View Full Version : Were Air-to-Ground attack in WW2 effective?

02-20-2007, 01:37 AM
A discussion in this forum raised some interesting points and doubts for me: were Air-to-Ground attack in WW2 really effective as it is claimed to be?
Some of the sources in the thread above seems to prove otherwise.

02-20-2007, 02:34 AM
There is nothing in the 'analysis' in that thread that is of any value.

Instead read this excellent book: NUMBERS, PREDICTIONS AND WAR by Colonel Trevor N. Dupuy.


From page 78 "...even though close air support did not greatly influence battle outcomes, the overall contribution of available air support to the American ground combat capability was overwhelming in its effect. In at least 44 percent of the American successes and inconclusive engagements, and perhaps up to 53 percent, airpower provided the margin which provided victory or prevented defeat.

02-20-2007, 02:42 AM
As to a first hand impression....
An uncle told me that during the Battle of the Bulge,
"strafing was more effective than all the bombs and rockets and atillery fire combined".


02-20-2007, 03:38 AM
I don't think anyone could deny that the number of kills claimed by airforce personnel, from any side, was far greater than the number of units actually destroyed, most especially as far as ground targets were concerned. But before the discussion goes in the direction of the one linked to, perhaps it's important to define the nature of a 'kill' as it pertains to armour on the battlefield.

Unfortunately(?) their is no fine-tuning of battle damage in this or any other airsim I know of. Tanks either blow up (and points are scored) or they remain as lethal as ever, following their waypoints and firing their guns according to their coded abilities. The truth is sharply different from the point-based egotism of the sim-pilot. In reality it is only necessary to halt the tank to make a difference to the course of a battle. This may be achieved by the simple expedient of blowing off a track or killing or wounding the crew so that the vehicle can no longer advance. Even though it may even be possible that the main gun is undamaged, on a fast-moving front this may make little difference to the outcome. The tank is a mobile gun carried on a vehicle that is capable of overrunning defensive positions and enabling troops to move forward in its wake and, if its mobility is denied, it becomes at best a static artillery piece. It also becomes a far more vulnerable target to infantry & AT crews on the ground. The infantry following it also become more vulnerable without their metal guardian and their advance may also be halted. So the tactical advantage of halting armour is about much more than total destruction of the individual asset.

In the points-based arena of a sim like this, the true effect of air-to-ground attacks is largely lost. Apart from a few stick-like figures who very sensibly run away when a flight of aircraft dives on their column, no account of human casualties is taken. As stated above, an asset is either dead (with a satisfying fire and column of smoke) or it's alive in sim-world - but no account is taken of real warfare.

With the realism pertaining to human suffering bound to sales of the sim (i.e. suitability for the widest age-ranges = more sales) we'll never get the true picture. While even a 1000lb of HE exploding nearby may not wreck the machine, it may very well incapacitate or kill the crew and, contrary to certain Hollywood-style perceptions, not just anyone can jump in and drive a tank. It takes a trained and efficient crew to operate it. Functional or not, without human operators the tank is just a large hunk of metal. As far as the ongoing battle is concerned it is useless. The question is, is this a kill?


02-20-2007, 03:48 AM
The tactical airforces were definately very effective. Look what happened in France when the Germans counter attacked and left there flak battalions behind. Typhoons destroyed or immobolised 80 tanks in 2 days.

I bet Rommel thought ground attack was effective also when his car was straifed off the road by a pair of Spitfires.

02-20-2007, 03:54 AM
even if the numbers claimed are exaggerated, air-to-ground is very good at restricting an enemy's mobility, which confers a crucial tactical advantage.

And presumably there's a reason why the Germans nicknamed the Sturmovik the 'Black Death'.

02-20-2007, 09:53 AM
Have you seenpictures from Falaise pocket??Attacks were very effective and thats mild to say http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif

02-20-2007, 10:09 AM
Without effective air-to-ground attack, German mobility leading up to and after Cobra would have been unimpaired.

This argument is a lot like the "Was strategic bombing" effective argument

You can argue that the efects of the actual bombing was not decisive. However, that ignores the fact that it forced Germany to do certain things that the Allies used to definite advantage

The argument that only centers on the actual individual targets destroyed or not destroyed by air-to-ground attacks completely ignores the effects of these attacks beyond the immediate battlefield, and the effecort time and manpower used or wasted to counter the threat, whether effective or not. If a commander will not move his troops by day for fear of aerial attack, then air-to-ground attacks have been a resounding success, regardless of whether those attacks killed 20 or 2,000 troops. if the enemy has 1,000,000 soldiers but cannot bring them to battle, then that force is better bottled up than destroyed, because the enemy must house clothe feed and supply those 1,000,000 troops with tents, food, uniforms, and arms- it's a colossal waste of resources that could be used elsewhere when those troops rot on the vine

02-20-2007, 10:18 AM
I know this is not 'real' evidence but an old boy I know who fought through Normandy etc on the ground told me the Tiffie attacks with rockets were very effective against armour. (ps I'm making any claims re: tigers). He was also in a convoy in Holand that got straffed by a 262 with horrific losses.

02-20-2007, 10:20 AM
What ALL data is forced to overlook however as there is an uneventful result, is the psycological effects of ground attack, even the threat of it alone as eluded to above diversts men and machines from the activities they need to perform....

Imagine if every radar operator, spotter, AAA gun position and aircraft cap could be eliminated and applied to the ground battle. What if vehicles and men did not need to keep under cover and could move freely without fear of air attack, etc. etc.....

More so, look to New Guinea.....By using Ultra Intelligence Intercepts there was actually little air war, most aircraft destroyed on the ground daily by low level ground attack (high alt used against AAA) and kept in the single digits instead of 45 plane+ compliments.

Ground attack (including sea) is really IMLTHO the greatest aspect of aircraft use in war....As recon are shot down by fighters, bombers not that quick reacting, etc..

In the end as well, you may rule the sky, yet you win on the ground.......Further, how valuable of a role do attack choppers play?....That a part of the ground attack aircraft legacy.

02-20-2007, 10:36 AM
There were a lot of occasion in 1939-41 when wehrmacht units couldnt advance any more till Ju87 appeared...

02-20-2007, 10:38 AM
Interesting online article about the birth and early development of Close Air Support (CAS) in WWII:


02-20-2007, 01:16 PM
Excellent book on ground attack:

Air Power at the Battlefront: Allied close air support in Europe, 1943-45 by Ian Gooderson

Concludes that very few axis tanks were knocked out by rockets and that 50 cal strafing was very effective.

But I agree with an earlier post that it wasn't the physical destruction that was the most important result of ground attack. Ground attack restricted movement and demoralized anybody that tried to move, especially during the day.

02-20-2007, 02:09 PM
Hi all,

Couldn't open the OP link so maybe I am repeating the content.

Turning the topic on its head...wasn't ground attack very dangerous for the aircrews involved?

I seem to remember reading that RAF Typhoon ground attack Squadrons suffered over 60% casualties in 1944 after D-Day?

Best Regards,

02-20-2007, 03:00 PM
Yep, RAF Typhoon squadrons and virtually any squadron involved in CAS duties was subjected to the highest concentrations of flak fire and even just small arms fire. I think the highest numbers of Thunderbolts lost was probably also during the time when they were doing CAS.

But the risks seemed to be justified...the psychological effect of waves of Typhoons hitting German positions seemed to do far more to the troop morale (friendly morale went up, enemy down significantly) than they actually destroyed tanks.

Light vehicles, trains, bridges, and light armor units are another matter. Attacks on these types of targets absolutely ruined them...not always in direct damage but because they clogged up roads, damaged bridges (which then required repair), and forced trains to operate at night.

Air power in this role doesn't seem to so much wreck the primary target but puts a strain on overall resources in effecting repairs or congesting roads.