Friday, October 11, 2013

How the stupidity of Generals gets their troops killed

Trent Telenko has a very interesting series of posts over at Chicago Boyz, using original WWII source material to show that many of the official narratives don't hold water.  Rather, they were constructed for political purposes in the Pentagon inter-organizational knife fighting immediately after the War's end.

Like the P-51 narrative:
The narrative of the P-51 is how it won the air war over Europe through the accidental combination of private venture American airframe technology and the Merlin engine of the British Spitfire, which was championed by a Anglo-American guerrilla clique of fighter pilots, government bureaucrats and politicians over the anti-British, not invented here, USAAF procurement bureaucracy. Figure one below is the official historical narrative for the P-51 Mustang in a range/performance map.


It also happens that, when you drill down to the wartime source documents, the “P-51 narrative” that map represents is a very good example of selectively telling the truth to create a complete fabrication. A fabrication meant to hide those same bomber pilot generals from political accountability for their leadership failures. Roughly 2/3 of all battle deaths the USAAF suffered in WW2 were in Europe during the strategic bombing campaign. It was a statistically true statement to say a U.S. Army combat infantryman in North Africa, Sicily and Italy, from late 1942-to-winter 1944 had a greater chance of surviving combat than a B-17 crewman of the 8th Air Force.

Most of those deaths were demonstrably unnecessary.


While early versions of the P-38, P-39, P-40, and P-47 — like the P-36 — were all proscribed from having auxiliary fuel drop tanks “because they might be used inappropriately”. These drop tanks were still offered to other customers by American aircraft manufacturers. According to Benjamin Kelsey (eventually a USAF general and a major player in WW2 USAAF Fighter development) in his book “THE DRAGON’S TEETH? — The Creation of United States Airpower in World War II,” the US Navy insisted their aircraft all have that capability. Point in fact the 165 gallon standard P-38 drop tank pictured in Figure 3 below was developed for the Lockheed PV-1, called the Hudson by the British, which was the US Navy version of the Lockheed Ventura twin engine commercial transport. On February 20, 1942 General Arnold reversed himself and ordered the development and use of drop tanks on fighters, according to Kelsey, for the purpose of ferrying them to the U.K. This is why successful drop tank designs were available when the USAAF Bomber Clique Generals finally discovered how desperately they were needed after the Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission.


The text and the charts on page 97 talk about 75 gallon, 108 gallon (both paper and metal) and 150 gallon drop tanks. Nowhere do you see the 165 gallon Lockheed drop tank on the wing stations of either the P-38 or the P-47. Nowhere do you see the 200 gallon US and 210 Gallon UK belly tanks used in combat by the P-47. You also don’t see any wing tank plus belly tank combinations for the P-47. Nor do you see the 310 gallon ferry tank used by the 13th Air Force P-38′s in _April 1943_ to shoot down Admiral Yamamoto. (See Rex T. Barber link in notes).

That the Bomber Mafia was hiding the full range capabilities of both the P-38 and P-47, compared to the post-war P-51 narrative, is easily demonstrated in terms of wartime photographic evidence.
This is a very long and detailed analysis using WWII reports (not post war sources) as well as photographic evidence.  It makes a strong case that bureaucratic in-fighting led to the deaths of many - and maybe even most - of the Mighty Eight's losses.  It's a sobering view into how the petty pursuit of political gain can trump the hopes and dreams of the front line troops.  The ending really sums the situation up:
So, in the summer of 1943 long range fighter escorts _were not_ a top priority for the USAAF Bomber Mafia. They thought that the bombers would get through with few losses to German fighters and that long range escort fighter coverage was only needed to cover cripples from anti-aircraft gunfire — “Flak” — on the way home from the target. And that someone in General H. H. “Hap” Arnold’s headquarters, perhaps even Arnold himself, was seriously unclear on the concept of long range FIGHTER escort.

As I have clearly demonstrated above, the Bomber Mafia had a lot good “anatomy covering” reasons to push the “P-51 Narrative” at the expense of the reputation of both the P-38 and the P-47. I highly recommend Dr Carlo Kopp’s “Der Gabelschwanz Teufel – Assessing the Lockheed P-38 Lightning,” Technical Report APA-TR-2010-1201 for further issues with the “Bomber Mafia’s” leadership decisions and doctrinal problems. The impact of the Bomber General’s insistence on repeating Goering’s mistaken 1940 “stick with the bombers” close escort tactics with the P-38 is detailed by Dr. Kopp in the sources and notes excerpt below.


Goober said...

Yup. The 51 was a good ship, no doubt. But it, alone, wasn't the game changer in the bombing campaigns
Range was the game changer, and every fighter in the us arsenal had the same range capabilities as the51.

This article is as good an explanation as any as to why they waited for the introduction of the 51 to start using drop tanks. CYA. Its a shame, really.

Too much confidence was placed in the b17s armaments to protect themselves from fighters. It wasn't nearly as effective as was anticipated. Instead of fixing it, they just paid for their confidence in American blood, until they couldn't anymore.

Anonymous said...

Part of the turning point was the tactics change that such a range increase offered; US fighters could pursue and destroy German fighters. THAT is what finished off the Luftwaffe. That such action came late in the air war is a travesty, and ample evidence that general staff, like any entrenched bureaucracy, cannot be trusted.

Anonymous said...

Part of the turning point was the tactics change that such a range increase offered; US fighters could pursue and destroy German fighters. THAT is what finished off the Luftwaffe. That such action came late in the air war is a travesty, and ample evidence that general staff, like any entrenched bureaucracy, cannot be trusted.

Chris said...

Several years ago, I read some books about the P-38, at first because I liked the way it looked, then because I got more interested in its capabilities, etc. At times I wondered why it wasn't used more in Europe; the glib explanation that it wasn't as good at high altitudes seemed to conflict with the fighting doctrine used in the Pacific (dive from on high, shoot something, climb back up, repeat as needed). Now I get a better idea what was going on. Damn shame, but I'm not surprised.

Geodkyt said...

The bit about the Bomber Mafia prohibiting drop tanks on fighters because the same puylons could carry bombs (making them competitors for bomber money, at least for "tactical" missions) doens't surprise me.

I see the same thing happen in CURRENT DoD programs.

Anonymous said...

No. You guys are all wrong. The turning point was the use of black pilots. I saw a movie about that. They were way better than the white pilots and they were loyal in protecting the bombers but the white pilots just wanted to selfishly shoot down German fighters so they could get medals.

That's the narrative now.

*...and they had P-51s.


The Old Man said...

Unlike buttonhead AKA newrebel above, I have no problem buying the bomber mafia tale. The libs didn't have culture control then like he reflects now.

Atom Smasher said...

What's the point, here? I've read plenty and it's no secret that first they thought they could storm in with just the .50s on the Forts, they were pummeled with reality, then they started going for escorts with range and drop tanks. The P-51 happened to be the right platform for the job at the right time.

What official narrative is being tilted at here?

Goober said...

There was a period Of time between the realization that the forrts werent enough by themselves, and the actual implementation of a long range fighter escort. During this time Losts of bombers died.

This is simply speculation as to why it took so long.