Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Operation Pointblank 1944 - Defeating the Luftwaffe


Operation Pointblank was among the most decisive air campaigns of World War II. Initiated in the summer of 1943, it aimed to cripple the German fighter force in advance of Operation Overlord - the amphibious invasion of Normandy in 1944. Although the campaign ostensibly was part of the Combined Bomber Offensive by both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the US Army Air Force (USAAF), in practice, the mission was undertaken primarily by the USAAF. The USAAF's conduct of the campaign is the focus of this book. The initial stage of the campaign revealed serious flaws in USAAF doctrine, especially its reliance on "self-defending" heavy bombers to conduct daytime precision-bombing missions. Raids against the ball-bearing industry around Schweinfurt in the summer and autumn of 1943 proved unexpectedly costly, and delayed the start of the final phase of the campaign. The solution was the use of long-range escort fighters such as the P-47D Thunderbolt and P-51B Mustang. The Luftwaffe remained convinced through the end of 1943 that improvements in fighter weapons and tactics would continue to cause such severe attrition against the USAAF daytime bombers that the campaign would be defeated. By early 1944 the USAAF had accumulated sufficient heavy bombers and escort fighters to initiate the final phase of Operation Pointblank, codenamed Argument.