Wednesday, March 30, 2011

December 30, 1943 Mission Board

On December 22, 1943, squadron leaders of the 359th Fighter Group complained that it was impossible to distinguish Beesnest (the 368th Fighter Squadron's call sign) from Weelass (the 370th Fighter Squadron’s call sign). Wing was asked to effect a change and new names, Jackson (368th) and Wheeler (370th) were assigned for use beginning January 4th, 1944.

The lower bottom right corner of this board shows that the 368th was using the call sign Beesnest, the 369th Tiretread, and the 370th Weelass, therefore this mission had to have been flown prior to January 4th.

The 359th command detachment flew its first combat mission from Duxford on December 11th, so this board (shown in its entirety on last week's blog) would represent a mission flown from East Wretham between December 12th and January 4th. The board references a set course time of 1109.

The Group’s first mission was flown December 13, 1943. Field Order 200 arrived in the intelligence teletype room at 1155, after the board’s noted set course time of 1109. The FO for the 14th was cancelled and there was no FO for the 15th. The 16th’s FO, which was scrubbed, scheduled take off for 1225, again, not matching the board.

On the 20th, 59 airplanes were up at 1000, preceding the noted board times, and top cover flew at 32,000 feet, not 25,000 feet. Major Richmond led a sweep over France from 1052 to 1255 on December 21st and the December 22nd FO 207 resulted in a penetration support from 1218 to 1436.

On the 23rd the 359th was assigned to shepherd B-24s on a training mission over northern East Anglia and on the 24th, the 359th patrolled its assigned area at 14,000 feet, well below the 25,000 feet noted on the board.

Under FO 210, December 30th, the 359th flew 81 minutes in enemy territory since the bombers, apparently flying tighter formations than expected, were nowhere to be seen when the rendezvous was reached on course and on time. Howard states in his diary that on December 30th the 359th escorted a combat wing over northern France at 25,000 feet and that take off was at 1100 – this coordinates with the information on the board.

The year’s last mission, FO 211 was uneventful, with R/V at 24,000 feet at 1120, and there were no missions January 1st through the 3rd. On the 4th, the new call signs were used.

We therefore believe this photograph was taken on December 30th and the board details the mission flown under Field Order 210.

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The photo above is a close-up of a portion of the photo shown on last week's blog: The original Briefing Room (or War Room) at East Wretham Airfield. Courtesy of Thornton B. Stearns: Archived by Char Baldridge, Historian, 359th Fighter Group Association.

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