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US Air Force

Air Support for the Battle of the Bulge

Air Support for the Battle of the Bulge

 

(The following address was presented to the Long Island Chapter of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge on December 13, 2000, at West Point Military Academy.)

 

Air support by the B-26 Marauder medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force was reduced by the serious snow falls which carpeted most of Europe.  Runways and taxi strips were constantly swept.  Planes were often bogged down on the runways and hauled out by tractors.  Wings accumulated snow, motors developed bugs from the cold and electrical systems in the planes “shorted out.”  The number of missions that could be flown were limited.  Only eight missions could be flown in the month of December.  An additional six missions were flown in January until the end of the Bulge.

Photo: B-26 Serial 43-34181 of the 495th Bomb Squadron, Stanstead Airfield England - World War II

Source: USAF Photo from the United States Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB Alabama From "History and Units of the United States Air Force". G.H.J Scharrings, European Aviation Historical Society, 2004. Image credited as USAFHRA Photo

Railway and road junctions were the main objects of attack assigned during the Ardennes Campaign to disrupt the enemy’s lines of communication and cripple their lines of supply and reinforcements.

 

Dawn on 23 December brought improved conditions for flying.  The Ninth Bomber Division gave the order for the mediums to take off.  The bomber crews knew that their sorties were a matter of life or death to the beleaguered Allied troops on the ground.

 

With the sudden reopening of the Allied air campaign, and with so many bombers in the air, fighter resources were stretched.  Mediums would have to brave the defenses alone.  Some crews had never seen an enemy fighter in the air.  Two days before Christmas many of them saw enough to last an entire combat tour.

 

One Marauder group, with an escort of fighter planes nearing its target at Euskirchen bridge, was devastated by the Jagdwaffe.  Thirty-seven Marauders were shot down that day and 182 planes sustained various categories of damage.In addition, three Thunderbolts were shot down.  The day was the worst Marauder losses in the entire war.

 

When weather permitted, the Ninth Air Force Blasted the German rail network.  Luftwaffe attack dwindled under the renewed onslaught from Allied fighters.  Help from above—in more than one sense—soon enabled the Allied ground forces to gear up for a final push into Germany.

 

In the Ardennes campaign, the Ninth Air Force B-26 Marauder group lost 49 planes, with a complement of six to eight men in each plane, approximately 316 airmen.  Some were able to parachute to safety.  Some managed to escape and evade capture.  Other became prisoners of war.

 

On 25 January 1945 the last of the surviving German troops retreated to Germany.  The supporting American forces from the Third and Ninth Armies went back to their previous battle positions, having accomplished their mission in eliminating the Bulge in the Ardennes sector.Allied air power played a major role in the German defeat as part of the air-ground offensive.
 
Source: Battle of the Bulge November 2002

Carl M. CHRIST

495th Bomb Squadron

344th Bomb Group.

9th U.S. Air Force

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium