Wilbur Wright said that in his opinion "the use of the aeroplane for dropping bombs or explosives into hostile army is impracticable, as the machine must rise 1,000 or 1,500 ft. above the ground to escape shell fire. At that height accuracy would be impossible in dropping explosives when moving at 40 or 50 miles an hour."

-Popular Mechanics, July 1909

By the beginning of World War II, aerial bombing had become a reality.
In its war against Nazi Germany, the British Royal Air Force flew bombing missions mainly at night.  The darkness provided some protection from Hitler's feared Luftwaffe fighter squadrons and from the German anti-aircraft guns.  But the targets could not be bombed accurately and the mass bombing of civilian city populations, although intended to demoralize the enemies labor force, did not prove an effective method to end the conflict.

8th AF emblem

When the United States entered the war, the U.S. Army 8th Air Force moved into the British countryside and set up numerous airfields in the farms and fields.  From these airfields crews of American B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers flew daylight bombing raids on strategic targets in German-occupied countries around Europe.  Daylight raids were highly controversial but Brigadier General Ira Eaker, the commander of the 8th Air Force believed it was the only way military targets could be successfully hit. The practice required dropping the bombs from high altitudes where accuracy was a severe problem. The development of new sophisticated bomb sights produced better results but the accuracy of strategic bombing remains a challenge to this day.
Libs These B-24s are "dropping their eggs" from about 24,000 feet above the target.
The first *U.S. Army Air Corps bombers of the war were B-17s
(also known as the "Flying Fortress").
B-24 Heavy Bomber Early models of the Consolidated B-24 were designated LB-30 and were shipped to England for use by the British Royal Air Force.

Due to differences in flight characteristics, mixed squadrons of B-24s and B-17s were impractical.  In fact they were dangerous when flying in close formation.  For this reason, and for effeciency in supply and maintenance, it quickly became the standard to separate the two aircraft into different groups. 

The B-24 Groups

In September, 1942, the 93rd Bomb Group became the first U.S. Army Air Corps group in England flying B-24s. They were followed within the same month by the 44th Bomb Group. Soon the 93rd BG was temporarily assigned to duty in North Africa and the lone 44th BG was joined in June/July of 1943 by the 389th Bomb Group. By May of 1944, the 8th Air Force contained 19 B-24 Bomb Groups.

The Mighty 8th:

The 8th Air Force was activated on 28 January 1942 at Hunter Field, Savannah, Georgia. Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker took the first element of the 8th AF overseas on 20 February 1942, when he and a party of six other officers reached England. A light bomber crew flew the first combat for the 8th AF in a borrowed Boston on 29 June 1942. The first 8th AF fighter mission was flown on 26 July 1942. The first heavy bomber mission was flown on 17 August 1942.

By D-Day the 8th had reached its peak with a total strength of over 200,000 persons assigned or attached. Soon after that time the 8th became able to put up missions with over 2,000 four engined bombers and more than 1,000 fighter aircraft. It is estimated that the 8th AF employed at least 350,000 persons in WWII. The last bombing mission was flown on 25 April 1945. On 16 July 1945 the 8th AF command left England and transferred to Okinawa. The war ended before the Eighth could reach operational status in the Pacific Theater of Operations. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force casualties in WWII were suffered by the 8th AF (at least 47,000 casualties and over 26,000 deaths). Seventeen Medals of Honor, 220 DSCs, 850 Silver Stars, 7,000 Purple Hearts, 46,000 DFCs, and 442,300 Air Medals were awarded to 8AFers by the end of the war. Many more were awarded after the war. There were 261 fighter aces in the 8th AF. Thirty-one of these aces had fifteen or more enemy aircraft to their credit.

The 8th AF was indeed the "Mighty Eighth" (as coined by Roger Freeman). It has remained mighty up to the present time. A conservative estimate numbers 650,000 who have served in the 8th AF since WWII. With this in mind, it is easy to see that at the time of this writing the 8th AF has been made up of at least one million Americans. A unique military unit, matched by none - "The Mighty Eighth." *

*taken from the Forward to the book Stories of the Eighth, Edited by John H. Woolnough, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)
Miramar, Florida, July 1983

*The United States Air Force didn't exist as a separate branch of the services until after the second world war. During World War II the U. S. Army Air Corps was renamed U. S. Army Air Force and developed as a branch of the U. S. Army.

for more information see the 8th Air Force Historical Society


in this site
Ralph Lipper B-24 Liberator Don Pierce
Flying 8-balls Mighty 8th AF Sky Scorpions
random photos-a the air crews 389th BG aircraft
random photos-b Ploesti, Romania Ole Irish
lifestyle hazards Aviator's diary waist gunner
sources / books / links U.S. before the war 389th BG stories
this site home page contact 389th BG web site