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The National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force


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#1 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:34 AM

I feel like Pumpy today... posting about my recent trip to a military-themed museum.

 

The Mighty 8th Air Force was an amazing military enterprise.  Then under the U.S. Army, the Mighty 8th ran bombing missions over occupied Europe from airbases in England from 1942 or 43 until the end of the war.  The Royal Air Force bombed at night, the Mighty 8th during the day, mostly military targets like oil refineries, factories, and enemy airbases.  The missions were incredibly dangerous, with planes routinely coming back (if they did) riddled with bullet holes from Luftwaffe machine guns or fuselage holes from antiaircraft flak.  Pilots were well-trained with the capabilities of their aircraft if it was flying on 4 engines, or 3, or 2, or 1. 

 

As I've mentioned a couple of times before on the board, this is a personal pilgrimage for me.  My grandfather flew 21 successful missions with the Mighty 8th, and on his 22nd mission, had to abandon his aircraft over enemy lines.  All 10 of the crew parachuted out.  He was quickly reconnected with 2 others in his crew, and the three of them found a safehouse with the brave members of the Belgian resistance.  From there they eventually reached France, and finally, Switzerland, after a several-month flight from safehouse to safehouse.  Miraculously, all 10 of the crew made it to Switzerland.  My dad tells me that 34 members of his bomb group, the 379th, made it back home after being shot down over enemy lines, so his crew accounted for a third of those.

 

Grandpa flew out of Kimbolton field in England, and was always very complimentary of the local Brits.  In fact, his crew was so fond of Duffy's Tavern near Kimbolton Field, that they named a new plane after the pub.  Unfortunately, that was the plane that got shot down on its first flight.

 

I'm going to try and post some photos now of the museum.

 

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#2 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:35 AM

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A little of the kind of plane my grandfather flew on:  The B-17 Flying Fortress.  He was a radio operator and ball-turret gunner.


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#3 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:37 AM

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The banner of grandpa's bomber group.  The triangle K signifies Kimbolton Field.


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#4 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:43 AM

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The memorial garden outside the museum.


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#5 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:44 AM

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How cool is that?


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#6 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:46 AM

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A diarama of an airfield used by U.S. B-17s in England.


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#7 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:47 AM

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How cool is that?


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#8 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:50 AM

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Chills moment - this is the plane grandpa was shot down in.  We have a copy of this picture too - the museum gave him a copy when he visited before his death.  He gave them the pictures he had, his diary of the flight through Europe, and his medals.  I didn't see these mementos - I assume the museum has an archival library - but I had seen them when he was alive.  I have a copy of the diary - my mom typed it into the computer before he sent it to the museum.  Still, it was amazing to see this picture as one of the two or three highlighting the 379th bomber division.


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#9 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:51 AM

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If it weren't for brave Belgians and French in the resistance, I literally would not be here.


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#10 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:52 AM

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Grandpa was in the 527th squadron of the 379th division.  This is part of a schematic of Kimbolton Field.


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#11 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:53 AM

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The insignia of his squadron.


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#12 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:55 AM

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The display on the job of the radio operator.  It never occurred to me to ask grandpa to display his Morse Code skills when he was alive.  Grandpa was also a ball turret gunner, but they didn't have a display on that or a ball turret on display.  Those are apparently pretty hard to find.


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#13 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:56 AM

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There was this description though of the ball turret.


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#14 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:57 AM

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In addition to bombs, the Mighty 8th dropped food packages to starving Dutch resistance members.  This painting commemorates those missions.


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#15 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:58 AM

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An interesting standard operating procedure for certain radio messages the radio operators might handle.


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#16 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:59 AM

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A painting with the triangle K marking on the plane.


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#17 SJS

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 02:00 AM

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One of SJS's daughters taking in the art exhibit at the museum.


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#18 Slut Puppy

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 06:30 AM

Very cool stuff.


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#19 A Rebel and a Runner

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 06:36 AM

I feel like Pumpy today... posting about my recent trip to a military-themed museum.

 

The Mighty 8th Air Force was an amazing military enterprise.  Then under the U.S. Army, the Mighty 8th ran bombing missions over occupied Europe from airbases in England from 1942 or 43 until the end of the war.  The Royal Air Force bombed at night, the Mighty 8th during the day, mostly military targets like oil refineries, factories, and enemy airbases.  The missions were incredibly dangerous, with planes routinely coming back (if they did) riddled with bullet holes from Luftwaffe machine guns or fuselage holes from antiaircraft flak.  Pilots were well-trained with the capabilities of their aircraft if it was flying on 4 engines, or 3, or 2, or 1. 

Wasn't the protocol of our bombers to fly at lower altitudes, as well?  Essentially for the same reason they flew during the day: for increased accuracy. And with the same result regarding danger: being easier to hit.

Really, being a member of a bomber crew is exceptionally dangerous, and seems absolutely harrowing.


labente deinde paulatim disciplina velut desidentes primo mores sequatur animo, deinde ut magis magisque lapsi sint, tum ire coeperint praecipites, donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus perventum est.

 

First our declining morals slid, bit by bit, and then our very national spirit.  Then the collapse became greater and greater, and our principles began to go, until at last, it has come to this age, in which we can bear neither our crimes nor the cure for them.

 
 

#20 Pressure/Hopenosis

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Posted 03 March 2014 - 01:08 PM

Very cool!  My nine yr old is fascinated with military planes and the stories (so long as they are not too graphic).


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