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The crew of a 379th Bomb Group B-17F return to their base in England. On August 17, 1943, 60 bombers and more than 500 airmen would not.

Death on the High Road: The Schweinfurt Raid

By Bruce Crawford
5/24/2018 • Aviation History Magazine

Schweinfurt translates as ‘pig ford’ or ‘pig crossing.’ But it is unlikely that many of the 3,000 airmen who clambered into their Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses during the cold, damp morning hours of October 14, 1943, gave much thought to the meaning of the word. For them, Schweinfurt meant only one thing: a killer town that was one of the most savagely defended targets along the aerial high road, above Hitler’s Third Reich.

Its reputation was well-founded. Before the day was over, more than 600 of those airmen would be killed or captured, the future of the American daylight bomber offensive would be in doubt and Mission 115 to Schweinfurt would be known as ‘Black Thursday’ in U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) folklore. In mid-1943, using air power to cripple the military and industrial capability of a nation was not the accepted fact that it became later in the war. Thus, USAAF’s Eighth Air Force was fighting not just to survive in the lethal skies over Europe, but to prove a concept—that daylight precision bombing could play a decisive, if not the most decisive, role in modern war.

British and American planners had concluded during the 1930s that aerial bombardment would play a key role in future wars, and Great Britain and the United States were the only nations to develop and make extensive use of four-engine bombers in World War 11. But the British, because of their early war experiences and those of the Germans before them, insisted that area night bombing was the only way to fly bombers unescorted into hostile territory without sustaining crippling losses. American airmen stood alone in their faith that B-17 and Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers with their heavy defensive armament could survive in daylight, with or without fighter escort. As a result, there had been argument and sometimes bitter debate before and after the Eighth mounted its first 12-plane B-17 raid on August 17, 1942, against Rouen, France.

The British aimed what seemed to be a constant barrage of criticism at the Americans’ pride and joy, the Fortress. Following an inspection of one of the first B-17s to arrive in England, RAF officers said its defensive fire was ‘too weak’ to afford reasonable protection, the tail gun position was ‘too cramped,’ and the belly turret was ‘so awkward as to be useless.’ Critic Peter Masefield, writing in the London Times, contended that ‘American heavy bombers—the latest Fortresses and Liberators—are fine flying machines, but not suited for bombing in Europe. Their bomb loads are small, their armour and armament are not up to the standards now found necessary and their speeds are low.’ And although the British had given the Eighth excellent cooperation during its buildup in 1942 and 1943, there were other philosophical differences between the two allies. Britain’s Bomber Command, headed by Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, believed a saturation bombing of major German cities was the best way to cripple the Reich. American planners, including Generals Ira Eaker and Carl ‘Tooey’ Spaatz, countered that precision attacks against selected industrial targets like oil production facilities, aircraft and ball bearing plants were the best use of bomber strength. ‘It is better to cause a high degree of destruction in a few essential industries…than to cause a small degree in many,’ the USAAF Committee of Operations Analysts agreed in March 1943. Harris, however, expressed contempt for this concentration on a limited number of targets, calling them ‘panacea targets.’

B-17Fs hold their formation over an already-burning Schweinfurt. The Eighth Air Force dropped a total of 485 tons of high-explosive and 88 tons of incendiary bombs on the city’s ball-bearing manufacturing plants. (National Archives)
B-17Fs hold their formation over an already-burning Schweinfurt. The Eighth Air Force dropped a total of 485 tons of high-explosive and 88 tons of incendiary bombs on the city’s ball-bearing manufacturing plants. (National Archives)

The Bavarian city of Schweinfurt, with its heavy concentration of ball bearing factories, was a classic example of one of these so-called panacea targets. It was obvious that anti-friction bearings played a vital role in any industrial economy, but 1940s-era German machinery was believed to be more dependent on ball bearings than most. It was estimated, for example, that the German aviation industry consumed an average of 2.4 million bearings per month. The fact that bearing construction was concentrated in just a few plants, with Schweinfurt accounting for more than 40 percent of production, made the ball bearing industry in general—and Schweinfurt in particular—an obvious target. Making Schweinfurt even more attractive was its small size, which would make it easy for bombardiers to locate and hit the bearing plants—a factor that also made it a poor target for Harris’ night bombers. German planners had belatedly realized the vulnerability of the bearing plants and began making plans to disperse them, but to do so would take time as well as disrupt production of the precious bearings.

Before any deep penetration raids into Germany could be mounted, the Eighth had to build up a reservoir of strength and experience. The first sorties were against targets in France and the Low Countries, and the low losses incurred seemed to suggest that the American strategy was vindicated. In fact it was not so, at least not yet. These shortrange strikes were usually within the operating range of escort fighters, and the Germans did not consider the raids to be a serious enough threat to justify commitment of large numbers of its day fighters to Reichsverteidigung (defense of the Reich) duties. Meanwhile, the British were becoming impatient. As 1943 arrived, Winston Churchill noted pointedly that the USAAF had ‘yet to drop a single bomb’ on Germany. There were calls for the USAAF to retrain for night bombing, but Eaker, using a number of arguments, bought additional time to prove the value of precision bombing.

By 1943, the Eighth felt confident enough to strike at cities on the German frontier, but these missions proved as useful to the Luftwaffe as to the Americans. Among other things, they enabled the Germans to perfect their daylight, defense operations by gaining experience in plotting bomber-formation speed, strength and probable destination. Thus, the Germans could place every available aircraft in interception position on the bomber route. The effectiveness of this experience became apparent when the Eighth first targeted Schweinfurt as part of a ‘double strike’ mission on August 17, 1943, a year to the day after the first B-17 mission to Rouen. The anniversary was not a happy one—24 Fortresses were lost from the Schweinfurt force and another 36 from the formation assaulting a Messerschmitt complex at Regensburg. American losses totaled 19 percent, but the strategists felt the results gained over Schweinfurt were good enough (bearing production at one major plant was believed to be cut by two-thirds) to justify another mission.

‘Productiondropped by 38 percent,’ Nazi armaments minister Albert Speer said after the war. Had the USAAF not made a ‘crucial mistake’ by dividing up its 376 B-17s between two objectives, he added, damage would have been much worse.

Schweinfurt was not the Eighth Air Force’s only target on August 17. Its B-17s also penetrated to Regensburg to attack the Messerschmitt factory there. (National Archives)
Schweinfurt was not the Eighth Air Force’s only target on August 17. Its B-17s also penetrated to Regensburg to attack the Messerschmitt factory there. (National Archives)

Meanwhile, the losses to the bomb groups continued unabated. During the week prior to Black Thursday, the Eighth Air Force lost nearly 90 bombers on three missions. It was obvious to everyone, including the Germans, that not even America’s vast resources could sustain such losses indefinitely.

As expected, bomber crew morale began to falter as the losses piled up. The situation was aggravated somewhat by the Luftwaffe tactic of targeting one particular bomb group for heavy losses or, if possible, extinction, The 100th Bomb Group (BG) earned the nickname ‘Bloody 100th’ after it lost 12 out of 13 aircraft following an October 10 Munster mission, while the 492nd BG, a B-24 outfit, was nearly wiped out after becoming a ‘marked group’ the following year.

Joseph W. Baggs, 384th BG lead bombardier, recalled that as early as August only eight of the group’s original crews were left. Four days before Mission 115, the 381st BG’s medical officer wrote that ‘morale is the lowest that has yet been observed.’

This was the prevailing mood at Eighth Air Force bomber stations throughout the East Anglian countryside when crewmen were awakened during the pre-dawn darkness of October 14, 1943. Stumbling into briefing rooms, they were soon jolted wide awake when the red target string on the map was stretched to Schweinfurt. There was some grumbling about the need to hit the town again after the August 17 mission, but pilots and officers could not afford the luxury of griping very long; There was too much planning to be done to ensure that Mission 115 went smoothly. Fear had to be put aside temporarily, while information on weather, fuel consumption, the target, squadron readiness, formations and myriad other details were absorbed and memorized. As the minutes ticked away and tension mounted, men from 16 B-17 bomb groups donned flight suits and performed other preflight duties. They included members of the 91st Bomb Group, based at Bassingbourne; the 92nd, at Alconbury; the 303rd, at Molesworth; the 305th, at Chelveston; the 306th, at Thurleigh; the 351st, at Polebrook; the 379th, at Kimbolton; the 381st, at Ridgewell; and the 384th, at Grafton-Underwood. These groups represented the 1st Bomb Division, and their Fortresses were marked by a white triangle on the vertical fin.

From the 3rd Bomb Division (whose aircraft were identified by a white square) were the 94th Bomb Group, at Bury-St. Edmonds; the 95th, at Horsham St. Faith; the 96th, at Grafton-Underwood; the 100th, at Thorpe Abbotts; the 385th, at Great Ashfield; the 388th, at Knettisham; and the 390th, at Framlingham. Two B-24 groups, the 93rd and the 392nd, were to fly a route to the south of the B-17 formations and rendezvous with them near the target.

On fog-shrouded hardstands the bombers waited, their tires almost flattened under full combat loads. A variety of U.S. markings were employed, ranging from the early white-star-on-blue circle to the later design with white bars added. Some had red or yellow surrounds to the insignia, and many crews had ‘grayed out’ the white areas of their markings to reduce visibility. The olive-drab upper surfaces of many of the older B-17s had faded to a greenish tan shade that bore little resemblance to the original colors.

Shortly before 10 a.m., the silence of the aerodromes was abruptly shattered. Wright Cyclone radial engines coughed, shuddered, spat smoke and burst into life. The three-bladed props seemed to windmill for a second, then faded into a blur as the engines settled into a smooth roar. Soon, almost 1,400 engines were flattening the grass behind the bombers, and the din rolled across the English countryside.

Colonel ‘Budd’ J. Peaslee, Mission 115 commander, would fly to Schweinfurt as copilot in Captain James K. McLaughlin’s 92nd BG B-17, and about 10:15 he saw the signal flare that indicated the mission was on. Because of the dense fog and the overcast, which limited visibility to a quarter-mile, Mission 115’s status had gone down to the wire. But word finally came that weather over the continent was clear, and this was enough to put the mission into operation.

Takeoff proceeded without incident, but conditions began to unravel shortly after the bombers climbed above the overcast. Because the 305th Bomber Group could not locate the 40th Combat Wing to take its assigned position, the 305th was forced to link with the 1st Wing. The 40th Combat Wing, now composed only of the 92nd and 306th bomber groups, tagged along with the 41st Wing.

Because of the thick fog, only 29 of the 60 Liberators scheduled to fly the mission could take off; eight of these could not form up and returned to base. The remaining 21 Liberators made a diversionary sweep toward Emden.

As the B-17s flew toward Schweinfurt, 26 aborted for various reasons. Thus, of the 351 bombers that set out to hit Schweinfurt, 86 were not on hand when the force reached the German frontier.

The overcast also disrupted a scheduled escort by four P-47 Thunderbolt groups. The 353rd and 56th fighter groups rendezvoused successfully with the bombers and eventually shot down 13 fighters, but the 4th Fighter Group could not locate its B-17s and returned to base. The 352nd Fighter Group wound up escorting the B-24s on their diversionary sweep. The 55th Fighter Group, flying P-38 Lightnings, did not become operational in time to participate.

The Luftwaffe was apparently aware of the range limitations of the P-47s, and most German fighters delayed their attacks until the escort turned back. What at first could be mistaken for mere specks on B-17 Perspex windshields became fighters—swarms of them, getting larger as they queued up to attack. B-17 interphones immediately came alive as gunners called out ‘bogies,’ first at 12 o’clock (straight ahead on the clock-based locator system), then at every position on the clock. Gunners were warned to keep chatter to a minimum and to not waste ammunition.

‘The opening play is a line plunge through center,’ mission commander Peaslee later told Martin Caidin, author of the 1960 book Black Thursday. ‘The fighters whip through our formation, for our closing speed exceeds 500 mph. Another group of flashes replaces the first, and this is repeated five times, as six formations of Me-109s charges us….I can see fighters on my sidetheir paths marked in the bright sunlight by fine lines of light-colored smoke as they fire short bursts. It is a coordinated attacktheir timing is perfect, their technique masterly.’

Although they were still far from the target, smoking Fortresses started to fall out of formation-37 in all. That left 228 to actually bomb the target, about two-thirds of the original strength.

The saga of the 94th Bomber Group’s B-17F Brennan’s Circus was typical of the heroics that became routine on Mission 115. Ten minutes from the target, Circus lost an engine and began to fall behind when the bombs could not be jettisoned. To escape the circling fighters, pilot Joseph Brennan put the B-17 into a dive. The crew eventually got rid of the bombs, but another engine ‘ran away’ into high rpm and had to be feathered. Over Holland and Belgium, a burst of flak took out a third engine. Circus struggled out over the North Sea, kept barely aloft by the one remaining engine, to within a few miles of the English coast before settling into the water. The crew was credited with four German fighter kills and one damaged for the mission.

Pilot Joseph Brennan and the crew of “Brennan’s Circus” have their photo taken prior to the mission that had them ditch in the North Sea on the way back from Schweinfurt. (National Archives)
Pilot Joseph Brennan and the crew of “Brennan’s Circus” have their photo taken prior to the mission that had them ditch in the North Sea on the way back from Schweinfurt. (National Archives)

Meanwhile, back over the target, fighter attacks stopped abruptly as German pilots turned their attention to groups of bombers still en route to the target. It was to be the only respite for the beleaguered crews in more than three hours of ceaseless combat.

On the return trip, the fury of air combat was entered anew, as many of the German fighters that had left the fight to refuel and rearm returned. But the attacks were not as precise as they had been earlier because many of the fighters had lost their original units and had formed up with any friendly aircraft in the area.

It was estimated that more than 300 German fighters participated in the day’s combat at some point. Most were the familiar single-engine Messerschmitt Bf-109G and Focke-Wulf Fw-190, but the Luftwaffe also made extensive use of night-fighter Junkers Ju-88 and Messerschmitt Bf-110 twin-engine craft. The use of these aircraft was controversial because their pilots, used to night attack techniques, often left themselves wide open to American gunners.

Other aircraft reportedly in the fray included the ungainly, fixed-landing gear Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber, the Fw-189 tactical reconnaissance aircraft and the experimental He- 100 fighter of 1940 vintage. Although it seems unlikely the Luftwaffe would risk such unsuitable, specialized aircraft for bomber interception, the mystery of their alleged appearance contributed to the jumbled patchwork of the running fight.

‘The fighters were unrelenting; it was simply murder,’ recalls Carl Abele, who was serving as navigator on a 544th Squadron, 384th BG, B-17F unofficially called Blackjack on the mission. Schweinfurt was the crew’s fourth mission, and there had been no time to paint the name on.

‘As it turned out, the name was destined never to be painted on,’ Abele remembers. ‘We lost an engine to flak and another to fighters, but the prop on one of the engines couldn’t be feathered. The drag of the dead engine was tremendous, and helped doom the plane. Our pilot held her steady while we all bailed out, then he came out last. I never saw my chute open. The next thing I knew I was lying down in the back of a Totenkopf [Death’s Head SS Army Division] truck on the way to POW camp.’

The punishment being meted out was not always one-sided, however. Fortress gunners claimed 186 aircraft shot down, although German documents reviewed after the war placed their losses at approximately 40. Some overclaiming by gunners was inevitable, since several gunners within a combat ‘box’ of bombers would fire on the same plane.

The fighter attacks continued without letup throughout the return flight, since poor weather had grounded the Spitfires and Thunderbolts that were to have provided cover for the bombers’ withdrawal. A few German fighters continued their attacks almost to the British coast.

Soon after the drone of the returning bombers was heard, it was apparent that a disaster had occurred; bomber after bomber failed to return to its hardstand. Then the results were tabulated: 60 bombers down over Europe, five more lost near or over England, and 17 aircraft damaged beyond repair. Although other targets produced equal or greater total losses, the 26 percent loss figure recorded during Schweinfurt II gave it the dubious honor of being the most costly mission of the war for the Eighth Air Force.

This Flying Fortress was one of nine bombers the 100th Bomb Group lost by the end of the day. The crew crash-landed their damaged B-17 near Zurich, Switzerland, where both the plane and crew were interned. (National Archives)
This Flying Fortress was one of nine bombers the 100th Bomb Group lost by the end of the day. The crew crash-landed their damaged B-17 near Zurich, Switzerland, where both the plane and crew were interned. (National Archives)

The element of chance involved in death, injury or capture was never more evident than on Black Thursday. Some bomb groups were almost annihilated, while others were untouched. The 305th lost 13 out of 15 Fortresses dispatched and the 306th lost 12, while three other 1st Bomb Division groups—the 92nd, 379th and 384th—lost six each. The 3rd Bomb Division fared much better, with its seven groups losing only 15 aircraft overall and three, including the Bloody 100th, losing none. From the vantage point of the Germans, had the raids been repeated at two-month intervals for a six-month period, the bearings industry ‘could not possibly have survived.’

But it would have mattered little if Speer had telephoned that information directly to Allied Bomber Command, because the Eighth Air Force did not have the resources to follow up. Without fighter escort to minimize losses, several more missions would have wiped out the Eighth’s Bomber Command, and no projected results would justify that. The answer was at hand, though, and that was the North American P-51 Mustang long-range fighter, which began to arrive in England in December.

In the aftermath of Schweinfurt 11, it would appear that the British doctrine of night bombing was vindicated and the American daylight precision concept discredited. But that was not the case, for several different reasons.

It was true that B-24s and B-17s could not withstand determined fighter opposition without sustaining prohibitive losses. But the key word was ‘determined.’ American heavies were far more able to withstand fighter assault than other bombers, which was why the Germans were forced to add cannon and rockets to their aircraft to provide the necessary firepower to bring bombers down without being shot down themselves by the heavy defensive screen. The extra weight and drag resulting from the added weaponry made them much more vulnerable to Allied fighters—which meant that the Germans needed large numbers of fighters to penetrate the bombers’ defensive screen, and that they usually stayed outside the screen or waited for stragglers or cripples if they could only attack singly or in pairs.

Had the bombers been completely naked to fighter attack, it would have been well into 1944 before the USAAF had enough escort fighters to cover the hundreds of bombers that took part in raids. As it was, the toughness and defensive firepower of the B-17 and the B-24 made the job of fighter escorts easier. ‘Without their own fighter escort they [bombers] were no match for enemy fighters,’ Cajus Bekker wrote in the book Luftwaffe War Diaries. But the effect of their guns, multiplied by the overlapping firepower coverage of the combat box, resulted in a ‘veritable barrage. The whole aircraft bristled with guns, leaving no blind spots.’

In addition, the Luftwaffe was forced to bleed other fronts of precious day fighters to counter the effectiveness of day bombing, allowing these aircraft to be hunted down and destroyed by Allied fighters.

Night area bombing, while destructive, had little measurable effect on the Nazi armaments industry, as Speer and others have emphasized repeatedly. It did not destroy civilian morale when used against either England or Germany, and American fire-bombing raids against the Japanese had little appreciable effect until the awesome power of the atom bomb ended that conflict. ‘It was notarea bombing by night that struck the vital blow at German survival,’ Bekker wrote. ‘This mission was accomplished to a far greater extent by the selective and precision bombing of the Eighth Air Force in daylight. By careful choice of target…this finally brought the whole German war machine to a standstill.’

Moreover, night bombers were not immune to fighter interception. On the night of February 19-20, 1944, over Leipzig, the British Royal Air Force lost 78 bombers. Another 72 were lost March 24-25 en route to Berlin, and another 94 over Nuremberg March 30-3 1. These catastrophic losses forced the temporary suspension of the night bombing offensive.

But the march of history during the past 50 years has relegated competing arguments over strategic bombing to academic theories only. Schweinfurt is quiet now, having returned to the anonymity it enjoyed before 1943. There is not much there to commemorate the carnage that took place overhead so many years ago, and that is too bad, because Schweinfurt should rank with Pickett’s Charge, Bataan, Chosin and other battlefields as an epic of American heroism. As it is, we can only look at grainy wartime pictures of the bombers going down in flames, and try to imagine what it was like for the men trapped inside.


This article was written by Bruce Crawford and originally published in the September 1993 issue of Aviation History magazine. For more great articles subscribe to Aviation History magazine today!


53 Responses to Death on the High Road: The Schweinfurt Raid

  1. Douglas Reid says:

    This will be interesting to my Uncle Larry, who flew with the Mighty 8th.

  2. Douglas Reid says:

    This will be of interest to my Uncle Lary, who flew with the8th

    • Anton says:

      Hi Douglas. My name is Anton and as a pilot nows adays, I would like, if it possible, to ask some things to your uncle Larry related to WWII.

  3. Festus Boozer says:

    I have often wondered if preemptive american bomber strikes against German Fighter fuel depots, runways and other ground resources thus hindering the murderous “turkey shoot” that went unhindered against approaching American bombers heading for Schweinfurt. It seems to me that crippling German defensive resources preceding the attacks at Schweinfurt, A single success at knocking out German fighter fuel depots, runways and fighter bases would seem to have caused a major disruption to German defenses of Schweinfurt, would have significantly reduced both the range and number of fighters that availed themselves of refueling and returning to battle and engaging American bombers approaching and leaving the Schweinfurt region. Perhaps this was considered and but nont chosen however the reason escapes me.

    This tactic was employed by American air forces proceeding the brief air war preceding air strikes in Granada,Panama and repeated in the Gulf war. While such an initial attack would surely have resulted in many bomber losses in an initial bombing run against fuel, runways and Germain fighter resources, I have often wondered if such a strike against German fighter defenses followed closely by an attack at Schweinfurt, would have denied the Germans much of their ability to mount a 300 fighter armada against an American offensive strike on the strategic ball bearing facility.

  4. George G. Roberts says:

    An excellent article about the “Black Thursday” mission. There are a few questionable errors: First, the 96th Bomb Group of the 3rd Division flew out of Snetterton Heath rather than rather than Grafton Underwood, their original base. Second the 305th BG out of Chelveston lost 13 and had three get back to base. Third: The 306th BG had 10 shot down, three got back to base and two crashed in the UK. You may ask how do I know? I was the radio operator on the 306th plane “Cavalier” which was the only plane from the 367th Squadron to reach the target and get back to base. This was my fourth mission. I went on to fly 31 missions, the final 16 on the “Rose of York”, a plane that was lost over the North Sea after I had completed my combat tour.

    • Mary Lynn Jacobs Whitman says:

      Mr. Roberts:

      My father was a B-17 Pilot, Luke Jacobs from Tennessee.
      306th Bombardment Group, Thurleigh-England.

      From what I understand, he was a pilot on the Black Thursday mission.

      Any information you might have is greatly appreciated.

    • Christopher Jacobs says:

      1stLt D. Luke Jacobs was likely a co-pilot on the second Schweinfurt mission – his 5th. I believe his was one of the aircraft that did not make it to the target having flown only 4:35 that mission. It must have had mechanical problems over Belgium? and returned to Thurliegh. My understanding is that only one other 367th aircraft returned from that mission – and that must be the Cavalier. Please let me know the details.
      Best regards,

    • Aaron says:

      There is a correction to your correction about the 305th BG. 18 planes took off, 3 turned back shortly there after. only 3 made it to Schweinfurt, but only two of those made it home:

      Stated several places in detail:

      There were eighteen aircraft of the 305th BG that took off at one minute intervals starting six minutes late. The total elapsed departure time was 25 minutes. All aircraft ascended individually through two layers of solid overcast over the field. Weather reported one layer with tops at 7000 feet. Assembly was above the overcast above the field with seventeen aircraft completing the formation. One aircraft (no. 42-37726) from the high squadron was unable to find the formation and was unable to fly the mission returning to West Reynham. There were two additional aircraft that had to return early. The first aircraft (no. 42-30081) turned back due to oxygen system failure and landed at Great Ash Field. The second aircraft (no. 42-30375) returned to base due to no. 1 engine failure (broken exhaust stack on #7 cylinder).

      Only two made it home – 1) 1st Lt. F. Farrell in 42-30678 with two injuries – one to 2nd Lt M Guber, Navigator, who was hit in the head with part of 20mm shell and the second to 1st Lt. F Helmick, bombardier, who was hit in the body by a 20mm shell.
      2) Major C Normand as pilot and Joe Kane as co-pilot in 42-23412 with injuries to S/Sgt C Melder, a 13th man observer, and the pilot and co-pilot with shaddered glass from a broken windsheld.

  5. Della Norris says:

    I am responding to the email from George Roberts on Feb.,19 2009. I was researching George in the hopes of finding out some information on my Uncle Harry, Harry C. Moore(Flight Engineer)I believe with the 306thBG 367th BS. He was on the “Rose of York”, along with “Impatient Virgin” and “Belle of the Blue”. They also flew the Schweinfurt(First over Germany)mission. That’s about all I know. I have been researching for some time now, and read about you on the Gil Cohen website with the “Almost Home” painting. Very nice!
    If you please, if you know of him, I would greatly appreciate any information.

    Sincerely!………..Della Norris

  6. S. Moyer says:

    My father Tsgt Ed Fox flew with the 306BG, 369squadron and was wounded on the second Schweinfurt raid. I know George Roberts through the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association. I am the educational director for the group and since yours is a recent posting I will see if I can get in touch with George and have him offer a response. Valor Studios came to our reunion last Oct in Pooler, GA and that is where the signing of “Almost Home” took place. If you have been to the museum there you may have seen the “Rose of York” jacket on display. I believe that is George Robert’s. Valor Studios does such important work – we are lucky to have them here in Pennsylvania.

  7. David Strong says:

    If you are looking for information on the 306th Bomber Group, the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Museum has probably the most complete record of information on the 306th. My father, R. A. Strong (a Kalamazoo native), was the secretary and publisher for the 306th BG Association for over 30 years, as well as the author of “First over Germany”. He turned over most of his research to the Air Zoo 3 years ago. He will also be turning over his card index on flying 306th personnel (probably the most complete you’ll ever see) to the 8th Air Force Museum, Savannah, GA sometime this fall (2009).

  8. David Baker says:

    This will be interesting to my ROTC Colonel

  9. David Baker says:

    My ROTC Colonel was going over WWII recently.

  10. […] of the 8th Air Force and sent to England in 1943. He completed 25 missions, including the deadly Schweinfurt raid in October 1943. Returning to the states, Rose served as a B-17 pilot instructor. Volunteering […]

  11. Bob Delaney says:

    My father,Julius Markus, was the left waist gunner on “Me and My Gal”,
    of the 384th bomb group on the second Scheinfurt run.They were shot down on their return.
    He was a pow at “stalag 17” until repatriation in Jan,1945.
    If anyone here has any idea why he was repatriated before wars end ,
    please let me know.
    He died in 1948.
    I never knew him.
    Thanks..I salute all those who served.We stand on your shoulders as we look to tomorrow.

  12. Jim Farrell says:

    Of the fifteen (15) B-17’s in the 305th that made th trip to Schweinfurt on 10/14/43, only two (2) returned. The group lead ship piloted by Joseph Kane and a squadron lead ship piloted by my brother, Barney Farrell, were the only two toreturn to base. The 13 other ships in the 305th were lost in this raid. Ref: “Wrong Place! Wrong Time!” by George C. Kuhl.

    • Dave Craig says:

      My wife’s Uncle is Joe Kane. We attended his 90th birthday in June of 2010 in Ct. He told the story of of being one of only 2 planes making it back. He mentioned that in the morning the “limey” briefed the men, telling them the RAF would escort the bombers to the French coast, and the Luftwaffe would escort the bombers from the French coast to the target and from the target back to the French coast. Pretty amazing stuff.

      • Ahron Shapiro says:

        My condolences on the recent passing of Mr. Kane.
        Dave, I’d love to hear Mr. Kane’s story of Schweinfurt as he told it to you in June 2010.
        Do you use Facebook? There is a Facebook group for the 305th Bomb Group.
        If you don’t use Facebook, please let me know you read this and I’ll post another way for you to get in touch with me.

      • george says:

        Checking on Kane, saw your post! Will keep on checking during football game, especially when either the Jets or Giants are playing. Not much to watch on the screen when those two take the field. Go 49’rs!!!!!

    • tom farrell says:


    • tom farrell says:

      hey uncle jim my brotherinlaws dad saw your reply to the article about the schwienfort raid and forwarded it to me how are you doing

    • Mike Steenwyk says:

      Hello Jim,
      I was reading along on this forum and thought I would at least leave a reply. A week ago my co worker told me about a conversation he had with one of the men who was on the second raid over Schweinfurt. He was navigator, a man I only know as Charlie. (27 yrs of age at the time)
      This man, many years later,was at the Kalamazoo Air show when my co worker spoke with him and heard him tell his story, telling it one on one standing next to a B-17 which was there for the airshow. I think the story was told in 1982 when the man was just retired from his civilian job.

      This man Charlie of the story is not related to me. Charlie was from a crew of ten total on a B-17, flying out of somewhere in England. They lost one man, I think the bottom turret gunner on the way to the target. Then after dropping the bombs on the target, “Big Skip” their pilot was hit (flak?). “Little Skip” the co-pilot (age 19 yrs) said “I will get you home. He did, but what a tale for the return journey. Two of the engines were dead by this time, Of the remaining two, one was running standard RPM’s and one not running correctly. So…Little Skip, now piloting the plane told Charlie and the Radio man to throw out eveything not tied down, as they flew home (over NL?) So they did, 50 cals, spent cartriges, flak jackets. It wasn’t enough. So , dropping in Altitude. It wasn’t enough. So….

      Little Skip gave the next order ” keep the dog tags, but throw out the dead bodies(of the six dead crew men), wait til last with Big Skip the 20 year old dead pilot. As they went over the Channel the two uninjured men (Charlie and the Radioman) followed Little Skips orders. Last of all, Big Skips body went out the bombay doors, into the Channel. Only the dog tags were saved.
      Little Skip was wounded, but could still fly. He told the men, strap in, could be a very hard landing. It was. They cleared the Cliffs of Dover by 150 feet +/-, found the field, put the landing gear down (tires had been shot out) landed hard, crashed to the right. The plane never flew again-neither did Charlie. Little Skip died the next day in the hospital, from his injuries. The side gunner, also wounded, died three days after returning. Charlie and the Radio man were unhurt. Physically that is. Charlie spent 6 months in the Army hospital, got out on a medical, never flew again.

      He came home to Kalamazoo, worked for the Checkered Cab Company, building the Cabs. He had just retired when my co worker spoke with him at the Air Show. He would be 98 today-if my math is correct-he was 27 yrs of age in 1943 (the men called him pappy)
      That is what I know. Also, of the 15 planes that left from his wing, I believe his was the only one to return to the runway, that evening, although once down his plane never flew again.
      If, and I realize its a big if, ….anyone knows anything…I would like to be let in on it. This story affected me deeply although I am not related to the people in it.
      Michael Steenwyk living near Grand Rapids, MI
      feel free to email me at:

  13. levesque pascal says:

    Bonjours, je recherche le nom des pilotes des bombardiers b 17 qui se seraient écrasés à lors retour lors du raid de scheinfurt le 14 octobre 1943. si vous avez des informations, merci de m’en faire part

    • Sue Moyer says:

      Please contact me concerning your research efforts. I am educational director for the Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association

      • Susan Waldron says:

        My father, Irving Mills, was a tail gunner on a plane on the second Schweinfurt raid. He was shot down over the Netherlands (before reaching the target, I believe) and in Stalag 17 until the end of the war. He has now passed away, but is there anywhere I could find the exact name of his plane and other crew members? (I know it was not his regular crew, “Mother Carey’s Chickens”.)

  14. A Everett says:

    I am just beginning research of these two missions. My 91-year old grandfather, Leroy Branch Everett, was a B17 pilot in both. I would love to put him in touch with any other living survivors of Schweinfurt

  15. George Chase says:

    Is there any way to find out who served as crew members on the B-17, Rose of York. Did a plane have more than one crew? Did the crew members rotate planes/missions?

  16. Sue Moyer says:

    Susan, I hope you checked the e-mail follow up box. Yes, I can help you with more info on your Dad. He was in the 306 BG just like my father. My Dad was 369th BS and your Dad was 423rd. Oh I hope you get this reply.

    • Susan Waldron says:

      Sue, yes, I received the email notification of your response. And thank you! Any info you can give me would be appreciated. I know some of his history, but because of his POW experiences, he didn’t really talk about this when I was a kid.

      By the way, I have a digital transcript of a diary he kept during the forced march of the Allied POWs just before the end of the war, if you’d be interested in seeing it.

      • Sue Moyer says:

        I am so glad you got this Susan. This will be a quick response as I am at work and this afternoon I will be away from my computer and not able to chat until Wed. Last night I was able to find a crew photo of your Dad, though with his first crew, not Cole that he flew with 10/14. My Dad was also in the 306th, 369th BS. They got back, but he was seriously wounded. I also have a copy of the MACR record at home that I can send to you. We need to have another way to communicate though. Are you on Facebook? I started sending messages yesterday to every Susan Waldron I could find. You may notice above at your reply to me that there was not a reply back for me to use. Don’t want to put my e-mail here. Let’s see, two options – if on facebook look for Second Schweinfurt Memorial Memorial Association and ask to join. Also go to and ask to join our network. There is more there than on Facebook.
        I also found a 2-part article that you Dad wrote on the educational system that was developed at Stalag 17b.
        YES, I would love to see the diary. I need to share other important info concerning our Mission 2012 – the 2nd Schweinfurt mission will be the Army Air Corps mission representation for the new Boeing Pavilion expansion at the National WWII museum in New Orleans. We would love to have you join our SSMA family

      • Sue Moyer says:

        Hi Susan, You will realize my frustration if you look at your response above (13.1.1) you will see that it is the only comment in the entire thread that does not have a reply prompt. This is my second reply to this message as the one this morning did not post. I would urge you to join our extended family of 2nd Schweinfurt raid family and friends at either or both:
        on Facebook, search for Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association or check out In both cases I need to approve your membership and you are set to go .. you are already one of us! On a personal note, my Dad also flew with the 306th on Black Thursday. He was with the 369th squadron. On the “ning” site you can see the formation and where your Dad’s plane was. We also have many 17b folks with us. I can help you ID them. Last night I found a 2-part article written by your father about the educational system developed in the Stalag. It was published in ECHOES the newsletter of the 306 BG. I also have a crew photo, though not the 10/14 crew. Most importantly I can send you a copy of the MACR record for your Dad’s crew if you do not already have a copy. I hesitate to post my e-mail here, for if you could contact me either via FB or the SSMA network we are set to go. On the network you are able to post things for us to share if you like.
        Yes, I would love to see what you have of the diary. And finally we have learned that the 2nd Schweinfurt mission will be the representation of the Army Air Corps as the National WWII Museum in New Orleans opens it’s new Boeing Pavilion in 2012. Please read about our MISSION 2012 on either site. So happy to help you

    • Susan Waldron says:

      Not sure why no “Reply” button is showing, but I have received your emails, and requested membership in both the ning site and the SSMA Facebook page. Thank you so much for helping me with this!

  17. Michael D Black says:

    My father, George W. Black, flew his first mission on Black Thursday. He was the tail gunner of a ship called “the Lazy Lady” which flew with the 379th Gp. (Tri-angle K out of Kimbolton) Per his diary his plane made it to the target and back under the command of Cpt Lavery. My father believed he shot down one German fighter, a long nosed FW-190 with bright yellow nose, verticle stabilizers and wing tips. Was supposedly confirmed by ball turret gunner of his ship (name unknown). If anyone out there knew him or remembers any other details I’d love to hear them. Dad completed 31 missions (extended due to D-Day) and returned to US and worked as an instructor for B-29 gunners. War ended three days before he was to ship out to the Pacific.

  18. Sue Moyer says:

    Hi Michael, Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. As educational director of SSMA (Second Schweinfurt Memorial Association) I am always happy to find member of the NEXGEN. I was able to research this crew and found the following info. According to 379th records Capt Lavery’s crew’s first mission was the third Schweinfurt raid in 1944. Black Thursday refers to the second raid 10/14/43.

    I’m going to keep looking for a second verification. Please join us on Facebook or check out our network at:

    I will let you know what else I am able to verify

    Sue Moyer

  19. […] Country "The Bavarian city of Schweinfurt, with its heavy concentration of ball bearing factories, was a classic example of one of these so-called panacea targets. It was obvious that anti-friction bearings played a vital role in any industrial economy, but 1940s-era German machinery was believed to be more dependent on ball bearings than most. It was estimated, for example, that the German aviation industry consumed an average of 2.4 million bearings per month. The fact that bearing construction was concentrated in just a few plants, with Schweinfurt accounting for more than 40 percent of production, made the ball bearing industry in general-and Schweinfurt in particularan obvious target. Making Schweinfurt even more attractive was its small size, which would make it easy for bombardiers to locate and hit the bearing plants-a factor that also made it a poor target for Harris' night bombers. German planners had belatedly realized the vulnerability of the bearing plants and began making plans to disperse them, but to do so would take time as well as disrupt production of the precious bearings." World War II: Eighth Air Force Raid on Schweinfurt […]

  20. michael says:

    great article !

  21. nick j papanicolas says:

    my uncle staff sgt donald e dorion was in ira eakers 8th air force bomb squade 367 he and three of his mates were repoted mia as there b17 flying fortress was hit with machine gun fire and flak over bremen germany near oldenberg his shipmates were 1st Lt w. fortin,polit ist Lt. david farrel,co polit 1st Lt thomas walden jr.,navigator chief w.o. maurice pichett,waist gunner t.sgt john e barnes,top turret gunner t.sgt john a quin,radio operator st sgt fred a newcomb,lower turret st sgt george w pederson bombadier,st sgt donald e dorion waist gunner st sgtharold pease tail gunner ihave letters that were written to uncle donalds widow in 1945 from 6 crew members that made it out i also have photo of harold pease that his brother mathew sent ti my aunt informing us that harold was kia at a later date and i have a photo of the b17 and the 10 crew members in front of it i would like to hear from anyone connected to this mission as i am going to give everything to the army archives in wash dc but i want to share the letters and photos with crew mebers if any and relativesor friends my e mil is please reply i will give my address

    • Sue Moyer says:

      Hi Nick, I tried to respond to the email you have listed above, but the message was returned. I also tried to reach you via a private message on Facebook – if I found the correct person. I administer a FB group page for the 306th Bomb group in which your uncle served. I would like to invite you and any other interested readers here to join us at:

  22. […] as it does when a day acquires a dark hue. A financial crash (black Wednesday), a military setback (black Thursday) or both (black Monday), and often – as in black Tuesday’s case – with an Australian bush […]

  23. […] as it does when a day acquires a dark hue. A financial crash (black Wednesday), a military setback (black Thursday) or both (black Monday), and often – as in black Tuesday’s case – with an Australian bush […]

  24. […] as it does when a day acquires a dark hue. A financial crash (black Wednesday), a military setback (black Thursday) or both (black Monday), and often – as in black Tuesday’s case – with an Australian bush […]

  25. Siegfried Jansen says:

    I lived in Germany at that time. As a 13 year old boy I watched
    the planes dropping their bombs. The whole village ran out to capture a parachutist and take him to the mayors office. I also watched an airplane being shot down and exploding on impact.We all went to see the wreck.I wonder if anyone is interested identifying
    the location to place a memorial

  26. Rich Wearing says:

    Does anyone know of a group of men from the Mighty 8th that meet in Michigan.My Dad is still doing well for 88,working part time,singing in a barbershop quartet and flirting with the women here near Detroit.Pop was a tailgunner on the 5Grand out of Snetterton Heath for all of 1944.He did 35 missions and I’ve heard about every minute of his Bombing Missions.Someone help me out ! There’s got to be some of you guys around still. His Name is Johnny Wearing -Phone # 1-313-88-25793

  27. […] as it does when a day acquires a dark hue. A financial crash (black Wednesday), a military setback (black Thursday) or both (black Monday), and often – as in black Tuesday’s case – with an Australian bush […]

  28. Kris Klohe says:

    My Dad Klohe was the pilot on this raid of the Yank featured in this article. One of his crew Chuck Hill is still living at 93. Let me know if you want to talk with him. Kris Klohe

  29. LAURIE Cornell says:

    Hello Jim,
    I was just looking for information on Black Thursday and ran across your post.
    My uncle Kieth Cornell flew that raid and was likely the co-pilot to either your brother or Mr. Kane.
    He is still alive and kicking and we just celebrated his 94th Bday on Saturday.
    I will see him at Coffee this coming Sunday and will ask who he flew with.
    Should you see this reply, my email is

    Best regards
    LAURIE Cornell

  30. Dave Bullock says:

    My Dad, lt. Raymond Bullock, piloted \Sundown Sal\ on his 24th combat mission, the last of the 305th to go down – on fire for 5 minutes, they pressed the attack, dropped their bombs, and bailed out just before the plane exploded over Schweinfurt – all were POWs. Only Kane and Farrell left of the 15 bombers that left that morning. Dad \went west\ in Feb 2013 at age 91. Here’s to you all on the 71st anniversary of your heroism.

  31. […] You can read about it here. […]

  32. Michael P. Edmiston says:

    Dave, on Black Thursday my uncle, Walter Kaeli, was your Dad’s toggelier on Sundown Sal . A few years ago I struck up a friendship with their ball turret gunner, Joe Kocher, before he went west 2 years ago just last Thursday. \On fire for 5 minutes, they pressed the attack . . . all were POWs.\ Gotta add: All made it home; though they probably didn’t think so on 10/14/1943, today it sure seems God held that crew in His hand. As you well know, folks like us are honored to be able to tell their story and share its inspiration. It’s a great thrill for me to have read the message from their skipper’s kid. Thanks to 2 generations of Bullocks.

  33. Franklin Lindblom says:

    I am in the design stage of an installation of a B-17 bombing formation. I’ve decided to portray the 2nd Schweinfurt raid as the most significant raid of the european theater. Historynet and this forum are amazing! You’ve given me lots to think about and lots of leads for information. Ultimately, I would like to show a model of each plane (with the correct paint scheme etc) that participated (or made it to Schweinfurt in a coherent formation). The models for the complete formation will then be assembled and hung at the correct height and spacing to show them either crossing the French coast or arriving at Schweinfurt. It will be at a scale that will allow you to walk through the formation. Any information on the exact formation of the squadrons, groups, wings, and Bomb Divisions would be very welcome.

  34. Douglas Jenkins says:

    James McLaughlin turns 100 this year, and still has tears when describing this flight.

  35. Frank says:

    Here are virtual views of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G and their B-24J

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