Targeting the Third Reich
Air Intelligence and the Allied Bombing Campaigns
Robert S. Ehlers, Jr.
Air Force Historical Foundation Award
When large formations of Allied four-engine bombers finally flew over Europe, it marked the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Their relentless hammering of Germany—totaling more than 1.4 million missions—took out oil refineries, industries, and transportation infrastructures vital to the Reich's war effort. While other accounts have focused on operational details, this is the first book to reveal the crucial role of air intelligence in these dramatic campaigns.
“An excellent book on a crucial but overlooked subject.”
—Journal of Military History
“Students of airpower will find the discussion of the role and development of air intelligence fascinating.”
—ParametersSee all reviews...
“This is a splendid book that adds much new material to the history of air intelligence.”
—Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies
“In examining the bombing campaigns from not only an operational but also an air-intelligence perspective, Ehlers provides a fresh look at a critical aspect of the allied World War II effort.”
“Covers an unusual topic not tackled by many authors. . . . An excellent, serious addition to the history of the air war in Europe and a welcome change of pace from the non-stop flood of air crew stories. . . . Among other fascinating threads, Ehlers looks at how the Allies kept careful tabs on German fuel production, storage, distribution, and consumption, and chose their targets accordingly. . . . It’;s easy to recommend this book for its unique approach to the bomber offensive.”
—Stone & Stone Second World War Books Review
“An important book that reveals much new information about how the Americans and British conducted a true combined air campaign against key German target systems, and how thorough and painstaking intelligence analysis focused that effort.”
—Conrad Crane, author of Bombs, Cities, and Civilians: American Air Power Strategy in World War II
“A superb work that details the fusion of technology, organization, and intellectual capital involved in the successful formulation and execution of the Anglo-American air offensive against Nazi Germany. . . . Reveals the indispensable role of intelligence and strategic analysis in developing the targeting blueprint that literally stopped the Wehrmacht in its tracks.”
—Edward B. Westermann, author of Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914–1945
“Ehlers not only explains the ongoing interaction between the British and American allies over air intelligence, but he restores to history many of the vital contributions to the war effort made by the RAF’s Bomber Command. Just as importantly, he understands and explains the larger intellectual framework—and interagency processmdash;within which air warfare must operate. Finally, he comprehends and respects the essential fact that, in order to be successful, air warfare must be an integral part of a larger combined arms framework for the use of military power. The book will be read profitably not only by scholars of modern warfare, but also by military planners and policymakers.”
—Tami Davis Biddle, author of Rhetoric and Reality in Air WarfareSee fewer reviews...
Robert Ehlers reexamines these bombings through the lens of both air intelligence and operations, a dual approach that shows how the former was so vital to the latter's success. Air intelligence was essential to both targeting and damage assessment, and by demonstrating its contributions to the Combined Bomber Offensive of 1943-1945, Ehlers provides a wealth of new insight into the war.
Ehlers describes the close ties that developed between the Royal Air Force's "precision intelligence" arm and the U.S. Army Air Force's "precision bombardment" forces, telling how the RAF's photographic reconnaissance and signals intelligence steered both British and American bombers to the right targets at the right intervals with the right munitions. He shows that the greatest strength of this partnership was its ability to orchestrate all aspects of damage assessment within an effective organizational structure, so that by 1944 senior air commanders—like the RAF's Arthur "Bomber" Harris and the AAF's Carl "Tooey" Spaatz—could gauge the accuracy of bombing with a high degree of precision, analyze its effects on the German war effort, and determine its effectiveness in helping the Allies achieve strategic objectives.
Ehlers focuses on three key offensives in 1944—against French and Belgian rail supply lines delivering German troops and supplies to Normandy, against German oil refineries, and against railroads and waterways inside the Reich—that had a disastrous effect on the Nazi war effort. In the process, he underscores the degree to which bombers constituted part of a highly effective combined-arms force, giving Allied armies crucial advantages on the battlefield. Drawing on a huge collection of bomb-damage assessment photographs and a wealth of other archival sources, he shows that the success of these and other efforts can be traced directly to the success of air intelligence.
Providing a deeper and more accurate understanding of the bomber campaigns' role in the Allied victory, Ehlers's study testifies to the strategic importance of these efforts in that war and provides a tool for understanding the importance of intelligence operations in future conflicts.