by Carlton M. Smith
exert from "Might in Flight" Copyright ©1997 Harry D. Gobrecht
The 303rd Bombardment Group (H) was constituted on 28 January 1942 at Savannah, GA, was activated at Pendleton Field, Pendleton, OR, on 3 February 1942, and received its initial staff and training at Gowen Field, Boise, ID, on 13 February 1942. Training for its combat missions took place at Alamogordo Air Base, NM, and Biggs Field, TX. On 23 August the ground echelon moved to Fort Dix, NJ, to board the Queen Mary for overseas deployment. They arrived at Molesworth, England, on 9 September 1942. The air echelon arrived in late October and the stage was set for entrance into combat.
The first combat mission was flown on 17 November 1942, with a planned strike at the St. Nazaire submarine pens, but weather obscured the target, resulting in a return to base with bombs undropped. It was a disappointing beginning, but only the first of 363 missions to come. Over the months and years that followed, lessons were learned, equipment was improved, and the tale of Hell's Angels "Might in Flight" evolved.
First targets were usually airfields and marshalling yards in France and the Low Countries. Several targets in Paris were struck in 1943 and, although it was defended by about 250 flak guns, only one plane was lost in six attacks. The 303rd formations often encountered the "Abbeville Kids," the yellow-nosed FW 190s flying out of the airfield just north of Abbeville, France. Their attacks were in retaliation to the 303rd's bombing of Abbeville on 10 July 1943. They didn't take kindly to our bombing and took great joy in finding a 303rd BG formation.
Soon, many German targets were hit and, to mention a few, Mannheim and Ludwigshafen were attacked 12 times with only five losses. The transport and industrial center of Frankfurt was bombed nine times in 1943 and 1944, in which only three aircraft were lost. The 15 August 1944 attack on the Wiesbaden airfield cost the group nine bombers. Cologne rail lines and industry were the targets on 10 missions, including the famous glide bomb attack. The largest marshalling yard in Germany, located at Hamm, was hit six times and its flak defenses accounted for two aircraft down. In the later stages of the war, the 303rd bombers struck industrial sites, transportation hubs, and oil refineries at Munich, Magdeburg, Hamburg, Gelsenkirchen, Merseburg, Leipzig, Essen, Schweinfurt. Bremen, Stuttgart, Kiel and Brunswick with increase in efficiency and decreasing losses.
As part of the joint USAAF-RAF objective to eradicate the "buzz bomb" threat, 303rd crews attacked 12 sites between 28 February and 30 August 1944 at altitudes of 12,000 and 14,000 feet. On 11 January 1944, leading the First Division, the 303rd hit Oschersleben, Germany, after most of the 8th Air Force and its fighter escort had aborted due to weather. The devastating strike was the beginning of the end for the German Air Force, but cost 10 aircraft (42 altogether in the First Division). For this valuable contribution to the war effort, the men of the Hell's Angels Group, both air and ground echelons, wear the badge of a Distinguished Unit Citation.
On 6 March 1944, the Group participated in one of the first strikes on Berlin. Later, they carried their bombs as far east as Poland, where one of the most compact bombing patterns of the war destroyed an industrial site. The 303rd was, of course, part of the aerial support on D-Day, 6 June 1944. On that date, the crews flew three separate missions between dawn and dusk in a ground support role rather than a strategic bombing force. Bombing almost around the clock occurred in June when 29 missions and 1000 sorties were flown.
In tribute to one of the most famous Flying Fortresses of World War II, Hell's Angels (#41-24577), the 303rd Bombardment Group took its name, Hell's Angels. In the inventory since the Group's beginning, this aircraft was the first heavy bomber in the 8th Air Force to complete 25 missions.
The success of the 303rd Bombardment Group (H) was not the result of any one person, aircraft, or unit. It was and is the story of many individuals taking pride in their assigned duties and contributing the most they could to the mission. Ground crews often worked on their "birds" with little or no sleep to repair enemy damage and keep their charges armed and ready for the next combat mission. The 303rd BG(H) effective intelligence staff was possibly unique among 8th Air Force groups in that several of its members volunteered to fly combat missions in order to gain first-hand experience and to provide more precise briefings for the combat crews. The supplies - everything from aircraft parts and ammunition to food and PX items - were available. thanks to the effort of support elements. This was not an easy task in the early days, but the 303rd "conveyor belt" never failed.
When the Hell's Angels Bomb Group was deactivated in Casablanca on 26 July 1945, it could look back to an outstanding record of several honors and "firsts" during its tour of duty:
- First B-17 to complete 25 Eighth AF combat missions - Hell's Angels
- First B-17 to complete 50 Eighth AF combat missions - Knockout Dropper
in tight competition with S for Sugar and Hell's Angels
- First B-17 to complete 75 Eighth AF combat missions - Knockout Dropper
- First Eighth AF Bombardment Group to complete 300 missions from bases in England
- Two combat crewmen were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
- Four combat crewmen were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross Medal
- An Eighth Air Force combat score of:
- 364 combat missions - the most flown by any B-17 Bomb Group
- 10,721 aircraft sorties flown - the second highest in the Eighth Air Force
- 26,346 tons of bombs dropped - the second highest in the Eighth Air Force
- 378 enemy aircraft destroyed - the third highest in the Eighth Air Force
- 104 enemy aircraft probably destroyed - the third highest in the Eighth Air Force
- 182 enemy damaged
Redesignated 303rd Bombardment Group (Very Heavy). Activated in the US on 1 Jul 1947. Assigned to Strategic Air Command. There is no evidence that the group was manned during 1947 and 1948. Inactivated on 6 Sep 1948.
Redesignated 303rd Bombardment Group (Medium). Activated on 4 Sep 1951. Assigned to Strategic Air Command and equipped with B-29's. Inactivated on 16 Jun 1952.
CLICK HERE TO SEE MISSION SUMMARIES
The First 300 Missions of Hell's Angels
edited by William A. Freeny with additions by Harry D. Gobrecht
Most of the following was taken from the booklet The First 300 - Hell's Angels edited by William A. Freeny, published as "unofficial and restricted to private distribution" in January 1945 in England. The booklet was distributed following the completion of the 303rd Bombardment Group's 300th combat mission. Additional information was added by 303rd BGA Historian Harry D. Gobrecht. Each of the 303rd's Squadrons, including support squadrons, are highlighted below.
THE 303RD BOMBARDMENT GROUP (H) was activated at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, on 3 February, 1942, and lost no time in getting into training for combat duty. Because of the submarine scare on the U.S. Pacific coast many of the original air crews were sent to Muroc, California, to patrol for Jap subs. Many of these crews did not return to this organization, but others soon replaced them to bring the Group up to strength. The 303rd was alerted for overseas combat duty almost immediately, and training began to prepare the entire organization for the struggle that was eventually to come.
In June of the same year, the Group moved to the wide open spaces of New Mexico and settled at Alamogordo Air Base where it remained until the early part of August. Biggs Field, El. Paso, Texas, was the next and last stop for the ground echelon before the movement overseas on 23 August, 1942. The ground echelon sailed from New York aboard the unescorted Cunard liner, Queen Mary, and disembarked in the British Isles on 11 September, 1942. The air echelon went from Biggs Field to Kellogg Field, Battle Creek, Michigan, then to Dow Field, Bangor, Maine, and flew overseas, arriving at their base in England in the latter part of October.
For the first seven months of our stay in England, the 303rd operated from their United Kingdom base with the help of R.A.F. personnel. These experienced R.A.F. officers and men gave the Group their wholehearted and untiring co-operation which reduced, considerably, the tremendous task of operating the base. In April, 1943, the base was formally turned over to the United States Army Air Forces in a dignified but brief ceremony.
On 9 January, 1945, the 303rd completed its 300th mission, becoming the first heavy bomb group to complete that number of combat missions from an American base in England. On that day Col. Raper sent the following message to his men:
SUBJECT: "Hell's Angels" 300th Mission
TO: All personnel, this station. 10th January, 1945.
1. "Hell's Angels" has now completed its 300th mission. We are the first heavy bombardment group having completed this number of missions from American bases in England. The importance of this figure is that it represents our share in the total war effort of the United States Armed Forces and those of our Allies.
2. We had our beginning with that small force of American heavy bombers that proved to the world that daylight, high altitude, precision bombing would play a major role in the destruction of the German war machine. During the period this group has been stationed in England its Flying Fortresses have dropped hundreds of thousands of bombs - a total weight of over 20,000 tons - on the enemy. We know the damage and devastation of our bombing has been tremendous. The 372 enemy aircraft that our gunners have destroyed, the 101 probably destroyed and the 180 damaged, have proven that we have been ready to defend ourselves at all costs and at all times. There is another notable fact to remember. Regardless of the number of planes with which the enemy has attacked our formation, or the type of attack they have used, they have never stopped us from bombing the target. They have never made us retreat.
3. You have every reason to be proud of our fine record and of our war effort to date. You have all worked very hard, putting in long hours under trying and adverse conditions. Your teamwork has been magnificent and without it our accomplishments would never have been possible. However, this war is not over and we must all continue to do everything in our power to keep this excellent record intact and to improve it when and where we can. Our goal is a common one - total defeat of the enemy so that we may again return to our families, our homes, and our normal way of living.
William S. Raper
Colonel, A.C., Commanding.
358th BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
With 300 MISSIONS under their belts, members of the 358th Squadron can look back on a great many occasions and things that stand out in the making of those 300 missions.
The Squadron's first claim to fame was the possession of the famous old Fortress Hell's Angels, from which the group took its name. Hell's Angels and the Sky Wolf and Jersey Bounce and the men who flew them set examples of heroism, dependability and stamina that were an inspiration to the group and the Eighth Air Force in the early days in the E.T.O. They were a matter of pride to the men on the ground as well as the combat men, and it was with the pride of possession that the 358th boys would say "Yep. That's our plane," when the names came up in NAAFI or Red Cross bull sessions.
There have been many outstanding "characters" in the squadron. All of the old-timers remember Lt. Robert S. O'Connor who always flew into battle wearing the English bobby's helmet presented to him by the local constable. It was his good luck piece, but his luck finally wore out and he went down over the continent Captain Jack Watson made the headlines when he flew the Meat Hound back from Germany alone in the plane after the crew had bailed out. When he landed in Southern England only two engines were still turning over and one of them was blazing so fiercely that it took crash crews two hours to extinguish the flames.
Men of the 358th have had their share of honors in the war. The nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, went to T/Sgt. Forest L. Vosler, radio operator, who fought from his radio gun position when wounded and nearly blinded and then begged to be thrown overboard to save weight on the battered bomber. The Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to Lt. Charles W. Spencer, bombardier, after he nearly lost his life in the blown-open nose of a Fort from frostbite and wounds. The Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals won in the early days by 358th flyers are too numerous to count.
Ground crewmen, too, have distinguished themselves. Legions of Merit have been awarded to M/Sgt. Carino Colancecco, M/Sgt. Fabian S. Folmer, M/Sgt. Everett W. Emery and M/Sgt. William C. Woodman for their outstanding jobs of getting Fortresses in the air when they were needed so badly. Several other men have won the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service after putting in long hours in all kinds of weather to make certain that their airplanes could fly when the need arose.
The 358th need not take a back seat to any other outfit for flying ability and leadership. Their crews have always been ready to fly any place, any time and in any position. Their Forts have led the way to Berlin, Merseburg, Aschersleben and the other "toughies," and have been in the roughest fighting to claim their share of enemy fighters.
Morale has never sagged. Even after the Oschersleben mission when the 358th took the brunt of the losses, the remaining crews were ready to go again the next day. Sixty empty beds might have wrecked the morale of a lesser outfit. It just made the crews of the 358th a little madder. As a matter of fact, more than a score of ground men have left the comparative safety of line jobs to volunteer for service as gunners.
The 358th has done all right for itself in the matter of squadron commanders. First was Major (now Colonel) Clemens K. Wurzbach, a tall, easy-going Texan. Succeeding him was Major Kirk R. Mitchell from Oklahoma City, who led the 358th on some of its roughest bombing missions. Present commander is Major George T. Mackin of Portland, Oregon, who has been with the group since its arrival in England.
359th BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
THE 359TH SQUADRON has had a lot of "firsts" during its first 300 missions. The first Congressional Medal of Honor awarded in the E.T.O. went to a 359th bombardier, First Lieutenant Jack Mathis, who died over his bombsight in the nose of the "Duchess" after dropping his bombs on Vegesack. As squadron lead bombardier he helped the Eighth Air Force do its first real precision bombing of its young career.
The Squadron's next claim to fame was in the old Knockout Dropper, which was the first heavy bomber of the Eighth Air Force to finish 50 and then 75 missions. The old Fort lasted more than a year and a half of tough combat before it was finally retired to training centers in the U.S. along with the rest of the 359th's older planes.
The group's first mission to Berlin was led by the 359th with Lt. Col. Richard H. Cole, the present commander, flying the lead. The first gunner in the E.T.O. to complete 75 missions was T/Sgt. Kurt J. Hermann III, who flew 50 missions in Africa before being assigned to the 359th where he completed his next 25 hops.
To movie-struck girl friends, 359th men can claim that the great Clark Gable, complete with ears and white sink muffler, flew his first mission in the old Eight Ball.
With such a large air force in operation now, it is hard to draw a fine line that proves that one outfit or another is first or best in anything. The main idea is to keep in the top section and there the 359th has always been. The engineering section has done its part by turning out an enviable record of mechanical efficiency in its aircraft. Longevity of service is the password here and is reflected in the records of planes like Knockout Dropper with 75 missions, The Duchess with more than 50, and Thunderbird and Old Black Magic with more than 100 missions each.
No other squadron can boast of so many old-timers as these, and there is no reason to suspect that the Thunderbird and Old Black Magic will not keep going indefinitely.
Several members of the engineering department have won the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit for outstanding work in all kinds of weather, mostly bad. The Soldier's Medal for heroism was awarded to S/Sgt. Kenneth Shanahan and Pvt. Clyde V. Engholm of the refueling unit for extinguishing a fire in their refueling truck that threatened to engulf the base fuel dump.
Even with the pressure of 300 missions and countless "dry runs," however, the 359th men have found some time for fun. Taking an active share in sports, the 359th furnished star men for the baseball team. They include Sgt. William (Red) Craddock who pitched the "Hell's Angels" team to victory for the Eighth Air Force championship in 1943, and Lt. George Zitzler who hurled the team to the division championship and to the semi-finals in the Eighth Air Force in 1944. T/Sgt. Carl Murphy played first base for the team.
Some of the credit for the 359th's success in combat can be traced to its outstanding squadron commanders. Colonel Eugene A. Romig, now with the 84th Combat Wing, led the squadron through the early days when the flyers were first taking part in the aerial war on Germany. He was succeeded by Lt. Col. William R. Calhoun, who flew many long and tough missions with the 359th until he was relieved by Lt. Col. Cole. Each of these men has been partly responsible for the accomplishments of the 359th in combat and have played a great part in making the squadron the efficient, smooth running organization it is today.
360th BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
THE SUCCESS of any organization depends upon the caliber of the men in the organization. With that fact understood, it is no mystery why the 360th Squadron has played such a big part in the success of the group. Back in 1942 when the squadron was still a pup, four combat crews were assigned to it. They included three first pilots - 1ST Lt. Lewis E. Lyle, 1ST Lt. William S. Raper, and Captain Charles E. Marion - and a co-pilot, 2ND Lt. Walter K. Shayler. With Lts. Lyle and Raper, now full colonels and group commanders, Colonel Marion, deputy chief of staff for operations at 1ST Air Division, and Lt. Col. Shayler commanding the squadron, it would be unusual if the rest of the squadron had not advanced accordingly - if not in rank, at least in efficiency and ability.
This efficiency is evidenced in a comparison of the first mission in which the 360th took part and any one of the last of the 300. Where the armament section took four hours to load the planes for St. Nazaire, it now takes one hour. Pre-flight time for a line crew is now numbered in minutes. Operations can turn out their flight plans with the ease of writing a letter home. After 300 missions each man in the squadron has found his job and can do it with professional skill.
It is only natural that with a record like this, the 360th Squadron has been given the responsibility of leading some of the most outstanding and successful missions. Their planes led the group when we bombed Germany for the first time. They were at the front of the formation on D-day when the group blasted a way for ground troops. They were the first of the group over Heroya in Norway, Posen in Poland, and the huge Nazi oil refinery in Brux, Czechoslovakia. On all of these missions 360th planes set the pace for close, destructive bombing patterns that crippled these German war plants for months.
In the process of completing 300 missions, 360th men have also picked up a few medals. The first Distinguished Service Cross ever awarded in the E.T.O. for consistently outstanding heroism and an over-all superior job was given to Colonel Lewis E. Lyle, former squadron commander. Another D.S.C. was won by and Lt. Thomas J. Dello Buono, bombardier, who survived a direct hit by a 20mm. cannon shell. Undaunted, Lt. Dello Buono stayed at his nose guns, firing at the enemy fighters until target time forty minutes later. Then he released his bombs squarely in the bombing pattern.
Captain George V. Stallings, Jr., won the British D.F.C. when he baled his crew out over the English coast and then flew his crippled bomber Quinine - the Bitter Dose, out over the Channel before baling out himself.
The Silver Star was awarded to Captain John A. Long, killed in action, who kept his blazing Fortress in formation long enough to drop his bombs in the squadron pattern before going down out of control.
Engineering men who have won Bronze Stars for outstanding work include Master Sergeants Walter Melton, Mike Abraham, Norman Bossie and Alexander Borque, Jr.
The 360th has had its share of colorful aircraft. Although none reached the national fame of Hell's Angels and Knockout Dropper, men from the base made special trips to view the pictures on Iza Vailable, Ida Liza, Sack Time, Miss Umbriago and that masterpiece of warped imagination, The Witches Tit. These names might not mean much to the outsider, but to the men of the 360th they are a sign of high morale. As long as the ground men have the spirit to name their planes and the combat men grin when they fly them, the 360th Squadron will continue to be one of the group's top-flight squadrons.
427th BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON
THE 427TH SQUADRON almost didn't make this end of the war. Originally the old 38th Reconnaissance Squadron which was incorporated into the famous 19th Bomb Group, part of the squadron personnel were on their way to Hawaii the day the war began. Their ship turned around, headed for the U.S. and they became part of the now famous 303rd.
From an unsettled beginning, the 427th has done all right for itself. Its planes have led some of the toughest missions, including the one to Marienburg, where Bombardier Captain George T. Orvis, Jr., put down one of the most destructive bombing patterns of the war. Its gunners have accounted for more than 150 German fighters destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged. Old S for Sugar, crew chiefed by M/Sgt. Fred Kuhne, was one of the squadron's original Forts that vied in the race to be the first to hit the 50-mark before German fighters destroyed it on its 48th mission. On the doubtful credit side is the fact that 427th combat men were the first of the group to ditch in the Channel and be eternally grateful to the British Air-Sea-Rescue organization.
The squadron has had its share of squadron commanders. Starting with Major Charles Sheridan, who was shot down at St. Nazaire in January, 1943, the squadron had Major Glen Hagenbuck, who was killed in an accident after he had turned his command over to Lt. Col. Edgar E. Snyder, now deputy group C.O. Following Colonel Snyder was Major Robert W. Sheets, present commander, who first gained fame by buzzing the Yankee Stadium during the 1943 World Series and arousing the ire of one Mayor LaGuardia, not to mention numerous Army officials.
Highest award made to a 427th man was the Distinguished Service Cross to S/Sgt. William T. L. Werner, tail gunner from Lebanon, Pennsylvania. On a mission to Aschersleben in February,1944, Werner's plane was attacked by Kraut fighters an hour before target time. Most of the attacks were coming from the tail and Werner was wounded in the hip and thigh by a 20mm. shell on one of the first passes. Keeping his wounds a secret, he fought on from his tail gun spot until bombs away, when flak wounded him again in the knee, both arms and stomach. Even then, when he was deathly weak from loss of blood, he kept firing his twin guns until the last fighter had turned away. Many flyers have earned Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross - and the undesirable Purple Heart. The Soldier's Medal for heroism was awarded to Cpl. Russell P. Shupp after he had risked his life to extinguish a fire in a gasoline truck when flames threatened to spread to surrounding, bomb-loaded aircraft.
The 427th has had some outstanding personalities among its airmen. There was Major Billy Southworth, son of the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, who flew the Winning Run on many rough missions. The R.A.F. gave them Captain Edward M. Woddrop, pilot, and T/Sgt. Charlie Baggs, tail gunner, who made a hot team on the old City of Wanette. Most of the oldtimers remember Captain Donald Stockton, one of the squadron's original pilots, who was killed on his next to last mission by a 20 mm. cannon shell.
In bombing, flying and mechanical efficiency, the 427th Squadron has always done its share in helping the 303rd attain its high rating in the Eighth Air Force and, according to the men in the squadron, it will be in there fighting until the Germans toss in the towel.
444th SUB. DEPOT
The magnificent accomplishments of the 303rd Group would never have been possible without the assistance and close co-operation of the hard-working officers and men of the 444th Sub Depot. Given the job of making repairs to Forts with major battle damage, the hangar crews have consistently turned out badly damaged planes in record time.
Very few of these jobs have been easy. With nearly every mission to some heavily defended Nazi target, the hangars have filled up to overflowing with Forts needing new engines, wing sections, tails, fuselage repairs or sheet metal work. This meant working under pressure when the group needed all the planes as soon as possible to keep up their formation strength. Sometimes the hangar crews were working around the clock and more than once all passes were canceled until the big job was completed.
T/Sgt. Walter Nieman and his crew outdid themselves by almost rebuilding one Fort, involved in a perimeter crash and classified "Salvage," in only 21 days. This job required putting on a new tail section from the tail wheel well, and rebuilding the trailing edge of the left wing. In between times, they also did a major repair job to another Fort.
Repairs to aircraft is not the only job done by the subdepot. The air corps supply section is responsible for seeing that no Fort stays on the ground long for need of a new part, and furnishes the thousands of gallons of aviation fuel and oil needed by the bombers. The transportation section provides the rest of the organization with everything but roller skates and pogo sticks for transportation of supplies and personnel where they are needed. The headquarters section co-ordinates the efforts of all the other departments.
Although personnel of the sub-depot haven't had much of an opportunity to meet the enemy in combat, they have managed to win a few decorations. The Soldier's Medal for heroism was awarded to T/Sgt. Lewis A. Maresh and Sgt. Orvel O. Burnett after they had extinguished a gasoline fire in the hangar that might well have reduced the hangar and all the planes in it to a mass of burned wreckage. Major Melvin T. McCoy received the Bronze Star medal for development of maintenance devices and exceptional effort in connection with the repair of airplanes after a mission on which the group suffered very heavy battle damage. M/Sgt. Victor A. Dietz received the Certificate of Merit for developing various maintenance devices and for an excellent job of repairing a crash-landed Fortress.
Personnel of the sub-depot first arrived in England in October, 1942, as the 328th Service Squadron. A year later the 444th was formed under the command of Lt. Col. Horace G. Cotton, now returned to the United States. It is now commanded by Major Benjamin B. Ramsey, former Group S-4 officer.
Work of this service organization began with the group's first mission in November, 1942, and has progressed at an increasing pace ever since. It is almost impossible to estimate the total work done by men in the organization, but here is a short summary of output during a recent six-month period: Crews repaired 569 battle damaged Fortresses, set up 298 engines, accomplished 1871 work orders and packed 5,000 parachutes. The air corps supply section issued 15,000 serviceable items, shipped 8,426 repairable items to depots, issued 283 engines, returned 308 old engines to depots and issued more than 200 airplane fuel and oil tanks.
3rd STATION COMPLEMENT SQUADRON
Every organization on the station owes a great deal to the 3rd Station Complement Squadron for its unceasing efforts to make the base a comfortable place to live, and to better the working facilities.
The primary duty, performed by the Utilities Section, has been maintenance of the base. The electricians, carpenters, painters, engineers and general handy-men have combined their efforts to construct new buildings, remodel old ones, build roads, repair runways, keep a steady flow of water and electricity, and do the thousand and-one things that need attention on a large base.
The extra little services which mean so much to the men - barber shops, tailor shops, gymnasium, showers, etc. - are operated entirely or in part by 3rd Station men. Without supervision or advice of an engineering officer, ten men under the direction of T/Sgt. George Thompson have taken the responsibility for the maintenance of as many as eight various types of planes at one time. The Communications Section has done an outstanding job of installing and maintaining the complicated telephone and teletype systems without which it would be almost impossible to operate.
One of the most important sections is the Control Tower, with its clerks and radio operators and men who maintain the flare path, caravan, beacon and searchlights.
With Major Roland M. Cowan, squadron commander, as base administrative inspector, it can justly be said that the 3rd Station has had a hand in the high standard of administration in all of the squadrons. The squadron itself has consistently received an excellent rating from higher headquarters in administration, area maintenance and conduct of personnel during the time it has been in existence.
1681st ORDNANCE COMPANY
One of the most active, useful and versatile organizations on the base is the 1681st Ordnance Company. Faced with the dual job of supplying bombs and ammunition to the squadrons, and at the same time maintaining all the vehicles on the base, the ordnance boys took both jobs in stride and did them efficiently and without muss or fuss.
In the armament section over 20,000 tons of bombs were delivered to squadrons for redistribution over Germany and the Occupied Countries, along with nearly 5,000,000 rounds of caliber .50 ammunition which helped the group put holes in over 600 Kraut fighters. In addition to this they scrounged parts for machine guns, kept up to date on new methods and materials for cleaning and oiling guns, and passed out flak suits to combat crewmen.
The maintenance section in the meantime repaired nearly 2,000 vehicles, mended countless bicycles and invented a crane that was copied by many other ordnance outfits. The boys in the machine shop and garage became popular with the rest of the group as a result of their skill with tools, and rarely refused a GI who came in with a request for help in building a lighter or picture frame or putting a gadget on a jeep.
At the present time the 1681st Ordnance is under the command of Captain John H. Kass, formerly of the 358th Bomb Squadron.
1199th MILITARY POLICE COMPANY
The rather thankless job of guarding the base, controlling traffic and checking the credentials of personnel, military and civilian, entering the base, has been given to the 1199th Military Police Company.
The Company, at present commanded by 1ST Lt. Francis R. Gorman, also maintains a constant patrol to guard the aircraft and look for suspicious persons or activities. They furnish guards at briefing and interrogation to keep out unauthorized personnel. The low accident rate on the base can directly be attributed to the manner in which the M.P.s have enforced traffic regulations, and prevented absent-minded jeep drivers from wandering in front of taxi-ing or landing Forts.
On special occasions, such as the visit of high-ranking officers or the Royal Family, the company has furnished efficient guards-of-honor, demonstrating just how military an American soldier can be and, at the same time, furnishing real protection to the visitor.
The 1199th boys have been on the station since March, 1944.
863rd CHEMICAL COMPANY
For an organization basically designed to carry on a chemical war defense if such warfare developed, the 863rd Chemical Company has strayed far from their original goal. Finding no immediate prospects of a gas warfare, the company was split up among the squadrons and assigned the task of handling incendiaries and sky markers.
Teamed with the other "grunt and groan" artists who muscle the high explosives into the bomb bays, the Chemical boys help load the bombers with every type of incendiary bomb the Air Force uses. Most of the work is done at night in all kinds of weather, but the men under the command of First Lt. Cosby D. Thomas have always been on hand when loading time came around.
Their efforts have borne fruit for a long time, blossoming out in huge fires at Hamburg, Berlin, Merseburg and some of the other prize German targets. The bombs loaded by the 863rd Chemical Company have played a large part in the destruction of many German factories and, according to the boys who do the loading, will continue to do so until the Nazis cry "Uncle."
18th WEATHER SQUADRON DETACHMENT 107
One busy group of men on the field is the 18th Weather Squadron. It is their job to furnish weather information of any kind or description for almost any purpose, and any one who has lived in England for any length of time can understand the magnitude of this task.
Every three hours of the day the weather forecasters in the control tower draw a new map of the changing weather conditions, and from this the weather, temperature and wind direction at any altitude over England and the Continent. This information, naturally, is invaluable to pilots and navigators who like to have a general idea of what they are liable to encounter on local flights and on return from missions.
No formation leaves the field for missions to the Continent without full information as to the type of weather they will fly through, around or over en route. A weather officer attends briefing and, with slides, explains in detail to pilots, bombardier, navigators and gunners the conditions of temperature, clouds, icing, con-trails and winds over the target and enemy territory.
The weather squadron's activities are not limited to furnishing information to flyers. The motor pool needs to know the possibility of frost or fog conditions for liberty runs. Someone else wants to know how deep the mud is on a certain comer of the field. Pub crawlers call up to learn the wind direction and velocity before venturing out on bicycles. Men going on leave ask if they should take a raincoat.
The one thing that no longer amuses the weather men is the nasty cracks made by disgruntled sun-lovers. "After all," they say, "we don't manufacture the stuff. We just try to guess what it's going to be."
2097th ENGINEERS FIRE-FIGHTING PLATOON
The Molesworth Engineers Fire-Fighting Platoon has been a busy organization in the few months since they were activated here on the station. In 10 months they have extinguished 10 fires, ranging from burning Forts loaded with bombs to haystacks in fields near the base. No less than three dispersal tents have burned to the ground, and one Nissen hut fire had to be subdued after a GI had tried to start a fire in the stove with oil.
Perhaps the biggest job was when a Fort loaded for a mission caught fire in the wing tanks. With the burning high-octane gas dripping on to the ground, the firefighters had a battle for nearly two hours before the blaze was brought under control. So successful were their efforts, however, that the plane was in the air again in a few days. The platoon can be credited with saving the Air Force a valuable bomber and preventing what might have been a disastrous explosion on the field.
1114th QUARTERMASTER COMPANY
Since the middle of October, 1942, the 1114th Qm. Co. has had the headache of obtaining groceries and clothing for the thousands of men on the base. Under the leadership of Captain Edwin Barry, the company has done an excellent job of catering to the many and varied demands of a combat group in spite of a shortage of personnel and transport.
In addition to feeding the populace, they have fought pitched battles with rationing boards in efforts to get more coke and coal for barracks and speed up the turnover of laundry and shoe repair. Other duties include handling of lend-lease supplies and obtaining gasoline for the motor transport and aircraft.
The 1114TH Qm. Co. has followed the 303rd Group since both organizations were activated in 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. When the group moved, the Qm. boys were only a jump behind them and finally landed in England a month after the group's arrival at its base.
202nd FINANCE SECTION
One organization on the field that has constantly retained its popularity is the Sound Finance Section - the boys who provide the pretty brown and blue pound sterling notes on the first of the month.
Under the leadership of Major Tom C. Hawkins the finance section has always managed to scrape up enough money to go around on payday, in addition to the enormous job of completing pay vouchers, advancing partial pay and attending to the thousand-and-one minor details that a paymaster is heir to. This job was carried out in spite of the shortage of equipment and supplies.
In all, the finance section has handled about a million dollars of business a month with a staff of only fifteen men and one officer.
425th AIR SERVICE SQUADRON
Was established on 15 April 1945 with 32 officers and 591 Enlisted Men. The previous Molesworth Support units were disbanded and reorganized as the 425th Air Service Squadron with CO Major Benjamin S. Ramsey. Sub units were:
Headquarters and Base Service Squadron
675th Air Material Squadron, CO - Captain John T. Freedman
851st Air Engineering Squadron, CO - Major Melvin T. McCoy
3rd PROVISIONAL GAS DEFENSE DETACHMENT
Was responsible for the gas defense at Molesworth. It had three decontamination trucks and operated a decontamination building.
COMPANY "E" 15th INFANTRY
Guarded the Molesworth Airfield and provided Military Police personnel from 7 October 1942 for approximately four months. Under the command of Provost Marshal Lt Roland H. Ringsrud.
MEDICAL and DENTAL DETACHMENTS
Included were the 8th Air Force Dental Detachment (At Large) commanded by Captain Newton B. Schulman and the 249th Medical Detachment commanded by Captains William F. Gerringer and David J. Luther.
303rd STATION HOSPITAL
Located near Thraptson, it was established in September 1943 as a 750 bed hospital to provide medical attention to wounded men returning from combat and for illness and accidents of Molesworth Base personnel. They also served Polebrook (351st BG), Grafton Underwood (384th BG) and wounded from Continental Europe after D-day. It was expanded to a 1,500 bed hospital after D-day. The original Commanding Officer was Major Thompson followed by Colonels Smith, Abramson and Ragan. Seventy-five nurses had accommodations at the nearby Lilford Hall. The hospital was disbanded in May 1945. At least two 303rd BG(H) Officers married nurses from the 303rd Station Hospital - Major Louis "Mel" Schulstad to Nurse Geraldine Broz and Captain William E. Eisenhart to Nurse Mary Shore.
358th: 1942-1945; 1947-1948; 1951-1952
359th: 1942-1945; 1947-1948; 1951-1952
360th: 1942-1945; 1947-1948; 1951-1952
Pendleton Field, Ore, 3 Feb 1942
Gowen Field, Idaho, 11 Feb 1942
Alamogordo, NM, 17 Jun 1942
Biggs Field, Tex, 7-23 Aug 1942
Molesworth, England, 12 Sep 1942
Casablanca, French Morocco, c. 31 May-25 Jul 1945.
Andrews Field, Md, 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948.
Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz, Sep 1951-16 Jun 1952.
Col Ford J Lauer, Feb 1942
Col Warren H Higgins, c. 29 May 1942
Col James H Wallace, c. 14 Jul 1942
Col Charles E Marion, c. 12 Feb 1943
Col Kermit D Stevens, Jul 1943
Col William S Raper, Oct 1944
Lt Col William C Sipes, 19 Apr 1945
Capt Bernard Thompson, Jun-25 Jul 1945.
Maj Joe Maddalena Jr, Sep 1951
Col David Wade, 9 Oct 1951
Col John K Hester, Jan-16 Jun 1952.
Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.
Distinguished Unit Citation: Germany, 11 Jan 1944.
Shield: Azure, a diminutive pile between four flashes of lightning, two issuant palewise from chief and one from dexter and sinister chief sides chevronwise inverted, issuant from base a burst of five rays, all or. Motto: Might In Flight. (Approved 9 Jan 1943.)
GROUP WEB SITE:http://www.303rdbg.com/