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The 464th Bomb Group in WWII - Flightline

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 government.

     From: Robert Hoskinson
     To: Seymour Gaynes
     Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 17:34:33 -0500
         My friend, 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 home. We were aware that some of the missions got you credit for two, others credit for one. Believe me, Vienna, Munich, Blechhammer, etc. deserved credit for two if that was the way they wanted it.
         Sorties got you credit for only one wherever your target. 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 Leaf Clusters. Am curious and would appreciate any info you can give me.
     Bob Hoskinson 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 B-17, 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 Austria, Hungary, 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 8th.
         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, by no means a "milk run."
          So...guys like me, with 15 "doubles" to my credit could get the required "50 missions" in 35 sorties.
         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 Pentagon...)
         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. You may 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 aircraft.
         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 silver one.
          I have 8 total (I got 3 more in Korea) so I use 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 was entitled to a medal and 2 clusters - but since I already had a medal from WW2 they just gave me 3 clusters to add to my prior 5. What a crock...
     Best regards,
     Seymour (Sy) Gaynes

     From: Robert Hoskinson
     To: Seymour Gaynes
     Date: Tue, 23 Dec 2003 22:28:57 -0500
         Hello Sy:
         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 recalls 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 with 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 one."
          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 website: http://www.zplace2b.com/464th
     Take good care, and again thanks much.
     Bob Hoskinson, 464th BG, 778th BS

Information submitted by Robert Hoskinson (778)
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