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Our 2020 Air Campaign books look at several major conflicts across the 20th century, which ones are on your wish list?
ACM: Schweinfurt–Regensburg 1943
In 1943, the USAAF and RAF launched the Combined Bomber Offensive, designed to systematically destroy the industries that the German war machine relied on. At the top of the hit list were aircraft factories and plants making ball-bearings – a component thought to be a critical vulnerability. Schweinfurt in southern Germany was home to much of the ball-bearing industry and, together with the Messerschmitt factory in Regensburg, which built Bf 109 fighters, it was targeted in a huge and innovative strike.
Although the attack on Regensburg was successful, the damage to Schweinfurt only temporarily stalled production, and the Eighth Air Force had suffered heavy losses. It would take a sustained campaign, not just a single raid, to cripple the Schweinfurt works. However, when a follow-up raid was finally launched two months later, the losses sustained were even greater, and nearly a thousand US airmen were killed on the two operations. This title details the ‘double strike’ in full, exploring the tactics, aircraft, and events of this historic mission.
ACM: Battle of the Atlantic 1939–41
In his six-volume series The Second World War, Winston Churchill wrote 'The only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.' Initially, however, everyone was surprised at the effectiveness of the submarines. Only faulty German torpedoes and the restricted number of available U-boats limited their success.
Astonishingly, Britain had the major piece of the solution to the U-Boat threat from the opening days of World War II: the anti-submarine aircraft. If it had been used assiduously and effectively in the first months of the war, Britain might have won the Battle of the Atlantic in its first year. Instead, the opportunity was missed and the Battle of the Atlantic continued until Germany’s surrender in May 1945.
This title examines the role played by aircraft in the early years of the Battle of the Atlantic. Highlighting their success when employed effectively, the book follows these early operations to show how and why aircraft were initially misused. It also traces the development of technologies which made aircraft much more effective submarine-killers including radar and depth charges.
ACM: Legion Condor 1936–39
The Luftwaffe sent 20,000 officers and men to Spain from 1936 to 1939, and the Condor Legion carried out many missions in support of the Spanish Nationalist forces and played a lead role in many key campaigns of the war. Aircraft that would play a significant role in the combat operations of World War II saw their first action in Spain. Condor Legion bombers attacked strategic targets, Republican logistics and transport behind the lines, German bombers and fighters provided highly effective close air support for the front-line troops, and German fighters and anti-aircraft units ensured Nationalist control of the air.
In effect, the Spanish Civil War proved to be the training ground for the Blitzkrieg which would be unleashed across Europe in the years that followed. In this rigorous new analysis, Legion Condor expert James Corum explores both the history and impact of the Luftwaffe’s engagement during the Spanish Civil War and the role that engagement played in the development of the Luftwaffe strategy which would be used to such devastating effect in the years that followed.
ACM: The Italian Blitz 1940–43
Between June 1940 and August 1943, RAF Bomber Command undertook a little-known strategic bombing campaign in Europe. The target was Mussolini’s Italy. The bombing campaign against Italy can be divided into a number of phases, with each one having its own specific goals. However, each also furthered the ultimate aim of forcing Italy’s final capitulation, demonstrating that the tactic of area-bombing was not just about the destruction of an enemy’s cities, as it could also fulfil wider strategic and political objectives. Indeed, the intensity and frequency of attack was greatly controlled, and the heavy bombing of Italy was only ever sanctioned by Britain’s civilian war leaders to achieve both military and political goals. The issue of target-selection was also subject to a similar political restriction; cities and ports like Milan, Turin, Genoa and La Spezia were sanctioned under an official Directive, but other places, such as Verona, Venice, Florence and, above all, Rome, remained off-limits.
This fascinating title explores the political, motivational and strategic challenges of the campaign in full.
ACM: Ho Chi Minh Trail 1964–73
The complex and constantly-changing web of political agreements between Washington and the governments of neutral Laos, Cambodia and Thailand together with the consequent involvement of the CIA meant that much of The Trails War had to be covert. Nevertheless, the campaign had a profound effect on the outcome of the war and on its perception in the USA.
In the north, the Barrel Roll campaign was operated by USAF rescue services who carried out extremely hazardous missions to recover aircrew. At the same time, many thousands of North Vietnamese troops and civilians repeatedly made the long, arduous journey along the trail in trucks or, pushing French bicycles laden with ammunition and rice. Under constant threat of air attack, they devised extremely ingenious, simple means of survival, although very many died. Meanwhile further south, Arc Light B-52 strikes were flown, and the fearsome AC-130 introduced to cut the trails. It was a campaign which endured for the entire Vietnam War and one in which nothing better than partial success could ever be achieved by the USA.
ACM: Malaya & Dutch East Indies 1941–42
The Japanese campaign to occupy the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) was even more dependent on airpower since the Japanese would have to seize a series of airfields on various islands to support their leapfrog advance. This campaign was supported almost exclusively by the IJNAF (The Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force). Facing the Japanese was a mixed bag of Allied air units, including the Dutch East Indies Air Squadron with a mix of Dutch, German, and American designed and supplied aircraft. The USAAF also sent significant, but ultimately an inadequate number of aircraft to Java. The RAF fell back to airfields on Sumatra, NEI, in the last stages of the Malaya campaign, and was involved in the final stages of the campaign to defend the NEI. For the same reason the Allied air campaign failed in Malaya, the This effort to defend the NEI was also futile.
ACM: “Big Week” 1944
In the years before World War II, it was believed that strategic bombing would win wars, but none foresaw the devastation that German radar-directed interceptors would inflict on large bomber formations.
With the increasingly urgent need to eliminate German fighter-aircraft prior to D-Day, a concerted two-phase effort was launched, codenamed ‘Operation Argument’. Targeting aircraft factories with hundreds of heavy bombers escorted by the new long-range P-51 Mustang, the operation, known to history as the ‘Big Week’ campaign, was designed to destroy aircraft production on the ground, and force the Luftwaffe into combat to defend these vital facilities – when it was intended that the new escort fighters would take their toll on the German interceptors.
This is a detailed and fascinating analysis of history’s first-ever successful offensive counter-air (OCA) campaign.