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Schweinfurt Raids Timeline

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 9/5/2014

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.

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Crippling the German war machine from above was always a priority for the Allies. Two of the primary, 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 limited in range, unable to proceed with the bomber formations deep into German-held territories. Comparatively, the Germans held an advantage fighting over home soil, particularly if notified of incoming bomber formations and a calculated plan enacted in response.


The initial strikes against Schweinfurt and Regensburg were launched on August 17th, 1943. However, poor weather ensured the operation was faulty from the start, forcing the two bomber groups - 4th BG and 1st BG - to take off at different times. This allowed the enemy to be alerted from the first bomber way and prepare the defenses for the inbound second wave. Indeed, the 1st Bomber Group group took off a full 3.5 hours after the 4th Bomber Group.


As expected, the 4th Bomber group was pounced upon by Luftwaffe forces as soon as the Allied fighter escort had left the group. The end result was 24 lost aircraft after the attack on Regensburg. As this group was required to land at bases in North Africa, preserving daylight was essential to crew survival - the battered formation eventually made their way to safety.


Things proved just as dreadful for the 1st Bomber Group as they moved in to attack 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 into the region from other nearby German bases. Some 250 German fighters were committed to the ensuing defense.


While Schweinfurt was successfully bombed, the Allied bombers of the 1st Bomber Group made the long treacherous journey back to their bases in the United Kingdom. However, the dogged German defense cost the operation another 36 bombers and aircrew.The missions themselves proved somewhat successful in that two of the five major ball-bearing facilities were hit - though these were only 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".


Schweinfurt would remain a key target for the Allies for the duration of the war with subsequent attacks launched into 1945.


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There are a total of 18 Schweinfurt Raids Timeline Events. Entries are listed below by date of occurrence.

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.