389th Bomb Group (Heavy)

The 389th BG Sky Scorpions

Hethel, UK
As American involvement expanded and more heavy bombers moved into England, new airbases were built on farmland all over the British countryside. The B-24 bases were spaced about 6 miles apart concentrated in the area around Norwich in Norfolk County.
Known to some as The Sky Scorpions, the 389th BG formed in England in July 1943 under the command of Col. Jack Wood.

The 389th BG was made up of the 564th, 565th, 566th, and 567th Squadrons.

Norfolk County
Hethel was to be their new home...

   (or so they thought)...
The stay in England was short. They left England's green fields of brussel sprouts and cabbage and moved to "detached service" in the desert of northern Africa.

The 389th BG joined the 93rd and 44th groups of the 8th Air Force temporarily re-assigned to the 9th Air Force near Benghazi, Libya.

At their base in the desert, the men lived in tents.
The desert camp was plagued (inside and outside the tents) with kangaroo rats, locusts (grasshoppers), scorpions, and shifting sand.

camp in the Libyan desert
Sand and fine dust got into everything and created many mechanical problems. With parts in short supply and only the open desert for a workshop, the ground crews had a real challenge.

The 389th flight crews had arrived in England ahead of their ground support personnel and now again in Libya the ground support was left behind.

Ground personnel were re-assigned from the other two 8th Air Force groups (93rd BG and 44th BG) to meet this need.

Rommel's tank forces had been defeated in the desert. The first 6 missions of the 389th Bomb Group were flown in support of the Sicily invasion as the German and Italian forces were pushed out of North Africa.

  photo by Ralph Lipper
These photos courtesy of Peter Simpson

Does anyone recognize these guys?

Peter would like to know.
According to some, the 389th Bomb Group dubbed themselves the "Sky Scorpions" but most declaim the name as something made up long after the fact.
If they weren't called Sky Scorpions, they didn't call themselves anything. Too bad. I thought it was a catchy name.

Standing in front of the aircraft "Scorpion" is its sober flight crew and some ground support passengers.

Sky Scorpion

The photo above was taken at the base in Hethel, UK near the end of August, 1943. The 389th returned from Libya shortly after the low-level raid against the Ploesti oil refineries.
At Benghazi, Libya the 389th had been operating with the help of ground personnel borrowed from the 93rd BG and the 44th BG up to this point in time.
Capt. Lipper
shown in this photo was on temporary assignment to the 389th BG, Hethel. He was normally assigned to the 44th BG, a few miles away in Shipdam.
Upon their return to England in August, the 389th was re-joined by its assigned ground support team and most of the "borrowed" personnel were returned to their original groups.
  Capt. Kenneth Caldwell

Kenneth Caldwell

Ralph Lipper

Capt. Ralph Lipper 

After detached service in North Africa, the 'Scorpions' resided at Hethel (Station 114), in Norfolk.

A Liberator outfit throughout the war, the 389th ultimately flew 321 missions, completing its final operational foray over Germany on 25 April 1945.
The Sky Scorpions dropped 17,548 tons of bombs on the enemy and lost 153 B-24s. Records show 209 enemy aircraft destroyed, 31 probables and 45 damaged.
The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for the Ploesti mission and one of its pilots, 2nd Lt. Lloyd H. Hughes, was posthumously awarded the congressional Medal of Honor for his courage on that day.*

*Liberator Album - B-24s of the 2nd Air Division USAAF  by Mike Bailey with Tony North

Read about other missions of the 389th BG
No story of the early 389th Bomb Group can be told without the Ploesti story.
Read about the raid on Ploesti, Romania Sunday, August 1, 1943.

in this site
Ralph Lipper B-24 Liberator Don Pierce
Flying 8-balls Mighty 8th AF Sky Scorpions
random photos-a the air crews 389th BG aircraft
random photos-b Ploesti, Romania Ole Irish
lifestyle hazards Aviator's diary waist gunner
sources / books / links U.S. before the war 389th BG stories
this site home page contact 389th BG web site