388th Association Mission
What is the mission of the 388thBG Association? The objective as stated in the bylaws is -
To preserve for all time the history, friendships, memories and incidents of the members of the 388th Bombardment Group (H) during World War II. I doubt if this objective has been modified since the late 1940s when the association was formed. How can we insure that the memory of what the original members endured during World War II will be available 100 years from now, or 500 years or 1000 years? Why should we do this? And how can we make this happen? We need to examine these questions and make plans as we move forward with our mission. Our mission is small when compared to what our original members survived.
The Eighth Army Air Corp (the Air Force had not been created) was tasked with using day light precision bombing to remove Germany’s capacity to make war. The 388th BG Heavy was part of the third air division of the Eighth Army Air Corp. They flew in day light to take advantage of the very precise Norden bomb site. The RAF flew at night so it was much more difficult for the fighters and flak to attack them. On the daylight missions a number of measures were taken to make it harder for the fighters and the flak gunners. The B-17s would throw out clouds of aluminum foil strips to confuse the radar. They would fly at 20-25,000 feet to make it hard on the fighters. The cabins were not pressurized so the crew members had to wear oxygen masks. The temperature was usually 20-50 degrees below zero. Their flight suits were like electric blankets to try to prevent frostbite. The crew had to check each other in case the hose on the oxygen mask became blocked by ice. There were three types of fighters which attacked the formations. Propeller powered, jet powered and rocket fighters. On some missions 10 of 36 B-17s were lost or shot down. The U-boats had the highest casualties in WWII – 7 out of 10 men who sailed on a U-boat in WWII were dead at the end of the war. The B-17s were the second highest casualties – 5 out of 10 men who flew on a B-17 in WWII were dead at the end of the war. Our original members fought under extremely hazardous conditions. They helped to create the world that we live in today. We should insure that their experience is remembered so that their grandchildren and great grandchildren do not have to go through a similar experience to save the world.
How can we make this happen? The world is much different today than it was in the 1940s. The pictures and records that tell of their experience are starting to crumble. We knew that eventually our original members would leave us. Ten years ago we started interviewing our original members about their stories and experiences during the WWII years. Today were are also collecting stories from the families of the original members. Most of the interviews are on VHS tapes. Dick Henggeler our historian is getting the VHS tapes converted to digital medium which will allow us to save these interviews on Kiosks, websites and computers so that people all around the world will be able to access them. In the past two years we have been contacted by people (one fellow is 20 years old) who want information about crash sites near where they live in Poland, France and the Netherlands. Dick has also built, loaded and maintained our Historical website which covers the ‘lifetime’ of the 388BG during WWII. He has digitized the missions, the planes that flew on the mission, and the crew members who flew on the planes. Our goal is to digitize all of the association records – the corporate records, as much data that we still have about the reunions, pictures and videos of the reunions and the activities at the reunions. These are the first steps in preserving their experiences. The second step is to make our reunions entertaining and educational so that they will continue even after all of our original members fly away. Keeping the association active and exciting allows us to enroll new members and to keep the Kiosks, and websites also entertaining and educational. In this way we can insure that our grandchildren and great grandchildren (which will be the fourth and fifth generations) will not have to endure what our original members had to live through.
We should preserve the memory of what the original members endured forever (a very long time) because it will be a benefit to the generations to follow. With the digital information, the websites, Kiosks and computers we are working to make this happen. I think we owe it to our original members, their descendants, the generations to follow and freedom loving people around the world to make this mission successful. Compared to what the original members endured our mission is a milk run. For the third generation members a ‘milk run’ was considered to be a very easy bombing mission. Preserving for all time may seem like a daunting task but I believe that we can do this. After all look at what our original members accomplished.
WORLD WAR II
8th Air Force
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3rd Air Division
+ Knettishall England +
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