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Eastern Front

Operation Frantic: USAAF Shuttle Bombing, June -September 1944

Operation Frantic was a shuttle bombing campaign conducted by aircraft of the USAAF 8th and 15th Air forces flying between bases in Great Britain, Italy and bases in the USSR. The operation afforded access to targets in Germany and eastern Europe that lay outside the range of heavy bombers. Between 2 June and 19 September, a total of seven shuttle missions were flown using Soviet bases at Poltava, Mirgorod and Pyryatyn, the latter designated for escort fighters (Map).

On 22 June, a surprise Luftwaffe raid on Poltava destroyed 47 of 73 B-17s from the second shuttle mission were destroyed on the ground. The remaining aircraft at all three Frantic airfields were relocated other bases farther to the east. One of the dispersal fields was Kharkhiv Voitschenko, where a Luftwaffe target graphic showed 34 B-17s were parked in 24 June (Graphic).

Though there was no coverage of the three Operation Frantic bases, related developments were noted at three airfields lying along shuttle bombing routes. On 26 October a single B-24 --probably having made an emergency landing-- was identified at Dzikowiec, a Soviet tactical airfield in southeast Poland (Graphic). A B-24 was also seen at another tactical field at Niwiska on 17 January 1945 (not shown).

The shuttle bombing flights were preceded in May by USAAF reconnaissance sorties covering intended targets in eastern Europe. Like the bombers, the reconnaissance aircraft flew a triangular route between Italy, the USSR and Great Britain. According to available information the aircraft were to use Pyryatyn, but on 25 May Luftwaffe reconnaissance imaged five “Mustangs” at Darakhiv, a Soviet tactical field 500km west of Pyryatyn (Graphic). The presence of these aircraft – very likely F-6 reconnaissance variants of the P-51-- indicates other Soviet airfields were used in addition to the designated bases.

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