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For aircraft Enthusiasts: the biggest mistakes with the Luftwaffe.

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Blazer, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Blazer

    Blazer Doctor of Teleocity

    Dec 2, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Ah yes the Luftwaffe, the symbol of Axis air power in world war two, a well oiled, well trained, well equipped and well led, key part of the German warmachine.

    But was it really, because there had been some catastrophically bad decisions made which, thankfully, kept the talons of the eagle cropped.

    This is General Ernst Udet, a WW1 veteran who was one of the key figures in getting the Luftwaffe operational. One of the key tactics that Udet pioneered was dive bombing, which became such a successful tactic that even today close air support flying still is largely based on his original plans.

    How right Udet was in using airpower as tactical support for the ground troops was proven in the early stages of the war where Poland, the Low Countries and France were conquered in very quick succession.

    But even before all of that took place there were worrying signs that not all was well. When the Luftwaffe had their practice run during the Spanish civil war there were major flaws coming to light.
    Such as the fact that they didn't have a dedicated strategical Bomber force, the bombing raids were at first performed by converted Junkers 52 transport planes which turned out to be hopelessly inadequate for the job. The Junkers 52 was too small, carried too little a payload to really hit the enemy hard. And subsequent types like the Heinkel 111 and the Junkers 88 faired little better.

    Even as far back as 1938 the Air force's tacticians were telling Hermann Goering that they needed a bomber force of heavy, long range types to really strike the heart of the enemy and not having to rely on captured airfields of the countries they invaded. Specifically, the UK's and the Soviet Union's industrial area's were of key concern.

    Goering insisted that with Udet's "Blitzkrieg" that wouldn't be a worry, for bombing raids on England, captured airfields in Belgium, the Netherlands and France would easily suffice.

    A second worrying sign to Udet that things were not as well as it seemed was the fact that during the Spanish Civil war, the use of transport planes was being all but ignored, the venerable Junkers 52 proved itself as a troop carrier but it wasn't capable of lifting heavy, high density loads into battle. It was deemed that transport of heavy machinery over roads was the way to get supplies where they were needed.

    During the invasion of the Netherlands something happened which in retrospect broke the camel's back. The Royal Netherlands Army Air Force, through sheer determination dealt the Luftwaffe some very sensitive blows with Bombings on airfields which held what turned out to be the most experienced paratroopers that Germany had. But those attacks and interceptions cost the Germans no less than 231 aircraft, many of which were Junkers 52's, which were impossible to replace.
    The reason why this happened was because strafing runs which were meant to take the Fighter force of the enemy out on the ground were carried out and the Dutch air force was thought to be completely wiped out but the few remaining survivors were quickly bundled up into a makeshift squadron and dealt a defining blow. The surviving German airmen who managed to land their stricken aircraft, were captured and brought to England where they sat out the remainder of the war.

    It was to that loss that the Germans all of a sudden were derived of their most experienced men and more importantly a large portion of their transport force. With their own aircraft industry poised to produce fighters and Bombers, there were no replacements at hand. Which in the long run meant that the Luftwaffe went into the Battle of Britain without having any means to actually place troops on English soil.

    I take it that some of you might go "Now hold on, the Germans had thousands of planes, how does a loss of 200-something made any difference?" Well the Invasion of the Netherlands took place in May 1940 and the Battle of Britain took place in August of that same year, which was NEVER enough time to replace those transport planes needed for a successful invasion of the UK.

    After the war, Hermann Goering declared the Battle of Britain a draw. As he put it, had the battle continued into 1941, the luftwaffe would have been able to use their new Focke Wulf FW-190 which outclassed the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes.
    But in his assessment he still overlooked the fact that without heavy transport planes, the Germans still wouldn't have any way to actually establish a bulkhead on English soil, the very nature of England as an Island with its vertical cliffs and narrow docks meant that an invasion via ships would have been impossible.

    If you take a book about the planes that the Luftwaffe used during the war, you will find that the least thought was given to transport planes with only eight types actually having entered service. After all, what's the need if trains were the accepted way of getting tanks onto a battlefield? But the enemy was also increasingly becoming aware and trains and railway stations were increasingly targeted throughout the remainder of the war.

    But it was another key thing to Udet's tactics which dealt another death knell to the Luftwaffe. Because his tactics were all about ground support, every new plane was expected to be used as a dive bomber, which rendered otherwise very impressive aircraft completely useless.
    The Heinkel He-177 Greif was the only true Heavy Bomber which entered service. It was designed for strategic bombing but because it was expected to do dive bombings too, the design was adapted from four separate engines to four engines clustered up into two groups each driving a single propeller because the strain of diving meant that it would tear the wings off if it kept its four engined lay out. The revised configuration robbed the plane of all stability and the synchronicity of the two engines driving a single prop shaft proved to be problematic too as examplified by the prototype actually bursting into flames during the first flight.

    Another plane rendered completely useless by insisting it were to be used as a dive bomber was the feared Messerschmitt 262, which was designed to be a high speed interceptor.

    Meanwhile the opposing forces were putting to use what many Luftwaffe Generals had been asking for since the Spanish civil war, heavy, high density transport planes and heavy long range bombers which tore the German industrial heart completely apart.
    In addition, the Russians were using the tactic of the scorched earth as they were retreating, which meant that a key element of the Blitzkrieg tactic: the use of captured ports, airfields, railway stations and factories was nullified.

    Udet never lived to see how his plans for "Blitzkrieg" went from triumph to tragedy, because when he saw the plans for the Russian Invasion, he protested, saying that just relying on the Luftwaffe as a tactical support force would never be enough to actually WIN that war. What WAS needed were long range heavy transport planes and ditto bombers and Germany had neither.

    Because as Udet had feared, rail ways were blown up by the Russians and the harsh climate meant that many heavy transport vehicles were either frozen solid or bogged down in the mud, so vital supplies had no way of getting where they were needed. the Junkers planes weren't up for the job.

    In addition the Russians had moved all their factories to the Ural mountain range, the Germans didn't have planes with enough range to reach them and with the Russians having destroyed the airfields before the Germans could capture them, there was no way to use the bombers they had.

    After expressing his fears of total failure to his superiors, Udet was dismissed from duty and unable to see his brainchild go awry, Udet took his own life.

    That was the biggest problem with the Luftwaffe: they were too much a one trick pony.
    oldgofaster, tintag27, Dan R and 19 others like this.

  2. Recce

    Recce Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    May 3, 2016
    Northern Alabama
    As a WWII history buff that was a good read.
    troy2003 and flinx like this.

  3. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 30, 2007
    Swanton Ohio
    Enjoyed this post..Thank you..

  4. Tomm Williams

    Tomm Williams Tele-Holic

    Jun 11, 2016
    I find both the World Wars some of the most fascinating subject matter. Great post.

  5. tery

    tery Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Sep 21, 2012
    Very informative - thanks !

  6. oldfish

    oldfish Tele-Holic

    Aug 23, 2015
    they don't like it up em:)nice read
    41144 likes this.

  7. Stubee

    Stubee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Jan 22, 2007
    Great post, Blazer. I’ve just finished this excellent book: IMG_7347.JPG

    And have this here at my bedside (yet again): IMG_7348.JPG

    A fascinating period of history.

  8. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    A great read Blazer and a very interesting part of WWII history that I was unaware of. Thank you as usual.

  9. Obsessed

    Obsessed Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Nov 21, 2012
    Hmmm, I see some interesting winter reading ideas. Thanks.

  10. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

    Oct 17, 2012
    Nelson City TX
    Another great post, Blazer. Thank you!

    I had never considered the Luftwaffe's lack of heavy transport aircraft as a critical strategic weakness,
    but it makes perfect sense.

    Along the same lines, I once read Alexander P. de Seversky's Victory Through Air Power. In this book,
    he pointed to the real shortcomings in defensive armament on Luftwaffe bombers as one of their critical errors
    during the Battle of Britain. Lack of fighter escort range, of course, was another.

  11. Old Tele man

    Old Tele man Friend of Leo's

    May 10, 2017
    Tucson, AZ
    Although Hitler hated America, he envisioned only a conflict in Europe -- and across the Channel with UK -- and saw no immediate need for 4-engineed, long-range bombers.

    That, and, Hitlers blind pursuit of "wonder weapons" rather than improved conventional weapons...such as his monstrous 'bigger is BETTER' "MOUSE" tank.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017

  12. Honest Charley

    Honest Charley Tele-Holic

    Dec 13, 2013
    Great Post, Blazer! Thanks and keep ´em coming! :)

  13. 6stringcowboy

    6stringcowboy Tele-Afflicted

    Göring's on the phone from Freiburg
    Says "Willie's done quite a job"
    Hitler's on the phone from Berlin
    Says "I'm gonna make you a star"
    My Captain Von Ondine is your next patrol
    A flight of English bombers across the canal
    After twelve they'll all be here
    I think you know the job
    They hung there dependent from the sky
    Like some heavy metal fruit
    These bombers are ripe and ready to tilt
    Must these Englishmen live that I might die
    Must they live that I might die
    In a G-load disaster from the rate of climb
    Sometimes I'd faint and be lost to our side
    But there's no reward for failure - but death
    So watch me in mirrors keep in the glidepath
    Get me through these radars, no, I cannot fail
    While my great silver slugs are eager to feed
    I can't fail, no, not now
    When twenty five bombers wait ripe
    They hung there dependant from the sky
    Like some heavy metal fruit
    These bombers are ripe and ready to tilt
    Must these Englishmen live that I might die
    Must they live that I might die
    ME-262 prince of turbojet
    Junkers Jumo 004
    Blasts from clustered R4M quartets in my snout
    And see these English planes go burn
    Well, you be my witness, how red were the skies
    When the fortresses flew for the very last time
    It was dark over Westphalia
    In April of '45
    They hung there dependant from the sky
    Like some heavy metal fruit
    These bombers are ripe and ready to tilt
    Must these Englishmen live that I might die
    Must they live that I might die
    Must these Englishmen live that I might die
    Junkers Jumo 004 bombers at 12 o'clock high
    Songwriters: Donald Roeser / E Bloom / Samuel Pearlman
    M.E. 262 lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

  14. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    Enjoyed this, thank you.

  15. 41144

    41144 Tele-Holic

    Sep 5, 2017
    West Midlands
    At a time when extreme right-wing sympathies are rising amongst some of the European population ... Not an inopportune moment to retell stories that, certainly post 1941, Nazism wasn't the indefatigable force that some would like to think it was and that, in the long run, oppressive forces can never suppress the human spirit.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017

  16. rigid650

    rigid650 TDPRI Member

    strongly recommend this:
    flinx and JayFreddy like this.

  17. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 30, 2013
    Horn Lake, MS
    We are immensely fortunate that Hitler controlled things so absolutely in Germany at that time. No one in there right mind would try to dominate the world with inferior bombers, outdated fighters and no real navy to speak of.
    Their army was a different story, but you can't expect your army to overpower the enemy without supplies, air cover, air transport and strategic bombing. All of which is why the Allies stopped Hitler from being assasinated later, they knew by then that he was the biggest threat to Germany's success.
    studio likes this.

  18. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    I've been enjoying the Bernie Gunther detective series, set in pre-war and WWII Germany. While fiction, it gives insight into how there were lots of Germans who thought Hitler was completely off his rocker
    and dreaded the direction he was taking the country. But he got too much power too quickly: people woke up and thought, "what happened?", but it was too late. So many decisions were so wrong, but none were
    more monumentally stupid than deciding to invade the Soviet Union.

    I am also reading a great history of Japan. It is interesting to read about the two Sino-Japanese wars, how their military came to dominate the national leadership, etc., etc. Again, many in Japan were concerned about where
    the country was going but by the time they were really worried it was too late to stop the train. Military minds in Japan knew that they would ultimately be defeated if they tried to battle the U.S., but they felt forced into it by the
    sanctions against Japan that prevented their importation of oil, which was of course vital to their military efforts across Asia. So sad to think how many millions of lives were lost for naught.

  19. emisilly

    emisilly Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 24, 2004
    Virginia Beach
    You always hear that it was the brutal Russian winter was what stopped the **** advance in the USSR. While this is largely true their defeat in the East was also in large part due to logistical issues. The bottom line is that an occupying army of that size REQUIRES a tremendous amount of supplies delivered daily. The Germans never came close to meeting that requirement. They were overextended and simply out of critical supplies. The prior losses to the Ju-52 fleet were largely the reason. Their troops were hung out to dry and stranded as a result.

    Blazer I'm glad you posted about the He-117. Their engines were so prone to overheating and catching fire that their crews called them "flying lighters". Luftwaffe engineers tried in vain to solve the problem to no avail. In most squadron size raids only a handful of planes didn't have to turn back due to engine trouble. Just a mess of a design.

  20. JayFreddy

    JayFreddy Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Nov 6, 2006
    Dallas TX USA
    It wasn't the weather. It wasn't poor logistics. It wasn't poor German leadership. It was the Russians.

    The Russians defeated the Germans.

    Cool essay about old planes.
    41144 likes this.

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