March 4

This Day in History

World War II

Mar 4, 1944:

Eighth Air Force bombs Berlin

The U.S. Eighth Air Force launches the first American bombing raid against the German capital.

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) had been conducting night raids against Berlin and other German cities since November 1943, suffering losses at increasingly heavy rates. While the British inflicted significant damage against their targets, the German defenses proved quite effective: The RAF flew 35 major raids between November 1943 and March 1944 and lost 1,047 aircraft, with an even greater number damaged.

Having already suffered heavy losses during day raids of various German industrial centers, the Americans had been cautious in pursuing night raids. But in March, with the RAF exhausted, the U.S. Eighth Air Force finally pursued night bombing and made Berlin its primary target. Fourteen U.S. bomber wings took off for Germany from England on the evening of March 4; only one plane reached Berlin (the rest dropped their loads elsewhere; few planes were lost to German defenses). In retrospect, the initial American attack was considered "none too successful" (as recorded in the official history of U.S. Army Air Force). Subsequent attacks in March were more effective.

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