The United States Army Air Force (USAAF) 8th and 15th flew a total 178 missions against Axis airframe manufacturers and 75 against aircraft engine manufacturers. After the war Speer said: “We were surprised for a long time that you attacked the airframe production and not the motor production. We were always worried that you would attack Bayerische Motorenwerke (FW 190 engine) and the others. There were only a few big factories… If you had attacked the motor factories at first and not the airframe, we would have been finished.” *
*Source: “Aircraft Division Industry Report – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.” Second Edition January 1947, Chapter V, Page 54, https://www.angelfire.com/super/ussbs/airrep.html/index.html
Table of Contents
The USAAF 8th and 15th
The United States Army 8th and 15th Air Forces played a major role in the Allied effort to defeat Nazi Germany during World War II. Both the 8th and 15th Air Forces were tasked with carrying out bombing missions against German aircraft manufacturing sites. These strategic bombing missions were designed to reduce the Luftwaffe’s ability to produce aircraft and engines, as well as to disrupt the production of aviation fuel and other supplies.
The 8th Air Force’s bombing campaign was relentless and targeted the major German airframe and air engine manufacturers, such as Focke-Wulf FW 190, Messerschmitt Me 109 and Me 262, Heinkel He 177 and He 111, Junkers Ju 88 and 188, and BMW engine plants. Over the course of the war, thousands of aircraft took part in these missions. In total, the 8th Air Force flew over 200,000 sorties, dropping over 800,000 tons of bombs on Germany.
The 15th Air Force originally stationed in Tunisia and later in Italy also targeted German airframe and air engine manufacturers. This included Messerschmitt Me 109, Me 410, and Me 262 aircraft plants. Among the missions the 15th flew against engine manufacturers included five missions against the BMW Munich/Allach and five missions against the Daimler-Benz Wiener Neudorf factory.
The Big Week
Both the 8th and 15th Air Forces along with the RAF participated in Operation Argument or as it would become to be known as the Big Week. From February 20-25, 1944, the Allies bombing campaign focused on Germany’s aircraft industry in order to gain air superiority over the European skies. Air superiority was a requirement for a successful D-Day operation. Not only were aircraft manufacturers, especially fighter manufacturers, targeted but also airfields and aviation fuel supplies.
But the biggest goal of the Big Week was elimination of as many of the existing Luftwaffe’s fighters as possible as well as introduction of new fighters. Prior to the Big Week Allied fighter escorts stayed close to their bombers and the Luftwaffe fighters stayed back at a distance. However, during the Big Week Allied escort fighters for the first time were ordered to leave the bombers and go directly after the German fighters.
In some ways the results of the Big Week were mixed, but loss of fighters on the Allied side saw quick replacements with trained crew versus German replacement with ill trained crew. Although Germany was still producing large quantity of fighters the Luftwaffe was now in an operational downward spiral. German airmen, aircraft, and fuel qualities were degrading day by day.
The results of these missions were devastating for the German aircraft industry. By D-Day the Allies had air superiority which would become air domination by the end of the war. This had a significant impact on the Luftwaffe, as it was no longer able to produce new aircraft and engines. This lack of new aircraft and engines severely weakened the German air force and was a major factor in the Allied victory in World War II.
USAAF 8th and 15th Missions Flown Against Aircraft Industry Data
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“Aircraft Division Industry Report – U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.” Second Edition January 1947, Chapter V, Table V-4, Page 60, https://www.angelfire.com/super/ussbs/airrep.html/index.html, data accessed on June 28, 2022
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