This is a short profile of my experiences in the RAF and the USAAF during WW2. Also this picture was taken about the time in 1943 when I was leaving the RAF to joined the 8th USAAF in England. I grew up in Southern California, USA. In 1941 I joined the British RAF and flew A-20 attack bombers in North Africa against the "Desert Fox" Nazi Gen Rommel. My assignment was to bust tanks, armored vehicles and other ground targets. After being wounded I was sent back to England to recuperate.
In 1943 I joined the 8th USAAF and flew B-17 Flying Fortresses with the 92 Bombardment Group for 44 combat missions as a ball turret gunner , flight engineer and bombardier. I was not yet comissioned so was denied a pilot position. Later I recieve a comission and transitioned to fighter aircraft. My most memorable combat mission was to Schweinfurt, Germany on 14 Oct ,1943. We lost sixty B-17s near and over the target. We were opposed by about 700 enemy fighters and other a/c. Apparently our plans were leaked and the Germans brought up additional fighter from the Russian front.
The NAZI found out we were coming and collected over 700 fighter aircraft from all over Germany including the Russia front to meet us. The white smoke you see at the lower left corner of the picture is coming from generators on the ground in an attempt to block our view of Schweinfurt.
The black object you see on the left hand side of the picture is the barrel of a .50 cal. machine gun. The B-17 carried 13 such guns. By the way the German guns were the 80mm canon with a range of about 25000 ft altitude.
Survival rate for aircrew for 1943 was 20 persent. We lost sixty B-17 Flying Fortress That day.
The 14th of Oct celebrates the 1943 8th Air Force mission to Schweinfurt, Germany. Military historians label this mission as "The most Savage Air Battle ever fought." The mission is commonly known as "Black Thursday". Some 120 B-17's were lost for various causes. 60 were shot down by either enemy fighters or flak. We were met by about 700 enemy fighter aircraft which had been called up from all fronts in Europe, including Russia. Nearly 1500 aircrew were killed or missing in action. Another 40 made it safely to the ground and became POW's or were killed by civilians upon reaching the ground.
Schweinfurt was the center of Germany's ball bearing industry. Destruction was critical since production of the Nazi war machine depended on ball bearings for most weapons from tanks to submarines. Success of this mission (mission 115) is now considered the pivotal point of the war in Europe. (i.e. advantage swung to our favor) It demonstrated that our capability to bomb any target in Europe in force.
John A. Piazza