March 4, 2024

The 8th Army Air Force: Cool, collected, calmness under fire.

The following excerpts come from famed journalist and eventual war casualty
Ernie Pyle.  They describe the experience of seeing and hearing the 8th Army
Air Force approach an enemy target and then unleash its fire power upon its tar-
get.   More specifically, they come from the journalist's account of the July 25,
1944 bombing of the Panzer Lehr Division near St. Lo, France.  At the time of
the air raid, American troops were approximately 1,500 yards from the targeted
Panzer Lehr troops, making the air raid a surgical military operation:

...  "And then a new sound gradually droned into our ears.   The sound 
     was deep and all encompassing, with no notes in it --- just a gigantic 
     far away surge of doom-like sound.   It was the heavies." ...

...  "I've never known a storm or a machine or any resolve of man that
       had about it the aura of such ghastly relentlessness." ...

... "The Germans began to shoot heavy, high ack-ack (88mm canon fire).
      Great black puffs of it by the score speckled the sky until it was hard
      to distinguish the smoke puffs from the planes.   And then, someone
      shouted that one of the planes was smoking.  Yes, we could all see it." ...

... "But before it was done there were more cries of 'There's another one 
      smoking, and there's a third one now!'  Chutes came out of some of 
      the planes, and out of some came no chutes at all." ... 

... "And all that time the great flat ceiling of the sky was roofed by all
     the others that didn't go down,  plowing their way forward,  as if
     there were no turmoil in the world.   Nothing deviated them by the 
     slightest.   They stalked on slowly,  with a dreadful pall of sound, 
     as though they were seeing only something at a great distance and 
    (as if) nothing existed in between."   ...

..."and then the bombs came.   They began ahead of us as a crackle 
     of popcorn and almost instantly swelled into a monstrous fury of 
    noise that seemed surely to destroy all the world ahead of us.  From   
    then on, for an hour and a half that had in it the agonies of the cen-
    turies, the bombs came down." ...

..."By now everything was an indescribable cauldron of sound.   Indi-
    vidual noises did not exist.  The thundering of motors in the sky and
    the roar of the bombs ahead filled all the space (spatial capacity) for 
    noise on earth.   Our own artillery was crashing all around us,  yet 

    we could hardly hear it."

  A narration of the same event, as was seen by General Fritz Bayerlein,

  the commanding Nazi officer caught in the middle of it, goes as follows: 

"The entrenched infantry was either smashed by the heavy bombs while 
  in their foxholes and dugouts or else they were killed and buried by the 
  blast.   Infantry and artillery positions were blown up.  The bombed-out
  area was entirely transformed into a field covered with craters, where no 
  human was left alive.   Tanks and guns were destroyed and overturned, 
  unable to be recovered, because all roads and passages were blocked." 

  General Bayerlein also wrote: 

"The shock effect was nearly as strong the physical effect" ... "Some of the 
   men got crazy and were unable to carry out anything.   I was personally 
   in the center of the bombardment and could experience the tremendous 
   effect.  For me, one who, during this war, was at every theater of opera-
   tion, and who had been assigned to the places of the main efforts,  this
   was the worst thing I ever saw." 

   Bayerlein summarized the aftermath in the following way:        

  "My front lines looked like the face of the moon, and at least 70%          
    of my troops were out of action - dead, wounded, crazed, or numb."

The airmen of the 8th Army Air Force enlisted for the entire duration of the war that
was started by Adolph Hitler and his war machine.   These airmen were literally in
it till death  ...  of either themselves or their heavily equipped enemy.  During their
tours of duty, there were multiple occasions when 88, 108, and 128 mm canon fire
would barrage them so intensely that the surviving airmen would wonder how they
made through it the high speed metal hailstorms.   They would return to British air
bases, only to be impressed by the amount of battle damage that their B-17 Flying
Fortresses and B-24 Liberators endured in flight.

During WWII, if you were in Germany during daylight hours and heard a thunder-
ous roar of airplane engines approaching you, it was always the Americans in all
their audacity, coming in plain sight, in order to have a better chance at hitting the
Nazi industrial war machine.  This included V1 rocket sites, Luftwaffe air bases,
Tiger Tank factories, warplane assembly lines, truck assembly lines, military rail
yards, chemical plants, fuel depots, buzz bomb sites, gun positions, and even the
Panzer Lehr Division which, within one ninety minute span of time, was no longer
the Fatherland's impenetrable armored division.  When compared to the strategic
8th Army Air Force, and even the tactical 9th, the mighty Panzer Lehr Division
was no stronger than cardboard boxes and coastline sand castles.

In a nutshell, if the 8th Army Air Force didn't knock out the Nazi German war in-
dustry, World War II would have endured much longer than it did, resulting in far
more casualties than it did.   In fact, if the 8th AAF didn't make a dedicated effort
in bombing Nazi rail yards in France, the allied invaders of Normandy would have
been met with far more resistance than they did.

As a general rule, the easiest missions where those made to submarine bull pens
and V1 Rocket sites.   Close encounters with death often occurred during those
missions that targeted the various Nazi marshaling yards, tank factories, and war-
plane assembly plants.  A marshaling yard, incidentally, was a railway staging area
that sent Nazi troops, supplies, and ordnance rolling.   The 8th Army Air Force
stopped the rolling, but only at a heavy price, being that the Nazi marshaling yards
were so heavily defended.

The 8th Army Air Force carried on its bombers men as iconic as Jimmy Stewart,
Walter Cronkite, Clark Gable, and the famous 60 Minutes Tour de Farce master,
Andy Rooney.  In performing its missions during daylight hours, it was a corps
of sitting ducks in the sky.

The Presence of the 8th Army Air Force
in the European Theater of Operation

Of the 115,332 casualties sustained by the U.S. Army Air Force during WWII, 41%
of them were Eighth Army Air Force casualties.  Of the 47,483 casualties sustained
by the Eighth Army Air Force in WWII, over 26,000 were fatalities.   This exceed-
ed the 19,733 combat deaths and 24,511 total deaths that the U.S. Marine Corps
sustained during the same war.

"We didn't get any flak until we got to the I.P.   Over the target, it 
 was a barrage. (Very intense.)   Twenty-six ships in all went down."

Over 28,000 airmen of the Eighth Army Air Force became prisoners of war in Eur-
ope.   Other airmen who bailed out over Nazi airspace were rescued by French,
Belgian, or Dutch underground networks.   Other airmen, upon parachuting to the
earth, were lynched by German civilians.

"Over this target, I saw one ship go down in a ball of fire.   At the 
   coast, I saw another one go into a tight spin.   It blew up when it
   hit the ground.   I only saw five chutes come out of this one."

As the war in Europe progressed, the ratio of flak-induced casualties to the fighter-
induced ones increased significantly.   During the months June, July, and August,
in 1944, 86.2% of the Eighth Army Air Force's casualties were due to flak.

"The flak over the target was terrific;  very heavy and very accurate. 
  We lost one plane in our group.   It was burning as it headed toward 
  the earth.   We saw three chutes come out of it."

The First and Third Air Divisions of the 8th Army Air Force operated B-17 Flying
Fortresses. The Second Air Division operated the B-24 Liberators.  The number of
B-24 Liberators lost in combat by the Second Air Division was 1,458.

"As we peeled away from the target, I saw a B-24 blow up in mid-air.   
  No chutes came out of it."

The phrase that American airmen used to describe the act of bailing out of a fall-
ing war plane was "Hit the silk(s)."   American parachutes were made of silk, and
a number of wedding gowns were made from American parachutes.

"We were ready to bail out when the pilot finally stabilized things."

A bombing run that encountered very little enemy resistance was called "a milk
run."   However, milk runs were not worthless. Some of them inflicted pivotal
damage upon the Nazi War Machine.

         "Our target for today was a buzz bomb site in the Pas-de-Calais
            area.   This mission, I believe, has been the easiest one so far.
            The bombing was visual, and the target was well smashed." ...

None the less, one crew's
milk run was another crew's 

"While going in, a flak gun 
at the Siegfried Line shot 
down one of our planes."

Shortly after the Liberation of Paris, the Second Air Division delivered tons of
food to Orleans, France.   These flights were called "grocery runs."   They were
were also called mercy missions.

"We saw many, many tanks and vehicles along the roads and in the fields, 
  all wrecked and burnt.   I must have seen at least a million bomb craters 
  and foxholes.  I saw a lot of wrecked planes.  Dead cows and horses were 
  laying in the fields.    There was evidence of a battle everywhere along 
  our route."

Bomber crewmen called fighter pilots "little buddies."

"As we were falling back (out of formation), fighter escorts stayed 
  with us despite the heavy flak and German interceptors."

Marshaling yards, (repeatedly mentioned throughout the missions log), were railway
staging centers through which Nazi ordnance, supplies, and troops were transported.
Some of them were heavily guarded by Nazi flak guns.

Marshaling yards were so strategically important that the allied strategy, leading up
to D-day, was that of bombing German marshaling yards.   This was done, in order
to prevent the Nazis from being able to quickly send reinforcements to Normandy

"The railroad cars at the marshaling yards were a mass of wreckage."

The I.P., also mentioned throughout the missions log, was the Initial Point.  It was
the spot in the sky where a mission's bombing phase began.   This was the coordi-
nate where each remaining bomber crew was to lock in on the target and fly in a
straight line, making neither turns nor evasive maneuvers until its bomb load was
released.   This phase was one in which American bomber crews were extremely
vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire.

"We flew to the I.P. and got some more flak.   As we were making our
   bombing run, from the I.P. to the target, we got even more flak.   We 
   released our bombs on the target and they were still shooting at us."

Individual crews would have an engine shot out over the target more than one.

"We lost altitude so fast that we made for the nearest level strip."

The Initial Point was usually five minutes from the target.

"The flak was really heavy all the way from the IP to the target, 
and even past the target.   I was sweating it out, because a four
gun enemy battery was barely missing our left wing."

The Ruhr Valley was called Flak Valley by American airmen, on account of the
number of flak guns in the region.

"Long before we dropped the bombs, (though after the I.P.), flak 
  was hitting all around us.  We dropped the bombs and made a left-
  hand turn.   The flak was so close that I could see the red flashes 
  as it burst."

Mentioned in a few of the mission log entries from where came the quotes appear-
ing on this page are readings such as "10/10 cloud cover." In as much, 10/10 stood
for 100% cloud cover, while 9/10 stood for 90% cloud cover, so on and so forth.

"We had about 6/10 cloud cover all the way."

The United States Army Air Force flew its missions during daylight hours in the Eur-
opean Theater of Operation, while the British RAF flew its missions at night.   An ex-
ception for American air units was the 801st/492nd Bomb Group. The airmen who
served in that bomb group were known as the Carpetbaggers.

The Carpetbaggers included American airmen who flew behind enemy lines at night,
delivering supplies to resistance forces, evacuating downed allied airmen, scattering
leaflets throughout the night sky, and transporting allied spies.   The Carpetbaggers
even delivered skis and sleighs to Norwegian resistance forces.

The Carpetbaggers had a clandestine airfield in Ain, France.

The C-1 auto-pilot would be activated as soon as a crew entered into the bombing
phase of a mission.   It was during the actual bombing phase when the bombardier
would assume complete command of the bomber.  Bombardiers were the ones hit
the most often by flak, along with navigators.  In fact, before the bombing phase of
a mission, the bombardier would be in charge of the nose gun.

The instrument used by bombardiers by 1944,  whenever radio-guided Pathfinder
Force Technology (P.F.F.) was not present, was the Norden Bombsight.   The
Norden Bombsight was an analog computer comprised of gyros, gears, mirrors,
bubble levels, and a small telescope.

Having replaced the Sperry S-1 Bombsight in 1943, it was preferable to P.F.F.
technology.   It was even preferable to the rarely used Azon radioguided bombs.
In fact, updated versions of the Norden Bombsight were used in Korea and Vi-

     "Our target for today was a German airfield at Laon, France.
              The bombing was visual and results looked good."

In the event that a bomber began to fall out of the sky, it was the bombardier's duty
to destroy the Norden Bombsite before he bailed out, if of course, the bomber were
equipped with one.

The bombsight's necessity consisted in the fact that a degree of bombing accuracy
was needed by the 8th Army Air Force in Europe, due to the nature of the targets
assigned to it.
                                 "Our target was a concentration
                                    of enemy stronghold positions
                                  about three miles west of St. Lo." ...

                                  ... "enemy troops were about
                                       1,500 yds from our troops." ...

                       ... "The Field Artillery signaled us with flares.
                          There were also white markers on the ground
                         to direct us in the air.   The targets were all hit."

The previous quotes came from an airman's account of the July 25, 1944 bombing
of the Panzer Lehr Division near St. Lo, France.   Known as Operation Cobra, the
mission's outcome marked the breakout of allied ground forces from their coastal
confinements.   In fact, the successful outcome of Operation Cobra marked the be-
ginning of Germany's retreat from France.  Ironically, after the successful air raid,
allied ground force moved south and than west, before moving east, to Germany.

The day when the Panzer Lehr Division was decimated by the Eighth and Ninth
Army Air Forces was the day when Nazi troops learned that Germany's heavy
armored divisions were as vulnerable to America's bombers and attack aircraft
as cardboard boxes are vulnerable to sledge hammers.

This reality was evident on D-day, when medium sized B-26 Marauders of the 9th
Army Air Force destroyed a number of German tanks during tactical support mis-

General Omar Bradley was quoted as having said that Operation Cobra "struck a 
more deadly blow than any of us dared imagine."  A remarkable aspect of the
St. Lo Air Raid was that 20 lb fragmentation bombs, 100 lb demolition bombs, and
260 lb fragmentation bombs were all that were taken into battle by the 8th Army Air
Force, in order to decimate a Nazi armored division.

Neither the 2,000 lb demolition bomb, nor the 1,000 lb demolition bomb, nor even
the 500 lb incendiary bomb made an appearance at St. Lo, on July 25.  In fact, the
napalm incendiary bomb which made its debut eight days prior, during a P-38 raid
over France, was not used at St. Lo, either.

On July 25, a portion of the 8th Army Air Force bomber crews carried 20 lb frag-
mentation bombs @ 240 bombs per bomber, while other ones were equipped with
100 lb demolition bombs @ 38 bombs per bomber, while yet other crews went to
St. Lo with a load of 260 lb fragmentation bombs @ 20 bombs per bomber.

During Operation Cobra, the Panzer Lehr Division was more than fragged.  It had
troops who were literally vaporized.  The impact of the July 25th raid was recount-
ed by attending Nazi officer, Lieutenant-General Fritz Bayerlein.  The following was
posted at the introduction of this expose.  It's posted here again, for the reader's con-
venience.  Within his account is the phrase, "heavy bombs."   This refers to the bomb
loads that were dropped from each heavy bomber, as opposed to the weight of the
individual bombs themselves:

"The entrenched infantry was either smashed by the heavy bombs while 
  in their foxholes and dugouts or else they were killed and buried by the 
  blast.   Infantry and artillery positions were blown up.  The bombed-out
  area was entirely transformed into a field covered with craters, where no 
  human was left alive.   Tanks and guns were destroyed and overturned, 
  unable to be recovered, because all roads and passages were blocked."

General Bayerlein also wrote:

"The shock effect was nearly as strong the physical effect" ... "Some of the 
  men got crazy and were unable to carry out anything.   I was personally in 
  the center of the bombardment and could experience the tremendous effect.   
  For me, one who, during this war, was at every theater of operation, and 
  who had been assigned to the places of the main efforts,  this was the worst 
  thing I ever saw."

Bayerlein summarized the aftermath in the following way:

"My front lines looked like the face of the moon, and at least 70% 
  of my troops were out of action - dead, wounded, crazed, or numb."

The July 25th bombing raid proved erroneous the documentary makers' claim that
the allied invasion force of June 1944 would have been pushed back into the Eng-
lish Channel if all available Panzer divisions had immediately responded to Nor-
mandy Beach.   The truth is that Nazi armored units would have been decimated
near the Normandy shoreline the same way in which the Panzer Lehr Division
was decimated near the town of St. Lo.  

If the Panzer tanks started rolling on that day, the 8th Army Air Force would have
been flying a double shift, along with the tactical Ninth AAF which probably would
have responded to the scene much quicker than the 8th AAF.  Now, the morning
of June 6th was accompanied by low cloud cover and the inability to perform sight
bombing.   However, the skies began to clear in the afternoon.   In addition, the re-
peated bombing of Nazi marshaling yards prior to D-day prevented the rapid de-
ployment of Nazi infantry divisions to the west coast of France.  The Nazis often
traveled by rail.  The 8th Army Air Force kept demolishing its travel routes.

That which the 8th Army Air Force did not have the technology to decimate were
the concrete-reinforced gun positions known as pillboxes and the accompanying
bunkers that were lined along the French coastline.

The number of American troops killed by friendly fire during the St. Lo Raid was
111.   The number of American troops injured by friendly fire during the same raid
was 490.   Forty-two B-26 Marauders of the 9th Army Air Force "short bombed."
This resulted in the 30th Infantry Division sustaining 64 soldiers being killed in ac-
tion, 60 ending up missing in action (presumed to be buried under the blasts), and
374 gettingwounded.   If that hadn't happened, friendly fire casualties would have
been 47 killed and 126 wounded, in unintentional collateral damage.

During the St. Lo Air Raid, Nazi German anti-craft batteries fired upon oncoming
American bomb groups with accuracy.  

                        "The flak was rather intense and accurate.
                         Our right wing ship went down in flames."

Concerning the bombing of Dresden, it was the 8th Army Air Force's First Air Di-
vision who participated in that bombing, and even at that, the participating Ameri-
can bomb groups only bombed the Dresden rail system.   The RAF was the entity
who deliberately bombed civilian targets as a matter of policy, and the Americans
and British conducted their own operations independent of each other.  The 1st Air
Division's bombing of the Dresden rail system had the strategic effect of impeding
the Nazis from sending reinforcements to the Eastern Front.

Furthermore, the Feuersturm of Hamburg (known as Operation Gomorrah and the
Hiroshima of Germany) took place during the summer of 1943.   It was RAF night
raids which placed that time span in infamy, as it was a deliberate act of revenge for
the bombing of London.

In 1944, Strategic Bombing, as opposed to Area Bombing, was the operative mode
of the Eighth Army Air Force so much so that, during the same year, its name was
changed to the U.S. Strategic Air Forces (USSAF).  The carpet bombing of civilian
areas was NOT the assigned objective of the 8th Army Air Force.  Rather, the de-
struction of the Nazi War Machine was.  This included military hardware in produc-
tion and in the field, as well as transportation routes, storage areas, airfields, and
enemy troop strong points such as the Nazi gun positions in Metz, France.

"Our target for today was a Heinkel aircraft plant in Rostock, Germany.  
  The plant was one of the largest in Germany, but now it is no more.  Our 
  target was previously hit, but more damage needed to be done to it.   We 
  smashed the target flat this time.   The bombing was visual, and I could 
  see the bombs hit, blowing the place sky high. "

The official phrase, Precision Bombing, was employed in Europe by United States
bomber command, in order to define the targets as being precisely designated and
precisely limited to those of military significance.   The phrase was intended to con-
trast Area Bombing, the practice employed by RAF bomber command by which en-
tire civilian areas were targeted and indiscriminately bombed.

American squadrons were also given secondary and tertiary targets before each
bombing mission, along with primary target and targets of opportunity. 

"... we went to our secondary target, which was a chemical and high ex-
  plosives plant at Clausthal-Zellerfeld. We dropped our bombs and then 
  circled the target, to see what we did.   By the looks of the place, it isn't 
  any good to the Germans anymore.  The target was blazing, as smoke was 
  coming up to about 5,000 to 6,000 feet."

The documentary makers' claim that a thousand bombers would be sent to the same
one bombing target per mission is a falsehood.  The truth is that 300 to 1,500 bomb-
ers would be sent out to bomb four, eight, twelve, eighteen or so targets during the
same one outing.   Designated targets would be in the same general geographic re-
gion, and the various bomb groups would eventually separate into a number of dif-
ferent formations en route to the multiple targets.

There were occasions where only 4 to 13 bombers would attack an individual target.
There were even instances when a solitary bomber attacked a solitary target of op-
portunity.   However, the general trend was that the typical Nazi target was attacked
by 1 to 300 bombers, with 25 to 175 being the more frequently observed numerical
range, if not the exact statistical median.   It was even more common for 55 to 135
American bombers to attack a primary target.

                    "There were about 50 bombers at our target."

An exception was the day when the Leuna synthetic oil refinery at Merseberg was
attacked by 383 bombers during one raid and then 210 bombers later in the same
day.   There were other exceptions.  Only on rare occasion would a thousand or
more bombers be sent to one target.  The St. Lo Raid was one example, and even
at that, it was a joint effort between the Tactical 9th Army Air Force and the stra-
tegic 8th Army Air Force.

The October 1944 attack on Hamm, Germany, was the exception to the precision
bombing rule, even though the first two Autumn raids on Hamm targeted its mar-
shaling yards.  The mission which designated all of Hamm as the primary target
coincided with the recently failed Operation Market Garden which was once por-
trayed on Screen in, A Bridge Too Far, and in the TV serial, A Band  of Brothers.

   - The first autumn mission to Hamm occurred the day after the British
     1st Airborne Division in Holland was ordered to withdraw across the
     Rhine. In fact, takeoff time was a few hours after Operation Market
     Garden was officially declared halted. This was Tuesday, September
     26, 1944. 
                    "Our target for today was one of Germany's larg-
                      est rail centers that support troops in Holland."

  - There was a vested interest in shielding allied troops in Holland from
     a Nazi counteroffensive which would have had its supply line anchored
     at the Hamm marshaling yards. There was also a vested interest in safe-
    guarding Dutch Resistance personnel from Nazi retaliation.   There was
    the additional need to prevent the Germans from turning the western bor-
    der of Holland into a scaled ver ion of the Atlantic Wall (or a replica of
    the Siegfried Line).   In light of this, the allies were in need of establish-
    ing strongholds in the Holland that they invaded ten days prior. 

             "We were to hit the rail depot at the rail center of 
               Hamm, Germany.   The whole 8th Army Air Corps 
               was bombing in this area today."

 - The second autumn mission to Hamm occurred four days after the first
    mission, on September 30th.   Then, on the following Monday, Hamm's
    ability to export the Nazi War Machine to Holland was significantly dis-

 - The bombing mission was successful enough to enable the 1st Canadian
   Army to maintain a position near Groesbeek, Holland.   This resulted in
   the Operation Veritable that began in February 1945.

          "This is the largest rail center in Germany, and I don't 
            think that we will have to go back there again.  I could 
            see the bombs hit right into the target."

 - Crews of the 578th Bomb Group had already been briefed for a mission
    to Stuttgart on the morning of the Second of October. They then found
    themselves in a briefing room once again, being briefed on the Hamm mis-
    sion shortly before takeoff time. Thus, there was a sense of urgency in the
    third Hamm mission, as opposed to a premeditated plan.

         "After we peeled away from the target, I saw three more
           groups drop their bombs.   They smashed Hamm flat."

 - The Hamm marshaling yards were attacked before the three autumn raids,
    during the end of summer, on the 19th of September.  This occurred while
    Operation Market Garden was still in progress.  Hamm's marshaling yards
    would then be attacked again, on November 26, 1944.   But, the mission
    which made all of Hamm the primary target was October 2, 1944.

As was previously mentioned, the RAF engaged in Area Bombing as a matter of
policy.   British high command asserted that destroying German civilian neighbor-
hoods would destroy the German workforce and the Nazis' ability to manufacture
its weaponry.  In fact, Winston Churchill ordered the RAF to perform "terror raids"
upon civilian populations.

British high command was proven wrong.   History showed that Area Bombing did
not destroy the Nazi war industry.   Nor did it demoralize Germany to the point of
surrendering.   If anything, the bombing of civilian venues inspires an enemy to fight
even more vehemently against you with the military hardware that was untouched
while you were bombing his civilian neighborhoods.

The Nazi's defeat at Leningrad was attributed to the fact that civilian venues through-
out that city were intentionally bombed by the Luftwaffe, giving Russian snipers free
reign throughout a fortress of rubble.

The systematic bombing of civilian areas is strategically detrimental, as well as a
crime against humanity.   The bombing of merely one truck assembly plant did more
to defeat the Nazis than did the killing of a multitude of German civilians.

"Our target was a truck plant in Cologne, Germany.   This was a very im-
  portant mission, because the Germans were using the trucks to carry sup-
  plies to the front lines at Aachen and other places."

On occasion, an American bomber squadron would make the error of missing its
assigned target and then hitting a Swiss town or a German municipality.

There were varying degrees of collateral damage for almost any bombing raid that
did not target a submarine bullpen, a Nazi airfield, a remote railway viaduct, a buzz
bomb site, or a recessed gun position.   The amount of collateral damage depend-
ed on a few variables, including the target's proximity to civilian areas, the percen-
tage of cloud cover, the intensity of flak being fired near the target, the flammable
nature of the target, the year in which the air raid took place, and the type of radio
guidance system or bombsight used in the bombing.

Even at that, there were times when the Eighth Army Air Force declined to release
its bombs over Nazi-held territory, due to the presence of too much cloud cover
and the accompanying inability to locate a specific target.

Also keep in mind that a falling American airship (especially one that had not yet
released its bomb load), as well as a plummeting fighter plane, had the potential to
cause collateral damage, also.

In the European Theater of Operation, there were American bomber crews who be-
came the victims of friendly fire while in the air.

"We lost two ships in our group due
to our own bombs dropping on them."

Fatal bomber accidents were not limited to training venues.   There was the tragedy
of American bombers collidsinf into each other upon their return to Britain, as well
as cases of bombers being lost in the English Channel. 

"As we got back to our base, two of the planes in our group  crashed into 
  each other and blew up.   It was an unbelievable sight.  I saw the planes 
  explode right off our left wing and then hit the ground.   No one got out 
  alive.   The weather was plenty rough when coming in.   We lost another 
  plane in the channel."

The Nazis acquired radar technology and used it in its anti-aircraft tactics.  The ra-
dar countermeasure employed by the Americans was that of dispersing bundles of
aluminized paper strips throughout the sky.   Known as chaff, the strips were dis-
persed through trap doors by each crew's waist gunners.

The strips served the function of decoys, causing multiple returns to appear on an
enemy's radar screens.  Despite this countermeasure, American bombers were still
being shot down over Nazi airspace, while a significant number of them were re-
turning to England noticeably shot-up.

                 "About 40 bombers were lost.   I now know how a duck
                 feels during hunting season.  One ship in our group was
                 lost.   Plenty of them were pretty well shot up."

Even after the allied invasion of France and the establishment of allied air superior-
ity, American airmen continued to be in peril throughout parts of the European skies.
As an initial example,  three hundred and seventy-three B-24 liberators were sent to
bomb Nazi German oil refineries and aircraft assembly plants thirty-two days after
D-day.   One hundred and twenty-seven of the bombers returned to England with
battle damage, while thirty-seven of them never returned.  Six U.S. fighter planes
were also lost in combat. 
                                          "The flak was heavy and accurate.
                                               Also, plenty of enemy fighters;
                                          (JU-88, Me-109, Me-410, FW-190.)"

As another example, the July 12, 1944 mission to Munich resulted in battle damage
being inflicted upon 301 heavy bombers.  Twenty-six of the bombers were shot
down over the target.  The target was the Munich marshaling yards.

                             "The mission was long and tiresome."

The tragic Kassel Mission occurred 16 weeks after D-day, on September 27, 1944.
Twenty-five of the thirty-five participating airships of the 445th Bomb Group were
shot down in a 15 minute time span.  The intended target was a Tiger Tank factory. 

                           "This bomber group's losses were heavy
                                in spite of heavy fighter support."

As a final example, on the last day of November, in 1944, 29 heavy bombers were
shot down, while 612 other ones sustained battle damage while in Nazi airspace, at-
tacking four synthetic oil refineries, two marshaling yards, and several targets of op-

During their grocery runs to Orleans, American bombers crews did not travel to 
French airports with full crews.

"Only the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, engineer, and radio operator were on 
  board.   I don't know what we would have done if we had been attacked 
  by fighters.   We were so low that we could see the French people wave 
  at us.   Also a few GIs."

Even though Switzerland was a neutral nation throughout World War II, the Swiss
captured and interned American aviators who bailed out over Switzerland.   Even
though the America prisoners of war were interned at Swiss ski resorts they were
subject to marginal diets of 1,500 calories daily and the gnaw of very poorly heat-
ed quarters.   None the less, Switzerland proved to be a lifesaver for over a 1,700
American aviators.

The United States government received hotel bills from the Swiss, on account
of American airmen interned at the Swiss ski lodges.  In addition, over 100,000
soldiers of various nations and branches of service made their ways to Switzer-
land, along with 200,000+ civilian refugees.

"Gerry really had our number.   I didn't see any ships go down, but one 
  crew in our barracks was shot up so badly that it had to go to Switzer-


If a bomber crew failed to drop its bomb load on a Nazi target during a mission, yet
flew through airspace under attack by enemy flak guns or fighter planes, it would still
receive credit for having performed a combat mission.

The United States Air Force did not become an independent branch of the American
military until 1947.   Until then, it operated under United States Army command.   It
originally carried the title, Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Signal Corps, followed
chronologically by Aviation Section  (of the Signal Corps), the Division of Military
Aeronautics, and the U.S. Army Air Service.   Then, in 1926, congress changed its
name to the United States Army Air Corps.

In 1941, the United States Army Air Force was established, and the Office of the
Chief of the Army Air Corps was disbanded.   However, throughout World War II,
the phrase Army Air Corps was often used when speaking of the newly formed Ar-
my Air Force.   This was done even by the press and government officials, as well
as by members of the Army Air Force. 

The Eighth Army Air Force was founded in 1942, and was originally called VIII
Bomber Command.   Its name was then changed to the U.S. Strategic Air Forces,
during February of 1944.   However, consecutive years of familiarity with the phrase,
Army Air Corps, even at the recruiting office, is the reason why the USSAF was of-
ten referred to as the 8th Army Air Corps, even by its own airmen.

"Our group did not lose any planes, but the 8th Army Air Corps lost 51 
  heavy bombers. "

The airmen saw things as scenic as the White Cliffs of Dover and "the peaks of the
Alps protruding through the clouds."   This is contrasted by the sight of airships go-
ing down in balls of fire, as well as the devastation that was seen in France, during
the grocery runs which occurred after the Liberation of Paris.  The Eighth Army Air
Force, in traveling behind enemy lines, was pivotal in the Liberation of France, the
Netherlands, and Belgium.

"When we left the target, we could see the peaks of the Alps protruding
 through the clouds.   They looked very pretty, but I did not want to hang
 around and look at them. "