(Above photo taken by author at the WAR EAGLES AIR MUSEUM near El Paso, Texas just inside of New Mexico. Absolutely, totally a BUCKET LIST MUST DO!
This is the Actual Certificate to a very exclusive Club that you are viewing and very few have ever seen one. You are lucky just like I was to finally get to visit my long desired BUCKET LIST item-to visit the Very Best Air Museum I have ever seen.
But let’s find out more about the LUCKY BASTARD CLUB, shall we?
Here’s an exert from the following-
Once the crewmen reached a target and dropped their bombs, the danger was far from over. Returning home to base in an undamaged airplane was a rarity. “Lucky,” and in some cases “miraculous,” certainly describes the crews of many bombers that limped back to England full of bullet holes, missing chunks of tails and wings, with wounded crewmen aboard. Early in the daylight bombing campaign, it wasn’t unusual for a third to half of the airplanes on a given mission to be lost or damaged.
At the war’s start, a combat tour for bomber crews was 20 missions. Any airman who completed the required number could look forward to being transferred to safer duty. As formation flying and fighter support became more effective, and the Luftwaffe lost many of its most experienced pilots, the number of missions went up to 25, then 30 and finally 35 in the fall of 1944. But the odds of reaching those milestones, no matter what the number, were always against the aircrews. Becoming a member of the Lucky Bastard Club was thus a significant achievement. “It meant you had survived,” Anderson explained. “You had completed your tour, and you were going home.”
Anderson’s tour was supposed to be 30 missions, but he actually flew 32. Each mission is recorded on the back of his Lucky Bastard Club certificate, starting with a sortie to Brunswick, Germany, on March 15, 1944, and ending with a raid on a V-weapon site in France on July 2. He flew two missions on D-Day: one in support of Allied troops hitting the beaches of Normandy and a bombing mission to St. Lô, France.
The Lucky Bastard Club wasn’t confined to the Eighth Air Force in England, though most members did hail from the Eighth. Regardless of where they served, only airmen who had flown their prescribed number of combat missions were inducted into this exclusive fraternity. “Crews of the 95th Bombardment Group that completed 35 missions earned membership in the Lucky Bastard Club,” reported B-17 pilot Eugene Fletcher.
Aircrews often started celebrating the completion of their tour even before they landed from their last mission. As the returning bomber reached England’s coast, it would break out of formation to head directly for base, and the pilots would “pour on the coal.” They would then fly down the runway about 200 feet off the deck, firing off flares. Observers on the ground enjoyed the spectacle. “This was tangible evidence that a crew could live to finish a tour, and it was a real morale booster,” noted Fletcher.
That evening the crewmen would be feted with a Lucky Bastard Club dinner. According to Fletcher, “The whole crew would dress in Class A uniform and come to the Combat Officers Mess Hall, where they were seated at a table of honor with a white tablecloth and given a steak dinner with a bottle of wine.” Each man received his certificate, and there was always a standing ovation from all the officers on hand. The celebration meant a lot to both the new members and those honoring them—not to mention it was the only time they would get a steak dinner in England. “It was all trivial in a sense,” Fletcher added, “but it meant somebody cared.”
(ABOVE PHOTO EXERTS from the below site)
The “Lucky Bastards” ceremony and certificate was only awarded to bomber plane crews that completed a notable number of intense and dangerous missions far behind enemy positions, where anti-aircraft and flak guns posed a serious threat to the aircraft. The certificates were often humorous – to relieve the pain and nasty experiences of fighting – but we also highly treasured. The award varied from unit to unit and each division had their own design, wording and typography. However, the certificate was in no way official and was not registered as a military award.Rather, it was a tradition of WWII Air Corps, a way to clear their minds and celebrate instead of mourning lost comrades, destruction and horror. Even so, a small portion of airmen received the “Certificate of Valor”, as it was also called, since it was extremely rare for a crew to return after twenty-five missions.
Towards the end of the war, the number of missions needed for completion to be awarded a “Lucky Bastard’s Club” certificate was increased from twenty-five to thirty-five. This was because the air bomber crews gradually gained more experience and skill, and the death rates consequently decreased. Still, it was difficult to achieve a place in the “Lucky Bastards Club”.
Most people don’t even know about the “Lucky Bastards Club” or have no idea what it is. Those that do, however, are usually avid and enthusiastic collectors of the certificates.
Well, feel privilegded that you have now seen and now know some of that History few people ever get to know.
God Bless…the living breathing James Brown, US Army Veteran, author of
HANDGUN SAFETY, A PANTHER’S FATHER, A PANTHER’S FATHER III
These books are available all over the world. Get the ebook of A Panther’s Father and see how your life will change!