Bombing Missions of the U.S. Eighth Air Force

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Individuals on the ground heard what sounded like the roar of approaching thunder. Looking up they saw a growing cloud moving east. It was American bombers. It took over an hour for the bomber stream to pass over. Some 1,200 bombers, along with 800 escort fighters, of the U.S. Eighth Air Force were on their way to strike targets deep inside the Third Reich.

Bombing Missions of the U.S. Eighth Air Force is dedicated to the personnel of the Mighty Eighth to honor and remember their service and bravery. The giant wave charts the scale and scope of the Eighth Air Force's bombing campaign during World War II. On the left are mini-timelines for all bomb groups that served with the Eighth. Weekly sortie and casualty figures at the bottom attempt to provide some scale of the sacrifice required by the men of the Eighth Air Force.

The American daylight bombing campaign had begun as a meager effort in August 1942, with just a handful of B-17 Fortresses. Initial efforts produced little other than heavy losses among the bomber groups. There were doubts that the American strategy of daylight bombing would succeed. Operating without escort fighters in the early days of the campaign, the bomber crews had to fight their way to targets and back alone.

As American industry turned out hundreds of B-17 and B-24 long-range bombers, and the U.S. Army Air Force produced thousands of crewmen, the number of bomb groups increased dramatically starting in late-1943, resulting in a growing wave of missions to strike targets across occupied Europe and Germany.