Mighty Eighth Air Force
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.
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.
From 1943-45 tens of thousands of incredibly brave 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 the next 29 months, streams of Allied bombers pummeled occupied Europe. Three million tons of ordnance was dropped on Europe, 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,
Guests on the Mighty Eighth Air Force Tour will have an opportunity to explore this most important campaign of World War II in unparalleled detail; studying the people, visiting the aircraft, and exploring the places that made history.
- Blitz sites
- RAF Hendon
- Battle of Britain Bunker
- IWM Duxford with the American Air Museum and Lancaster Experience
- Thorpe Abbot Airfield
- 356th Fighter Group Airfield at Martlesham Heath
- 493rd Bomb Group airfield at Debach and Tibenham Airfield
- 94th Bomb Group Rougham Control Tower
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. We 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, we 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
Our second day in London will continue with the theme of a capital city at war by 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
Our day will start at the outstanding RAF Museum at Hendon where we 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 we 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 us 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.”
We will finish our tour today 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. We 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/Duxford (Air Show)
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. We will begin the day at the Cambridge American Cemetery paying our respects to 3,811 of these young men who made the supreme sacrifice.
Next, we will travel to the world renown IWM Duxford and its dedicated American Airpower Museum. While at IWM we will have VIP access for Duxford’s Flying Finale, when many of its rarest aircraft will take to the skies. There will also 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. We will go to the former airfields of the “Bloody Hundredth” Bomb Group at Thorpe Abbots, 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, we 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 the group will go to the beautiful village of Lavenham, where guests can enjoy the many surviving medieval buildings as well as the pub at the Swan Hotel, which during the war was a favourite 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
Our 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. We 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, we will travel north to Lincolnshire, which is known as the “bomber county” for the number of RAF Bomber Command bases in the area. Our first stop will be at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, where guests will have an opportunity to see the incredibly rare Lancaster and Mosquito bombers that are undergoing restoration to restore them to flight. Guests will have an opportunity for a taxi ride in these aircraft.
DAY 10 International Bombing Command Centre
Our 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.
Following our visit, we will travel south to London in time to prepare for a visit to the RAF Memorial and our final, exclusive, dinner at the renown RAF Club where, in impressive and historic surroundings, we 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!