WWII 388th Bomb Group Post – Radio Mechanic Cpl. Roland Downs Fixing a B-17 in Knettishall, England


My obsession with the 388th Bomb Group stems from a chance encounter with a collection of negatives and photographs taken by an artist attached to the 388th in Knettishall, England.  Followers of PortraitsofWar already know the story, so I won’t go into great detail, but anyone interested should search for Alva Alegre in the search bar.
Anyway, I recently purchased a small group of photos that providentially yielded a handful of identified photos of members of the 388th BG.  In my typical fashion, I’ve fleshed out historical details and hopefully will give Mr. Downs a proper place on the internet.

I found the following info penciled on the back of the photo: “Roland Downs, Cpl. Alabama”

ALABAMA Inked on Cap

Judging by the inked info on his upturned mechanics hat, I felt that this was a likely identification of Mr.Downs.  With this info in hand I visited the 388th Bomb Group website: http://www.388bg.info/


Darn!  They already had his photo, but at least I was able to learn that he was a radio mechanic, something obvious after inspecting what he’s doing in the photo.  My next stop brought me to ancestry.com, where I do most of my genealogical research on mystery photos.  From a little bit of searching I was able to discover that he was indeed born and raised in Alabama and born on July 8th, 1923 and passed away on April 19th, 1980.  He served in the Airforce (USAAF) from 1942 until 1971.


1940 Census Record

9 thoughts on “WWII 388th Bomb Group Post – Radio Mechanic Cpl. Roland Downs Fixing a B-17 in Knettishall, England

  1. That is my grandfather! For what ever reason, I decided to so some research on my grandfather’s unit in the Air Force, 4 pages later, here I am looking at his photograph and the census record for him and my great aunts & uncles.

  2. Yes this is my father. He was a radioman on on a plane called Heavens Above in which he flew 25 missions over Germany .He also married my mother in London in 1943 .My older sister was born in London in 1945.my mother is still alive and is 92.I own this original picture and many more of my dad career in the USAF and Army Air Corp

    • Would love to see scans of the photos from his service. I’m friendly with the 388th BG historians and I’m sure they would like to see any additional shots to add to the website. Thanks for contacting me

  3. Wow. My father was a Radio Mechanic in the 388th also. I imagine they knew each other. Would love to see more pictures, especially of ground crews.

  4. Walter “Boots” Mayberry is a hale and hearty 93 years old. He was with the 388th at Knettishall, the 560th squadron. Walter was shot down over Nuremburg on his last mission in the ‘Karen W.” B-17.
    He was armorer/waist gunner. Captured by the Germans, his story is told in his book “POW: Promises Kept”. He lives here in Harrison Arkansas and was just in our tee shop today getting a shirt designed.
    I was not sure if you folks knew of Walter.

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