This is in follow up to some posts in this thread:viewtopic.php?f=26&t=6686
Following 2nd Schweinfurt, there was a pause from deep penetration daylight bombing missions until fighters could be made ready to escort the bombers all the way to and from the target. The first was the 55th Fighter Group and the 20th FG, both flying P-38s, transferred to the 8th Airforce from other theaters of operations. At the turn of the year the 8th had three long range fighter groups at their disposal. In addition to the two P-38 groups, they also had the “Pioneer Mustang Group” 354th Fighter Group flying the new Merlin engine powered P-51B Mustangs. The common wisdom is that the presence of long range fighters made deep penetration bombing missions viable and allowed the destruction by bombing of military/industrial targets of Germany’s ability to wage war in time for the Normandy Invasion. The numbers do not indicate the correctness of these common assumptions.
8th Airforce bomber deep penetration mission losses in 1944, with escort, continued to be horrendous:
January 11th 1944 60 bombers lost on the Oberschleben Raid.
January 29th, 1944, 29 bombers lost
January 30th, 1944, 20 bombers lost
February 4, 1944, 20 bombers lost
Feb 8th, 1944, 13 bombers lost
Feb 10th, 1944, 29 bombers lost
Feb 20th, 1944, 21 bombers lost
Feb 21st, 1944, 16 bombers lost
Feb 22nd, 1944, 41 bombers lost
Feb 24th, 1944, 44 bombers lost
Feb 25th, 1944, 31 bombers lost
March 6th, 1944, 69 bombers lost
In each of these fully escorted missions there was about 2.8 times the losses bombers damaged. However, of these only about 3% were damaged to the point that they could not eventually be returned to flight worthy status.
Moreover, these losses were not justified by successfully destroying the bombing targets. Post war analysis indicated that against German infrastructure targets it took 108 bombers, expending about 650 bombs, to obtain a 90+% chance of putting only two bombs in the target area- which is not exactly the same as putting two bombs on target. At the time of Operation Argument (aka Big Week) in February 1944 it was thought that the bombers had crippled the German fighter manufacturing industry. However, deliveries of replacement aircraft to the Luftwaffe actually increased following these costly raids.
Why were losses deemed unacceptable in 1943, accepted, in some cases on a daily and weekly basis, in 1944?
The answer is that the mission had changed.