8th Air Force, March 1945.
On the morning of March 24, 1945 just fifteen minutes after the largest airborne operation of the war, 240 B-24 Liberators of the 8th Air Force swarmed in at just over two hundred feet to drop 540 tons of supplies to troops of the American 17th and British 6th Airborne Divisions. The mission to cross the Rhine River rivaled the invasion of Normandy in scope and complexity, and the resupply mission was a vital component, ensuring the airborne troops had the necessary equipment to sustain themselves behind enemy lines should the Germans put up a formidable defense. The men of the 8th Air Force delivered their cargo on time and on target, tragically loosing fourteen crews during the mission.
Depicted here are B-24 Liberators of the 445th Bomb Group during their run over DZ-W, the supply drop point which, just prior to the arrival of the bombers, had been the drop zone for the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The bomb groups of the 8th Air Force’s 2nd Air Division split into two sorties to drop their supplies: 122 aircraft flew into DZ-W to resupply the Americans, while another 118 B-24s were responsible for dropping to the British. In total, 4,856 bundles of ammunition, medical supplies, signal equipment, rations, demolitions, hand grenades and gasoline were delivered to the two divisions.
The Liberators came in at an average of three hundred feet, some flying so low the parachutes on the supply bundles didn’t have enough time to open before smashing into the ground. The crews sweated out the run under intense anti-aircraft and heavy small arms fire with fourteen aircraft going down and another 103 damaged with four scrapped as beyond repair. Over one hundred men lost their lives on the mission the 8th Air Force briefing described as “the most important combined operation since the invasion of France.”
Behind the Art
Ole King Cole
On his 17th mission, just two weeks before his twenty-first birthday, First Lieutenant Thomas A. Shafer and his crew were assigned to fly Ole King Cole, tail identification code: Q+. After dropping their bundles, Shafer took his aircraft down to fifty feet to avoid as much of the small arms fire as possible. In some cases they flew lower, having to pull up to avoid a row of trees engulfed in flames from the ground fighting. Shafer’s squadron lost two planes on March 24, 1945.
Flying off the port side of Shafer, Ten Gun Dottie’s entire crew was lost:
- Pilot: First Lieutenant Raymond P. Schultz
- Co-pilot: First Lieutenant Phillip W. Engebretson
- Navigator: Flight Officer Robert L. Selin
- Nose gunner: Staff Sergeant Johannes Goemaat
- Top turret gunner: Technical Sergeant Raymond H. Taylor
- Radio operator: Technical Sergeant Irving Silverman
- Left waist gunner: Staff Sergeant James W. Reid
- Right waist gunner: Staff Sergeant Phillip N. Barker
- Tail gunner: Staff Sergeant Glenn O. Elliott
445th Bomb Group
Activated in April 1943, the 445th Bomb Group was assigned to the 8th Air Force’s 2nd Air Division and began the move to Tibenham, England in October of the same year. The Group’s first combat mission was a raid on the U-boat pins at Kiel on December 13. Typically conducting strategic bombing missions, the group often dropped bombs on industrial sites, synthetic oil plants, chemical works, marshalling yards, airfields and ammunition plants. The Group’s most notorious and tragic mission occurred on September 27, 1944. Sent to raid Kassel with thirty-five Liberators, only four made it back to base. Due to heavy cloud cover and a navigational error the Group was unknowingly separated from the main bomber stream, leaving the 445th vulnerable to German fighters. Twenty-five planes went down in a fifteen-mile radius of the attack before P-51s of the American 361st Fighter Group arrived to prevent complete destruction. For its service during the war, the Group was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation and the Croix de Guerre with Palm by the French government.
Faithfully reproduced from the original artwork, Low Level Run by Matt Hall, depicts B-24s of the 2nd Air Division making a low level supply drop on March 24, 1945.
- 350 Publisher’s Proofs
- 150 Artist Proofs
- Each print is hand-signed by the artist
- Each print includes a Certificate of Authenticity
- This limited edition lithograph is printed on acid-free, archival quality, 100 lb. stock
- Print size: 32″ x 16″
- Images size: 28″ x 12″
- All prints are sold unframed
- Print color may vary from screen color