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World War II
Hazardous Duty - Bombers of WWII and their Crews



Hazardous Duty - Bombers of WWII and their Crews
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.54

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    airspace, blue-collar, bombardier, brawny, clear-cut, co-pilot, flak, in-flight, metal-skinned, nerve-racking, raiders, unescorted, atomic, forged, close-knit, anti-aircraft
     content words:    German Stuka, German Heinkel, Heinkel He, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-29 Superfortress, Pearl Harbor, Jimmy Doolittle


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Hazardous Duty - Bombers of WWII and their Crews
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Fighter planes were lean and agile, built for the tense ballet of aerial combat. Bombers, in contrast, were the brawny, "blue-collar" part of the air war. Their job was clear-cut and basic, but far from easy. The bomber had to have muscle. Besides its heavy load, it also had to bring along enough fuel to get into enemy airspace and back home again.
 
2     Dive bombers were smaller and faster than regular bombers. They attacked pinpoint targets like ships or bridges. The plane dove toward the target, charging almost straight down. Bombs were dropped from a short distance at very high speed. The method was accurate and deadly. The German Stuka, one of the first successful dive bombers, was advanced for its day. It could pull itself out of a dive if the pilot blacked out. It also carried a siren in its wheel wells. When the Stuka dived, its screaming siren intensified the terror and chaos of the attack.
 
3     The German Heinkel was the first "medium" bomber used in large numbers. It had a crew of four and carried up to 4,000 lb. of bombs. Early in the war, Heinkel He 111's carried out devastating raids on London. The target city was a long flight from Luftwaffe bases, however. Twenty minutes into each run, fighter escorts had to turn back. Unescorted, the bulky Heinkels were downed in large numbers by British fighters.
 
4     The Lancaster was the main bomber used by the British. A big bomb load (over 6,000 lbs.) classed this plane as a "heavy" bomber. The Lancaster carried out night bombing raids over Germany. For its time, Lancaster's electronics systems were quite advanced. Still, devastating numbers of these aircraft were shot down in the attacks on Germany.

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