History

8th Air Force of the Army Air Force
World War Two

Eighth Air Force Shoulder Patch worm by personnel assigned to commands under its control. Modern reproduction.
This is the Eighth Air Force
Shoulder patch that
was worn on the left side of
the uniform by members of the
United States Army Air
Forces during World War II.
Modern reproduction.

History and Information about the Eighth Air Force in the ETO during WWII

8th AF Operations in the ETO

The 8th Air Force was activated in Savannah Georgia on 28 January 1942 at the Chatham Armory.

Next General Ira C. Eaker took the headquarters component to High Wycombe in the United Kingdom in February.

The first combat operation by members of the 8th Air Force Bomber Command (as it was then known) occurred on July 4, 1942 when 6 USA crews borrowed RAF A-20 Havocs from the British (the British called them Bostons,) painted USA markings on them, and flew a low level mission to German airfields in Holland (this story was published AF magazine, linked above). Six aircraft went out - three came back. A portent of things to come. The First Official Mission of the 8th Air Force, Mission Number 1, using their own planes, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, did not occur until August 17, 1942 when they attacked Rouen / Sotteville marshalling yard in France with 12 aircraft. All returned safely.

"Consider yourself dead. Some of you won't come back from this. Some of you will, but you'll be the lucky ones."
Briefing officer, 97th BG, 15th AAF, Foggia Italy, to B-17 Navigator Lt. Mike Scorcio and crew before a mission to Germany.

The 97th was originally part of the 8th and was sent to North Africa as part of Operation Torch then later assigned to the 12th AAF. After a year it then moved to Italy and became part of the 15th AAF.


The Mighty Eighth
by Roger Freeman

8th Air Force Unit Markings

To see a good list of various unit patches you can go to http://members.aol.com/brimiljeep/WebPages/SquadronPatchAAFPage.html (off site)

8th AF Bomber Assembly Areas is a graphic showing the beacons and flight patterns aircraft used to assemble before heading over to Festung Europe. By the summer of 1944 it could take up to two hours for all three bomber divisions arranged and in formation from the first aircraft takeoff to when the the lead aircraft starts leading the bomber stream toward enemy airspace.

Luftwaffe Flak Battery "Cross Eyed Charlie" in Holland is an account of a B-24 unit that routinely flew over when going into Germany in the Netherlands. Flak was always the first sure sign of being over German occupied territory. German fighters rarely intercepted bombers on the way in over the ocean, but they would pursue them over the ocean on their way home - unless there were escorts about.

USAAF ETO Casualty Summary GPO 1953 (PDF). This was produced in 1953 and is a single sheet showing high level information about the ETO combat casualties. Also includes worldwide totals for all of World War II.

A 1945 Wehrmacht joke:
When we see a silver plane, it's American. A black plane, it's British. When we see no plane, it's German."

The joke is based on the production ability of the US and British during the War. B-17Fs on the Seattle production line in September of 1942 and here are B-29 Superfortresses at the same Seattle plant in 1945. They even went to the effort to hide the Boeing plant from air attack.

8th Air Force Combat Losses in Europe was heavy. You had a higher percentage of being killed, wounded or captured while flying in the 8th AF than if you were in the infantry in the front line. Like all statistics, this fact is high when you compare the 8th AF losses against all personnel in the units that were considered "in combat." In actuality, it was even higher if you only count the front line regiment combat personnel and not the whole division. A US division was 16,000 or so personnel with only 3,600 being the front line infantry combat troops - all the others were support personnel.

A typical Medal of Honor Citation for B-17 pilot 1st Lt. Donald J Gott (Gott's co-pilot, 2d Lt William E Metzger Jr, was also awarded the MOH.)


Fighter Units and Pilots
of the Eighth Air Force September 1942 - May 1945
Volume 2 Aerial Victories - Ace Data
by Kent Miller

Any base had local pub nearby, but every US base had an Officer's Club and an Enlisted Club on the base.

9th Bomber Group Red Feather Club at Horham after restoration.

This is the "Red Feather Club" at Horham which was the base of that the 95th Bomb Group (H) flew out of during World War Two.

Inside the building an enlisted man painted scenes out of medieval England on the walls as a backdrop instead of plain brick.

Every wall was painted in very bright colors to liven up the atmosphere after a mission.

There are many buildings with original artwork, and mission boards, on some of the 450+ bases that were used by the US during the Second World War.

Knights painted on the brick walls of the Officer CLub of the 95th (H) Bombardment Group in Horham, England.

All the buildings were run down and almost gone before a two year effort in restoring them occurred in 2003 and 2004. I took this picture of it in July of 2004.

Not everything was fun and games. You had to follow lots of SOPs - Standard Operating Procedures - when flying. Here is the SOP of the 398th BG (H) from 1944. I got this out of their newsletter.

After a raid you had to land and of course that was also highly choreographed. The landing procedures for bomber formations that was required to get them all back onto the ground quickly without running into other planes in the pattern was also an SOP. Planes with wounded aboard landed first, then all undamaged planes, and finally seriously damaged ones landed last so that if they crashed the runway would not be closed.

A pilot always taught the 2nd real phase of flight training to a co-pilot:
"Gear up, flaps up, shut up."

After any raid there was always an intelligence assessment. Here is an 8 megabyte PDF file of the combat report on the first US 8th AF Bomber mission to Berlin on 8 March 1944 from the 100th BG(H).

384 th BG (H) stained glass memorial in the church near their base in England.
Memorial for the 384th BG (H) in
the form of stained glass
in the Parish Church of
St. James the Apostle
at Grafton Underwood,
Northants, England.

There are memorials at almost
every base the 8th was stationed at. There are also memorials in many of the churches near where American units were stationed.

A site dedicated to a specific air battle in Czech Republic called Museum Of Air Battle Over The Ore Mountains in regards to the 100th Bomb Group.

Not all aircraft shot down were destroyed. Some were repaired and used by the Luftwaffe for behind the lines work. KG 200 is the outfit that did this. They even use biplanes in this role. See the site http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/gladiator_luftwaffe.htm that talks about these Gloster Gladiators.

Research Sites Specifically for the 8th Air Force

Other 8thAFHS Web Sites

I have a page for the local Oregon Chapter 8thAFHS on this site.

Airfield and Related Web Sites

All photographs are available for purchase.
All text and photographs © 1976-2014 Tom Philo, 17502 SW Kimmel Ct, Beaverton, Or 97007-6877. Phone / Fax: 503-591-3227. See permitted uses of photos on the copyright and disclosure statement page.
No photograph can be usedfor commercial purposes without permission.
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