The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, Martin Middlebrook

The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, Martin Middlebrook

The twin raids on Schweinfurt and Regensburg of 17 August 1943 were meant to cripple key parts of German industry - a huge Messerschmitt factory producing Bf 109 fighters and a key centre of the ball bearing industry. Instead the large American formations suffered losses so heavy that it soon became clear that unescorted raids deep into Germany simply weren't viable. The costly raids on Schweinfurt and Regensburg played a large part in the decision to introduce long range escort fighters, a move that played the major part in the destruction of the Luftwaffe.

This is a very detailed account of the raid, starting with the background and planning for the raid as well as a look at the wider strategic and the American and British methods of heavy bombing. We then follow the two formations as they fought their way to their targets, looking at every aircraft that was lost. This is the heart of the book, supported by plenty of eyewitness accounts from crew members (on both sides) as well as from civilians and slave labourers on the ground. There is also a very useful examination of the actual impact of the raids (heavy damage at one target, light damage at the other) and their long term impacts.

Middlebrook has produced some very useful maps and charts that illustrate the heavy cost of the two raids. The maps are encountered first, and show the raid's routes and where each aircraft was lost. The charts come at the end and show the original American bomber formations, with lost aircraft numbered. These charts give the reader a really clear idea of how heavy the American losses were, and how unevenly they were distributed - some groups lost no aircraft, others lost almost half of their aircraft.

This is an excellent account of one of the most important single days in the long Allied strategic bombing campaign,  with a great balance between the wider strategic and tactical picture and the human experience and cost of the raid.

Chapters
1 - A Dream Delayed
2 - The Targets
3 - Chain of Command
4 - Briefings
5 - Revised Plans
6 - The Luftwaffe
7 - Going In
8 - On Their Own
9 - Over Regensburg
10 - Under the Bombs
11 - The Diversions
12 - Up at Last
13 - The Dream Fades
14 - Over Schweinfurt
15 - In Schweinfurt
16 - The Cripples
17 - 'Herr Gott Sakrament!"
18 - Distant Action
19 - The Reckoning
20 - The Aftermath

Appendices
1 - American and Allied Operation Performance
2 - Luftwaffe Operational Performance
3 - Regensburg Briefing Notes
4 - The 'Wheels-Down' B-17 Crew
5 - A Gunner's Letter

Author: Martin Middlebrook
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 363
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2012 edition of 1983 original


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