Cottontails of the 450th Bombardment in Flight

14th Jan 2015

450th-bombardment-b24-liberators.pngSeven B-24s were in close-formation above and to the right of the top turret gunner and his Liberator. The windows were open in the waist sections of each aircraft their gunners searching the sky for enemy aircraft as Pratt Whitney motors propelled the planes of the 450th Bombardment toward their target, the docks at San Stefano, Italy. It was May of 1944, the group would fly missions to this target on the 12th and 17th. Planes were echeloned below and to the right of the aircraft as they approached the target and prepared to drop their eggs.

As they passed over the target the men could see clouds of smoke rising from the explosions below in the harbor and on the docks as the bombardiers of the 450th had successfully hit another target. Then the pilots guided their bombers to the rally point where the squadrons made their way back to their base at Manduria, Italy.

The B-24s continued to fly in formation for protection from enemy aircraft. Many of the aircraft still had the distinctive white rudders which could easily be seen in the sky and distinguished some planes in the formation. This marking coined the phrase 'Cottontails', however, it made it easier for the Germans to pick out in the large bomber stream of groups that made up each 15th Air Force mission.

The formation looked good, and in the safety of the formation, the men still sweated out the rest of the mission as the B-24s flew home. These would be the 60th and 63rd missions for the 450th, they would fly over 200 more before victory was achieved.

This narrative is not fiction, it is one scene filmed by the men of the 1st Combat Camera Unit telling the story of the men and aircraft of the 450th Bombardment Group, 15th Air Force, World War II. This scene and many others like it are found on a new DVD containing identified footage of the 450th, researched, organized and brought to you by Military Cinema. 104 minutes of black and white, silent film footage. Order your copy for $29.99 at Order your copy today.