351 BG(H), US 8th Air Force, W.W.II
based at Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England, during World War II.
During the three years at Polebrook, the 351st B.G. had a total of 279 B17 Flying Fortresses on charge. These flew 9,075 sorties with 7,945 of them dropping 20,778 tons of bombs.
The gunners in the Group fired off 2,776,028 rounds of ammunition and were credited with destroying 303 enemy aircraft.
The Group flew 311 credited missions and lost 124 B 17's in combat.
The 351st BG(H) was formed on Nov. 24, 1942 at Spokane, Washington. It was inactivated on Aug. 28, 1945 at Sioux Falls Army Air Field.
Based at Polebrook, England (Station 110) between Apr. 15, 1943 and Jun. 10, 1945.
Assigned to 94th Bombardment Wing within 1st Air Division 8th AAF.
Col. William A. Hatcher Jnr. Nov. 24, 1942 - Dec. 31, 1943
Col. Eugene A. Romig Jan. 3, 1944 - Oct. 12, 1944
Col. Robert W. Burns Oct. 12, 1944 - Mar. 30, 1945
Col. Merlin I. Carter Mar. 31, 1945 - Aug. 28, 1945
The Group had four Bombardment Squadrons 508th, 509th, 510th and 511th.
508th (YB- ) Commanders:
Maj. Kieth G. Birlem Nov. 24, 1942 - May 7, 1943
Lt. Col. James T. Stewart May 14, 1943 - Aug. 28, 1945
42-3136 No Balls at all. With Cpl G. Beigner
42-3141 Hitlers Headache
Constituted as 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 25 Sep 1942. Activated on 1 Oct 1942. Trained for duty overseas with B-17's. Moved to England, Apr-May 1943. Served in combat with Eighth AF from May 1943 to Apr 1945. Operated primarily against strategic objectives in Germany, striking such targets as ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, communications at Mayen, marshalling yards at Koblenz, a locomotive and tank factory at Hannover, industries at Berlin, bridges at Cologne, an armaments factory at Mannheim, and oil refineries at Hamburg. Also struck harbor facilities, submarine installations, airfields, V-weapon sites, and power plants in France, Belgium, Holland, and Norway. Received a DUC for performance of 9 Oct 1943 when an aircraft factory in Germany was accurately bombed in spite of heavy flak and pressing enemy interceptors. Received another DUC for its part in the successful attack of 11 Jan 1944 on aircraft factories in central Germany. Participated in the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944. 2d Lt Walter E Truemper, navigator, and Sgt Archibald Mathies, engineer, were each awarded the Medal of Honor for action on 20 Feb 1944: when their aircraft received a direct hit that killed the co-pilot and wounded the pilot, Truemper and Mathies managed to fly the plane until other crew members could bail out; on the third attempt to land the plane in an effort to save the pilot, the B-17 crashed and the men were killed. In addition to its strategic missions, the group often operated in support of ground forces and attacked interdictory targets. Bombed in support of the Normandy invasion in Jun 1944 and the St Lo breakthrough in Jul. Hit enemy positions to cover the airborne attack on Holland in Sep 1944. Struck front-line positions, communications, and airfields to help stop the German counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Flew missions in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945. Returned to the US soon after V-E Day. Inactivated on 28 Aug 1945.
Devil's Ball" was named in the tradition of many other 511th Bomb Squadron aircraft by incorporating the word 'Ball' in the title, after the squadron's first commander Clinton F Ball.
This aircraft reportedly completed 64 combat missions but only been able to identify 60.
New Year’s Eve 1943: “Nobody’s Darlin” TU-K was out of gas. According to the 351st Combat Diary; "After a raid on the Cognac Aerodrome in France, this aircraft crash landed on the beach at Burnham on Sea with battle damage." 19 year-old 1st Lt. Frank Needham swam and waded to shore in freezing water to get help and assisted crew members to escape their B-17 before high tide could drown them. With characteristic understatement he said; "nobody got hurt". It was for this personal heroism and completing 30 combat missions he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with three Oak Leaves (added later). Although he walked away from the crash Frank sustained two crushed vertabrae which didn’t show up until nearly twenty years after the war. The aircraft was later salvaged in Jan. 1944. Tragically, Major John R. Blaylock was killed in the same raid. Lt. Frank Needham completed 30 missions in Aug. 1944 having commenced his tour of duty May 8th 1943. In Sept. 1944 he finally went home on a well-deserved leave. Later he served with the Strategic Air Command in Greenland, at Dow AFB, and Fairchild AFB. He retired after 20 years of active duty.
“Nobody’s Darlin” Crew List:
Pilot 1st Lt. Robert P. Chalmers
CP- 2nd Lt. Francis M. Needham A.S.N. 0-684763
N- 1st Lt. Donald L. Shattuck
NG- S/Sgt. Hubert M. Butler
TT- T/Sgt. Walter G. Skinner
RO- T/Sgt. Leonard J. Kriesky,
LWG- S/Sgt. Arthur Novaco,
RWG- Sgt. James L. Graham
BT- S/Sgt. Charles M. Newbury
Tail G- S/Sgt. Guy O. Meredith, S/Sgt. Ivey B. Hullender
A crew member; a gunner named Neff, lived in Delaware (deceased).
Frank later flew "Black Magic" as 1st Pilot
Major Clark Gable
“Although he was beyond the draft age at the time the U.S. entered WW II, Clark Gable enlisted as a private in the AAF on Aug. 12, 1942 at Los Angeles. He attended the Officers' Candidate School at Miami Beach, Fla. and graduated as a second lieutenant on Oct. 28, 1942. He then attended aerial gunnery school and in Feb. 1943, on personal orders from Gen. Arnold, went to England to make a motion picture of aerial gunners in action.
He was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook and although neither ordered nor expected to do so, flew operational missions over Europe in B-17s to obtain the combat film footage he believed was required for producing the movie entitled "Combat America." Gable was admired by the men of the 351st because “he had guts.”
Capt. Cable returned to the U.S. in Oct. 1943 and was relieved from active duty as a major on Jun. 12, 1944 at his own request, since he was over-age for combat. Because his motion picture production schedule made it impossible for him to fulfill his AAF Reserve officer duties, he resigned his commission on Sep. 26, 1947.”
351st War Record:
Missions: 311 (some sources say 313)
Sorties Flown: 9,075
Aircraft Lost: 125
Bombs Dropped: 20,770
Casualties: 974 (estimated)
Distinguished Unit Citations: 9 Oct 1943 and 11 Jan. 1944
Individual Citations: 2 CMoH for Lt. W. Truemper & Sgt. A. Mathies
Numerous Distinguished Flying Cross & Silver Stars.
THE BOMBARDIER'S OATH
“Mindful of the secret trust about to be placed in me by my Commander in Chief, the President of the United States, by whose direction I have been chosen for bombardier training...and mindful of the fact that I am to become guardian of one of my country's most priceless military assets, the American bombsight...I do here, in the presence of Almighty God, swear by the Bombardier's Code of Honor to keep inviolate the secrecy of any and all confidential information revealed to me, and further to uphold the honor and integrity of the Army Air Forces, if need be, with my life itself.”
Built in the last weeks of 1944 on the assembly line at Lockheed-Vega Burbank, California,
the Boeing B.17G 85-VE, Serial Number 44 - 8846 was integrated into the USAAF January 13, 1945. He joined the 351 ° Bomb Group in England March 26, 1945. Assigned to 511 ° Bomb Squadron (DS code) - the famous " Ball Boys "Major Clinton BALL - it will Polebrook from its base in North London, 6 combat missions over Europe, and the last on 20 April 1945. 846 The continued his career in the Air Force until his removal to November 10, 1954 Olmstead AFB, Pennsylvania. Purchased by the National Geographic Institute (IGN) December 5, 1954, he joined the base at Creil, north of Paris, under the registration F-BGSP. During more than thirty years, this plane will fly over the world, from North to Polynesia, for aerial survey work, adding notable appearances in films such as " The Great Ramble "and" The Strip Caesar . " In 1985, 846 joined the category of vintage aircraft within the Association " Flying Fortress Forever ", in partnership with the Amicale Jean-Baptiste Salis. He then received its current registration F-AZDX. Since then, every year he participated in numerous air shows: meetings (Ferte-Alais, Duxford) commemorations (D-DAY), shows planes legend, young pilots Air Tour, etc ... In 1989, he turned into the movie " Memphis Belle "by David Putman and received this occasion Nose-Art " Mother and Country "on the left front and" Pink Lady "on the right and some adjustments (removal of the" chin turret "and change the tail turret), intended to give an outline of B.17-F. In March 1988, thanks to the dedication of the entire team maintenance, generous donors, volunteers and resources courtesy of Air France, " The Pink Lady "found that the marking was his within the 511 ° Squadron. At the time, the planes were leaving factory painted over, however, we wanted to keep the color " Olive Drab " in tribute to the thousands of B.17 who bore during war years. 17.GV B- "Pink Lady" is based at Orly airport but this site is not open to the public. In France, there is another B-17 in the reserves Musée du Bourget but it will never fly.
Assigned 8th AAF: April 1943
"Queen Of The Ball"
"Queen" flew 63 in 6 months before their ill-fated demise the same year.
VIII BC, 1 BW, 101 PCBW May 1943
VIII BC, 1 BD, 1 CBW 13 Sep 1943
VIII BC, 1 BD, 92 CBW 1 Nov 1943
VIII BC, 1 BD, 94 CBW 15 Dec 1943
1 BD, 94 CBW 8 Jan 1944
1 AD, 94 CWB 1 Jan 1945
POLEBROOK 15 April 1943 to 23 June 1945
Col. William A. Hatcher Nov 1942 to 31 Dec 1943 (MIA)
Col. Eugene A. Romig 1 Jan 1944 to Oct 1944
Col. Robert W. Burns 12 Oct 1944 to 30 Mar 1945
Col. Merlin I. Carter 30 Mar 1945 to Jun 1945
First Mission: 14 May 1943
Last Mission: 20 Apr 1945
Total Sorties: 8,600
Total Bomb Tonnage: 20,357 Tons
Aircraft MIA: 124
Distinguished Unit Citations:
11 Jan 1944 (All 1 BD groups)
9 Oct 1943 Anklam
Claims to Fame
509 BS made 54 consecutive missions on June 1943 to January 1944 without losses.
"Ball Boys" squadron the 511th BS was part of Group.
Clark Gable flew missions with this group.
Activated 1 October 1942 at Salt Lake City AB, Utah. The group established at Geiger Field in Washington in November of 1942 where the Group was assembled for initial training, and the Second phase of training was conducted at Biggs Field, Texas, between December of 1942 and March of 1943. The unit then moved to Pueblo AAB, Colorado for preparation for overseas movement. the ground unit left Pueblo for New York on the 12th of April 1943. the aircraft began movement on the 1st April 1943.
Redeployed to the US in May and June 1945. the first aircraft left on the 21st May 1945. the ground unit sailed for the US on the 25th June 1945 aboard the Queen Elizabeth. Docked the US in July 1945, but the group inactivated on the 28th August 1945. It was then reactivated as a Minuteman missile wing in 1963 and established at Whiteman AFB, Mo.