Fighters and Flyers of WWII Photo Gallery

The 303rd Bomb Group was an Eighth Air Force, B-17 Bomber Group stationed at Molesworth, England from 1942 to 1945. Their motto, Might in Flight, was earned on each of their record 364 combat missions. Their place in history and the legacy they left behind will live forever.

Site 7 Barracks 303rd Bomb Group Molesworth England 8th USAAF

Lady Luck's Unlucky Mission

Combat Mission No. 71A was marred by the crash of B-17 #42-5434 Lady Luck 360BS on its return trip when the mission was recalled by the 1st Bombardment Division. The aircraft suffered a runaway prop and fire in the No. 4 engine, which the pilot, Lt. Robert W. Cogswell, was unable to feather. When it appeared that the wing had come loose, Lt. Cogswell ordered his crew (which included ball turret gunner, John Paul Deffinger) to bail out at 10,000 feet. Lt. Cogswell rode his B-17 down to a few thousand feet to make sure that the aircraft, with its full bomb load, didn't crash in a populated area. Lady Luck crashed near the Medstead Airdome in the vicinity of Winchester. The bombs didn't explode and Lt. Cogswell bailed out so late and at such a high rate of speed that when his parachute opened it tore ligaments in his back. He was promoted to Captain and later to Major.
His B-29 crashed in the Sea of Japan with loss of all aboard during the Korean War.

Capt. Cogswell (back row, second from left) and crew

Capt. Cogswell and Crew

A B-17 hit by flak fire, with one wing broken off and about to crash

B-17 Hit by Flak

Pilot of Lady Luck: Capt. Robert Cogswell

Pilot of Lady Luck

Tail Art of Lady Luck

Lady Luck Tail Art

Feathered Prop

Feathered Prop

Lady Luck with her ground crew

Lady Luck Ground Crew

Schweinfurt Raid

The Schweinfurt, Germany raid was an attack on German ball bearing factories and became known as "Black Thusday" (October 14, 1943) because of the worst USAAF losses to that date. The 303rd Bomb Group dispatched 20 crews to Schweinfurt, Germany, including the B-17F (#42-29930) Miss Patricia, with ball turret gunner, John Paul Deffinger, on board. He was part of the Bergeron Crew who flew both missions to Schweinfurt.

Lt. William Heller was piloting the B-17F (#42-5393) Thumper Again and remembers:
As the formation proceeded into Germany wading through literally clouds of flak. Two engines began to lose power, we couldn't stay in formation, and to survive we had to salvo the bombs. We rejoined the formation with the sky full of fighters, forts, chutes, and flames falling everywhere. An upside down smoking fortress ahead became a sheet of flame on a very slow rolling dive to earth; with 10 chutes popping out, on their way prison war camp. The tail gunner was yelling "Fighters coming in at 6 o'clock" at the same time another gunner was yelling "Fighter coming in at 4 o'clock", then guns would blaze. As the pilot, I would flip the fortress in all altitudes to screw up the enemy's aim and shells would burst in clusters all around us in the same spot where we had been - wonderful crew coordination. Our left waist gunner reported there was a hole in the leading edge of the wing, inches from my head and the ball turret was inoperative....the German's noticed and gave their full attention. The ball turret gunner found him himself a sitting duck in the shooting gallery. Taking cue from the co-pilot and skidding left, a great cluster of 20 mm shells burst right where we had been. Our co-pilot instinctively knew when they were going to fire. When we crossed the coastline we were short on fuel and we were able to spiral down to a small RAF field just outside London and we were cleared to land.

Bombs falling on Schweinfurt

Bombs Falling on Schweinfurt

Roy C. Sanders Crew (B-17, Joan of Arc) shot down, 2:KIA, 8:POW

Roy C. Sanders Crew

360th Heller Crew

360th Heller Crew

Bombing of Schweinfurt

Bombing of Schweinfurt

B-17F Formation Over Schweinfurt, Germany

B-17s Over Schweinfurt

Bombing raid on the ball bearings works at Schweinfurt, Germany

Bombing Raid

Aschersleben Mission

On February 22, 1944 the 303rd BG was dispatched with 36 crews for combat on the target Junkers Aircraft Factory , Aschersleben, Germany. Among the crew was John Paul Deffinger, ball turret gunner, aboard the B-17G (#42-31340) Miss Liberty.

The pilot (Lt. Charles D. Crook) and crew of the B-17G #42-31399 (no name), remember the following of "The Last Flight of a Flying Fortress" while evading captures in the Netherlands. We had come down to 1,300 and flew just above the clouds. We were 20 minutes from the coast and the clouds ceased to exist. We were in the open and a FW-190 spotted us and came from below and the rear with a burst of machine gun fire and shells ripping through the ship. We were defenseless as the Germans came in firing again, knocking out two more engines, as we were trying to ditch in the North Sea. We were going down and we were too low for jumping to safety. Two of the crew jumped (one evaded capture and the other did not) before anyone knew it and the rest of the crew began taking their positions for crash-landing. The first bounce came plenty hard, as we went up in the air and came down again with a loud crash and then were sliding along the ground. Things were flying all around inside the ship: ammunition, radio sets, flares, and boxes of all kinds. A thousand thoughts passed before me. Will the plane catch fire and blow up? We suddenly stopped with a jolt and the front of the plane was in the water of a pond and the tail was bent and pointing in the air. We crawled out of the plane as the German plane was circling the wreckage and suddenly dove in. Shells were hitting everywhere, including an ammunition box and started exploding. One of the men who had parachuted took a boat and crossed a river. The Germans, thinking we had all done the same, searched that side of the river first. Three of the remaining crew evaded capture. T/Sgt. Louis H. Breitenbach and Sgt. James H. Hensley evaded capture for 4 months and were contacted by members of the Dutch Underground and were then moved around to various Dutch familes, until the German soldiers, who were searching houses looking for downed airmen, found them. Sgt. Robert J. Hannan also made contact with the Dutch Underground and became a "Freedom Fighter", helping other downed airmen to evade capture and taking part in train raids and other actions to harass the Germans.

Charles D. Crook Crew

Charles D. Crook Crew

Lt. James Moffat Crew (B-17F, Mizpah) shot down, 5:KIA, 5:POW

James Moffat Crew

View from the Tail Turret - Mission to Aschersleben, Germany

View from Tail Turret

Crash Landing of Miss Liberty

Crash of Miss Liberty

B-17F Bombing Through clouds Over Germany

B-17 Bombing of Germany

Charles D. Crook Crew - 360th BS

Charles D. Crook Crew

Links to other sites with WWII Info.

  • Combat Mission 66-Aborted Lady Luck
  • Combat Mission 71A-Lady Luck's Last
  • Capt. Cogswell with Crews
  • Lady Luck's Tail Art
  • The Luck of the Draw
  • Ball Bearing Plant, Schweinfurt, Germany
  • Roy C. Sanders Crew 358th BS
  • Bombing Schweinfurt-Third Reich in Ruins
  • Eighth Air Force Raid on Schweinfurt'
  • Charles D. Crook Crew 360th BS
  • Smithsonian WWII Airspace Blog
  • World War II In The Air
  • 8th Air Force Historical Society
  • Unusual 303rd Experiences
  • POW/MIA - Bring Them Home
  • Aviation Archaeology

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