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THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE AND ENGLAND


HOW THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE CAME TO BE IN ENGLAND

On February 20, 1942, two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker and six other officers were sent to London to establish a bomber command in England for the bombing of Nazi Germany. This was the first step in placing the 8th Air Force in England. On April 15, 1942, Eaker's bomber command headquarters were moved to Wycombe Abbey, and by February 1944, the 8th Air Force was in Wycombe Abbey. The 8th AF was composed of four commands - Bomber Command, Fighter Command, Ground-Air Support Command and Air Service Command. The Bomber Command amd Fighter Command merged and was composed of four Air Divisions, and under the each Air Divisions there was one Fighter Wing and four or five Bomb Wings. There were five or six Fighter Groups under each Fighter Wing and three or four Bomb Groups under each Bomber Wing. In each Bomb Group there were about four Squadrons.

THE SECOND AIR DIVISION : HISTORY AND COMPONENTS
Crew 2366 was assigned to the 702nd Squadron of the 445th Bomb Group under the 2nd Air Division. The 2nd Air Division traced its origins back to Detrick Field, Maryland, in June 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor. By December 1943 the 2nd Air Division was headquartered in Ketteringham Hall just outside Norwich. By June 1944 the 2nd Air Division was composed of 14 Bomb Groups, three fighter groups and two fighter groups.

THE 445th BOMB GROUP : HISTORY AND COMPONENTS
Lt. Col. Robert H. Terrill, the commanding officer of the 445th Bomb Group flying B-24 Liberators during the months that Crew 2366 flew their combat missions, was the first commanding officer of the bomb group when it was formed at Boise, Idaho, in March 1943. The 445th Bomb Group became instantly famous by the fact that movie actor Jimmy Stewart, a major in the Air Corps, became the commanding officer of the 703rd Squadron. In November 1943 the 445th BG took over a former RAF airbase at Tibenham, Norfolk.

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The 445th BG was one of the 14 bomb groups of the 2nd Air Division. Three squadrons - the 701st, 702nd and 703rd - made up the 445th BG, which could count on approsimately 50 B-24 Liberators and usually sent up 36 aircraft, 12 per squadron, to support major missions.

The first combat mission of the 445th BG was a 15-bomber attack on the U-boat yards at Kiel, Germany, on December 13, 1943. The raid was successful, with no planes lost.

The 445th flew 280 missions from December 1943 until its last mission in April 1945 against Salzburg, Austria. The most disastrous mission, the tragic "Kassel Mission," took place on September 27, 1944, about a month after all members of Crew 2366 had returned to the U.S.. The thirty planes of 445th became separated from the main formation, and in about five minutes about 100 German fighters shot down twenty-five bombers. Only four bombers were able to make it back to their base at Tibenham.

The 445th BG, after almost two years of dropping over 16,000 tons of bombs and losing 576 airmen and 138 aircraft in combat under the 8th Air Force, returned to the U.S. and was deactivated in September 1945.

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