Operation Pointblank 1944, Defeating the Luftwaffe
Author: Steven J. Zaloga
To liberate occupied Europe the Allies knew that air supremacy was imperative. The Luftwaffe was a serious threat to both the tactical needs to support the invasion, as well as the strategic bombing campaign. Operation Pointblank
was a 1943 plan to use daylight strategic bombing to draw the Luftwaffe into a campaign of attrition which Germany’s industrial capacity would not be able to support.
To bomb the factories on the ground, Allied bombers sortied out into the teeth of the Luftwaffe defenders. Between bomber gunnery and escorting fighters it was hoped that the Jagdwaffe
would be ground down and present no threat to the inevitable landings on occupied Europe.
Until the D-Day landings in Normandy the United States Army Air Force was suffering the majority of American casualties in World War II. USAAF and the “Bomber Generals” received a vicious reality check from the fighters of the Jagdwaffe
of the Luftwaffe. B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers were not capable of defending themselves as envisioned and escort fighters were desperately needed. USAAF had them but the P-47 was too short-legged. The Jagdwaffe
simply waited until they turned back and then savaged the bombers.
Not that the Germans had it all their own way. More fell to the bomber gunners, and more fighters were pulled back from occupied areas to defend Germany. Eventually, long-range fighters like the P-51 and P-38 were able to follow the bombers all the way to target.
In a sense, the bombers were bait. The defending Jagdflieger
flung themselves at the bombers, braving 100’s of heavy machine guns. The escort fighters would pounce on them and break up the attacks. When General Doolittle took command, he released the fighters from close escort and let them roam to seek out the Nazi defenders, in the air and on the ground. Against ever increasing numbers of superior fighters, the Jagdwaffe
didn’t stand a chance. And as the bombers blasted German oil facilities, there was less fuel with which the Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs could fly into the valley of the shadow of death.
When Allied forces landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944, only two German fighter pilots were able to attack the beaches.
Author Steven J. Zaloga brings us the story of Operation Pointblank
with his usual learned style, featuring good detail, a clear presentation, and a great deal of graphics to support the text. He explains the opposing commanders, tactics, strategic and tactical considerations, philosophies, weapons, and operations of this complex campaign in a clear and easy to follow manner. The book is full of personalities and names known to students of the air campaign, and introduces us to some who are less known.
This is not a ‘There I was, flat on my back…’ book of pilot narratives. This is more of an analysis and erudite accounting of the brutal campaign which witnessed the wastage of tens of thousands of aircraft and hundreds of thousands of lives. Many unheralded weapon systems, like the German’s Flak trains, and USAAF APS-15 Mickey (H2X) radars, are presented.
Mr. Zaloga writes in a clear and well organized presentation. Operation Pointblank
is brought to you through 96 pages in seven chapters, an introduction, chronology, and an index:
THE OPPOSING FORCES
- THE STRATEGIC SETTING
- THE OPPOSING COMMANDERS
- - Luftwaffe
- - American commanders
• OPPOSING PLANS
- USAAF plans
- Luftwaffe plans
• OPERATION POINTBLANK
- Prelude to Operation Argument
- Operation Argument
- Confrontation: Berlin, March, 1944
- Beyond Operation Pointblank
- Hitting the Achilles heel: the oil campaign, May 1944
- The payoff: Operation Overlord and beyond
• THE BATTLEFIELD TODAY
• FURTHER READING
- - US strategic bombing survey reports
- - US Air Force historical studies
Photographs, Illustrations, GraphicsPHOTOGRAPHS Dozens of color and black and white photos support the text. Some are stills from gun camera sequences. While some are grainy, most are of good quality and a several are studio quality. Sidebars are used to explain specific topics. Many charts and tables present data and information, such as Luftwaffe losses and victories, and the same statistics of the USAAF. Three excellent dramatic “in-action” scenes lend drama to the work. Osprey also fortifies the text with 3-D maps of air raids, as well as the usual maps of targets, aircraft assembly plants, airfields, and the like. Curiously, no artist is credited with the work.
ILLUSTRATIONS Three life-like CGI battlescenes depict:
a. Day Of The Rocket Guns: Schweinfurt, October 14, 1943, A Schwarm of ZG 26 Bf 110s rolling in on a bomber box to release a barrage of WGr. 42 21cm rockets and cannon fire.
b. Bandits, 1 O’Clock Low!, Chuck Yeager and flight breaking after a group of FW 190s attacking B-17s
c. Big Week: Battle Along The “Bomber Autobahn,” February 20, 1944, Focke-Wulfs blasting head-on through Flying Fortresses of the 91st BG.
The maps include:
• Escort-Fighter Range (With accompanying chart)
• Flak Dispositions, June 1944 (Number of gun batteries)
• Black Thursday: The Second Schweinfurt Mission, October 14, 1943 (3-D)
• German Airframe-Assembly Plants, 1944
• Escorting The Bombers: Mission 182, Oschersleben And Halberstadt, January 11, 1944
• Prelude To Operation Argument: Black Tuesday Over Oschersleben, January 11, 1944 (3-D)
• Attack on Luftwaffe Fuel production: May 28, 1944 (3-D)
GRAPHICS Line drawings and graphics:
I. Fw 190A-7/R 2, A-8/R 2, and A-9/R 8 Sturmflugzeug armament package, from the original handbook.
II. Me-410A-1/U4 50mm Bordkanone
III. USAAF bomber box
ConclusionWestern European skies witnessed horrific clashes between the Luftwaffe and American air forces in the lead up to D-Day. Mr. Zaloga has done a fine job condensing the enormity of the campaign into this title. The maps clarify and orient the events. Charts and tables relate more cold hard facts.
In whole or in part, this book addresses a fascinating campaign of the European air war. Highly recommended!
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