US 8th Army Air Force 1942 (WWII Series)

Discussion in 'Education' started by Xenophon, May 22, 2009.

  1. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    By request of echo...

    A growing air arm in Britain

    What was later to become celebrated as the US 8th Army Air Force started life early in 1942 as the 5th Army Air Force, slated for the projected invasion of North West Africa. But on 6th January 1942, only four days after its formation, the 5th AAF was redesignated the 8th AAF. The new formation was officially born on 28th January with the setting up of its headquarters in Savannah, Georgia. As the 8th AAF's units arrived for training, though, events in the Pacific led to the abandonment of the North Africa build-up, leaving Colonel Asa Duncan's 8th Army Air Force without a job.

    Major-General Carl Spaatz was meanwhile busy organising what was to be called the Army Air Force in Great Britain. He now recommended to Lieutenant-General H. H. Arnold, head of the USAAF, that the 8th AAF form the nucleus of the bomber force to be based in the UK. Arnold agreed, and informed Brigadier-General Ira C. Eaker, who was to head the bomber force in the UK, that the 8th Army Air Force would be his main element. Eaker and his staff had arrived in the UK during February to set up liaison with RAF Bomber Command and start organising for the arrival of a massive American air force.

    Eaker moved into his own HQ near High Wycombe on 15th April, and set about preparing for the reception of VIII Bomber Command, as the 8th AAF's bombardment formation was designated. To be centred on Hunting*donshire, with expansion into East Anglia as necessary, the 8th AAF was to reach a strength of 3,500 aircraft by April 1943: 17 heavy, 10 medium and six light bomber groups; and seven observation, 12 fighter and eight transport groups. The organisation to run such a force was great, and the 8th Army Air Force officially reached Great Britain on 18th June, with the arrival of Spaatz.

    The first 8th AAF combat aircraft to arrive in Great Britain was a Boeing B-17E of the 97th Group, which landed at Prestwick on lst July after its flight across the Atlantic.

    The 8th Army Air Force soon became an immense assembly of men, machines, and equipment as more and more East Anglian airfields opened up as bases.
     

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    Last edited: May 22, 2009
  2. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    A Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    And two bonus stories since they go with the topic..

    First Schweinfurt bombing raid
    Failure for daylight bombers


    Launched on the first anniversary of American bomber operations in the UK, the Regensburg-Schweinfurt raid was the biggest carried out to that time by the USAAF's daylight bombers. It was a dual operation, with one section aiming for the Messerschmitt plant at Regensburg, and the other for the ball_bearings factories in Schweinfurt, near Frankfurt. In July 1943 half the bearings manufactured in Germany came from Schweinfurt, hence the strategic importance of the raid.

    Altogether, 376 B 17 bombers took part in the combined mission. The Schweinfurt target was allocated to the 1st Bombardment Division. After delays owing to poor weather, the 1st Division's planes took off 3 hours after the Regensburg force. This interval allowed the escort fighters - 18 squadrons of Thunderbolts and 16 of Spitfires - time to return from escorting the Regensburg bombers, refuel, and take off again.

    Diversionary raids were meanwhile hitting airfields in France and the Low Countries in an effort to preoccupy as many German fighters as possible. Despite Allied hopes, however, the fighter opposition from the German Bf 109s and Fw 190s was heavy, persistent, and accurate. Entire squadrons burst upon the bombers from beneath in 'javelin-up' attacks; others carried out concerted broadsides, and others climbed above the B 17s and dived vertically on to them.

    Although the German counter-assault did not slacken, the B 17s recorded 80 direct high-explosive hits on the two principal bearing plants; at the Kugelfischer works, more than 650 machines were wrecked. The cost of the raid, in terms of aircraft and men, was high: 60 bombers were shot down in the dual mission (24 on the Schweinfurt part), or 16 per cent of those sent. Statistics such as these were frightening, to say the least - it was calculated, for example, that five more raids with similar losses would wipe out the 8th USAAF - and questions began to be asked about the efficacy of unescorted daylight raids. In addition, Schweinfurt was back to full ball_bearing production within six weeks, necessitating a return visit by the bombers in October, a visit which was to be even more disastrous.
     
  4. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    Second Schweinfurt bombing raid

    US air disaster


    Following the expensive raids mounted on 17th August 1943 against the ball_bearing plants at Schweinfurt and the Messerschmitt factories at Regensburg, the USAAF made a spectacular return to Schweinfurt two months later. It too was to be a disaster.
    The raid began when two forces of B-17s totaling 291 aircraft set off from eastern England on parallel courses 30 miles apart. A third force of B-24s was due to take part, but too few planes joined to make it effective and it was dispatched on a diversionary raid towards Emden in the north.

    The fighters of the Luftwaffe waited until the bombers had shed their P-47 fighter escort at the end of the latter's radius near Aachen. Then the Germans attacked, never releasing pressure on the Americans until they reached the Channel on the return leg.

    Bf-109s and Fw-190s were the principal strikers. They hit the Flying Fortresses with formation assaults, with combination waves of 20 mm cannon followed by rockets. They hit them with air-to-air bombs, bore down en masse on selected groups, and unerringly picked off the stragglers. But still the force ground on towards its target, arriving near Schweinfurt minus 28 of its strength. At that point the Americans were flying on a course heading south-east towards Munich. Suddenly, just past Darmstadt, they swung north-east towards the target area, confusing the fighters by their switch of direction.

    Visibility was good for the first force, and although the second group was hampered by smoke, 228 bombers unloaded 395 tons of HE and 88 tons of incendiaries; 143 of the 1,122 HE bombs dropped inside the factory limits, and 88 were direct hits. The effect on the German ball-bearing industry was not cripplingly severe, but the second Schweinfurt raid caused alarm among Hitler's planners. Had the Americans been able to follow up quickly with another raid, untold damage might have been inflicted. But the 8th Army Air Force was in no shape to do so. Second Schweinfurt had cost them dear, with 60 planes lost, and it became clear that without escorting fighters all the way to the target, daylight raids would have to end. The 'self-defending' bomber was a myth.

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    The 8th over Germany:

    [​IMG]
     
  6. random3434
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    random3434 Senior Member

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    Fascinating xeno! Thanks again for posting!


    Love the pics too!
     
  7. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    Formation patch for the eighth air force:

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Xenophon
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    Xenophon Gone and forgotten

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    When the 8th first went into action, the only escort available was the P-38 Lightning fighter, a plane which did not perform well at the altitudes the bombers fought at. It would be a legend in the Pacific however.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Xenophon
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    The introfduction of the P-51C Mustang turned the tide in the air war over germany, this plane was more then a match for the Luftwaffe.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Oddball
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