Mae West and the 445th Bombardment Group

The self inflated life preserver called the "Mae West" saved countless lives during the Second World War, and continues in service today. A vest sent by a viewer illustrates both the history of the life saving equipment, and the experience of the pilot who owned it.
Special thanks to James Powell.
Dedicated to Robert Powell Jr.
This is original content based on research by The History Guy. Images in the Public Domain are carefully selected and provide illustration. As very few images of the actual event are available in the Public Domain, images of similar objects and events are used for illustration.
You can purchase the bow tie worn in this episode at The Tie Bar:
All events are portrayed in historical context and for educational purposes. No images or content are primarily intended to shock and disgust. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Non censuram.
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The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered is the place to find short snippets of forgotten history from five to fifteen minutes long. If you like history too, this is the channel for you.
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Script by THG
#history #thehistoryguy #WWII

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  • My mother had a cousin that flew in that same group as a bombardier. I wonder if he knew Powell.

    Mary MitchellMary Mitchell7 өдрийн өмнө
  • Brought a tear to my eye as I recalled all of the men I served with who have crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees.

    Thomas CampbellThomas Campbell10 өдрийн өмнө
  • Thank you for covering Mae West. I had suggested you cover her a video a little while ago and it is awesome to get some more information. I was interested to see how you would cover her in a video given she has a more risque nature than most of the content on the channel.

    B FrankB Frank17 өдрийн өмнө
  • ...Is the "Mae West" the progenitor for that long held joke of a.... girl's voluptuous bosom being the reason for flotation in water?

    SR JSR J18 өдрийн өмнө
  • How could anyone possibly downvote this video...?

    Christopher GosnellChristopher Gosnell19 өдрийн өмнө
  • May "Lucky," and all who served in WWII for the Allied cause, rest in peace.

    Helene LHelene L24 өдрийн өмнө
  • Repeat after me: Life vest... sssss. Mae West... sssss.

    Ste JerSte Jer24 өдрийн өмнө
  • This never mentions the "Mae West" that had nothing to do with life preservers. Mae West was a thing even without the vest. Parachuting can result in a canopy where a line gets caught going over the top. This separates the chute into two distinct lobes. The enduring term for this, which continued decades after WWII, is a "Mae West". So if a flyer bailed out over the sea, you could have two Mae West's involved on your way to being rescued.

    Da HawkDa Hawk24 өдрийн өмнө
  • The late victorian photograph of Henry Freeman a Whitby (on England's north east coast) lifeboatman - wearing a cork lifevest was taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, a now very famous Whitby photographer. Sutcliffe was a marvellous photograper and a simple search will find many examples of his work. Whitby, of course, is the location of the Dracula stories by Bram Stoker.

    Will FordWill Ford28 өдрийн өмнө
  • Thank you to the Powell’s especially their father, the pilot, who was indeed part of America’s Greatest Generation!

    Tim PriceTim Price29 өдрийн өмнө
  • Thank God that war wasn't fought today or some idiot would have invented the John Holmes female life preserver!!!!!

    brt 123brt 12329 өдрийн өмнө
  • Very nicely done HG and my condolences to the Powell family.

    Biker MaxBiker Max29 өдрийн өмнө
  • It was a compliment for her. What girl wouldn’t?

    altarushaltarush29 өдрийн өмнө
  • MNthe's getting pretty comfortable with these non-skippable ads

    BBСарын өмнө
  • Thank you to all of our greatest generation

    tony cantrelltony cantrellСарын өмнө
  • My unit was often tasked with flying medium-level static line para-drops. The Parachute riggers kept complaining that the ramp was tearing up their gear. I asked my Bn S-4 to come up with something to place on the edges to alleviate the problem. A few days later a pair of pallet totes arrived and they were full to the top with unused 1945 Mfg Mae Wests. DRMO had more but all the Chinook units got wind of this and they were gone by the time we went back for more. The maintainers riveted cut-up sections to the ramp and no more complaints. Of course, I 'Liberated' several and still have them. :)

    J SullivanJ SullivanСарын өмнө
  • Profoundly moving. Thank you for this episode.

    Neal MontgomeryNeal MontgomeryСарын өмнө
  • The fact that the CO2 designed to inflate the vests was often used for fizzy drinks amuses me more than it should

    deep tootdeep tootСарын өмнө
  • The greatest generation will live on through memories ĺike this. Thank you. Being born in Akron, would love to find out more about the airship. Keep up the good work.

    Mark WilsonMark WilsonСарын өмнө
  • I like the 'Stay Puff Marshmallow Man' in the background.

    Patrick UpdikePatrick UpdikeСарын өмнө
  • Great way to honor one of our Hero’s! Thank for sharing

    ColtbreathColtbreathСарын өмнө
  • Another interesting story well told. However there’s the darker side of life wests that were the fake wests sold to refugees from Syria that headed for Greece on rank boats. They often consisted of some rubber material and filled with newspapers and having the opposite effect, by weighing down people and drowning them.

    Magnus KesselmarkMagnus KesselmarkСарын өмнө
  • If I could thumbs up this video twice i would. Thank you for sharing.

    Pippin28Pippin28Сарын өмнө
  • My father would bring that Mae West along on our vacations to Pelee Island in Lake Erie. I got a big kick out of wearing it in the water and working the inflation mechanism. What a kick to see that it’s still around and being cherished. Way to go James. What a great tribute to Lucky. Thank you History Guy. Lt. Powell was called Lucky because in 35 missions, no one EVER bled on his plane, much less got killed. His main plane was called The Count. Once Andy Rooney rode along as a reporter for Stars and Stripes. He was impressed at what a steady hand Lucky was at the controls. In those tight formation, collisions were commonplace. Rooney saw planes drifting unsteadily around him. Lucky kept his plane steady as a rock. His nickname and reputation meant crewmen were always willing to stand in on his plane when a substitute was needed. His waist gunner would bring along broken appliance like toasters and radios and drop them from the plane over towns. He felt it would confuse German intelligence. Once he was having trouble getting his plane to trim properly. He climbed to the back of the plane to see what was going on. To his horror, the same waist gunner had a big pile of bricks that he was dropping over neighborhoods. He was trying to keep the German citizenry busy fixing their roofs. Lucky told him he had ten seconds to get rid of those bricks!

    Thom PowellThom PowellСарын өмнө
  • God bless the Powell family. And, "Go Irish!"

    TJ RohyansTJ RohyansСарын өмнө
  • ...." Orr would be crazy to fly more missions, and sane if he didn't.....but if he was sane, then he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to, but if didn't want to, then he was sane and had to"......J. Heller

    Marco ArceMarco ArceСарын өмнө
  • It just fasinates me how my grandfather his brothers, George Bush JFK and so many others all served in the same war WOW!

    bobbler2bobbler2Сарын өмнө
  • My Dad made history in WW2 as the radio operation gunner on the first 8 Air force bomber to crash land in neutral Sweden.July 1943. While bombing Norway flak in 3 engines and leaking fuel, they knew it would be impossible to make it back to base in England.They were interned for a while,but eventually retired to fly their 35 missions.While in Sweden the 381st their bomb group lost the most planes on the first mission to Swinfort (spelling) sorry ballbearing factory.The 8th lost 62 planes that day.With the 381st the most.

    John NicatraJohn NicatraСарын өмнө
  • Words fail to express my deep gratitude for the way you shared the history and story. Top notch, and well done History Guy! Also to the Powell family,; Thank you and blessings!

    R HR HСарын өмнө
  • Very cool. 📻🙂

    Jeff KingJeff KingСарын өмнө
  • No more brother war, my brothers.

    Hugh JohnsonHugh JohnsonСарын өмнө
  • Great show.

    Glenn ParsonsGlenn ParsonsСарын өмнө
  • The Kassel Mission Historical Society would like to be in touch with you and James Powell. Thank you for sharing this story. We have many more.

    Linda DeweyLinda DeweyСарын өмнө
  • My father was a side gunner in the 467th bomb group and recieved the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. If you ever are in Savanna you should go to the 8th Army Air Force Museum. I didn't realize how lucky his children were that he survived to have us. The only thing one could have done in that war that was more dangerous was to serve on a German submarine.

    Stephen BrownStephen BrownСарын өмнө
  • I'll take this opportunity to encourage everyone on the water to wear life jackets. I'm a boater and live near a popular boating area of the Chesapeake Bay. During the summers, the newspaper regularly reports stories of boaters and guests drowning after a boat mishap during what was supposed to be en enjoyable time on the water. From our neighborhood park, on more than one Independence Day we've watched Coast Guard helicopters searching for victims that would later be reported to have drown without a lifejacket on. Today, inflatable life vests for recreational use are lightweight and unobtrusive, reasonably comfortable on even a hot summer day. Please wear them.

    Kenneth PaquinKenneth PaquinСарын өмнө
  • Thank you Mr. Robert Powell for making my life possible.

    Mindy WardMindy WardСарын өмнө
  • Thank you for another great episode. My father was a B-24 pilot in the 445th, 702nd. He never had to use his “Mae West”. I just watched your episode on the German 88. My father had may run ins with flak to the point where he said there were holes in the plane you could climb out after landing. A testament to the B-24 is that it always brought them back. 👍

    Samuel GassterSamuel GassterСарын өмнө
  • I like the B24. As a British plane fan, I know the Commonwealth air forces used a lot of US types including the B24- our go to foreign built heavy bomber. As a day bomber the B17 sucked for us as we lacked fighters to escort them any distance. The B17 was then used for maritime missions where again, it sucked even though that was its intended use in the first place. It was replaced by the B24.

    Jeremy HannafordJeremy HannafordСарын өмнө
  • I joined the US Coast Guard in 1993, and we still called them "Mae West" back then.

    Steve DiggsSteve DiggsСарын өмнө
  • Thank you Mr. Powell. Thanks to all of your family.

    Frank HinkleFrank HinkleСарын өмнө
  • So Bob Powell Junior died on December seventh, the date of U.S. entry into WW11. Wow.

    Dennis MasonDennis MasonСарын өмнө
  • Another great episode! It's wonderful you know the history of the vest. Mine I believe was never issued, as when I pulled the inflation cords it actually inflated! The CO2 cartridges were still good after 75 years!

    Greg BoyingtonGreg BoyingtonСарын өмнө
  • Dad was a wireless op/air gunner in RAF Costal Command flying Liberators out of Northern Ireland. He said the crews never bothered with dingy drill as it was well known that the Lib wouldn't ditch - weak roller shutter bomb bay doors, big glazed nose, thin Davies wing and a high stall speed. Very sobeing knowing that to see an entry in his log book 'Attacked U-boat on surface, aircraft damaged, returned to base'.

    Mr B.Mr B.Сарын өмнө
  • 10:30 So, just did the math. You can't just add the probabilities together. If you have a 3% chance of being killed every mission, you have a 97% chance of not being killed. If you fly two missions, your odds of surviving both missions is .97 times .97. Your odds of surviving 35 missions in a row come out to a little better than one in three. (That's 0.97 to the 35th power) Not great, but better than almost certainly dead.

    Aaron ZAaron ZСарын өмнө
  • How about the history of THE “Betty Boop” . Coined in WWII.

    Diamond LouDiamond LouСарын өмнө
  • A particularly touching segment. Thanks to all who serve or have served, and thank you for sharing. Steve

    stuffstuffСарын өмнө
  • 3:01 - you can't skip over the 1861 Whitby lifeboat disaster without mentioning that when a replacement boat was dragged 10 miles overland to continue the rescue Henry Freeman, the sole survivor of the disaster, was the first to volunteer to man her. (In fact, he's probably worth an episode of his own)

    NastyswimmerNastyswimmerСарын өмнө
  • Excellent! Well done!

    Paul RemdePaul RemdeСарын өмнө
  • Another fantastic episode thank you history guy.... Robert Powell thank you, ICON ! ! !

    rory vonbruttrory vonbruttСарын өмнө
  • Beautiful

    Mike UptonMike UptonСарын өмнө
  • My Uncle flew B-24s in the PTO against Japan from China. Didn't talk much. Liked the Liberator. Learned to hate SPAM. Spoke some Chinese. He had my ideal job (when I was a teen): mattress tester.

    Stephen JacksStephen JacksСарын өмнө
  • You think THAT'S a Mae West, you should see the Navy version. And it's not inflatable, it's buxom 24/7...

    elfpimp1elfpimp1Сарын өмнө
  • Thank you very much, History Guy

    Frank GullaFrank GullaСарын өмнө
  • That Ploesti mission footage is an i incredible story. Brutal low level/ Q trains and princesses

    CoppaShottaCoppaShottaСарын өмнө
  • Outstanding!!

    Gary OlivierGary OlivierСарын өмнө
  • Very touching, THG. I did not expect to get teary eyed from a video about life preservers.

    Guy MontagGuy MontagСарын өмнө
  • I’m from near Norwich, England and the amount of times nearby WW2 airbases get mentioned on this channel is crazy. Think there’s a memorial to the 445th bomber group there

    FunkyNigeFunkyNigeСарын өмнө
  • Great episode!

    Walt ServiceWalt ServiceСарын өмнө
  • I enjoy your site! However, your staccato, too-rapid presentation is all too often difficult to follow. Could you please work on this by maybe enunciating more carefully and deliberately instead of “rushing over” syllables that are usually at the beginnings of sentences...although this does occur in mid to ends of narratives. Thank you, sir!

    Jim TwohigJim TwohigСарын өмнө
  • My thanks to Robert Powell. ...And to James Powell for thinking to send you this life jacket. I enjoyed the episode. I wear the modern version of a Mae West while boating and while working underway for the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. Inflatable PFDs are still saving lots of lives.

    Bruce ClarksonBruce ClarksonСарын өмнө
  • Can you do a video on the 1958 lebanon landings please

    Fan FairFan FairСарын өмнө
  • why not a pyjama history ?

    jomo350350jomo350350Сарын өмнө
  • Did anyone recognize (future) five time Academy Award nominee Arthur Kennedy in the WWII training film?

    Colonel KColonel KСарын өмнө
  • Always great, this world class historian has an abundant array of topics always professionally presented. ***** 5 stars for the history guy!!!!!

    Stuart HarperStuart HarperСарын өмнө
  • Thank you for telling us this story, and thank young Mr. Powell for sharing the story with you. My dad was quite willing to speak of his experiences in the war because he had no traumatic experience. Therefore, all his stories were of various shenanigans and skirt chasing.

    Jerome BarryJerome BarryСарын өмнө
  • A side note. I bought a set of books "Modern Eloquence" printed 1900. I am just into first book on after dinner speeches. Very interesting glimpses into the past. Oldest so far is from 1864 to the youngest 1896, words from a different world.

    Martin MMartin MСарын өмнө
  • Thank you Mr Powell and THG.

    ScottOScottOСарын өмнө
  • Cheers to that....Fine man and all that were lost.....Thanks

    steve shoemakersteve shoemakerСарын өмнө
  • At the tail end of this excellent video, I raised a beverage in salute.

    LibraeotequeVer3 PointOhLibraeotequeVer3 PointOhСарын өмнө
  • God bless them ALL ! I'll never forget them ! Doug in Dallas Texas 4:14 pm 3 9 21

    S HelloS HelloСарын өмнө
  • My father flew B-25 bombers during WWII. He wore a Mae West on many missions. He survived the war - and NEVER talked about it. Thanks, History Guy.

    Rex MyersRex MyersСарын өмнө
  • The youth of today have no idea how clueless they are, ignorant of our past greatness and the disaster they are setting themselves up for. They think safe space is a noble cause. The men and women of WWII were truly the GREATEST GENERATION, of our nation.

    Bruce The CurmudgeonBruce The CurmudgeonСарын өмнө
  • The American Expeditionary Force, North Russia (AEF in North Russia) (also known as the Polar Bear Expedition) was an odd time in WW1. Please look into this. My friends Grandfather was part of this.

    Jerry WiessnerJerry WiessnerСарын өмнө
  • Thankyou Mr Powell and thankyou History Guy for that great lesson and profound dedication

    Garry TurgissGarry TurgissСарын өмнө
  • Thank you THG and many thanks to the Powell family. U.S.A.!

    Jennifer HortonJennifer HortonСарын өмнө
  • My Father, also was a WWII Navy Man throughout the early 40s and Im sure whom on many occasions had the opportunity to wear the "Mae West" while on deck ad an anti aircraft gunner like Powell Sr. had remained silent as an unsung hero...but not to me!

    Patrick J. MelePatrick J. MeleСарын өмнө
  • Another great episode. Thank you.

    FolapFolapСарын өмнө
  • Thank you, Powell's & The History Guy. A wonderful episode.

    Hilltown GraymersHilltown GraymersСарын өмнө
  • I love The History Guy but unless you disable midroll ads I'm unsubscribing

    Crady von PawlakCrady von PawlakСарын өмнө
  • I wound have expected the Brits to have come up with Mae West independently as a matter of Cockney rhyming slang: life vest--> Mae West

    dinobuddydinobuddyСарын өмнө
  • War is the dream of fools and the terror of sane men. Only politicians who never went to war, want to send other people to fight.

    patriot 945patriot 945Сарын өмнө
  • What a wonderful tribute to both father and son. Cheers, History Guy!

    Kathy ToyKathy ToyСарын өмнө
  • Another excellent video sir. You never fail to deliver. Thank you.

    byrdman50010byrdman50010Сарын өмнө
  • Great story

    gunsaway1gunsaway1Сарын өмнө
  • I had the pleasure of speaking to a gentleman by the name of Bob Maloney when i was in my early teens, he had been a WW2 Wingman. He talked about escorting bombers and the equipment they had to wear. Per you mentioning some pilots wearing their pajamas under their uniform. He mentioned that keeping warm was an issue and that they had a type of heated jacket that had a tendency to burn and because of that, he and several pilots avoided them. Also, kind of a side comment. I remember he showed me a picture of him and his airplane from WW2, I asked if there was a reason why it was misspelled (The Squirt) and he thought I was messing with him and he took it back, he couldn't believe that he and his wife had never noticed

    First Name Last NameFirst Name Last NameСарын өмнө
  • Awesome episode. Many thanks to those who have served, are serving and will serve. God bless you all.

    j gomezj gomezСарын өмнө
  • this is wonderful. Thank you. Please more!

    Kitty MervineKitty MervineСарын өмнө
  • Another version is if a guy line goes over the top of your open parachute producing the shape of a woman's bust it also is known as a Mae West.

    Mal YoungMal YoungСарын өмнө
  • "why don't ya c'mon over and see me sometime ?"

    David GreenDavid GreenСарын өмнө
  • Your history presentations are fantastic! Can you team up with Native Americans to do a series of Native American history, please?

    Kimberly CooperKimberly CooperСарын өмнө
  • That's funny I had a dream 2 night ago I was wearing one

    spoiler5oospoiler5ooСарын өмнө
  • I think that’s Major Boyington at 5:47

    dewikle2dewikle2Сарын өмнө
  • Nice piece buddy, Please keep it up 👍

    interwebtubesinterwebtubesСарын өмнө
  • Thank you, Mr. Robert Powell...and all the other soldiers who selflessly give of themselves in our military!

    Bonnie HydenBonnie HydenСарын өмнө
  • Sometimes history is specific and personal. Great episode!

    hb trustmehb trustmeСарын өмнө
  • My father was in the navy once told me that bell bottoms could also be used as a flotation device by tying the pant leg ends and filling them with air.

    Keith GarrettKeith GarrettСарын өмнө
    • I always wondered about those unusually styled dungarees.

      erin mcdonalderin mcdonaldСарын өмнө
  • This video reminded me of the General Slocum disaster in NYC in the early 1900s: the problem with using cork as life vest is that it inevitably becomes saw dust. Many people who abandoned the General Slocum with what turned out to very old vests once filled with cork sank like stones. THG did a video about the disaster a couple years ago.

    Bent MonkeyBent MonkeyСарын өмнө
  • Interesting had no idea it was named after a female actress i had always thaught was the name of the vest very interesting

    Craig HAGENBRUCHCraig HAGENBRUCHСарын өмнө
  • Thank you so much for sharing this touching and important bit of history. So many quite sacrifices.

    Joel LinkerJoel LinkerСарын өмнө
  • Maybe not liquid Co2. Dry ice.

    Mark RowlandMark RowlandСарын өмнө