In 1943, although B-17s had been used regularly in daylight bombing raids over Europe, nighttime bombing was still a relatively new concept to the U.S. Army Air Corps. Tactics were being developed in a hurry to satisfy the increasing demands of the war, and pilots were being trained at a rapid clip.


It was against that intense backdrop that four B-17s took off one night from Dalhart Army Airfield in Texas. The target was in Conlen, Texas, a mere 20 miles from Dalhart Airfield. It was supposed to be marked with four lights at each corner, creating an "X-marks-the-spot" for the student aircrews to hit. Instead, a young navigator led the bomber formation 40 miles in the other direction, to Boise City, Oklahoma.