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Rudolph Emil Flack

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Rudolph Emil "Rudy" Flack, the son of German emigrates, was born on November 11, 1916 in Fanwood, New Jersey. Rudy’s father (Fred) was a master precision machinist in aircraft manufacturing from 1910 thru 1928 and then worked for MGM Studios as Supervisor of Precision Engineering from 1928 thru 1944. Rudy’s freshman year (1930-31), he began serving in the Santa Monica, CA University High School Reserve Officers Training Corps. Rudy first piloted an aircraft at age 14 (summer of 1931) at Clover Field in Santa Monica, CA under the tutelage of one of Donald W. Douglas, Sr.’s (the founder of Douglas Aircraft) flying instructors. Rudy attended the Los Angeles Junior College for one full year (1934-35) where he excelled academically while majoring in Aeronautical Engineering after which Rudy was honored with a scholarship to attend the San Diego Army and Navy Academy (SDANA) in Pacific Beach, CA. Cadet Flack qualified as a Distinguished Marksman (a rare accomplishment) for the SDANA R.O.T.C. Rifle Team his junior year (1935); and in 1936 they won the National W.R. Hearst Silver Team Trophy. In 1937 they won the National W.R. Hearst Gold Team Trophy plus Cadet Sgt. Flack won the All Events Individual Gold Medal.

Rudy enrolled in the U. S. Army Air Corps Training Center at Randolph Field, TX as a Flying Cadet on 12-Oct-37 and graduated from Kelly Field, TX on 5-Oct-38 and was appointed as a 2nd Lt. in the U.S. Army Air Corps. 2nd Lt. Flack was assigned to the 6th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group on 16-Dec-38 located at Wheeler Field in Oahu, Hawaii. On 1-Apr-39 Rudy was rated PILOT by then Lt. Col. Ira C. Eaker, Air Corps Executive. On 1-Jul-39 Rudy was assigned to the 31st Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group located at Hickam Field in Oahu, Hawaii as the Squadron Communications Officer through 30-Jun-40, flying 2-engine Douglas B-18 bombers. On 1-Jul-40 Rudy was assigned to the HQ Squadron, 5th Bomb Group at Hickam Field as the Operations and Engineering Officer, and Pilot under the command of Brig. Gen. Walter H. Frank. On 20-Feb-41 Rudy was prompted to 1st Lt. Rudy began flying Boeing B-17D 4-engine bombers on 16-May-41. On 11-Nov-41 Rudy arrived stateside assigned to the HQ Squadron at Moffett Field, CA; and on 22-Dec-41, Rudy flew Anti-Submarine patrol missions.

As a result of the 7-Dec-41 Pearl Harbor attack, Rudy was flagged for special assignment as a B-17 Bomb Squadron Commander and assigned to the 21st Recon Squadron, 29th Bomb Group located at MacDill Field in Tampa, FL and began flying Anti-Submarine patrol missions on 27-Jan-42. On 1-Feb-42, Rudy was promoted to Captain and assigned as the Squadron Commander of the newly designated 21st Recon Squadron (414th Bomb Squadron) with the 97th Bomb Group. On 29-Mar-42 the 97th Bomb Group was transferred to the newly created Sarasota-Bradenton Field, which is 32 miles south of MacDill Field in Florida. After 3-1/2 months of intense B-17E flight training, the 97th Bomb Group with its four Bomb Squadrons (340th, 341st, 342nd and 414th) was the first Flying Fortress group transferred to the newly created VIII Bomber Command in England, code name Operation BOLERO, departing Florida on 13/14-May-42 for Maine.

An interesting and little known fact about Rudy was, as the 414th Squadron Commander, Rudy did not select a permanent aircraft and crew to pilot. Instead, Rudy would pilot a different aircraft for each mission (training or combat). Consequently, the normal aircraft pilot would move to copilot and the normal copilot would either move to different crew assignment position or not fly. In addition, when Rudy was not scheduled to fly on a mission, he would occasionally “hop” onto one of his squadron’s aircraft at random and fly as an Observer. This tactic enhanced morale, furthered personnel bonding, and improved operational performance with the additional on the job and hands on training for all of his Squadron crewmen. Rudy felt this was critical since the 97th BG had limited training prior to beginning their combat missions in England. Rudy continued to use this tactic throughout his overseas assignment in England and North Africa.

After a one month diversion to the west coast for the purpose of flying Anti-Submarine patrol missions, which Rudy's 414th BS flew from Oregon to Alaska, they returned to Maine and began their treacherous transatlantic crossing. The 340th and 341st squadrons along with the 97th BG HQ personnel were assigned to RAF Polebrook Field in England and the 342nd and the 414th squadrons were assigned to RAF Grafton-Underwood Field in England. Rudy and his 414th second echelon Flying Fortresses (5 B-17E's) plus one Fortress from the 342nd arrived at Grafton-Underwood on 26-Jul-42 at which point Capt. Flack was assigned as Base Commander. Of historical note, Rudy and his 414th was the only squadron out of the six Flying Fortress squadrons assigned to Operation BOLERO that did not lose one B-17 or accompanying P-38 Fighter during their perilous 2-1/2 month journey, which was praised as a stellar accomplishment by AAF Command.

Peter Hurd, a 39 year old American artist, was commissioned by LIFE to paint the "men" and their activities within the Eighth Air Force in England from July thru November 1942 and was assigned to Rudy’s 414th Bomb Squadron. All portraits were 414th crewmen except for one from the 342nd, which Rudy ask Peter to include in his place, Capt. Fred Dallas, who flew with Rudy’s second echelon during the North Atlantic crossing. In LIFE Magazine’s February 15, 1943 publication is an 8-page article filled with Peter Hurd’s paintings. An offer was "floated" to Capt. Flack for an assignment to VIII Bomber Command Headquarters, which included a promotion to Lieutenant Colonel skipping the rank of Major as Rudy was already in line for this promotion. Behind this offer was the desire by a few in upper command to reassign several 414th Fortresses to the other five squadrons who lost eight B-17’s during Operation BOLERO. Rudy nixed the idea of accepting a new assignment with a double-rank promotion. From Rudy’s perspective, he would be abandoning his "boys" and his squadron. Rudy declined the offer in concert with his vigorous objections of breaking up the 414th. Rudy received unanimous support to a "man" from his squadron and in the end, upper command honored Rudy’s request and left the 414th fully in tack … and as they say, the rest is history.

With his stellar record to-date, Capt. Flack was selected by AAF Command to serve as the mission commander for the first All American Flying Fortress bombing mission against German occupied territory, which was the Rouen, France Sotteville Marshalling Yards on 17-Aug-42. Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker, Commander of VIII Bomber Command, selected to fly aboard the 414th B-17E Yankee Doodle (41-9023) piloted by Capt. Flack on that historic day. The 17-Aug-42 mission originated from Grafton-Underwood as the 414th supplied six of the 12 B-17’s and the 342nd supplied five of the 12 B-17’s. The last B-17 was supplied by the 340th, which flew in ahead of time from Polebrook. Capt. Flack flew as the Pilot, Flight Leader and Mission Commander for all of his missions unless stated otherwise. On 19-Aug-42 Capt. Flack led the way and bombed the German airfields at Abbeville-Drucat at Dieppe, France in support of Operation JUBILEE. On 21-Aug-42 Col. Frank Armstrong, Jr. (97th BG CO) flew as Rudy’s Copilot to bomb the shipyards at Rotterdam, Netherlands without fighter escort. After the 92nd Bomb Group completed its training at Sarasota-Bradenton Field in Florida in late June 1942, it was ordered to VIII Bomber Command and the RAF Field at Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, England and began arriving on 18-Aug-42 with the newly modeled B-17F Fortresses. On 24-Aug-42 most of the 97th BG Squadrons’ flew most of their B-17E’s to RAF Bovingdon Field and exchanged them for the newly arrived B-17F’s. The 414th exchanged six of its eight B-17E’s for nine B-17F’s while keeping two of its B-17E’s.

The following is a list of all known B-17’s assigned to the 414th while Rudy Flack served as it Squadron Commander from February 1942 through 5-Mar-43. Here are Rudy’s 29 B-17’s (26 with “names” and 3 with “no name”), which are grouped by model (E then F) and sequenced within each model by aircraft tail serial number: B-17E’s – LI’L SKUNK FACE (41-9019), HANGAR QUEEN (41-9021), YANKEE DOODLE (41-9023), KING KONDOR (41-9024), BIG PUNK (41-9030), STINKY (41-9045), JOHNNY REB (41-9089), BIRMINGHAM BLITZKRIEG (41-9100), DIXIE DEMO (41-9103). B-17F’s – STINKY JR (41-24342), PEGGY D JR (41-24343), HELL’S KITCHEN (41-24392), LITTLE BILL (41-24400), ALL AMERICAN (41-24406), BIRMINGHAM BLITZKRIEG II (41-24413), YANKEE DOODLE II (41-24415), DIXIE DEMO II (41-24417), JOHNNY REB JR (41-24443), KISSY ME KOWBOY (41-24473), DIXIE DEMO III (41-24532), YARD BOID (41-24572), SNOOZIN' SUSAN (42-2981), No Name (42-2985), No Name (42-5090), OLD IRONSIDES (42-5147), THER N BAK (42-5223), No Name (42-5245), THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (42-5346) and SMOKEY STOVER (42-5731).

On 27-Aug-42 Capt. Flack, mission commander, piloted the lead aircraft of nine Fortresses and returned to the scene of their first air battle; the Wilton Shipyards at Rotterdam, the most modern in Holland and working at full capacity. On-29-Aug 42 Capt. Flack, mission commander, piloted the lead aircraft and bombed the Courtrai (Kortrijk) Airdrome at Wevelghem, Belgium (home of a Focke-Wulf 190 squadron) with good results. A glowing report to the folks back home appeared in LIFE Magazine’s October 19, 1942 publication (page 29) about the 97th BG stating, "Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70% hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. 'Fantastic accuracy' said the British." A complete photo report of a 97th mission was included. In his official report to General Arnold, in late August, General Eaker stated that the British "acknowledged willingly and cheerfully the great accuracy of our bombing, the surprising hardihood of our bombardment aircraft and the skill and tenacity of our crews."

Capt. Flack was promoted to Major on 1-Sep-42 and participated in five bombing missions in September 1942. On 3-Sep-42 as Mission Commander and Flight Leader Major Flack with six of his 414th Fortresses bombed the Saint-Omer La Borne Luftwaffe Airdrome in France. On 5-Sep-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress in his flight group and bombed the Sotteville Marshalling Yards in Rouen, France for the second time; twenty-five from the 97th BG and 12 from the 301st BG. On 6-Sep-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress in his flight group with Col. Armstrong (97th BG CO) as his Copilot and for the second time bombed the Avions Potez Aircraft Factory at Meaulte, France. Col. Armstrong, with a front-row seat, witnessed once again Rudy’s uncanny flying abilities as an head-on attack against their Fortress forced Rudy to pull up violently to miss the enemy aircraft (E/A) saving his crew and Fortress. On 27-Sep-42 Col. Armstrong left the 97th BG and returned to the staff of the VIII Bomber Command under Major Gen. Ira C. Eaker but one year later Frank had Rudy transferred stateside under his command. On 7-Sep-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress in his flight group with 30 Fortresses from the 97th, 92nd and 301st Bomb Groups for a return visit to bomb the Scheidan (Wilton) Ship Yards at Rotterdam, Holland. Rudy’s lead aircraft was one of seven which made it to the target. On 8-Sep-42, the 342nd and 414th Bomb Squadrons transferred from RAF Grafton-Underwood to RAF Polebrook and Major Flack was assigned as the new Base Commander. It took six weeks before the RAF Polebrook airfield could be upgraded from a two-squadron facility to a four-squadron facility. Finally, all 97th BG personnel were located together at one base. Three weeks of inclement weather forced VIII Bomber to halt bombing missions over targets in European German-occupied territory. On 26-Sep-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress in his flight group to bomb the Morlaix/Porjeau Airfields in France but all Fortresses were recalled before reaching the target due to adverse weather.

The 97th Bomb Group flew but four additional missions from its English base, which had a significant impact on future Army Air Force policy pertaining to fighter support. On 2-Oct-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress in his flight group with six B-17’s each from 340th, 342nd and 414th, all escorted by 400 plus Allied fighters, and bombed the Avions Potez A/C Factory at Meaulte, France for the third time. On 9-Oct-42 Major Flack hopped onto one of his 414th Squadron Fortresses and flew as an Observer to bomb the steel and engineering works of the Compagnie de Fives and the locomotive and freight car works of Ateliers d'Hellemmes both in the Lille, France area. The 97th Bomb Group flew its last bomb mission from England on 21-Oct-42. Since the first of February 1942 when the 97th Bomb Group was created, Squadron Commander Major Flack and his 414th had not lost one Fortress to-date over nearly eight months under extremely hazardous conditions. This was a phenomenal record not equaled by any other heavy bomb squadron. On 21-Oct-42 Major Flack piloted the lead Fortress (B-17F HELL’S KITCHEN 41-24392) in his flight group and bombed the Lorient Submarine Base in Lorient, France, which was one of the most heavily protected German facilities. Major Flack was awarded the Air Medal "For exceptionally meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight." This was the 16th and last operation flown by the 97th Bomb Group whilst operating from England with the First Bombardment Wing. This Group was used to going it alone, it had done so on its first eight missions and did so on its final one. Heavy clouds over the target made the 301st, 306th and 92nd Bombardment Groups turn back without bombing but the 97th using its hard earned experience pressed on and fifteen 97th BG aircraft bombed the target." The lead pilot of this mission was Major Joseph A. Thomas (342nd BS CO) and his copilot Col. Atkinson (97th BG CO). Seeing no reason for returning their bombs to base, the Fortresses flew down through the undercast breaking out clear over the target at 7,500 feet. The enemy was surprised and, before the alarm sounded, 2,000 lb. bombs were smashing into the target area. As the Forts turned from the target 36 enemy fighters engaged them in a bitter duel. Reported worldwide after this bombing mission; "As the Fortresses passed the French coast it was attacked by a swarm of Focke-Wulf-190 fighters. The Fortress that held the right wing position of the flight commanded by Major Rudolph Flack of Los Angeles, CA was exposed to the brunt of the attack." Out of the 18 Fortresses, which made it to the target, three were lost (one each from the 341st, 342nd and 414th). Due to aircraft damage, the B-17F JOHNNY REB II (Jr.) from the 414th was forced down (9 POW, 1 EVD). After this mission, the order had changed and no longer could so small a force without fighter support expect to challenge the Luftwaffe over so heavily a defended target.

The 97th was the first Flying Fortress Bomb Group transferred to North Africa in support of Operation TOURCH, the 9-Nov-42 invasion of North Africa. From this point forward, not all of Rudy’s missions are identified herein, only those of special note. Rudy piloted the lead Fortress, with Col. Atkinson (97th BG CO) as his copilot, to North Africa arriving at Tafaraoui, Algeria airfield on 22-Nov-42 and was assigned as the Base Commander. Major Flack continued to fly on many more historic missions and piloted such notables as Margaret Bourke-White, Major General Jimmy Doolittle, Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz, the Tuskegee Airmen and many others thru August 1943 as revealed in Chapter 9 and 10 in the book about Colonel Rudy Flack’s life story primarily focused on his military flying career freely available to download via the following Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Untold-Stories-of-Colonel-Rudy-Flack-3021181802.... On 23-Nov-42 Major Flack flew his first combat mission out of North Africa as Mission Commander and Flight Leader with Col. Atkinson (97th BG CO) as his copilot to bomb the Elmas Airdrome in Cagliari, Sardinia. This was the 97th BG’s first mission over Italy (Mission #20) and consisted of 14 B-17F’s from the 340th, 342nd and 414th escorted by Lockheed P-38 Lightning’s. Major Flack flew on 11 combat missions in North Africa from 24-Nov-42 thru 22-Dec-42. On 26-Dec-42 Major Flack lost his second and last Fortress while overseas during the 97th BG Mission #34 when the B-17F BIRMINGHAM BLITZKRIEG II (41-24413) basically disintegrated in midair as the result of a direct hit by enemy anti-aircraft flak in the bomb bay with the doors wide open just seconds before their bombs were to be released. All ten crewmembers were tragically and instantly killed in action. Major Flack was awarded one of his Distinguished Flying Crosses, which reads as follows:

"RUDOLPH E. FLACK, 0-371840, Major, 97th Bombardment Group. For extraordinary achievement while participating in many aerial flights in the European and North African Theatres of Operations as pilot of a B-17 type aircraft. On 26 December 1942 Major Flack led his squadron on a high altitude bombing mission over the docks of Bizerte, Tunisia against heavy flack and fierce fighter opposition. As the formation was leaving the target area, the number two airplane in the element immediately behind Major Flack’s element received a direct hit in the bomb bay and exploded in midair, severely damaging the number one and number three airplanes in the same element and forcing them to drop out of formation. Six enemy fighters of the ME-109 type immediately attacked the two crippled airplanes. Major Flack, realizing the grave danger but with utter disregard for personal safety, left the group formation to maneuver closely above the crippled airplanes. This courageous act aided in the destruction of five enemy aircraft and undoubtedly saved the two crews from total destruction. The unusual courage and ability shown by Major Flack reflects great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of the United States. West Los Angeles, California."

During Major Flack’s 13-month tenure as Commander of the 414th Bomb Squadron from February 1942 through 5-Mar-43, though tragic, Rudy only lost two aircraft, a remarkable record under very risky and intense combat conditions. Another unparalleled track record for Rudy was during his entire flying career totaling ~2,500 flying hours, including ~1,900 flawless take-offs followed by ~1,900 flawless landings, was any aircraft he usually piloted was never seriously damaged. In fact, while piloting during combat conditions only a few of Rudy’s aircraft every received even minor bullet holes or flak penetration. To top that, not one crewman who ever flew onboard the same aircraft with Rudy ever received the Purple Heart. A dominant trait of Rudy was his impeccable character. Also, Rudy was very modest and was unconcerned with promotions or awards and passed up opportunities for both. Rudy’s primary objective was to successfully execute each mission with precision resulting in all aircraft and crewmembers returning safely back to base. The only award Rudy every mentioned was receiving the Silver Star, his highest personal decoration for valor in combat ranking only behind the Army Air Force Distinguished Service Cross (which in my personal and biased opinion he should have received) and the Medal of Honor (rarely awarded). Major Flack was awarded the Silver Star which reads:

"RUDOLPH E. FLACK, 0-371840, Major, Air Corps, Army of the United States. For extraordinary skill, gallantry and leadership over enemy occupied territory in North Africa during the period 14 January 1943 to 22 January 1943. As commander of his Heavy Bombardment Squadron, and at great risk to his personal safety, Major FLACK led two high altitude daylight bombardment missions, both of which resulted in heavy losses to the enemy. By his skill as a pilot and flight leader, despite intense anti-aircraft barrages, Major FLACK on each occasion successfully led his flight over the assigned target and accurately bombed important enemy military installations. This was accomplished without the loss of any United States' aircraft. Major FLACK by his courage and coolness under heavy anti-aircraft fire, his marked ability as pilot and flight leader, has served the armed forces of his country gallantly and well and his brave deeds have furthered their aims and ideals."

As referenced in the Silver Star award cited above, on 14-Jan-43 (97th BG Mission #44) Major Flack, Mission Commander and Flight Leader, piloted his B-17F from Biskra, Algeria and bombed the docks at Sousse, Tunisia and all of the Fortresses and crewmen returned intact with no injuries. Also cited above, on 22-Jan-43 (97th BG Mission #47) Major Flack, Mission Commander and Flight Leader, piloted the B-17F LITTLE BILL (41-24400) with Margaret Burke-White onboard as the first female photographer and journalist to fly on a combat mission. Major Flack commanded 18 Fortresses from the 97th Bomb Group on this mission (6 each from the 341st, 342nd and 414th) and 18 Fortresses from the 301st Bomb Group, and all Fortresses were escorted by P-38 Fighters. All 36 Fortresses and crewmen returned intact with no injuries. According to official military reports and documents, this mission was one of the most successful bombing attacks executed by the American Army Air Force during WWII, which was reported as follows: "The crews were pleased to learn from First Army Intelligence that the mission of 22 January, when Margaret Bourke-White was the photographer, had been one of the best. An ammunition dump had been hit causing an estimated 600 casualties and destroying 12 parked airplanes and damaging 19 others." In LIFE Magazine’s March 1, 1943 publication appeared a 7-page article with photos by Margaret Bourke-White covering this historic bombing mission for the world to read. Additional details were reported in other newspaper publications and Margaret Bourke-White praised Major Flack as "the greatest flier in Africa."

On 15-Feb-43 (97th BG Mission #60) Major Flack, Mission Commander and Flight Leader, piloted his Fortress with Major Gen. Jimmy H. Doolittle as his Copilot, flew from their base at Chateaudun du Rhumel, Algeria and bombed the Palermo Docks in Sicily, Italy. This mission included Fortresses from the 301st Bomb Group. On 22-Feb-43 (97th BG Mission #62) Major Flack piloted the lead Flying Fortress with his 414th Bomb Squadron from Chateaudun du Rhumel on a historical mission and successfully located their target through the heavy cloud layer, which is described in the sentences to follow. In The Hour Has Come book published by members of the 97th Bomb Group in 1993, their Mission Recap states: "#62 Troop Concentration Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. 22 Feb. 1943. Weather sunny and clear at our field. The 30 minute operational alert developed into a mission in the afternoon. Weather was bad over the target, only a few A/C dropped bombs. Reports came in much later that our bombs landed on a German armored column advancing on Allied Troops." On 23-Feb-43 (97th BG Mission #64) Major Flack was not schedule to fly so he hopped aboard one of his Fortresses and flew as an Observer when he learned the 97th was going to make a return bombing mission to Kasserine Pass. The 414th was the lead group and successfully located their target through the heavy cloud layer. In The Hour Has Come book’s Mission Recap states: "#64 Troop Concentration Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. 23 Feb. 1943. Immediately upon their return from Gabes the crews went on a 30 minute operational alert which, developed into a mission. Weather again interfered and only half of the A/C dropped their bombs." They were hopping to locate the enemy south of the mountain town of Thala. The following results are reported in The Hour Has Come book pertaining to the 22-Feb-43 Mission #62 and the 23-Feb-43 Mission #64:

After these two missions the telephone in the operations section rang and a sleepy duty officer answered it to hear an unmistakable English voice inform him that congratulations were due to the group for a "bloody fine show".··Puzzled, the officer mumbled thanks and hung up. During the remainder of the morning additional congratulatory messages arrived by teletype and telephone. Since no details were mentioned, the 97th wondered what it had done. That night the facts of the mission to Kasserine became known when a newspaper photographer being flown back from the front happened to land at Chateaudun. Weary from lack of sleep and the strain of battle he sought a bed only to awaken when he was informed that he was a guest of the 97th. His enthusiasm seemed boundless. Said he according to one account: "Why you're wonderful. Wonderful. I know ― I was right up there in the front lines before Thala with the boys taking pictures when a German armored column came up the road looking for trouble. It looked damn bad, because we didn’t have much to put up against it. And then we heard this roar overhead. Couldn't see the planes because of the thick clouds. Well, there that column was, moving in on us. And there were those planes. And between them was a bunch of clouds. It was sad I'm telling you. And then all of a sudden a bunch of dust bursts began to pop up all around the column. You could hear a sound like a million firecrackers. And in a minute you couldn't see the column at all for the dust and smoke. When it cleared away there were a number of vehicles burning. And there must have been a number of casualties as everyone was riding uncovered and not expecting trouble. About that time our artillery opened up on the mess and began to give them a real pasting. A little later they began pulling out everything they could save and they never did come back. Say, how did you fellows do it, anyway?" This attack by the 97th Bomb Group was the start of a series of blows by the Allied air forces that tipped the balance in the struggle and forced the retreat of the Axis armies. Marshall Rommel, whose forces bore the brunt of these blows reported, "In every battle to come the strength of the Anglo-American air force was to be the deciding factor."

On 1-Mar-43 Major Flack hopped onto one of his 414th B-17’s and flew as an Observer and they bombed the Palermo Docks in Sicily, Italy. On 5-Mar-43, Major Flack relinquished command of his 414th Bomb Squadron and was promoted as the Assistant Operations Officer with the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF), and as a Staff Bombardment Officer (A-3) with the XII Bomber Command, both under the command of Major Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. In turn Major Gen. Doolittle reported to Major Gen. Carl “Tooney” Spaatz, who was the commander of both the Northwest African Air Force (NAAF) and the Twelfth Air Force. Rudy worked closely with both Doolittle and Spaatz for the next six months and was a key player in the successful removal of the Axis Forces from North Africa, Pantelleria, Sicily, Sardinia and Italy. Major Flack continued to fly combat missions over the next six months but not at the same monthly rate as before. Major Flack flew 53 combat missions through 1-Mar-43 and flew another 17 combat missions through 10-Aug-43, several with the 97th BG and his former 414th BS. Many of these combat missions will be identified in the paragraphs to follow.

On 4-Apr-43 (Mission #82) Major Flack piloted the lead B-17F in his flight group from Telergma, Algeria and bombed the Marshalling Yards in Naples, Italy. This was the first combat mission flown out of North Africa to the European Continent flown by Flying Fortress heavy bombers, which included 45 B-17’s from three different Bomb Groups including the 97th. The Hour Has Come book’s Mission Recap states: "#82 M/Y Naples, Italy. 4 April 1943. After 4 days of stand-down because of weather, the Group had another first. Along with 2 other Groups raided Naples, the first mission to the European Continent for heavy bombers operating from North Africa. 45 A/C dispatched. A direct hit sunk a ship in the harbor. 13 E/A intercepted our formation. Sgt. Hoffman destroyed an Italian Reggi. Another E/A reported a probable and 1 damaged." On 10-Apr-43 (Mission #87) Major Flack piloted the lead B-17F in his flight group from Telergma, Algeria, and the 97th and 301st Bomb Groups, bombed the Cruiser’s located in the large harbor at La Maddalena, Sardinia. The Hour Has Come book’s Mission Recap states: "#87 Cruiser Gorizia, La Maddalena, Sardinia. 10 April 1943. The heavy "Cruiser·Gorizia" was the target and two direct hits were observed with an explosion and gray smoke. Flak was intense until one of our bombs silenced the ship's guns. The 301st Bomb Group bombed the sister ship, "Trieste" and both were sinking when leaving the target." On 13 May 43 all Axis Forces in North Africa surrendered.

On 17-May-43 Major Flack piloted a B-17E from Telergma, Algeria to Oued N’ja, Morocco with Lt. Gen. Spaatz onboard. After arriving at the Oued N’ja, Morocco airfield, Lt. Gen. Spaatz introduced Major Flack to the 99th Fighter Squadron (FS) and their Commanding Officer, Capt. Benjamin Davis. Lt. Gen. Spaatz next gave a short bio of Major Flack’s flying and combat experiences to date, which was quite impressive to the 99th FS with all of Rudy’s successful “first” accomplishments as has been discussed thus far herein. Lt. Gen. Spaatz next explained they would receive instruction from one of the NAAF’s most precision Flying Fortress mission commanders with a track record second to none. Lt. Gen. Spaatz stated Major Flack was considered among the best-of-the-best piloting any type of aircraft Rudy flew. Lt. Gen. Spaatz emphatically stated Major Flack’s character was impeccable and he would 100% ensure a seamless assimilation and transition into the Twelfth Army Airforce operating environment. Lt. Gen. Spaatz informed them of Rudy’s “colorblind” conviction based on his religious beliefs and his personal life experiences. Lt. Gen. Spaatz told them Rudy was ridiculed and discriminated against while growing up being a first generation German-American. Lastly, Lt. Gen. Spaatz informed them Major Flack would be flying with them on their first combat missions in the near future. Major Flack spent 17-May-43 thru 24/31-May-43 meeting and flying a Lockheed P-38F Lightning with the 99th FS who flew P-40 Warhawk Fighters. On 19-May-43 Lt. Gen. Spaatz and the United States Secretary of War Henry Stimson inspected the 99th FS.

On 2-Jun-43 the 99th FS flew its first combat mission while attached to the 33rd Fighter Group accompanied by Major Flack piloting a Lockheed P-38G Lightning Heavy Fighter. Major Flack rendezvoused with the 99th FS in flight over their Fardjouna airfield in Tunisia. From there they flew east to Pantelleria Island (56 miles) and provided protective cover for a group of bombers. Major Flack embedded himself within the fighter squadron to evaluate the cooperation between bombers and fighters. Once arriving at their destination, Major Flack peeled away from the formation and bombed several preplanned targets (Gun Batteries, Docks and Airfield). Once completed, Rudy joined up with the 99th FS in escorting the bombers back to the Tunisia mainland at which point Rudy dropped out of the formation and flew back to the LeKroub airfield in Algeria. The 99th FS did not encounter enemy aircraft that day. Prior to this mission Rudy had flown Pursuit/Fighter aircraft for a total of five hundred thirteen hours and forty minutes (513:40). In June of 1939 while with the 6th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group in Oahu, Hawaii, 2nd Lt. Flack qualified as an Expert Aerial Gunner and Expert Aerial Bomber flying a Boeing P-36B. Rudy’s shooting and bombing accuracy was unparalleled. It was said Rudy could shoot the “stick” out of the hands of an enemy fighter pilot or drop a bomb through the peephole of a bunker door based on his targeting results during his flying career. Reconnaissance results showed Major Flack “nailed” each of his assigned targets for both his 2-June-43 and 6-Jun-43 combat cannon attacks and bombing runs. On 6-Jun-43 Major Flack piloting a P-38G rendezvoused with the 99th FS in flight over their Fardjouna airfield in Tunisia. From there they flew east to Pantelleria Island and provided fighter support for a group of bombers. Once over Pantelleria Island, Rudy peeled off and dropped his bomb loads and unleashed his heavy cannon fire upon “assigned targets” based on reconnaissance photos, which was the Costello Docks (Porto di Pantelleria) and the Pantelleria Airfield (Aero Porto di Pantelleria). Once completed, Rudy joined up with the 99th FS in escorting the group of bombers back to the Tunisia mainland at which point Rudy dropped out of the formation and flew back to the LeKroub airfield in Algeria. From 2-Jun-43 thru 9-Jun-43, the 99th FS flew an average of two missions daily for the 33rd Fighter Group during the campaign against Pantelleria Island, which ended on 11-Jun-43. Some of their missions targeted enemy gun sites on the island and on some missions they escorted A-20 and B-25 aircraft on raids against enemy targets. On 8-Jun-43 Major Flack copiloted a B-17F from LeKroub airfield in Algeria, and along with medium, light and fighter bombers, they all dropped nearly 700 tons of bombs on designated targets on Pantelleria Island. On 11-Jun-43 the Island of Pantelleria, Italy fell to Allied forces as part of Operation CORKSCREW and paved the way for the Allied invasion of Sicily.

On 20-Jun-43 Major Flack piloted a B-25C Mitchell Bomber from LeKroub to Algiers, both in Algeria, and spent the day at NAAF Headquarters meeting with Lt. Gen. Spaatz, Lt. Gen. Doolittle and their Staff. Major Flack was briefed on the plans being prepared and his role for the invasion of Sicily, Operation HUSKY, which began on July 10, 1943 and was successfully completed on August 17, 1943 with the surrender of the Axis forces. On 6-Jul-43 Major Flack piloted a B-25C from Le Kroub, Algeria to La Marsa Airfield and then to Bizerte Sidi Ahmed Airfield (both in Tunisia); and then to Marghana Airfield on Pantelleria Island to prepare for his combat mission the same day. From there Major Flack piloted a B-25C, and flew with either the 310th or the 321st Bomb Group, and bombed the San Pietro (Biscari) Luftwaffe Axis airfield in Sicily. Major Flack continued his flight and landed at the Takali Airfield on the Island of Malta. On 7-Jul-43 Major Flack piloted a B-25C and flew from the Island of Malta and bombed the San Pietro (Biscari) Luftwaffe Axis airfield in Sicily for the second day in a row; then continued flying and landed at the La Marsa Airfield in Tunisia. The same day Major Flack flew a B-25C to Le Kroub Airfield in Algeria, which was his point of origin on the prior day. On 17-Jul-43 (Mission #143) Major Flack flew as an Observer aboard a B-17F from La Marsa, Tunisia and the Bomb Groups bombed the railroad Marshalling Yards in Naples, Italy. A total of 77 B-24’s, 97 B-17’s, 179 B-26’s and 164 P-38’s (for a total of 517 aircraft) participated in this bombing mission. This flight provided Major Flack with valuable information for preparing for the historic mission, which took place two days later. On 19-Jul-43 (Mission #144) Major Flack piloted the lead B-17F in his Flight Group from Le Kroub, Algeria while Major General Doolittle served as the mission commander of the 158 B-17’s. This was the first time Flying Fortresses bombed the City of Rome, Italy. On 4-Aug-43 Major Flack and his group of six Lockheed P-38G Lightning Heavy Fighters departed La Marsa, Tunisia and caught up with and trailed (shadowed) the 321st Bombardment Group and its four Bomb Squadrons of B-25 Mitchell medium bombers and unleased their bomb and heavy cannon fire on the Marina di Paolo marshalling yards and road/rail bridge at Paola, Italy. On 10-Aug-43 Major Flack flew his last combat mission while stationed overseas from Pantelleria Island and copiloted a Martin B-26B-10-MA Marauder Medium Bomber and flew with one of the three NASAF B-26 Medium Bombardment Groups (either the 17th BG, 319th BG or the 320th BG) and they bombed the Fiumara Torbodo River road/rail bridge and then the Fiumara Novito River road/rail bridge north of Locri, Italy and continued on and landed at the Takali Airfield on the Island of Malta. Rudy’s 6-Jul-42 thru 10-Aug-42 bombing missions took out an airfield and critical road/rail bridges halting supplies (men, equipment, ammunition, fuel, etc.) to Axis forces in southern Italy with Operation HUSKY victory one week later.

Due to Rudy’s unprecedented military career successes as a Pilot and Commander for both Training and Combat Missions dating back to his Hawaiian tour of duty (October 1938 thru November 1941) followed by his European (ETO) and Mediterranean (MTO) Combat Commands through August 1943, Air Force Command considered Major Flack as one of their most experienced, proficient and precise piloting and Commanding Officers. After being transferred to the States for Command Duty effective on 17-Sep-43, Rudy was appointed as the Air Inspector for the 46th BOTW (Bombardment Operations Training Wing) for Heavy Bombers (B-17’s and B-29’s) in Ardmore, OK under the command of Brig. Gen. Frank Alton Armstrong, Jr. of the Second Air Force headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO. It was Brig. Gen. Armstrong who was instrumental is having Rudy transferred back to the States. On 25-Oct-43 after Major Flack piloted a B-17F that day, Rudy was rated Senior Pilot and awarded his Senior Pilot Wings by 4-Star Army General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold. Ten days later on 4-Nov-43 Major Flack was promoted to Lt. Colonel. On 1-Jun-44 Lt. Col. Flack was prompted as Director of Training for the 220th AAF Bomb Training Unit (B-17’s and B-29’s) which continued through 20-Jun-45. The 220th AAF Bomb Training Unit, with Lt. Col. Flack as its Director, encompassed the 509th Composite Group under the command of Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. The 509th was drafted in September 1944 and officially created on December 17, 1944. Lt. Col. Flack attended the April 9, 1945 two week Senior Officers’ Course for Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics held in Orlando, Florida and received his AFTAC certificate of successful completion on April, 21, 1945. Lt. Col. Flack was promoted to Colonel on 20-Jun-45. On 21-Jun-45 Colonel Rudy Flack was promoted as the Assistant to Air Force Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Second Air Force (under the command of General Julius K. Lacey) located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, CO. Colonel Rudy Flack was assigned as Supervisor of the B-29 training program (including the historic 1945 Japan missions). Rudy was released from active duty from the Air Force on May 6, 1946 and served as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves from February 6, 1946 through September 18, 1957.

Service

Units served with

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 414th Bomb Squadron

Aircraft

  • 41-9023 Yankee Doodle

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Boeing B-17E ...

  • 41-9045 Stinky

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Assigned 414BS/97BG Polebrook 3/42; transferred 92BG Bovingdon 24/8/42; crash landed Agricultural College, Athenry, Ireland, near Galway Bay, 15/1/43 ex N/Africa after taking part in 1st Prov Grp of Gen Brereton in Eritrea (as No 8.). En route...

Missions

  • VIII Bomber Command 1

    17 August 1942
    The US 8AF launches its first strategic bombing raid of the war, sending 12 Boeing B-17Es of the 97BG on a strike against the railyards of Sotteville-lès-Rouen, France, while another six fly a diversionary route. The attacking force is split into two...

Associated Place

  • Grafton Underwood

    Military site : airfield
    Grafton Underwood was built in 1941 by George Wimpey and Co. Ltd. It was the first airfield in England to receive an Eighth Air Force flying unit, when in May 1942 personnel of the 15th Bomb Squadron took up residence. As a satellite airfield for...

  • 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...

Events

Event Location Date

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
24 April 2021 21:33:22 jmoore43 Changes to aircraft associations
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Added an association to A/C #41-9045 listed in his "Summary biography".

Date Contributor Update
17 September 2020 23:41:10 RickFlack Changes to unit associations, place associations and mission associations
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User 'RickFlack" added UNIT, PLACES and MISSIONS connections on 9/17/2020.

Date Contributor Update
30 August 2020 06:55:56 RickFlack Changes to media associations
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 30, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
27 August 2020 21:48:46 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 27, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
26 August 2020 01:10:35 RickFlack Changes to awards
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
26 August 2020 00:45:52 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
26 August 2020 00:41:35 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 20:54:04 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 20:41:21 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 19:20:26 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 19:18:09 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 16:37:56 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 25, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
25 August 2020 00:36:34 decwriter Changes to awards
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Official NARA Award files verified one DFC awarded under General Orders No. 52, Hqrs. Twelfth Air Force, September 11, 1943
First Air Medal awarded under General Order #47, Hq. Eighth Air Force, Oct. 28, 1942
3 Oak Leaf Clusters awarded under General Order #7, Hq. 12th Air Force, Jan 15, 1943
3 Oak Leaf Clusters awarded under General Order #88, Hq. NW African Air Force, May 28, 1943
One Oak Leaf Cluster awarded under General Order #37, Hq. NW African Strategic Air Force, August 10, 1943

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 21:42:28 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 20:45:42 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 20:38:31 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 20:06:47 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 18:20:55 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
24 August 2020 18:17:40 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 24, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
23 August 2020 00:07:17 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 22, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 22:13:39 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 22, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 22:11:05 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 22, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 05:31:13 RickFlack Changes to media associations
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 21, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 05:02:09 RickFlack Changes to nickname
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 21, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
22 August 2020 05:00:22 RickFlack Changes to biography
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 21, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2020 21:33:00 RickFlack Changes to service number, highest rank and role
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 20, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2020 21:21:56 RickFlack Changes to nickname
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 20, 2020.

Date Contributor Update
20 August 2020 21:21:23 RickFlack Created entry with surname, middlename, firstname, nickname and nationality
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Updates by Rick Flack on August 20, 2020.

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