Turned the Tide in the Second World War (2013)
It was amazing that the Allies didn't learn much from the Battle for Britain (overall plane/crew #'s pictured). The Germans "royally" failed in that not nearly enough bombers were sent to "get through" British defenses, the bombers didn't fly high enough, didn't have enough bombs, and had poor discipline in formation. The Allies felt when it was their turn to strategically bomb Germany, they would be much smarter with larger numbers of bombers flying at greater speeds and altitudes. Among other bombers, the Allies would fly B-24 Liberators and
B-17 Flying Fortresses at 24,000 feet (opposed to the Luftwaffe's 12,000 feet), which would minimize the loss of bombers. The Allies also assumed that the German people wouldn't be as tough as the British, which was the same conclusion reached by Hitler/Goering towards the enemy before the Battle for Britain. From late-1942 to early-1944, strategic bombing in Europe reached a level of stalemate much like trench warfare in World War I . . . no real attention was paid to the really important aspects of strategic bombing, such as distance, targeting, and detection.
Hitler's "Retribution Bombing" served no strategic purpose for the Nazis, and it also took the focus off what should have been targeted in Britain. Hitler's "Retribution Bombing" desensitized Britain to the coming indiscriminate aerial bombings in Germany. A desire to payback German civilians for what the Luftwaffe did rose incredibly in Great Britain in 1942.
More significant was that the Luftwaffe fighters caused a drastic drop-off in accuracy; only 9 of 588 high-explosive bombs fell within 1500 feet of any target. Many USAAF bombers aborted their runs entirely, and B-17 and B-24 gunners wildly inflated the number of Luftwaffe fighters they downed. These new crews were green-and-nervous, and after-action analysis was sub-standard. Of the 70+ claimed kills from the gunners on 9 October 1943, only ONE Luftwaffe fighter plane was actually shot down.
Rocket attacks were used against the formation, while machine guns were used against the crippled aircraft. At Schweinfurt (pinned in the map), an entire combat wing of the 1st Bombardment Division was almost completely wiped out. While some targets on the ground were hit, the bomber attrition rate was unsustainable; Schweinfurt was the highest bomber attrition rate to that point of WW II. The USAAF strategic bombing offensive had to be shut down - only short range targets were approved.
The upcoming winter allowed USAAF to take inventory, reassess strategy, and to rebuild morale . . . the USAAF was forced to admit that they had lost air superiority over Germany. Long-range fighter escorts now became absolutely necessary, but their current range wasn't close to what was needed. Fortunately for the battered USAAF bomber crews, solutions were just around the corner.
Harker wrote that if the P-51 had a Rolls Royce Merlin 61 engine, it would be 35 mph faster than a British Spitfire, and have the same power. As it turned out, the Merlin 61 engine was a perfect fit for the P-51; a Polish mathematician calculated that a P-51 with a Merlin 61 engine would outperform the Spitfire, reaching speeds of 432 mph and altitudes of 40,000 feet.
(pictured above: the P-51 Mustang and the British Spitfire)
At that point, good old U.S. government bureaucratic bungling and military competition for resources interfered. Devotees of other planes just didn't believe the P-51 Mustang was as good as advertised. The USAAF, therefore, kept making inferior aircraft that was doomed to fail against German and Japanese fighters. The powerful political backers for each inferior plane were formidable, and FDR was unwilling to stand up to them, at least at that point.
Also developed were "drop tanks" (pictured: a P-51 Mustang with drop tanks) which contained extra fuel. The purpose of the drop tanks was to burn the extra fuel BEFORE entering combat. They were used for every fighter, whether RAF or USAAF; the demand for aluminum drop tanks was such that the RAF developed a stiffened paper drop tank (108 gallons), which worked wonderfully, and also denied the enemy of any aluminum tanks on the ground. With these drop tanks, ALL Allied fighters could provide 100% protection for the bombers.
In the early months of 1944, RAF & USAAF losses were still severe, but reinforcing squadrons kept on the pressure, and the Luftwaffe was unable to replace/reinforce what it lost. Hitler and Goering re-tasked planes from the Eastern Front, which gave the Red Army more advantage. P-51 Mustangs were flying in broad daylight over Berlin (pinned in the map) by mid-1944; Goering stated "We have lost the war". P-51 Mustangs were destroying three-to-five times more fighters than the P-47 Thunderbolts, and the P-47's were putting up devastating totals of their own. By the Spring of 1944, P-51 Mustangs with drop tanks could escort B-17's all the way to Western Russia, over 1000 miles from their base.
The Luftwaffe cracked in the Spring of 1944; there simply weren't enough planes, pilots, production, or communications. The Luftwaffe was hurt far more by aerial battles than the bombing of German factories. Then, in the late-Spring of 1944, Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the strategic bombing of key German railroad, road, and communications centers . . . it was time for Operation Overlord.