Original U.S. WWII B-17 Bomber Hells Belle Named A-2 Flight Jacket (Size 40)
Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is an exceptional A2 leather flight jacket issued to a T/Sgt Neal E. Reed of the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress Hells Belle. In the photo of the crew with the plane T/Sgt Reed can be seen in the front row viewer's far right wearing this very jacket!
Technical Sergent Neal E. Reed, 379th Bomb Group, 8th AAF was the owner of this jacket and it shows 30 missions along with the nose art from the aircraft painted on the back! The painting is faded in places, but overall quite clear for the age. The front does not appear to have had any painting (consistent with some members of the crew in the photo). The lining has some minor rips and small tears, but the outside is in great condition with supple leather and a fully working zipper. Cuffs and waist band are in very good condition.
The inside of the jacket has the maker label, and laundry mark R-2017 inked in which identifies this jacket to Reed. He was the only Airman with that ending serial number in the 379th.
Research reveals that Technical sergeant Neal Reed was from NY had Basic Training in Greenville, MS. He was assigned to the 379th Bomb Group. In July 1944, he earned the DFC.waist gunner aboard Hells Belle". Included are printed copies of research and an amazing photo of his crew as they pose in front of the Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" 'Hells Belle' at an 8Th Air Force base In England on the 23rd of April 1944. Also included is an excerpt from a cadet yearbook with a bit about him, including that he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross (likely after his 25th mission).
The best aspect of this incredible jacket is the hand painted Hells Belle pinup girl holding a three pronged pitch fork standing in fire on the back of the jacket along with the names of 30 German cities that represent successful bombing runs. The cities include targets such as; Berlin (4 times!), Mannheim, Hamburg, Paris, and Eharang among many others.
The jacket still bears the original data label that reads:
ORDER NoW 535 A. C. 2778
AIR FORCE U.S. ARMY
Monarch Mfg. Co.
The 379th Bombardment Group was a VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress unit in England. Assigned to RAF Kimbolton in early 1943, the group flew more sorties than any other bomb group in the Eighth Air Force, and dropped a greater bomb tonnage than any other group. The combat record of the 379th was the most successful of all the Eighth Air Force heavy bomber groups, receiving two Distinguished Unit Citations.
The group was activated on 26 November 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. It assembled at Wendover Field, Utah on 2 December 1942. They trained there until 2 March 1943. Then moved to Sioux City AAB Iowa on 3 February 1943 until their departure on 9 April 1943. The ground echelon moved for final processing at Camp Douglas, Wis, and then to Camp Shanks, New York. They sailed on the SS Aquitania on 10 May 1943, and arrived at Clyde on 18 May 1943. The aircraft left Sioux City on 9 April 1943 for Bangor, Maine, via Kearney, Nebraska, and Selfridge, Michigan. They commenced overseas movement on 15 April 1943 by the North Atlantic ferry route from Presque Isle, Maine via Greenland, Iceland to Prestwick, Scotland.
Arrived in England in May 1943, assigned to VIII Bomber Command, 41st Combat Bombardment Wing. Stationed at RAF Kimbolton, assigned Triangle-K as its tail identification code.
The 379th BG began operations with Eighth AF on 19 May 1943, and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations over Europe from May 1943 through July 1944. The group engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic targets such as industries, oil refineries, storage plants, submarine pens, airfields and communications centres in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and Poland.
Specific targets included a chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, an aircraft assembly plant in Brunswick, ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt and Leipzig, synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg and Gelsenkirchen, marshalling yards at Hamm and Reims and airfields in Mesnil au Val and Berlin.
The Group received another DUC for flying without fighter protection into central Germany to attack vital aircraft factories on 11 January 1944. On several occasions the Group attacked interdictory targets and operated in support of ground forces. It bombed V-weapon sites, airfields, radar stations and other installations before the Normandy invasion in June 1944, bombed defended positions just ahead of the Allied landings on 6 June and struck airfields, rail choke points, and gun emplacements during the campaign that followed.
During the Battle of France, the Group bombed enemy positions to assist ground troops at St Lo during the breakthrough, 2425 July 1944, attacked German communications and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 January 1945, and bombed bridges and viaducts in France and Germany to aid the Allied assault across the Rhine, FebruaryMarch 1945.
The combat record of the 379th was the most successful of all the Eighth Air Force heavy bomber groups. It held records as far as bomb tonnage dropped 26,459 tons more than any other unit including those operational before the 379th arrived in the UK. It also exceeded all other UK Bomb Groups in the total number of missions flown, carrying out 330 between May 1943 and 15 May 1945. One B-17G, "Ol Gappy", itself completed 157 missions, probably more than any other Eighth Air Force bomber.
Scheduled to transport US troops from Europe to Casablanca. The unit moved to Casablanca in early June with the last aircraft flown back to the States and the Group inactivated as Casablanca on the 25 July 1945.
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