This study of the Luftwaffe’s attempts to defeat the Allied strategic bombing campaign is based around a series of interviews with the key Luftwaffe leaders carried out by British and American experts in 1945-46, in the immediate aftermath of the war. Most of the interviewees were thus POWs at the time of the interviews and had no access to their documents, but the interviews were also carried out while events were still fresh in their minds, and before their stories began to change in the post-war years. The resulting interviews were thus more honest that some later writings, if not always entirely accurate.
The interviewees include many of the most famous of the Luftwaffe leaders - Galland and Kammhuber amongst others, so give us the view from close to the top. Most come across as fairly honest, especially as most of the topics are fairly technical, reducing the potential for distortions. However there is a tendency to pass the blame up the tree - Hitler is blamed for insisting that the Luftwaffe should try and defend against every raid at once, and Goering for just about any intervention! On occasions these criticisms do seem valid, in particular when the skilled ground controllers were taken away to serve in the Luftwaffe infantry divisions, but they also provide a convenient pair of scapegoats. Messerschmitt’s views on the Me 262 are probably the least convincing, with his claim that it could have been ready for combat as early as 1942 convincingly disproved since the war.
It is interesting to see the contemporary German view of the effectiveness of the British bombing campaign. Here it emerges as developing into a dangerous threat to the German war effort, in contrast to many modern accounts which focus more on its failings. The scale of the defensive efforts put in place across Germany demonstrate how seriously they took the threat, as do the many mentions to aircraft or technology not being available because of the bombing. There is also interesting material on the failings on the Allied side and what they could have done to be more effective. Some of these aren’t terribly realistic - one written wondered why the British didn’t fly higher and faster, something that would have required newer aircraft and an even more massive industrial effort, but comments about the lack of guns underneath British bombers or the tendency of British gunners not to open fire soon enough are more valid.
This is a very valuable primary source for anyone interested in the Allied bombing campaigns of the Second World War, giving us a vivid window into the defensive efforts that took such a toll of Allied bombers and how it was overcome.
Part One: The defence of the Reich
1 - Reich Air Defense in World War II: A Strategical-Tactical Survey, Generalmajor Hans-Detlof Herhuth von Rohden, August 1946
2 - The Overall Defense of the Reich: 1940-1944 (January), Generaloberst Hubert Weise
3 - Development of Nightfighting: July 1940-15 September 1943, General der Flieger Josef Kammhuber
Part Two: A Battle of Increasing Numbers and Technology
4 -Technical and Communications Equipment used in the Reich's Defense, Generalmajor Hans-Detlof Herhuth von Rohden
5 - German Nightfighting: From 15 June 1943 to May 1945, Generalleutnant Josef 'Beppo' Schmid
6 - German Dayfighting in the Defense of the Reich: 15 September 1943 to the End of the War, Generalleutnant Josef 'Beppo' Schmid
Part Three: Developing Technology to Defend the Reich
7 - Fighter Control: Interrogation of Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, 15 October 1945
8 - Luftwaffe Radars: Interrogation of General der Flieger Wolfgang Martini, 10 October 1945
9 - Luftwaffe Radars and Radios: Interrogation of OKL Staff
10 - The Me-262: Development, Experience, Success, and Prospects, Dr Willi Messerschmitt
Part Four: Applying the Technology: Operations and Tactics
11 - Commanding the Nightfighters: Interrogation of General de Flieger Josef Kammhuber, 4, 22, 28 August 1945
12 - Nightfighter Control, Major Heinrich Ruppel
13 - Nightfighter Direction: Interrogation of Major G.S. Sandmann, 16 August 1945
14 - Nightfighter Operations: Interrogation of Major G.S. Sandmann, 1 August 1945
15 - Nightfighter Tactics: Interrogation of Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (and two NJG 4 Gruppenkommandeure), 21 May 1945
16 - Nightfighter Tactics (NJG 6), Major Josef Scholls
17 - Nightfighter Missions: Interrogation of Major Josef Scholls, 16 August 1945
18 - Fighting the P-61: Interrogation of Major Heinrich Ruppel
Part Five: Summing Up
19 - Looking Back, Generalmajor Hans-Detlof Herhuth von Rohden
Editor: David C. Isby
Year: 2016 edition of 2003 original