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The Men Who Flew the Heavy Bombers (Hardback)

USAAF Four-Engine Heavies in the Second World War

Aviation > Royal Air Force Aviation > WWII WWII

By Martin W Bowman
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 60 black and white
ISBN: 9781526746313
Published: 6th July 2022



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Martin Bowman’s considerable experience as a military historian has spanned over forty years, during which time he has amassed a wealth of material on the participation by RAF and Commonwealth and US 8th and 15th Air Force crews in the series of raids on the cities and oil transportation and industrial targets in the Third Reich, culminating in ‘Round-the-Clock’ bombing by the RAF, operating at night on the largely forgotten Stirling, the gamely Halifax and ultimately the more successful Lancaster, and the US 8th Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator crews by day on a target list so long and wide ranging that it defies the imagination.

Hundreds of hours of painstaking and fact-finding research and interviews and correspondence with numerous airmen and women and their relatives, in Britain, America and beyond has been woven into a highly readable and emotional outpouring of life and death in combat over the Third Reich as the men of the RAF and Commonwealth and American air forces describe in their own words the compelling, gripping and thought-provoking narrative of the Combined Bomber Offensive in World War Two, which resulted from the RAF nocturnal onslaught and the American unescorted precision attacks on targets throughout the Reich until the P-51 Mustang escort fighters enabled the 8th to assume the mantle of the leading bombing partner in theatre.

February and March 1945 saw the most intense bombing destruction when Nazi defences were minimal or absent and the war was all but over. Final victory in May 1945 came at a high price indeed.

Half of the U.S. Army Air Forces' casualties in World War II were suffered by Eighth Air Force, with in excess of 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 dead. RAF Bomber Command lost 55,573 men killed out of a total of 125,000 aircrew and 8,403 wounded in action while 9,838 became prisoners of war.

RAF and American bomber crews could, therefore be forgiven for thinking they had won a pyrrhic victory; one that had taken such a heavy toll that negated any true sense of achievement, though, if nothing else, the human effort spent by RAF Bomber Command and the Eighth Air Force did pave the way for the Soviet victory in the east.

"These two new books by Martin Bowman (Legion of the Lancasters) are both excellent...Buy both if you can."

Aeromodeller Magazine - December 2023

Suited for younger readers who, perhaps, would like to learn how their grandfathers and great-grandfathers attacked Germany and survived.

Air & Space Power History

The contents page listing the ten chapters of this exemplary work indicate a wide range of individual circumstances and reminiscences that Martin Bowman has melded into a fascinating yet deeply personal account of ‘The Men Who Flew the Heavy Bombers’.
The author has in his forty years as a military historian amassed a wealth of material on the WW2 Bombing Campaign in which personnel of the RAF Bomber Command and the US 8th and 15th Army Air Force participated. This work is tightly focused on the men of the US 8th and 15th Army Air Force who flew the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator in daylight raids on a target list longer than one’s arm! It should be noted that these raids were largely unescorted until the appearance of the P-51 Mustang providing fighter escorts and a modicum of protection against the Luftwaffe fighters. Whilst the scale of RAF Bomber Command losses flying night operations are well known to many, what may be not so well known is the losses suffered by the US Army Air Forces making up 50% of the US Army Air Forces casualties of more than 47000 casualties of which 26000 were killed. The prelude to this work is a narrative written by 2nd Lt Joel D Punches. He relates his experiences during a mission to Duren, Germany on 20 October 1943. We have virtually every danger extant in being part of the WW2 Combined Bomber Offensive: Extreme cold -44°F, engine failure, fighter evasion, dropping of bomb load to gain airspeed, damage to airframe, anoxia (lack of oxygen) and last but not least captivity. This account alone is a worthy epitaph to those ‘Who Flew the Heavy Bombers’. This work is a valuable addition to the shelves of those with an interest in the Combined Bomber Offensive of WW2. Highly Recommended.

Martin Willoughby, The Wessex Branch of the Western Front Association

I find these books fascinating and enjoy hearing from the flyers of these machines and the stories are always told in a detailed but fun way making them an easy read. An excellent book and recommended very much.

Read the Full Review here

The History Fella

The book is a collection of stories from airman of the USAAF four-engine heavies during the second world war. One considers D-Day 1944, as the beginning of the battle for Europe, but allied airmen were attacking targets in Europe, from the beginning of the war in 1939. B
Bombing is not a precise skill, illustrated by the present war in the Ukraine or German 1940 raids on London. The bombing raids secondary targets were civilians. The story recounts the raids from the airman's experiences, the flack, enemy fighters, the daily briefings different targets but the same fears.

The USAAF were based mainly in south-east England, providing a culture shock to rural villages where some 67 airfields were built. With the new bases came 200,000 American airman, in their well-cut uniforms, accents, money, and a new exciting music, swing and rock, which, with nylon stockings, won the hearts and minds of many young, and not so young ladies whose menfolk were overseas.

'The men who flew the heavies' relates the American contribution to the air war over Europe, suffering
47,000 casualties included 26,000 dead. The USAAF flew mainly daylight raids. The British Bomber Command flew daylight raids and suffered 125000 casualties, included 55,573 dead.

An absorbing and thoughtful story, an easy read.

Richard Gough - Historian, writer, author of the Escape from Singapore, The jungle was Red, Outpost of the Empire, SOE Singapore 1941-42. Waiting publication Tony Poe, CIA Paramilitary in SE Asia.

As Featured In

Model Aircraft Magazine, Vol. 21 February 2022

About Martin W Bowman

With well over 100 published books, MARTIN W. BOWMAN is one of Britain’s best-known aviation historians and authors. Specialising in Second World War history and post-war aviation, Martin’s interest in these subjects was driven by the prolific number of RAF and USAAF air bases that were established in his native East Anglia. His previous books have included works such as Legend of the LancasterConfounding the ReichDuxford and the Big Wings, as well as numerous titles in the exhaustive Air War series, which, between them, provide extensive coverage of operations carried out on D-Day and during the Market Garden offensive at Arnhem.

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