Dedicated to Sgt. Frank Dancey (Ball Turret Gunner) and 

Col. Hank Tillman (B-17 Pilot) Service to the Army Air Corps and their Collection of 97th Bomb Group

414th Squadron History in

Tunisia and Italy, July 1943-Jan. 1944



12th AF                             97th BG                         414th BS


Site Edited and Maintained by Doug Cook  April 2007 

From submissions through David Shelby


Photo Credits to Frank Dancey, Col. Hank Tillman, and David Shelby unless noted otherwise.

All Rights Reserved


Contacts from 97th BG and 414th Squadron Welcome!












Col. Hank Tillman,  Sgt. Frank Dancey, and author David Shelby  at 97th BG Reunion October, 2006

Sgt. Frank Dancey flew 50 combat missions as a ball turret gunner and all but one with Col. Hank Tillman, Jr. as pilot.


Dancey family at Smithsonian Udvar Hazy Museum Oct 2006.  Enola Gay in background.


Frank Dancey - Boise, Idaho Early 1943.  Expect it to be cold in that ball turret above 20,000 feet!


Transport to Base in Tunisia

From David Shelby:  Very interesting experiences are always related by Col. Hank Tillman during his interviews.  The following is a story that he told Feb 16, 2008.  “We flew from West Palm Beach, Florida to Puerto Rico, then on to British Guiana and from there to Belem Field, Brazil.  Near Belem, we buzzed the Amazon River in our B17.  Some surprised locals paddling below in a canoe, were waving at the plane and they capsized during their excitement.  It was quite challenging to take off from the very short runway in Belem.  We were briefed before our departure that it was a very touch and go take off.  The officer at the base would come out and stand next to the runway and signal when the engines were revved to the proper power level, when to release your brakes, and when to put down half flaps.  The landing gear had to be retracted immediately upon clearing the ground.  Our B17 just cleared the treetops, and upon our arrival in Africa we found debris from those trees in the wheel wells and landing gear.  To cross the Atlantic, we flew from Natal, Brazil to Dakar, North Africa.  The flight took 11 hours and 45 minutes and covered 1630 miles.”

Dakar, Senegal (from Col. Hank Tillman):  These native men would help to guard their tents and camp while they were out.  Some things still disappeared at times as the security was difficult to maintain with the temporary nature of the bases.  



Tillman receiving European Theater ribbon after arriving in Dakar, Africa


Paul Reid - Waist Gunner ( see Tillman’s letter below) and Hank Tillman – B-17 Pilot – Africa


Frank Dancey and Hank Tillman with Jocko the monkey


B-17 Sweet Adaline Crew in Rabat, Morocco July, 1943:  Pilot Hank Tillman (second from right); Ball Turret Gunner Frank Dancey (far left)

Sweet Adaline 42-30307, which was named after Tillman's mother.  Frank said that they never flew this in combat and it was transferred to another crew and renamed the "Bonnie Sue".   It was shot down by an Italian captured P-38 on 11 August 1943.


It’s hard to imagine a worse place to go to war in then the ball turret position of the B-17 Flying Fortress.  Isolated from the rest of the ten man crew, the ball turret was extremely cramped quarters and required a man with a slight build.


ball turret photo2.jpg (25382 bytes)


Sgt. Frank Dancey flew 50 combat missions as a ball turret gunner and all but one with Col. Hank Tillman, Jr. as pilot.  Frank and Hank were in the 414th Bomb Squadron with the 12th Air Force in North Africa.  They were eventually assigned to the 15th Air Force in Italy.  The dates of their missions were July 1943 to January 1944.  They bombed Rome with Gen. Jimmy Doolittle leading the way on July 19th 1943.  They were told during briefings for this mission to avoid many parts of the city where civilians were present and especially to stay away from the Vatican and the surrounding area.  German radio helped to circulate rumors that Catholic airmen did not have to fly this particular mission unless they wanted to, so that arguments and controversy would occur between the men. 


Major General Jimmy Doolittle (right)    Commanding General of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. He was promoted to Major General (Two Star) in November 1942, and in March 1943 became Commanding General of the Northwest African Strategic Air Forces, a unified command of U.S. Army Air Force and Royal Air Force units.  Gen. Doolittle took command of the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in November 1943 from January 1944 to September 1945.       Photo credit Frank Dancey.


Pilot Hank Tillman at the controls.  Photo credit Frank Dancey.


 Tillman in front of P-38 fighter- Guardian Angel escorts of 97th bombers



Tillman receiving Distinguished Flying Cross from General Twining at 15 AF HQ

Below Tillman’s letter home to Mom after a horrific mission (left side words cropped in original)



Gen. Jimmy Doolittle awards Tillman and others the Purple Heart.  B-17 ‘Sweet Chariot’  97th BG 414th BS


Frascati, Italy today  An Axis  Military Command Base was the target.   Castel Gandolfo near bottom is the Papal retreat residence.









‘KAN-DO’  #438     Crew unknown     Courtesy Col. Hank Tillman via David Shelby

B-17F-105-BO     42-30438 (97th BG, 414th BS) lost Oct 14, 1943.  MACR 973
Frank Dancey’s log records “Paul died”
Recently recounted to David Shelby: “Col. Tillman and his crew were scheduled not to fly on Oct 14, 1943.  Sgt. Paul Fuchs was the Engineer  and gunner with Col. Tillman and Frank Dancey's crew.  Paul had accepted an additional mission on the "Kan-Do" on October 14th as Frank  Dancey had done on "Ther-N-Back" so that they could get in their required missions sooner . Frank said that when the two of them showed up at  the field for duty as volunteer replacement gunners, that Paul was sent to one ship and Frank to another.   Sgt. Paul Fuchs was killed when the  “Kan-Do” was lost in action.”

B-17 #223   “THER-N-BAK”  414th BS      From Col. Wm. Ross’ Collection

Crews unknown




More about Col. Hank Tillman


Col. Tillman at home Chester MD  2006  (photo credit David Shelby)


Col. Hank Tillman’s 414th SQUADRON MISSION LOG


Col. Tillman Last Vietnam Flight  RF4C Phantom 104 Missions

Col. Herman G. Tillman, Jr. Biography – United States Air Force – Current as of March 20, 1972


Col. H.G. Tillman, Jr., is Chief of Staff of Tactical Air Command’s Ninth Air Force at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.  Colonel Tillman came to Ninth Air Force from South Ruislip Air Station, Middlesex, England, where he was Chief of Staff of the Third Air Force (USAFE).


Colonel Tillman was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 1, 1922.  He earned his wings and commission in December 1942 as an aviation cadet.


During World War II, he served with the 97th Bomb Group in Africa and Italy and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart.


After World War II, he served with the 82nd Fighter Group, including a short tour in Alaska, and the 18th Fighter Group in the Philippine Islands.  He completed  his tour of duty there as Inspector General for the 13th Air Force.


Colonel Tillman later spent a four-year tour in the Pentagon with Headquarters, USAF, serving one year with the Manpower and Management office and three years as an operations staff officer in the Directorate of Operations.


Following his graduation from the Armed Forces Staff College in February 1956, Colonel Tillman was then assigned as director of air defense with the 10th Allied Tactical Air Force (NATO) in Ismir, Turkey.  He returned to the U.S. in November 1957 to become Wing Inspector and later commander of the 3561st Pilot Training Squadron at Webb AFB, Texas.


Upon completion of a course at the Military Assistance Institute in Washington, D.C., Colonel Tillman was selected to head the Military Advisory Group Augmentation Team of 35 officers and airmen for a special one-year training mission in Peshawar, Pakistan.


An assignment as Deputy Director of Training then took him to Tactical Air Command (TAC) headquarters at Langley AFB, Va.  He later became the first TAC Base Commander at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, when that command took over the base in January 1966.  In July 1966, he was appointed the tactical wing’s Deputy for Material.


It was from his assignment at Mountain Home AFB that he became Vice Commander of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing in South Vietnam in May 1967.  Colonel Tillman flew 104 combat missions over North and South Vietnam in the RF-4C Phantom.


The Southeast Asian tour of duty earned him the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, first and second Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the 10th through 15th Oak Leaf Cluster to the Air Medal.


In June 1968, Colonel Tillman was assigned as Commander of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at RAF Upper Heyford, England, upon completion of his tour in Southeast Asia.  When the wing was deactivated April, 1, 1970, Colonel Tillman was reassigned to Headquarters Third Air Force to become Chief of Staff.

Colonel Tillman arrived at Ninth Air Force to assume duty as Chief of Staff on August 16, 1971.


Colonel Tillman has amassed more than 4,000 flying hours in such aircraft as the B-17, B-24, B-25, F-51, F-80, F-86, RF-101 and the RF-4C.


He is married to the former Elizabeth Brown, also of Baltimore, and they have three children:  Paula who lives in Atlanta Ga., Bruce, a student at the University of Maryland; and Terri, who lives in London, England.



Col. Tillman’s study