The Verdict: Part I: The Impact on German Shipping
W it h t h e cessation of hostilities in Europe, the establishments most closely associated with the anti-shipping campaign were able finally to ascertain the extent to which German sea communications had been affected by R A F operations since 1940. Reports by Coastal Command headquarters and its Operational Research Section, and the Admiralty's Anti-Shipping Assessment Committee appeared before the end of 1945. All of these agreed that claims for the amount of shipping sunk and damaged had been exaggerated, even after the setting up of the AntiShipping Assessment Committee in 1941, but that the scale of devastation inflicted on the German merchant marine had increased rapidly after the end of 1942. However, this was only one of the levels of investigation going on at that time. A question of how the anti-shipping campaign affected German seaborne trade was left to a Sea Communications Panel of the British Bombing Survey Unit, and what emerges from the panel's investigations is that the Ministry of Economic Warfare's wartime assess ments were highly accurate. For this reason, the MEW 's work should not be discarded in an urgency to see what the post-war British and American Bombing Surveys say, in general, about the impact of Allied air opera tions. We know now that the MEW made certain miscalculations, the most serious being the extent to which the German war economy was mobilised at the beginning of the war, but gaps in both the German record and the two Allied Bombing Surveys make the M EW ’s analyses valuable. The German statistical record began to falter at the end of 1944, and many of the figures for industrial production calculated after this point are not reliable. Many of the investigative teams assigned to the Bombing Surveys had submitted their reports by the autumn of 1945, before all the available German documentation had been collated, and some of the work was superficial, and not all of the conclusions were correct. As far as the actual impact on German industry of Coastal
Command’s blockade is concerned, neither the British nor the American Surveys examined the question in any depth. The BBSU stopped short of this level of analysis, confining itself to a study of trade figures, and both Surveys spoke only in general terms about the effects on industry of inter ruptions to iron ore receipts. In other words, the fundamental objective of the blockade strategy was ignored as a subject in these important post-war studies. However, by extrapolating from the evidence thrown up by these sources, in tandem with the German record, it is possible to demonstrate that Coastal Command’s efforts did not have the desired strategic impact for most of the war, and that even when the factors necessary for the effec tive execution of the anti-shipping campaign came together, the effects on the German industrial economy took a long time to appear because of the nature of the industrial process.