Original U.S. WWII B-24 Liberator 392nd Bomb Group Named Gunner Grouping

Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind grouping. Staff Sargent James L Laird ASN 38345395 was an aerial gunner from Lorenzo, Texas who flew aboard various B-24's including Wimpy’s Queen, Bomb Boogie, Little Joe, Carol Ann, Dragon Lady and Short Round II as a member of Captain Oscar F. Weed’s crew in the USAAF 8th Air Force, 392nd Bomb Group, 577th Squadron based in Wendling, England.

The 392nd Bomb Group flew B-24 Liberators out of Wendling, Norfolk from August 1943 until April 1945. They were the first Group to be given B-24H Liberators, the first B-24 model that was fitted with a nose turret on the production line, an adaptation that increasing the ability of crews to fight enemy aircraft flying head on with the bomber. The Group was awarded one Distinguished Unit Citation for bombing an aircraft and components factory at Gotha on 24 February 1944, as part of the Big Week of assaults on German aircraft targets. After the invasion of mainland Europe the Group supported the airborne invasion of Holland and assault across the Rhine by Allied paratroops.

James Laird flew 15 missions with Weed’s crew from February 21st, 1945 to April 20th, 1945 all of them over Germany. Below is a list of his missions.

Laird, J.L. Sgt. RW 577 875 21-Feb-1945 Nuremburg
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 238 22-Feb-1945 Northeim
Laird, J.L. Sgt. TG 577 906 24-Feb-1945 Misburg
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 448 26-Feb-1945 Berlin
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 390 28-Feb-1945 Siegen
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 901 08-Mar-1945 Siegen
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 901 12-Mar-1945 Swinemunde
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 875 15-Mar-1945 Zossen
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 390 18-Mar-1945 Berlin
Laird, J.L. Sgt. LW 577 340 21-Mar-1945 Hesepe
Laird, J.L. Sgt. TT 577 507 22-Mar-1945 Schwabish Hall
Laird, J.L. Sgt. TG 577 792 04-Apr-1945 Kaltenkirchen
Laird, J.L. Sgt. TG 577 753 20-Apr-1945 Schwandorf

Mission descriptions:

22 February 1945 Mission #241 Target: Northeim
One of the most novel missions ever flown by the 392nd was executed on this day. The assigned target was the marshalling yards at Nordhausen - the strike to be made at a briefed altitude of 6000 feet. Briefings for (31) crews were conducted at 0515 and 0630 with all starting launch at 0915 hours. The mission was flown in at medium cruise altitude with let-down made to below 10,000 feet after crossing in behind enemy lines. Short of the very low level supply drop missions flown, this raid gave participating aircrews a very unique, picturesque view of the Third Reich’s Germany - one which could not be enjoyed fully because of the heavy flak contingents at times and other low flying B-24 formations crossing their track. Due to poor visual sighting conditions on the primary because of smoke and haze, the Group elected to make a run on the rail yard facilities at Northeim. Two of the squadrons hit the yards with poor results. The third squadron, the 578th, was cut out on the bomb run by another Group crossing their track which forced the lead to change targets at the last minute to a large industrial plant located (6) miles northwest of the town. The decision proved to be a sound one as the squadron struck the factory with excellent hits on the aiming point. Flak at the target was meager and inaccurate but heavy elsewhere. One B-24 and crew were lost on this mission. In the 578th, ship #241 Jolly Duck with Lieutenant J. R. Walker’s crew was last seen at 1454 hours outbound with #3 engine feathered. The crew was heard to report that they were low on fuel and were going along the Dutch coast in an effort to reach Belgium or France. Later, 2nd Air Division Headquarters reported getting an S-O-S from some unidentified ship but no further word was heard from this ship and crew. The Group released (340) 500 pounders on the target areas during this mission with returning crews landing back at Wendling around 1615 hours.

On the way back from Northeim, 1st Lt J.R. Walker was informed that they did not have enough fuel to get back to England. He therefore made a controlled crash-landing near Zoeterwoude, a small village in the western part of The Netherlands. Walker ordered the crew to split up so as to avoid capture. Unfortunately, S/Sgt Shea, Cpl Nagle, Cpl Hicks, and S/Sgt Lingle headed in what proved to be the wrong direction and were captured almost immediately. The other five evaded with the help of the Dutch underground. S/Sgt McCormick was brought to the hiding place of a local resistance group and for the next nine weeks, he participated with them in their work against the Germans. On April 29, 1945, their hiding place was suddenly surrounded by German soldiers and in the ensuing firefight, S/Sgt McCormick was killed. He thus became the last airman of the 392nd Bomb Group to be killed in a direct confrontation with the enemy. On that same day, ironically, Shea, Nagle, Hicks, and Lingle were freed from POW camp.

18 March 1945 Mission #261 Target: Berlin
On this date, the Eighth Air Force mounted the heaviest raid of World War II against the Third Reich's capital, sending over 1,300 heavies to attack strategic targets in and around the city. According to the 2nd Air Division's Intelligence Annex, "Entire Eighth Air Force is attacking [Berlin]. At this time Germans are reporting effective offensive measures by the Russians directly east of city, (although this is not confirmed by our allies), and general effect of a large scale bombing will be another disruption of normal facilities. 1st and 3rd Air Divisions are attacking communication centers and 2AD targets are armament and heavy ordnance."

The 392nd's target was the Tegel Steel mill, located in the northwestern section of "Big B", as it came to be called by the crews who had to go there. The last of their 31 Libs took off at 0910 hours. Cloud cover in the target area was heavily broken with undercast conditions. The planes dropped 143 1,000-pounders on the target. As a result of contrails, two squadrons of the Group had to make an H2X run on the primary with poor results. Fortunately, at the last minute on the bomb run, the 578th managed to sight the target visually and hit it with pin-point accuracy. This squadron had 97 percent of its bombs impacting within 1000 feet of the MPI giving the Group as a whole 43 percent of all releases within a 2000 foot radius of the aiming point.

Though fighters were not sighted, AA fire as usual over this heavily defended target was intense and extremely accurate. Considerable aircraft battle damage was suffered from flak, eight bombers, mostly from the 578th, being hit. Typical of this squadron's aircraft damage was that inflicted on ship #44-50493 (C-Bar, nicknamed "Dugan") flown by 2/Lt Vickers' crew. The bomber came home with extensive damage to three props chewed up by shrapnel, a gaping slice cut through the leading edge of the left wing between #1 and #2 engines, holes in the waist section and the de-icer boot shot off of the left vertical stabilizer. Most fortunately, not a single crewmember from the entire Group force was injured during this mission in view of the intensive enemy reaction. All bombers returned safely, some bedraggled, with the last landing at Wendling at 1606 hours.

The crew was as follows:
Pilot Oscar Weed Longview, Washington
Co Pilot Bill Healy Riverdale, New York
Navigator Bill Trask Canton, Ohio
Bombardier B. B. Washabau
Tail Gunner John Kolodzrejski Harriman, New York
Radio Operator Eldon Yoak Barberton, Ohio
Engineer Eugene Gorman Passaic, New Jersey
Ball Gunner Robert Erfurth San Antonio, Texas
Top Gunner James Laird Lorenzo, Texas
Nose Gunner R. S. Higgins Highland Park, Illinois

Included in this incredible grouping are the following items:

• Class A Dress Uniform including named tunic with 8th AAF Patch, Searhgment Chevrons and ruptured Duck Patch. Name pants, shirt 8th AAF Patch, multiple neck ties.
• 4 x overseas garrison caps one named, one VFW Texas post war.
• Display board which includes Air Medal, 2 x Sterling Silver Aerial Gunner Wings, Ribbon Bar with Air Medal with Oak Leaf and European-Africa Middle Eastern Campaign with two battle stars, Dog Tags, Victory in Europe Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and more.
• Multiple large photos of Laird. One of him receiving the Air Medal (wearing this very tunic!), Laird with Lt. Weed’s crew (signed by each member), the nose pictures of the aircraft he flew on, a mission list and more.

This is one of the most wonderful comprehensive well researched WWII airmen groupings we’ve ever offered.

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