War Strategies

Skip Bombing

Skip bombing was used in World War II by Allied bombers against Japanese ships in the southwest Pacific. Before that, in the summer of 1942, only the B-17F bombers of Maj. Gen. George C. Kenney’s Fifth Air Force could reach targets located near Rabaul, New Britain from New Guinea, a distance of up to 700 miles. Their success rate with conventional high-altitude bombing was only one percent. The Japanese forces were winning the war, and something had to be done. General Kenney authorized his pilots to try low-altitude bombing, a technique that was subsequently perfected by 2nd Lt. James T. Murphy and Capt. Kenneth McCullar. These two pilots transformed skip bombing from a working theory to a successful strategy.

Skip bombing worked best at 200′ of altitude, with flying speeds of 200 to 230 mph. The B-17s released their bombs about 300 yards from the target. This caused the bombs to skip across the water’s surface and slam into the side of the target ship. Using this method, the bombers success rate increased from one to 72 percent. As a defensive measure, skip bombing was executed under cover of darkness, and by moonlight or flares. This was necessary because the B-17s made easy targets for the Japanese anti-aircraft guns on Rabaul and on enemy ships. The bombers simply did not have enough forward guns to suppress the anti-aircraft fire. Despite its disadvantages, skip bombing is credited with contributing to the end of Japanese dominance in the southwest Pacific.

It has long been accepted that the better the strategy is, the more your chances of success are. This is especially true of warfare – whether fought on the ground, in the air or on the sea. A good war strategy may result in victory even if numbers are far smaller than that found in enemy armies. While this section of Airplanes.com does not cover any current war strategies, it will attempt to detail and discuss several popular or successful war strategies of the past. If you notice that a particular strategy has not been included on this page, please feel free to email us and let us know about it. We welcome any suggestions and appreciate feedback which will result in better service and a more useful website.