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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.

#11 LKofEnglish

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 05:59 AM

The Mighty 8th has its own Devotional off I-95 in Georgia, nuff said. This organization created the very idea of a "strategic weapon"...not in terms of the Atomic Bomb which Jimmy Doolittle knew the USA was working on but also in trying to manage a " battle fleet" that truly would "explain" to the enemy "you have no hope for Victory here." Yes the sacrifices were significant...although when you include things like malaria, maltreatment if captured and the psychological "battle" of literally exterminating an enemy mano a mano there was nothing like what the USMC went through compared to the 8th Airforce.

An American flyer captured by Germany in World War 2 was treated like Royalty because they knew a superior organization when they saw one and nothing was more impressive to the Germans than the 8th Airforce in WW2 because they knew they had ZERO answer for this thing...and simply put there was no plan for "that." Huuuuge losses in equipment and men...but the aircraft were so rugged and pilots so determined they just ground the entire German Airforce down into oblivion. They'd shoot up these aircraft to near oblivion...only to see that same plane and their men return again and again...and again. The Germans had no problem slaughtering "new Russians" right up to the very end. Against the Americans the Germans preferred to simply surrender...the one exception being Italy...with devastating consequences for Italy proper.

And of course "it was the Air Force who got the Atomic Bomb" and ultimately an independent Air Force at the conclusion of World War 2 and as well "Space Command." In mi!itary terms that's called winning...not just the War but the Peace as well.

#12 albanaich

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 11:23 AM

The British Command had 55,000 killed - more than the Marine Corps and the 8th combined. The 8th Air Force did not arrive in force in the UK until 1943. Up till about 1943 the 8th was, except for the uniforms, the bombers and the men, equipped by the British. The USAAF official history gives a figure of about 75%. For the first two years all its fighter aircraft were British. It's strategic doctrine was copied from the RAF as were more of the 8th orgnisational structure and proceedures.

The British dropped more tonnage of the bombs on Germany than the 8th and often more than the 8th and 15th Air Forces combined up until Febuary 1945.

The B17 was obselete on entering service in Europe in 1942 and doctrine on which it was developed immediately shown to be flawed (the British also made the same mistake early in the war) .it was unable to survive over Germany until the arrival of the P51. When it did have the protection of the P51 its role was less as a strategic bomber and more as a flying target, which forced to the Luftwaffe to engage in a fighter battle which would involved the destruction of the GAF fighter arm.

Check out the USAAF official history and the British Strategic Air Offensive.









 



#13 lwd

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 11:43 AM

....
An American flyer captured by Germany in World War 2 was treated like Royalty because they knew a superior organization when they saw one and nothing was more impressive to the Germans than the 8th Airforce in WW2 because they knew they had ZERO answer for this thing...and simply put there was no plan for "that." ...

If your definition of "treated like Royalty" includes lynching or being beaten (sometimes to death) I suppose so.  I'd like to see some sources on the German acknowledgment that 8th AF was a "superior organization".  What the Germans didn't have an answer to was the overwhelming material advantage  not the organization.


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#14 lwd

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 11:48 AM

....The B17 was obselete on entering service in Europe in 1942 and doctrine on which it was developed immediately shown to be flawed (the British also made the same mistake early in the war) .it was unable to survive over Germany until the arrival of the P51.

....

 

I think you need to look up the definition of "obselete".  The B-17 was far from obsolete anywhere in 42.  The fact that bombers needed an escort of fighters when opposing fighters were present if they didn't want to take excessive losses hardly makes them obsolete.  By that definition all bombers were and are obsolete.  By the way the B-17 could survive over Germany especially if sufficient escort was present (P-38's could escort them to at lest parts of western Germany for instance).  Even if it wasn't I'm not sure I've ever read of a raid where all the bombers were eliminated and there were a fair number where losses were acceptable.
 



#15 Sheldrake

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:02 PM

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

 

Not everyone in their air force or marines had a similar exposure to casualties. Casualties to Marines were disproportionately among the riflemen of rifle companies, a substantial minority of marines.  Within the air corps casualties were inflicted on the very small proportion of the Army Air Corps who were air crew.

 

Arguably the stress was similar  on operations with no way out except in a box or on a stretcher. 

Almost all the air force casualties weerre 



#16 mcoffee

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:03 PM

An American flyer captured by Germany in World War 2 was treated like Royalty because they knew a superior organization when they saw one and nothing was more impressive to the Germans than the 8th Airforce in WW2 

 

Having talked with more than a few former POWs held by Germany, I don't believe any of them would agree that they were treated like Royalty.  While German treatment of POWs was much better than that of Japan, it was still harsh.  I would suggest that you read through the conditions at the various Stalag Lufts at the link below - the inadequate heat and clothing to endure the winters, the 800 calorie per day rations, the bayoneting of new arrivals, and in particular read about the "Death March" from Stalag Luft 4.  Royalty indeed.

 

Go to the pull downs under POW Research:

http://www.b24.net/pow/index.htm


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#17 mcoffee

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:29 PM

 The 8th Air Force did not arrive in force in the UK until 1943. Up till about 1943 the 8th was, except for the uniforms, the bombers and the men, equipped by the British. The USAAF official history gives a figure of about 75%. For the first two years all its fighter aircraft were British.


 

 

Please provide a list, including applicable dates, of all 8th AF Fighter Groups equipped with British fighters.


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#18 formerjughead

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 12:31 PM

Not everyone in their air force or marines had a similar exposure to casualties. Casualties to Marines were disproportionately among the riflemen of rifle companies, a substantial minority of marines.  Within the air corps casualties were inflicted on the very small proportion of the Army Air Corps who were air crew.



Just to make sure I am following:
1. Marines who are getting shot at are the most likely to become casualties (injuries sustained as a result of combat)
2. Aircrews who are being shot at are the most likely to become casualties (injuries sustained as a result of combat)

So, what you are saying is: Active participants in combat, on or near the battlefield, are more likely to become casualties than those not participating in combat or are further from the battlefield

#19 lwd

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 01:05 PM

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

 

Indeed.  It's also worth noteing that the casualty rate includes WIA.  From that page Marine casualties were roughly 1/4 KIA and 3/4 WIA where USAAF casualties were over 80% KIAs.   To make it clear I'm emphasizing your point:  The USAAF lost a lot of people.
 



#20 albanaich

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 04:23 PM

http://militaryhisto...013/04/17/2772/

 it was Britain, which was on the receiving end of so much U.S. military aid, that ended up equipping the first American fighter squadrons in Europe. The 334th, 335th and 336th fighter squadrons, which were part of the VIII Fighter Command’s 4th Group, were all formed in 1942 out of the remnants of the American all-volunteer RAF formations, the so-called Eagle Squadrons. When these units were transferred to the USAAF, they brought their Spitfires with them. Other American units, like the 52ndand 31st fighter groups arrived in England in 1942 and soon discovered that their P-39 Airacobras were woefully outclassed by cutting edge German aircraft. They too soon equipped themselves with the ubiquitous British fighter.

It's referred to in detail in the USAAF official history, as is the amount of equipment sourced in the UK.

The B17 was obselete in 1942 - but there was nothing else available. Logically the USAAF should of tooled up to build Lancasters and Mosquito's, but the B29 was a design leap ahead - it would just take time to come through. The design of the Atomic bomb was predicated on the UK providing a Lancaster to drop it. You may refer the 'Manhattan' - The Army and the Bomb in the US Army Green book series.

A comparison of the basic performance with the Lancaster and Mosquito, both of which were coming into service in 1942 clearly demonstrates how obselete the B17 was.  However, one should not omit the incredible ruggedness of the B17, which made ideally suited to the role of 'target aircraft'

Basic Perfomance

B17
Speed 250 mph at 5000
Range 3400
Bomb load 8000 lbs (400 miles) 4500 (800 miles)

Lancaster
Speed 250 mph at 5000
Range 2,500 miles
Bomb Load 14,000 lbs (800 miles) 22,000 (400 miles)

Mosquito
Speed 360 mph at 28,000
Range 1,500
Bomb Load 4000

The Lancaster could carry 3 times the bomb load of the B17 at roughly the same speed. The Mosquito could carry the bomb load of B17, but well over 100 mph faster.

The B17 was obselete (like all USAAF types, with the possible exception of the P38 in 1941) - but there was no practical alternative. The situation is clearly outlined in the USAAF official history. It was a major scandal at the time.











 



#21 lwd

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 05:30 PM

....

 

The B17 was obselete in 1942 - but there was nothing else available. Logically the USAAF should of tooled up to build Lancasters and Mosquito's, but the B29 was a design leap ahead - it would just take time to come through. The design of the Atomic bomb was predicated on the UK providing a Lancaster to drop it. You may refer the 'Manhattan' - The Army and the Bomb in the US Army Green book series.

A comparison of the basic performance with the Lancaster and Mosquito, both of which were coming into service in 1942 clearly demonstrates how obselete the B17 was.  However, one should not omit the incredible ruggedness of the B17, which made ideally suited to the role of 'target aircraft'

Basic Perfomance

B17
Speed 250 mph at 5000
Range 3400
Bomb load 8000 lbs (400 miles) 4500 (800 miles)

Lancaster
Speed 250 mph at 5000
Range 2,500 miles
Bomb Load 14,000 lbs (800 miles) 22,000 (400 miles)

Mosquito
Speed 360 mph at 28,000
Range 1,500
Bomb Load 4000

The Lancaster could carry 3 times the bomb load of the B17 at roughly the same speed. The Mosquito could carry the bomb load of B17, but well over 100 mph faster.

The B17 was obselete (like all USAAF types, with the possible exception of the P38 in 1941) - but there was no practical alternative. The situation is clearly outlined in the USAAF official history. It was a major scandal at the time.

 

 

I reiterate you need to look up the definition of obsolete.  The B-17 was a long way from being obsolete in 1942.

 

Your rather selective comparison certainly fails to prove that, indeed it's not even clear that the Lancaster was superior to the B-17 especially in the roles the B-17 was used in.  Certainly for daylight bombing where opposition might be encountered the B-17 was significantly superior to the Lancaster whose rather anemic armament would be a huge detriment not to mention the relative robustness that you already mentioned.  I've also read that the B-17 was designed to be more producible but not sure of the details of that and also that it was a very reliable design unsure how it compares to the Lancaster in that regard.

 

As for the Mosquito weren't they dependent on a particular type of wood?  Sitka Spruce from what I recall.  Was there enough in existence to have supported the numbers that would have been needed?

 



#22 mcoffee

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 06:51 PM

http://militaryhisto...013/04/17/2772/

 it was Britain, which was on the receiving end of so much U.S. military aid, that ended up equipping the first American fighter squadrons in Europe. The 334th, 335th and 336th fighter squadrons, which were part of the VIII Fighter Command’s 4th Group, were all formed in 1942 out of the remnants of the American all-volunteer RAF formations, the so-called Eagle Squadrons. When these units were transferred to the USAAF, they brought their Spitfires with them. Other American units, like the 52ndand 31st fighter groups arrived in England in 1942 and soon discovered that their P-39 Airacobras were woefully outclassed by cutting edge German aircraft. They too soon equipped themselves with the ubiquitous British fighter.


 

 

And how does that article back up your statement "For the first two years all its fighter aircraft were British"?

 

The 4th Fighter Group was constituted on 22 August 1942.  If flew its first USAAF mission on 2 October 1942.  In January 1943 it transitioned to P-47's. It flew Spitfires in the USAAF for less than four months.

 

The 31st Fighter Group flew In England from August to mid-October 1942 and then went to the MTO.

 

The 52nd Fighter Group flew in England from August to September 1942 and then went to the MTO.

 

Want to try again?


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#23 mcoffee

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 06:54 PM

The B17 was obselete (like all USAAF types, with the possible exception of the P38 in 1941) - but there was no practical alternative. The situation is clearly outlined in the USAAF official history. It was a major scandal at the time.
 

 

Since the USAAF official history is seven volumes, perhaps you could cite the specific reference where this scandal is recounted.


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#24 albanaich

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 08:33 PM

You can believe or interpret any way you like. . . . I just supply the information. 

The USAAF official history is absolutely clear on the matter of the US fighter aircraft, its also on the senate record. 

The B17 first went into production in 1937, 5 years before its deployment in WWII, 5 years before the Lancaster and the Mosquito came into service. It was obselete. Get over it.

It was forced into service and kept in production because there was nothing to replace it.

The propaganda was never going to admit that USAAF procurement had totally screwed up in the years leading up to WWII and during the war the propaganda fantasy had to be continued for morale. It's over 70 years ago. Time get past the propaganda and look at the facts.

The primary, but largely unintended role of the 8th Air Force was the destruction of the German fighter force over Germany. 

You might try reading volume one of the USAAF Official History - pages 612 - 646.





 

 



#25 Takao

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 11:36 PM

You can believe or interpret any way you like. . . . I just supply the information.

Regretfully, this statement is in error...you supply opinions based on information.
 
 

The USAAF official history is absolutely clear on the matter of the US fighter aircraft,...

Yes is it.
 

That need had been implied by the British memorandum of 22 Feb-
ruary.  Now that the SLEDGEHAMMER/ROUNDUP strategy had
been accepted, the RAF wanted the United States to increase the allo-
cation of P-40’s for the Middle East in return for Spitfires to equip
AAF fighter units in England, by which expedient RAF Fighter
Command might build a reserve against the heavier losses which an in-
tensive offensive in Europe would entail.

Pg. 566
 
See also
ANNEX A:  Allocations of Aircraft Other Than Fleet Air Arm Types to Great Britain
Pg 568

 

 

The B17 first went into production in 1937, 5 years before its deployment in WWII, 5 years before the Lancaster and the Mosquito came into service. It was obselete. Get over it.


That would mean that the Supermarine Spitfire is also obsolete...Being as it first went into production in 1936.
 
I would also presume that the Supermarine Spitfire
 
 

was forced into service and kept in production because there was nothing to replace it.

 
 

It was forced into service and kept in production because there was nothing to replace it.

Ever heard of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator?  I guess not.


Edited by Takao, 04 May 2016 - 11:38 PM.





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