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Why didn't Germany bomb Russian war machine factories in Eastern Ural to reduce their struggles in the World War II?

 
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07/11/2019 09:43 AM
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Why didn't Germany bomb Russian war machine factories in Eastern Ural to reduce their struggles in the World War II?
Why didn't Germany bomb Russian war machine factories in Eastern Ural to reduce their struggles in the World War II?

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For two reasons: they lacked the capability, and they lacked the military intelligence.

The Luftwaffe had neglected to develop a strategic bombing force, despite a few early efforts in this direction. With a finite amount of resources, German strategic planning had concentrated on building a large number of relatively small, fast medium bombers and dive bombers instead of much more expensive heavy bombers.

This decision served them well in the first three years of the war, when the Germans quickly gained air superiority and paralysed enemy ground forces. It was not until 1943, when the British and then the American strategic bombing campaigns were well underway, that the Germans realised that their lack of four-engined bombers was a problem. Göring is said to have remarked, "Well, those 'inferior' heavy bombers of the other side are doing a wonderful job of wrecking Germany from end to end".

By the time they realised their lack, it was too late to do anything about it. Within a year (3 July 1944) Germany was forced to cancel virtually all bomber production and focus all its remaining resources on making fighters, in a futile attempt to stop the British and American strategic bombing attacks.

This meant that Germany had very few aircraft even capable of reaching the Urals, especially carrying a full bomb load. This map shows the situation in June 1942:

only the Soviet factories in the Volga region, in cities such as Stalingrad, Saratov, Gorky and Kuibyshev, were in range of the Heinkel He 111H or Junkers Ju 88A, which were the two primary German bombers in 1942. (Yellow circles on the map.) The Urals were completely out of range. Perhaps worse, the standard German fighter, the Messerschmitt Bf 109G, could not escort the bombers even as far as the River Volga. (Green circles = fighter range). The bombers would be on their own against the Red Air Force.

Germany did have plans for a four-engined strategic bomber similar to the British Lancaster or American B-17: the Heinkel He 177 'Grief'. This had been ordered way back in 1936 by the then Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe, Walther Wever. However, Wever was killed in a plane crash, and his successor Albert Kesselring did not see the value of such large, expensive aircraft. He convinced Göring — who was nominally in charge of the Luftwaffe but paid little attention to the details of running it — that you could buy two twin-engined bombers for the price of one four-engined aircraft. Göring agreed with his argument, supposedly by commenting "The Führer will never ask me how big our bombers are, but how many we have."

Plans for two other strategic bombers, the Junkers Ju 89 and Dornier Do 19, were promptly cancelled on Kesselring's orders. The Heinkel He 177 project was allowed to continue, but only on the condition that the manufacturer develop the aircraft into a dive bomber instead!

Ernst Heinkel is said to have reacted to this demand with incredulity. Nevertheless, it took a braver man than him to tell the Nazi leadership 'no'. If the Luftwaffe wanted a four-engined heavy dive bomber, then a four-engined heavy dive bomber it would receive.

Unsurprisingly, the many challenges and difficulties of this project meant that it was the end of 1942 before the Heinkel He 177 was ready for series production — more than six years after the design began and too late for either the Battle of Britain or the first two years of the invasion of Russia. Göring himself eventually realised the idiocy of the dive-bombing requirement and cancelled it, but too late to affect the project,

Only one Luftwaffe bomber wing, KG-1, was ever equipped with more than a handful of the He 177: they operated about 70 of them from 1943 onwards. Compared to the thousand-bomber raids that the RAF was launching against German cities by this date, the effect of the He 177 was negligible. They did launch a few strategic bombing raids against the Soviets — hitting railway junctions and a synthetic rubber plant — but the effect was a mere pinprick.

The second point is the lack of military intelligence. The Germans woefully underestimated the Soviet Union's military and industrial strength. They held their opponents in contempt on both racial and ideological grounds (the Soviets were both Slavic subhumans and Communists), and did not believe them capable of producing effective military hardware in large quantities.

Two months after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa they believed they'd destroyed the entire Red Army, and all that was left was to mop up. When Stalin managed to produce a second Red Army, even bigger than the first, apparently out of nowhere this came as a huge and horrible shock to them. They didn't know where he was getting an apparently endless supply of tanks, guns and aircraft: the existence of the factories behind the Urals was a mystery to them.





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