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Bigger Raids, Bigger Losses and Crisis

Bombardier 2nd Lt Marion Walshe, wounded in the leg by flak, carried to an ambulance after a mission to Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in November 1943.  After recovery, he continued flying missions only to be shot down and taken prisoner in February 1944.

Bombardier 2nd Lt Marion Walshe, wounded in the leg by flak, carried to an ambulance after a mission to Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in November 1943. After recovery, he continued flying missions only to be shot down and taken prisoner in February 1944.

In the second half of 1943, the USAAF continued to build up its heavy bomber forces.  As it hit targets ever deeper in enemy territory, however, staggering losses threatened the entire concept of daylight strategic bombing.


Early assumptions were wrong—unescorted heavy bombers could not protect themselves against enemy fighters alone.  Unfortunately, USAAF fighters at the time did not have the range to accompany the bombers all the way on strikes deep into enemy territory.


During 1943, only about 25% of Eighth Air Force bomber crewmen completed their 25-mission tours—the other 75% were killed, severely wounded, or captured.  Despite knowing the poor odds of finishing their tours, bomber crews courageously pressed their attacks mission after mission.


 

The B-24 Little Warrior after a direct flak hit over Germany.  Only one crewman, copilot Lt Sydney Benson, bailed out and survived—but, Benson was beaten so badly by angry German civilians that he died in the hospital.






The dreaded notice of “missing in action” to the wife of a P-38 pilot who was shot down while escorting heavy bombers.  These telegrams were sent to tens of thousands of Airmen’s families. 







After nearly a month of waiting, Mrs. Nancy McCarty was notified that her husband, 2nd Lt Benjamin McCarty, was alive and had become a POW.  When the war ended, McCarty was released and returned home.  







Somber duty—going through a lost bomber crewman’s personal items before sending his footlocker home to loved ones. 







Several bomber groups had versions of the “Lucky Bastard Club” for those fortunate enough to survive their combat tours.  











Related Fact Sheets

The Memphis Belle: American Icon and 25th Mission

Memphis Belle Crew

The “Memphis Belle” and Nose Art

26th Mission: War Bond Tour

Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress”

Heavy Bomber “Firsts”

Combat Aircraft to Museum Artifact

Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe

Enabling Technologies

Key Leaders

Early Operations (1942 to mid-1943) - Eighth Air Force in England

Ninth/Twelfth Air Forces in the Mediterranean

Combat Box/Communication and Life at 25K

Keeping them Flying: Mechanics and Armorers

Combined Bomber Offensive: Summer 1943 to Victory

Bigger Raids, Bigger Losses, and Crisis

Deadly Skies over Europe (Luftwaffe defense)

Bomber Crew Protection

Operation Tidalwave (Ploesti, 1 Aug 43)

Regensburg/Schweinfurt (17 Aug 43)

Black Thursday/Schweinfurt (14 Oct 43)

Fifteenth Air Force (created Sep 43)

Gunners

Women’s Army Corps

Fighter Escort: Little Friends

Big Week (20-25 Feb 44)

Target Berlin

Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union

Blind Bombing

D-Day Support

Strategic Bombing Victorious

Epilogue

 

 

Return to the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet

Return to the WWII Gallery list

 

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