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Ira Wellins


Ira, the son of impoverished Jewish immigrants, joined to fly planes and to fight Hitler. But he washed out of pilot training for a single error (landing on a taxi strip) and got sent instead to train on the new top-secret technology: Radar. From October '44 - April '45, Ira flew 29 bombing missions-- 22 of them either as 510th Squadron Lead or "C" Group Lead -- calculating the IP and drop point for each mission.

"Mickeymen (who flew on specially-equipped planes called Pathfinders, or PFFs) quickly became a very scarce commodity in combat areas due to the staggering losses of lead crews." Ira beat the odds against survival in the lead plane and, for his service, was awarded the DFC and the Air Medal with 3 oak leaf clusters. Though proud of his contributions to stopping Hitler, he became increasingly remorseful as the years passed, thinking of the many innocent civilian lives that were lost because of the missions in which he had played a key role.


Units served with

  • 351st Bomb Group

    351st Bomb Group

    The 351st Bomb Group flew strategic bombing missions from their base at Polebrook, Northamptonshire from April 1943 to June 1945. The Group's most famous member was Hollywood actor Clark Gable, who flew four/ five missions with them as an observer...

  • 511th Bomb Squadron

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


Date Contributor Update
29 May 2018 21:29:46 NanWellins Changes to awards

US Army records, saved from the fire in St. Louis, MO.

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2018 21:28:00 NanWellins Changes to service number and biography

Wartime scrapbooks of 1st Lt. Ira Wellins--data confirmed by 351st Heavy Bombardment Group database (

Date Contributor Update
29 May 2018 20:21:26 NanWellins Changes to role and biography

I am the daughter of Ira Wellins and have relied on copies of my dad's citations and on the official records kept by the 351st.

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:13:27 AAM AAM ingest

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