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Shuttle Raids to Russia

Badly damaged B-17 bomber and Russian soldiers in Poltava, Russia, on June 22, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Badly damaged B-17 bomber and Russian soldiers in Poltava, Russia, on June 22, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TSgt. Bernard McGuire with Russian solider in Poltava, Russia, in June 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TSgt. Bernard McGuire with Russian solider in Poltava, Russia, in June 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 on shuttle mission to Russia as part of Operation Frantic. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17 on shuttle mission to Russia as part of Operation Frantic. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Russian pilots and ground crew stand in front of a Petlyakov Pe-2 light bomber at Poltava, Russia, during the first shuttle raid -- Italy to Russia and return -- in June 1944. GI is TSgt. Bernard J. McGuire, Tonawanda, N.Y., of the 348th Bomb Squadron, 99th Bomb Group. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Russian pilots and ground crew stand in front of a Petlyakov Pe-2 light bomber at Poltava, Russia, during the first shuttle raid -- Italy to Russia and return -- in June 1944. GI is TSgt. Bernard J. McGuire, Tonawanda, N.Y., of the 348th Bomb Squadron, 99th Bomb Group. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Andrea Hincerockur, a Russian pilot; Lt. Thompson Highfill of the 99th Bomb Ground; and Corzen Venzopkin, another Russia flier, pose behind a Soviet P-39. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Andrea Hincerockur, a Russian pilot; Lt. Thompson Highfill of the 99th Bomb Ground; and Corzen Venzopkin, another Russia flier, pose behind a Soviet P-39. (U.S. Air Force photo)

97th and 99th Bomb Group B-17s return to Amendola Airfield, Italy, from the first shuttle mission to Russia. Gen. Ira Eaker’s C-35 awaits him at right, June 11, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

97th and 99th Bomb Group B-17s return to Amendola Airfield, Italy, from the first shuttle mission to Russia. Gen. Ira Eaker’s C-35 awaits him at right, June 11, 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Two unidentified Russian soldiers look at Cpl. Thomas Klopack's "Yank" Magazine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Two unidentified Russian soldiers look at Cpl. Thomas Klopack's "Yank" Magazine. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the ruins of a hangar at Poltava, Gen. Porminov and Gen. Walsh listen to a pilot's report after the mission to Galati. The officer in the center is Capt. Henry Ware, interpreter from Gen. Deane’s staff. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the ruins of a hangar at Poltava, Gen. Porminov and Gen. Walsh listen to a pilot's report after the mission to Galati. The officer in the center is Capt. Henry Ware, interpreter from Gen. Deane’s staff. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TSgt. Joseph E. Thompson tries teaching a Soviet boy a few words of English. (U.S. Air Force photo)

TSgt. Joseph E. Thompson tries teaching a Soviet boy a few words of English. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Sgt. S. Weinschenker and TSgt. William Topps talk to a 10-year-old boy who had been in uniform as an A/A loader for three years. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Sgt. S. Weinschenker and TSgt. William Topps talk to a 10-year-old boy who had been in uniform as an A/A loader for three years. (U.S. Air Force photo)

MSgt. John M. Bassett, Lenin Boykov of Leningrad, and MSgt. Michael Cajolda service a visiting task force bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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MSgt. John M. Bassett, Lenin Boykov of Leningrad, and MSgt. Michael Cajolda service a visiting task force bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Vorokev of the Soviet Air Force inspects the tail gunner position of SSgt. Thomas Summers' B-17 Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Lt. Vorokev of the Soviet Air Force inspects the tail gunner position of SSgt. Thomas Summers' B-17 Flying Fortress. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The Soviets turned out to be expert volleyball players, and every night in the courtyard of Eastern Command HQ at Poltava, there were fast mixed games. Player fifth from the right at bottom is Gen. Ira Eaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The Soviets turned out to be expert volleyball players, and every night in the courtyard of Eastern Command HQ at Poltava, there were fast mixed games. Player fifth from the right at bottom is Gen. Ira Eaker. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Russian officers chat with Col. Barton, commanding officer of the 483rd Bomb Group, and Col. Rice of the 2nd Bomb Group at Mirgorod. The girl in the center is an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Russian officers chat with Col. Barton, commanding officer of the 483rd Bomb Group, and Col. Rice of the 2nd Bomb Group at Mirgorod. The girl in the center is an interpreter. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Early in 1944, the U.S. persuaded Stalin to permit AAF heavy bombers to fly shuttle missions to Russia to bomb enemy targets in eastern Germany and the Balkans without having to fly back to England and Italy. The Soviets made three airfields available near Kiev and the U.S. devoted months preparing them to receive its planes.

The first mission flew from Italy on June 2. Four days later, the AAF flew from their Russian bases, bombed a target in Rumania and returned to Russia. On June 11, the planes returned to Italy, bombing another Rumanian target on the way.

B-17s and P-51s from England made their first shuttle mission on June 21. For the next several months, additional shuttle raids were flown from England and Italy, including one on Aug. 4-6 when P-38s from Italy flew strafing missions from Russia against airfields in Rumania. The shuttle mission of Sept. 13 was the last -- the Eastern Front had advanced so far westward that Russian bases were no longer needed.

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