Fleets of Allied warplanes, spearheaded by a vast armada of American bombers and fighters, struck at Nazi targets throughout the occupied countries in daylight yesterday. The first bombers went out before daylight, and the last were still streaming home at dusk.
B26s Hit 'Rocket Coast'
The day-long attacks, concentrated chiefly against German munitions targets in France, followed the record-smashing American assault of the day before in which the USAAF sent out more fighters and more bombers -- both heavy and medium -- than ever had gone against the enemy before. The number unofficially was estimated at more than 1,700 planes.
Thursday's targets, which still had not been announced late last night, were in southwestern Germany and were attacked through ten-tenths cloud. The official German version, broadcast by Berlin, named Ludwigshafen and Mannheim as the principal targets.
Twenty-two heavy U.S. bombers and 12 fighters were reported missing. Twenty-three German fighters were claimed destroyed.
The fighter escort on Thursday, comprising P38s and P47s, as well as Spitfires, set up a new long-distance record, Eighth Air Force headquarters announced. Ludwigshafen is approximately 500 miles from London. The fighters' previous distance mark was the 750-mile round trip to Kiel.
Medium bombers of both the USAAF and the RAF, escorted by fighters, yesterday kept up their all-out attacks on military installations in northern France -- presumably the emplacements for Hitler's so-called secret rocket guns [V1 and V2 rockets]. U.S. Marauders again reported no losses.
While late last night there had been no official announcement of yesterday's targets, the Nazi-controlled French radio named suburban Paris as one of the day's objectives.
Through the day's long operations, U.S., RAF and Allied fighters threw up unending cover for the bombers.
For the USAAF, yesterday's and Thursday's assaults, in the greatest strength ever assembled for daylight air blows, rounded out a year in which the weight of the bombing attack grew steadily to a peak in December when probably more than 11,000 tons of high explosives and incendiaries were dropped by the heavies on Nazi targets.
Thursday's bomber and fighter force was described officially as "the largest American task force ever dispatched by the Eighth Air Force." It included probably more than 1,500 fighters and heavy bombers going to southwestern Germany, and the largest number of mediums ever to take off in the ETO.
There was no early indication of the size of yesterday's attack, but French radio stations were telling of a raid on the outer suburbs of Paris, even as other Allied bomber formations were streaming out across the English Channel.