The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
A CAREER WITHOUT A FUTURE
Aces Over Europe, like Slye's other sims, gives you several choices: you can fly for any of the three services involved (here it's the U.S.A.A.F., the RAF or the Luftwaffe). You can "Dogfight a Famous Ace" (one-on-one), "Dogfight a Squadron" (yours against theirs), fly individual missions (including "Training," "Fighter Sweep," "Intercept Bombers," "Escort Bombers," "Ground Strike," "Anti-Shipping Strike," "Interdiction," even "Operation Crossbow," against German V-1 and V-2 sites).
Or you can embark upon a career—there is no set number of missions, but you may start anytime from April 1, 1944, onward, and try to survive until Aces' last missions on January 31, 1945. You don't assume the identity of an ace, but you may join a squadron and fly wingtip-to-wingtip with one. With luck, you may become one.
All of which is not to say that Aces Over Europe gives its aircraft short shrift. Aces includes a wider variety of ETO (European Theater of Operations) aircraft than any other sim, starting with the obligatory P-51 Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire, Focke-Wulf FW-190, the Messerschmitt Bf-109 and Me-262. It also includes the less well-known P-47 Thunderbolt, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the often-overlooked DeHavilland Mosquito (which, like Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, was made largely of laminated wood). Unlike Secret Weapons, there are no fantasy aircraft here, no might-have-beens. (Of course, if the earlier Aces of the Pacific and red Baron are any indication, the inevitable follow-on disk(s) to Aces Over Europe may well include a "back-solver" scenario ["Nazis Repel D-Day Invasion!"] or involve theoretical aircraft like Dr. Saenger's stratospheric "skip" bomber that was supposed to be capable of reaching New York from Berlin.)
These aircraft were part of a vast air armada which throughout 1943 was the subject of a tug-of-war between the proponents of conflicting uses for such resources. All year, the supreme Allied commander, General Eisenhower, was lobbied by advocates like Ira Eaker (head of the Eighth Air Force) and his like-minded successor, Carl Spaatz, who favored continuing the strategic bombing of vital German "chokepoints" such as oil production.
On the other hand, tacticians like the U.S. 4th Fighter Groups's Blakeslee urged waiting for long-range fighter escorts (the Mustang didn't arrive until November and didn't get drop tanks until 1944) before resuming strategic bombing, and in the interim, throwing the full weight of the Air Force against those targets in northern France which, if allowed to stand, would chew the Allied invasion forces to pieces.
Ike, usually "The Great Compromiser," for once followed his heart and came' down foursquare against the politicians like Churchill and Stalin, to whom the loss of individual life meant nothing (26,000 American airmen would eventually die in the ETO), and firmly on the side of his soldiers. In early 1944 he approved the quizzically named "Transportation Plan"—the most ambitious series of tactical strikes in the history of aerial warfare, and the centerpiece of the game play in Aces Over Europe.
The theory was brilliant. Allied planners noted that despite the fact that the Wehrmacht had been, at the start of the war, the most heavily mechanized army in the world, the lack of standardization among truck and heavy vehicle manufacturers had led to disarray in ground transportation, and, as a result, the Wehrmacht had become almost entirely dependent upon rail transportation to move men, matériel, arms, armor, supplies, and reinforcements from staging areas in Germany to positions along the outer perimeter—the "Atlantic Wall"—of Festung Europa.
The "Transportation Plan" was designed to deny the Wehrmacht these assets by pounding railheads, bridges, switching points, marshaling yards, coaling stations, locomotives, track, rolling stock, and car barns into oblivion. In addition, road, canal, riverine, and seagoing traffic was to be aggressively attacked, as were air bases, fuel depots, ammunition dumps, communications centers, power stations and lines—the whole nine meters. This was interdiction on a massive scale.