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Our next port of call was Bovington. We were now in sight of the war. Bovington was near enough to London for us to see the flash and hear the boom of the Nazi bombs being dropped on the nightly bombing of that historic city. Each evening at the precise hour, illumination flares were dropped by Nazi planes over this military facility because it was the I.P. for their bombers to turn and make their bomb run on London. They certainly knew the Replacement Center was there because they made it light as day during the outer darkness of night. It was a naked feeling to stand in the bright light of the flares at night and watch the exhaust flames from enemy aircraft as they opened their bomb bays in preparation to bomb the heart of London. We were secure because we were not the target. The men, women and children of London were the targets of the Nazi bombs.

Most of our instructors were seasoned British airmen with literally hundreds of missions flown in bombers and fighters. Some had been shot down over enemy territory, had evaded capture and made their way back to England. Their experience made them valuable and respected instructors to teach the new combat crews the pitfalls of combat as well as teaching survival methods that were successful for them.

Up until then, we had been in a sort of euphoria that was bolstered by propaganda from home that we were dishing out a lot more punishment than we were having to take. Even then we believed that the Germans were losing scores of fighters for every one of our B-17s lost. It was here at Bovington that we began to get the disquieting news.

We were told about a so called hard-luck group called the “Bloody Hundredth” which was being continually wiped out. We watched planes come over daily headed north, same with props feathered, others trailing smoke. Some firing red-red flares to signify priority landing because of wounded aboard. One had half the horizontal stabilizer shot off and was still keeping its place in the formation.

The attrition that was taking place in the 8th Air Force resulting from deeper penetration into enemy territory and increased participation of greater numbers of our bombers and fighters had shortened our anticipated training period at Bovington.

I once asked one of the British instructors at Bovington if there might be a particular bomb group to avoid if possible. He thought about my question for a minute and finally told me that probably the 100th bomb group would be his choice to avoid if it were a matter of choice. His reasoning was that the 100th bomb group had recently become known as the “Bloody Hundredth” because of a history of excessive loss of planes and crews since their entry into combat with the Nazis.

Next...The Famous Bloody Hundredth Bomb Group


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