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

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. (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.

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.

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.

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 crewmember survived.

A B-24M of the 448th Bombardment Group, serial number 44-50838, downed by a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

With one wing gone, a B-29 falls in flames after a direct hit by enemy flak over Japan.

B-17G Fortress “Mizpah” took a direct AAA hit in the nose on mission to Budapest, 14 Jul 1944. 2 were killed instantly but the pilot held her level long enough for crew to get out & become POW’s. The aircraft crashed near Dunavecse, Hungary

B-24 Liberator in flames not far from Vienna. The crew did not survive.

B-17 Bomber Going Down 490th Bomb Group – Monheim Germany

B-17G Fortress ‘Miss Donna Mae II’ drifted under another bomber on a bomb run over Berlin, 19 May 1944. A 1,000 lb bomb from above tore off the left stabilizer and sent the plane into an uncontrollable spin. All 11 were killed

Aerial Photo B-24 Liberator Shot Down Over Germany 1944

Crew bails out of damaged B-17F Fortress “Patches” at 22,500 feet over Wiener Neustadt, Austria, 10 May 1944. 8 of the crew became POWs and the other 2 were killed. Note 2 right engines feathered

B-24 Bomber Flak Damage, it would not make it home

The crash sequence of a U.S. Army Air Force Douglas A-20G-25 Havoc (s/n 43-9432) during an attack on Kokas, Papua New Guinea, on 22 July 1944. Twelve A-20s from the 387th Bombardment Squadron, 312th Bombardment Group attacked the Japanese barge depot and seaplane station at Kokas. 43-9432 (tail code “V”) was part of the last flight over the target. 

This section was led by Captain Jack W. Klein (taking the photos), followed by 2nd Lt. Melvin H. Kapson (the other aircraft visible) and 1st Lt. James L. Knarr. Approaching from the inland side, they dropped 115 kg bombs which can be seen exploding in the background. Knarr’s aircraft was hit by antiaircraft fire and crashed into the bay, exploding when it the sea. He and his gunner, SSgt Charles G. Reichley, were killed.

Allied B-17 of the 836th Squadron 10 April 1945. Cannon shells from a German Me262 ripped into it’s tail, perforating the vertical stabilizer & inboard right wing panel. Fire in No 3 engine, flames swept back to the tail. Peeled off shortly afterwards and dropped behind. Crew bailed out at RP, 7 miles West of Elbe River. Later right wing came off.

A direct hit by FLAK on a RAF Lancaster bomber in 1945

Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, LW127 ‘HL-F’, of No. 429 Squadron RCAF, in flight over Mondeville, France, after losing its entire starboard tailplane to bombs dropped by another Halifax above it. LW127 was one of 942 aircraft of Bomber Command despatched to bomb German-held positions, in support of the Second Army attack in the Normandy battle area (Operation GOODWOOD), on the morning of 18 July 1944. The crew managed to abandon the aircraft before it crashed in the target area.

B-24H Liberator bomber of 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force exploding in mid air after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany, 1944

B-24J Liberator of the 854th Bomb Squadron after being hit by light-flak during low-level supply drop for the 82nd and 101st Airborne near Eindhoven, Holland and driven into the ground, Sep 18 1944.

Images sources:

US Airforce / NARA images via Wikipedia / WW2DB / WorldWarPhoto

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.

@joris1944 facebook.com/joris.nieuwint