Ringmasters

By Allan G. Blue (Summer, 1964)

A History of the 491st Bombardment Group (H)



PART VI  •  Summary and Statistics


 

491st BOMBARDMENT GROUP STAFF

2 June 1944 - 25 April 1945

Commander: Lt. Col. Carl T. Goldenberg; Col. Frederick H. Miller, Col. Allen W. Reed

Deputy Commander: Lt. Col. Jack G. Merrell; Lt. Col. Lyman H. Goff.

Ground Executive: Lt. Col. Charles J. Halbert

S-1 (Personnel): Capt. Joseph B. Ramsey, Jr.

S-2 (Intelligence): Capt. Edward Stone; Maj. Herbert Bronnor; Capt. Verle A. Pope.

S-3 (Operations): Lt. Col. Lyman H. Goff; Maj. Alfred G. Hayduk

S-4 (supply): Capt. Neville H. Gibson

Squadron Commanders:

852nd - Lt. Col. Kenneth R. Strauss

853rd - Lt. Col. Harry M. Stephey

854th- Lt. Col. Charles C. Parmele

855th - Lt. Col. Escar Watts, Jr.

491st AIRCRAFT AND MARKING DATA

From the time the 491st arrived at Metfield until it moved to North Pickenham on 15 August 1944, it was assigned, to the 95th Bomb Wing, one of two two-group wings in the Eighth Air Force at that time. The other member of the Wing was the 489th at Halesworth which went operational on 30 May 1944. The 95th BW B-24s wore green tails with white stripes, the 489ths running vertically on the fin and the 491sts horizontally. The 491st Squadron identifications were as follows:

Squadron Call Sign Fuselage Tail
852nd BALLOT 3Q Letter alone
853rd FARKUM T8 Let. w/dash below or before
854th SEMEN 6X Let. w/dash above or after
855th QUADRANT V2 Letter w/plus after

The group letter was Z. Although it has not been verified through official records, this assignment of the final letter of the alphabet may have been symbolic of the 491st's position as the last heavy bombardment group scheduled for assignment to the Eighth. As noted in the narrative, the 491st was expected to assume the natural-metal-with-black-diagonal-stripe tail markings of the 492nd when it replaced the latter in the 14th Bomb Wing in August 1944. For the reason already indicated, however, this was not done and for many months the 14th Bomb Wing formations were three colored affairs--black, white and green. The original 72 planes assigned the 491st are listed below by squadron and individual aircraft letter.

A/C Letter

852nd

853rd

854th

855th

A

44-40123

42-110150

44-40084

44-40162

B

42-110186

44-40073

44-40122

44-40232

C

44-40l44

44-40124

42-110165

44-40089

D

44-40111

44-40200

44-40101

44-40114

E

44-40100

44-40121

44-40164

44-40108

F

44-40206

44-40226

44-40210

44-40129

G

44-40165

44-40205

42-110156

44-40202

H

44-40213

44-40170

44-40172

44-40203

I

42-110158

44-40212

42-110187

44-40194

J

44-40117

42-110161

42-11017l

42-110173

K

42-110089

42-110162

44-40271

44-40204

L

44-40241

42-110160

44-40242

42-110154

M

42-110155

44-40243

44-40237

44-40234

N

42-110138

42-110169

42-110107

42-110185

0

42-110167

42-110164

44-40248

42-110170

P

44-40230

42-110159

44-40240

42-110168

Q

44-40238

44-40141

44-40249

42-110157

R

42-110166

44-40239

42-110149

42-110146

These were all new J's fresh from the Consolidated assembly plant at San Diego by way of the Consolidated operated modification center at Tucson. Twenty-four were from Block 140, the last of the painted J's produced under FY 1942 contracts by Consolidated. Three additional olive drab aircraft were from Block 135, including both the first (42-110089) and the last (42-110138) serials of this block. The remaining 45 were from blocks CO-145 (16A/C), CO-150 (27 A/C) and CO-155 (2 A/C). These were unpainted and for this reason so much more sought after by the crews when they arrived at Pueblo that each squadron was required to take seven (six in the case of 854th) of the "older," olive drab planes. Almost immediately upon arrival in England the Group was required to turn over 18 of its new planes to other groups to replace combat losses. As might be expected, this requirement was filled from the inventory of painted aircraft, although by this time their crews hated to lose the planes they had come to know so well. In turn, the 491st obtained a number of new Ford-built B-24Hs in the 42-95000 range which had been ferried over by ATC crews. These aircraft, which were assigned squadron letters starting with S, featured the so-called "coffin seat"--a shroud of armor surrounding the pilots which made an emergency exit a pretty hairy affair. These cumbersome and heavy units were torched off and removed forthwith.

During the 11 months the Group was operational many other B-24s passed through its hands; some 93 additional serial numbers are mentioned in various Group records and this number may be incomplete. Besides replacement of operational and accidental losses, this large turnover stemmed from exchanges for models incorporating later radar gear and/or other theater changes, aircraft dropped from the Group after being forced down at emergency fields on the continent, and the fact that battle-damaged aircraft requiring Base Depot repair sometimes were not returned to their original unit. The H's and J's carried the bulk of the load; the B-24Ms did not begin arriving until March 1945 and the first L was acquired on 17 April, eight days before the Group's last mission.

As previously noted, the first forming plane used by a the 491st was the LIL' GRAMPER, a war-weary B-24D that was acquired in mid-June and given an orange paint Job with red polka dots for quick identification in the air. (In Part I, pps 86 and 91, it was stated in error that this plane was painted with "blue polka dots.") The GRAMPER was replaced a few months later by one of the Group's own J's, RAGE IN HEAVEN (44-40165), which received green zebra stripes around the outer wings and after fuselage. The Group letter "Z" replaced the national star-and-bar on the fuselage. This was the forming aircraft lost 5 January 1945. After that, another 491st veteran, TUBARAO, was given the Job and received the now-familiar zebra treatment, this time in green and yellow. TUBARAO (44-40101) had originally been adorned with a huge sharks mouth, which was retained, so that the finished product was a rather curious hybrid of fish in front and zebra behind. TUBARAO served as the forming aircraft until the end of operations.
The Group also acquired a DB-7 (Boston I) from the RAF and a P-47C from the USAAF. The fighter had been "on order" for a considerable period, but when the Jug finally arrived from Burtonwood on 17 December 1944 it was the weariest of war-wearies. However, under the loving care of line chief M/Sgt. Stanley W. Terlep of the 852nd Squadron, the fighter was completely refurbished from the inside out, including a brand new R-2800 engine. Since the parts and material were obtained by means best forgotten, the beat-up exterior of the plane was carefully retained to forestall any embarrassing questions. This airplane, christened "LITTLE HONSIE II carried the 852nd 3Q identification on the fuselage and the Group "Z" on the tail. A second Thunderbolt, P-47D-6-RE #42-74670, was given the Group on 24 May 1945 and assigned to the 854th Squadron--no marking data available.
For the statistics-minded, the average number of B-24 aircraft on hand was 54, of which 37 was the average number operational. Mechanical aborts during eleven months of operations totaled 198, 67 of which involved engine failure, 29 the supercharger-induction system, 23 the fuel system and carburetors, 18 the oil system, 15 the props and the remainder a variety of miscellaneous malfunctions. The operational loss ratio (combat losses/sorties) was .9469, or less than one percent. Casualties among the crews totaled 493 or a little over 19% of the 2566 combat personnel assigned.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Group and Squadron records on file at the USAF Historical Archives, Maxwell AFB, as follows:
491st Bomb Group:
Pre-ETO History, Monthly Histories from May 1944 through April 1945;
852nd, 853rd, 854th, and 855th Squadrons: Monthly Histories as available;
492nd Bomb Group:
Monthly Histories for May 1944 through August 1944;
Historical Records Or the 379th Air Service Group, 640th Air Material Squadron, 816th Air Engineering Squadron, 479th Sub Depot, 1450th Ord. & Supply Company. Hqts 2nd Bomb Division Mission Reports: Field Order 319 (2 June, 1944);
F/O #464 (18 September, 1944);
F/O #529 (26 November, 1944);
F/O #638 (24 March 1945);
Eighth AF Daily Summaries:
2 June 1944;
25 August 1944;
18 September 1944;
26 November 1944;
25 April 1945.
Hennesay, TACTICAL OPERATIONS OF THE EIGHTH AIR FORCE, 6 JUNE 1944 TO 8 MAY 1945. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Research Studies Institute, 1952.
Taylor, Lt. Col. Wm. B, 14th BOMB WING San Angelo, Texas: Newsfoto Publishing Co., 1945.
Craven & Cate, THE ARMY AIR FORCES IN WORLD WAR II, Vol. III. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1951.
AAF STATISTICAL DIGEST (World War II Edition). Headquarters AAF, 1945.
THE U.S. STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY, Over-all Report (European War). Washington: U. S. Gov't Printing Office, 1945.

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