Eighth Air Force

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The Eighth Air Force ( German  8th US Air Force , nickname "Mighty Eighth") is one of two active air fleets ( Numbered Air Forces ) (NAF) of the Air Force Global Strike Command of the United States Air Force . It provides strategic bomber and command and reconnaissance capabilities (C2ISR) for the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) and the United States Joint Forces Command (JFCOM). Its headquarters are at Barksdale Air Force Base , Louisiana. During World War II , the 8th Air Force was part of the US air force in the European theater of war.


Second World War

Immediately after the USA entered the war in January 1942, the 8th Air Force was set up as an association of the United States Army Air Forces in Savannah , Georgia. The headquarters was established in May of the same year in High Wycombe , Buckinghamshire, England, where the headquarters of the RAF Bomber Command was also located. The 8th Bomber Command ( Ira C. Eaker ), the 8th Air Support Command and the 8th Fighter Command were subordinate to it . The commander was Major General Carl A. Spaatz .

The first combat mission against targets in Europe flew bombers of the 15th Bombardment Group together with British bombers on July 4, 1942, the target were German airfields in the Netherlands. The first use with B-17 bombers was flown against the train station in Rouen on August 17, 1942 . The first attack on Reich territory took place on January 27, 1943 against Wilhelmshaven , a few days after the decision on the Combined Bomber Offensive at the Casablanca Conference .

In 1943 the following subdivisions belonged to the 8th Air Force:

  • VIII Bomber Command:
    • 1st Bomb Division:
      • 1st Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 40th Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 41st Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 94th Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 482nd Bombardment Group (Pathfinder)
    • 2nd Bomb Division:
      • 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 14th Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 20th Combat Bombardment Wing
    • 3rd Bomb Division:
      • 4th Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 13th Combat Bombardment Wing
      • 45th Combat Bombardment Wing
  • VIII Fighter Command:
    • 65th Fighter Wing
    • 66th Fighter Wing
    • 67th Fighter Wing
  • VIII Air Service Command
    • 3rd Combat Bombardment Wing
Long-range bomber B-17 "Flying Fortress" during the attack on the Focke-Wulf aircraft factory east of Marienburg (1943)

In January 1944, the 8th Air Force was combined with the 15th Air Force stationed in Italy as the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSAFE), whose command was taken over by General Spaatz. Lieutenant General James Harold Doolittle became the new commander of the 8th Air Force . In mid-1944, the 8th Air Force had around 2,000 heavy bombers and 1,000 fighter planes and a staff of over 200,000 men. For the fact that the 8th Air Force played a major role in gaining air supremacy over Europe and thus also in the victory of the Allies over the German Reich, it had to accept heavy losses. The operational losses in combat and due to other causes were as follows for the aircraft types used in Europe (total losses):

  • B-17: 4.754
  • B-24: 2.112
  • P-47: 1.043
  • P-38: 451
  • P-51: 2.201

Total: 10,561 machines, of which 6,866 four-engine bombers

After the end of the war in Europe, the headquarters of the 8th Air Force was relocated to Okinawa and Guam in July 1945 to take part in the air offensive against the main Japanese islands. She was re-equipped with B-29 long-range bombers. The 8th Air Force did not take part in any fighting because of Japan's surrender in mid-August ( Victory over Japan Day ).

Major operations during World War II that the 8th Air Force participated in were:

  • Operation Pointblank : Attacks on the German war industry from June 1943 (day attacks by the 8th Air Force and night attacks by the RAF)
  • Operation Double Strike : Attack on Schweinfurt and Regensburg (August 17, 1943)
  • Operation Argument : Attacks on plants of the German aircraft industry in February 1944 ( Big Week )
  • Operation Crossbow : Attacks on V1 and V2 launching and production facilities from August 1943
  • Operation Clarion : attack on the German transport network in February 1945

In 1944, the well-known actor James Stewart took part in over 20 enemy flights as an operations officer in the 453rd Bombardment Group of the 8th US Air Force and returned highly decorated to America. Acting colleague Walter Matthau also served in the same unit .

See also: Strategic Bombing Survey

Cold War

In 1946 it was relocated to the USA and placed under the newly formed Strategic Air Command . The bomber groups were now equipped with B-36 and B-50 bombers. After the Korean War , in which only the fighter wing of the 8th Air Force ( 27th Fighter Wing ) participated, the conversion to B-47 and B-52 took place . The equipment was KC-135 -Tankflugzeuge and nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles added.

After the outbreak of the Vietnam War , B-52 and tanker units were relocated to Asia (Guam, Okinawa and Thailand) in 1965. On January 1, 1975, the headquarters was moved to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and the units of the 2nd US Air Force, which had previously been based there, were taken over.

After 1990

During the Gulf War in 1991, several squadrons of the 8th Air Force were relocated to the Gulf region and carried out strategic bombing, aerial refueling and reconnaissance missions there. On June 1, 1992, the 8th Air Force was subordinated to the newly formed Air Combat Command (ACC). This was followed by participation in operations Desert Strike (1996) and Desert Fox (1998, Iraq), Allied Force (1999, Yugoslavia) and, since 2001, Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). It was here that the first combat missions of the Rockwell B-1 supersonic bomber and the Northrop B-2 stealth bomber took place .

In 2001, information gathering and information warfare capabilities began to be integrated in addition to the existing Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaisance (C2ISR) capabilities.

In August 2007 nuclear equipped cruise missiles of the type AGM-129 ACM were inadvertently transferred between two bases by means of a B-52 bomber. These should actually be transported without their warheads. The presence of the warheads was only noticed afterwards, so it was clear that several safety regulations for handling nuclear warheads had been violated.

On February 1, 2010, the 8th Air Force was subordinated to the recently established Air Force Global Strike Command , with some subordinate squadrons remaining with the ACC.


(before submission to the AFGSC)

  • Air Force Network Operations Center, Barksdale AFB , Louisiana
  • emblem Air Force Information Operations Center, Lackland AFB, Texas
  • emblem 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB
  • emblem5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB , North Dakota
  • emblem9th Reconnaissance Wing, Beale AFB , California
  • emblem55th Wing, Offutt AFB , Nebraska
  • emblem 67th Network Warfare Wing, Lackland AFB
  • emblem 116th Air Control Wing, Robins AFB, Georgia
  • emblem509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB , Missouri
  • emblem552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker AFB , Oklahoma
  • emblem 917th Wing, Barksdale AFB

See also


  • Maurer Maurer: Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Office of Air Force History, Washington DC 1983.
  • Martin W. Bowman:
    • B-17 Groups of the Eighth Air Force . Osprey Publishing 2000, ISBN 1841760218 .
    • B-17 Groups of the Eighth Air Force in Focus . Red Kite 2004.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. taphilo.com