Mission Sortie Designation
This is transcript of an email discussion between two members
of the 15th AF - Seymour Gaynes, 455 BG and Robert Hoskinson, 464 BG,778, regarding
mission/sortie designations and the awarding of medals and oak leaf clusters by the
From: Robert Hoskinson
To: Seymour Gaynes
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 17:34:33 -0500
I am not the joker who left the
message on Dec. 14 but I would like to hear more about the
missions and air medals.
Our crew was in the 15th AF, 464th BG,
778th BS. When we first arrived in Pantanella AB,
Italy, we were advised you had to
have 50 COMPLETED "missions" to earn a trip back home.
Then in Nov. '44 this was changed to the
need for 35 completed "sorties" to earn a trip back
We were aware
that some of the missions got you credit for two, others credit for one. Believe
Vienna, Munich, Blechhammer, etc. deserved credit for two if that was the way they
Sorties got you credit for only one wherever
As for "Air Medals," our Deputy Operations Officer advised us we
would have to complete 10
missions to earn the first Air Medal, then for each additional
10 completed, you got an Oak Leaf
Cluster in lieu of another medal. The same stood
when the count was changed from 50 to 35.
Our crew completed at least 32 (some
completed 34 and 36) sorties (this would have been 53
missions under the old method),
before the saga in Europe came to a close.
In going to some of the websites, I read of
guys receiving an Air Medal for 5 missions and an Oak
Leaf Cluster for each additional 5
yet the guys on our crew received only an air medal and two Oak
curious and would appreciate any info you can give me.
464th BG, 778th BS
From: Seymour Gaynes
To: Robert Hoskinson
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 16:40:39 -0800 (PST)
I was a Navigator in the 455th Bomb Group
15th AAF stationed at a former country estate called San Giovanni a few miles outside
of Cerignola, Italy from January to July 1944 when I
finished my "50 mission"
tour with 35 combat "sorties" (15 of them were considered "doubles").
In England 8th AAF (which got to Europe
in 1942-43) the powers that be deemed a "tour" at 25
missions since they
believed not many crews would ever reach that amount alive. Memphis Belle, a
was the first to reach that level and live.
In 1943 the Army Air Force was putting
together a 2nd European heavy bomber air force the
15th, to be stationed in Italy and
cover the lower half of Europe below Germany.which included
Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and of course Romania.
They believed that
Hitler would send the
bulk of his fighters to fight the 8th and did not have as many anti aircraft
guns as upper
Europe to cover this area.
SO.....the powers decided a tour in the
15th would be
50 missions instead of 25 as in the 8th. But, as you know, the "best
laid plans, etc." backfired when
Hitler had enough fighters and anti-aircraft guns to
give the 15th the same HELL they gave the
But the powers didn't want to admit they
mis-judged Hitler and they left the mission tour at
50 but gave "double credit"
to a sortie which was particularly hellish - like Ploesti or Vienna - or in
some cases just
an overly long flight over enemy territory at least as long as a typical 8th mission,
means a "milk run."
So...guys like me, with 15 "doubles"
to my credit could get the required "50 missions" in 35
As you can see the "mission"
count was an artificial requirement in the 15th AAF, but
no one had the guts to admit they
goofed...so air crew men talk about 50 missions because that's
what they needed to go
home. By the way, the "singles" were no milk runs either, just of shorter
duration. Hitler had plenty of guns over Milan, Turin, Genoa, Marseille, and over the railroad
yards and wharves of France.
As to the Air Medal and Oak Leaf Clusters,
the requirements differed in different theatres at
different times. But, in the 15th, in the first
half of 1944, 10 sorties were required for the Air Medal
and an Oak Leaf Cluster was given
for each 5 sorties thereafter--so with 35 sorties I have an Air
Medal and 5 Oak Leaf Clusters
(Note I use sorties, not missions, that would have really screwed up
The 8th didn't have this sortie/mission problem
since it was all the same - I
don't know their requirements for the AM or OLC.
be aware that in the 8th every crewman who lived through 25 was given a DFC (Distinguished
Flying Cross) besides
his Air Medals etc. but the Commanding General of the15th (Twining
at that time, I believe) didn't
allow such "cheapening" of the DFC and the
crews in the 15th had to "earn" their
DFC...the hard way...usually with BLOOD
or really super flying or other super actions in the
By the way, the OLC were bronze but the
5th OLC was silver - so a guy with 4 or less had
all bronze, a guy with 5 only had a silver
one, and if a guy had more than 5, he could add the
correct number of bronze OLC to his
I have 8 total (I got 3 more in Korea) so I
one silver and 3 bronze - total 8 OLC or 9 air medals.
As to the cluster rulings, I believe that it
remained, as I mentioned before, until
mid-1944 (or a little later) a medal for 10 sorties
and a cluster for each 5 thereafter. But, then,
someone decided it was "too easy"
(I'd like to run into whoever that was) and they went to 10
sorties for the medal plus
10 sorties for each cluster.
It was never set in stone...in fact in Korea
(1951-52) it was 25 for the medal and 15 for a cluster. I flew 55 in Korea and
to a medal and 2 clusters - but since I already had a medal from WW2 they just gave
3 clusters to add to my prior 5. What a crock...
Seymour (Sy) Gaynes
From: Robert Hoskinson
To: Seymour Gaynes
Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 22:28:57 -0500
I received your message and appreciate it.
We (the 464th BG) were stationed at "Pantanella AB" about 15 or so miles
away from Cerignola
- looks like it might be in a SE direction. We were on one side of
the airstrips and the 465th BG was on the other side.
Our navigator was given credit for 36 sorties,
pilot and co-pilot 34 sorties, and the rest of us had
32. Even after they changed the method
of crediting I kept a dual diary, still indicating those that would have been doubles and
which singles, thus under the doubles I would have had 53 missions, 32 sorties. My
records show that actually we were scheduled (as a crew) to 35 sorties, but had 3
due to lousy weather.
The pilot and co-pilot had, in the past, told
me they received
only the AM and two OLC. None of us has seen or been in contact
our navigator since the day we landed at Bradley Field in May '45.
I have gotten a bit irritated in the past with
some of the guys who post to the ArmyAirForces.com
and B-24 Best Web
websites, when I have tried to get info about the awarding of the AM -
virtually all have
insisted on 5 was all you did.
As I said earlier our Deputy Operations Officer
insisted that "the Air Medal was no big deal" - "all you have to do is fly
ten missions and you get
I received a letter from one of the guys (had
told me the mission/sorties change over was in Nov. '44) who was a co-pilot in a crew
that had to ditch one on 20 Nov. '44 in the Adriatic after hitting Blechhammer. All the guys
except one were picked up and made it back to
base, then on 31 Jan. '45 they had to
bail when two engines were knocked
out on the bomb run to Moosbierbaum.
Sy, thanks again for your message. The
joker who posted on the "B24Veterans" site kind of got
under my skin and I
wanted to say something, but naturally he wouldn't leave an email address.
If you ever get a chance you might visit our
Take good care, and again thanks much.
Bob Hoskinson, 464th BG, 778th BS
Information submitted by Robert Hoskinson (778)