9th AF Patch

416th Bombardment Group (L)

Informal Insignia

and Motto




Return to Table of Contents


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.

lounge  table   sketch

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 GOLD". 

The meaning in this context is that the character of a person or group is tested by difficult circumstances.

ensigns  Mace

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.

missing link

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.