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351st Bomb Group, Polebrook, 1943

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Uploaded on Nov 15, 2007

351st Bombardment Group (Heavy)
On April 15, 1943, the 351st Bomb Group arrived at RAF Polebrook. It was assigned to the 94th Combat Wing, also at Polebrook. The group tail code was a "Triangle J". It's operational squadrons were:

508th Bomb Squadron (YB)
509th Bomb Squadron (RQ)
510th Bomb Squadron (TU)
511th Bomb Squadron (DS)

Boeing B-17G-85-BO Flying Fortress, Serial 43-38465 of the 510th Bomb Squadron. This aircraft survived the war and returned to USA on 8 June 1945
Douglas-Long Beach B-17G-30-DL Flying Fortress Serial 43-38116 of the 509th Bomb Squadron.The 351st's first completed combat mission took place on May 14, 1943, when 18 B-17's targeted a German Luftwaffe airfield at Kortrijk, Belgium. As the war progressed, the 351st operated primarily against strategic objectives in Germany, striking such targets as ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, communications at Mayen, marshalling yards at Koblenz, a locomotive and tank factory at Hannover, industries at Berlin, bridges at Cologne, an armaments factory at Mannheim, and oil refineries at Hamburg.

The group also struck harbor facilities, submarine installations, airfields, V-weapon sites, and power plants in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.

The 351st Received a Distinguished Unit Citation for performance of 9 October 1943 when an aircraft factory in Germany was accurately bombed in spite of heavy flak and pressing enemy interceptors. It received another DUC for its part in the successful attack of 11 January 1944 on aircraft factories in central Germany. The group participated in the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944.

In addition to its strategic missions, the group often operated in support of ground forces and attacked interdictory targets. Bombed in support of the Battle of Normandy in June 1944 and the St Lo breakthrough in July. The group hit enemy positions to cover the airborne attack on the Netherlands in September 1944. Struck front-line positions, communications, and airfields to help stop the German counteroffensive in the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Flew missions in support of Operation Varsity, the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

In 1944 Polebrook also became the headquarters of the 94th Combat Wing, which controlled the 351st, the 457th Bomb Group at RAF Glatton and the 401st Bomb Group at RAF Deenethorpe.

The 351st conducted routine 8th Air Force missions from RAF Polebrook until the end of the war. The unit completed 311 combat missions from Polebrook. The 351st lost 175 B-17's and their crews. The gunners in the Group fired off 2,776,028 rounds of ammunition and were credited with destroying 303 enemy aircraft. The 509th Bomb Squadron completed 54 consecutive missions without losses between June 1943 to January 1944.

The unit returned to the US soon after V-E Day with the air element leaving May 21 and the ground echelon sailing June 25. Reassigned to Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota during August 1945. the 391st Bomb Group was inactivated on 28 August 1945.

RAF Polebrook was subsequently returned to the RAF on August 28, 1945, and the base was placed on care and maintenance status.


[edit] Medal of Honor
Two members of the 351st, Lt. Walter E. Truemper and S/Sgt. Archibald Mathies, were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. On a mission to Leipzig, Germany, February 20, 1944 their B-17 Ten Horsepower was attacked by German fighters. The co-pilot was killed and pilot Lt. Clarence Nelson was badly wounded. Truemper and Mathies flew the badly damaged B-17 back to England where the remainder of the crew bailed out, then attempted to land the plane to save the life of the unconscious pilot. On their third attempt Ten Horsepower crashed on final approach and all three airmen were killed.

Legacy

During the Cold War, the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command 351st Strategic Missile Wing stood alert with Minuteman I and later, Minuteman II ICBMs starting in 1963 at Whiteman AFB Missouri. The wing was bestowed the lineage, honors and history of the World War II USAAF 351st Bomb Wing upon activation.

The 351st SMW won the SAC missile combat competitions and Blanchard Trophy in 1967, 1971, and 1977. Named as SAC's "best Minuteman wing" in 1972. It stood down from alert and was deactivated in 1995.

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