The official 391st Bomb Group paper records were photographed and transferred to Microfiche in 1973 at Maxwell Air Force Base. In 2018, the Army Air Force Historical Association copied the Microfiche records into digital images and very kindly made these available to interested parties. In October 2018, I was fortunate to receive copies of these from Brian Gibbons.
When first looking at the records it was apparent that some had degraded badly ! Perhaps the inks had faded over time, or perhaps pencil had been used instead of ink. It's also possible that some photographs were over or under exposed. As a result, some pages were partially or totally unreadable ! However, by using image editing software to enhance the image, some details became visible.
Recording the data from these records is a monumental task. It is extremely time consuming and involves a great deal of typing. There have been times when my fingers, neck, and shoulders have ached. My wife has tolerated the countless hours that I have spent in front of my computer and it is much appreciated by me. My sincerest hope is that this information will be of use to those searching for details of their relative or friends service with the 391st Bomb Group, and as a tribute to their contribution towards the allied victory in the second World War.
Great care has been taken to record the data and, where possible, cross-reference and analyze it to check its validity. Many inconsistencies have been found and, where possible, I have endeavoured to correct these only where there is supporting evidence elsewhere. However, some errors remain. If you spot any, I may already know about it; but please let me know anyway.
The records come in "reels", with each reel containing around 1600 images. The first reel contains records for the group's first 17 missions. Each mission comprises various types of documentation, the most useful are:
Field Orders: are sent by Bomber Command to each group participating in the mission by teleprinter. It contains information necessary for the group to plan and execute the mission, such as: time, date, bomb loading, route to target and back to base, fighter escort rendezvous details, radio call signs and frequencies, location of anti-aircraft defences, enemy fighter information, and much more !
Crew Loading Lists: these are produced by each squadron and list each aircraft from that squadron (usually by the last 3 digits of its serial number) and its crew members. These were produced after each mission by each individual squadron and follow a similar (but not exact) format. Surnames are always given with either full forename and initial, or initials only, or sometimes neither ! The aircraft and crews listed are usually only those who have fully participated in the mission, with spare or abortive crews omitted, although this varies ! It should be noted that a crew assigned to an aircraft may all be members of a different squadron, and sometimes a crew may be comprised of individuals from different squadrons.
Form 104a: after the crews returned to base, they were interrogatated by an S-2 (Intelligence Section) officer using a Form 104a. This form was designed to collect information about the aircraft number, bomb load, bombs dropped/jettisoned/returned, time of take-off/fighter rendezvous/over target/landing, flak information, enemy aircraft seen/attacked/destroyed, and much more. The position in the formation (box/flight/position) are often noted on the form too. The form also contains a section for other comments from the crew, and I've seen many requests here for gloves and sunglasses, and many more complaints about the food prior to the mission ! If a letter code for the aircraft was present on the Form 104a, then I have included this in the formation diagram. It should be noted that the squadron given on the form is usually the squadron that the crew were members of and not the squadron that the aircraft was assigned to.
Interrogation Report: this is a table that provides a summary of all the data from each Form104a. Most of these reports appear to be in box/flight/position order and, unless a formation diagram was included in the records, I have used these to construct the formation diagram.
Formation Diagram: also known as "Taxi Sheets". These show the aircraft number and code, pilot, and hardstand. So far, only a few formation diagrams have been included in the Group records. If the website formation diagram shows hardstand numbers, then a formation diagram was present in the records.
Form 103b and OpFlash form: these are essentially a summary of the results for the mission, and was compiled from Form 104a and other data. Information for the take-off time/time over target/time landed, totals of bombs dropped/jettisoned/returned, crew killed/missing/wounded, aircraft lost/missing, etc. are listed. The information on this form was sent by teleprinter back to Bomber Command.
Form 102a: contains much the same information as the 103b and OpFlash forms, but also describes the results of the bombing along with a rating of poor/fair/good/excellent/superior.
You may notice that the mission targets and dates from the Group records for the first 6 missions (shown in the load lists) differs from those on the original website. I currently have no explanation for this, so any help in resolving this would be appreciated.
Army Serial Numbers (ASN) for personnel have been obtained from the original website, Group records (Medal Awards), Special Orders, and (for Enlisted Men) the NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records. Where the ASN for an individual has not been found, an arbitrary identifier (e.g. LL1234) has been allocated until the ASN is found. A number of crews from the 322, 323, 386, and 387 Bomb Groups were temporarily attached to the 391 Bomb Group to initially help it gain combat experience. In some cases, the ASN for these personnel has been found. In other cases, I have identified the group and squadron that an individual was detached from and have set their ASN to an arbitrary identifier containing their group and squadron e.g. x322x449x001.