The 8th Army Air Force

June 5, 2011 sexyknees

Holding a visor cap of the US Army Air Force

Did you know that during WWII the United States did not have an Air Force?  All flight units were actually part of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps – the US Air Force didn’t exist until September 18, 1947.

I mentioned in a previous post that my uncle proudly served his country with the 8th Army Air Force (otherwise known as the “Mighty Eighth”)
during WWII.  I’d like to tell you a little more about the brave men and women of the 8th and the aircraft in which they flew that helped bring an end to Nazi Germany’s rule over Europe.

Though you may think that flying high above the field of combat would be safer than facing bullets on the ground, being a part of the bomber command during WWII was anything but.  Of the 350,000 men and women whom served in the 8th, over 54,000 were either killed in combat or taken prisoner.  The lumbering B-17 Flying Fortresses (on which my uncle served) and B-24 Liberators were no match for the Luftwaffe’s Me-109 and Fw-190 interceptors.  Unable to break formation, the crews of the 8th had to do their best to fend off high-speed fighter attacks with their .50 caliber machine guns while 20mm cannon fire ripped through metal and men.  Adding to the carnage were the 88mm Fliegerabwehrkanone (Flak) batteries detonating their munitions with deadly precision, sending shards of warhead casing in deadly bloom-like patterns throughout the sky, tearing apart aircraft long before they could even begin their bombing runs.  Scary, huh?  At least on the ground you could hide from enemy fire – the brave men in the sky had nowhere to go and nothing to stop shrapnel and bullets except flimsy sheet metal and their skin.

The primary aircraft of the 8th were there B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, and the P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang fighter escorts.  Although the B-17 and B-24 bombers were armed with a phalanx of machine guns to fend off Luftwaffe fighter attacks, mission losses were heavy until late 1943 when the  P-47 and P-51 appeared.  The extended range of these exceptional fighter escorts made it possible to remain with the bomber formations for the duration of their mission rather than turn back due to lack of fuel.  At this point even German super-weapons such as the jet-powered Me-262 couldn’t stop Allied aircraft from destroying the Nazi industrial infrastructure and eliminating their ability to produce the supplies they needed to maintain the war effort.

Undoubtedly, the bomber command’s effort to destroy Nazi Germany’s industry helped win the war.  The price paid by the men and women of the Mighty Eighth to pave the way for the Allied invasion of Europe on June 6th, 1944, were costly, but saved many, many lives on the ground over which they flew.  We owe them a great debt of gratitude for their sacrifice.

The 8th began its service on January 28, 1942, and still exists today.  It is currently headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base in the communities of Bossier City and Shreveport, LA, and is one of two active duty numbered air forces in the Air Force Global Strike Command.  At this point I wish to thank all the men and women of the Mighty Eighth for protecting the world from tyranny.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ky Erickson  |  June 5, 2011 at 2:33 am

    very cool blog post Nikki. it’s awesome that you want to inform people about history and that you want to tell the public about a family member that you are so proud of.

    • 2. sexyknees  |  June 5, 2011 at 2:34 am

      Hey, Ky! Yay – I got your comment!!! I’m not sure why my readership has stopped communicating with me. Kinda sad, actually. I used to hear a lot from people and hope that I didn’t do anything to alienate them!!!

      • 3. Ky Erickson  |  June 7, 2011 at 1:22 am

        maybe they will start commenting again soon. either way i’ll keep posting 😀

      • 4. kw1970  |  June 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

        I’m still here Nikki :O) Just havnt been able to get on here for some time, but I WILL do my best to check you out more on here with your blogs 🙂 Much love to you Beautiful ! !

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