Starting in the early days of World War II, on the 3rd of September, 1939 to be exact, the British began to send out their heavy bombers on night raids against German cities. This began after a German plane strayed off course while on a mission to bomb strategic targets and instead bombed London. Hitler hearing about this told Churchill that it was a mistake and Churchill replied by bombing Berlin. Thus the campaign of bombing cities began. The British would continue this campaign along with the Americans until the 8th of August, 1945. The British alone dropped over 955,000 tons of bombs during this time and made 387,416 sorties. A sortie is a flight of combat aircraft sent on a mission. All was not roses during this time, the British suffered heavy losses totaling 8,953 aircraft and crews.
The Americans had decided that since they didn't have an escort fighter with the necessary range to protect the flying fortresses, they would send them out on daytime raids without fighters, in formations, where it was believed that they could protect themselves. The British were against this plan, and rightfully so, since the losses were appalling. The chances of the bombers returning were improved when drop tanks were adopted for fighters, increasing their range and allowing them to escort the bombers to the target and back. The Mustang fighter improved things even more, now one of the top prop fighters in the world was able to accompany the bombers because it had the range, and it was extremely fast and well armed. On the Pacific front, we were sending as many as 1,000 B-29 bombers at once to bomb Tokyo in the last years of the war.
Flying in heavy bombers was very dangerous in World War II. You had a strong chance of not making it home. Looking at the record for just the 8th Air Force heavy bomber missions, we see that out of 2,786 sorties 487 planes were lost. But this doesn't tell the entire story because far more planes were lost in the beginning. For example, on August 1st, 1943, there were 179 sorties and 55 planes were lost. This is almost 1 out of 3. Even on March 6, 1944, 600 bombers were sent out and 69 didn't return home. This was over 10%. So you see it was hard to compete the 25 missions that would get you a pass home if you were in the U.S. Air Force and flying in a bomber.
My personal opinion is that being part of one of these bomber crews was one of the most dangerous duties of the war. If you happened to be a turret gunner in the bottom turret of some bombers that was even more dangerous. Not only would you be subject to the same risks as the rest of the crew, but you had the additional risks of being one of the main targets of the enemy and of also being trapped in the turret when the plane had to make an emergency landing, almost surely crushing you.
B-17 takes photos of U.S. raid on CAM ball-bearing factory
Some raid were more effective than others. Who could forget the most famous, non nuclear, bombing attack of the war? It was the raid over Dresden in Germany. It began on 13 February 1945 and continued until 15 February 1945. Both the British and Americans took part. The reason that the allies decided to bomb Dresden was to cause confusion to retreating German troops who were moving back from the eastern front and thus help the red army. Dresden had already been picked as the primary target before the Yalta conference. It was a rail hub and it was felt that if it wasn't bombed than the Germans would use it to reroute traffic. Even before 13 February the railway at Dresden was bombed twice. The attack of 13 February started when the British Air Force sent in 796 Lancaster bombers and 9 Mosquitoes. They dropped 1,478 tons of high explosives and more importantly, 1,182 tons of incendiary bombs. All the bombs were dropped in two minutes except for one bomber that had trouble. A second attack saw 529 Lancaster bombers dropping 1,800 more tons of bombs. On 14 February the Americans brought in B-17s and dropped 771 tons of bombs on the railroad yards. We all know that a terrible fire storm resulted from the incendiary bombs. Temperatures reached over 1500 degrees Centigrade in some areas. The method used to cause this fire storm was that first a standard bomb would be dropped which blew off the roofs of buildings and exposed the timbers and next incendiary bombs would be dropped to set the exposed wood on fire. This resulted in almost total destruction. Of the total 28,000 + houses in the center of Dresden, almost 25,000 were totally destroyed. The amount of lives lost has been estimated to be between 25,000 to 35,000. It could have been higher however because the city was flooded with refugees and no one knows what happened to many of them. The fire storm was so intense that it sucked the oxygen out of the air causing many to die from suffocation. A similar type raid took place over Tokyo and may have been even more effective since the city was almost entirely made of wood at the time.
As the war progressed, bombing became more accurate with the most accurate bombing by Americans and British occurring in the last nine month of the war.
This entire site with all contents, except where stated otherwise, is
Copyright © 2005 by About Facts Net and its licensors. All rights reserved.