USAAF suffers over Schweinfurt-Regensburg
17th August 1943: One in six of the B-17s bombing a German ball bearing plant are shot down, as the 8th Air Force tries new tactics
A year after the 8th Air Force had mounted its first raid on occupied Europe, the American heavy bomber force in England had grown enormously and was still growing. But early optimism that the heavy armament of the B-17s - especially when they were mutually supporting each other in formation - would be enough to deter enemy fighters had proved to be misplaced.
They met us again and again on the way out. All ammunition in the nose was expended. Hot cartridge cases were 3 inches deep and burned your ankles.
The 17th August 1943 daylight raid - Mission 84 - adopted new tactics to disperse the fighters as they went deeper into Germany. One part of the mission would bomb Regensburg and then fly on to North Africa. The other half of the force would simultaneously bomb Schweinfurt and return as normal
But fog over England meant that the two forces did not bomb together. Instead, the fighters that hit the Regensburg part of the raid were able to land, refuel and rearm in readiness for the next wave headed for Schweinfurt. Beyond the assistance of escort fighters from both the USAAF and RAF, the bombers on the Schweinfurt leg faced over 300 Luftwaffe fighters from over 24 German airbases.