The Eighth Air Force – 493rd Bomb Group
Squadrons 860, 861, 862, 863 – Main Base of Operations
From this porch a flare arched in the morning, the signal to begin the mission takeoffs. From this same viewpoint at the day’s end, the planes were anxiously counted as they circled to land. Picture taken of Gordon Weir, Navigator.
The following text and Description by B-24 and B-17 Navigator Gordon Weir and applies to both B-24 and B-17 crews stationed at Debach. The base was Debach, Station 152, built in the fields outside the village. The runways, parking and storage areas, and the many Nissen huts and buildings were scattered over acres that had formerly produced grain. Not far from the base was the town of Woodbridge, about 5 miles to the southeast by road. Only 10 more miles south was the city of Ipswich. London was 60 miles farther. When we weren’t training we found time to explore London, Cambridge, Bury St. Edmonds, and Lavenham a picture of the Swan Hotel and bar is on this page. Crews stationed around this town often would visit the bar and inside the bar was wooden walls with carvings of Names of the crews, often their aircraft names, their base names and often a short message. I visited this Swan Hotel bar in the late 1980’s and met the daughter who was only a child during the war and her mother who worked and tended bar and served the crews and had fond things to say about the American boys. Dad had said that he had gone to the Swan Hotel often and signed the wall somewhere too. I could not find it as there was so many signing on the walls, ceiling and even the posts.
The large bulge of England northeast of London, East Anglia, comprising Norfolk and Suffolk Counties, was an immense aircraft carrier. East Anglia contained not only scores of fields housing bombers and fighters of the daylight flyers of the Eighth Air Force but also the fields of the night-flying large planes of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command.
Within a few days of our settling in at our new base, “Axis Sally”, a female radio announcer for the Nazis, broadcast a sneering welcome to the 493rd at Debach and promised us a warm reception over Fortress Europe. [Years later I read that British double agents supplied Axis Sally with innocuous tidbits such as our arrival in England. In this way the British lulled the Nazis into thinking they would get truly vital information from their spies. We have to thank many unknown people for keeping the time and objective of D-Day secret.]
In the weeks after arrival, all crews we were introduced to Eighth Air Force procedures. Dad also indicated that shortly after arrival the crews were sent aloft for training on forming up after takeoff with the squadrons and groups from other bases. Dad related a story, actually his Co-Pilot related the story that one of their first training flights included several hours of instrument flying so they found some cloud covering a portion of the area and proceeded to demonstrate their prowess on instuments in acutal instrucment conditions. After about an hour or so they proceeded to leave the clouds for clear sky only to be departing the clouds with some 10 P-51 fighters coming out of the same could cover. Luckily no disaster occured.
NOTES ON ORGANIZATION: A squadron would mount a formation of 13 aircraft; a group had 3 squadrons and would mount 39 aircraft; a wing had 3 groups; a division had a number of wings. The 1st and 3rd divisions were B-17s; the 2nd division was B-24s. Squadrons flew in a vee formation with the left one higher and the right one lower than the lead squadron. It was important to fly a tight formation for maximum protection from fighters, but a frontal attack with 20mm guns could be deadly. The normal B-17 crew was 11 men; lead crews usually carried more than that, what with Air Leaders, special navigators, and special bombardiers. Only the lead and deputy lead aircraft carried Norden bombsights; others toggled their bombs when they saw the lead ship drop its bombs. The 13th ship in a squadron was “tail-end Charlie,” a vulnerable position.
A GLOSSARY OF SORTS
Taken from another Navigators related pages. There were many abbreviations and technical terms.
5/10ths, etc. – fraction of cloud coverage
AFCE – anybody know?
A.F – airfield
Buncher – a beacon of known location
Chaff – aluminum foil to fool radar
CQ – Charge of Quarters, enlisted man who wakes you from a sound sleep
Engine # – Sit in the pilot’s seat and count engines from left to right.
Gee Box – Plot your position by homing on a network of beacons. Very accurate.
IP – Initial Point where you start your bomb run
Kts – Knots, nautical miles per hour
Micro-H – Electronic assistance on the bomb run, using beacon
MPI – main point of impact desired
NM – nautical miles
PFF – Pathfinder radar for bombing through overcast
Splasher – a beacon where you gather your squadrons and groups together
RP – rally point where you reassemble squadrons after the bomb run
T/O – take off
V-1 – German pilotless aircraft(“buzz bomb”) powered by ramjet, dived on signal from timer
V-2 – German ballistic rocket carrying a ton of explosives
Debach Air drome revisited by many who returned for the 50th Anniversary, the 60th Anniversary
Nose art of our Dad’s B-17 Aircraft
Plane name: Leading Lady
Inside the Control Tower
Stairs to top of Control Tower
Stairs to top of Control Tower
Inside the Control Tower
Corner view of Control Tower
Balcony of Control Tower
Debach Parachute Building
View of Fire Hut from Control Tower
View from top of Control Tower
War Ration Book
The Swan Hotel
493rd Bomb Group Logo