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  #1  
Old 20th September 2006, 22:20
John Beaman John Beaman is offline
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15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

My library on the 15th AAF is a little thin, so I’d like to ask a question. The fighter escort tactics of the 8th AAF Fighter Command, and its evolution(s), are well known, especially after the P-51 was available in quantity. My question is how did the 15th AAF fighter groups evolve their escort tactics after the Mustang became more available in the summer of 1944? Did they emulate the 8th and its “lessons learned” or evolve and codify their own tactics for escorting the 15th AA bomber missions?

TIA
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Old 22nd September 2006, 10:10
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Hi John,

I am not much familiar with history of escort tactics for 8AF, but can write how did it look like at 15AF, as far as I know.
With P-47s, escort was limited to Souther Hungary...and P-38s as well did not penetrate too deep...however, when first long range missions appeared, there were already Mustangs to do its job...
There were grops of fighters, that flew ahead of main force and cleared area...other units provided close support to big brothers....on the way back, straffing has been usually done by some flight of particular group, in terms to waste ammo on anything... But always some fighters stayed with bombers up to Jugoslavia...
As war proceeded, sweeps became more essepntial than escort and protection from less and less appearing Luftwaffe. That was also the case for (from my research) big successes of 6.dec 1944 and 17.dec 1944 actions, when in spite of huge losses, Luftwaffe fighters were able to attack unprotected formations of bombers...
No one expected them to be there and in such a numbers...

When eastern front was in Hungary and area, so in the flight route of US fighters, straffing was even more intense.

did it help? did it differ from 8af?

Peter
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Old 22nd September 2006, 16:29
NickM NickM is offline
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Say Peter:

There's not a lot of info on the 15th AAF; The missions of Dec 6 & Dec 17, 1944 are not familiar to me; what happened & what were the losses & units involved?

thanks, ahead of time


NickM
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Old 22nd September 2006, 17:22
John Beaman John Beaman is offline
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Quote:
Originally Posted by bioteror
Hi John,

I am not much familiar with history of escort tactics for 8AF, but can write how did it look like at 15AF, as far as I know.
With P-47s, escort was limited to Souther Hungary...and P-38s as well did not penetrate too deep...however, when first long range missions appeared, there were already Mustangs to do its job...
There were grops of fighters, that flew ahead of main force and cleared area...other units provided close support to big brothers....on the way back, straffing has been usually done by some flight of particular group, in terms to waste ammo on anything... But always some fighters stayed with bombers up to Jugoslavia...
As war proceeded, sweeps became more essepntial than escort and protection from less and less appearing Luftwaffe. That was also the case for (from my research) big successes of 6.dec 1944 and 17.dec 1944 actions, when in spite of huge losses, Luftwaffe fighters were able to attack unprotected formations of bombers...
No one expected them to be there and in such a numbers...

When eastern front was in Hungary and area, so in the flight route of US fighters, straffing was even more intense.

did it help? did it differ from 8af?

Peter
Thanks Peter

My interest was in how the tactics changed and when. The 8th started off "guarding" a particular group or several boxes all the way to the target and back, as possible. Obviously, they might get pulled off in combat with German fighters.

In the Spring of 1944, when the P-51 was becoming more available, Doolittle changed the tactics to have a FG "guard" an air section of the bomber stream. Once the stream had passed that point, if the FG had not engaged in combat, the FG was then released to do "free hunting". This was much more effective.

So, I wanted to know if these were the same tatics used by 15th AF fighter groups during 1944 and 1945 when the P-51 was more available? Your commentary sounds like it was.
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Old 23rd September 2006, 07:48
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

The tactics for 12thAF and 15th AF were pretty much the same as the evolved 8thAF. The USAAF did a prety good job of disseminating "Lessons Learned"

You had Area Patrols in which a Group or Squadron would go to a designated point and sweep that are ahead or with the Bombers, but in a specific Area. You had Escort/Ramrod in which the the Fighters would RV with the bombers and different squadrons would take specific areas (left right lead high) on the Bomb Wing they were assigned to (Ramrod). Even the terminology Ramrod, Rodeo, etc were the same.
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Old 23rd September 2006, 10:50
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Csaba B. Stenge Csaba B. Stenge is offline
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Well, yes, the tactic was similar.

BTW to me, it is interesting, that altough the Mustang FG's defended generally areas over the bomber stream, not escorted just particular BG's, the 332nd FG was mentioned since the end of the war as the only FG, which 'not lost a single bomber from the escorted ones'. It is evidently not true, just a propaganda statement, the German and Hungarian fighters shot down bombers in the areas, where the 332nd FG escorted the heavies.

The 306th FW used especially effective the outlaw formation on 7 August, 1944, when three outlaw flights of the 31st FG demolished a mixed german-Hungarian Messer formation. They were less tied to the bombers, so become more effective.

Csaba

P.S. Peter, the P-47's flew till the northern border of Hungary.
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Old 24th September 2006, 18:27
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Csaba - I also wonder regarding the low probability of escorted bombers by the 332nd suffering zero losses?

The first question that comes to mind is whether they flew ONLY escort in which they were assigned a very specific bomb wing - and the bomb wings they escorted that day flew great formations, easy to cover, and the Luftwaffe NEVER attcked in force.

If they flew Area Patrol along the route, the claim of 'no losses' would be harder to pinpoint as several fighter groups were usually within 20-30 miles of the RV and Patrol area..

If they ever left their escorted bombers to strafe on the deck, then the bombers would be very lucky indeed to not lose some to a chance attack along the route.

As you know the Luftwaffe was very clever in finding weak spots along a bomber stream to enable a 'local superiority' mass attack which cut out many bombers then dive to avoid on coming squadrons of US fighters.

My father's group, the 355th FG, was one of the very best at 'discipline' in following escort assignements strictly - they never fell for the many ruses the Luftwaffe would pull such as sending a single flight to attack and dive away hoping to draw them away for either the larger force above or a trap below - but in two cases were overwhelmed by local superiority - in one case April 24, 1944 near Munich and November 26, 1944 near Hanover. In both cases the bomb wing was strung out over 20 miles. In both cases despite excellent coverage by three squadrons the Luftwaffe was able to attack and shoot down many bombers with one pass and an overwhelming local superiority - and lost 24 and 26 respectively to the 355th AFTER the attack was made.

So, either the 332 combined great discipline with equally great luck at never encountering a large gaggle, or there is a degree of myth to the story. Having said that they did a superb job of escort - the lack of a single air ace probably emphasizes the extreme discipline of sticking with the bombers...
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Old 26th September 2006, 11:35
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Csaba B. Stenge Csaba B. Stenge is offline
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

You are right, the 332nd FG missed the biggest battles in this area, so no ace in that Group (Lee Archer is appears in some pages in the net as the only pilot with 5 kills in this unit, but only 4 kills were confirmed to him officially - I asked him about it but no answer).

We have discussed several weeks ago the battle west of Budapest on 27 July, 1944 (where a German Fw 190 pilot claimed 3 B-24's during one minute and I just asked, that how was it possible, that all claims were confirmed) On that particular day, for example, the 332nd FG was in that area as well, but couldn't safe the bombers (and the Hungarian fighters even shot down one of their Mustangs as well, the pilot killed - BTW the pilot, who shot him down, was shot down four weeks later by an ace of the 325th FG and he lost his life too...)
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Old 9th June 2011, 02:16
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

Obviously I came late to this thread but the 15th is of particular interest. Any examination of the air-air records of the 7 fighter groups clearly shows that the three top-scoring groups (325, 31 and 52) benefited from flying Mustangs. They seem to have been assigned penetration and target support more than anything else and thus were best positioned to engage Axis interceptors. The P-38 groups (1, 14, 82) generally drew withdrawal support, but also remember that they performed many dive bombing missions which seldom drew enemy aircraft.

The controversial claim of the 332nd was laid to rest around 2005 by researchers at Maxwell AFB who combed the mission reports. They found 25 heavies lost to e/a when escorted by the Red Tails. Obviously, without similar data on the other groups we don't know if 25 was good, bad or indifferent. Evidently the group flew several escorts without losing a bomber before the first losses occurred, and the initial record was interpreted to stand for the entire war.
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Old 9th June 2011, 04:24
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Re: 15th AAF fighter escort tactics?

The 15th, like the 8th, assigned different fighter groupd to escort specifix boxes of a formation of bombers within a Division - on a Ramrod. Timing and navigation were important to co-rodinate R/V point and time.

Variations included two squadrons flying high over an assigned box while a thrird squadron would sweep along the bomber stream to extend coverage and depend on radio alerts between bombers and fighter escort on C-Channel.

Variations for escorting two lead boxes included the same approach except the two squadrons high on either side and the lead squadron several miles out in front. The Zemke Fan was a variation starting with four ship flights ranging in different directions, but Zemke's personal experience of May 12 caused the Fan to send two eight ship sections out in front in perhaps a 60 degree cone while the other two were out to either side and high.

The Luftwaffe tactics eveolved the same way in Sud front as West and USAAF fighters adapted similarly in both theatres. For the longest missions the Mustang Groups were almost always the target escorts with Lightnings performing deep Penetration and Withdrawal.

Before the P-47s attained long range capability, it was always the shorter/mid range penetration/withdrawal and R/V with Lightning and Mustang groups to perform target escort or sweeps.

Offhand i don't recall P-38s deeper than Leipzig, or as far as Munich/Poznan.

I do know P-38s made Ploesti raids.
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