Tibenham, Norfolk, England
Tibenham, near the city of Norwich, Norfolk, on the east coast of England, was established before 1066, but was still a small, rural village when the airfield was established at the start of the war by the RAF. Three intersecting concrete and asphalt runways were built along with support structures in 1941-1942. The main runway was 6,000 feet in length and the other two runways were 4,200 feet in length. Accommodations were built for about 2,900 personnel. The area was ideal for building airfields as the land was flat with few obstacles to aircraft. It was also nearest to the European continent, reducing flying time.
The 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was constituted in March 1943 at the Sioux City Army Air Base, Iowa consisting of the 700th, 701st, 702nd, and 703rd Bombardment Squadrons, but did not arrive at Tibenham until October or November 1943. The 445th did not enter combat until December 13, 1943. (See Appendix: James Stewart and the 703rd Bombardment Squadron for details.)
The 445th Bombardment Group was a part of the 2d Combat Bomb Wing that was part of the 2d Air Division. Overall command and control rested with the 8th United States Air Force.
Each squadron would have frying-pan type hardstands connect to the runways on which the B-24s would park. Each bomber’s tailfin was marked with a large black “F” printed on a large white circle. This would allow easy recognition for pilots as a squadron formed up with other squadrons within the bombardment group which in turned formed up with other bombardment groups.
In Maynard Jones’ letter to his parents on July 19, 1944, he mentioned that the crew had just completed its first combat mission. He did not mention the name of the planes in any of his letters. John Friese’ official list of missions noted that his first mission was on July 18, 1944 to Tactical Target #17, France. Whether this represented the first mission for the others in the Hautman crew is uncertain, though it seems likely.