Sunday, April 6, 2008

Going to Tucson to Work on 95th Bomb Group History

The official heraldry of the 95th Bomb Group (H)

A shot of the city of Tucson, Arizona.

This Thursday, after taking the shuttle bus from Idaho Falls down to Salt Lake City, I'll be flying to Tucson, Arizona to do interviews and research for a new book on the 95th Bomb Group (H) that was commissioned earlier this year. This is a daunting task, and a mission that I do not take lightly. The 95th BG was one of the great bomb groups of WWII, flying 334 missions during the war out of bases in Alconbury, Framlingham, and finally Horham, East Anglia. The first mission was on May 13, 1943 to St. Omer, France and the last mission was on May 25, 1945. The group suffered heavy casualties, especially early in the war. 554 men were killed in action, 805 were Prisoners of War, 162 were Wounded in Action, and 64 were interned in neutral countries.

The group also won three Distinguished Unit Citations, more than any other bomb group. These DUCs were for the August 17, 1943 Regensburg Mission; the October 10, 1943 Munster Mission, and the historic March 4, 1944 Berlin Mission, where the 95th became the first daylight bomb group to bomb Berlin.

The story of this legendary group has been told in an outstanding oral history coordinated by 95th BG vets Leonard Herman and Ellis Scripture, and then finalized by Ian Hawkins, entitled 'B-17s Over Berlin' (Potomac), and also plays a major role, along with fellow 13th Wing groups the 390th and the 100th, in Ian's book 'Munster: The Way it Was', (sometimes called Munster: Before and After).

With so much good material already out there, it will be important to create a bomb group history that is unique and covers the entire 95th story from both an operational and personal standpoint.
I look foward to meeting many of the men I've corresponded with over the years at the Tucson reunion, and hearing their stories in person, trusty notepad at the ready, as well as getting to know as many other 95th vets as time allows. We also will have several interesting tours to places like the Davis-Monthan aircraft boneyard. I've had several excellent mentors who have taught me much about the history of the 95th, including Ian Hawkins and the late 95th BG Historian Ed Charles. Numerous contacts and friendships with members of the group have ensued over the past eight years.

In early June, I will continue my research for the 95th history in East Anglia, England, with a side trip to London, to get a feel for what life was like on the base, how the locals interacted with the young Americans who descended into their midst in 1943, and retrace the tracks the young men took while on their precious leaves in London. I'll also get the chance to collaborate with my friend historian Ian Hawkins, who will be sharing billing on the writing on this project.

I feel a close tie to the 95th and its men, and I will give nothing less than my best to make sure their story is told well, so that what they did can live forever in the pages of history.

1 comment:

Richard Havers said...

Have a great trip Rob, I know you'll do a great job. Looking forward to meeting you in a couple of months here in the UK.