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392nd Bombardment Group

392nd Bombardment Group



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392nd Bombardment Group

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 392nd Bombardment Group was a B-24 Liberator group of the Eighth Air Force, forming during the summer of 1943. Unlike many earlier B-24 units, the 392nd spent its entire war operating from England, remaining at Wendling from its arrival in July 1943 to its departure in June 1945.

The 392nd spent most of its time taking part in the strategic bombing campaign, attacking industrial targets in occupied Europe and Germany. The group took part in "Big Week", the attack on the German aircraft industry of 20-25 February 1944, winning a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on Gotha on 24 February.

As with most of the Eighth's heavy bomber units, the strategic bombing campaign was interrupted by a series of tactical missions. The 392nd took part in the campaign against German communications and airfields in France in the period before D-Day; the attacks that assisted the breakthrough at St Lo in July 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge, attacking German supply lines. The group was used to drop supplies to the airborne troops involved in Operation Market Garden in the autumn of 1944 and again during the airborne crossing of the Rhine in March 1945. The unit flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945, after which it carried out relief supplies to Holland, where food was running very short.

Books

Aircraft

January 1943-April 1945: Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

Timeline

15 January 1943Constituted as 392 Bombardment Group (Heavy)
26 January 1943Activated
July-August 1943To Eighth Air Force in England
25 April 1945Last combat mission

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Colonel Irvine A. Rendle: 26 January 1943
Colonel Lorin L. Johnson: 21 June 1944
Lt. Colonel Lawrence G. Gilbert: 27 May 1945

Main Bases

Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona: 26 January 1943
Biggs Field, Texas: 1 March 1943
Alamogordo: 18 April-18 July 1943
Wendling, England: July 1943-15 June 1945
Charleston, South Carolina: 25 June-13 September 1945

Component Units

576th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945
577th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945
578th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945
579th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945

Assigned To

Eighth Air Force: 1943-1945
1943: 2nd Bombardment Wing; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1943-1945: 14th Bombardment Wing; 2nd Air Division; Eighth Air Force
1945: 96th Bombardment Wing; 2nd Air Division; Eighth Air Force


392nd Bombardment Group - History

The 93rd Bombardment Group (Heavy) came into existence early in 1942 when experienced personnel from the 44th BG began training flight and maintenance crews for the new group at Barksdale Army Air Field, outside Shreveport, Louisiana. After training at Barksdale, the fledgling 93rd moved a few hundred miles further to the southeast to take up temporary residence at Ft. Meyers, Florida. While operating from Fort Meyers, the men of the 93rd continued to train while also flying antisubmarine missions over the Gulf of Mexico. During their stay at Ft. Meyers the men of the 93rd drew first blood against the Nazis as they were credited with three U-boats, one of which was sunk by the crew commanded by Lt. John L. Jerstad. After three months at Ft. Meyers, the 93rd moved north to Grenier Field, New Hampshire and began making preparations to fly across the North Atlantic to their new base at Alconbury, England.

On September 5 the B-24s left New Hampshire, but were weathered-in in Newfoundland for five days before they were able to continue on to Foggy England. Tragedy struck the 93rd as one of the group's B-24D Liberators and its crew was lost at sea. The group's ground personnel crossed the Atlantic aboard the Queen Elizabeth. With their arrival in England, the infant 93rd became the first American B-24 outfit to arrive in Europe.

On October 9, Colonel Ted Timberlake led 24 group airplanes on the 93rd's first combat mission against locomotive manufacturing facilities at Lille, France. The first mission was typical of things to come. German fighters attacked the formation as they were inbound to the target and the skies filled with flak as the Liberators began their bomb run. Several airplanes were hit by ground fire but, miraculously, only one B-24 failed to return from the mission. Captain Alex Simpson's Big Eagle was hit by flak over Dunkirk and went down. Five members of the crew were killed in action while Simpson, Lt. Nick Cox, Lt. Carl Garrett and Sgt. Michael Reardon became POWs. Sergeant Arthur Cox managed to evade capture and made his way to neutral Spain, with the assistance of the French underground. Several of the returning bombers had been hit by flak or fire from the fighters. When the strike photos were developed, they showed that damage to the factory had been minimal. After their baptismal mission, the men of the 93rd were prevented by bad weather from flying any more missions in October, but in November 1942 the group flew eight missions to targets in France that were aimed primarily at U-boat bases and maintenance facilities. While the rest of the group was engaged in bombing activities, the 330th squadron was detached to the Coastal Command for antisubmarine activities over the Bay of Biscay.

On November 13 the group received a distinguished visitor as King George VI made his first visit to an American heavy bomber base. Early December brought bad weather in England and no missions were flown. Then General Ira Eaker, the Eighth Air Force commander, notified Colonel Timberlake to take three of his squadrons and go to North Africa for a 10-day mission. The 10 days would turn into nearly that many weeks. The 328th, 330th and 409th squadrons left their base at Alconbury, England on a long flight that would end at Tafarouri Aerodrome, a former French airfield outside Oran in Algeria. The 329th squadron remained behind, along with most of the maintenance and other support personnel. The 93rd was sent TDY to supplement the fledgling Twelfth Air Force, which had been recently activated in North Africa. The airfield at Tafarouri was very muddy, and even though two missions were flown, the group was moved to Gambut Main, an airfield in Libya, where the men of the 93rd were now attached to the Ninth Air Force. From Libya the 93rd flew missions against German and Italian targets on both sides of the Mediterranean in support of the North African Campaign. In Libya the 93rd worked with the 98th Bomb Group, which had arrived from the United States, and the 376th Bomb Group, which was in the process of forming in Libya from an assortment of B-24s that had been operating from Egypt after arriving in the theater piece-meal. Major Keith K. Compton, the 93rd's operation officer, was transferred and promoted to take command of the new 376th.

The group remained in Africa until late February, when orders came down to return to England. But instead of returning to Alconbury from whence they had departed, the 93rd was going to a new base at Hardwick, which had been constructed during their absence. While the rest of the group was in Africa, the 329th squadron stayed in England. The squadron moved to Flixton Aerodrome at Bungay in early December, when the rest of the group was told to relocate to Hardwick for the construction of what was to become the group's permanent base. At Flixton, the 329th airplanes were equipped with sophisticated electronic navigational equipment that allowed "blind bombing" through overcast. The men of the 329th took part in an experiment called "Moleing" which consisted of sending out individual bombers to strike cities by bombing through the overcasts in an attempt to disrupt the German factory workers. On January 2, 1943 four 329th B-24s were the first American bombers to penetrate German airspace as they headed for targets in the Ruhr Valley. Ironically, the weather CLEARED as the bombers approached their targets, and under explicit orders not to risk the loss of the airplanes and their equipment, the crews aborted the mission and dropped their bombs in the North Sea. Since they had not bombed, the mission was not reported in the press. In addition to the "Moleing" missions, the 329th flew missions with the 44th Bomb Group, which had arrived in England shortly after their parent group.

After the return of the man body of the 93rd to England, the group resumed bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force and the 44th group, which at the time was the only other B-24 group in England. By May some crews and airplanes were reaching the magic number of 25 missions at which point the crews were supposed to be allowed to return to the United States. On May 3 Captain "Shine" Shannon departed Alconbury to return to the United States in "Hot Stuff," which was the first American heavy bomber to complete 25 missions. On board the airplane was Lieutenant General Frank Andrews, who at the time was the highest-ranking US Army officer in England. Andrews had been summoned back to Washington for a special meeting with General of the Army George Marshall. Though they were supposed to refuel at Prestwick, Scotland before heading out over the Atlantic, the crew elected to overfly Prestwick and proceed to their next destination, Reykjavik, Iceland. They arrived to find the weather at their destination down in snow squalls, low clouds and rain. After several landing attempts, the B-24 crashed into the side of a mountain. Only the tail-gunner survived the crash.

The 93rd continued to fly missions from England through May, but in early June the group was taken off of operations along with the 44th to begin training in very low-altitude operations. The two veteran B-24 groups were joined by the newly arrived 389th Bomb Group, which had just arrived from the United States and had yet to fly a mission. In mid-May Colonel Timberlake was given command of the 210th Provisional Bomb Wing, which included the 93rd, 44th and 389th. Lt. Col. Addison Baker, the former squadron commander of the 328th BS, took command of the group. On June 26, 1943 Baker led the 93rd out of England for La Senia Aerodrome at Oran. The 93rd was back in North Africa, but this time the whole group was there, along with two other Eighth Air Force B-24 groups. On June 27 the group moved again, this time to Terria, a base in Libya. The three Eighth Air Force B-24 groups joined the 98th and 376th of the Ninth Air Force as every available B-24 in the ETO was concentrated in North Africa. After their arrival in Libya the 93rd joined other Liberator groups on missions to Italy and Sicily in support of the invasion of Sicily, which took place on July 9. Ten missions were flown out of Libya against targets on the north shores of the Mediterranean, including the first mission to Rome on July 19, and then the group stood down in preparation for the most famous Liberator mission of the war, and possibly the most dangerous mission ever flown by American bomber crews - the low-altitude mission against the Ploesti Oil Fields in Romania. Located in the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps, Ploesti was the major source of petroleum products for Axis forces in the Mediterranean.

In the belief that a "knockout blow" against Ploesti would shorten the war in Europe, the Allied leadership at the Casablanca Conference decided to attack the refineries. Col. Jacob Smart, a planner on the staff of Army Air Forces commander General Henry H. Arnold, believed that a low-altitude attack would not only allow pinpoint accuracy, it would also catch the defenders by surprise and reduce casualties, which were expected to be very heavy. The plan called for the 93rd to be the second group in the lead formation, with the group split into two forces. Force A was to hit the Concordia Refinery complex while Force B was to hit the Standard Petrol and Unirea Sperantza blocks, which were labeled Targets White Two and Three, respectively. "Tidal Wave," as the mission was named, started to go wrong when German detection devices in the Alps picked up the ignition systems of the 178 Liberators as soon as they took off from their bases around Benghazi on Sunday, August 1, 1943. All Axis air defenses were alerted that a major mission was underway. Though the Allies did not appreciate it's magnitude, a massive defense system had been built up around the refineries, making Ploesti possibly the most heavily defended target in the world. Dozens of large caliber antiaircraft guns had been installed around the complex while literally hundreds of smaller automatic weapons defended against attack by low-flying aircraft. Barrage balloons were position around the refineries, though the planners had anticipated that the wings of the low-flying B-24s would cut their tethers. There were also several squadrons of German and Romanian fighters based in the region, as well as in neighboring Bulgaria and other countries along the route.

The lead elements of the Tidal Wave force reached the vicinity of the refineries before they were attacked. An unfortunate error by Col. K.K. Compton led the formation into a turn short of the Initial Approach Point. The formation of B-24s was headed for Bucharest, though Colonel Baker and other pilots and navigators in the formation were aware of the error. Seeing the stacks of the refinery through a veil of rain showers to his left, Colonel Baker led the 93rd into a left turn to attack the refineries, even though they were out of position for an attack on their assigned target. By this time enemy fighters had found the formation and the Battle of Ploesti was underway. After breaking formation with the errant 376th, Colonel Baker took the two forces of the 93rd down to treetop altitudes. As they approached the refinery complex, the low-flying B-24s encountered terrible ground fire. Since the targets for which they had been briefed were on the other side of the city, the 93rd made for targets of opportunity, which happened to be the targets that had been assigned to the 98th and 44th groups, which had fallen behind the lead formation and lost all visual contact with the airplanes that preceded them. Airplane after airplane was hit by ground fire crew members were killed and wounded and some airplanes were shot down, but the two elements of the 93rd group held their formation. Colonel Baker's airplane took numerous hits as it approached the refinery and caught fire, but the 93rd group commander held his course and led Force A over the target he had selected as the stricken bomber continued to take hit after hit. Two miles from the bomb line Baker jettisoned his bombs in attempt to keep the Liberator in the air. After crossing over the stacks, the airplane pitched over on one wing and crashed in a wheat field. Baker and his copilot, Major John Jerstad, would be awarded the Medal of Honor for leading their group over the target in their burning airplane. Of the thirty-nine 93rd B-24s that took off from Benghazi, thirty-four reached the target. Only fifteen came away from the target in formation and of those, only five escaped with little damage.

To replace Lt. Col. Baker, Colonel Leland Fiegel, who had been with the 93rd for a brief time in the United States, was brought to Africa to take command of the group. There was a stand-down of a week and a half after Ploesti, then on August 13 crews from the group participated in the first US attack on the aircraft factories at Wiener-Nuestadt, Austria. Three days later the B-24s bombed Foggia, then went there again three days after that. On August 24 the Eighth Air Force groups began their return to England. When the group returned to England, the surviving veterans who had completed the required 25 missions were sent home and their places were taken by replacement crews that had just arrived from the United States. The battle-weary B-24Ds also began to be replaced, by brand-new B-24H and J-models that featured a power turret in the nose. Because of their limited strength after Ploesti, the B-24 groups were assigned primarily to diversion missions to draw fighters away from the B-17s and for attacks on targets in France.

But only a little more than two weeks after they returned to England, the men of the 93rd, along with their peers in the 44th and 389th, were alerted to return to North Africa, this time to Tunis. Once in North Africa, the B-24 groups joined the remnants of the two Ninth Air Force Liberator groups in attacks on targets in Italy and Austria, including a second attack on Wiener-Nuestadt, a mission that turned out to be another costly day for the B-24s. Fortunately for the men of the 93rd, most of the losses were taken by the 44th, which had a reputation as a "hard-luck" outfit. After Wiener-Nuestadt, the 93rd and the rest of the Second Air Division returned to England. For the rest of the war the Eighth Air Force B-24s would operate along with their sister groups which flew B-17s in the aerial assault on Germany. Even though the group was no longer "travelling," it was still very much in the war. The 93rd arrived back in England with the other two Eighth Air Force Liberator groups as the US Army was beginning a huge buildup of heavy bomber forces to attack German targets in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The Circus arrived back in Europe just in time for their first anniversary as a combat unit. The 93rd had flown 72 missions in one year of combat, including the most dangerous bomber mission of World War II. But there was more to come. While the Eighth Air Force Liberators were in Africa, their B-17 counterparts had continued a bombing campaign against targets in Germany and occupied Europe. The 93rd jointed the other Liberator groups and the B-17s in a continuation of the air war against Germany. The first missions were flown against targets such as submarine pens at Vegasack and Danzig, Poland. On October 14 eighteen 93rd Liberators joined the mission to Schweinfurt, Germany. But the B-24 groups were unable to assemble in the bad weather that had built-up in their assembly area and only the 93rd and 392nd were able to depart for the target. Colonel Leland Fiegel, the 93rd commander, was in the lead airplane. When his force had dwindled down to only 22 airplanes, he realized they were too small to continue on to the target. Instead, he led the Liberators on a diversion mission to draw attention away from the B-17s who ran into disaster over the target.

By this time few of the original 93rd crews remained in action. Those who had finished their missions were rotating back to the US, while the unlucky ones were either KIA or imprisoned in Nazi POW camps. New crews and new, better-equipped, airplanes joined the group's four squadrons. In October the Army Air Forces began using pathfinder crews flying airplanes equipped with special navigational equipment and radar bombsights to find targets even when they were enshrouded by clouds. The 329th Bomb Squadron became a Pathfinder unit, and its crews were detached to other groups to fly as lead planes. In early 1944 Lt. General James H. Doolittle took over the Eighth Air Force. One of his first actions was to increase the number of required missions from 25 to 30, an action that did not endear the famous race pilot and leader of the raid on Tokyo to his new subordinates. But Doolittle was determined to win the war. His orders were to destroy the German air force, both in the air and on the ground. In late February Doolittle launched what came to be known as "Big Week," as Eighth Air Force B-17 and B-24 crews were sent against targets connected to the German aviation industry. "Big Week" was followed by the first daylight raids against Berlin, the German capital.

Other missions were aimed at German V-bomb sites in the Pas de Calais region of France and still others were against German oil refineries and synthetic oil production plants. As the planned - though secret - date for the planned invasion of Normandy approached, the heavy bombers were dispatched against transportation targets in France. On D-Day itself, 93rd crews joined other Eighth Air Force heavy bomber crews on missions in support of the landings. With Allied ground troops on French soil, the heavy bombers were used primarily in a tactical role for several weeks. It wasn't until June 18 that 93rd crews returned to strategic bombing, in a mission against fighter bases in the vicinity of Hamburg. From then on for the rest of the war, 93rd and other Liberator groups alternated between strategic and tactical targets. In early August the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead and began a rapid advance across France. General George Patton's Third Army moved so fast that his tank columns quickly outran their lines of supply. The Ninth Air Force troop carrier groups were heavily burdened, so some Liberator groups, including the 93rd, were taken off of bombing operations and assigned to transport duty. The airplanes were filled with 5-gallon "Jerry" cans of gasoline, and were flown into newly captured German airfields in France where the cargo was transferred to trucks for delivery to the advancing tanks. Fuel was not the only cargo carried by the B-24s. Some missions transported "mercy" supplies, such as blood plasma as well as food, automobile parts and even drinking water. By the end of August more than 25% of the 93rd's strength was devoted to transport missions. The most dangerous of the "trucking" missions, as the Liberator crewman referred to the cargo missions, were the airdrops in support of the Allied airborne army which landed by parachute and glider in the vicinity of Arnhem, in Holland.

Since the Ninth Air Force Troop Carrier Command was heavily tasked with moving reinforcements to the area, the job of delivering supplies fell to B-24 crews, including the 93rd. On September 18 the 93rd dispatched 18 Liberators on a drop mission in support of the paratroops. The drops required very low altitude flying that brought back memories of the Ploesti mission of the year before. As the low-flying Liberators approached the drop zone, German antiaircraft gunners opened up on them. Two 93rd Liberators were shot down on the drop mission that day, while five others were lost by other groups. In December the Germans launched a massive counterattack against Allied forces in Belgium. Bad weather kept the heavy bombers on the ground for several days, but on Christmas Day the weather finally broke and the 93rd joined other Liberator groups attacking German transportation in support of the troops fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. The German offensive lost steam as the motorized battalions ran out of fuel. Their lack of fuel was a tribute to the tremendous work that had been done by Eighth and Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers over the preceding years. As the new year dawned, it became more and more apparent that the war in Europe was winding down. Though the German Luftwaffe was still a potent threat, it's lack of fuel and experienced pilots kept it from living up to it's potential.

By April the mission planners in England were running out of targets. On April 30, 1945 the entire Eighth Air Force stood down because there were no targets left to bomb. The air war in Europe was over. When the war in Europe ended, the Circus had achieved an unparalleled record. Not only had the 93rd flown more missions than any other B-24 equipped group, it had done so while achieving the lowest rate in casualties. While flying 396 missions and 8,169 sorties, the 93rd lost only 100 airplanes in combat. Forty other 93rd airplanes were lost in non-combat related incidents and accidents. Casualties among the men of the Circus were 670 KIA/MIA. Gunners assigned to 93rd airplanes were credited with 93 enemy fighters and 41 probables. Two men from the 93rd, Lt. Col. Addison Baker and Major John Jerstad, were awarded the Medal of Honor, both posthumously. The group was awarded 16 campaign ribbons and two Distinguished Unit Citations.


Contents

World War II

Media related to 392d Bombardment Group at Wikimedia Commons

Activated 26 January 1943 at Davis Monthan AAFd, Arizona, and trained there until February 1943. The unit moved to Biggs Field, Texas, and on March 1943, and then to Alamogordo AAB, New Mexico on 18 April 1943. The ground unit left for the New York Port of Embarkation on 18 July 1943. The unit sailed out from New York on 25 July 1943, and arrived in England on 30 July 1943. Assigned to the Eighth Air Force at RAF Wendlingin East Anglia. The group was assigned to the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-D".

The 392d BG entered combat on 9 September 1943 and engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives on the Continent until April 1945. The group attacked such targets as an oil refinery at Gelsenkirchen, a marshalling yard at Osnabrück, a railroad viaduct at Bielefeld, steel plants at Brunswick, a tank factory at Kassel, and gas works at Berlin.

The group took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for bombing an aircraft and component parts factory at Gotha on 24 February. The unit sometimes supported ground forces or carried out interdictory operations along with bombing airfields and V-weapon sites in France prior to the Normandy invasion in June 1944 and struck coastal defenses and choke points on D-Day.

The group hit enemy positions to assist ground forces at Saint-Lô during the breakthrough in July 1944. Bombed railroads, bridges, and highways to cut off German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. Dropped supplies to Allied troops during the air attack on the Netherlands in September 1944 and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 392d Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945, then carried food to the Dutch. The unit returned to Charleston AAF South Carolina on 25 June 1945 and was inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Redeployed to the US May/June 1945. First of the aircraft departed the United Kingdom on 29 May 1945. Ground echelon sailed on Queen Mary on 15 June 1945, arriving in New York on 20 June 1945. Personnel had 30 days R and R with the unit assembling in Charleston AAFd, South Carolina, in late June 1945 for air transport duties but was not fully manned and inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Reserve operations

Reactivated as a reserve corollary of the 47th Bombardment Wing, Light in 1949.

Strategic missiles

Media related to 392d Strategic Missile Wing at Wikimedia Commons

The wing was reformed in 1961 to control missile training operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, California. It operated the Atlas missile, with the 564th SMS (18 October 1961 – 20 December 1961) and the 565th SMS (1 July 1961 – 1 December 1964)and the Titan. However it was eliminated by a reorganization of 1st Strategic Aerospace Division.

Expeditionary operations

In 2003, the wing was converted to provisional status as the 392d Air Expeditionary Group and assigned to Air Combat Command to activate or inactivate as needed. Although details apparently remain classified, the group earned campaign credit for the Liberation of Iraq campaign. [3] [note 2]

The 103d Fighter Squadron and 104th Fighter Squadron (Maryland and Pennsylvania ANGs) apparently operated with the group during the Kuwait/Talil deployment.


Special Operations Outlook 2019 Digital Edition is here!

A B-24 Liberator of the 856th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bomber Group, 8th Air Force, over the the Rhenania-Ossag oil refinery near Hamburg, Germany, Aug. 6, 1944. The 492nd was disbanded due to heavy losses in early August 1944. National Archives photo

By early June, 1944, the 492nd Bombardment Group had flown twenty-four missions. Most had been easy ones, either supporting the Normandy invasion or going after V-1 launching sites in France. But whenever they’d attack targets in Germany, things usually got nasty. On their fifth mission, against the Brunswick marshalling yards, they lost eight aircraft. Bombing the refineries in Politz, 10 days later, they lost three more.

Today, a handful of 492nd veterans remain alive. They call themselves the “Happy Warriors,” and hope to receive some unit commendation or at least official recognition before they’re all gone. But the chances of receiving any are slim.

On June 18, they were sent to bomb the airfield at Luneburg in northern Germany. But the cloud cover was too heavy, so they diverted to Bremerhaven and went after warships in the harbor. During their approach, another B-24, painted in olive drab, but without any markings, appeared and tried to insinuate itself into their formation. But since the 492nd aircraft were all bare-metal, they knew it wasn’t one of theirs. They wondered if it might be a captured aircraft flown by a Nazi crew. It stayed 2,000 yards off, but once the bomb run was completed, it left. A few minutes later they started getting hit by very accurate flak and rocket fire. Three bombers were hit. One made it to Sweden, another back to North Pickenham, while the third ditched 12 miles off the British coast, where two members were rescued. Liberators were notoriously bad aircraft to ditch, with the sea smashing through the roll-up bomb bay doors, injuring or killing crew members, breaking the back of the aircraft and causing it to sink quickly.

The B-24 “Mojalajab” of the 492nd Bombardment Group burns after crashing in Normandy on June 15, 1944. The crew was able to bail out over the Normandy beachhead and return to combat with the 492nd Bombardment Group, only for the entire crew to be killed on a July 7, 1944 mission. National Archives photo

Two days later, they were sent back to Politz. Thirty-five aircraft would fly, first across the North Sea, then over the Danish peninsula, then across the Baltic before wheeling to attack Politz from the east. They would be protected by two successive groups of long-range fighters. Everything went well enough at first. But then, shortly after crossing over the Danish peninsula, one of the bombers from the 856thBomb Squadron lost an engine and had to drop out and head home alone. Of that squadron’s 12 aircraft, it was the only one to get back.

Soon after, the first wave of escorts reached their maximum range, turned and went home. But the relief wave was several minutes late because of problems releasing their drop tanks, giving the Luftwaffe fighters a tiny window of opportunity that turned out to be all they needed. Within four minutes, 14 bombers were taken out. Two made it to Sweden. The rest went down.

For the rest of June, the group made milk runs. Then in early July, they attacked the shipyards in Kiel. The cloud cover was heavy, the visibility bad, and the flak accurate. Two aircraft were hit. One made it safely to Sweden, the other ditched in the North Sea, where all but two members of the crew were rescued.

A B-24 Liberator of the 788th Bomb Squadron, 467th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force, on a mission to bomb Schwabisch-Hall, Germany, Feb. 25, 1945. While with the 788th Bomb Squadron, the B-24 was known as “Monster,” but with the 492nd Bomber Group it had been named “Irishman’s Shanty,” and narrowly avoided a brush with death during a mission to Halle, Germany. National Archives photo

On July 7, 23 of the 492nd’s Liberators attacked Bernburg as part of a 1,000 odd bomber force sent against German industrial cities. They were short on escorts, since most were needed to support the ground fighting in France. The 8th Air Force had hoped they could make do by diverting the Luftwaffe away with B-17s pretending to attack Berlin. The Luftwaffe didn’t fall for it.

The 492nd’s bombers flew on the outer edge of a larger formation from the 44th and 392nd Bombardment Groups. As they started their approach, they spotted a large number of B-24s coming right at them. They’d just bombed Halle and were heading home. Seeing them coming, the 44th swung wide right to avoid them, taking the few escort fighters they had with them. Meanwhile the aircraft from the 492nd and 392nd waited for the approaching bombers to get out of their way. But it didn’t happen, and in that moment of confusion, the Luftwaffe attacked with several hundred single- and twin-engine German fighters.

One of the first aircraft hit was the deputy lead ship of the approaching group. It must have killed both the pilot and copilot, because the aircraft immediately started drifting and then veered directly into the path of the 492nd. One bomber, “Irishman’s Shanty,” managed a sharp dive and got out of its path. The bomber behind them was not so lucky. It collided into them, tore off a wing and both aircraft went down. By then it was a melee, and within a few minutes 12 of the 492nd’s 21 aircraft had been shot down. Sixty-seven men were dead, and 52 were in POW camps.

The sacrifices of the 492nd Bombardment Group are commemorated at Memorial Park at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton, Ohio. U.S. Air Force photo

The 492nd continued flying missions for another month, losing eight more aircraft in the process. By now, only 18 of the group’s 50 bombers were operational. But by early August, Bomber Command had had enough. They ordered the 492nd disbanded. But rather than have to admit what had happened to them, the 492nd unit designation was given as cover to the 801st Provisional Group, an OSS special operations unit better known as the Carpetbaggers. In this way the 492nd’s loss got papered over. The official histories never mentioned what happened. Decades would pass before historians started figuring it out. Today, a handful of 492nd veterans remain alive. They call themselves the “Happy Warriors,” and hope to receive some unit commendation or at least official recognition before they’re all gone. But the chances of receiving any are slim.

The 492nd had lasted 89 days. They flew 67 missions and dropped 3,653 tons of bombs. Fifty-five bombers had been lost, 234 men killed in action, 26 wounded, 131 became POWs and 129 were interned in either Sweden or Switzerland.

The 492nd had lasted 89 days. They flew 67 missions and dropped 3,653 tons of bombs. Fifty-five bombers had been lost, 234 men killed in action, 26 wounded, 131 became POWs and 129 were interned in either Sweden or Switzerland. They’d fought hard and well, but ultimately, it didn’t matter.

Brendan McNally is a journalist and writer specializing in defense and aerospace. Brendan began his career.


Contents

World War II

Activated 26 January 1943 at Davis Monthan AAFd, Arizona, and trained there until February 1943. The unit moved to Biggs Field, Texas, and on March 1943, and then to Alamogordo AAB, New Mexico on 18 April 1943. The ground unit left for the port of embarkation on 18 July 1943. The unit sailed out from New York on 25 July 1943, and arrived in England on 30 July 1943. Assigned to the Eighth Air Force at RAF Wendlingin East Anglia. The group was assigned to the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-D".

The 392d BG entered combat on 9 September 1943 and engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives on the Continent until April 1945. The group attacked such targets as an oil refinery at Gelsenkirchen, a marshalling yard at Osnabrück, a railroad viaduct at Bielefeld, steel plants at Brunswick, a tank factory at Kassel, and gas works at Berlin.

The group took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for bombing an aircraft and component parts factory at Gotha on 24 February. The unit sometimes supported ground forces or carried out interdictory operations along with bombing airfields and V-weapon sites in France prior to the Normandy invasion in June 1944 and struck coastal defenses and choke points on D-Day.

The group hit enemy positions to assist ground forces at Saint-Lô during the breakthrough in July 1944. Bombed railroads, bridges, and highways to cut off German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. Dropped supplies to Allied troops during the air attack on Holland in September 1944 and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 392d Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945, then carried food to the Dutch. The unit returned to Charleston AAF South Carolina on 25 June 1945 and was inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Redeployed to the US May/June 1945. First of the aircraft departed the United Kingdom on 29 May 1945. Ground echelon sailed on Queen Mary on 15 June 1945, arriving in New York on 20 June 1945. Personnel had 30 days R and R with the unit assembling in Charleston AAFd, South Carolina, in late June 1945 for air transport duties but was not fully manned and inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Cold War

Reactivated as a reserve corollary of the 47th Bombardment Wing, Light in 1949.

The wing was reformed in 1961 to control missile training operations at Vandenberg AFB, Lompoc, California. It operated the Atlas missile, with the 564th SMS (18 October 1961 – 20 December 1961) and the 565th SMS (1 July 1961 – 1 December 1964)and the Titan. However it was eliminated by a reorganization of 1st Strategic Aerospace Division.


392nd Bomb Group (Heavy)

This memorial in honor of those
who served with the
392nd Bomb Group (H)
2nd Air Division, U.S.A. 8th Air Force,
Wendling, England, who through
their efforts, devotion, and duty
aided in bringing victory to the
Allies in World War II.

Liberator Squadrons
576th 577th 578th 579th
285 combat missions
9 Sept 1943 through 25 April 1945.
Distinguished Unit Citation
Gotha, Germany Mission 24 Feb 1944.

Dedicated 14 September 1985

Erected 1985 by 392nd Bomb Group Memorial Association.

Topics. This memorial is listed in these topic lists: Air & Space &bull War, World II. A significant historical date for this entry is April 25, 1945.

Location. 39° 46.782′ N, 84° 6.769′ W. Marker is in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in Montgomery County. Marker (Memorial #137) is in the Memorial Park of the National Museum of the United States Air Force, with museum access off Springfield Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1100 Spaatz Street, Dayton OH 45433, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. 459th Bomb Group (H) (here, next to this marker) 389th Bomb Group (a few steps from this marker) 301st Bombardment Group (H) (a few steps from this marker) 376th Heavy Bombardment Group

(a few steps from this marker) 82nd Fighter Group (a few steps from this marker) 345th Bombardment Group (a few steps from this marker) 805th Engineer Aviation Battalion (a few steps from this marker) 341st Fighter Squadron (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Also see . . .
1. NMUSAF Memorial Park Diagram. (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. 392nd Bombardment Group (Heavy). (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. 392nd Bomb Group Official Site. (Submitted on July 11, 2010, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)


Contents

World War II Edit

Activated 26 January 1943 at Davis Monthan AAFd, Arizona, and trained there until February 1943. The unit moved to Biggs Field, Texas, and on March 1943, and then to Alamogordo AAB, New Mexico on 18 April 1943. The ground unit left for the New York Port of Embarkation on 18 July 1943. The unit sailed out from New York on 25 July 1943, and arrived in England on 30 July 1943. Assigned to the Eighth Air Force at RAF Wendlingin East Anglia. The group was assigned to the 14th Combat Bombardment Wing, and the group tail code was a "Circle-D".

The 392d BG entered combat on 9 September 1943 and engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic objectives on the Continent until April 1945. The group attacked such targets as an oil refinery at Gelsenkirchen, a marshalling yard at Osnabrück, a railroad viaduct at Bielefeld, steel plants at Brunswick, a tank factory at Kassel, and gas works at Berlin.

The group took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20–25 February 1944, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for bombing an aircraft and component parts factory at Gotha on 24 February. The unit sometimes supported ground forces or carried out interdictory operations along with bombing airfields and V-weapon sites in France prior to the Normandy invasion in June 1944 and struck coastal defenses and choke points on D-Day.

The group hit enemy positions to assist ground forces at Saint-Lô during the breakthrough in July 1944. Bombed railroads, bridges, and highways to cut off German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. Dropped supplies to Allied troops during the air attack on the Netherlands in September 1944 and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in March 1945.

The 392d Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945, then carried food to the Dutch. The unit returned to Charleston AAF South Carolina on 25 June 1945 and was inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Redeployed to the US May/June 1945. First of the aircraft departed the United Kingdom on 29 May 1945. Ground echelon sailed on Queen Mary on 15 June 1945, arriving in New York on 20 June 1945. Personnel had 30 days R and R with the unit assembling in Charleston AAFd, South Carolina, in late June 1945 for air transport duties but was not fully manned and inactivated on 13 September 1945.

Reserve operations Edit

Reactivated as a reserve corollary of the 47th Bombardment Wing, Light in 1949.

Strategic missiles Edit

The wing was reformed in 1961 to control missile training operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc, California. It operated the Atlas missile, with the 564th SMS (18 October 1961 – 20 December 1961) and the 565th SMS (1 July 1961 – 1 December 1964)and the Titan. However it was eliminated by a reorganization of 1st Strategic Aerospace Division.

Expeditionary operations Edit

In 2003, the wing was converted to provisional status as the 392d Air Expeditionary Group and assigned to Air Combat Command to activate or inactivate as needed. Although details apparently remain classified, the group earned campaign credit for the Liberation of Iraq campaign. [3] [note 2]

The 103d Fighter Squadron and 104th Fighter Squadron (Maryland and Pennsylvania ANGs) apparently operated with the group during the Kuwait/Talil deployment.


392nd Bombardment Group - History

In England, Verne attended Sunday services at Westminster Abbey, and later in the day when back at Station 153, he noted this in his diary . . . .

03-04-45

Finally attended church at Westminster. The preacher gave a nice sermon. Enjoyed my first time in church for 10 years. Returned camp to find Jerries had been over strafing.

During the early morning hours of March 4, 1945, 200 German intruder aircraft were active over East Anglia in an attack which the Luftwaffe called Operation Gisela:

. . . . . some 200 Junkers JU 88 night fighters 1 of the Luftwaffe Nachtjagdeschwader Gruppen (Night Fighter Destroyer Group) . . . deployed to intercept allied bombers returning to base at their most vulnerable point, just before landing. The marauding aircraft crossed the North Sea at points stretching between the Thames Estuary and up the east coast to the North Yorkshire moors. The fact that these intruders were able to cross the North Sea coast without being picked up by English radar operators would seem to have been the result of a degree of complacency that had set in amongst Bomber Command, as the Luftwaffe appeared to be subdued.

The attack . . . lasted just two-and-a-half hours . . . 13 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters, one Fortress and a Mosquito were shot down. 2

Verne’s brother-in-law, 1st Lt. Kenneth E. Cline, returned to the air on March 4th. Pforzheim was the target of the 392nd Bombardment Group (H). 1st Lt. Cline flew the mission as the co-pilot of B-24J #42-51238, Little Joe. There was no flak and enemy aircraft were unobserved. The target was obscured and bombing was by H2X. 3

The mission aircraft began departing Station 118, Wendling, at 0550 after crew briefing between 0245 and 0400. Bad weather in the assembly area over the North Sea scattered the 2nd Air Division’s mission aircraft which then attempted to assemble east of Paris. Eventually, squadrons of the 392nd Bombardment Group (H) bombed Pforzheim, an industrial center between Stuttgart and Karlsruhe. Several mission aircraft mistakenly bombed Switzerland. 4

Notes & Commentary

1 For a discussion of the JU 88 see: William Green. Warplanes of the Third Reich, “Junkers JU 88.” New York: Galahad Books, 1990. pp 448 – 482


Aircraft Groups

Attacked such targets as an oil refinery at Gelsenkirchen, a marshalling yard at Osnabruck, a railroad viaduct at Bielefeld, steel plants at Brunswick, a tank factory at Kassel, and gas works at Berlin.

Took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944, being awarded a DUC for bombing an aircraft and component parts factory at Gotha on 24 Feb. Sometimes supported ground forces or carried out interdictory operations.

Bombed airfields and V-weapon sites in France prior to the Normandy invasion in Jun 1944 and struck coastal defenses and choke points on D-Day. Hit enemy positions to assist ground forces at St Lo during the breakthrough in Jul 1944. Bombed railroads, bridges, and highways to cut off German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945. Dropped supplies to Allied troops during the air attack on Holland in Sep 1944 and during the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945.

Flew last combat mission on 25 Apr 1945, then carried food to the Dutch. Returned to the US in Jun. Inactivated on 13 Sep 1945.


English Heritage's record description

Units

94th Bomb Group

Group
Activated 15 June 1942 at MacDill Field, Florida. Initial organization and training at Pendleton Field, Oregon on 29 June 1942. Primary flight training at Davis-Monthan Field in Arizona from 28 Aug. 42 to 31 Oct. 42 then at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas.

389th Bomb Group

Group
The 389th Bomb Group, known in more familiar terms as "the Sky Scorpions", flew strategic bombing missions in B-24 Liberators from Hethel, England. They also sent detachments to join bases in North Africa at Benghazi No. 10, Libya, between 3 July 1943.

392nd Bomb Group

Group
The 392nd Bomb Group flew B-24 Liberators out of Wendling, Norfolk from August 1943 until April 1945. They were the first Group allocated B-24H Liberators, the first B-24 series fitted with a nose turret on the production line. The adaptation increased.

People

Jack Dieterle

Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Pilot | 389th Bomb Group
After completing his training as a bomber pilot at Biggs Field in Texas, his squadron, the 566ᵀᴴ BS of the 389ᵀᴴ BG, was established at Hethel Field in Norwich early in 1943. .

Howard Kirk

Military | Pilot | 94th Bomb Group
Crew of the Shakeroo II, 42-39833, on the memorial at the Rougham Control Tower Museum.

Aircraft

42-40722 The Little Gramper

B-24 Liberator
B-24 Liberator 42-40723 'The Little Gramper' 566th BS, 389th BG, 8th AF, flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid piloted by Lt Jack W Dieterle, returning safely to Libya. Transferred to the 491st Bomb Group 15 May 44. Noted as War Weary repainted.

Number Not yet known Known as Not yet known Construction date 1920 USAAF from date 7 August 1942 USAAF to date October 1945 Closure date Not yet known


Watch the video: 392nd Bomb Group Wendling Reunion in October 1989 (August 2022).