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