Ted's Travelling Circus
By Carroll (Cal) Stewart
Review by Allen Benzing (B-24 Diamond Lil pilot)
This book is a magnificent history of the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) USAAF 1942-45. It’s a massive hardcover book with over 500 pages in 8.5 x 11” format which interweaves crew stories and numerous photos with their significant missions. General Ted Timberlake is the central figure and a ‘fast mover’ in the 8th Air Force, but there are many others highlighted for their bravery, challenges, many accomplishments, and sacrifices.
For those who are not familiar with the many Bomb Groups and other Military designations, it can be difficult to identify with a particular unit. In this case, it’s perhaps easiest to relate to the 93rd as the first B-24 Bomb Group to arrive in East Anglia, England in September 1942.
They were soon flying missions over occupied France. Then, in December 1942, the 93rd BG with 24 aircraft was ordered to immediately fly to North Africa – for a 10-day deployment. The crews did not even have a change of clothing. These 10 days turned into months, with the bedraggled survivors returning in late August. The desert was harsh - no crew quarters, or anything else at these remote airstrips – only sandstorms to plague them.
The August 1, 1943 Ploesti Raid – the preeminent B-24 story is integral to the 93rd BG, and over 100 pages are dedicated to its inception, planning, execution, and significant criticism. There were 5 Medals of Honor awarded – 3 Posthumously – and numerous other Awards. This low-level mission was audacious and heroic, but many would judge it as disastrous with the loss of so many B-24 crews. The Romanian Oil Refinery was significantly damaged, but soon repaired.
There is a chapter on “Hot Stuff” - a B-24 and crew that completed 31 missions before the “Memphis Belle” completed her famous 25. Captain Shine Shannon was selected to fly General Frank Andrews to the Washington – ostensibly to be named Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe.
Tragically, “Hot Stuff” crashed along a mountainside in Iceland during bad weather, killing all but the tail gunner. Hot Stuff and her crew would have undertaken the War Bond tour and been the toast of American, instead they were mostly unknown, due to wartime security. Only recently has this story, and that of General Andrews been told. Jim Lux, a friend and advocate of preserving the memory of this iconic crew has given numerous presentations which inspired an excellent book - “Before the Belle”.
There are so many stories within the story of the 93rd. Ben Kuroki, a Nebraska born Japanese-American faced near constant racial prejudice in the Military yet completed 30 missions in Europe and another 28 against Japan. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
These and so many other stories of B-24 missions and crews make this book a priceless history of the 93rd Bombardment Group (H) USAAF 8th Air Force.