Turning Point – 1943

The Air Force

Strategic Bombing Strategy

No. 6 Bomber Group, which became operational as part of Bomber Command on 1 January 1943, was certainly the best-known Canadian air formation of the Second World War. In theory, ground crews as well as flight crews were to be Canadian, but this laudable objective would never quite be achieved, especially as regards the technicians.

Aerial bombing had made its debut in the First World War. The Germans used this tactic before the Allies did, causing 1,414 civilian and military deaths and 3,500 injuries. Though these operations forced their enemies to form batteries of anti-aircraft guns equipped with powerful searchlights and special squadrons of fighters, the Germans decided that they were ineffective. On 5 June 1918 the British launched their first big bombers, which would rain 543 tons of bombs on the German cities of the Rhineland. They were after military targets, but a heavy price was paid by civilians on both sides. By 11 November 1918, Allied aerial bombing had killed 746 Germans and injured another 800.

In the 1920s and 1930s theoreticians in a number of nations predicted that the air force would be the decisive arm in the next conflict. To some degree the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August 1945 would prove them right. But neither the German experiments in Spain or over England nor the Allies' offensives against Germany using ever greater numbers of heavy bombers succeeded in persuading the enemy to stop fighting.