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“Big Week”: February 20-25, 1944

In February 1944, the USAAF and RAF conducted an all-out campaign against Germany’s aviation industry and the Luftwaffe.  Heavy bombers from the Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces hammered aircraft, engine, and ball-bearing plants by day, and RAF bombers attacked by night.  Code named Operation Argument, it became known as “Big Week.”


By this time, USAAF fighters had the range to escort the bombers all the way to their targets, causing havoc with the Luftwaffe defenders.  The USAAF flew nearly 4,000 heavy bomber sorties (one sortie is one airplane flying one mission) and dropped more than 20 million pounds of bombs on industrial and military targets during Big Week.   The USAAF lost more than 200 heavy bombers, with about 2,600 casualties.


Big Week operations cost the Luftwaffe a third of its available fighter aircraft.  More importantly, a fifth of the Luftwaffe’s irreplaceable veteran fighter pilots were lost in combat. 



B-17 formation on the way to bomb a target in Brunswick, Germany.



Gotha aircraft factory burns furiously while fragmentation bombs destroy completed aircraft on its airfield during an attack by B-24s on February 24, 1944.



Reconnaissance photo of the Gotha plant after the attack showing devastating damage.




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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