Crew 2467, 8th Air Force

Crew 2467, 8th Air Force

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Crew 2467, 8th Air Force

Crew 2467 of the 8th Air Force. This crew was interned in Switzerland, from where 'Dumbo' WIlson (far right) escaped.

Many thanks to Phil Smith for providing us with this picture.

8th Air Force in Britain – Keeping the Past Alive

I had the wonderful opportunity in May of this year to participate in the National WWII Museum’s Masters of the Air Tour of 8 th Air Force historical locations in England. This was the second time the Museum had offered this special tour, which was both conceived and led by Donald L. Miller, author of Masters of the Air, the definitive history of the 8 th Air Force in WWII.

The tour was designed by Dr. Miller to give participants a broad picture of the 8 th Air Force in WWII, starting with a visit to the Churchill War Rooms in London, and eventually moving to the local pubs where the ‘Bomber Boys’ of the 8 th Air Force drank their beer when off duty.

I was traveling with a friend and major contributor to this document, Paul Clifford, with whom I have been attending the National WWII Museum’s 70 th Anniversary of World War II Conferences in New Orleans since those conferences began in 2011. When Paul and I arrived in London and met our fellow tour participants we found good people who also had interests and backgrounds that related to the tour’s goals.

B-17 Flying Fortresses over Europe during World War II

The Flick family, mom Judy, daughter Gena and son John were remembering their husband and dad, Captain Chester Flick, a pilot in the 427 th Squadron of the 303 rd Bomb Group. Chester was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during his tour with the 303 rd in May-July 1944, a time of such heavy combat for the 303 rd that he completed his combat tour, plus one additional trip, for a total of 36 missions, in only 42 days!

Dr. Joe Ciotola and his wife, Linda were looking forward to visiting the site where Joe’s dad had been a senior non-commissioned officer in the 100 th Bomb Group. Penny Linsenmayer, an attorney from Texas, was doing research for her upcoming novel on the famous American “Red Cross Girls” who served at all the 8 th Air Force bases bringing coffee, donuts and smiles to the 8 th cadre of flying personnel and support troops.

Susan Jowers had a very special story that began as we assembled and remained part of our tour from start to finish. George Liao and Howard Bethel, avid students of military history, and Michael Dickert, a professional pilot with a deep interest in aviation, rounded out our fellow travelers. Don Miller’s 15-year-old grandson, Austin, had the good fortune to travel with his grandfather on the trip.

As a former junior high school history teacher, I found it interesting to watch how Austin reacted to comments and various activities with the view of a young teenager to whom WWII is ancient history, while most of us were from the generation who had listened to our parents speak of WWII events with the experience of having lived through those years.

Maddie Ogden was our “Local Cultural Guide,” another term for the lady in charge of details, problem solving, and herding her tour participants from one location to another, in our “coach” (we were told it was not a bus). As our leader and historian-in-charge, it was Don Miller who ensured that we knew the story behind all of our stops on the tour.

Aircraft and ground crew of Boeing B-17F-25-BO Fortress “Hell’s Angels” (AAF Ser. No. 41-24577) of the 358th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group, RAF Molesworth. This was the first B-17 to complete 25 combat missions in the 8th Air Force, on 13 May 1943.

Writing about our entire adventure would take a great deal more space than this article allows, so I am limiting my focus to what I considered the highlight of the entire trip, our visits to the three WWII USAAF base locations, Thorpe Abbotts, Horham and Snetterton Heath, which had been the homes of the 100 th , 95 th and 96 th Bomb Groups between 1943 and 1945.

While Maddie and Don had told us that the members of the Bomb Group organizations at each location were looking forward to our visits, none of us were prepared for the highly emotional, and uniquely different, receptions we would receive at the three locations.

Our first stop was Thorpe Abbotts, which had been home to one of the first, and more well known, of the B-17 groups to arrive in England in the summer of 1943, the 100 th Bomb Group. The Ciotolas were particularly excited about this first stop, as Joe told us, that his dad, Joe, Sr. – a law student who enlisted after Pearl Harbor – had been the Maintenance Shop Superintendent in the 456 th Squadron of the 100 th for the entire time that the 100 th was at Thorpe Abbotts from 1943 to 1945.

As we emerged from our coach it seemed as if every resident of the town of Thorpe Abbotts was there to welcome each of us with big smiles, handshakes, and what we Americans called “British Hospitality.” We immediately knew we were among friends!

The original 100th Bomb Group control tower at Thorpe Abbotts.

Our arrival at Thorpe Abbotts was almost chaotic as we tried to react to the overwhelming welcome. Joe and Linda were immediately engaged with the local historians as the rest of us were making new friends on a minute by minute basis.

Soon the major conversations began to calm down and we started to have individual dialogues with our new friends, many dressed in WWII 8 th Air Force casual uniforms, including uniform caps with a “50-mission crush” and A-2 leather jackets. One of our hosts, Mike Nice, took me into a workshop where he is restoring a B-24 ball turret.

During our discussion we found out that we had mutual friends in the WWII turret restoration field – a small group of individuals, to be sure. After speaking with Mike I met Ron Bately, who introduced himself and began to explain the compound that surrounded where we were standing. Ron is essentially the “Base Commander” and knew what he was talking about.

I was wearing a shirt with the B-17 City of Savannah restoration crest and Ron asked me what it represented. When I told him of my connection with the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force as the project manager for the Museum’s B-17 restoration, he asked if I knew General “Buck” Shuler. I told him that I knew General Shuler as one of the founders of the Museum and that I considered the General to be a friend.

Ron immediately took me by the arm and steered me into a nearby restored WWII Nissen hut that houses the group’s museum, and began telling me the story of when General Shuler, then Commander of the 8 th Air Force, had visited Thorpe Abbotts on March 7, 1990, to present the 100 th Bomb Group Memorial Museum organization with a letter of gratitude and an inscribed plate for the work they were doing to preserve the history of the 8 th Air Force.

Ron Bately with the letter and plate presented to the 100th Museum by General “Buck” Shuler in 1990.

Ron and several of the other senior members of the group remembered, quite fondly, that General Shuler had arrived in “flight gear” rather than in a formal uniform, something that had particularly impressed the group, enough so that it was mentioned several times during the conversation. If you ever visit Thorpe Abbotts you might want to mention “Buck” Shuler’s name – it will make you a friend of everyone in the room.

P-51 Mustangs (CV-Q) of the 359th Fighter Group, (LC-D) of the 20th Fighter Group, (LH-V) of the 353rd Fighter group and (C5-Q) of the 357th Fighter Group, at Debden, home of the 4th Fighter Group.

Following my discussion with Ron, I was introduced to a man by the name of Tony Mark. As various conversations were being held I was intrigued by the story that Tony was telling, and became involved in his description of life in Thorpe Abbotts during WWII. When he realized my interest, he invited me on a special journey that will always be an important part of my memories of that day.

Tony took me to the top of the Thorpe Abbotts control tower and pointed across the large open area that had once been an intersection of the runways at the base. “Do you see the top of that house between the trees,” he asked, as I followed where he was pointing. I could see the top of a house, maybe a mile in the distance. “That house is where I was born and raised,” he told me.

“In the mornings, as a young boy of about seven years, I would watch and count the bombers as they took off on their mission, before I left for school, and then I would count them again when I came home from school and they were returning from their mission.”

Tony spent the next twenty minutes describing his boyhood during the period between the arrival of the 100 th Bomb Group in 1943 and its departure in 1945. The young Americans of the 100 th Bomb Group were his heroes and obviously remain so today.

Tony Mark telling his story in the Thorpe Abbotts control tower.

Tony told me a story that on several occasions over the next half an hour nearly had both of us in tears. He vividly remembers how excited everyone in his village was on June 7, 1943, when the B-17s of the 100 th Bomb Group began to arrive at Thorpe Abbotts.

Seventy-three years later he still recalls the noise of the arriving bombers. He described how he stood at his bedroom window with his mother, watching the bombers circle and land.

He counted how many bombers were landing, something he would do for the next two years, and anxiously awaited “his” bomber, the one assigned to the hardstand that had been built only yards from his family home. Eventually “his” bomber did taxi into the hardstand and park.

He read the name on the nose, Squawkin’ Hawk, and hoped that he would get to know the bomber’s crewmen. His wish came true. He became friends not only with the original crew but eventually their replacements.

The Squawkin’ Hawk was the first of the original B-17s in England to survive 50 missions – two full combat tours at that time – and was later flown back to the United States to conduct a war bond tour. (Considerable material can be found on the internet regarding the history of the Squawkin’ Hawk.)

One event he mentioned several times was that with all the excitement surrounding the arrival of the 100 th his mother had told him, “Tony, what you see today will be history tomorrow.” He always followed his mother’s comment with the words, “And she was right!”

B-17s of the 351st Bombardment Squadron, 100th Bombardment Group.

Following Tony’s animated description of the arrival of the 100 th , his voice became lower and he began to tell me of the months that followed, during late 1943 and into 1944, when the 100 th suffered dreadful losses and were given the nickname “The Bloody Hundredth.” He described how he would count the planes leaving, and then was saddened by the smaller count he made when they returned.

Of those that did return, he described, “Some would come home with enormous holes in them, some with parts missing, and some with engines not working. It was quite frightening.” He told me how the local children learned that if an approaching B-17 fired flares as they turned into their final approach to Thorpe Abbotts, it meant there were wounded men aboard requiring immediate medical attention. He also described how some of the bombers would not make it to the runway but would crash in the surrounding countryside.

“There would be great plumes of smoke and fire as well as the noise of the sirens of the firefighters.” The intensity of his childhood memories was evident in his voice as he described the crashes of the bombers near Thorpe Abbotts, and how his fondness for his American friends would be overcome by apprehension and fear – a difficult memory to be absorbed by a seven-year-old, that was still evident almost eight decades later.

B-17s from the Eighth Air Force at Honington Air Depot, England.

After describing the pain of watching the bombers crash and burn, Tony paused for several moments and then continued with more pleasant memories, telling me of the Christmas parties the Americans held for the local children in 1944 and 1945, and how he proudly carried his own “pass” to cross a portion of Thorpe Abbotts to attend school.

Finally, his mood changed totally, as with obvious sadness he told me about the change his world endured when the Americans departed – not just as individual crewmen, which often happened during 1944 and early 1945, but entirely, in the fall of 1945. “Once they were gone it was so quiet,” he stated, “and there was so much left behind. Local people just came along and helped themselves. A new life had begun.”

He told me how he watched the grass and weeds grow high on the base, and that local farmers began to cultivate the soil between the concrete runways, taxiways and hardstands. His final comment before we departed the control tower was to remind me of what his mother had told him on the day the 100 th arrived: What he had seen, had indeed become history.

Thorpe Abbots Airfield – 13 November 1946.

Mesmerized as I was with Tony’s story, I had lost all track of time. I heard calls from below the tower for our group to assemble and board the coach. As soon as we came down from the tower we were told that our visit at Thorpe Abbotts was ending. Tony disappeared and returned with a manuscript which he told me covered more of his life, not just the years 1943-1945 and his relationship with the 100 th Bomb Group airmen.

I accepted the manuscript from Tony and promised him that I would share it with my friends at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum and the 8 th Air Force Historical Society when I returned to Savannah. Tony Mark had provided me with a most powerful and dramatic lesson in first-person history.

“The Thomper” (coded BG-X) B-17G-55-BO Flying Fortress s/n 42-102560 334th BS, 95th BG, 8th AF lost on the November 30, 1944, mission to Merseburg, Germany. 5 KIA, 4 POW MACR 10840. In the photo the plane is under attack by German fighters and the tail gunner is returning fire. Note the damage to the right wing and wisps of fire starting to show.

The trip from Thorpe Abbotts to Horham, where we would meet our hosts from the 95 th Bomb Group, took about 20 minutes. Everyone on the coach seemed to be talking at once. Joe and Linda Ciotola were the center of attention. Joe was absolutely ecstatic to have been connected with his father’s WWII history and had made some very good friends during our visit. Everyone else was also sharing their experiences. It seemed that we had all been adopted by a person, or persons, as I had been by Mike, Ron and then Tony.

Penny Linsenmayer told a wonderful story of how one of the locals had described to her that a bomber would occasionally take off in the middle of the day, be gone for several hours, and return with gallons and gallons of ice cream that had left the ground as basic materials, been mixed and frozen at high altitudes, and then returned to earth and distributed to the local children. We had all experienced an emotional beginning to what would continue to be an amazing day.

Ground crew of the 95th Bomb Group attend to an explosion caused whilst loading bombs into a B-17 Flying Fortress at Alconbury. Aircraft pictured are: B-17F (serial number 42-29808) and B-17F (serial number 42-29706), nicknamed “Passion Flower” (after the Disney character from ‘Bambi’) – both were written off as a result of the explosion.

When we arrived at Horham what we saw was totally different from Thorpe Abbotts, as would be our greeting and visiting time with our 95 th Bomb Group hosts. I think we all expected to see another one of the classic control towers, surrounded by individuals standing about in casually dressed military garb. Well, the dress code was the same, but the overall picture was very different. Our new 95 th friends were almost in a military formation as they greeted us when we left the coach. There was no control tower, and while they were all smiling, they did not break formation.

When we were out of the coach, the man standing in the center of the formation, James Mutton, the Chairman of the 95 th Bomb Group Heritage Association, welcomed us to Horham in a light, but formal, manner. Then he invited us to follow his group into the compound of small huts known as the Red Feather Club – and what a club it turned out to be! The formality of our arrival disappeared as soon as we entered the club, and the special jovial side of the Horham group emerged – they are party people!

Once again, my City of Savannah logo was noted and I was soon talking with James and Mike Agar, telling them that I had two friends from the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah who were going to be very interested in our visit to the 95 th . First I told them about Bud Porter, who had flown as a ball turret gunner in the 95 th , and then John O’Neill. John’s dad had been a tail gunner in the 412 th squadron.

When these names were mentioned the reaction was similar to that when I had mentioned General Shuler at the 100 th . Mike immediately went into research mode and shortly thereafter I was provided with a large glass of beer and pictures of Bud and of John’s dad. They were particularly excited that John’s dad had been part of a well remembered crew, who had become Pathfinders and the first B-17 crew to fly over Berlin, on March 4, 1944.

B-17 of the 95th Bombardment Group.

While we were talking, there was a sudden commotion and most of the people in the room headed for a door from behind which came a blast of 1940s “swing” music. It turns out that a major portion of the social action at the Red Feather Club is dancing to swing music – in period dress if possible. As a historian by nature and education, and a tone deaf terrible dancer, I was caught between wanting to see what was going on in the next room and the one-time opportunity to talk with James and Mike.

My historian gene won out, and I waved to my museum tour colleagues as they followed the crowd to the dance floor in the next room, while I continued my discussion with James and Mike. They resumed their history lesson by telling me that the buildings on the base had been nearly destroyed in the years following the departure of the 95 th in 1945. In 1981 a group known as the Friends of the 95 th bought the buildings and began to repair them.

In 2000 a new group was formed, the Horman Airfield Heritage Association, a group of local residents, who like their neighbors at Thorpe Abbotts, remembered their WWII heroes from America and began an effort to restore what had been known, when Bud Porter and John O’Neill, Sr., were in residence, as the Red Feather Club. Then the fun really began.

Original 1943 wall painting in the Red Feather Club.

The group decided to honor the 95 th by restoring the former NCO Club/Mess Hall, which still had original paintings on the walls done by WWII artists from the 95 th cadre, as the centerpiece for the 95 th memorial to include not only the Red Feather Club, but a library and visitor center.

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with James and Mike, particularly the spirit that they showed for their on-going adventure with the Red Feather Club. I told them that I appreciated their spirit because it matched that of the volunteers on the City of Savannah restoration project, and that we shared the same ultimate mission – to honor the veterans of the 8 th Air Force who fought in the skies over western Europe in WWII.

During our conversation, one of the group, who was wearing his “suntan” khakis, a 50-mission crush hat and an A-2 jacket, brought over another round of beers for the table and shook my hand. I thought that I remembered the face and outfit from our Thorpe Abbotts visit and asked him which organization he called home. He gave me a big smile and introduced himself as Glenn, home-based at Horham with the 95th. “OK,” one of the group said, as everyone smiled, “Now tell Jerry the full story about your name.”

Glenn explained that he had been born in a local town during WWII to a Mr. and Mrs. Miller. It seems that the Millers could not help but name their new son “Glenn” in honor of the American bandleader who was so popular in England at that time. Then Glenn did something that has apparently become a tradition for him at 8 th Air Force related events – he brought out a copy of his birth certificate! Yes, the document stated that the man was named Glenn Miller!

Everyone at the table took great delight at hearing the story – yet again – and we drank a toast to both Glenn Millers! What a great group of people!

Red Feather Club members in period dress. The famous Glenn Miller is at left.

It was no easier to depart from Horham than it had been from Thorpe Abbotts, particularly with the music still playing, and the bar still open. Somehow Maddie got us all back on the coach and we departed Horham for our hotel in Cambridge, where we would have time to think about the unique events that had made up our day visiting with a very unique group of English patriots. New friends with a history and appreciation for what our fathers and grandfathers had done in service to both of our countries in WWII.

The following morning we visited the Duxford Air Museum facility and then made the final stop on our tour of 8 th Air Force Bomb Group WWII historical sites. This stop was by far the most subdued and emotional for all of us, but particularly for one of our group, Susan Jowers. A brief explanation of why the solemn mood: When we gathered together for the first time in London and were introducing ourselves, Don Miller arrived with very sad news.

The single WWII 8 th Air Force veteran who was to share the tour with us, Mel Rector, had passed away shortly after arriving in England the previous day. One can imagine our shock! Mel had served as a radio operator in the 338 th squadron of the 96 th Bomb Group in 1944-45. Susan and Mel had become friends when Susan was working as a volunteer in Florida with the Space Coast Honor Flight organization that brings WWII veterans from Florida to Washington, DC, to visit the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall.

Mel told Susan that he had never returned to England since he left in 1945, and had always wanted to visit his WWII base at Snetterton Heath. Susan, who through her efforts with the Honor Flights program, had become well acquainted with supporting veterans on trips, told Mel that she would be glad to be his escort on a trip to England, and so, the two of them had signed up for the Masters of the Air tour.

96th Bomb Group B-17G with radar.

In addition to the sorrow that Susan had to endure over losing her good friend, the logistics and legal aspects of the situation were significant. Despite the challenges, and not wanting to be alone while waiting for those issues to be resolved, Susan completed most of the tour with us, as the bureaucratic, legal, and logistical issues associated with Mel’s death were completed.

The first stop on our visit to the 96 th Bomb Group home at Snetterton Heath was at St. Andrew’s Church in Quidenham, near to where the main gate of the base was located from 1943 to 1945. When we disembarked from the coach we were met by a wonderful gentleman by the name of Geoff Ward. Geoff is the Secretary of the local 96 th Bomb Group Memorial Association, and would guide us on our tour of St. Andrew’s, which, we would learn, had become an important part of the 96 th Bomb Group history in England.

Camouflaged and unpainted 413th Squadron B-17Gs.

It wasn’t until we entered the church and Geoff began to tell the story of the 96 th’ s relationship with St. Andrew’s that I learned there was an unexpected story, a story that I related to personally, with regard to the church. Having been associated with the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force for more than a decade I am very familiar with the Museum’s chapel and its magnificent stained glass windows.

When entering St. Andrew’s, which was originally constructed in the 12 th century, I was amazed to see a stained glass window with a picture of Jesus and a WWII USAAF crewman. Further, it then came to me that the same window can be seen in the Mighty Eighth’s chapel! I immediately asked Geoff if I was right about having seen the same window in Pooler, Georgia, and he smiled, “Ah, you know about that window,” he said.

Then he told me two stories. First, of how the original window, depicting Jesus welcoming an 8 th crewman into heaven had been commissioned and installed in April of 1944, under the sponsorship of the 338 th Squadron’s Flight Surgeon, Captain Herbert Allen, and several other officers from the 96 th , symbolizing that the church had, during WWII, been “a part of America in England.”

The original stained glass windows depicting Jesus welcoming an 8th Air Force crewman into heaven, at St. Andrew’s church in the village of Quidenham.

The second story concerned the window that I was familiar with in Georgia. Geoff told me that when the Mighty Eighth had built its chapel several 96 th Bomb Group veterans had provided financial support to include having the window from their beloved St. Andrew’s replicated in the Mighty Eighth Museum’s chapel.

Geoff explained that many of the 96 th’ s airmen had worshiped at St. Andrew’s and that several had married local girls, with the ceremonies taking place in the church. His description of the weddings between the local girls and the American airmen seemed to register with all of us – perhaps because of the wonderful experience we were having with our new British friends. As we walked back to the coach the group began discussing the marriages of the Americans and their British brides.

Don Miller got a great deal of support from the group when he suggested that it might be appropriate to include a wedding at St. Andrew’s in the script of an upcoming TV mini-series based upon his book Masters of the Air. All of us enthusiastically agreed – several even volunteering to appear as extras in the church congregation. Penny Linsenmayer mentioned that St. Andrew’s might also find a part in her novel as a wonderful place for an American Red Cross girl to marry her 8 th Air Force true love. The visit to St. Andrew’s had certainly touched each of us in a personal way.

Saint Andrew the Apostle by Artus Wolffort.

We departed Quidenham for the final stop on our tour of former 8th Air Force bases – Snetterton Heath. This was, perhaps, the most fitting way for us to end our base visits since this was the base from which Mel Rector had flown his combat missions, and to which he had wished to return. At Snetterton Heath the community school is located in buildings that housed the base hospital.

They have also established a wonderful museum in a Nissen hut that had been an ambulance garage. As had occurred during our other visits, people from the community turned out to welcome us with refreshments, and as before, several of them who had been children living on the edge of the base during the war regaled us with stories and showed us photographs from the WWII years.

In a final tribute to Mel Rector, everyone gathered around the museum’s flagpole, which was flying the American flag, for a moment of silence as Susan Jowers said a few words and placed a plant next to the pole in memory of Mel.

482d Bomb Group B-24s from RAF Alconbury England on a bomb run over occupied Europe – 1943.

Our time at Snetterton Heath was the most quiet of our three base location visits, and in retrospect perhaps the most appropriate. While the friendship of the wonderful people at the 100 th , and the magnificent spirit of our hosts at the 95 th , had been appropriate to the memory of the 8 th Air Force in England during WWII, the ultimate emotion that we all needed to share was respect for the sacrifices and suffering that so many of the Eighth’s airmen, and their families, had endured during and after WWII.

Having been a life-long student of the air war in Europe, brought about by the loss of an uncle in the sky over Normandy during the dark hours of D-Day morning, I found the days that I shared with my fellow WWII Museum travelers on this tour to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

History, by definition, refers to the past. What we experienced in the three visits to the WWII Bomb Group sites related to events from the past which had been brought to the present by some very good people who have not forgotten their history.

The Eighth Air Force vs. The Luftwaffe

In the grisly battle for European air supremacy, the Luftwaffe proved a deadly foe to Allied bombers.

The United States Eighth Air Force deployed to England with a daunting mission: destroy Germany’s ability to wage war, and gain command of the European skies to pave the way for an Allied land invasion. In order to accomplish it, thousands of American airmen had to face the constant threat of death daily.

German anti-aircraft fire, or flak, was one of those deadly threats. Some targets were more heavily defended by flak batteries than others, but flak was an accepted part of the job at hand, no matter how deadly.

The other more feared threat was the German Luftwaffe. In 1943, the Luftwaffe was at peak strength against American bombers. The pilots flying the ME-109s and FW-190s were professionals—the best in the world. Some of the German pilots had been flying in combat since 1936. Many had dozens of aerial victories some had over 100. John Keema of the 390th Bomb Group said, “No matter the target they were defending, they were balls to the wall. They were brave. They didn’t hesitate.”

The American theory on daylight bombing lay in the aircraft the crewmen flew: the rugged Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress,” the main heavy bomber of the Eighth Air Force. The plane carried 10 crewmen, and sported 13 50-caliber guns for self-defense. It was famous for bringing crews home, even when three of its four engines failed. The B-17’s firepower, combined with that of other aircraft in the formation, would be plenty to protect bombers from enemy attacks.

Theory was one thing. Practice was another.

In November 1942, German fighter ace Egon Mayer found the weakest place on a B-17—directly in the front of the aircraft. Defended by only four machine guns, the nose of the B-17—and more importantly the cockpit—was vulnerable to a head-on attack. The attack required great skill and courage, as the German and American aircraft closed at an astonishing speed. The German pilot only had seconds to aim, fire, and peel away before careening into the heavy bombers. Tested by the developer himself, Mayer found the tactic worked exceedingly well. By December, the head-on attack was the preferred method of assailing American heavy bombers by Luftwaffe fighter pilots. Casualties among bomber crews began to mount steadily as B-17s were being blown out of the sky with growing consistency.

A B-17 taxis down a runway.

A portrait of Captain John Luckadoo.

Here is B-17 Rose Marie, which served in the 390th Bombing Group.

Throughout the summer of 1943, American bomber crews sustained heavy casualties. Losses of 30 or more aircraft—300 men—were not uncommon throughout the summer. John Luckadoo, a pilot in the 100th Bomb Group recalled that he “calculated a 400 percent turnover in the first 90 days” of combat. In 1943, bomber crews were tasked with a 25-mission tour of duty. Most crews never made it past their fifth. The Luftwaffe owned the skies over Europe and the men of the Eighth Air Force were paying the price.

A fatalistic sense of acceptance became prevalent. A popular saying at the time was that to “fly in the Eighth Air Force then was like holding a ticket to a funeral —your own.” Abnormal behavior became more common. Insomnia, irritability, sudden temper flashes, nausea, weight loss, blurred vision, introverted withdrawal, inability to concentrate, and Parkinson’s-like tremors were a few of the symptoms seen by flight surgeons. Nightmares so vivid that they caused the men to wake up screaming in the night were not uncommon. Men became jumpy and jittery, the “Focke-Wulf Jitters,” or “flak happy,” became commonly used terms in the Eighth Air Force.

As summer turned to autumn in 1943, the Americans felt that, despite the casualties, the air war would ramp up in intensity. Targets that directly affected the German war machine became priorities. Fighter-production facilities, ball-bearing plants, shipyards, and other military targets were in the crosshairs of the Eighth. Conversely, the Eighth was in the crosshairs of the Luftwaffe, determined more than ever to defend their cities and facilities.

Stuttgart, Germany, and the Bosch factory located there were the targets for the Eighth on September 6. Stuttgart was at the very limit of the B-17 in 1943, and fuel was a precious commodity on this particular mission. As usual, as the fortresses approached German territory, German fighters attacked. The assaults were violent, head-on passes that resulted in high casualties among the lead crews. Yet, despite the opposition, the bombers continued toward the Bosch factory. Once over the target, however, the mission began to unravel, as a cloud front had unexpectedly moved in, obscuring its view from the bombardiers perched in the noses of their B-17s 25,000 feet above. General Robert Travis, aerial commander of the mission, made the decision to circle the target and wait for the clouds to move. As the bomber formation circled the target, the tight combat boxes of B-17s became easy targets for enemy fighters. Three passes were made and, the clouds had not broken, all while precious fuel was being burned and B-17s were being shot down by fighters and anti-aircraft artillery. The B-17s had been over the target for nearly thirty minutes when the bombs in the lead aircraft finally dropped.

The bombs missed the target almost completely. Forty-five B-17s failed to return to England that night.

The obvious confusion in the air over Stuttgart and the heavy casualties sustained yet again caused many men to begin to doubt the leadership of the air campaign. A survivor of the Stuttgart mission recalled, “We began to wonder if they were trying to kill all of us. There were fewer and fewer guys returning every day.” One of the many who didn’t return from Stuttgart added, “We felt as if they didn’t know what the hell they were doing up there, especially over Stuttgart. They were just aimlessly flying around.” The fact that the aerial commander made four passes at the target astounded many of the crew. That leadership allowed the men to be exposed to enemy fire for what seemed like an eternity, for little or no results in terms of bombing accuracy, made the crews irate. The pilot continued, “It was a good thing I was shot down honestly. Because if I hadn’t been, I would have turned in my wings I was so fed up.”

The morale among the Eighth Air Force crews was at a low point in September, yet the worst was yet to come. October 1943 yielded the heaviest casualties sustained up to that point in the air campaign.

Beginning on October 8 and continuing until October 14, Eighth Air Force crews attacked targets all over Germany in an attempt to continue the pressure on the Germans. October 8’s target was the shipyard in dreaded Bremen, known as “Flak City” by the aircrews. The flak was so thick, Luckadoo said that “if you put your wheels down you could taxi on it.” Combined with the expected fighter opposition, October 8 was not going to be an easy day for the bomber crews. Luckadoo recalled that the enemy fighters attacked the bombers as soon as they crossed the border into France and continued all the way through to the target. Generally, when bombers approached the target and entered what was called the flak field, enemy fighters peeled away to land, refuel, and rearm.

On October 8, they did not peel away. The enemy fighters, so determined in their mission to deter the B-17s, remained in attack mode over the flak field and flew through their own anti-aircraft fire in order to deliver their assaults. As they approached the initial point, or IP, the fighters pressed even closer. Luckadoo remembered one such attack on the B-17 called Piccadilly Lilly: “Out of the corner of my eye I saw this flight of FW-190s barreling into our squadron. Aiming right for us … they kept coming, kept coming … they may have killed the pilot of the lead ship or else he was so determined that he was going to take down a bomber that he flew into … impacted the ship that I was formed on. When they went down … I had to dump my nose to keep them from taking me with them.” The fighters over Bremen were relentless in their attacks. By the end of the mission, the Eighth Air Force had lost 30 bombers and 300 men. The 100th Bomb Group lost 17 of 19 deployed. The 381st lost seven of 18 deployed. The 300 men shot down were obvious casualties, but when the battered bombers returned to their home bases, they carried another 301 wounded in their fuselages.

For the survivors, there wasn’t much time for contemplation of those lost. The next day proved to be an even longer day, followed by another, and another. The German fighters reaped a devilish harvest in the skies over Bremen, a harvest repeated in the next few missions in what became called “Black Week” by those fortunate enough to live through it.

17 August 1942

A flight of Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress bombers forms up over England, 1942. “Yankee Doodle,” 41-9023, is just to the left of center. (U.S. Air Force) Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker (Margaret Bourke-White/LIFE)

17 August 1942: Mission No. 1. The United States VIII Bomber Command made its first heavy bomber attack on Nazi-occupied Europe when eighteen Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress four-engine bombers of the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), based at RAF Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England, headed for the railroad marshaling yards at Rouen-Sotteville, France. This was the largest and most active railroad yard in northern France.

The group began takeoffs at 1530 hours. It was escorted by several squadrons of Royal Air Force Supermarine Spitfire fighters.

While six B-17s flew along the French coast as a diversion, twelve bombers flew to Rouen and were over the target from 1739 to 1746. From an altitude of 23,000 feet (7,010 meters), they dropped 39,000 pounds (17,690 kilograms) of general purpose bombs.

Accuracy was good. One of the aim points, the locomotive shops, was destroyed by a direct hit. The overall results were moderate.

Rouen-Sotteville target assessment photograph. (U.S. Air Force)

All of the bombers returned to their base, with the first landing at 1900. Two B-17s had been damaged. American gunners claimed damage to one Luftwaffe airplane.

Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker commanded Mission No. 1 from this Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, 41-9023, Yankee Doodle, shown here being serviced between missions. This bomber survived the War. (U.S. Air Force)

The raid was commanded by Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker aboard Yankee Doodle, B-17E 41-9023, leading the second flight of six B-17s. The 97th Bombardment Group Commander, Colonel Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., flew as the co-pilot of the lead ship, Butcher Shop, B-17E 41-2578, with pilot Major Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. Major Tibbets was in command of the 97th’s 340th Bombardment Squadron. (He would later command the 509th Composite Group and fly the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay.)

Colonel Frank Alton Armstrong, Jr., Air Corps, United States Army, commanding the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy), in the pilot’s position of a Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress. (Imperial War Museum)

The Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress was a major redesign. A new aft fuselage was used, incorporating larger vertical and horizontal stabilizers. A tail turret was added. A power-operated gun turret was added at dorsal and ventral positions.

The Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress was a four-engine heavy bomber operated by a flight crew of ten. It was 73 feet, 10 inches (22.504 meters) long with a wingspan of 103 feet, 9-3/8 inches (31.633 meters) and an overall height of 19 feet, 2 inch (5.842 meters). Its empty weight was 32,350 pounds (14,674 kilograms), 40,260 pounds (18,262 kilograms) gross weight, and the maximum takeoff weight was 53,000 pounds (24,040 kilograms).

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2578, 97th Bombardment Group, photographed 17 August 1942. (Imperial War Museum)

The B-17E was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,823.129-cubic-inch-displacement (29.875 liters) Wright Cyclone G666A (R-1820-65) nine-cylinder radial engines with turbochargers, producing 1,200 horsepower at 2,500 r.p.m. for takeoff and 1,000 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at Sea Level. The Cyclones turned three-bladed constant-speed Hamilton-Standard Hydromatic propellers with a diameter of 11 feet, 7 inches (3.835 meters) though a 0.5625:1 gear reduction. The R-1820-65 was 47.59 inches (1.209 meters) long and 55.12 inches (1.400 meters) in diameter. It weighed 1,315 pounds (596 kilograms). 8,422 of these engines were produced by Wright Aeronautical Division and its licensees between February 1940 and August 1942.

The B-17E had a cruise speed of 195 miles per hour (314 kilometers per hour). Its maximum speed was 318 miles per hour (512 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 36,600 feet (11,156 meters).

With a normal fuel load of 2,490 gallons (9,426 liters) the B-17E had a maximum range of 3,300 miles (5,311 kilometers). Carrying a 4,000 pound (1,814 kilogram) bomb load, the range was 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers).

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2578, the lead ship on the 17 August 1942 air raid on Rouen-Sotteville, France, flown by Major Paul W. Tibbets, photographed at RAF Bovingdon, 1943. By the end of the war, this airplane was the oldest, longest-serving B-17E in the USAAF. (Imperial War Museum)

The B-17E Flying Fortress was armed with one .30-caliber Browning M2 Aircraft Machine Gun and eight Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns. The .30 was mounted in the nose. Power turrets mounting two .50-caliber guns, each, were located at the dorsal and ventral positions. (The first 112 B-17Es were built with a remotely-operated turret in the belly position, sighted by a periscope. A manned ball turret replaced this.) Two machine guns were in a tail turret, and one on each side at the waist.

The maximum bomb load of the B-17E was 20,800 pounds (9,435 kilograms) over very short distances. Normally, 4,000–6,000 pounds (1,815–2,722 kilograms) were carried. The internal bomb bay could be loaded with a maximum of eight 1,000 pound (454 kilogram) or four 2,000 pound (907 kilogram) bombs.

The B-17 Flying Fortress first flew in 1935, and was in production from 1937 to 1945. 12,731 B-17s were built by Boeing. 512 of the total were B-17Es. The last one was completed 28 May 1942. Production shifted to the further-improved B-17F.

Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2509, flying over the Florida Keys, circa 1942. (Getty Images)

Crew 2467, 8th Air Force - History

Massachusetts Warplanes

Data current to 29 April 2021.

(USAF Photo)

Curtiss O-11 of the 101st Observation Squadron, Massachusetts, ca 1929.

(USAF Photo)

View of the hangar of the 101st Observation Squadron, Massachusetts National Guard at Jeffrey Field (today Logan International Airport), Boston, Massachusetts, before the Second World War. Visible are three Douglas O-46, three North American O-47, and a Beechcraft AT-7.

(USAF Photo)

North American O-47B (Serial No. 39-101), 59th Interceptor Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, flying over Cape Cod, ca. 1940.

(SDA&SM Photo)

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt P-47D-30-RE (Serial No. 44-20411). The 131st Fighter Squadron was allotted to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946.

(USAF Photo)

Republic F-47N-20-RE Thunderbolt (Serial No. 44-89123), 101st Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard., ca 1948.

(USAF Photo)

Republic Republic P-47N-25-RE Thunderbolt (Serial No. 44-89347), 101st Fighter Squadron Massachusetts Air National Guard, Logan Airport 1949.

(NMNA Photo)

U.S. Navy Douglas BD-2 "Daisy Mae" 2 X 14, Naval Air Station South Weymoth, Massachusetts, ca. 1944. (USAF Photo)

North American TB-25K-32-NC Mitchell, 101st Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, Logan Airport, Massachusetts, ca 1949.

(NMNA Photo)

North American FJ-3 Fury (BuNo. 136037), US Marine Corps Reserve, Marine Attack Squadron VMA-322 "Fighting Gamecocks" at Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Massachusetts, ca. 1959.

(USAF Photo)

North American F-86H-1-NA Sabre (Serial No. 52-2030), 131st 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron Massachusetts Air National Guard, ca. 1957-65.

(USAF Photo)

North American F-86H-1-NA Sabre (Serial No. 52-2009), 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, 1959.

(USAF Photo)

North American F-86H-1-NA Sabre (Serial No. 53-1290), Massachusetts Air National Guard, ca. 1957-65.

(NMUSAF Photo)

North American F-86H Sabre s of the 138th Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 101st TFS, Massachusetts Air National Guard, on the flightline at RAF Prestwick, Scotland (UK), after flying across the North Atlantic from the U.S. as part of "Operation Stair Step", in Oct 1961. After refueling, they continued to their new base in France. The three nearest aircraft are F-86H-10 (Serial No. 53-1290), F-86H-5 (Serial No. 52-2122) and F-86H-1 (Serial No. 52-2075). "Operation Stair Step" was initiated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 in response to Soviet threats to West-Berlin, Germany. 18 Air National Guard tactical fighter squadrons were mobilized (among others). "Operation Stair Step" was the deployment of eight ANG fighter squadrons with 216 aircraft to Europe in November 1961.

(NMNA Photo)

North American YA-5C Vigilante (BuNo. 149305) of Heavy Attack Squadron 3 (VAH-3), USN, on display at Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Massachusetts, ca. 1963. (NMNA Photo)

(USAF Photo)

North American F-100C-20-NA Super Sabre (Serial No. 54-1953) from the 101st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, at Otis Air Force Base, circa in 1971.

( USGOV-PD Photo)

North American F-100D-45-NH Super Sabre (Serial No. 55-2830), 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts, 1972.

(USGOV-PD Photo)

North American F-100D-25-NA Super Sabre (Serial No. 55-3634), 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts, ca. 1974.

(USAF Photo)

CIM-10B Bomarc missile at the launch ready position, Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, ca 1960s.

(USAF Photo)

McDonnell F-101B-95-MC Voodoo (Serial No. 57-0376), 60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, Otis AFB, Massachusetts, 1960.

(USAF Photo)

McDonnell F-101B-95-MC Voodoo (Serial No. 57-0364), 60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 1970.

(USAF Photo)

Convair F-106A Delta Dart (Serial No. 57-2494) of the 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard based at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, intercepting a Soviet Tu-95 Bear D bomber aircraft off Cape Cod on 15 April 1982.

( SSgt. Lemuel Casillas, USAF Photo)

Convair F-106A-80-CO Delta Dart (s/n 57-2467) aircraft from 101st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, ca 1964.

(USAF Photo)

Convair F-106A-80-CO Delta Dart (s/n 57-2503 and 57-2504), 101st Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, 1964.

(USAF Photo)

Convair F-106 Delta Dart (Serial No. 57-2605), 101st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Massachusetts Air National Guard, 1969.

(USAF Photo)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (Serial No. 78-0628), 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts, 1980.

(USAF Photo)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (Serial No. 78-0608), 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Massachusetts, 1988.

( A1C Isaac G.L. Freeman, USAF Photo)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (Serial No. 78-0659) from the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard, 6 March 2003.

(Harly Copic Artwork)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II of the 104th Expeditionary Operations Group (EOG) over Kosovo, (Former Yugoslavia), in May 1999. Operating from its main installation at Trapani Air Base, Sicily and a forward location at Taszar Air Base, Hungary, the unit was known as the "Killer Bees." They belonged to a composite or "rainbow" Air National Guard (ANG) unit composed of personnel and aircraft from the 104th Fighter Wing at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, the 110th Fighter Wing at Battle Creek, Michigan, and the 124th Wing at Boise, Idaho. The 104th EOG also included active duty Air Force members who were responsible for base operating support functions. The 104th EOG was formed as a temporary composite unit because no single ANG fighter wing possessed enough A-10s to meet the wartime requirements for Operation Allied Force, the war for Kosovo. The unit flew 439 combat sorties expending 64 AGM-65s "Maverick" air-to-surface missiles, 539 MK-82 free-fall non-guided general purpose 500-pound bombs, 49 CBU-87 "Combined Effects Munitions," and over 14,300 rounds of 30mm ammunition while attacking enemy military convoys, armor, artillery, supply storage areas, and ammunition storage sites. Its pilots also flew combat search and rescue as well as airborne forward air control missions. The 104th EOG accumulated 3,300 flying hours in 45 days during May and June without losing a single pilot or aircraft. The employment of composite units was an increasingly important element of efforts by the ANG and the Air Force to adapt to the complexities of the post Cold War environment.

(MSGT Michael Ammons USAF Photo)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II from the 104th Fighter Wing (FW), Barnes Air National Guard (ANG) Base, Westfield, Massachusetts (MA), firing an AGM-65 Maverick over northwest Florida during a Combat Hammer Air-to-Ground Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) mission, 13 Jan 2004.

Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, "The Patriot", 337th AS, 439th Airlift Wing, Massachusetts, 1992. (Alain Rioux Photo)

(Mike Freer - Touchdown-aviation Photo)

Lockheed C-5A Galaxy, 337th Airlift Squadron, 439th Airlift Wing, Westover AFB, Massachusetts, 23 Aug 1993.

(Mike Freer - Touchdown-aviation Photo)

Lockheed C-5B Galaxy, 337th Airlift Squadron, 439th Airlift Wing based at Westover AFB, Massachusetts, 16 July 2007.

( Lt. Col. Bill Ramsay, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (Serial No. 74-0100), from the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Fighter Wing flies a combat air patrol mission over New York City in support of Operation Noble Eagle, 2001.

( Lt. Col. Bill Ramsay, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle (Serial No. 74-0100), from the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 101st FS and 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing fly a combat air patrol mission over New York City in support of Operation Noble Eagle, 2001.

( MSGT Michael Ammons, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (Serial No. 77-0124), 101st Fighter Squadron, 102nd Fighter Wing, Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, armed with an AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile, 2005.

(Gerard van der Schaaf Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (Serial No. 83-0018), 104th Fighter Wing, 2016.

(Rob Scheiffert Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle (Serial No. 85-0122), 31st Fighter Squadron, Westfield, Massachusetts, 13 April 2016.

(Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson, USAF Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle assigned to the 131st Fighter Squadron, 104th Fighter Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard breaks away from an F-22 Raptor aircraft assigned to the 154th Wing as the two aircraft line up for landing at Royal Malaysian Air Force base Butterworth, Malaysia, 16 June 2014.

This aviation handbook is designed to be used as a quick reference to the classic military heritage aircraft that have been restored and preserved in the Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut. The aircraft include those fl own by members of the US Air Force, the US Navy, the US Army, the US Marine Corps, the US Coast Guard, the Air and Army National Guard units in each state, and by various NATO and allied nations as well as a number of aircraft previously operated by opposition forces in peace and war. The interested reader will find useful information and a few technical details on most of the military aircraft that have been in service with active flying squadrons both at home and overseas.

120 selected photographs have been included to illustrate a few of the major examples in addition to the serial numbers assigned to American military aircraft. For those who would like to actually see the aircraft concerned, aviation museum locations, addresses and contact phone numbers, websites and email addresses have been included, along with a list of aircraft held in each museum's current inventory or that on display as gate guardians throughout the New England States. The aircraft presented in this edition are listed alphabetically by manufacturer, number and type.

Although many of New England's heritage warplanes have completely disappeared, a few have been carefully collected, restored and preserved, and some have even been restored to flying condition. This guide-book should help you to find and view New England's Warplane survivors.

Massachusetts Warplane Survivors

North American AT-6 Texan (Serial No. 59-1938), Reg. No. N6665Y, Charles F. Andrews, PO Box 145, Becket, MA 01223-0145.

North American AT-6G Texan (Serial No. 44-81687-A), Reg. No. N164US, T64 US Inc, c/o Dilltec Inc Civil Air Terminal, 200 Hanscom Drive, Bedford, MA 01730.

Bedford, Hanscom AFB, located 17-miles northwest of Boston.

Curtiss P-40 Warhawk replica, XO-1, painted as (Serial No. 84534), "Stump", mounted on a concrete pylon.

(Jerry Saslav, USAF Photo)

North American F-86H-10H Sabre (Serial No. 53-1328), mounted on a pylon.

(Colt9033 Photo)

Bell UH-1M Iroquois (Serial No. 65-9560), mounted on a pylon, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 595, Vietnam War Memorial to honor the nine young men from Beverly who died during the war.

North American SNJ-5 Texan (Serial No. 8819555), Reg. No. N6410D, Deschenes Construction Co Ltd, 163 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915.

(Colt9033 Photo)

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15UTI trainer (Serial No. 0732), on informal display at Beverly Airport .

Museum of Science, Science Park, Boston, MA 02114-1099. Phone: (617) 723-2500, (617) 723-2500. The Museum of Science is a Boston, Massachusetts landmark, located in Science Park, a plot of land spanning the Charles River. Along with over 500 interactive exhibits, the Museum features a number of live presentations throughout the building everyday, along with shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni IMAX theater, the only domed IMAX screen in New England. Various space exhibits are on display.

The MIT Daedalus human-powered aircraft hangs in the entry lobby of the museum as does Decavitator, MIT's human-powered high-speed boat. The MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's Daedalus was a human-powered aircraft that, on 23 April 1988, flew a distance of 71.5 mi (115.11 km) in 3 hours, 54 minutes, from Iraklion on the island of Crete to the island of Santorini. The flight holds official FAI world records for distance and duration for human-powered aircraft. The craft was named after the mythological inventor of aviation, Daedalus.

North American SNJ-5 Texan (Serial No. 84979), Reg. No. N7296C, James M. Baker, 9 Inverness Circle, Boxford, MA 01921-1931.

USCG Air Station, Race Point Beach, Cape Cod, MA.

U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod (ASCC), with its four helicopters and four jets, is the only Coast Guard Aviation facility in the northeast. As such, ASCC is responsible for the waters from New Jersey to the Canadian border. Centrally located at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod, ASCC maintains the ability to launch a helicopter and/or jet within 30 minutes of a call, 365 days-a-year, 24 hours-a-day, and in nearly any weather conditions. U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod is located at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Dassault HU-25A Guardian (Serial No.)

Grumman HU-16E Albatross (Serial No.)

Sikorsky HH-60J Jayhawk Helicopter (Serial No.)

Headquarters MassachusettsMilitary Reservation (MMR), Cape Cod, MA.

The MRR is a military training facility located on the upper western portion of Cape Cod, immediately south of the Cape Cod Canal in Barnstable County, MA.

Cape Cod, Otis Air Force Base.

(David Watkins Photo)

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (Serial No. 51-4335), mounted on a pylon.

(Jeff Nelson Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (Serial No. 76-0040), Otis ANG.

Battleship Cove, located in Fall River, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit maritime museum and war memorial that traces its origins to the wartime crew of the World War II battleship USS Massachusetts. This dedicated veterans group was responsible for the donation of the decommissioned vessel from the Navy and its subsequent public display in Fall River, Massachusetts. The site is located at the confluence of the Taunton River and Mount Hope Bay, an arm of Narragansett Bay. Battleship Cove lies partially beneath the Braga Bridge and adjacent to Fall River Heritage State Park, at the heart of Fall River’s waterfront. The battleship forms a small cove which serves as a protected harbor for pleasure craft during the summer months. The Fall River Yacht Club maintains a dock nearby. Wikipedia.

An Aircraft Model Collection is on display as well as the following aircraft:

Bell UH-1M Iroquois helicopter (Serial No. 66-60609), mounted on a pylon.

(Danny Chapman Photo)

Bell AH-1S Cobra helicopter (Serial No. 70-16038).

(Danny Chapman Photo)

North American T-28C Trojan (Serial No. 140454), 765.

Vought OS2U-2 Kingfisher (Serial No. 5909), was on loan from the NASM and placed on display on the USS Massachusetts for many years (1960s to 1980s) until it was returned to the NASM. It is now on display in the Udvar-Hazy Museum, Dulles Airport, Virginia.

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (Serial No. 53-5960)

McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle (Serial No. 76-0040)

North American F-86H Sabre (Serial No. 53-1377)

(Jim Hoagland Photo)

North American F-100C Super Sabre (Serial No. 54-1851), c/n 217-112. This aircraft came from the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Georgia, in exchange for North American F-100D Super Sabre (Serial No. 56-2995), which was previously mounted here on a pylon.

Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (Serial No. 52-6382)

Douglas C-47B Skytrain (Serial No. 45-972), New England Escadrille, Fitchburg Municipal Airport.

(RIclimber Photo)

Bell AH-1 Cobra (Serial No. 79-23240), Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post No. 6643.

North American SNJ-5 Texan (Serial No. 88-16388), Reg. No. N6436D, William F. McGrath Jr, 10 Sheep Commons Lane, Nantucket, MA 02554-2908.

North Attleboro

Bell 47 (Serial No. 4077), on static display on a trailer in front of G I Joe's Army & Navy Surplus Store.

Curtiss Wright Jr CW1 (Serial No. 1146), Reg. No. N10968, KEF Enterprises, PO Box 929, Plymouth MA 02362-0929.

Boeing-Stearman PT-17 Kaydet (Serial No. 75-8438), Reg. No. N727A, Stearman Associates Inc., 13 Kingston Street, Somerville, MA 02144.

(Ktr101 Photo)

Douglas A-4B Skyhawk (BuNo 142940), mounted on a pylon. This aircraft is a memorial at the former Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Weymouth, Rockland, and Abington.

North American SNJ-5 Texan (Serial No. 8814025), Reg. No. N64260D, Thomas F. Twomey, 1106 Main Street, South Weymouth, MA 02190.

Miller Zeta (Serial No. 1), Reg. No. NX1331, 1937 Racing aircraft.

The Collings Foundation, 137 Barton Road, Riverhill Farm, Stow, MA 01775-1529. Phone: (978) 562-9182, (978) 568-8924. Mail: The Collings Foundation, P.O. Box 248, Stow, MA 01775.

The Collings Foundation was founded in 1979 “to organize and support ‘living history’ events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation” and adopted aviation-related events, such as air shows and barnstorming, in the mid-eighties. It has since recovered and restored 20 historically-significant aircraft from the Early-Aviation, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras--from a 1909 Bleriot XI to a McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom. The following aircraft are currently held in the collection, although not all are on site in Stow. The aircraft may only be viewed on designated open house days as advertised and at airshows.

Bell UH-1E Iroquois Helicopter (Serial No. 153762), Reg. No. N911KK, Houston, Texas.

Boeing-Stearman A75N1/PT-17 Kaydet (Serial No. 75-3745), Reg. No. N55171, Stow.

Boeing-Stearman A75N1/PT-17 Kaydet (Serial No. 41-25454), New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

(Goshimini Photo)

(Tequask Photos)

(Joe Kunzler Photo)

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (Serial No. 44-83575), Reg, No. N93012, (Serial No. 32264), painted as 42-31909, “Nine-O-Nine”, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

(Clemens Vasters Photos)

(Karl Dickman Photo)

(airforcefe Photo)

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress (Serial No. 44-83785), C/N 32426, "Shady Lady", Reg. No. N207EV. This aircraft has been acquired from the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon and is expected to be made airworthy.

(USAAF Photo)

B-17 Flying Fortress bomber crew of the 306th Bomb Group. A newspaper article noted "The extremely heavy defense of the Flying Fortresses has enabled them to fight their way through to targets like Huls and Kiel in the face of the most intensive fighter opposition aerial warfare has ever seen. The result of these and other encounters has been the destruction of more than 1100 enemy aircraft. Formations of Flying Fortresses have an average of twelve .50 calibre machine guns per plane (which can be manned simultaneously by the usual crew of ten.) The aircrew of this Flying Fortress, left to right: Pilot F/L Frank N. Kacksetter of Denver, Colorado. Co-Pilot 2nd Lt Lester R. Kramer of Scranton Pennsilvania. Navigator Lt. Luther S. Pierceof Fairhaven Massachusetts. Bombardier 2nd Lt Stanley R Stedt of Stockholm, Maine. Tech. Sgt. William W. Fahrenhold of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. Tech. Sgt Raymond T. Stymacks of Bronx, NewYork. Ball Turret Gunner. Tech. Sgt. Robert L Myllykoski of Painsville, Ohio. Left waist gunner Staff Sgt John H. Jessup of Union City, Indiana. Right Waist Gunner Staff Sgt. Louis A. Skinner, Independence, Kansas. Tail Gunner Staff Sgt. Milton B. Edwards, Laurel, Maryland, 31 Dec 1942.

(USAAF Photo)

Boeing B-17F-5-BO Fortress (Serial No. 41-24399) "Man-O-War" from the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force in the UK. This aircraft was shot down by Hptm Johannes Naumann in a Fw 190A-6 of 6/JG 26 on a mission to Kassel, Germany, crashing at Opijnen, Holland, on 30 July 1943. Eight of the crew were killed, two became prisoners. Lt. J.M. Stewart, Marrowbone, Kentucky, Lt. W.W. Dickey, Beverly, Massachusetts, S/Sgt. R.C. Schnoyer, East Greenville, Pennsylvania, S/Sgt. H.L. Langan, Los Angeles, California, T.E. McMillan, Boonville, Ohio, T/Sgt. C.J. Merriwether, Sanford, Florida, T/Sgt. Jack M. Wheeler, Des Moines, Iowa., Lt. J.A. Creamer, Louisville, Kentucky.

Cessna UC-78 Bobcat (Serial No. 3696), Reg. No. N6HS, Stow.

(Chris Finney Contrabandit Photos)

(Goshimini Photo)

Consolidated B-24J Liberator (Serial No. 44-44052), Reg. No. N224J, “Witchcraft”, painted as 440973, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

(Frans Berkelaar Photo)

(Andre Wadman Photo)

Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina (Serial No. BuNo 02459), Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD) (Serial No. 16-218), PH-PBY, "Karel Doorman". This Catalina destroyed three U-boasts during the Second World War. It served with the MLD in the early 1950s. Stichting Neptune Association, Lelystad, Netherlands. Airworthy. This aircraft has been acquired by the Collings Foundation at Stow, Massachusetts.

Curtiss Model F Flying Boat, 1914.

Curtis P-40B Warhawk (Serial No. 41-13297), airworthy. Reg. No. NX284CF. This aircraft was stationed at Wheeler Field on Oahu, Hawii in 1941.

(Greg Goebel Photo)

(Valder137 Photo)

(airforcefe Photo)

Curtiss P-40K Kittyhawk (Serial No. 42-9749), FR293, Reg. No. N293FR. This aircraft has been acquired from the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon and is expected to be made airworthy.

Douglas A-1E Skyraider, Quonset State Airport, Rhode Island.

Douglas A-26C Invader (Serial No. 44-35696), “My Mary Lou”, Uvalde, Texas, being restored.

Douglas F4D-1 Skyray (Serial No. 65-0749), Reg. No. N749CF, Stow.

Fairchild PT-19A, being restored.

Fieseler Fi 156C-1 Storch (Serial No. 4621), Reg. No. N156FC, Stow.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190F-8 "White One" (Wk. Nr. 931862), with original BMW 801 radial engine, being restored. This fighter flew combat while serving with JG 5, stationed in Norway. Its last mission was on 9 Feb 1945.

Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-9 "White Two", being restored.

Fokker Dr.I Triplane replica (Serial No. DR1HB), Reg. No. N14TJ, Stow.

Grumman/Easstern FM-2 Wildcat.

Grumman/Eastern TBM-3E Avenger (Serial No.), Stow.

(Greg Goebel Photo)

(Clemens Vasters Photo)

(Valder137 Photos)

Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat (BuNo. 41476), on loan from the National Museum of the USMC, and has been transferred to the Collings Foundation, Stow, Massachusetts.

Grumman S2F-1 Tracker (Serial No. 133242), Reg. No. N31957, Houston, Texas.

(City of Vancouver Archives Photo, AM640-S1-: CVA 260-1530)

Lockheed P-38 Lightning (Serial No. unknown), visiting Richmond, British Columbia, Aug 1945.

(articseahorse Photo)

(Greg Goebel Photo)

Lockheed P-38L/F-5G Lightning (Serial No. 44-53186), c/n 8441, airworthy, Reg. No. N505MH (1958). Previously configured as an F-5G photo-reconnaissance variant. Reg. No. NL62350 in March 1946. This aircraft has been acquired from the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon and is now airworthy.

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (Serial No. 51-9129), Reg. No. N648, Stow.

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (Serial No. 51-6953), Houston, Texas.

McDonnell Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk (Serial No. 153524), Reg. No. N524CF, Houston, Texas.

(Jacobst Photo)

McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II (Serial No. 67-463), Houston, Texas, painted as the fighter flown by Steve Ritchie and Chuck DeBellevue fighter during the Vietnam War.

(Clemens Vasters Photo)

(Valder137 Photos)

(Rob Bixby Photo)

Messerschmitt Bf 109G-10/U-4 Gustav (Wk. Nr. 610937), Reg. No. N109EV. This aircraft has been acquired from the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, McMinnville, Oregon and may be made airworthy.

(Aldo Bidini Photos)

(Alan Wilson Photo)

(Tascam3428 Photo)

Messerschmitt Me 262B-1c reproduction (Serial No. 501241), "White 1", new build, Classic Fighters Industries Inc., Reg. No. N262AZ, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Airworthy.

North American AT-6F Texan (Serial No.), Stow.

North American A-36A Apache (Serial No. 42-83738), C/N 97-15956 , "Baby Carmen", Reg. No. N4607V, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

(Anthony92931 Photo)

(Goshimini Photo)

(Tascam3438 Photo)

North American TP-51C-10 Mustang (Serial No. 42-103293), C/N 103-22730, "Betty Jane", Reg. No. NL251MX. New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

North American TF-51D Mustang (Serial No. 44-84655), "Toulouse Nuts", Reg. No. N74045. Airworthy. New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Ex-West Virginia Air National Guard and Bolivian AF.

North American B-25N Mitchell (Serial No. 44-28932), Reg. No. N3476G, “Tondelayo”, painted as 02168, Nut Tree Airport, Vacaville, California.

North American F-100F Super Sabre.

Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX (Serial No. BR601), Worcester, Massachusetts.

(SDA&SM Photo)

(Leonardo DaSilva Photo)

Vought F4U-5NL Corsair (BuNo. 124692), Reg. No. N45NL, New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Wright Model B Vin Fiz (1911 Replica), Stow.

The Collings Foundation also has a fine collection of classic and military vehicles on display at Stow.

Massachusetts Air National Guard, Barnes Air National Guard Base, 175 Falcon Drive, Westfield, MA 01085-1482. Phone: (508) 968-4667, (508) 968-4667. 104 th Fighter Wing.

(Jeff Nelson Photo)

Fairchild Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II (Serial No. 79-0100), painted as 78-648, mounted on a pylon.

Lockheed T-33A Shooting Star (Serial No.)

(Nobuhiko Moriya Photo)

North American F-100D Super Sabre (Serial No. 56-3008), mounted on a pylon in a Memorial Park.

Republic F-84F Thunderstreak (Serial No. 51-19480)

The first transatlantic helicopter flight was carried out by Captain Vincent H. McGovern and 1st Lieutenant Harold W. Moore when they piloted two Sikorsky H-19s from Westover to Prestwick, Scotland (3,410 mi). The trip was made in five stops, with a flying time of 42 hr., 25 min, from 15-31 July 1952.

Bell AH-1 Cobra (Serial No. 70-16096), Veterans of Foreign Wars, Chapter No. 554.

Two Pilots Saw a UFO. Why Did the Air Force Destroy the Report?

Whatever occurred at 2:45 a.m. on the morning of July 24, 1948 in the skies over southwest Alabama not only shocked and stymied the witnesses. It jolted the U.S. government into a top-secret investigation—the results of which were ultimately destroyed.

The skies were mostly clear and the moon was bright in the pre-dawn hours as pilot Clarence S. Chiles and co-pilot John B. Whitted flew their Eastern Air Lines DC-3, a twin-engine propeller plane, at 5,000 feet, en route from Houston to Atlanta. The aircraft had 20 passengers on board, 19 of them asleep at that hour. It was a routine domestic flight, one of many in the skies that early morning.

Until suddenly, it wasn’t. What the two pilots and their wide-awake passenger saw in the skies about 20 miles southwest of Montgomery, Alabama, did more than startle them. It would reportedly become the catalyst for a highly classified Air Force document suggesting that some unidentified flying objects were spaceships from other worlds𠅊 tipping point in UFO history.

Chiles described what he saw in an official statementꂫout a week later: “It was clear there were no wings present, that it was powered by some jet or other type of power, shooting flame from the rear some 50 feet. There were two rows of windows, which indicated an upper and lower deck, [and] from inside these windows a very bright light was glowing. Underneath the ship there was a blue glow of light.” He estimated that he𠆝 watched the ship for about 10 seconds before it disappeared into some light clouds and was lost from view.

Whitted offered a similar description in his official statement: “The object was cigar shaped and seemed to be about a hundred feet in length. The fuselage appeared to be about three times the circumference of a B-29 fuselage. It had two rows of windows, an upper and a lower. The windows were very large and seemed square. They were white with light which seemed to be caused by some type of combustion…. I asked Capt. Chiles what we had just seen and he said that he didn’t know.”

Chiles&apos interpretation of what he saw on the night of July 24, 1948.

The Project Blue Book Archive/The United States Air Force

The passenger who was awake at the time, Clarence L. McKelvie of Columbus, Ohio, corroborated the pilots’ account that an unusually bright object had streaked past his window, but he wasn’t able to describe it beyond that.

Both pilots also made drawings of the craft they believed they had seen and provided further details in newspaper and radio interviews, some just hours after the sighting. The Atlanta Constitution headlined its July 25 account, 𠇊tlanta Pilots Report Wingless Sky Monster.” In that article, Chiles described what sounded like an uncomfortably close encounter, as the object appeared to be coming at them. “We veered to the left and it veered to its left, and passed us about 700 feet to our right and about 700 feet above us. Then, as if the pilot had seen us and wanted to avoid us, it pulled up with a tremendous burst of flame out of its rear and zoomed up into the clouds.”

Chiles and Whitted weren’t the only ones baffled by what they𠆝 seen.

Asked for comment, William M. Allen, the president of Boeing Aircraft told the United Press he was “pretty sure” it was “not one of our planes,” adding that he knew of nothing being built in the U.S. that matched the description. General George C. Kenney, the chief of the Strategic Air Command, which was responsible for most of America’s nuclear strike forces during the Cold War, told the Associated Press: “The Army hasn’t anything like that. I wish we did.”

Whatever Chiles and Whitted witnessed, theirs was far from an isolated incident. There had been scores of reported UFO sightings in the years just previous. But Air Force investigators took this one more seriously than most. For one thing, both men were highly regarded pilots who had served as Air Force officers during World War II. (McKelvie was also a solid citizen and an Air Force veteran, as well.) For another, the pilots had gotten what seemed to be an unusually close look at the strange object they described.

For all of those reasons, the Chiles-Whitted encounter, as it came to be known, reportedly caused the Air Technical Intelligence Center to draft a top-secret document with the deceptively bland title 𠇎stimate of the Situation.�ward J. Ruppelt, an Air Force officer and the first head of its famous Project Blue Bookstudy of UFO phenomena, claimed to have seen a copy. “The &apossituation&apos was the UFOs,” he wrote, “the &aposestimate&apos was that they were interplanetary!”

Whitted&aposs interpretation of what he saw on the night of July 24, 1948.

The Project Blue Book Archive/The United States Air Force

According to Ruppelt, the report traveled up the Air Force chain of command all the way to General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the chief of staff. “The general wouldn’t buy interplanetary vehicles,” Ruppelt wrote. 𠇊 group from ATIC went to the Pentagon to bolster their position but had no luck, the Chief of Staff couldn’t be convinced.”

Ruppelt continued, “The estimate died a quick death. Some months later it was completely declassified and relegated to the incinerator.”

One reason for Vandenberg’s skepticism, apparently, was that another faction within the Air Force had a competing theory: UFOs weren’t interplanetary at all, but the handiwork of America’s Cold War nemesis, the Soviet Union. In another top-secret report dated December 1948, the Air Force suggested a variety of reasons the Soviets might be behind such a scheme, including photographic reconnaissance, testing U.S. air defenses and undermining U.S. and European ally confidence in the atom bomb as the ultimate weapon. The Soviets wouldn’t have their own atom bomb until late August 1949.

Adding to the mystery: The sighting occurred outside Montgomery, downstate from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville where a collection of rocket scientists—many former Nazis quietly spirited to the U.S. to help win the Cold War space race—were working on top-secret rocketry experiments under the guidance of brilliant and visionary rocket designer Wernher van Braun. Could the sighting have somehow been related to their experiments?

The suppression of the 𠇎stimate of the Situation” and the rejection of any extraterrestrial explanation was the start of 𠇊 long period of unfortunate, amateurish public relations” on the part of the Air Force, astronomer J. Allen Hynek਌laimed in his 1972 book, The UFO Experience. Hynek, who had worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory tracking space satellites and later became a professor at Northwestern University, was the official astronomical consultant to Project Blue Bookਊs well as the man who developed the UFO-sighting classification system that originated the phrase 𠇌lose Encounters of Third Kind.”

“The insistence on official secrecy and frequent 𠆌lassification’ of documents was hardly needed since the Pentagon had declared that the problem really didn’t exist,” Hynek wrote.

Ruppelt maintained that bureaucratic bungling rather than deliberate deception was the Air Force’s main problem. 𠇋ut had the Air Force tried to throw up a screen of confusion, they couldn’t have done a better job,” he added.

In part because of this lack of transparency, the Chiles-Whitted incident remains one of the most controversial UFO sightings𠅊nd a favorite of conspiracy theorists even now.

So, what did Chiles and Whitted actually see? Some suggested a weather balloon, others a mirage. Hynek believed it was a fireball, or very bright meteor, an opinion that eventually became the official Air Force verdict. As to the lighted windows both pilots claim to have seen, some experts suggest that might have been a phenomenon called the 𠇊irship effect,” where observers who see a group of unrelated lights in the sky are fooled into thinking they’re part of the same object.

But Chiles and Whitted stuck to their story. James E. McDonald, a University of Arizona physicist and UFO expert, said he interviewed them in 1968, some 20 years after the event. The two were now jet pilots for Eastern Air Lines, and they continued to believe that what they had seen was some sort of airborne vehicle, McDonald reported.

What’s more, Whitted added a new and puzzling detail to the story. Although reports at the time said the object had disappeared into the clouds or simply out of their view, he supposedly told McDonald that wasn’t what really happened. Instead, the object had vanished instantaneously, right before their eyes.

No wonder the Chiles-Whitted case continues to baffle and intrigue, even 70 years later.

WWII documentary about ‘The Mighty Eighth’ Air Force to premiere on NatGeo

Men from the 8th Air Force entered the cockpit mission after mission, knowing that it was likely a death sentence.

A day of World War II documentaries devoted to the 75th anniversary of victory in Europe will be anchored by an Easton production company’s latest work.

It is one of two primetime premieres concluding a day programming devoted to the European front and commemorating V-E Day, which was May 8, 1945.

National Geographic, in a news release, describes “Heroes of the Sky” as “recollections of the brave men from the U.S. Eighth Air Force who entered the cockpit mission after mission, knowing that their call to duty was a likely death sentence.

Integrating the airmen’s own words from personal diary entries, letters to loved ones and previous interviews, the special seamlessly draws from more than 1,000 hours of rare and never-before-seen intimate footage to tell the incredible story of the heroic figures in ‘The Mighty Eighth.’”

One voice in particular might sound familiar to fans of Easton Area High School football: Former running back Kyle Bambary, an associate producer on the project, supplied the audio track for one of the military men portrayed in the documentary.

Wartime archival footage is a specialty for Lou Reda Productions, which is named for the company’s late founder and now run by his family out of a church-turned-production-studio in Downtown Easton.

Among Lou Reda’s proudest works were 2014’s “Brothers in War” for NatGeo and 2009’s “WWII in HD,” an Emmy-winning 10-part miniseries for The History Channel.

Tag: 8th Air Force

“Consider yourself dead. Some of you won’t come back from this. Some of you will, but you’ll be the lucky ones.” – Briefing officer, 97th BG, 15th AAF, Foggia Italy, to B-17 Navigator Lt. Mike Scorcio and crew before a mission to Germany

Under the terms of the tripartite pact with Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany was obliged to render aid in the event that either ally was attacked. On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Ambassador Hiroshi Ōshima came to Joachim von Ribbentrop, looking for a commitment of support from the German Foreign Minister.

Ribbentrop balked. Germany was under no obligation to intervene with their ally having been the aggressor. Adolf Hitler thought otherwise. He couldn’t stand Roosevelt, and thought it was just a matter of time before the two countries were at war. He might as well beat the American President to the punch.

It was 9:30am Washington time on December 11, when German Chargé d’Affaires Hans Thomsen handed the note to American Secretary of State Cordell Hull. For the second time in the diplomatic history of the United States and Germany, the two nations were in a state of war.

48 days later, at Hunter Field in Savannah, the Eighth Bomber Command was activated as part of the United States Army Air Forces. It was January 28, 1942.

The 8th was intended to support operation “Super Gymnast”, the invasion of what was then French North Africa. Super Gymnast was canceled in April. By May, the 8th Bomber Command had moved its headquarters to a former girls’ school in High Wycombe, England, from where it conducted the strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.

Re-designated the Eighth Air Force on February 22, 1944, at its peak the “Mighty Eighth” could dispatch over 2,000 four engine bombers and more than 1,000 fighters on a single mission. 350,000 people served in the 8th AF during the war in Europe, with 200,000 at its peak in 1944.

By 1945, the Wehrmacht had a new joke to tell itself: “When we see a silver plane, it’s American. A black plane, it’s British. When we see no plane, it’s German”. American aviation paid a heavy price for it.

Half of the US Army Air Force casualties in World War II were suffered by the 8th, over 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 killed. By war’s end, 8th Air Force personnel were awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 442,000 Air Medals. There were 261 fighter aces in the 8th, 31 of them with 15 or more kills apiece. Another 305 gunners were also recognized as aces.

After victory in Europe, 8th AF Headquarters was reassigned to Sakugawa (Kadena Airfield), Okinawa, under the command of Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle. Tasked with organizing and training new bomber groups for the planned invasion of Japan, the 8th received its first B-29 Superfortress on August 8. Seven days later, the war in the pacific had come to an end..

With the onset of the jet age, the 8th Air Force moved to Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts on June 13, 1955, the second of three Numbered Air Forces of the newly constituted Strategic Air Command (SAC).

Since then, the Mighty 8th has been called on to perform combat missions from Southeast Asia to the Middle East to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, flying out of its current headquarters at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.


When the Eighth Air Force was created on January 28, 1942, the men wore the traditional Army Air Force patch on their shoulders. The wings of the star stretched up to make a “V” for Victory. On May 20, 1943, a new design was approved for the Eighth Air Force that kept the blue background, but had a golden winged 8 with the traditional white star and red disk inside of it. Stars and Stripes magazine credits Major E.H. Winter of Savannah, Georgia as co-designer of the new insignia. The wings on the 8 of the initially approved design were upswept however, when the final design was approved on June 5, 1943, the wings were stubbed in more of a “V” shape. According to Lane Callaway, Joint-Global Strike Operations Center/Eighth Air Force historian at Barksdale Air Force Base, the second design was most likely done at the behest of General Ira C. Eaker as Commander of the Eighth and superseded the design of the original, upswept wings. Both versions of the insignia are considered correct as there are photos of General Eaker during the war wearing both versions of the shoulder patch.

Photos: On Exhibit
National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

1) Army Air Force Patch on the uniform of Captain Albert Schlegel
2) Upswept Wing 8thAF Patch on the flight jacket of Captain Charles W. "Bill" Getz III
3) Stubbed "V" Winged 8th Patch on the A-2 jacket of T/Sgt George G. Roberts

How this research began?

I am trying to collate details of my father, Jack R Owens (senior) who graduated from Course 33, No. 19 E.F.T.S. RCAF Virden Manitoba in August 1941.
Can you provide any details please or perhaps suggest further points of contact?
He was an American citizen and went on to transfer to the US Army Air Force in 1942 I believe.

Any info you might have would be greatly appreciated. I am resident in the UK.

Thank you
Jack Owens Jr

A quick reply and then…

Hello Pierre,

Thank you for your very prompt response which I was not expecting!

Yes, I would be happy for you to post something on the Facebook pages you mention. I myself am not on Facebook but can be reached on this e mail address.

Perhaps I should provide a little more background. My father was killed on active service in a USAF plane crash in Wiesbaden Germany in 1957 when I was 9 and in later years I made various attempts to collate details of his war time service without too much success. Recently I received some letters and other memorabilia from a cousin in the US and so I thought I would try again starting with the 26th August 1941 Graduation Banquet Programme for Course 33 number 19 EFTS. R.C.A.F. Virden Manitoba.

My father was one of the US volunteers in WW2 and travelled up from his home in Texas (or Louisiana?) to join the RCAF. I believe after graduation from Virden he would have joined an active RCAF squadron as I also have a wings patch but no detail of a squadron. My belief is that he would have served on bombers in the UK and was required to transfer to the US Army Air force upon entry of the US in to the war sometime after 1942. A search I originally made of US squadrons of that era threw up the name Lt Jack R Owens and listed various sorties over Germany but it seems there was another pilot with the same name and middle initial so I cannot confirm that the information related to my father,. To compound difficulties, there was a fire back in the 1950’s or 60’s in the main records depository in the US and it seems some of his information may have been destroyed. Tracking his movements from the RCAF may make things clearer if I can collate things with dates and squadrons that way.

There was a suggestion that he won the DFC from the RAF but I cannot find confirmation of this. A letter sent to my Grandmother in Texas from London during the war by a friend serving in the American army mentioned that he had bumped in to my father in London whilst on leave and made mention of an award and this may have been a source of confusion. He certainly won a US Air Force DFC during active service in the Korean War and I have the citation and medal which confirms this.

I have left it rather late to resume enquiries after the false trails but would like to try and clarify things now and perhaps the RCAF trail will help establish a clearer picture on which to go on.

Any information of your contacts can provide would be gratefully received.

I attach a scan of the above mentioned Banquet Programme which lists names of graduates on the course which may be of interest.

Thank you for your help

Kind regards,

Jack Owens Jr

How to search for one who had graduated on August 26, 1941?

To be continued…

10 Legendary Heroes of the US Air Force

At 72, the Air Force may be technically the youngest branch of the five services, just a fraction of the Army's age, but the service's roots are well over a hundred years old. Here are 10 men who became legends in that time:

1. Eddie Rickenbacker

A race car driver turned self-taught pilot, Rickenbacker joined the military immediately after the United States entered World War I. In less than a year, he earned a promotion to an officer's rank and shot down his fifth enemy aircraft, earning him the title of "Ace." A year later, he was in command of his entire Aero Squadron.

By the time of the November 11, 1918 armistice, Rickenbacker racked up 26 aerial victories, a record he held until World War II. His tactic was to charge right at enemy flying squads, whatever the odds, winning every time. Rickenbacker was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with six oak leaf clusters, the Croix de Guerre with two palms, the French Legion d'Honneur, and was later awarded the Medal of Honor.

2. Billy Mitchell

General William "Billy" Mitchell is known as the "Father of the Air Force." He was a turn-of-the-20th-century pilot who advocated for a separate, independent Air Force. He argued that airpower would be a revolution in modern warfare, but was dismissed as a radical by his peers. Mitchell became an Army aviator at a time when he was considered too old to go through pilot training. He paid for lessons himself and led more than 1,400 planes against the Germans during the World War I Battle of St. Mihiel.

His experience flying planes in combat led to his idea of a separate Air Force, even demonstrating the power of airplanes against naval battleships. When he criticized the War Department for incompetence and negligence, he was sensationally court-martialed. He resigned his commission instead of accepting a humiliating sentence.

3. Henry "Hap" Arnold

A protégé of Gen. Billy Mitchell's, Hap is probably the only airman on this list who needed to overcome a fear of flying to reach his legendary Air Force status. Arnold oversaw the expansion of the Army Air Corps in the years between World War I and World War II to its position as the world's largest Air Force.

Arnold oversaw development of intercontinental bombers, radar, airlift capabilities, and the use of nuclear weapons in modern air combat. His wartime job was so stressful, he experienced three heart attacks in three years, but survived to become a five-star General of the Army, which was later changed to General of the Air Force after it became an independent branch in 1947. He remains the only person to ever hold the rank and title.

4. Daniel "Chappie" James, Jr.

Though Chappie did not see combat until the Korean War, he was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, training pilots in the Army Air Corps' 99th Pursuit Squadron, the famous Red Tails. In Korea, he flew 101 combat missions and then another 78 missions as vice-commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War. In the 8th TFW, he served under none other than then-Col. Robin Olds, including during Operation Bolo, the highest single MiG sweep ever. The duo were so successful their men nicknamed the team "Blackman and Robin."

During his command of the U.S. Air Force Base in Libya, he stared down Muammar Qaddafi in a stand-off, admitting later that he almost shot the dictator with his .45. Chappie became the first African-American to reach the rank of four-star General and the third person of African descent to reach the highest ranks in the Western world.

5. Robin Olds

Olds joined the military through The U.S. military academy at West Point, an all-star linebacker for the football team who was anxious to get into the fight raging in World War II Europe. His legacy was larger than life. He was a triple ace fighter pilot with 16 kills in WWII and married Hollywood actress Ella Raines.

He stayed in the Air Force when it became independent from the U.S. Army and then commanded a fighter wing during the Vietnam War. He is remembered by the Air Force today during "Mustache March," for the distinctive mustache he wore in Vietnam, sported as a way to boost morale among his men and thumb his nose at the media.

6. Curtis LeMay

LeMay was the youngest four-star general in American military history. He served with four stars longer than anyone ever had — a big deal for a general who didn't go to a service academy. He earned the nickname "Iron Ass" for his stubbornness and shortness once his mind was made up.

When he did speak, the stout, cigar-chomping, stone-faced general had a reputation for his outspoken manner. He is not always remembered fondly by history, as seen through the silver screen depiction of him as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, but LeMay led the U.S. military through some of its most trying times.

LeMay's leadership revolutionized the tactics and effectiveness of the 8th Air Force in World War II Europe, giving the Allies the decisive edge over the Nazi Luftwaffe. In the Pacific Theater, LeMay's strategic planning crippled the Japanese war effort. He saw the U.S. through the Berlin Airlift and Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Soviet Union would not have gone to war with a man who was famous for saying "If I see that the Russians are amassing their planes for an attack, I'm going to knock the shit out of them before they take off the ground."

7. Chuck Yeager

Charles Elwood Yeager began his Air Force career as a private in the U.S. Army Air Forces. His time as an aircraft mechanic probably gave him a good idea of what planes could handle, information he would need later down the line as a USAF test pilot. He entered the enlisted flying program in 1942 and became at test pilot at war's end.

Two days before he famously broke the sound barrier, Yeager broke two ribs and had them treated at a veterinarian's office rather than risk losing that flight by going to an Air Force doctor.

8. William H. "Pits" Pitsenbarger

"Pits" was a U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper from Piqua, Ohio during the Vietnam War. He joined the Air Force right after high school and became a Pararescueman right after basic training. Less the a year after receiving orders to Vietnam, he set out on a mission to extract Army infantry casualties in the jungles near Cam My. He dropped into the trees, tended to some wounded and then loaded them onto his helicopter.

When it came time for Pits to be extracted, his helicopter was hit by small arms fire and had to leave. Instead of leaving with the helo, Pits stayed with the infantry. For an hour and a half, he tended to the wounded, built improvised stretchers, and redistriubuted ammo. When everyone was set, Pitsenbarger joined the firefight. He was killed by a VC sniper during the night.

9. John L. Levitow

Levitow was a Loadmaster on board an AC-47 "Spooky" Gunship during the Vietnam War. In an engagement with Viet Cong guerillas in February 1969, Levitow and the plane's gunner started deploying flares during an bank when the gunship was hit by VC mortar fire. The entire crew was wounded by shrapnel and the gunner dropped a flare inside the gunship. Its fuse burned next to 19,000 rounds of ammunition which would surely take out the gunship when it exploded. Levitow, despite not being able to walk and fighting the plane's 30-degree bank, crawled over to it, hugged the flare close to his body, and crawled to the rear toward the cargo door, dropping it out just before it ignited. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions and now the top graduate of all Air Force Enlisted Military Education courses receive the "John L. Levitow Award" for exceptional performance.

10. George Everett "Bud" Day

Though he retired an Air Force Colonel, Day started his military career as an enlisted Marine, joining in 1942 at age 17. After World War II, he went stateside to earn a law degree. At the onset of the Korean War, he joined the Air National Guard and was activated the next year. He flew combat sorties as an Air Force fighter pilot throughout the Korean War. He stayed in the Air Force through 1967, flying combat missions over North Vietnam.

Day was shot down, captured, tortured, beaten, and sent to the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." A year later, he was sent to "The Zoo," a punishment camp for the most defiant POWs. At his most defiant, he would stare down his guards, singing the Star-Spangled Banner in their face. He was released in 1973, and returned to a flying status a year later.


We Are The Mighty (WATM) celebrates service with stories that inspire. WATM is made in Hollywood by veterans. It's military life presented like never before. Check it out at We Are the Mighty.

Watch the video: 8th Air Force First Air Division Bombing Highlights 1944-1945 (June 2022).


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