Monday, August 10, 2015


The Zoo Flak Tower

Target indicators falling over Berlin during a raid on the city

Berlin city strike photo 

The 'Battles' of Bomber Command were not fought out between two sets of formed adversaries as in conventional combat. It is true that the Luftwaffe tried to engage the bombers and wear down their strength, but more than nine out of every ten bombers usually reached the target area unscathed, and it was here that the true battle was fought, between the tonnage of bombs dropped and the target city itself. The true German 'side' in the Battle of Berlin were the city's air-raid organization and civil administration, the resilience of its public services and of its industrial and commercial firms and, above all, the spirit and will-power of the civilian population. 

Berlin as it stood awaiting the bombers in August 1943. 

It was huge, being not only the capital and largest city in Germany, but the third largest city in the world, with an area covering nearly 900 square miles and a pre-war population of more than four million of the tough stock of local inhabitants. Now, in 1943, it was the administrative centre not only of Germany but of the new empire that had been carved out of Europe by conquest. Those massive government departments alone would have been a sufficient attraction for the R. A. F. interest, but Berlin's war factories and its rail and canal communications, standing halfway between the Western and Eastern Fronts, made it both a major arsenal and the hub of Germany's interior lines of communication. The 'big five' in war industry terms were the Alkett factory at Spandau, which produced large numbers of self-propelled guns and half of the Wehrmacht's field artillery; the Borsigwerke, making locomotives, rolling stock and heavy artillery; the D. W. M. and D. I. W. combines, both producing large quantities of small arms, mortars and ammunition; and Siemens, the huge electrical firm not only located in its self-contained 'Siemensstadt', a huge area packed with various factories, but with other plants all over Berlin. A selection of some of the other well-known names of firms with premises in Berlin confirms the obvious importance of the city to Germany's war effort: at least ten A. E. G. factories, the Arguswerke where V-i engines were built, a B. M. W. and two Daimler-Benz motor factories, two Henschel and one Dornier aircraft factories, a Mauser weapons factory, three Rheinmetall and three Telefunken factories, V. K. F. ball-bearings, Zeiss cameras. Most of this had been hardly touched by the war so far. When Britain rearmed in the mid-1930s a bomber force was planned with the range to reach Berlin. But the first attack was delayed for nearly a year, initially by the general bombing restraint which held until the German offensive in the West in May 1940, and then by the R. A. F.'s preoccupation with the Battle of France and the home invasion threat. The first raid was carried out by about fifty Wellingtons and Hampdens on the night of 25/26 August 1940, in retaliation for a raid on London the previous night. It was a disappointing raid. Strong head winds, thick cloud and the navigation problems which were to hamper the bomber crews for much of the war resulted in only a handful of aircraft reaching the Berlin area to drop a few bombs in the countryside south of the city. But Bomber Command persisted for more than a year. The records for that period do not make it clear exactly how many sorties were dispatched to Berlin, but possibly a thousand aircraft attempted to bomb the city between August 1940 and November 1941. At least sixty-two bombers were lost in these operations. The climax came on the night of 7/8 November 1941, when 169 aircraft were dispatched to Berlin, despite a poor weather forecast. Twenty-one of these did not return. It was the culmination of a disappointing period and the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, Air Marshal Sir Richard Peirse, departed. 

When Sir Arthur Harris took over early in 1942, he ignored Berlin for the whole of that year, preferring to build up the strength of his force carefully and to experiment with new tactics against easier targets. Then, in early 1943, came a series of five raids, with 1,415 four-engined aircraft sorties being sent to Berlin. These raids produced moderate results; various residential areas were damaged and about 650 Berliners were killed. By no more than chance, all of these raids hit only the southern districts of Berlin; the administrative centre and the industrial areas which were mainly in the north were hardly touched. Now, in August 1943, after the shorter nights of summer, Harris was ready to start with his main effort against the German capital. The tonnage of bombs he would be able to deliver to Berlin in the coming winter would be more than fifteen times greater than the tonnage dropped in all of the preceding years of the war.

German historians stress how the slow expansion of the British bomber effort over the early years of the war enabled the German authorities to develop both the armed defences of their cities and the local air-raid services without ever being overwhelmed - at least, not until the recent disaster at Hamburg. Berlin, with its gradual introduction to the experience of being bombed and with the priorities afforded to a capital city, was particularly well prepared to meet the coming test. 

The preparations received an urgent boost from the experiences of Hamburg three weeks earlier. Evacuation of children before then had been a voluntary matter; the result had not been effective, and many of the children sent away in the early days later returned. But after Hamburg, Goebbels, who besides being Minister of Propaganda was also Gauleiter of Berlin, ordered that all children and young mothers were to leave the city. Entire schools, children and teachers together, went off to the east, out of range of the British bombers. The school buildings thus emptied would become valuable emergency hospitals and collecting centres for the people bombed out of their homes in the coming raids. Because of the pressure on the railways, this mass evacuation was not complete by the time the first R. A. F. raids came, but it continued with even more urgency after the first series of raids and would be complete before the Battle of Berlin was resumed in November. A total of 790,000 women and children left, an exodus which saved many lives and reduced the pressure on Berlin's services during the main battle. This was in direct contrast to the recent Hamburg experience, when the children of that city had figured prominently in the huge death toll. 

Berlin was and still is a city of flats (apartments to Americans), vast numbers of four-, five- or six-storeyed blocks filling street after street, and it would be in these flats and in their basements and courtyards that the outcome of the battle would be decided. The life of Hamburg had been temporarily stopped because its housing had been destroyed by fire. In those August days, the people of Berlin worked hard to learn the lessons of Hamburg and make their homes as fireproof as possible. Each family in a block had a partitioned section of the building's attic; now, all belongings had to be removed from these, and the Todt Organisation then came and ripped down the partitioned walls of the attics to enable incendiary bombs to be reached. Fresh supplies were added to the sand and water which every family was obliged to have in their flat and corridor. Berlin was particularly well equipped with air-raid shelters. As in London, the underground railway stations- in Berlin the U-Bahn - provided deep and safe shelter for thousands of people. But the Berliners had an advantage over the people of London ; every block of flats had a large basement area and these became sturdy air-raid shelters for the families upstairs. No German city dweller of the war years will forget the countless hours spent with their neighbours in those basement shelters. To avoid being trapped in a shelter by rubble-blocked exits, holes were knocked through the walls separating each basement. These holes were then re-covered, to preserve the privacy of each shelter, but only with a thin layer of easily removable bricks. In this way, the people in a threatened shelter could move from one basement to another, the whole length of a street if necessary, to find an unblocked exit. 

Again, comparison can be made with both London and Hamburg. Berlin was a more modern city, the streets of its residential districts were wider, with more room for an incendiary-bomb attack to waste itself and less chance of the rubble blocking the streets to fire-engines or of fire leaping from one side of the street to the other. 

There were more open spaces. There were no streets of the flimsy terraced houses which had suffered so badly from high explosive bombs in the London 'Blitz', and the Berlin blocks of flats were acknowledged to be of sounder construction than those in Hamburg which had burnt so fiercely in the Firestorm. Then there were the Flak and the searchlights - the armed defence of the city. Berlin was known to all Bomber Command men as 'the Big City' because of the extent of that defence. Flying Officer R. E. Luke, of 426 Squadron, was a bomb aimer who had to fly over Berlin.

The murmur which swept through the briefing room when the target map of Berlin was revealed paid tribute to the severity of the defences, which, particularly on a cloudless night, struck fear into the hearts of those crews ordered to attack it. It seemed to us that only the best German personnel were posted to defend the city. An enormous cone of searchlights ringed the city, which could be seen a long way off, and it did not seem possible to breach them. In all our thirty-three operations we encountered no target more heavily defended than Berlin. 

Flight Lieutenant R. B. Leigh was another bomb aimer, in 156 Squadron.
Lying in the nose of a Lancaster on a visual bomb run over Berlin was probably the most frightening experience of my lifetime. Approaching the target, the city appeared to be surrounded by rings of searchlights, and the Flak was always intense. The run-up seemed endless, the minutes of flying 'straight and level' seemed like hours and every second I expected to be blown to pieces. I sweated with fear, and the perspiration seemed to freeze on my body. 

A Bomber Command map of the period shows that the Flak area around Berlin measured forty miles across, and the searchlight belt around it was sixty miles wide! Certainly no other target in Germany was better defended than Berlin, though some Bomber Command men say that the Ruhr defences were of comparable strength. 

Some aspects of the Berlin defences are of particular interest. The Flak defences had been installed early in the war, with an outer and an inner ring of guns. When the R. A. F. started to use a 'bomber stream' this system was no longer suitable, and the guns now operated under combined control and simply filled various ordered sections of the sky with a box barrage, although bombers which arrived early, stragglers or those caught in searchlights could still be engaged by aimed fire. The main feature of the old inner ring of guns was twenty-four massive 128-millimetre guns mounted in pairs on three Flak towers built in parks in the Zoo, Friedrichshain and Humboldthain districts. These guns had been developed by the local Borsigwerke factory. The eight guns on each tower could fire a salvo every ninety seconds, to a maximum ceiling of 45,000 feet (14,800 metres) and, when the eight shells exploded in the planned pattern, they had a lethal zone of 260 yards (240 metres) across. The gun platform crews on the towers were all trained German soldiers, unlike most German Flak batteries which had many pressed Russian prisoners and German schoolboys in their crews; the only Russians were down in the basement ammunition chambers, loading the shell hoists. Many of the gunners on the towers were from a Hamburg unit with much to avenge. 

The construction of the towers themselves, by the Todt Organisation on plans by Speer, had commenced as early as 1940. Hitler wished to show the people of Berlin and of the world that the city was 'Fortress Berlin' which would survive the war and last for ever. Hamburg and Vienna were the only other places to be blessed with such massive edifices. The Flak towers in Berlin were to be the first buildings of the proposed post-war remodelled city named Germania which would replace old Berlin. The towers had thick concrete walls, steel windows, air-conditioning and an independent Daimler-Benz generating plant six metres underground. All had a hospital floor, and the Zoo tower had one level in which the most valuable of Berlin's art treasures were stored. The local residents were, at first, not happy to see their parks disfigured in this way but they were later to be well pleased when certain levels in the towers were thrown open to the public as air-raid shelters. The Humboldthain tower had passages leading to the nearby Gesundbrunnen Station, one of the deepest of the U-Bahn system. Up to 21,000 people at a time would take shelter in the combined tower and U-Bahn during the coming winter. 

Another interesting aspect of Berlin's anti-bomber defences is the extent of the decoy methods employed. Decoy fire sites were a feature of every German city, but Berlin is believed to have had fifteen such sites, including one particularly large one at Staaken, on the western approaches to the city, which was based on the sets of a prewar film studio. One wartime schoolboy Flakhilfer asked about the wartime rumour that one night several bombers separated from the main stream and dropped some wooden bombs on the Staaken decoy site! 

There was another, more serious 'decoy' story I was told in Berlin that I had not encountered before. The Germans realized that the lakes around Berlin were an important aid to the British H2S radar operators. Consideration was given during the summer of 1943 to covering over these lakes to prevent their distinctive radar reflections being used by the bombers. This was not possible because of the amount of material required, but the Germans did produce large numbers of timbered floats, each in a cruciform shape about five metres across, which were moored at about 300-yard intervals, certainly on the Tegeler See and probably on the Havel too. These two large lakes were on the westerly route into Berlin. The effectiveness of these floats - called Tripel- Spiegel- is not known, but they may have contributed to the difficulties encountered by the Pathfinders in establishing their positions on the marking runs into Berlin that winter. 

So Berlin - with its tough population of mainly Prussian stock, its great war factories and government buildings, its stoutly constructed housing, its gradual introduction to the bombing war, its well established fire and air-raid services, its Flak towers and underground shelters, its powerful gun and searchlight defences, its range of decoy devices - Berlin awaited the arrival of the bombers.

The greatest prize - Berlin

A typical Lancaster bomb load during the Berlin attacks comprised high-explosive bombs, including a 4,000lb `cookie' and incendiaries. 

Nicknamed the `Big City' by the crews of Bomber Command, the German capital was one of the most feared of targets. Berlin was a formidable prospect: it meant the heaviest of defences and a long flight over enemy-occupied territory. 

Almost 600 miles from London, early in the war Berlin was close to the maximum range of the then available bomber aircraft types. Nonetheless, the first RAF raid was mounted at the height of the Battle of Britain on the night of August 25, 1940, when 95 aircraft were dispatched. Five more `ops' were flown over the next two weeks and others followed over the next year. But difficulties in navigating accurately led to the small loads dropped being widely dispersed and after November 1941 Berlin was not attacked again until January 16/17, 1943. 

The arrival of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris as C-in-C in 1942 reinvigorated Bomber Command as it steadily increased in size and effectiveness. New tactics evolved, such as the `bomber stream', and new navigation and targeting aids meant that by early 1943 Harris was ready for what he described as his main offensive. 

This campaign was to last a year and feature a series of `battles'; the concept being to repeatedly concentrate the `Main Force' against a particular objective until it was deemed to have been destroyed. The principal, and most effective, weapon for the campaign was the superb Avro Lancaster.

Throughout the spring of 1943, the industrial heartland of the Ruhr valley was the target for the first of the epic set-piece, followed by a brief assault on Hamburg that destroyed much of the port city.
From the outset it was established that for cogent tactical reasons, as well as those imposed by the weather, none of these battles would exclusively focus on the capital. A resolute campaign against Berlin would have allowed the enemy to concentrate defences, so route variations, tactical feints and new devices were introduced to outwit the Germans.

But the defenders were very adaptable. The RAF's introduction of `Window', which disrupted radar pictures, led to the development of new and highly effective tactics: single-engined Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) fighters flew over the target to acquire bombers visually - followed later by long-range radar-equipped Sahne Sau (Tame Boar) nightfighters. Both were to reap a grim harvest through the coming winter. Before the campaign began there were several precursory attacks in the late summer of 1943. The first was on the night of August 23/24 when 710 bombers were launched on the heaviest Berlin raid to date. 

On the night of November 18/19, Harris opened the Battle of Berlin proper, with the first of a series of 16 attacks. So as to disguise the primary purpose, smaller raids on other targets were mounted to split the enemy defences, often flown by the more vulnerable Stirlings and Merlin-engined Halifaxes.
As expected, Berlin's highly co-ordinated defences inflicted heavy losses on the bombers. To keep the Germans guessing, at times dummy raids were staged on Berlin when other cities were the main target. Leipzig was twice the centre of Bomber Command's attention, requiring very long transits and exposing the Lancasters to unremitting high risk. 

Approach and egress routes to the `Big City' became more complex as the campaign evolved. Streaming via Denmark, with lots of course changes en route to the target was adopted as a tactic. Longer legs via the Baltic, providing a route to Berlin from the north, also added an element of surprise. The flight path home was also changed on a sortie-to-sortie basis. 

The Battle of Berlin witnessed the advent of Schrage Musik, deadly upward-firing cannon mounted in the upper fuselage of night-fighters. This enabled the defending fighter force to approach bombers from below, with fires on the ground and searchlights illuminating their quarry. On the bombers, front and rear gunners scanning the skies for fighters would have their vision blurred by looking down on the light sources. 

The final raid of the Battle of Berlin came on March 30/31, a `maximum effort' against Nuremberg, a diversionary strike to keep the Luftwaffe guessing. A total of 96 aircraft fell, Bomber Command's worst night of the war. Despite immense courage and unimaginable hardship and sacrifice by the men of Bomber Command, the assault on the `Big City' ended in operational failure that some historians have described as being not just a defeat, but a disaster.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Heavy Bomber in Air Support

GIs look up at American bombers on their way to bomb German lines at the onset of Operation Cobra.

Once ashore at Normandy, the Allies experienced a serious setback from the terrain. Farmers' fields were bordered by thick hedgerows, a bocage that proved a natural boon to German defenders, affording them cover while forcing the Allies to follow predictable paths of advance around it. One of the most difficult problems of hedgerow fighting was preventing tanks from riding up over the hedge and exposing their vulnerable undersides to antitank fire. The solution was disarmingly simple. An inventive sergeant fitted "tusks" to the prow of a tank, which pinned the tank to the hedge and held it in place as the engine punched it through in a shower of dirt. This "absurdly simple" device (in Bradley's words) freed the Army's armored forces for a fast-moving mobile breakout across France.

Any breakout from the lodgement area would require the insightful and creative use of air power, including bomber aircraft such as the American B-17 and B-24 and the British Halifax and Lancaster operating in a troop-support role. Altogether there were six major raids by heavy bombers in support of breakout operations in Normandy. The first of these involved 457 Halifax and Lancaster bombers from RAF Bomber Command on July 7, in support of Montgomery's assault on Caen. The second was an even larger raid by 1,676 heavy bombers and 343 light and medium bombers on July 18. On the 25th, American bombers of the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces struck at Saint-Lo, preparatory to the First Army's breakout. A fourth attack on the 30th supported the Second British Army south of Caumont. Then an Anglo-American raid on August 7-8 supported the attack of the First Canadian Army toward Falaise from Caen, and the sixth raid, again supporting the attack on Falaise, followed on August 14.

Overall, the Allied high command considered these raids successful, and German soldiers caught in them testified to their devastating (if short-lived) impact upon morale. Field Marshal Hans von Kluge, Rommel's successor, complained that bomb-carpets buried equipment, bogged down armored units, and shattered the morale of troops. Unfortunately, the terrain disruption worked both ways: it hindered the attacker as much as the defender, and, in fact, bought the Germans time to regain some composure and dig in for the follow-on attack. If such air attacks were to be useful, they had to be followed immediately by a follow-on ground assault. When this occurred, Allied ground troops found German defenders dazed and prone to surrender.

The Price of Victory
Unfortunately, heavy bomber missions could cause serious problems. The first two strikes on Caen resulted in numerous "collateral" casualties to French civilians. Sometimes friendly troops were victims of misplaced bomb strikes. In the Normandy campaign, as in other campaigns, air and land forces had to get used to working together. Bradley remarked after the war that "we went into France almost totally untrained in air-ground cooperation." It is difficult to accept this statement at face value because the air and ground forces worked together with an unprecedented harmony. Nevertheless, in the very early stages of Normandy some "disconnects" did occur between the air and land communities. Friendly troops experienced attacks from Allied fighter-bombers. To minimize this danger, air and ground commanders arranged for friendly forces to pull back in anticipation of an air strike against German positions. But if communication failed and the strike did not come off, troops found themselves fighting twice for the same piece of real estate as German forces moved back into the gap. Soon commanders learned to follow-up air strikes with artillery barrages so that friendly infantry and armor forces could close with the demoralized enemy before he recovered and redeployed. Within six weeks after the Normandy landing, air and land forces were so confident of working together that fighter-bombers routinely operated as close as 300 yards to American forces. This was not true, unfortunately, of strategic bomber operations, as the strikes of late July and August clearly indicated.

The most publicized example of the difficulties of operating heavy and medium bombers in support of ground forces came during the preparatory bombardment for Operation Cobra, the breakthrough attack at Saint-Lo that led to the breakout across France. The Cobra strikes killed slightly over 100 GIs and wounded about 500. Without a doubt, the strikes were badly executed, and serious command errors were made. The first came on July 24, a cloudy day, when Cobra had been initially set for launch. A postponement order reached the Eighth Air Force Commander, Lt. Gen. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, too late: the Eighth's bombers were already airborne. Most crews wisely refrained from bombing due to weather and returned to base. Some found conditions acceptable and did drop. Friendly casualties occurred in three instances. When another plane in the formation was destroyed by flak, a bombardier accidentally toggled his bomb load on an Allied airstrip, damaging planes and equipment. A lead bombardier experienced "difficulty with the bomb release mechanism" and part of his load dropped, causing eleven other bombardiers to drop, thinking they were over the target. Finally, a formation of five medium bombers from the Ninth Air Force dropped seven miles north of the target, amid the 30th Infantry Division. This latter strike inflicted the heaviest casualties-25 killed and 131 wounded-on the first day that Cobra was attempted.

The next day, in better weather, there were three more friendly bombings, all by B-24s. First, a lead bombardier failed to synchronize his bombsight properly, so that when he dropped-and eleven other bombers dropped on his signal-a total of 470 100-lb high explosive bombs fell behind the lines. Then a lead bombardier failed to properly identify the target and took the easy way outbombing on the flashes of preceding bombs. A total of 352 260-lb fragmentation bombs fell in friendly lines. In the third case, a command pilot overrode his bombardier and dropped on previous bomb flashes; previous bombs had been off target but within a safe "withdrawal" zone. The pilot's bombs fell within friendly territory.

All of the above errors were incidental to the real causes of the tragic bombings-the restricted size of the bomb zone and confusion over whether the air attack would be flown perpendicular or parallel to the front lines. The Army wanted a parallel attack so that short bombs would not land in friendly territory. (Actually, this approach would not guarantee an absence of friendly casualties.) The AAF, concerned about the run-in to the target and enemy antiaircraft fire, preferred to fly a perpendicular approach. AAF bomber commanders also recognized that the "heavies" were not as precise as the fighter-bombers. They asked Bradley to keep friendly troops at least 3,000 yards from the bomb line; Bradley compromised on a minimal distance of 1,200 yards, with a preceding fighter bomber attack to cover the next 250 yards so that, in fact, the heavy and medium bombers would strike no closer than 1,450 yards-a distance a heavy bomber would cover in approximately fifteen seconds. A distinct aiming point and a split-second precise drop were thus critical.

Despite Bradley's later claims that the AAF was enthusiastic over the strikes, evidence indicates that the strategic bomber people were anything but enthusiastic. In general, the strategic bomber commanders-British as well as American-believed that any diversion from their strategic air campaign against the Nazi heartland weakened their effort. The AAF leadership also had strong feelings- communicated directly to Eisenhower-that the Cobra bombings were questionable because they would involve the dropping of a large quantity of bombs in the shortest possible span of time in a restricted bombing zone. However, the AAF was overruled and the operation went forward. 

Whenever American bombers executed a perpendicular run, Bradley alleged that it violated a previous decision. After the short bombings of July 24, Bradley had ordered an immediate investigation of why the strike group had flown a perpendicular course. The AAF replied that such a course had been previously agreed upon, and ground forces had been informed. Shortly before his death, in his autobiography, A General's Life, Bradley charged that the "Air Force brass simply lied," though earlier writings had been far more temperate. One wonders whether this bold statement merely reflected the hardening of age.

In any case, Bradley reluctantly concurred with AAF plans for another attack on July 25 (though he has stated he did so because he was over an "impossible barrel"). During this series of strikes occurred the most sensational casualty of Cobra. Lt. Gen. Leslie J. McNair, former Commander of Army Ground Forces and currently the "commander" of the fictional "1st Army Group," was killed in his foxhole by a direct bomb hit as he waited to observe the follow-up ground attack. McNair's death and the other friendly casualties infuriated the ground forces, perhaps in part because they remembered the general's vociferous criticism of the air support organization in 1942-43. Strangely, the tragedy seems not to have harmed ground-air relations at higher command levels. Though Bradley has stated that Eisenhower informed him that strategic bombers should no longer be used to support ground forces, this is not evident from Eisenhower's written comments. In fact, American "heavies" continued to be used in troop support missions, notably in the German winter offensive. Eisenhower's comments after Cobra's bombing were far less critical than might have been expected: 

The closeness of air support given in this operation, thanks to our recent experiences, was such as we should never have dared to attempt a year before. We had indeed made enormous strides forward in this respect, and from the two Caen operations [the strikes of July 8 and 18] we had learnt the need for a quicker ground follow-up on the conclusion of the bombing, for the avoidance of cratering and for attacks upon a wider range of targets to the rear and on the flanks of the main bombardment area. Our technique, however, was still not yet perfected, and some of our bombs fell short, causing casualties to our own men. Unfortunately, perfection in the employment of comparatively new tactics, such as this close-support carpet bombing, is attainable only through the process of trial and error, and these regrettable losses were part of the inevitable price of experience [emphasis added]. 

Though the preparatory bombing was tinged with faulty planning, sloppy execution, and bad luck, Operation Cobra itself was a masterful operation. We will probably never know precisely who was responsible for the short bombings. Certainly, the AAF was not entirely to blame. John J. Sullivan's incisive examination of the Cobra operation rightly concluded that there was no duplicity on the part of the AAF (much less "lies"), and that, in fact, the AAF had been most reluctant to undertake the operation at all. The ground commanders did not take adequate precautions to protect their troops, and thus, Sullivan concluded, Bradley and his fellow ground commanders bore "full responsibility" for the bombing casualties to exposed troops. Yet, in fairness, the airmen must share some responsibility-from Tedder and Leigh-Mallory, who did not supervise the operation as thoroughly as they should have, to the individual aircrews who botched their runs.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, one must temper criticism of the Cobra strikes with an appreciation for the losses on the ground during the bitter hedgerow fighting and the effect of the bombing on the German forces. The relatively minor casualties incurred by friendly bombing and the bombing's unqualified success in shattering German resistance (even Bradley was forced to admit that Cobra "had struck a more deadly blow than any of us dared imagine") illustrate how petty the uproar surrounding the bombings really was. Unfortunately, in the postwar folklore of air-land operations, too often the short bombing is the only aspect of Cobra that gets attention. Thus, it is refreshing to read Eisenhower's reasonable, mature, and admirable judgment quoted above. The European Theater commander never lost sight of the most important result: the Cobra bombing devastated German forces and paved the way for the breakthrough that would trigger the breakout and roll back the Wehrmacht to the German homeland itself.