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11-08-2015, 19:03

The Bombing of Germany

Mussolini's fall and the surrender of Italy had a profound effect on morale. Neither event altered Germany's military power, except by delivering her of a weak and cumbersome ally. Although a few lighting divisions had been diverted from the Russian front, Russia continued to bear the brunt of the German offensive. Stalin regarded the Italian front as a mere sham and repeated his demands for a real second front. Southern Italian airfields were within bombing range of German territory. The Allies expected bombing to accomplish miracles by reducing war production and so depriving the army of equipment, weakening morale and hastening the end of the war. The bombers had progressively increased their range and their precision, while the weight and the number ofbombs dropped had been growing steadily from 48,000 tons in 1942, to 207,000 tons in 1943 to 915,000 tons in 1944. Targets were shared between the British and Americans. The British concentrated on indescriminate area bombing covering all the Reich's large cities, while the Americans attacked more specific military and economic targets. These methods seemed to work. They reduced the Reich to rubble. But much to the Allies' surprise, German arms production grew steadily up to the end of 1944. Speer, the great overseer of German munitions industries, dispersed and camouflaged factories and workshops. The bombing did paralyse thousands of anti-aircraft guns in Germany and prevented hundreds of thousands of gunners from reaching the Russian front. It brought transport to a standstill and halted the flow of raw material and arms. It spread terror and defeatism among the civil populations and among soldiers at the front, who knew that their families at home were under attack. But on its own bombing could not win the war. The gradual decline of German fighting strength had complex causes. Because the Germans had planned on a short war, their arms industry was not as modern and could not produce as large quantities as the Allies'. Hitler's decisions also weakened them. He postponed development of jet fighter planes, which might have reversed the air battles to Germany's advantage. He concentrated on bombers so as to retaliate against Britain for the bombs dropped on Germany. Rivalry between the forces - Goering's management of the Luftwaffe made it difficult to co-ordinate production. The Nazi doctrine of the woman at the hearth' prohibited employment of German women. Above all, after Russia's industry had been mobilized, the combined power of Germany's enemies was invincible, despite Germany's exploitation of European resources. Germany was defeated by numbers. Yet Hitler never gave up hope of victory. Until the very last moment, his troops fought savagely, sometimes fanatically, especially on the eastern front.