The Hells Angels were originally started by British-American war Immigrants, the Bishop family in Fontana, California[8] followed by an amalgamation of former members from different motorcycle clubs, such as The Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington.[9][10] The Hells Angels' website denies the suggestion that any misfit or malcontent troops are connected with the motorcycle club. However, the website also notes that the name was suggested by Arvid Olson, an associate of the founders, who had served in the Flying Tigers' "Hells Angels" squadron in China during World War II.[11] The name "Hells Angels" was inspired by the typical naming of squadrons, or other fighting groups, with a fierce, death-defying title in both World War I and World War II, e.g., the Flying Tigers (American Volunteer Group) in Burma and China fielded three squadrons of P-40s and the third Squadron was called "Hell's Angels".[12] In 1930, Howard Hughes film Hell's Angels displayed extraordinary and dangerous feats of aviation, and it is believed that the World War II groups who used that name based it on the film.

Some of the early history of the HAMC is not clear, and accounts differ. According to Ralph 'Sonny' Barger, founder of the Oakland chapter, early chapters of the club were founded in San Francisco, Gardena, Fontana, as well as his chapter in Oakland, and other places independently of one another, with the members usually being unaware that there were other Hells Angels clubs.

Other sources[13] claim that the Hells Angels in San Francisco were originally organized in 1953 by Rocky Graves, a Hells Angel member from San Bernardino ("Berdoo") implying that the "Frisco" Hells Angels were very much aware of their forebears. The "Frisco" Hells Angels were reorganized in 1955 with thirteen charter members, Frank Sadilek serving as President, and using the smaller, original logo. The Oakland chapter, at the time headed by Barger used a larger version of the "Death's Head" patch nicknamed the "Barger Larger" which was first used in 1959. It later became the club standard.

The Hells Angels are often depicted in a similarly mythical fashion as other modern-day legends like the James-Younger Gang; free-spirited, iconic, bound by brotherhood and loyalty. At other times, such as in the 1966 Roger Corman film The Wild Angels where they are depicted as violent and nihilistic, they are portrayed as a violent criminal gang and a scourge on society.[14]

The club became prominent within, and established its initial notoriety as part of, the 1960s counterculture movement in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene, London, in England, and elsewhere where it played a part at many of the movement's seminal events. Original members were directly connected to many of the counterculture's primary leaders, such as Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mick Farren and Tom Wolfe. The club launched the career of "Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson.[15][16][17][18]

The myth and legends surrounding the military lineage of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has, for decades, been cited as being from former members of the Hell's Angels Bomber B-17 Group from World War II. This myth has been aided by incorrect reporting by authors who deemed it appropriate to align the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) with ex-service members returning from a war where excitement and adventure had become their lifestyle. Authors and newspaper correspondents, from a wide assortment of daily, weekly and other periodicals have made statements, not founded in fact. It has been stated that these former servicemen were alleged to have been drunkards, military misfits, and generally speaking substandard soldiers that would not adjust to a return to a peacetime environment. If any person, regardless of their association, considered the content of the statements and inferences made, they would find these to lack any rational thought or concern for truthful reporting.

Official chapters

The HAMC acknowledges more than one hundred chapters spread over 29 countries. Europe did not become widely home to the Hells Angels until 1969, when two London chapters were formed after the Beatle George Harrison invited some members of the HAMC San Francisco to London.[41] Two people from London visited California, "prospected", and ultimately joined.Two charters were issued on July 30, 1969; one for "South London" - the re-imagined chapter renewing the already existing 1950 South London chapter - and the other for "East London", but by 1973 the two charters came together as one, simply called "London". The London Angels provided security at a number of UK Underground festivals including Phun City in 1970 organized by anarchist, International Times writer and lead singer with The Deviants, Mick Farren.

They even awarded Farren an "approval patch" in 1970 for use on his first solo album Mona, which also featured Steve Peregrin Took (who was credited as "Shagrat the Vagrant").[42] The 1980s and 1990s saw a major expansion of the club into Canada.

A list of acknowledged chapters can be found on the HAMC club's official website.

A historical review of the exploits and accomplishments of the implied Bomber Group, 303rd Bombardment Groups (Heavy) (303rd) European Theater of Operations (ETO) show's that this bomber unit did not tolerate malcontents, drunken pilots or aircrews. Such individuals, had they existed, would have seriously hindered the effectiveness of combat operations and would have been dealt with harshly and promptly. Documented records of the 303rd can be found in "Might in Flight", Daily Diary of the Eighth Air Force's Hell's Angels, 303rd Bombardment Group (H), by Harry D. Gobrecht, LtCol, USAF (Ret). One of the 303rd's most famous B-17's serial number #41-24577, commanded by then Captain Irl Baldwin, was named "Hell's Angels". This aircraft was unnamed until it's fourth or fifth mission. The crew decided to adopt the name "Hell's Angels" after the 1927 "Hell's Angels" WWI fictional Fighter Squadron movie by Howard Hughes. On 13 May 1943 the 303rd's B-17F "Hell's Angels" became the first 8th Air Force B-17 to complete 25 combat missions. This feat has wrongly been credited to the"Memphis Belle" B-17 including the 1943 and 1990 "Memphis Belle" movies. The "Memphis Belle" B-17 was the first to complete 25 missions and return to the USA. "Hell's Angels" continued to fly combat missions until 13 December 1943, when she completed 48 combat missions it was retired from combat. Shortly thereafter she was flown to the USA, rejoined by members of the Capt Baldwin crew, went on a morale boosting tour of war production plants. "Hell's Angels" B-17F. serial number #41-24577 was dismantled, for scrap, in 1947. On 7 January 1944, by a vote of group and squadron commanders, "Hell's Angels" became the name of the 303rd with "Might in Flight" being retained as the Group motto.

Facts, which have been undeniably proven, show that the 303rd "Hell's Angels" B-17F was only flown by highly dedicated, motivated and mission oriented airmen. They were not malcontents and did not report for mission in a drunken state. Crew pilot and commander, Capt Irl Baldwin, completed a stellar military career, retired as a LtCol, and was awarded numerous valorous and meritorious citations.

Records show that the 303rd became one of the 8th Air Forces best Bomb Groups. It operated from Station 107, Molesworth, Huntingdonshire, England from 12 September 1942 until 11 June 1945. During this time the Group flew an 8th Air Force record 364 combat missions, 10,721 sorties and dropped 26,346 tons of bombs on enemy targets. The 303rd is credited with 664 enemy aircraft destroyed, probably destroyed or damaged. They sustained 1,748 personnel casualties and lost 210 B-17's on combat missions. The 303rd was the first 8th Air Force Bomb Group to complete 25, 50, 75, 200 and 300 combat missions. With this record doesn't it seem strange that the post war media, more than likely influenced by a law enforcement community biased against the HAMC. Only overzealous sensationalistic reporters, would publish unreliable and malicious comments about 303rd crewmen or any other group, to include HAMC. These tainted reports represent a disservice to journalists that are professional in the execution of their craft. From available historical information at HAMC Berdoo and extensive research by the 303rd reveals that no lineage exists between the HAMC and the 303rd other than both organizations having the same name. HAMC has copyrighted the name Hells Angels (in any form of spelling) in the US and Internationally, along with all variations of the "Deathshead" insignia of HAMC. These trademarks & copyrights are aggressively protected by HAMC, Inc. The name Hell's Angels was adopted by no less that twelve B-17?s throughout WWII, from a assortment of organizations, additionally it was adopted by a B-26 Medium Bomber squadron, a United States Marine Corps fighter squadron and even on a P-38 Lightning fighter.

The former Squadron Leader of the 3rd Pursuit Squadron "Hell's Angels" American Volunteer Group (AVG), Arvid Olsen, was the only known person with specific military lineage to an actual unit which bore the name Hell's Angels that was affiliated with the foundation of the HAMC, which occurred in Fontana, California in March 1948. Arvid Olsen was an associate of the founders of the HAMC, he never attempted to or became a member of HAMC.

To answer the question of lineage between HAMC and a military organization is that Arvid Olsen, "Flying Tigers" Hell's Angels squadron gave the idea of the name to the actual founders of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, in Fontana, California. The selection of our colors, red on white, is a result of the association of Olsen with the HAMC founders, like the insignia of the 3PS "Hell's Angels". The insignia of the HAMC, our copyrighted Deathshead can also be traced to two variant insignia designs, the 85th Fighter Squadron and the 552nd Medium Bomber Squadron. Frank Sadliek, past president of the San Francisco Chapter, HAMC, designed the official "Deathshead" insignia. Arvid Olsen died 16 May 1974 in Point Clear, Alabama.

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