Tag Archives: 8th AF

12 May 1944 – The 8th AF Takes on the Oil Targets

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Lutzkendorf under air attack May 1944

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

(Eighth Air Force): Mission 353: 886 bombers and 735
fighters were dispatched to hit synthetic oil production facilities in Germany and Czechoslovakia; there was strong Luftwaffe fighter reaction and 46 bombers and 7 fighters were lost:

1. 326 B-17s were dispatched to Mersenburg (224 bomb) and Lutzkendorf (87 bomb); 1 hit Hedrongen and 1 bombed Bullstadt; 2 B-17s were lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 189 damaged; 4 airmen were KIA, 6 WIA and 20 MIA.

2. 295 B-17s were dispatched to Brux, Czechoslovakia (140 bomb) and Zwickau(74 bomb); 11 hit Chemnitz, 14 hit Gera marshalling yard, 15 hit Hof and 4 hit targets of opportunity; 41 B-17s are lost, 1 was damaged beyond repair and 162 damaged; 3 airmen were KIA, 8 WIA and 377 MIA.

3. 265 B-24s were dispatched to Zeitz (116 bomb) and Bohlen (99 bomb); 14 hit Mersenburg, 1 hit Ostend Airfield, Belgium and 12 hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-24sweare lost, 5 damaged beyond repair and 61 damaged; 7 airmen were WIA and 33 MIA.

The Escort was provided by 153 P-38s, 201 P-47s and 381 P-51s; P-38s claim 2-0-0  Luftwaffe aircraft, P-47s claim 26-0-8 and P-51s claim 33-0-3 in the air and 5-0-2 on the ground; 4 P-47s and 3 P-51s were lost and 4 P-47s and 9 P-51s were damaged; 7 pilots are MIA.

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Flak over Lutzkendorf May 1944

About 800 bombers of the US 8th Air Force, with a substantial fighter escort, attack synthetic oil plants at Leuna-Merseburg, Bohlen, Zeitz, Lutzkendorf and Brux (northwest of Prague). The Americans claimed to shoot down 150 German fighters and reported losses of 46 bombers and 10 fighters.  (From Chronology of the USAAF) 

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Lutzkendorf Oil Refinery late 1944 showing bomb damage.

Mission 353 was the first trial raid on oil targets to test the claim that the Luftwaffe would defend oil targets in Germany more than they had defended transportation targets.  RLV fighters put up their largest force ever, but five synthetic oil plants were successfully attacked.   This has been argued as part of the attrition battles which reduced the capability of the Luftwaffe to intervene in the Normandy Landings.

457 BG Mission Board may 1944

457 BG Mission Board may 1944.  Lutzkendorf is the forth mission on the board

One of the units participating in the attack was tyhe 457th Bombardment Group.    Their website has an account of the day  here 

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457th BG B17 returning from a mission to France 1944

The long awaited blitz on the German synthetic oil refineries occasioned the largest air raid the Eighth Air Force had yet undertaken. The 45 7th furnished the lead and low boxes for the 94th B Combat Wing for the assault on Lutzkendorf, producer of 30,000 tons of petrol and diesel oil annually. The target was six miles west of Merseburg. Major Fred A. Spencer flew as Air Commander of the B lead box with Lt. Jerry Godfrey flying as pilot. Captain Jacob M. Dickinson led the B low box, with Lt. Clarence E. Schuchmann as pilot.

The weather was CAVU, but ground haze and smoke Obscured visibility. Bombing results were fair. No enemy fighter opposition was encountered, and flak was moderate but accurate. Eleven craft sustained damage.

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This B17 was flown by KG200, but there is no evidence from the German side that these ever flown in the same air space as US bombers, due to the risk to the air crew from German fighters or AA guns. The stories of German operated B17s by 8th AF crews may mask cases of friendly fire.

On the return trip to the base, a German operated B-17 joined the formation near Coblenz and continued with the formation to Brussels. Also, the craft piloted by Lt. John Akers encountered engine trouble. His plane began to lag behind the formation and was last seen near Eisenach on the trip back to England. With only one engine providing power and flying at 1,500 feet altitude, the crew bailed out over Belgium and all were taken as POWs. Because of the seriousness of his injuries, Lt. Akers was later involved in a prisoner of war exchange through the International Red Cross and returned to the States. He was hospitalized until May 1946, when he was discharged.

Although the 457th’s crews saw no enemy fighters, wings of the 3rd Division met severe attacks, causing the loss of thirty- two bombers. It was reported the Luftwaffe pilots resorted to ramming the B.-17s. Total losses for the Eighth amounted to forty-two craft.

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Control Tower RAF Glatton 1945

The mission was the first of many to be directed against the synthetic oil refineries.

Meanwhile, on the Base, a lack of military courtesy by members of the command was noted. As a consequence, classes were conducted for all personnel reported for having failed to salute. The course consisted of two one-hour lectures on military customs and courtesies. The crew of Lt John Akers was lost on this date

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Memorial Plaque Peterborough Airport

The 457th Bombardment Group were based at RAF Glatton about ten miles North of Huntingdon.   This is now Peterborough Airport.  The Water Tower is about the only surviving Ww2 structure.  

If you would like to find out more about the stories of the raids on Germany and where to see the heritage in Britain contact British Battlefields.

3 MAY 1944 TARGET #78 WIZERNES NO BALL

C10/V-2The war in the West was a race between the Allies and the Germans. Could the Allies mount D Day before the Germans had perfected a new generation of weapons which would terrorise Britain into submission. The German revenge weapons included the Fi 176 cruise missile, (the V1 flying bom), the A4 surface to surface ballistic missile (the V2) and a very long range gun, the V3.

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Map showing the location of Wizernes and two other V Weapon sites in the Pas de Calais

Ever since the allies became aware of the existence of these weapons the Allied air forces had mounted a bombing campaign against the structures that the Germans were building to house these weapons. This campaign cost the allies 1,900 aircrew, a comparable number of fatalities to those lost on D Day.

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1944 conjectre about the use of the Wizernes Site

On 3rd May 1944 the 8th USAAF Target was the the huge bunker at d’Helfaut-Wizernes, northern France. This vast structure was intended as a hardened launch centre for V2 and built with slave labour. This air raid was one of sixteen carried out by the allies air forces between march and the end of July 1944. 47 B24 Bombers of the 392nd Bombardment Group of the USAAF would drop 180 x 2000 lb bombs.

Briefing for crews was held between 0930-1000 hours. The mission was to be GH ship led with (22) aircraft carrying 2000# GP bombs. Despite fairly good visual bombing weather over the target with 3/lOths – 5/lOths cloud cover, bombing was poor with only a few hits in the target area of the (80) weapons released. While no enemy fighters were sighted, flak over the target was intense and accurate causing damage to (14) aircraft and wounding some crewmembers. No aircraft were lost and the mission recovered at base around 1740 hours after a 4 1/2 hour mission.http://www.b24.net/missions/MM050344.htm

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B-24 Bomber being loaded with 2,000 lb bombs

The bombing by bombs of up to a ton in weight made no impact on the concrete dome, but wrecked the un-armoured facilites above ground, including the rail connections.

The bunker would be abandoned after a raid by 617 Sqn RAF :Lancasters and a on 17th July using six ton Tallboy bombs. Three of these exploded next to the tunnels, one burst just under the dome, and another burst in the mouth of one tunnel. The whole hillside collapsed, undermining the dome support, and covering up the two rocket vertical entry ways. The Germans abandoned the site in late July 1944.

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Photograph taken by a low flying RAF aircraft on 6th July 1944, before the raid by 617 Sqn RAF.

According the the French Records, the ultimate fate of the 1,100 Russian slave labourers who worked site is not known.

The Bunker complex is now a museum, easily accessible from Calais and a day trip from the SE of England. Although the Germans never used the site for its intended purpose, the sheer scale of the building , the conditions under which it was built and its sinister purpose make it a thought provoking place. It is part of the V weapon story and the defeat of the V weapon bombardment of London. The story of the aerial campaign waged by the RAF and USAAF against the V weapon sites deserves to be better known.

La Cupole Visitor Centre site

USAAF Official History – Chapter on Operation Crossbow

392 BG website

29 April 1944 Raid #71 A Film Star at Old Buckenham

Old Buckenham Airfield Control Tower
Old Buckenham Airfield Control Tower  http://www.controltowers.co.uk/O/Old%20_Buckenham.htm
Operations Officers James Stewart on the Control Tower
Operations Officers James Stewart on the Control Tower

The Big “B”-Berlin! On the morning of April 29, 1944, Group Operations Officer, Jimmy Stewart, called out the German capital as the mission target for the day. Cold chills ran down the backs of many of the airmen of the 12 crews the 453rd was sending out. Bravado may have led some to applaud, but, among the group assembled for briefing, a number had “been there, done that” early in March. Doolittle had put his bombers over Berlin for the very first time in the war on March 6-and the Germans took out 69 of his bombers and 11 fighters! It was the greatest single loss of any air-raid of the war. The 453rd sent out 24 planes and lost four.

Among the 12 crews at the briefing on this morning was that of Lt. Richard C. Holman. The 453rd Unit History, page 21, records, “On the March 6 mission Holman had two engines put out by flak over the heart of Berlin. Attempts to tag on to passing formations failed, so Holman dropped to the cloud level, chased by six or seven FW 190s. With only top turret and waist guns in operation, the crew accounted for two and.possibly three of the enemy aircraft. Evading the attackers, the crew ran into flak over Amsterdam. Lt. Holman put the crippled Lib through violent evasive action, finally reaching the Channel. Desperately short of fuel, the crew tossed overboard guns, ammunition boxes, flying equipment, and all other equipment that could be detached. Despite serious damage by flak and 20 mm cannon shells, the ‘two-engined’ bomber brought Lt. Holman and his crew home!” This was one of those great ships that refused to die. Surely, the Holman bunch would have preferred to sit out the April 29 mission!

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The raid on the 29th April was the fifth bombing mission sent against Berlin.. The earlier missions were flown on the  6, 8, 9 and 22nd of March. The total number of bombers dispatched was 2,567—an average of 642 per mission. 69 planes and crews were lost on the first mission—the greatest loss on any single raid during the entire war. Total losses in the four raids were 126.

On April 29, the Eighth dispatched 679 planes. The plan was to make a disruptive raid on the German civilian population by striking several targets within the city. There was trouble from the start. The 3rd Air Division, flying 218 B-17 Fortresses, led the mission. Its formation was faulty and upon penetration of enemy airspace, it was so dispersed that fighter escort had difficulty providing coverage. Because of faulty navigation, one wing of B-17s wandered 40 miles off the briefed course, and lost 17 Fortresses. Other groups of the 3rd Air Division suffered losses as well. Total losses for the 3rd Division were 28 ships and crews. In contrast, the 1st Air Division’s 228 ships had tight formation, good escort by the “Little Friends”, and lost only ten ships.

The 2nd Air Division was assigned a target chosen for the adverse effect it would have on German morale and to impede their war effort by striking a principal artery of transportation. The 233 aircraft of the 2nd Air Division, among which were the planes and crews of the 453rd, were to carry out a raid on the Friedrichstrasse Bahnhof, center of the main-line and underground railway system in Berlin. But, like the 3rd Air Division, their formation and departure were not on time as briefed. They failed the test of being “on time and on target.” They were in trail of the 3rd and 1st Air Divisions, but flying thirty minutes behind schedule. The Jagdverbande, finding the 2nd Air Division last, struck in force. A single Mustang Group was their only protection when they left Celle airspace and it had to leave due to fuel requirements, just after the B-24s completed their bomb run. “Little Friends,” this time P-47 Thunderbolts, reappeared as the bombers were on their return flight, but German fighter ground controllers seized the opportunity and put up over 100 fighters to the Hanover area to intercept them. The B-24 armada gave up 25 ships with 246 airmen MIA.

The 453rd Unit History contains the following account, “After a day of rest, the 453rd dispatched 12 planes for Berlin. The flak was terrific and retorting crews reported savage encounters with the Luftwaffe which was up in force in a vain attempt to protect the very heart of the Reich. Despite enemy action and undercast, results were thought to be good. Lt Col. Sears, Commanding Officer of the 735th Squadron was Air Commander, flying with the lead PFF ship when that ship was seen to be hit and fall out of formation. Lt. Tye of the 734th and his crew were also lost. Lt Davison ditched his ship and he and his crew, with the exception of tail gunner Harold G. Oakes were fished out of the channel by the ever-alert Air-Sea Rescue Squads.” Read more “Always out Front”  The Bradley Story. 

In April the Eighth lost 512 aircraft-fighters and bombers. Of that number, 361 were heavy bombers carrying nearly 3600 airmen MIA.  By comparison the Allied forces on D Day lost around the same number of fatalities.

   

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“We were at the IP and on the bomb run at about 24,000 to 25,000 feet altitude. I was in the nose turret and released the bomb load from that position. The German defenders were throwing a lot of flak at us-a carpet of black flak burst all around us! I only recall holding on and praying for a fast ride away from that place. Courage, or lack of it, didn’t matter then—it was just ‘make it or not make it’ Recollections of Herbert A. Bradley, Jr.

Old Buckenham is a working airfield which holds a range of heritage events. http://www.oldbuck.com/en/home/

http://oldbuckenham.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/moving-remembrace-at-old-buckenham.html