Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission on August 17, 1943. On this day, the US eighth air force executed a strategic bombing attack against the Luftwaffe on a Messerschmitt BF 109 plant in Regensburg and a Ball-bearing factory in Schweinfurt. While the mission was a success in Regensburg, it inflicted heavy damage on the US side, with the loss of 60 bombers and more damaged and never to be repaired.
In Pen and Sword’s recent reprint of The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission: The American Raids on 17 August 1943, author Martin Middlebrook provides the full story of this operation. Unlike previous titles on this mission, Middlebrook manages to describe both sides of the story – the American and German – as well as the civilian experiences in Schweinfurt and Regensburg during this day. Middlebrook was able to document all of these experiences through extensive research and interviews with the people who were there to witness the event.
On the preparation of the book, he writes:
I [visited] Washington for one week to study the records of the seventeen Bomb Groups and five Fighter Groups taking part in the mission, plus the records of higher levels of command.
Using parts of the records, I contacted the mayors, etc. of communities where airmen had lives in 1943 and by using other proactive methods, found about 300 participants that were willing to help me.
[I also] made a six-week interviewing visit to the US to carry out 80 interviews, always being received with much enthusiasm and help. My trip extended to what I call ‘coast, to coast, to coast’ – from the Atlantic, to the Pacific, and on to the Gulf.
I repeated the same process of research, interviewing and correspondence in Germany for similar sources among Luftwaffe aircrew and the worker and other citizens of the two target towns.
Aside from the incredibly in-depth research that was put into this book, Middlebrook also reveals the truth about previously believed story on the 100th Bomb Group and their title the ‘Bloody Hundredth’.
The 100th Bomb Group lost nearly half of its strength on the Regensburg mission. Later, there developed the story, on incomplete evidence, that the air gunners of one of the lost bombers on the raid had incensed German fighter pilots by opening fire on them after the pilot had accepted ‘surrender’ by lowering his landing wheels to resist further attack.
For years afterwards, the 100th Bomb Group called themselves ‘The Bloody Hundredth’ because German pilots, they said, regularly sought out any B-17 that was a member of the 100th, concentrating attacks on their formation in revenge for that action on August 17th.
In the appendix to my book, I use firm evidence that there was no substance to this group’s claim and that the incident did take place, but involved a crew from a different bomb group.
To learn more about the Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission and the debate over the 100th Bomb Group’s ‘Bloody Hundredth’ title, you can purchase a copy of Martin Middlebrook’s book here.
This title is also available as an eBook across all retail sites.
To read about the second raid on Schweinfurt on October 14, 1943 continue here.