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About the 492nd Bomb Group
The Mighty 8th Air Force had great expectations for the 492nd Bomb Group. As one of the last groups deployed to England, they arrived with more experienced men within their ranks than any other group serving in the European Theater (ETO). They had more flying hours going into the war than most would have at war's end. Many of them were the instructors that had trained many of the airmen during the arms buildup while others were veterans of Anti-Submarine patrols that had been defending America's coast. Some had already completed a combat tour and had volunteered for a second one.
As America's buildup was nearing its completion, these men were allowed to put in for combat duty. They represented America's best. As one of the last heavy bombardment groups assembled, they were the first group ever to:
 •  pass their POM (Preparation for Overseas Movement) inspection and depart ahead of schedule,
 •  fly as an all-silver (unpainted aluminum) bomber group and
 •  reach England without losing any planes.
Yet with their superb level of proficiency, the fortunes of war went against them:
 •  They suffered more casualties and losses in 89 days than any other B-24 group.
 •  They became the first and only group in the ETO to be disbanded due to high casualties.
Tough Luck, Hard Luck, Bad Luck, Ill-Fated and Jinxed are among the many phrases used to describe this group's fate during its 89 days of combat service in World War II. At the time, there was no official nickname for the 492nd Bomb Group. General Doolittle and his staff dubbed them the Hard Luck Group. Many years after the war the 492nd Association adopted the name The Happy Warriors, the old unofficial nickname for the 859th Bomb Squadron.
There was nothing the group did or didn't do to deserve their hard luck. However, history has proven that their silver planes made them easier for the enemy to find as the reflecting sunlight would serve as a beacon. On a number of occasions they found themselves caught by the Luftwaffe without fighter protection on a few very costly missions. Never once, though, did the group fall apart to become easy prey. They turned each potential massacre into a slug-fest, proving that they could dish it out as well as take it. Despite their high casualties, the 492nd always punched their way through and succeeded in nailing their target!
The group flew 67 missions in 89 days. Even after their two deadliest air battles, they would crawl back into their planes the very next day to resume the maximum effort. Only bad weather ever kept them out of the air. Armed with hindsight, historians and war experts who have studied the 492nd and their missions have all reached the following conclusions:
 •  They did the best they could and
 •  no one could have done any better.
Come summer's end, the 8th Air Force was ordered to disband one of its B-24 groups for the purpose of handing over its identity to the OSS arm in the ETO, the 801st Provisional Group aka the Carpetbaggers. This group had been sucessfully conducting covert missions for several months and were in need of a working cover. Due to their high casualties, the 492nd was chosen or as their commander Col Snavely said, "We drew the black bean."
Thus, there were two very different 492nd BGs during WWII. This one, the original one, flew daylight bombing missions during the summer of 1944. The other was the OSS Carpetbaggers who flew secret missions at night.
Perhaps the hardest luck to hit this group was in becoming overlooked, passed over and forgotten. As the war drew to a close, the recognition for their service and sacrifice was credited to the other 492nd group. This was absolutely necessary since the activities of the Carpetbaggers remained classified as top secret for decades. Therefore, in interest of national security, the original 492nd received nothing, not even a thanks. Although the records are now declassified, the US has yet to see fit to award any unit citation to these brave men for simply carrying out their orders.
  Casualties per 1000 Combatants in WWII  
  US Army Air Force 16  
  US Army 24  
  US Marine Corps 29  
  467th Bomb Group 91  
  492nd Bomb Group 442  
This table was taken from the book
"Two Squadrons That Were One"
by Robin C Janton.
As you can see, the price of victory was especially high for this "Hard Luck" group. The Army Air Force's formula calculated this Group's casualty rate to be 117%.
It should be noted that after the original 492nd Bomb Group was disbanded, twenty-eight of its crews were transferred to the 467th Bomb Group at Rackheath (the Group with the 2nd highest casualty rate). Nineteen of those crews were transferred to the 467th's 788th Bomb Squadron, the other nine to squadrons unknown. This isn't to say that any of the transferred crews became part of the 467th BG's casualty rate (we just don't know), only that the frying pan was hot throughout the Air War in Europe.
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Page last modified Monday, January 30, 2017.