Eighth Air Force Combat Losses

Messerschmidt Bf 109-G2 Black 6 in flight over Duxdord in 1997. Bf 109s are usually incorrectly referenced as Me 109s.Messerschmitt Bf 109-G2/TROP "Black 6" flying over Duxford in August of 1997.

8th AF Combat Losses in World War II

The 8th AF incurred lots of losses during the Second World War. The first official mission flown by the 8th Air Force personnel was four A-20 Havocs (borrowed from the British) to an airfield in Holland (in coordination with other British raids) on July 4th 1942. (Some sources say 6 planes, including the official Air Force records, but the wartime magazine Impact states 4.) Three of the four aircraft were shot down. Two by flak and one by a FW-190 over the channel. They went in low and unescorted to surprise the Germans in conjunction with British raids. Sort of worked. One got shot down over the airfield, one shot down as coming into the airfield to be bombed and as mentioned the third was shot down as it was trying to get back to England. It was a portent of things to come. There is a picture of the raid from the lead aircraft over the German field that is in the Impact magazine article.

Here is an XLS spreadsheet showing all the 8th Air Force missions and targets with losses by date throughout the war. The 8th flew Mission #1 17 August 1942 when 12 B-17s attacked Rouen Marshalling yards and the last mission on 8 May 1945 Mission #986 when 12 B-17s dropped leaflets in Germany.

As wounded Staff Sgt. John Hill was helped from his B-17 bomber after a raid on Jan. 13, 1943, the commander of the 305th Bomb Group, Col. Curtis LeMay came up and said:

"Don't worry, that bullet didn't have your name on it."

"No," replied Hill, "but it had 'To whom it may concern' on it."

The 305th BG (H) nickname was 'The Cocktail Kids.'

American Air Museum at Duxford, England. View from the flightline.American Air Museum at Duxford, United Kingdom The American Air Museum at Duxford holds planes flown by the USA from World War I to modern aircraft. They took all the planes painted in American markings from all the other hangers and moved it to this one in 1998. However, the designer went for style over function so it is EXTREMELY hard to view aircraft in there. Even the ones hanging from the ceiling are hard to view. Very crowded. This view is from the flight line, the main entrance is really on the other side of the glass hanger front.

Glass wall with a shiloutte eteched on glass for every 10 aircraft lost from that squadron in from of the American Air Musuem, Duxford, EnglandGlass wall at the American Air Museum, Duxford, England As you walk to the American Air Museum at Duxford they have glass plates etched with plane symbols of the type flown by by that unit during World War Two. Each plane etched on the glass represents 10 aircraft lost by that fighter or bomber group. The glass wall panes are 10 feet high and 6 feet wide and the wall is around 150 feet long.


Number of bombers lost by each heavy bomber group in the 8th Air Force during World War II

These statistics came from the 398th BG newsletter. These numbers match up with what I have seen listed by individual unit histories and in reference books. It also matches up with the wall in front of the American Air Museum before the unit names were worn away by rain.
Bomb GroupStationBomber
94Bury St. EdmondsB-17324153
96Snetterton HeathB-17321189
100Thorpe AbbotsB-17306177
384Grafton UnderwoodB-17314159
385Great AshfieldB-17296129
452Deopham GreenB-17250110
453Old BuckenhamB-2425958
458Horsham St. FaithB-2424047
492North PickenhamB-246412
Total 10631 4145

8th AF - Heavy Bomber Heaviest Mission Losses

Date Mission Number Target Dispatched Abort Crossed Coast Lost En Route Bombed Total Lost Cat E Damaged
17-Aug-43 84 Schweinfurt 230 21 209 21 188 36 3 118
17-Aug-43 84 Regensburg 146 5 141 14 127 24 1 50
17-Aug-43 Total     376 26 350 35 315 60 4 168
6-Sep-43 91 Stuggart (various targets) 181 10 171 20 151 27 9 47
6-Sep-43 91 Stuggart (FW Factory) 157 28 129 18 111 18 1 69
6-Sep-43 91 B-24s (Diversion) 69 9 60 0 60 0 0 0
6-Sep-43 Total     407 47 360 38 322 45 10 116
4-Oct-43 108 Wiesbaden / Frankfurt 104 7 97 0 97 5   45
4-Oct-43 108 Frankfurt 51 14 37 0 37 3   35
4-Oct-43 108 Saarlautern 115 10 105 0 105 4 4 19
4-Oct-43 108 Sarreguemnines 53 6 47 0 47 0   2
4-Oct-43 108 Diversion (B-24s) 38 0 38 0 38 4   19
4-Oct-43 Total     361 37 324 0 324 16 4 120
8-Oct-43 111 Bremen 118 13 105 0 105 9   61
8-Oct-43 111 Bremen 56 3 53 0 53 4   44
8-Oct-43 111 Vegesack (B-24s) 55 12 43 0 43 3   21
8-Oct-43 111 Bremen 170 14 156 0 156 14 2 110
8-Oct-43 Total     399 42 357 0 357 30 2 236
9-Oct-43 113 Anklam 115 9 106 0 106 18 1 51
9-Oct-43 113 Marienburg 100 4 96 0 96 2   13
9-Oct-43 113 Gydnia 112 3 109 0 109 6 1 62
9-Oct-43 Total     327 16 311 0 311 26 2 126
10-Oct-43 114 Munster 274 38 236 0 236 30 3 102
10-Oct-43 Total     274 38 236 0 236 30 3 102
14-Oct-43 115 Schweinfurt 291 37 254 32 222 60 7 138
14-Oct-43 115 Schweinfurt (B24s Diversion 60 31 0 0 0 0 0 0
14-Oct-43 Total     351 68 254 32 222 60 7 138
11-Jan-44 182 Oschersleben 177   177 0 159 34 2 83
11-Jan-44 182 Halberstadt 114   114 0 107 8 1 42
11-Jan-44 182 Brunswick (Plus 1 B-24 tag-along) 234   234 0 219 16 1 47
11-Jan-44 182 Brunswick (B-24s) 138 70 68 2 66 2 1 7
11-Jan-44 Total     663 70 593 2 551 60 5 179
6-Mar-44 250 Berlin 504   504 0 474 35 3 121
6-Mar-44 250 Berlin 226 12 226 0 198 16 1 54
6-Mar-44 Total     730 0 0 0 672 51 4 175
Grand Total     3888 344 2785 107 3310 378 41 1360

The 4 Oct 1943 mission shows a Deep France / Shallow Germany mission and typical losses - just prior to the week the 8th tried to hit lots of Luftwaffe production facilities ending in second Schweinfurt.

Category "E" is damaged beyond economical repair - these a/c were salvaged for parts only.

Here is an XLS spreadsheet showing all the 8th USAAF targets and losses by date throughout the war.

As a comparison here are the fighter losses for the 2nd Berlin raid (1 group of B-17s and 1 squadron of P-38s (local P-38 pilot Stan Richardson was one of them) actually got there on March 3 and bombed, the rest turned back due to weather.)

Date Mission Number Target Dispatched Abort Crossed Coast Lost En Route Bombed Total Lost Cat E Damaged
6-Mar-44 250 Berlin (Fighters) 801         11 3 6

The Germans ignored the escorting fighters and just went after the bombers (actually a very bad tactic) The US Fighters claimed 82-8-33: Shot down, probable, damaged in the air plus 1 destroyed on the ground and 12 damaged.

Date Mission Number Target Dispatched Abort Crossed Coast Lost En Route Bombed Total Lost Cat E Damaged
1-Aug-43   Ploesti, Rumania 179 2 175 1 174 55 2  

1 aircraft was interned in Turkey and counts as part of the 55 lost.

The August 1, 1943 raid is better known as "Operation Tidal Wave", the low level attack by B-24 Liberators against the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. The B-24s launched from bases in North Africa. The 44th, 93rd, 389th bomb groups came from the 8th Air Force, and the 98th and the 367th from 9th Air Force were combined to create the mission force. 1,173 men in the 179 bombers went on the raid and 308 were KIA, 208 POWs or interned. 10 Aircraft were shot down by Rumanian Bf 109s or IAR 80 fighters, 7 by Luftwaffe aircraft and the rest by flak. A Crew chief whose plane made it there and back - along with his box camera - this site has some pictures from it: Ploesti pictures from the right seat.

On the October 14, 1943 "Black Thursday" Schweinfurt raid additional details: 121 B-17s needed some kind of repair before returning to flying status. This means only 93 aircraft - roughly one-third - came through with no damage at all out of the 251 that crossed the coast to the target.

Now the object of the 8th Air Force was not only destruction of industrial targets but also the destruction of the German Luftwaffe. A plan to accomplish the Luftwaffe part was started in February of 1944 that this research paper by the Air Force in 2000 did on the "Big Week" (PDF).

Sources: Double Strike: Schweinfurt - Regensburg; Half A Wing, Three Engines and A Prayer, AF PDFs; www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/history and others. Note: most every site, including the AF Official One, has conflicting numbers and the AF even has conflicts within their own documents on the same raids. Some missions I could not find out the losses before the target was bombed, nor the aborts that occurred before they crossed the coast.

The Best Place to Be On A B-17 To Survive Combat

In the Operation Record of the 95th BG (Supplement to the "Contrails" book published right after the war) there is a chart showing casualties by crew position for aircraft shot down:

Casualties of the 95th BG(H) By Crew Position
Pilot P 4 7 58 4 0 81 53 11
Co-Pilot CP 10 8 56 3 0 76 52 7
Navigator N 8 8 56 3 1 87 45 15
Bombardier B 8 6 47 2 0 83 46 20
Toggler NT 0 1 2 0 0 4 1 4
Top Turret TT 4 6 51 3 1 90 46 11
Radio RO 8 6 58 3 0 83 43 14
Ball Turret BT 7 6 56 0 0 85 45 21
Waist Gunner WG 6 8 102 2 0 157 64 45
Tail Gunner TG 8 7 57 0 0 89 41 14
Mission Leader MC 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0
Counter Measures CM 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Aerial Gunner AG 0 0 0 4 0 1 0 2
Unknown ? 0 0 10 30 0 0 0 24
Totals   64 63 554 54 2 838 436 188

There was an Air Force Wide casualty study just like the above published for each type of aircraft used in the war but I have never been able to locate it.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

-- Randall Jarrell

B-17 Claims

It is not always one sided in air-combat. The US heavy bombers had 5 dedicated gunners on the B-17s and B-24s, and three other crew members whose secondary duty was to man guns also.

Enemy A/C Claimed Per Thousand Sorties
B-17 B-24 Medium Bombers
(B-25, B-26, A-26, A-20)
23 11 11

Claimed is not the same as to what was awarded and that is not the same as actually lost by the German, Italian, Romanian, and Hungarian Air Forces in their engagements with the USAAF.

A site for the Luftwaffe see The Luftwaffe Archives & Records Reference Group and for a list of Combat Claims and Casualties created by Tony Wood see http://www.ww2.dk/wood.html. He created downloadable lists for RAF, USA, and Luftwaffe Air Forces.

A new (2004) photo book about this operation is called "The Ploesti Raid: Through the Lens" ISBN 1 870067 55 X from After The Battle company in England.

Sometimes though, an aircraft that in all rights should have been shot down, or gone down, was able to make it back to the UK. See this story about one such B-17F flown by Charles L. Browns and a German fighter pilot Oberleutnant Franz Stigler during World War Two. Stigler, who lived in Vancouver B.C. Canada, and Charlie Brown who lived in Seattle, Washington , spoke at Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, Washington (though I missed that presentation).

Other losses occurred too. Collisions, training accidents and so on. The table below summarizes all losses in the ETO during the war:

Aircraft TypeNumber Lost
P-38   451

These figures came from the Army's statistical data files on losses. Now this does not include any of the other type medium aircraft and light aircraft like the B-25, B-26, L-4,  P47s, P-51, A-36s, P-39s, P40s, etc in the the 9th and 12th tactical Air Force and other commands (like transport commands). It is now easy to see how over 30,000 American airmen were POWs of the European Axis during the war.

Around 30,000 members of the 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 15th Army Air Forces died in the ETO / MTO. Around 14,000 were wounded and some 33,000 were captured and spent some time as Kriegies in a POW camp anywhere from North Africa to the Baltic. One camp Stalag Luft 1, held many a famous aviator. This site has pictures, stories and history of the camp. Comparatively speaking, German, Italian and other Axis POWs sent to the US lived a very good life (except for U-Boat crews who were sent to their own camp in the desert!)

Around 135,000 men flew in combat in the 8th Air Force.

Total American Air Force losses worldwide during World War II: 27,694 aircraft, including 8,314 heavy bombers, 1,623 medium and light bombers, and 8,481 fighters as destroyed in combat.

This table of aircraft destroyed during training of aircrews is a real eye opener.

12,731 B-17s were built - 50 are left in the world and 12 are still airworthy.

16,188 B-24s were built - only 1 still flies.

War Deaths page has statistics (a work in progress) matrix by conflict showing civilian and military deaths as a result of war both declared and undeclared.

To look up when a particular aircraft, group, or a specific date to see what aircraft were lost you can go to a MACR Missing Aircrew Combat Report site for researching this.

A general purpose reference page on military personnel, ships, aircraft, grave locations online database and research links I put into my history section.


Crew training was important to all national air forces. Throughout the war the amount of time spent on training decreased for all air forces.

In WW I, and again in WW II, in teh USA if you were in the military you could purchase life insurance - totally optional. The maximum amount was a $10,000 government pay out if you were killed. In WW II you had, I think 4 choices: $2,500, $5,000, $7,500 and the maximum of $10,0000. The premium was, of course, deducted from your pay. A Private in WW II made $50 a month, insurance was $2.00 a month for the lowest amount. This Government offered life insurance is the only one where your relatives will actually get paid if you are killed while in the military. All other life insurance automatically exempt pay outs for any "war or act of war" situations. [The Federal Government pressured every insurance carrier to pay out the life insurance policies of those killed on 9/11 - even though it fell under the "Act of War" clause" and they legally did not have to pay claims for any life insurance policy.) The amount of life insurance that can be purchased while in the US military is at $400,000 as of 2010 ($22 a month). I do not know if other nation's governments offered life insurance to their solders or not, Since WW II though, there has been enacted multiple sets of survivor benefits that continue long after the solider was killed. These annuities vary greatly.

No matter how much training a crew has there are always casualities in war.
Military veterans and retirees today have the option of annuity based plans to provide for their families. Many people wonder how does an annuity work but it is relatively easy to understand. Information on income annuities can be found at http://www.annuityassist.com/how-does-an-annuity-work/ for anyone interested in learning about the financial benefits. Military familes should not be afraid to ask how does an annuity work because income annuities are a great source of steady income, especially in addition to military retirement and Social Security. 

Here is a breakdown for the US, British and German training for fighter pilots.

American, British, German pilots hours in training hours in WW Two

German aircraft loss rate in in WW Two 1940 thru 1944

Considering the number of 8th AF losses in the last half of the war and the amount of training that the GAF pilot had from mid 1943 till the end of the war the 8th AF loss rate would have been much worse had the GAF had the quality of pilots as they did in 1942-43 when only around 220 total pilots were defending all of western Europe on any given day.

One of the things to remember is that as the German front lines were pushed back the number of flak (ack) guns available per target went UP. Thus, a/c lost due to flak actually increased later in the war. Here is a table showing number of German flak (Anti-Aircraft) units over time.


There is no lack of valor for any combatants during any war. The victorious party gets to publicize them more than the losing side (at least for the first few hundred years).

Did you see anything that was tough to stomach?

"You lost a good bit of planes. The way they were loaded. They weighed about 40 tons when they were loaded. And the runways were steel mat. And taking off, if there were strange winds, it would cause the planes to crash. In the process, planes had to be taking off every 30 seconds. So once you were up there, there wasn't anything you could do about it. ..."

Pvt. Kenneth Edwards, Army Air Corps, 451st Heavy Bombardment Group. All crew members survived their 50 mission tour in their Consolidated B-24 "Liberator" flying out of Italy.

At 17 he signed up for the Army Air Corps while attending Beverley Manor High School. He retired as a Master Sgt.

Here is a typical citation for valor that resulted in the Medal Of Honor being award to 1st Lt Donald J. Gott.

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomb Loads

B-17 Bomb load-outs showing quantity of bombs and weight of each bomb (in pounds) of an iron bomb.

B-17 F & G: 2-2000, 2-1600, 2-1000, 12-500, 16-300, 16-250, 24-100 (from AN-01-1B-40 B-17 weight and balance, Army Manual 1943)

They would also at times vary the bombs being carried in an raid. There is a movie clip showing 6 500 lb pounds going out of the bomb bay followed by a single 2000 lb bomb.

The limitation on the quantity of bombs that could be carried was the number of bomb shackles that could be placed in the bomb bay racks.

On the page of pictures that I have taken of the Avro Lancaster I have the Lancaster Bomb Loads data.

A very good midi recording of TAPS

All photographs are available for purchase.
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