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USAAF Station 141
|Located Near Watton, Norfolk in England|
Aerial photograph of Bodney airfield, looking north, 18 April 1944
Location in Norfolk
|Type||Royal Air Force station|
|Operator||Royal Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
|Controlled by||RAF Bomber Command
Eighth Air Force
|Elevation||40 metres (131 ft) AMSL|
Originally built as an RAF Bomber Command airfield during 1939-1940, Bodney was transferred to the United States Army Air Forces in the summer of 1943. Placed under the jurisdiction of VIII Fighter Command of Eighth Air Force, it was primarily the home of the 352d Fighter Group, the "Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney". The unit briefly moved to Belgium in January 1945 due to the Battle of the Bulge, although it returned in April. It was closed after the 352d returned to the United States in November.
Royal Air Force use
Bodney was established in 1940 as a satellite field for RAF Watton. The airfield was grass-surfaced and located on slightly rolling land with a hard surface perimeter track.
Initially it was used by aircraft of No. 21 Squadron RAF and No. 82 Squadron RAF (No. 2 Group) Bomber Command. They carried operations over France and later the Netherlands and even Norway. Their Bristol Blenheim IVs were joined on occasions by, in May 1941, 90 Squadron evaluating its new Boeing Fortress Mk 1s some Handley Page Hampdens for mining operations. 90 Squadron suffered heavy casualties and the use of the Fortress I was discontinued. Towards October 1942, the Blenheims were changed to Lockheed Venturas but the squadron moved on to RAF Methwold before the Venturas were operational.
United States Army Air Forces use
In the summer of 1943 Bodney was turned over to the USAAF and was assigned designation Station 141. The field was then prepared for the use of the Eighth Air Force. Improvements to the field included the addition of steel mat and pierced-steel planking hardstands for use by the American fighters and extra taxiways and roads laid down in macadam and concrete.
USAAF Station Units assigned to RAF Bodney were:
- 1st Service Group (VIII Air Force Service Command)
- 17th Service Squadron; HHS 1st Service Group
- 18th Weather Squadron
Regular Army Station Units included:
- 22d Station Complement Squadron
- 1066th Signal Company
- 1104th Quartermaster Company
- 1141st Military Police Company
- 1772nd Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company
- 2039th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon
- 80th Mobile Training Unit
352nd Fighter Group
The airfield was opened in May 1943 and was used by the United States Army Air Forces Eighth Air Force 352d Fighter Group. The group was under the command of the 67th Fighter Wing of the VIII Fighter Command.
The group consisted of three squadrons:
The 352d arrived at Bodney during June 1943 from Republic AAF New York and began combat operations in July but the group was not wholly operational until September. Initially using Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, until they received drop tanks, the missions were largely limited to the Dutch coast. The group flew numerous escort missions to cover the operations of bombers that attacked factories, V-weapon sites, submarine pens, and other targets on the Continent.
The 352d participated in missions that bombers struck German aircraft factories during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944, and after conversion to North American P-51 Mustangs, received a Distinguished Unit Citation for performance in Germany on 8 May 1944 while escorting bombers to targets in Brunswick, the group routed an attack by a numerically superior force of German interceptors and then continued the battle against the enemy planes until lack of ammunition and shortage of fuel forced the group to withdraw and return to its base.
Re-equipped with the P-51 Mustang on 8 April, the group flew counter-air patrols, and on many occasions strafed and dive-bombed airfields, locomotives, vehicles, troops, gun positions, and various other targets. P-51s of the 352d were identified by solid blue cowlings and rudders, for which the group was nicknamed "The Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney".
The Group supported the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by strafing and dive-bombing enemy communications, assisted the Allies in breaking through the German line at Saint-Lôin July, and participated in the airborne attack on the Netherlands in September.
After the Germans launched a counteroffensive in the Ardennes in December 1944, the group's planes and pilots were sent to Chievres Belgium and placed under the control of Ninth Air Force for operations in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944-January 1945).
During that battle, on 1 January 1945, action by the detachment earned for the group the French Croix de Guerre with Palm: just as 12 of the detachment's planes were taking off for an area patrol, the aerodrome was attacked by about 50 German fighters; in the aerial battle that followed, the 352d shot down almost half the enemy planes without losing any of its own.
In February 1945 the remainder of the group joined the detachment at Chiveres Belgium for operations under the control of Eighth AF. While based on the Continent, the group participated in the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.
The 352d Returned to Bodney in April and continued operations until a few days before V-E Day. The group returned to Camp Kilmer New Jersey and was inactivated on 10 November. The group flew 420 missions, 59,387 operational combat hours, destroyed 776 enemy aircraft and had 29 aerial aces.
With the end of military control, Bodney airfield was closed and was returned to agriculture in November 1945. Almost the entire facility was completely reverted to farmland, although a few derelict buildings remain as well as its control tower.
Major units assigned
- Royal Air Force
- Detachment - 21 Squadron (1939-1940)
- 82 Squadron (1 October 1940 - 18 April 1941)
- Detachment - 90 Squadron (May 1941)
- Relief Landing Ground for No 17 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit (29 January 1942 - 1 May 1943)
- 21 Squadron (14 March - 30 Oct 1942)
- United States Army Air Forces
- 352d Fighter Group (7 July 1943- c. 27 January 1945; c. 14 April – 3 November 1945)
- "RAF Bodney". Control Towers. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
- "Bodney". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
- Smith 1994, p. 00.
- "1st Service Group". American Air Museum in Britain. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
- "RAF Bodney". Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
- Freeman, Roger A. (1978) Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0-900913-09-6
- Freeman, Roger A. (1991) The Mighty Eighth The Colour Record. Cassell & Co. ISBN 0-304-35708-1
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Smith, G. Norfolk Airfields in the Second World War. Countryside Books. 1994. ISBN 978-1853063206.
- mighty8thaf.preller.us Bodney
- 352d Fighter Group on www.littlefriends.co.uk
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to RAF Bodney.|