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
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