In December 1941, two years after the Second World War broke out, the USA entered the European battle scene. Already then, the targets and strategies of the 8th Air Force had been cleared and blueprinted.

The strategy to destroy the German war industry and to break their moral was based upon four pillars: daylight penetrations deep into hostile territory, accurate bombings, selected targets and self defense by using heavy armed aircrafts. The Boeing B-17 and the Boeing B-24 were newly developed bombers to serve this purpose. The Boeing B-17 was nicknamed 'Flying Fortress' as it was legendary for its heavy defense armament and its ability to stay in the air after taking brutal poundings. They sometimes limped back to their bases with large chunks of the fuselage shot off.

B-17 (Flying Fortress) and B-24 (Liberator).

The British concluded already early in the war that bombing by daylight took a high toll on men and aircrafts and they focused on missions during nighttime. The Americans, convinced in the effectiveness of their strategy, insisted on flying daylight missions. The (healthy) rivalry between the two allied forces resulted in a competitive environment whereby they both bombed the German territory around the clock. Both allies definitely agreed that their air force would play an important and decisive role in this war...

The British, impeded by the darkness during their night missions, developed a tactic called area-bombing or carpet-bombing, whereby a huge number of bombers would drop their massive bombs in a rather large perimeter around the enemies target.

For the Americans however, the secret Norden bombsight promised to become their crucial tool for their planned precision bombings.

Norden bombsight.

With this bombsight hopes were high to strike enemy targets with an unseen accuracy. But it became clear very soon that bombing targets in a hostile territory was not to be compared to dropping fake bombs at a target somewhere in the desert of the USA. Now, they also had to cope with the unpredictable European weather and with an aggressive enemy that reacted furiously each time its Heimat got penetrated.

After the successes and mishaps of their first year of war, the upper command stated it was about time to make a decisive strike. Ball-bearing factories were on top of the priority list of targets that needed to be destroyed. Millions and millions of ball bearings were necessary to keep Hitler's war machine literally on the move. Knocking out this production would save many Allied lives and could shorten the war.

On August 17, 1943 two large bomber fleets with a total of 393 Flying Fortresses, took off from the British airfields into the direction of the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt (Germany) and the Messerschmitt factories in Regensburg (Germany) for yet another mission. Things however would turn into a disaster ...

The Germans had learned from their former numerous encounters with the B-17 that this airplane did have a weak spot; the limited defense in the front of the aircraft. The Germans took this to their advantage during their frontal attacks, and as a consequence the allied casualties were rapidly rising. From a total of 393 airplanes that left, the Americans lost 60. The Americans were upset, if the losses would continue this way for a couple of weeks, there wouldn't be an Air Force left... The war economy of the States, now at a very high pace, could easily replace those lost machines but this was not the case with the aircrews. It took many months of harsh training before a team could make its first flight. The allied forces could only conclude that if nothing changed rapidly, their initial strategy would fail.

October 1943, another attempt was made to hit Schweinfurt, but again the odds were against the allies. This time they lost 60 of 291 planes. For several months, no further attempts were made to bomb targets in deep enemy territory. But little by little fortunes of war would change.

New turret design.

To surpass the frontal attacks by the German fighters, the B-17 was modified by equipping the front with a double barrel turret.

B-17 and Mustang.

When another legend, the all-round P-51 Mustang fighter joined the air battle, the Allies won the complete supremacy in the air. Without this superiority the invasion of the main land in June 1944 would be impossible.

All escorting fighters got equipped with an additional fuel tank, thereby significantly enhancing their action radius and their defensive role.

The continuous bombing forced The Third Reich to decentralize its war production, and when the allies started destroying the supply chain infrastructure like railways, bridges, roads, etc. the German economy finally collapsed....