The 1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional) was a special unit which led missions when the cloud cover over the target made visual bombing impossible. They used the Oboe technique to navigate to the target and to release the bombs. The squadron also led night missions and flew night missions on its own.
It was activated on February 16, 1944 and one Pathfinder flown by Major Porter, the 1st Pathfinder Squadron Commanding Officer, B-26 led 17 B-26s from the 322nd Bomb Group on February 21, 1944 to Coxyde in Belgium. The first night mission was flown by 3 B-26s from the 1st on the night May 31/June 1, 1944, to bomb gun positions at St. Marie au Bois in France.
When a Pathfinder was assigned to lead a group the crew had to be briefed 3 to 4 ours before the scheduled take off, then fly to the assigned group and attend the group’s briefing where the Pathfinder crews and the group’s Operations Officer decided the position of the planes in the formation and presented their flight plan. Some days a Pathfinder crew could find themselves leading two missions. The group could also rendez-vous with the Pathfinder at a specific point where it waited.
The first crews were made up of experienced crew men from the groups, but later replacement crew members had only a few missions and many pilots came from the two Replacement Training Groups (the 335th and 336th Bomb Group) after they had been disbanded in May 1944.
It seems to be very difficult to find photos of B-26 pathfinder ships, but here are photos of four ships I have found that were assigned to the 1st PFF Squadron:
Florida Fox IH-?:Early Morning Scrub IH-X:I also found this photo:
I am pretty certain that this is a pff B-26. You can’t see the first letter in the ID code, but it seems to be an I. 1st had IH and then you see F1. As far as I know only the 1st PFS had that type of identification. While searching for the serial no (43-34291) I found this comment: The Marauder under repair is 43-34291. The squadron code is
most probably IH, then it is a 1st PFF aircraft (Pathfinder).
The bombed airfield is Y-55 Venlo in Holland, 394th BG base
from May 1945.(top sides only painted cammo)
Other pff ships:
Dubissary – and perhps this is the ac:
Weary Lera 42-95878 IH-X?
Sleepy Time Gal IH-E – and this could be the nose art: Where’s It At?:
Where’s It At?
B–26G–1–MA, SN 43–34201
1st Pathfinder Squadron (Provisional)
9th United States Air Force
Attached: 387th Bombardment Group
Péronne A–72 Air Base
1st Lt. Joseph M. DuBois, O-677682, Pilot, Bridgeton, New Jersey
1st Lt. Richard R. Britanik, O-822630, Co-Pilot, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1st Lt. Raymond H. Boettcher, O-766186, Bombardier, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
*1st Lt. Hugh W. Robbins, O-749933, Navigator, Buried Cedar Bluff Cemetery, Annapolis, Maryland
*S/Sgt. William G. Glass, 38117765, Flight Engineer, Buried Epinal American Cemetery, B–42–36
S/Sgt. Samuel M. Assey, 20304258, Radio Operator, Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania
S/Sgt. Mike Flores, 39571005, Tail Gunner, California
22 January, 1945
With its left engine damaged by FLAK, while over the target on a Pathfinder marking mission, this bomber approached the A-72 air base with the left engine running only part of the time. After several attempts of landing during the heavy snow storm covering the base that day, the bomber was diverted by A-72 Drunkard Control toward the Cambrai A-74 Air Base. As it flew over Tincourt-Boucly, both engines stopped. The bomber crashed into the Bois de Buire, 1,200 meters west of this memorial.
*Two men were killed during the crash when they were crushed by electronic equipment falling on them. The Pilot and Co-Pilot were both awarded the Soldiers Medal for their efforts in removing the two men’s bodies from the burning bomber.
The Soldiers Medal is the United States highest non-combat medal awarded
This could be a pff ship:You can see an H on the fuselage behind the wing. This is from the 323rd BG. No squadron had that letter in the first two of the code. 596th/394th Bg had H9 but a different tail flash. Could the I of IH be censored?
Hillman Hellcat IH-N
41-31668 387BG 559BS “TERRIBLE TURK”
11 Feb 44 transferred to 1.PFF “TERRIBLE TURK”
13 Mar 44 88mm shell passed through fuselage and exploded above aircraft. Pilot Lt. Turk
1.PFF “TERRIBLE TURK”
27 Sep 44 to 31 Mar 45
TERRIBLE TURK II 42-96203 IH-S
CHERE AMIE 42-96223 IH-O
Are these men also from the 1st PFF?