The 376th HBG grew from a task force of 231 servicemen and 23 aircraft in 1942. The unit, originally called the Halverson Project (HALPRO), was first deployed to Egypt for raids on mostly German and Italian Axis targets in North Africa. The HALPRO unit was subsequently expanded to four squadrons and became the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group. From bases in Palestine, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, they bombed Axis supply lines both in North Africa and Europe, flying over 450 missions before hostilities ceased in 1945. Nicknamed the “Liberandos,” the group flew 451 missions, was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations, and earned 15 campaign awards.
The descendants of the World War II-era 376th Heavy Bombardment Group formed a veteran’s association and over time amassed a great deal of documentary evidence about the men, missions, and contributions of the unit to the war effort. The 376th HBG Records is comprised of correspondence, newspaper clippings, legal documents, photographs, recordings, notes, research materials, and artifacts, such as flight jackets, helmets, insignia, and slide rules used to determine bombing distances. The papers also document many of the 376th HBG Association’s reunions, which include association historian Ed Clendenin, Jr.’s oral history projects, as well as awards, lectures, and the association’s publication, The Liberandos Intelligencer. Also preserved in the collection are the papers of individual veterans, including Edward Clendenin Sr., Capt. James O. Britt, Maj. John M. Toomey, and Lt. Richard H. Spaulding.
In 2017, the 376th Bomb Group Association donated the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group’s records to the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin where they join the center’s extensive military history collections. Since the 1880s, The University of Texas at Austin has been amassing military history-related material, particularly material related to the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. As early as 1918, UT began collecting materials related to World War I—before the troops were even home. The logic was simple: the war would be an important avenue of historical inquiry in the future. Equipped with contributed funds, a university scholar traveled the state to gather Word War I-related materials. The resulting archive, the Texas War Records, now spans both world wars and stands as one of the largest collections related to Texas military history in existence. Much material related to the Korean and Vietnam wars has been added since the 1990s as have archives that document more recent conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan. The military history collections include oral histories, photographic archives, art, and news media papers, as well as the personal effects of soldiers, generals, and diplomats. The addition of the 376th HBG records perfectly complements the national scope of the military history collection.
The center is devoted to preserving and sharing its collections to ensure the history at the heart of American identities, origins, and values remains rooted in evidence. It is fitting that the records of the 376th HBG join this important resource. At the same time that the 376th HBG Association board donated their records, they voted to establish an endowment to support a graduate intern studying archival enterprises to work with the center’s military history records. With a lead gift from the association’s historian, Ed Clendenin, Jr., and a contribution from the board of director’s as seed money, the membership continues to make donations to increase the endowment corpus. The 376th HBG and Clendenin Intern will work side-by-side the Briscoe Center’s professional archivists to gain practical experience in collection management and accessibility while assisting the center’s archivists in making its military history collections available for research.