Major General Frederick Anderson, 1905-1969

Major General Frederick Anderson (1905-1969) was an American pioneer of strategic air warfare. First as commander of VIII Bomber Command and then as deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe he played a major role in the American bombing campaign against Germany.

Anderson's first posting was to the cavalry, but he soon moved into the fledgling Army Air Corps, where he developed his interest in strategic bombing, and was responsible for the Air Corps standard training methods. In the spring of 1943 he was on the committee formed to produce a plan to implement the Combined Bomber Offensive agreed at the Casablanca conference. This plan was signed on 18 May 1943 and officially put in place in June, by which time Anderson was already involved in its implementation.

In May 1943 he became commander of the 4th Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force. This wing was made up of six B-17 groups, and when it made its first raid on 13 May it increased the crew availability in the Eighth Air Force from 100 to 215. On 1 July 1943 Anderson was promoted to command VIII Bomber Command, under General Eaker, the commander of the Eighth Air Force.

Anderson took command at a difficult time. The Eighth Air Force hadn't expanded as quickly as had been hoped, and strong German opposition meant that a number of raids suffered very heavy losses, most famously the attacks on Regensburg and Schweinfurt. His command was also involved in costly but ineffective attacks on German U-boat pens, a target that proved to be very difficult to damage.

On 1 January 1944 the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces were brought together as the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF) under the command of General Spaatz. On 6 January Anderson was appointed his deputy commander of operations, giving him the job of coordinating operations between the two bomber forces, one based in Britain and one in Italy. In normal circumstances day-to-day command of the individual air forces remained with their own commanders – General Doolittle in the case of the Eighth Air Force, but if both air forces were involved in the same operation then Anderson took direct command. One of the earliest examples of this came at the end of February 1944 when both air forces were involved in Big Week, a concerted attack on the Luftwaffe and the German aircraft industry which began with Operation Argument on 20 February.

Anderson's new role gave his views more impact. In February 1944 he was amongst the many opponents of the Transportation Plan, which called for attacked on transport links in France and Belgium to support the D-Day landings. In July 1944 he proposed the formation of a joint Anglo-American CROSSBOW committee to examine the efforts being made against the German V weapons, and later that month a committee was formed, although only with advisory powers. Early in 1945 Anderson was one of many Allied commanders who feared that the war might last for longer than had been expected. This mood of pessimism had been triggered by the German offensive in the Ardennes (battle of the Bulge), which came at a time when the Allies were convinced that the Germans were no longer capable of offensive action. Anderson's reaction was to call for a massive attack on German jet aircraft production and to ask for the bombing plan to be modified on the assumption that the war would last longer than expected.

Anderson's role also meant that he travelled around the European theatre. In March-April 1944 he was in Italy, watching the Twelfth Air Force carry out tactical operations. The knowledge gained here was used to help prepare the Ninth Air Force for the D-Day campaign. Amongst the benefits of this visit was an appreciation that tactical aircraft could destroy or block bridges much more effectively than had been believed. In May 1944 Anderson visited three Russian air bases that were being prepared for Operation Frantic – shuttle bombing missions that were designed to extend the effective range of American bombing and to impress the Soviets with the power of the heavy bomber. Anderson was able to report that the bases were ready for use, and the first FRANTIC mission took place in the following month, but the raids were not a great success.

Anderson retired due to disability in 1947 as a major-general, having been promoted on 4 November 1943. In retirement he became a partner in an investment bank. Anderson died on 2 March 1969 at Houston, Texas.

The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, Martin Middlebrook. A very detailed account of the costly American daylight raids on Regensburg and Schweinfurt of 17 August 1943, a pair of maximum effort attacks that were meant to cripple parts of German industry but instead made it clear that even the heavily armed B-17 Flying Fortress couldn't operate without fighter escort. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 April 2009), Major General Frederick Anderson, 1905-1969 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_anderson_f.html

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