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Norman Mathew Whalen

Military

Norman Mathew 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 mission over the oil refineries at 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 chosen by, and assigned to fly with, Col. John R. Kane on his plane, Hail Columbia, for the bombing mission on the oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania. This proved fortunate for Lt. Whalen, Lt. John Young, and the rest of, Kickapoo's, regular crew because the, Kickapoo, lost power in several engines in succession and crashed in flames just after takeoff for the Ploesti mission, killing all but two of the replacement crewmen. But Lt. Whalen, and his crewmen knew the odds for survival over Ploesti were not good. As they approached Ploesti, flying out of the Danube Valley, and began their final low level run into their target, the Astra Romano Refinery complex, Whalen saw ahead out of the plexiglass greenhouse in, Hail Columbia's, nose, the walls of smoke and flames, the green tracer rounds of the anti aircraft cannon fire streaking into the sky, and the explosions and flames of the fierce fires that, Hail Columbia, was nearing fast, and, then, began flying through, as their two pilots, John Kane and Johnny Young, closed in on their target refineries. And, as his plane began to be hit by the flak explosions of the terrible thundering anti aircraft guns, he thought and later wrote, "I thought I was going to die right there. I thought we all were ! I never thought we could get out of there alive."

For his skill and valor in carrying out his mission as Col. John Kane's group lead navigator and nose gunner, especially for his bravery and exceptional navigational skill on the Ploesti mission, for successfully plotting courses to Ploesti and, then, for navigating, Hail Columbia, and the other damaged B-24s following him, safely out of Romania and all the way back south, over the Pindus mountains, through Turkey, to the British airfield on the Greek Island of Cyprus, Norman Whalen was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross medal and another Oak leaf Cluster to his Distinguished Flying Cross. But he and his crewmen were happy just to be alive, after flying through the man made hell they had flown into and through, over Ploesti, Romania, on Sunday, August, 1, 1943.

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 became known as, "The Baron", from an article in the "Air Force" magazine, "He Brought Us Home", about him, and especially about the Ploesti mission and Lt. Whalen's extraordinary navigation disciplines and skills coming home from Ploesti, written by his pilot, Capt. John S. Young.

Norman Whalen was honorably discharged from The U.S. Army Air Corps in 1946 with the rank of Major. Whalen returned home to Denton, Texas, where he taught religion at North Texas University for many years and gave many seminars about his experiences in the war and over Ploesti. Norman Whalen died Feb. 27, 2008.

Service

People

  • Neville Benson

    Military | Staff Sergeant | B-24 Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    SSgt. Neville C. Bensen took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943. He was a waist gunner in the Element Lead B-24D Liberator, 41-11825, Hail Columbia, piloted by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young. He...

  • Raymond Hubbard

    Military | First Lieutenant | Radio Operator | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Raymond B. Hubbard was assigned to the 9th Air force, the 98th Bombardment Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron in Libya, North Africa, 1943. He flew in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying as a Waist Gunner and Radio...

  • Lloyd Hughes

    Military | Second Lieutenant | B-24 Command Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
    Lloyd Herbert Hughes Jr., better known to his friends, as "Pete," flew his fifth mission, as pilot of a B-24D Liberator bomber in an attack against the Axis oil refineries in Ploesti, Romania. He was killed August 1, 1943 when his plane was severely...

  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bomb Group Commanding Officer / B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane 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 leadership, courage, and heroism for...

  • Harold Korger

    Military | Colonel | B-24 Bombardier | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Harold Francis Korger was a bombardier in the 344th Bombardment Squadron, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 9th Air Force, based in Benghazi, Libya. He flew on the B-24D, Hail Columbia, with Group Leader Col. John R. Kane, on the famous mission,...

  • Joseph LaBranche

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943, flying in B-24 Liberator 41-11825, Hail Columbia. 1 Aug 1943.

  • Frederick Leard

    Military | Technical Sergeant | Right Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Technical Sgt. Frederick A. Leard was a waist gunner assigned to the Element Lead B-24D Liberator bomber, named 'Hail Columbia', SN # 41-11825, flown by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to...

  • Royden LeBrecht

    Military | Captain | B-24 Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Royden Louis LeBrecht was a B-24D command pilot in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bomb Squadron. He flew his B-24D, he named, The Squaw, on Operation Tidal Wave, the large mission to destroy the German held oil refineries at...

  • Samuel Neeley

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Pilot Lt. Samual Neeley was a B-24 Bomber pilot in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in WWII. He served in the 9th Air force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th bomb Squadron in North Africa, flying bombing and strafing missions, mostly against...

  • Robert Sternfels

    Military | Major | B-24D Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Lt. Robert Sternfels was a B-24D bomber command pilot in WWII in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bombing Group, the Pyramiders, and the 345th Bombing Squadron. Lt. Sternfels flew the famous B-24D bomber, THE SANDMAN, on Operation Tidal Wave, which sought...

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Units served with

  • 9th Air Force
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

  • 344th Bomb Squadron

    344th Bomb Squadron

    Squadron
    The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24...

Aircraft

  • 41-11825 Hail Columbia - Little Chief Big Dog - Grumpy

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, Hail Columbia, 41-11825, was assigned to the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was first assigned to the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...

  • 41-11768 Kickapoo

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator, 41-11768, named, 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 was...

Missions

  • Operation Tidal Wave

    1 August 1943
    Operation TIDAL WAVE. B-24D 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...

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
14 October 2021 16:45:58 general ira snapsorter Changes to person associations, place associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

Removed associations not depicted in the image.

Date Contributor Update
12 October 2021 05:02:12 Kickapoo Changes to biography
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Sentence structure changes, added information, wording changes. - Kickapoo

Date Contributor Update
12 October 2021 04:53:02 Kickapoo Changes to biography and place associations
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
29 August 2020 20:37:02 decwriter Changes to service number
Sources

NARA file verified officer number.

Date Contributor Update
23 May 2019 12:44:22 Kickapoo Changes to place associations
Sources

Findagrave ---- Into The Fire - Duane Schultz ---- Black Sunday - Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2019 09:14:02 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Air Force Magazine - "He Brought Us Home" - by Capt. John S. Young

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2019 08:49:03 Kickapoo Changes to role and biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Air Force Magazine - "He Brought Us Home" - by Capt. John S. Young

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2019 08:24:35 Kickapoo Changes to unit associations and place associations
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill ---- Air Force Magazine - "He Brought Us Home" - by Capt. John S. Young

Date Contributor Update
02 March 2019 08:19:14 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill Air Force Magazine - "He Brought Us Home" - by Capt. John S. Young

Date Contributor Update
16 October 2018 02:15:51 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael Hill Find A Grave

Date Contributor Update
31 August 2018 08:16:10 Kickapoo Changes to media associations
Sources

Find A Grave

Date Contributor Update
31 August 2018 07:49:28 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Find A Grave - Norman M. Whelan

Date Contributor Update
06 March 2018 07:40:18 Kickapoo Changes to biography
Sources

Operation Tidal Wave

Date Contributor Update
14 January 2018 05:48:57 Kickapoo Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname, nationality, highest rank, role, biography, person associations, unit associations, aircraft associations and mission associations
Sources

www.liberalarts.txstate.edu/about/news/anthropologynews - Dr. Norman M. Whalen - College of Liberal Arts - Texas State University

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