8th Air Force 226 BIG WEEK - DAY 1

20 February 1944

Description

This mission is the opening salvo of the Allied Combined Bomber Offensive known officially as "Operation Argument" but remembered in 8th Air Force History as "BIG WEEK". The immediate strategic objective of this six-day operation is the degradation of the German aircraft industry, but the longer range strategic objective is to lure the Luftwaffe into committing its resources in defending high-value German military/industrial targets in all theaters of operations over the Continent thereby destroying the Luftwaffe's resources sufficiently to give the Allies air supremacy so critical to a successful invasion of the Continent.

The next four months of the war leading up to D-Day will have the primary objective of destroying the Luftwaffe and secondarily the degradation of the entire German war industry. All during 1944 the Allies will pound German cities, and while the Germans are effective in replacing aircraft lost, their ultimate defeat will be the based on the inability of the Germans to provide a steady stream of trained and experience pilots to fly their machines.

This first mission of BIG WEEK is a despatch of 1,003 heavy bombers to attack the German aircraft industry and airfields. This is the first time that the 8th Air Force has been able to assemble a 1000-plane operation. Mission Summary follows:

3rd Bomb Division: A combined force of 314 B-17s from: 94BG; 95BG; 96BG; 100BG; 385BG; 388BG; 390BG; 447BG; 452BG; and 482BG is depatched to bomb the primary target of the German aifield at Tutow, Germany. A PFF equipped aircraft failed to take-off, so the Tutow force dropped on targets in the vicinity of Tutow, Griefswald and Straslund. Targets at Poznan and Kreising were the assigned primaries for the rest of the formation but the formation leader decided the cloud cover would prevent bombing so they bombed Rostock and other T/Os. There was NO fighter escort for this element. 105 aircraft are effective on the German airfield at Tutow, Germany and surrounding areas; 76 aircraft bomb the aircraft industry at Rostock, Germany; and 155 aircraft bomb other Targets of Opportunity (TOs). 6 Aircraft Failed to Return (FTR) - 19 KIA 30 POW 1 EVD 10 INT (Interned in Sweden). 1 battle damaged aircraft is declared Damaged Beyond Repair (DBR) in a crash landing at Mutford, UK - 3 KIA 7 RTD. 37 aircraft are damaged. The bomber gunners of this despatch claim 15-15-10 of attacking German aircraft.

1st Bomb Division: A combined force of 417 B-17s from: 91BG, 92BG; 303BG; 305BG, 306BG; 351BG; 379BG; 381BG; 384BG; 401BG; and 482BG are despatched to bomb the primary targets of: the German airfield of Leipzig/Mockau and the German aircraft industry at Heiterblick, Abtnaundorf and Bernberg, Germany. 239 aircraft are effective at Leipzig/Mockau, Heiterblick and Abtnaundorf, Germany.; 37 are effective on Bernburg, Germany; 44 are effective on the industrial areas of Oschersleben, Germany as a Target of Opportunity (TO); and 20 aircraft bomb other targets of opportunity. 7 aircraft Failed to Return (FTR) - 15 KIA 48 POW 7 EVD. 3 airmen were KIA and 9 other WIA in returning aircraft. 161 aircraft had battle damage. The bomber gunners of this despatch claimed 14-5-6 of attacking German aircraft.

2 aircraft with battle damage were Damaged Beyond Repair (DBR) - 4 KIA 8 WIA 6 RTD. One of these DBRs was B-17G #42-31763 "Ten Horsepower", 352BG/510BS in which the pilot had been severely wounded and co-pilot killed. All of the crew baled out except the Navigator, 2LT Walter E. Truemper and Engineer/Ball Turret Gunner, SSGT Archibald Mathies, who made four desperate attempts to land the aircraft, but finally crashed and they and the pilot were killed. Both airmen were posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The citation for 2LT Truemper may be viewed at: http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3028/truemper-walter-e.php. The citation for SSGT Mathies may be viewed at: http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2863/mathies-archibald.php

On the other DBR, Pilot, 1LT William R. Lawley flying B-17G #42-38109, 305BG/364BS was severely wounded but managed to return the battle damaged aircraft, 2 critically wounded airmen and a Waist Gunner to make a successful crash landing at Alconbury, UK. 1LT Lawley was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions that day. His citation may be viewed at: http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/2839/lawley-william-r-jr.php

The 401BG was awarded its second Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions on this mission.

2nd Bomb Division: A combined force of 272 B-24s from: 44BG; 93BG; 389BG; 392BG; 445BG; 446BG; 448BG; and 453BG were despatched to the primary target of the aircraft industries at Halberstadt, Germany, but the PFF equipment failed and the formation was forced to bomb the industrial areas of Oschersleben and Helmstedt, Germany as targets of last resort. The other primary targets assigned were the aviation industries at Brunswick, Wilhelmtor, Neupetritor and Gotha, Germany. 76 aircraft were effective on the aircraft industries at: Brunswick, Wilhelmtor and Neupetritor; 87 were effective on the aircraft industry at Gotha, Germany; 13 bombed the industrial areas of Helmstedt, Germany as a target of last resort; 58 bombed the industrial areas of Helmstedt as a target of last resort; and 10 bombed other Targets of Opportunity (TOs). 8 aircraft Failed to Return (FTR) - 42 KIA 35 POW (1 DIC). 4 aircraft were Damaged Beyond Repair (DBR) in crash landings upon return - 10 KIA 30 RTD. 37 aircraft were damaged. 10 airmen in returning aircraft were WIA. The bomber gunners of this despatch claimed 36-13-13 of attacking German aircraft (claims exaggerated).

The 392nd Bomb Group and 445th Bomb Groups are both awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for their actions in attacking the German aircraft industries at Gotha, Germany.

Mission Details

Description: BOMB TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 275.08
  • Aircraft sent: 115
  • Aircraft effective: 115

Description: BOMB TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 1st Bomb Division attacked these targets.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 49.58
  • Aircraft sent: 20
  • Aircraft effective: 20

Description: BOMB TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 2nd Bomb Division attacked this target.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 27.34
  • Aircraft sent: 10
  • Aircraft effective: 10

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: While this target was also listed as a primary, the 1st Bomb Division concentrated on Leipzig.

BERNBURG (Primary)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 1st Bomb Division attacked this target.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 91.72
  • People returned to duty: 11
  • Aircraft sent: 37
  • Aircraft effective: 37
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 1

Brunswick, Germany

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: Aircraft production plants at Brunswick, Wilhelmtor and Neupetritor are the Primary targets. Bomber gunner claims for all participants of 2BD are bundled here (totals exaggerated).

The insignia of the 389th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 392nd Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
A pathfinder B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-51681) of the 453rd Bomb Group flies in formation with a fellow Liberator of the 453rd and and a pathfinder Liberator of the 445th Bomb Group. Image via Alan Rowsell.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
A flight of B-24 Liberators of the 446th Bomb Group fly in formation above the clouds.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 448th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 207.78
  • People killed in action: 37
  • People wounded in action: 10
  • Prisoners of war: 30
  • People died in captivity: 1
  • People returned to duty: 10
  • Enemy aircrafts destroyed by bomber: 36
  • Enemy aircrafts probably destroyed by bomber: 13
  • Enemy aircraft damaged by bomber: 13
  • Aircraft sent: 104
  • Aircraft effective: 76
  • Aircraft missing in action: 6
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 2
  • Aircraft damaged: 37

GOTHA (Primary)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: Originally, the aircraft factories at Halberstadt were the Primary targets. However, clouds obscured the target and the Pathfinder (PFF) equipment failed so groups diverted to other targets. The 392nd and 445th Bomb Group, flying B-24s, are awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation (1st of 1), for their participation in bombing the aircraft plants at Gotha, Germany.

The insignia of the 392nd Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
A pathfinder B-24 Liberator (serial number 42-51681) of the 453rd Bomb Group flies in formation with a fellow Liberator of the 453rd and and a pathfinder Liberator of the 445th Bomb Group. Image via Alan Rowsell.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 237.86
  • Aircraft sent: 87
  • Aircraft effective: 87

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: While this target was also listed as a primary, the 1st Bomb Division concentrated on Leipzig.

HELMSTEDT (Last resort)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 2nd Bomb Division attacked this target.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 158.57
  • People killed in action: 15
  • Prisoners of war: 5
  • People returned to duty: 20
  • Aircraft sent: 58
  • Aircraft effective: 58
  • Aircraft missing in action: 2
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 2

LEIPZIG/MOCKAU (Primary)

Description: AIRFIELD

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: "BIG WEEK" (Feb 20-25, 1944) begins. BIG WEEK has two objectives: Destroy German aircraft production facilities; and, draw up the Luftwaffe for destruction by fighter escort. This is the first time that over 1000 bombers are despatched. 1st Lt. William R. Lawley, 305th Bomb Group/364BS (Pilot) B-17 42-38109 is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in this action. This is the seventh CMOH awarded to a member of the 8th Air Force. The 401st Bomb Group is awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation (2nd of 2). Bomber gunner claims for all 1BD participants are bundled here.

Official emblem of the 303rd Bomb Group approved 7 November 1942.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 351st Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 379th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 381st Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Air base
The insignia of the 384th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 592.48
  • People killed in action: 19
  • People wounded in action: 17
  • People evaded: 7
  • Prisoners of war: 31
  • People returned to duty: 6
  • Enemy aircrafts destroyed by bomber: 14
  • Enemy aircrafts probably destroyed by bomber: 5
  • Enemy aircraft damaged by bomber: 6
  • Aircraft sent: 316
  • Aircraft effective: 239
  • Aircraft missing in action: 4
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 2
  • Aircraft damaged: 161

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: It has not been determined how many aircraft from 2nd Bomb Division Groups attacked this target, so totals are bundled together with Brunswick (P)

OSCHERSLEBEN (Last resort)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 2nd Bomb Division attacked this target.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 31.68
  • Aircraft sent: 13
  • Aircraft effective: 13

OSCHERSLEBEN (Opportunistic)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: It has not been determined which Groups from 1st Bomb Division attacked this target.

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 109.08
  • People killed in action: 3
  • Prisoners of war: 17
  • Aircraft sent: 44
  • Aircraft effective: 44
  • Aircraft missing in action: 2

ROSTOCK (Opportunistic)

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 181.79
  • People killed in action: 25
  • People evaded: 1
  • Prisoners of war: 30
  • People interned: 10
  • People returned to duty: 7
  • Aircraft sent: 76
  • Aircraft effective: 76
  • Aircraft missing in action: 8
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 1

TUTOW (Primary)

Description: AIRFIELD

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: A Pathfinder (PFF) equipped aircraft failed to take-off, so the others force dropped on targets in the vicinity of Tutow, Griefswald and Straslund. Targets at Poznan and Kreising were the assigned primaries for the rest of the formation but leader decided the cloud cover would prevent bombing so they bombed Rostock and other Targets of Opportunity. No fighter escort for this element. Bomber gunner claims for all 3BD participants are bundled here.

Official emblem of the 100th Bomb Group, approved 30 March 1944 and replaced 1957
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 385th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 388th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 390th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment
The insignia of the 447th Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 251.16
  • Enemy aircrafts destroyed by bomber: 15
  • Enemy aircrafts probably destroyed by bomber: 15
  • Enemy aircraft damaged by bomber: 10
  • Aircraft sent: 123
  • Aircraft effective: 105
  • Aircraft damaged: 37

Description: AIRCRAFT FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-24 Liberator

Notes: It has not been determined how many aircraft from 2nd Bomb Division Groups attacked this target, so totals are bundled together with Brunswick (P)

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 388th Bomb Group 561st Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 33389045
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant (Technician Third Grade)
  • Role/Job: Tail Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 401st Bomb Group 612th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-735233
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Navigator; Bombardier
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars 322nd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-803930
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Co-Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 95th Bomb Group 412th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 18193418
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Radio Operator
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars 322nd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 17065646 and O-744176
  • Highest Rank: Second Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Bombardier

Aircraft

Revisions

Date21 Apr 2022 03:01:35
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Corrected a typo in the "Mission Detailed description" - “sufficiently” was misspelled.

Date10 Feb 2016 18:43:15
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 10-Feb-2016. Correcting typo in Mission Description.

Date9 Feb 2016 21:20:21
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 9-Feb-2016. Added bomber gunner claims for all 2BD participants to Brunswick element per "The Mighty Eighth War Dairy", Roger A. Freeman.

Date9 Feb 2016 21:17:44
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 9-Feb-2016. Added bomber gunner claims of all 1BD participants to Leipzig event per "The Mighty Eighth War Diary", Roger A. Freeman.

Date9 Feb 2016 21:14:40
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 9-Feb-2016. Added Bomber Gunner claims of 3BD on enemy aircraft to Tutow element statistics per "The Mighty Eighth War Diary", Roger A. Freeman.

Date9 Feb 2016 21:09:15
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 9-Feb-2016. Added Mission Narrative based on "The Mighty Eighth War Diary", Roger A. Freeman; "Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces", Stan Bishop & John A. Hey; 390BG Mission Report from Pima Air Museum, Tucson, AZ and MACR data.

Date11 Dec 2014 10:23:05
ContributorEmily
Sources

Moved pin from south of London to Tutow Germany

Date27 Sep 2014 18:43:17
ContributorAAM
Sources

Lee Cunningham, 8th Air Force missions research database / Stan Bishop's 'Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces', the Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces and the work of Roger Freeman including the 'Mighty Eighth War Diary'.