The Mighty Eighth At War, USAAF 8th Air Force Versus the Luftwaffe 1943-1945

B2112

The Allied bomber crews and the German U-boat crews suffered appalling casualties, both groups tasked with fighting a broadly similar battle in that their task was to deny the enemy the equipment of war and blockade against raw materials. The commanders considered that they could win the war without troops, but both were to be disappointed, final victory only being confirmed by the Allies placing their boots on German soil. However, it can be argued that the U-boats came close to cutting supplies to Britain and the Allied strategic bombing campaign significantly reduced the enemy’s ability to wage war. The author has produced a fine account of the operations of the Mighty 8th, two fine photo plate sections, crisp and well researched text and a comprehensive review of the subject makes this a highly desirable book on the air war in Europe. It will also be appreciated by those Americans who come to Europe to visit the old airfields and other remains of the battle members of their family fought in.

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NAME: The Mighty Eighth At War, USAAF 8th Air Force Versus the Luftwaffe 1943-1945
DATE: 081214
FILE: R2112
AUTHOR: Martin W Bowman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 282
PRICE: £16.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, World War Two, Second World War, European Theatre, Eastern England, Germany, heavy bomber, fighter escorts, tactical aircraft, D-day
ISBN: 1-47382-277-7
IMAGE: B2112.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/nw25dcf
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: The Allied bomber crews and the German U-boat crews suffered appalling casualties, both groups tasked with fighting a broadly similar battle in that their task was to deny the enemy the equipment of war and blockade against raw materials. The commanders considered that they could win the war without troops, but both were to be disappointed, final victory only being confirmed by the Allies placing their boots on German soil. However, it can be argued that the U-boats came close to cutting supplies to Britain and the Allied strategic bombing campaign significantly reduced the enemy’s ability to wage war. The author has produced a fine account of the operations of the Mighty 8th, two fine photo plate sections, crisp and well researched text and a comprehensive review of the subject makes this a highly desirable book on the air war in Europe. It will also be appreciated by those Americans who come to Europe to visit the old airfields and other remains of the battle members of their family fought in.

This is a stirring story of Anglo-American co-operation at its best. The Mighty 8th was formed when the US entered the Second World War at its half way point. Aircraft and crews were poured into Britain and particularly into Eastern England. USAAF and RAF airfields were built at seven mile intervals, turning Britain into a concrete aircraft carrier moored off the German coast. With the RAF operating mainly at night without fighter escort, and the USAAF operating in daylight with long range fighter escort, the Allies could bomb round the clock and this was to develop into massive raids that created fire storms of immense destructive power.

The WWII bombing campaign by the Allies was the first air campaign to attempt to defeat an enemy by air power. The 8th Air Force arrived in Britain and began operations at the time when the RAF had been re-equipped with a new generation of bombers and were able to mount massive night time raids over Germany. The RAF decided to bomb at night because the bombers lacked long range fighter escorts and were unable to adequately defend against day fighters. The weakness of RAF bomb sights was being addressed, with radar to be added shortly to Lancasters, but special Pathfinder Squadrons were established to carry out target marking with flares for the main force following and bombing on the flares. The Lancaster was able to carry a substantial bomb load and even the twin engine high speed two seat Mosquito was able to carry a bomb load equal to the first USAAF heavy bombers.

The USAAF had two advantages that made daylight bombing acceptable. The Norden bomb sight made daylight precision bombing possible and therefore potentially reduced wasted bomb payloads by placing most bombs directly on the intended target and with a lower level of collateral damage. The other advantage was that much of the sortie would be accompanied by escort fighters to reduce the risks from enemy fighters. However, the early bombing raids were not escorted all the way to the target and the Germans learned to engage the escorts early, forcing them to drop their external fuel tanks to engage in combat and thereby shortening the escort range significantly. It was not until the arrival of the P-51D Mustang that a full escort was achieved even to the most distant German targets. It also took many raids before the USAAF bombers were adequately armed with defensive firepower. The B-17 Flying Fortress was initially equipped with mainly hand-held .50 cal heavy machine guns. By the G model, this armament had been increased and typically included a tail turret, ventral twin gun ball turret, twin gun dorsal turret, twin gun chin turret and a number of hand-held mounts in the waist and at other locations, the latter often field modifications. There was also an attempt to add gunships to bomber formations by adapting some B-17s to carry extra guns and large amounts of extra ammunition, together with additional crew members to man the guns, in place of carrying bombs. This proved ineffective because the gunships were unable to maintain the same speed as the bombers.

The very high casualty rate suffered by all Allied bomber crews was a major problem but morale held and crews pressed home their attacks in the face of fierce opposition. The author has explained, including first hand accounts, how the American bomber force helped the fight to victory by integrating operations with the RAF, where the strengths of both forces were used to complement each other, decimating German industry, transport systems and breaking the Nazi war spirit. There have been those who have claimed the bombing campaign was far less effective, with German production output increasing, civilians facing up to the terrors of bombing, and huge losses suffered by Allied crews to little real effect. The author has debunked those claims through solid research and presentation of the realities. It is fair to say that air power alone would not have achieved victory, but the bombing campaign slowed the development of new German weapons, disrupted production of war supplies significantly, destroyed communications and interrupted the movement of troops and armour, destroyed U-boats as they were being assembled, and weakened the Germans sufficiently to permit the Normandy landings, which were inevitably a high risk operation, and support the advance into Germany. This book is a fitting tribute to the young Americans who fought high in the skies over Europe.

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