RAF at Night, USAAF by Day. Who decided?

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Owen, Apr 18, 2006.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    I know very little about the War in the Air and would like to know more.
    I would like to know who decided the RAF was to concentrate on night ops and the USAAF do the day-shift?
    I see those methods extended to other theatres not just the Forces flying out of Britain.
    A simple question but something I've often wondered about but never looked for an answer before.
     
  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    Nobody decided it would be that way, it was just a difference of tactics. The RAF bombed by day because they suffered too high a casualty rate on day ops (early war on some missions all the aircraft were lost). The USAAF did day bombing because they thought it was more accurate (for the precision bombing) and because they thought the bombers could protect themselves (which as we know they couldn't). When the losses of the 8th Air Force got to such a level that they were unsustainable they thought about stopping the day raids. Then came the escorts (P-38s and P-47s - and sometimes Spits) who could escort them to the German border (and back) and then finally along came the P-51 and the rest as they say is history. The USAAF continued in their day bombing leaving the RAF to bomb by night.
     
  3. plant-pilot

    plant-pilot Senior Member

    The RAF tactics lended itself to night time raids. Small parties of 'pathfinders' dropping incendaries and large open formations following with the actual raids themselves. They believed that open formations using darkness as cover was the best way to raid over occupied territory.

    The US on the other hand prefered to use daylight to allow their tight heavily armed formations to see the enemy coming and use inter-locking arcs of fire to provide the most difficult target for enemy fighters. Their accurate bomb sights were also most effective in daylight. These close formations and arcs of fire are difficult to coordinate in darkness to the point of being dangerous to each other.

    So by accident or design, the two allied forces and their different tactics complimented each other, although the arguments to the pros and cons of each will go on for ever.
     
  4. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    The RAF crews thought that that the USAAF were crazy to fly in daylight and visa-versa.
     
  5. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    I think i would rather have been on the night bombing. First i wouldn't actually see the smoke clouds left by the flak, which apparently were chuffin scary to see littering the sky, and secondly the darkness gave extra protection.
    If i remember correctly, the USAAF lost a much higher percentage of bombers on day raids than the Commonwealth at night. But the American bombers were more heavily armoured and defended for daylight raids, whereas commonwealth tended to be lighter and more agile for the open formations of nighttime.
    Good Q Owen, lot of thought needs to be had here.
    Kitty
     
  6. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    Nobody decided it would be that way, it was just a difference of tactics. The RAF bombed by day because they suffered too high a casualty rate on day ops (early war on some missions all the aircraft were lost). The USAAF did day bombing because they thought it was more accurate (for the precision bombing) and because they thought the bombers could protect themselves (which as we know they couldn't). When the losses of the 8th Air Force got to such a level that they were unsustainable they thought about stopping the day raids. Then came the escorts (P-38s and P-47s - and sometimes Spits) who could escort them to the German border (and back) and then finally along came the P-51 and the rest as they say is history. The USAAF continued in their day bombing leaving the RAF to bomb by night.

    I think that is pretty much spot on, Gnomey. I agree. :) Well put.
     
  7. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    The American Air Memorial at Duxford is one of the most moving War Memorials I've ever seen, It shows MIA craft plane by plane and really rams home the sacrifices made, I reccomend it to anyone interested in the Yanks' contribution to the Air War. A good starting point.
    http://aam.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.00h00c
     
  8. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    There's a wonderful little local memorial in St. Edward's at Leek, Staffordshire to all aircrew who died there during the war. When it was unveiled there were representatives from the RAF, USAF and the Luftwaffe present.

    THE MEMORIAL BOARD IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF St. EDWARD.

    The left hand column is for the USAAF
    “Into thy hands O Lord”.


    The centre three columns are for the RAF and Commonwealth Airforces
    The dedication Epitaph

    The right column is for the Luftwaffe
    “In fellowship of death, we come before our Creator”.

    Says it all.
     
  9. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    There is also the (small) one at the RAF museum at Hendon.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Gibbo

    Gibbo Senior Member

    As said above, the RAF wanted to bomb at night & the USAAF during the day. Although each was already pursuing its preferred strategy, this split was formalised at the Casablanca Conference between Churchill & Roosevelt in January 1943. Churchill went to Casablanca intending to try & persuade Roosevelt that the USAAF should join the RAF in night bombing but USAAF generals Eaker & Arnold made a presentation that convinced Churchill of the merits of round the clock bombing. From then on, it was official Allied policy that the 2 air forces should pursue different but complementary bombing strategies.
     
  11. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    The RAF tactics lended itself to night time raids. Small parties of 'pathfinders' dropping incendaries and large open formations following with the actual raids themselves. They believed that open formations using darkness as cover was the best way to raid over occupied territory.


    The RAF shifted from daylight raids to nighttime after the horrendous losses in the early days of the war, including the destruction of 16 out of 23 wellingtons in one raid!
     
  12. adrian roberts

    adrian roberts Senior Member

    The RAF had expertise (by the standards of the time) in night-bombing, going back to WW1. All through the interwar years, they had dedicated night-bomber squadrons. However, they knew that for accuracy in hitting specific targets day-bombing would be needed: at night they knew they were never going to be able to hit anything smaller than a city. There were always reservations about this; neither side wanted to be first to deliberately bomb a city which is why when the Luftwaffe switched to bombing London rather than Fighter Command bases in the BoB, the Germans alleged that the RAF had bombed Berlin deliberately (a different debate!).
    As Gnomey and Morse say above, the RAFs daytime losses were terribly high, so the threshold of importance of a target which determined whether to bomb in day rather than night became progressively higher (83 squadron [Blenheims] was completely wiped out on one raid). But they never gave up daylight raids altogether, even using heavy bombers, e.g. the Augsburg raid by the then-new Lancs in April 42.

    I have never heard that the USAAC gave much attention to night-bombing before WW2. Their main reason for having bombers was in case anyone threatened the Panama Canal; they became quite paranoid when Colombia acquired a single Curtis BT32 Condor. The B17 was originally produced to counter a potential enemy fleet that might threaten the coast line. And as far as US Naval policy for the Atlantic was concerned, the assumption until at least the mid-thirties was that Britain would be the aggressor! (So much for the Special Relationship!)

    Adrian
     
  13. Pte1643

    Pte1643 Member

    at night they knew they were never going to be able to hit anything smaller than a city.

    And in some cases couldn't even do that.
     
  14. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER

    There were always reservations about this; neither side wanted to be first to deliberately bomb a city which is why when the Luftwaffe switched to bombing London rather than Fighter Command bases in the BoB, the Germans alleged that the RAF had bombed Berlin deliberately (a different debate!).

    Adrian

    Didn't they?
     
  15. morse1001

    morse1001 Very Senior Member

    Didn't they?

    it was known that Churchill ordered the bombing of berlin. On one occassion it was timed to coincide with the visit of the Soviet Ammbassodors visit and designed to cause chaos and confusion at the event!
     
  16. Kitty

    Kitty Very Senior Member

    The Commonwealth forces nearly always night bombed. It was safer and gave you a higher than usual chance of getting home again. And can you imagine the panic on the ground when a stream of bombers arrived at gone midnight? The psychological effect must have been almost as important as the reliability of getting your birds back again.
    However, if there were specific targets to be bombed then daylight raids would be made by certain squadrons who specialised in this. 106 (Mosquito) Squadron would always be after power stations, refineries and specific buildings. My beloved 617 you all know. 618 (Mosquito) after ships. The RAF had specific squadrons for daylight and precision raids, other than that carpet bombing at night was the best way.
    But when combined with the USAAF daylight tactics and the right conditions, you get the 'perfect' raid - Dresden. The ultimate, and most horrifying, example of complimentary tactics.
    Kitty
     
  17. Kiwiwriter

    Kiwiwriter Very Senior Member

    it was known that Churchill ordered the bombing of berlin. On one occassion it was timed to coincide with the visit of the Soviet Ammbassodors visit and designed to cause chaos and confusion at the event!

    I don't know if that raid was deliberately timed, but Molotov visited Berlin to confer with Ribbentrop in November 1940, and their conference did have to move to an air-raid shelter. Ribbentrop was bragging at great length about how "Britain is finished" to an unresponsive Molotov. But the shrewd Soviet merely said, while in the shelter, "If Britain is finished, why are we hiding down here?" :)
     
  18. Gage

    Gage The Battle of Barking Creek MOD

    The Commonwealth forces nearly always night bombed. It was safer and gave you a higher than usual chance of getting home again. And can you imagine the panic on the ground when a stream of bombers arrived at gone midnight? The psychological effect must have been almost as important as the reliability of getting your birds back again.
    However, if there were specific targets to be bombed then daylight raids would be made by certain squadrons who specialised in this. 106 (Mosquito) Squadron would always be after power stations, refineries and specific buildings. My beloved 617 you all know. 618 (Mosquito) after ships. The RAF had specific squadrons for daylight and precision raids, other than that carpet bombing at night was the best way.
    But when combined with the USAAF daylight tactics and the right conditions, you get the 'perfect' raid - Dresden. The ultimate, and most horrifying, example of complimentary tactics.
    Kitty

    It had to be just right conditions for a 'perfect' raid. Hamburg was an earlier example of this.
     
  19. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I think there was one other case of a "firestorm" on a German City but I cant remember if it was Koblenz or Duisburg.

    Didnt the RAF try daylight raids initially? I seem to remember their attempts to bomb Wilhelshaven early in the war with Wellingtons and it failed miserably. I do stand corrected on this as the Air war is not my area of knowledge.
     
  20. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor

    Yes the RAF tried daylight bombing at the start of the war, there were a couple of raids (including the Wilhelshaven raid with Wellingtons) that suffered upwards of 75% loss rate, some even 100%. This was one of the main reasons for the switch to night bombing, it was generally less costly (and less accurate).
     

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