303d Bombardment Group: Wikis


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303d Bombardment Group
World War II emblem of the 303d Bombardment Group
Active 1942-1945; 1947-1948; 1951-1952
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Aircraft and ground crew of Boeing B-17F-25-BO Fortress "Hell's Angels" (41-24577) of the 358th Bomb Squadron, 303d Bomb Group, RAF Molesworth. This was first aircraft to complete 25 combat missions in the 8th Air Force, on 13 May 1943. After completing 48 missions, the aircraft returned to the U.S. on 20 January 1944, for a publicity tour.[1][2]

The 303d Bombardment Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was to the 303d Bombardment Wing, being stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. It was inactivated on 16 June 1952

During World War II, the group was one of the first VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress units in England. The "Hell's Angels" were the first B-17 group to complete 25 combat missions in June 1943, going on to fly more than 300 combat missions, more than any other group. The 359th BS B-17F 41-24605 "Knock-out Dropper" was the first aircraft in Eighth Air Force to complete 50, then 75 missions.



For additional history and lineage, see 303d Aeronautical Systems Wing


  • Constituted as 303d Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942
Activated on 3 Feb 1942
Inactivated on 25 Jul 1945.
  • Redesignated 303d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), on 1 Jul 1947
Activated in the US on 1 Jul 1947
Inactivated on 6 Sep 1948.
  • Redesignated 303d Bombardment Group (Medium), on 4 Sep 1951
Activated on 4 Sep 1951
Inactivated on 16 Jun 1952


Attached to: 102d Provisional Combat Bombardment Wing, Feb 1943
Attached to: 103d Provisional Combat Bombardment Wing, May 1943


  • 31st Reconnaissance Squadron, 3 Feb-16 Mar 1942
  • 358th Bombardment Squadron (VK), 3 Feb 1942-25 Jul 1945; 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948; 4 Sep 1951-16 Jun 1952
  • 359th Bombardment Squadron (BN), 3 Feb 1942-25 Jul 1945; 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948; 4 Sep 1951-16 Jun 1952
  • 360th Bombardment Squadron (PU), 3 Feb 1942-25 Jul 1945; 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948; 4 Sep 1951-16 Jun 1952
  • 427th Bombardment Squadron (GN), 13 Mar 1942-25 Jul 1945


Aircraft assigned

Douglas-Long Beach B-17G-25-DL Fortress 42-38050 359th Bomb Squadron "Thunderbird" (BU-U). Photo probably taken at Kingman AAF, Arizona, prior to its disposal as the chin, top and ball turret are removed, as well as the tail and waist guns.

Operational History

World War II

Emblem of the 303d Bomb Group

The 303rd Bombardment Group (H) was constituted on 28 January 1942 at Savannah, Georgia, was activated at Pendleton Field, Pendleton, Oregon, on 3 February 1942, and received its initial staff and training at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho on 13 February 1942. Training for its combat missions took place at Alamogordo Air Base, New Mexico and Biggs Field, Texas. On 23 August 1942, the ground echelon moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to board the Queen Mary for overseas deployment. They arrived at Molesworth, England, on 9 September 1942. The air echelon arrived in late October and the stage was set for entrance into combat.

The 358th flew the first mission for the group on 17 November 1942. The group would become one of the legendary units of the Eighth Air Force. Initially missions were conducted against targets such as aerodromes, railways, and submarine pens in France until 1943, then flying missions into Germany itself.

The 303d took part in the first penetration into Germany by heavy bombers of Eighth Air Force by striking the U-boat yard at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943 then attacked other targets such as the ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, shipbuilding yards at Bremen, a synthetic rubber plant at Huls, an aircraft engine factory at Hamburg, industrial areas of Frankfurt, an aerodrome at Villacoublay, and a marshalling yard at Le Mans.

The 303d received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an operation on 11 January 1944 when, in spite of continuous attacks by enemy fighters in weather that prevented effective fighter cover from reaching the group, it successfully struck an aircraft assembly plant at Oschersleben.

The group attacked gun emplacements and bridges in the Pas de Calais area during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944; bombed enemy troops to support the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July 1944. It struck airfields, oil depots, and other targets during the Battle of the Bulge, and bombed military installations in the Wesel area to aid the Allied assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The last mission for the 303d was flown on 25 April 1945 when it attacked an armament works in Pilsen. During its combat tour the group flew 364 missions comprising 10,271 sorties, dropped 26,346 tons of bombs and shot down 378 enemy aircraft with another 104 probables. The group also saw 817 of its men killed in action with another 754 becoming prisoners of war.

On 31 May 1945, the 303d Bomb Group left Molesworth, moving to Casablanca, French Morocco.

Wulf Hound

On 12 December 1942, the 303rd's Wulf Hound became the first B-17 to be captured intact by the Luftwaffe.[3]. During a raid on the marshalling yards in Rouen-Sotterville, Wulf Hound was damaged and began losing altitude. Over the Netherlands it was intercepted by a Messerschmitt Bf 110. Deciding that their only chance for survival was surrender, the pilot lowered the wheels on the bomber and it was escorted to Leeuwarden airfield. The B-17 was subsequently studied intensely by the Germans who used this information to refine their tactics for attacking B-17 bomber formations. After flight testing at Rechlin, it was used for demonstration visits to Luftwaffe Jagdgruppen as DL+XC, before being assigned to I./KG200 in September 1943 as A3+AE.[3] The final fate of Wulf Hound is unknown.

Strategic Air Command

Activated in the US on 1 Jul 1947. Assigned to Strategic Air Command. There is no evidence that the group was manned during 1947 and 1948. Inactivated on 6 Sep 1948. Activated on 4 Sep 1951. Assigned to Strategic Air Command and equipped with B-29s. Squadrons assigned directly to 303d Bombardment Wing as part of the Air Force tri-deputate reorganization, and the group was inactivated on 16 June 1952.


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. ^ Bishop, Cliff T. (1986). Fortresses of the Big Triangle First, East Anglia Books. ISBN 1-869987-00-4, pp.160, 236.
  2. ^ "Hells Angels vs. Memphis Belle, Historical Information" (PDF). 303rd Bomb Group Association. http://www.303rdbg.com/missionreports/ha-vs-mb.pdf. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  3. ^ a b Stabfer, Hans-Heiri (1988). Strangers in a Strange Land. Squadron Signal Publications. 
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Flemming, Samuel P., as told to Ed Y. Young. Flying with the Hell's Angels. Spartanburg, South Carolina: Honoribus Press, 1991.
  • Freeny, William A. (ed). The First 300 Hell's Angels, 303rd Bombardment Group (H). United States Army Air Forces. London: B. T. Batsford, 1944.
  • Gobrecht, Harry D. Might in Flight: Daily Diary of the Eighth Air Force's Hell's Angels 303rd Bombardment Group (H). San Clemente, California: 303rd Bombardment Group (H) Association, 1993 (second edition 1997).
  • O'Neill, Brian D. Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer: B-17s Over Germany. Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania: Aero Publishers, 1989.
  • O'Neill, Brian D. 303rd Bombardment Group. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 1-84176-537-6.
  • Rawlings, Barney. Off We Went, Into the Wild Blue Yonder: The Story of a Flying Fortress Crew in World War II. Washington, North Carolina: Morgan Printers, 1994.
  • Smart, Valerie. The Original Hell's Angels: The 303rd Bombardment Group of World War II. Exeter, Devon, UK: Arcadia Publishing Ltd., 2001. ISBN 0-73850-910-8.
  • Smith, Ben Jr. Chick's Crew: A Tale of the Eighth Air Force. Waycross, Georgia: Yarbrough Brothers, 1978.

External links


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