By Martin Caidin
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Extra resources for Black Thursday
Behind him the gunner, painfully wounded in the leg, succeeded with the copilot in smothering the blaze. It wasn't over yet ^they still had to get home with German fighters clawing in to finish off the cripple. The pilot flew the Fortress, the gunner worked the nose guns, and the copilot swung back and forth between the waist guns to hold off the enemy fighters as Prayer whipped over Germany at treetop level. X My — — — My "We came home said the pilot, at two hundred and ten miles an hour,** cities, factories, and au^elds in "buzzing Germany.
No one in those days would have anticipated that Eaker*s disorganized bomber force would within the next thirty months expand and grow in power until it constituted fully half the anticipated combat group strength of the entire army air forces. The Rouen attack involved a total of 160 officers and and a half years later a single mass bomber attack by the VIII would send in heavy bombers alone more than twenty-five thousand fighting men enlisted men airborne. Two — — into the air over Germany. As subsequent events proved with overwhelming impact, the original Allied planners who formulated the machinery to attack the German positions in Europe tended in the first place grossly to underestimate the fighting skill and capacity of the Germans, and, secondly, to overestimate in even more unrealistic fashion the fighting capacity of the Allied forces.
Because of the particular route of the bombers, the Ger- mans were able to call upon many supporting fighter squadrons in France, Belgium, and Holland. It required no more than telephone calls on lines always open to transfer the fighters to German bases, and thus fit them perfectly into the system of ground vectoring. The first assault against Schweinfurt, on August 17, contributed heavily to the masterful and bloody defense of that two months The majority of the leaders of the reacted to the August raid with great shock.