The History of the 401st.

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Personal Accounts - Personal accounts shared by our veterans. Aircraft - Aircraft of the 401st, those who flew them and the missions they've flown. Combat Crews - Combat Crews listed by Pilot. Leaders - Those who led the organization during the war. Missions - The Missions the 401st participated on. Servicemen - All who flew for the 401st listed alphabetically.  

Accomplishments

  • Two Distinguished Unit Citations
  • Best bombing accuracy record among B-17 groups in the Eighth Air Force
  • Second lowest loss ratio among B-17 groups in the Eighth Air Force
  • First group in the ETO to complete 100 combat missions in seven months
  • Combat missions: 254
  • Accredited sorties: 7,413
  • Percentage of aircraft available for each mission: 95.6%
  • Aircraft lost on operational missions: 94
  • Aircraft returning with battle damage: 1,872
  • Total personnel entering enemy territory: 69,910
  • Total battle casualties (KIA, MIA, wounded): 1,078
  • Tons of bombs dropped (all targets): 17,784
  • Rounds of ammunition fired: 916,920
  • Enemy aircraft claimed (confirmed): 193
  • Individual awards and decorations: 11,884

Elements

401st Shield
Bomb Group Insignia.
612th SC
612th Squadron (SC)
613th IN
613th Squadron (IN)
614th IW
614th Squadron (IW)
615th IY
615th Squadron (IY)

Support Units at Station 128

  • 450th Sub Depot
  • 78th Station Complement
  • 379th Service Squadron
  • 861st Chemical Company
  • 1597th Ordnance Supply and Maintenance Company
  • 1199th Military Police Company - Photo
  • 1209th Quartermaster Service Group
  • 2966th Finance Detachment
  • 860th Chemical Company
  • 18th Weather Detachment

Chronology

Date Event
18 October 1943 The Group departed Great Falls for the England. The ground echelon went by way of Camp Shanks, New York, then (in the dead of night) to New York City where they boarded the Queen Mary, and arrived at the Firth of Clyde on 2 November.

The air echelon flew various routes, typical of which was by way of Scott Field, on to Goose Bay, Labrador, followed by Meeks Field, Iceland, and finally to Prestwick, Scotland.
26 November 1943 First combat mission - target Bremen, Germany. Colonel Bowman commanded the 401st in the lead aircraft. In terms of numbers, this was the largest mission the Eighth Air Force had thus far sent to Germany.
1 December 1943 Second combat mission, led by Lt. Colonel Harris E. Rogner, Deputy Group Commander. The Group received credit for downing its first enemy aircraft.
5 December 1943 B-17 piloted by Lt. Walter B. Keith crashed on take-off into the Village of Deenethorpe. All members of the crew escaped from the airplane and alerted residents of Deenethorpe before the plane exploded. Although most of the buildings in the village were severely damaged, no lives were lost.
20 December 1943 The Group formally assumes control of Station 128, which was previously an RAF training base. (Photograph)
24 December 1943 Enlisted men at the base entertained 650 English children at a Christmas party in the mess halls, with plenty to eat!
30 December 1943 The Group suffered its first loss of a crew, that of Lt. Trian Neag, on a mission to Ludwigshaven.
31 December 1943 Two 401st aircraft were lost in an attack on Cognac Airdrome, Lt. Colonel I. W. Eveland, commander of the 614th Squadron, parachuted safely and subsequently escaped from France by walking over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.
January 1944 The Group was commended by the Commanding General of the 94th Combat Wing for the accuracy of its bombing and its efficiency in adapting to Eighth Air Force procedures.
11 January 1944 The 401st led the combat wing on what has been termed Òthe greatest air battle of WW IIÓ. The Group encountered fierce enemy aircraft resistance, in which it was supported by Colonel James Howard, a P-51 pilot, who single-handedly fought off 30 Nazi fighters, destroying four, and for which he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. For this mission, the First Air Division, including the 401st, received the Presidential Citation.
20 February 1944 For its performance on a mission to Leipzig, the Group was singled out for the award of its second Presidential Citation.
6 March 1944 The 401st flew its first mission to Berlin, led by Lt. Colonel Edwin Brown, followed by its second mission to Berlin two days later, led by Lt. Colonel D. E. Silver.
1 April 1944 The Group celebrated its first anniversary at a banquet attended by the Commanding Generals of the 1st Air Division and the 94th Combat Wing. A musical revue, ÒYou CanÕt Miss ItÓ, was staged and produced by members of the 401st.
13 April 1944 The Group, led by Lt. Colonel D.E.Silver, participated in the costly raid on the ball bearing works at Schweinfurt, losing two crews.
24 May 1944 After bombing Berlin, Lt. John S. WhitemanÕs crew crash landed in Denmark, where they ÒprocuredÓ some boats, rowed to Sweden and eventually returned safely to England.
28 May 1944 On a mission to Dessau, the Group suffered its heaviest loss on a single mission. The 401st was singled out for attack by 200 enemy aircraft and as a result lost six crews, while a seventh ditched in the English Channel.
June 1944 During June the 401st was recognized as having set a new record for bombing accuracy among all groups in the Eighth Air Force, having placed 73 percent of all bombs within 1,000 feet and 96 percent within 2,000 feet of the aiming point.
6 June 1944 The Group participated in the massive Eighth Air Force effort to support the D Day landing in Normandy
12 June 1944 A defective fragmentation bomb being unloaded by the armament section of the 614th Squadron exploded, killing seven men and badly injuring eleven others.
25 June 1944 The Group completed its 100th mission, which was celebrated the following day by a hanger party featuring beer and hot dogs. The Group was commended by the Commanding General of the 1st Air Division for being the first Group in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) to complete 100 missions within seven months. (Photograph)
8 August 1944 On a mission to the Caen area, the lead aircraft of the 401st was shot down. While five members of the crew bailed out, the ball turret gunner was unable to extricate himself, and because of a pre-arranged pact, four members of the crew crashed with the ship in what was one of the strongest bonds of friendship ever recorded in the ETO.
28 September 1944 The Group completed its 150th mission.
September 1944 The 401st Fliers, the GroupÕs crack softball team, won the American Red Cross invitational meet at Northampton and were generally regarded as ETO champions.
15 November 1944 The Group celebrated its first year of operations, during which it flew 172 missions, the 172nd being to Merseburg.
5 December 1944 Colonel Bowman was called to Headquarters of the United States Air Force in Europe as Deputy Chief of Staff to General Carl Spaatz and was succeeded as group commander by Colonel William T. Seawell, the Deputy Commanding Officer.
19-26 December 1944 During what became known as the " ÒBattle of the BulgeÓ, the Group flew a mission to Schleiden, after which the entire group was diverted to an RAF airbase near LandÕs End in southwestern England because of dense fog at Deenethorpe. The Group flew another mission from that point but was again diverted upon returning to England. Not until December 26, an absence of a week for 32 crews, did all airplanes return to Deenethorpe.
28 January 1945 For its 200th mission, the Group flew to Cologne, led by Lt. Colonel William C. Garland. During January, the 401st completed 30 consecutive missions without loss of a crew.
1 February 1945 A party in the form of a carnival-circus was held in Hanger No. 1 to celebrate the 200th mission. Among the guests were Lt. General James H. Doolittle, Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force, and the commanding generals of the 1st Air Division and 94th Combat Wing
February 1945 The Group closed the month by flying thirteen consecutive missions in thirteen days.
March 1945 A new record of twenty-two missions in a month was set, which included 754 sorties. During the month the Group encountered its first Nazi jet fighters.
20 April 1945 The 401st flew its 254th and last mission, targeting Brandenberg. The Group received the 94th Combat Wing Best Bombing Plaque for its record in March.
8 May 1945 VE Day meant the end of hostilities in Europe and a permanent stand-down of the 401st Bomb Group, which was celebrated by a huge fireworks display. Formal ceremonies were held the following day.
May 1945 The Group flew three low level flights over the Ruhr Valley for ground personnel to enable them to observe the results of aerial bombing. Also, the 401st made four trips to Linz, Austria, to evacuate French and British prisoners of war.
15 May 1945 A Field Order was received stating that the 401st was to be moved immediately to the United States.
30 May 1945 The first of 78 aircraft, piloted by Colonel Seawell, departed from Deenethorpe for the United States, landing at Valley in Wales, Iceland and Goose Bay, Labrador, before touching down at Bradley Field, Massachusetts.
20 June 1945 A series of trains loaded with ground personnel departed from Geddington Station for Gurock, Scotland, where they boarded the Queen Elizabeth for the voyage home, leaving the Firth of Clyde on 25 June.
29 June 1945 The Queen Elizabeth docked in New York harbor to receive the greatest welcome ever extended to any ship in the history of the city.
July 1945 After thirty days leave, members of the Group reported to the air base at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where it was announced that the 401st, like other Eighth Air Force units, was to be deactivated. Members were assigned to new B-29 groups formed for the war against Japan or were held at Sioux Falls awaiting new orders.
2 September 1945 The surrender of Japan

Adapted from History of the 401st Bombardment Group (H) by Gordon R. Closway, 401st Group Public Relations Officer