Activated on October 1, 1942, the B-17 Flying Fortress-equipped 351stdeployed to England in April 1943 for service with the Eighth Air Force. Constituent units included the 508th, 509th, 510thand 511thbombardment squadrons. The 351st bombed ball bearing works at Schweinfurt, communications facilities at Mayen, marshalling yards at Koblenz, a locomotive and tank factory at Hannover, industrial targets in Berlin, bridges at Cologne, an armaments factory at Mannheim, and oil refineries in Hamburg. It also struck harbor facilities, submarine installations, airfields, V-weapon sites, and power plants in France, Belgium, Holland, and Norway. The 351stearned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) on October 9 during a daring mission against an aircraft factory in Germany.
The group received another DUC for successful attacks on January 11, 1944 against aircraft factories in central Germany. The 351stparticipated in the intensive “Big Week” air campaign (February 20-25) against the German aircraft industry. Navigator 2ndLt. Walter E. Truemper and Flight Engineer Sgt. Archibald Mathies earned the Medal of Honor for their actions on February 20, when their aircraft received a direct hit that killed the copilot and wounded the pilot. Truemper and Mathies flew the plane until their fellow crewmembers could bail out. On their third attempt to land the plane in an effort to save the pilot, the B-17 crashed and all three men were killed. In addition to strategic bombing, the 351stsupported the Normandy campaign in June and the St. Lo breakthrough in July.
It covered the airborne attack on Holland in September, and struck front-line positions, communications, and airfields to stop the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 through January 1945. The group’s final missions supported airborne assaults across the Rhine in March. The 351stBombardment Group returned to the United States soon after V-E Day and inactivated on August 28.
Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe