Skip to main content

tv   U.S. Army Air Forces in Africa and Italy 1942-43  CSPAN  March 24, 2018 11:15pm-12:01am EDT

11:15 pm
salerno. amein to he describes how the u.s. army air forces supported ground operations in 1942 and 1943. and helped rid the north african skies of the previously dominant german luftwaffe. this 45-minute talk is part of a symposium commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 1943 attle of kasserine pass. >> our next speaker is a brave man. he's going to take on the post-lunch crowd. he's not afraid. he knows what he's up against and ready to conquer the challenge. i'm very pleased to introduce my former colleague, chris reinwho in addition to being an air force officer and navigator happens to hold a ph.d. from the university of kansas. and he has the added bonus of being an esteemed native of pearl river, louisiana, which makes him a good guy in our
11:16 pm
book automatically. he has taught at a number of the nation's professional military education colleges and schools. and he is going to talk to us today about an often overlooked and important component of the war that would be aerial operations in the mediterranean theater. so welcome, chris rein. [applause] critches -- chris: good afternoon, folks. thanks to the museum staff. and certainly the organizers of this distinguished conference or panel. especially rob for the concept, jeremy for the all the hard work you've done in taking such good care of us and your staff and everyone else i haven't met yet. appreciate it very much. being a native of the area, i remember back in 2000 for the parade, when the museum first opened i was a face in the crowd as an rotc instructor at southern university in baton rouge and remember just seeing the joy on the faces of the
11:17 pm
vets as they rolled through town and the back of -- and not just for the recognition they were getting on that day but for knowing that their stories were going to be preserved and relayed and handed down to the next generation. and so i commend and thank the museum for all its efforts in taking up that vital and important mission. [applause] so today, i want to talk to you a little bit about my -- what was my dissertation and first book which is the north african air campaign. for the folks that don't have this on the screen at home i'll go ahead and read this and don't normally read my slides. but what i'm going to try to prove today my thesis is that in north africa, american airmen properly and profitably employed -- a quote from field manual 100-20 which came out of the operation air power against the axis ground, naval suspect air forces and achieved far more than they could have in an air only campaign at the time. and the reason i took this up, i would like to say that i hope
11:18 pm
to follow in his footsteps but rick atkinson had recently published an army at dawn and described the process that the ground forces went through in this campaign. and then looking at the air forces, i realized it was a very similar process in terms of refining doctrine of identifying leaders, which ones would fail and which ones would succeed and go on to lead the campaigns. and then equipment as well. we've heard a little bit about some of the trials that the army had with its equipment. and so this -- this question, i think, is one that comes out of the campaign and it's still somewhat contentious or was at least in the post-war air force about whether there should be air only campaigns or whether tactical air command would provide more of a conventional or tactical focus. and to some degree, that debate continues to this day. and so i thought this would be a profitable avenue to explore that. i'm going to do that in three main parts. it's the prequel, the main story, and then the sequel. and so we'll start with the
11:19 pm
western desert. the initial commitment, as rob said this morning correctly, roosevelt was very concerned that the ground forces were not yet engaged against the axis powers in the european theater. but for the air forces, that was not yet true. in june of 1942, the u.s. army air forces sent a small delegation to egypt and palestine to the western desert where they fought alongside the r.a.f. and did not necessarily provide a significant force to the battle. and eel alamein would have turned out the way it did without the american commitment. in terms of what the american air len learned alongside the british it was very significant for them. and as we have seen in subsequent conflicts, just because a ground force isn't engaged doesn't mean thear force isn't already very busy. certainly desert storm comes to mind where we had a six-week air campaign which the airmen were very heavily engaged and sort of shaping the conditions for the successful ground force advance from kuwait into iraq. so the attritional battles in tunisia, this is very much sort of the focus today and we spent a lot of time on kasserine but
11:20 pm
i want to keep kasserine in perspective. that was as we heard this morning, a two-week period of what was at the very pleast a six-month long campaign for the conquest of north africa. but when you roll in the british efforts, it becomes a several years long campaign. and so we do tend to focus very much on kasserine but i want to place it in context of sort of the larger. and the big part of that context is what came next which is the exploitation and i'll finish briefly with how we applied the lessons that we learned at kasserine and in north africa and the invasion of sicily and the landing at salerno and maybe misapplied some lessons in terms of the raid on romania. so start where all american history seems to start, it seems, which is over in the u.k. so we'll look -- we'll look very quickly at the r.a.f. and what they were doing in the western desert and i mention this not in an attempt to steal any of the valor of the british
11:21 pm
forces. el alamein was a commonwealth victory. the american contingent was small as i mentioned maybe 10% of the force flying -- maybe 12 or 13% of the overall sorties in the r.a.f. and so this is sort of the last great victory for the british before the americans came along and ruined everything. and so i appreciate that. i don't want to steal any of their success. but i also want to acknowledge that this was very important for the american airmen that were involved in this campaign. you see two of the leaders there, sir arthur cunningham, an australian born office on the left and officer montgomery on the right. the americans only formed a small portion of the british tactical forbes in the theater they formed almost 100% of the r.a.f.'s heavy bombers in the theater. this is significant because british doctrine in the interwar period had stressed the importance of strategic raids which they were then involved in with bomber commands on germany. and so they were loathe to deploy any of their very heavy assets to halifaxes and lancasters, to north africa. the americans, while also
11:22 pm
having a similar theory of how to employ air power, were willing to deploy some of the heavy bomber assets to north africa and so they actually wind up making a fairly substantial contribution to that campaign. so in terms of setting the stage for el alamein amateurs talk tactics and professionals talk logistics. so i think the logistics of ram many's supply lines bear discussion. and this is a quick diagram of now the supplies were flowing forward to rommel's position here at mersatrop behind the front at el alamein. the shipping lines across the mediterranean and the various ports where they terp nature and the objectives the targets for the american heavy bomber force. there were two groups. the 98th and 376th groups that were based in al palestine. lita air base and today israel and they were primarily assigned to interrupt this logistics, this supply chain, stribe being ports r ports in italy and greece and very
11:23 pm
difficult to hit the ships en route but once they pulled into the north african ports and places like tabrok and benghazi they were very vulnerable to air attack as they were offloading and especially the oil tankers and rommel didn't realize it and he was sitting one of the world's largest oil reserves in libya. so a lot of that was still imported during this time. but there was a very famous quote from one of the german generals who said there were three ships en route. oil tankers that were scheduled to dock about two weeks before el alamein and on these -- on these three ships rest the fate of the german armies in africa. and all three of them were sunk in port. destroyed before they could offload that cargo and that contributed as we mentioned earlier the logistics and the oil difficulties that the german forces suffered. so this is one of the aircraft. and i show this photo just to kind of emphasize the ad hoc. these are not fixed bases and not billets where air crews can prepare. this is very much thrown
11:24 pm
together. you see i'm -- them briefing the mission plane side before they step in and take off. so the american commitment was as i mentioned small. but had in terms of logistics ffort an impact sort of out of -- out of much more important than the scope that -- or the level of effort. and that's going to be a lesson that gets carried forward into the rest of the north african campaign. so i'll talk very briefly about el alamein. two-week battle. october and november of 1942. one of the things that enables rommel or excuse me, montgomery to win over rommel is the fact that the r.a.f. has virtually uncontested air superiority in this battle. and a big part of that is because the luftwaffe is obviously very busy in other affairs. in summer and fall of 1942 and this is the campaign toward the caucuses that will terminate in the battle of stalingrad. i'm indebted to wick marine jim coram for the work they did in the luftwaffe. the luftwaffe would spend a
11:25 pm
summer in russia and winter months when weather largely closed down air operations, they would shift down to the mediterranean. and this would enable them to beat up the british bases, especially malta which was very important to try to interrupt those german supply lines across the mediterranean. and then in the aspirin, when weather improved they would shift them back to russia to support whatever was going on there. fortunately because of the battles around stalingrad the luftwaffe was ann able to do that during this particular campaign. that enables the allies to maintain air supremacy in -- over el alamein and largely through this time period. and interdicting the supply lines, a lot of the accounts written immediately after the war, minimized the role of ultra wause it remained classified but we know now the work of initially polish and later british code breakers that we had most of the axis sailing schedules which made it easier for us to interdict that supply line. knowing when ships were leaving and what their cargo was and when they would arrive. and so that made the campaign much more effective. and then lastly as i said, the -- in addition to the heavy
11:26 pm
bombers we also sent two tactical groups to the battle of el alamein. one fighter group of 3. -40's and a 57 fighter group and one medium bomb quirment equipped with b-25 mitch manies the one depicted here the 12th bomb group. they're flying alongside anden cases parsed out to the r.a.f. to the western desert air force. and because of the very heavy air pressure, they really restrict rommel's mobility. and any time he attempts to concentrate his forces for a counterattack he finds it brings down a very heavy weight of air strikes that not only have we limited his logistics pipeline but now we're restricting his mobility on the battlefield. and eventually in this two-week battle, you see there the various units from across the commonwealth arrayed. that wind up enabling montgomery and again, all the criticism, he's slow, he's plodding, and a set piece, and you know what? he usually wins. and so he deserves credit for that at least. which is a substantial difference than what we saw with many of his predecessors.
11:27 pm
so the victory at el alamein results in a final end to the see-saw campaign across north africa. the italians had attacked the brits had pushed them back. rommel showed up. the british siphoned off forces for the defense of greece and rommel able to get back to the egyptian-libyan border. the british have a second counteroffensive which is also quite successful. and again, this ebbs and flows based on the -- in many cases the air strength in the theater. but finally, the attacks by the japanese and the pacific theater force another siphoning of especially australian forces out of the western desert. and it allows the axis to regain the upper hand until the final counteroffensive. after el alamein it's a constant british pursuit across north africa, and the positive of this, is that rommel is finally in retreat and he will not be back in egypt again. the negative is the time frame that it occurs. it's november and december. you're starting to get into the rainy months in north africa. and anyone who spent a winter
11:28 pm
at any of the other air bases in the desert, it doesn't drain very well. it looks flat. it's sandy. it's hot. it's desert. but when it does rain it can create a lot of problems. and so that's some of the things that montgomery is up against in his pursuit. one of the ways around that, fortunately, is through air power. and was very exciting to see this picture prominently featured in the road to berlin exhibit yesterday as i walked through the museum. and the c-47 of the 316th troop carrier group. an entire c-47 group, four squadrons, it deploys to egypt. primarily to support the american air forces in theater. the -- the main air depot was actually back in aratria and supplies coming around the cape and through the red sea. so this was a way to shuttle supplies, spare parts, replacement engines forward. but this group gets pressed into service with the logistical effort. actually flying 55 gallon drums full of fuel forward to keep montgomery's forces moving as they're moving along this single road basically that
11:29 pm
stretches along the northern coast of africa. and so -- that was an aircraft that was not present in the r.a.f. and we loaned many of these, dakotas as they're known to the royal air force. but this was the capability at the time that was fairly unique within the u.s. army air forces. so i move forward to the tunisian campaign. three sort of things that i want to highlight here. first of 0 it's an operational and a tactical campaign. even though we have heavy bomber assets and we will shift more heavy bomber groups from the u.k. from eighth air force down to 12th air force in north africa. and it's a tactical -- as it would have been been called then or today more of an operational campaign. these heavy bombers are working over ports. they're working over airfields. they're not present on the front lines. and that's one of the things, one of the spears that the air force takes is the ground forces don't see them very often. and so in some cases unaware of the work they're doing behind the lines to restrict the flow
11:30 pm
in. air superiority is going to be critical and going to be difficult to achieve during this time period. and i've got a few slides that will show you hopefully why that was. this is one of the last times where the ground forces are going to have a very seriously contested air environment and won't operate with the benefit of air supremacy that they've had almost unbroken since this time. and then the big part of course is that the interdiction campaign is decisive. the fact that you restrict the flow of supplies, resources, into north africa, certainly the fighting is important. if you don't have ground forces there, if you don't have people willing to -- the stuff that's already on the ground you aren't going to win. but rommel is doug -- as douglas porch argues in his book the path to victory by choosing to fight in tunisia, they stick their heads in a noose and that noose is the supply lines that stretch across the mediterranean between the boot and sicily and tunisia. the allied ability to interdict that and not just aircraft. submarines out of malta and the r.a.f. has a significant role in this. but that largely, i think,
11:31 pm
contributes or makes an outsized contribution to the allied success. this is a variation of what we saw this morning in terms. allied plans for the torch landings. and the thing that i want to point out here we mentioned three divisions. at el alamein the three to the far right, three american divisions. so the red bull, the 34th infantry division and first armored and first infantry. the other patch is the british 78th division or blade force which is charged with the primary tark on tunisia. and the folks that wind up fighting short. and the far left, there's three more american divisions. second armored, third infantry and ninth infantry who are not involved in the kasserine pass battle. and you may ask why would you -- why would you fight a battle with half of your force not on the scene? and the reason for that is that in -- the reason that patton lands in morocco we were very concerned as we launched this operation, operation torch, that franco and the nationalists in spain would somehow close the straits of
11:32 pm
gibraltar by attacking gibraltar or otherwise closing that supply line which would cut off our forces. now we would have the same problem that the germans did. we would have insecure supply lines to our rear. and so those three divisions are largely kept back in morocco. to guard against that possibility. and make sure that they can keep that critical supply avenue open. because most of the logistics are arriving via ships, convoys from either the states or the u.k. and so if you close down that vital line of communication, that certainly inhibits your combat capability. so those three divisions now, the ninth, ninth i.d., gets there just in time. and is one of the reasons that they stop the attack. but the others are still back in the rear and also most of the air establishment. the main depot for 12th air force at cass a blank a. we talk about squadrons that are fighting in tunisia, and your logistics base is that far back you can see some of the challenges that the air forces are up against. we haven't talked a lot about the navy today. and i don't think that's
11:33 pm
intentional. but it was primarily a ground and certainly an air force. but i do want to acknowledge the contribution again without the merchant mariners and i'm encouraged to see that display yesterday. running these convoys through still. very heavily u-boat infested waters and the navy itself actually, sends several carrier loads of planes to the north african campaign. this is one in particular. cheniga, an escort, and fights off the 33rd during the north african campaign. you have actually -- an advanced attrition for the group. but here, you know, you see army aircraft operating from aircraft carriers which is not a typical scene. in the second world war. but it is certainly a vital contribution in terms of building up allied air power. most of the air cover for the torch landings was provided by the carrier forces, by the u.s.s. ranger and u.s. navy and then also two british carriers inside the mediterranean. but they could not stay in
11:34 pm
those very heavily u-boat infested waters for so long so it was vital to build up the air strength as quickly as possible. so talk very quickly about kasserine pass and the a.a.f. certainly deserves as i mentioned some of the spears that are thrown at it. but it wasn't i don't think a willful case of neglect. one of the arguments, one of the many debates is the army air forces were so focused on strategic bombing that they completely neglected tactical development. so they didn't have aircraft. they didn't have the equipment. they didn't have the doctrine. in reality, they proved that they did. because for six months, they did it alongside the brits at el alamein. the problem is a lot of that expertise doesn't have the portunity to filter into the kasserine forces and other difficulties as well. the equipment. the p-40's you saw inferior to the 109 in many respects. the radar, there's no radar site. and so why do they not know when the air raids are coming? they haven't fully integrated the communications and electronic capabilities into the force. the weather is absolutely
11:35 pm
horrendous. as i mentioned we're getting into february. so we're still in the rainy season. the 12th air force does not fly any sorties on those days. because the weather is so bad-the-closed in so badly. we talked very much about what are the lessons that the allies learned? and rob can speak to this with much more authority than i can but lessons for the axis forces to learn as well. one of them is if you launch a counterattack do it when the allies can't fly. especially if they have control of the air. and we see that again two years later when we talk about the battle of the bulge. but there are significant difficulties. the airfield and logistics are probably the biggest -- this is a quick diagram just to show you when the allies get stopped in front of tunis what they're up against in terms of the air forces. and so the germans are flying largely from fixed airfields. these were pre-war obviously french colonial airfields. concrete for the most part. hard surfaced. all weather airfields. in and around tunis and
11:36 pm
berzert. the allies are out in dirt fields, out in the desert. that as soon as it rains thurn to mud and shut down operations. the german air crews have the fixed billets and the allied air crews in many cases are lodged in foxholes and tents. the disparity in terms of logistic capability i think is very significant. when we discuss the kasserine battle. and i won't go into too much detail and you've seen a variation of this map already. i do want to point out that the airfields, the forward airfields that are designed to support the line on the western dorsal are actually just to the left of the screen there. at fareon and tale before s and overrun in the opening stages. the fly ball aircraft are flown out and today in our air force, 80% availability rate is considered pretty good. at the end of this, attenuated logistics supply line probably closer to 50% for the allies. and so when you have aircraft that are disabled, that are waiting parts and things like that, that -- they have to be
11:37 pm
left on the runway and these are the ones that the germans overrun and capture. along with probably most critically 60,000 gallons of fuel that's been brought forward at great expense, great effort to these airfields. that now are no longer available. so a lot of the close support squadrons are pulling back. the werkt as i mentioned is not ideal. during the early part of the battle. and another similarity with the bulge or with the arden defensive is there is a massive allied air base at the top of the screen and this is after the germans break through at kasserine pass this is their objective. they don't necessarily have the logistical tail to drive all the way through but if they can destroy that allied supply base those supplies are not available now to anderson's first army to resume the offensive against tunisia. but it also gives rommel a bit of a shot in the arm. if he's able to hold montgomery behind the mereth line. the fact he doesn't get to tibesa is a critical part of
11:38 pm
the kasserine battle and yes he bakes through at fade pass and kasserine pass but doesn't get the supplies he wants or needs must have like during the battle of the bulge the germans never get to some of the other allied supply centers. that's the -- when we debate whether it's a victory or a defeat and i'm sure we will, in the next session, that's one of the factors i think we have to keep in mind. this is a slide that i found, research up at the national archives. and up there with one of my cliques at fort leavenworth, mark, here it is, the whole book in one picture. so what this demonstrates, the really only two lines that you have toer who about are the one that's labeled naf or north air force combat and the green line you see almost in a vertical slope. and then the very top line, which is axis combat aircraft. the brown line. as you can see, when we start out, the race for tunis, the allies are huge disadvantage in terms of combat aircraft. and at the kasserine battle which you see annotated down here on 19 february, toward the
11:39 pm
bottom middle of the screen, you can see that there's still a significant disparity between axis and the combined british and american or northwest africanary craft. but about the time that -- the battle that leo talked about this morning at elgatar in the middle of march you can see those lines almost start to cross. so if you ask yourself why was it that before elgatar we weren't doing so well and afterward we did much better? the ability to employ more aircraft and more successfully as the wetter starts to improve in the spring season and interdict those supply lines that are leading into tunis and eventually gain control of the skies over the battlefield. i would argue are some of the things that first off, that friedanal didn't have during his command of second corps and patton and bradley will have during their tenures in command of second corps as we get into the tunisian campaign. so what are we learning in north africa? certainly there were failures. and i think observation was probably the biggest one. this was the branch of aviation that was assigned to work very closely with the ground forces
11:40 pm
and it failed miserably. our tactical reconnaissance capabilities were nowhere close to what the british should put together in the western desert air force. and so that aspect, the ability to get photo reconnaissance down to the ground commanders. this is something we learned that we have to work on. and we do. we mentioned teddy roosevelt's son but another famous roosevelt son involved in this is colonel elliott roosevelt who is in charge. american tactical reconnaissance capabilities in north africa. he writes a detailed report and goes back and is instrumental in getting the american tactical reconnaissance establishment back on its feet. both at will rogers field out in oklahoma city. but also at key field outside of meridian, mississippi. which is where the tactical and strategic schoolhouses were respectively. and so we start to rework our doctrine and get better equipment and better aircraft. the f-5's and f-6's or the p 51's and p-38's. we test them and train alongside and it was a very excited to see in the louisiana at wore exhibit mention of the louisiana maneuver area.
11:41 pm
also in tennessee, out in california, at the california-arizona maneuver area. along the colorado river where we gradually get better at this. we realize that we got problems. we go home and refine doctrine and train to it and by the time these units that have trained here deploy in 1943 and 1944 much more capable than the units that we sent over in 1942. sometimes the lessons that you learn what you can't do but you also learn what you can do well. in this case operational air power has been vindicated. the air force doctrine at the time which is then enshrined in this document here which is field manual 120-20, deployment of air power, the air force sees very much a priority at entry scompit still true today in our tactical air doctrine. air superiority is the first requirement if we are constantly being attacked we won't be able to do nick. airlift, ground support, anything like that. second priority, becomes interdiction or what was known in the parlance of the day isolating the battlefield and cutting off the flow of resupply and equipment.
11:42 pm
those two missions absolved the -- absorbed the bulk. allied air effort in north africa. and that's part of the reason that they never get to the third one which is close or direct support of ground troops. and i think it was said this morning that there was no air support at kasserine. i would qualify that somewhat that there was no direct air support. it certainly was not the -- the troops were expecting or counting on. but there was air support in that the size of rommel's force had been limited by the sustained attacks. especially the interdiction attacks on the axis supply line. and some of the aircraft that are doing this are the ones that we see here. the a.a.f. in addition to sending the b-24 groups to the western desert, sends four b-17 groups to north africa. and ira aker in commander of the eighth air force is streaming at this diversion from the combined bomber offensive and achieve critical mass and use the aircraft to beat down germany and -- in preparation for operations
11:43 pm
there. but they render much better work in north affercafment for one thing the weather is a lot better. and the resistance is much lighter. so the air crews you may know from the memphis belle that you fly 25 missions and you get to go home. in north africa that number is 50. because if they send everybody home at 25 they would run out of air crew. they extend the guys to 50 missions. so we get twice the payback for the investment that we've made in terms of training these air crew. we also start to learn that with our p-38's and there are three groups of p-38 fighters in north africa, that when we escort missions we get much better results. one, because the guys in the airplane aren't constantly dodging or shooting back but focused on their bomb runs and targets and the p-38's performed well in this role. both of these efforts are under the command of lieutenant colonel james doolittle who everyone knows about the doolittle raid on tokyo. which earns him a medal of honor and everlasting fame. but what most people don't know is that he's part of 12th air force. and he's in charge of this north african strategic air force which is the american heavy bombers and their escort
11:44 pm
fighters. i would argue that the service that he renders there and organizing and fielding that force is equal to and importance if not greater tharn the effects that he achieved with the morale raid on tokyo. so moving forward in the time that i have remaining, the so what, the exploitation phase. one. first things in the invasion of sicily, command of the air over the mediterranean enables us to take that next step. and in 1942 we can't even run a convoy through to malta without serious losses. in 1943 we can -- massive amphibious force that's capable of deploying allied force on the ground in sicily. the -- the failed rate at palesty is something the strategic air advocates had favored. unfortunately the timing for this raid on one august 1943 comes just prior to the german evacuation of sicily and as a result of the heavy losses that we sustained in that raid, out of 177 aircraft that are launched, 54 of them are shot down. a total of over 100 planes never fly again. we really decimate -- and these
11:45 pm
are all b-24 groups. we decimate much of our heavy bomber force right at the critical time when we're trying to -- the germans are trying to evacuate sicily. but then in terms of the positives we do learn at salerno, even though we don't have a very lengthy air campaign, we finish up sicily in mid august and land in salerno in early september. which is very condensed time line. we don't get the chance to do the air prep that we would like to do. and we had almost two months between the fall of tunis and the invasion of sicily. as a result that's one of the reasons that i think that salerno is as close as we come to being sort of pushed back into the ocean. in any of our amphibious assaults of the war. so very quickly, the civilian campaign you see here. -- the sicilian campaign, and the u.s. is the junior varsity and we're out in the left flank and the eighth army the vets get the important mission. driving up the eastern coast of the island toward matheny. and patton is just supposed to be in flank support. keeping the germans off of the side of montgomery's forces and
11:46 pm
that turns into as we heard earlier very contested rivalry. patton gets to mathena first which looks like a p.r. success. but in reality, the germans have already evacuated because we have failed to block the straits of mathena and prevent two entire german divisions from making it out. and those two divisions oddly enough we'll see again at salerno. the poesty raid, they launch out of benghazi and we send five groups of b-24 to destroy a complex of refineries that are producing about a third of the german oil during this time frame. and unfortunately what we don't know is the refineries only have enough crude to run at about half capacity. and so even though we destroy 50% of the refining capacity at polesty the remaining 50% is more than enough to continue to process the same volume of crude. and it's taking out unused capability and some minor disruptions that the romanians or germans are able to ship crude elsewhere to some of the other refineries in europe. and so it unfortunately for the
11:47 pm
very high cost that we paid for that raid do not see the -- do not see the results that we would like to have seen from it. finally i'll mention the landings at salerno. and again, this is the -- there's some hard luck divisions this world war ii and god bless the texans and if you ask them they juan all the hard jobs but pitdo river and they are almost hit immediately with a heavy chournt attack from the axis forces there. just the germans at this point. the italians have dropped out. but a couple of things that saved them, one, heavy naval gunfire support. but two, there's the strategic bombers which have been working over martialing yards in rome and some of the airfields, southern france, east latoub are diverted in the strategic air power parlance to bombing the concentration areas for in german counterattack of the beachhead. so that helps. and then the airborne, that we
11:48 pm
drop again, the airborne operations in sicily had been very costly. we flew in directly over the invasion force. just after they had been attacked by a few german bombers which resulted in very heavy losses to the airborne forces. we learned at salerno we route the air routes for the transports away from the invasion fleet. they're much more accurate. because we use path finders with beacons and this is a lesson that we learned in obviously if you're familiar with as i'm sure you all are with -- in normandy. again, the ingress route for the air borns forces is to the west of the kotita flfment peninsula so it does not overfly the invasion convey that's headed toward the beaches. probably the biggest thing, most important thing, though, is once we get ashore we capture naples which is an incredible port. but also we get the airfield complex around fugia and we can stand up 15th air norse which i'm sure many of you are familiar with one of dr. ambrose's books, the wild blue, about the heavy bomber forces and 15th air force in southern italy. from there we can now strike
11:49 pm
targets in southern germany. we can hit polesti one with accurate weather. because we're now to the west of them. so we know what the weather will be over the target. but also with escorts and so there's this sustained campaign over the course of 1944 that finally reduces that 50% refining capacity down to about 10%. by the time the soviets get there. i think in august of 1944. and so that -- the taking of that airfield complex winds up being probably the strongest or most important part of the campaign. so i'll wrap up right here and again for those that don't have the advantage of seeing it on the screen at home, i'll read this for you. so my conclusion the tactical uses of air power including the use of heavy bombers to establish air superiority interdict axis supply lines and provide direct support to land and naval forces as well as the use of tactical airlift assets to support the ground campaign played a critical role in north africa. and so this is not just a sort of academic history, it's something that has continued
11:50 pm
forward not just in northwest europe and influenced our employment of air power there but even still today the lessons that we learned in north africa as i mentioned earlier the bedrock of our current tactical air doctrine. today a bit of a doctrinal renaissance afoot in -- within the defense department. many folks are talking about a thing call the multidomain battle which is an extension of the air-land battle that we saw in the 1980's that resulted in the successful operations in iraq in 1991 and operation desert storm. but i think as we come out of this long period of small wars and get back into sort of wrapping our head around large scale combat operations, the idea that concept of multidomain battle about how we can effectively integrate air, land, naval, as well as space and cyber forces in the information domain in order to facilitate american success on the battlefield, and then finally i would be remiss if i didn't have at least one mention of clause wits somewhere in the presentation. so i have to say that if you reed clause-wise he says the
11:51 pm
employment of military forces, rather than attempting to take land or capital, you want to destroy the enemy's army and once you've done that, that will provide your quickest path to victory. so an employment of air forces against fielded forces, i think lines one the master's ideas on warfare as well. i'm a bit over my allot time and i apologize for stealing your question time but i look forward to hearing your thoughts and your responses. [applause] >> thank you, chris. and the benefit of being the last speaker on the slate is that maybe those questions can go to you at the roundtable. so please raise your hand. i'll bring the microphone to you. haven't checked upstairs yet. everybody's full. [laughter] >> i covered everything or not interesting at all.
11:52 pm
one of the two. >> as an army guy, i don't think very long about the air force. i was going to say i don't think much about the air force. but that wouldn't sound right. but it's interesting. the attack into romania and the loss there, while bill donovan was directed to put the o.s.s. in yugoslavia which they weren't going to do to get the airmen back, so -- in world war ii that was probably the first episode that we've actually thought about getting air crews we do th the ccsar which on a rue toon basis. >> the o.s.s. was critical, and the germans don't publish the results and the next day on the front page of the newspaper and very difficult to find out how much damage we've inflicted. donovan had agent in the area who were filtering reports back in terms of lost capacity. what we subsequently found out
11:53 pm
is that a lot of that was german deception. german misinformation. they overemphasized the damage in hopes that the allies wouldn't return when in reality they had put the facilities back online fairly quickly. interesting how all that works. so collecting information is good. collecting accurate information is even better. o -- >> chris, all the way to your right. >> the number of missions was twice that of the eighth air force. were the casualties proportionately lower? >> absolutely, yes. it was much lighter resistance and that's part of gaining air superiority and pounding the german airfields. i have to give credit again, the combined bomber offensive is ramping up. and -- in intensity by the summer of 1943. so when you see that the -- german strength sort of flatlining, it's not that they're not having any impact on it. they are inconflicting very heavy casualties on it. i forget the exact number but wick murray has it on the luftwaffe. but ground forces it's easier to restrict the flow back in. with air forces it's very difficult. because you can send another squadron down and another one.
11:54 pm
but we do know that by the summer of 1943 the casualties on the german force were very high. which again leads to lower casualties for the allied forces. there's -- johanns steinhof, one of the commanders in sicily reports having three performance-enhance either shot out from under him or destroyed within the time span of a week just because of the very heavy raids that the d-17's are making on places like comiso and tripani and prevented him from getting his force in the air and the replacement pilots that he gets are so poorly trained by that point they can't even fly formation with him. so his force is being atrited very heavily during this time frame. >> in the very back center. >> yes, sir. >> given the problems of coordination and close air support, american air, american ground, what were the -- was the experience in trying to coordinate close air support from allied air forces? >> so that was -- the way it was set up it was the idea was that the british would support the british forces and
11:55 pm
americans would support the american forces initially. now, as the american effort sort of declined, it winds up that -- right after the kasserine battle the western desert, when rommel shows up, so does conningingham so the western desert force is integrated into the forces that had been fighting or landed with torch so the north affer cap air forces. just as doolittle is running the strategic side of that show, conningham is running the north african tactical air forces. so his organization which had very well refined capabilities, they had tentacles which they deployed with the forward units that were capable of fording requests for air support back. as that capability comes in to the forces that were already in tunisia, then it becomes -- it gets to the point where any allied aircraft can render support to any allied ground force. and so that system gets much better sofer the course of the war. but it's not there yet. and my current project, i'm actually looking at the development of tactical air doctrine and how -- how we go
11:56 pm
from this to 1944 which is i'm sure many of you know is very effective and probably best ground support we had up until desert storm. it is a long process. it takes a while for that experience, a lot of the guys that fly in north africa, as they reach their 50 missions, or whatever, they get sent home to the training establishment. and so now you start to have better instructors, more experience, more knowledge training the force up. so that helps quite a bit as well. >> i believe there was a question here in the center. right here. >> any instances in the beginning of friendly fire drops on -- >> oh, absolutely. especially if you read paul robinette was one of the most vocal critics of american tactical air support. he was one of the first units thrown forward in december as blade force sort of stalled in front of tunisia. and he wrote some scathing reports about the inability to obtain air support. for any of the british or american tactical aircraft. robin etslaw, he didn't just
11:57 pm
send those to his superiors, division commanders or to eisenhower's theater commander. wrow to george marshall directly. and if you go to the marshall papers, in lexington, this letter is still there. and he absolutely rips it apart and marshall forwards it to hap arnold in charge of this and says hap, this is something you may want to look into. and it filters back down and arnoldson theater commander to eisenhower and are you unhappy with our air support and calls robinette in there why are you doing this? a response from eisenhower we looked into this. there are issues. but robinette, while skilled, capable, combat leader, is -- he's wounded which is a big part of it. but he does not ascend to higher command. so there are certainly instances. there's a heavy bombing raid at the end of kasserine. they send the american b-man 17's out to try to find rommel's forces as they retreat through kasserine. they tool around for an hour.
11:58 pm
the weather is bad. they wind up bombing i think actually tibesa or a pass near that so entirely friendly fire. but that's not what they had trained for to find tactical forces in the field. they were used to bombing ports and bombing airfields in tunisia. in sicily and italy. so finding something out in the middle of the west dorsal was probably a little bit beyond their capability at the time. >> thank you very much, chris. chris: thank you. [applause] announcer: this sunday, on 1968, america in turmoil, the presidential election of 1968 began with eight presidential candidates. by the end the sitting president bowed out, robert kennedy was assassinated, television coverage was dominated by violent clashes between chicago police and protesters at the democratic national convention and richard nixon woo e-won a decisive victory.
11:59 pm
joining us on the program, former presidential candidate pat buchanan bs, who served under presidents nixon and reagan and also the author of the greatest comeback, how richard nixon rose from defeat to create the new majority. and barbara perry, director of presidential studies and co-director of the presidential oral history program at the university of virginia. watch 1968, america in turmoil, live sunday, at 8:30 a.m. eastern on c-span's washington journal and on american >> c-span's "washington journal" live every day with policy decisions that impact you. coming up, we'll talk about our march for lives rally and teenagers engaging in political activism with political reporter for newsy and patrick buchanan and barbara perry, presidential studies director at the miller center, will discuss the 1968 presidential campaign as part of
12:00 am
c-span's 1968 america in turmoil series. be sure to washington, d.c. journal live at 7:00 eastern sunday morning. join in the discussion. ♪ next, college professors teach a class about new york city and broadway in the 1960's, describing the political culture at the time, the relationship between broadway and off-broadway productions and how smaller theaters were often more experimental and responding to current issues such as vietnam. their class is about an hour and 10 minutes. >> hello. welcome to monday. perfectly typical day in class. >> welcome. i have prepared a little introduction to our class called


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on