Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Historical & Political Studies; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Geoffrey Haywood

Abstract

My thesis is about the American Eight Air Force, and the role it played in World War II. When the unit was activated in January of 1942, it had only a handful of men, and no aircraft. By the end of the war in 1945, the “Mighty Eighth” was 350,000 strong, stationed across over 100 bases in England, and had lost 26,000 men, more than the United States Marine Corps had lost in all of World WarII. By 1943, the Western Allies planned to open a second front against Nazi Germany, by invading Western Europe. With all of Western Europe under Nazi control or influence, the only way to attack them prior to an invasion, and weaken their ability to repel said invasion, was from the air. The Eighth Air Force, along with the Royal Air Force, were called on to perform this task. This was a new kind of war: a bombing campaign on such a scale had never been done before, and as a result, everything they learned about how to carry out this campaign successfully had to be learned through trial and error. I want to show how the Eighth Air Force had a decisive role in making D-Day possible. Using primary sources, postwar analyses and secondary sources, I intend to analyze how they failed to destroy the German war machine, but succeeded in destroying the Luftwaffe and making the Third Reich’s oil resources run dry. I will also show how the Eighth Air Force, through trial and error, changes in policy, not to mention resources and manpower, went from a failure to a success story.

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The Story of the “Mighty Eighth” 1941-1945: Pearl Harbor to Normandy and beyond

My thesis is about the American Eight Air Force, and the role it played in World War II. When the unit was activated in January of 1942, it had only a handful of men, and no aircraft. By the end of the war in 1945, the “Mighty Eighth” was 350,000 strong, stationed across over 100 bases in England, and had lost 26,000 men, more than the United States Marine Corps had lost in all of World WarII. By 1943, the Western Allies planned to open a second front against Nazi Germany, by invading Western Europe. With all of Western Europe under Nazi control or influence, the only way to attack them prior to an invasion, and weaken their ability to repel said invasion, was from the air. The Eighth Air Force, along with the Royal Air Force, were called on to perform this task. This was a new kind of war: a bombing campaign on such a scale had never been done before, and as a result, everything they learned about how to carry out this campaign successfully had to be learned through trial and error. I want to show how the Eighth Air Force had a decisive role in making D-Day possible. Using primary sources, postwar analyses and secondary sources, I intend to analyze how they failed to destroy the German war machine, but succeeded in destroying the Luftwaffe and making the Third Reich’s oil resources run dry. I will also show how the Eighth Air Force, through trial and error, changes in policy, not to mention resources and manpower, went from a failure to a success story.

 
 

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