View Full Version : Bomber Formations

10-13-2005, 07:35 AM
Another explanation from a former B-17 pilot; this one discussing their formations. Amazing how close they flew.

In our Sqdn and some of the others when we were on the Bomb run and/or when enemy fighters were around I would say less than 10 feet. If one looked down or up at our squadron it was about twice as wide as it was long. If I personally was flying behind someone I kept my nose behind
the back of his bomb bay. Not behind his tail. I kept my wing about 5 feet above or below his wing as the position indicated. Or put another way my leading edge of my wing would be about 3 feet behind his trailing edge and about 5 feet
higher or lower. If I was directly behind someone like the lead of the low low sqdn. I would stay about 7 feet below the low sqdn lead to keep my vertical tail out of his propwash and my nose one to five feet behind his tail guns.
Same would be true in the box in the high sqdn.

Now be aware we didn't fly like that the whole mission. Just on the bomb run or when enemy fighters were in our area

Best Wishes,

10-13-2005, 07:44 AM
We did not have any name like that in the 358th Sqdn. We did not play follow the leader. We flew Formation. The low low was behind just a little bit but mostly under and not very far.

There is usually a lot more to an answer than most people think about. If we put a poor formation pilot up front it loused up every body
behind him. Most new crews had an inexperienced set of pilots. In the states they did not
teach combat formation much if at all. SO the new crews got put back there until they learned combat formation. They had a bit more to learn too.

New crews got shot down more often than old experienced crews did regardless of where
they flew in the formation. Believe me, a lot of planes went down that an experienced crew could have flown back to Molsworth. Remember Renchers law. "One half of any group is below average" This includes B17 pilots, gunners.
and Generals. This means that Half the people that planed the missions were below average. Half the pilots that flew the B17s were below average and half the gunners who were back there on the guns doing away with 109s and 190s were
below average gunners. The only salvation we had was that if you translated Renchers law into German it would apply to them also. This is to long already so I ain't going to write no more no more. How in the H---can us old folks tell I
aint' goin to write no more?. Just keep readn.

10-13-2005, 07:49 AM
Different Squadrons and different Groups Flew different tight formations. I saw no groups who flew as good formation as did the 303rd. I have no intention of starting a ruckus so I shall not mention Sqdn numbers, but in my opinion 2 of our Squadrons flew better formation than did the other two. I think it is safe to say we all flew our best formation from the IP to bombs away
and when enemy fighters were in the area. The enemy looked for sloppy formation to attack. They didn't have the concentrated fire power. to contend with.

I would say going to the IP and returning home IF no fighters were in the area we would relax and maybe fly 50 to 100 feet from our lead airplane.

On the bomb run and when fighter attack was probable I would say 3 to 10 feet from our lead plane. Be aware, this was not wing tip to wing tip. The wingmans wing would overlap his lead planes wing maybe 1/3rd of its length, be
slightly behind it and 3 to 10 feet above or below depending on his position in the formation. One would not want to fly with ones wing or vertical tail directly behind another because of the turbulent air there. One would
want to stay close to 3 feet above or below.

This sounds selfish I suppose but many times We have seen enemy fighter groups fly past us and attack bombers ahead or behind us because our
good tight formation told them our concentrated firepower would cause them heavy losses. Be aware, B17s shot down lots more German fighters than any other Allied airplane.(including but not limited to P51s P38s ,P47s, Spitfires and

Best Wishes,

10-13-2005, 10:19 AM
the bombers CLAIMED alot of enemy shot down..

10-13-2005, 11:00 AM
Very interesting read.A shame we don't have any flyable "heavies" as yet.Would be cool to give the B-24 or B-17 a good flying or two

10-13-2005, 11:23 AM
Originally posted by p1ngu666:
the bombers CLAIMED alot of enemy shot down..

Exactly, claims vs those given to bomber gunners were vastly different and even mocked by some as fantasy. A combat box is 54 planes total? B17's had 6 gunners including the bomb aimer? That 324 gunners in a box, who might all make that same claim for a kill.

10-13-2005, 11:33 AM
There was a combat report I read once where some bomber crews reported being attacked by Focke Wulfs which were painted like Jugs and Messerschmitts but they managed to defend themselves firing at the lot and claiming a few shot down, and complained bitterly about the escort that never showed up. They were, in fact, escorted by Jugs, none were lost to bombers.


10-13-2005, 10:59 PM
front gunners 1 or 2, top gunner, nav position(on some) belly gunner, two side gunners, tail gunner

8 gunners (some part time)

the bombers would blaze away at anything that moved..

ive played on a no icons coop in a bomber, and some guy was closing on my 6, wasnt sure if he was a bad guy or not, so i shot him, he was a friendly http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-sad.gif

10-14-2005, 12:39 AM
The bombers that shot at the Jugs said up front that they were Fw190s that were painted like Jugs but they weren't fooled for a minute. That's different than firing first because you're unsure.


10-14-2005, 03:04 AM
on "Black Easter" day 15th Air Force attacked Sofia, Bulgaria. For the first time The bombers were escorted not only by Lightnings, but also by Mustangs. It proved disastrous for the Bulgarian fighters who assumed the P-51(most probably P-51B/C) to be friendlies. The board gunners also mistook their escort to be the enemy... and shot down 3 of them. Actually 15th Air Force was quite good at stacking up claims. http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif There's a particular case when the claims were about 20 kills, probables - 10 and a number heavily damaged. Combat diary of the 3/6 Orliak(similar to the Gruppe strength) showed 2 aircraft that were damaged and had to belly land. Of course almost everyone would have hits from the return fire, but in most of the cases the damage was far from heavy.