Mighty Eighth Air Force

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No American or East Anglian can think seriously about B-17s today without feeling the tug of their great purpose and destiny. They were the two-fisted tin cans that tore the roof off a deranged empire.

– Harry H. Crosby, A Wing and a Prayer: The "Bloody 100th" Bomb Group of the US Eighth Air Force in Action Over Europe in World War II

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the start of the Combined Bomber Offensive, Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours is excited to announce the Mighty Eighth Air Force Tour – Reaping the Whirlwind: REF Bomber Command, the USAAF 8th Air Force, and the strategic bombing campaign of Europe. You will study this most important campaign of World War II in unparalleled detail, learning about these brave men, visiting the aircraft, and exploring the places where they made history.

From 1943-45 tens of thousands of young men were involved in a deadly experiment. The airmen of RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF 8th Air Force were thrown into the teeth of Axis air defenses to see if, for the first time in history, an enemy nation could be brought to its knees through strategic bombing. For 29 months, streams of Allied bombers pummeled occupied Europe. Three million tons of ordnance was dropped, and Germany’s greatest cities were left in rubble.

Eighty years after the start of the combined bomber offensive, historians still argue about the effectiveness of this massive bombing campaign. What there can be no argument about, however, is the incredible bravery of the thousands of young airmen, more than 150,000 of whom made the supreme sacrifice.

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Highlights

  • London: Visit the famous Blitz of 1940 sites as well as the London Docklands Museum, St. Clement Danes Church (the RAF church), Site of the Air Ministry, Paternoster Square, Guard’s chapel, the remains of air raid shelters
  • Hendon: Travel to the RAF Museum to see rare surviving examples of some of the most famous aircraft of World War II, including the Boeing B-17 and B-24
  • Cambridge: Explore the Battle of Britain Bunker Museum at Uxbridge, a previously a top-secret facility that houses the plotting board
  • Lavenham: Have a beer at the pub at the Swan Hotel; a favorite watering hole for many American airmen, the walls are covered with wartime graffiti that many of these brave men left around the walls of the hotel.
  • Tibenham: See the Rougham Control Tower Museum and airfield, where the 94th “Square A” Bomb Group was headquartered, and Tibenham Airfield, which was the home base of Hollywood Legend Jimmy Stewart
  • Bomber County: Explore the International Bombing Command Centre to see the outstanding state of the art display and the memorial to the 54,000 men who gave their lives during WWII

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Flights to London

Guests book their overnight flights to London Heathrow (LHR).

DAY 2 Arrival in London

Once you arrive, please make your way to the designated tour hotel. There will be a 6 p.m. Welcome Reception followed by Dinner.

DAY 3 London: “The Blitzes”

London has a long and tragic history of enduring a strategic bombing offensive. You will spend our first day visiting sites associated not only with the famous Blitz of 1940 but also some dramatic evidence of the Blitz of World War I and the later, V-1 and V-2 strikes of 1944-45. In addition to Blitz sites around St. Paul’s, you will also visit the scarred remains of the “Sphinxes” to see where bombs rained down on London during the Great War; the site of the V-2 strike near Sloane Square that killed nearly 100 Americans and almost got Glen Miller; the Tabard Street Stretcher Fences; London Bridge Station; and the Imperial War Museum.

DAY 4 London

On your second day in London you will continue to explore the theme of a capital city at war, stopping at the London Docklands Museum, St. Clement Danes Church (the RAF church), Site of the Air Ministry, Paternoster Square, Guard’s chapel, the remains of air raid shelters that can be found near Queen Anne’s Gate, and London Transport Museum. 

DAY 5 London to Cambridge

Your day will start at the outstanding RAF Museum at Hendon where you will have an opportunity to see rare surviving examples of some of the most famous aircraft of World War II, including the Boeing B-17 and B-24, as well as the British Lancaster bomber, all of which played a significant part in the story of the strategic bombing offensive. From Hendon you will travel to the Battle of Britain Bunker Museum at Uxbridge.

It was here in Uxbridge that the fighters of 11 Group were ordered to take to the skies to try and stop the waves of German bombers descending on London and other British cities at the height of the Blitz. Our exclusive Mighty Eighth Air Force tour will take you deep underground to the heart of this previously top-secret facility to see the plotting board, which has been restored to its exact appearance on September 15, 1940, Battle of Britain Day. Churchill was a frequent visitor to the bunker during the battle and it was after a visit on August 16, 1940, that he first uttered his famous phrase, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few.”

You will finish the day at High Wycombe, the home of both Bomber Command and the nearby Wycombe Abbey School, which during the war was headquarters for the USAAF 8th Air Force. You will see where the critical decisions were made by men such as Arthur Harris, Ira Eaker, and Carl Spaatz to launch the destructive might of the Western Allies against Nazi Germany.

DAY 6 Cambridge

For much of the war, the most dangerous assignment for any American was to be assigned to flight operations. By the end of the war more than 40,000 young Americans had been killed flying in combat operations. You will begin the day at the Cambridge American Cemetery paying your respects to 3,811 of these young men who made the supreme sacrifice.

Next, you will travel to the world-renowned IWM Duxford and its dedicated American Airpower Museum. There will be an opportunity to have exclusive access to Sally B, the only airworthy B-17 operating in the UK, as well as an in-depth and up-close visit to the museum’s fully restored Lancaster Bomber.

DAY 7 Cambridge/Lavenham

Today we will focus on the strategic bombers of the “Mighty 8th” Air Force. You will go to the former airfields of the “Bloody Hundredth” Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbotts, which houses an amazing display of wartime memorabilia associated with the 100th BG as well as surviving buildings, including the group’s wartime control tower and remains of the airfield. At Horham, the wartime home of the 95th BG, you will be able to enjoy the museum as well as the delights of the Red Feather Club, which during the war was the NCOs mess for the 95th (it has been lovingly restored to its original wartime appearance by a dedicated group of local volunteers), as well as the wartime home of the 95th Bomb Group at Horham and 94th Bomb Group at Bury St. Edmunds.

For refreshments we will go to the beautiful village of Lavenham, where you can enjoy the many surviving medieval buildings as well as the pub at the Swan Hotel, which during the war was a favorite watering hole for many American airmen. While you’re enjoying your beer at the pub you can peruse the wartime graffiti that many of these brave men left around the walls of the hotel.

DAY 8 Cambridge/Tibenham

Your visit to the airfields of the 8th will continue with stops at the Rougham Control Tower Museum and airfield. The 94th “Square A” Bomb Group was headquartered at Rougham from June 1943. It was from Rougham that the 94th flew in some of the biggest raids of the war, including the “Big Week” of February 1944. You will also have a chance to see the remains of the 356th Fighter Group Airfield at Martlesham Heath, 493rd Bomb Group airfield at Debach, and Tibenham Airfield, which was the home base of Hollywood Legend Jimmy Stewart.

DAY 9 Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre

The strategic bombing offensive was not solely an American affair. After visiting U.S. airbases in and around East Anglia, you will travel north to Lincolnshire, which is known as the “bomber county” for the number of RAF Bomber Command bases in the area. Your first stop will be at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, where you will have an opportunity to see the incredibly rare Lancaster and Mosquito bombers that are undergoing restoration to restore them to flight. You will have an opportunity for a taxi ride in these aircraft.

DAY 10 International Bombing Command Centre

Your visit to the Bomber County will conclude at the International Bombing Command Centre, with its awe-inspiring view of Lincoln Cathedral, to visit the centre’s outstanding state of the art display and the memorial to the 54,000 men of Bomber Command who gave their lives during World War II.

You will then travel south to London in time to prepare for a visit to the RAF Memorial and our final, exclusive, dinner at the renowned RAF Club where, in impressive and historic surroundings, you will have an opportunity to reflect on what we have seen.

DAY 11 Home

Morning airport transfers to LHR for guests and safe travels home!

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Tour Dates

  • September 18 - 28, 2024
  • Fall 2025
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TRIP COST $5,990

Prices are per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $1,600.

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