12 AUG 1944 — Normandy, France
Francis Lee Hunt enlisted as a Private in the US Army Air Corps (ASN: 14020884) on 3 December 1940 at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island in Charleston, South Carolina. He was selected for the Aviation Cadet Program, and after earning his “wings” was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant (ASN: O-2045019).
Lt. Hunt was subsequently assigned to the 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium), which was activated on 17 July 1942 at MacDill Field, Florida. The 322nd Bomb Group was equipped with the Martin twin-engine B-26 Marauder medium bomber. The unit moved to the nearby satellite installation of Drane Field, Florida in late September 1942 and continued their pre-deployment training.
The 322nd BG ground echelon and maintenance troops sailed on the Queen Elizabeth from the Port of New York on the 24th of November; arriving in Greenock, Scotland on 30 November 1942.
Lt. Hunt was assigned to the 449th Bomb Squadron of the 322nd Bomb Group, and their air echelon began final out-processing for overseas deployment at Morrison Field, Florida in April 1943.
The 449th BS aircrew and aircraft deployed to the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) via the southern ferry route from Florida through Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar and Marrakech, with the last B-26 aircrew arriving in RAF Bury St. Edmunds (aka: RAF Rougham) in Suffolk, England on the 29th of May 1943.
On 13 May 1943, the 322nd Bomb Group was declared “combat operational” by Eighth Air Force.
On 14 May 1943, The 322nd BG launched the first combat mission flown in Europe by the B-26 during World War II, with a raid on the power plant at Ijunuiden, Holland.
On 20 May 1943, Lt. Col. Glenn Nye assumed command of 322nd Bomb Group to head what was to become the renowned: Nye's Annihilators.
On 12 June 1943, the unit moved to RAF Andrews Field (USAAF Station #485) in Essex, England.
On 16 October 1943, the 322nd Bomb Group was transferred from 8th Air Force control to: 9th Air Force, IX Bomber Command, 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium), 449th Bomb Squadron.
On 21 February 1944, the 322nd BG became one of the first groups in Ninth Air Force to be guided to its target by radar-equipped “pathfinder” aircraft, during a raid on Coxyde Airfield in Belgium.
On 24 February 1944, the bomb group took part in the attack on the German V-1 “buzz bomb” rocket bases.
In March 1944, his bomb group began to focus on transport links, attacking road and rail bridges and oil facilities as part of the build-up to D-Day.
On 6 June 1944 (D-Day), his bomb group attacked German gun batteries and coastal defenses. German fuel and ammo dumps, and transport links were the main targets during the fighting across Normandy, France.
In July 1944, the group took part in the fighting at the Battle of Caen and in the breakthrough at St Lo. These were key battles, since Hitler had heavily fortified these cities and demanded that they be held at all cost.
In August 1944, the 322nd BG supported the US Third Army during General Patton’s advance across France. On 12 August 1944, Lt. Hunt flew in the left seat as the Pilot aboard a B-26B bomber, nicknamed “Winnie Dee II” tail #41-31741, fuselage code: PN-N, on a mission to bombard enemy forces at Flers, France. On the inbound leg to the target area, his B-26 Marauder was hit with German anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), and crashed in the vicinity of the village of Saint Pierre du Regard, approximately 12 kilometers from Flers.
All 5 aircrew members were declared killed-in-action (KIA).
Note: The original “Winnie Dee” was another B-26 Marauder, tail #41-18150, which crashed on 10 April 1944 at Chimney Rock Mountain, in the Mourne Mountain Range of Northern Ireland.