The Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force In 13 Stunning pictures!

Created in November 1943, the Fifteenth Air Force was the direct descendant of the American Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces that had fought in the Mediterranean since the summer of 1942. Its force included 210 B-17 Flying Fortress and 90 B-24 Liberator bombers escorted by P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters.

They took the air battle against the Axis to areas which Allied bombers based in England could not reach: southern Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans. Their reach in the Balkans included the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, vital to Germany’s war effort.

The crews fought the weather, as well as the enemy, by flying over the Alps to reach many of their targets and made a significant contribution to the victory over the Axis powers and Nazi Germany.

Although enemy fighter planes were a major menace during the first nine months of the Fifteenth’s air war, ubiquitous antiaircraft fire, called flak, also took a toll on American bombers throughout the campaign. This book tells the story of the brave airmen who bombed the majority of Europe to win the war.

Get the complete story of one of the most ambitious aerial campaigns in history – the bombing of Europe under the Axis powers – illustrated with over 200 compelling photos.

All images come from this excellent book:

The Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force
By Kevin A Mahoney
Zenith Press
ISBN: 978 0 7603 4815 4

pg 012
An unidentified Luftwaffe pilot in the cockpit of his Me 109.
pg 021
Pilots from the 325th Fighter Group chat with a Soviet officer at a Russian base during the first Russian shuttle mission, flown by the Fifteenth Air Force in early June 1944.
pg 036
P-38 Lightnings of the 1st Fighter Group returns to their base in Italy after a bomber escort mission that included the strafing of ground targets in Austria.
pg 050
Armorers load bombs into the bomb bay of a B-17 before a mission to hit marshaling yards in northern Italy in the spring of 1944.
pg 059
A B-24 of the 449th Bomb Group leaves towering clouds of smoke behind it during a raid on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, in the spring of 1944.
pg 074
Sergeant William Leukering, 483rd Bomb Group, was awarded the Air Medal at a Group awards ceremony in June 1944. He wears the ribbon on his chest, as the medal itself was not available. Regrettably, he was killed on July 18, when the 483rd lost fourteen Fortresses during an attack on the airfield at Memmingen, Germany. Photo Source: Kevin A. Mahoney
pg 102
Fortresses of the 414th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, leave contrails behind on the way to bomb marshaling yards in Vienna, Austria, on January 15, 1945.
pg 148
Mustangs representing three of the four P-51 fighter groups assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force. From top to bottom 31st, 52nd, and 332nd Fighter Groups. Mustangs usually escorted reconnaissance missions in the final months of the war, as German jets became a menace to unarmed reconnaissance Lightnings.
pg 153
Pilots of the 15th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, the main photo reconnaissance unit of the Fifteenth Air Force for much of 1944 until the 5th Photo Reconnaissance Group was assigned to the Fifteenth that fall.
pg 173
Lieutenant Thomas Smith of the 14th Fighter Group examines damage inflicted to his P-38 after a collision with a German fighter on January 16, 1944. Despite the severe damage, he was able to crash-land in a wheat field near his base.
pg 175
The crew of a bomber that crash-landed on the island of Vis prepare to return to Italy in a C-47 transport in November 1944.
pg 187
Fifteenth Air Force B-24s, believed to be from the 465th Bomb Group, over the smoke-covered synthetic oil refinery at Blechhammer, Germany, in late 1944.
pg 198 (Medium)
A tremendous smoke plume towers over the synthetic oil refinery at Oswiecim, Poland, part of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp complex, during the first raid on the refinery on August 20, 1944.

All photographs: National Archives and Records Administration unless otherwise noted.

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