FAQs about Army Air Force Terms in WWII

Our 398th Frequently Asked Questions page provides answers to many Army Air Force Terms, Definitions, Procedures and Slang during WWII. To provide some organization, questions have been placed into 9 major topic categories in our Topic List Categories. In addition, several in-depth topic areas of popular interest are listed under In-Depth Topics of Interest.


If you wish to contribute a question, or better yet, a question and answer, or if you see a typo, misspelling, or a needed clarification, please contact our FAQ Comment Coordinator.

Topic List Categories

  1. General Military Acronyms FAQs
  2. B-17 and General Aircraft Terms FAQs
  3. B-17 Crew Positions FAQs
  4. Ordnance and Munitions FAQs
  5. Navigational Related FAQs
  6. Weather Related FAQs
  7. Communications Related FAQs
  8. Mission Related FAQs
  9. Military Slang FAQs

In-Depth Topics of Interest

As follows are 4 additional topics of wide interest researched by 398th members. Though in some case they are written with a 398th focus, in general the articles apply to both the 8th Air Force and the entire Army Air Force. These articles have been widely viewed by many interested WWII aviation.

  1. Identifying 398th B-17s by Wally Blackwell, Pilot
  2. 398th Combat Formations - Definition and Structure by Wally Blackwell, Pilot
  3. 8th Air Force Operations Technologies by Willis Frazier, Operations Officer
  4. The B-17’s Automatic Flight Control Equipment (A.F.C.E.) by Willis Frazier, Operations Officer

General Military Acronyms FAQs

  1. What is the meaning of the term E.T.O.
    Answer: “ETO” – European Theater of Operations [Gordon Mellis]
  2. What is the meaning of S.O.P. ?
    S.O.P stands for Standard Operating Procedure.
  3. What's is the meaning of the acronym C.Q. as in "The C.Q. woke us at the 0200 this morning, all later than usual. By 0330 we had finished breakfast and were at the briefing room"?
    Answer: Charge of Quarters: the person in charge of quarters where military personnel are billeted – he came to wake the men up for the mission briefing. (Gordon Mellis)
  4. What is the meaning of the acronym S-2 Officer as in "the group S-2 Officer, began his part of the briefing by rolling up the screen that covers the wall map"?
    Answer: This is a reference to an Officer of the Intelligence Section.
  5. What is the meaning of the T/4 and T/5 ranks?
    Answer: The T/4 – T/5 ranks were considered a Technician Fourth or Fifth Grade and was created to replace the specialist ranks prior to 1942. A technician was generally not addressed as such, but rather as the equivalent rank in its pay grade (T/5 as Corporal; T/4 as Sergeant; T/3 as Sergeant or Staff Sergeant). Officially, a technician did not have the authority to give commands or issue orders but could under combat conditions be placed second in command of a squad by a Sergeant. Unofficially, most units treated them as though they were of the equivalent rank of the same pay grade. With thanks to Leroy A. Ward, MSG (AUS Retired).
  6. What is the meaning of D.S.?
    Detached Service: off on an errand, or simply reporting for duty at another unit/location (thanks to Russ Abbey)
  7. What is a Crush Cap? What is a Fifty Mission Crush Cap?
    Answer: Bill Haynes, a former B-29 Engineer and Vietnam F-100 Fighter Squadron Commander wrote us that: "the officer billed hat normally had a ring inserted to keep the top stretched and circular. But some removed the stiffener so that the earphones worn in flight would seat better. Soon young Army Air Corps officers (even those who who never flew a mission) were copying the style as a way to differentiate themselves from the Army "Ground Pounders" who were not Airmen."

    " The style was called "the Fifty Mission Crush", because it originated early on after the US initiated daylight bombing, when you flew fifty missions and (if you had survived!) got to go home and sell War Bonds or something. But after a while surviving 50 was getting too difficult, and they dropped it to twenty five ... but the "Fifty Mission Crush" term persisted." See also Crush Caps and Crushed Caps, 398th Clothing, Uniforms and Gear Photos, and Lt. Jordan's WWII Aviator Service Caps and Gear (2. Bancroft and 3. Flight Weight Caps).
  8. What is the meaning of Officer of the Day?
    Answer: Officer of the Day, at least as regards the effort of the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthampstead (and probably most other Army Air Bases at the time) included patrolling the area around the planes and so on, checking on the guards of the airplanes and seeing that they perform their duties [Ray Richman].

B-17 and General Aircraft Terms FAQs

  1. What does the B stand for in B-17 and B-24 and the P in P-38 stand for?
    Answer: The B in B-17 and B-24 stand for Bomber and the P in P-38 stands for Pursuit. The Air Force changed the 'pursuit' designation to 'fighter' after WW2 which is one reason you may have noticed P-51s being referred to as F-51s in some text. The above answer is a paraphrase of Luc Hemelaer's response to an 8th AF Message Board query for February 27, 2003.
  2. How are the engines numbered on the B-17?
    The engines are numbered #1, #2, #3, and #4 left to right while looking forward.
  3. What is the meaning of “2300 and 38 inches”?
    The term "2300 and 38 inches refers to 2300 RPM on the engines; and 38 inches of manifold pressure. [Gordon Mellis]
  4. What is the meaning of "A Bad Mag"?
    "A bad magneto" would result in spark plugs failing to fire, thus causing loss of power in that engine. If this occurred while in combat, in order to maintain their place in the formation it was necessary to increase power in the three remaining engines to keep their airspeed up, thus a increase in manifold pressure. While this was hard on the engines, dropping out of the formation would have invited attack by enemy fighters, and chances of making it back to base would have been drastically reduced; so the lesser of two evils. [Gordon Mellis]
  5. What is Military Power in regard to the Aircraft's Engines?
    Military power refers to maximum horsepower available from the engines. In piston-engine aircraft maximum power is generally used only for take-off, and then only for long enough to gain a minimum altitude – after which power is reduced somewhat for climbing and cruise. Use of maximum power for extended periods stresses the engines significantly and risks engine failure. Pulling military power from the IP past the target would mean maintaining maximum power for at least as long as required for take-off and possibly longer. Knowing they still had the long flight home ahead of them obviously caused some anxiety about having to use maximum power through the entire bomb run. [Gordon Mellis]
  6. What is Prop Wash?
    Prop Wash – also known as wake turbulence is encountered when flying directly behind another aircraft. Formation positions were normally staggered both horizontally and vertically to avoid the wake turbulence generated by the aircraft in front, but bomber formations during World War II tended to fly as “tight” a formation as possible because of the greater protection against fighter attack that the massed fire power of the bombers’ defensive armament afforded. Wake turbulence can cause violent buffeting and loss of control. (Gordon Mellis)
  7. What is the maximum gas load of a B17-G?
    As stated in the Abbes Diary, it is thought to be 2780 gallons.
  8. What is a B-17 Tokyo Tank?
    An additional smaller gasoline tank was added into each wing tip area in later versions of the B-17 to add extra miles to the B-17 range.  They were routinely called Tokyo tanks for identification, perhaps a bit optimistic, because a B-17 never got to bombing Tokyo! The two primary tanks in each wing were numbered 1 and 2 in the left and 3 and 4 in the right wing. Gas was transferred from the Tokyo tanks into the main tanks, and even transferred between the four main tanks, by the engineer as needed, one of his prime jobs.
  9. What is feathering an engine?
    By rotating the blades of a propeller along its axes so as to lessen the air resistance. Used particularly when an engine needed to be shut down to resist drag as otherwise the propeller would windmill. The feathering of a prop is discussed in the "Pep" Petrocine, 398th Pilot - 600th Squadron Video Interview Transcription.
  10. What is a grease job landing?
    A "grease job" landing is a good landing. A grease job landing is discussed in the "Pep" Petrocine, 398th Pilot - 600th Squadron Video Interview Transcription.

B-17 Crew Positions FAQs

  1. What are the WWII Aircrew Codes?
    On official paperwork, a code was used to indicated that an individual had trained and was qualified to perform a particular aircrew role. Codes collected to date are:
    • 1021 Pilot - Single Engine (P-38, P-47, P-51)
    • 1022 Pilot - Twin Engine (A-20, B-25, B-26, etc)
    • 1024 Pilot - Four Engine (Usually Transport Pilots)
    • 1029 Combat Observer
    • 1031 Aerial Gunner
    • 1034 Bombardier
    • 1035 Navigator
    • 1036 Navigator/Bombardier
    • 1038 Navigator Bombardier
    • 1051 Co-Pilot
    • 1091 Pilot (B-17 & B-24)
  2. What is the meaning of the acronym C.A.?
    The C.A. stood for Command of the Aircraft, or Aircraft Commander in conversations.
  3. Which seat is the Pilot's?
    The pilot always sat on the left. In WWII referred to as the first pilot.  Occasionally if you were good to your co-pilot you let him sit there to fly and make landings, etc. in training to increase his capabilities.  However, landings, takeoffs and all flying operations could be done easily from the right seat.  Since most were right handed, the controls were located more or less for a right-hander.  When the Command Officer, like Colonel Hunter showed up to lead the formation, he always sat in the co-pilot seat, and quite often then, the crew's co-pilot sat in the tail gunners seat to tell the Command Pilot what was going on out back. After the war the terminology gradually changed, and the co-pilot became the First Officer and the guy in the left seat became the Command Pilot or Command of the Aircraft.
  4. What is a Bombardier? What is a Togglier?
    A crew bombardier was trained in all the technical phases of the "dropping the bombs" task. It was his job to operate the bomb sight in his plane to drop the bombs on a target. 

    However, when it was decreed by 8th AF headquarters that all 36 planes in a Squadron formation would drop their bombs simultaneously, only the bombardier in the lead plane ran a bomb sight and functioned as a true bombardier.  All the other 35 planes dropped when he did.  The job of the bombardier in all the other 35 planes then was just to trip the bomb release switch in his own plane when the lead dropped his bombs. This method/technique was intended to concentrate the bomb pattern for maximum destruction.  So, when there were personnel shortages, some enlisted crew members were selected to sit in the bombardier's position and timely trip the switch when the lead plane dropped his bombs. That job was called a togglier, sometimes spelled toggleier, a combination of toggle + ier.
  5. Where were the various Gun Positions on the B-17?
    The right waist gunner was stationed at and fired a gun from the window just behind the right wing. Similarly there was a left gunner stationed on the other side of the fuselage. There was also a tail gunner stationed in the tail, the ball turret gunner was stationed below the plane fuselage and the top turret was stationed on top behind the pilot. The bombardier and navigator also fired guns from the nose section [WB].

Ordnance and Munitions FAQs

  1. What were the names and abbreviations of the different types of Ordnance carried by the B-17?
    Answer: Some typical ones were 100lb G.P. (General Purpose), 100lb Incen (Incendiary).
  2. What are "Rubber & Oil incendiaries"?
    Rubber & Oil incendiaries were an early version of napalm. [Gordon Mellis]
  3. What's a Sleeve?
    A sleeve is a long streamer towed behind air craft used for target practice. [Ruthanna Doerstler]

Navigational Related FAQs

  1. What is the meaning of A.F.C. as in: "Turning off the I.P., I got our group properly spaced behind the lead group, then turned the ship over to Bax on A.F.C?"
    Answer: The full name is A.F.C.E. for Automatic Flight Control Equipment. The lead plane was on autopilot almost all of the time. This provided a stable plane to try to fly the formation on. No quick turns. The lead pilot made small adjustments with the autopilot controls to routinely fly the plane. In this case, Bax was Baxter, the lead bombardier. At the proper time, the bombardier engages the bomb site to the autopilot with a switch. The aligning of the bomb site to hit the target action turns the plane in a horization plane. Meanwhile the pilot maintained a constant speed and altitude. For additional details see the B-17 A.F.C.E contribution by Willis Frazier, 601st Squadron Operations.
  2. What is the meaning of the acronym A.F.C.E. as in: "In the dive that followed before he could regain control using the A.F.C.E. the fire was blown out by the greatly increase speed"?
    Answer: There were four red buttons in the front of the co-pilot that activated a fire control, fire extinguisher system in the engine nacelle. Thus A.F.C.E is thought to be Auto Fire Control Equipment. It is possible that there were two systems called A.F.C.E. This one and the previous on for Automatic Flight Control Equipment. This matter is being researched.
  3. What is the meaning of 5 angels?
    One angel means one thousand feet.
  4. What is the B-17 astrodome?
    The astrodome was the circular glass (or plexiglas or whatever) dome located about three feet or so directly in front of the pilot/copilot windshield. It protruded upward from the ceiling of the navigator's area in the nose compartment of the B-17. The navigator could stand up and put his head up into the dome to take observations with their navigational instruments.
  5. What is a GEE Box?
    The British scientists developed a number of navigational systems to improve navigation and bombing accuracy.  All had varying degrees of practical success as well as vulnerability to German counter measures.  "GEE" was an earlier system that used an air borne transmitter which interrogated two ground beacons back in England to triangulate bombing through overcast. It was very susceptible to jamming by the Germans. For additional details see the April 1995 Flak News Article BTO, PFF, OBOE, H2S, H2X, MICKEY by Marvin Laufer, Navigator, 603rd Squadron.
  6. What is the meaning of the Acronym PFF and MICKEY
    Specially equipped B-17s, called Pathfinder Force [PFFs] were equipped with a radar navigation system devised by the British and improved by the Americans for targeting through heavy cloud cover. It was encased electronics and replaced the ball turret in the B-17 lead plane. These planes flew in the lead and others dropped their payload when this plane did. Since the ground couldn't be seen, the results were marked as "unobserved." The "secret" system was code named "Mickey". Highly trained operators were called "Mickey Operators." For additional details see the April 1995 Flak News Article BTO, PFF, OBOE, H2S, H2X, MICKEY by Marvin Laufer, Navigator, 603rd Squadron.
  7. What B-17 position is the "VN"?
    The term "VN" referred to the Visual Navigator or Mickey Equipment Operator. He was referred to as the visual navigator as the radar screen received navigational directional signals which helped pinpoint a position, thus the term visual navigation, though the vision was through the screen. [Determined and defined with the help of Don Coffee; a 398th, 601st Mickey Operator/Visual Navigator.]
  8. What is Dead Reckoning Navigation?
    In Dead Reckoning, the navigator uses only compass heading, air speed, time, and wind direction by drift meter to plot the course and location on a map [Wally Blackwell].
  9. What is the Mickey Ball?
    The Lead Ships had their regular ball turret replaced by a "Radar Dome" that was lowered when in use and stuck down a bit more than the regular ball turret. They were usually white and are seen in a number of our aircraft photos. This dome housed all electronics (Mickey Equipment) used by the VN (Visual Navigator); also referred to as the Mickey Operator [Wally Blackwell].
  10. What is a Spot Jammer?
    Answer: During the air war in Europe the Germans developed a radar assisted anti-aircraft battery. This allowed them to shoot at the planes above the cloud cover. In response the B-17 Squadrons deployed a radar jamming device called "spot jammer" to jam enemy radar. It consists of three transmitters and one receiver. As the receiver locates a radar signal, a transmitter will jam it. A spot jammer can jam up to three radar signals at one time.The spot jammer operator was specially trained to recognize the enemy radar signals and counter them. See B-17 Spot Jamming equipment in a photo on our sister 486th Bomb Group's web site. Also see the article The Story of Magic Carpet (scroll to radar Directed Anti-Aircraft Guns) by our sister 351st Bomb Group's web site.
  11. What was the "Wash" as in: "This time we departed the English coast up near the Wash and crossed the North Sea hitting the enemy coast at ...?"
    The "Wash" is a large bay located on the English coast above the coast of East Anglia. The 8th Air Force had a big gunnery school and range there. Many, but not all 398th gunners went there for a week or so of training. The range was on the ground and fired out into the water. No flying was involved.

    John Veenschoten, Waist Gunner - 603 Squadron, adds that the base was in the southeast corner of the bay. John states a major reason for going there were many hours of aircraft identification, so gunners didn't shoot down their own planes.
  12. What does ‘doing a 360’ over the target mean?
    To “do a 360” over the target area had very serious meaning. It meant that the group formation lead had decided to abandon the initial run from the IP [initial point] to the target, not drop the bombs, return the formation back to the IP and do it all over again. Sometimes it was obvious to the crews that the leader had made a necessary decision due to weather, interference from other groups in the bomber stream, etc. However, if the crews in the formation thought that the lead plane messed up leadership wise and exposed them all again to another run to the target, they were pretty vocal about it. [Contributed by Wally Blackwell, December 2003]
  13. What is the meaning of I.A.S.
    The meaning of I.A.S. is Indicated Air Speed.

Weather Related FAQs

  1. What is the role of a Weather Ship?
    Some information about the Weather Ships can be found in a 398th Operating Procedures Concerning Weatherships - 1 November 1944.
  2. What is the meaning of the term 10/10 cloud coverage?
    10/10 coverage – this expression refers to the ground area obscured by clouds, and is expressed in “tenths”. Thus 1/10 coverage means only one-tenth of the ground area is obscured by clouds, while 10/10 coverage means a solid layer of cloud completely obscuring the ground. (Gordon Mellis)
  3. What are contrails?
    “Contrails” is an abbreviation for condensation trails. These are linear cloud-like water vapor formations that are formed when hot engine exhaust gasses come into contact with cold moist air at high altitude. Contrails were always bad news to the bomber formations. They not only tended to obscure visibility (both of the target and the surrounding formation) for those aircraft following behind, but they acted as giant “pointers” to enemy fighter interceptors, leading them directly to the bombers. [Gordon Mellis]
  4. What is an Occluded Front?
    An occluded front occurs when a fast-moving mass of cold air overtakes a slower-moving mass of warmer air and forms a single “front” between the two masses. Flying through an occluded front you would experience significant changes in temperature and wind speed which would create turbulence. [Gordon Mellis]
  5. What is the meaning of CAVU?
    CAVU stands for: Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited.

Communications Related FAQs

  1. What is the Phonetic Alphabet and why is it used?
    the Phonetic Alphabet was used in two-way radio communication to clarify letters that might sound alike in periods of poor transmission. The link about to a NASA site describes reasons and lists the alphabet.
  2. What is the meaning of Figleaf in regards to Weather?
    During WWII (as in the present time) there was a need to uniquely identify an organization, headquarters, physical location,  airplane, operational area, etc. with an indistinguishable "name" for communication purposes.  Such a word was usually chosen randomly, but with a concern that it could be easily and plainly said, and its pronunciation was not to be confused with other words. In this case Figleaf was a ground headquarters station responsible for evaluating the weather for flying activities. See also Weather Ship.
  3. What were the flares used for on B-17s?
    Answer: Flares were used as signaling devices in special circumstances. The 398th B-17s had a standard Very pistol installation in the overhead panel of the pilot’s compartment. The Very pistol was originally invented by Edward W. Very in 1877 and had long history of use for military and nautical signaling, particularly at night and in low light conditions. A B-17 crew member could load a Very pistol with a cartridge, connect the muzzle of the pistol into the discharge socket with a twisting motion and fire a flare into the air above the airplane. A number of flare colors, including red and green, were used for different purposes. Lead crews could use flares to convey prearranged signals to their formations while in flight. Firing red flares was a serious business, especially when used during landing after returning from a mission because this signal meant there was trouble on board, such as wounded. [Contributed by Wally Blackwell, December 2003]

    The following three quotes about flares were excerpted from Thirty Four to Go by Ernest H. Walthall, First Officer.

    "All signals to start engines, taxi and takeoff were with lights and flares from the control tower. Radio silence as much as possible during the entire mission." ..... "Ahead we could see the group forming and we also spotted our squadron leader firing green-green flares. It only took a few minutes to get into formation and the group leader stated the group would leave on course, climbing in ten minutes, this meant that those who were late arriving would have to catch up or it they could not find the group, would have to go to war with someone else." ..... "It was normal peel off and landing. Some of the planes were shooting flares while in the traffic pattern. Green flares were unofficial, but meant someone had completed their tour of duty, but red meant that someone was wounded. Yellow serious damage to the aircraft. The ground crews were out watching on the ramp, hoping their planes were not damaged much."

Mission Related FAQs

  1. What is the meaning of the acronym I.P.?
    I.P. stood for Initial Point. It was some identifiable land mark about 20 miles more of less from the target. The formation flew there and at that point had to fly straight and level, no evasive action, to the target with the bomb bay doors open, usually under autopilot for the bombardier to do his job. This was sweating time. [Contributed by Wally Blackwell, B-17 pilot]
  2. What is the meaning of the acronym M.P.I. as in "The strike pictures showed the bombs in a perfect pattern right on the M.P.I. This strike is the best the group has had yet"?
    Answer: M.P.I. means “Mean Point of Impact”. Bombs were not released as “singles”; they were dropped (released) in “sticks”. When the bombardier dropped his bombs, all the bombs were released at once, but there was a built-in (slight interval – milliseconds) in the release sequence - in order to create a pattern of bombs on the ground. The AP (or aimpoint) was pre-selected by target planners at higher headquarters. He job of the crew was to place the center bomb of the stick (an example of a “stick” would be eight 500-lb bombs) on the aimpoint. The actual impact point was calibrated by looking at post-strike photography and finding the impact point of the bomb in the middle of the stick – which represented the “Mean Point of Impact”.
  3. What's the meaning of "Spare" in regard to the listing of planes for a mission, for example on formation charts?
    In the various historical data, for example formation charts, crews and aircraft are sometimes listed as spares. There can be several situations why a spare situation might occur. For example, some crews and aircraft might go aloft with their squadron for the day and circle with them at the assembly point to see if other aircraft might have mechanical difficulty in which case they would be inserted in the combat mission. Otherwise they would return to the base. In other case, the spare might be a backup aircraft that was ready to fly and could be used by crews scheduled for the mission, when they discovered problems (mechanical, radio, etc.) with the plane they had been assigned. Sometimes some of these spare aircraft were identified as "lead" which meant they had the radar navigational systems installed rather than a ball turret.
  4. What was the length of the tour for 398th Aircrews?
    Length of tours varied based on when the crew started. As the war went on, missions were added as the relative risks went down. In addition lead crews flew fewer missions because of the higher risks.

    When the 398th arrived in April 1944, the tour was 25 for all crews. In May or June, [probably around mid-June], though, a ruling came down from 8th AF headquarters that effective immediately, a tour would be 30 for lead crews and 35 for the all other crews. Existing Lead crews then had to fly a prorated 28 and the existing other regular crews had to fly 32. Crews assigned to the Group after that effective date had to do 30 and 35.

    However, there was confusion as to the number required for those crew members of the lead pilot, when they were reassigned to other crews, and in some original co-pilot cases, got their own crew. Of course some crews were lucky to be able to stay with their original pilot who was now lead pilot. But often the lead pilot now had lead navigators, bombardiers, radio men, etc. on his "crew". And they might not necessarily be his, they may have belonged to the command pilot that sat in the co-pilot seat. For example, Colonel Hunter had his favorites. It was finally settled that an original crew member of the crew's pilot that was designated a lead had to fly only the number the new lead pilot had to and that was 28, even if the crew member had been reassigned to a non-lead after just a few missions with the original lead.

    The awarding of the DFC, that had been given to all crew members when they finished the 25 mission tour requirement, went through the same difficult process when the DFC award policy went through a reevaluation about the same time.
  5. Where did the word FLAK come from?
    In some areas it was know as ack-ack, the expression coming from a contraction of the words anti-aircraft. However, to the B-17 airmen flying into the stuff, it was never known by any other name than flak. So where did such a silly/sinister word come from? Flak is an acronym from a long German word describing a cannon shooting at fliers - Flugabwehrkanone. To paraphrase a well-known heavy flak expression, the word is long enough to walk on. Excerpted from 398th Memorial Association Flak News, Vol 3 No.1.

    Various Flak Strategies and Operations are Discussed in Recollections of the Mission to Merseburg 21 November 1944 by Bob Welty, Co-Pilot.
  6. What is a Swarm of Bees (S.O.B.)?
    A  S.O.B.  was a shell that the German Flak Batteries shot up in the path of incoming bombers that dispersed small pieces of metal that floated for a while and they would aim their guns at it.  The bombers were to fly through the SOB's and get hit by the flak guns targeted at the S.O.B. (the SOB's must have reflected radar signals from the guns). Contributed by Robert H. Dee, Jr., Co-pilot, 601st.
    Bob added, "the damn things sure worked!  They shot down a mess of planes using it".  "The flak would come up so thick you could walk on it."
  7. What is Purple Heart Corner?
    Purple Heart Corner is the last plane in the flight formation flying at the lowest right hand corner of the formation.  This was the most vulnerable position and earned the name, “Purple Heart Corner.” Contributed by Eddie Ebert.
  8. What happened at Debriefing after a 398th mission?
    Debriefing is nicely described by Pep Petrocine in his "Pep" Petrocine, 398th Pilot - 600th Squadron Video Interview Transcription.
  9. What was the Abbeville Gang?
    The Abbeville gang was Herman Goring’s personal squadron, the Abbeville Gang. They called themselves the Abbeville gang. You couldn't become a member of that squadron unless you had five kills. You had to be a – you had to be an ace and most of most of them had many more than that. See also of Recollections of the Mission to Merseburg 21 November 1944 by Bob Welty, Co-Pilot.
  10. How did a Crew Maintain Oxygen Integrity During a Mission?
    One description is provided in this section of Recollections of the Mission to Merseburg 21 November 1944 by Bob Welty, Co-Pilot.
  11. What is chaff?
    In his 398th Timeless Voices Interview (Arthur Laughlin, 398th Pilot - 601st Squadron Video Interview Transcription), Art described chaff as follows: "It is bundles of aluminum strips about a foot long, maybe an inch, inch and a half in diameter. I don’t know how many were in there. It was the radio operator’s job when we got to certain areas (he got briefed where there would be anti-aircraft), to put out a bundle of chaff every certain interval. When these got into the wind stream outside the plane, they would come apart and each of these strips would show on the German radar as a blip for each aluminum strip. They didn’t know where the real planes were. The chaff indicated a lot more planes than there really were. They saved a lot of planes using that."

    Eddie Ebbert adds that “chaff” was originally called “window” by the British.  The German Luftwaffe referred to it as Düppel.   It is a radar countermeasure in which clouds of small, thin pieces of aluminum, metallized glass fibre or plastic are deployed.  When detected by radar it can appear as a cluster of secondary targets and thereby cause confusion about the location of the true target. Source: Wikipedia, cites omitted. Wikipedia sometimes changes the location of information. If so, the above links may not work. If so, just go to Wikipedia and type in the search term. 
  12. What is the meaning of "No ball"
    Answer: "No-ball” was the code word for attacks on the V-1 launch sites.  The V-1's were known by the Brits as 'Doodlebugs' and they caused a great deal of concern when that engine cut out and you had just a few seconds to try and decide where it was going to hit.  They were launched from France mostly, but also the Netherlands. The launch ramp was designed like a ski jump and used a chemically produced steam in order to drive a pneumatic ram to get the V-1 in the air. Once a certain speed had been reached the V-1's engine would take over. The launch ramps were made of concrete and we had them spotted, but they were very hard to hit accurately.  All V-1 targets were coded 'No-balls'. (Malcolm ‘Ozzie’ Osborn - August 29, 2007)
  13. What is the Caterpillar Club?
    Individuals that ”bailed out” of an airplane can belong to ”The CATERPILLAR CLUB” and wear a special caterpillar pin. What is this all about?

    The Caterpillar Club is a spontaneous organization that had its beginning in October 1922. On that date, Lt. Harold R. Harris made a successful parachute escape from an aircraft over McCook Field, Ohio. A group of Harris’ fellow officers presented him with a watch and a Caterpillar certificate in recognition of his successful “bailout”. The caterpillar was selected for the name and symbol of the Club since that insect furnished the life-saving filaments used in early parachutes.

    More than 27,000 airmen have joined this exclusive organization, most of them during World War II. At the present time, the Switlik Parachute Co. Inc. of Trenton, New Jersey maintains the records of the Club, including those originally kept at McCook Field. No records have been kept to determine the exact number of Caterpillar Club members from the different branches of the Armed Services. The Caterpillar Club is a club in name only. The Switlik Parachute Co. issues credentials and keeps a file of members accepted to the Club. There is no roster maintained, no magazines published, etc. by the Club

    Membership to the Club is obtained by sending a bona fide account of an emergency parachute jump to the Caterpillar Club. In return for qualifying information, the applicant receives a lapel pin, membership card and a Caterpillar Club Certificate. To become a member of the Caterpillar Club, a written application with the date and details of the jump is required. The application, including an amount of $10.00 is mailed to the Switlik Parachute Co. Inc. P.O. Box 1328 Trenton New Jersey 08607. This fee is to cover the cost of the membership card, certificate and the lapel pin. Once accepted into the Club, these items are sent to the new member.

    Tom Dougherty, 602 Squadron waist gunner, provided the above information to me for my own use some years ago. We all remember that Tom made the distribution of the requirements for Caterpillar Club membership to 398ers his own special project.

    Wally Blackwell, January 2004

  14. What is the Gold Fish Club?
    Members of the Gold Fish Club are aviators rescued at sea and who have applied for membership in the club. See History of the Gold Fish Club.
  15. What is the Guinea Pig Club?
    The Guinea Pig has three membership criteria – to be RAF aircrew, to have suffered dreadful disfigurement in service and to have their lives and faces reconstructed by a medical pioneering genius. For a more complete understanding, please see The Guinea Pig Club - by Ken Wright.

Military Slang FAQs

  1. What is a "Short Snorter"?
    Answer: See the 398th Short Snorters page.
  2. What is the meaning of the term - "To Beat"?
    Answer: The term "To beat" was slang used at the time for "In addition, more problems". [Wally Blackwell].


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