February 26th, 1944 (SATURDAY)
UNITED KINGDOM: London: US heavy bombers escorted into the heart of Germany by long-range Mustang fighters, have won a great victory over the Luftwaffe in which has become known to the crews as "Big Week".
In six days, 1,000 bombers and 900 fighters have carried out 13 major attacks against the German aircraft industry in the campaign to destroy the Germans' strength in the air. In all, over 3,800 heavy bombers sorties were made. American losses were 226 aircraft, an acceptable rate of 6%.
The bombers did not only inflict severe damage on the factories; they and the Mustangs shot down some 517 German fighters, killing 225 air crews and wounding 141, almost 10% of the skilled airmen in Germany. The Luftwaffe cannot sustain this rate of attrition.
The Mustang, with its American airframe and Rolls-Royce engine, has completely changed the pattern if air warfare over Europe. Now the bombers can be escorted all the way to their targets by a fighter superior in almost every respect to the Me109 and FW190.
The US bombers, who previously sought to evade the German fighters, are seeking them out, and the Germans, no longer able to wait until the escorting fighters turn back, are being forced to attack as soon as they cross the coast thus allowing shorter range aircraft like the Spitfire to enter the battle. RAF Bomber Command has also taken part in "Big Week", with heavy raids on Leipzig and Stuttgart. It lost 78 bombers over Leipzig, but only 10 over Stuttgart.
Lieutenant-Commander Peter Williams sails at dusk from Dartmouth. He heads towards Weymouth; then, once out of sight, he turns south. On reaching the Brittany coast he cuts his speed to reduce noise, wash and phospherescence, and creeps through rocks and swirling tides to anchor within a few hundred yards of the beach. A sailor is placed on stand-by to cut the grass rope in an emergency.
Williams then sent his surfboat inshore with muffled oars, on a rising tide to avoid footprints, in order to land a party which included Francois Mitterrand, the future President of France. As the boat returned, laden with five agents and a downed Allied pilot, it was able to find the MGB in the dark with a device, invented by Williams, which homed in on its Asdic [sonar] transmissions. By breakfast time, Williams was back in Dartmouth. (William L. Howard)
Submarine HMS Trenchant commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)FRANCE: Paris: Gallimard, the publisher, awards the first Prix de la Pléiade to Mouloudji, Jean Paul Sartre is one of the judges.
FINLAND: 600 Soviet bombers raid Helsinki
from 6pm to 6am.
This night the Soviet bombers attack Helsinki for the third time in three weeks. From 6.45 pm until 5.10 am next morning over 500 Soviet planes try to penetrate the Finnish air-defences. Several bombers make more that one sortie, the Finns estimate that there's more than 1000 sorties. Since the two previous attempts ten and twenty days ago, the defences had been strengthened further, and there's 15 heavy AA-battalions defending the city. Majority of bombers are unable to reach their targets, and only 18 people are killed at Helsinki. (Mikko Härmeinen)
MTB Hurja 5 and Patrol Boat VMV 8 are destroyed in Helsinki bombing while in dock. (Dave Shirlaw)
GILBERT ISLANDS: 27th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) with B-24's based on Nanumea begins operating from Abemama and the 38th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) with B-24's based on Nanumea begin operating from Makin until 22 Mar 44. (Jack McKillop)
PACIFIC OCEAN: The US submarine Grayback (SS-208), commanded by John A. Moore, is sunk by aircraft South of Okinawa. All hands are lost. (Joe Sauder)
U.S.A.: Susan Dauser became the first female US Navy captain. She was in the Nurse Corps. (Michael Ballard)
Escort carrier USS Steamer Bay launched.
Escort carriers USS Admiralty Islands and Bouganville laid down. (Dave Shirlaw)
ATLANTIC OCEAN: MS Silvermaple sunk by U-66 at 04.44N, 03.20W . (Dave Shirlaw)
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