I was coming downstairs from Admiral "Bull" Halsey's office. I would have to pass right by Admiral Nimitz. Was he waiting for me? Would be renege on the all-important Special Film Coverage directive I had written for him, and he had signed? Had MacArthur nixed the order to integrate all combat photography? Had the Air Force? The Marines?
I hesitated, then saluted, and walked by him.
"Oh, Capra! Can you spare a moment?"
I went limp. "Of course, Admiral."
Behind his desk, his back to me he faced a window that looked out over our sunken warships. "Sit down, please," he said, huskily. "I apologize for calling you in here. It"s just this --this --goddam sonofabitch of a war!".
His hands clasped and unclasped behind him as he rocked slowly back and forth on his heels. Then, out of the depths of an overwhelming hurt, he cried out: "They cheered me... Three thousand of them... Eighteen-year-olds... Legs gone, faces gone... They cheered me... I sent them there .... They cheered me....".
Then he turned, sat heavily on his chair, and with tears streaming down his face, he beat the table with both fists: "GODDAM SONOFABITCH OF A WAR! GODDAM SONOFABITCH OF A WAR! What am I going to write to their parents? What can anybody write to their parents?..." He grabbed his wet face in both his hands. He was sobbing now. A father weeping for all the sons in the world. "Eighteen-year-olds... kids... boys... three thousand of them... They cheered me... I sent them there... they cheered me... GODDAM SONOFABITCH OF A WAR! goddam sonofa--" His handkerchief was out now. Not once had he looked at me, directly.
I sat as if transfixed. Tears had started down my cheeks. The white-thatched adminral blew his nose, composed himself, then looking at me with a shy little smile, he said pleasantly: "Thank you, Capra, Thank you."
He had wanted to share his great pain with another human being -- someone that was not Navy. I rose to my feet, try to mumble something. I couldn't. So I smiled back and walked out. I had witnessed something rare. Something awesome -- the inside of a tormented human soul.
"In Pictures at a Revolution, Mark Harris turned the story of the five movies nominated for Best Picture in 1967 into a landmark work of cultural history, a book about the transformation of an art form and the larger social shift it signified. In Five Came Back, he achieves something larger and even more remarkable, giving us the untold story of how Hollywood changed World War II, and how World War II changed Hollywood, through the prism of five film directors caught up in the war: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens."
Also made into an excellent, 3-part documentary:
There was no Air Force in WW2. This is probably an editing error, Capra or biographer likely referring to the USAAF (Army Air Force).
Pedantry Officer concludes report.
My father was in the Army Air Force during WWII - and he always said he was in the Army Air Force and not the Army. They were also nick named the Air Corps during the war.
What an amazing passage. Thanks for sharing.
The trajectory of technology, and the circumstances leading to the qualities of the arms race and adaptive conflict within the period, means it was it's own little golden era of truly curious nightmares.
Riding a piston engine, in an uncompressed cabin, all the way to the stratosphere, all with the intent of using optical telescopes in good weather, so that you can drop kilotons of dumb bombs blessed with prayers that might guide them to a decisive target nestled among civilians?
To learn from that is to arrive at the understanding that the pace of technology must be permitted to trend with a civilization's capacity for its rational utilization.
Moving the progressive sequential improvement of technology at speeds faster than the sophistication of those that might benefit from it can produce a malignancy that backfires, to the harm of all those it could possibly (or even impossibly, in a hypothetical sense) touch.
Still I didn’t find it nearly as bad as other examples from that era. “A Street Car Named Desire” for example takes it to another level.
I show this movie to everyone I can. It's full of lessons.
Which is why we need unions.
It’s good that some historical remnant - the control tower -remains. In NE Australia, there were a huge number of airfields that many hundreds of B-25s and other aircraft flew out from on missions to distant Pacific islands and back again. There is almost nothing remaining of that history as landing strips became roads or crops were grown over them.
Worse perhaps is we're graudally losing that sense of history, of courage and sacrifice. I wouldn't want to be jingoistic about it, but I think people are unaware of what the wartime generations went through.
While it pains me as a ww2 buff to say this, I do think that as a society we have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with WW2.
And, it's not like it ever made sense to turn East Anglia into some kind of WW2 air war museum. After the war, people wanted their farmlands back, and wanted to continue their lives, and they had every right to do that.
Similarly, this map  of St Ives has streets that include Comet, Wellington, Blenheim, Canberra, Lancaster and others
the talk even OPENS with clips from 12 o'clock high! :)
TL;DR: it was radar.
Freeman Dyson complains that operational-research was intentionally nobbled in bomber-command, even after great successes had been shown in the navy + coastal command:
The Norden bombsight was a technological marvel. An analog computer to figure out when to drop bombs based on speed, height, wind direction, etc. It worked fine in optimal conditions. But during wartime it wasn't that accurate in practice.
For the British, in particular, the (unarmed) Mosquito bomber loss rate was one tenth of the Lancaster loss rate, needed 2 crew instead of 7, cost about 1/4'th of a Lancaster, and carried about 1/3 of the bomb load.
So no, the Mosquito was not a replacement for all missions the Lancaster was capable of, but for many it probably would have been a better choice.
Personally, I think it explains part of it. But certainly the, in retrospect idiotic, idea that unescorted bombers armed with machine guns would be a match against fighters played a major role as well.
It was a grim decision, but it was effective as they did reach their targets and perform the mission.
- No unescorted daylight raids.
- Rip out most turrets and guns (save maybe the tail and front) to save weight, reduce drag, and lose fewer men for each bomber downed. Or, as the sibling poster mentions and I mentioned in another post in this discussion, focus on fast bombers like the Mosquito rather than lumbering heavies.
- And yes, indeed, spend less resources on the strategic bombing campaign and more on other stuff. Like, e.g. the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, and Italy. Or more resources on winning the battle of the Atlantic faster. Marine patrol might not be as glamorous usage of big four-engined aircraft as thousand-aircraft raids over Germany, but were highly effective against the U-boat threat (and whatever was left of the German surface fleet).
- Focus bombing on operational/tactical targets rather than strategic bombing of cities. (This probably implies a bigger focus on improving bombing accuracy.). That is not to say all heavy bombing was useless. The focus on energy, particularly petroleum, infrastructure and transportation (e.g. railway infrastructure, or the aerial mining of the Danube and other waterways) was highly effective. And of course the British raids with the bunker-buster bombs, such as the sinking of the Tirpitz, U-boat pens, railway bridges/viaducts etc.
Even in 1944, after losses had declined, most 8thAF Bomb groups had one or two really good navigators and bombardiers, and had everyone else play "follow the leader," even to the point of having entire bomb groups release their bombs simultaneously, rather than each bombardier making their own independent calculations. Obviously if the leader was shot down, then the next man up would take over, but degrading accuracy. Similarly BC used skilled Pathfinders (in Mosquitoes) to mark a target, and then let all of the rest of the unskilled drop somewhere in the target area.
Without the skills to take advantage of the Mosquito, the majority of pilots would have been worse off with less defensive effect, and because it would take more planes- and therefore pilots and bombardiers- to carry the same bomb load, it would have pulled more heavily from the middle and lower levels of pilot skill to put the same bomb loads into occupied Europe.
Wrt losses, recall that for the British the Mosquito loss rate was one tenth of the heavies. So much less problems with crews being killed. And Mosquito bomb load was almost as high as the B-17.
HE effectiveness will suffer dramatically if you let each bombardier control their own route, given that there are not that many good ones available, which drives you to tight formations so one good bomb run can suffice for many planes. And big formations makes the Mosquito vulnerable, because it means that they can't use their speed and elusiveness. It's hard to turn a big formation, so their location is much more predictable, and big formations can't go at their top speed, because all the pilots have to be constantly adjusting their speed to stay in formation, and stay at the speed of the slowest member of the formation.
So a Mosquito isn't as effective as a Lancaster at the "burn down a city" job (much smaller bombload), and isn't as effective as a B-17 at the "blast this factory down" with generic crew quality. This isn't a knock on the Mossie: it was a good airplane. Just not suited to every mission.
Sure they could use their speed. Mosquito economic cruising speed was, depending on altitude, 250-300 knots, compared to 160-190 kn for the heavies. Even if operating alone, Mosquitos couldn't floor it for any significant amount of time, since that would consume fuel too fast (same as any other aircraft). Zipping along at 300 kn made them more or less invulnerable to Luftwaffe night fighters, though not day fighters. But even for the faster day fighters, intercepting a bomber formation going 300 kn at 30k feet is much more difficult and time consuming than a 160 kn formation at 25k feet.
But yes, all bombers were very vulnerable during their bombing runs.
> So a Mosquito isn't as effective as a Lancaster at the "burn down a city" job (much smaller bombload)
Since the Mosquito cost only 1/3 of a Lancaster and usually apparently carried between 1/3 and 1/2 as big bomb load, for the same price it would have been possible to carry about an equal amount of bombs. But yes, this would have required 3 times as many pilots and navigators, which were certainly harder to replace than most crewmen on a heavy. Then again, with a loss rate of 1/10 there wouldn't have been such a big problem with keeping the training pipeline filled with replacements either.
That being said, one reason for the much lower loss rate of the Mosquitos was certainly that the heavies presented much easier and juicier targets. So if BC had built a mostly-Mosquito force, then presumably the loss rate would have increased, though it's hard to see it could have reached such appalling rates as it did for the heavies.
> isn't as effective as a B-17 at the "blast this factory down" with generic crew quality.
I'm not sure I follow this argument. For daylight "precision" bombing, Mosquito would have carried 2/3 the bomb load of a B-17G, so yes, a small advantage for the B-17 there if you consider the navigator/bomber to be the critical resource. But for formation bombing with a leader/pathfinder model, no big difference. And with the better survivability of the Mosquitos compared to the lumbering heavies, skilled crew perhaps wouldn't have been such a bottleneck.
Less vulnerable to flak as well, primarily by flying faster (less time to get shot at) and higher than the heavies (cruise speed of around 300 kn vs. 160-190 kn for heavies).
And of course, if one got hit, it was a much smaller loss than a heavy.