USAAF fighters surprise the Luftwaffe
27th September 1943: The P-47 Thunderbolt makes its appearance alongside the B-17 bombers of the 8th Air Force in Europe, along with the P-51 Lightnings
In the bombing war against Germany, the early expectation that the USAAF Flying Fortresses would be sufficiently well-armed to defend themselves had proven to be misplaced. Furthermore, the Germans had been quick to re-organise their air defences to cope with attacks from the RAF at night and the USAAF by day.
But the bombing war saw constantly evolving tactics on both sides. It was obvious from the heavy losses that they were suffering that the bombers needed fighter escorts. They now began to make their appearance, although they still did not have the range to go all the way deep into Germany.
Heinz Knoke1 was already an accomplished Luftwaffe pilot by 1943, well on his way to his possible final tally of 52 aircraft. He and his fellow pilots in his flight had mastered a successful approach for taking on the B-17s. Today, however, there was a surprise:
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