416th Bombardment Group (L)
As early as 2005, hundreds of photographs preserved
by 416th Bomb Group Aerial Photo Officer Capt. Francis J. Cachat began
to appear on the internet. These photos provide a treasure trove
of information about the Group and its activities in the air and on the
ground during 1944 and 1945. Among these images appeared an
insignia that raises questions about its origin and purpose.
In the Operations Lounge at Wethersfield the table in
the far left photo was used to display training and other reading
material. The front of the table was covered by a white
cloth. On this cloth was sketched the four squadron insignia and
a central insignia with a bare forearm rising from a base of fire and
holding a lightning bolt. On a banner draped across the top is
the motto "IGNIS AURUM PROBAT". This phrase come from the Roman
Stoic philosopher Seneca and translates to English as "FIRE TESTS
The meaning in this context is that the character of a
person or group is tested by difficult circumstances.
The sketches were then painted on the cloth to make a permanent display. This central insignia was unknown to any surviving veterans of the 416th and there was considerable speculation about the unit that it represented. There are no official insignia recorded in Army Air Corps records for the 416th Bomb Group. It was thought that the insignia must be that of a support unit or an unofficial locally adopted ensign for the Group itself. The squadron insignia were circular, while the central device was portrayed as a shield. This tends to suggest a central unit with subordinates. That possibility is enhanced by the same basic presentation on photos hung in the office of the Group Commander, Col. Mace at Wethersfield. In this arrangement, the central shield is placed somewhat higher in an apparent position of honor. Also the frame around this image is different than those around the four squadron insignia which match -- perhaps because it was a later addition to the display and the original frames were no longer available. It is conceivable that the squadron insignia illustrations were shipped with the Group from the U.S. in January of 1944 and the central shield image was added after the unit arrived in England.
Part of the mystery has been solved thanks to 669th
Gunner Frank Basford. Mr. Basford was a tireless advocate for the
416th and was personally responsible for creation of the bronze
memorial plaques dedicated at nine prominent sites in the U.S. and
abroad. He kept voluminous records of 416th activities after the
war and those records eventually passed after his death to the 416th
Bomb Group Archive. In one of the folders containing newsletters
and reunion records from the post war period an unattached cover page
was found that shows a simplified rendition of the insignia with an
unambiguous reference to the 416th Bomb Group.