War in the Air

Hap Arnold, from AF
Eaker of 8th AF,
from Time, 8/30/43


June - A reorganization created the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) under Gen. Hap Arnold. The first military organization for aviation had been the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1907, then the Army Air Service in May 1918, and the Army Air Corps in 1926. Hap Arnold became chief of the Air Corps in Sept. 1938, and during the war would serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff as Deputy Army Chief of Staff for Air, with Army Chief George C. Marshall, Navy Chief Ernest J. King, and Chief of Staff William D. Leahy.


Feb. - Arthur Harris led RAF Bomber Command in England.

June - 8th AF created in Britain under Gen. Ira Eaker.

Aug. 17 - 1st raid by 8th AF against Rouen railroad center in France, but small scale.

Sept. 8 - dual roles established - USAAF to conduct daylight precision bombing while RAF conducted night saturation bombing under Gen Arthur Harris and Bomber Command.

Oct. 18 - raids began against sub pens on Bay of Biscay, to protect North Africa invasion, but pens survived with 12-foot concrete roofs, defended by Luftwaffe's Me109 and FW190 fighters.

USAF only flew 27 daylight missions in 1942 - too many obstacles - B17 vulnerable to frontal attack until development of power-driven nose turrets starting in August 1943 - Curtis LeMay led 305th Bombardment Group and developed "combat box" formation of 3 squadrons of 7 planes each in tight formation dropping bombs on cue from lead plane.


bombs dropped since Mar. 1,
from Time, 7/43

Jan. 24 - After Casablanca, Eaker convinced Churchill to bomb night and day "around the clock" and to combine British and American forces into the CBO

Jan. 27 - 53 of 91 US bombers reach target of the port city of Wilhelmshaven on 1st raid into Germany, difficult to endure cold at 20,000 ft. until electrically heated flight suits developed. No protection from flak until Col. Malcolm Grow makes the first flak vest in July. CBS World News Today of March 21 reenacted one crew's experience on this raid.

Mar. 5 - raid on Essen began 4-month campaign against Ruhr industries - list of 19 German war industries given highest bombing priority: aircraft and ball bearing factories and oil centers, but electric utilities not on list - Allied losses were 872 planes and over 5000 crewmen.

Despite problems, the press romaticized the Air War in 1943:

Air war changed with the Combined Bomber Offensive developed in May 1943

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