Eighth Air Force (8AF) conducted the US’s first thousand-bomber raids against Germany in February 1944—recorded in history as Big Week. Until that time the USAAF was not able to concentrate such firepower on the enemy in such a short period of time. It took much effort to make Big Week “big” covering the spectrum of planning and execution activities dating back to the end of World War I that were adapted and flexed to be successful in a different context. Indeed, the depth and breadth of the preparations required to successfully execute Big Week on the scale intended is deserving of a closer examination.
Leadership from President Roosevelt to first line supervisors influenced 8AF logistics before February 1944. Major General Hugh J. Knerr was the one man that stood out as the champion of USAAF logistics. He influenced the concept of logistical operations in the ETO and, more specifically, put logistics on a level of importance equal to that of operations within the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF). He synchronized logistics with operations and strove for constant improvement by making organizational and process changes aimed at increasing logistical responsiveness, effectiveness, and efficiency.
The British provided tremendous host nation support including construction of new airfields, skilled and unskilled labor support, supply items, and transportation. The British host nation support 8AF received far surpassed what a cursory review of World War II history leads one to believe and serves as a model for US-led coalition operations in the 21st century. The US Merchant Marine and US Navy provided sealift of goods from the stateside depots to the theater. The US Army provided supply support of common items and Air Service Command (ASC) provided technical and supply support. Last, but not least, both civil servants and civilian contractors provided depot maintenance and in-theater technical support.