The Flak Only Gets Heavy When You’re Over the Target

The Flak Only Gets Heavy When You're Over The Target
graphic © eminentlyquotable.com

“The flak only gets heavy when you’re over the target.” ~ Anonymous WWII Bomber Pilot

This phrase originated from the bomber pilots in World War II. It comes in different variations, all with the same meaning. One says, “If you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target” while another goes “You know you are over the target when the flak is heaviest.”

This quote refers to the bomber missions during World War II. B-17 pilots flew to Germany to bomb Germany’s Nazi war machine. The German resistance didn’t start attacking them until the bomber pilots were close to the target. Then, German planes swarmed around the B-17 formation and picked the planes one by one.

The attack peaked when the B-17 pilots were already over the target. They were surrounded by many anti-aircraft guns that filled the sky with AAA fire. Flak is the sound made by shrapnel’s exploding shells that hit the bomber pilots.

Germany was so fierce with their attacks that the sky turned black. This is why the bombers said that when you’re taking flak, you are on the target.

Conversely, if you are not attacked you might not be on target. An enemy won’t be defending something that is worthless. If you’re not taking flak, change your course. When you are receiving flak, stay on target so as not to waste the mission no matter how bad it gets.

Decades after World War II, the quote has become a metaphor. It is now equated to attacks done on people. A person might receive flak, or strong criticism, for telling the truth. Thus, if you are touching on something important, you will receive resistance and attacks from other people. And of course, the resistance gets heavy when you are revealing that which people have an interesting in continuing to hide.

1 Comment

  • By Justsayin', March 30, 2019 @ 4:46 pm

    Correction: that was a quote from B-24 pilots as pictured in your article (B-17s were later). My dad was a WW2 pilot and he often repeated that quote. He even wrote a book where that was the title of a chapter about his bombing runs over oil targets in Ploesti, Italy.

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