The Germans have been criticized for not using strategic bombing against Soviet factories, oil fields, etc. to suppress Soviet weapons production.

On the other hand, it is hard to argue with the Germans' battlefield success (given the relative numbers of troops, tanks, artillery etc.), much of which was due to tactical bombing.

Given this fact, and the fact that German plane production didn't reach its peak until 1943-44, did the Germans have enough bombers to spare for strategic bombing in 1941-1942? Or are there any military historians who suggest that Germany would have been better off spending more bombers for strategic bombing, even at the expense of the battlefield successes they did enjoy?

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    Compared with British and US planes (e.g. B17) one could argue that the Germans never had a strategic bomber.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 25, 2016 at 13:53
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    So apparently, Germany didn't "prioritize" this Well, they had a few prototypes, including "Amerika Bomber" project. So "didn't prioritize" seems not correct. Rather "failed to do".
    – Matt
    Apr 25, 2016 at 14:31
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    Remember that the US B29 program cost roughly as much as the Manhatten project. Germany did not have the industrial resources to do either of them.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 25, 2016 at 14:33
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    @JonCuster: Your comments basically answer my question. Why not put them into an answer so I can upvote, and possibly accept them.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 25, 2016 at 14:35
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    @Mustang: That is a good comment that approximates my thoughts. Why don't you make it into an answer that I'd likely upvote, and possibly accept?
    – Tom Au
    Apr 27, 2016 at 13:40

3 Answers 3



Churchill in 1941:

I argued in 1940 that we should continue the war and that one of the reasons should be because we have this instrument - Bomber Command.

Bombing was really the only way the Western Allies could attack Germany until mid 1944, so that is what they did. Even in 1945, the Allied controlled ports were operating at max capacity and it was much easier to invest in bombing than building up port capacity to move more troops into Europe. Also, by then the war was practically over, the occupation zones were agreed on, and the Allies preferred air power over land warfare given political pressure for lower casualties.

The USSR and Germany had a land border with good supply lines and as a result they had no need for relatively ineffective tactics like strategic bombing.


Germany did not have strategic bombers (in the sense of this word that was used in Britain and US): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_World_War_II_military_aircraft_of_Germany

Strategic bombing of Soviet union was never attempted. In 1941-42 the Soviets managed to move most of their industry from the West of the country to the regions in the East, where they were not accessible by bombers of that time.

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    I don't think "beyond" is a good word here.
    – Anixx
    Apr 25, 2016 at 14:31
  • Should be noted that Luftwaffe did attack on the "nearby" industrial targets, such as Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Saratov etc. Not all factories were moved to the East.
    – Matt
    Apr 25, 2016 at 19:20
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    @Matt: yes. But this cannot be called a "strategic bombing", in the sense as this was understood on the Western front. When they tried to take a city, they bombed it, of course.
    – Alex
    Apr 25, 2016 at 21:21
  • @Anixx: you are right, I corrected.
    – Alex
    Apr 25, 2016 at 21:22
  • When they tried to take a city, they bombed it, of course Germans never tried to take Nizhniy Novgorod. They only bombed factories there.
    – Matt
    Apr 25, 2016 at 21:31

Although one could consider the Blitz to be strategic bombing, the fact remains that the bombers used by Germany were mainly two-engine aircraft with smaller bomb payloads (He-111 carried 2000kg, a B-17 2700kg, the B-24 3600kg, and the B-29 9000kg). Next, compared with the Allies, the Germans produced many fewer. Wiki gives about 6500 He-111, vs 19500 B-24s and 12000 B-17s. In addition, the British produced large numbers of 4-engine bombers. The B-29 program, coming later in the war, only produced a little less than 4000 units. On the British side, the Lancaster (more than 7000 built with 5000+kg load) and the Halifax (more than 6000, with 5900kg load) each exceeded the number and bomb capacity of German 'equivalents'.

Given the circumstances of the war, with Germany primarily involved in land-based operations on the continent, they prioritized aircraft in support of army operations. After the fall of France, the only way for the British and the Americans (once they entered) to attack Germany was with the heavy bombers. To do so, they produced a huge number of the bombers and then the fighters to support the bombers and eliminate the Luftwaffe as a fighting force.

Furthermore, Germany did not have the production capability to make heavy bombers in addition to everything else they needed. A review of the Wiki page on heavy bombers shows any number of proposals, but few models reached operations, and almost none as actual bombers, and none in any quantity approaching that of US and British models. Even at the height of the Blitz, the Germans were sending several hundreds of 2-engine bombers, while in 1944/5 the US and British routinely managed 1000+ heavy bomber raids.

As an indication of the financial costs of heavy bombers, the entire B-29 project cost on the same order as the Manhattan Project. Germany did not have the ability to do either one of them, unless they didn't do much of anything else.

  • 2
    This question would benefit from sources.
    – MCW
    Apr 26, 2016 at 19:20

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