I live in the county of Essex, England. Essex has been called "Marauder County" as all 8 of the Martin B-26 Marauder bomb groups in the ETO were initially based within it. This is one of the reasons that I developed an interest in the Marauder and those who flew, maintained, and supported it. There are many fine websites relating to the Marauder and the various bomb groups who flew it. Of these, George James' website about the 391st Bomb Group has proved an invaluable source of information.
Some time ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Judi Butler, the daughter of 391st Bomb Group veteran Thelbert "Dick" Thomas. It was my pleasure to show her around what remains of the airfield at Matching Green. Prior to our meeting, I had scoured the 391st Bomb Group website for information about her father, and she was thrilled to learn that he and George James knew each other very well ! Although in separate crews, they had trained together, flown the North Atlantic route to England at the same time, and had been assigned to the same bomb group and squadron ! Eventually, they would fly together as a crew too. This is just one example of how useful the 391st Bomb Group website has been to me. I'm sure many others have found it useful too.
Over the years, I have witnessed the disappearance of many websites, and it occurred to me that this fate could befall the 391st Bomb Group website. In anticipation that such a disaster would some day occur, I was able to backup the entire website.
Much later, around September 2017, I noticed that the 391st Bomb Group website had gone ! I waited in the hope that it was just a temporary glitch of some kind, but further investigation showed that the website domain name had been acquired from the original registrar by an organization in Japan. I can only assume that the subscription for the hosting of the website and domain name had expired and consequently the hosting company had "pulled the plug". I have been unable to find anything about the current status of George James, but I fear the worst.
So what was I to do now ? I had the data from the website safely stored on my computer and I could use this to help those searching for information. One of the questions that I thought about a lot was: what would George James have wanted ? My opinion is that if he wanted the information to be widely available to the public via his website, then he would want that to continue. So reinstating the website became my goal.
I could have just uploaded the web pages and media to a new web server. However, I thought that this may be an opportunity to use my IT skills to bring the site up to date and to correct some of the things that were not displaying as intended. The first thing I chose to sort out was the taxi sheets. George admits that these displayed correctly in Microsoft Word, but not on the website. After some experimentation, I was able to fix the problem by using CSS grids. Most of the web pages appear to have been generated by MS Word and thus suffer from formatting "bloat" making them unnecessarily large and slower to load. Some of the information on the pages is repeated and thus some economies could be achieved by using a database to feed the web pages. A database would also allow searching to be performed easily, as well as allowing aircraft, people, orders, etc. to be linked together in new and insightful ways.
So, I began the task of extracting the data from every web page and then feeding it into a database. During this process, I corrected some obvious typographical errors (which we have all made). Using Army Enlistment, Casualty, Prisoner of War, and MACR records (see resources), I was able to add new personnel and to correct many personnel-related errors, such as incorrect spelling of names, and missing or incorrect serial numbers (I have taken the greatest care in making any changes, but please contact me if you spot any errors). Using PHP, new web pages were created to display the information in the database. This work not been easy and has taken me over 6 months to complete, but I feel that it will make it easier to implement changes and additions in the future. I do hope that George would approve of the result. My work has given me an appreciation of the huge amount of effort that must have been required to create the original website.
The original website contained a mixture of dates in both US format (Month/Day/Year) and UK format (Day/Month/Year). I have decided to display any dates that have been imported into the database in UK format (Day/Month/Year), and to use the names of the months instead of their numbers to avoid any confusion. However, please be aware that there are instances of dates in both US and European formats in the text which were present in the original website.
I have tried to replicate the structure of links and pages of the original website, but using a more modern navigation bar to improve the site's appearance, especially on tablets and mobile devices. I have added new facilities to search for personnel and also to list an aircraft's details along with any related accident reports and taxi sheet information. The taxi sheets have been separated into specific pages for each mission which I hope makes them easier to read. Another addition was to include data from Accident and MACR reports. This has yielded additional 391st Bomb Group personnel as well as further details of each tragic incident.
The original website pages have been uploaded to the new website and are accessable via the link should you wish to view them.
Sgt. Al Garcia served with the 572nd Bomb Squadron as a member of the ground crew. During his time with the squadron, he took over 200 photographs. Gary Garcia has kindly donated copies of his father's photographs which I have included on the new website.
I do not have copies of many of the documents mentioned in the original website. However, Judi Butler has kindly provided copies of ALL her father's service documents, mostly comprised of Special Orders. I have transcribed and uploaded many of these to the Fold3 website in the hope that they may allow people to find information about their relative's wartime service. I have included copies of the document images and transcripts on the new website for the same purpose. Furthermore, I hope that these will allow the reader to understand what these documents look like and what information they contain. I have more documents waiting for transcription, but it can be a slow and time-consuming process, so I will add others as they become available.
I would like to obtain copies of the 391st Bomb Group mission records and the crew loading lists. My hope is that these can be used to provide additional taxi sheets and also the crew of each aircraft for each mission. I expect that transcribing these documents will be a mammoth task, but worth the effort.
I believe that Dave Garnham (who, I understand, provided a huge amount of data for the original website) has passed away. I would like to obtain copies of his data which I hope could be incorporated into this website.
Please contact me via the form on this website if you have any comments, suggestions, or questions. I would be grateful for any information, documents, or photographs that you would like to share on this website.
I would like to thank the personnel of the 391st Bomb Group for their dedication, courage, and sacrifice during their service; and for their efforts in bringing the peace and liberty that we all enjoy today.
Finally, a huge thank you to Colonel George T. James, Jr. for his monumental efforts in creating the original website, and whose generosity should long be remembered.