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VIII Bomber Command 1

17 August 1942

Official description

12 B-17’s of 97th Bomb Group, escorted by Spitfires, launch first Army Air Force Heavy Bomber attack from UK against Western Europe. Target is Rouen-Sotteville Marshalling Yard. Sergeant Kent R West shoots down German fighter, thus becoming the first Eighth Air Force gunner to receive credit for a combat kill.

Description

The US 8AF launches its first strategic bombing raid of the war, sending 12 Boeing B-17Es of the 97BG on a strike against the railyards of Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France, while another six fly a diversionary route. The attacking force is split into two formations: the first led by CO 97BG COL Frank A. Armstrong, Jr. aboard Butcher Shop (41-2578), the second led by CG VIII BC BG Ira C. Eaker aboard Yankee Doodle (41-9023). The strike is intended to support the upcoming Operation JUBILEE with its amphibious landings on Dieppe, France.

The strike sees the 8AF’s gunners achieve their first aerial victory when a FW-190A-3 (4332) piloted by Leutnant Herbert Horn (I/JG2) is shot down by SSGT Kent R. West, ball turret gunner on the Birmingham Blitzkrieg (41-9100).

Mission details

1. ROUEN/SOTTEVILLE

Description

12 B-17s of the 97th Bomb Group are dispatched to bomb railway marshaling yards at Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France.

The 97th Bomb Group took off from Grafton Underwood at 16:27 and bombed the target between 17:39 and 17:46. Accuracy was poor.

Despite worst fears, only two bombers sustained superficial damage during the mission.

Aircraft type

B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes

Strike Force:
Boeing B-17E 41-2578 340BS/97BG Butcher Shop
Boeing B-17E 41-9125 342BS/97BG Prowler
Boeing B-17E 41-9026 342BS/97BG Baby Doll
Boeing B-17E 41-9042 342BS/97BG Berlin Sleeper
Boeing B-17E 41-9043 342BS/97BG Peggy D
Boeing B-17E 41-9017 342BS/97BG Heidi Ho
Boeing B-17E 41-9023 414BS/97BG Yankee Doodle
Boeing B-17E 41-9089 414BS/97BG Johnny Reb
Boeing B-17E 41-9103 414BS/97BG Dixie Demo
Boeing B-17E 41-9021 414BS/97BG Big Bitch
Boeing B-17E 41-9030 414BS/97BG Big Punk
Boeing B-17E 41-9100 414BS/97BG Birmingham Blitzkrieg

The lead aircraft of the 342nd Bomb Squadron was Butcher Shop (41-2578) flown by Major Paul A Tibbets (Commanding Officer 340th BS) and Colonel Frank A Armstrong (Commanding Officer 97th BG).

The Lead aircraft of the 414th Bomb Squadron was Yankee Doodle (41-9023) flown by Brigadier General Ira C Eaker (Commanding Officer, 8th Air Force Bomber Command) and Lieutenant John P Dowsell.

Staff Sergeant Kent West, Ball Turret Gunner aboard Birmingham Blitzkrieg (41-9100) claimed the only aerial victory of the mission. Shooting down an FW-190 flown by Leutnant Herbert Horn of Jagdeschwader 2.

Units

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 340th Bomb Squadron
  • 342nd Bomb Squadron
  • 414th Bomb Squadron

Mission Statistics

Tonnage dropped 18.45
Number of aircraft Sent 12
Number of aircraft Effective 12
Number of aircraft Damaged 2
Enemy aircraft claimed as Damaged by Bomber Command 1

2. DIVERSION

Description

6 B-17 Flying Fortresses flew a diversionary route.

Aircraft type

B-17 Flying Fortress

Notes

Diversion Force: Boeing B-17E 41-9085 340BS/97BG Jarrin' Jenny

Units

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 340th Bomb Squadron

Mission Statistics

Number of aircraft Sent 6

3. FIGHTER ESCORT

Description

Fighter escort for the bomber force was provided by RAF Spitfires.

Aircraft type

Spitfire

Notes

3 aircraft were shot down by enemy fighters of Jagdgeschwader 26

Mission Statistics

Number of aircraft Missing In Action 3

Service

People

  • Thomas Borders

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Lt Thomas Borders graduated from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa before enlisting in the Air Corps in July 1941. Assigned as a Pilot in the 97th Bomb Group/414th Bomb Squadron, he was sent overseas. He was Pilot of "Birmingham Blitzkrieg" on...

  • Fleming Goolsby

    Military | First Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Fleming Goolsby was assigned to the 97th Bomb Group/414th Bomb Squadron. He was Co-Pilot of "Birmingham Blitzkrieg" on VIII Bomber Command's first Heavy Bomber raid to Rouen, France on 17 August 1942. Transferred to North Africa with the 97thBG, he was...

  • Walter Kelly

    Military | Colonel | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    A Norristown, PA tavern keeper's son, Walter Kelly graduated from Villanova University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He enlisted in the Air Corps in June 1941 and started training as a pilot. After receiving his wings, he flew on...

  • William Musselwhite

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Pilot | 93rd Bomb Group
    William Musselwhite served as a pilot with the 97th Bomb Group out of Grafton Underwood. He fly in the first all-American raid on Europe on 17 August 1942.

  • Ewart Sconiers

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 97th Bomb Group
    Lt Ewart Sconiers was Bombardier on B-17 41-9089 'Johnny Reb', one of the 12 B-17s participating in the first heavy bomber raid of the 8th Air Force on 17 August 1942. The target were the shipyards of Rouen/Sotteville, France. ...

  • Harold Spire

    Military | First Lieutenant | Navigator | 97th Bomb Group
    Note : In both the 1930 and 1940 Censuses, Harold and his parents are listed as Spires. All later documents, including his Enlistment records, his Escape & Evasion Report have him as Harold Spire... ...

  • Richard Starks

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Richard Starks grew up in Woodford County, Kentucky. He attended the Midway High School and the University of Kentucky before enlisting in April 1941. After his enlistment, he was sent to Tulsa, Oklahoma for primary training, starting to fly the...

  • Clarence Thacker

    Military | Major | 384th Bomb Group
    Clarence L. Thacker was the pilot of 41-9103, one of 12 B-17s which flew on Mission #1, 17 August 1942 to Rouen, France from Grafton Underwood, UK.

  • Mortimer Walsh

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 97th Bomb Group
    Mortimer Walsh was assigned to the 97th Bomb Group/414th Bomb Squadron. He was Bombardier on board of "Birmingham Blitzkrieg" 41-9100 on VIII Bomber Command's first Heavy Bomber raid to Rouen, France on 17 August 1942. Transferred to North Africa with...

  • Donald Walter

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 97th Bomb Group
    Killed in Action (KIA) in fighter attack in B-17 41-9089. First Killed in Action (KIA) for VIII Bomber Command.

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Aircraft

  • 41-2578 Butcher Shop/ Big Tin Bird

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9017 Heidi Ho

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9021 Big Bitch/ Hangar Queen

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9023 Yankee Doodle

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9026 Baby Doll

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9030 Big Punk

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 414BS/97BG MacDill, FL, force landed base with Joe Bernhardt 27/3/42; Grenier, NH with Bill Saunders force landed Buhl, ID 15/6/42; Polebrook 3/42; with Lt. William P. Saunders took part in 8AF 1st raid 17/8/42; transferred 92BG Bovingdon 4/12...

  • 41-9042 The Berlin Sleeper/ Ridge Runner

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered ?; Assigned 342BS/97BG Polebrook 3/42 as THE BERLIN SLEEPER; with Lt George D.Burgess took part in 1st 8AF mission 17/8/42; transferred 325BS/92BG [NV-T/B] Bovingdon 9/42; force landed Hendon with Alan Hermance 16/10/42 Missing Air Crew...

  • 41-9043 Peggy D/ Little Rock-ette

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 342BS/97BG Polebrook 3/42 PEGGY D on co-pilot’s side; with Capt Bill Musselwhite on 1st 8AF mission 17/8/42; 92BG Bovingdon /9/42; transferred 534BS/381BG [GD-A1] Ridgewell 7/43 as hack & tow target; to 2SAD 21/8/43 and ret 24/8/43 used to...

  • 41-9085 Jarrin' Jenny

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9089 Johnny Reb

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Sarasota 15/4/42. Assigned 414BS/97BG Polebrook 4/42. Flew on first 8th Air Force heavy bomber mission 17 August 1942 with Pilot Lt. Richard S. Starks (WIA 21/8/42); Co-pilot: Donald A. Walter (KIA 21/8/42); Navigator: Harold Spire;...

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Revisions

Date Contributor Update
18 September 2018 11:42:27 Emily Changes to event
Sources

THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History,

Freeman, Mighty Eighth War Diary

Amended and information added by GBlume to put mission narrative and notes into plain English

Date Contributor Update
18 September 2018 11:18:16 Emily Changes to official description
Sources

THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II: COMBAT CHRONOLOGY, 1941-1945 by Carter / Mueller, the Office of Air Force History,

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2017 10:48:49 GBlume Changes to description
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2017 08:18:14 GBlume Changes to name
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2017 06:35:10 GBlume Changes to media associations
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2017 06:34:03 GBlume Changes to media associations
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
28 May 2017 06:28:59 GBlume Changes to name, description and aircraft associations
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
28 May 2017 06:23:11 GBlume Changes to event
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
28 May 2017 06:04:06 GBlume Changes to event
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
28 May 2017 06:00:31 GBlume Changes to event
Sources

www.gblume.com

Date Contributor Update
15 February 2015 18:02:12 Lee8thbuff Changes to event
Sources

Lee Cunningham 15-Feb-2015. Added bomber gunner claims to Rouen statistics per 'The Mighty Eighth War Diary" Roger A. Freeman.

Date Contributor Update
18 October 2014 22:05:48 Lee8thbuff Changes to description
Sources

Lee Cunningham 19-Oct-2014. Mission details were garnered from "The Mighty Eighth War Diary" of Roger A Freeman; "Losses of the 8th and 9th AIr Forces" Stan Bishop & John A Hey MBE. Mission descriptions authored by Mr. Cunningham based on research from the sources listed.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:43:16 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Lee Cunningham, 8th Air Force missions research database / Stan Bishop's 'Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces', the Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces and the work of Roger Freeman including the 'Mighty Eighth War Diary'.

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