Hollywood actor Clark Gable in the waist gun position of a a B-17 Flying Fortress of the 91st Bomb Group. Passed for publication 6 Jun 1943. Printed caption on reverse: 'Clark Gable Serves In England: Clark Gable has slipped into this country as Capt. Gable and is serving with the U.S. Army Air Force somewhere in England, as a Gunnery Instructor. He hopes that his movements will not be accompanied by the publicity that he had a while ago, because he wants to get down to the job as others are doing. Keystone Photo Shows: Pictured in one of the centre gun turrets, Gable gives a smile for the cameraman.' On reverse: US Army Press & Censorship Bureau [Stamp]. 268124. [censor no.]
Clark Gable with Lt. Colonel "Pop" Clark of the 352nd Fighter Group. Blue Nose Bastard of Bodney. Pop Clark was shot down on his 94th mission May 1944 and interned at Luft Stalag III. Liberated April 1945. Stayed in the Air Force and retired full Colonel in 1961.
The crew of 41-24635 on return from the 4 May 1943 mission to the Ford and General Motors plants at Antwerp, Belgium.
Left to Right:
S/Sgt Willam C. Mulgrew, Ball Turret Gunner;
S/Sgt Richard C. Fortunak, Left Waist Gunner;
T/Sgt Roman R. Zaorski, Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner;
S/Sgt Murel A. Murphy, Right Waist Gunner;
Captain Robert J. Yonkman, Bombardier;
Lt. Colonel William A. Hatcher, Co-Pilot (CO of the 351st Bomb Group);
Captain William R. Calhoun, Pilot;
1st Lt Joseph M. Strickland, Navigator;
T/Sgt Charles R. Terry, Radio Operator;
S/Sg Willard W. Stephen, Tail Gunner;
Captain Clark Gable, Top Gunner.
(Official USAAF photo)
Captain Clark Gable and the crew of B17F "Duchess" after completing his 5th and final mission over Nantes, France September 23rd 1943 for which he was awarded the Air Medal. 351st Bomb Group RAF Polebrook.
Printed caption on reverse of very similar photo: 'DS pictured standing in front of the Flying Fortress "Duchess" after the successful US 8th Air Force (ETO) raid on Nantes (France) the morning of September 23rd are back row, L to R:
Lt James O Bradley, Cincinatti, Ohio,
Captain John Carraway, Raleigh, NC,
Major J R Blaycock, Council Bluff, Iowa,
Captain Clark Gable, Hollywood, Cal,
Lt Robert W Burns, Ecru, Miss,
Lt David Palmer, Seattle,
Staff Sergeant Stephen Schmitt, 6617 North Ashen Ave, Chicago, Ill.
Front Row: L to R:
Staff Sergeant William J Mile, 836 East 83rd Street, NYC,
Master Sergeant Fletcher Cupp, Carthage, MO,
Staff Sergeant Frank Dillinbeck, 9502 East Broadway, Spokane,
Technical Sergeant Clyde L Eisenhart, York PA.
Above formed members of the crew of "Duchess" aboard which Gable has just completed his fifth mission and thereby earned the Air Medal DS/CAS.'
Actor-turned gunnery instructor Clark Gable, during a well-publicized visit to Bassingbourn, takes time to pose with B-17F 42-5077 "Delta Rebel No. 2" (coded OR-T) of the 323rd Bomb Sq, 91st BG.
NARA Ref 342-FH-3A45659-27293AC.
General Ira C. Eaker shakes hands with the Hollywood actor Clark Gable of the 351st Bomb Group. Written on slide casing: 'Gen Eaker & Clark Gable, High Wycombe. 443.'
Capt Clark Gable peers out of a waist gunner's window on a Boeing B-17 to answer questions during an interview, 6 June 1943. 351st Bomb Group, England.
NARA Ref 342-FH-3A46689-66587AC.
Army nurse Amelia Nicklaus with Clark Gable, who was stationed with a Bomb Group near to Lilford Hall.
"Capt Clark Gable broadcasts to America from England over the blue network. His speech was on the purchase of war bonds in support of the 3rd war loan drive program."
"Hollywood's war effort has been the target for many jokes - most of them low blows, but one Hollywood name that has had only praise and deserved it was that of Capt Clark Gable. He began as a buck private, went thru gunnery school, then came to England and west on 5 missions while he was working on a movie that tells the story of 2 gunners - from Main Street, USA thru the Battle of Germany."
Clark Gable flew 5 missions as Captain filming 50,000 ft of gunnery combat during 1943. He received the Air Medal for his service. 1 mission was flown with the 303rd BG. The rest were with the 351st BG in different aircraft. The film was named 'Combat America' and was released to help increase recruitment in the Army. He was later awarded the DFC.
The Japanese attack of Pearl Harbour, December 7th 1941, followed a month later by the death of Clark Gable’s wife, Carole Lombard, in a DC-3 crash, changed Gable’s life.
He and his wife had been engaged in raising money through war bonds so Clark Gable volunteered for the AAF, training as an aerial gunner and photographer. He was assigned to England to film “Combat America”, a propaganda film about air gunners.
He joined the 351st Bombardment Group and was stationed at Polebrook. Officially he flew 5 missions but veterans remember he flew many more. He followed the crew of B-17 “Ain’t it Gruesome” with a cameraman and sound engineer through 24 missions. He was assigned to the 8th Air Force and served with the 351st Bombardment Group from 1943-44.
On his first mission on May 4th 1943 he accompanied 351st group commander Lt Col. Will Hatcher to Antwerp, Belgium in “The 8 Ball MK11” (41-24635) with 303rd Bombardment Group . Gable fired a few rounds and suffered frostbite through wearing leather rather than heated gloves.
His second mission on July 10th was as part of a bombing mission to Villacoubley, in France, flying in “The Argonaut 111 (42-29851), followed by a third on 24th July as gunner on the lead aircraft “Ain’t it Gruesome (42-29863) to bomb the chemical plants in Norway.
Flying in “Ain’t it Gruesome" on August 12th, Gable wedged himself behind the top turret gunner for a better view. It wasn’t until the aircraft returned that he realised he had been within centimetres of losing his life as a 20mm shell had come through the flight deck, removing the heel of his shoe. It had exited without exploding thirty centimetres from his head.
Gable’s final mission was in “The Dutchess" on September 23rd 1943. Owing to bad weather half the group failed to assemble and Gable manned a gun in the nose, returning unscathed.
Captain Clark Gable left England in November 1943 and returned to the US with 50,000ft of 16mm colour film for the film, “Combat America”. On his return he was promoted to the rank of Major.
Adolf Hitler held Gable in great esteem offering a sizeable reward for his capture.
In 1992 an article in the Daily Telegraph supplement, The Yanks, published the following..
Action! Hollywood star joined in aerial combat
“Local sightings of screen idol Clark Gable almost rivalled the number of B-17s in the skies during his stint as a gunnery officer with the 351st Bomber Group.
Captain Gable, then 41, gave up the comfort of his California ranch to fly five missions from his base at Polebrook and visited other American airfields in the area.
Wartime secrecy prevented the star’s arrival being reported in the papers or on radio. But word soon spread and it was on off-duty visits to Kettering, Oundle and Thrapston in the late spring of 1943 that Gable-spotting became a popular pastime among shoppers……
It was the void in his life caused by his wife Carole Lombard’s tragic death in a plane crash 18 months before which led to Gable’s decision to join the war effort.
Initially his presence aroused suspicion and doubt among fellow airmen who had been risking their lives daily over enemy Europe. Undoubtedly some thought it was little more than a publicity stunt.
But many warmed to Gable when they found him a genuinely modest man, slightly bewildered by his own fame, who refused special living quarters, opting to share with the men and joining them in action.
Gable’s enrolment was indeed a boost to the air force recruitment campaign and a team of film industry men joined him on combat missions and simulated attacks using “enemy” aircraft borrowed from Collyweston.
His first flight was actually made from the nearby base at Molesworth aboard a Flying Fortress called Eightball Mark ll. But it was his fourth mission over the Ruhr in a Fortress dubbed Ain’t I Gruesome? That he had his luckiest escape.
The aircraft came under attack and was hit 15 times, with one 20mm shell penetrating the plane, deflecting off the floor and missing Gable’s head by inches.
His commanding officer later remarked, “The damn fool insists on being a rear gunner on every mission. Know what I think? Gable’s trying to get himself killed. Yeah! So he can join up with his wife.”…..
His brief stay at Polebrook no doubt helped to heal the sorrow he felt for his beloved “Ma” – his pet name for Carole Lombard – and he often gave up his leave days to write letters of consolation to wives of aircrew who never returned from missions.
“I saw so much of death and destruction”, he later recalled, “I realised that I hadn’t been singled out for grief – that others were suffering and losing their loved ones just as I lost Ma.””
'I would like to remember Capt Clark Gable (King of the Movies) he flew as a gunner with the 303rd Bomb Group, Molesworth, England.'
Remembered By Glenn M Gerber, Talbott, TN
Military | Colonel | Co-Pilot; Pilot; Group Commanding Officer | 351st Bomb Group
William Hatcher Jr was born in Grand Rapids, was brought up in Detroit’s north end and attended Northern High School. After his enlistment in the Air Corps, he followed pilot training courses and rose rapidly through the ranks.
Units served with
The 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on 3-Feb-1942 at Pendleton Field, Oregon. They assembled at Gowen Field, Idaho on 11-February 1942 where it conducted flight training until 12-Jun-1942. The Group then moved to Alamogordo Field, New...
The 351st Bomb Group flew strategic bombing missions from their base at Polebrook, Northamptonshire from April 1943 to June 1945. The Group's most famous member was Hollywood actor Clark Gable, who flew four/ five missions with them as an observer...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Assigned 359BS/303BG [BN-O] New Castle 6/10/42; Molesworth 21/11/42. Flown by Captain William R. Calhoun on the 4 May 1943 mission to the Ford and General Motors works, Antwerp, Belgium, with Clark Gable on board for his first mission (slighly damaged...
B-17 Flying Fortress
Delivered Cheyenne 27/2/43; Denver 1/3/43; Gore 12/3/43; Presque Is 8/4/43; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-Y] Polebrook 16/4/43; Missing in Action 43m Frankfurt 11/2/44 with Capt John Carson, Co-pilot: Merlyn Rutherford*, Radio Operator: John Landers*, Ball...
Military site : airfield
Molesworth was one of the early stations used by the Eighth Air Force in the UK, first occupied by the 15th Bomb Squadron’s Douglas Bostons in June 1942. Built in 1940 and extended and improved in 1942, Molesworth is most associated with the 303rd...
||1 February 1901
||16 November 1960
||Oundle, Peterborough, Northamptonshire PE8, UK
Clark Gable lived in Oundle whilst based at Polebrook during the Second World War
||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California