The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) built a sophisticated defense system to counter the USAAF strategic bombing offensive. Enemy fighters and antiaircraft guns (also called “flak”) took a devastating toll. The USAAF lost more than 8,000 heavy bombers—each of which typically carried ten crewmen—in combat during the strategic bombing campaign over Europe.
The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was continuously improved, and the Luftwaffe flew it from the beginning to the end of the war.
The Luftwaffe also used twin-engine fighters like the Messerschmitt Bf 110 to defend against heavy bombers. They were no match, however, for USAAF long-range escort fighters introduced later in the war.
Luftwaffe B-17F training diagram illustrating the location of fuel tanks, armor, and arcs of fire for defensive guns.
December 1943 article in an English-language edition of Der Adler, a German propaganda magazine. (Original in preservation storage)
Luftgaukommando Belgien-Nordfrankreich (Air District Headquarters, Belgium-Northern France) flag
This organization was responsible for flak defense and early warning in Belgium and northern France. USAAF heavy bombers attacked targets in this area and regularly flew through it on raids against Germany.
Luftwaffe Antiaircraft Gunner Uniform Badges
Horcher (Sound Locator Operator) Uniform Badges
The Luftwaffe used huge listening devices to locate incoming bombers by the sound of their engines.
Luftwaffe B-17 Victory Marker
This victory marker commemorated Bf 110 night fighter pilot Heinz Grimm’s victory against an Eighth Air Force B-17 during the day on February 4, 1943. Grimm shot down more than 20 USAAF and RAF bombers before being killed in October 1943.
Luftschutzwarndienst (Air Raid Warning Service) Helmet
Volunteer Luftschutzwarndienst civilians notified the population of imminent bomber attacks. This duty became mandatory for all citizens as bomber attacks increased.
Bf 109 Tail Section
The Messerschmitt Bf 109, known as the Me 109 to bomber crews, was Nazi Germany’s most numerous fighter.
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
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)
Women’s Army Corps
Fighter Escort: Little Friends
Big Week (20-25 Feb 44)
Operation Frantic: Shuttle Raids to the Soviet Union
Strategic Bombing Victorious
Return to the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet
Return to the WWII Gallery list