Flak—Sur­vival Was a Mat­ter of Luck, Not Skill

World War II’s Great­est Killer

Flight Journal - - CONTENTS - By Don­ald Ni­jboer

“You see the flashes of the guns on the ground and then you sweat out the flak burst, won­der­ing where in hell they’re go­ing to crack. You see the ships ahead of you go­ing through the flak bar­rage and know that you have to go through the same thing.”—Lt. Ralph G. McCon­nell, B-26 bom­bardier “FLAK, al­ways a ma­jor cause of loss and dam­age, has steadily in­creased in rel­a­tive im­por­tance to be­come the great­est sin­gle com­bat hazard in present­day op­er­a­tions. For in­stance, in June, July and Au­gust 1944, data based on in­ter­ro­ga­tion of re­turn­ing crew mem­bers of lost bombers as well as from crew mem­bers who re­turned safely to base...in­di­cate that many more bombers were lost to flak than to fight­ers. In the same pe­riod, flak dam­aged 12,687 of our bombers and only 182 were dam­aged by fight­ers.”—“An Eval­u­a­tion of De­fen­sive Mea­sures Taken to Pro­tect Heavy Bombers from Loss and Dam­age,” Op­er­a­tional Anal­y­sis Sec­tion, Novem­ber 1944.

(Photo courtesy of Stan Piet)

A 15th Air Force B-17G wends its way through heavy flak over Augs­burg on Fe­bru­ary 27, 1945. Be­tween De­cem­ber 1942 and April 1945, the Eighth Air Force recorded an as­ton­ish­ing 54,539 air­craft dam­aged by flak— 20 per­cent of all sor­ties dis­patched.

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