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Thread: Lancaster vs. B-17 loss rates?

  1. #1
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    Lancaster vs. B-17 loss rates?

    Do any trustworthy figures exist that compare the loss rate of Lancs versus B-17s in the ETO? (Whether they're losses to combat or to all causes, I'll take either one.) I don't know how valid the figures would be, since obviously there was the difference between day bombing versus night bombing. B-17 fanciers seem to feel that day bombing was more dangerous, though it seems to me that a night fighter coming out of nowhere against a barely armed bomber would be worse. Also, the B-17s bombed from Italy to Romania and beyond as well as Germany, while Bomber Command basically fought the Battles of the Ruhr, Hamburg and Berlin.

  2. #2
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    As you say, very difficult to make any sort of meaningful comparison unless you find the same target attacked by both Lancaster and B-17 bombers during exactly the same time period. The 'Battle-of-Hamburg' springs to mind (Dresden was too late in the war for representative losses).

    Also, how are you going to compare losses even if you have them? Percentage loss-rate per sortie (mission) would be the easiest but probably not the most meaningful. Loss-rate per ton of bombs dropped (which the Lancaster would win hands-down) would be better but harder to calculate? Loss-rate per ton of bombs 'on target' which would be much more difficult to judge?
    WA$.

  3. #3
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    Several years ago I asked a broadly similar question and was told by the experts (? ) here that there were no meaningful comparisons.

    My reason for asking was to get a feeling on day vs night operations since night losses to flak and fighters didn't seem to be less than daytime ops (based on anecdotal evidence such as the seemingly large number of high scoring night fighter aces). Certainly night losses were frightful, but that would consist of more than just Lancasters.
    Last edited by J Boyle; 3rd September 2017 at 02:26.
    There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

  4. #4
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    Stepwilk

    The following isn't the complete answer to your question. I can't find a figure for the B17 losses of the USAAF in the European theater.

    From the beginning of WW2 (3rd Sept. 1940) to the end, (3rd, May, 1945) RAF Bomber Command despatched 389,809 sorties against enemy targets in Germany, German occupied territory and Italy for the loss of 8,655 aircraft; a loss rate of 2.2 percent.

    By the end of the war the RAF had dropped a round figure total of 1,000,000 tons and the USAAF 622.000 tons. I cannot anywhere find a total for USAAF bomber losses.

    In addition to the RAF targets you mention, the RAF also regularly bombed Turin, Genoa and Milan in Italy, then flew onto North Africa.

    The RAF bomber offensive against Germany cost the lives of approximately 55,000 personnel.

    Source: "Bomber Harris", Dudley Saward, authorised biography. Cassell.

  5. #5
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    I don't want to dispute your figures without references to hand but I'm certain that US forces dropped a greater tonnage of bombs in Europe (or maybe just on Germany?) than did Bomber Command.

    With regard to 'loss-rates' the important thing to remember is that losses are as much governed by those sending out the bombers as those trying to shoot them down. The Luftwaffe believed that if they could just maintain a 10% loss-rate over Bomber Command then the RAF would give up on the bomber offensive against Germany; the RAF believed that they had to keep losses below, or rather at, an acceptable 5% to prevent the collapse of morale amongst bomber crews.

    When day-bombing caused unacceptable losses the RAF adopted night-bombing and only returned to (some) day-bombing near the end of the war when losses were considered acceptable.

    When deep-penetration day-bombing missions over Germany caused unacceptable losses the USAAF gave up on them, for a period of several months (I think), until revised tactics reduced the loss-rate to acceptable levels.
    WA$.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creaking Door
    I don't want to dispute your figures without references to hand but I'm certain that US forces dropped a greater tonnage of bombs in Europe (or maybe just on Germany?) than did Bomber Command.
    Does that figure include the contribution made by the 9th Air force, all the various medium bomber units, fighter bombers etc?
    Like wise the Bomber Command figure probably doesn't include other RAF Commands.
    As has been said; a meaningful comparison is probably impossible (But it would be good to see some confirmed figures for the 8th AF 'heavies').
    Martin

  7. #7
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    D1566

    "Britain's War Machine", David Edgerton, quotes the US Eighth Air Force in its strategic bomber offensive, as having had destroyed over 9,000 aircraft and 44,500 killed or missing. The US produced over 18,000 B24s and 12,000 B17s.

    The B17 despite its four engines and large size was, in terms of bomb load capacity, really a medium bomber.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Creaking Door
    I don't want to dispute your figures without references to hand but I'm certain that US forces dropped a greater tonnage of bombs in Europe (or maybe just on Germany?) than did Bomber Command.
    For what it is worth wiki gives BC 964,644 tons v 8th 623,418 tons

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strate...939.E2.80.9345

    Moggy
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