The strategic bombing of targets in WWII took a deadly toll on the crews of these aircraft. Just in the European theater alone 160,000 Allied airmen lost their lives, and 33,700 aircraft were destroyed.
This list is a collection of incredible images capturing the last moments of some of these aircraft.
25. B-17 “Silver Dollar”
This aircraft was damaged and lost on March 9th 1944 when bombs released from an aircraft above struck the rear of the aircraft, completely sheering off the tail section.
With all engines still running, ‘Silver Dollar’ then dived down into a spin, before crashing in Berlin, Germany.
24. B-17 over Merseburg
B-17 Flying Fortress 486th Bomb Group over Merseburg Lutzkendorf November 1944.
23. A-20 Havoc
This is a Douglas A-20J-10-DO (S/N 43-10129) of the 409th or 416th Bomb Group after being hit by flak while flying over Germany.
The hit caused the A-20 to catch fire and crash a mile away from the intended target. It was recorded that two parachutes were seen come from the flaming aircraft.
On board were 1st Lt Robert E. Stockwell, pilot, 2d Lt Albert Jedinak, bombardier-navigator, S/Sgt Hollis A. Foster and S/Sgt Egon W. Rust, gunners.
22. B-24 “Little Warrior”
This is B-24H Liberator “Little Warrior” of the 493rd BG, 861st BS after being struck directly by flak over Quakenbrück Germany – June 29, 1944.
Only one crew member managed to bail out. After landing he was captured and killed by civilians after being shot multiple times by Helmut Lippman, a Hitler youth officer. Lippman would later be charged with life imprisonment for his crime against a POW.
21. B-26 Marauder
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.
A direct hit from flak on the left engine immediately surrounded the aircraft in flames. It was attacking a German communications center at Erkelenz, Germany.
20. B-17 Over Nis
Boeing B-17 of the 483rd Bomb group lost over Nis, Yugoslavia, April 1944, when it was brought down by flak.
There were no survivors.
19. B-24 “Stevenovich II”
Consolidated B-24L-10-FO Liberator, s/n 44-49710, named “STEVENOVICH II,” of the 779th Bombardment Squadron, 464th Bombardment Group.
STEVENOVICH II was hit and shot down by flak after bombing ground troops in Italy, 1945.
18. B-17 “Wee-Willie”
Boeing B-17G Wee-Willie 42-31333 LG-W, 323th squadron of 91st bombing group, lost over Kranenburg, Germany.
Her port wing was blown clean off by enemy flak. Only the pilot and one other crew member survived.
17. B-24 “Red Bow”
On 4th April 1945, Liberators of the 448th Bombardment Group, 2nd Air Division were attacked by Me-262 jet fighters while on a mission to bomb fighter bases in Germany where the ME-262 was stationed.
The formation was attacked by approximately 50 Luftwaffe Jet and Rocket aircraft. A total of eight B-24 Liberators were lost, including this one in the image; 44-50838 ‘Red Bow’.
Only the radio operator survived the crash by jumping out of the open bomb bay doors.
16. B-24 over Munster
B-24 Liberator of the 8th Airforce, 2nd Air division plummets down in flames during an attack on the railway marshaling yards at Munster Germany.
15. B-17 “Mizpah”
B-17G ‘Mizpah’ was hit directly on the nose by flak while on a mission to Budapest, July 1944, the two crew members in this position were killed immediately.
The pilot managed to hold her steady long enough for the crew to bail out. They were taken in as prisoners of war. Mizpah crashed near Dunavecse, Hungary.
14. B-24 “Extra Joker”
The B-24 Liberator “Extra Joker” of the 725th Bomb Squadron, 451st Bomb Group engulfed in flames after being attacked by German Focke Wolf 190 fighters over Austria on August 23rd, 1944.
There were no survivors.
13. B-17 “Miss Donna Mae II”
These sombre images are of B-17G ‘Miss Donna Mae II’ which was lost over Berlin.
She drifted under another B-17’s descending 1,000 lb bombs, one of which struck her rear left stabilizer, tearing it off and sending the aircraft into an uncontrollable spin.
All 11 crew members were killed.
12. B-17 “Patches”
The crew of B-17F ‘Patches’ bails out at 22,500 ft above Wiener Neustadt, Austrua in 1944 after the aircraft was damaged.
Eight members of the crew became prisoner of war, the other two were killed.
Note that the two right engines are feathered
11. A-20 Havoc over Kokas
These images show the low level attack and crash of an A-20G-25 Havoc at Kokas, Papue New Guinea in 1944.
Twelve Havocs from the 387th Bombardment Squadron attacked this Japanese barge depot and seaplane station. The aircraft in the image were part of the last aircraft 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 fast and low, they dropped 115 kg bombs which can be seen exploding in the background.
Knarr’s aircraft was hit by anti-aircraft fire and crashed into the bay, exploding when it the sea.
He and his gunner, SSgt Charles G. Reichley, were killed.
10. B-17 over Germany
This B-17G was attacked by Me 262 fighters which fire cannon rounds into its tail, damaging the vertical stabilizer and inboard right wing panel.
No.3 caught fire, and flames licked the tail section. The aircraft peeled off from the formation shortly afterward and dropped behind. The Crew bailed out at 7 miles West of Elbe River.
As it came down the right wing tore off and the plane crashed into the ground.
9. Halifax “HF-L”
A Handley Page Halifax B Mark III, LW127 ‘HL-F’, of No. 429 Squadron RCAF, in flight over Mondeville, France.
Bombs dropped by another Halifax above smashed the rear starboard tail plane off.
This aircraft was one of 942 from Bomber Commanded tasked with bombing German positions in the Normandy area, a month after D-Day.
The crew managed to abandon the aircraft before it crashed in the target area.
8. B-24 over Germany
B-24H Liberator bomber of 783rd Bomb Squadron, 465th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force.
It broke up in mid-air after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany, 1944.
7. B-24 over Eindhoven
B-24J Liberator 44-40210 of the 854th Bomb Squadron crash landing into a field in Holland. It was taking part of a low level supply drop for the US 82nd and 101st Airborne near Eindhoven, Holland, in September 1944.
The aircraft was hit by flak, forcing the pilot to put her down in a field. Unfortunately there was not enough room for the B-24 to stop, and it crashed into trees and exploded. Only a gunner, Frank Di Palma, survived when he was thrown from the crashing aircraft.
6. B-17 over Chateaudun
452nd Bomb Group B-17 going down after a direct hit by flak tore off the left wing over Chateaudun, France. 28 March 1944.
5. B-26 Marauder over Toulon
This Martin B-26 “Marauder” 53644 of the 12th USAF was hit directly by a flak shell during an attack on enemy coastal guns in Toulon Harbor, southern France.
With the still running right engine sheared off and the wing ablaze, the plane crashed into the city a few minutes after this photograph was taken.
4. B-25 ‘Jaunty Jo’ over Formosa
This horrific crash at Byoritsu oil refinery, Formosa, was photographed by a B-25 of the 5th Air Force’s 345th Bomb Group on 26 May 1945.
The B-25 ‘Jaunty Jo’ in the image had just released its load of para-frags when it was hit by flak, causing a gaping hole visible on the pilot’s s side.
All crew were killed in the crash.
3. B-24 over Harburg
On 17 January 1945 B-24 #42-51481, the wing lead aircraft for the mission, took a flak burst between the number 3 and 4 engines.
The wing broke off immediately and the bomber tumbled down into a spin carrying seven officers and five enlisted men to their deaths.
The pilot, Capt. Dean B. Strain, was one of the last original group pilots still flying missions.
Cameras being readied for photographing the attack followed the spinning aircraft down to the hard ground of Harburg.
2. Mid Air Collision
The collision of two B-17 bombers (Boeing B-17G-75-BO serial number 43-38030 and the Boeing B-17G-80-BO serial number 43-38133) of the 305th U.S. Air Arm in the skies over the English countryside Turley (Thurleigh).
The collision occurred in conditions of poor visibility when returning from bombing Hanover.
The crews of both aircraft (18 men) all died in collision.
1. B-24 Hit by Flak
B-24 ‘Brief’ serial number 44-42058 had left from Angaur airfield for a bombing run against anti-aircraft installations on Koror, the Palau Islands.
Whilst over Koror, Brief was hit by anti-aircraft fire, causing aircraft to fall in a flat spin until it crashed.
10 crew members were on board. 9 were killed in the crash except for the Navigator, 2nd Lt Wallace F. Kaufman, who was captured by the Japanese and executed.
There was a myth surrounding this footage that it was an American bomb striking the wing of the plane.
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However, a cleaned up version of the film has been analyzed and it shows that the wing is struck from the below. So it was not friendly fire.