Norman Whalen joined the Army Air Corps in 1941. After graduating from Navigator School in Monroe, Louisiana, he received his commission as a Second Lieutenant and was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in North Africa where he flew numerous combat missions, including Operation Tidal Wave, the famous low level B-24 bombing raid over the oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania, August 1, 1943.
Lt. Whalen normally flew as navigator and nose gunner on Lt. John Young's B-24D, "Kickapoo", but he and his crew were specially chosen by, and assigned to fly with, Col. John R. Kane on his plane, "Hail Columbia", for the raid on Ploesti. This proved fortunate for Lt. Whalen, Lt. John Young, and the rest of "Kickapoo" 's regular crew because the "Kickapoo" lost several engines in succession and crashed in flames just after takeoff for the Ploesti mission, killing all but two of the replacement crewmen. Having already escaped death once on the mission, Whalen, and his crew's odds for survival looked even worse as they approached and began their final low level run into their target, the Astra Romano Refinery at Ploesti. As Whalen saw the walls of smoke and flames, the heavy anti aircraft ground fire, and the explosions and fierce fires that "Hail Columbia" was approaching and, then, began flying through, nearing their target refineries, and as his plane began to be hit by the terrible anti- aircraft guns, he thought and later wrote, "I thought I was going to die. I thought we all were all going to die ! I never thought we would ever get out of there alive."
For flying as Col. John Kane's group lead navigator navigator, and also for his bravery and exceptional navigational skill on the Ploesti mission, for successfully plotting courses to Ploesti and, then, for navigating "Hail Columbia" and a group of other damaged B-24s safely out of Romania and all the way back south to the British airfield on the Greek Island of Cyprus, Norman Whalen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
After his 36th combat mission, Lt. Whalen was assigned to Mountain Home Air Field, Idaho, where he trained cadets in flight navigation until September 1944. At that time, he requested reassignment back to the 98th Bomb Group, and he flew an additional 39 bombing raids with his original unit. Whalen's combat medals include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Medal with 11 bronze oak leaf clusters and 2 silver oak leaf clusters.
In 1945 Norman Whalen, also known as "The Baron", was the subject of a short story about his extraordinary navigation disciplines and skills, especially coming home from Ploesti, in the "Air Force" magazine article about the Ploesti mission, "He Brought Us Home", written by his pilot, Capt. John S. Young. Major Whalen was honorably discharged from The U.S. Army Air Corps in 1946 with the rank of Major. Whalen returned home to Denton Texas, and taught at North Texas University for many years. --- He died Feb. 27, 2008.
Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
First Lieutenant Gilbert B. Hadley was a B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, "The Pyramiders", from Texas, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya, in the Mediterranean...
Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer, Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor, in World War II, for his...
Military | Colonel | Bombardier Navigator | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Harold Korger was a bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 9th Air Force. He flew on the famous mission, Operation Tidal Wave, Aug 1, 1943, to knock out the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. ...
Military | Major | Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D command bomber pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron, who flew the famous B-24D bomber, 'The Sandman' on the mission Operation Tidal Wave to bomb the...
Military | Major | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
Lieutenant John S. Young from Dallas, Texas, called "Big John' or "Johnny" by his crewmen, was a B-24D Liberator bomber pilot with the 9th Air Force, 98th Bomb Group and the 344th Bombing Squadron, based at Cairo, Egypt, Tobruk, and Benghazi, Libya,...
Units served with
Established as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb squadron and trained by Third Air Force. Deployed to Egypt in June 1942 over South Atlantic Transport Route transiting from Morrison Field, Florida though the Caribbean to Brazil; performed trans-Atlantic...
The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942.
The B-24D, named 'Hadley's Harem' was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti Romania in 1943.
This aircraft originally served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron as 'HAIL COLUMBIA'. It was 344th's CO Col. John R. Kane's personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group CO and turned it over to Herman ...
The B-24D Liberator #41-11768, 'KICKAPOO', was piloted by Lt. John S. Young from Dallas, Texas as part of the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, which arrived in North Africa in early 1943. This airplane and was...
1 August 1943
Operation TIDAL WAVE. B24D Liberators attack the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. The bombers flew low to avoid radar detection and dropped time delayed bombs. Out of the 177 B-24s that took part in the raid 167 managed to attack their targets. 57 B...