Original U.S. WWII B-24 Liberator SHOO SHOO BABY! Named Grouping with Painted A2 Jacket - Caterpillar Club Member

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Original Item: One-of-a-kind. Technical Sergeant William H. Sunday ASN 35767667 was an aircraft engineer aboard the Consolidated B-24 Liberator SHOO SHOO BABY 42-52747. He was assigned to the 707th Bomb Squadron, 446th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force during WWII. The 446th Bomb Group, who came to be known as "the Bungay Buckaroos" after the name of their Suffolk base, flew B-24 Liberators on strategic, support and interdictory missions over Europe. The Group led the Eighth Air Force and 2nd Bomb Division on the first heavy bomber mission on D-Day, 6 June 1944, and continued to support the ground forces move eastwards, dropping airborne troops into Wesel, north-west Germany, as part of the advance across the River Rhine.

The Story of “Shoo Shoo Baby”

As told to William J. Woodburn
About his father 2nd Lieutenant William M. Woodburn

On December 27th, 1944, the 446th Bomb Group took off from their base in Bungay, England. Their targets that day were the rail bridge and train yards at Kaiserslautern, Germany. One hour away from the target, Second Lieutenant William M. Woodburn of the 707th Squadron (flying B-24H 42-52747 “Shoo Shoo Baby) was forced to abort when the number 3 engine stopped. Second Lieutenant Woodburn dropped out of formation and headed for the airfield at Brussels, Belgium, which was currently held by British forces. With the weather quickly going bad, this seemed to be the only alternative. As “Shoo Shoo Baby” made her approach to the field, her radioman didn’t transmit the recognition code fast enough, and the British fired warning shots at her with their anti-aircraft guns. The B-24 fired signal rockets and was recognized, but was waved off due to a wind change. Before they could come around for another approach, heavy fog closed the field. In the climb out from Brussels, at an altitude of just 75 feet, number 2 engine stopped. Second Lieutenant Woodburn was forced to fly down a Brussels street, sometimes barely missing the church steeples. At this point, he asked his navigator for a heading to the North Sea, so their bomb load could be dumped safely. The plane couldn’t go above 300 feet, and the North Sea was 20 minutes away. Realizing that they weren’t able to make the North Sea, Second Lieutenant Woodburn ordered that the 500 pound general purpose bombs were to be dropped in an empty field. Once this was done, the order was given to lighten the plane, in other words, throw out whatever wasn’t nailed down and vital. This proved successful, and the plane was able to climb to 4,000 feet, then the crew was told to bail out.

Eight of the eleven crew members bailed out, with the pilot, co-pilot, and engineer remaining behind. The engineer made sure that everyone else was gone, then was “assisted” out by the co-pilot, who then bid farewell to Second Lieutenant Woodburn, saying, “I’ll see you on the ground.” After this, Second Lieutenant Woodburn trimmed the plane and headed for the bomb bay to bail out. At this point, number 4 engine quit. With only one operating engine on the left wing, the plane went into a violent right turn. Second Lieutenant Woodburn returned to the controls and re-trimmed the aircraft, then returned to the bomb bay and bailed out. On the way out, he struck his shoulder on a bomb shackle, causing him to tumble abnormally. He righted himself and pulled the parachute ripcord. The parachute opened with an extreme jerk, nearly knocking him unconscious. As he floated to the ground, he saw the plane circling down near him, and was afraid that it might run into him. However, the plane’s turning radius decreased enough so that this didn’t happen. A few minutes later, Second Lieutenant Woodburn landed, and was knocked out by the impact. He also broke his left foot and sprained his right foot. “Shoo Shoo Baby hit the ground a half a mile away and burned. Second Lieutenant Woodburn was awakened by a group of 10 men (either Belgians or Dutchmen) who began beating him, believing the blonde-haired, blue-eyed pilot to be a German spy.

After about five minutes, the beating stopped, and he thought that he was going to be hung from a nearby tree. At this point, a small man, carrying a rifle rode up on a bicycle. He asked Second Lieutenant Woodburn in broken English if he was a member of the Royal Air Force. Upon hearing from the small man (whom Second Lieutenant Woodburn believed to be some sort of local official) that their captive was an American officer, the mens’ demeanor towards the pilot changed, and he was carried to a nearby farmhouse and given a drink of brandy. Meanwhile, some of the men had found a British Army patrol in the area, and reported the capture of a possible German spy in an American uniform. The patrol came to the farmhouse, kicked in the door, and advanced on Second Lieutenant Woodburn with drawn weapons. He convinced them that he was an American pilot, then, with their assistance, he went to the crash site and destroyed security sensitive papers and equipment. After that, he was taken to a nearby town for

interrogation and debriefing by a British officer, and then finally to a field hospital, where he spent two days being treated for his injuries. Second Lieutenant Woodburn was eventually transferred to a hospital in Brussels, where he was turned over to the Americans. After ten days in Brussels, he was taken to a military hospital in Southern England, where he stayed for two weeks before he was released and returned to the 446th airbase at Bungay. Second Lieutenant Woodburn would be awarded the Purple Heart for his injury and would go on with his crew to complete their 33 mission tour of duty before returning to the United States in the Summer of 1945.

The crew aboard “Shoo Shoo Baby” on December 27th, 1944, was:


This incredible grouping consists for the following items:

1. Incredible Completely Original WWII A-2 Flight Jacket Manufactured by Star Sportswear Manufacturing Company of Lynn Massachusetts in size 42. Maintains its original Paint, Patches, Liner, Talon Zipper, Cuffs and Waistband. Nothing has been altered, added or restitched. Of particular note is the genuine 707th Bomb Squadron patch to the front as well as the hand painted name BILL. On the back of the jacket is faded paint of a B-24 along with bombs, which represent successful missions, and the name SHOO SHOO BABY can still be seen, though faint.

Liner remains in very good condition with only minor signs of age, wear and use. ALL Leather remains soft, supple and flexible with a few minor scuffs. There are NO worn or thin areas anywhere to the leather and all leather remains VERY solid. The collar, shoulders and upper back also remain very solid and the leather to these areas is NOT worn thin, dry or heavily worn like most A-2's we find. The ORIGINAL Talon Zipper Remains Undamaged and Functions Perfectly!

2. Class A Uniform Tunic offered in excellent condition. The tunic features sterling silver Air Crew Member wings, 8th Air Force patch on left shoulder, Air Medal ribbon with 5 oak leafs, Good Conduct and European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with battle star. There is a second identical medal ribbon minus the oak leaves and battle star, it was on the jacket when we received it so did not remove it. 

3. Air Medal case missing the air medal.

4. Caterpillar Club Membership Card named to T/SGT. W.H. SUNDAY. The Caterpillar Club is an informal association of people who have successfully used a parachute to bail out of a disabled aircraft. After authentication by the parachute maker, applicants receive a membership card and a distinctive lapel pin. The nationality of the person saving their life by parachute and ownership of the aircraft are not factors in determining qualification for membership; anybody who has saved their life by using a parachute after bailing out of a disabled aircraft is eligible. The requirement that the aircraft is disabled naturally excludes parachuting enthusiasts in the normal course of a recreational jump, or those involved in military training jumps. The club was founded by Leslie Irvin of the Irvin Airchute Company of Canada in 1922. (Though Leslie Irvin is credited with inventing the first free-fall parachute in 1919, parachutes stored in canisters had saved the lives of observers in balloons and several German, Austro-Hungarian pilots of disabled military aircraft in the First World War.) The name "Caterpillar Club" simply makes reference to the silk threads that made the original parachutes thus recognizing the debt owed to the silk worm. Other people have taken the metaphor further by comparing the act of baling out with that of the caterpillar letting itself down to earth by a silken thread. Another metaphor is that caterpillars have to climb out of their cocoons to escape.

"Life depends on a silken thread" is the club’s motto.

An early brochure[3] of the Irvin Parachute Company credits William O'Connor 24 August 1920 at McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio as the first person to be saved by an Irvin parachute, but this feat was unrecognised. On 20 October 1922, Lieutenant Harold R. Harris, chief of the McCook Field Flying Station, jumped from a disabled Loening W-2A monoplane fighter. Shortly after, two reporters from the Dayton Herald, realising that there would be more jumps in future, suggested that a club should be formed. Harris became the first member and from that time forward any person who jumped from a disabled aircraft with a parachute became a member of the Caterpillar Club. Other famous members include General James Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and (retired) astronaut John Glenn.

In 1922 Leslie Irvin agreed to give a gold pin to every person whose life was saved by one of his parachutes. At the end of World War II the number of members with the Irvin pins had grown to over 34,000 though the total of people saved by Irvin parachutes is estimated to be 100,000.

The successor to the original Irvin company still provides pins to people who have made a jump. In addition to the Irvin Air Chute Company, other parachute manufacturers have also issued caterpillar pins for successful jumps. GC Parachutes formed their Gold Club in 1940. The Switlik Parachute Company of Trenton, New Jersey issued both gold and silver caterpillar pins. The Pioneer Parachute Co. in Skokie, Illinois, also presented plaques to people who packed the parachutes that saved lives.

5. Ultra Rare Caterpillar Club Gold Lapel Pin with Ruby Eyes.

This grouping is without a doubt a Museum Quality set worthy of being displayed in any historical institution or within a wonderful private collection.

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