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  • Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

    The Memphis Belle was not the first USAAF heavy bomber to finish 25 missions—it was the first to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the US.  A small number of heavy bombers finished their 25th missions before the Memphis Belle, including: B-17E Suzy-QThe Suzy-Q, a 19th BG B-17E, was the first USAAF heavy bomber to complete 25 missions
  • Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact

    After the bond tour, the Memphis Belle went to MacDill Army Air Field, Florida, to be used for training.  At war’s end, it was stored at Altus Army Airfield, Oklahoma, with other surplus bombers awaiting scrapping. In 1946, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, acquired the aircraft and displayed it outdoors at a National Guard armory.  In 1977, after
  • Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe

      At great sacrifice, the US Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) daylight strategic bombing campaign played a critical role in winning the war in Europe.   What is Strategic Bombing?          Strategic bombing is a strategy to destroy a country’s ability or will to fight by attacking its homeland from the air.  Airpower advocates believed that strategic
  • Enabling Technologies

    Advanced USAAF technology made the daylight strategic bombing campaign possible.  Key technologies included four-engine bombers, turbosuperchargers, and the Norden bombsight.  Four-Engine Bombers: B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator Four-engine B-17s and B-24s provided the range, payload, defensive armament, and altitude the USAAF required for
  • Bombing Campaign Leaders

    Three iconic USAAF generals—Carl Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and James “Jimmy” Doolittle—played key roles in leading the strategic bombing campaign in Europe. Gen. Carl Spaatz decorates a wounded Eighth Air Force Airman while he recovers in a hospital in August 1944.Carl A. SpaatzAfter leading the Eighth Air Force through 1942, Carl Spaatz commanded
  • Early Operations: Eighth Air Force in England

    In 1942 and early 1943, while the British Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted saturation bombing at night, the USAAF was trying to prove the validity of daytime precision bombing with its small bomber force in England.  For the first year, Eighth Air Force heavy bombers attacked submarine bases and production facilities, along with industrial and
  • Early Operations: Ninth/Twelfth Air Force in the Mediterranean

    Until mid-1943, the USAAF’s small heavy bomber force in the Mediterranean primarily attacked enemy ports, airfields, and ships to help defeat enemy ground forces in North Africa and prepare for the invasion of Sicily.  Twelfth Air Force B-17 All-American was rammed by a German fighter while bombing enemy supply lines in North Africa.  Remarkably,
  • "Combat Box": Bomber Formations

    Formations were designed to protect heavy bombers against fighter attack and to concentrate the bomb pattern on the target.  These formations evolved over time to counter enemy tactics and to adjust for the increasing numbers of heavy bombers involved.B-17 formation during the mission against the Messerschmitt Bf 110 assembly plant in Brunswick,
  • "Keeping them Flying": Mechanics and Bomb Leaders

    Bomber crews’ lives depended on the skill and diligence of their ground crews.  Ground crews constantly maintained the large, complex bombers, repaired battle damage, and performed modifications to make the aircraft more effective.  Bomb loaders in the ordnance section had the dangerous duty of preparing the bombers’ deadly payload.  They
  • Combined Bomber Offensive: Summer 1943 to Victory

              In the summer of 1943, the daytime American and nighttime British bombing campaigns became loosely aligned as the “Combined Bomber Offensive.”  This plan formally established “around the clock” bombing of the enemy.   Until D-Day in 1944, the priority targets were Germany’s fighter force and its ball-bearing and oil industries.    Related
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