"The Americans gave us the best they had, and they gave us everything we needed as and when the need arose… they were the bravest of the brave, and I know that I am speaking for my own bomber crews when I pay this tribute" - MRAF Sir Arthur Harris.
Through bitter experience and heavy losses, RAF Bomber Command had all but forsaken daylight bombing in favour of night operations, but their American allies thought otherwise. Ever since the USAAF had arrived in England it had continued to hone its skill of bombing by day. Churchill, however, remained skeptical.
Until, that is, January 1943 when at the Casablanca conference, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided to pursue a united bomber offensive directed against Germany itself. Brigadier Ira C. Eaker proposed that “if the RAF continues night bombing, and we bomb by day, we shall bomb them around the clock and the devil shall get no rest.”
The heroics of the American bomber crews were already legend but now, flying much of the trip over Germany without escort, the cost was heavy. As soon as their P-47 and P-38 escorts turned for home low on fuel, the Luftwaffe pounced. The American airmen were forced to endure a savage onslaught not only from enemy fighters, but some of the heaviest flak imaginable. Missions such as Schweinfurt, Regensburg and Ploesti have gone down in history as testament to their bravery.
Then, in early 1944 a new fighter emerged – the long-range P-51 Mustang – one of the finest piston-engine fighters ever made. The massed formations of Fortresses and Liberators now had protection anywhere over Germany, and especially the capital of the Reich – Berlin. And one of the foremost close escort units of the war was the 332nd Fighter Group – the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Made up of African American pilots, this renowned unit earned a formidable reputation for protecting their bombers and became one of the most highly respected fighter groups of WWII.
In early 1945 what remained of the Luftwaffe continued a stubborn resistance, typified in Anthony Saunders’ majestic painting. In one of their last massed attacks of the war, a group of 25 Me262s, predominately from JG7, engage a formation of B-17s from the 483rd Bomb Group during a mission to attack the Daimler-Benz tank factory in Berlin on 24 March 1945. Luckily for the bombers, their fighter escort, Mustangs from the 332nd Fighter Group – the Red Tails – were on hand to intervene, quickly dispatching three of the German jets in the combat that ensued.
The raid was the longest bombing mission ever undertaken by the US Fifteenth Air Force during World War II – a 1,600 mile round trip involving a gruelling ten-hour mission from their bases in southern Italy, crossing the Alps twice. With insufficient fuel to make it back to base, the crews knew that on their return they would have to land their B-17s on any friendly Allied airfield in northern Italy they could find.
Each copy of Anthony Saunders' Limited Edition, Long Haul to Berlin, is signed by two highly-regarded B-17 aircrew and two famous P-51 Tuskegee Pilots.
Lt Col HARRY STEWART Jr. 301st FS, 332nd FG
He flew 43 combat missions and scored 3 victories on a single mission.
Lt Col ROBERT FRIEND 301st FS, 332nd FG
One of the original Tuskegee pilots, he completed 142 combat missions.
SSgt DOUGLAS WARD
301st BG, 15th AF & 305th BG, 8th AF
Flying 37 missions as a Ball Turret Gunner he was often escorted by the Red Tails
SSgt RICHARD KAMINSKI 457th BG, 8th AF
Completed 15 daylight missions as a Waist Gunner on B-17s over Europe.