Com­bined Bomb­ing Of­fen­sive 1943–45

Flight Journal - - FEATURES -

In 1943, the RAF and U.S. Army Air Forces agreed upon a joint strat­egy for the strate­gic bomb­ing of Ger­many and Oc­cu­pied Europe. With RAF Bomber Com­mand op­er­at­ing at night and the U.S. Eighth Air Force by day, the com­bined weight of Al­lied air­power would de­scend upon Hitler’s Re­ich around the clock.

The plan—Op­er­a­tion Point­blank—launched in June, fo­cus­ing on Ger­man fighter pro­duc­tion. Even­tu­ally some 380 tar­gets were iden­ti­fied, es­pe­cially Ger­man trans­porta­tion sys­tems and pe­tro­leum-pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties. In Novem­ber, when the 15th Air Force stood up in Italy, the Re­ich was caught in a north-south vise.

Dur­ing the two-year com­bined bomber of­fen­sive, hun­dreds of in­di­vid­ual bat­tles were fought, often with spec­tac­u­lar losses. RAF Bomber Com­mand waged a suc­ces­sion of cam­paigns, in­clud­ing 1943’s Bat­tle of the Ruhr and the 1944 Bat­tle of Berlin, both in­cur­ring heavy at­tri­tion. Yet de­spite los­ing two-thirds of all air­crew killed or cap­tured, Bomber Com­mand per­sisted and won.

The Eighth’s dou­ble strike at Re­gens­burg and Sch­we­in­furt in Au­gust 1943 cost more than 60 bombers, a fig­ure ex­ceeded in Sch­we­in­furt II that Oc­to­ber. Those losses were un­sup­port­able, forc­ing the Eighth to pull back from deep pen­e­tra­tions un­til P-51 Mustangs ar­rived in suf­fi­cient strength. From early 1944, dur­ing Fe­bru­ary’s “Big Week,” the pen­du­lum swung, partly due to a pol­icy change un­der Maj. Gen. Jimmy Doolit­tle, who turned the fighters loose from close bomber es­cort. From then, the Luft­waffe had no rest, on the ground or aloft.

B-17Gs of the 532nd Bomb Squadron 381st Bomb Group Eighth Air Force near their base in Ridgewell, Eng­land, in 1944. (Photo cour­tesy of Jack Cook)

Although B-24s out­num­bered B-17s, they are often over­shad­owed. (Photo by Budd Davis­son/air­bum.com)

One of the pioneer bomber groups of the Eighth Air Force, the 91st Bomb Group flew its first op­er­a­tional mis­sion to the sub pens at Brest, France, in early Novem­ber 1942. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

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