A Dataset of all American and British Bombing Missions in WWII

Sometimes you come across a dataset so interesting you just have to stop everything and visualize it. That’s what happened when I saw a tweet from @JulesGrandin  about the THOR database. THOR stands for Theater History of Operations Reports, and it’s a massive database published by the U.S. Defense Digital Service of all releasable U.S. air operations, including WWI, WWII, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The data on WWII, which I downloaded, also includes Royal Air Force missions as well as some from the South Africa, Australian, and New Zealand Air Forces.

Here’s an animation (using CARTO) of all 178,263 WWII bombing missions from the database:

And here is a map of all the bombing missions colored by aircraft type. You can clearly see the prevalence of the B17 in the European theater, the B29 in Japan, and the P51 in China. Zoom in and click on the individual points to view other attributes of the bombing missions.

These maps barely scrape the surface of what is possible with this dataset. In addition to aircraft type there are many other attributes, including air force, unit, target type, bomb type, and tonnage of bombs dropped. This page from the Defense Digital Service provides some more interesting tidbits gleaned from the WWII data.