8th Air Force

THE 40th COMBAT WING.
THE 41st COMBAT WING.
THE 94th COMBAT WING.
THE CARPETBAGGERS.
All based in Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire.
(1942 - 1945).

Welcome to a page that is dedicated to the above Combat Wings and the Carpetbaggers who all flew from Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire airfields during World War 2. These Groups along with many others throughout the UK carried the war into Hitler's backyard by flying in massive formations and bombing in daylight. These young airmen were a long way from home and stationed in a strange and what always seemed to be a damp, foggy country. Where beer was warm and the money was funny, we even drove on the wrong side of the road.

My name is Mark Jackson and I live in a small town in England called Rushden which is situated on the Northamptonshire/Bedfordshire border. My interest in the 8th Air Force is born out of the fact that all around where I live (within a radius of 20 miles) are the old airfields that were once home to American servicemen and that most sturdy of warbirds, the B17 - Flying Fortress. You could say that I live in the middle of a massive museum, for the landscape and the occasional building still show signs of........THE FRIENDLY INVASION.

The idea behind this page is to provide information and answer questions/queries on the Bomb Groups that made up the Combat Wings that were based within the area where I live.

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THE 40th COMBAT WING

92nd BG(H) - PODINGTON - "FAMES FAVOURED FEW"

Component Squadrons:-
325th, 326th, 327th and 407th Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Lt Col James S. Sutton.
Lt Col Baskin R. Lawrence.
Lt Col William M. Reid.
Lt Col James W. Wilson.

First Mission:-
6th September 1943.

Last Mission:-
25th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
308.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
20,829.4 tons.

Congressional Medal of Honor:-
F/O John C. Morgan.

Claims to Fame:-
Oldest Group in 8th Air Force.
First group to make non-stop Atlantic flight to UK (August 1942).
Group's 327BS only unit in USAAF to be equipped with YB-40 for combat.
Flew the secret Disney rocket-bomb experimental missions early in 1945.
Led 8th Air Force on last mission of war.

What Remains:-
Approximately one mile of the main runway which is now used as a Drag Racing Strip and known as Santa Pod (Europe's Premier Drag Racing Strip).
Perimeter track is now a Bridleway. Lots of remaining Hardstands.
Control Tower is now converted into a house.
Operations block is now used as stables.
Lots of Nissen and Quonset huts still stand, although overgrown.
T2 Hangar completely destroyed by fire in 1995.

Memorial:-
One restored propeller blade in Podington Parish Church. Visitor book is full of comments from veterans revisiting old haunts.

Comments:-
A very atmospheric place to visit due to a lot of buildings and roadways remaining. The site is also surrounded by woodland which is much the same as it was in wartime. It does not take a lot of imagination to visualise how it once was.

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305th BG(H) - CHELVESTON - "CAN DO"

Component Squadrons:-
364th, 365th, 366th and 422nd Bombardment Squadrons (H.)

Group COs:-
Col Curtis E. LeMay.
Lt Col Donald K. Fargo.
Col Ernest H. Lawson.
Col Anthony Q. Mustoe.
Col Henry G. MacDonald.

First Mission:-
17th November 1942.

Last Mission:-
25th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
337.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
22,362.5 tons.

Congressional Medals of Honor:-
1/Lt William R. Lawley.
1/Lt Edward S. Michael.

Claims to Fame:-
Suffered heaviest loss of 14th October 1943 Schweinfurt mission, and for this reason given Nazi flag found flying in that city when captured by US troops.
422BS undertook first night attacks by 8th Air Force.
Under Col LeMay the Group pioneered many formation and bombing procedures that became Standard Operational Procedures in the 8th Air Force.

What Remains:-
All Runways have gone.
J2 Hangar still stands but is fast falling into a state of disrepair.
Still Ministry of Defence land and still has a small American presence.
Most land turned back to grazing.
A few Nissen huts still standing on land that is now my friends back garden.

Memorial:-
A memorial tablet on the wall of Chelveston Parish Church Tower, which the 305th Memorial Association helped to restore.

Comments:-
Not a lot left to see, although when you drive past on a summer evening with the sun setting behind the old J2 Hangar it's very easy to imagine what was once here.

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306th BG(H) - THURLEIGH - "THE REICH WRECKERS"

Component Squadrons:-
367th, 368th, 369th and 423rd Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Col Charles B. Overacker.
Col Frank A. Armstrong Jr.
Col Claude E. Putnam.
Col George L. Robinson.
Col James S. Sutton.
Col Hudson H. Upham.

First Mission:-
9th October 1942.

Last Mission:-
19th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
342.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
22,574.6 tons.

Congressional Medal of Honor:-
Sgt. Maynard H. Smith.

Claims to Fame:-
First man in 8th Bomber Command to complete a tour (T/Sgt M. Roscovich: 5th April 1943).
367BS had heaviest losses in 8th Bomber Command between October 1942 and August 1943.
Oldest operational bomb group in 8th Air Force.
Stationed in England, and at one base, longer than any other group.
369BS flew for over six months in 1943 without loss.

What Remains:-
Difficult to determine as it became a Royal Aircraft Establishment after the war and used for aircraft research and development.
Currently the public are not allowed to enter the site.
Has one of the longest, if not the longest runway in Europe.
Site recently sold and is to be converted into an industrial estate, although I understand the runway must remain.

Memorial:-
An excellent granite memorial stands next to the road and outside what was one of the communal sites during the war.

Comments:-
Nothing as such remains to identify the location with it's historical past.

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THE 41st COMBAT WING

303rd BG(H) - MOLESWORTH - "HELLS ANGELS"

Component Squadrons:-
358th, 359th, 360th and 427th Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Col James H. Wallace.
Col Charles E. Marion.
Col Kermit D. Stevens.
Col William S. Raper.
Lt Col William C. Sipes.

First Mission:-
17th November 1942.

Last Mission:-
25th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
364.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
24,918.1 tons.

Congressional Medals of Honor:-
Lt Jack W. Mathis.
T/Sgt Forrest L. Vosler.

Claims to Fame:-
First 8th Air Force Bomb Group to complete 300 missions from UK.
Flew more missions than any other 8th Air Force B17 group.
Only one other group delivered a greater bomb tonnage.
"Hell's Angels" was the first B17 to complete 25 missions.
"Knock Out Dropper" was the first B17 in the 8th Air Force to complete 50 and 75 missions.

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379th BG(H) - KIMBOLTON

Component Squadrons:-
524th, 525th, 526th and 527th Bombardnebt Squadrons (H)>

Group COs:-
Col Maurice A. Preston.
Col Lewis E. Lyle.
Lt Col Lloyd C. Mason.
Lt Col Horace E. Frink.

First Mission:-
29th May 1943.

Last Mission:-
25th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
330.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
26,459.6 tons.

Claims to Fame:-
Dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other group.
Flew more sorties than any other bomb group in the 8th Air Force.
Lower abortive rate than any other group in action from 1943.
"Ol Gappy", a B17G flew 157 missions, probably more than any other in the 8th Air Force.

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384th BG(H) - GRAFTON UNDERWOOD

Component Squadrons:-
544th, 545th, 546th and 547th Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Col Budd J. Peaselee.
Col Julius K. Lacey.
Col Dale O. Smith.
Lt Col Theodore R. Milton.
Lt Col Robert W. Fish.

First Mission:-
22nd June 1943.

Last Mission:-
25th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
314.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
22,145.4 tons.

Claims to Fame
Dropped last 8th Air Force bombs of war.

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THE 94th COMBAT WING

351st BG(H) - POLEBROOK

Component Squadrons:-
508th, 509th, 510th and 511th Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group Cos:-
Col William A. Hatcher Jr.
Col Eugene A. Romig.
Col Robert W. Burns.
Col Merlin I. Carter

First Mission:-
14th May 1943.

Last Mission:-
20th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
311.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
20,357 tons.

Congressional Medals of Honor:-
2/Lt Walter E. Truemper.
S/Sgt Archibald Mathies

Claims to Fame:-
Clark Gable flew missions with this group.
509th Bombardment Squadron made 54 consecutive missions from June 1943 to January 1944 without loss.

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401st BG(H) - DEENETHORPE

Component Squadrons:-
612th, 613th, 614th and 615th Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Col Harold W. Bowman.
Col William T. Seawell.

First Mission:-
26th November 1943.

Last Mission:-
20th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
255.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
17,778.1 tons.

Claims to Fame
Second best rating in bombing accuracy for 8th Air Force.

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457th BG(H) - GLATTON

Component Squadrons:-
748th, 749th, 750th and 751st Bombardment Squadrons (H).

Group COs:-
Col James R. Luper
Col Harris E. Rogner.

First Mission:-
21st February 1944.

Last Mission:-
20th April 1945.

Total Missions:-
237.

Total Bomb Tonnage:-
16,915.5 tons.

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THE CARPETBAGGERS

801st BG(P)/492nd BG(H) - HARRINGTON

Harrington Airfield - A Short Story

Harrington airfield, known as Station 179 during WW2, was built by the 826th and 852nd Engineer Battalions of the US Army in 1943 as a Class A airfield intended for heavy bomber use, the main runway length being approximately a mile. The airfield was completed in the spring of 1944.

Although this airfield had initially been constructed for use by a B17 Flying Fortress Bomb Group, this group was diverted to North Africa to support Operation Torch. It was therefore taken over as a satellite station for training the bomber crews of the nearby RAF 84th Operational Training Unit at Desborough who mainly operated Wellington bombers.

Being some 500ft above sea level and located not too far away from the supply bases of Cheddington and Holme as well as the British SOE based at Tempsford, Harrington was chosen for the Carpetbagger Operations by the Eighth Airforce's Special Operation Group. These operations being to deliver supplies and OSS agents into occupied Europe to support local Resistance units. The advance echelons of the 36th and 406th Bomb Squadrons moved into Harrington on the 25th March 1944. These sqaudrons were to form a new Bomb Group known as the 801st Provisional Bomb Group (H).

The station was officially handed over to the new Commanding Officer, Lt Col Clifford Heflin, by Squadron Leader E. D. King, RAF, on the 1st May 1944. Later in the month two more squadrons were attached to the 801st Group, these were the 788th from Rackheath and 850th from Eye.

On the 13th August 1944 the Carpetbaggers at Harrington were redesignated as the 492nd Bomb Group (H) and the four squadrons became the 856th, 857th, 858th and 859th Bomb Squadrons under the Commannding Officer, Col Clifford Heflin. On the 26th August 1944 the command was transferred to Colonel Robert Fish, Colonel Heflin returning to America.

Due to General Patton's fuel supply problem in France it was decided that the Carpetbagger's B24 Liberators should be used to fly gasoline directly to forward airfields. Between the 21st and 30th September 1944, 822,791 gallons of 80 octane gasoline were flown out from Harrington on 'trucking missions' to three seperate airfields in France and Belguim.

In September 1944 the 8th Air Force High Command decided that as supply missions would inevitably gradually run down the 492nd Group would prepare three squadrons for the night bombing role leaving only one squadron (the 856th BS) to carry out supply missions on behalf of the OSS. These transitions however proved to be difficult due to the modifications that had been made to the B24 aircraft for their Carpetbagger role which had included the removal of oxygen equipment and some armament.

On 17th December 1944 Colonel Hudson H. Upham assumed command of the 49 nd Bomb Group with nig t b mbing and supply dropping operations continuing.

In January 1945 the 859th Bomb Squadron was transferred to the 15th Air Force and operated Carpetbagger type missions from Brindisi in Italy.

On the 14th March 1945 the 406th Night Leaflet Squadron moved from Cheddington to Harrington and operated there until the 28th June 1945 with 20 aircrews along with their B17 and B24 aircraft.

In addition to the B24 Liberators the 492nd BG also used C47 Dakotas, A26 Invaders and British built Mosquitos. These Mosquitos were fitted with wire recording machines and were used in Red Stocking missions to record radio messages from agents in Germany and Austria. It was not unusual therefore for there to be in excess of 60 operational planes on the airfield at any one time.

The 492nd BG at Harrington continued supply dropping, bombing and Red Stocking missions until the 7th May 1945 when Germany finally surrendered.

On the 7th July 1945 the air echelon of the 492nd BG left Harrington for Kirtland Field, Albuquerque, USA where they later joined up with the ground echelon who had travelled back to the USA by the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth. The group deactivated on the 17th October 1945.

Although the airfield fell into disuse following the withdrawal of the Americans and was returned to farnland, it received a new lease of life when it was selected to become one of the RAF's Thor missile sites in the late 1950's. Three rocket launch pads, which still remain, with ancillary buildings were constructed. The whole area being declared Top Secret, was fenced off and floodlit. The IRBM WS-315A Thor missile system had a range of 1,500 nautical miles. The 60ft long Thor missile was powered by a 150,000 lb thrust rocket engine fuelled by liquid oxygen and RP-1, a light cut petrol, and carried a 2 MT thermonuclear warhead. Deployment of these missiles commenced in December 1958 and was phased out in 1963 with the advent of the manned V-bombers, the Valiant, Vulcan and Victor, along with the increased accuracy of Soviet missiles.

After the Thor site was abandoned the buildings, runways and most of the roads and taxiways were demolished. The resultant hardcore forming the base of several other roads and buildings under construction elsewhere at the time. The airfield once again returned to agriculture.

In 1987 at a reunion of the Carpetbaggers a memorial was dedicated to the memory of those who did not survive the war. The memorial is located on the site of one of the former aircraft dispersal points and depicts a Carpetbagger B24 Liberator taking off in front of the Foxhall cottages at Harrington.

Although the foundations of some buildings can still be seen around the site of the airfield the only remaining original substantial WW2 buildings left standing are on the former administration site. The Carpetbagger Aviation Museum is now housed in part of the origina Operations Building at the airfield's administration site. The Northants Aviation Society have also located their museum on the site of the former finance hut alongside the Carpetbagger Aviation Museum.

Links to other sites on the Web

487th Bomb Group Home Page
303rd Bomb Group Memorial
96th Bomb Group
Army Air Corps/Air Force Veterans Associations

Thanks for visiting my page, you are visitor number since 7th November 1996.
If you require any further information, have any comments or have any questions you would like answering then please E-Mail me.
Please look in again as this page is constantly under construction. Last updated on 17th November 1996.

1996 mark_j@intac.co.uk


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