The strategic air campaign over Germany by 8th US Air Force and "Bomber Harris" for the RAF has elicited decidedly mixed opinions. Depending on who you listen to it was a noble effort or it was a waste.

Allied airmen losses were horrendous, German civilian deaths massive and German industrial output actually rose (albeit probably due to the rationalization efforts of Todt and Speer).

At the same time, it is true that, after Dieppe, the alternatives of a true second front in continental Europe were limited, so that bombing was probably one of the few way to strike at Germany.

However, we also know that the Luftwaffe gradually lost its air superiority on the Eastern Front which made Germany's situation there ever more untenable.

Is there any study that quantifies how much of a Westward shift of German fighters happened from early Barbarossa to say late 43, once Allied bombing really got underway? Were the Allied raids a major cause to the gradual weakening of the East Front Luftwaffe?

Please, I am not asking about the losses suffered by Luftwaffe transports during Stalingrad. This is about losing control of the skies, i.e. weakening ME109/FW190 availability over Russia because of transfer to protect Germany.

Edit: it's not specifically about moving planes around, East to West. Allocation of replacement planes and pilots, even fuel allocation, if shortages resulted in less Luftwaffe activity in the East. In a roundabout way, even prioritization of design and production of bomber-destroying aircraft, like the ME163, would have affected the East front.

Basically, how many Luftwaffe resources, defined broadly, do we see used to protect Germany, as opposed to used elsewhere, the most important other location being beating the Red Army on the ground and in the air?

  • Regarding the aviation, Kursk battle is considered the turning point when the Germans have lost the air superiority and never regained that. Unfortunately I cannot provide a link where is this said. So take this with a grain of salt.
    – Zmur
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 7:52
  • The issue probably isn't transfer of fighters from the East to the West so much as where the allocation of new fighters went. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 10:04
  • @JohnColeman And newly trained pilots. Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 12:42
  • Interestingly enough, percentage of fighters dropped early in 1943 (from above 40% to above 20% ) but remained such throughout rest of the war . West was reinforced more from Mediterranean and Scandinavia then from the East : ww2.dk/Dan%20Zamansky%20-%20The%20Study.pdf
    – rs.29
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 18:56
  • Also, fighter losses in the East were fairly steady throughout the war, but increased in the West . allworldwars.com/…
    – rs.29
    Commented Apr 21, 2021 at 19:00

1 Answer 1


There were two key effects of the strategic bombing campaign for the composition and deployment of the Luftwaffe. The first was the shift in production to emphasise fighters for defence, with a resultant decrease in bomber production (in March 1943 962 fighters and 757 bombers were produced; in December 1944 it was 2,630 fighters and 262 bombers), and thus reduction in offensive capability. The second was the shift of units to defend Germany. In the first half of 1943 45% of the Luftwaffe was on the Eastern Front, 33% was on the Western Front and/or defending Germany, 21% was in the Mediterranean. As the Combined Bomber Offensive started in earnest, by the end of 1943 54% of the Luftwaffe was on the Western Front and/or defending Germany; by the end of the following year it was 67%. The distribution of fighters was even more skewed, in the second half of 1944 less than one fifth of German fighters were on the Eastern Front.

Anti-aircraft defences also absorbed massive totals of personnel and weapons that could otherwise have been employed on the front; 889,000 personnel operating 14,400 heavy and 42,000 light guns, consuming one-fifth of all ammunition, half the production of the electronics industry, and one-third of optical equipment.

Figures are from Phillips Payson O'Brien's How The War Was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II and Richard Overy's The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945.

  • en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luftwaffenhelfer gives a considerably higher count for auxiliary air defence personnel alone (i.e. personnel that could not have been employed on the front). Is your number only for male personnel with an age above 18 years?
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 10:51
  • @Jan The figure of 889,000 was from Overy, though it may be on the low side; Germany and the Second World War Volume VII gives a total of 1,110,700 in August 1944 broken down as: 662,000 troops; 221,890 RAD-Flak, Luftwaffe auxiliaries, and Heimatflak; 128,710 female flak auxiliaries; 92,000 foreign personnel including Russian PoWs
    – JimCooke
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:18
  • 1
    I think the wp article has mislead me a bit. Together with your numbers it seems that those 660000 were indeed soldiers who could have been sent to the front instead. The respective German wp article also has lower numbers for Flakhelfer.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:42
  • 1
    Interesting, and not wholly surprising, that the bulk of this effect came to pass after the Red Army recovered the air initiative on the East Front at Stalingrad/Kursk. Still, seems like it certainly did much to keep the Germans from committing everything they could in the East. Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 20:10
  • The first effect is limited because the FW-190 wasa fighter bomber by design, so a Luftwaffe unit equipped with FW-190 could either fight on the RUssian front by attacking ground targets and intercepting Sturmoviks, or fight on the Western front against American fighters or bombers Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 19:30

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