The War Illustrated No 170 Vol 7 December 24th 1943

THE WAR IN THE AIR b y Capt, Norman Macmillan, .C.,M A .F,G ,Three important developments have occurred in the air war which are, curiously enough, representative o f the all-em bracing nature o fair power. In Germ any, Berlin has been heavily bombed. In Italy, the Eighth Army attack’s on the Sangro front broke through the strong German winter defence line carved out o frock, after artillery and air bombardments o f which it was stated that the air element was not much less .effective and accurate than the gunnery element. In mid-Pacific, some o f the Gilbert Islands were occupied by a United States amphibious task force after an air bombardment c f the Japanese holding force as great as one o f the bombard­ments o f Berlin (see story in page 474). Here are illustrated the three sides o fair war—the independent strategic action, the preparation for the advance o fan army, and the preparation for the employment o f a naval amphibious force. There is no other service capable o f this universal action" ]\To force but an independent air forcc could bomb Berlin as Bomber Comm and bombs it (see pages 472-473). The United States Army Eighth Air Force based in Britain for the bom bingo f Germany and occupied Europe is an independent strategic air force, too, detached from the army. The difference between Bomber Comm and and its American opposite number is that the British force is organized and provided for by a separate Ministry, whereas the American force is organized and provided for by the War Department. Inaction there is no difference, and in this war the U.S. Air Force is moving, towards a separate air forcc organization, despite the opposition o f those whose interests or inclinations are o f a contrary tendency. It was B ritain’s failure to produce a separate strategic striking force in the early part o f the 1914-18 War that brought the Smuts Report to the War Cabinet into the political arena o f those days and created the requisite conditions for the establishment o f PRESSING THE BUTTON that unloads death-dealing steel. This is a Mark IX bomb- sight and release in a British Lancaster bomber. Photo, British VJficutl: Crown-Copyright the separate Royal Air Forcc. If we had not taken that step Then, and, against the cruellest opposition, afterw ards upheld the policy o fan independent air forcc, reactionary interests would have carved the Royal Air Force into two and handed one part to the Navy and the oiher part to the Army and there would have been no adequate forcc to bomb Germ any, nor would there have been a sufficient or rigorously-cnough trained fighter force to have won the Battle o f Britain, the initial- victory from which all other Allied victories in this w'ar have sprung. And so this still greater war might possibly have been already lost to us. T30LICY Which Saved Britain and Helped Turn the EvenTide as things turned out, the power of the strategic independent bombing force was delayed because o f the demands made upon the Air Forcc by the other services landon and at sea who, before the war, fought tooth and nail to secure the largest shares in the defence votes, and by that very action were rcsponsible-for the inability o f the Air Forcc to do more than it was feasibly able to do during the early part o f the war. Yet the technical deficiencies in the land and -sea forces were greater than in the Air Force. The British Expeditionary Forcc went to France without a single gun-tank, para­chute troops, or tom m y-guns What use were the Prince o f Wales and the Repulse, or the guns o f the naval dcfencc o f Singapore ?Why did the Hood blowup when the Bismarck was so difficult to-sink ?What proportion o f Italy ’s navy was crippled by aircraft, and what by ships? Why was Germany winning the submarine war at sea until the Air Force really got cracking oij the jo b?And what could the Army have done if the Air Force had not won the Battle o f Britain ?—an army, as Mr. Churchill said, bereft o fits equipment, with few' tanks, and few guns. If thcre is any policy which can be said to have saved Britain in this war and brought about the turning o f the tide, il was the policy o f the independence o f the Air Force. The guns of-the present-day British army are extreme^ accurate. They are numerous. It is a remarkable statement that the barrage provided by the Air Force was almost as effective and accurate as- that o f the massed gtins upon the Sangro front before the Army broke through. Those who have been closely associated with the development o fair power have never doubted that the accuracy o fair bombardment wouid eventually equal that o f gun bombardment. But here is the evidence o f groundsmen in support o f the belief of those w'ho know the air. "Du t.there is more in air bombardment than *that. The aeroplane is the most mobile o fall weapons. No army can retreat fast enough to escape it. They may pullout o f orange f the guns until they decide again to stand, but they cannot pullout o f orange fair bombardment. Thus, taken in the aggregate, before during and after the- battle, the tactical air force must beat least as great as, if not greater than, the artillery in its effect upon the enemy. And that does not take into account the field strategical air force, which, before the action. l>egan to cut the lines o f communication with the enemy army by its attacks upon railway bridges and junctions, ports, ship.:, locomotives and rolling stock, and factories and dumps. Nor does it take into consideration the accurate photography from the air which makes the whole plano faction possible, and which PAGE 477 NOSE OF A MITCHELL B-25, American medium bomber, now fitted with 75-mm. (3-in.) cannon, equivalent to a powerful field gun—probably the most sensational develop­ment in aircraft armament revealed since this war began. Photo, Keystone¦ k reveals in detail the enemy m achine-gun nests and strongly defended points.' The work o f the Air Force under Tedder and C oningham h as-sh o w n that the' inde­pendent air force represented by the R.A .F. is the finest airfield force in the world, and that all the ancient claptrap o f the need lo ran air force in khaki is just the wind o f propagandists. If Malaya had been the defence responsibility o f the Air Forcc instead o f the Navy, we might never have lost Singa­pore. At least, the Japanese Air Force would have been decimated as was the German Air Force in the Battle, o f Britain, and it would have been unable to blast away through for the oncoming Japanese Army. PUNISHED As No Islands Have Ever Been Dealt With Before In the American occupation o f the Gilbert Islands we seethe procedure in reverse. A great air force' swoops upon the selected islands and blasts themas no islands have ever been pounded before, except perhaps Pantelleria and parts o f Sicily. The air forces hold of£ the enemy warships, prevent them from getting near the scene o faction, the landing forces go ashore, and four days aerodrome is crushed flat out o f the coral rock o f the atoll and the .aircraft begin to land. Here again the aeroplane is the core o f the whole action, forming at once an attack ,holding and occupying weapon, with­out which no operation in modern war sure o f success, arrd with which, inadequate numbers and types o f aircraft, no operation in modern war need fail. But are we sure that in these great diver­sions o f the use o fair pow erin modern war landon and sea we are pursuing the best policy ?Is it not certain that if we were to concentrate our bombing resources on bombarding Germany the war would be immeasurably shortened ?The most efficient distribution o fair power to wreak the maxi­mum destruction upon the enemy will help determine the length o f the war and the duration o f the subsequent peace— for air pow eris the best form o f military power to enforce conditions which guarantee pence. That is why the Air Force must ultimately become the leading service. The air arm is a p rio ri the victory-winning arm .Must we wait until a third world war before it is given its opportunity?
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