A heavy night assault on Berlin and continued attacks on the invasion coast of France opened the 1944 air offensive over the New Year's weekend.
28 British Planes Lost
Little more than 24 hours after a great fleet of more that 2,000 U.S. and Allied warplanes had closed out 1943 with day-long attacks on Nazi targets all across France, the RAF sent Lancaster bombers to make Berlin their first target of the New Year.
Earlier on New Year's Day, RAF aircraft kept up the unending assault on military targets in northern France, possibly the reported emplacements for Hitler's secret rocket guns.
Twenty-eight British aircraft were lost in the New Year's Night operations which, aside from the ninth major blow since the Battle of Berlin began in mid-November, included attacks on battered Hamburg and other objectives in western Germany.
Marauders Continue Attacks
The daylight air assault in the closing hours of 1943 saw more than 750 American heavy bombers and almost as many U.S. fighters strike two ball-bearing plants in Paris and airfields near Cognac, in southwestern France.
The Paris targets were turning out ball-bearings for the German war machine, while the airfields struck near Cognac are used by the Luftwaffe for long-range reconnaissance and attacks on Allied shipping in the Atlantic. Twenty-nine heavy bombers and three fighters were reported missing. Twenty-eight German fighters were claimed by the U.S. fighter pilots and bomber gunners. Good bombing was reported in clear weather at all targets.
While the heavies with their vast escort were pounding the industrial targets and airfields, medium U.S. Marauder bombers continued their attacks on military installations in the Pas de Calais area, completing five straight lossless missions to such targets. RAF medium and fighter-bombers joined in the invasion-coast attacks, and continued them on New Year's Day when the Marauders were grounded.
Berlin Calls It Terror Raid
The RAF's raid on Berlin, which was made early Sunday morning to avoid moonlight, was pressed through layers of heavy cloud and in weather which cut down Nazi night fighter opposition considerably, crews reported. More than 1,100 tons were dropped, starting more fires and sending columns of smoke up through the clouds.
The assault, which carried the total weight of explosives on Berlin past 14,400 (American) tons, was concentrated chiefly on the outlying, industrial suburbs, according to Swedish reports.
Some estimates have placed at 50,000 tons the figure necessary to create in Berlin the sort of devastation which reduced Hamburg to impotency. Hamburg was blitzed with 10,000 tons in a series of day and night attacks by both USAAF and RAF bombers. Berlin has roughly three times the pre-war population of Hamburg and considerably more area.
German radio described the attack as "a pure terror raid, as it was carried out without sight of the ground..."
In an official survey of the year's record, Eighth Bomber Command yesterday revealed that December losses of heavy bombers were only 2.6 per cent, representing 167 aircraft. The average monthly loss from the first raid in August, 1942, to the end of November, 1943, was 3.8 per cent.
Other official year end totals, substantially as unofficial estimates had listed them on the last day of 1943, put the number of enemy fighters destroyed at 3,465 for the loss of 976 U.S. heavy bombers.
The names of 21 pilots designated as aces, after shooting down at least five enemy aircraft, were released yesterday by Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner's Eighth Fighter Command headquarters. Top scorer is Capt. Walker Mahurin, Ft. Wayne, Ind., who is credited with 14.
Eighth Fighter Command pilots flew nearly 25,000 sorties on 154 operational days last year, destroying 447 enemy planes for the loss of 150.
Eighth Service Command's year-end summary showed that Ferry and Transport services flew monthly total of 250,000 miles in transporting cargo and personnel, and ferried 1,500 combat aircraft to advanced bases.