By T/Sgt. James Lee Hutchinson
There were 40 Heavy Bomb Groups to destroy Germany's ability to wage war . Every airman in every B-24 or B-17 Group did his tour of duty or died trying! My stories include all groups!
Dates and Data
Various sources of information give slightly different information on the WW II Strategic Bombing campaign in the European Theater of operations.
The U S European Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946 reported data on all Air Groups: Bombing missions -1,440,000 ---Tons of bombs dropped - 2,700,000 Maximum number of planes of planes available - 28,000 Fighter missions - 2,680,000 ----- Men in combat - 1,300,000 Men lost - 79,265 --- Planes lost beyond repair - 18,000 British airmen lost - 79,281--- British planes lost beyond repair, 22,000
In a single 376 plane raid in August 1943, 60 B-17s were shot down. That was a 16 percent loss rate and meant 600 empty bunks in England . In 1942-43 it was statistically impossible for bomber crews to complete a 25-mission tour in Europe .
However, our enemies took massive losses. Through much of 1944, the Luftwaffe sustained uncontrolled hemorrhaging, losing 25 percent of aircrews and 40 planes a month. And in late 1944 into 1945, nearly half the pilots in Japanese squadrons had flown fewer than 200 hours. The disparity of two years before had been completely reversed.
As new aircraft, many combat units transitioned in combat. The attitude was, "They all have a stick and a throttle - go fly `em." When the famed 4th Fighter Group converted from P-47s to P-51s in February 1944, there was no time to stand down for an orderly transition. History says that the Group Commander, told his pilots, "You can learn to fly your new P-51 Mustangs on the way to the target.”
There will never be another air war like World War II. Present battles are fought with million dollar fighters, bombers, helicopters and remote controlled drones over Afghanistan and Iran. Computer guided aircraft and missiles have replaced the “Boys in the B-17.”
However, within living memory, men left the earth in 1,000 plane formations and fought major battles five miles high, leaving a legacy that should never be forgotten!