Schweinfurt - Regensburg 1943...

...Air Campaign 14, Eigth Air Force's Costly Early Daylight Battles, from Osprey Publishing

Title: Schweinfurt - Regensburg 1943

Author: Marshall L. Michel III

Publisher: Osprey

ISBN: 978-1-4728-3867-4

This new book from Osprey brings their Air Campaign series up to number 14. It examines the early part of the US 8th Air Force daylight bombing campaign of Germany during WW2, in particular exploring two major raids against Schweinfurt and Regensburg in Southern Germany in 1943, and beyond the range of fighter escorts at that time.
An Introduction starts us off, giving the background and setting the scene for the new allied bombing offensive that would start in 1943 and the influx of USAAF bomber units to the UK. That is followed by a Chronology of events that gives a handy overview. This is followed by chapters which look at the Attackers Capabilities, considering the leaders, equipment and tactics of the Allies, then the Defenders Capabilities, broken down in a similar way. Then a short section on the Campaign Objectives, which was to damage German key industries (the ball bearing factories in this case) and prepare the ground for the future invasion of NW Europe. That leads neatly into the largest single chapter in the book, as the Campaign itself is described in detail, of the two major raids, one in August and the other in October 1943. The story is illustrated with maps, archive images, flight paths and some stunning artwork by Jim Laurier. Everything is rounded off with Analysis and Conclusions. Losses among the bombers were high, and a lot of aircrew lost. The need to enable escort fighters to extend their ranges were neglected, possibly for too long, while the Luftwaffe developed tactics and weapons which were successful against these large formations while they were without fighter protection. We know the USAAF did find solutions with extra fuel tanks for the P-47 and the use of the new P-51 Mustang, while the Luftwaffe could not match the rate of US reinforcements.
For many people now I think it is fair to say that the USAAF daylight raids over Germany by the US 8th Army Air Force are thought of as a success, and a campaign which played a vital role in defeating Germany in the war. In many ways that is correct, but perhaps we overlook the early days of their bombing campaign, when not everything went so well and there remains the thought about 'what if...' and the campaign had taken a different course. A well thought through account of one of the less successful elements of the air plan, and evidence that people don't get it right all the time, but it is important to learn lessons from mistakes and adjust your plan accordingly. A very interesting read.

 

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy.

Robin