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Bombs Away

May 2024
1min read

In 1945, with George Ball, Paul Nitze, other notables, and a staff of several hundred, I was assigned to the study of the effect of strategic air attacks on the German war economy—the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. The results were impressive. Great and extremely costly attacks on ball-bearing plants raised no enduring difficulty for the Germans. After the great RAF raids on Hamburg there was an easing of the labor supply as workers in banks, restaurants, shops, and places of entertainment that were not destroyed became available to the shipyards and submarine pens. After major attacks on all the German aircraft plants in 1944, aircraft production was promptly reorganized and in ensuing months greatly increased.

These findings were seen by the Air Force as deeply inimical to its mission. As a consequence, though published after acrimonious discussion, they were ignored. The further and historically important consequence was that strategic air attacks went forward on North Korea and North (and South) Vietnam with similar but perhaps even greater military inconsequence.

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