466th Bombardment Group

HISTORY:

The group was activated at Alamorgordo, N.M., in September 1943 and received combat training at several locations in the Southwest. In a contest, it was suggested by Gerald Diffenbach that the group be called the Flying Deck,’ with each squadron named alter a different card suit. The 784th, or Red Squadron, was the Clubs: the 785th, or Gold Squadron, was the Diamonds: the 786th, or Blue Squadron, was the Hearts: and the 787th, or White Squadron, the Spades.

Their move to the United Kingdom started in February 1944, and the ground echelon departed New York on the Queen Mary on March 1944. The air echelon with 62 aircraft took the southern route, approximately 10.0(11) statute miles; one crew was lost over the South Atlantic.

After arriving in Scotland, the 466th beaded for Attlebridge and AAF Station #120. All air crews were under the command of the Air Transport Command until they reached Attlebridge.

The group flew its first combat mission on March 22, 1944, for which they received official commendation from Gen. James H. Doolittle for combat achievement to a target in Berlin. It was the longest initial assault ever flown by any unit in the history (if the European Theater and one of the heaviest bombardments on record of the German capital. Due to direct flak hits resulting in a mid-air collision two 786th BS a/c were lost over the target. Of the twenty air crew members. Terry timid the Pirates had five survivors Rebel Gal’ had two. All were POWs — until liberated by General George Patton, April 29, 1945. Fifty-two years later, April 29, 1997. Lou Loevsky (N) and Len Smith (B) of the "Terry" crew and C. Wayne Beigel (CO-P) Rebel Gal" are the only living survivors.

On July 25, 1944, the 466th BG led the entire 8th Air Force to German fortification> around St. Lo to help the Allied ground invasion. The lead pilot, navigator, and bombardier were awarded the Croix de Guerre for their unusual airmanship.

The 466th received a citation from the Headquarters, 2nd Bombardment Division Office of the Commanding General August 12. 1944: "The 466mb BG is cited for distinguished and outstanding performance of dais train March 22 to August 9, 1944. The group attacked 41 targets in Germany and 59 targets in occupied Continental Europe .... During this period the gunners were credited with destroying over 25 enemy aircraft. The devotion to duty, determination and tenacity- exhibited by the ground and combat personnel reflect great credit upon themselves, their group and the U. S. Army Air Force.’

The group flew 231 combat missions with 5,693 sorties, dropping nearly 13,000 tons at bombs. The 466th was one of three groups in the 96th Combat Bomb Wing, which was taken off operations in September 1944 to haut low octane gas to Clastres, Lille, and St. Dizier, France. The total losses for the 466th BG from March 22, 1944 to April 25, 194S, were 333 KIA, 171 POWs, eight evaded and 27 interred. The "Black Cat" was the last ale lost in combat, April 21, 1945.

Morale was low during this time, since the combat crews resented being wasted Skeleton crews of five were used, while the born-hardier and four gunners stayed on base. The active crews received no recognition. Nevertheless, the crews began to brag about how much their aircraft could haul to help the war effort.

Many events stand out in the history of the 466th. The first took place on August 18, 1944 which was the first anniversary of the group from August 22, 1943. One-hundred and fifty- 40-gallon barrels of English beer were obtained by Special Services as a present to the EM from the officers. An estimated 1,000 British women and girls were invited.

On the afternoon of Friday, August 18, a flight of B-24 Liberators, including a red and white zig-zag lead ship from the 466th Bomb Group at Attlebridge, collected Major Glenn Miller (he was promoted August 171 and the entire American Band of the AEF (Renamed on August I) from the RAF Airfield of Twinwood Farm just north of Bedford and flew- them to the 355th Fighter Group base at Steeple Morden near Royston, Cambridgeshire. There, Glenn and the orchestra eave a concert for the 355th and members of the 91st Bomb Group from the nearby bomber base at Bassingbourn. After the performance at Steeple Morden, the band loaded their instruments, music stands, etc., on board the B-24s which flew back to their home base of Attlebridge which had been taken over by the 466th in 1943.

The airfield lies eight miles north-west of Norwich tear the village of Weston Longville and, between 8 and 9 pm, Glenn and the band along with special guests Rudy Starita’s All Girl Orchestra and Hollywood film star Col. James Stewart, performed in the northern hangar. Among the numbers played was In the Mood and many other hits. This concert was a 100-mission party for officers and enlisted personnel and was attended by 10,000 from this base and others in the area.

The band was accommodated overnight at Attlebridge and returned the next morning by road transport to Bedford where their billets were located.

When the concert had finished, Glenn retired to the Officer’s Mess where one of the pilots, Capt. John Woolnough, asked Miller, who was then in conversation with the station Chaplain, Fred A. Walker, if he could have his photograph taken with him to send to his brother who was a great fan of the band. Miller agreed, provided the picture could be taken somewhere out of the limelight to avoid more requests for photos, but the only room which could be found unlocked was the toilet! Miller is reported to has e been much amused; this is the unique picture of Miller and Woolnough taken by Sergeant Russell Clements.

(P.S. Steve Miller, son of Glenn Miller, was officially "adopted" into the 466th Bomb Group Assn., Inc. at the 466th Hospitality Room, hosted by Molly and Lou Loevsky in Las Vegas October 1990.)

Another stand-out event took place in February 1945, when the entire 8th Air Force bombed Nuremberg. The flak was intense. A 787th aircraft lost an engine over the target, and the prop was feathered. The plane could not make it back to Attlebridge because of low fuel and headed back alone, landing at an emergency field in Northern France. The plane was ordered to take off after a small amount of refueling. They then flew north at 1,200 feet. Upon reaching the coast, all hell broke loose and cannon shots knocked out the other engine. The prop could not be feathered since all the oil had drained from a hole in the prop hub. It was wind-milling flat. All hydraulics and electricals were lost. The crew prepared for ditching, throwing all loose equipment overboard, and the pilot called Mayday and the radio operator held the key down until the transmitter had to be ditched as well. An RAE crash boat met them halfway across the Channel. The pilot decided to try for Manston but went too low for bailout and crashed on the long runway after the engineer and radio operator had cranked the gear down. After a very long roll, the pilot and co-pilot achieved a miraculous landing. All were safe, This was reported as two emergency landings for one mission.

A third stand-out event took place on March 4, 1945, when England was covered by a thick overcast, and the group was ordered to form over Southern France. While flying through the dense clouds, a B- 17 group flew through the 28-aircraft formation, scattering it. Evasive action was taken to avoid collisions. Despite a call from the leader to abandon the mission, nine aircraft formed a reasonable formation and decided to bomb a target of opportunity. There was uncertainty about whether it was Freiburg, Germany, or Basel. Switzerland. Not all aircraft dropped bombs, but the ones that did were within a 1000-foot circle at 100 percent. The rolling stock in the marshaling yard contained ammunition, something indicated by the tremendous explosions An extensive critique was made of the event cot after the planes returned. Their target was in Switzerland, and the U. S. Government paid $70 million in reparations.

In May 1945, Maj. Gen. William E. Kepner, CG 2nd Air Division, handed user to the City of Norwich a trust of 20,000 pounds sterling that came from all members of the 2nd Air Division. The money was dedicated for the construction and maintenance of a memorial room in the proposed Central Library. The new library was dedicated June 13, 1963.

Constituted as 466th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 May 1943. Activated on 1 Aug 1943. Prepared for duty overseas with B-24's. Moved to England, Feb-Mar 1944, and assigned to Eighth AF. Entered combat on 22 Mar 1944 by participating in a daylight raid on Berlin. Operated primarily as a strategic bombardment organization, attacking such targets as marshalling yards at Liege, an airfield at St Trond, a repair and assembly plant at Reims, an airdrome at Chartres, factories at Brunswick, oil refineries at Bohlen, aircraft plants at Kempten, mineral works at Hamburg, marshalling yards at Saarbrucken, a synthetic oil plant at Misburg, a fuel depot at Dulmen, and aeroengine works at Eisenach. Other operations included attacking pillboxes along the coast of Normandy on D-Day (6 Jun 1944), and afterward striking interdictory targets behind the beachhead; bombing enemy positions at St Lo during the Allied breakthrough in Jul 1944; hauling oil and gasoline to Allied forces advancing across France in Sep; hitting German communications and transportation during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945; and bombing the airfield at Nordhorn in support of the airborne assault across the Rhine on 24 Mar 1945. Flew last combat mission on 25 Apr 1945, striking a transformer station at Traunstein. Returned to the US in Jul. Redesignated 466th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in Aug 1945. Trained with B-29's. Inactivated on 17 Oct 1945.

Squadrons:

784th: 1943-1945.
785th: 1943-1945.
786th: 1943-1945.
787th: 1943-1945.

Stations:

Alamogordo AAFld, NM, 1 Aug 1943
Kearns, Utah, 31 Aug 1943
Alamogordo AAFld, NM, 24 Nov 1943
Topeka AAFld, Kan, 5-13 Feb 1944
Attlebridge, England, 7 Mar 1944-6 Jul 1945
Sioux Falls AAFld, SD, 15 Jul 1945
Pueblo AAB, Colo, 25 Jul 1945
Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz, 15 Aug-17 Oct 1945.

Commanders:

Maj Beverly E Steadman, 23 Aug 1943
Maj Walter A Smith Jr, 29 Aug 1943
Col Walter G Bryte Jr, 2 Sep 1943
Col Arthur Pierce, 17 Dec 1943
Col Luther J Fairbanks, 1 Aug 1944
Col William H Cleveland, 1 Nov 1944-1945.

Campaigns:

Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.

Group Web Site:

http://www.web-birds.com/8th/466/466th.html

8th AAF Groups Message Board:

Click here for B-24 message board