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Bomber crew survival rates during the war

Discussion in 'Air War in Western Europe 1939 - 1945' started by buckusmc, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. buckusmc

    buckusmc Member

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    I was wondering if anyone knows of a good site that has 8th Bomber Command's casualties rates for the war broken down by the month or at least the year?

    I'm researching my G-G uncle (Roy N Ball) who was a waist gunner on a B-17 and flew 13 mission before being killed. Base on my research he flew with 35 different individuals and the ultimate fate of those individuals are listed below.

    [SIZE=11pt]Ultimate Fate [/SIZE]


    [SIZE=11pt]Number [/SIZE]


    [SIZE=11pt]Percentage[/SIZE]


    [SIZE=11pt]Killed in Action (KIA)[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]16[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]46%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]Wounded in Action (WIA)[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]4[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]11%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]Prisoner of War (POW)[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]8[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]23%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]ERT[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]1[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]3%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]EVA[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]1[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]3%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]Unknown*[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]4[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]11%[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]Completed 25 missions[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]2[/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]6%[/SIZE]​




    [SIZE=11pt]36**[/SIZE]​




    [SIZE=11pt]*The records have these individuals completing between 3-9 missions and not flying another mission past 1943. [/SIZE]​


    [SIZE=11pt]**36 instead of 35 because an individual was WIA and then KIA[/SIZE]​




    I have a feeling these numbers will probably be close to the overall losses of 8th Bomber Command but I was just curious. Also I don't know what ERT or EVA stands for. I'm still waiting for the site I found this information to reply.
     
  2. buckusmc

    buckusmc Member

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    Here are the numbers. Cutting and pasting from Excel didn't work.

    KIA - 16 or 46%,
    WIA - 4 or 23%,
    POW - 8 or 23%,
    ERT and EVA - 1 each or 3% each,
    Unknown - 4 or 11%,
    Completed 25 Missions - 2 or 6%
     
  3. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Odd that all the losses are powers of 2. I get suspicious when I see numbers like that. It doesn't mean that they are wrong but ....
     
  4. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    The basic data is in "Army Air Forces Statistical Digest, World War II", which can be downloaded from here:
    http://www.afhra.af.mil/timelines/

    Casualty rates are not provided and would be a bit hard to come up with since the data in Table 36, for instance, would cover 8th and 9th AF and bomber and fighter personnel. Aircraft sortie and losses are provided by aircraft category but casualty rates cannot really be deduced from that as not all personnel are lost if the aircraft is lost.

    Another source of casualty data for all branches of the US Army including the Air Corps is "Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths in World War II" here:
    http://oai.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=ADA438106
     
  5. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Tables 64-73 have crew losses by theater and plane type. There in the first volume.
     
  6. mcoffee

    mcoffee Son-of-a-Gun(ner)

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    True, but casualty rates still cannot be inferred from those. A crew loss in those tables is not defined as to KIA, MIA, POW or RTD. It also includes crews broken up for various reasons.
     
  7. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    From: http://www.rafinfo.org.uk/BCWW2Losses/BC-RoH-casstats.htm

    Turning to the quite invaluable work of Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt in compiling their epic Bomber Command War Diaries and in particular to their analysis of the operational statistics for the period 3rd September, 1939 to 7th-8th May, 1945, the breakdown of aircrew casualties are shown as, and I now quote precisely from what is reported on page 708 of the diaries:


    'The Air Ministry was able to compile the following figures up to 31 May 1947:
    Killed in action or died while prisoners of war 47,268
    Killed in flying or ground accidents 8,195
    Killed in ground-battle action 37
    Total fatal casualties to aircrew 55,500
    Prisoners of war, including many wounded 9,838
    Wounded in aircraft which returned from operations 4,200
    Wounded in flying or ground accidents in U. K. 4,203
    Total wounded, other than prisoners of war 8,403
    Total aircrew casualties 73,741'



    In a footnote, Martin states that the analysis here given was sent to him by letter from the Air Historical Branch, 25th June, 1969, and Appendix 41 of the British Official History, Volume IV, pp. 440-44.
    On page 711, the authors show a breakdown of aircrew casualties by nationality, and omitting the percentage totals, these are given as:


    Royal Air Force 38,462
    Royal Canadian Air Force 9,919
    Royal Australian Air Force 4,050
    Royal New Zealand Air Force 1,679
    Polish Air Force 929
    Other Allied Air Forces 473
    South African Air Force 34

    Other Dominions 27


    These figures come to 55,573 and the authors point out that the discrepancy between the '55,500' reported from the Air Ministry and the '55,573' arrived at from a breakdown of deaths by air force can be explained by the inclusion in the latter of 73 airmen who died from natural causes. Furthermore, the authors indicate that 91 airwomen (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) died on duty.

    Cont....

    From: http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/commandlosses.html

    Statistical Summary of Bomber Command's Operations
    Total sorties: 392,137
    Total aircraft lost: 12,330

    Tons Dropped: 955,044
    Total mines laid: 47,307
     
  8. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    From: http://www.airmen.dk/stcdaloss.htm

    Of the 120,000 who served, 55,573 were killed including over 10,000 Canadians.
    Of every 100 airmen who joined Bomber Command, 45 were killed, 6 were seriously wounded,
    8 became Prisoners of War, and only 41 escaped unscathed (at least physically).
     
  9. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    From: http://www.airmen.dk/stcdaloss.htm

    Alone from 8 & 9 AAF, operating from bases in Great Britain, the United States Army Air Force
    54,997 men lost of which
    19,876 are classified as died and
    35,121 as "Missing, Interned and Captured".
    37,000 is the estimate of the total number of died (i.e.killed) and missing (now presumed killed) on these operations .

    Detailed USAAF 8th Airforce Statistics:
    http://www.taphilo.com/history/8thaf/8aflosses.shtml

    Side note from above: RAF vs USAAF vs Luftwaffe Training Statistics.

    [​IMG]
     
    LJAd likes this.
  10. USAAFson

    USAAFson Member

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    Losses changed over the course of the war and as the number of missions before rotation changed. It's hard to compare the experience of March '45 to March '44 or October "43.
     
  11. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    I must have got distracted.
    The reason I punched in Bomber Command was because of the enormous difference in crew survival in USAAF bombers.
    ? ± largely due to a vast difference in how many successfully parachuted to safety.
    I was leading into that stat... and now, of course, I can't find it.

    For now:
    Bomber Command crews suffered 55,573 killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew (a 44.5% death rate) and 9,838 (7.9%) became prisoners of war.
    If wounded are included in the count, the total casualty rate goes up to 54.3%. In the period prior to D-Day, the fatality rate is close to 65%.

    The US Eighth Air Force, which flew far riskier daylight raids over Europe (albeit far less risk of midnight mid-airs) had 135,000 men that flew in combat during the war, and suffered 26,000 killed (a 19.3% death rate) and 23,000 (17%) became prisoners of war.
    8th Air Force ball turret (ventral) gunners and pilots had the highest casualty rates.
    German fighters preferred to attack head-on and aim for the cockpit, and the ball turret gunner could not escape from his position unaided.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    That's quite an impressive difference. Wonder what the cause(s) were. I can see a number of possibilities but not sure how to go about analyzing them. The US rotation system where you only flew one combat tour may have been a big part especially combined with the predominant US role being later in the war. Parachuting at night could have been an issue as well. Were they using the same shuts? Wonder what happens if you break it down by plane type and/or year.
     
  13. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson "The" Rogue of Rogues

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    Firstly, read this:
    Aspects of the Combined British and American Strategic Air Offensive against Germany 1939 to 1945.
    An assessment of RAF Bomber Command and the 8th & 9th US Army Air Forces’ Casualties and Losses in World War II. By Michael Varley
    Aug 1942 to May 1945: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/r_m_g.varley/Strategic_Air_Offensive.html#26._Some_Differences_between_Bomber

    Secondly: the RAF was more "Russian" than most people think.
    Upon completing your operational tour you were sent to a desk job or a training unit thence rotated back into combat.
    Theoretically at least.. albeit the number that actually went into a second or third or... tour dropped off exponentially.
    What a tour consisted of changed repeatedly during the war, and was different in different commands.
    In the SEAC / PBI theater you were pretty much there for the duration.

    Excerpt from the RAF Bomber Command wiki / Falconer, Jonathan Bomber Command Handbook 1939–1945 p.51
    Statistically there was little prospect of surviving a tour of 30 operations and by 1943, one in six expected to survive their first tour and one in forty would survive their second tour.

    Thirdly, family / friends in the RAF went to their graves swearing USAAF B-17's Crew wore their parachutes throughout their mission, or if they took them off, were more readily at hand.
     
  14. harolds

    harolds Member

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    There are obviously several reasons for bomber command having higher death losses. Here's a couple that I've discovered over the years:

    1. It seems British bomber crews often stayed with their a/c longer than they should have. I've read several German accounts that the night fighter crews wondered why the British crews didn't bail out when they had a chance. Perhaps the issue of not having their parachutes on or very close (as mentioned above) figured in, or British pilots tried harder to save the planes. If they weren't successful at putting out a fire then the bomber would usually explode or break up.

    2. The Americans fought during daylight so if a bomber was fatally hit, but still controllable, they could crash-land the bomber. This wasn't possible at night.
     
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    There are some others.

    The RAF fought from 1939 to 1945. The USAAF from 1941-45

    In the early part of the war many of bomber command's aircraft needed fewer aircrew. They lacked self sealing tanks. 57 men were killed out of 72 aircrew when 12 wellington bombers were shot down in the battle of Heligoland bight. The daylight light bombers of No2 Group suffered horrendous losses in the Battles of France and Britain 1940. On two occasions;17 May and 15 August No 82 Sqn twice lost 11 out of 12 Blenheim IV aircraft sortied. On 17th May 27 died out of 33 aircrew lost on 13th August 25 out of 33.
     
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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  17. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Actually Sheldrake, The USA didn't really start fighting the air battle in NW Europe until well into 1942. Even then, their raids were shallow penetration affairs that cost little in terms of casualties. Also, the Luftwaffe initially had a hard time coming to grips with the big American bombers and their attacks weren't nearly as effective as they would later become. It wasn't until 1943 when the USAAF started going deeper and LW tactics and weapons became more effective. Until then, I suspect most casualties were the result of accidents.
     
  18. brianw

    brianw Member

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    This thread is assuming that a large number of bombers were shot down by fighters, yes, fighter action did account for a number of aircraft, but a huge number also fell to flak, especially towards the end of hostilities when the German night defences were using radar controlled searchlights (the blue search light was radar controlled) and anti-aircraft guns.

    Also, towards the later months, the Luftwaffe was somewhat constrained by dwindling stocks of fuel following some more accurate raids against oil and chemical facilities. With the introduction of the P-51 escorting USAAF bombers deep into Germany, air superiority was shifting towards the allies.

    Whether Hitler's apparent obsession with bomber aircraft to the detriment of fighter production, e.g. his initial insistence that the Me 262 should become a high speed bomber is difficult to determine.
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The Hitler/Me-262 myth has been busted many times over. The problem was the Jumo 004b engines that used more readily available metal resources than the original 004 & 004a versions. This allowed the 004b to be mass produced, but sacrificed engine life and reliability.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I've never understood the Hitler/Me-262 myth or the premise that using the Me-262 as a bomber would prevent it from serving as a fighter. Practically every WWII fighter could also serve as a fighter-bomber, as could early jets like the Meteor or P-80 (and just about every other jet fighter since). Me-109s and FW-190s served as Jabos; is there any reason Me-262s could not?

    There were a few ideas for significant modifications such as putting a bombardier in the nose of an Me-262, as was done in the P-38, but that would not interfere with production of standard 262s.
     

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