B-17F/G NAVIGATOR

USAAF

333rd Bomber Squadron / 94th Bomb Group

 
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Samuel A. Assimotos proudly wearing his navigator wings after completing his training and promoted to 2nd Lt. Assimotos manage to distinguished himself twice during his service, awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross with an Oak Leaf Cluster. However, the most important thing during his service over occupied Europe was that he and his rest of the crew became pathfinders as well as lead crews for the 94th BG missions. An accomplishment which revealed their excellent teamwork which was also the reason for being the lead crew for a raid in Berlin in which the entire 8th AF took part. Samuel A. Assimotos flew 30 missions over Europe and managed to stay alive, earning the coveted diploma of the "Lucky Bastards Club" (see below). (Sandra Assimotos McElwee)
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The Bevins Crew. Except for Assimotos who didn't participate in the famous Boise City bombing the rest of the crew was lucky enough to be sent for immediate service overseas, instead of the court-martial. Later the same crew distinguished itself in combat, by taking the lead in numerous bombing missions not only for the 94th BG but the whole 8th Air Force. In the photo above, in the back row (L-R): Samuel Assimotos (N), George Fuller (C-P), William Bickler (B), Buford Bevins (P). Front row (L-R): William Gay (TG), Donald Huddy (WG), Henry Goeringer (Rd), Herbert Dasenburger (BTG), Antony Foti (WG), O.S.Shaffer (TTG). (Sandra Assimotos McElwee)

Samuel A. Assimotos was born in Constantinople on June 4, 1919. According to his daughter Sandra Assimotos, the name spelling isn’t correct, may be changed when her grandparents emigrated. They came to the United States in 1920 when Samuel was 6 months, because of the continues Turkish threats against Greeks. His father Anthony Assimotos had no other family in the US and his mother named Bessie Meshitis had a lot of her sisters with her, as all came to the US at the same time. They also were from Constantinople. He enlisted in the United States Army Air Force and promoted to 2nd Lt, after he took Navigation Training on April 10, 1943. For the next two months, he was posted to Pyote and Dalhart, Texas in order to get his Combat Crew Training and posted overseas for combat duty. During his training, his crew involved in one of the most famous incidents in the US during the War. The bombing of Boise City. The one and only time where American bombers bombed an American city. It was July 5, 1943, a night to remember for Boise City residents and a B- 17E bomber crew, based at Dalhart (Texas) Army Air Base. Samuel was scheduled to be the crew navigator that night, but he was ill and in the base hospital for several days, so he was replaced by the unnamed navigator who shouldered all the blame.

"I was quite surprised when I got out of the hospital about the bombing and that our combat crew training was over, even though we had 6 or 7 weeks of training remaining. The crew was given a choice of facing a court martial I believe or immediate assignment to overseas combat. Having so nicely qualified for combat with their accurate bombing of Boise City! To further explain the error - pictures of the night bombing range target and pictures of the practice blackout of the Boise City with only the courthouse lights left on were just about identified. Of course, this doesn’t excuse the navigational error made by the navigator who flew the mission to be so far of course, that the mistaken identity was made, I believe the navigator had to face a court martial."

Eventually, Boise City bombing was one of the reasons dating his wife Dessie.

"We were introduced at a party by a mutual friend. After some chat and conversation, I finally asked Dessie where she was from. She replied. “You never heard of it but I’m from a small town in Oklahoma, Boise City”. Oh yes, I had heard of it. Then explained that it was my crew that had bombed Boise City. That I wasn’t on that flight that night because I was in the hospital for clogged ears. We dated often after that and we were married on June 6, 1953."

According to his daughter Sandra:

"That was always a family joke that his squadron bombed her hometown. He says he was in the hospital with appendicitis that night. But we always teased him that he probably wasn’t."

Assimotos continued his career and according to his memoirs:

"We flew to St. Louis after the investigation was over and picked up a new B-17 Flying Fortress with 16 machine guns. It took 3 days to check out the plane thoroughly, then we had orders to fly to Bangor Maine for refueling. Next step was Greenland with its huge icebergs and fiords, then on to Scotland. Weather en route got bad and we had to land in Iceland. Eventually got to Glasgow Scotland where another crew was waiting to ferry it to a bomb group as they were short in combat planes. Enroute From St.Louis MO to Bangor Maine I was navigating by pilotage watching the ground for checkpoints. Two of the gunners came up to the nose of the plane and joined me and the bombardier in a blackjack game. I got interested in the game and after quite a while looked out of the plane for another checkpoint. To my chagrin, I discovered we were now over cloud cover and I couldn’t see the ground. Resorting to dead reckoning gave pilot ETA (estimated time of arrival for destination). It was several hours before the cloud cover broke up and I could see the ground. When this happened I looked down and saw a railroad station with a large sign on it. What better way to get accurate position than to read the sign so asked the pilot to drop down in altitude and we would read the sign. About this time the flight engineer called on the intercom and said we were low on fuel. While circling the railroad station I spotted a runway to the North which I kept in sight. We couldn’t get low enough to read the sign and after two attempts told the pilot we better land on that runway I had spotted and gave him a compass heading for landing. He complied and we no sooner touched down then the engine started acting up for lack of fuel."

"After coming to a stop I jumped out of the nose hatch and there was a farmer plowing a field alongside of the runway. I asked him where were we are? He replied in a series tone. “Berlin”. I knew damned well we hadn’t crossed the ocean yet and got quite perturbed at him. Asking again this time he replied “Berlin New Hampshire”. It turned out we were not lost but temporarily confused and we were right on course to destination but short about 100 miles. We called the base for fuel trucks which wouldn’t get there until the next morning through the mountains. While we were in the clouds flying at 4000ft we passed Mt. Washington at 6.200ft. We were on course in the past so didn’t hit any of peaks. Talk about much! The Red Cross come out and really treated us to goodies and the town people of Berlin had a large supper for us at the town hall. In England we joined the 94th BG at Bury St. Edmunds. After our first five combat missions we became a lead crew. This meant the only time we flew was when we were leading the formation. We had to complete 25 combat missions for a combat tour then were eligible to return to the United States. A lot of crews never completed a combat tour and ended up either killed or prisoners of war camps Our crew was lucky, besides being experienced so we survived. My last mission it was the lead navigator and our bomb group led the whole Eight Air Force on the first daylight bombing of Berlin on March 4, 1944. It was quite an honour for me to lead over 800 bombers on that mission. We had good fighter escort. The mission completed as scheduled. Enemy resistance was fierce during our tour and our crew was credited with shooting down 20! German fighters during our tour. Friendly fighter escort didn’t come until later when our tour was almost over. I finished my tour as captain as did the bombardier William C. Bickler who bombed Boise City. We both earned 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals and three Presidential Unit Citations as did the rest of the crew. So the crew was grateful that the citizens of Boise city did not insist on the crew being court-martialed which I believe would have happened if they so desired. So our crew contributed greatly toward victory. Cliff Bickler, the bombardier and myself having the choice of returning to States or volunteering to stay over and help train new green crews coming over from the States. We volunteered and stayed as did. Bevins who became an operations officer as a Major. We spent another year and a half over there and know we saved a lot of crew lives from the combat experience that we had attained to pass on. Most of the crew got out the Air Force when the war was over, Bevins became a Captain flying for United Airlines I believe. Bickler became a salesman selling copper in Chicago. I stayed in service until 1970 and retired as my Colonel. I was in the Korean War and also did two tours in Vietnam flying in C-130 transport cargo plane. I was the Wing training officer of the 463rd Troop Carrier Wing during Vietnam. I did earn an Air Medal flying in combat in Vietnam.”

After his service in Europe, he joined and flew with 509th BG, flying B-29’s and later B-50’s and B-47’s. He was attached to the 715th Bomb Squadron and he had TDY’s while in SAC in UK and Sandra wrote to our team:

"I’m very proud of him before he died he told me that he was in a squadron with the third atomic bomb heading to Tokyo when Japan surrendered. The records had not been unsealed yet and he was not supposed to talk about it —but he wanted us to know he was in that mission.”

 

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B-17F-100-BO 42-30352 was the Flying Fortress Assimotos and Bevins Crew used most during their service in Europe, specifically in 8 missions. The #42-30352 was named initially as ‘Polly Jo’ and later as Thundermug II, the nose art which can be seen both in the photos above and the profile. It is not known if the bomber flew with both nose arts on. According to Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log: Delivered Cheyenne 20/5/43; Smoky Hill 1/6/43; Gr Isle 4/6/43; Dow Fd 6/7/43; Assigned 333BS/94BG [TS-G] Rougham 27/6/43 THUNDERMUG II; 410BS [GL-G]; Salvaged n/battle damaged 2/5/45; POLLY JO. (Copyright Gaetan Marie, photos by https://web.facebook.com/ForeverATrueStoryOfLoveAndWar and https://web.facebook.com/94thBombGroup/)
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B-17G-1-VE 42-39801 was flown by Samuel A. Assimotos once, during a Crossbow mission in Maison-Ponthieu France on Jan. 14, 1943. According to Dave Osborne, B-17 Fortress Master Log: Delivered Long Beach 4 September 1943; Gr Island 22 September 1943; Assigned 332BS/94BG [XM-B] Rougham 27 September 1943. Missing in Action Berlin 4 March 1944 with Pilot Julius O. Blake; Co-Pilot George G. Wedd Jr; Bombardier William P. Calmes; Navigator James W Branagan; Radio Operator: Edgar C. Finstad; Flight Engineer/Top Turret Gunner: James M. Hiller; Ball Turret Gunner : Floyd A. Franchini; Right Waist gunner: Edward F. Latham; Left Waist Gunner : Luther E. Lefever; Tail gunner: David G. Chang. James Branagan's body was found with serious internal injuries and the ripcord of his parachute unpulled (KIA). Julius Blake, James Hiller, Edgar Finstad, and Edward Latham evaded capture. David Chang was arrested the day after the crash. The four others were helped in their evasion by Belgian patriots but were all arrested later. Mechanical failure on return flight; crashed Zevekote, seven miles North of Diksmuide, Belgium. Missing Air Crew Report - MACR 2978. (1 KIA; 4 Evaded; 5 Prisoners of War-POWs). DOUBLE TROUBLE II aka NORTHERN QUEEN. (http://www.americanairmuseum.com - Roger Freeman Collection FRE 801 & FRE 3847 )
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Two B-17 Flying Fortresses (serial numbers 42-30382) and ( serial number 42-30376 below) of the 94th Bomb Group fly over an airfield. The Greek American navigator flew once the #42-30376 during a raid on November 5, 1943, in Gelsenkirchen Germany. According to B-17 Flying Fortress Master Log by Dave Osborn: Delivered Cheyenne 23/5/43; Gore 1/6/43; Smoky Hill 2/6/43; Grand Isle 3/6/43; Dow Field 25/6/43; Assigned 333BS/94BG Rougham 26/6/43 BOUNCING BITCH (BOUNCIN’ ANNIE I); transferred 331BS [QE- ]; Missing in Action Bordeaux 5/12/43 with John Fant; severe weather conditions, ditched Channel; 10RTD. SOUTHERN BELLE aka BOUNCIN’ BITCH III. (http://www.americanairmuseum.com - Roger Freeman Collection FRE 3860)
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Samuel flew with 42-30612 during a mission to Munster on December 22, 1943. It is seen here while returning from another mission over Europe. According to B-17 Flying Fortress Master Log by Dave Osborn: Delivered Cheyenne 29/6/43; Gore 30/9/43; Dow Fd 18/7/43; Assigned 333BS/94BG [TS-D] Rougham 29/7/43; returning from mission on 24/12/43 landed too far down the runway onto soft soil and nosed up, with Harry McKee, Co-pilot: Earl Resorick, Navigator: Jake Jarman, Bombardier: Bill Reid, Flight engineer/top turret gunner: Dave Brown, Radio Operator: Bob Stark, Ball turret gunner: John Crasse, Waist Gunner: Frank Haaks, Waist Gunner: Joe Bvargron,Tail gunner: George Colie (10 Returned to Duty). Salvaged 20/3/44. (HOT FOOT II) FREESTRIDER. (http://www.americanairmuseum.com - Roger Freeman Collection FRE 3880)
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Wartime Photos of Samuel A. Assimotos. In the first photo, he is along an unknown ground crew member and an unknown airman, probably in the United States before posted overseas. The next photo shows the Officers of Bevins Crew, after their tour expired, wearing their military awards. From Left to Right in the row behind are: George Fuller (Co-pilot), George W. Bickler (Bombardier), Samuel A. Assimotos (Navigator) and in front of them is Buford Bevins (Pilot). (Sandra Assimotos McElwee)

According to recently declassified records, a third plutonium bomb (Fat Man) core was ready on the 13th of August, but no orders had been given to deliver it. Truman had restated his insistence that no more bombs were to be used without his express order. If shipped, the third core would be on Tinian by the 18th, and once installed in one of the assemblies already on the island, could have been dropped on the 19th. Six more plutonium cores, plus a possible seventh, would most likely be delivered to the forward air bases, at the rate of three a month, by November 1, if ordered by Truman. However, other documents indicate that serious concerns about possible Soviet exploitation of the Allied demobilization in Europe suggested that at least three of those cores should be saved for possible deployment to Europe. The third and fourth bombs probably were used for tests at Bikini in 1946. Her daughter remembered also another incident during his service with the 509th BG:

"His squadron was in either Greece or Turkey on their way someplace once—and he told them he was born there—his commander got him out of the country quickly because there was a mandatory military service for all men Born there— not sure if it was Turkey or Greece. (This is quite true as he could be considered as a deserter in both countries. Because he was born in Constantinople he was a Turkish citizen of Greek ethnicity, it should be Turkey the country in which the incident occurred.)"

Samuel served with the 509th BG until 1965 and he also flew with the 830th Bomb Squadron. During that year he transferred to the 61st Troop Carrier Squadron and trained in C-130’s Hercules. As it was referred above Samuel flew also during Vietnam War, as a member of the 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing operating from Mactan Isle Airfield in the Philippines during 1965. During his service there he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, according to which:

"Lieutenant Colonel Samuel A. Assimotos distinguished himself by meritorious service as Chief of Training, Office of the Deputy Commander of Operations, 463rd Tactical Airlift Wing, Mactan Isle Airfield, Republic of the Philippines, from 4 January 1967 to 10 February 1968. During this period, Colonel Assimotos professional Knowledge and devotion to duty contributed greatly to his unit record-setting accomplishments in vital airlift missions in Southeast Asia. His extraordinary ability to manage available resources allowed his unit to complete the required training programs in minimum time with a most judicious expenditure of money and material. The distinctive accomplishment of Colonel Assimotos reflects credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."

From 1967 to his retirement in 1969 he served in Command duties as a Director of Intelligence Plans in Seymour Johnson AFB. During his service, he logged 5.402,6 flying hours from which the 4.097,1 flew as Navigator, the 202,5 as Bombardier - Navigator and 1.103,0 performing other duties. From the total above 319,5 were combat hours both during WWII flying B-17F/G’s and in Vietnam flying C-130E's. Samuel Assimotos was awarded:

Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf Clusters for Combat Operations WWII in England, for Extraordinary Achievements on February 21 and 29, 1944
Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters for Combat Missions in WWII
Meritorious Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
American Defense pre-Pearl Harbor
American Campaign
Europe, Africa, Middle East Campaign, four Battle Stars
WWII Victory Medal
Vietnam Service Two Battlestars
National Defense WWII
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Samuel A. Assimotos pass away on Aug. 26, 1999, aged 80 years old, followed by his wife, Dessie Margaret Lowery Assimotos in 2017. Both they survived by their two daughters, Sandra Assimotos McElwee, and Janet Assimotos Hendrick.

LAST MISSION REPORT OF SAMUEL A. ASSIMOTOS WHILE LEADING THE ENTIRE 8TH FORCE MISSION TO BERLIN ON MARCH 4, 1944, AS A LEAD NAVIGATOR.

 

To Commanding Officer, Headquarters, Ninety-Fourth Bombardment Group (H), Army Air Forces, Station 468.

1. The 94th "B" Group took off at 07:55 hours and assembled normally over base at 1,500 feet. At 08:30 hours we started to climb to 15,000 feet. Due to cloudy conditions, we were unable to reach this altitude but approached the base at 12,000 feet at 09:28 hours, passing over the base one minute early on course to Thetford. We passed over Thetford at 09:35 hours, on time.

2. At this time Colonel WILSON told me that we would be unable to fly further north because of the heavy clouds in the region of Swaffham. We therefore turned to the east. We passed over Norwich at 09:51 hours, at 16,000 feet, making a wide right-hand turn and picking up course to Splasher number 6. We passed over Splasher number 6 at 10:01 hours, at 18,000 feet. From there we proceeded to Splasher number 7, passing over it two minutes early. We made a left-hand turn and left the English coast on time and on course.

3. We arrived at the enemy coast at 10:42 hours, coordinates 51°20’N 02el0’E, at 22,000 feet. Flak was observed from Dunquerque but the formation was well clear of it. We arrived at 52®25’N 05°10OE at 11:18 hours, our altitude at this time being 26,500 feet, approximately two thousand feet over the top layer of clouds. The cloud layer over the continent' was ten- tenths up to 24,500 feet. The Pathfinder equipment was working very well and we had no trouble keeping ourselves accurately positioned. • The “Mickey” operator told me that he was getting fifty-mile range. We could observe the First division approximately twelve miles ahead of us.

4. The First Division started turning back at 11:50 hours, heading over the Ruhr Valley. Due to our higher altitude, the wind velocity increased, causing a slower ground speed than that of the flight plan. At this time we were twenty minutes late, at 50o30’N 07°10OE. According to my D.R. navigation, this would lengthen our mission by one hour and, due to the cloud conditions, the formation would not be able to letdown to 12,000 feet at 13:00 hours but would have to continue at 26,000 feet until 16:45 hours, or approximately three hours and forty-five minutes longer than planned, the only alternative being for individual aircraft to "hit the deck" at 13:00 hours and try to get back alone. It would have been impossible for a formation to letdown through the clouds. I notified Colonel WILSON of this fact and he decided to turn back without a recall.

5. Colonel WILSON gave us permission to make a bombing run on some town in the Ruhr valley. We turned back at 11:55 hours, our position being 50°50’N 07°50’E. We started to make a run on Bonn but noticed a Wing of the First Division already on a bombing run on this town. We also noticed another wing making a run on Koln. We therefore decided to bomb Koblenz, we started to pick up a heading for Koblenz, when our Pathfinder equipment went out, at approximately twelve o’ clock. One of our deputy Pathfinder aircraft had already aborted and the other one signalled us that its equipment was also out. We saw a small break in the clouds and were able to see the ground but were unable to pick out a target, the terrain being very rugged with no towns in sight. We therefore kept our bombs, hoping for another break in the clouds in order to drop them on a target of some importance. We were unable to see the ground again and by this time we were in Belgium, so we brought the bombs back with us.

6. We used D.R. navigation to 04°00 E where a "GEE" fix was obtained. Using "GEE", we managed to avoid the flak areas in Belgium, leaving the enemy coast at 13:14 hours, at 51°00’N 02°05’E. Flak was observed from Dunquerque but we were out of its range.

7. We arrived at the English coast at Ramsgate at 13:27 hours, be passed over Clacton at 13:37 hours, at 18,000 feet. We arrived at our base at 14:06 hours, at 2,000 feet.

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After his service with the 94th BG in Europe, Samuel A. Assimotos transferred to the famous 509th BG. Although he didn't saw action with the Group in the Pacific, he served while the 509th BG became part of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), flying with B-29s, B-50s, and B-47s bombers. The group which became 509th Bomb Wing became one of the most successful inside SAC and won many trophies. The photos above are from Samuels service in SAC. During 1963 the Wing was named as the most reliable B-47 Wing in SAC. The Wing Commander, Colonel James O. Frankosky lauded the experience and professional approach of Lt.Col. Samuel Assimotos, whose bomb navigation section instructed the combat-ready crews in bombing procedures. (Sandra Assimotos McElwee) 
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Τhe photos above shows unique items - memorabilia of Samuel A. Assimotos along with a later photo of him wearing his official battle dress. The desk was carefully created by her daughter Sandra as a special place to tribute her father. Visible are his medals along with the American flag as well as photos of him and other personal staff. Above the desk on the right side, there is a Worry bead or kombolói, kompoloi is a string of beads manipulated with one or two hands and used to pass time in Greek and Cypriot culture. Unlike the similar prayer beads used in many religious traditions, worry beads have no religious or ceremonial purpose. The wooden box below had many personal papers as well as a parking sign hitch writes 'PARKING ONLY FOR GREEKS ONLY - All others will be towed!' ....More Greek you die. (Sandra Assimotos McElwee)

PHOTOS FROM SAMUEL A. ASSIMOTOS PERSONAL WAR ALBUM

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SAMUEL A. ASSIMOTOS COMBAT MISSIONS

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MISSION
NUMBER
MISSION
DATE
8th AF MISSION
NUMBER
BOMBER
SERIAL & NOSEART
TARGET
109 - 10 - 1943113B-17F, #42-30303, TS-M 'Raider II'Marienburg Germany
210 - 10 - 1943114B-17F, #42-3185, TS-L 'Queen Bee'Munster Germany - Abort Radio Failure
314 - 10 - 1943115B-17F, #42-30303, TS-M 'Raider II'Schweinfurt Germany - Abort Engine Failure
418 - 10 - 1943-B-17F, #42-3185, TS-L 'Queen Bee'Schweinfurt Germany - Abort Engine Failure
503 - 11 - 1943119B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Wilhemshaven Germany
605 - 11 - 1943121B-17F, #42-30376, TS-F 'Bouncing Bitch' Gelsenkirchen Germany
711 - 11 - 1943127B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Munster Germany
813 - 11 - 1943130B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Bremen Germany
919 - 11 - 1943134B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Gelsenkirchen Germany
1026 - 11 - 1943-B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Paris France
1129 - 11 - 1943140B-17F, #42-31109, XM-H (332nd BS)Bremen Germany
1230 - 11 - 1943143B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Solingen Germany - Abort Oxygen Low
135 - 12 - 1943149B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Bordeaux France
1411 - 12 - 1943151B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Emden Germany
1513 - 12 - 1943154B-17F, #42-30352, TS-G 'Polly Jo'Kiel Germany
1622 - 12 - 1943161B-17F, #42-30612, TS-D 'Hot Foot II - FreeStrider' Munster Germany
1711 - 01 - 1944182B-17F, #44-8731, XM-O (332nd BS)Brunswick Germany
1814 - 01 - 1944183B-17F, #42-39801, TS-B 'Double Trouble II, Northern Queen'Crossbow - Maison-Ponthieu France
1930 - 01 - 1944200B-17G, #42-30896, TS-LBrunswick Germany
2004 - 02 - 1944208B-17G, #42-30896, TS-LSt. Andre France
2106 - 02 - 1944212B-17G, #42-31449, TS-B 'Texas MaulerFrankfurt Germany
2210 - 02 - 1944216B-17G, #42-30896, TS-LCrossbow - Pas de Calais France
2313 - 02 - 1944221B-17G, #42-31449, TS-B 'Texas MaulerVacquerie-la-Boucq France
2420 - 02 - 1944226B-17G, #42-31449, TS-B 'Texas MaulerTutow Germany
2521 - 02 - 1944228B-17G, #42-30896, TS-LDiepholz Germany
2629 - 02 - 1944240B-17G, #42-3398, PC-QBrunswick Germany
2704 - 03 - 1944247B-17G, #42-97522, MI-Z (410th BS) Berlin Germany

Sources:

 

Samuel A. Assimotos OMPF (Official Military Personnel File) papers

Personal Correspondence of Dimitris Vassilopoulos with Sandra Assimotos McElwee, Samuel Assimotos daughter

94th Bomb Group Archives from AFHRA (Air Force History Research Agency)

94th Mission Load Lists (Air Force History Research Agency)

94th Bomb Group Facebook Page

94th Bomb Group Magazine Facebook Page

 

Special Thanks to:

 

Tammy T. Horton, Civ. USAF AFHRA/RSR

Donald Mounts researcher and owner of Global Military Research, LLC.

Roger Watts, 94th Bomb Group researcher