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303d Bombardment Group

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Title: 303d Bombardment Group  
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Subject: VIII Bomber Command, 303d Aeronautical Systems Wing, II Bomber Command, 17th Air Division, 346th Bombardment Group
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303d Bombardment Group

303d Bombardment Group
Boeing B017G of the 303d Bombardment Group showing Triangle C tail markings
Active 1942–1945; 1947–1948; 1951–1952
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Bombardment
Nickname Hell's Angels[1]
Motto Might in Flight
Engagements European Theater of World War II
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation
World War II emblem of the 303d Bombardment Group[2]
Eighth Air Force Tail Marking Triangle C[2]

The 303d Bombardment Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was to the 303d Bombardment Wing, being stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. It was inactivated on 16 June 1952.

During World War II, the group was one of the first VIII Bomber Command B-17 Flying Fortress units in England. The "Hell's Angels" were the first B-17 group to complete 25 combat missions in June 1943, going on to fly more than 300 combat missions, more than any other group. The 359th BS B-17F 41-24605 "Knock-out Dropper" was the first aircraft in Eighth Air Force to complete 50, then 75 missions.


For additional history and lineage, see 303d Aeronautical Systems Wing

World War II

Aircraft and ground crew of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Hell's Angels" 41-24577 of the 358th Bombardment Squadron at RAF Molesworth. This was the first B-17 aircraft to complete 25 combat missions in Eighth Air Force on 13 May 1943.[3][4]
Emblem of the 303d Bomb Group

The 303rd Bombardment Group (H) was constituted on 28 January 1942 at Savannah, Georgia, was activated at Pendleton Field, Pendleton, Oregon, on 3 February 1942, and received its initial staff and training at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho on 13 February 1942. Training for its combat missions took place at Alamogordo Air Base, New Mexico and Biggs Field, Texas. On 23 August 1942, the ground echelon moved to Fort Dix, New Jersey, to board the RMS Queen Mary for overseas deployment. They arrived at Molesworth, England, on 9 September 1942. The air echelon arrived in late October and the stage was set for entrance into combat.

The 358th flew the first mission for the group on 17 November 1942. The group would become one of the legendary units of the Eighth Air Force. Initially missions were conducted against targets such as aerodromes, railways, and submarine pens in France until 1943, then flying missions into Germany itself.

The 303d took part in the first penetration into Germany by heavy bombers of Eighth Air Force by striking the U-boat yard at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943 then attacked other targets such as the ball-bearing plants at Schweinfurt, shipbuilding yards at Bremen, a synthetic rubber plant at Huls, an aircraft engine factory at Hamburg, industrial areas of Frankfurt, an aerodrome at Villacoublay, and a marshalling yard at Le Mans.

The 303d received a Distinguished Unit Citation for an operation on 11 January 1944 when, in spite of continuous attacks by enemy fighters in weather that prevented effective fighter cover from reaching the group, it successfully struck an aircraft assembly plant at Oschersleben.

The group attacked gun emplacements and bridges in the Pas de Calais area during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944; bombed enemy troops to support the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July 1944. It struck airfields, oil depots, and other targets during the Battle of the Bulge, and bombed military installations in the Wesel area to aid the Allied assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The last mission for the 303d was flown on 25 April 1945 when it attacked an armament works in Pilsen. During its combat tour the group flew 364 missions comprising 10,271 sorties, dropped 26,346 tons of bombs and shot down 378 enemy aircraft with another 104 probables. The group also saw 817 of its men killed in action with another 754 becoming prisoners of war.

On 31 May 1945, the 303d Bomb Group left Molesworth, moving to Casablanca, French Morocco.

Wulfe Hound

A B-17F-27-BO from the 360th BS, 303d BG, nicknamed "Wulfe Hound" (41-24585; squadron code PU-B) was the first Flying Fortress to be captured by the Luftwaffe.

On December 12, 1942 (303d BG mission #6), after attacking railroad marshaling yards in the Rouen-Sotteville area of France, "Wulfe Hound" was damaged by Focke Wulf Fw 190 fighters.

The damage forced the pilot, 1Lt Paul F. Flickenge to make a difficult wheels-up landing in a hayfield near Melun (60 miles southeast of Paris), with the ball turret guns pointing downward. Eight of the crew were captured but 1Lt Gilbert T Showalter (navigator) and 2Lt Jack E. Williams (co-pilot) were able to escape and evaded.[5]

German personnel were able to transport the B-17 to the nearby Leeuwarden airfield in the Netherlands where repairs made and put in flyable condition. The damaged Ball Turret was never replaced.

It was painted with German Balkenkreuz Insignia and Stammkennzeichen alphabetic code DL+XC with yellow paint on the undersurfaces. It was carefully examined and tested at the Luftwaffe Test and Evaluation Center at Rechlin. Wulf Hound was first flown by the Germans on 17 March 1943, followed by more testing and development of fighter tactics against B-17s.

It was transferred to the Luftwaffe "Kampfgeschwader" KG 200 special operations wing at Rangesdforf, Germany on 11 September 1943. It then took part in training and highly secretive clandestine missions between May and June 1944.

On 20 April 1945 this aircraft was caught in an allied air-raid on Oranienburg Airfield and was partially destroyed.

In 2000, the Germany government started redeveloping this former airfield and part of Wulf Hound were recovered and placed on display at Sachsenhausen Memorial Store[6]

Strategic Air Command

Activated in the US on 1 July 1947. Assigned to Strategic Air Command. There is no evidence that the group was manned during 1947 and 1948. Inactivated on 6 September 1948. Activated on 4 September 1951. Assigned to Strategic Air Command and equipped with B-29s. Squadrons assigned directly to 303d Bombardment Wing as part of the Air Force tri-deputate reorganization, and the group was inactivated on 16 June 1952.


  • Constituted as 303d Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 January 1942
Activated on 3 February 1942
Inactivated on 25 July 1945.
  • Redesignated 303d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) on 1 July 1947
Activated on 1 July 1947
Inactivated on 6 September 1948.
  • Redesignated 303d Bombardment Group (Medium) on 4 September 1951
Activated on 4 September 1951
Inactivated on 16 June 1952


Attached to: 102d Provisional Combat Bombardment Wing, February 1943
Attached to: 103d Provisional Combat Bombardment Wing, May 1943



Aircraft assigned

Douglas-Long Beach B-17G-25-DL Fortress 42-38050 359th Bomb Squadron "Thunderbird" (BU-U). Photo probably taken at Kingman AAF, Arizona, prior to its disposal as the chin, top and ball turret are removed, as well as the tail and waist guns.



  1. ^ Freeman, Roger A. (1970). The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force. London, England, UK: Macdonald and Company. p. 247.  
  2. ^ a b Watkins, Robert (2008). Battle Colors: Insignia and Markings of the Eighth Air Force In World War II. Vol I (VIII) Bomber Command. Atglen, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd. pp. 52–53.  
  3. ^ Bishop, Cliff T. (1986). Fortresses of the Big Triangle First, East Anglia Books. ISBN 1-869987-00-4, pp.160, 236.
  4. ^ "Hells Angels vs. Memphis Belle, Historical Information" (PDF). 303rd Bomb Group Association. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

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