7:45 a.m. Monday, March 6, 1944 found 814 B-17's and B-24's, supported by 943 American fighters, enroute to Germany for the U.S. 8th Air Forces first full-scale daylight attack on Berlin. The 8th Air Force lost more aircraft on this mission than any other in World War II. Flight Officer Bernard M. "Bernie" Dopko, flying the 388th Bomb Group's B-17G (42-37839), "Little Willie," with her 10 man crew, made it to Berlin and bombed her target. Flack (AAA) damage forced Dopko to leave formation and turn for home. Luftwaffe fighters immediately attacked, inflicting further damage, wounding the tailgunner.
Feigning loss of control, the pilot descended recovering below 50 feet. The B-17 was flyable but unable to keep all four engines running. "Little Willie" struggled all the way across Germany unable to top 100 feet or 115 miles per hour. Evading and answering ground fire, she crossed the coast of Holland all alone in the late afternoon sun, landing at her base in Knettishall England at 5:45 p.m., the last bomber home from Berlin. "Little Willie" had been in the air for 9 1/2 hours.
In addition to the damaged aircraft and wounded, the 8th Air Force had lost 69 bombers with their 690 crew members and 11 fighters and pilots over Germany this day, while the Luftwaffe had lost 46 fighter pilots, killed or wounded.