|A FAMILIAR SIGHT. Bombers
from Don's Unit--the 463rd Bomb Group--heading toward yet another
target. Note the fan-shaped tail-marking symbol that denoted Don's
Unit. This identified Don's Unit as being the 463rd Bomb
From the first mission flown by the 463rd Bomb Group on March 30, 1944, until its last mission on April 26, 1945, the 463rd Bomb Group completed a total of 222 missions, thus inflicting grave damage on the capacity of the enemy to maintain its war-making capability. Visit the official website of the 463rd Bomb Group.
|Heavy Bombers||A great website featuring a wealth of information on the Army Air Corps in World War II with good links to other B-17 Bomb Group websites.|
|B-17 Combat Crewmen and Wingmen||"An Organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the gallant airmen, both living and dead, who served in the mighty Air War of WW-II, and to the memory of their vehicle, the famous B-17 Flying Fortress". (This group has merged with Wings Over Wendys.)|
|The Army Air Corps||This website focuses on the role of the Army Air Force in World War II. Site put together by Dennis Pixler, the son of Ralph Pixler of the 773rd Squadron, 463rd Bomb Group.|
Could I share a few of my thoughts with you?
My wife and I are interested in our family's histories. In researching her roots, she learned that she had a direct ancestor (John Crosier) who was at Bunker Hill and Valley Forge in the American Revolution. Truly, she comes from good, solid American stock.
I, on the other hand, need look no further back than my own father to find a hero and patriot: Don Wise. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I remember waking up one Sunday morning and coming and getting into bed with he and mom. Dad was sitting up in bed, reading the Sunday paper, and he read the comics to me. On one Sunday in particular, while gazing into his closet, I eyed a brown leather jacket--his bomber jacket--with a painting of Pig Chaser on the back. He had the painting made in Italy after his 10th mission. There was something significant here, but of course back then I didn't understand it. Now, however, I do understand, and I realize just how indebted we all are to those people who left their farms, their schools, and their families and joined in the greatest armed conflict this world has ever seen. I cannot help but get a little emotional when I consider what they had to pass through.
The bomber crews who flew out of Italy were required to fly 50 missions--twice the number of those flown by Eighth Air Force bomber crews stationed in England. U.S. bomber crews in England had been flying combat missions for a lot longer however, because Italy was still an Axis power until late 1943 and early 1944. Once Italy fell, however, allied bomber and fighter groups began flying out of that country, which made much of Europe more accessible.
One of the most important targets in all of Europe was Ploesti, Romania. More heavily defended than even Berlin, oil refineries worked day and night to provide the Nazis with much of their oil. Destroying the Ploesti refineries is one of the greatest stories of World War II, yet it receives relatively little attention in the popular press. In all, the United States lost about 300 heavy bombers over the five month period it took to do the job.
The losses of B-17s and their crews were heavy. But the damage inflicted upon the enemy by B-17s brought the Nazi war machine to a near standstill in a speedy fashion.
One final comment, if I may. In the spring of 1973 I was in Nice, France. I was invited to a friend's home, and while there, our conversation turned to World War II. My friend's dad was there, and joined in the conversation. I knew that my father had led the mission over the Var River Bridge in 1944. When I mentioned that, my friend's father became excited and told me he was nearby the day the bombs fell. He and some other young men had been ordered to dig some footings for some Nazi project, and while doing so the air raid siren sounded. He saw the B-17 formations come overhead and heard the bombs dropping. He waved both arms high in the air and made a big circling motion in dramatic fashion, and said the bombs whistled loudly as they fell. He made a loud "woo-woo-woo-woo" sound as he made the big circular motions above his head. He said they dove into the holes they had dug and then the bombs began exploding. He said the sound was deafening and the concussions were, as he said, "cataclysmic". Needless to say, the hair raised up on the back of my neck as he described that day--a day when my father was in the lead aircraft named Pig Chaser--at an altitude of 25,000 feet!
Distinguished Flying Cross
"Pig Chaser" & Its Crew
The "Best Seat in the House"
List of 50 Missions
The Ploesti Campaign