Combined Bombing Offensive 1943–45
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)