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The First B-17 lost by the 8th Air Force in Europe

Just like the Germans failed to achieve air superiority over the British Isles in 1940, the British failed to achieve air superiority over France during their non-stop daylight offensive that lasted from mid-1941 to 1942. German industries and cities did not face any serious threat from British bombers during this period either.

However, by the second semester of 1942 the Luftwaffe started to face a new enemy in the form of the 8th USAAF Air Force. Initially, the Germans felt confident that they could stop the American daylight offensive on its tracks, and they did not reinforce the fighter wings in France. However, after Boetticher’s report to Jeschonnek in May 1942 regarding the projected strength of the American air force, the Luftwaffe’s CoS became greatly concerned and asked Milch to increase fighter production to 900 aircraft per month (feat achieved during 1943)

During all of 1942, the Americans did not attack Germany and focused on shallow attacks on Western Europe with fighter escort whenever possible. The first heavy bomber mission of the 8th was flown on 17 August 1942, by 12 B-17 that bombed the railyards in Rouen, France heavily escorted by Spitfire IXs.

JG 26 and JG 2 attacked the escort and shot down three Spitfires for one loss but failed to destroy any bombers. The Americans carried out a further 8 missions without loss and pressure mounted on the German fighter pilots to deliver.

The B-17E used by the USAAF in 1942 (photo) was a more powerful aircraft than the B-17C used by the British the previous year. This model added three two-heavy MG turrets (top, tail, and ball) to the heavy machine guns in the waist (2), and nose (1 light or heavy). Thusly armed, attacks from the rear were very risky.

Hptmn. Conny Meyer (II/JG 26) shot down the first B-17 on September 6 (a new F model) while another (an E model) was shot down by pilots from II/JG 2. In addition, 3 Spitfires were destroyed. The Germans lost 2 Focke Wulfs.

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