The Eighth Air Force was the most awesome destruction machine in the history of armed conflict up to that time—and one of the most vulnerable. Here are a few of the numbers:
- The U.S. Marine Corps sustained nearly 20,000 fatal casualties in the war. The Eighth Air Force suffered over 26,000. An additional 28,000 of its airmen were shot down and made prisoners of war.
- Two-thirds of the men in the Eighth Air Force could expect to die, or be wounded in combat, or be captured by the enemy. 77% of the American boys who flew against the Reich before D-Day would wind up as casualties.
- 17% would either be wounded seriously, suffer a disabling mental breakdown, or die in a violent air accident over English soil.
- Only 14% of the fliers assigned to Maj. John Egan’s Bloody 100th Bomb Group in May 1943, made it to their 25th mission. This is how 100th Bomb Group got their bloody reputation and came to be known as the “Bloody Hundredth.”
- Most airmen flew 25 missions, and later, when the Air Force increased the number, 30 missions. Robert “Rosie” Rosenthal, the inspirational leader of the 100th Bomb Group flew 52!
- In ground combat, for every soldier killed, 3 or 4 were wounded. In the air forces, over 3 times as many men were killed as wounded.
- There were two victims in the bomber war: the boys in the planes and those they bombed—over half of them women and children. Masters of the Air tells both their stories. A total of 25 million Germans, almost a third of the nation’s wartime population and nearly half its industrial workforce, was bombed heavily. And somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 noncombatants residing in the Reich, free and un-free, perished under the bombs. In World War II, 60 million people were killed, most were non-combatants.