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The United States Army Air Force activated the 452nd Bombardment Group (H) on June 1, 1943, at Geiger Field, Washington, with plans to have the Group be at full strength by August 25, 1943. Immediately the Group was divided into four squadrons: the 728th, the 729th, the 730th, and the 731st. On June 13, 1943, the Group began to grow when 192 enlisted men reported for duty at Camp Rapid, located near Rapid City, South Dakota. A new Commanding Officer, Lt. Colonel Herbert O. Wangeman, with eight months of distinguished service overseas in the United Kingdom was introduced to the Group on June 18, 1943. On October 8, 1943, the 452nd Bomb Group began to move from Camp Rapid to Oregon. Training for the original crews occurred in Walla Walla and Moses Lake Washington, Pendleton and Redmond Oregon, and at Pyote, Texas. A final stop was made at Grand Island, Nebraska, before going to England.

The newly formed 452nd Bomb Group at Rapid City, South Dakota - June 1943.

The 452nd Bomb Group was just one of the twenty four B-17 Heavy Bomber Groups that would eventually become stationed in England as part of the United States Army’s Eighth Air Force. In addition to the B-17 Groups, four Medium Bomber Groups, nearly twenty Fighter Groups, and nineteen Heavy B-24 Bomber Groups would also make up parts of the mighty Eighth Air Force in England. The 452nd Bomb Group would be among the last of the B-17 Heavy Bomber Groups to arrive in England, but the timing of its arrival would later prove to be at a critical time in the War’s history.

The entrance to the 452nd Bomb Group's airfield.
Deopham Green, England.

The Group's first combat mission occurred on February 5, 1944, after training in England for a month. The last mission occurred on April 21, 1945, after completing 250 total combat missions in the European Theater. The 452nd also participated in the Chow Hound missions to drop food to starving countries at the end of the War.

The four months with the highest losses for the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber occurred from February 1944 through May 1944 which were the Group's first four months of combat. Each month saw a steady increase in the loss of the heavy bombers with May of 1944 being the heaviest with 237 B-17's being lost by the 8th Air Force. During these four months, over 500 airmen from the 8th Air Force would give their lives for their country, while 8,500 others would be taken as prisoners.

The airfield control tower.

The 452nd Bomb Group lost over 200 planes due to enemy action or operational incidents. The loss of life from the Group totaled 441 men, including the pilot of the Sunrise Serenade who guided his plane out of a populated city to save lives on the ground. In addition to those killed, nearly 750 others from this Group were forced to bail out of their disabled planes and either evaded capture or were held prisoner by the Germans.

Total losses from the entire 8th Air Force are nearly 3,200 B-17's lost outright in combat action and another 2,500 so badly damaged that they were no longer operational. Loss of life for the combined 8th Air Force and the 15th Air Force in Italy are estimated at 24,288 killed in action.

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