The American Air Campaign Over Europe

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by jvenuto85
Last updated 4 years ago

Social Studies
World War I

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The American Air Campaign Over Europe

The United States found itself totally unprepared when war was declared on Germany on December 11, 1941, three days after Pearl Harbor. American Bombers arrived in England in the summer of 1942. In the following months, they would bring devastation to German cities, and cripple and destroy the most powerful air force in the world- The German Luftwaffe. Despite heavy casualties, American airmen would bring Germany to its knees, and would be the key to victory in Europe.

It was inevitable that the Allies were going to invade Europe. The question was- when? In order to invade Europe, Allied planners made the same conclusion that the Germans made when they wanted to invade England in 1940- they needed control of the skies. The best way this would be achieved, according to the planners, was through precision bombing in broad daylight. The Air Campaign In Europe had 2 main objectives:1. Bomb Luftwaffe production factories and ballbearing plants, and other industrial sites.2. Bomb oil fields in order to decrease the supply of fuel for German tanks and planes. When air supremacy was mostly accomplished, a 3rd objective was added: destroy military installations, supply depots and convoys, railroads, and bridges in order to delay any enemy action once a beachhead for the invasion has been established.

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By the beginning of 1943, American bombers were making daylight raids deep into German airspace. The American bombers suffered terrible losses, especially during the "Blitz Week" Offensive, and the raids at Regensburg and Schweinfurt. Airmen from the bomber crews to the top generals knew that the bombers could not defend themselves alone. Fighter escorts were needed, but the escorts made by the P-38 Lightnings and P-47 Thunderbolts, did not have the range of the B-17. There was a demand for a long range fighter that can guide the bombers to and from their targets. That demand was met when the P-51 Mustang entered into service in late 1943. The Mustang proved to be a killer, destroying more German fighters in one month than in the two years previous combined. Herman Goering, the commander of the German Luftwaffe, said when he saw P-51 protecting American bombers over Berlin, he knew the war was over. With the arrival of the P-51, and the bombing of the Romanian oil fields, the Luftwaffe's fate was sealed. With air supremacy achieved, American pilots could destroy any enemy ground target at will. Domination of the air would be the key to paving the way to victory in Europe.

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