The Eighth Air Force was grounded yesterday after striking U-boat pens, airfields and railroad yards in one of the heaviest days of USAAF operations in the ETO. Sustaining the offensive on vital German war targets, however, was a Mosquito raid on Berlin early yesterday.
Fortresses attacking airfields at Cognac and submarine docks at La Pallice in France flew more than 1,600 miles on their 11-hour round trip Thursday and landed at their bases after dark. In other assaults on German targets in France, the Forts damaged airfields at LaRochelle and blasted Nantes.
For the Marauders, the offensive marked the start of their third month of continuous attack against German fighter forces screening vital industrial areas of northwestern Europe.
On their 59th and 60th missions, the Marauders swept over France, hitting targets at Beaumont le Roger and Tricqueville and damaging the railroad yards at Serqueux and a power station at Rouen.
In its 58 missions in two months against German fighter forces and installations in Western Europe, the Eighth Air Support Command lost only 11 planes. More than 2,700 tons of bombs were dropped in more than 2,500 sorties.
Marauder attacks on landing fields and airdrome facilities have forced German fighters to withdraw from many frontline fields, Col. Samuel E. Anderson, a medium bombardment wing commander, said.
In heavy blows against German submarines the Fortresses bombed U-boat pens at La Pallice and the Marauders went to Cognac to smash the Chateaubriand airfield, used by German fighters and by bombers on the anti-shipping patrol. From the base Focke-Wulf Kuriers range in a wide arc over the sea to attack convoys and inform submarines of convoy positions.
Intense fighter opposition, lasting for more than half an hour, was encountered by some of the groups attacking Nantes. Little fighter opposition was met over the other targets Thursday, but crews reported medium to intense flak over La Pallice.
Pilots reported the Luftwaffe appeared to be more anxious to fight than it has been during recent Allied attacks on industry and airfields in occupied territory. In the Beaumont le Roger raid, the Germans sent up their famous yellow-nosed FW190s.
"The Hun seemed fairly anxious to fight if he thought he had a chance," one pilot said. "He seemed to realize, however, that he was getting the worst of it."
Twenty-seven enemy fighters were destroyed by the Forts and two by escorting Thunderbolts. Thirteen heavy bombers and three fighters did not return.