COMBAT CREW REPLACEMENT CENTER
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
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
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
Next...The Famous Bloody Hundredth
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