Henry J. Bjorkman was the 353rd FG Group Intelligence Officer from 1943
until the end of the war. He was unusually astute at recording the daily
operations of the 353rd Fighter Group and the 3 Squadrons assigned to
it. At the end of the war, the records ended up packed in a box
and stored in a barn in Connecticut.
There they stayed for almost 18 years, until the authors of the book
(Kenn Rust and William Ness) "The Slybird Group" became aware
of them. The records were thereupon promptly lost in the mails for two
years. Arriving in California, the records reached the authors
and have since become part of the historic collection at the Wright-Patterson
Air Force Museum in Ohio.
A good many of the pictures are from the personal collections of many
of the pilots as well as USAF and 353rd records. (we will credit these
in the near future as soon as the site is completed ) The book was published
in 1968 and has been out of print for years, though a stray copy pops
up every once in awhile.
much attention has been given to the more publicized 4th, 78th, 56th,
and 352nd Fighter Groups, the 353rd accomplished incredible things;
both individually, as squadrons and as an entire Group. It was home
to some of the most accomplished combat pilots to ever pin on a set
of wings. For instance, few are aware the 353rd was the only fighter
group to have a significant impact
in mitigating the slaughter of
B17s on the Schweinfurt-Regensburg raids on Black Thursday, this despite
the powerful odds against them.
based at Metfield and only the fourth American Fighter Group to be assigned
to the Eighth Air Force, "The Slybirds" moved to Raydon in
April of 1944. Despite a heartbreaking loss of CO's in combat
operations, they produced numerous Aces and earned much, though unpublicized,
recognition while flying escorts, sweeps, interdictions, and participating
in Black Week, Big Week, D-Day, The Bulge, and many more epic battles
right up until their last combat mission over Hitler's Eagle Nest to
close out the last few days of hostilities in the European Theater.
addition to photos from that time, we have tried to add and will try
to continue to add various types of artwork and renderings, some by
myself like the one above, and some by others where possible, to make
things a little more interesting.
will meet some fascinating, highly skilled, courageous pilots. You may
become familiar with names like Juntilla, Blickenstaff, Bailey, McCollum,
Kepner, Duncan, Rimmerman, Morris, Newhart, Waggoner, Beckham, Grove,
Bartley, Cundy, Tanner, and many, many others. If you do, we hope we
may have added in some small way to your understanding of the WW2 fighter
aircraft, and more importantly, the American Fighter Pilot as personified
by "The Slybirds."