VIII Bomber Command 84

17 August 1943
Regensburg, after being bombed by B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 385th Bomb Group, 17 August 1943. Official caption on image: "(O-5-1-385)(17-8-43)(30171-6 3/8 - 24,000)(Regensberg)." Passed for publication 6 Sep 1943. Printed caption on reverse: '#44: View of the target.' Censor no: 282458. On reverse: US Army Press Censor ETO and US Army General Section Press & Censorship Bureau [Stamps].

Object Number - FRE 7714 - Regensburg, after being bombed by B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 385th Bomb Group, 17 August 1943. Official caption on image:...

Description

The mission flown on 17-Aug-43, the 1st anniversary of the 1st mission flown by the 8th Air Force, is probably the most written about mission of the war. This is the famous Schweinfurt/Regensburg mission on which 60 B-17s are lost. It has been dubbed "Black Tuesday." It is this mission that finally brought home to the air war planners the true vulnerability of the famous B-17 "Flying Fortress" and the critical need for fighter escorts that could accompany the bomber streams to and from targets deep in Germany as "Little Friends."

The need for such a mission was suggested by General Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, Commanding General of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) in March 1943 in accordance with the "Casablanca Directive" (21-Jan-43 cf. CASABLANCA DIRECTIVE in the Missions index for details) and the "Pointblank Directive" (14-Jun-43 cf. POINTBLANK DIRECTIVE in the Missions index for details)

This was one of the most complex missions attempted up to that time in the war and directed deep into Germany to bomb the Messerschmitt production factories at Regensburg and the ball bearing factories at Schweinfurt, Germany. Success would require: close timing; cooperation of the weather in England and across the Continent; precision flying and a goodly measure of luck. While fighter escort was to be a component, it could only accompany the bombers for a short distance into the Continent because of the limited range of the P-47. However, USAAF planners were still very much convinced that the B-17 Flying Fortress and close formation flying would be sufficient to allow the bombers to destroy these targets.

The planned mission was divided into three Air Task Forces. 1st Air Task Force was composed of 146 B-17s, led by Colonel Curtis LeMay of 4th Bomb Wing. This task force was composed of three Combat Wings (CW): 403CW would consist of 62 aircraft: 96BG (21) Lead Group; 388BG (21) Low Group; and 390BG (20) High Group; 401CW would consist of 42 aircraft: 94BG (21) Lead Group; 385BG (21) Low Group; and 402CW consisted of 42 aircraft: 95BG (21) Lead Group; and 100BG (21) Low Group. The Combat Wings would take off at three minute intervals bewteen Comabt Wings with that target being the Messerschmitt factories at Regensburg. The formation would bomb the target and then proceed south to bases in North Africa. It was hoped that this formation would lure the German fighters away from the two Air Task Forces of 1st Bomb Division that would attack the ball bearing works a Schweinfurt.

1st Air Division, led by Brigadier General Robert Williams, would consist of 230 B-17s divided among 2nd Air Task Force, led by Colonel William M. Gross, and 3rd Air Task Force, led by Colonel Howard M. Turner. 2nd Air Task Force would consist of 116 aircraft divided into two Combat Wings (CW): 101CW would consist of 57 B-17s: 91BG (18) Lead Group; 381BG (20) Low Group; and Composite Group A (High Group) consisting of 19 B-17s: 306BG (7); 91BG (6); and 381BG (6). The other Combat Wing (CW) of 2nd Air Task Force was a Composite Wing which would consist of 59 B-17s: 351BG (21) Lead Group; 384BG (18) Low Group; and Composite Group B (High Group) consisting of 20 B-17s: 306BG (9); 305BG (9) and 92BG (2). These CWs were to take off at five minute intervals ten minutes after 1st Air Task Force and attack Schweinfurt.

3rd Air Task Force would consist of 114 B-17s divided into two Combat Wings (CW): 102CW would consist of 61 B-17s: 306BG (21) Lead Group; 92BG (20) Low Group; and 305BG (20) High Group; 103 Provisional CW would consist of 53 B-17s: 379BG (18) Lead Group; 303BG (18) Low Group; and Composite C (High Group) 17 B-17s: 303BG (10), 379BG (6), 384BG (1). These two Air Task Forces were to take off at five minute intervals between CWs, twelve minute intervals between Task Forces and ten minutes after 1st Air Task Force. All Air Task Forces were to fly the same course out of England and into Germany. 1st Air Task Force would proceed to bases in North Africa and the Schweinfurt force would bomb and then return to their bases in England. Everything seemed to be set. 230 B-17s would attack at Schweinfurt and 146 at Regensburg.

On the morning of 17-Aug-43 the weather over the American bases in England was terrible. Ground fog, light drizzle, and completely overcast skies caused the take-off time schedule to get seriously degraded. 1st Air Task Force under Col. LeMay had much training in instrument take-offs and they managed to get in the air and assembled pretty much on schedule. The 230 B-17s of first Bomb Division were not well trained for taking-off in the conditions and they waited and incredible one and one half hours for the fog to lift before they took off. This was disasterous for any element of surprise for the force attacking Schweinfurt and it meant that whatever fighter force engaging LeMay's 1st Air Division would have the opportunity to re-fuel and attack the Schweinfurt Air Task Forces.

The Germans put up every aircraft they could muster to meet the strung out bomber formations and the anti-aircraft fire was horrendous. Of the 230 B-17s despatched to Schweinfurt, 183 managed to hit Schweinfurt, 1 dropped on Frankfurt and 4 attacked targets of opportunity. 36 B-17s Failed to Return crewed by 361 airmen (disposition of these based on MACR records and documented rescues is: 67 KIA, 247 POW, 27 EVD, 20 RTD [rescued by ASR]). One MACR #283 was issued for B-17F #42-5712 "My Prayer" 91BG/324BS which actually returned to England but was DBR from which there were 7POW 3RTD. In addition there were 3 KIA and 12 WIA in returning aircraft. Adjusting the totals for the Schweinfurt Groups: 70 KIA, 12 WIA, 254 POW, 27 EVD, 20 RTD (rescued) and 3 RTD OK. The bomber gunners claimed 140-19-36 of the attacking German fighters, but these figures were grossly exaggerated (The combined totals of bomber gunner claims in both the Schweinfurt and Regeansburg attacks was 288-37-99. German records claim that 21 aircraft were shot down by the bomber gunners another 21 were shot down by fighters and 5 were lost on take-off and landing accidents. 16 airmen killed and 9 wounded.

Of the 146 B-17s that were despatched to Regensburg 24 B-17s Failed to Return crewed by 24 airmen (FTR) (disposition of these based on MACR records and confirmed rescues is: 34 KIA, 130 POW, 16 EVD, 20 INT and 40 RTD [rescued by ASR]). One B-17 was DBR but crew OK. In aircraft that managed to return to North African bases 4 KIA and 9 WIA. Adjusting the totals for the Regensburg Groups: 38 KIA, 9 WIA, 130 POW, 16 EVD, 20 INT and 40 RTD. The bomber gunners claimed 140-19-36 of attacking aircraft (grossly exaggerated).

Mission Details

REGENSBURG (Primary)

Description: MESSERSCHMITT AIRCRAFT COMPLEX

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: All aircraft in this element continue on to bases in North Africa.

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
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 298.75
  • People killed in action: 38
  • People wounded in action: 9
  • People evaded: 16
  • Prisoners of war: 130
  • People interned: 20
  • People returned to duty: 40
  • Enemy aircrafts destroyed by bomber: 140
  • Enemy aircrafts probably destroyed by bomber: 19
  • Enemy aircraft damaged by bomber: 36
  • Aircraft sent: 146
  • Aircraft effective: 127
  • Aircraft missing in action: 24
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 1
  • Aircraft damaged: 50

SCHWEINFURT (Primary)

Description: BALL BEARING FACTORIES

Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes: Anniversary of 1st 8th Air Force mission. Deepest penetration to date. 60 bombers lost. "Black Tuesday." The 91st Bomb Group leads the mission. The 381st Bomb Group suffers the highest losses of all 8th Air Force Bomb Groups on this mission (11 aircraft Missing in Action (MIA))

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

Mission Statistics

  • Tonnage Dropped: 424.38
  • People killed in action: 70
  • People wounded in action: 12
  • People evaded: 27
  • Prisoners of war: 254
  • People returned to duty: 20
  • Enemy aircrafts destroyed by bomber: 148
  • Enemy aircrafts probably destroyed by bomber: 18
  • Enemy aircraft damaged by bomber: 63
  • Aircraft sent: 230
  • Aircraft effective: 188
  • Aircraft missing in action: 36
  • Aircraft damaged beyond repair: 4
  • Aircraft damaged: 118

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: 381st Bomb Group 534th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 32292870
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Top Turret Gunner; Flight Engineer
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 381st Bomb Group 533rd Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-735501
  • Highest Rank: First Lieutenant
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 381st Bomb Group 535th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 13103513
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 381st Bomb Group 534th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 38107155
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Role/Job: Tail Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 91st Bomb Group The Ragged Irregulars 324th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 06981377
  • Highest Rank: Staff Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner

Aircraft

Revisions

Date27 Aug 2021 18:35:46
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added Bold highlighting characters .

Date27 Aug 2021 18:33:36
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added punctuation in the "Summary biography" to aid readability.

Date27 Aug 2021 18:25:24
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Added highlighting characters (Bold)

Date16 May 2021 02:14:12
Contributorjmoore43
Sources

Corrected a typo in the "Detailed description" - "Adjusting" was misspelled.

Date11 May 2017 12:53:28
ContributorThomBear
Sources

added a/c 41-24560 per post-mission report.

Date12 Jun 2016 18:11:09
ContributorRainer
Sources

Martin Middlebrook - The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission

Date12 Jun 2016 18:08:19
ContributorRainer
Sources

Martin Middlebrook - The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission

Date23 May 2015 23:32:28
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 23-May-2015. Corrected KIA count and RTD count and added bomber gunner claims to statisitcs based on MACR records; "Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces", Stan Bishop & John A. Hey MBE; 303BG Mission Report http://www.303rdbg.com/missionreports/060.pdf

Date23 May 2015 23:30:20
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 23-May-2015. Corrected KIA count and RTD count and added bomber gunner claims to statisitcs based on MACR records; "Losses of the 8th & 9th Air Forces", Stan Bishop & John A. Hey MBE; 303BG Mission Report http://www.303rdbg.com/missionreports/060.pdf

Date23 May 2015 23:24:10
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 23-May-2015. Correcting typo in Mission Narrative.

Date23 May 2015 23:19:54
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 23-May-2015. Added Mission Narrative based on 303BG Mission Report http://www.303rdbg.com/missionreports/060.pdf.

Date19 May 2015 22:53:16
ContributorLee8thbuff
Sources

Lee Cunningham 19-May-2015. Began the Mission Narrative for the Schweifurt/Regensburg mission. Sources provided upon conclusion of narrative.

Date25 Apr 2015 20:53:32
Contributorsimaguire
Sources

B17s Over Berlin
Ian L Hawkins

Date25 Apr 2015 20:49:16
Contributorsimaguire
Sources

B17s Over Berlin
Ian L Hawkins

Date25 Apr 2015 20:38:59
Contributorsimaguire
Sources

B17s Over Berlin
Ian L Hawkins

Date13 Nov 2014 11:28:50
ContributorEmily
Sources

Associated Media based on images associated with missions in Freeman, The Mighty Eighth War Diary.

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'.

VIII Bomber Command 84: Gallery (72 items)