B-24 Liberator in flames after being attacked over Austria, 1944

These are the final moments of a consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber of the USAAF (United States Army Air Forces). It was part of a squadron raiding an industrial target in Austria.

German fighters came in force, killing all the attackers except the one from whom this picture was made. Nicknamed the "Extra Joker", the plane was attacked by at least two German Focke-Wulf Fw 190s while flying over the Austrian city of Ternitz. Within seconds, flames engulfed the plane and exploded. All 10 crew members were killed.

The picture was taken by Sergeant Leo Stotsenberger, who was the cameraman of Extra Joker. Luckily for him, on that fateful day, they asked him to fly on another plane so that he could take pictures of the Joker in flight.

Thanks to this coincidence, Leo survived and made a series of shots at the loss of the aircraft. He said of the picture: "I felt guilty, helplessly taking a picture while the men were burning inside. It happened so fast that they didn't have much chance. I drew a picture of death." in which the crew was burning."

The flak was a serious problem for the B-24 Liberator. The accuracy and concentration of the Flak over Europe was never considered during the design of the B-24.

Germany was very good at delivering the Flak, which became very accurate after the development of the radar guidance system. In addition, German fighters would fly to the level of the bombers and report the height of the bomber formations.

Allied bomber squadrons used evasive maneuvers to evade the Flak, but the bomber streams remained very sensitive to the destructive effects of the Flak. The B-24 also had a high accident rate, giving it the reputation of a widowmaker. In 1943 alone, 850 Second Air Force crew were killed in 298 B-24 crashes.

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