Sunday, August 17, 2008

The air war in March through May 1942

After the British fighter bombers and day bombers achieved some successes against Axis airfields in Western Cyrenaica, the Germans resolved to do something to put a stop to it. They decided to go after British airfields with the aim, as the Official History quotes, "to regain air supremacy".

The British aircraft also staged a low level of attacks on the Axis supply line. Why this was only a low level, we have a hard time understanding, but that is what it was. During this period, about one hundred sorties against ground targets were carried out by Beaufighters, Hurricane and Kittyhawk fighter-bombers. Particularly successful were the Hurricanes that operated at night against encampments, transport, and aircraft.

Another change was that tactical reconnaissance units were replacing Hurricane Is with Tomahawks. In the period leading up to May, tactical reconnaissance in the forward areas was critical, so the effort to improve the survivability of reconnaissance aircraft was very important. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Malta neutralized

Unlike May and June 1941, Malta was not a factor in the war in North Africa in May 1942. A few Wellingtons still operated from Malta, but they were only able to make sixty sorties against Tripoli during the "lull" in the fighting. They did have a few successes while raiding Palermo, Sicily, sinking or damaging ships.

Only Liberators from Egypt could now hit Tripoli, and they only arrived in numbers by May 1942. Because of that, the main successes against Axis shipping were achieved by raiding Benghazi, due to the closeness of Desert air fields. Bombers operating around the clock made 741 sorties against the port and installations at Benghazi from February to May. As the enemy showed signs of an imminent land attack, Kittyhawks and Bostons appeared over Benghazi during daylight. The attacks seemed to not seriously interrupt the supply buildup, however. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.

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