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Fifteenth Air Force—Strategic Bombing from Italy

In September 1943, the USAAF formed the Fifteenth Air Force, uniting its Mediterranean heavy bomber forces together at bases in southern Italy.  The USAAF could now mount major strategic raids in southern and eastern Europe, creating even more pressure on the Luftwaffe defense.  

String of bombs on the way to hit the Messerschmitt fighter plant in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers obliterate the Bresso aircraft factory in Milan, Italy.

Medical personnel remove the body of a navigator killed on a raid against the ball-bearing plant at Steyr, Austria.

Fifteenth Air Force and 727th Bomb Squadron patches worn by B-24 bombardier 1st Lt Robert Henbest.


Bombardier Harold Cooke made these items while imprisoned after he was shot down over Regensburg in February 1944.


Bombardier wings carved from a wooden bed slat.


Fifteenth Air Force emblem and map carved from a chair seat with a table knife.


Aircrew badge display made by wrapping tin foil around actual badges.  The frame was made from bed slats, the padding from an RAF uniform, and glass from a window.


Ike jacket worn by Fifteenth Air Force “togglier” SSgt James Walsh.  On some heavy bombers, an enlisted person called a togglier dropped the bombs on cue from the lead aircraft.  The togglier also manned the nose guns. 


Lt Col Robert Kratz—a 455th Bomb Group B-24 bombardier who flew 52 combat missions—was holding this cap in his hand when a fragment passed through it. 

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)


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



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