View Full Version : A Roof Over The Reich

10-19-2006, 02:50 AM

The original article written by Johannes Steinhoff was written post war when he was a serving General in the new Luftwaffe. Not as famous as Galland or Hartmann, Steinhoff was nevertheless a well credentialled pilot to discuss the woes of the Jagdwaffe, having served in JG 26, JG 77, JG 52 and finally Galland's JV 44. He was one of the rare pilots who flew 'first to last' and was very nearly killed in a fiery Me-262 crash in the last weeks of the war.

In his article Steinhoff claims the 15th September 1940, the pivotal day in the Battle of Britain, should have forewarned the German leadership of future disaster for the Luftwaffe and Germany. Steinhoff believed the British counterattack of that day highlighted the Luftwaffe's shortcomings and proved there was a way to defeat an airborne bombing campaign.

He believes the latter successes on the Eastern Front blinded the German leadership to the dangers posed by the gathering storm in the west, and a number of poor decisions and stupid gambles doomed the Jagdwaffe to failure and defeat. The cast of characters in this debacle are many, Hitler, Goering, Udet, Jeschonnek the most notable guilty characters. There were more and though Erhard Milch(Udet's successor) was well aware of the shortcomings of the Jagdwaffe in early 1942, he too made poor decisions.

At this stage I will answer the points that have been made by redcoat and Nickdfresh.

The method of stripping fighters from one front to another began in late 1942 and was a direct result of a meeting between Milch, Jeschonnek and Goering in early 1942, when the Reichmarschall confirmed monthly fighter production should remain at 360 single engine fighters. Milch was aghast and stated had they ordered 3,600 fighters, then it would be too few. By the end of 1942 with Stalingrad sealed off the Luftwaffe had suffered an attrition rate that was almost crippling.

Two other factors have to be considered. In 1942 the German economy was still basically a civilian economy and there was much wasted production space, especially at the various aircraft manufacturers, where a single ten hour shift per day was common. This situation was only to change after Goebbels total war speech in February 1943.

All of the above reasons and there are many others created the shortage of fighters and as Erhard Milch claimed post war, the greatest single crime committed in Germany was the decision not to build a further 140,000 fighters.

The Germans knew a daylight bomber offensive was likely against the Reich as early as February 1942, some six months before the Dieppe raid. How did they know this? Firstly they had excellent sources of information from within Washington and to a degree in Whitehall. In particular the Germans accurately knew production figures and planned production. When Milch approached Goering and Jeschonnek with this information, Goering refused to believe the figures and Jeschonnek disdainfully claimed the German fighters would fetch the American bombers from the sky.

On both counts the German's knew they would face daylight bombing, having excellent knowledge of the Norden bomb sight and knowing of the failed attempts by Harris and Churchill to convince Carl Spaatz to join the night bomber offensive. Spaatz very publicly sounded the intention of precision daylight bombing.

Whether the Germans suspected the scale of Around the Clock bombing is unclear at this stage, however the growing power of RAF Bomber Command raids in the first four months of 1942 was a forewarning, with the first 1,000 bomber raid at the end of May against Cologne. So the Germans were well aware of the threat by mid 1942.

This was when decisions were needed. New fighters had to be developed and fighter construction had to increase dramatically, but poor decisions were made at the very time the true danger was manifesting itself. For Adolf Hitler was already drawing up plans for a massive expansion of the army and the Waffen SS for 1943 over and above aircraft production. As a further irony any major increase in aircraft production was to be for bombers and ground support aircraft.

The rest is history.

Regards to all,

10-19-2006, 07:05 PM
Nice post.

In my opinion there was no way for 1943 to create the adecuate air defense in Reich, because the large spread of the aircraft resources in 2 fronts or even 3 fronts, (dont forget Italy).

Also the fuel and pilot training program was deteriorated, for example Messerchmitt made some 1300 Me-262 in the most desfavorable conditions but never was enough personel or fuel to send that quantity into battle.

10-20-2006, 03:05 AM

Panzerknacker, your comments basically confirm the points of my post-Germany did not prepare to meet the threat from the west at any stage until 1943, when it was too late.

Regards to all,

11-13-2006, 05:27 AM
The only way Nazi Germany could have beaten the Allied bomber offensive was to have dramatically expanded the German day and night fighter force as early as 1940.

As it was after the Cologne raid Milch only gave a restricted development order for the He-219 night fighter. Had development of this fighter been speeded up, then the Germans could have halted the night bombing offensive by late 1943.

The day fighters suffered a more difficult task, simply because of the limitations of the Me-109 and the Fw-190. There was no third fighter on the horizon, though Ernst Heinkel was pushing for a production contract for the He-280 jet fighter. This was perhaps a potentially smart move as at that stage the Heinkel jet fighter was at least six to eight months more advanced than the Messerschmitt rival.

As it was the German day fighters managed to force a pause in the US bombing offensive in late 1943, but still no new superior type was due to enter service to meet the next Allied challenge-high performance long range fighters.

Regards to all,