Effectiveness of Allied bombing campaign

In the recent Across the Airwaves episode there was again a point on the Allied bombing campaign on Germany and whether it helped to bring up the end of the war sooner. Putting aside the questions of morality of the campaign, I feel the effectiveness of the bombing campaign are usually vastly overestimated by looking only half of the picture - and that same was also present in the question presented in the episode. Namely, the analysis only looked at the impact of bombing on Germany, completely ignoring the costs in resources, industrial production, logistics and manpower the Allies had to spend in the bombing campaign. Manufacturing and operating the heavy bombers required a lot more of resources and especially manpower than fighters and anti-air defenses did.

So, to analyze the effect of the bombing campaign, it is not enough to look at the impact on Germany. This impact must also be compared to resources Allies had to use to obtain this effect. And whether same resources would have brought more impact if used in other parts of the war effort.

All of the analyses that I have come across that compare these have as conclusion that the Allied bombing campaign was so expensive that it was horribly wasteful way of damaging German economy - no matter which (realistic) estimate one uses for the effects on the economy. Thus, Allies had use completely disproportionate amount of resources for the damage they managed to inflict. For example Richard Overy in The Bombing War makes this kind of point quite well. As a consequence, using the same resources for other war uses would have likely brought the war to conclusion at least as fast, if not faster.

Another way to look at it is how the strategic bombing campaign clearly failed its objectives. Its objective was not reduce the output of German industry by few percent or few dozen percent, which is the range the effect of the campaign is usually credited for. The objective was to knock out Germany, or at least its war economy out completely. Those clearly failed. The Allied air forces obtained the resources they did for the bombing campaign by promising the quick knockout. Had they projected the impact the bombing campaign really had, they never would have secured the amount of resources they did as the historical result simply wouldn’t have been worth it.


Yes, the british dumpstered huge amount of resources into the bomber campaign which would have been more useful elsewhere.

But what would that elsewhere be? Africa was quite far away for keeping the public interested in the war, the southeast asia campaigns even further and not even directed at germany.
But Churchill wanted to stay in this war until Germany was defeated, so he needed to constantly remind his people that there was still a major struggle going on which cost a lot of both sides, so they wouldnt just forget there was a war going on and wonder why they still fight for some far off colonies most of the population didn’t really care about.

A bombing campaign was simply the safest way for Churchill to keep the war going and act like Britain was still a major player between '40 and '43, when the USSR had to face German mostly alone.

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I respectfully disagree. Bombing campaigns were hugely expensive but the United States had cash and resources that Germany could never compete with. The only truly irreplaceable resource for us was blood.

It was another front Germany was forced to compete on and while it did not knock them out it took valuable resources away from the land war. Germany was stretched to the point they could not compete on land air and sea and when they cracked, they cracked everywhere.

Welcome to the forum btw. I hope you find it enjoyable.


While US did have far more resources, they and especially factory capability still weren’t limitless. Those resources used for bombing campaign were resources that could’ve used elsewhere. It also took away valuable resources on Allied side from land war - and far more than it took from Germans.

Even if you consider that the material resources freed by lack of bombing campaign would’ve been irrelevant, the bombing campaign required also massive manpower use. As you say that was the one irreplaceable resource and every bomber required ten-man crew and quite heavy logistical and mechanical services. That adds up quickly and to make things worse, the bomber arm had largest casualty rate of Allied service arms. So, it also required constant replacement manpower.

I agree that Allies could afford this wastage unlike Germany, but that still doesn’t mean that the bombing campaign was any way useful use of the resources or that it helped to bring the war to end faster than alternative use of those resources.

Thanks for welcome, too.


First welcome to the forum, I hope you will enjoy it and are in for an open discussion.

Now to your points.

Well actually writers have been doing that actually, so that accusation is without basis. This is a bit of a nonsense story. As you are familiar with Overy I will use him as an example

As for the percentage:
Overy Why the Allies won page 128
For all the criticism directed at the waste of resources on bombing komma the whole campaingn absorbed according to a postwar British survey only 7 per cent of Britain s war effort"

So I am not sure if you have an Overy quote which supports what you say about him? Yes he did acknowledge that the bombing alone did not bring Germany into surrender. But in their defense the Allies had seen Germany give up in 1918 and in spite of all the “thinking backwards predictors” no one expected that Germany unlike Italy and Japan would fight /giving their lives for Hitler all the way into the halls of the Reichstag.

So where would the British have spent this 7 per cent on in your opinion? Or weren’t you aware that Overy wrote this? I am getting a bit curious here.

Another Overy Why the Allies won page 131
Page 131 Bombing forced Germany to divide the economy between too many competing claims, none of which could, in de end, be satisfied. In the air over Germany or on the other fronts in Russia and France, German forces lacked the weapons to finish the job. The combined effects of direct destruction and the diversion of resources denied the Germans of approximately half their battlefront weapons and equipment page 131.

I would be delighted if you have some other claims.

I recently posted a video confirming other claims of Overy that getting Air Supremacy over Normandy was key and the bombers and their P-47/51 escorts were key in this. The German fighter had to try to intercept the bombers and couldn’t like with earlier “fighter sweep” not afford to only come up when things were favorable. (Like the Japanese did in Okinawa and while stocking up in Japan).

Please don’t take it personal, i am just surprised you used Overry. Oh and again welcome to the forum.


It is OK to think of alternative resource which could have done better? But lets take Britain as an example. They are on 1 side of the Channel and I think they needed Air Supremacy to cross the Channel or be kicked out as you can only send X people over initially. The Italian route meant going over the Alps and the Norwegian route just let to another load of water to the South. I am not sure which magical other source was there to win . Not to mention that the holocaust was on full steam and the Soviet Union was in risk of being destroyed. At least it understandably looked like that to the Allies?

As for sacrificing the bombers to win the war. This was partly done by design to get Air Supremacy. The bomber crew losses were high but they were scared of other Somme like battles as in World War One and the losses on the ground were massive too in the last years of the war.

See Greg, I timestamped just before the Air Supremacy part starts , because some non-propellorheads were falling asleep:-)


In defense of all non propeller heads, I easily made it that far!

The only way to answer this is what if’s. What if we cancelled all the heavy bomber programs. What would it have bought us? Would that have won the war more quickly and at a lesser cost of lives. I would argue not not only because we would have faced considerably more German ground forces and munitions but as Chewbacca said (groowwwllll) where would we have used the resources?

I also believe he explains correctly, and sources it, that getting air supremacy was essential to winning the ground war. Putting bombers and even more so long range fighters was essential to that.


:rofl: Star Wars references, eh?


Of course lol. I’m guilty. I also like the cheap jokes.


LOL, Wookies would be the best options as the saying goes “Always let the Wookiee win” :-). I tend to bring a Wookiee into the cockpit as they are the best copilots in the whole Universe :slight_smile:

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I defy you to show the WW2 cockpit you could fit a Wookiee in.


Welcome to the forum Akuusi,

There a lots of great comments on your post but I feel like they all are out of context to your question. And I want to provide a better explanation on the point of view express by Spartacus and the across the airwaves episode.

The WW2 in real time team focused on the Strategic bombing of civilian targets. And when they say the bombing was not effective, a waste of resources and actually immoral, they just meant that part. After all, the German Blitz proved that targeting civilian targets is a very effective propaganda tool to unite your nation and push them harder in the fight. So arguing that bombing civilians wins war faster is not possible since we have empirical proof of the contrary.

But it doesn’t mean it isn’t effective in other ways. For the people in charge of the terror bombing, it was effective. They rose in importance in the military, they got resources to try the strategy they dreamed about and got promotions along the way. For Churchill, it was an effective political tool to say that he was still in the fight. For the general population, it was an effective way to get revenge according to the state propaganda.

And while bombing civilian targets does create a loss of resources, it isn’t a loss at the state level per say. Unless the factories were bombed, production was not affected meaningfully. If the state decide to not rebuild his citizens houses, it does not loose resources. And the civilians affected will blame the bombers not their state for the consequences. And the nazi were good at nurturing this hate to keep the war going.


There is no arguing that the strategic bombing of production facilities, vital infrastructure and military targets is effective on the enemy, even if you end up spending more resources getting that done than the enemy does on defending and rebuilding strategic assets.

However, this line stops when the focus becomes bombing civilians. Bombing civilians does not affect your enemy’s ability to produce and move troops, nor their air supremacy. It actually helps your enemy unite its grieving population, allows more resources to be taken out of the civilian market to be poured into the military and boosts recruitment. Terror bombing / dehousing is a crime that only benefits the one in charge with promotions, medals and resources.

If your aim is to go for air supremacy, you will be targeting airports, plane production facilities, air crew training centers and so on. And this will be more likely to force your enemy to scramble planes to stop you, allowing you to shoot them down. After all, if you’ve bombed everything they need to launch a plane, what good would it have been for you enemy to keep them in reserve?


Well Spartacus was still analyzing in the Across the Airwaves episodes.

I find this a bit insulting, The question was based on Overy and the enormous resources of the air war. I just came back WITH OVERY who wrote about a meagre 7% AND how half the weaponry was not there in 1944? So how is that “out of context”? I think I stayed inside the context of the question and asked for Overy quotes as he was used as “proof”.

" not possible since we have empirical proof of the contrary."
Really, such as?

Uhh… Could it be that those people were just trying to win the war, Air Marshall Harris and Jimmy Doolittle were already at the top. Air Marshall was also already at the top so it seems that he wasn’t in for a promotion. By the way he also bombed military targets and U-Boats etc. Could it be that he hoped this brand new technology would win the war or at least prevent multiple Somme disasters (which he mentioned. If you can mindread him or have proof he was hoping to get another promotion let me know?

“And the nazi were good at nurturing this hate to keep the war going”
Basic check on timelines the the overthrow of German Democracy and the Kristallnacht happened before Germany was bombed by the RAF. so the massive hate was already there.

Also Overy wrote about the 25% absence and the demoralization in “Why the Allies won” and in my answer you can see the effects.

The way I see it is that it is incredibly hard to come up with a perfect simulation and the bombing was by definition imprecise

But back to the question, what was the alternative


I’m not going to go through this argument again but the discussion was not about morality. We have posted multiple sources today, especially Chewbacca how bombing was a tool to destroy the Luftwaffe and demonstrated loss rates that point this out.

Want to argue this, start by showing how many sorties the Germans flew on D day.

You want to make this about morality But I’m arguing the allies lives lost bombing was less than it would have taken had we not bombed. I don’t care about the German lives lost. And apparently, neither did the German leaders. Every month earlier this war ended was several hundred thousand lives saved on both sides.

It anyway ymmv.


Well guess what they did all that. Oh and keeping the planes hidden like the Japanese was VERY useful because it only makes sense to use them when you don’t lose. That is why the Japanese had enormous numbers of planes. History proves that the Allies had Air Supremacy at D-Day so their strategy worked! The invasion worked and the holocaust was stopped ! It is very easy to criticize the people who tried to win the war. But was it for example wrong to save the life of Klempener

As for dehousing. It was more an admission that the bombers were imprecise. So industrial cities were bombed and the bombs landed all over the place. Bombing from altitude is much more imprecise. There is a good point that the British went on with Zone bombing too long. Weinberg states that in 1942 it was necessary but in 1944 not so much while precision increased. On the other hand even the best bombing computer didn’t know windspeeds and many other inputs in required.

But again as I stated, Overy who was introduced in the opening post by someone else stated the absence rates of 25%, bombing factory workers is immoral but don’t way have to weigh that against the effects on the production which kills Jews/civilians and other draftees?

Should we condemn the saving of Klempener and the over a 100 other Jews who missed the train to Auschwitz on account of the bombing of Dresden/Marshalling yards (=military target) or should we be happy for them? I It is very easy to apply one-sided moralizing from behind a keyboard and condemn the bombing that saved them but I think they had a right to live too, they didn’t deserve to be sent to Auschwitz and die a horrible death. Also the Allies ran a continuous risk of losing friends and family and lost those, they wanted to stop a war ASAP that they hadn’t caused.

And I know the times have changed, in the 90s we didn’t have to worry about committing war crimes in Yugoslavia (Srebrenica) or Rwanda as the West “Let it happen” and only came in after the damage was done? Al very moral or not! Oh and Europe was destroying African economies by food dumping. Not sure if out morals (or those 20 years ago were so much better. They were a bit more like the “whatever/Chamberlain” attitude before 1939 in most places! I think we also should be more outraged about things we can change now.


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Challenge Accepted , in all fairness this is a $ 20 Walmart Wookie sitting in an ex-Dutch Air Force Supercub in Duxford Air museum (the one I did my Tailwheel training on ) ;-). The hard part was convincing the examiner that we went to Tatooine and Kashyyyk for our overland.



Yes you have proven me wron. I love it!:rofl::joy::rofl::joy::star_struck::star_struck::star_struck::star_struck:


No, please leave sexual references out of this forum if able, ok? Just looks weird, thanks

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That we agree on, thanks. Keyword innocent. Using that Because the some argue that the German State Police were just civilians.

Does that seem fair to you?