In this third instalment of our blog dedicated to the brave men of the 100th BG, I recall my recent visit to Thorpe Abbotts, home of the "Bloody Hundredth".
In October 2023 I had the honour of receiving a special invitation to the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall. Despite being an RAF base in principle, it is in fact occupied by the United States Air Force and been since 1950.
As part of our affiliation with the 100th Bomb Group Foundation I was cordially invited to attend this special event to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the infamous bombing mission on Munster, Germany. The 100th ARW is a direct descendant of the 100th BG designated by the 'Square D' on the tail plane. On the morning of the 10th October we attended the unveiling of two nose arts which had been painted on the noses of the massive KC-135 refuelling jets. These nose arts were done to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Munster bombing mission in which so many aircraft and men were lost.
This mission has gone down in history as one of the deadliest performed by the 8th Air Force in WWII. In fact the week on which it was performed came to be known as 'Black Week' as only two days before Munster another high loss mission was undertaken at Bremen. The 100th took a particular pasting on both missions. Already being dubbed as the 'hard luck group' due to their inordinately high losses the Group's reputation was sealed that week as they were nearly wiped out - earning them the nickname 'The Bloody Hundredth".
After the unveiling event we all moved onto the original 100th Bomb Group air base of WWII at Thorpe Abbotts. The control tower and some buildings are still there, all of which have been adopted by the 100th Bomb Group Foundation and turned into a museum. At this event there was a service, and the laying of wreaths by officers from the 100th ARW and other dignitaries, not least the last surviving (combat) original member of the 100th BG, John ‘Lucky’ Luckadoo.
John is now 102 and was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, March 16, 1922. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps following the attack on Pearl Harbor, and joined the 100th Bomb Group as one of the original cadre of pilots. He served in both the 350th and 351st Bomb Squadrons and flew 25 combat missions. ‘Lucky' made the journey back to his former base – where he first set foot in 1943, at age 20 – to once again walk the familiar territory and to honour those Airmen who gave the ultimate sacrifice. I can only say I was in awe of this incredible man. Still moving under his own steam and not even wearing glasses, he spoke eloquently and clearly at the podium after the laying of wreaths at the Thorpe Abbotts museum. He recounted his wartime experience of being a co pilot on the Munster mission remembering the events in uncanny detail.
“I cannot possibly convey to you the feelings that I’m having, after being here 80 years ago on this day, at this spot. What we, and my generation, did from this base has become legendary. We have become accidental members of history. We were so young, so innocent, so gullible, and we had no clue as to what we were going to face when we came over here and crossed swords with the very formidable Luftwaffe – the most powerful air force in the world at the time. We were citizen soldiers; college kids being thrust into this position, to defend the freedoms and values that we cherished so dearly. Those of us who are fortunate to still remain, have serious doubts on what the present generation is doing to our country – and I say this with great sadness and great trepidation as a warning that freedom is never free. It demands constant vigilance, protection and determination to preserve it, and we have to do everything in our power as individuals to do so, because we took an oath – and many of our countrymen take an oath – to protect our country from both outside and within. We all meet challenges, and certainly we were forced from this base 80 years ago, and I stand before you today merely because I was uncommonly blessed – with a guardian angel on each shoulder – to have survived. My comrades are the heroes; those who did survive are just ‘Damn Lucky!’ There’s no other way to explain it – we were just in the right place at the right time.”
The wonderful museum at Thorpe Abbotts is a literal treasure trove of 100th related ephemera. Numerous original crew members flight jackets are on display (see above) along with other apparel, personal items and unit related items. I also had the honour of presenting the Foundation with one of our own Eastman 100th BG Elite Units reproductions.
The event came along just around the same time as AppleTV announced the release date of the Masters of the Air series. The production of which we were enormously proud and honoured to be selected as the leading supplier of flight jackets.
MASTERS OF THE AIR premiers today on AppleTV+, don't miss it!