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'Mighty Eighth' Independence Day bombing mission

  • Published
  • By Public Affairs
  • Air Force Global Strike Command
The only one of its kind among U.S. forces in the United Kingdom at the time, a squadron of light bombers from Eighth Air Force made its World War II debut on July 4, 1942, as the first U.S. Army Air Force unit to bomb targets in Europe.

Six crews from the 15th Bombardment Squadron - which was initially activated in 1940 as part of the 27th Bombardment group at Barksdale Field, La. - along with six crews of the Royal Air Force embarked on a low-altitude daylight attack on Luftwaffe airfields in Holland.

"On the surface the mission was a tactical failure, in fact only two planes actually hit their targets," said Yancy Mailes, Command Historian, Air Force Global Strike Command. "But the mission had a similar morale effect as the Doolittle Raid a few months prior. The July 4th mission proved the United States' commitment to the United Kingdom and assured allies that American bomber crews could bring the fight to the enemy."

Although the 15th BS lost two planes, and the RAF one, the Fourth of July bombing mission saw the first Eighth Air Force Airman receive the nation's second-highest combat decoration.

Capt. Charles Kegelman, 15th BS commander, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his performance during the mission. Kegelman's plane sustained significant damage from enemy fire, lost altitude and struck the ground before he was able to stabilize and, upon leaving the scene, take out gunners of a flak tower who had the captain in their sights.

"Executing this mission on July 4th was key," Lane Callaway, AFGSC historian and senior writer, said. "It symbolically sent the message that America was here fighting for democracy on our Independence Day."