22 Heart Wrenching Images Of Bombers That Didn’t Make It Home


The strategic bombing campaign during WWII cost the lives of roughly 160,000 Allied airmen and 33,700 planes in the European theater alone.

When looking at the RAF, of 7,374 Lancasters built during WWII, 3,349 would be lost in action and the crew had only a one-in-five chance of escaping. For the B-17 crews that number was slightly better, the B-17 had more emergency exits and they had a 3 in 5 chance to make it out.

Not even one in four US airmen completed the 25 missions over Germany needed to be sent home. That number was eventually raised twice, first to 30 and then to 35 missions.

Regardless of how you feel about the methods used and the goals set, the bravery of the pilots is amazing, getting into their airplanes for a mission knowing the odds.

Wherever possible we have added information to the images about the crews fate. Please note that the reason there are so few RAF pictures in the series is that they flew night missions.

Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak over Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak over Germany. It burst into flames and crashed a mile west of the target. Two chutes were seen to come out of the plane. Its crew was 1st Lt Robert E. Stockwell, pilot, 2d Lt Albert Jedinak, bombardier-navigator, S/Sgt Hollis A. Foster and S/Sgt Egon W. Rust, gunners. Lt Stockwell had been with the Group almost from the beginning of its existence.
B-17 Flying Fortress 486th BG Merseburg Lutzkendorf November 1944
B-24H Liberator 42-94812 “Little Warrior” of the 493rd BG, 861st BS hit by flak over Quakenbrück Germany – June 29, 1944. One crewman managed to bail out safely but was killed by civilians on the ground.

A U.S. Army Air Forces Martin B-26G-11-MA Marauder (s/n 43-34565) from the 497th Bombardment Squadron, 344th Bombardment Group, 9th Air Force, enveloped in flames and hurtling earthward after enemy flak scored a direct hit on the left engine while aircraft was attacking front line enemy communications center at Erkelenz, Germany.
B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber in Flames
The U.S. Army Air Force Consolidated B-24L-10-FO Liberator, s/n 44-49710, named “STEVENOVICH II”, of the 779th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group, shot down by Flak during an attack on ground troops near Lugo, Emilia Romagna, Italy, on 10 April 1945.

This Boeing B-17F had its left wing blown off by an Me-262 over Crantenburg, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Boeing B-17G Wee-Willie 42-31333 LG-W, 323th squadron of 91st bombing group, over Kranenburg, Germany, after port wing blown off by flak. Only the pilot, Lieutenant Robert E. Fuller, and one crew member survived.
A Consolidated B-24, its rear fuselage blown off, begins its plunge to destruction on German soil. (U.S. Air Force photo)
A B-24M of the 448th Bombardment Group, serial number 44-50838, downed by a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.