97th Bomb Group   414th Squadron

Missions, Targets, and Combat Action

PHOTOS (unless noted otherwise) are from W.L. ROSS III Photo Album – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Site Edited and Maintained by Doug Cook  Last Update April 11, 2009 

Contacts from 97th BG and 414th Squadron and others Welcome!


What it was like in N. Africa, Sicily, Italy combat:     B-17 Pilot Will S. Arnett’s Combat Diary  - 301st and 97th BG



from David Shelby

Foggia  A/D 5/31/43



Al Aquanina A/D 1/22/43

Life Magazine

Two B-17s shot down



Cruiser Gorzia 4/10/43



Pantellaria 6/11/43



Messina 5/25/43



Naples 5/30/43




Rusberg, Germany

Primary target


Secondary target hit

was Feldkirch.



Rome M/Y 7/19/43



Catania 7/11/43



Gerbini A/D 7/4/43





5/31/43  Mission Briefing-  Bologna RR Yards  Note: VIP’s Attending!

2nd Lt. Wm. L. Ross III Mission Notes Page


Winston Churchill and VIP’s in 97th BS Briefing Algeria 5/31/43





Seated 1st to left of  Churchill is Robert Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon

(Identifications courtesy of Paul Duff)



(12 June 1897 – 14 January 1977) Eden was a British Conservative politician, who was Foreign Secretary for three periods between 1935 and 1955, including during World War II.  In May 1940 and Churchill became Prime Minister. Churchill appointed Eden Secretary of State for War.  Eden was Prime Minister from 1955 to 1957.

Seated 3rd to left of  Churchill is Sir Alan Brooke-  Chief Imperial Staff



In August 1939 Brooke was appointed head of Southern Command and on the outbreak of the Second World War went to France as a member of the British Expeditionary Force under General John Gort. In June 1940 Brooke played a leading role in the evacuation of British troops at Dunkirk. Brooke returned to Britain and in July 1940 he replaced Edmund Ironside as commander of the Home Forces. In this post Brooke had several major disagreements with Winston Churchill about military strategy.  Churchill appointed him Chief of Imperial Staff in December 1941. For most of the Second World War, Brooke was the foremost military advisor to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the War Cabinet, and to Britain's allies. As CIGS, Brooke was the functional head of the Army, and as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, he was responsible for the overall strategic direction of the war effort.



Lets load up for the mission- Payload 4-6000 lbs.

Rollout for Takeoff on Steel Mat Runway


Scenery over the Sahara


Squadrons Away




97th BG  414th squadron in formation over the Med.


97th BG  414th squadron (photo credit Col. H.G. Tillman via David Shelby)


97th BG  414th B-17 SN 25731  (photo credit Col. H.G. Tillman via David Shelby)




A poem posted in Wm. Ross’ photo album




Diary of Will Arnett

May 9, 1943

We were briefed to bomb the city of Palermo, the first time that we've ever bombed anything other than a military objective.  When we were about 1 hour and 30 minutes out, my number two engine went out due to maintenance default and had to turn back. It was the biggest raid ever pulled in North Africa. All four B-17 groups went out with 96 P-38's for escort.


May 13, 1943

Another big show today and we blew the hell out of Cagliari (Sardinia) and I don't mean maybe. All four groups went over first then two groups of mediums followed us over with an escort of 96 P-38's. It was a perfect day. 




P-38 Fighter (file)



Clipping below from W.L. Ross III

Messina 5/25/43




Heavy Flak over Italy (from Chas. Cook collection)


The German's main defensive weapon was the 8.8cm. Fliegerabwehrkanone, shortened to Flak. The 88 fired a 9.24KG  (20.34 pound) shell to over 49,000 feet. It was coupled with the KG 40 gun director and the 41D gun laying radar.


Submitted by Bill Ross’ dear friend and fellow pilot Dick Pickens:

Here's a few tales about Bill Ross and his Tunisia experiences:

Bill and his squadron were on a bombing mission to Tunis from Algeria and he remarked that "upon nearing the target flak would be exploding at their assigned altitude"....I asked that "could they have not climbed somewhat" in an attempt to avoid the barrage...he remarked that "no, they were assigned an altitude and had to maintain it" -- he also indicated there was obviously a spy network that informed the Germans of their progress.....after dropping his bombs and making a one-eighty to return "home" he noticed an explosion near his wing and immediately thought his B-17 had lost a wing -- at almost the same instant he peed in his knickers!!....fortunately for everyone the wing was intact....   

There was to be a mission to bomb Italy and the crew chief was responsible to see this "his" airplane was serviced for the mission....but, do to a bit of fatigue supposedly he neglected to do this and Bill's airplane took off without a full fuel load....after "bombs away" the B-17's began their return to Tunisia....whilst enroute Bill and his co-pilot were remarking at the unusual low fuel quantity on the gages...they began asking questions and the crew chief indicated he had not seen to it the Boeing was fully loaded with fuel!!...Bill and his co-pilot performed some "unusual leaning" of the fuel mixture in an attempt to reach home......needless to say they did, but it was mostly on fumes.....this was to be the last mission for the crew, as they were due to return home....all did return to the states EXCEPT the crew chief who had to serve another tour of duty!!! 



Lt. Wm. Ross on oxygen-high altitude flight    


          B-17 Bombs away

Note the flak nearly missing the plane’s wing!!! (photo credit Col. H.G. Tillman via David Shelby)


Reference Maps for Allied Invasion of S. Italy

4/10/43  ITALIAN CRUISER GORZIA (right)  SUNK by 414th Squadron--  Pilot Wm. Ross’ crew credited


Bombing Pantelleria, Island SW of Sicily 6/11/43


B-17  Ditching in the sea off the Isle of Ischia near Sicily-   Photo credit David Shelby, Hank Tillman, Frank Dancey


7/11/43  97th  BG    Target Catania, Sicily


Catania  today


Note: bomb bursts on the RR Yards


97th BG Target  Messina M/Y (RR Marshalling Yards), Sicily

Messina, Sicily  today


Note: bomb bursts on the airfield


Target:  Gerbini  Aerodrome, Sicily    Actual Bomb photo is Catania Fontanarossa

[The target identified] as Gerbini is actually the Catania airfield (Fontanarossa), which was and remains a dual-use civ-mil facility.  Gerbini, which was actually a complex of several (up to 12) grass fields, is further inland from the coast.  The  Sigonella airfield used today by the Italian Air Force and the U.S. Navy (under NATO) was one of the  satellite fields of the Gerbini complex. Gerbini proper was located to the north-west of Sigonella.  Both are around 10 miles from Catania Fontanarossa.

Ciao from Catania!        Thanks to submission by pillar7@yahoo.com



Catania Fontanarossa, Sicily  today


Target:  Naples Marshalling Yard

Naples Today




Target:  Rome Marshalling Yard

Imagine the thoughts going through the bomber crews minds as they have to precision bomb such a historical place!   Note the Roman Coliseum at upper right.  This mission was led by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. 7/19/43

Bomb arming pin:  Col. Hank Tillman collection via David Shelby



RR Target


Rome Today


Foggia Italy, German Hangar ruins - bombed by 97th   BG.   Later taken over by 97th. 

Credit:  Col. Hank Tillman

German sign in Hangar – Foggia


Foggia, Italy today.  Note the air base is now farmland.


Air base at Oudna, Tunisia, from where the 97th BG flew an airstrike against Feldkirch, Austria on 1st October 1943.

Credit: Gerhard Winkler- a resident of Feldkirch

Note that the mission sheet above shows the primary target to be Rusberg, Germany (corrected as Ausberg) but Feldkirch, Austria was hit as a secondary target.

Feldkirch, Austria today – near the Rhine River.  Switzerland, in the background with Lake Constance / Bodensee.

Credit: Gerhard Winkler- a resident of Feldkirch