A historical perspective on raid potential

Number of Allied air sorties over Germany before June 6, 1944: 98,400

German aircraft production increase, 1942-1944: 279 percent

Japanese aircraft available for naval-based air raids in early 1942: 265

(That’s assuming the Kaga, Akagi and the Shokaku were available. Otherwise, if Malkin was referring to the Taiyo, the Unyo and the Ryujo, that number falls to 92, less than one-one thousandth the number required to utterly fail to reduce German aircraft production at all.)

The 8th Air Force during last week of February 1944 staged “Big Week”. For 7 days the 8th Air Force struck at Germany with its 3,800 B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers. They dropped nearly 10,000 t of bombs. The primary target was Germany’s aircraft industry. P-47 Thunderbolts using drop tanks flew escort. The Germans were able to rebuild damaged plants more quickly than anticipated…. The actual impact of the campaign was disappointing.

Big Week was estimated to have destroyed between 600 and 1,000 Luftwaffe planes. If it took 26,600 bombing sorties with heavy bombers to destroy 1,000 planes, how many could the Japanese have destroyed, if one assumes that fighters and carrier-launched dive-bombers are the equivalent of B-17s and B-24s? Rounding up, we can estimate that in a single raid from their three largest carriers, the Japanese could have been expected to destroy about 10 planes. Assuming they lost only the same number of planes in each raid that they did at Pearl Harbor – where they had the benefit of surprise – this Japanese raiding force could have been expected to destroy about 100 planes before running out of planes themselves. At 1942 production rates, it would have taken all of 18 hours for the USA to replace the planes lost.

UPDATE – Please keep in mind that the plans for the USA’s strategic bombing campaign were drawn up in June, 1941. The total ineffectiveness of this massive campaign could not have been known in early 1942, but the requirement for repeated sorties by a thousand-plus heavy bombers to have any noticeable effect on industrial production certainly was, as the small-scale British strategic campaign of 1939 was judged to have been “disastrous”.