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âI hope youâre saving these photos mom, theyâre priceless,â reads a letter home from England during WWII, dated May 28, 1945. I found the note in an old oak box full of amazing photographs that my Grandfather, Cpl. John H. Clancy took while serving as a photographer for the Mighty 8th Air Force, 303rd Bombardment, 358th Squadron. It finishes, âDonât worry Mom, everything is good and weâll all be home before you know it, and wonât that just be swell. That big kiss in the sunrise. Love, My John.â
The 358th, a.k.a. âHells Angelsâ was the first group in the US Army Air Force to complete 300 missions over Europe. The USAAF was responsible for clearing the air and paving the way to victory against the evil Nazi regime. Hells Angels adopted their name from the their first B-17 bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe. The brave men and women of the 303rd proved to the world that teamwork, perseverance, courage, and sacrifice prevail in the face of evil.
Reaching England in late October of 1942, the group was a bit green around the edges but what they lacked in experience they made up for with that good old American can do attitude. Their first mission on Nov. 17 yielded no results due to bad weather, but soon the Hells Angels were finding and hitting their targets with a precision that annoyed the German Luftwaffe (Air Force).
âThey never turned around in the face of the enemy,â reads The First 300 Hells Angels, one of the books contained in the box. The young American fighters learned many lessons from the Luftwaffe who, flying M.E. 109âs, F.W. 190âs and accompanied by anti-aircraft flak gunners on the ground, made every effort to deter the American bombers from hitting their targets. The 303rd earned their wings bombing the U-Boat pens over France in Lorient, St. Nazaire, Brest, and La Pallice.
For more pictures and information pick up a copy of the Narragansett Times