When can I go home? The answer to the most important question most WWII airmen wanted to know differed depending on when they began their service.
For the airmen of the 384th Bomb Group, those who began their service “early on,” starting with Mission 1 on June 22, 1943, a tour was twenty-five missions per John Edwards, the 384th Bomb Group’s historian. But that magic number of twenty-five only lasted until the end of March 1944.
The number of missions to mark a completed tour and a ticket stateside was upped to thirty on April 1, 1944, but this number lasted for only a couple of months.
By June 6, 1944, a 384th Bomb Group airman had to survive thirty-five missions to complete his tour.
But the magic number of 25, 30, or 35 wasn’t set in stone. The 384th’s webmaster, Fred Preller, adds,
For those affected by the change during their combat tour, some increase was inevitable. I know of some (my Dad, for instance) who were required to fly some more missions based on how many they had already completed – but not the full increased number.
For Fred’s dad, Robert Preller, a completed tour meant thirty-three missions. Flying his first mission on May 27, 1944, he probably expected to wrap up his tour at Number 30, as that was what was in effect on his first mission. But thirty was changed to thirty-five by his seventh mission, and though he didn’t have to fly the full thirty-five, he did fly three more for his total of thirty-three.
Michael Faley, historian of the 100th Bomb Group (the group famously known as the Bloody Hundredth), notes similar dates for the increase in missions for a completed tour,
From June 1943 to March 19, 1944 the tour of duty was 25 missions. From March 19, 1944 – July 1944 it was 30 missions and from July 1944 to the end of the war it was 35.
By the time my dad, George Edwin Farrar, got to Grafton Underwood, home of the 384th, he knew he would have to fly thirty-five missions before he went home.
When he wrote home on August 14, 1944, Dad had only flown four missions, but he wrote,
I sure hope I can finish up and get home by Christmas, or the first of the year.
It is the only letter I have from his time at Grafton Underwood, but I know every letter must have mentioned his desire to come home, and he must have thought he could complete thirty-one more missions in the next four months.
But, of course, he didn’t come home by the end of the year. He spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and his mother’s birthday as a prisoner of war and didn’t make it home until the middle of 1945.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019