Monday, August 4, 2008

The 492nd Bomb Group: The Hard-Luck Outfit

My good friend Maurice, a font of knowledge on all things Air Force, sent me a very interesting posting today, which I will reproduce here. I highly recommend anyone wanting to learn more about the 492nd Bomb Group visit its easy-to-use website at http://www.492ndbombgroup.com/
Collage above is from the group webpage.

The following is quoted directly from the website:


"The Mighty 8th Air Force had great expectations for this group. As one of the last groups deployed to England, they arrived with more experienced men within their ranks than any other group serving in the European Theater. They had more flying hours going into the war than most would have at war's end. Some of them were the instructors that had trained many of the airmen during the arms buildup. Others were veterans of Anti-Submarine patrols that had been defending America's coast.


As America's buildup was nearing its completion, these men were allowed to put in for combat duty. They represented America's best. As one of the last heavy bombardment groups assembled, they were the first group ever to:

pass their POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement) inspection and depart ahead of schedule,

fly as an all-silver (aluminum) bomber group and

reach England without losing any planes.
Yet with their superb level of proficiency, the fortunes of war went against them:

They suffered more casualties and losses in 89 days than any other group.


They became the first and only group in American history to be disbanded due to high casualties.


Tough Luck, Hard Luck, Bad Luck, Ill-Fated and Jinxed are among the many phrases used to describe this group's fate during its 89 days of combat service in World War II. At the time, there was no official nickname for the 492nd Bomb Group. General Doolittle and his staff dubbed them the Hard Luck Group. Many years after the war the 492nd Association adopted the name The Happy Warriors, the old unofficial nickname for the 859th Bomb Squadron.


There was nothing the group did or didn't do to deserve their hard luck. They merely found themselves caught by the Luftwaffe without fighter protection on a few very costly missions. Never once, though, did the group fall apart to become easy prey. They turned each potential massacre into a slug-fest, proving that they could dish it out as well as take it. Despite their casualties, the 492nd always punched their way through and succeeded in nailing their target!
The group flew 67 missions in 89 days. Even after their two deadliest air battles, they would crawl back into their planes the next day to resume the offensive. Only bad weather ever kept them out of the air. Armed with hindsight, historians and war experts who have studied the 492nd and their missions have all reached the following conclusions:

They did the best they could and

no one could have done any better.


Perhaps the hardest luck to hit the group was in becoming overlooked, passed over and forgotten. As the war drew to a close, the recognition for their service and sacrifice was credited to another group, a group of night flyers who never flew any Daylight Bombing Operations. The original 492nd received nothing, not even a thanks. To date, the US has yet to see fit to award any unit citation to these brave men for carrying out their orders.


Casualties per 1000 Combatants in WWII
US Army Air Force: 16
US Army: 24
US Marine Corps: 29
467th Bomb Group: 91
492nd Bomb Group: 442

This table was taken from the book
"Two Squadrons That Were One"
by Robin C Janton.


As you can see, the price of victory was especially high for this "Hard Luck" group. The Army Air Force's formula calculated this Group's casualty rate to be 117%.

21 comments:

Mark Robinson said...

My father (Buel Robinson) served as a Navigator in Hershel Smith's B24 group until they were shot down and spent the next 11 months in POW camp. I recently visited their old air base in North Pickenham, Endland, where turkey farming, wind turbines and a kart racing outfit now put the old runways to better use. The town has a nice memorial at one corner of their park, and the Blue Lion pub contains photos, old books and memories of those who served there. The town folks were very gracious, we did not have time to look for any who might have been alive at the time, will do so next trip, hopefully accompanied by my father.

Tiller said...

As a grandson of the nose gunner of Sknappy (Tom Kelley), I have been very interested in any insight to his war story. In the late 80's a painting called "Into a Hornet's Nest" was created with the help of the remaining crew of their last mission, June 20, 1944. They had to complete an emergency landing in Sweden and taken POW's, luckly Sweden was neutral and the environment was better than most. After my grandfather past away in 2003, I have tried to compile any and all research material about this crew and info on the 492nd. I am looking for any one that has any knowledge of the Sknappy crew, 856th bomb squadron and 492nd.

s moller said...

Aircraft "SKNAPPY" landed at the Bultofta airport 20/6-1944 sometime between 09.27-10.30 in the morning.

Aircraft types: B-24J-151-CO

C / N: 44-40142

Unit: 5Z-856 BS, 492 BG

Mission: Pölitz

Crew: 10

Note: Return

s moller said...

Aircraft "SKNAPPY" landed at the Bultofta airport 20/6-1944 sometime between 09.27-10.30 in the morning.

Aircraft types: B-24J-151-CO

C / N: 44-40142

Unit: 5Z-856 BS, 492 BG

Mission: Pölitz

Crew: 10

Note: Return

s moller said...

In connection with the attack from enemy fighters, “Sknappy” was observed at 09.15 over the Pommer Bay.

(MACR 7077)

Some time later, the plane landed at Bulltofta with engine No. 4 feather. Minor damage on the left fin and rudder occurred and the hydraulic system was damaged. After reparation, the plane returned July 16, 1945 to UK.
The crew repatriated from 1 November 1944 following the detention in Korsnäs.


Name: Rank: ID-nr: Arrival Date: Note:
DICKSON, Willis Kent 2/Lt 0-693014 1944-06-20 returned UK
DORSEY, Clyde (NMI) T/Sgt 18118791 1944-06-20 returned UK
GALL, Andrew S 2/Lt 0-691982 1944-06-20 returned UK
KELLY, Marion Thomas S/Sgt 36415028 1944-06-20 returned UK
KOLLINGER, Eugene Victor 2/Lt 0-684172 1944-06-20 returned UK
KRISTYNIK, John Joseph T/Sgt 18190174 1944-06-20 returned UK
SEITZINGER, Elvern Rae 1/Lt 0-810956 1944-06-20 returned UK
SIMPSON, John H. Jr S/Sgt 18051775 1944-06-20 returned UK
SUTER, Arthur Robert S/Sgt 12162656 1944-06-20 returned UK
WEHAGEN, Donald Reeves S/Sgt 15329043 1944-06-20 returned UK


(Source “Amerikanska Nödlandare 1943-1945”, Bo Widefelt, published by “Air Historic Research”, 2007, ISBN 91-975467-6-3)

Tiller said...

Thanks for the info. I have some of the information you provided, but it is always welcome to get any and all info that is out there. Since my grandfather passed away, it has been hard to get any info and his military records were destroyed in a fire in St Louis.

Karen said...

Tiller,

Take a look at my newsletters at http://home.wwdb.org/srhodes/Tribute_files/sweden%20stay.htm. (scroll midway down the page to the links).

Pictures of three of your grandfather's crew mates can be see in the Fall 1999 newsletter (pg 9). They are identified in the Dec 1999 (pg9) letter.

If you have any questions, contact me at Svartkatt2000 at verizon.net.

Tiller said...

Karen, I have Volume 1, Issue 1 through Volume 1 Issue 4 printed off. I have reviewed them and have found my grandfather (Tom Kelley) in the #5 photo, bottom row second. He is the second one starting from the right in the Volume 1, Issue 3. Do you have any more of these news letters that involve the 492nd bomb group?

Tiller said...
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Tiller said...
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Karen said...

Tiller,

Please send me your email so that I may reply to yours.

Karen

Tiller said...

My email is jasonk8125@gmail.com

Thanks,

Joanne said...

@ Tiller,

My father was Elvern Seitzinger, pilot of Sknappy. After he passed away in 2006, my sister took many of his papers/items to be archived at the 8th Air Force museum in Pooler, GA. Dad sure enjoyed visiting with your grandpa!

Richard said...

My father (Nello Centore) was Pete Val Preda's (Crew 601)flight engineer. They were in the ill-fated 856th Bomb Squadron of the 492nd Bomb Group. Of the 12 aircraft the 856th sent out on June 20, 1944 mission to Politz, one turned back with engine problems. The other 11 were lost. Two made it to Sweden (Kehoe & Seitzinger). Joanne's father, Elvern Seitzinger, was Val Preda's co-pilot until he got his own crew. If anyone would like to read more on the 492nd Bomb Group and my Dad's time as a POW, I wrote a book based on his war experiences. The title is "Deadly Decision" and it is available on amazon.com.

Tiller said...

Joanne,
I remember your father coming by the house when I was a child. My grandfather enjoyed spending the time with him and your mother. I will have to contact the museum to see about those documents for my research.

Karen said...

Richard,

Please send me an email, svartkatt2000 at Verizon.net. My Dad has some questions about information in your book. He was a fried of Toepper's and even spent some time with him in Chicago before shipping overseas.

Karen

Richard said...

Hi Karen,
What a great bit of news. Miles Toepper has been difficult to track down. He is not in the Crew 601 photo (see 492ndbombgroup.com website) because he was "bumped" off the flight overseas and went over by ship. I was in contact with his nephew and grand-nephew but they could not supply me with a picture of him. I believe this is a real tragedy as he gave his life in the service of our country and he is virtually forgotten. I would really like to contact your Dad, either by phone, e-mail, or snail mail. I tried to send this to the e-mail address you posted but it would not go through.
Best wishes to you and your family,
Rick Centore
rickcentore@cox.net

Richard said...

Hi Karen,
What a great bit of news. Miles Toepper has been difficult to track down. He is not in the Crew 601 photo (see 492ndbombgroup.com website) because he was "bumped" off the flight overseas and went over by ship. I was in contact with his nephew and grand-nephew but they could not supply me with a picture of him. I believe this is a real tragedy as he gave his life in the service of our country and he is virtually forgotten. I would really like to contact your Dad, either by phone, e-mail, or snail mail. I tried to send this to the e-mail address you posted but it would not go through.
Best wishes to you and your family,
Rick Centore
rickcentore@cox.net

Jim said...

Miles Toepper went to the high school I teach at. We have a webpage for him. It is:

http://www.proviso.k12.il.us/bataan%20web/Toepper.htm

There is a photo of him on the website.

Karen said...

Thanks Jim for the link to Mile's webpage. I sent it to my Dad and to the 492nd BG Association.

Richard said...

Jim,
Thank you very much for posting the link to the webpage dedicated to Miles Toepper. It is heartwarming to see that the sacrifice he made for our country is remembered in such a way. I would like to donate two copies of my book "Deadly Decision" to the Proviso East and West High School Libraries. I will send them to the District 209 offices. Could I ask you to give them a heads up that the books will be coming? (I've more coming in so give me a couple of weeks.)
Thank you,
Rick Centore