation.

Strategic bombing demanded defensive, not offensive, tactics and the Luftwaffe bombers which raided British cities in daylight in the battle of Britain flew in formations designed to give the maximum mutual protection; this proved of little avail, however, and the bombers were later provided with fighter escorts where possible. Single bombers were, also used to mount 'hit and run' raids on any nearby coastal target and they then escaped across the Channel before British fighters could be vectored on to them. But it was the bombers employed to mount the Allied strategic air offensives that were continually forced to evolve different tactics to counter German air and ground defences. Because RAF Bomber Command mostly mounted unescorted Area bombing night raids the tactics employed were different from those of the Eighth USAAF whose bombers attacked during the day using Precision bombing. Initially the British bombers were widely dispersed when they flew to their targets and this enabled the night fighters of the German Kammhuber Line to cause casualties among each succeeding flight as they passed through the various 'boxes'. To counter this the bomber stream, first used for the Thousand bomber raid on Cologne in May 1942, was introduced. Instead of bombers converging on their target from their airfields separately they were gathered in one stream by giving each bomber a time and height to fly over a predetermined point. This created, by the time the Kammhuber Line was being approached, a mass of aircraft 112 km. (70 ml.) long and some 1,200 m. (4,000 ft.) deep, which, with any luck, completely overwhelmed the Kammhuber defensive box through which it flew. Air gunners had strict orders never to open fire unless attacked as a bomber was more likely to survive by evasion in the dark than by taking the offensive. If attacked, the corkscrew manoeuvre was the best tactic to employ; Martin Middlebrook relates how one German nigh fighter ace followed a corkscrewing Lancaster bomber for three quarters of an hour without once being able to get into a firing position.