William Albert Hatcher Jr

Military
Colonel Hatcher of the 351st Bomb Group with comedian Bob Hope, Hollywood actor Clark Gable and guests. Handwritten caption on reverse: '7. Col. Hatcher and guests during Bob Hope show.' media-413381.jpg FRE 4701 Colonel Hatcher of the 351st Bomb Group with comedian Bob Hope, Hollywood actor Clark Gable and guests. Handwritten caption on reverse: '7. Col. Hatcher and guests during Bob Hope show.'

Left to right: Colonel William Hatcher, Jack Pepper, Captain Clark Gable, Frances Langford, Bob Hope and Tony Romano. Roger Freeman Collection

Object Number - FRE 4701 - Colonel Hatcher of the 351st Bomb Group with comedian Bob Hope, Hollywood actor Clark Gable and guests. Handwritten caption on reverse: '7. Col....

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.



Promoted to Lt Colonel, he became the 351st Bomb Group’s Commanding Officer on 24 November 1942. Sent overseas, he and the Group’s air echelon arrived in England on 15 April 1943.



On 4 May 1943, he was together with Hollywood actor Clark Gable on Gable's first combat mission on a late afternoon familiarization mission before the 351st Group became operational. Gable was stationed at Polebrook to produce a recruiting film for aircraft gunners.

Their B-17 that day was # 41-24635 of the 303rd Bomb Group’s 359th Bomb Squadron, flying squadron lead with Captain William R. Calhoun as Pilot.



They took off from RAF Molesworth on a mission to the Ford and General Motors plants at Antwerp, Belgium. William Hatcher was on his second mission and served as Co-Pilot. Gable fired a few rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun mounted in the radio room and suffered a minor case of frostbite from wearing leather gloves in the extreme cold. The B-17 was lightly damaged by 20mm shells from German fighters but returned safely to England.



William Hatcher is featured together with Clark Gable and members and planes from the 351st Bomb Group in the 1944 documentary “Combat America” filmed by the Gable camera team.



From May to December 1943, William Hatcher flew, mostly as Pilot, on 11 missions : 14, 19 and 29 May; 15 and 26 June; 17 and 24 August; 6 September; 2 October; 11 December 1943. This was on many different B-17s : 42-29858; 42-29872; 42-29851; 42-29863; 42-29948; 42-29825 and 42-37827.



On the 31 December 1943 mission to Bordeaux/Cognac, France, Colonel Hatcher was on his 14th mission (his 11th one in the 351st), flying as Division leader and Co-Pilot on B-17 #42-37731 of 351st Bomb Group / 508th Bomb Squadron. Hit by Flak and shot down by enemy fighters, the B-17 crashed near Médis Airfield, 3km NW of Royan, France. 3 KIA, 7 POW.



Missing Air Crew Report - MACR 1984. Colonel Hatcher was made prisoner and interned in Stalag Luft I from 19 January 1944 to the end of February when he was transferred to Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Poland.



After a forced march from there at the end of January 1945, he was liberated on 29 April 1945 at Stalag VIIA in Moosburg by American troops of the 47th Battalion, 14th Armored Division.



After his return to the United States, Colonel Hatcher stayed in the Air Force. On 27 January 1947, he was on board B-29 Superfortress #42-65385 of 428th AAF BU piloted by Captain Robert F. Bledsoe when it crashed shortly after take-off from Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Colonel Hatcher and 10 others perished in the accident, which left only one survivor.

Connections

See how this entry relates to other items in the archive by exploring the connections below.

Units served with

The insignia of the 351st Bomb Group.
  • Unit Hierarchy: Group
  • Air Force: Eighth Air Force
  • Type Category: Bombardment

People

  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 510th Bomb Squadron
  • Highest Rank: Technical Sergeant
  • Role/Job: waist gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 510th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-790784
  • Highest Rank: Major
  • Role/Job: Pilot
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 508th Bomb Squadron 510th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: 20273261 & O-790784
  • Highest Rank: Captain
  • Role/Job: Tail Gunner
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 303rd Bomb Group 359th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-431017
  • Highest Rank: Colonel
  • Role/Job: Pilot / Operations Officer / Commanding Officer
  • Military/Civilian/Mascot: Military
  • Nationality: American
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 509th Bomb Squadron
  • Service Numbers: O-728350 and 19060455 on enlisting
  • Highest Rank: Major
  • Role/Job: Navigator

Aircraft

  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: The 8 Ball MK II
  • Unit: 303rd Bomb Group 359th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Meat ball / major ball
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 511th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Argonaut III
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 508th Bomb Squadron
A B-17 Flying Fortress (YB-G, serial number 42-29858) of the 508th Bomb Squadron, 351st Bomb Group taxying at Polebrook. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'Pre-Aug '44. Visiting B-17 waits to t/o. 508BS, YB-G, 351st BG. Polebrook. Source - Ed Hedrick (195A).'
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Murder Incorporated, then Censored
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 508th Bomb Squadron
  • Aircraft Type: B-17 Flying Fortress
  • Nicknames: Kentucky Babe aka Ain’t it Gruesome
  • Unit: 351st Bomb Group 509th Bomb Squadron

Missions

Places

Events

Event Location Date Description

Born

Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States 30 May 1910 the son of William Albert and Amelia (Von Sick) Hatcher

Other

Prisoner of War (POW)

Żagań, Poland 31 December 1943 - 29 April 1945 Captured after landing in parachute, he was interned in Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany; then at Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan, occupied Poland. After a forced march from Sagan, he and the other SL 3 POWs arrived at Stalag 7A/VIIA in Moosburg where they were liberated by US troops on 29 April 1945. NARA WWII POW records : “Returned to military control on 15 May 1945.”

Died

near Kirtland, New Mexico, United States 27 January 1947 in the crash of B-19 # 42-65385, shortly after take-off
Detroit, Michigan, United States

Buried/ Commemorated

San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California, United States

Revisions

Date
ContributorED-BB
Changes
Sources

MACR 1984
NARA WWII POW records
http://351st.org

Date
ContributorAAM
Changes
Sources

Drawn from the records of the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah, Georgia / MACR 1984

William Albert Hatcher: Gallery (2 items)