Dive Bombers

When Germany went to war in 1939, the Luftwaffe had one mission: Close air support.  Quick-strike fighters like the Me-109 would knock out enemy planes on the ground, while heavy fighters like the Me-110 would eliminate any that managed to take off.  Ultra-fast light bombers like the Do-17 would conduct tactical airstrikes against reinforcements and ammo dumps, while the fearsome Ju-87 Stuka took out troop concentrations and armor.

It worked spectacularly.  Poland, France, Holland, Norway — nobody stood a chance.  What the German army failed to achieve in four  years of trench warfare, 1914-1918, it achieved in six months of blitzkrieg.  But then the war changed.  In order to invade Britain, the Luftwaffe first had to clear the skies.  It was forced into a role for which it was not designed, and, despite a huge edge in weapons, training, and numbers, the results were not good.  The Me-109 was a good dogfighting aircraft, but lacked the range to stay more than 20 minutes over southern England.  The Me-110, which was supposed to be the air-superiority fighter, was useless in that role — too slow, too clunky, too lightly armed.  The quick-strike tactical bombers lacked the bomb load and defensive armament to be strategic bombers, and by now enemy fighters were fast enough to catch up with them — they got shot down by the score, the 109 didn’t have the range to escort them, and the ones that got through didn’t have the punch to complete their assigned missions.

Worse, the Luftwaffe never seemed to realize its core mission had changed.  Even when it became clear that Britain and Russia couldn’t be blitzed, they still kept cranking out ground-attack planes.  Even as the skies over Germany were filling with British and American heavy bombers, and the ground on the Eastern Front with Russian divisions, the Luftwaffe was strapping bombs onto the world’s first operational jet fighter and trying to make its one kinda-sorta long-range strategic bomber into a dive bomber.

Which is a decent metaphor for modern government.

The Founders designed a pretty good government for its core mission — defending The People’s lives, liberty, and property, as those things stood around 1787.  It was a distributed system; it assumed the assumption that the Big Three are best defended at the lowest practical level.  So, most citizens would be governed by local laws.  Only those things that required a bigger government would be handled at the county level, then the state level, until finally you got to the federal level, which handled very big stuff like foreign policy.

Alas, the centralizing tendency that has been man’s lot since we first came down from the trees doomed it.  Toad Suck, Delaware, had a town council that was on the ball; their streets were great.  Their neighbors in Frog Wallow didn’t, so their streets weren’t… which negatively impacted the commerce of Bugger County.  Which, of course, affected the whole state, whose ongoing trade dispute with New Hampshire necessitated an appeal to the Feds… and whaddaya know, a few penumbras and emanations of the Commerce Clause later, and now you’ve got to clear it with seventeen different DC bureaucracies, plus nine lobbies and twenty four pressure groups, to fix a pothole on Toad Suck’s Main Street.

Mission creep, see?  FedGov has the technical capacity to fix potholes in Toad Suck, Delaware, just as the Luftwaffe’s engineers had the technical capacity to make a jet fighter or a strategic bomber.  But technical capacity is useless without an understanding of the core mission to which it is to be applied.  Why was the world’s fastest aircraft — an air-superiority platform if ever there were one — blasting off to drop tiny little pinprick bombs on the Eastern Front?  Did Goering really envision huge fleets of strategic bombers diving from 20,000 feet to drop heavy payloads on British and Soviet industries?  The minute you ask “so what’s all this spiffy tech actually for, anyway?” nobody has an answer… and that’s why they lost the war.

These days, nobody has any idea what our FedGov is supposed to do.  The Constitution may or may not be a “living document,” as Our Betters always say — it may well have been overtaken by events.  But how would we even know?  It assumed that government exists to do certain things.  Does our government still do those things?  Is it supposed to?  Can it?  (It is entirely possible that “protection of life” is not compatible with “preservation of liberty,” as any number of knife-, truck-, rifle-, and bomb-wielding Swedish Lutheran lone wolves are doing their damnedest to illustrate).

If we have any hope of winning this thing, we need to figure it out.  You don’t win a total war with dive bombers, and you don’t win a total cultural war with internet memes.  What’s the mission here?

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6 thoughts on “Dive Bombers

  1. Jay Carter

    You write:
    You don’t win a total war with dive bombers, and you don’t win a total cultural war with internet memes.
    However where else would a “nobody” like myself, (outside of the internet) have the opportunity to posit the following:

    Logic 101 course. Multiple choice question.

    Which one of the below families received monies from Russia?

    A. The Trump family.

    B. The Clinton family.

  2. Nate Winchester

    All true HOWEVER…

    This is something Jordan Peterson has talked about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifT5pP3-Zr0

    Which even cracked wrote about back in 2007 calling it the “monkeysphere”.

    Officially it’s called the Dunbar number.

    What this means is that humans are caught in a bit of a paradox. We like to congregate as you point out, but there’s a limit as to how much social interaction our brains can process (the Dunbar number). Which means that we congregate together… right up until we hit our limit, overload, and then start making war to split apart. (the story of Babel)

  3. JohnTyler

    The Luftwaffe screwed up because they decided to bomb UK population centers (e.g., London) instead of concentrating on bombing RAF airfields, coastal radar installations , military installations and those industrial facilities that produced war materiel.
    The German thinking was that by destroying populated areas they could destroy the English will to fight; basically just bomb them into submission.
    Big mistake.

    As Winston Churchill said (I think it was he), and I paraphrase, ” the side that makes fewer mistakes will prevail.

    Holland and Norway really had no military capability at all; they were essentially defenseless.

    The French generals thought the war would be a reprise of WWI – static, trench warfare; thus their dependence on the Maginot Line as their first line of defense (the Germans merely went around it and destroyed it from its rear).
    It simply did not occur to the French Generals that armored divisions would be massed and used to lead an invasion; there would be no trench warfare at all.
    Just as they did during the Franco-Prussian War and WWI, the French Generals once again totally screwed up.

    Poland put up a spirited defense, but they too were unprepared for Mechanized War. While the Germans sent in fast moving Panzers, the Poles sent in fast moving cavalry on horseback.
    The Panzers won.
    Also, do not forget that soon after Hitler attacked Poland, the RUSSIANS invaded Poland from the east. Thus Poland had to fight a two front war. They really had no chance. (recall that Russia/Stalin also invaded Finland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia and sent hundreds of thousands of their citizens to the vast system of Soviet concentration camps; there were far more Soviet concentration camps in 1939 than Nazi death camps at war’s end in 1945).

    The UK had the advantage of the English Channel. The Germans – in their entire military history – never was a maritime nation and never had launched an amphibious assault of any size. The German Army was always a “marching” military – they got to the front by foot , train, horse and later on in the 20th century, they added motor driven vehicles, tanks, etc.
    Invading England would require a sea-based (i.e., across the English Channel) invasion and the Germans were loath to do this; the Germans really did not have the know-how or experience to attempt this against the UK).

    1. Nate Winchester

      That’s why in some of the alt-history stuff, i wonder what might be had the Axis conquered mainland Europe then hunkered down for a period of time. Would the war have gone on or would the allies eventually tire and settle for a negotiated peace?

      I’ll let Sev, the historian pontificate on this more but it makes one wonder.

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