Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Shuttle Bombing, Soviet Union (June–August 1944)

U.S.-Soviet collaboration designed to allow American bombers to hit German targets too deep to be attacked from normal operating bases. The concept of shuttle bombing was tested in 1943 in flights between bases in Britain and North Africa, including the Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission on 17 August 1943. Code-named Operation frantic, the shuttle-bombing operation allowed U.S. bombers to fly missions from bases in Britain and Italy and land at bases in the Soviet Union. The planes could then fly missions from Soviet bases and also carry out missions during their return flights to U.S. air bases in Britain and Italy.

Senior U.S. commanders hoped that these missions would force the Germans to disperse their air defense forces, lead to a better Soviet understanding of the value of strategic bombing, and establish a more collaborative relationship between the U.S. and Soviet militaries. Leaders of the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) also hoped that an improved relationship with the Soviets might lead to U.S. use of airfields in the Soviet Far East for shuttle attacks against Japan. Following extended negotiations, including approval from Soviet leader Josef Stalin at the Tehran Conference in December 1943, the Soviets committed themselves to support the plan by making available airfields at Poltava, Mirgorod, and Piryatin. USAAF personnel worked hard to make the concept of shuttle operations succeed despite considerable restrictions placed by Soviet authorities on support personnel, logistical operations, and communications support.

On 2 June 1944, the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy flew Operation frantic's first mission. It involved 130 B-17 bombers and 70 P-51 escort fighters, with a successful strike on rail yards at Debrecen, Hungary, en route to the Soviet bases. A strike from these bases inflicted damage on an airfield at Galatz, Romania, on 6 June. During the return flight to Italy on 11 June, the bombers successfully attacked an airfield at Foscani, Romania.

The first Eighth Air Force mission from Britain was held on 21 June 1944. It hit its designated target, a synthetic-oil plant near Berlin, but German aircraft shadowed the bombers to Poltava and conducted an air raid on the base that night, destroying 43 B-17s and damaging another 26. The surviving and repaired bombers attacked a synthetic-oil plant near Drohabycz, Poland, on their flight to Fifteenth Air Force bases in Italy on 26 June. These aircraft flew a combined mission with Fifteenth Air Force units and then returned to their bases in Britain.

The Eighth Air Force then performed shuttle-bombing missions on 6–8 August and on 11–13 September. The August mission attacked an aircraft plant at Gdynia, Poland, en route to the Soviet bases; successfully hit oil refineries at Trzebinia, Poland, the following day; and then bombed airfields in Romania en route to bases in Italy, followed by return flights to Britain. The September mission involved an attack on an armaments factory at Chemnitz during the flight to Russia and a strike on steel works at Diosgyor, Hungary, on the leg out to Italy. The only other Fifteenth Air Force shuttle operations were fighter-bomber sweeps in late July (P-38 and P-51 raids on Romanian airfields) and in early August (P-38 raids on Romanian airfields and railroads in support of Soviet operations). Also, 117 F-5 (camera-equipped P-38) photoreconnaissance missions were flown to or from Soviet bases between 2 June and 19 September 1944. The last shuttle operation of frantic was a resupply effort on 18 September to support the Polish Home Army uprising in Warsaw by 107 B-17s with P-51 fighter escorts.

Because of Soviet resistance to continuing the shuttle missions, by late October 1944 U.S. personnel supporting frantic in the Soviet Union were reduced to a small caretaker contingent. Overall, the shuttle operations had little operational effect, and the targets that were struck could have been hit from the home bases in Britain and Italy. Operation frantic did generate increased contacts between the U.S. and Soviet militaries, but it had limited substantive effect on relations between the two states. The operation did not lead to any significant collaboration in the Far East.

Jerome V. Martin


Further Reading
Conversino, Mark J. Fighting with the Soviets: The Failure of Operation Frantic, 1944–1945. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997.; Craven, Wesley Frank, and James Lee Cate. The Army Air Forces in World War II: Europe: Argument to V-E Day, January 1944 to May 1945. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951.; Lukas, Richard C. Eagles East: The Army Air Forces in the Soviet Union, 1941–1945. Tallahasee: Florida State University Press, 1970.
 

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