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44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

Group

The 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated 15-January-1942 at McDill Field, Florida and equipped with B-24Cs. The Group moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana and acted as a training unit for the 90th 93rd and 98th Bomb Groups and flew anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Mexico; the Group claimed 1 U-Boat destroyed. On 26-July-1942 the Group moved to Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma to prepare for overseas deployment. The Ground echelon sailed for the UK on the Queen Mary on 4-September-1942. The air echelon moved to Grenier Field, New Hampshire and in late September was re-deployed to the UK.

Assigned to 8th Air Force at Cheddington from 11-Sep-1942 to 28-Jun-1943. The Group was known as the 'Flying Eight-Balls' and each B-24 Liberator it flew was decorated with a winged bomb cartoon of an 8-Ball (pool ball) over which were superimposed eyes and the nose of a bomb in the squadron colour. The Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an extremely hazardous mission against naval installations at Kiel on 14 May 1943. This mission involved drop incendiaries on the target from an unprotected position behind B-17 formations that had dropped high explosives. The Group lost five of its seventeen Liberators in the target area.

The group was transferred TDY to the 9th Air Force at Benina Main, Libya from 28-Jun-43 to 25-Aug-43. They provided support for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily, during July 1943. They also participated in the famous 1-Aug-43 raid on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania dubbed operation TIDAL WAVE. The unit was awarded another Distinguished Unit Citation for this action in which 11 of the 37 B-24s it despatched were MIA. Col Leon Johnson, Group Commanding Officer was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his leadership in this action. Afterwards the 44th returned to Shipdham for a very short respite from 25-Aug-43 to 17-Sep-43 at which time the Group was again sent TDY to North Africa at Oudna, Tunisia where the they shared the base with a B-17 Bomb Group, the 99th to support the invasion of Italy. On 1-Oct-1943 the 44th participated in a mission to bomb the Messerschmidt plant a Weiner-Neustadt, Austria where they met intense anti-aircraft fire and hordes of German fighters. The Group lost 8 B-24s of the 25 they sent to the target. On 4-Oct-1943 the Group was sent back to Shipdham for the remainder of the war.

Between October 1943 and June 1945, the Group flew strategic bombing missions over occupied Europe. These were daylight raids that put the bomber crews in great danger from enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft fire. In all the 44th flew 343 missions in 8,009 sorties and dropped 18,980 tones of bombs. The Group lost 153 aircraft MIA.

CLAIMS TO FAME
First 8th Air Force Bomb Groups to be equipped with B-24 Liberators
Operated from England for a longer period than any other B-24 Group
Sustained highest losses of aircraft of any B-24 Group in 8th Air Force
Claimed more enemy aircraft than any other 8th AF B-24 Group 153.
First Bomb Group to be awarded a DUC for 14-May-43 Kiel
CO Col Leon W. Johnson awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor 1-Aug-43 Ploesti.

Browse 44th Bomb Group photographs and other documents in the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library digital archive here: www.2ndair.org.uk/digitalarchive/Dashboard/Index/42

Commanding officers
  • Eugene Snavely

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    8th Air Force, G-3 Staff, September 1942 ...

  • Frank Robinson

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group 1-April-1942 to 4-January-1943.

  • Frederick Dent

    Military | Colonel | Command Pilot; Commanding Officer
    Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group from 4-December-1943 to 29-Mar-44.

  • James Posey

    Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Pilot; Commanding Officer | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group from 3-September 1943 to 3-December 1943 while serving TDY with the 9th Air Force at Oudna, Tunisia. 1 August 1943, led Blue Target formation to Ploesti where they inflicted severe damage on the oil refineries.

  • John Gibson

    Military | Brigadier General | Pilot
    Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group from 29-Mar-1944 to 15-Aug-1944. Flew 35 combat missions. ...

  • Vernon Smith

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer
    Commanding Officer 44th Bomb Group from 13-Apr-45 to 1 Jun-45.

Structure

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Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 16

    7 November 1942
    A combined bomber force of 56 B-17s are despatched by 91BG, 301BG and 306BG to bomb the U-Boat pens at Brest, France. This is the first mission flown by 91st Bomb Group. This element is joined by 12 B-24s from 93BG. To aide the attacking bomber force,...

  • VIII Bomber Command 18

    9 November 1942
    The U-Boat pens at St. Nazaire, France are the target of this mission conducted by a combined force of 33 B-17s from 91BG and 306BG together with a combined force of 14 B-24s from 44BG and 93BG. The B-24 formation bombs from altitudes between 17,500 ft...

  • VIII Bomber Command 19

    14 November 1942
    The U-Boat pens of La Pallice, France are the Primary(P) target for a combined bomber force of 21 B-17s from 91BG (14) and 306BG (7); 93BG also joins the raid with 13 B-24s. However, La Pallice is completely clouded over, so instead, the bombers attack...

  • VIII Bomber Command 20

    17 November 1942
    The U-Boat pens at St. Nazaire, France are the Primary (P) target for a combined force of 49 B-17s despatched from 91BG (20), 303BG (16) and 306BG (13). Another element of 14 B-24s despatched from 93BG also joins the bombing force on St. Nazaire. The...

  • VIII Bomber Command 21

    18 November 1942
    The U-Boat pens at Lorient and La Pallice, France are the Primary (P) targets for this mission. However, those at St. Nazaire, France are attacked by 21 B-17s of 303BG when they are mistaken for those of Lorient. The force attacking Lorient is composed...

  • VIII Bomber Command 24

    6 December 1942
    The German airfield of Drucat at Abbeville, France is the primary target for 19 B-24s despatched from 44th Bomb Group but are recalled. One squadron of 6 does not hear the recall and proceeds to the target, 1 B-24 MIA. ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 25

    12 December 1942
    This mission is composed of two elements. First element: The German air depot at Romilly-sur-Seine, France is the Primary (P) target for a force of 78 B-17s despatched from 91BG (19), 303BG (20), 305BG (21) and 306BG (18). However, the target is...

  • VIII Bomber Command 26

    20 December 1942
    The German Air Depot at Romilly-sur-Seine, France is the Primary (P) target for a combined force of 80 B-17s despatched by 91BG (17), 303BG (21); 305BG (23) and 306BG (19). 60 B-17 are effective on the target, but 7 are MIA and 1 is DBR. ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 28

    3 January 1943
    The U-Boat pens at St. Nazaire, France are once again the target for this mission. This is proving to be a particularly difficult target to destroy due to its massive, reinforced concrete design. It consists of 14 individual pens connected together in...

  • VIII Bomber Command 29

    13 January 1943
    The primary target for this mission is the Atclier d'Hellemmes locomotive works, associated steel works and the railroad marshalling yards at Lille, France. The attacking force is composed of 72 B-17s from: 91BG (13); 303BG (19); 305BG (23) and 306BG ...

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Stations

Station Location Date
Based Cheddington 11 August 1942 – 9 October 1942
Based Shipdham 10 October 1942 – 15 June 1945

Connections

People

  • Anthony Abad

    Military | Second Lieutenant | Co-Pilot | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Shot down 8 April 1944 in B-24 #427767 'Shack Rabbit. ' Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Howard Abehouse

    Military | Gunner | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Joined 3/5/44. Transferred to 66th BS 7/1/44. Pilot: Torell.

  • Gilbert Abell

    Military | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

  • Albert Abercrombie

    Military | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

  • Abe Aberjanian

    Military | Engineer | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Joined 7/6/44. Completed tour 12/31/44. Pilot: Van Dyke.

  • Robert Abernethy

    Military | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

  • Howard Abeshouse

    Military | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs

  • Isaac Abeyta

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    ETO/ Queen Mary 9/5/42. Home/ Queen Mary 6/16/45. ...

  • Vanig Abrahamian

    Military | Flight Engineer | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Joined Sqd 7/6/44. Completed tour 12/11/44. Trans to ZOI 12/21/44. Pilot: Zerman.

  • Ernest Abrahamson

    Military | Airplane Propeller Specialist | 44th Bomb Group The Flying Eightballs
    Joined Sqd 5/14/42. ETO/Queen Mary 9/5/42. Home/Queen Mary 6/16/45

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Aircraft

  • 41-23690

    B-24 Liberator
    On 27-Jan-43 B-24D 41-23690, 44BG/68BS was on a mission to bomb the naval installation at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The pilot was unable to find the target because of weather and navigation problems. The aircraft sustained a mid-air collision with and...

  • 41-23776 Spirit of 76

    B-24 Liberator
    On 27-Jan-43 B-24D 41-23776 "Spirit of 76" was on a mission to bomb the naval installation at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The pilot was unable to located the target due to weather and navigation problems. The aircraft was attacked by fighters and shot down...

  • 41-23777 Maisie

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D-5-CO 41-23777 was assigned to the 44th Bomb Group/66 Bomb Squadron at Shipdham, UK. On 26-Feb-43 the aircraft was despatched to bomb the shipyards at Bremen, Germany but the target was obscured by clouds so the aircraft diverted to the secondary...

  • 41-23778 'Jenny' 'Lady Luck'

    B-24 Liberator
    Temporarily attached to 9th AF and flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid, returned to Libya. ...

  • 41-23779 '4Q2'

    B-24 Liberator
    A/C flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid, returning safely to Libya. ...

  • 41-23784 Miss Dianne

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D-5-CO 41-23784 [NB:R] "Miss Dianne" was assigned to the 44BG/47BS. On 8-Mar-1943 the aircraft was despatched on a mission to bomb the railroad marshalling yards at Rouen, France. The aircraft sustained significant damage from German fighters near...

  • 41-23786

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D 41-23786 was assigned to 44th Bomb Group, 68th Bomb Squadron at Shipdham. Shot down by German fighters 6-December-1942 on a mission to bomb the German airfield Drucat at Abbeville, France. 10KIA. First loss for 44th Bomb Group. MACR 2920. ...

  • 41-23794 Railway Express

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D 41-23794 "Railway Express" 44BG/67BS was despatched on 15-Feb-43 to bomb the port facilities and Dunkirk, France. The aircraft was damaged by flak over the target and crashed into the sea off the coast at Dunkirk, France. 11KIA MACR 16003. ...

  • 41-23804 Sad Sack

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D-5-CO 41-23804 "Sad Sack" was assigned to the 44BG/66BS at Shipdham, UK. The aircraft was despatched on 26-Feb-43 to bomb the docks at Bremen. However, cloud cover obscured the target and the formation diverted to Wilhelmshaven as a target of...

  • 41-23807 'Little Beaver'

    B-24 Liberator
    Assigned to 67BS, 44BG, 8AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) Crashed north of Kiel 14-May-43. 7 x KIA, 4 x POW MACR 2748.

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Citations

Distinguished Unit Citation: 14-May-1843 Keil
Distinguished Unit Citation: 1-Aug-1943 Ploesti

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
09 March 2018 15:26:29 2nd Air Division Memorial Library Changes to description
Sources

2nd Air Division Memorial Library

Date Contributor Update
10 April 2015 07:32:08 EMBLEMHUNTER Changes to mission associations and media associations
Sources

my photo

Date Contributor Update
25 November 2014 19:04:59 Lee8thbuff Changes to name, description and mission associations
Sources

Lee Cunningham 25-Nov-2014. Added early history per http://www.usaaf.com/8thaf/bomber/44bg.HTM.

Date Contributor Update
10 November 2014 23:34:57 Lee8thbuff Changes to insignia, citations, description, person associations, commanding officers associations, mission associations and stations
Sources

Lee Cunningham 10-Nov-2014. Descriptions http://www.usaaf.com/8thaf/bomber/44bg.HTM, History http://www.8thairforce.com/44thbg/history.htm

Date Contributor Update
02 October 2014 09:42:20 Superman Changes to type, nicknames, aircraft types and mission associations
Sources

Log of the Liberators

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:42:45 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database / The Mighty Eighth. A History of the Units, Men and Machines of the US 8th Air Force.' by Roger A. Freeman (1989). 'Air Force Combat Units of World War II' compiled by the Department of the US Air Force, edited by Maurice Maurer (1983). / Units in the UK from ETOUSA Station List, as transcribed by Lt. Col. Philip Grinton (US Army, Retired) and extracted by IWM; air division data from L.D. Underwood, based on the 8th Air Force Strength Report of 6th August 1944, as published in 'The 8th Air Force Yearbook' by Lt. Col. John H Woolnough (1980)

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