B-17 wing panel to be enshrined at Hill

Apr 4 2014 - 12:12pm

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​B-17 PANEL 01: Pictured is a panel from the wing of a B-17 Bomber that flew combat missions over Europe during World War II. The 384th Bomber Group Next Generation Association has taken the panel across the country, trying to get signatures from the few surviving veterans from the original 384th Bomber Group. The panel is scheduled to arrive this week at the Hill Aerospace Museum, where it will be permanently displayed. (Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (Courtesy photo)
​B-17 PANEL 01: Pictured is a panel from the wing of a B-17 Bomber that flew combat missions over Europe during World War II. The 384th Bomber Group Next Generation Association has taken the panel across the country, trying to get signatures from the few surviving veterans from the original 384th Bomber Group. The panel is scheduled to arrive this week at the Hill Aerospace Museum, where it will be permanently displayed. (Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (Courtesy photo)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- This week, after a long trip around the country, an important piece of World War II history will arrive at Hill Air Force Base.

On Thursday, a wing panel from an old B-17 bomber will arrive at the Hill Aerospace Museum, where it will be displayed in the museum's gallery.

The panel is no ordinary piece of metal. It comes from the fuel tank of a bomber that was flown in combat missions over Europe during World War II. 

The plane itself was flown by the 384th Bombardment Group, which flew out of England from 1943 to 1945. As for the panel, a group called the 384th Bomber Group Next Generation has been taking it across the country for the past several years, trying to track down the few surviving members of the original bomb group in an attempt to get their signatures on what they call "a historical document."

"This panel has been all over the place," said Roy resident Amy Meighan, a member of the Next Generation Group, which is an organization made up of descendants of veterans of the original bomber group. "We're hoping once it comes to the museum, we can get more people to see it and sign it."

Meighan said any person who served in the 384th Bomb Group during the years of 1943 to 1946 is eligible to sign the panel.

"A lot of these guys are hard to find," she said. "But we want everyone who was a part of this to have the opportunity to sign."

The 384th has strong ties to Utah and Hill.

According to a fact sheet from Hill's online library, the 384th was activated on December 1, 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho, then a month later the group was assigned to Wendover Field, Utah, where members began training for combat in the European Theater of Operations.

At Wendover, the unit underwent rigorous training in formation flying, ordnance loading, gunnery, bombing, and all aspects of aircraft maintenance.

In 1943, when the group originally began operations in England, it had 36 bombers.

During the war, the unit's primary function was to bomb airfields and industries in France, Germany, and surrounding Nazi-occupied areas.

Their first combat mission was flown on June 22, 1943, when they bombed automobile parts warehouses in Antwerp, Belgium. This first mission claimed two of the unit's B-17s and their aircrews and by the time their sixth mission was completed the 384th had lost 35 of its original 36 aircraft.

As replacements came in and the unit regrouped, they eventually supported the Normandy invasion and several other important airborne assaults.

According to Hill's library, the group flew 9,348 combat sorties in 316 missions, dropping 22,416 tons of bombs on enemy targets. The unit lost 159 aircraft and 1,625 men in combat, while destroying 165 enemy airplanes and seriously damaging 116 others.

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