In February 1942, a reconnaissance party of United States Army Air Forces officers arrived in England. Firmly wedded to the doctrine of daylight precision bombing, they believed they could help turn the tide of the war in Europe.
In the months that followed, they formed the Eighth Air Force – an organisation that grew at an astonishing rate. To accommodate it, almost seventy airfields were hastily built across the eastern counties of England.
At the heart of the Eighth Air Force were its bombardment groups, each equipped with scores of heavily armed, four-engine bombers. These Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Consolidated B-24 Liberators were soon punching through the enemy’s defences to bomb targets vital to its war effort. They were crewed by thousands of young American airmen, most of whom were volunteers.
Hear Mike Peters tell the story of just one ‘Bomb Group’ – the 381st, which crossed the Atlantic in May 1943. Arriving at RAF Ridgewell on the Essex-Suffolk border, its airmen quickly found themselves thrown into the hazardous and attritional air battle raging in the skies over Europe.