390th Bomb Group Overview

“It takes excellent planning and execution to attain the fine record established by the 390th.”

–Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle, Commanding General, 8th Air Force

Based in Parham, England, the 390th Bombardment Group (H) flew 301 combat missions against German military targets. It played an important role in many missions now recognized as key to winning WWII such as D-Day, Munster, Schweinfurt, and the raid on Berlin. It also participated in lesser-known humanitarian missions in which the B-17 was utilized to drop supplies and food. The 390th Bomb Group’s bombing accuracy was at times the best in the 8th Air Force. It was awarded two Presidential Unit Citations, eight Battle Streamers and many commendations. Its aircraft losses were the lowest percentage (measured per mission flown/bombs dropped) in the entire Mighty Eighth Air Force. Behind the success of this (and every) group were thousands of personnel. For every flier there were twenty or so people on the ground, supporting every aspect of a mission. From pre-flight checks to food prep, the success of each combat mission depended on all units on the base working together.

The Structure of a Bomb Group

The 8th Air Force was comprised of forty-one bomb groups. Each one had a unique symbol and aircraft tail marking:


The Svr Le Nez emblem represents the 390th Bombardment group. These unit emblems followed historic heraldry designs and are specific to the unit and their mission.  Svr le Nez means on the nose in French, referring to the combat mission and precision of the 390th Bomb Group. Tail makings were an easy way to identify the unit to which an air craft belonged.  Each Group had their own marking. The Square J was placed on the tail of all 390th aircraft.

Each flight squadron also had its own symbol:

In addition to the flight squadrons, each bomb group was supported by other units including operations, intelligence, engineering and tech inspection, ordnance, personal equipment, communications, photography, transportation, flying control, weather, statistical control, personnel, training, administrative, inspection, mess (food), medical, base utilities, base defense, special services, and chaplains. SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave SaveSave

Ground Crews

Ground crews were comprised of specialized mechanics who completed thousands of necessary jobs. They worked in stretches of up to 36 hours long, through every type of cold and foul weather. These crews were acutely aware that success was not just measured by the miracles they performed on damaged airplanes; but also by the safe return of the fliers. These silent (and often forgotten) war heroes performed tirelessly, in spite of suffering the loss of many planes and air crews. Learn more

The Mighty Eighth Air Force

The 8th Air Force was a bomber command unit formed at the Army Air Base in Savannah, Georgia on January 28, 1942 (just weeks after the Pearl Harbor attacks). Within one month it was headquartered in England. In only three years it grew to become the greatest military striking force in history.

Eighth Air Force was composed of four commands.  All of the bomb groups, including the 390th, were part of the VIII Bomber Command.  Using a previously untested strategy called high altitude strategic bombing, the 8th Air Force targeted facilities such as oil refineries, railway hubs, war machine factories, and other industrial sites that fueled the Nazi regime. Through trial, error, luck and loss, military leaders quickly learned that huge fleets of bombers were needed on every mission.

By 1944, the 8th Air Force reached a total strength of more than 200,000 men. It could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and 1,000 fighter planes on a single mission. It was, quite simply, the greatest air armada in world history, and was aptly nicknamed the “Mighty Eighth”. Success came at a high price, however. 8th Air Force losses—of both men and machine–were by far the most significant of any branch of the military at that time.


The J Wall holds the signatures of over 600 Bomb Group veterans who participated in establishing the museum.

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