DAYTON, Ohio – The 388th Bombardment Group (Heavy) held its 69th annual reunion at Aug. 1-5. World War II veterans from the 388th BG(H) have held annual reunions since 1949.
The 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base hosted their Reunion in 2008 and 2014. Eleven original bomber crew members from the WWII, European Theatre of Operations and a new member from the 388th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Etain-Rouvres, France, attended along with 52 family members.
Throughout the reunion, members had the opportunity to participate in video-taped interviews to record and perpetuate their personal stories and lives affected by the war. To date, 80 veterans and 20 families have preserved their WWII stories. In addition, eight prisoner of war interviews have been conducted over the past decade.
Guided tour excursions in Dayton included a visit to Wright-Patterson AFB that included a tour of a C-17. The visit to the base provided veteran and their families an overview of aviation history from Orville and Wilbur Wright to the present. They also visited the Carillon Park, a Cultural Heritage Center in Dayton.
The following day, they spent the day at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. The visit included a somber memorial wreath laying at the 388th BG(H) Memorial Plaque in the museum’s Memorial Park.
The members spent a good deal of time in the World War II section of the museum, spending a sobering time around the Memphis Belle, the fully restored internationally famous B-17F whose celebrated crew achieved the requisite 25 combat missions to earn their return to stateside duty or honorable discharge.
The reunion culminated with a banquet that featured guest speaker Col. Thomas P. Sherman, 88th Air Base Wing commander. Sherman honored the veterans in attendance and spoke about the courage, stamina, and bravery that all Airmen should possess while serving their country.
388th BG(H) heritage
The 388th BG(H) heritage includes a highly successful mission rate and direct support in defeating the Nazi regime in WWII. The group was assigned to the 8th Air Force and participated in various “Blitz Weeks,” including the infamous and costly July 1943 bombing campaign against targets over Bergen, Norway and Hanover, Germany – the latter of which earned the group its first Distinguished Unit Citation.
The 388th BG(H) was ultimately awarded four DUCs. The group was also heavily involved in the well renowned week-long “Berlin Blitz.” On March 6, 1944, in which 8th AF launched 658 heavy bombers losing 69 bombers and 11 fighter escorts, the 388th BG(H) launched 33 B-17s, of which seven were lost in combat.
However, Luftwaffe losses were far worse, losing 179 fighters. Of the five missions flown by the 388th BG(H) from March 3-9, 1944, over Berlin, the group sustained a total 13 aircraft losses.
On D-Day, the group launched three bombing missions in direct support of Operation Overlord, bombing targets along the coastline and interdiction areas. The 388th BG(H) deployed 6,000 soldiers to Knettishall, England, between June 1943 to July 1945, suffering 634 combat deaths, 112 combat wounded, and 840 POWs. At war’s end, there were 44 MIAs, with one set of remains subsequently located and identified.
The 388th FW at Hill AFB is rooted in 388th BG(H) heritage and continues the unit’s lineage. The 388th FW origins began as the 388th Fighter-Bomber Wing in 1953 and later re-designated the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1962. Once at Hill AFB following the conflict in Southeast Asia, the wing was redesignated as the current 388th FW.