“Down and Out”

“Down and Out” (February 25, 1944) 1/19
by Silvey Jackson (SJ) Ray (1891-1970)
12 x 15 in., ink and white watercolor over graphite on pebble-grain Coquille board
Coppola Collection

S.J. Ray was a student at the Art Students League of New York and was a World War I veteran. He joined the Kansas City Star in 1915 as an advertising illustrator and became the Star’s editorial cartoonist in 1931. He served in that post until retirement in 1963, drawing an estimated 10,000 cartoons. He received honors from the U.S. Treasury Dept. for his cartoons during World War II in behalf of the National War Savings Program.

The Luftwaffe was a strength of the Wehrmacht.

On August 17, 1943, the US Air Force launched its deepest raid against the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt and aircraft production factories at Regensburg. The bombs destroyed some of the factory complexes, but the Luftwaffe destroyed or damaged much of the bomber force.

After more raids, the Air Force made another massive effort to hit the Luftwaffe. On September 6, 262 bombers were sent against Stuttgart. Of those, 45 fell to fighters and flak. In October 1943, the US air losses became critical, forcing a reappraisal of the American daylight bombing Strategy.

The changes that paid off came from several sources.

Major General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle took command of the US Air Force on January 6, 1944. Based on his extensive experience, the push for smart air superiority took on greater importance. In particular, American fighter escorts would aggressively attack the Luftwaffe as the Germans rose to attack the bombers. The American fighters would also proactively seek out the potential attackers.

Doolittle commanded attention to his success during the “Big Week” (February 22-25, 1944), with over 6000 sorties flown around the clock, delivering more tonnage than in all of 1943. By the end of the week, as many as 1,000 complete or nearly complete German aircraft were destroyed.

The loss ratio with the German fighter force began to reverse, and the German replacements were increasingly unskilled youths going up against against experienced American pilots.

On June 6, 1944, the Luftwaffe failed to menace the Normandy invasion, and the Allies enjoyed air superiority over the battlefield for the rest of the war.

Adolf Hitler and Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering were determined to retaliate against British cities, especially London, for Allied air attacks against German cities. A few years earlier, they would have ordered a series of massive air raids against London in reprisal. However, combat losses and the switch to fighter production for the defense of the Reich had drained the strength of the Luftwaffe’s once-powerful bomber fleets. Massive air strikes were no longer an option.

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