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491st Bombardment Group at Metfield


The 491st Bombardment Group was stationed at Metfield and later North Pickenham in Norfolk, England, from April 1944 to April 1945.

It was activated on 1 October 1943 at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona.  

It has a more unusual history than some of the other bomb groups, in that many of its ground personnel came from four Second Air Division bomb groups already in England.

The air crews trained in the United States at Biggs Field, Texas and at Pueblo, Colorado before moving overseas on 21 April 1944.

Like several of the other Second Air Division bomb groups, the 491st air crews flew their B-24 Liberators to England via the southern ferry route, which included stops in Florida, Brazil, and Morocco.

They were stationed at Metfield from 25 April through to 15 August 1944, before moving to the North Pickenham airfield, where they completed their time in England.

The group flew its first mission on 2 June 1944 against an airfield near Bretigney, France and its last mission on 25 April 1945.

During this time, it flew 187 missions for 5,005 sorties, losing 47 aircraft in action.

The crew of Lucky Penny, except for Navigator 2nd Lt William L Reese who was “borrowed” to fly on the 853rd Squadron lead plane, were all killed on 8 June 1944 at Metfield.

They had aborted their mission with a feathered No. 1 engine and after returning to the airbase, circled the field three times with a full load of fuel and bombs.

They lost control as they attempted to land and crashed on the field.

William L Reese was later killed on 26 November 1944 on the raid over the oil refinery at Misburg in Germany.

The 491st Bomb Group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in the Misburg mission.

Redeployment to the United States began in June 1945.

The B-24 Liberators were flown home from 17-19 June. The ground crews left England for New York via the Queen Mary on 6 July 1945.

The 491st was then based at McChord Field, Washington, but with the end of the war the group was inactivated on 8 September 1945.

If you want to view various records relating to the 491st, visit our digital archive.

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