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444th Bombardment Group
444ghbg-emblem.jpg
444th Bombardment Group Insignia
Active 1943–1946
Country United States
Branch United States Army Air Forces
Role Bombardment
Part of Twentieth Air Force
Garrison/HQ Pacific Ocean Theater of World War II
Motto Per Victoriam Ad Libertatem:

LIBERTY THROUGH VICTORY

Engagements
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II

China Burma India, Asiatic-Pacific,
Air Offensive Japan (1944–1945)

The 444th Bombardment Group was a World War II United States Army Air Forces combat organization. It was inactivated on October 1, 1946

The group was the first B-29 Superfortress Group formed for the elite 58th Bombardment Wing, and served primarily in the Pacific Ocean theater and China Burma India Theater of World War II as part of Twentieth Air Force. The group's aircraft engaged in very heavy bombardment B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan. After its reassignment to the Mariana Islands in 1945, it's aircraft were identified by a "N" and a triangle painted on the tail.

The unit was temporarily reactivated in 2003 as the 444th Air Expeditionary Wing, a provisional unit possibly allocated to Air Materiel Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF). The composition and stationing of the unit was never officially disclosed, and it was inactivated after the invasion of Iraq was completed.

Contents

History

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Lineage

  • Constituted as the 444th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on February 15, 1943
Activated on March 1, 1943
Redesignated as: 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in November 1943
Inactivated on October 1, 1946
  • Redesignated as 444th Air Expeditionary Wing and converted to provisional status in March 2003.
Activated Mar 2003
Inactivated Apr 2003

Assignments

Components

  • 344th Bombardment Squadron 1945–1946
  • 676th Bombardment Squadron 1943–1946
  • 677th Bombardment Squadron 1943–1946
  • 678th Bombardment Squadron 1943–1946 (Later 10th)
  • 679th Bombardment Squadron 1943–1944
  • 825th Bombardment Squadron 1945

Stations

Kwanghan Airfield (A-3), China designated as forward staging base.

Aircraft Flown

Operational History

World War II

677th Bomb Squadron 42-63411 "Dutchess"
677th Bomb Squadron 42-63577 "Round Robin Rosie"
678th Bomb Squadron 44-70108 "Sweet Thing". Notice the black paint applied to the under surface of the aircraft. This was applied to reduce reflection of Japanese searchlights when flying low-level night incendiary missions. "Sweet Thing" set a speed record from Hawaii to California upon her return to the US post war.

The 444th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy Special was constituted on February 15, 1943 as a B-29 Superfortress group and activated on March 1, 1943 at Davis-Monthan Field near Tucson, Arizona. It was assigned the 676th, 677th, 678th and 679th Bomb Squadrons. After a period of organization the group was reassigned to the training base Great Bend, AAF, Kansas initially flying B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberator. After receiving its B-29s they were ferried off to modification centers to correct design flaws. The 444th, under the command of Col. Alva Harvey, was assigned to the first B-29 Superfortress wing, the 58th Bombardment Wing. After the aircraft were returned the group engaged in training on the new aircraft and its new mission... long range precision bombing.

April 2 - 5, 1944, the group's aircraft left the United States and deployed to a former B-24 Liberator airfield at Charra India, arriving on April 12. In India, the group was assigned to the XX Bombardment Command of the new Twentieth Air Force. During the week of April 15–22, no less than five 58th Bomb Wing B-29s crashed near Karachi all from overheated engines. The cause was traced to the design of the engine cowl flaps which controlled air flow over the cylinders. There were also problems with exhaust valves and valve guides on the engine. The B-29 was an advanced aeronautical design years ahead of engine development and was underpowered as well.

From India, the 444th Bomb Group planned to fly missions against Japan from advanced airfields in China. However, all the supplies of fuel, bombs, and spare parts needed to support operations from the forward bases in China had to be flown in from India over "The Hump" (the name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains), since Japanese control of eastern China and the Chinese coast made seaborne supply of China impossible. Also, the forward bases were located in Szechaun Province in south central China far from the coast with no roads or railroads into the area from allied controlled territory. Supplies had to be delivered to China by the B-29s themselves or by C-47's and C-46's of Air Transport Command. For this role, one aircraft from each squadron was stripped of combat equipment and used as a flying tanker. Each aircraft carried seven tons of fuel. The Hump route was so dangerous and difficult that each time a B-29 flew from India to China it was counted as a mission. The 677th Bomb Squadron described a typical ‘Hump” mission, telling of the thousands of Chinese coolies on the runway, their friendliness and curiosity, the rather exciting way they have of running across the runway in front of the landing planes (thinking their evil spirits which are right behind them will be killed by the airplane), and the good living at the advanced base.

The first combat mission by the group took place on June 5, 1944 when squadrons of the 40th took off from India to attack the Makasan railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand. This involved a 2261-mile round trip, the longest bombing mission yet attempted during the war.

On June 15 the group participated in the first American Air Force attack on the Japanese Home Islands since the Doolittle raid in 1942, a daylight raid against iron and steel works at Yawata, Japan.

Operating from bases in India, and at times staging through fields in China, the group struck transportation centers, naval installations, aircraft plants, and other targets in Burma, China, Thailand, Japan, and Formosa. The 444th Bomb Group carried out the longest bombing mission of World War II. Staging out of their Indian bases they struck the Japanese naval base at Singapore blowing the door off the King George V floating drydock from 30,000 feet. A singular feat of bombing accuracy putting the lie to the reports of inaccuracy of B-29 bombing. The mission was over 4,100 miles roundtrip.

The group was reassigned to Tinian, in the Marianas February–April 1945, for further operations against Japan with the XXI Bomb Command. It participated in bombardment of strategic objectives, strategic mining of the Inland Sea and in incendiary raids on urban areas for the duration of the war. 444th aircraft took part in Curtis LeMay's fire bomb campaign in the spring and summer of 1945 which lead directly to the ultimate surrender of Japan without the need for an invasion of the home islands. Received a DUC for attacking oil storage facilities at Oshima, bombing an aircraft plant near Kobe, and dropping incendiaries on Nagoya, in May 1945. Struck light metal industries at Osaka in July 1945, receiving another DUC for this action.

Strategic Air Command

The group returned to the United States in November 1945, being assigned to Merced AAF, California. It was assigned to the Fourth Air Force of Continental Air Forces. Continental Air Forces would later evolve into the Strategic Air Command on March 21, 1946

The 444th Bombardment Group was one of the ten existing bombardment groups assigned to SAC when it was first formed. The group was relocated to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona and was equipped with B-29s. Demobilization, however, was in full swing and the group turned in its aircraft and was inactivated on October 1, 1946. Many of the wing's personnel and aircraft were reassigned to the 43d Bombardment Wing, which was reactivated at Davis-Monthan on October 1, 1946 as part of the re-established Eighth Air Force.

Modern era

The 444th Air Expeditionary Wing was an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was a provisional unit activated for the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF). It was inactivated after the invasion of Iraq was completed.

References

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

External links


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