The Allies' aerial "second front" has brought the Luftwaffe's expansion through new production to a stand-still, Brig. Gen. Frederick L. Anderson, chief of the U.S. Army's Eighth Bomber Command, said last night.
Photos Reveal Wider Damage
Even during the Italian landings and the big Russian advances, Germany was forced to withdraw planes from these fronts to meet air attacks from Britain, Gen. Anderson asserted.
In an interview with Gladwin Hill, of the Associated Press, Gen. Anderson pointed to the long series of daylight precision attacks on Nazi airplane factories by American bombers as a vital factor in bringing expansion of the Luftwaffe to a dead halt, but he added that the days of the final critical blows against the Reich's war effort still were some distance off.
Referring to last Thursday's great Fortress assault on the Schweinfurt ball and roller bearing plant, most vital air target in all Germany, the bomber chieftain said tersely:
"The entire works are now inactive. It may be possible for the Germans eventually to restore 25 per cent of normal productive capacity," he said, "but even that will require some time."
Detailed study of reconnaissance photos taken during the raid -- one of the most important of the war -- revealed even more extensive damage and destruction than first estimated from "strike" pictures taken when targets were covered with smoke, fires and bursting bombs.
"A tremendous amount of clearance, repair work and rebuilding will be necessary before plants can again be operative," Gen. Anderson said. "Fires raged throughout three of the plant areas, burning out not only factories but stores and dispatch buildings as well."
Unofficial corroboration of Gen. Anderson's beliefs came from Stockholm, where a Swedish expert who has close contact with the Germans ball-bearing industry said he thought first Allied estimates of the Schweinfurt damage too conservative.
This expert considered 75 per cent of the German ball-bearing industry knocked out by the raid, the report said.
Following the destruction of the Schweinfurt plant, the Nazi's are turning frantically to Switzerland for their bearings, the Berne correspondent of the Stockholm newspaper Allehanda reported yesterday. He said the Germans had placed large orders with the big bearing firm of Schmidt-Rost in Zurich.
Highlights in the Associated Press interview with Anderson brought out these assertions by the bomber chief:
The Eighth Air Force still is greatly outnumbered by the enemy on the western front.
Sixty per cent of Germany's single-engine fighter force, a big portion of her twin-engine force and 80 per cent of her anti-aircraft defenses -- involving altogether a million men -- are tied up in the west by Allied aerial attacks.
In recent weeks, German airplane production for the first time in two years has not shown an increase.
The Luftwaffe still has a lot of fighter production, and, despite setbacks in manufacturing, may still grow in reserves. (Generally for each plane in an air force's front line of combat there are at least two more behind the lines in reserve pools, in process of delivery and in assembly.)
The Eighth Air Force has been enlarged so that there can and will be more of the USAAF-RAF double blows on successive days and nights against important German centers like there have been against Hamburg, Emden, Frankfurt and Bremen, Gen. Anderson said.
"But you've got to tear down the wall to get at the apple," he added. "Our aim is to get the Luftwaffe out of the way first."
In this long-range strategical campaign against vital enemy targets, the Allied air forces now have hit their stride, he said, but the General indicated the public should look for no sensational developments.
"Staging a major air operation every day," he said, "is like expecting land and sea forces to take the island of Sicily every day.
"But the point is, bombers can carry their destruction to the target, whether it is over water or mountains. There is nothing else at this time that can hit at the heart of Germany and Japan."