Monday, July 2, 2007

Background Behind a Famous WWII B-24 Photo

This is one of the most dramatic and disturbing photos of the air war, showing a B-24 at the moment its wing breaks apart. It is from some moving film footage, and I always wondered about the origins of this sequence and what group was involved. Finally, I found the information today. The website, entitled 'Combat Diary of Staff Sgt. William J. Mulholland, 506th Squadron, 44th Bomb Group', features this photo in Mulholland's diary with explication.

Sgt. Mulholland was an aerial gunner in the 44th Bomb Group, famously known as the Flying Eightballs for their propensity to attract attention. The 44th participated in many of the war's toughest missions, and distinguised itself greatly in combat. Sgt. Mulholland's webpage/diary is highly recommended, with many excellent photos. To access it, go to

Here is how Sgt. Mulholland describes what happened with this aircraft and crew:

Crew List
This mission seemed easy. We were to bomb roads between Le Havre and Rouen to cut off the Germans' escape. After bombs away we ran into some really accurate flak. One ship caught fire and six chutes came out almost immediately. I watched it go down, then three more chutes came out. Just about this time the wing came off and she blew up with a trail of smoke going to the ground. All three of the past missions were flown by pilot Lt. T. L. Smith. We had different crew members every day. This one was his last mission, finished up."

May 20, 1944. Sgt. Bill Mulholland takes a day away from the stresses of combat to ride his bicycle in the East Anglian countryside. He became so busy flying after this day off that he didn't write in his journal again until June 6, 1944, on D-Day, after spending the day waiting to be called to fly.

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