GETTING READY

July 1942-April 1943

Activation
The US determined that it would dedicate its forces to the defeat of Germany before Japan. This meant beefing up the Army Air Force, and deploying a great part of it to the European Theatre of Operations.
  • East Anglia was converted into the world's largest aircraft carrier.
  • The organization task force was lead by General Ira Eaker
  • The 96th was one of many B-17 and or B-24 outfits activated, trained and deployed.
  • The 96th was organized in August of 1942 after several earlier organizational starts.
  • Group Commander Lt. Colonel Archie Old Jr. was appointed as the 96th first Commander.
  • Colonel Alexander S. Moffett was right hand man for all four of the 96ths commanders.
  • Master Sergeant Woodrow Hilton was appointed chief clerk of operations.
Organization
  • WW1 veterans , professional soldiers and newly trained men from Salt Lake City and Boise formed the early nucleus of the 96th.
  • They would soon be joined by Americans being drafted and those still in cadet and enlisted training schools.
  • Transfers from the 29BG also joined them.
Training:Boise
  • At Boise,crews destined to become the 96th were given "First Phase" training.
  • This consisted of checking out pilots and copilots and individual crew member training in the skills required for the performance of their respective jobs.
  • Units of bomber crews were molded into teams.
  • The initial organization which began in Boise was transferred to Walla Walla on August 30, 1942.
  • 36 crews of air echelon of the 96th departed Gowen Field Boise on August 31, 1942
  • Crews left by troop train and troop flight.
  • Leaving Boise split personnel from their wives. The commander, "Archie", informed that wives must go home because there would be no time for wives in the coming months.
Training: Walla Walla
  • 500 men from Salt Lake City, "the cream of the crop" chosen by Colonel Moffet and his team, joined the Boise group going to Walla Walla.
  • Eventually 20 % of the 96th came from the 29th Bomb Group and the remaining 80% came from the Salt Lake replacement pool.
  • At Walla Walla, the 91st Bomb Group was ending its over seas training when the 96th group was arriving. In addition the base was still under construction. This lead to crowding, confusion and frustration.
  • M/Sgt Woodrow Hilton and his personnel staff were in charge of personnel relations, social activities etc.
  • Crowded conditions, packed schedules, hours of rigorous training made for demanding and tiring conditions for all.
  • Negative conditions included rumored hostility from the town of Walla Walla itself as well as rumors of spying and sabotage on the base.
  • In spite of this, it was at Walla Walla that Ground Exec. Moffet stated that the 96th had the potential of being a "clicking outfit" as it earned honors in the Second Air Force.
  • Colonel Archie J Old Jr assumes command of the base bombardment group. His approach was direct and at times grueling.
  • Training at the base included Second Phase Training and emphasized formation flying and aerial gunnery.
Training: Rapid City
  • Lt Col Archie J Old Jr continues as Group Commander
  • The 96th was first to occupy the air base.
  • Third phase of combat training is begun. This emphasizes navigational flights, formation flights and general polishing for combat efficiency. Flights over large bodies of water and long distances were also taught. Much practice bombing was on the daily agenda.
  • The 96th is told that it would remain in the States for more than a year in order to train combat crews for overseas.
  • The 96th is introduced to clusters of B-17 groups for training with a provisional commander
  • Training for these groups was to start in Pocatello Idaho.
Training: Pocatello, Idaho
  • Base of operation was not established.
  • Construction was 50% complete, runways not completed when they arrived.
  • Temperature often dipped to 15 degrees and barracks and buildings were made of tarpaper.
  • Blizzards and storms were common and cold was a problem.
  • Wives were able to visit.
  • End of November the 96th group was relieved of its training duties and was freed for combat. Its overseas training would continue.
  • The "Great Jap Scare" occurred on December 3. In that event the group was put on standby because they were told that a Japanese Fleet was feared to be approaching the West Coast. There was some question about whether this was a drill or a real scare.
  • On January 3, 1943 the group began leaving for a new base in a warmer climate, Peyote, Texas.
  • The 19th Bomber Group Units travel to Peyote with the 96th.
Training: Peyote, Texas
  • It was hot, dusty , flat, isolated and poor......the group found no real improvement in environment.
  • Soldiers called it "the a-hole of the universe!"
  • Every one started calling it "Rattlesnake Army Air Base"!
  • The 96th maintenance group worked hard to keep three bomb groups worth of planes in operation.
  • Very little work for navigators.
  • Desert training was rigorous.
  • March 14, 1943 air echelon left Peyote, 337th and 413th squadrons for Walker, Kansas; 338th and 339th for Salina, Kansas. Here they would receive new B-17s and fly them into some theater of operations.
Deployment
  • Occurred in three Phases. First air echelon by flight, then Advance Party by flight(Moffet the leader) and then ground echelon by troop carrier( the rougher mode of transportation).
  • The first overseas base was Grafton Underwood. Weather was rainy and cold. Air Echelon arrives on April 14.
  • Ground Echelon arrives in May at Andrews Field in Essex. They would have to wait longer to unite with flight crews.
  • Crews nicknamed there new aircraft and eventually would do the nose art when united with the ground crews.
  • Twenty Four months of combat were about to begin.
Data - "Snetterton Falcons - the 96th BG in WWII - Robert Doherty & Geoffrey Ward"
6/12/2006