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1998 Closed threads from 1998 (read only)

 
 
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Old 28 December 1998, 09:56 AM   #1
Mark
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Looking at the strategies utilized by the British and German air forces and then at the end results of the conflict, what can be said about strategical success?

With the British motto - 'Always on the offensive', primary consideration was given to getting out over enemy positions in order to scout, observe, harass and disrupt as continuously as possible. Out of necessity this involved using many a sub-par machine whose crews had to develop effective defensive tactics in order to bring their information home. Obviously many never made it back. Even the fighter squadrons assisted with continual troop harassment in addition to looking for German planes.

No doubt the Germans had similar intentions but by weight of numbers couldn't perform as extensively as the Brits. However, their organization of Jastas/Jadgeschwaders were well suited to pounding at enemy planes in large numbers in an attempt to drive them out of the skies. This defensive and reactionary strategy was executed brilliantly as seen by the great number of German aces.

No question that most of us get more excited about the air-to-air combat and the men who rose to the top in this field, but don't the results of two world wars show that the less glamorous offensive modes of aerial warfare is what defines winners and losers? On the other hand it is true that a man such as the pre-1941 Udet appears to be more of a winner than the parachute-less Sir Joseph Percivell McShmoe who burned to death over the trenches on his first flight after encountering some red planes. Any thoughts?

 
Old 28 December 1998, 10:26 AM   #2
Doug Barker
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As far as strategy is concerned, a war can only be won by taking the offensive at some point and beating the enemy. This can be as direct as a ground offensive or as indirect as a prolonged naval blockade. Reacting to an enemy's moves may prolong a battle or prevent the enemy from destroying you, but unless there is some kind of counteroffensive the best you can hope to retain is the status quo. Taking the initiative is far more rewarding (look at the panic a handful of Gothas was able to cause over London for example). In this sense, the Allied strategy was a winner from the start, but the German strategy was doomed to fail.

As for "personal success", it is a lot less telegenic to be an infantryman than a tanker just as it is less telegenic to be a recce pilot than a fighter pilot. However, just because someone gives a government more propaganda material than another doesn't mean he is necessarily more useful. IMO I would contend that a two-seater crew in WWI that completed its mission successfully probably deserves more credit than a fighter pilot who shoots down a similar crew.

Besides, if I was in their place I would rate my own peronal success on the basis of: Am I back home and am I still breathing?
 
Old 28 December 1998, 11:37 AM   #3
Barrett
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A welcome topic, and a welcome change from the plethora of personality-driven threads of late.
No question that the Brits had the right strategy, but in large part it was because they could afford to. The Germans were nearly always outnumbered in the air, which of course is why they produced the top aces--the smaller air force inevitably "benefits" from having more targets.
Even Robin Olds liked to say that if he'd been a Hanoi-based MiG-21 pilot, "I'd have got 50 of us."
Let's remember the origins of aceology: it was a French concept, evidently arising from the prewar enthusiasm for sports "aces" in bicycling, boxing, yadda-yadda. Air-air combat was easily grasped in that context, Pierre LeVin understood it, or at least thought he did. Same with his cousins Nigel Pintobitters and Joe Sixpack. Hence the greater coverage accorded fighter guys.
However, recconnaissance had a strategic effect on the conduct of the war (Tannenberg and all that) and heavy bombardment came on rapidly toward the end, as technology improved. Personally, I'm more interested in the ground attack aspect than Gothas and 0-400s, and I suspect there's a couple of books waiting to be written on the Schlastas and their allied counterparts. (Still want to man up with Boom in our BrisFit and straff the Bray-Corbie Road one fine morning.)
Anyway, about this matter of Bishop shooting down von Richthofen...
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Old 28 December 1998, 11:58 AM   #4
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Mark,
As far as winners go... history has already shown who won, it wasn't the Allies who came to the signing of the Armistice as the capitulator. Yes the IGAF had good pilots, there is no doubt of that, but when you look at sheer weight of numbers and resources, they were fighting a losing battle from the start. They had neither the population nor resources to keep the battle in the skies going for a long time. It also seems that they too were just as content to wage static trench warfare in 1915. It took two World Wars to show them that the dreams of Empire were a thing of the past. Each time they started out strong, but due to attrition were unable to sustain their drive. Saying that they really were the winners is about as sane as a frontal assault against a heavily fortified defender. The Allies had to take offensive tactics because the Germans already had the benefit of being well entrenched in relatively undamaged areas during WW1. The Germans didn't just overrun the land to say that they were there, they took it for the resources, because in and of itself, Germany couldn't produce the resources to sustain a protracted war. The Allies were just too conservative (i.e. stupid) to take advantage of Anthony Fokker's offer of assistance in 1914. Imagine what the outcome would've been if he had produced planes for the Allies. As it was the Allies still put more numbers into the air than the Central Powers did. At any rate when you look at total numbers of casualties for all sides in that war, there weren't any winners. In the air it was just a small microcosm of the whole "big picture".
As Sun Tzu said in his treatise on strategy "There is nothing to be gained from a long protracted conflict".
As the belligerents in the 1st WW the Germans really lost because after it was over they had no armed forces to speak of due to the provisions of the Armistice. Plus their economy went belly up, and their system of government was forcibly removed (i.e. the Kaiser had to abdicate his throne). So who do you think really won the war???
VBR,
Jim
 
Old 28 December 1998, 12:10 PM   #5
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Jim, I like your response, but where do you get the idea I am suggesting that the Germans won? I was just making the observation that although the Brits quite obviously overwhelmed the Germans and won the war, that both countries strategy was as good as could be given the circumstances. I guess its true that war brings out the best in all men.
ps, I do not particularly even like MvR in spite of the fact that I have read many a book on his exploits.
 
Old 28 December 1998, 01:34 PM   #6
Jim 'ACE'
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Mark,
My apologies if I misinterpeted your thread.
Write to me at my e-mail address and I'll be happy to explain everything.
VBR,
Jim
 
Old 28 December 1998, 01:57 PM   #7
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Germany did not win either WWI or WWII, but gave a good account of herself. Now as for the peace, thats another matter. Look at Germany now and compare her to any of the continental allies who fought against her. Germany does and will continue to provide economic and political leadership to Europe and the world.
 
Old 28 December 1998, 03:05 PM   #8
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Balkenkreutz,
Pretty weak argument there. The United States and Britain are among the world leaders in economics and leadership. I see that Germany has had a resurgent problem with the National Socialist Workers Party credo in the form of Skinheads. I'm not saying that the Allied nations haven't had their problems but, who did the German's rely on for help (i.e. The Berlin Airlift) and NATO for their protection during the Cold War. Which by the way, who won the cold war? I don't recall much in the way of participation from Germany. Don't take this the wrong way as I do not hate Germans, I admire a lot of their technology. It's just that I really take umbrage when the IGAF pilots are glorified and the Allied pilots are portrayed as mediocre prevaricating men. They had just as much courage to get up there and fight as any German pilot did, perhaps more in the face of what the Germans were achieving in the air. But don't come back with arguments like "they are world leaders blah, blah, blah." Because they wouldn't be where they are if it weren't for the American capitol that has been poured in by the buttloads after the war. Did we owe it to them, no!!! They brought the war and it's consequences on themselves.
VBR,
Jim
 
Old 28 December 1998, 07:28 PM   #9
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Anybody arguing either side of Germany's seeming lack of participation in the Cold War should know two things:
1)The Cold War was about one place on this planet, the Fulda Gap along the inner German border. That's where the T-72s would have rolled.
2)The reason W Germany didn't participate in NATO beyond the FRG is that the victors in WW II made certain the Bundeswehr was prevented from doing so by the postwar constitution. Same thing applies to Japan.
It's neither good nor bad, it's just the way it was--and remains today.
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Old 29 December 1998, 05:02 AM   #10
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If one wanted to play devil's advocate, one could argue that the German strategic and tactical approaches to air power in WWI were fundamentally flawed in that the German High Command showed little or no interest in innovation in this regard. With the exception of the Ostend Carrier Pigeons and their successors (who were, IMHO, badly handled on a tactical level), the Germans introduced no new ideas during the war. All of their tactics were reactive, and this in spite of having taking the offensive with more success during the first two years of the war.

Almost all innovative practises from the Great War were brought about by the Allies. (And while I admire the organizational skills that created and manned the jastas and schlastas, remember that both the formation of exclusive single-seater units and the use of aircraft in support of ground attacks were pioneered by the RFC.)

This in no way disses the German airmen, who performed admirably under difficult circumstances. But even if, as I do, you argue that air power had next to no real impact on the war, it seems obvious on close study that in most aspects of strategy and tactics the Germans were followers, even if they did improve on many of the ideas they borrowed.
 
 

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