The Kassel Raid, 27 September 1944: The Largest Loss by USAAF Group on any Mission in WWII

The Kassel Raid, 27 September 1944: The Largest Loss by USAAF Group on any Mission in WWII

by Eric Ratcliffe

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Overview

On Thursday, 28 September 1944, a force of 283 Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers from the USAAF’s 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing, took off from their bases in Britain and headed out across the North Sea escorted by 198 P-51 Mustang fighters. The bombers’ target was the industrial city of Kassel in northern Germany.

Among the bombers assigned to the raid were the aircraft of the 445th Heavy Bombardment Group. Thirty-five of the 445th’s Liberators, along with the 336 men who made up their crews, took off from their base near the village of Tibenham in Norfolk. Their specific target that day was the engineering works of Henschel & Sohn which built Tiger and Panther tanks.

Kassel had been bombed by the Allied air forces in the past, most notably in October 1943 when more than 500 bombers had dropped 1,800 tons of bombs creating a firestorm that had ravaged the city. The raid on 28 September 1944, however, would have a far different result.

Due to a navigational error, the lead Liberator of the 445th Heavy Bombardment Group turned due east instead of east-south-east and the following thirty-five bombers missed Kassel altogether, attacking an alternative target. But there was worst was to come. The change of direction meant that the bombers lost their escorting Mustangs and on the return flight they were pounced on by 150 enemy fighters – and massacred.

Within just six minutes, the 445th experienced the greatest single-day losses suffered by any group from one airfield in the history of aviation warfare. Twenty-five of the Liberators were shot down inside Germany itself; three crashed en route to the coast (two in France and one in Belgium); two made forced landings at an emergency airfield in England; and the last came to grief within sight of home. Just four of the original thirty-five B-24s landed safely back at Tibenham.

The human cost was equally high. In the course of just a few minutes, 117 airmen lost their lives, including eleven who were murdered after parachuting safely to the ground. A further 121 men were taken prisoner; only ninety-eight returned to duty.

In this highly moving account of the Kassel raid, the author, who lives close to the Tibenham airfield, uncovers the painful details of those terrible moments in September 1944 through the stories of those who survived one of the Second World War’s most disastrous operations in the USAAF’s battle against the Luftwaffe.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781526798268
Publisher: Pen and Sword
Publication date: 02/14/2022
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.00(d)

About the Author

Born in the North of England, at an early age ERIC RATCLIFFE moved with his parents to Norfolk, where he still resides. His love of flying began in 1975, when, aged 28, he first tasted gliding. Eric continues flying both gliders and powered aircraft to this day. It was his involvement with the Norfolk Gliding Club, and their home airfield at the ex-USAAF base at Tibenham, which aroused his interest in the Second World War, vintage aircraft, and the aircrew who flew them. Retiring from his engineering business seven years ago, Eric found the time to research the Kassel mission, whilst still acting as a tour guide of wartime battlefields and air bases in UK, France, and Germany.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction viii

Foreword Linda Dewey x

The Morning of the Raid 1

The Mission 26

En route 30

The Battle Begins 33

Heading Home 68

On the ground in Germany 80

The Inquest 86

Back at Base 98

Back to War 114

Assembly of Prisoners 117

Afterword 133

Reconciliation 136

Appendices 139

Acknowledgements 172

Bibliography 174

Index 175

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