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William Albert Hatcher Jr


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.



  • Roger Blaser

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 351st Bomb Group
    Shot down 31 December 1943 in B-17 #4237731. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • John Blaylock

    Military | Major | Pilot | 351st Bomb Group
    John Blaylock graduated from the University of Iowa in June, 1941 and shortly thereafter enlisted in the Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet. After training as a Pilot, he received his wings and was sent overseas. He arrived in England in April, 1943, where...

  • Edward Boykin

    Military | Captain | Tail Gunner | 351st Bomb Group
    New York-born Edward Boykin studied law at the University of Virginia from 1935 to 1940. He is listed as living in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey in the US 1940 Census, together with his parents and younger brother Samuel. ...

  • William Calhoun

    Military | Colonel | Pilot; Operations Officer; Commanding Officer | 303rd Bomb Group
    Born 10 Nov 1919 Birmingham, AL, BA Degree Stanford Univ. ...

  • Jack Danby

    Military | Major | Navigator | 351st Bomb Group
    Jack Danby served as a navigator with the 509th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group, who flew bombing missions out of Polebrook, England. His first mission was on the 21 May 1943 striking submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven, Germany. ...

  • Adam Fischer

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Left Waist Gunner, Waist Gunner | 351st Bomb Group
    Shot down 31 December 1943 in B-17 #4237731. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Clark (William Gable

    Military | Major | Cameraman, Gunner, Actor | 303rd Bomb Group
    Clark Gable flew at least 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...

  • Edward Kase

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Radio Operator | 351st Bomb Group
    Shot down 31 December 1943 in B-17 #42-37731, Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • William Maupin

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Top Turret Gunner | 351st Bomb Group
    Shot down 31 December 1943 in B-17 #4237731. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

  • Joseph Quiles

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Ball Turret Gunner | 351st Bomb Group
    Shot down 31 December 1943 in B-17 #4237731. Prisoner of War (POW). POW

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Units served with


  • 41-24635 The 8 Ball Mk II

    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 (slightly damaged...

  • 42-29825 MEAT BALL / MAJOR BALL

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 22/2/43; Stillwater 8/3/43; Dow Fd 15/4/43; Assigned 511BS/351BG [DS-Z] Polebrook 25/4/43 MAJOR BALL; 9m Nantes 16/9/43 with Maj Jim Stewart, Co-pilot: Geiger, Navigator: Maze, Bombardier: Watts, rest ?; ran out of gas on approach...

  • 42-29851 Argonaut III

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 25/2/43; Casper 13/3/43; Smoky Hill 3/4/43; Assigned 508BS/351BG [YB-J] Polebrook 16/5/43; 27m battle damaged 28m Munster 10/10/43 with Theo Argiropulos, crew ?; abandoned and ditched North Sea, just off Covehithe, Nfk; all rescued...

  • 42-29858 "Murder Incorporated", then "Censored"

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 28/2/43; Smoky Hill 22/3/43; Assigned 508BS/351BG [YB-G] Polebrook 17/5/43 MURDER INCORPORATED 31m; crashed on take off after losing engine at Oundle, near Barnwell, UK 21 February 1944, with Lt – Evans, crew ? ; 2 SAD Lt Staughton 22...

  • 42-29863 "Ain’t it Gruesome", 'KENTUCKY BABE'

    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...

  • 42-29872

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 28/2/43; Pueblo 13/3/43; Presque Is 8/4/43; Assigned 511BS/351BG [DS-W] Polebrook 16/4/43; Missing in Action 6m T/Ops (Hannover) 17/7/43 with Bill Peters, Co-pilot: E. Eslund, Bombardier: P. Shanes, Flight engineer/top turret gunner:...

  • 42-29948 Jennie

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 17/3/43; Walla Walla 28/3/43; Metropolitan 13/4/43; Dow Fd 30/4/43; Assigned 510BS/351BG [TU-B] Polebrook 28/5/43; 30m Missing in Action Cognac 31/12/43 with Homer Wells, Co-pilot: Fred Pugsley, Navigator: Arnold Kline, Bombardier:...

  • 42-37731

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 10/8/43; Dalhart 17/8/43; Assigned 510BS/351BG [TU-A] Polebrook 22/9/43; transferred 508BS [YB-A]. Missing in Action on its 12th mission, to Bordeaux on 31 December 1943 with Pilot Major John R. Blaylock; Navigator: James Taylor; Tail...

  • 42-37827

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 11/9/43; Gr Island 29/9/43; Assigned 509BS/351BG [RQ-J] Polebrook 27/10/43, then 508BS [YB-J]; Missing in Action 24m Schweinfurt 13/4/44 with Gilbert Whitchurch, Co-pilot: Gene Sylvester, Navigator: Newton Wilbur, Flight engineer/top...


  • VIII Bomber Command 56

    14 May 1943
    Today's operations will be the most extensive yet mounted by VIII Bomber Command. The operations call for a "maximum effort". Whereas in the past a single target or those close together have been chosen, today's effort is against widley separated...

  • VIII Bomber Command 59

    19 May 1943
    The German naval bases at Kiel and Flensburg, Germany are the two primary targets for this mission. A force of 123 B-17s is despatched from: 91BG (19); 92BG (10); 303BG (27); 305BG (22); 306BG (24) and 351BG (21) to bomb the naval facilities at Kiel,...

  • VIII Bomber Command 61

    29 May 1943
    Three primary targets are selected for this mission. The U-Boat pens at St. Nazaire, France are selected as the target for a force of 169 B-17s despatched from: 91BG (23); 92BG (22), 303BG (30); 305BG (25) 306BG (24); 351BG (21) and 379BG (24). This is...

  • VIII Bomber Command 64

    15 June 1943
    A force of 155 B-17s are assembled and sent towards a target in France (possibly Huls), but the formation is recalled before reaching the French coast. 2 of the B-17s from 91BG are attacked by German fighters, but the damage in minimal and there are no...

  • VIII Bomber Command 68

    26 June 1943
    The targets for today are all Luftwaffe installations: the Villacoublay air depot SW of Paris, France is the primary; the airfield at Poissy, France is attacked as the secondary because of cloud cover; the airfield at Tricqueville, France; and the...

  • VIII Bomber Command 84

    17 August 1943
    The mission flown on 17-Aug-43, the 1st anniversary of the 1st mission flown by the 8th Air Force, is probably the most written about mission of the war. This is the famous Schweinfurt/Regensburg mission on which 60 B-17s are lost. It has been dubbed ...

  • VIII Bomber Command 86

    24 August 1943
    The 8th Air Force is intent on dishing out some "pay back" to the Luftwaffe for the toll it took on bombers of the 17-Aug-43 mission to Schweinfurt/Regensburg. So, This mission has three attack elements and a diversion element. The attack elements are...

  • VIII Bomber Command 91

    6 September 1943
    This mission was planned as massive attack of 338 B-17s on the industrial areas of Stuttgart, Germany and would be supported by a formation of 69 B-24s flying a diversion. This would be the first action from the UK for the B-24 Groups that had recently...

  • VIII Bomber Command 106

    2 October 1943
    This mission is composed of three elements, two or which are directed at the industrial areas of Emden, Germany and the other at the German airfield at Woensdrecht, Holland. The first element is a formation of 163 B-17s from 1st Bomb Division which...

  • VIII Bomber Command 151

    11 December 1943
    This mission is a massive raid of 583 heavy bombers on the industrial areas of Emden, Germany. The first element is a combined force of 242 B-17s from 1st Bomb Division that included: 91BG (24); 92BG (18); 303BG (20); 305BG (21); 306BG (20); 351BG (40)...

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Associated Place

  • Polebrook

    Military site : airfield
    Polebrook was laid down for RAF Bomber Command use in 1940-1941. Built by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, it had short runways which were lengthened for USAAF heavy bomber use. The RAF used the base for operational trials - including of B-17 Flying...


Event Location Date
Born Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States 30 May 1910

the son of William Albert and Amelia (Von Sick) Hatcher

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.”

Buried San Francisco National Cemetery, San Francisco, California, United States 1947
Died near Kirtland, New Mexico, United States 27 January 1947

in the crash of B-19 # 42-65385, shortly after take-off

Lived in Detroit, Michigan, United States


Date Contributor Update
07 December 2015 15:23:35 ED-BB Changes to middlename, service number, role, biography, events, person associations, unit associations, place associations, aircraft associations, mission associations and media associations

MACR 1984

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:27:35 AAM AAM ingest

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