379th Memorials




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Carl C. Hathaway, 1st Pilot, 379th BG, 524th Squadron

Yes, the end-result is that our crew completed 33 missions in the B-17 with the magnificent 379th Bomb Group but it did not start out that way. So what is new about the army's way of doing things?

We did, in fact, train as a B-24 crew which came together at Westover Field, Ma. in late Sept, 1944 and immediately banded together as a family. We were ten young men, all from different states; TX, PA, LA, KY, MT, MN, MA, IL, NY, and OK, destined to spend an unknown period of time with each other in situations where our very lives would depend upon each other.

Our overseas training was at Chatham Field (now Savannah municipal airport) in Savannah GA. We knew we were ultimately heading into combat overseas but knew not where. Our bombardier, Tom Shively did not accompany us overseas. Mass pattern bombing had become the desired method and a bombardier was not needed on every plane. Tom remained stateside to train other bombardiers and was the only one of our crew that followed a military career. He never had the privilege of flying with the 379th!! From Savannah we reported to Mitchell Field, NY to await further assignment. After one week of weather delays at Mitchell, we finally got our orders. England it would be, with stops at Bangor Maine, Goose Bay, Labrador, Reykjavik, Iceland and the final destination at Valley Wales. Then on to the replacement center at Stone England on Nov. 22 1944.

I suppose all crews went through Stone England, both entering and leaving England. It was a period of extreme anxiety when entering and extreme excitement when leaving. Our entire group of 30 plus B-24 crews were suddenly mixed with air crews of all descriptions. Those entering, with no idea as to what to expect and those leaving, having completed their required tour and probably thinking, "you innocent devils, I survived my tour, now it's your turn." Those 6 days spent at Stone were extremely enjoyable, as well as educational. It was truly our first experience with an "Airman's Melting pot".

On Nov. 28, 1944, we left Stone to report to our newly assigned base, the 379th Heavy Bomb Group, located at Kimbolton England. The short trip was by rail and upon alighting from the compartment in our rail car this B-24 crew observed NOTHING but B-17s in all directions. In astonishment, we immediately looked at each other and said, "What the hell are we doing here!" We double-checked our written orders and we were at the correct destination. We immediately reported to the officer in charge, presented him with our official transfer papers, watched him go over them, then turn to us with eyes as big as saucers and exclaim, "What the hell are you guys doing here-you are a B-24 crew - this is a B-17 outfit”. Our instant reply was, "sir, that's what we would like to know. We too are dumbfounded!" His reply was, "0K, I'll put you up for the night and call Pinetree (code name for headquarters in London) to see what the hell I'm supposed to do with you and will see you here tomorrow morning at 09:00." Confused?, scared?, excited?, full of anticipation? YES, all of the above!! Here we were, finally ready for combat after hundreds of hours in training, and the authorities don't even know what to do with us!!!!! Good grief, what now??

09:00 AM, following morning, we report to the officer in charge who reports to us, "Pinetree advises me that I am supposed to keep you, train you, and use you as a B-17 combat crew, which we need more than the B-24 groups do. They tell me you are " quite adaptable and we can train you readily." (We were one of five crews assigned to the 379th that particular day but I think that we were the only B-24 crew involved.) In the mighty 8th Air Force the 1st and 3rd divisions were B-17s and the 2nd division was B-24s - hence-twice as many B-17 crews were needed as compared to B-24 crews. We wondered at the time: "Do they really mean "ADAPTABLE or EXPENDABLE.” We later found that it was a genuine compliment that they considered our crew capable of being readily adaptable to unusual situations as needed.

After approximately 6 hours training as co-pilot while slow-timing newly installed engines and 2 missions as co-pilot, all with pilot Garner Brown, (Re: Group mission # 248 and 252) I was pronounced ready to go as first pilot. The rest of the crew also received a very short indoctrination in the B-17 and was pronounced as ready. As shocking and traumatic as it was at the time, we all later admitted that it was a good transfer. We successfully completed 33 missions and returned home in one piece.

The B-17 is a more "forgiving" aircraft and is truly capable of "coming in on a wing and a prayer" when the B-24 could not have done so! However, I am most grateful to have had the unusual privilege of piloting BOTH of these fine bombers.

Carl C. Hathaway, 1st Pilot, 379th BG, 524th Squadron




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