Photo: 487th BG


Text: Jan Zdiarský

Even tight formations failed to protect USAAF bombers effectively from attacks by Luftwaffe fighters. Only the deployment of the P-51 turned the situation in the Allies’ favor.

The strategic bombing offensive of the Western Allies, whose main goal was to

weaken German industry and supply, stood on several pillars. The British Royal

Air Force began to attack Germany with a gradually increasing intensity by the

time of the Battle of Britain (apart from a few rather desperate attempts made

sporadically from September 1939). Even before the American Air Force entered

the European campaign, RAF Bomber Command moved to night operations and,

with few exceptions, remained there until the end of the war. The daytime skies

over Germany and occupied Europe were to belong primarily to the Americans,

at least as far as long-range bombing operations are concerned.

Achieving the goals that the Americans had

set for themselves in this regard consisted

primarily in building a strong bomber force and

support units, which were supposed to ensure

supremacy in the skies over continental Europe

through joint operations. Another pillar was war

logistics, which was supposed to transport not

only new aircraft and fresh crews to Europe,

but also spare parts, equipment, hundreds

of thousands of tons of fuel, bombs and other

ammunition. It was such a complex and today

a rather neglected component of the war effort

that even a brief description of it would be well

beyond the scope of this article. The third but


INFO Eduard

no less important pillar was fighter support for

the bombers.

In Europe, the US Air Force's bombing

operations rested on the shoulders of two

separate air armies, the 8th Air Force, based in

Great Britain, and the 15th Air Force, operating

first from North Africa and then from southern


8th Air Force

The main strength wielded by the US Air

Force in the European Theater of Operations

(ETO) was undoubtedly the 8th AF, nicknamed

the “Mighty Eighth”. As the air component of the

Air Force arm of the United States Army (Army

Air Force), it was established in January 1942,

as VIII. Bomber Command. Under the designation

VIII. Bomber Command (which later became

a permanent part of the 8th AF structure), it

undertook its first operation in the ETO on July

4, 1942, with A-20 Havoc aircraft borrowed

from the RAF. At the same time, airfields over

eastern England began to see the arrival of

regular units of VIII. Bomber Command armed

with B-17E bombers. The first distinct operation

was a mission to Rouen-Sotteville, France, on

August 17th, 1942. In February 1944, VIII. Bomber

Command headquarters was integrated into

July 2023