Today marks the 75th Anniversary of Operation Argument otherwise known as BIG WEEK. When on Sunday, February 20, 1944 the 8th Air Force went after the Luftwaffe in the skies over Germany to take air superiority for the Normandy invasion in June 1944.
These were the results of the 1st day of combat —
Mission 226: The Eighth Air Force begins “Big Week” attacks on German aircraft plants and airfields. For the first time, over 1,000 bombers are dispatched; 21 bombers and 4 fighters are lost hitting three areas in Germany:
- 417 B-17s are dispatched to Leipzig-Mockau Airfield, and aviation industry targets at Heiterblick and Abtnaundorf; 239 hit the primary targets, 37 hit Bernburg (Junkers), 44 hit Oschersleben (AGO, prime Fw 190A subcontractor) and 20 hit other targets of opportunity; they claim 14-5-6 Luftwaffe aircraft; seven B-17s are lost, one damaged beyond repair and 161 damaged; casualties are 7 KIA, 17 WIA and 72 MIA.
- 314 B-17s are dispatched to the Tutow Airfield; 105 hit the primary and immediate area, 76 hit Rostock (Heinkel) and 115 hit other targets of opportunity; they claim 15-15-10 Luftwaffe aircraft; 6 B-17s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 37 damaged; casualties are 3 KIA and 60 MIA.
- 272 B-24s are dispatched to aviation industry targets at Brunswick, Wilhelmtor and Neupetritor; 76 hit the primary, 87 hit Gotha, 13 hit Oschersleben, 58 hit Helmstedt and 10 hit other targets of opportunity; they claim 36-13-13 Luftwaffe aircraft; 8 B-24s are lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 37 damaged; casualties are 10 KIA, 10 WIA and 77 MIA.
Missions one and three above are escorted by 94 P-38 Lightnings, 668 Eighth and Ninth Air Force P-47 Thunderbolts and 73 Eighth and Ninth Air Force P-51 Mustangs; they claim 61-7-37 Luftwaffe aircraft; one P-38 Lightning, two P-47 Thunderbolts and one P-51 Mustang are lost, two P-47 Thunderbolts are damaged beyond repair and 4 other aircraft are damaged; casualties are 4 MIA. German losses amount to 10 Messerschmitt Bf 110s destroyed and three damaged with 10 killed and seven wounded. Total losses included 74 Bf 110s, Fw 190s and Bf 109s and a further 29 damaged.
For extensive background, see this Wikipedia article, where the passage above came from:
For a really engaging lecture on “Big Week”, watch Dr. John Curatola’s video here:
I’ll be posting more in this series including other lectures and background on how Operation Argument came to pass and its results.