Bomblets: Facts From The Air War Over Germany

In the fall of 1943, specially equipped Luftwaffe fighters began firing air to air rockets at American bomber formations. This was the first time air to air rockets were used in combat.

A German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter is being loaded with a Werfer-Granate 21 air-to-air rocket.

In 1943, the Luftwaffe inflicted an average monthly loss rate of 34% on the heavy bombers of the the US 8th Air Force. Without the constant stream of replacement crews and aircraft the 8th received, it would have been destroyed in any given three month period of 1943.

While they inflicted heavy losses on the Americans, Luftwaffe Fighter Command lost an average of 45% of their operational strength each month of 1943. While German industry replaced the planes, Luftwaffe pilot training units could not produce enough skilled replacement pilots.

Because of fuel shortages, the Luftwaffe cut out critical components in pilot training, one of those components being how to fly in bad weather. On 13 November 1943, German Fighter Command lost 19 fighters to icing. Several weeks later, on 29 November 1943, the Germans lost over 30 fighters to icing.

American fighter pilots and bomber pilots received far more extensive training in bad weather flying. After losing so many aircraft to weather related causes, German fighters stayed on the ground when the Americans bombers attacked on days of heavy fog.

By late 1943, German fighter pilots went into combat with 160 hours of training in the air against 360 hours in the air for RAF fighter pilots and over 400 hours in the air for American fighter pilots.

Source of above facts: To Command the Sky: the Battle for Air Superiority Over Germany, 1942-1944 by Stephen L McFarland and Wesley Phillips Newton (3 stars). This is an outstanding book and I would give it four stars except it was published in 1991 and a lot of information has come to light or been declassified in the 20 years since the book was published. Still, it is a very solid and well researched book and was published by the Smithsonian Institution Press.

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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