Second Raid on Schweinfurt

Second Raid on Schweinfurt

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Second Raid on Schweinfurt
partof=The Second World War

date=14 October 1943
place=Schweinfurt, Germany
result=Tactical German Victory: Suspension of American deep penetration daylight bombing without long range fighter escort [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 137.]
combatant1=flagicon|United States|1912 Eighth Air Force:
1st Bomb Group
92nd Bomb Group
305th Bomb Group
306th Bomb Group
strength1= 291 Bombers
strength2= unknown amount of fighter aircraft
casualties1= 60 B-17 bombers and 1 P-47 fighter
casualties2= 38 Bf 109s and Fw 190 fighters|

The Second raid on Schweinfurt (also called Mission 115) took place during World War II on October 14 1943, when 291 B-17 Flying Fortresses of the USAAF Eighth Air Force attacked ball bearing factories in Schweinfurt, Germany. The factories had previously been attacked on August 17, resulting in a disastrous loss of aircraft [cite journal | last =Carey | first =Brian Todd | title =Operation Pointblank: Evolution of Allied Air Doctrine During World War II | journal =World War II | volume = | issue =November | pages = p. 4 | publisher = | date =1998 | url = | id = | accessdate =2007-01-15 ] note label|Note1|a|aThe second mission turned out no different, and has become known as Black Thursday due to the heavy loss of men and aircraft.


The Americans Failure to learn from Experience

The USAAF had not learned the lessons from the previous raids:
* German air defences had increased in strength and effectiveness
* Defective tactics; the Americans had no diversionary methods. Straight-line routes made it easy for the "Luftwaffe" to predict the target, and mass its fighter forces against the bomber streams
* Rocket firing Messerschmitt Bf 110s, and Me 410s were very effective. Although these machines were vulnerable, the Allies did not possess a long range fighter to protect the bombers from rocket attack. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 135.]

The Mission Plan

The United States had identified German aviation industries as prime targets. The destruction of them would be key to defeating the Luftwaffe as a prelude to liberating Europe.Some 42% of Germany's ball bearings were produced at Schweinfurt and were considered so important to the German war effort that they were one of the highest priority targets after aircraft factories and petroleum production.The American Air Forces lacked a long range fighter, and had only the P-47 Thunderbolt in service. The P-38 Lightning had the range, but had not yet been reintroduced, after an absence of a year from the European theatre.The three American bomber divisions were to be escorted by a single P-47 Group each, on the outward leg, and the return journey. No plans for a diversionary raids were made. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 135.]

The Mission

The weather hampered the Bomber formations rendezvous, and as a result the wrong formations were in the wrong position. Much of the American formations were spread out, offering little protection for each other; an invitation for attacking fighters.A small group of B-24s were diverted to targets in the north sea, taking with it one of the escorting P-47 groups.The Germans had suspected a deep penetration raid because of the susbstantial raid traffic. "Jagddivision 3" was positioned to meet the bombers as they croased the coast. The P-47s tried to protect the scattered bomber groups and succeeded in downing 7 Bf 109s for a single loss, and the only P-47 loss of the day. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 135.] Over the Netherlands JG 1 and 26 made repeated attacks. The 305th Bomb Group lost 13 of its 16 B-17s in minutes. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 135.]

After dropping their bombs the American bombers were almost immediately attacked by German fighters, having landed, refuelled and rearmed, struck again. JG 11 shot down 18 B-17s during this period. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 136.] Finally, the B-17s reached the coastline of Europe and relative safety, some of them so heavily damaged that though they brought their crews home, they would never fly again. Gunners aboard the bombers claimed to have shot down 138 German fighters; only 38 were lost. [Caldwell & Muller 2007, p. 137.]

In the final tally, fifty-nine Flying Fortresses were shot down over Germany, one ditched in the English Channel on the return flight, five crashed in England, and twelve more were scrapped due to battle damage or crash landings (more by AA-guns than by fighter aircraft), a total loss of seventy seven B-17s. 122 bombers were damaged to some degree and needed repairs before their next flight. Out of 2,900 men in the crews, about 650 men did not return, although 65 survived as POWs. [Hess 1994, p. 65.] Five were killed and forty-three wounded in the damaged aircraft that made it home, and 594 were listed as Missing in Action. Only thirty-three bombers landed without damage.The 306th Bomb Group was hard hit, losing 100 men, of which 35 died on the mission, or of wounds, and 65 were captured. The 305th Bomb Group lost 130 men, with 36 killed. The 87 percent loss rate had left the group devastated. [Hess 1994, p. 66-67.]

General Henry H. Arnold said after the mission:

Regardless of our losses, I'm ready to send replacements of aircraft and crews and continue building up our strength. The opposition isn't nearly what it was, and we are wearing them down. The loss of 60 American bombers in the Schweinfurt raid was incidental. [Hess 1994, p. 67.]

Arnold's comments were flawed. The Luftwaffe had reinforced its units in Germany and Western Europe. Although with the P-51 Mustang entering production in December 1943, the Luftwaffe's air superiority days were numbered. [Hess 1994, p. 67.]


The USAAF learned the importance of a fighter escort with sufficient range, recognizing the vulnerability of heavy bombers flying in daylight against interceptors. Such very heavy losses could not be sustained, and unescorted daylight bomber raids deep into Germany were suspended until 1944. Raids on Schweinfurt resumed in February, 1944 during what came to be known as "Big Week," with P-51 Mustang fighters escorting the American heavies all the way to and from the targets.


*see Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission



* Caldwell, Donald & Muller, Richard (2007). "The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich". London: Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0
* Hess, William N (1994). "B-17 Flying Fortress: Combat and Development History of the Flying Fortress." St. Paul, Minnesota: Motorbook International. ISBN 0-87938-881-1.

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