The 387th Bomb Group Project


Many of you will have heard of the Eighth Air Force, “the Mighty Eighth”. It is famous for it’s role in defeating the Nazis in WWII by the “Strategic Bombing” of Germany from bases in England. The Eighth had almost 30 Bomb Groups flying the four engine Boeing B-17, a “tail dragger” , which could carry a 4000 lb bombload, bomb from above 20,000 ft. and fly all the way into Germany and back to England without refueling. The B-17 was equipped with the famous, and very secret, Norden Bomb Sight, which, it was claimed, could drop a bomb in a pickle barrel from 20,000 ft. The B-17 was literally a “flying fortress”, armed by multiple machine guns and requiring a crew of ten. The history of the strategic bombing campaign is complex. After the war, the Army Air Force made a study of the effectiveness of the strategic bombing campaign and determined that most of their bombs missed the their targets, those targets that were damaged were either non-essential or quickly repaired and that the major benefit of the campaign was to tie up German fighters, which were therefore unavailable to support German troops at the front. For this, many German civilians lost their lives and the Eighth lost more men (26,000 killed in combat) than the entire US Marine Corps. Read about it; it’s fascinating.

But have you heard of the Ninth Air Force? If you haven’t, this is your chance to learn about “tactical bombing”. While strategic bombing was intended to degrade the enemy’s capacity to make war, particularly to manufacture weapons and equip its forces, tactical bombing was intended to support Allied operations in the field, by directly attacking Axis combat components. There were many elements to USAAF and RAF tactical Air Forces, but this project focusses on one in particular, the Martin B-26, the “Martin Marauder”. Don’t confuse this aircraft with the B-26 of later wars (e.g., Viet Nam), which as an updated version of the Douglas A-26, rechristened B-26. The B-26 was a creature of WWII. Almost all of them were destroyed at the end of the war and saw no subsequent service. However, after a rocky start, the Marauder emerged from the war with the lowest loss ratio of any allied bomber.


Incredible as it may sound to you guys with the high serial numbers, I kinda remember WWII. I have early memories of the rationing and the impact the war in “Urup” was having on the home front. I knew that my Uncle Bud was in the Army and in Urup, wherever that was. I also remember being told that children were starving in Urup, generally as a part of a campaign to get me to eat my vegetables. But the formative memory for me came in 1949, well after the war was over. I was in the fourth grade when the movie “Twelve O’Clock High” came out. It starred Gregory Peck and was about the B-17 and the strategic bombing campaign. Particularly, it dealt with aerial combat between the B-17 crews and the German interceptors sent to shoot them down and about the attendant impact on the air crews and their commanders. The movie made a deep impression on me. Eleven years later it was probably the reason why I signed up for Air Force ROTC, rather than Army or Navy ROTC. But that’s just the beginning of another story.

Towards the end of his life, my uncle and I began to discuss his memories of the war. He was an enlisted man, assigned to a service (supply/logistics) unit attached to a USAAF unit stationed near a village named “Chipping Ongar”, northeast of London. So, by then the internet had become “a thing”, and I started to research the subject. I found that Chipping Ongar was the name of an RAF field nearby a village of the same name, at a place called Willingale Field, or field 126, home to the 387th Bomb Group (Medium) of the US Army Air Force (USAAF), initially part of the Eighth Air Force, but then of the Ninth Air Force. They were home to four B-26 squadrons and the 53rd Service Squadron, my uncle’s unit. I read a little about the exploits of the unit and then lost interest in the subject.

Recently a cycling friend of mine who lives in a London suburb posted some photos of one of his rides through his hood, through a village named Chipping Ongar. I emailed him to say that my uncle had been stationed there during the war. That rekindled my interest in the subject and my friend located the field (now abandoned and barely recognizable) on Google earth. He then rode out there and took some photos of what remains of the peripheral taxiways and hardstands. It was then that the possibility of this project entered my mind. Why fly about from place to place in your flight simulator, when you could personally involve yourself in history, by reliving the life of a 387th BG pilot? So, the 387th Bomb Group Project was born.

Serendipitously, I discovered a recently developed freeware FSX/P3D model of the B-26, which I downloaded and started the fly. It’s probably the best freeware airplane I have in my hangar. Additionally I found a freeware source of functional weapons with which I could arm the aircraft. These are limited to a small set of “dumb” bombs (no machine guns), but these bombs were the principal, though not only, offensive weapons carried by the B-26.

There are also a multitude of internet sources of information about the B-26, its development and history, as well as a detailed history of the 387th BG. Start here:

So, this is about flying the B-26 and about learning to hit a target with a dumb bomb (pretty hard), but also about learning the fascinating history of the development of the B-26, and of bombing technology and tactics, and about the course of WWII in the ETO (European Theater of Operations).

Overall Outline

So, if you elect to involve yourself in this project, you will join the 387th as a Second Lt., fresh out of flight school, in early December of 1942, as your unit is being “stood up” at MacDill AFB, near Tampa, Fla. I spent a little time at MacDill working with the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the “Triple Nickel”, in the 60s, but that’s part of the other story. You will then begin training to fly the B-26, and you are appropriately frightened of the prospect. The B-26 has developed a terrible reputation for being hard/impossible to fly, resulting in the slogan “One a Day Into Tampa Bay”. This is just the start of the adventure, which ends only on VE Day, two and a half years later. The 387th is in the fight the whole way. At each stage you will be assigned flights to fly and log for credit. In some cases, there will be training objectives to meet, in others there will be a pre-flight briefing assigning your target and providing information necessary to meet escort aircraft, evade flak concentrations and initiate your bomb run. You will be expected to take photos of your strike so that commanders can make a BDA to evaluate your success. Each flight will require you to return successfully to your base, using only the primitive navigational tools available at the time and in the characteristic winter weather of northern Europe. The project will consist of a number of separate phases.

Phase 1

B-26 type flight training at MacDill Army Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla (12/1/43 – 4/12/43)

Phase 2

Bombadier/Navigator Training at Eglin Army Air Force Base, Valparaiso, Fla. (I spent a lot of time here – this is where the Doolittle Raiders trained) (4/12/83 – 5/26/43)

Phase 3

Ferry your B-26 to Station 162 via the Northern Ferry Route. Bring coffee and warm clothing. (5/26/43 – 6/25/43)

Phase 4

Initial, low altitude and mid-altitude operations against occupied costal France (8/15/43 – 11-7-43)

Phase 5

Operations against airfields and V-1 sites (11/7/43 -4/30/44)

Phase 6

Operations in preparation for and support of the Normandy Landings (5/1/44 -8/22/44)

Phase 7

Transfer to Maupertus-sur mer, France. ( 8/22/44)

Phase 8

Operations against German units in occupied France ( 8/26/44-9-18-44)

Phase 9

Transfer to Chateaudun, France (9/18/44). Subsequent operations in support of Operation Market-Garden, the battle of the Bulge and targets inside Germany.

For each of these phases I will provide references to instructional and historical sources to provide understanding and context. Generally there will be a pre-mission briefing for each mission or closely related set of missions. You will not be flying every one of the 396 combat missions flown by the 387th, but you will fly every mission assigned on the date (month and day) when it actually occurred, regardless of the weather. In some cases there may be an alternate target, but often you will return without having seen/attacked the target. Obviously, the choice of missions assigned will be driven by the availability of suitable FSX scenery targets. As it stands now, there will be no fighter interceptors, escort fighters or effectual flak. But ingress and egress routes and attack altitudes will be assigned based on these considerations. The objective will be to hit and damage your target. I will show you how to attempt do this.

If, and given the size of our little VA this is unlikely, we enlist enough pilots in our Squadron, we may use group flights to try out formation flying and formation attacks against assigned targets.

I am currently working to develop a diversity of bomb types/loads to use against our targets. As we move on into the war, and missions take us deeper into occupied France and Holland, and then into Germany, balancing fuel and bomb loads may become an issue in our ability to inflict damage on selected targets.

Finally, let me assure you based on my trial runs, this will not be easy. Even without interceptors and flak to deal with, weather and navigation will be challenging and setting up a good bomb run is not easy either. As I recall, even with the vaunted Norden Bombsight, the 8th AF only got about 30% of its bombs within 1000 ft. of the target under the best conditions, and we will not have a functional bombsight on our B-26s. I hope to develop a rough “bombing algorithm” which will allow us to get into the ballpark, but I will probably have to rely on your ingenuity to improve on my performance.


387th Bomber Group Flight Log
Flight Code Pilot ID Pilot Name Flight Date Aircraft
90211048Daugherty, Mike (Vice President - Tng. Mgr.)2021-01-02Martin Marauder
90211148Daugherty, Mike (Vice President - Tng. Mgr.)2021-01-03Martin Marauder
90211248Daugherty, Mike (Vice President - Tng. Mgr.)2021-01-07Any
902100439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-16Martin B-26C Marauder Ke
902101439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-17Martin B-26C Marauder Ke
902102439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-19Martin B-26C Marauder KW
902103439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-21B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902104439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-23Any
902105439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-02-24B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902106439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-04B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902107439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-05B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902108439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-07B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902109439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-11B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902110439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-16B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902111439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-18B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902112439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-20B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902113439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-21B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902114439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-23B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902115439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-25B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902116439Chew, Larry (Bush-Special Ops. Mgr.)2021-03-27B-26 Marauder Nightmare
902100440Archer, Jim2021-01-29Martin B-26C Marauder Bi
902101440Archer, Jim2021-01-30Martin B-26C Marauder KW
902112440Archer, Jim2022-03-09AC560 FSX Factory N2649B
902100518Mitchell, Bob2020-12-31Martin Marauder
902100534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-01-29Martin B-26B-20-MA Fight
902101534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-02-02Martin B-26C Marauder He
902102534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-02-04Martin B-26C Marauder He
902103534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-02-05Martin B-26C Marauder He
902104534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-02-21Martin B-26C Marauder He
902105534Rogers, John E. (President-Webmaster)2021-02-24Martin B-26C Marauder He
902100711Smith, Richard2020-12-31Martin B-26C Marauder Bi