Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is an exceptional B10 flight jacket issued to a L. J. LUCKENBACH of the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress Mrs. Aldaflak. In the photo of the crew with the plane a first lieutenant can be seen in the front row viewer's far right wearing a B-10 jacket! Is it the same one before the name tag was applied? We do not know.
B-10 jackets are far rarer than A-2’s, as they we not issued until 1944. These jackets were issued in early 1944 to replace the leather jackets. Although intended for issue to Army Air Corps flight crews, these jackets were often obtained and used by regular ground troops. Generals McAuliffe and Patton are both seen in wartime photos wearing B-10's.
This named example is in excellent condition and shows 32 missions along with the nose art from the B-17 bomber Mrs. Aldaflak! painted on the back. The painting is vibrant and totally consistent with two other known examples from the crews that flew this aircraft. Lining is in very good condition with typical wear at the neck, the cuffs show slight nips but still hold elasticity as well as the waist band.
The jacket still bears the original data label that reads:
SPECIFICATION NO. 3157
STOCK NO. 8300-470705
ORDER NO. W30-053-AC-967
AIR FORCES, U.S. ARMY
The aircraft details are as follows:
42-107113 IY-J/SC-O Mrs. Aldaflak
Serial No: 42-107113
Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA
Mission Lost: N/A
Notes: Force-landed in Belgium after being hit by flak, 21 November 1944. Aircraft was repaired and returned to service.
The 401st Bombardment Group was activated March 1943 at Ephrata Army Air Base Washington. Its original squadrons were the 612th, 613th, 614th and 615th Bombardment Squadrons, The initial cadre for the group was drawn from the 395th Bombardment Group at Ephrata and the 383d Bombardment Group at Rapid City Army Air Field, South Dakota. The cadre soon departed for Orlando Army Air Base, Florida, where they conducted simulated combat missions with the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics out of Brooksville Army Air Field.
The ground echelon moved to Geiger Field, Washington in May 1943 and to Great Falls AAB, Mount in July. At Great Falls the first combat crews were assigned to the group. In the final stage of training the squadrons dispersed with the 612th remaining at Great Falls, while the 613th trained at Cut Bank Army Air Field, the 614th at Glasgow Army Air Field, and the 615th at Lewiston Army Air Field.
After completing training the ground echelon left for overseas on 19 October 1943. After staging at Camp Shanks, New York they embarked on the RMS Queen Mary and sailed on 27 October disembarking at Greenock on the Firth of Clyde on 3 November 1943. The air echelon staged for deployment at Scott Field, Illinois then flew to England under the control of Air Transport Command via Newfoundland, Iceland and Scotland.
Combat in the European Theater
On arrival in England, half of the group's aircrews were immediately reassigned to the 351st Bombardment Group. The rest of the group became part of Eighth Air Force at RAF Deenethorpe. The 401st was assigned to the 92d Combat Bombardment Wing of the 1st Bombardment Division. Its tail code was Triangle-S.
On 26 November the 401st flew its first combat mission against Bremen, Germany. It did not suffer the combat loss of an airplane until its ninth mission on 30 December. The 401st BG operated chiefly against strategic targets, bombing industries, submarine facilities, shipyards, missile sites, marshalling yards, and airfields. On 11 January 1944 the group led the 1st Bombardment Division in an attack against aircraft manufacturing facilities at Ochsersleben, Germany. Although the bombers were able to attack, poor weather conditions prevented the division from receiving effective fighter cover. For over three hours the bomber formation suffered more than 400 attacks by Luftwaffe fighters, including air-to-air rocket attacks. Despite these attacks the unit was continued its attack and struck a telling blow against German aircraft production for which the group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC).
614th Bombardment Squadron B-17G landing at Deenethorpe
A little over a month later, on 20 February, the group earned its second DUC for an attack on the Erla Maschinenwerke aircraft manufacturing facilities in Leipzig, Germany. Despite fighter attacks and battle damage to the group's planes, 100% of the group’s bombs fell within 1000 feet of the aiming point. Beginning in October 1944, the unit concentrated its attacks on Axis oil reserves.
In addition to strategic missions, group operations included attacks on transportation, airfields, and fortifications prior to the Normandy invasion. On D-Day the 401st attacked Normandy beachhead areas dropping bombs five minutes before troops landed. The following month it provided close air support for the breakthrough at Saint-Lô, it also supported the siege of Brest in August and Operation Market Garden in September. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945, the unit attacked transportation and communications in the battle area. It supported airborne forces involved in Operation Varsity in March 1945.
The group's worst accident occurred in December 1943 when a Fortress which failed to get off the ground careened over farmland and came to rest after crashing into a cottage on the edge of the village of Deenethorpe. The surviving members of the crew just had time to evacuate the wreckage and warn the villagers of the imminent explosion of the bomb load before it detonated damaging many houses in the village. The blast was felt in Kettering nine miles away.
Lt Carl Hoag, a navigator with the group was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for navigating his damaged plane back to UK from a mission to Bohlen. Lt Hoat was blinded in one eye and his vision in other eye impaired by injury. Despite these injuries, he was able to provide the pilot with directions to safely return the plane and crew to Deenthorpe.
The group flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945 against Brandenberg. The group had flown 254 combat missions from Deenethorpe airfield, 91 aircraft were lost in action with the lowest loss rate of any group in Eighth Air Force. The group's heaviest combat loss had occurred on 28 May 1944 when it lost seven aircraft.
After V-E Day, the group flew missions to Linz, Austria to evacuate British and French prisoners of war. It also flew Trolley sightseeing missions at low level, flying ground support personnel over the Ruhr and Frankfurt am Main to see the damage that had been done as a result of their efforts.
The group was alerted for redeployment to the Pacific Theater and the last plane departed Deenethorpe on 3 June. The ground echelon sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on the fifth. Upon arrival in the US, personnel were granted thirty days leave, reassembling at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, but plans had changed and personnel were either transferred to Boeing B-29 Superfortress units or processed for discharge and the group was inactivated.
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