388th BG (H)
World War II began on September 1st, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The United States remained technically neutral until attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. After that attack, the United States started to mobilize: building ships, tanks, planes and training soldiers and aircrews. In December, 1942, a new heavy bombardment group was activated at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. It would become known as the 388th, a member of the 3rd Air Division, 45th Combat Wing. In six short months it would be ready to join the air battle in the European Theater of Operations. It moved to Wendover Field, Utah in February 1943 and to Sioux City AAF, South Dakota that May. It was officially assigned to the 8th Air Force in June 1943 just prior to its departure for England.
On June 23, 1943, 28 year-old Col. William B. David took official command of Station 136, an airfield that had been originally constructed on Knettishall Heath in East Anglia for the Royal Air Force. That same day, 17 Flying Fortresses touched down; hundreds would follow during the next two years. The whole of the ground echelon did not arrive until July 8, and for months they lived in tents while housing construction was completed.
On July 17, with Col. David in the lead plane, the 388th completed its first mission - Amsterdam in the Nazi occupied Netherlands. It was the first of 306 combat missions the group would carry out.
Over the next two years, 6,000 men saw duty at Station 136. They were commanders, clerks, doctors, and firefighters. They were armorers and mechanics - men who could return heavily-damaged planes to combat status within 24 hours. They were cooks and anti-aircraft gunners.
They were the combat crews - the flyers of the 560th, 561st, 562nd and 563rd Squadrons. Among these, 538 died in action. More than 112 were wounded. 742 were taken prisoner; another 48 were interned in Sweden. Today, 43 men are still listed as missing.
In all, the 388th dropped 36,974,200 pounds of bombs onto enemy targets - ports, marshalling yards, oil refineries and weapons industries. They hammered Berlin, they led the entire 8th AF in providing air support for D-Day, and they assisted ground troops during the Battle of the Bulge. At war's end, 65 planes in three missions carried 2,000 former prisoners home to their native lands of France and Belgium.
Its job in England accomplished, the 388th began to pack up shop. On June 9, 1945, the first Fortresses left for the States. The last plane departed on July 5 carrying Lt. Col. Chester Cox, Col. David's successor. Ground echelon stayed behind a while longer, and went home by ship.
Back in the States, crewmen of the 388th were given personal leave before reporting to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the marshaling point for redeployment to the Pacific. But when Japan surrendered on August 14, the group stood down. At the close of war, while some men of the 388th continued their military careers, most returned to civilian life.
Today, the 388th BG Association is a large and very active group. In July 1992, more than 225 veterans, together with their wives, children and grandchildren, arrived at the 388th Memorial at Knettishall to commemorate the efforts of the 8th AF and pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
Many veterans return each year to walk the grounds where Station 136 once stood, and to visit the Museum and Memorial that honor their memory.
WORLD WAR II
8th Air Force
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3rd Air Division
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