The 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was "activated" (brought into existence by the assignment of personnel) on December 1, 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. Comprised of the 544th, 545th, 546th, and 547th Bombardment Squadrons, the 384th was assigned to Wendover Field, Utah, on January 2, 1943 to begin training in B-17s for combat in the European Theatre of Operations.
At Wendover the unit underwent rigorous training in formation flying, ordnance loading, gunnery, bombing, and all aspects of aircraft maintenance. The 384th began relocating to Sioux City AAB, Iowa, in April 1943 for a final few weeks of intensive training before overseas assignment to the First Air Division of the Eighth Air Force.
The 36 aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to USAAF Station 106 near the village of Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England, and arrived there in the summer of 1943. The tail of each of the unit's B-17 aircraft was emblazoned with the "triangle-P" insignia, that letter chosen to honor the first 384th commander, Colonel Budd J. Peaslee.
The unit's primary function was the strategic bombardment of airfields and industries in France, Germany, and surrounding Nazi-occupied areas. They flew their first combat mission as a group on June 22, 1943, bombing automobile parts warehouses in Antwerp. This first mission claimed two of the unit's B-17s and their aircrews. By the time their sixth mission was completed the 384th had lost thirty-five of its original thirty-six aircraft.
Replacement crews and aircraft constantly arrived to take the vacancies, but the losses kept mounting. On a mission to bomb the port at Hamburg the 384th first experienced the terrible reality of a "ghost squadron" -- all seven ships and crews of the 544th Squadron failed to return from the mission. The entire squadron was lost.
During their tenure in England the B-17s of the 384th Bombardment Group undertook bombing missions to the airdromes at Orleans, Bricy, and Nancy, the motor works at Cologne, an aircraft component factory in Halberstadt, the steel works at Magdeburg, oil storage facilities at Leipzig and Berlin, railroad marshalling yards at Duren and Mannheim, the ports of Hamburg and Emden, and ball bearing plants in Schweinfurt. They received a Distinguished Unit Citation for their raid on aircraft factories in central Germany on January 11, 1944 and took part in the heavy bombing campaign against the German aircraft industry during "Big Week" the following month.
On April 24, 1944 the unit received its second Distinguished Unit Citation when, although crippled by heavy losses of aircraft and men due to almost overwhelming enemy opposition, the group led the attack on an aircraft factory and airfield at Oberpfaffenhofen.
In June 1944 the 384th supported the Normandy invasion with attacks along the French coast, then bombed airfields and communications lines beyond the Allied beachhead. The unit supported ground troops during the breakthrough at St. Lo in July 1944 and assisted the airborne assault on Holland in September of that year.
During that winter it struck enemy communications lines and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge. The following spring the 384th aided the Allied assault across the Rhine by cutting enemy supply lines.
The 384th Bombardment Group flew 9,348 combat sorties in 316 missions, dropping 22,416 tons of bombs on enemy targets. The unit lost 159 aircraft and 1,625 men in combat, while destroying 165 enemy airplanes (with 34 more "probables") and seriously damaging 116 others. Through it all, the members of the 384th lived up to their motto "Keep the Show on the Road." Today, surviving members of the unit proudly recall that they "always flew the missions as briefed."
Following the surrender of the Axis powers the 384th Bombardment Group remained in Europe as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe, ferrying Allied troops into Germany, Greek soldiers back to their homeland, and American troops to Casablanca for their return to the United States. The unit was inactivated in France on February 28, 1946.
Only two aircraft in the entire Eighth Air Force were ever named after individuals and both of them were in the 384th Bomb Group. Lieutenant Walter Harvey (left) was known as "Big Dog" and B-17 42-102661 SU-L was named in his honor after he was shot down. Lieutenant Nathan "Mike" Mazer (right) was a squadron armaments officer, but went on many combat missions unofficially. As he was Jewish, B-17 42-98000 SU-J was named "Fightin' Hebe" as a tribute to his spirit.