(8th Air Force): Wed. Sept. 9, 1942; 306th Bombardment
Group (Heavy), arrives at Thurleigh, England from the US with B-17s
(first mission is 9 Oct).
Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on January 28, 1942, and activated on March 1, 1942, then re-designated 306th Bombardment Group, Heavy, on August 20, 1943.) Inactivated on December 25, 1945Dick Bale was included in the Big Week intensive campaign against the German aircraft industry, 20-25 February 1944. This is where he was shot down.
Pictured left are: B-17Gs 44-46604 and 44-48676 of the 306th Bomb Group - RAF Thurleigh UK
| By 1944 the
306th had been in action for almost 15 months and was nearing its 100th
mission and having sustained many losses. The Group finally
completed their long war on 19th April 1945 which was their 342nd
mission; the second highest for any B17 Group. During its time at
Thurleigh over 9,600 sorties had been flown with the loss of 171
aircraft in action and over 22,500 tons of bombs were dropped.
At Thurleigh, the 306th operated primarily against strategic targets initially in occupied France and the Low Countries, then later in Germany. The group struck locomotive works at Lille, railway yards at Rouen, submarine pens at Bordeaux, shipbuilding yards at Vegesack, ball-bearing works at Schweinfurt, oil plants at Merseburg, marshalling yards at Stuttgart, a foundry at Hannover, a chemical plant at Ludwigshafen, aircraft factories at Leipzig, and numerous other targets on the Continent.
The success or failure of a mission depends largely on the skills of the bombardier. Accurate and effective bombing was the ultimate purpose of the B-17 and its crew, and the bombardier carried that responsibility. He was responsible for making sure the ground crews loaded the bombs correctly and once the airplane entered enemy territory he was responsible for arming the bombs. During the bomb run, the bombardier had absolute command of the airplane, actually taking control of the plane through an autopilot connected to the bombsight.
|When not on a bomb run, the bombardier was
for manning the twin /50-caliber machine gun chin turret on the B-17G.
If the airplane was shot down, the bombardier was responsible for
destroying the Norden
Bombsight to keep it out of enemy hands. The bombardier sat in the
forward center of the nose of the airplane.