Shortly after that 2009 reunion, I was copied on an email from a veteran's spouse that went out to several of the organizers of the very informal 416th Bomb Group Association. The message reinforced what had been discussed earlier. This spouse had numerous records and photos that belonged to her husband, a member of the 416th Headquarters staff from the earliest days to the end of the war. There apparently was marginal interest in this material among the surviving family members and it needed to be cleared to make space in a downsizing operation. After a round of email exchanges, I rather reluctantly volunteered to serve as a repository for this information until a suitable permanent home could be identified. It was a selection pool of one. Thus was born the 416th Bomb Group Archive and the loosely defined title "Archivist".
Since that day, the amount of information about the 416th Bomb Group that has come to light has been absolutely staggering. The discovery and sharing of the personal photo collection of Capt. Francis J. Cachat, the 416th photographer, has added well over 900 hitherto unknown photographs of 416th personnel and equipment. A windfall of data was added to the Archive through the thoughtfulness of an Air Force Historical Research Agency employee who made digital copies of wartime 416th records available. Also enriching the Archive were donations of material from several veterans and/or their families. This latter group shed considerable light on the history of squadron and group reunions dating back to 1946.
In addition to the preservation of primary sources, the Archive includes significant research tools. Among the most important of these is the 416th.com website, which has been very greatly expanded and is growing almost daily due to the dedicated effort of Rick Prucha, the son of a 416th pilot. Relational databases have also been created to record details of unit personnel (currently recording 2,460 officers and enlisted members) and 310 unit aircraft (181 A-20s and 129 A-26s to date). Both of these databases continue to grow as additional records or photos are analyzed and new verifiable information becomes available.
|New Home of the 416th Bomb Group Archive|
Eventually, the Archive will need a permanent home. With limited and shrinking budgets (and staff), the academic repositories that once would have been likely candidates are overwhelmed by the amount of material that has emerged as WWII veterans are leaving us at an accelerating pace. By holding, organizing and preserving this information about the 416th, one small but important unit in the great war effort of almost 70 years ago, we can improve the viability of this archive complementing that of a more enduring institution in years to come.
416th veterans, family, or friends with items to donate or copies to share may telephone 417-499-9831 or write to Wayne G. Sayles, 416th Bomb Group Archive, P.O. Box 911, Gainesville, MO 65655