The 390th Bomb Group and the Friendly Invasion

From 1942 to 1945, hundreds of thousands of American service personnel ‘invaded’ Great Britain. During the month of July, 1943, members of the 390th Bomb Group began their role in what later became known as the Friendly Invasion.

The 390th Bomb Group and the Friendly Invasion

On July 18, the 390th air echelons arrived at Station 153 near Parham Village. Ground echelons arrived ten days later. Colonel Edgar M. Wittan, the 390th Bomb Group’s Group Commander, addressed the men upon their arrival. Bluntly, he stated that work would be the rule for the future.

As the Group settled into life on Base, the locals settled into life with the Americans. What follows are observations of the 390th Bomb Group, as seen through the eyes of a local farm girl.

The Friendly Invasion: Through the Eyes of a Young Girl

“I remember being awakened about half past four one morning by the roar of the ships taking off….as dawn broke, way up above the ships were getting into formation. They would circle round and round, gaining altitude before starting east toward the coast.”

390th Bomb Group Aircraft awaiting departure at Station 153.

“We generally knew when the boys were returning from a raid, for two or three fighters would arrive and fly around, then we would hear the bombers coming. They would come right over our house in perfect formation.”

Aircraft returning to Station 153.

“We never felt at ease until they all had landed. We called those boys “our boys,’” and their ships “our ships”.

B-17s on the runway at Station 153.

“Many a time we knew that some of the planes were missing, and we could see others with holes in them.”

A lone plane returns from a mission.

“Almost every evening there would be a game of baseball going on. We never could make out why they had to make so much noise while they were playing. We English may get very excited over some of our games, but I do not think we every do so much shouting or cheering”.

Baseball was a favorite passtime of 390th Bomb Group personnel.

“I must not forget to mention all the dogs that lived on the Base. There were dogs everywhere, big ones, little ones, all colors and every kind”.

Many 390th Bomb Group members kept pets on Base.

“Many of them also learned to ride bicycles, and we thought it awfully funny to see some of them learning. They mostly landed on their knees with the bike on top of them….they found it difficult to remember to cycle on the left side of the road.”

Bicycles were the primary mode of transportation for 390th Bomb Group personnel.

The 390th Bomb Group vacated Station 153 exactly two years to the month. Absent the ruckus of ballgames and B-17s, the fields fell silent.

The Framlingham Castle was a nearby landmark that air crews used to mark their return to Base. After the 390th Bomb Group returned to the United States, silence filled the surrounding hills and sky.

“We shall never forget the 390th, the boys who had come so far from their homes in America, many of them never to return. For two years they lived in and were a part of our countryside, and we missed them sincerely when they were gone.”

The 390th Bomb Group’s air base, also known as “Station 153”, was located on land owned by Percy Kindred and made available for use by the British Air Ministry during the war. After the war the property was returned to Mr. Kindred who offered the control tower for use as a museum and as a lasting memorial to the men of the 390th and other Allied airmen. This museum, which was dedicated in May of 1981, occupies the air control tower used by the 390th Bomb Group during its World War II operations. Today, the Memorial Air Museum at Parham Airfield is still operated by a number of enthusiastic volunteers.



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