With throttles fully open, B-17G ‘Our Gal Sal’ of the 351st Bomb Squadron thunders down the runway at Thorpe Abbotts to get airborne and join the rest of the 100th Bomb Group on their latest mission, spring 1944.
Procrastination and the negative were scorned, and even bloody experiences did not deter the overwhelming intention to succeed. This spirit percolated from the top to the bottom; each isolated combat group set in the English countryside proclaimed itself “the best damn group in the AAF”, and in a sense, it probably was.’ Those words, written by the eminent historian Roger Freeman, sum up in a few succinct words the heroics, grit and determination of the airmen who served in the United States Eighth Air Force – The Mighty Eighth. Thanks to them the Allies could now bomb around the clock, for whilst RAF Bomber Command continued their attacks by night the Eighth took up the challenge of bombing by day.
Following their arrival in England in 1942 their build-up had been rapid. During the month of December 1943 the Eighth’s bomber force had, for the first time, dropped a greater tonnage of ordnance than the whole of RAF Bomber Command. Supported by ever- increasing numbers of fighters, soon to include the fabled, long-range North American Mustang, the Eighth’s Bomb Groups were expanding their offensive to include an all- out push against targets in the heart of the Reich, including Hitler’s capital – Berlin.
It is the beginning of one of those early missions to Berlin that artist James Dietz skilfully portrays in Destination Berlin as he takes us to Thorpe Abbotts in Norfolk, home to the 100th Bomb Group. Earning the nickname ‘The Bloody Hundredth’ due to the heavy losses they suffered, it seems only fitting that the 100th have been chosen to represent all those who flew so heroically with the Eighth Air Force from England during the Second World War. Internationally respected for his unique authenticity and ability to emphasize the interaction between man and machine, Dietz depicts a scene in spring 1944 as ‘Our Gal Sal’, a B-17G of the 351st Bomb Squadron, powers down the runway with throttles wide open.