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Fighters and Flak

Consolidated B-24 emerges from flak area with its No. 2 engine smoking. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Consolidated B-24 emerges from flak area with its No. 2 engine smoking. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17s fly through flak on their way to a target. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-17s fly through flak on their way to a target. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Bombing operations in March 1944 marked another turning point in the air war over Europe, for the Luftwaffe lost the advantage it had maintained so successfully since the fall of 1943. It still retained the capability for striking back at AAF bomber formations in force but was able to do so only periodically because of a shortage of skilled fighter pilots. Although German production of fighters increased rapidly through September 1944, their effectiveness was reduced as the quality of their pilots decreased and as reserves of aviation fuel were depleted.

The loss rate of AAF airplanes to Luftwaffe fighters began to decrease in March; however, the loss to antiaircraft fire began to increase. By late spring of 1944, German flak claimed more AAF bombers than were claimed by Luftwaffe fighters. Throughout the summer of 1944, flak was to be the major worry of daylight bomber crews.

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