- USAAF Snetterton Heath - Station 138 during the Second World War -
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USAAF Snetterton Heath - Station 138
USAAF Snetterton Heath, Station 138 was situated 6 miles SW of Attleborough. The station opened in May 1943 In June the 386th Bomb Group arrived with B-26 Marauders, soon being replaced by the 96th BG they flew 300 missions from Snetterton Heath and had one of the 8th AAF's highest loss rates.
The airfield was sold in 1952 and today is used as a motor racing circuit.
Squadrons stationed at Snetterton Heath
- 560th Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group. June 1943
- 561st Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group. June 1943
- 562nd Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group. June 1943
- 563rd Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group. June 1943
- 337th Bomb Squadron 96th Bomb Group. June 1943 to December 1945
- 338th Bomb Squadron 96th Bomb Group. June 1943 to December 1945
- 339th Bomb Squadron 96th Bomb Group. June 1943 to December 1945
- 728th Bomb Squadron 452nd Bomb Group. May 1945
- 729th Bomb Squadron 452nd Bomb Group. May 1945
- 730th Bomb Squadron 452nd Bomb Group. May 1945
- 731st Bomb Squadron 452nd Bomb Group. May 1945
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Those known to have served at
USAAF Snetterton Heath - Station 138
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List
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Sergeant George R McCoy 1250th MP COMy Dad, George R. McCoy, was stationed at Snetterton Heath with the USAAF from 1943 to 1945. He was a Sergeant in the 1250th MP CO. I have many photos of the airfield, B-17's, and the men who were stationed there. I would be glad to share them with any other families of the veterans. If it hadn't been for the brave men of the 96th BG, I wouldn't be able to make this announcement. May God bless them all.Patrick McCoy
Sgt. Joe Reichel 96th Bomb GroupSnetterton Heath, England. USAAF Station 138, World War II Memories By Then Sergeant Joe J. Reichel, Lt Col, USAF (ret) August 2012
1943 Headed Overseas
On 5 May 43 my outfit, the 49th Service Group left Fort Dix, New Jersey for the Port of Embarkation in New York and we were loaded aboard our troop ship, the Queen Elizabeth. The Queen Elizabeth, as well as her sister ship, the Queen Mary, were British luxury liners converted to transport troops during the war and plied the Atlantic as quickly as they could load, or unload, and turn around. I was detailed to duty as “Sergeant of the fresh water guard” in our particular portion of the ship. Because fresh water was at a premium there had to be a guard stationed at each water fountain to insure water was not wasted. I had to post and relieve guards at three separate fountains at two-hour intervals. We ate twice a day, forming lines with mess kits in hand, having them filled with plenty of tasteless food. Once each day we participated in life boat drill, as German submarines were known to be on the lookout for troop transports. The Queen was speedier than any submarine so our chances of not being sunk were much enhanced. About three days out of port, when any danger of spies being around was remote, we were told that our destination was England. Each of us was given a small booklet which told us something about the country, the coinage, and how best to get along with the natives.
We arrived at Gourock, Scotland, near Glasgow, on 11 May 1943 and were immediately put aboard a quaint English train and taken to a small country train station in East Anglia called Eccles Road. A truck took us to the nearby airfield of USAAF Station 138, otherwise known as “Snetterton Heath.” I was now entitled to a twenty percent pay raise for “overseas duty.”
Our unit was designed to render administrative and materiel support to a Bombardment Group. Apparently there were more of us than were needed at Snetterton Heath, so the unit was split in half— the 49th Service Group half went to another air base, and our half stayed at Snetterton and was re-designated the 27th Station Complement Squadron. We joined the 96th Bombardment Group (Heavy), flying B-17s at this base. That Group had only recently arrived ahead of us and was still “setting up.” Snetterton Heath was located just about mid-way between the cities of Norwich and Cambridge, but closer to Norwich.
Snetterton Heath was to be my home for thirty-two months. The war did not touch the base itself, except for three or four random strafing runs by German fighters, which were there and gone before we could hardly notice. None caused any significant damage On the other hand, the crews flying our B-17s suffered disheartening losses, particularly during the remainder of 1943 and early 1944, until the allies had established absolute air superiority over the continent. Each day our planes would take off before dawn, rendezvous with other Bomb Groups and head for the continent by the thousands. Later in the day we would hear them as they returned. Those with wounded aboard would fire red flares to alert the medics. The whole base turned out to watch as these planes returned, often with gaping holes in the wings and fuselage. It was a sad experience for me to make friends with the enlisted gunners during evenings at the Red Cross Club, and then, just a few days later, some of them would not return from a mission.
The 96th participated in a “shuttle mission” to North Africa in 1943, bombing the aircraft factory at Regensburg, Germany en route. While in North Africa one of the crews bought a young donkey, fitted it with an oxygen mask and brought it back to England where it became famous. The Stars and Stripes newspaper wrote a story about Lady Moe.
I worked as an Administrative Inspector until the summer of 1945. Each day I would select a squadron orderly room (office) to visit, mount the bicycle issued to me as part of the job, and go to that office to inspect it’s administrative procedures — Service Records, Sick Books, Forms 20, etc, pointing out any errors I saw and recommending corrective action. I was not usually a welcome visitor, although I tried to be nice. Being a Sergeant kept me from KP duty, but turned out to be no excuse for being detailed to guard duty, which I drew about once every three months, guarding a B-17 aircraft, always after mid-night. Staying awake was the biggest problem for me.
The base was active around the clock, seven days a week. My normal work shift was eight hours a day seven days a week. Evenings were spent reading, or writing letters. I wrote to Virginia, my fiancée, three or four times a week and she wrote every day. Her letters would usually arrive three or four at a time, several days apart. Before there was e-mail there was V-Mail. I would often use V-Mail to correspond with family and friends. This was a special form to be used for corresponding, which could be reduced in size by photographing, flown to the United States, developed and then sent to the addressee. Supposedly it saved a lot of space on ships and was faster, too. I also received frequent letters from family members, as well as high school and workplace friends, which I answered as soon as they arrived.
Sometimes in the evenings, some of us would walk along a narrow country road to a “tea room” about a mile away, where we would sit and chat over tea and scones. Then back to our “Nissen Hut” home, carrying a couple of loaves of fresh, hard crust English bread. The huts were heated by two small cylindrical coal burning stoves, about three feet high and ten inches across, with a lid on top and a vent at the bottom for draft. We would slice the bread and toast it in front of the bottom draft, spread a little margarine on it and the taste was heavenly, even though the margarine was a bit waxy.
Eating in the Quonset Mess Hall was sometimes a challenge. Spam, Brussels Sprouts, dried eggs and powdered milk were served all too often and food, in general, was not very palatable. Maybe it was in the cooking. If weather conditions were just right, condensation would collect on the metal ceiling and then drip down upon us and our food.
Our sleeping quarters at Snetterton Heath were in Nissen Huts, which were sixteen feet wide, eight feet high and about 25 feet long. Cots were double decked and lined up on each side of the hut, about three feet apart. I was fortunate in having an upper bunk where the air was a bit better. The fire in our two stoves was built with “coke,” a type of coal, which was very difficult to start, unless we could scrounge some scrap wood or some soft coal to get it started. The coke, once started, burned very hot and kept those within ten feet of it quite cozy. Beyond that point, long underwear felt pretty good. Our coke ration did not always last a full week, making it necessary to remain cold, or steal coke from someplace else, like the base stockpile, which was never guarded. We were not supposed to do that!
There was no running water in the sleeping hut, but another special hut within a hundred feet had sinks in which you could wash up and shave. Still another hut housed the toilets — six to an open room, offering no privacy whatsoever. A mile away was a communal shower in case you ever wanted to bathe all over. Laundry and dry cleaning services were provided in the city of Norwich and dirty clothes were taken there by G.I. truck once each week, and then returned the next week. The farmer’s wife in her home just behind our barracks picked up some extra money by doing our washing for us, and it was much handier than the regular service.
Some of my Nissen hut.barracks mates were: Malcolm Novess; Jack Hasslinger; Harold Edwards.John P. Hicks; Donald McAllister; Frank Brattelli. Henry Gilbert; Jerry Zarro; Charlie Linesay; and Marvin Rettinger.
Near each sleeping hut was a brick-lined dugout where we went for shelter during the air raid alerts which came in the early morning hours several times a week. Our base was never bombed, but we could watch while towns and other bases in the distance were bombed.
We were allowed one three-day pass each month, and accrued 2 ½ days per month to apply toward furlough. Three or four of us would go together on a three-day pass, sometimes to Norwich and sometimes to Cambridge. Really nothing much to do except see the sights and go to the “Cinema.” Once we went “punting on the Cam” river at Cambridge. This was a beautiful row-boat trip passing the various college campuses. At Norwich we stayed in a facility, operated by the Red Cross, called the Bishop’s Palace, for that is what it actually was before the war. It was huge and cold. Every room was equipped with canvas army cots, placed very close together, but at least it was a free place to flop for the night. One night I was billeted at another location. Its rooms were very small, about eight feet square, with one tiny window up high on the wall and another small peephole window in the door. The following day I learned that it had been the insane asylum. At Cambridge we stayed in private homes which offered bed and breakfast for a small fee.
Several times during my stay in England, I took advantage of my accrued furlough time and went further a-field, to Edinburgh, Scotland and Blackpool, England, and once to London, staying five or six days each time. Here again we would travel in a group of five or six friends for companionship in a strange land. In later years I have often felt sorry that I was not mature enough to want to explore historic sights and locations while in England. Wartime blackout of England was total and proved to be quite a trick to find ones way around town at night. The nation was on “double daylight war time” so it didn’t get real dark until around 10 pm. Taxis roamed the streets with headlights in “blackout mode” only a thin slit permitted light to shine forth
Edinburgh was a fun experience. We stayed at the hotel located by the train station and explored the city during the day. Notable were the Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens. Sometimes we would take in a live stage show and that was fun. Once I visited a shop which sold cloth yardage, among other things, as I wanted to buy some Tartan plaid for Virginia. The store owner promptly put the “closed” sign on the front door, completed my transaction, and then opened the shop again. It seems that he didn’t want to get caught selling cloth without the ration slip which he knew I would not have Blackpool was a seaside resort on the Irish Sea offering little but atmosphere and a chance to walk along the beach or see a movie.
London was, of course, a very interesting place and offered many places of historic interest to visit and explore, but it kept getting bombed at night, early in the war by German bombers, then later by V-1 “Buzz Bombs” and V-2 rockets. Buzz Bombs sounded like a semi-truck slowly going uphill. When the sound stopped we knew it was out of fuel and would plunge to the earth and explode. I was very nervous during my visit to London.
“Charge of Quarters” was another extra duty to which I was detailed about once in six months. Someone had to stay at the group headquarters just in case the phone rang, or an urgent message was received. This is where I was when Victory in Europe was finalized on 8 May 1945. Victory over Japan followed on 2 Sep 1945. These events started the “going home” movement and a priority, of some sort, had to be designed to insure a fair selection of personnel to go home first. So a system of points was devised, and, appropriately, combatants were given an edge. So many points for combat duty, points for decorations, medals and ribbons; points for time spent overseas; points for just being assigned to a combat unit, etc. My points assured that I would be among the last to leave. With the 96th Bomb Group leaving, it meant that the 27th Station Complement Squadron had to take charge of the base headquarters, so my job became Base Sergeant Major working for the Base Adjutant. I learned, upon returning home, that my mother had been telling her friends that I was a “Major General.” Now there were lots of promotion spots open and in August of 1945 I was promoted to Staff Sergeant and I received a pay raise of about fifteen dollars a month. I was getting rich! Home
In November of 1945 we entrained to the port of embarkation at Southampton, a seaport on the south coast, and boarded the Queen Mary for our trip home. Some of us carved our initials in the fancy woods of the ship. Our unit was chosen to perform KP duty for the entire trip home, no one was exempt. We were given a preferred location aboard ship and all we could eat, so it wasn’t so bad. We arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 27 Nov 1945, and, after a few idle days, I was put on a train to Camp Grant, Illinois, where I received my discharge papers effective 3 Dec 1945. My uniform was now bedecked with ribbons for service in the European Theater and American Theater, the Good Conduct Medal; Distinguished Unit Citation and Victory Medal, plus one three-year service stripe, five overseas service bars and Staff Sergeant Chevrons. I was ready to resume life as a civilian.
(This article taken from the Stars and Stripes Newspaper, c1944)
THE Lady Moe Still Alive, Kicking
Donkey From Arabia Leading the Life of A Chow Hound. By Bud Hutton, Stars and Stripes Staff Writer
A Fortress Base, Mar. 15—Lady Moe, a tub gutted Arabian donkey who mingles with mess sergeants, Grosvenor House society and other exalted people, is becoming a legend and she’ll chew (literally) the tail out of anyone who doesn’t like it. The gravel voiced mascot of this base [AAF Station 138; 96th Bomb Group (H)] flew to England in a B-17 returning from the shuttle raid to Regensburg and North Africa last August. She weighed 50 pounds, was soft-coated, muzzling-nosed, gentle and thin. The airmen took her to heart, bathed her, petted her, let her sleep in their huts ands fed her.
Today lady Moe is 150 pounds or more, shaggy-haired and redolent with B.O., sharp of tooth, ornery and fat-bellied enough for these Fortress men to compare her with a Liberator. She is still in the men’s hearts but they no longer bathe her, nor do they let her sleep in the huts, and she has been stigmatized with the epithet of “chow hound.”
The boys still love Lady Moe. They will swear fiercely she is the best air base mascot in the ETO, [European Theater of Operations] which, of course, means all the world. They will feed her (even as she bites off their hands up to the wrist because she is tired of Spam). They will pet her (even as she whirls on her forefeet and belts their shins with a pair of lashing hooves). They will lie in their sacks and recount her exploits (even as she brays her long-eared head off at the moon to keep them awake).
Since the day Capt. Andrew Miracle, Loyall, Ky., pilot and his crew of The Miracle Tribe bought Lady Moe for 400 francs from a beat up old Arab donkey-man, made her an oxygen mask and brought her back here by way of the raid on Bordeaux, she has grown in legend in exact proportion to the now alarming extent of her cast-iron gut. As one gunner on the base puts it: “Lady Moe is our legend—and we’re stuck with it.”
No Midnight Safety
These days a gunner or maybe a line chief will be walking down the dark perimedal track after a midnight job of work on a B17. He will be maybe thinking of pay day, or home-made fudge or his gal when something will jab him from behind and a hideous noise will rend the night. Lady Moe—and they still love her.
The stories about Lady Moe began as soon as she landed and a cameraman got a picture of her in the B17s waist window with Lou Klimchak, of Josephine, Pa., and E. O. Matthews, of Porter, Tex., beside her. Papers all over the world published that picture of “the flying donkey.” The rest of the base was delighted, and the fact that another Fortress group had brought back a donkey, also named Lady Moe, didn’t matter, because only this outfit’s Lady Moe got picture space in the papers. They would feed her and scratch her ears from 11:30 to 1 o’clock when the mess hall closed and then the cooks would feed her a little more. After a while, though, some of the boys found they weren’t getting much time to eat themselves and they told Lady Moe to go away after the first tid-bit. That was the beginning of the legend.
Lady Moe began to nudge gunners on the part of them that stuck over the edges of the chairs. She would nudge them twice and if she still got no response, she would sink her broad donkey’s teeth into that same portion that stuck over the edges of the chairs. If they had a Stars and Stripes stuck in their back pockets at noon chow, maybe she’d first pull that out and chew it up.
Times Grow Tough
As she grew in size, Lady Moe found food harder and harder to get, even at the threat of the bared front teeth. So she began to lurk quietly in the back of the mess until some unlucky gunner put his food down at a table and went off to get coffee, or maybe jam for his bread. As soon as he had left the table Moe would sprint to his place, lick the plate clean (spit-out out any knives or forks she’d gulped) and retire. Every now and then a gunner would belt his innocent neighbor when he returned and found an empty plate. But they still loved her.
After a couple of months of GI living, Lady Moe began to get mail in care of Barney Ehrenreich, the PRO. [Public Relations Officer]. The mail was of the sort which would have come naturally to the gentle 50-pound little pet which had flown up from Africa. It didn’t fit in quite as well with Lady Moe, chow hound. For instance, there was the formal invitation for Lady Moe to attend an exhibit at a Leicester Square store in London under sponsorship of an organization devoted to caring for sick animals in North Africa.
Lady Moe went. The show was opened by Dame Sybil Thorndike and for three days Lady Moe showed her teeth at little kids who wanted to rub her nose, chewed at the new blanket the boys had made her and generally was her own sweet self. After the exhibition, a magazine called The Little Animals’ Friend printed a story entitled “Lady Moe and Her Fairy Godmother.” It included a letter from Lady Moe to the children who read the magazine:
Thank You, People.
“Dear Humans: This is to thank you all for coming to meet me in London and for putting such generous donations in my box. The result of it all is that I have collected, after deducting expenses, over £350, and this money will be spent on medicines, bandages and all the needed veterinary things and sent out to my country. Well, I had a wonderful three days in Leicester Square. It was delightful being spoken to so nicely by so many people and children and to have the roots of my ears rubbed. I went back to the airdrome happily and was given a great welcome by my American friends there.
Yours lovingly, (Signed) Lady Moe.”
“P.S. I am letting the little lady have the last word except that I want to add my hope that the Little Animals’ Friends members as they grow older won’t throw away their belief in fairy godmothers. You may not always see them but they are all around you ready to turn ‘nothing into everything’ if you can only believe it.”
The day that letter came to the base, a gunner forgot Lady Moe’s delicate little tummy only likes chewing gum in sticks ands gave her some chiclets. She kicked the hell out of him and no fairy godmother nonsense about it, either. But they still loved her.
No Grass For This Ass’ is her motto; She Wants Food!
Then there was the affair at London’s swank Grosvenor House. The Society for the Protection of Animals in North Africa, 96 Blandford St. W1, president, Her Grace the Duchess of Portland, was giving a ball at Grosvenor House. They invited Lady Moe. The boys in base PRO went out to get the crate they had shipped her in the last time and someone had busted it up for firewood, so they made another and sent her to London, resplendent in a new orange blanket.
Lady Moe was a great success at the ball. She chewed off the orange blanket, spat the pieces on the floor, repeatedly fell off the platform when benevolent-minded dowagers tried to pet her, mussed up the place in general and took a bite at the breeches of a naïve individual who chewed gum in front of her. She was a very great success.
Moe rode back on a night train. There was a party at base when she arrived at the railroad station. The baggage master had dealt with Lady Moe before, so he called the base immediately, and when he couldn’t find the PRO he called the MPs. About 3 o’clock in the morning the PRO staff had to get Lady Moe out of the guardhouse.
The New Deal.
About this time there came to the relationship between Lady Moe and Mess Sgt. Jasper Baker, of Jacksonville, Fla., a new deal. Group headquarters issued an order barring Lady Moe from the mess hall, and Baker heaved a reluctant (he still loved her) but relieved sigh. Moe, who had found there were three other messes besides the combat mess, tried them all. No soap.
Each day, then, Lady Moe stood wistfully at the combat mess entrance. She would sigh as the gunners went in to chow and she was waiting there as they came out. She would nuzzle them gently, stirring their memories. It was very touching. Of course, if their memories had happed to forget to bring her a little sugar or maybe a piece of chicken, Moe would whirl around and kick the khaki off any stragglers. All very touching..
Moe took to playing with a pack of dogs about this time, and with Smokey, a Dalmatian owed by Col. James Travis, of Portland, Ore, the group commander, would delight in racing through mud puddles as soldiers were passing.
The boys put up a tent in a grassy hollow, bought a batch of the market’s best hay. Not for Moe. She’d been sleeping in Nissen huts and she intended to continue. By this time she’d grown big as a small horse, fat, shaggy and was somewhat fragrant, and she couldn’t understand why the boys resented it when she kicked in the outside doors after they’d turned her out of the huts.
She took to roaming the perimedal track late at night and as some late-working mechanic would start for his hut in the darkness, thinking maybe of home-made fudge or a spam-less world, an ungentle nose would give him a shove, a dark shape would race away in the dark and through the still night air would go a brassy braying.
She Knows The PX.
These days, Moe is out on what 1/Sgt. Everett Lee, of Wenatchee, Wash., describes as “DS [detached service] to the hospital, because the grass is greener.” She still gets to chow down on time and she knows what hours the PX is open. As a matter of fact, the PX is one of her favorite spots, because new gunners on the base usually can be cajoled into giving her a package of American cigarettes to chew. She’s a little brassed off at the old gunners who get tired of giving her part of their cigarette ration and started to buy her English cigarettes for chewing tobacco. Moe doesn’t like English cigarettes.
Over Moe’s life there is scarcely a cloud. She is noisily happy, and maybe even she’s forgiven that precise gentleman in the British Department of Agriculture and Fisheries who threatened to make her ETO arrival unhappy last August.
When Moe’s story was told, this precise individual recalled that under the Dogs and Cats Importation Order of 1928, which is naturally administered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, any animal coming into the country had to be certified by a veterinary or quarantined for six months. Or something, the gunners weren’t quite sure.
The precise gentleman in the D of A and F called up the Stars and Stripes and wanted to know where Moe was. He even read the Dogs and Cats Importation Order of 1928 over the phone. Somehow, no one at S&S knew where Moe’s station was, and when further inquiries were made, no one else seemed to know, either.
Eventually, it seemed, the gentleman at the D of A and F must have resigned himself. Moe waxed fat without veterinary or quarantine, and no one caught any diseases from her.
The other day a London newspaper carried a story that “Lady Moe, the famous donkey brought back from Africa by American airmen, is dead.” The boys were a little alarmed, but it was all right. It seemed there was another donkey named Lady Moe, at another group. She had died. But THE Lady Moe was still alive. The boys found her the very first place they looked—just outside the kitchen door at the combat mess.
After Word: The Lady Moe did finally die sometime in late 1945, when the “point” system was sending everyone home. She wandered onto the railroad tracks, which ran through AAF Station 138 at Snetterton Heath, and was run down by a train. Most of her friends were back in the USA by then, so she went un-mourned by the new troops shipped in to replace the ones who had returned home. (Added by Joe J. Reichel)J Reichel
Lyman P CollinsMy father-in-law, an American, Lyman P. Collins from Long Island, NY, who served at Snetterton Heath. We know he flew in a B-17 during WW11, he wasn't a pilot or co-pilot. We are looking for any information.Linda Collins
T/Sgt. George A. Ganem 338th Bomb SquadronMy father-in-law, T\Sgt George A. Ganem, was in the 96th.BG 338th.BS stationed at Snetterton Heath England. On July 10 1943 he was loaned to the crew of a Capt. Flagg on a B-17 called "Wabbit Twaks". Their target was Lebourget France. I would like any information on this mission the aircraft and the crew. The next mission my father-in-law flew, was July 28th with his own crew on their B-17 "Paper Doll". They had to ditch in the North Sea. Their B-17 floated a record amount of time allowing all crew to exit safely to their rafts. They were picked up by the Germans and spent the rest of the war in Stalag 17-B. He did not know about any ribbons he had earned on his previous mission to Lebourget France. Would like if possible any pictures of these two B-17's and their crews or medals earned or any information at all.Donald W. Will
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Bomber Bases of World War 2, Airfields of 2nd Air Division (USAAF): Liberator Squadrons in Norfolk and Suffolk
Martin BowmanThis book looks at the history and personalities associated with each base, what remains today and explores the favourite local wartime haunts where aircrew and ground crew would goMore information on:
Bomber Bases of World War 2, Airfields of 2nd Air Division (USAAF): Liberator Squadrons in Norfolk and Suffolk
Bomber Bases of WW2 3rd Air Division, 8th Air Force USAAF 1942-45
Martin BowmanAirfields included are Bury St Edmunds, Debach, Deopham Green Eye, Framlington, Great Ashfield, Horham, Knettishall, Lavenham, Mendlesham, Rattlesden, Snetterton Heath, Sudbury and Thorpe Abbot, which has one of the finest aviation museums in England.This book looks at the history and personalities associated with each base, what remains today and explores the favourite local wartime haunts where aircrew and ground crew would have sought well-deserved entertainment and relaxation. Other museums and places that are relevant will also be described and general directions on how to get them included.More information on:
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