Original U.S. WWWI B-24 Hell's Belle Navigator Engraved Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal
Original Item: One-of-a-kind Set. This is a set of two medals; a Distinguished Flying Cross and am Air Medal with their original cases both engraved on the reverse side. The Air Medal reads:
GEORGE F. SCHANZ
APRIL 2, 1944
The DFC reds:
GEORGE F. SCHANZ
AUG - 4 - 1944
T/SGT George F. Schanz (ASN 32734263) was a radio operator and Air Gunner in the Ted D. Eriksen crew of the B-24 Liberator Hell's Belle which was assigned to the 839 Bomb Squadron, 487th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. In addition to his Air medal he was decorated with three Oak Leaf Clusters.
In addition to his medals is a research binder with photo copies and scans of original documents, photos, newspaper articles and research.
The 839 Bomb Squadron arrived at RAF Lavenham, its base in England, on 4 April 1944, with the air echelon arriving between 13 and 17 April. The 839th entered combat on 7 May 1944, bombing airfields in Normandy in preparation for Operation Overlord. During the landings, the squadron struck coastal defenses, road junctions, bridges and rolling stock. It supported British troops near Caen by attacking German troops and artillery redoubts and made similar attacks to support troops assaulting Brest. It provided support for Operation Market Garden, the attempt to seize bridgeheads across the Rhine River near Arnhem and Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Because of its involvement with tactical operations, the squadron engaged in only limited strategic operations through August 1944. On 19 July 1944, the squadron was taken off combat operations, along with other units of the 92d Combat Bombardment Wing, to convert from the Liberator to the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, in a move that would transform the 3d Bombardment Division to an all Flying Fortress organization. After completing the transition to the B-17 on 1 August 1944, the unit began to focus on strategic targets until March 1945. It attacked oil refineries in Merseburg, Mannheim and Dulmen; factories in Nuremberg, Hanover and Berlin; and marshalling yards in Köln, Münster, Hamm and Neumunster.
The squadron was diverted from the strategic bombing campaign to support ground troops during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. It also flew interdiction missions during the Allied crossings of the Rhine and final thrust across Germany It flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945.
The squadron remained in England after V-E Day. The air echelon began to fly their B-17s back to the United States in the last week of July, while the rest of the unit returned to the United States on the RMS Queen Elizabeth. It reassembled at Drew Field, Florida in September and was inactivated there on 7 November 1945.
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