Sub-fonds - 44th Bomb Group (Shipdham)

Identity area

Reference code

Title

44th Bomb Group (Shipdham)

Date(s)

  • 1933-1998 (Creation)

Level of description

Sub-fonds

Extent and medium

10 boxes; 2 photographic boxes; 12 audio recordings.

Context area

Name of creator

(1941-1945)

Administrative history

Part of the United States Army Air Force 2nd Air Division, 8th Air Force.
Constituted as the 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy) 20 November 1940 and activated on 15 January 1941. Moved to England August-October 1942. Sent detatchments to North Africa in late June and September 1943. Flew its final mission on 25th April 1945. Returned to the United States in June 1945.
Redesignated the 44th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy ) in August 1945. Deactivated on 12 July 1946. Activated again on 1 July 1947 but not manned during 1947-1948. Inactivated on 6 September 1948. Redesignated 44th Bombardment Group (Medium) and activated on 2 January 1951. Inactivated on 16 July 1952.
Based at Shipdham, Norfolk, October 1942-c 15 June 1945.
Outline:
The 44th Bombardment Group (hereafter referred to as the 44th Bomb Group), nicknamed 'The Flying Eightballs', was activated on 15 January 1941 at MacDill Field, Florida, by the transfer of officers and enlisted men from the 29th Bomb Group. It trained with B-24s, became an operational training unit in February 1942, and also served on anti-submarine duty. In July 1942, the Group began intensive preparations for combat. It moved to England, August 1942-October 1942, for service with the Eighth Air Force (hereafter 8th Air Force) and was based at Shipdham Norfolk (Army Air Force Station no. 115).
The Group was the first United States Army Air Force (hereafter USAAF) group to be equipped with B-24 Liberators and flew its first combat mission on 7 November 1942. This was the first of 344 missions flown, with more than 8,400 individual combat sorties flown by 44th Bomb Group crews, resulting in the loss of about 850 crewmen. The 44th Bomb Group operated from England for longer than any other B-24 group. It also flew Pathfinder missions, which utilised radar-equipped aircraft to precede B-24 formations and indicate targets obscured by weather.
The Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945 and returned to the United States in June 1945. It was redesignated as the 44th Bomb Group (Very Heavy) in August 1945 and trained with B-29 aeroplanes. It was assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946 and deactivated on 12 July 1946. The Group was reactivated on 1 July 1947 and assigned to Strategic Air Command. During 1947 and 1948, it was not a manned unit and it was deactivated on 6 September 1948. It was redesignated again as the 44th Bomb Group (Medium) and activated on 2 January 1951, assigned to Strategic Air Command, equipped with B-29s and deactivated on 16 June 1952.
Key missions:
Operations consisted primarily of assaults against strategic targets in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Romania, Austria, Poland, and Sicily. The Group targetted submarine installations, industrial establishments, airfields, harbours, shipyards, and other objectives in France and Germany, between November 1942-June 1943.
The Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an extremely hazardous mission against naval installations at Kiel on 14 May 1943: with its B-24s carrying incendiaries to be dropped after three B-17 groups had released high explosive bombs, the 44th Bomb Group flew in the wake of the main formation, making them vulnerable because they had no protection from the fire power of the main force. This vulnerability increased when the Group had to open its own formation for the attack, but they blanketed the target with incendiaries despite the concentrated flak and continuous interceptor attacks encountered.
Late in June 1943, a large detachment moved to North Africa to help facilitate the invasion of Sicily by bombing airfields and marshalling yards in Italy. The detachment also participated in the famous low-level raid on the Ploesti oil fields, Romania, on 1 August 1943. The Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in this mission. Its commander, Col Leon Johnson, was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading his men into smoke, flame, enemy fighters and anti-aircraft fire over the target, which was fierce since the enemy had already been alerted when the target was bombed in error by another group. Before returning to England at the end of August, the detachment bombed an aircraft factory in Austria and supported ground forces in Sicily.
In September 1943, the 44th Bomb Group struck airfields in the Netherlands and France and convoys in the North Sea. Also in September, a detachment was sent to North Africa to support the Salerno operations. This detachment returned to England in October and, from November 1943 to April 1945, the entire Group carried out operations against targets in western Europe, concentrating on airfields, oil installations, and marshalling yards.
The Group took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during the 'Big Week', 20 February 1944-25 February 1944, and also flew some support and diversion missions. It struck airfields, railroads, and V-weapon sites in preparation for the Normandy invasion and supported the invasion, in June 1944, by attacking strong points in the beachhead area and transportation targets behind the front lines. In July 1944, the Group aided the Caen offensive and the St Lo breakthrough in France. It also dropped food, ammunition, and other supplies to troops engaged in the airborne attack on Holland, in September 1944, and helped to check the enemy offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944-January 1945, by striking bridges, tunnels, choke points, rail and road junctions, and communications in the battle area. The Group attacked airfields and transportation in support of the advance into Germany, and flew a resupply mission during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.
Bomb Squadrons:
66th Bomb Squadron: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952.
67th Bomb Squadron: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952.
68th Bomb Squadron: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952.
404th Bomb Squadron: 1942.
506th Bomb Squadron: 1943-1946.
Attached Units:
For a full list of attached units, see John Hane, 'Second Air Division Memorial: In memory of all those Americans who, flying from these bases and posts, gave their lives defending freedom, 1941-45' (Author, 1963). A reference copy is available in the Norfolk Record Office searchroom.
Stations:
MacDill Field, Florida, 15 January 1941.
Barksdale Field, Louisiana, February 1942.
Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma, July 1942-c. 28 August 1942.
Shipham, England (AAF Station no.115), October 1942-c. 15 June 1945.
Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, c. 27 June 1945.
Great Bend Army Air Field, Kansas, 25 July 1945.
Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Kansas, 14 December 1945-12 July 1946.
Andrews Field, Maryland, 1 July 1947-6 September 1948.
Group Commanders:
Lt Col Melvin B. Asp, c. 15 January 1941.
Lt Col Hugo P. Rush, May 1941.
Col Frank H. Robinson, 1 April 1942-4 January 1943.
Col Leon W. Johnson, 4 January 1943-2 September 1943.
Lt Col James T. Posey, 3 September 1943-3 December 1943.
Col Frederick R. Dent, 4 December 1943-29 March 1944.
Col John H. Gibson, 29 March 1944-15 August 1944.
Col Eugene H. Snavely, 15 August 1944-13 April 1945.
Col Vernon C. Smith, 13 April 1945-1 June 1945.
Major awards:
Distinguished Unit Citation: Kiel, Germany, 14 May 1943.
Distinguished Unit Citation: Ploesti, Romania, 1 August 1943.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This section contains records relating to the personnel and activities of the 44th Bomb Group, its associated bomb squadrons and ground crew of the airbase at Shipdham. It contains both original records and copies, including official orders, crew lists, mission lists, mission diaries, memoirs, published articles and news cuttings. Also contains personal correspondence, photographs, memorabilia and site visitors' information.

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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

The Norfolk Record Office requires the permission of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust Librarian before we can supply copies of any documents in this archive, copyright permitting. Please contact the 2nd Air Division Memorial Trust Librarian: e-mail 2admemorial.lib@norfolk.gov.uk; telephone, +44 (0) 01603 774747 and postal address, The 2nd Air Division (USAAF) Memorial Library, The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1AW, England.
If you are interested in copies of sound recordings in this archive, copying restrictions may apply. Please contact Norfolk Sound Archive staff for details: e-mail norfrec@norfolk.gov.uk; telephone, + 44 (0) 01603 222599 and postal address, Norfolk Record Office, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich, NR1 2DQ.

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Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

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Related units of description

For other photgraphs relating to the 44th Bomb Group, see MC 371/908/44, 51-54. For a photograph of the aftermath of the crash of B-24 'Lili Marlene', see MC 376/602/3. For photographs of inspection and award ceremonies relating to the 44th Bomb Group, see MC 37/344.
For movement orders relating to the 44th Bomb Group, see MC 371/243, MC 371/313, MC 371/353, MC 371/392 and MC 376/258.
For other records relating to the Ploesti mission and crews in North Africa, see MC 376/338. For photographs showing the crews of 44th Bomb Group after returning from the Ploesti mission (includes the B-24s 'Kitty', 'Ruth Less' and 'Hag Mag'), see MC 376/339.
The 2nd Air Division Memorial Library holdings include:
1) Microfilm from Maxwell Airforce Base: for the 44th Bomb Group, see BO137-BO138; for the 66th, 67th and 68th Bomb Squadrons of the 44th Bomb Group, see AO558; for the 506th Bomb Squadron of the 44th Bomb Group, see AO626.
2) Video tapes relating to the 44th Bomb Group are located in the video collection.
3) Periodicals: '44th Logbook', vol. 1, no. 1 (August 1985) to vol. 30 (Autumn 1994), publication ceased; '68th Bomb Squadron Newsletter', vol. 1, no. (3 August 1972) to vol. 17, no. 3 (September 1994), set incomplete and publication ceased; '8-Ball Tails', vol. 1, no. 1 (Winter 1994, onwards).

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Publication note

Select bibliography:
Published Unit Histories: Ursel P. Harvell, 'Liberators Over Europe' (Newsfoto Publishing Company, San Angelo, Texas, 1948, reprint of Newsfoto, 1946). Ursel P. Harvell, 'Jaws Over Europe: B-24 Bombers in World War II' (privately published, undated paperback edition, Florida, Ellenton, nd): the Norfolk Record Office does not have a copy of this publication, but there is one available through the Norfolk Library Service. Norman Kiefer, 'Green-nosed Flying Eight Balls: History of the 506th Bomb Squadron' (506th History Publications, Bellville, Michigan, 1993). Will Lundy, 'History of the 67th Bomb Squadron' (Author, 1984). Will Lundy, 'Roll of Honor and Casualties' (Author, 1987). Ron Mackay and Steve Adams, 'The 44th Bomb Group in World Ward II: The Flying Eight Balls over Europe in the B-24,' (Atglen, Pennsylvania, Schiffer Military History, 2003); William B. Taylor (ed), '14th Combat Wing (H)' (Newsfoto, 1945; reprinted by East Anglia Books, 1997). Webb Todd, 'History of the 68th Bomb Squadron' (Author, 1989).
Unless otherwise stated, the Norfolk Record Office holds reference copies of these publications, which are available in the searchroom, and there are also copies in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library's collection, available through the Norfolk Library Service.
Published Memoirs: Keith Schuyler, 'Elusive Horizons' (? South Brunswick, New Jersey, Barnes, 1969). The Norfolk Record Office does not hold a copy of this memoir, but there is one available through the Norfolk Library Service.
Websites giving further information about the 44th Bomb Group and on which this administrative history of the Group is based [accessed 4 August 2010]:
44th Bomb Group: <www.44thbombgroup.com/>.
44th Bomb Group Veterans Association: <www.8thairforce.com/44thbg/>.
The Eighth Air Force Historical Society: <www.8thafhs.org/bomber/44bg.htm>.
The Heritage League of the 2nd Air Division: <http://heritageleague.org/groups/44bg.htm>.
Second Air Division Memorial Library: <www.2ndair.org.uk/Second_Air_Division/>.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

CALM RefNo

MC0371/1

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Description control area

Description identifier

efe639b2-31a1-4018-890d-253d70c62247

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Rules and/or conventions used

Status

Catalogued

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created 26/07/2005 by Droip. Modified 03/01/2019 by Catherine.Collins.

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