|Topic||World Battlefronts: The Vision of Sir Arthur|
FromTime Magazine, 20-July-1942
Nothing is so rare in June as a perfect long-range bombing night. That is one reason—though there are others—why Germany suffered only two 1,000-plane raids last month, why some nights were raid-free, why in Britain last week there was a rumble of discontent that the raid tempo had so slackened that it could by no means relieve pressure on the Red Army.
At 53° north, the latitude of Hamburg, Bremen and other north German targets, June nights provide the shortest hours of protective darkness, the fewest nights when cloud conditions are suitable (i.e., neither perfectly clear nor thickly blanketed). In fact, if weather and clock were allowed to control air operations from Britain, there could never be a second air front in Europe. Now the R.A.F. is shaking off the shackles, risking more in order to achieve more.
As it was, the R.A.F. lost 271 aircraft in the month's operations over Germany and occupied territory, while the Germans lost only 100 over Britain and western Europe. Though there were only two 1,000-plane raids (on the Ruhr June 1, on Bremen June 25), the Bomber Command was far from idle. It carried through 16 raids on German objectives and 33 on occupied territory, some of them sweeps by 300 or more planes. July got off to a poorer start. Until the shipbuilding port of Wilhelmshaven was attacked last week, German soil had six raid-free days.
Three days later the R.A.F. was back in the saddle with its farthest-ranging daylight raid of the war, a daring assault on Danzig, some 800 miles from Britain. Squadrons of giant four-motored Lancasters swept down on the former Free City in the early evening, while it was still daylight, to dump heavy bomb cargoes on submarine-building yards and other targets. Other squadrons simultaneously attacked Flensburg, another U-boat spawning ground at the Danish-German frontier. Unofficial statements that three bombers missing from the operation constituted a loss of less than 5% was indication that something over 60 bombers took part in the attack, aided by a cloud cover over the target areas.
Even if weather is perfect, 1,000-plane raids seven nights a week make demands on aircraft and men that the R.A.F. has not yet shown the capacity to meet. A thousand planes per night necessitates an air force of 3,000 to 3,500 first-line bombers, several times that many in reserve, maintenance crews of 21,000 to 52,000 men, many thousands more of operational crews, supply and production men. To anyone hoping that U.S. production had enabled Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris' air force to reach such proportions, R.A.F. figures announced last week were revealing: aircraft operating from the British Isles are 87% British, 13% American. Once the U.S. air force in Britain gets into operation, however, those figures may be nearer a balance.
Still in the future is the vision of Sir Arthur: "If I could send 1,000 bombers to Germany every night, it would end the war by autumn."
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