“In my opinion the war was decided by the air offensive...it happened when you started large-scale attacks on our synthetic oil plants simultaneously with attacks on our communications.”
—Generalfeldmarschall Erhard Milch, Luftwaffe Armaments Chief
By the fall of 1944, with thousands of heavy bombers and long-range fighters in action, the USAAF was poised to strike a knock-out blow against the enemy’s crucial transportation and oil sectors. Formations with more than 1,000 heavy bombers attacked targets at will, utterly destroying oil refineries, synthetic oil plants, bridges, and railroad marshalling yards across Germany.
By early 1945, after months of relentless attacks, the strategic bombing campaign wrecked Germany’s transportation system and reduced its oil production to a trickle. This destruction left the Wehrmacht (German Army) severely weakened from lack of supplies and fuel. With its air force defeated and its infrastructure in total ruin, Nazi Germany succumbed to Allied ground advances from the east and the west in May 1945.
Rheine, Germany railyard completely destroyed after multiple Eighth Air Force attacks.
Eighth Air Force B-24 near Hanau, Germany, takes a direct flak hit in December 1944—all ten men aboard were killed. Although the fighter threat was lessened, enemy flak remained dangerous.
Nonheim, Germany oil refinery in flames after an Eighth Air Force attack.
Zietz, Germany synthetic oil plant in 1944 before it was bombed (left) and in January, 1945, after several attacks by USAAF and RAF heavy bombers (right). Oil refineries were particularly vulnerable to attack.
Heinkel aircraft plant in Warnemunde, Germany, after it was bombed for the second time.
Me 262 outdoor final assembly line near Obertraubling, Germany. With its factories vulnerable to attack, Germany dispersed production to underground sites and forested areas.
Fw 190 fighters in the ruined marshalling yards in Hall, Austria, unable to be used.
Map which belonged to 91st Bomb Group bombardier Lt Paul Chryst, who flew 35 combat missions between August and December 1944. Chryst listed the missions and drew the flight route of each one on the map.
Oxygen tank from Medal of Honor recipient 2nd Lt David Kingsley’s B-17. Kingsley, a bombardier, died when the aircraft crashed after giving his parachute to a wounded gunner.
A-2 jacket worn by Lt S.M. Allen, who flew 35 combat missions from July to October 1944.
Tools used by Lt Charles Settlemeyer, an Eighth Air Force navigator who flew 26 combat missions from September 1943 to March 1944.
Jacket worn by Jim Wright, an Eighth Air Force navigator who flew missions from October 1944 to May 1945. The blue field under his bombardier badge (on the left breast) indicated that he had flown in combat.
A-2 jacket worn by Delbert Kale, an Eighth Air Force pilot who flew 35 combat missions from September 1944 to March 1945.
Flight jacket worn by Eighth Air Force radio operator SSgt William Nixon in 1945.
Armored helmet and flight helmet worn by Fifteenth Air Force TSgt Philip Jones, a B-24 flight engineer, on a raid against Ploesti in 1944. Although a flak fragment dented and tore open the armored helmet, Jones was miraculously uninjured.
Related Fact Sheets
The Memphis Belle: American Icon and 25th Mission
Crippling the Nazi War Machine: USAAF Strategic Bombing in Europe
Return to the B-17F Memphis Belle Fact Sheet
Return to the WWII Gallery list