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The Bombing of Auschwitz Re-Examined Author(s): James H. Kitchens Source: The Journal of Militar y

The Bombing of Auschwitz Re-Examined Author(s): James H. Kitchens Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 58, No. 2 (Apr., 1994), pp. 233-266 Published by: Society for Military History

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The BombingofAuschwitzRe-examined


James H. Kitchens III

ONE ofthemostcurious-evenbizarre-legaciesoftheHolocaustis

the question of whetherthe Allies could, and should, have used theirair powerto destroythegas chambersand crematoriaat Auschwitz and the rail net feedingthem. For a decade or so, it has been argued that the camp's location and layout were well known and that the

installationsand railsvitalto itsoperations could

have been easily and

precisely neutralized fromthe air, had not insensitivity,indifference,

and even antipathypreventedit. Critics,on the otherhand, argue that aerialbombingofAuschwitzor itsvitalrailroadswas technicallyinfeasible and militarilychimerical. So wherein the cross firedoes the truthlie? Thoughthepastcannot be changed,theansweris consequential because thealleged failureto act inculpates theAllies' highcommands, govern- ments, and even peoples in collective guiltforthe deaths of innocent millions.Professionalhistorians,too,have a stakein theanswer,because dissection of the bombing problem reveals unsettlingdeficiencies in the investigation,determination,and assignation of this culpability. Indeed, fewdialogues in modern historiographyhave been so charged withsubjectivityand so encumbered by irrelevancies;fewhave suffered so much fromintellectualinsularityand fromineffectivecolloquy. The followingcomments explore the genesis of the bombing idea and its seminal expressions,identifyitspremises,and demonstratethatoper- ational constraintsratherthan prejudice preventedAllied authorities frombombing Auschwitz. The initial inspiration for bombing of concentration camps or railroads to counter the Holocaust may be traced to early summer 1944, when the dimensions and importofHitler's"Final Solution" first began to be appreciated in the West.1 In mid-May 1944, the Slovak

1. Itis,ofcourse,truethatinformationabouttheannihilationofEuropeanJews began toseep outofEuropebyvariouschannelsduring1941-42. Thisinformation,

TheJournalofMilitaryHistory58 (April1994): 233-66

? SocietyforMilitaryllistory




OrthodoxrabbiDov Weissmandel,horrifiedbytheincipientdeportation ofhundreds ofthousands of Hungarian Jewsto Auschwitz,begged the Allies to block the movementby bombing the Kosice-Presovrail line.2 Sent surreptitiouslyfromBratislavato Switzerlandand thence to Jewish leaders in New York, Weissmandel's message reached the U.S. War RefugeeBoard on 18 June. On 2 JuneYitzakGruenbaum, Chairman of the Rescue Committee of the JewishAgency, independentlysent an analogous suggestion to the War Refugee Board.3 Later in June, the World JewishCongress in Switzerlandproposed that "The camps at Auschwitzand Birkenau and especially the buildings containing the

gas-chambersand crematoriums,

railingsand the watch-towersand the industrialinstallationsshould be bombed from the air."4 Despite explicit first-handdescriptions of Auschwitz'shorrorsreceived later in the summer,however,the Allies turneda deaf ear to pleas foraerial intervention.In late June 1944, the U.S. War Department rejected the Kosice-Presovrailbombing plea on the grounds thatitwas impractical and would require diversionoftoo

manyessentialresources;in August,theBritishAirMinistryalso refused aerial rescue operations, citing poor intelligence, hazards and high casualties,and dubious results.5Thus,no German concentrationcamps weredeliberatelyattackedfromtheairbeforewar'send, and no discern- ible effortswere made to single out deportation railroads forspecial attacks.

however,was quite fragmented,was transmittedorally,and usuallycould not be substantiatedby documents,photographs,signalsintercepts,or othermeans of conventionalmilitaryintelligence.As WalterLaqueur perceptivelypointsout,the credibilityof German mass murderat thistime was also seriouslyimpairedby public recollectionof how German atrocityreportsfromWorldWarI had been debunked duringthe 1920s and 30s. Laqueur, The TerribleSecret (New York:

Little,Brownand Company,1980).

as well as the sentriesaround the

2. The Kosice-Presovline was a key north-southsegment of track leading

northwardout of HungaryoverwhichJewsdeportedfromBudapestto Auschwitz mostlikelywouldhave traveled.Kosice layin northernHungary,whilePresovlay almostdue northin Slovakia.Fora map oftheHungarianand Slovakianrailnets pertinentto theWeissmandelmessage,one shouldsee MartinGilbert,Auschwitz and theAllies(New York:HenryHoltand Company,1981), 247.

3. See Gilbert,Auschwitz and theAllies,209, 216-17, 219-20, 236-37, 245.

Because Gilberttreatedthebombingidea as but one elementin the unveilingof Auschwitz'shorrors,his narrationof its initialdevelopmentis somewhatdiscon- tinuous.Despitethecomplexitiesofnarration,however,Auschwitzand theAllies remains the most thoroughaccount of the originsof the bombing idea and its receptionduringtheWorldWarII period.

4. Ibid.,246.

5. David S. Wyman,The Abandonment of the Jews (New York:Pantheon

Books,1984), 292; BernardWasserstein,Britain and theJews ofEurope, 1939-

1945 (Oxford,England:ClarendonPress,1979), 308-20; Gilbert,Auschwitzand

theAllies,299-3 11.





Following the war,whateverquestions theremay have been about Alliedinaction long lay inchoate,in partbecause ofpopular satisfaction withvictory,in part because of document classification,and in part because even those who had urgedbombing duringWorldWar II had recognized it as a desperate, symbolic gesture at best.6 At the same time,however,the Holocaust's dimensionsnot onlybecame fullyknown but increasinglybecame the focus of conscience-wrenching inquiry. This inquirydid not alwaysproduce satisfaction,especially wherecaus- ation and responsibilitywere concerned. Withinthiscontext,the pos- sibilitythatair powercould have saved thousandsofinnocent livesmay occasionally have made cocktail chitchatduringthelate 1940s and the 1950s, but it remained nothingmore than gristforcasual speculation untila school ofcollective guiltbegan to emerge in the late 1960s. The new tilttowardsglobal responsibilityforNazi atrocitieswas signaled by ArthurD. Morse's While Six Million Died (1968), whichasserted that American authoritieshad been apatheticbystandersto the Holocaust.7 Eightyearslater,historianJohnMortonBlumadopted a moretemperate, dispassionate, and scholarly version of this theme in his V Was for


Against thisbackdrop, in May 1978 David S. Wyman,professorof historyat the Universityof Massachusetts,published a startlingarticle entitled "WhyAuschwitzwas Never Bombed" in the American Jewish Committee'smagazine Commentary.9The titletoldall: Wymanproposed to disclose how the camp could have been bombed but was not. Two months later several letterspro and con turned up in the Julyissue, thus ignitinga controversywhich spread to other periodicals in the ensuing months. Some ofthese commentatorswent even furtherthan

6. On 1 July1944, Leon Kubowitzki,head of the Rescue Departmentof the

WorldJewishCongress,wrotetotheU.S. WarRefugeeBoardto oppose proposalsto bomb Auschwitz.Anybombingwould,Kubowitzkithought,itselfkillJewsheld in thecamp and wouldofferan opportunityforthe Germansto make a propaganda advantageofsuch deaths.Gilbert,Auschwitzand theAllies,256, citingletterof1 July1944, WarRefugeeBoard,Box 33, MeasuresDirectedTowardsHaltingPerse-

cutions,F: HungaryNo. 5.

7. ArthurD. Morse,WhileSix MillionDied: A ChronicleofAmericanApathy

(New York:Random House, 1968). See especiallyMorse'sremarkson 383. Morse didnotintroducethebombingissue,nordidhe inculpateAlliedmilitaryauthorities in responsibilityfortheGermangenocide.

8. John Morton Blum, V Was for Victory:Politics and American Culture

During WorldWarII (New York:HarcourtBraceJovanovich,1976), 172-81.

9. DavidS. Wyman,"WhyAuschwitzWasNeverBombed,"Commentary65 (May

1978): 37-49. The articlewasunannotated,butat theend theauthorprovideda list

ofprincipalarchivalsourcesconsulted.In a follow-onletterpublishedin theJuly 1978 issue, Wyman offeredto furnisha fullset of footnotesin exchange for photocopycostsand a self-addressed,stampedenvelope.





Wyman. For example, Roger Williams'sarticle "WhyWasn'tAuschwitz Bombed?" in the24 November1978 issueofCommonweal was subtitled "An American Moral Tragedy,"which phrase epitomized its theme.10 Williams,thenSenior EditorofSaturday Review,wrotethat"AtAusch- witzalone, almost halfa million Jewsdied afterthe U.S. had acquired the abilityto preventtheirdeaths there" and that,since the inmates

were doomed

symbolic reasons."11 For the next fiveyears the issue bubbled like the

mud pots of Yellowstone, percolating but not quite eruptinginto the national arena. In 1981, for example, Martin Gilbert presented his

Auschwitz and theAllies,a sober and professionalessaywhichcarefully chronicledAlliedintelligenceaboutAuschwitzbutwhichalso uncritically deduced that the camp could, and should, have been bombed.12 Two years later,the American Gatheringof JewishHolocaust Survivorsin

Washington,D.C., prompted Morton Mintz to again ask

ington Post, "WhyDidn't We Bomb Auschwitz?"13 Despite spasmodic publicity in the early eighties, the bombing question really did not catch the public eye until late 1984, when Wymanincorporateda refinedand annotatedversionofhisCommentary article into a weightymonograph titled The Abandonment of the Jews.14 Here Wyman argued that during World War II the U.S. had neglectedseveralpotentialrescue measuressuchas earlierestablishment ofthe War RefugeeBoard; greaterpressureon Germanyto release the

Jews; a freerrefugee policy in the U.S. and abroad; support for a Palestinian homeland; concentrated broadcast warnings;and offersof ransom. The failureto energeticallypursue such measures amounted to deliberate and callous abandonment oftheJews.15 In ChapterXV,"The BombingofAuschwitz,"Wymanintegratedthe camp and railroad bombing question into his largerthesisby positing

anyway,"the bombing should have been done forlarger

in the Wash-

10. RogerM. Williams,"WhyWasn'tAuschwitzBombed?An AmericanMoral

Tragedy,"Commonweal 105 (24 November1978): 746-5 1.

11. Ibid.,750.

12. See, forexample,Gilbert'ssurprisingconclusionon 341 thatin thesummer

of 1944, "theAmericangovernmentpossessed a greatdeal ofinformationabout Auschwitz,includingbothitslocationand itsfunction,togetherwiththetechnical

abilityto bombboththerailway linesleading to thecamp and thegas chambers in thecamp itself' [italicsmine].

13. MortonMintz,"WhyDidn't We Bomb Auschwitz?"WashingtonPost, 17

April1983, D-1,D-2.AlanBrinkley,"MinisterWithoutPortfolio,"Harper's,February

1983, 31-46, is a miniaturebiographyof John Jay McCloy,influentialspecial assistantto SecretaryofWarHenryStimson,whichincludesa lengthypassage on McCloyand the Holocaust.

14. NewYork:PantheonBooks,1984.

15. The authorsummarizedtwelvepotentialrescuemeasuresundertheheading "WhatMightHave Been Done," 331-34.





that the Allies had contributed to the Holocaust's toll by refusingto smashtheNazi genocide apparatusat Auschwitzfromtheair.Essentially, the nineteen-page chapter was a footnoted version of the author's earlier Commentaryarticle.As earlyas April1944, Wymanpostulated, theAllieshad aerialphotographsoftheAuschwitz-Birkenauconcentration camp, and additional evidence became available duringMay and June throughthe detailed report of two escapees, RudolfVrba and Alfred Wetzler.16When combined, these sources supposedly made clear the exact location, number, and dimensions of the camp's gas chambers and crematoria. Despite this intelligence,American bombing of the nearbyI. G. Farben worksat Monowitz,17and therepeated entreatiesof European and American Jewishleaders to attack the facilitiesand the railroads feedingthem,however,the U.S. War Departmentand British authoritiesdid nothing.Accordingto Wyman,American heavybomber flightsover the camp, Frantic shuttlemissions to Russia,18and relief missionsto Warsawdemonstratedthatheavybomber attackson Ausch- witz were eminently feasible withoutdiversion of militaryresources; even ifnot,he reasoned, B-25 medium bombers, P-38 fighter-bombers, or BritishD.H.98 Mosquitos could have performedthe mission. Yet in June 1944 the U.S. WarDepartmentdeclared such attackswould be an impracticaldiversion:

The WarDepartmentis ofthe opinionthatthesuggestedair operationisimpracticableforthereasonthatitcouldbe executed onlyby diversionofconsiderableair supportessentialto the

successofourforcesnowengagedin decisiveoperations

is consideredthatthemosteffectivereliefto victimsofenemy


16. The Vrba-Wetzlerreporthas been publishedin fullin David S. Wyman,ed.,

Americaand theHolocaust (NewYork:GarlandPublishing,1990),vol.12,Bombing Auschwitz and theEscapees'Report, Document 1: "The ExterminationCamps of Auschwitz(Oswiecim) and Birkenauin UpperSilesia,"3-44.

17. The I. G. Farbenworksat Monowitzwereapproximatelytwoand one-half

mileseast ofAuschwitztownand about threeto fourmileseast oftheAuschwitzII

orBirkenauconcentrationcamp. The Monowitzfactorycomplexproducedsynthetic oil and rubberand became the object of repeated Allied bombing duringthe summerof1944. Monowitzhad a separateslavelaborcamp attachedwhichwasnot partoftheAuschwitz-Birkenaufacility.

18. Franticwas the cover name givento long-rangeUSAAFstrategicbomber

operationswhichused Russianbases at Poltava,Mirgorod,and Piryatin,all east of Kiev,as stagingpoints. Underthe Franticplan, bomberswhichnormallywould have bombed theirobjectivesand returnedto bases in England or Italywould

insteadland in Russia,wheretheywouldreceiveordnance,fuel,and maintenance. Itwas notenvisionedthattheseFranticbases wouldbecome permanenthomesfor heavybombergroupsor theirfighterescorts.The firstFifteenthAirForce Frantic missionwas carriedout on 2 June 1944; D-Day in France delayed the firstsuch EighthAir Force operationuntil21 June.Franticmissionscontinuedthroughout thesummerof1944 butwereeventuallydiscontinuedforvariousreasons.





persecutionis theearlydefeatoftheAxis,an undertakingto whichwemustdevoteeveryresourceat ourdisposal.19

This no-bomb policy permittedthe killingat Auschwitzto continue unhindered,costingtens,even hundreds,ofthousandsoflivesuntilthe camp ceased operations late in 1944. The author had, it appeared, amply documented these points in eightychapter footnotesand sup- portedthemwithappropriatebibliographicreferences. TheAbandonment oftheJews receivedconsiderable attentionand

wide acclamation

On 6 November and again on 24 December, the New York Times

published plausive articles about Wyman and his research,and

December A. J. Sherman favorablyreviewed Abandonment forthe paper's book review supplement. Perhaps boosted by this publicity, Abandonment made theNew YorkTimes Book Review's "BestSellers" list on 17 March 1985 and on fourensuing dates, risingto number thirteenof fifteennonfictiontitleson 31 March.20Subsequent reviews

were almost universallypositive,21the HistoryBook Club later made it

one of its monthly selections, and it was released edition. Total sales ran to over eightythousand. In

became everythingthatan academic could dream of. Largely because of its scholarlytrappingsand popular reception, but also in part because of its spectacular inferences,Wyman'sthesis quicklygained a broad following.In fact,a veritableschool ofopinion predicated on his views and nurturedby brooding retrospectionhas arisen since 1984. Thus entrenched, Wyman himselfhas shown no inclination to revisehis thinkingon the subject, as his finalwords on the bombing of Auschwitzin Macmillan's 1990 Encyclopedia of the Holocaust indicate. The U.S. War Department'sJune 1944 refusalto bomb Auschwitz was, he concludes, "no more than an excuse for inaction." 22 Today thisconviction is widespreadand has been incorpo-

followingitsrelease by Pantheon in November1984.

on 16

in a paperback short, the book

19. Wyman,TheAbandonmentoftheJews,292, quotingO.P.D. D/F (Hull to

C.A.D.), 26 June1944, NationalArchivesRG 165(1).

20. See New YorkTimes,4 November1984, C13, and 24 December 1984, 11;

New YorkTimesBook Review, 16 December 1984, 1, 16; 17 March1985, 42; 24

March1985, 38; 31 March1985, 34; 7 April1985, 22; 28 April1985, 36.

21. In additionto theNew YorkTimesBook Review,16 December1984,1, 16,

see reviewsin Library Journal, 1 October 1984, 1848; Nation, 15 December 1984, 656-57; Commentary72 (April1985): 70-75; AmericanHistoricalReview 90 (December 1985): 1294-95; Choice 22 (April1985): 1220; JournalofAmerican History72 (June1985): 186-87.

22. The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (New York:Macmillan, 1990), s.v.

"Auschwitz,Bombing of" by David S. Wyman. One should also see Wyman's defenseofhispreviousassertionsin a letterto the WashingtonPost,21 April1990,


238 *



rated into several recent Holocaust histories.23The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council subscribesto it-Wyman has servedas advisorto the group24and in mid-April1990, just when the issue was again being debated in lettersto the WashingtonPost,a pseudo-judicialproceeding in Israel foundthe USAAFguiltyoffailureto save thousandsofinnocent livesby not bombing the death camps.25 As early as 1978, however,Wyman'sbombing thesisexcited some challenges. A fewweeksafterpublication oftheprofessor'sinitialCom- mentary article, Milton Groban, a formerFifteenthAir Force B-24 navigator-bombardier,26wrote the magazine to point out why gross inaccuracy made using heavybombers against Auschwitzimpractical withoutenormouscasualtieswithinthecamp. Moreover,Grobanasserted, bombing the facilitywould have been verycostlyin men and machines and mightonlyhave distracted,but not significantlyimpaired,theNazi killing.Viewing the matteronly fromhis own combat experiences in B-24s, Groban did not comment on sending medium, light,or dive bombers against Auschwitz,nor did he elucidate the requirementfor, and costs of,a systematicanti-campand railcampaign.27

23. For example, Leni Yahlilwritesin The Holocaust: The Fate ofEuropean

Jewry,1932-1945 (New York:OxfordUniversityPress,1990), 639, that"Research has shownthatthe refusalof the Americanand Britishair forcesto bomb these

installations [Auschwitz and Birkenaujstemmedfromtheirdisinclinationto be

involvedwithrescue actions per se." For her two-pagepassage


"No Bombingof

Auschwitz-Birkenau,"Yahlil's footnotes20, 21, 22, and 23, 638-39, cite

Wyman'sCh. XV fromAbandonmentoftheJewsand Gilbert,Auschwitzand the

Allies.See also Michael R. Marrus,The Holocaust in History(London: University PressofNewEngland,1987), 193-94, and MichaelBerenbaum,AfterTragedyand

Triumph: Essays in Modern Jewish Thought and the

(Cambridge,England:CambridgeUniversityPress,1990), 9, 82.

American Experience

24. See ExecutiveDirectorSara J.Bloomfield'sletterto the WashingtonPost,

24 March 1990, A19, whereshe statesthat"the UnitedStatesand itsallies, fully

aware ofthe murderfactoriesin Poland, failedto act and even declined to bomb the death camps, though the knowledgeand the opportunityexisted" litalics mine]. The DirectoryofAmerican Scholars (New York:R. R. BowkerCo., 1982), vol. 1: History,"Wyman,David S.," 847, liststheauthoras a special advisorto the Council.

25. New YorkTribune,23 April1990, 1.

26. Equipped witha mixofB-17FlyingFortresses,B-24 Liberators,and escort

fighters,the FifteenthAirForce made up the USAAF'sstrategicbombingforcein the MediterraneanTheaterof Operationsafterthespringof 1944. By May it was operatingseveralhundredheavybombersand fightersfroma complex of bases aroundFoggiaon theeasterncoast ofsouthernItaly.Thoughslightlyyoungeras an

organization,the FifteenthAirForce grewto become comparable in size,

power,and effectivenesswiththe USAAF'sEighthAirForce whichoperatedout of



27. The letteris in Commentary65 (July1978): 10-11.





Afterthe initialexchanges in Commentaryfaded,furthercriticism oftheWymanthesiswas muted untilafterpublicationof The Abandon- ment of the Jews in 1984. Even then the rigorousreviewprocess that oftensievesouterrorsin historiographyfailedClio'scause whenacademic specializations and disciplinaryinsularityamong reviewerspermitted marked deficiencies in Chapter XV to slip throughwithoutnotice. On one hand, mostreviewersofAbandonment wereschooled in refugeeor religioushistoryor Holocaust studies and apparentlyknewlittleabout air power;28 on the other hand, none of the country's handful of

professionalair power historiansseem to have noticed the book or to

have publicly critiqued its camp bombing thesis. Thus

Holocaust studies communityand thatofair power historypassed like ships in the night,and thus it was leftto Richard Foregger,M.D., a Minnesota anesthesiologistand amateur historian,to become the first

to systematicallycontrovertWyman's propositions. The physician's "The Bombing of Auschwitz,"a well-documentedthirteen-pagearticle in the Summer 1987 issue of Aerospace Historian, refutedmost of Wyman's assertions about camp and rail bombing.29This quarterly,

however,was published by the Air Force HistoricalFoundation, which

to some mayhave tainteditsobjectivity.Itwas also somethingless than

a formal academic forum,and it had a readership of less than five thousand,mostlyaviationenthusiasts.Despite Foregger'sevidentscholar- ship and critical thinking,therefore,there is no evidence that his rebuttal penetrated the Holocaust studies community; if it did, it prompted no perceptible responses fromthat community in either Aerospace Historian or the national press30and has not been cited in

it was that the

28. RichardS. Levy,reviewerforCommentary,was an associate professorof

historyat theUniversityofChicagoand a specialistinanti-Semitism,Jewishhistory,

immigrationhistory,and Holocauststudies;Leonard Dinnerstein,reviewerforthe Journal ofAmericanHistory,was professorofhistoryat theUniversityofArizona and a specialist in American Jewishhistory;Jonathan D. Sarna, reviewerfor LibraryJournal,wasan assistantprofessorofhistoryat HebrewUnionCollegeand

a specialist in AmericanJewishhistory;B. Kraut,reviewerfor Choice, was an

associate professorofJudaica at the Universityof Cincinnatiand a specialistin modernJewishhistoryand modernJudaism.See DirectoryofAmericanScholars,

vol. 1, History,passim.

29. Richard Foregger,"The Bombing of Auschwitz,"Aerospace Historian

34 (Summer 1987): 98-110.

30. Two commentarieson Foregger'sarticledid subsequentlyappear in Aero-

space Historian,butneithercame fromtheHolocauststudiescommunityor from academichistorians.Bothincludeda numberofdigressionsfromthebasic questions and neitheradded anythingsubstantiveto thebasic Wyman-Foreggerdialogue.See RobertH. Hodges,"'The BombingofAuschwitz':A Clarification,"and MichaelG. Moskow,"'The BombingofAuschwitz':A Reply,"inAerospaceHistorian35 (Summer 1988): 123-26, 127-29.






many,ifany, post-1987 Holocaust histories.Since 1978, therefore,the Wymanthesishas remained formanya convincing explanation ofwhy theAllies did littleor nothingto derail the Holocaust fromthe air.

As conceivedbyWymanand adopted byGilbertand otherhistorians, then,thecamp-bombingpropositionoriginatedin thegrovesofacademe, and a critical analysis of it properlybegins with its chief disciple's perspective and sources. A member of the Society of Friends and a 1966 graduateofHarvard,Wymanjoined theUniversityofMassachusetts historyfacultyin the same year. In 1968 his doctoral dissertationwas publishedas Paper Walls:America and theRefugeeCrisis, 1938-1941,

a studyofthe UnitedStates'sprewarJewishimmigrationpolicies.31This essay explored the nation's prewar attitude towardsJewishrefugees, findingit was shaped by unemployment,nativisticnationalism,32and antisemitism,factorswhichfoundexpressionin executiveand legislative policy such as limitedimmigrationquotas. Wyman's second book, The Abandonment of the Jews, built on theseperspectives,themes,and conclusions and extendedthemthrough the WorldWar II period. In particular,Wymancarriedforwardhis view that public policy, presumably fashioned and driven by democratic process, was responsible forabandonment of the Jewsbetween 1941 and 1945. He neglected, however,a crucial differencebetween the prewarera of Paper Walls and that ofAbandonment: a state of total warnot oftheAllies' choosing. Priorto 1941, thoughwarwas clearlyon the horizon, the U.S. was ostensiblyneutral;American diplomatic and publicpolicyoptionswereunfetteredbyoverthostilities.AfterDecember 1941, America had to focuson mobilization ofher wealth,manpower, allies, and world opinion in a global struggleto bring down the Axis powers. Her shipping,forexample, was stretchedto the limitto meet theneeds ofwar;herforeignpolicyhad to takeintoaccount theposture oftheArab worldvis-'a-visany Zionistsettlementsin Palestine.In such a setting, ultimate victorydepended almost exclusivelyon mustering, thenapplying,bruteforcetobreaktheHitlerianregime;militaryoptions forrescuing large numbersofNazi victimsfromfortressEurope before its fallwere severelycircumscribed. Given the irrationalcharacter of Nazism, its intransigence,and the occupation of most of Europe until aftermid-1944, air power assumed overwhelmingimportance in any effectiveconstructforsalvationoftheJews.Airpower,afterall, was the

31. Amherst,Mass.: UniversityofMassachusettsPress,1968.

32. Wymandefined"nativisticnationalism"as an attitudeheldbypatrioticand

veterans'groupswhichreflectedpridein "100 percentAmericanism,"a sentiment whichhe thoughtmanifesteda certainanti-alienism.Manynativisticnationalists soughtto limitimmigration,ifnotto deportaliens,as deleteriousto theAmerican bodypolitic.





sole means ofprojectingmilitarypowerdeep intotheenemy'sheartland.

For these reasons, the camp-bombing question is highlygermane to Wyman'soverall thesis.Yet it is exactlyhere in the realm ofair power, farfromprewarmores, immigrationquotas, socioeconomic attitudes, public debate, or legislativemandate thatthe public policy perspective carried over fromPaper Walls dramaticallychanges character. Not surprisingly,Wyman based Abandonment largelyon ethnic and socio-political sources and personal papers, and considering the criticalityof the bombing question to the book's thesis,its air power bibliographyis astonishinglyanemic. Of fivebooks on air power,two are elderlyUSAAF and RAF officialhistories,the firstthirtyyears old, the second twentyyears old in 1981.33 The age factoris particularly significantin such sources because over time the declassification of documents makes them obsolete; one instance of this is mentioned below in connection withtheAZON bomb. Ofotherbooks cited, one is a buff'sbook,34one an examination of the Poltava affair,35and one a

1963 melange ofunannotatedarticlesand extractsabout diverseaspects

ofthe European airwar.36Not a singlereferenceto theB-17,B-24,B-25, or P-38 is listed, even though the combat capabilities and tactical employment of these machines are quintessential to the bombing dialectic.37Wyman'sremarksabout the D.H.98 Mosquito are scarcely better supported,restingon nothingbut Birtles'spictorial history-a farcry fromBowyerand Sharp's definitive494-page treatmentof the machine38-and on one apparentlymisunderstoodletterfroman RAF

33. WesleyFrankCravenand James Lea Cate, eds., The ArmyAir Forces in

World War II, vol. 3, Europe: ARGUMENT to V-E Day, January 1944 to May

1945 (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1951); Charles Websterand Noble

Frankland,The Strategic Air OffensiveAgainst Germany, 1939-1945, vol. 3 (London: HMSO, 1961).


PhilipBirtles,Mosquito: A Pictorial HistoryoftheDH98 (London: Jane's,



Glenn Infield,The Poltava Affair(New York:Macmillan PublishingCo.



James F. Sunderman,ed.,

World War II in the Air: Europe (New York:


37. Sunderman'sWorldWarII in theAir:Europe containselementarytables

of USAAFaircraftcharacteristicsin an appendix. These tables,however,are far

fromadequate forassessingtheaircraftinquestion.No information,forexample,is presentedabout theB-25Jmodels whichequipped theUSAAF'sTwelfthAirForce squadronsin theMediterraneanTheaterin 1944.

38. C. MartinSharp and MichaelJ. F. Bowyer,Mosquito (London: Faber and

Faber,1967). AlthougholderthanBirtles'sbook,Mosquitoisa muchmoredetailed and informativeworkcontainingtwenty-threeappendices and a detailedtextwith importantdata not foundin Birtles.Michael J. F. Bowyer's2 Group R.AF.: A

CompleteHistory,1936-1945 (London: Faberand Faber,1974), also could have enlightenedWymanaboutspecial Mosquitooperationsanalogous tocamp attacks,

242 *



Air Historical Branch archivist.Some tangible consequences of this faultydocumentation of the Mosquito willbe seen shortly.Abandon- ment'sbibliographyincludes nothingon German air defenses,nor are any works on Ploesti raids listed, even though FifteenthAir Force experiences against this targetusefullyilluminate the camp-bombing problem. Finally,not a single article entryout of fifty-eightseems to

relateto aircraft,airpower,air leaders,or air operationsper se, although twoessays do address aerial photo intelligenceabout Auschwitz.Often unpublishedworks,none treatair power; oftwenty-fourpamphletsand booklets,just one, the FifteenthAirForce's Historical Summary: First Year of Operations (1944) documents thatAir Force's operations.39 Primarysources are even weaker. The bibliography,forexample, simplyliststhe USAF HistoricalResearch Center as an institution,and nothingindicates whichofthe facility'sfileswereactuallyexamined. In fact,there is stronginferentialevidence that the author never visited

the Center, or that ifhe did, dozens of entries in

overlookedor ignored.40Nowheredoes one findcitationsto theCenter's vast holding oforiginal unithistories,intelligencereports,operational

analyses, bombing accuracy studies,airfieldfiles,and orders ofbattle thatare criticalto analyzingthecamp-bombingproblem.41The Center's 250-rollmicrofilmcollectionofMediterraneanAlliedAirForce (MAAF)42

its findingaids were

and PhilipJ. R. Moyes'sBomber Squadrons ofthe R.A.F.,new edition(London:

Macdonald and Jane's, 1976), could have furnishedorder of battle data about Mosquitounits,but neitheris cited.

39. There are also indicationsthatthe writerselectivelyused the sources he

does cite:theRAFBomberCommand's 17 April1942 operationagainsttheM.A.N. diesel engineworksat Augsburg,forexample,had manysimilaritiesto one model

of assault on Auschwitzand is describedat lengthin Websterand Frankland's officialhistory,yetitis notnotedin Abandonment.

40. Most,butnotall,oftheUSAFHistoricalResearchCenter'sfilesare duplicated

on 16mm microfilmat the OfficeofAirForce History,BollingAFB, Washington, D.C., and itis conceivablethatWymanora proxyperformedresearchthere.Ifthat were the case, however,thereis no bibliographicstatementin Abandonment to


41. The USAF HistoricalResearchCenteris a directreportingunitof Head-

quartersUSAFin Washington,D.C. Itscollectionsoriginatedwiththeinstitutionof

a USAAFhistoricalprogramin 1942; filescollectedat thePentagonduringthewar,

togetherwithunithistoriesup to thatpoint,were moved to Maxwellin the late

education at theAir University.Today the Center

holds approximatelysixtymillion pages of documents on approximatelythree linear miles of shelving,of whichapproximatelyone-thirdto one-halftreatthe WorldWarII period.

1940s to supportresearchand

42. The MediterraneanAlliedAirForceswas a joint USAAF-RAFcommand in

theMediterraneanTheaterwhichcontrolledall oftheAlliedairpowerassetsthere. MAAF'smajor elementsincludedthe Fifteenthand TwelfthAFs and severallarge

constituentelementsfromthe RAFsuch as 205 Groupand theBalkansAirForce.





operations and intelligence filesare nowherecited. Some vague refer- ences to missionreportson microfilmare scatteredamong ChapterXV footnotes,but these are not clarifiedin thebibliography,and one is left to guess what and where these are. Moreover,no mention is made of the National Archives'immense RG 18, Records of the USAAF,which containsperhaps80 percentofmissionreportssurvivingtoday.Abandon- ment'sbibliographydoes listthe National Archives'RG 243, Recordsof the StrategicBombing Survey,but readers are not told thatthe USBSS says nothing about bombing Auschwitz or that in fact the Survey's reportsoffersolid evidence against the feasibilityof such attacks. In any case, thereare but fourcitationsto the USSBS in ChapterXV,all to area maps or photo interpretationreportsof the I. G. Farben works. Similarly, Wyman cites no materials from the RAF's Air Historical Branch or to AIR filesat the Public Record Office,even afterGilbert pointed the way to these in Auschwitz and the Allies, nor are air power-relatedcitationsfromthe ImperialWarMuseum, Bundesarchiv- Militararchiv,Hoover InstituteforWar,Peace, and Revolution,or other repositories included. Fewer than ten referencesto the Carl Spaatz Collection in the LibraryofCongress do not offsetthese deficiencies.43 Taken together,Wyman's scholarly interests,research foci, and superficialdocumentation go fartowardsexplainingthe formulationof his bombing thesis. For the historianof refugeepolicy, the failureto bomb Auschwitzcomfortablyfitsa pattern of prejudice he believes existedbefore1941 and persistedin 1944; pervasiveindifference,insen- sitivity,and antipathywithinthe cabinet, the War Department, and even the American people are sufficientto explain whyAuschwitzwas neverbombed, especially since American aircraftwere over-flyingthe camp and could have struckit withfew,ifany, collateral casualties. Gross misconceptions about air power-common among those outside themilitarysciences-together withan uncriticalreliance on Wyman's work,help explain how post-Abandonment Holocaust historiography has perpetuated the bombing idea. An objective look at targeting possibilities, available intelligence, operational constraints, and the realisticallocation ofmilitaryresources,however,showsthattheeffective use ofair power against Auschwitzis a chimera havinglittleto do with

The HistoricalResearchCenter'sMAAFmicrofilmcollectionreproducestheMAAF headquartersfilesfromformationoftheforcein 1943 to approximatelylate 1944. 43. An examinationoftheSpaatz documentscitedin ChapterXVfootnotes34, 40, 41, 49, 57, 62, and 75 revealsthattheseare uniformlycorrespondence,cables, and minutesofstaffmeetingsand notthewarplans,studies,reports,and operational recordsupon whichSpaatz and Eakerbased theiropinionsand decisions.Thus,this selectionofsourcesfrompersonalpapersalso reflectsWyman'sfocuson bombing policyratherthantheoperationalconstraintssurroundingpolicy.





War Departmentpolicies, indifference,militaryineptitude,or negative ethnic attitudes. Immediatelyitmustbe pointed out thatfromWyman's1978 article onward ithas neverbeen clear exactlywhattargetsshould be included

in the camp-bombingquestion. Wymanhimselfostensiblyfocussedon

destruction of the fourgas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-

Birkenaubutdidnotmentionthegas chamber/crematoriumatAuschwitz

I ("Main Camp").44 The Birkenaubuildingswere relativelysofttargets ofbrickconstruction,each about a storyor a storyand a halfhighwith

large portions sunk below

however,made themquite difficulttargets.The largestpair,Crematoria

II and III, measured 321 feet (99 m.) long by 32 feet (10 m.) wide,45

about the size and proportion of a highwaybridge. Dispersion and proximityto camp housing posed even graver problems. The four

Birkenau buildings were grouped in two loose pairs along the camp's

western edge.

pair fromthe nearer of two at the southwesterncorner. All fourgas chambers and crematoria were within300 yards (275 m.) of camp housing.46About a mile and a half southeast of them was the older single gas chamber and crematoriumofAuschwitzI, makinga total of fivediscrete, widely spaced objectives withinthe Auschwitzcomplex whose destructioncould have conceivably impeded the extermination process there.47 Adherentsofcamp bombing fromWymanonwardhave consistently maintained that Allied leadership possessed enough, and sufficiently exact, intelligence about these fiveAuschwitzbuildings to mount the kind ofattack necessary to safelydestroythem. Two typesofevidence

ground level. Their narrow aerial profile,

About 800 yards (750 m.) separated the northwestern

44. See Wyman,TheAbandonmentoftheJews,301-2.

45. An excellentplan drawingofCrematoryand Gas ChamberIII at Birkenau

has been publishedin Anna Pawelezynska,Values and Violence in Auschwitz, trans.by CatherineS. Leach (Berkeley:UniversityofCaliforniaPress,1979), 31. Anotherless detailedplan is in RudolfHoss,Death Dealer: The MemoirsoftheSS Kommandant at Auschwitz,ed. StephenPaskuly(New York:PrometheusBooks, 1992). The Paskulyeditionalso containsseveralexternaland internalphotographs

ofBirkenau'sgas chambersand crematoriawhichare helpfulin analyzingthemas bombingtargets.

46. The maps and diagramsofAuschwitzprovidedin Gilbert,Auschwitz and

theAllies,193 and 195, are indispensablereferencesto theproblemofthearea's

camps as aerialtargets.Thesemapsand diagramswerepublishedthreeyearsbefore Abandonment appeared. DiagramsofAuschwitzI ("Main") and of Birkenauare also availablein Pawelezyfska,Values and Violencein Auschwitz,26-27.

47. The large slave labor camp at I. G. Farben's Monowitzworksalso killed

hundredsofthousandsthroughoverwork,disease,starvation,and othercauses,but presumablybecause it possessedno easilytargetablegas chambersor crematoria and existed as a labor adjunct to the chemical worksit was not included as a potentialtargetin Wyman'sthesis.





forthisare usually cited, photos derived fromUSAAF reconnaissance over the I. G. Farben Monowitzcomplex ("Buna") near Auschwitzand the report of escapees Vrba and Wetzler. It is true that images of Birkenauappeared on aerial photographsas earlyas April1944, but as Brugioniand Foreggerhave pointed out,thedeath camp appeared only accidentally and was wholly incidental to the interpreters'work.48 None ofthemwas tasked to look forconcentration camps; theirprints

and viewingequipmentwereprimitive;none ofthemhad theexperience or interpretationguides to make the images speak intelligibly;few,if any,ofthemhad access to othertypesofintelligenceor to FifteenthAir Force's overall air campaign. Brugioni has furthernoted that during May-August1944, the MediterraneanAllied Air Forces' strategicassets were concentrated on the oil campaign, meaning that MAAF photo interpreterswere concentratingon knownoil-producingfacilitiessuch as Monowitzand Blechhammerat theexpense ofothertypesoftargets.

During Julyand

coming invasion of southern France. Under these circumstances,it is not surprisingthatAuschwitz'struenaturepassed unnoticed under the photo interpreters'stereoscopes. In the context ofoverall intelligence appreciation, italso should be noted thattherewas no historicalprece- dent forgenocidal installationslike Auschwitzand thatbeforethe end of 1944, at least, the Allies lacked enough solid intelligence about the "Final Solution" to adequately comprehend itshideous import.49

early August,MAAF's focus also shiftedto the forth-

48. Dino Brugioni,"Auschwitz-Birkenau:WhytheWorldWarII PhotoInterpreters

Failed to Identifythe ExterminationComplex,"MilitaryIntelligence9 (January- March 1983): 50-55, and Dino Brugioniand RobertG. Poirier,The Holocaust

Revisited:A RetrospectiveAnalysis of theAuschwitz-BirkenauExtermination Complex(Washington:CentralIntelligenceAgency,February1979), NTIS ST-79- 10001, are indispensable forunderstandingthe problem of interpretationand intelligenceappreciationoftheAuschwitzaerialphotographsmade in 1944.

49. Two importantpieces ofevidenceindicatejust howlittlewas knownabout

theHolocaust in Alliedintelligencecircles.USAFHRC 512.6162-1, 10 Oct. 1944, "AxisConcentrationCamps and DetentionCamps Reportedas Such in Europe," BritishWarOffice(MI 14), 10 October 1944 (originallySecret,declassified22 Sept. 1972) was a 105-page reportwhichattemptedto summarizethe concentration camp intelligencethenin hand.An examinationofthisdocument,preparedat the highestlevelsofthe wartimeintelligenceapparatus,clearlyshowsthattheAllies had no exact knowledgeof the numberof camps the Germans were operating, wherethecamps werelocated,howmanyinterneestherewere,or to whatoverall purposethedetaineeswerebeingheld. Thisdocumentis notincludedin Wyman's bibliographyor notes.A footnotein F. H. Hinsleyet al., BritishIntelligencein the Second WorldWar,vol. 3, pt. 2 (London: HMSO, 1988), 736, statesthatUltra- themostsensitiveintelligenceavailableto theAlliesfrominterceptedradiotraffic-

made scarcelyany referencesto concentrationcamps. "Therewere,"theauthors

note, "no Sigint [signal

beforeApril1945 apartfrom"a fewPolice decryptsin thesecond halfof1944 and


referencesto the exterminationcamps"




to Katow,ce

anid erit n



Auschwitz 1

to Vienna~ /








ac totow












tfoRed.,,o. tublin

and Wersew





Prisoners- of-

war Camp






0 Marti"nG1Ib.vOf

Birkenau concentration camp, Auschwitz main camp, Auschwitz town,and theL G. Farben synthetic oil and rubberplant at Monowitz, with its satellite labor camps. (From Auschwitzand the Allies by Martin Gilbert. Copyright ? 1981 by Martin Gilbert. Reprinted by permission ofHenryHolt and Company, Inc.)

Bombing advocates aerial photographs the

immediate and decisive action from Washington or London. Close analysis reveals whythe report'stimingand contents prevented this fromhappening. As Gilbertdepicts them,Vrba and Wetzlerwereboth

maintain, however,thatwhen combined with Vrba-Wetzlerreport should have precipitated

early 1945 about the movementinto concentrationcamps ofJewsfromFrance, Hungary,and theBalticStatesand about theuse ofcamp inmatesas forcedlabor." The reason,ofcourse,wasthatforclarityand securitytheGermansused land lines notsubjectto eavesdroppingwhereverpossible.





young men whose administrativeduties and lengthysurvivalwithin Birkenaugave theman extraordinaryperspectiveon thecamp's horrors whichtheydeterminedto preservethroughmemorizationand eventual escape. On 7-10 April1944 theirdeterminationsucceeded, and on 25 Apriltheirreportreached Jewishundergroundfiguresin Slovakia who triedto get it out to Budapest, Switzerland,the Vatican, and Istanbul. For various reasons the textwas delayed, and a telegraphicsummary did not reach the War RefugeeBoard in Washingtonuntil24 June and theBritishForeignOfficeuntil4 July.The fulltwenty-fivepage textwith

a five-pagesummarydid not get to London until26 July,by whichtime itwas too late forany action to save theJewsofHungary.50 Even after26 July,the fullVrba-Wetzlerreporthad minimal utility formilitaryintelligencepurposes. On thesurface,thereportappears to be a sickeningrevelationabout whatwas going on in Auschwitz,and so itwas. Butin fact,as intelligencecollateral foranalyzing the camp as a precision bombing target the report had severe limitations.Neither escapee was a trainedobserver,and theirpage-and-a-halfdescriptionof Birkenau'scrematoriawas almostexclusivelyconcerned withtheghastly details ofoperation ratherthan militarilyusefultargetingdata such as buildingstructuraldesign,materials,foundations,and thelikenecessary fortheselectionand placementofordnance. Potentiallow-flyinghazards such as hightension wiresand radio transmissiontowerswerenowhere mentioned,and chimneysand forestedareas wereonlyvaguelyindicated. Flak guns-Birkenau itselfhad none-were nowhere mentioned. The escapees' reportdid noteven estimatethegas chambersand crematoria's outside dimensions,nor did itreliablylocate themon theground.Maps included withthe reportcontained at least one errorwhichcould have puzzled those seeking to correlate the reportwithaerial photographs:

the summary stated that the northeast end of the camp could be distinguishedby the high smokestacks of four crematoria, when in realitythese chimneyswere located at the opposite or westernside of thecamp.51Moreover,as Foreggerrelates,a sketchmap oftheAuschwitz area whichreached the BritishForeign Officeon 22 Augustwas grossly inaccurate: "NeithertheAuschwitzII camp at Birkinau[sic] nor thegas

50. Gilbert,Auschwitzand theAllies,190-239; Wyman,TheAbandonmentof


51. Severalmaps associated withtheVrba-Wetzlerreporthavebeen published.

Document1, "The ExterminationCamps ofAuschwitz(Oswiecim)and Birkenauin UpperSilesia," November1944, in Wyman,America and theHolocaust, vol. 12, BombingAuschwitzand theEscapee's Report,reproducesthreesketchesfroma copy in the FranklinD. RooseveltLibrary,OF 5477, WarRefugeeBoard,German ExterminationCamps-Auschwitz and Birkenau.Anothersketch,taken froman originalin the Public Record Office,is available in Foregger,"The Bombingof






chambers and crematoria could be located withthe map. A Plasterof Paris model to show the relative size, shape, and location of the gas chambers and crematoria [necessary forattackingair crews] could not be correctlyconstructedwiththissketchmap."52 Finally,expertphoto interpretersmight,withenough timeand effort,have correlatedaerial photographswiththe Vrba-Wetzlerreport,but the authors themselves remained in Slovakia, inaccessible forperson-to-persondebriefingor clarificationofthe informationtheyhad provided. In sum,themilitarilyusefulintelligenceavailable to theAlliesabout Auschwitz came late and was much shakier than Wyman suggests. Photo interpreterscould not have reasonably been interestedin the camp beforebeing alerted to it,and thisalert could not have been put out beforereceiptofthesummaryoftheVrba-Wetzlerreporton 4 July. Even under utopian conditions, with an instant appreciation of Auschwitz'svulnerabilityfromthe air and a resolute determinationto attack, it would have taken another twoto threeweeks forthe Central Intelligence Unitin England to be notified,then forphotographsto be retrieved,studied,and related to whateverotherdata could be had. A comparison withthe complete Vrba-Wetzlertext,ofcourse, could not have been startedbeforeabout mid-July.Furtherphoto reconnaissance to verifyand refinetargetassessment, probablyat low altitudes,then wouldhavebeen ordered,consuminga furtherweekor more,depending on weather, availability of photo aircraftand crews, and losses or failures.Withthe best will and under optimal conditions, then, it is unreasonable to thinkthatsufficientintelligenceto properlyassess the Auschwitz-Birkenaubuildingsas targetscould havebeen in hand before earlyto mid-August1944. The nextstep,planningand trainingfor,and execution of,an exacting combat operation withforces on hand in the Mediterranean could not have reasonably consumed less than a week; transferof specially qualified unitswithin,or to, the theaterfor the raid would have taken longer.As a comparison, the spectacular 18 February1944 Mosquito attackon Amiens prison-an infinitelybetter known, simpler,and closer targetthan Auschwitzwithunmistakable life-and-deathurgency-had taken approximately three weeks from receipt of French resistance request to execution; bad weather had delayed the missionby only one day.53 Presumingadequate intelligence about Birkenauand AuschwitzI, theirnature and location stillpresented insurmountableobstacles for

52. Foregger,"The BombingofAuschwitz,"108. The sketchmap,titled"Topo-

graphicalSketchoftheConcentrationCamp at Oswiecim/Auschwitz"is reproduced in Foregger'sarticle.Itbears thenotation"Drawnaccordingto thedescriptionofa formerprisonerofthecamp."

53. Sharpand Bowyer,Mosquito,241.





precisionbombing. One major problemwas sheerrange. The Auschwitz complex lay about 620 miles fromFifteenthAir Force heavybomber bases around Foggia and approximately525 miles fromthe Adriatic island airfieldon Vis, operational after2 May 1944. Thus, Auschwitz was barely withinthe theoreticalrange of B-25 medium bombers, P-38 fighter-bombersusing an external drop tank, and D.H.98 Mosquito lightbombers. Simple distance, however,was inseparablyintertwined withfactorsofterrain,tactics,windsand weather,usefulbomb load, air defenses, and crew performance. Sweeping in a great crescent from Albania to Switzerland, the Alps and Carpathian ranges presented tremendousobstacles to thepenetrationofcentral Europe fromItalian bases. To attackAuschwitzvia a directrouteout ofeithersouthernItaly or Vis requiredcrossingtheDalmatian Alps,rangingabove fivethousand feet,and theTatrasofSlovakia-Slovenia,also rangingoverfivethousand feet. Flying heavily escorted in formationabove the highest ridges, heavy bombers had no difficultywiththe mountains, but a low-level attackby medium or lightbombers or fighter-bomberswouldhavebeen much more difficult.To avoid detection by German air defenses,total radio silence and verylow altitude would have been necessary. What would todaybe termeda med-lo-hior a lo-lo-himissionalso wouldhave demanded a zig-zagapproach throughtreacherousvalleysracked with navigational hazards and wind shear. Such an approach raised fuel consumption, precluded tightdefensivecombat box formations,and fatiguedcrews. Long range demanded extra fuel,and extra fuelcame

only at the expense ofbombload and thusmore aircraft;in the case of

P-38s,forexample,just one bomb

drop tank. Using Vis Island for staging as Wyman suggests also had grave limitations. Built under German noses, the three-thousand-footVis

airstrip54was a primitive,precarious,and clandestine toehold created as an advanced landing ground forclose fightersupportand supplyof Yugoslav partisans. It had only one runwayand eighteen hardstands; fuel,maintenance, groundsupport,and air defenseswereminimal;and itdid not even receive all-weatherpierced steel plankinguntilOctober

per aircraftcould be carriedwithone

1944. A handfulofaircraftmighthave used the island forrefuelingon a

returnto Italy,butanynumberwouldhave meant dangerouscongestion

and a temptingtarget. Worse of all, any could have blocked the single runwayand aircraft. 55

landing or takeoffaccident closed the fieldto following

54. Visairfieldwas lengthenedto 3,600 feetin theautumnof1944.

55. USAFHRC 638.01-1, 1943-1944, AAFEngineerCommand,Mediterranean

TheaterofOperations(Prov.), "AirfieldsintheMediterraneanTheaterofOperations";

USAFHRC 638.245, Jul.-Aug.1944 and Jul. 1945, HQ AAF EngineerCommand,





German air defenses have received relativelylittleattentionin the bombingdebate.56Therewereno flakgunsat AuschwitzI and Birkenau, butseventy-nineheavygunsdefendedtheI. G. Farbenworksat Monowitz, fourand one-halfmilesaway,and wheelingformationsofheavybombers over Birkenau could hardly have avoided this defensive umbrella.57 Even small arms firefromthe guards could have been effectiveagainst low-levelattackers,especially P-38s and Mosquitos withliquid-cooled engines. The Luftwaffe'sfighterdefensesin the Balkans werenot nearly as strongas in Germany,but Y-stationsand at least threeearlywarning radarsdirectlyopposite BariprovidedJagdfliegerfuhrerBalkan's head- quarters in Belgrade with ample electronic intelligence.58Located


TheJuly1945 editionof"AirfieldStatusReport"hasa smallmap oftheairfield.For the absence of permanentcombat unitson the island,see USAFHRC 622.6318, Jan. Dec. 1944, HQ MAAF,"Order of Battle-MediterraneanAllied Air Forces, RoyalAirForce," monthlyreportsstatingthedutystationsofeach Alliedcombat unit in the MTO. Vis's primitive,precarious,and clandestine existence is made clear fromUSAFHRC 622.011-1, MAAFMicrofilmProject,Roll272, Section 376, "Defense of Vis," and Section 377, "Use of Vis forOperation of Advanced Air Forces." On 18 June 1944, RAF242 Group specificallywarnedHQ MAAFabout thedangersofaircraftmakingforcedlandingsthere."YourA245 Imessagedatedl 2 May,"it advised,"is being continuallyignoredand situationon Vis is becoming increasinglyintolerable.On 16 June 5 Liberatorsand I Lightninglanded there. This frequentlanding and crash landing of heavyaircraftseriouslyjeopardizes operationsand could easilylead to disastrousconsequences." USAFIIRC 622.011, MAAF MicrofilmProject, Roll 272, Section 377, "Use of Vis for Operation of AdvancedAirForces."

56. Wymanmade no effortto identifythe Luftwaffeorderofbattledefending

Auschwitz-Birkenau,and it is surprisingthatsubsequent commentatorssuch as lIodgesand Moskowhavelargelyignoredthequestionin favorofgeneralitiesabout theeffectivenessoftheGermanfighterforcein mid-1944.

57. Forthefigureofseventy-ninegunsaroundMonowitz,see the5thBombard-

ment Wing'sintelligencebriefingforthe wing's20 August 1944 attack on the

Farben worksin "Annex to Operations Order No. 671

USAF IIRC WG-5-lII, Aug. 1944, UnitIhistory,5th BombardmentWing,August

1944. German heavyflakpieces rangedfrom88 to 128mm. The mostnumerous

for20 August 1944."

Germanantiaircraftweapon,the88mm Flak36, had a maximumhorizontalrange of 16,200 yds. (9.2 mi.) and a maximumverticalrange of 13,000 yds. (7.3 mi.), thusmanypieces emplaced around Monowitzwouldhave coincidentallycovered most,ifnotall, oftheBirkenaucamp area.

58. A MAAF map of "ApproximateFreya Location and Coverage-Western

Mediterranean"dated 29 March1944 showsthreeFreyasitesat Bar,Durazzo,and Fieras positivelylocated and a furtherfoursitesat Zara,Split,Dubrovnik,and Lesh as knownor believedto exist.These Freya radarsoperatedon severalfrequencies in the A, B, C, D, and otherbands; intruderscould be detected at rangesfrom twelvemilesforverylowflyingplanes tosixtymilesforthoseflyingat 8,000-10,000

feet. By 31 May, MAAF had also detected several other typesof radars in the Dubrovnikarea. This meant thatGerman radarscould trackany aircraftflyingat mediumaltitudesout of USAAFbases in southernItalyfroma fewminutesafter






directlyunderanybomber attackdirectednorthward,Jagdfliegerfuhrer Balkan in mid-1944 could have called on a minimumofthirtyBf109G fightersfromII./JG 51, III./JG 77, and II./JG 301 forinterception. Another twenty-fiveBf 109Gs of Hungarian FighterGroup 101 were

based at

approach to Auschwitz.59 On arrivingin thetargetarea, attackersfaceda dispersed,dauntingly complex objective consisting of fivewidelyspaced buildings (four at Birkenau, one over a mile away at Auschwitz I) which had to be identifiedand attacked in concert withlittleloitertimeand no release error.In makingsuchattacks,weatheralso playeda part.The atmosphere overmountainous Balkans terrainwas likelyto be more turbulentthan

over thesea or northwestEuropean

required perfectvisibility,yet over southern Poland such weatherwas

unusual and its prediction problematical. How, then, have bombing adherentsproposed to attacktheAuschwitzcomplex? One proposal, highaltituderaidingby four-enginedheavybombers of the FifteenthAir Force based around Foggia, can immediatelybe discounted. It is true that some of these aircraftcould have been divertedfromformationsattackingthe Monowitzsyntheticfuel/rubber plant duringAugust1944, or theycould have been sent on a dedicated raid. B-17s and B-24s, however,cruised at 180 to 190 mph and were designed to bomb fromfifteento thirtythousand feet. Unfortunately, fromthese heightsthe pickle barrel placement required to hitchosen buildingswithoutcollateral damage was utterlyimpossible,a factmade crystalclear by the USSBS (which Wyman cites) and countless other

Veszprem, north of Lake Balaton and directly under the

plain. Accurate precisionbombing

take-offall the wayacross theAdriatic.Freyascould also

degreeoftrackinginland.Sitesin thevicinityofPrecko,Sinj,Banja Luka,Vukovar, and otherlocationspermittedGermanfightercontroltofollowraidsfromYugoslavia to southernPoland. As a ruleofthumb,theloweran intruder'saltitude,themore difficulttrackingbecame, until,at altitudesof200-250 ft.or less,radardetection became nearly impossible. Sustained flightto avoid radar detection,however, wouldhave imposeda varietyofhandicapsand hazards,and interceptionofvoice

radio communicationsalwaysremaineda possibility.USAFHRC 622.011, MAAF MicrofilmProject,Roll 132, Section 194, "RadarIntelligence-Pt. I."

scan 3600, permittinga

59. Documentationofthelocation ofGermanfighterunitsin theBalkansand

westernHungaryat a given moment is quite difficult.In order to maximizeits

fighterassets,theLuftwaffebecame adeptat frequentlyand quicklymovingitsunits fromone airfieldto anotherin a wayunknownto theAllies;withina day's time,

interceptingunitsmightuse one

leapfrogacross considerable distancesto concentrateagainsta perceivedthreat. Assessmentofthiskindofshiftingdefenseis furthercomplicatedbyloss ofat least

95 percentoftheLuftwaffe'soperationalrecordsat war'send. I am greatlyindebted

to HenryL. de Zeng IV,a life-longstudentofthe Luftwaffein the Balkans,forhis invaluable assistance in documentingthe German order of battle fromdiverse publishedand archivalsources.

airfieldas a home base but could be orderedto

252 *



sources. Normal bomb patternsfromtheheavies extended hundredsof yardsfromthe aiming point,and itwas quite common forbombs to fall

a mile or more away fromthe target.60On 15 April1945, forexample,

the EighthAir Forces's 467th Bombardment Group achieved that air force'smost accurate bombing ofthewar. In strikinga coastal artillery batteryin France-a pinpoint targetnot unlike the gas chambers or

crematoria-B-24s fromthe 467th managed to putjust 50 percent of theirbombs withina five-hundred-footradiusaround theguns. Thiswas accomplished only withlong experience, a fifteen-thousand-footdrop altitude, near-perfectweather,and withno resistance. If this was the best thatheavybombers could do, whatwould average bombing have done to the exterminationcamps' inhabitants? Bombingadvocates have consistentlyminimizedthecasualties that

might have resulted frombombing Auschwitz. Wyman avoided any estimate,but in 1978 Williamsventuredthat "therewould have been inmate deaths, perhaps dozens of them" [italics mineJ.61In fact, withouttoo much speculation, itis possible to calculate whatcasualties

a heavy bomber raid on Birkenau would have caused. In November 1944, the 1stOperationAnalysisSection ofFifteenthAirForce reported on the relationshipbetween altitudeand bombing accuracy based on MediterraneanTheaterexperience. The Fifteenth'scalculations showed that under good conditions the Circular Error Probable (C.E.P.) at 15,000 feetforB-17swas 500 feetand thatforB-24sabout 515 feet.Put another way,under absolutely optimal conditions, one-halfofbombs dropped would have fallenat distances greaterthan 500 feetfromthe aiming point. The northernpair of gas chambers and crematoria at Birkenauwere about 650 feetfromthe nearest huts;the southernpair were about 300 feetaway. Using Gilbert'sscale diagram of Birkenau withaiming points in the center of each targetbuilding,62it can be conservativelyestimatedthat25 to 30 percent ofbombs dropped from 15,000 feetwould have fallenwithincamp housingareas. Accordingto the Paskuly edition of commandant H6ss's memoirs, Birkenau held about 36,000 people on 5 April 1944 and upwards of 135,000 in August.63If, then, one hundred B-17s and B-24s bombed and each

60. USAFHRC 137.306-3, Jan. 1943-May 1945, USSBS, MilitaryAnalysisDivi-

sion ReportNo. 3, A Study on the BombingAccuracy ofthe USAAFHeavy and

MediumBombersin theETO, 3 November1945. ThisUSSBS studyfoundthatthe actual averagecircularerroron ten targetcomplexesin thestudyrangedbetween

825 and 1,175 feet.The average circularerrorof USAAF strategicbombers in

Europediminishedfrom3,400 feetinJanuary1943 toa roughaverageof1100 feet during1944-45. In theFifteenthAF,approximately30 percentofbombsfellwithin 1,000 feetoftheaimingpointduring1944-45.

61. Williams,"WhyWasn'tAuschwitzBombed?" 751.

62. Auschwitzand theAllies,195.

63. H6ss,Death Dealer,359, 363.






dropped eightfive-hundred-poundbombs, approximately160 to 200 of

the 800 would have exploded in densely populated housing areas, withinwhichtherewas no air raid protectionwhatsoeverand no place to flee.Assumingfivedeathsby each errantmissile,a minimumof500 to 1000 deaths could reasonably have been expected, witha realistic possibilityofas manyas 2,000 to 3,000 underadversecircumstances.64

One does not have

to rely on theoretical modelling, however,to

knowwhata heavybomber raid on Auschwitzmighthave done. On 24

August 1944 the USAAF's EighthAir Force carried out Operation No.

568 against a V-2 guidance worksand an armament factoryadjoining

Buchenwaldconcentrationcamp at Weimar,Germany.The settingwas

as analogous to Auschwitzas historypermits:thegroundsofone target ran along the camp fence, the other was a fewhundred yards away. Backed by precise intelligence,includingthefactoryshiftschedule, 129 B-17sdropped303 tonsofbomb'sin near-perfectconditions,obliterating the objectives. Despite good knowledgeofthe targetand much-above- average accuracy, however,315 prisoners were killed, 525 seriously wounded,and 900 lightlywounded.65NeitherTheAbandonment ofthe


wald attack.

A more attractivevariation on four-enginebombing that Wyman

did not mention,quite possiblybecause his old and inadequate sources did not suggestit,66was employmentoftheVB-1AZON bomb, an early

64. In an independentcalculationmade in 1983, PierreM. Sprey,a weapons

analyst in the Officeof the AssistantSecretaryof Defense, estimatedthat 135 bomberswould have been necessaryto destroy50 percentof thegas chambers, crematoria,railsidings,and loot structutreand thatone-thirdofthe 1,350 bombs droppedwouldhave hittheprisonerbarracksarea. Mintz,"WhyWasn'tAuschwitz Bombed?" WashingtonPost,17 April1983, D2.

65. For detailsofthe mission,see USAFHRC 520.332, 24 Aug. 1944, "Eighth

AF MissionReport [for Operation 5681,24 August1944." Casualtyfiguresare from "Die Toten des Bombenangriffsvom 24. August1944," a writtenreportof SS- Hauptsturm-fuhrerd. R. GerhardSchiedlausky,medicalofficerat Weimar,to Chef des AmtD III oftheWVHABerlin-Oranienburgdated 27 August1944, attachedto

a 1 October 1991 letter fromSqdn. Leader Stanley A. Booker (Ret.) to the USAFHRCInquiriesBranch.Sqdn. Leader Bookerwasincarceratedin Buchenwald

at the time of the raid and witnessedit and the aftermathfroman internee's

perspective.A copyofSqdn. Leader Booker'sletter,togetherwiththeSS report,is

on fileat USAFHRC,InquiriesBranch,internalreferencefile"Buchenwald."A copy is also in theauthor'spossession.

66. Cravenand Cate,eds., TheAAFin WorldWarII, makeone briefreference

toAZON in vol.3, Europe: ARGUMENTto V-EDay, 728. Thisscarcelyacknowledges

the existenceofAZON bombs and says nothingabout theirtechnologyor M.T.O.

testing.The reason forthisis almost

certainlythe cloak of securitysurrounding

guidedweaponsat thetimeCravenand Cate werewriting(1951 in thecase ofvol. 3); largelybecause ofsuchsecurityconsiderations,theFifteenthAirForces'sreport




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typeofguided weapon. The 301st Bomb Group ofthe USAAF actually tested such devices in the Mediterranean Theater between April and July1944, findingbetteroverallaccuracythanwithconventionalbombs. Unfortunately,the301st also foundthattheAZON was quite unreliable:

halfof the bombs went wild,some hitting850 feetfromtheirmark.67 Otherguided weapons ofthe time were no more successfuland would have offeredno significantadvantages over conventional bombing techniques. Dismissing the possibilityof accurate high altitude raids, would it have been possible to send B-17sand B-24s at verylow levels to achieve surpriseand accuracy? Presumably,such a missionwould have been of


and highaltitudeson the way to Auschwitz,then descending to a few hundredfeetnorthoftheTatrasto runin to theirtargets,thenclimbing back to altitude forthe return'to base. Even withstrictradio silence, however,it is doubtfulthat such tactics would have achieved surprise owing to radar and visual observation during the approach over the Adriatic.Moreover,USAAF heavybomber crewslacked the specialized doctrine, experience, and trainingnecessary to execute the precise bombing ofdesignatedbuildingsfromverylow altitudes.Used in such a way, the elephantine Fortressesand Liberators would not only have failed,theymightwellhave been decimated, as in facthappened on the low-levelPloesti raid of 1 August 1943 when plane losses reached 30 percent; on the day after,Brigadier General Uzal Ent, Chief of IX Bomber Command, had just 33 B-24s fitto fly,out of 178 sent to Ploesti.69Not surprisingly,the USAAF never again tried using large formationsofheavybombers at low levels.

on theaccuracyand effectivenessofAZON bombs was notdeclassifieduntil1972. See USAFHRC 670.310-1, FifteenthAF, Operations Analysis Section, "AZON Bombing-FifteenthAF," 2 October 1944, declassifiedby ExecutiveOrder11652 on 10 March1972. Such securityconsiderationsalso helpexplainwhySunderman, WorldWarII in theAir,makesno mentionoftheweapon. Therewasno reasonfor Infieldto mentionAZON in connection withPoltava,and the USSBS sayslittle,if anything,about thebomb,probablybecause as a weapon in developmentitplayed no significantpartin thestrategicairwar.

67. USAFHRC 670.310-1, FifteenthAF, OperationsAnalysisSection, "Azon

Bombing-FifteenthAirForce,"2 October1944. I am also indebtedto Dr.Kenneth

A. Werrelland Ernest Helton foraccess to theirfindingson AZON bombing

presentedin a forthcomingunithistoryof the 301st Bomb Group and to David Friday,M.A.candidate in historyat AuburnUniversity,whosethesisdeals withthe wartimedevelopmentand testingofAZON.

68. A hi-lo-himission would have entailed a high altitudeapproach to the

target,a low altituderun-inand bomb release,and a highaltitudereturnto base.

69. JamesDugan and CarrollStewart,Ploesti:The Great Ground-AirBattleof 1 August1943 (New York:RandomHouse, 1962), 222.





Lest the 1 August 1943 Ploestioperation be thoughtan aberration,

a flukeofbad

strikeagainst the M.A.N. diesel engine worksat Augsburg.This raid,in fact,bears theclosest resemblance to a hypotheticallow-levelAuschwitz raid of any actual mission of the European air war. On 17 April 1942 theRAFdispatchedtwelveLancastersin daylightacross northernFrance

to attack a single building,the main engine assembly shed withinthe M.A.N. diesel engine factory complex. Like Wyman's theoretical Auschwitzraid,planning forthe M.A.N. mission was partiallybased on the interrogationofa prisonerwho provideddetails fora sketchmap of the plant; unfortunately,the engine constructionbuildingwas marked in the wrongposition. The raid involved a round tripof 1,250 miles, almost exactlythesame distance as fromFoggia toAuschwitzand back; itwas conducted in daylightand at treetopheight;therewas even some mountainous countrybetween Mulhouse and Lake Constance. Of the strikeforceoftwelve,only fivebombers, all damaged, returnedto their bases; eightbombers dropped seventeen bombs, fiveofwhichfailedto explode. Two buildings,neitherofwhichwas the intended target,were substantiallydamaged.70 The miserable resultsofthisraid help