In this installment we shall take a look at the air war in WWII. The air war in particular was casualty ridden and was one of the most dangerous jobs one could have in the war. The Army Air Corps ( AKA Air Force) began its major bombing operations starting in 1942 out of air bases in England. With the American economy and military might in full swing, Allied planners decided to initiate around the clock bombing of occupied Europe/ Germany. The USA by day and the RAF by night was a common catch phrase that displayed the new strategy.
The daytime bombing was first initiated by the British shortly after the Battle of Britain ended, showing how dangerous and formidable German targets would be. The RAF ( Royal Air Force) in their short lived daytime bombings lost 44 percent of their 125,000 men in the bomber command. The British soon after shifted to nighttime bombing albeit it was less effective then daytime raids. The USA was chosen to fill in the gap and was given the primary and important yet deadly task of daytime bombing.
The early years of the daytime raids over Germany were so casualty ridden that it was statistically impossible for a bomber crew to make it back home. 25 missions were needed by American crews for rotation home, yet the average life expectancy was only 8 missions ( The Memphis Belle being one of the first to successfully make it home on its 25th mission). In one raid over schweinfurt Germany cost 60 American bombers. There were 10 men per bomber so roughly 600 men were killed in one day on one raid in August of 1943. The raid over Polesti Romania in 43’ also did not fair well as 50 bombers were shot down and 500 men did not return to their bases.
The total allied air supremacy by 1944 meant fewer and fewer deaths by the end of the war in 1945. By the time the war ended though, 40,000 American servicemen lost their lives over German skies. Millions of pounds of bombs had been dropped on Germany, wrecking it’s industrial and cultural cities and killing 200,000+ civilians by wars end. The Air War was one of attrition where the numbers and eventual experience of men made the difference for helping the Allies achieve victory over Facism.