Luftwaffe fighter attack on a B-17
25th June 1943: A Luftwaffe fighter ace describes ambushing a formation of USAAF B-17s en route to Germany
As the US 8th Airforce began pressing their attacks deep into Germany in 1943, the casualties began to mount alarmingly. Each crew was expected to complete 25 missions before they were released from duties. Much publicity had been given to the Memphis Belle when it had completed 25 missions and returned to the USA in early June. But the great majority of her missions had been to targets in France.
For aircrews that began flying in May or June 1943, the odds had changed dramatically. They had a slim chance of completing 25 missions - the average survival rate was now calculated to be 11 missions around this time.
I open fire at short range. My cannon-shells land beautifully in the centre of the fuselage. The rear gunner persistently returns my fire. I calmly close in, guns blazing. Holes appear in my right wing as I am hit. That sod of a rear gunner ! He will not leave me alone - must have a lot of guts.
On the 25th June 1943, the 8th Air Force flew a mission1 with three elements to attack targets in Hamburg, Kiel and Warnemunde. Bad weather over England meant many were recalled and poor visibility over the targets prevented much of the planned attack. Nineteen aircraft failed to return - and we have an account of the downing of one of them.