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The 8th Air Force's Sacrifice in the Air


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#1 texson66

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 05:21 AM

I watched the History Channel tonight to see the AIr War in HD again. At the end there was a text banner that summarized the 8th's casualties thus:

The 8th Air Force suffered over 26000 casualties.

This is more than all Marine casualties in the Pacific.


That statistic blew me away. I knew that the 8th really bled (the 100th Bomb Group was know as the Bloody 100th after all ).

I have just finished watching "The Pacific" so I am not in anyway trying to demean the Marine's supreme service records and sacrifices. If there was Hell on Earth the island hopping USMC invasions would be the hottest spot!

It just never occurred to me the level of casualties was so high in Europe with the 8th AF.

Knowing the History Channel's reputation, can anyone vouch for their statement?
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#2 formerjughead

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 06:38 AM

I watched the History Channel tonight to see the AIr War in HD again. At the end there was a text banner that summarized the 8th's casualties thus:

The 8th Air Force suffered over 26000 casualties.

This is more than all Marine casualties in the Pacific.


.....Knowing the History Channel's reputation, can anyone vouch for their statement?


The Marines had 24,511 MIA/KIA

( World War II casualties - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia )

I found this to support the 26,000 KIA for the 8th

http://www.taphilo.c...WII-Summary.pdf

The kicker is that if you look at the Wiki link the Air Force KIAs represent 2.5% Casualty Rate and the Marine number is 3.6% Casualty Rate.

The Air Force lost a lot of people
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#3 Martin Bull

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 07:26 AM

Loss rates for both main bomber forces over NW Europe ( 8th AF / RAF Bomber Command ) were very, very high indeed. Someone once coined the phrase 'trenches in the sky' to relate them to WW1-style losses.

As a good way of trying to understand it all, I'd highly recommend watching the old Gregory Peck movie 'Twelve O'Clock High' which does a remarkable job of portraying the relentless toll taken by the Luftwaffe and flak and the effect it had on the crews.

Back in 2002 when I had the great privilege of meeting 100th Group veterans on their reunion pilgrimage to their old base at Thorpe Abbotts, I can honestly say it was one of the few times in my life when I've literally been awestruck......
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#4 mcoffee

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 03:34 PM

Its difficult to make a direct comparison as the available AAF battle casualty figures are for the ETO, not just the 8th AF. Neither the Army Air Forces Statisical Digest, WWII or the Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths In World War II - Final Report separate out just the 8th AF. The 'Statistical Digest' defines ETO as the 8th AF plus the 9th AF beginning October 1943. I believe the 'Army Battle Casualties...' uses the same definition relative to Air Corps personnel. Also note that "8th AF" includes the fighter groups, not just the heavy bombers.

The 'Army Battle Casualties...' puts the total ETO Air Corps battle deaths at 24,963, including 23,805 KIA, 510 died of wounds, 109 POW KIA/DOW, and 537 Declared Dead.

From the US Navy. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. History of the Medical Departmentof the United States Navy in World War II: The Statistics of Diseases and Injuries. vol.3 the total Marine deaths were 19,568 including 17,376 KIA, 1,682 DOW, and 510 POW deaths.

Total AAF casualties in the ETO were 62,021 when wounded and POWs are included.
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#5 Martin Bull

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 04:45 PM

This has been debated for a long time ; in 1985 the 8th AF News tried hard to arrive at a fair figure and settled on 26,000 killed, 21,000 POW.

I've just added up the numbers of heavy bombers listed as MIA in Roger A Freeman's 'The Mighty Eighth', which gives a total figure of 4,009 four-engined bombers lost in action ( this does not include significant numbers lost in training accidents, collisions over the UK, etc ).

Factor in losses for the fighter units, medium bombers before transfer from the 8th to the 9th......and the 26,000 sounds about right......
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#6 Erich

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Posted 18 November 2010 - 06:28 PM

I'd give it more to the tune of 28-29,000 in reality, plus adding the losses of the 9th and the heavies of the 15th from the south coming to the north to pound the Reich into ruins, yes a terrible cost in men and materials but worth it ...........
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#7 lwd

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 02:29 PM

...I've just added up the numbers of heavy bombers listed as MIA in Roger A Freeman's 'The Mighty Eighth', which gives a total figure of 4,009 four-engined bombers lost in action ( this does not include significant numbers lost in training accidents, collisions over the UK, etc ).......

I wonder if his list was immediate reports or "corrected ones". For instance my uncles B-24 fell out of formation in flames over Germany and was reported MIA. However they made it back to an emergency field in England and their commanding officer got the word just before he sent the MIA letters home. Would his plane be included in the above or not?

#8 mcoffee

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 03:16 PM

I wonder if his list was immediate reports or "corrected ones". For instance my uncles B-24 fell out of formation in flames over Germany and was reported MIA. However they made it back to an emergency field in England and their commanding officer got the word just before he sent the MIA letters home. Would his plane be included in the above or not?


Freeman states that his Operational Statistics "are derived from the final statistical summaries of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Divisions.."

However, the Army Air Forces Statistical Digest, World War II lists a total of 5,548 heavy bombers lost on combat missions in the ETO, with the breakdown of 2,452 lost to enemy aircraft, 2,439 lost to anti-aircraft, and 657 to other causes. "ETO" in the Digest is defined as 8th AF plus 9th AF beginning October '43, thus all "ETO" heavy bomber losses were 8th AF.
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#9 drgondog

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 04:36 PM

Its difficult to make a direct comparison as the available AAF battle casualty figures are for the ETO, not just the 8th AF. Neither the Army Air Forces Statisical Digest, WWII or the Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths In World War II - Final Report separate out just the 8th AF. The 'Statistical Digest' defines ETO as the 8th AF plus the 9th AF beginning October 1943. I believe the 'Army Battle Casualties...' uses the same definition relative to Air Corps personnel. Also note that "8th AF" includes the fighter groups, not just the heavy bombers.

The 'Army Battle Casualties...' puts the total ETO Air Corps battle deaths at 24,963, including 23,805 KIA, 510 died of wounds, 109 POW KIA/DOW, and 537 Declared Dead.

From the US Navy. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. History of the Medical Departmentof the United States Navy in World War II: The Statistics of Diseases and Injuries. vol.3 the total Marine deaths were 19,568 including 17,376 KIA, 1,682 DOW, and 510 POW deaths.

Total AAF casualties in the ETO were 62,021 when wounded and POWs are included.


This is the right answer when differentiating KIA/MIA although different sources including the Army Air Forces Statistical Digest - which probably is the definitive source for USAAF have slightly different precise numbers. IIRC the totals extend only to the end of 1945. DOW totals increased slightly for the USAAF totals after that... I suspect USMC had a higher DOW total by far in the same category.

Conversely the LW suffered enormous losses with the largest percentage in the air war against the USAAF as the heaviest air battles by far were in the ETO and MTO. That is not meant to diminish the RAF/LW night engagements or other battles during BoB, Africa or Ost Front - simply to note that the LW poured in resources from everywhere to attempt to beat back the daylight campaign.

#10 drgondog

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Posted 29 January 2011 - 04:43 PM

No. Neither a MACR describing the 'loss' nor a combat loss would be recorded as such, but either the B-24 was repaired or salvaged. If the latter it would fall into that category and NOT in the "Loss to 'Other Causes". IIRC the latter category incorporated total loss of the aircraft due to mechanical failure, weather, mid air collision, take-off/landing accident in which the a/c was totally destroyed.

I have to scratch my head a little bit because I candidly do not know where a 'salvaged' ship was placed in context of 'lost' in the Statistical Digest.




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