353rd FG, 491 BG, and Support Units Plaque
Inside the church.
A brass plaque mounted on a wooden board with the 8th Air Force insignia depicted at the top centre. Below the plaque is a book of remembrance containing the names of the airmen.
The RAF Metfield airfield was built for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force as a heavy bomber field. During the Second World War, it was known as USAAF Station 366. Metfield was one of the most isolated Eighth Air Force stations in Suffolk.
353rd Fighter Group
The first American occupants of Metfield was the 353rd Fighter Group, moving in from RAF Goxhill on 3 August 1943. The 353rd was assigned to the 66th Fighter Wing, at Sawston Hall, Cambridge.
Operational squadrons of the 353d were:
- 350th Fighter Squadron (LH)
- 351st Fighter Squadron (YJ)
- 352nd Fighter Squadron (SX)
Group markings were black, yellow, black, yellow spinners, with a 48-inch black and yellow check band around the cowling to the end of the exhaust stubs.
Equipped with Republic P-47D Thunderbolts, operations commenced on 12 August 1943. It was the fourth P-47 unit to join the Eighth Air Force. From Metfield the 353rd flew numerous counter-air missions and provided escort for bombers that attacked targets in western Europe, made counter-air sweeps over France and the Low Countries, and dive-bombed targets in France.
On 12 April 1944, the 353rd moved to RAF Raydon.
491st Bombardment Group (Heavy)
With the departure of the P-47's of the 353d, a Consolidated B-24 Liberators bombardment group, the 491st Bombardment Group (Heavy) moved in. The 491st starting arriving on 15 May and the last aircraft arrived on 30 May 1944.
The 491st was assigned to the 95th Combat Wing at RAF Halesworth. The group tail code was a Circle "Z". Its operational squadrons were:
- 852nd Bombardment Squadron (3Q)
- 853rd Bombardment Squadron (T8)
- 854th Bombardment Squadron (6X)
- 855th Bombardment Squadron (V2)
The squadrons were unusual in it having its ground complement recruited from other stations of the 2nd Air Division. The group commenced operations on 2 June 1944.
The 491st attacked airfields, bridges, and coastal defenses both preceding and during the invasion of Normandy. After D-Day, the unit concentrated its attacks on strategic objectives in Germany, striking communications centers, oil refineries, storage depots, industrial areas, shipyards, and other targets in such places as Berlin, Hamburg, Kassel, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Bielefeld, Hannover, and Magdeburg.
On one occasion the 491st attacked the headquarters of the German General Staff at Zossen, Germany.
On 15 August 1944, the 95th Combat wing was broken up and the 491st was moved to RAF North Pickenham.
Source of information: Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register, www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk, en.wikipedia.org
Source of image: Imperial War Museum War Memorials Register, www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk
IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE
OF ALL RANKS OF THE UNITED STATES 8TH AIR FORCE WHO SERVED AT
METFIELD AIRFIELD AND OF THOSE WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES IN
THE DEFENCE OF FREEDOM
1943 - 1945
353rd Fighter Group 491st Bomb Group
and support units
353rd Fighter Group
491st Bomber Group (Heavy)
8th Air Force
US Army Air Corps
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