Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Mighty Eighth Air Force

Savannah, Georgia

The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum is on exit 102 of Interstate 95 in Georgia. We've passed it a 100 times and I've always been interested but the timing has always been wrong.

I give the Museum a big thumbs up. The exhibits are very thoughtful and I enjoyed it at least as much as the Imperial War Museum in London.

Over 350,000 men served in this mighty war machine. They were scattered in scores of bases in eastern England. They were a huge collection of B-17s, B-24s, P-47s, P-38s and P-51s. Over 26,000 of the men that served in this outfit were killed and an equal number were taken prisoner after being shot down.

At times, the Eighth could mobilize 2,000 heavy bombers a day and 1,000 long range escort fighters for raids on German aircraft factories, ball bearing plants, rail yards and oil refineries. When D-Day came on June 6, 1944, there were no German planes over the beaches. The Luftwaffe had been decimated and total air supremacy had been achieved by the Eighth Air Force.

One of the unanticipated consequences of the success of the Mighty Eighth was that the Germans moved their aircraft production far to the East, out of bombing range. As a result, the Soviets captured the latest German aircraft factories and engineers, giving them a major boost in the early cold war.

I took the picture below on the 60th anniversary of D-Day. It's the American Cemetery in Normandy on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It's beautifully maintained by the French. About half of the graves were officers and enlisted men of the Eighth Air Force who died before D-Day. Dozens of buses filled with French schoolchildren arrived that day at the cemetery to place roses on the graves. Viva la France.

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