An incredibly rare, candid and original color photograph a B-17 bombardier heading toward Germany, 1940's. [1280x859]

For all those interested: The success rate for bombers throughout the initial 3 years of the pugilative war was anywhere from 50% to as low as 20%. He was probably thinking about how planes that are manyn't return from ...

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  • For those interested: The survival rate for bombers throughout the first three years of the war was anywhere from 50% to as low as 20%. He was probably thinking about how many planes didn't return from the last bombing run. =/ The reason for this is that the Army Air Corps. didn't introduce fighter escorts to bombing runs until the last year or two of the war (keep in mind, this was the first time planes had been used to this extent in warfare, and it was all new and experimental for them). After fighters were added to bomb groups, everything changed. The survival rate jumped to close to 90%. But early in the war, being a bombardier was one of a few jobs that almost guaranteed you wouldn't make it home alive. Edit: More information Total number of B-24's manufactured: 18,482 Total number of bombers shot down: Approximately 12,000 2/3 of all bomber crews whose planes were hit while flying died.
  • While your statement is accurate, I think it gives an unintentional impression of conscious choices and decisions that was not present. The Army Air Corps didn't introduce fighter escorts earlier because fighter escorts weren't possible earlier. It was known they'd make the raids more effective and survivable for the bomber crews, there just weren't any fighters capable of making the trip. You can see this in the Battle of Britain, albeit from the other side. Fighting from close airfields in occupied France, the Luftwaffe was able to send escorts with their bombers - but barely. Bf-109's were powerful, capable fighters, but their range was limited such that they were only able to loiter for a few minutes over the target - RAF fighters knew they only had to tie up a 109 for a short fight to ensure it would never make it back to base. Bf-110s had much more range, and could fly with the bombers to the most distant targets in the UK, but they were not capable fighters and were more like light bombers themselves, no match for Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. The B-17 was so heavily armed because it was hoped that would offset the lack of a capable escort fighter, but in the end the only thing capable of protecting a bomber from fighters is another fighter. The P-38 and the P-47 helped, but weren't available until 1944; and the escort fighter didn't really manage to completely dominate the aerial battlefield until the P-51D arrived. It's worth noting for all of this that the P-51 and the P-38 were both designed for the escort role from the beginning - 1940 and 1937 respectively. They just didn't have the range until the drop tank was perfected. Edit: Bf-109, not Fw-109. Thanks /u/Cplblue
  • The German bombers in the Battle of Britain were escorted by Bf-109s. The Fw-190 wasn't operationally flown until 1941 after the battle.
  • Yes, of course. Cursed brain...
  • Do you think that if Germany held off on starting a war for a few years they could have developed longer range planes? Basically what I'm saying is could any of the countries foresee this issue and started developing better planes before the war?
  • These kinds of what-if questions are almost impossible to answer, but Germany had some of the best combat aircraft in the world at the start of the war, with the US and UK catching up fast. Waiting would not have improved their situation relative to other nations, I suspect, because they would have had more time to develop better weapons themselves. Imagine a Battle of Britain fought with Spitfires and Mustangs, or Charge of the Light Brigade with lend-lease Sherman tanks. But the timing of the war was driven primarily by political considerations, not technical. Internally, there was the need for an external opponent, and externally the weakness of many governments (Czechoslovakia, the UK, Poland) made it the ideal time to strike.
  • "You go to war with the weapons designed to fight the last war." For one, if Germany were developing weapons capable of attacking Britain, their hostile intentions would be obvious well in advance of their capability.
  • It should be noted that the Nazis did not want to go to war with Britain. Britain and France declared war on Germany after they invaded Poland, not the other way around.
  • Yeah I hate asking historical what ifs but I've always wondered it. Thanks for your answer!
  • The answer to these "what if Germany had waited" questions is generally that while Germany would have had better equipment if they had waited, the allies were improving at a faster rate. The USSR especially was really weakened by internal strife in the 1930s and would probably have been able to stop the Germans much more quickly if they had started out later. Hitler knew this and acted accordingly.
  • My understanding is that there was a "bomber mafia" in the 30's that decided that bombers armed with machine guns would be able to adequately protect themselves against enemy fighters. This was a school of thought that influenced conscious design decisions that the war would emphatically prove incorrect. As such, there were in fact conscious planning choices that might have been made which would have reduced bomber losses early in the war. Very interesting book showing how competing design philosophies functioned during the 70's is The Mind of War. Recommend. For that matter, Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff shows how the manned aircraft mafia held sway in a way that is only now being superseded sort of spectacularly by remotely piloted drones. These are the kinds of planning decisions that always have to be made and sometimes they turn out to have been wrong.
  • the P-47 helped, but weren't available until 1944 P-47s began flying combat missions in the European theater at the beginning of '43, and P-38s were escorting bombers in North Africa in '42. Where the hell are you getting these dates?
  • 1) P-47s were flying combat missions in 1943, but not bomber escort missions. Those began in 1944. 2) North Africa is not Germany, which is what the question was about.
  • I once visited a Commonwealth war cemetary in Berlin. 55000 Allied soldiers died during air raids. Thousands are buried in Berlin alone.
  • This makes catch-22 and yossarins behaviour much more understandable.
  • I thought all his friends dying made that pretty clear.
  • Yeah I think that's what makes the book so good. You know it's both a satire and has biting truth to it, in a similar way to Blackadder.
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