Original U.S. WWII 2nd Air Force Painted A-2 Leather Flight Jacket - 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-Kind. This is an absolutely beautiful World War Two American painted A-2 flight jacket. The jacket has no names or identifiable markings that we can find, but from the squadron patch present we were able to discover the unit and their history, the 358th Bombardment Squadron. The squadron was a part of the 303rd Bombardment Group under command of the 2nd Air Force. The 358th Bombardment Squadron was established in February 1942 as a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber squadron at Pendleton Field, Oregon and assigned to the 303d Bombardment Group. It moved to Gowen Field, Idaho, where it trained under Second Air Force. The squadron deployed to Southern California to fly antisubmarine patrols over the Pacific. The 358th completed training in southwest by August 1942. The ground echelon departed Biggs Field, Texas in August 1942, arriving at Fort Dix on 24 August. It sailed aboard the RMS Queen Mary and arrived in Great Britain on 10 September. The air echelon flew through Kellogg Field, Michigan and Dow Field, Maine before ferrying its planes across the Atlantic.

The A-2 jacket, which is in wonderful condition with a fantastic leather painted squadron insignia. The left chest features an incredible painted patch of an Airman with a halo above his head, floating on a cloud ready to release a bomb in his hands. The colors are still very nice and easily discernible, but the cracking makes it somewhat difficult to see.

Jacket is in size US 36 and has retained all original components including original knit waist band and sleeve cuffs, something we often see replaced on A-2 jackets that saw extensive service. Also original is the TALON brand zipper which is still functional.

The interior lining does have tearing and stitching loss present, so do handle it with care. The top rear back portion of the liner still retains the original tag which reads as:

D.W.G. No. 30-1415
ORDER NO. W 33-038 A.C.-1755 (11631)

This is an incredible example of a hard to find painted A-2 jacket, offered in wonderful condition. Comes more than ready for further research and display.

Combat In European Theater
Due to the haste to move heavy bombers to Europe, the squadron was insufficiently trained for combat and it continued to train in England until it entered combat on 17 November 1942 in a strike against Saint-Nazaire, but returned without striking, having been unable to locate its target. It attacked Saint-Nazaire the following day, although its intended target was La Pallice. Its initial raids were on airfields, railroads and submarine pens in France. As a unit of one of only four Flying Fortress groups in VIII Bomber Command during late 1942 and early 1943, the squadron participated in the development of the tactics that would be used throughout the air campaign against Germany.

In 1943, the squadron began flying missions to Germany, participating in the first attack by American heavy bombers on a target in Germany, a raid on the submarine yards at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943. From that time, it concentrated primarily on strategic bombardment of German industry, marshaling yards, and other strategic targets, including the ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt, shipyards at Bremen and an aircraft engine factory at Hamburg.

On 20 December 1943 one of the squadron's planes, nicknamed the "Jersey Bounce" was hit by flak and lost two engines while attacking the target, causing the Fort to drop behind the formation. Two 20 millimeter cannon shells exploded in the radio compartment, injuring Technical Sergeant Forrest L. Vosler, the radio operator-gunner. The first injuring him in the legs and thighs and the second striking his chest and also nearly blinding him. Sergeant Vosler continued to fire his gun at attacking fighters. He began to lapse in and out of consciousness, but (working by feel) managed to repair the radio so that emergency transmissions could be made. When the B-17 ditched, he managed to climb on the wing unaided and assist the badly wounded tail gunner until he could be loaded into one of the plane's dinghies. Sergeant Vosler was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

The 358th received a Distinguished Unit Citation when adverse weather on 11 January 1944 prevented its fighter cover from joining the group, exposing it to continuous attacks by Luftwaffe fighters. Despite this opposition, the unit successfully struck an aircraft assembly plant at Oschersleben.

Although a strategic bombing unit, the squadron was diverted on occasion to close air support and interdiction for ground forces. It attacked gun emplacements and bridges in the Pas-de-Calais during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, in June 1944; bombed enemy troops during Operation Cobra, the breakout at Saint Lo, and during the Battle of the Bulge. It bombed military installations near Wesel during Operation Lumberjack, the Allied assault across the Rhine. Its last combat mission was an attack on 25 April 1945 against an armament factory at Pilsen (now Plzeň).

Following VE Day in May 1945 the 303d Group was reassigned to the North African Division, Air Transport Command and moved to Casablanca Airfield, French Morocco to use its B-17 bombers as transports, ferrying personnel from France to Morocco. However, the two B-17 groups moved to Casablanca proved surplus to Air Transport Command's needs and the squadron was inactivated in late July 1945 and its planes ferried back to the United States.

Approximate measurements: Size 36

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