American heavy bombers over the weekend struck their fifth blow at Nazi targets in 13 days, spreading fire and destruction in the German port of Bremen and maintaining an operational average which, with good weather, may make November the biggest month since the USAAF came to the ETO.
Escorted All the Way
The U.S. heavies have achieved ten raids in a month three times, the last in September. With 16 days to go, the Eighth Air Force formation seemed likely to score a new monthly high for operations, while a new monthly mark for total bomb tonnage is almost a certainty in view of the steadily increasing force of bombers which Lt. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, air chief in the ETO, promised last summer.
A fleet of Flying Fortresses and Liberators, accompanied all the way by P38 Lightnings and P47 Thunderbolts, struck Bremen in early daylight Saturday, beat off attacks by hundreds of German fighters and rocket planes, and came back with the loss of 15 heavy bombers and nine fighters, according to Eighth Air Force Headquarters.
Berlin Hit Twice
A total of 43 enemy planes were destroyed, an official communique claimed; 33 by bomber gunners and ten by the escorting fighters.
It was the longest mission -- about 750 miles' round trip -- the fighters have yet completed with the bombers.
Bomber gunners reported that the German interceptors, carrying anti-bomber rockets, repeatedly drove inside the 1,000-yard range from beyond which they formerly fired their missiles.
Flak over the target area, hitherto possibly more concentrated than at any other single target in Europe, was comparatively light, combat crews reported, giving further substantiation to the theory that the Luftwaffe has decided to rely more on its fighters and rocket-firing planes than on the massive flak defenses which have guarded all vital points in Germany since the first heavy night raids by the RAF.
RAF operations over the weekend included two night raids in a row on Berlin by Mosquitoes, which also hammered industrial targets in western Germany Saturday night. There were no reported losses as the Mosquitos kept the sirens wailing in Germany for the fifth straight night.
With Hamburg blitzed out of the war for some time to come, Bremen today is the Reich's largest and most important port, and the Nazis threw hundreds of planes into the air Saturday to protect it. Airmen reported combats with FW190s, Me109Fs and 109Gs, Ju88s and even Ju87Ds, the Stuka dive-bombers of Germany's own blitzkrieg days.
Intense cold, with temperatures as low as 50 degrees below zero, were reported by crews of the Fortresses and Liberators, which carried high explosives and incendiaries to the shipyards which build most of Germany's 750- and 1,200-ton submarines and are the second largest producers of the 500-ton undersea craft.