449th Bomb Group, 717th Bomb Squadron
This was a War Bond plane funded by citizens of Alpena, Michigan who collected $375,000. The aircraft was assigned to the crew of Lt W H Ridgeway at Clovis Army Air Base in December 1943 and flown overseas by them to commence missions in mid January with the 449th Bomb Group, flying from Italy.
Thunder Bay Babe was lost on 24th March 1944 on a mission to the Walzergerwerk Ball Bearing plant at Steyr. En route to the target an impenetrable weather front was encountered and as the formation attempted to go round it this B24 was observed to be flying erratically but under control before disappearing into the clouds below as the group turned for home.
It seems that the crew of Thunder Bay Babe did not hear the recall when it came and continued to fly on. When they realised they were alone the pilot turned and flew back directly over the heavily defended area around Mostar. A flak burst hit one of the bombs still on board and the entire mid section of the Liberator was engulfed in flames. Only four of the crew managed to escape the inferno to become POWs, six men died when the plane crashed into the side of a mountain.
Christening ceremony at Alpena in December 1943
Known Mission List
|9 Dec 1943||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| ||Overseas, picked up by crew at Clovis AAB.|
|14 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|15 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock||Prato MY||R/E (NS) - |
|16 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|19 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|23 Jan 1944||W H Jones / O C Mitchell|| |
|24 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|27 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|28 Jan 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|29 Jan 1944||W H Jones / O C Mitchell|| |
|8 Feb 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|20 Feb 1944||Starr|| |
|22 Feb 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock||Regensburg||R/E (NS) - #4 eng oil leak|
|23 Feb 1944||Gray|| |
|3 Mar 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock|| |
|19 Mar 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock||Knin MY||Failed to bomb|
|24 Mar 1944||W H Ridgway / J C Whitlock||Steyr||MISSING - macr # 3469 (6 KIA, 4 POW)|
© Ray Bowden 29 January 2020