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BDA: Anglo-American Air Intelligence, Bomb Damage Assessment, and the Bombing Campaigns Against Germany, 1914-1945

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Doctoral thesis

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The Anglo-American bombing campaigns against Germany during the world wars relied on air intelligence for targeting information and bomb damage assessment BDA reports. These gave airmen key insights on the effectiveness of aerial bombardment. Air intelligence emerged as a new specialty during the Great War. By 1918, an intellectual infrastructure with organizational and technological components had developed in the British and American air arms. The organizational elements included air staffs with intelligence specialists assigned to provide BDA reports to senior airmen, and unit-level intelligence sections to assess the effects of individual bombing raids. The technologies included reconnaissance aircraft and cameras to collect BDA photographs on the effects of bombing raids. Although bombing and BDA capabilities remained rudimentary during the Great War, they set a precedent for World War II. During the interwar period, despite organizational retrenchment, technological advances, especially cameras, made rapid advances. In addition, the emergence of a bombing doctrine and a four-engine bomber, the B-17, in the United States, heralded the arrival of a mature bombing capability. In Great Britain, the threat of war prompted senior leaders to begin building a new intellectual infrastructure. Although early British bombing operations were ineffective, they allowed BDA experts at the Central Interpretation Unit, Ministry of Economic Warfare, and Research and Experiments Division-key BDA producers-to learn their trade. The combination of this organizational infrastructure with new technologies, including reconnaissance Spitfire and Mosquito aircraft with advanced cameras, resulted in superb BDA capabilities. Once American personnel and reconnaissance aircraft began arriving in 1942, an Anglo-American intellectual infrastructure emerged.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Intelligence
  • Explosions

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