On This Day…March 6th
Croydon Aerodrome, England, March 6th, 1940.
Wildcat aboard Long Island (CVE-1) ready for launching, off Viti Levu, Fiji Islands, 6th March, 1943.
Great modeler’s photo of Covenanter tanks on the side of a road during Exercise Spartan (D-Day tests and practise), Britain, March 6th, 1943.
Gunner’s Mate (Carrick N. Thomas) passee a clip of four 40mm rounds through a hatch in a munitions handling room of USS Alaska (CB-1) off Iwo Jima on the 6th March, 1945.
Crew of USS Oriskany (CV-34) fighting a fire caused by a F4U-4 Corsair landing accident, off Korea, March 6th, 1953.
The figures are just horrific. The Eighth Air Force lost over 26,000 men to WWII and the ‘Bloody 100th’ (the 100th Bomb Group, based in Thorpe Abbots, East England) bore a staggering 785 of those losses. And on 6th March, 1945, the ‘Bloody 100’ was to have it’s worst day.
On ‘Black Monday’ the Eighth Air Force sent just about every available aircraft in the east of England to Berlin. In total, 814 heavy bombers and 944 fighters took to the air on that March day.
The attacking formation was made up of three distinct groups, the First and Third Air Divisions in the lead (flying B-17s) followed by the Second Air Division in B-24s. Due to weather conditions, navigational errors, and communication problems, the organisation of the group, typical for these huge formations, was chaotic.
Due to the lead navigator in the First Division not correcting for cross winds, both First and Third Divisions drifted ever south of target while Second Division were headed for Berlin (and around a thousand now alerted Luftwaffe fighters) with the ‘Bloody 100th’ in the vanguard.
There had been some talk (then and after) that the Luftwaffe had a vendetta against the 100th because of a “wheels down” (signalling surrender) incident involving a crippled B-17 in enemy territory that subsequently started firing at it’s German fighter escorts. This story gained the level of myth where crews started to feel marked. Not surprising when you see the statistics.
All told, the 100th lost 15 of their 16 aircraft that day, a catastrophic blow to the group and one that nearly saw their end. One can only imagine the crews in Thorpe Abbots waiting for colleagues and friends to return but facing nothing but empty skies.
To this day, however, the 100th is the only air group in existence that still used their WWII tail sign designation on their aircraft, the ‘Square D’.
A heartfelt salute not only to those on March 6th, but all 8th Air Force crews who did not return…
“Miss Donna Mae II”