An operation against a ball bearing factory in
a two wave attack on two targets deep inside Germany, proved disastrous
for the Americans. The first wave targeted an aircraft factory
at Regensburg and after hitting its target would fly on to north
Africa, unhindered from enemy fighters.
The second wave would hit the ball bearing factory
at Schwienfurt, and then would return to England. Engaging the
enemy on the return to England. It would be about timing, as the
German fighters returned to the ground after engaging the first
wave, the second wave would arrive at its target and so catching
the Germans off guard and on the ground refuelling.
Due to bad weather the second wave delayed in
taking off, and this delay cost them dearly. After engaging the
American first wave, the German fighters were able to land, refuel
and return to the skies to meet the second wave.
The Americans lost 21 aircraft before it even
reached its target, and before any bombs could be dropped. The
US 8th Air Force second wave had to face the enemy fighters on
the way in to its target, and then again on the way back to England.
Although the operation did disrupt ball bearing production for
six weeks, the Americans lost over 60 aircraft.
On the 14th October, 1943, the US returned to
hit the same target and this time destroyed over 60% of the production
facilities, more concentrated raids would have totally destroyed
all ball bearing production which would have caused major problems
for the Nazi war machine. But in the process of the second raid
on Schwienfurt, American loses were great. Over 120 bombers were
lost or damaged beyond repair, more raids on this target were
ruled out of the question.
The RAF would revert to night area offensive
on German cities, but they would have to do it alone. The US 8Th
Air Force had been badly depleted.