Original U.S. WWII B-24 Liberator Tail Heavy 831st Bomb Squadron Named Pilot Grouping - DFC
Original Items: One-of-a-kind grouping. First Lieutenant Robert R. Baker ASN 16086294 was a pilot on the B-24 Liberator TAIL HEAVY and flew 33 successful missions. He was assigned to the 831st Bomb Squadron, 485TH Bomb Group, 15th Air Force. According to the Army Air Corps Library and Museum he received the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster on February 26th, 1945 and again on April 20th, 1945. He also was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In a 485th Bomb group reunion newspaper from 1990 Baker and Tail Heavy are a featured article. It reds as follows:
"Tail Heavy" Ends 100 Missions. One of the few B-24 assigned to the 485th Bomb Group to complete 100 missions was one, dubbed "Tail Heavy." It was assigned to the 831st squadron and was one of the original aircraft assigned to the 485th. Thanks to Pilot Robert R. Baker, now of Hickory Corners, Mich., photos of the plane and its crew as it completed its 100 mission are available. The above photo shows the crew after it had completed the plane's 100th mission. The exact date of the mission has not been determined. In the middle left is the pilot, Robert Baker. In the middle right is the co-pilot, Jim Schieb. Other members of the crew were Hazen O. Suttkus, navigator; Richard McLawhorn, bombardier; Bryan Nauman, engineer; Bill Argie, ball gunner; Mill Miller, radio operator; Fred Hosier, upper gunner; John Manfriedo, nose gunner, and Wayne Whiting, tail gunner. The photo of Tail Heavy dropping bombs was sent to Pilot Baker by Bob Placica, who was on the crew assigned to Tail Heavy in the States and who flew it to Italy. During the year 1989 Bob Baker visited all of his living crew members in their homes. Dick McLawhorn is the only one not living. He discovered that Lewis Baker was his co-pilot on his first mission, but that Jim Scheib was his regular co- pilot after the initial mission.
The 831st Bomb Squadron was deployed to Southern Italy in April 1944; on 20 April 1944 154 members of the Squadron were lost when the Liberty ship SS Paul Hamilton was sunk by an aerial torpedo. Entered combat in May 1944, being assigned to Fifteenth Air Force. Engaged in very long range strategic bombing missions to enemy military, industrial and transportation targets in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, bombing marshalling yards, oil refineries, airdrome installations, heavy industry, and other strategic objectives. Also carried out some support and interdiction operations. Struck bridges, harbors, and troop contingents in August 1944 to aid the invasion of Southern France. Hit communications lines and other targets during March and April 1945 to support the advance of British Eighth Army in northern Italy.
Included in this wonderful set are the following items:
- Named officers gabardine wool 4-pocket class A uniform with all original insignia and ribbons. Features Italian made bullion pilot wings, rare Italian made bullion 15th AF patch, and Italian made bullion Lieutenant bars. His uniform is tailor made with his name R R BAKER typed on label inside pocket. Medal ribbons that include: Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, European-African-Middle East Campaign with 2 battle stars and Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation.
- Officers khaki wool 4-pocket uniform coat with bullion AAF patch.
- Officers “pink” long-sleeve shirt.
- Officers dark gabardine overseas cap with Lt. bar.
- Khaki cotton tie.
- Photo of his crew with crew members named on back.
- Photo of his plane on bomb mission and marked on back by Lt. Baker.
- Photo of his crew in Italy with his notes on back.
History of the 485th Bomb Group:
The wing was originally constituted as the 485th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and activated on 20 September 1943. Its original squadrons were the newly activated 828th, 829th, and 830th Bombardment Squadrons, which were joined a few days later by the 831st Bombardment Squadron at Gowen Field, Idaho. The 831st was an experienced Consolidated B-24 Liberator squadron that had been performing anti-submarine warfare missions as the 11th Antisubmarine Squadron. The group deployed to Gowen, where it derived its initial cadre from the 29th Bombardment Group and was assigned to Second Air Force for training with B-24s at Gowen and at Fairmont Army Air Field, Nebraska. The group deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) in March and April 1944.
Although the ground echelon had deployed to Southern Italy by April 1944, the air echelon was detained in Tunisia for further training. The group entered combat with Fifteenth Air Force in May 1944. The 485th engaged in very long range strategic bombing missions to enemy military, industrial and transportation targets in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, bombing marshalling yards, oil refineries, airfields, heavy industry, and other strategic objectives.
The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for combating intense fighter opposition and attacking an oil refinery at Vienna on 26 June 1944. The 485th also carried out some support and interdiction operations. It struck bridges, harbors, and troop contingents in August 1944 to aid Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, It hit lines of communications and other targets during March and April 1945 to support the advance of British Eighth Army in northern Italy. It flew its 187th and last combat mission against Linz, Austria before preparing to return to the United States and re-equip.
The 485th returned to the United States in May 1945 and was programmed for deployment to the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombardment group. Many combat veterans of MTO demobilized upon arrival in the United States, and a small cadre of personnel reformed at Sioux Falls Army Airfield, South Dakota at the end of May. The group was reassigned to Second Air Force for training in Iowa. Because B-29 groups had only three combat squadrons, the 831st Bombardment Squadron was inactivated in August. The group then moved on paper to Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Kansas in September.
The group remained on active duty after the Japanese surrender. In March 1946 Continental Air Forces became Strategic Air Command and Second Air Force was replaced by Fifteenth Air Force as the group's intermediate headquarters. Simultaneously, the 506th Bombardment Squadron was assigned to the group from the 44th Bombardment Group. In August 1946 the personnel and equipment of the 485th were reassigned to the 97th Bombardment Group and the 485th was inactivated.
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