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1944/45 — Panatella Air Base, Italy.
465th Bomb Group (H) 15th Air Force History Italy 1944/45
The 465th Bomb Group was part of the
55th Wing of the 15th Air Force in Europe
The Group consisted of the
780th, 781st, 782nd and 783rd Bomb Squadrons
Flying B-24 Liberators out of Panatella Air Base, Italy.
European Theater of Operations
It was constituted as the 465th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 May 1943 and activated on 1 Aug 1943.
The Group prepared for duty overseas with B-24's and moved to the Mediterranean theater, Feb-Apr 1944; the air echelon received additional training in Tunisia before joining the ground echelon in Italy.
Assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force, the Group entered combat on 5 May 1944 until its last mission, 26 April 1945.
The primary mission of the group as part of the 15th AF was directed at accomplishing four main objectives throughout the war in Europe.
1) To destroy the German Air Force in the air and on the ground.
2) To participate in operation ‘Pointblank’ (code name for the Combined Bomber Offensive) which called for the destruction of German fighter aircraft plants, ball bearing and rubber plants as well as oil refineries, munitions factories and sub pens and bases.
3) To support the Battle of the Italian Offensive attacking communication targets in Italy along the Brenner Pass Route and in neighboring Austria
4) To weaken the German position in the Balkans.
As the war progressed more objectives were set for targets associated with preparing for the Invasion of Southern France which would take place on 15 August 1944.
Attacking marshalling yards, dock facilities, oil refineries, oil storage plants, aircraft factories, and other objectives in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans.
On two different missions - to marshalling yards and an oil refinery at Vienna on 8 Jul 1944 and to steel plants at Friedrichshafen on 3 Aug 1944 - the group bombed its targets despite antiaircraft fire and fighter opposition, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation
for each of these attacks.
Other operations included bombing troop concentrations and bivouac areas in May 1944 to aid the Partisans in Yugoslavia; attacking enemy troops and supply lines to assist the drive toward Rome, May-Jun 1944; striking bridges, rail lines, and gun emplacements prior to the invasion of Southern France in Aug 1944; bombing rail facilities and rolling stock in Oct 1944 to support the advance of Russian and Rumanian forces in the Balkans; and hitting troops, gun positions, bridges, and supply lines during Apr 1945 in support of Allied forces in northern Italy.
In the year the 465th was engaged in combat the Group successfully accomplished the mission assigned. It helped knock out Germany’s refineries, aircraft and monitions factories as well as shooting down a number of Nazi Fighters in the sky. It also participated in knocking out strategic gun positions in France paving the way for the invading US 7th Army.
Moved to the Caribbean area in Jun 1945
The Group was inactivated in Trinidad on 31 Jul 1945.
The 465th had helped to make history.
It had destroyed what it was designed to destroy, with skill and precision.
•In Combat from 5 May 1944 to 26 April 1945•
• Flew 191 Missions over Southern Europe
• Shot down or destroyed 97 German Aircraft.
• Dropped 10,528 Tons of Bombs
• Awarded two Presidential Citations for Bombing and Gunnery Accuracy
• Awarded eight Battle Stars for Air Offensive Campaigns
• Participated in the last Heavy Bomber raid over Nazi Germany in WWII
American Theater, Air Combat, EAME Theater, Air Offensive, Europe, Rome-Arno, Normandy, Northern France, Southern France, North Apennines, Rhineland, Central Europe, Po Valley,
Distinguished Unit Citations:
Vienna, Austria, 8 Jul 1944; Germany, 3 Aug 1944
The following is from the Commemorative Air Force website:
An ad from a magazine during WWII which advertises Nash-Kelvinator and their role in the manufacturing of ball turrets
"Flying Fortress crew members considered the ball turret the worst crew position on the aircraft. The confining sphere fastened to the underside of the aircraft required an agile occupant immune to claustrophobia and brave enough to be without a parachute close by.
The turret revolved a full 360 degrees, providing an extraordinary vantage point and covering the aircraft against attackers from below. Ironically, thought of as being the most dangerous position in a B-17, it turned out to be one of the safest-as far as suffering battle wounds. The gunner, curled up in the ball in a fetal position with his back against the armor plated door, had less of his body exposed to enemy fire than the other crew members.
The turret was stowed with the guns facing rearward for takeoff and landing. Once the aircraft was airborne, the turret would have to be cranked by hand to position the guns straight down, revolving the hatch inside the airplane. The ball gunner would then enter the turret, fasten his safety strap, turn on the power and operate the turret from inside.
The ball turret gunner would be hunched, legs bent, with his feet in stirrups on each side of the 13 inch diameter armored glass panel. His face was about 30 inches from this panel, and suspended in between was the optical display of the computing gun sight. A pedal under his left foot adjusted the red sight on this display and when a target framed within, the range was correct. While sighting, he would be looking directly between his knees. Two handles projected rearward above the sight and controlled movement of the turret. At the end of each handle was the firing button for both guns."
An Army Air Corps schematic of the Sperry Ball
456th Bomb Group Association
History File: The Stories of Bob Reichard
VIS ISLAND Location: Latitude 43° 10' N, Longitude 16° 8' E
This was our safe area. It was off the coast of Yugoslavia, in the Dalmatian Group. The mainland was occupied by the Germans in the latter part of 1944, but the Partisans controlled the Island. There was a 3500 foot crash strip. It was constructed of interlocking steel matting. There were about 10 or so Americans there. They were under a Captain Cader (correct spelling unknown) and he had a Sgt Zak as his noncom. Their purpose was to look after the crews; dead, injured, or healthy who sought refuge there. You had to cross the Adriatic Sea to get back to your home base in southern Italy if the target was in SE Europe. If the plane was damaged, the pilot had to assess the situation, and if there was the possibility of going down in the sea, you would head for Vis. Once there you had the choice of landing, if possible, or bailing out over the island or within sight of it. There were also some British troops there. Once there they tried to get you back to Italy as soon as possible.
TUESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 1944 – The day Harry was killed.
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Fifteenth Air Force):
330+ heavy bombers attack the oil refinery at Blechhammer S, Germany and the industrial area of Vienna, Austria, plus alternate targets and targets of opportunity including marshalling yards at Banhida, Nagykanizsa and Szombathely, Hungary; Strass and Graz, Austria; and Maribor, Yugoslavia, a railroad bridge at Maribor, a rail line at Furstenfeld, Austria, and targets of opportunity scattered throughout the Balkans. P-51s escort a C-47 picking up personnel at Valjevo Airfield, Yugoslavia, a B-17 carrying a photo crew to Rumania (to photograph Ploesti), and several C-47s transporting personnel to Araxos Airfield, Greece.
782nd BS,465th BG (H) 96th Mission: 17-Oct-44, Vienna, Austria, Industrial Area
Harry’s plane was called the Bar Fly (ASN# 35419066) Buried at the US Military Cemetery in Nettuno (Anzio) Italy, Plot E, Row 5, Grave 18.