12 November 2012

Consolidated B-24D Liberator "First Sergeant" of 458th Bomb Group

Image size: 1600 x 1053 pixel. 255 KB
Date: Saturday, 27 May 1944
Place: Norwich, Norwalk, England
Photographer: Unknown

Consolidated B-24D-30-CO Liberator (#42-40127) "First Sergeant" of the 8th Air Force, 458th Bombardment Group, 754th Bombardment Squadron, is shown on the apron at the group's base at RAF Horsham St. Faith, 27 May 1944. Originally "Thar She Blows Again" in operation from Algeria against Ploesti with the 93rd Bombardment Group, 329th Bombardment Squadron, and received moderate damage. Her crew, led by Lieutenant Charles Merrill, all returned safely. Originally named "Bucket of Bolts" when it was first received by the 458th, "First Sergeant" became the 458th's first assembly ship and was painted with the polka dots for high visibility. "First Sergeant's" job would be to take off before the other combat aircraft, and then lead them of the group into a combat formation, to provide maximum coverage for each ship. Then "First Sergeant" would return to base. She was crewed by rotation, usually pilots or aircrew that had suffered combat fatigue or were in need of flight time. On May 27, 1944, "First Sergeant" was the victim of a flare. While loading the plane's Very signal pistol, the gun discharged and lit other flares. This caused the war-weary B-24 to burn on the runway.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) NLR-PHOCO-A-65343B 

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