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Royal Air Force Station Knettishall
USAAF Station 136

Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Patch 8thUSAAF.png

Located Near Thetford, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Aerial Photo of Knettishall Airfield - 12 May 1951
Type Military Airfield
Coordinates 52°22′26″N 000°52′41″E / 52.37389°N 0.87806°E / 52.37389; 0.87806
Location code KN
Built 1942
In use 1943-1957
Controlled by United States Army Air Forces
Garrison Eighth Air Force
Occupants 388th Bombardment Group
Battles/wars European Theatre of World War II
Air Offensive, Europe July 1942 - May 1945
RAF Knettishall is located in Suffolk
Map showing the location of RAF Knettishall within Suffolk.

RAF Knettishall is a former World War II airfield in England. The field is located 6 miles SE of Thetford in Suffolk between the villages of Knettishall and Coney Weston, which lies to the south. This location is on the southern side of the Little Ouse Valley and bordering the area of heath and forest known as the Breckland.



Knettishall was built for United States Army Air Force Eighth Air Force use during 1942/1943 by W. & C. French Ltd. It was a late-design, heavy bomber airfield to Class A specification, and had the standard fifty-yard-wide concrete runways, the main being 6,000 feet long and the two intersecting secondary runways of 4,200 feet each in length, with an encircling perimeter track. There were fifty hardstands, two T2-type hangars and full technical services. Mark II airfield lighting permitted night flying.

Accommodation - largely Nissen huts - was provided in some dozen dispersed sites to the south of the flying airfield in the village of Coney Weston. The bomb store was situated on the far side of the field in a wood near Knettishall village.


Knettishall was one of several stations in East Anglia which was associated with a single Eighth Air Force unit for the whole of its operational period. It was assigned USAAF designation Station 136.[1]


388th Bombardment Group (Heavy)

The airfield was opened on 10 June 1943 and was used by the USAAF 388th Bombardment Group (Heavy). The 388th arrived from Wendover AAF Utah and was assigned to the 45th Combat Bombardment Wing. Its group tail code was a "Square-H". Its operational squadrons were:

The group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign.

Boeing B-17F-90-BO Fortress Serial 42-30793[2][3] "Tom Paine" of the 388th Bomb Group. The group staff knew that nearby Thetford was the birthplace of Thomas Paine and decided to name the newly-arrived aircraft "Tom Paine" in his honour.

The 388th BG began combat operations on 17 July 1943 by attacking an aircraft factory in Amsterdam. The unit functioned primarily as a strategic bombardment Organization until the war ended. Targets included industries, naval installations, oil storage plants, refineries, and communications centers in Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Norway, Romania and Holland.

The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for withstanding heavy opposition to bomb a vital aircraft factory at Regensburg on 1 August 1943. The 388th received another DUC for three outstanding missions: an attack against a tire and rubber factory in Hanover on 26 July 1943; the bombardment of a synthetic oil refinery in Brux on 12 May 1944; and a strike against a synthetic oil refinery at Ruhland on 21 June 1944, during a shuttle raid from England to the Soviet Union.

The unit attacked many other significant targets, including aircraft factories in Kassel, Reims, and Brunswick; airfields in Bordeaux, Paris, and Berlin; naval works at La Pallice, Emden, and Kiel; chemical industries in Ludwigshafen; ball-bearing plants in Schweinfurt; and marshalling yards in Brussels, Osnabrück, and Bielefeld. Operations also included support and interdictory missions. Helped prepare for the invasion of Normandy by attacking military installations in France, and on D-Day struck coastal guns, field batteries, and transportation. Continued to support ground forces during the campaign that followed, hitting such objectives as supply depots and troop concentrations. Bombed in support of ground forces at Saint-Lô in July 1944 and at Caen in August. Covered the airborne assault on Holland in September 1944 by attacking military installations and airfields at Arnheim. Aided the final drive through Germany during the early months of 1945 by striking targets such as marshalling yards, rail bridges, and road junctions.

Altogether the 388th flew 331 raids to European targets including nineteen Operation Aphrodite missions from nearby RAF Fersfield. After V-E Day, the group flew food to Holland to relieve flood-stricken areas.

The 388th returned to Sioux Falls AAF South Dakota and was inactivated on 28 August 1945.


The 388th was a United States Air Force front-line Tactical Air Command wing under various designations during the Cold War. Upon activation in 1953, the 388th Fighter-Day Wing was bestowed the lineage, legacy and honors of the USAAF World War II 388th Bomb Group.

As a NATO fighter wing as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe during the 1950s, the 388th Tactical Figher Wing served at Etain-Rouvres Air Base, France. Later, at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, the 388th TFW was a major tactical air unit during the Vietnam War. In the post-Vietnam era, the 388th was the first TAC wing to be operationally equipped with the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter in 1979 at Hill AFB Utah. Squadrons of the 388th took part combat operations during Operation Desert Storm during 1991.

Today in the post-Cold War era, the 388th Fighter Wing is a major component of Air Combat Command's Twelfth Air Force (Air Forces Southern) and continues to stand on active duty over 50 years after its activation.

Postwar military use

After the war, Knettishall was placed in the hands of a Royal Air Force holding group. Between 1946 and late 1948 it was used by the Army as the base of the Depot Battalion, Royal Army Service Corps (RASC). The various sections were scattered about in the buildings of the airfield. The Depot Battalion was a transit organisation of the RASC for movements around the world. There was a permanent staff and always good cricket and football teams.

The station was declared surplus to requirements on 22 February 1957 and was sold.

Civil use

With the end of military control, the runways and many of the buildings were broken up or demolished in the late 1950s.

Today little is left of Knettishall airfield. A few single-lane farm roads are all that remains of the runways and taxiways, along with a handful of wartime buildings in various states of deterioration. An eight hundred metre grass airstrip has been constructed, adjacent to, and north of the line of the old east/west runway. Three small hangars house around six light aircraft. On a double loop hardstand to the west of the airfield three nissen-type huts and an old T-2 wartime hangar provides warehouse, storage and office space.


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


  1. ^ "Knettishall Airfield Station 136". Mighty 8th Cross-Reference. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  2. ^ "USAAF Serial Numbers (42-30032 to 42-39757)". Encyclopedia of American Aircraft. Joseph F. Baugher. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  3. ^ "Aircraft Index". 388th Bomb Group Database. Retrieved 2008-01-06. 


  • Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913096
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth: The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Singer, Richard L (2001) 388th Anthology: Tales of the 388th Bombardment Group 1942-45. ISBN 0595195512 (Vol I) ISBN 0595187587 (Vol II)

External links


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