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Schweinfurt Raids Timeline

The Schweinfurt Raids proved an impressive - yet costly - show of force for the Allies, not taking into account the responsive nature of their German foe.

Authored By Staff Writer

Crippling the German war machine was always at the top of the list for the Allies. Two of the top agreed-upon targets became the ball-bearing production facilities at Schweinfurt and the Messerschmitt factory at Regensburg. Unfortunately for the Allies, their escort fighter protection was still rather limited in range, unable to proceed with the bomber formations deep into Germany. On the other hand, the Germans held an advantage if they new the formations were on their way and could make appropriate plans to move more defensive fighters into the area as well as stock up their anti-aircraft artillery supplies.


The initial strikes against Schweinfurt and Regensburg were launched on August 17th, 1943. However, poor weather quickly insured the operation was faulted for the two bomber groups (the 4th BG and the 1st BG) took off at different times - ensuring that the enemy would be alerted to the second incoming formation. The 1st Bomber Group group took off a full 3.5 hours after the 4th Bomber Group.


As expected, the 4th Bomber group was assailed by the German Luftwaffe as soon as its fighter escort had left the group. This resulted in 24 lost aircraft after the attack on Regensburg. As this group was required to land at bases in North Africa, daylight was of the essence. The formation eventually made their way to safe haven.


Things proved equally dreadful for the 1st Bomber Group. They attacked the Schweinfurt region against a prepared and alerted German foe. As the first bomber group had departed, Luftwaffe fighters had landed to refuel and rearm while other air elements were relocated to the region from other German bases. Some 250 German fighters were committed to the ensuing action.

While Schweinfurt was successfully bombed, the Allied bombers of the 1st Bomber Group made the long treacherous journey back to their bases in the UK. Their cost of the operation was 36 bombers lost.


The missions proved somewhat successful in that two of the five major ball-bearing facilities were hit, though these were out of commission for a short three weeks.


Satisfied with the results, subsequent Allied air raids (including British night time sorties) were launched though Germany was wise enough to disperse its production facilities by this time. As Allied losses eventually mounted, these long-distance bombing campaigns were temporarily put on hold until February of 1944 in what would become known as "Big Week".

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Total Schweinfurt Raid Events: 18

1943
Tuesday
June 1st - June 30th

British and American authorities work together to formulate the Pointblank Directive - a combined air bombing campaign against the air production facilities of the German Luftwaffe.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

With only limited-range Allied fighter escorts, the first major air raid on Schweinfurt and Regensburg is launched. The air raid consists of 230 aircraft from the 1st Bombardment Wing and 146 aircraft of the 4th Bombardment Wing.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

Bad weather delays the original 5:30AM launch time of the operation.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

Aircraft of the 4th Bombardment Wing take-off at 6:20AM in an effort to reach its target in daylight.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

German Luftwaffe defense fighters attack the 4th Bombardment Wing formations passing over Germany.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

At 11:18AM, the 1st Bombardment Wing finally takes off.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

Some 250 German fighters, already alerted to the bomber group presence, are launched to repel subsequent air attacks.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

Sometime between 11:46AM and 12:09M, the 4th Bomber Group makes their bombing run on targets at Regensburg.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

At approximately 3:00PM, the 1st Bomber Group finally reaches its targets after incurring heavy losses from German fighters. Their bombing run ensues over Schweinfurt.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

At around 4:50PM, elements of the 4th Bomber Group begin landing at their pre-determined bases in North Africa. Twenty-four aircraft from the group are noted lost.

1943
Tuesday
August 17th

At approximately 6:00PM, elements of the 1st Bomber Group begin landing back at their UK bases. Some 36 aircraft are missing.

1943
Thursday
October 14th

Some 291 USAAF bombers of the 13th Bombardment Wing are once-again launched against Schweinfurt. Though 30% of German ball-bearing production is knocked out, 60 American aircraft do not return to home bases in the UK. The high level of losses in these raids forces the USAAF to temporarily suspend long-range bombing attacks into Germany.

1944
Thursday
February 24th

The USAAF 1st Division launches another bombing raid on Schweinfurt through 238 bombers and long-range escort fighters. Eleven aircraft are lost.

1944
Thursday
February 24th

A British bomber force made up of Handley Page Halifaxes and Avro Lancasters take part in a night-bombing raid on Schweinfurt, dropping some 2,000 tons of ordnance on the area.

1944
Thursday
March 30th - March 31st

Some 100 Avro Lancaster and Handley Page Halifax bombers mistakenly drop 400-tons of ordnance on Schweinfurt, thinking that it is their target of Nuremburg.

1944
Friday
July 21st

8th Air Force B-17 and B-24 bombers are launched on Schweinfurt.

1944
Monday
October 9th

8th Air Force B-17 and B-24 bombers are once again launched on Schweinfurt.

1945
Sunday
April 1st - April 31st

The final raid, this by American medium bombers, is launched against Schweinfurt.
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