1st Bombardment Wing (Second World War)

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History

The 1st Bombardment Wing formed part of the US Eighth Air Force's strategic bomber force and took part in the daylight bombing campaign over Germany and occupied Europe from 1942 until the end of the Second World War.

The wing traced its lineage back to the 1st Pursuit Wing of the First World War, a short-lived unit that was formed in July 1918, fought from then until the end of the war and was disbanded in December 1918 and the 1st Wing, a US-based wing that operated from 1919 until 1914. The wing was re designated as the 1st Bombardment Wing in 1929 but it wasn't actually activated until 1931. It went through a series of name changes over the next decade (1st Pursuit Wing 1933, 1st Wing 1935, 1st Bombardment Wing 1940). It was the main Air Force unit in the western United States during the 1930s. Amongst its commanders in this period were Carl Spaatz and Henry H Arnold, key American leaders during the Second World War.

After the American entry into the Second World War the Air Force began to prepare to create a strategic bomber force based in Britain, the Eighth Air Force. The 1st Bombardment Wing moved to England in July-August 1942 and became one of five Bombardment Wings in the Eighth Air Force (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 12th). As the first to enter action the 1st was responsible for the early development of American bombing techniques. It also took part in the first Eighth Air Force daylight raid against a target in Germany, the attack on Wilhelmshaven of 27 January 1943. Losses could be very heavy - on 17 April 115 B-17s from the wing attacked the Focke-Wulf factory at Bremen. Sixteen aircraft were shot down and forty six damaged - over half of the original aircraft. In May 1943 the 4th Bombardment Wing entered the fight, allowing the Eighth Air Force to operate against more widely spread targets and lifting some pressure from the 1st BW.

On 17 August 1943 the 1st Bombardment Wing attacked the ball-bearing plan at Schweinfurt, in one of the most notorious raids of the Second World War. This was meant to have taken place at the same time as the 4th Bombardment Wing attacked an aircraft factory at Regensburg, but the 1st BW was delayed by bad weather, allowing the German fighter force to attack each wing in turn. The 1st Bombardment Wing lost 36 B-17s during the attack.

The structure of the Eighth Air Force changed in 1943. The Bombardment Wings were becoming too large and unwieldy. The Air Force decided to form new Divisions, each of which would contain a number of smaller wings. At this point the 1st Bombardment Wing contained eleven Bombardment Groups. It was split into three wings - the 1st, 40th and 41st Bombardment Wings. The smaller 1st Bombardment Wing contained three groups - the 91st, 381st and 482nd. The 482nd was later replaced by the 398th. The 1st Air Division officially came into existence in September 1943 and took over the 1st Bombardment Wing's base at Brampton Grange while the smaller Wing moved to Bassingbourn.

During this change the wing remained part of VIII Bomber Command. As the US Air Force in Britain continued to increase in size its structure was changed again. In February 1944 the existing Eighth Air Force became US Strategic Air Forces in Europe. VIII Bomber Command became the new Eighth Air Force. The new US Strategic Air Forces in Europe loosely controlled the Eighth Air Force and the Fifteenth Air Force, which was carrying out its own strategic bombing campaign from Italy.

During all of these changes the 1st Bombardment Wing continued to take part in the strategic bombing campaign over occupied Europe and Germany. Its groups also took part in the build-up to D-Day, supported the Allied troops at Arnhem and during the crossing of the Rhine and attacked German communications during the Battle of the Bulge. The Wing was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its role in the attack on German aircraft factories on 11 January 1944.

Aircraft

Mainly Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, plus some Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Timeline

1929 Redesignated 1st Bombardment Wing
1 April 1931 Activated
1933 Redesignated 1st Pursuit Wing
1935 Redesignated 1st Wing
1940 Redesignated 1st Bombardment Wing
July-August 1942 To Britain
August 1943 Redesignated 1st Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy)
June 1945 Redesignated 1st Bombardment Wing (Heavy)
August 1945 To United States
7 November 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Brig Gen Jacob E Fickel: c. 31 Mar 1939
Brig Gen Frank D Lackland, 1 Feb 1940
Maj Woodrow W Dunlop: July 1942
Col Claude E Duncan: c. 19 Aug 1942
Brig Gen Newton Longfellow: 21 Aug 1942
Brig Gen Laurence S Kuter: 1 Dec 1942
Brig Gen Haywood S Hansell Jr: 2 Jan 1943
Brig Gen Frank A Armstrong Jr: 15 Jun 1943
Brig Gen Robert B Williams: 1 Aug 1943
Brig Gen William M Gross: 17 Sep 1943-c. Oct 1945

Main Bases

Tucson, Ariz: 27 May 1941-July 1942
Brampton Grange, England: c. 19 Aug 1942
Bassingbourn, England: September 1943
Alconbury, England: c. 26 June-c. 26 Aug 1945
McChord Field, Wash: c. 6 September Nov 1945

Component Units

1st Bombardment Wing, 1942-1945
Group Dates Aircraft Used 2 3 4 5
91st Bombardment Group 1942-1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
92nd Bombardment Group 1942, 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
93rd Bombardment Group 1942 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress      
97th Bombardment Group 1942 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
301st Bombardment Group 1942 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
303rd Bombardment Group 1942-1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
305th Bombardment Group 1942-1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
306th Bombardment Group 1942-1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
351st Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
379th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
381st Bombardment Group 1943-1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress    
384th Bombardment Group 1943- Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
398th Bombardment Group 1944-1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress    
482nd Bombardment Group 1943

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Consolidated B-24 Liberator

       

Assigned To

1942-1943: VIII Bomber Command, Eighth Air Force
1943-1944: 1st Air Division; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1944-1945: 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force; US Strategic Air Forces Europe

Books

The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission, Martin Middlebrook. A very detailed account of the costly American daylight raids on Regensburg and Schweinfurt of 17 August 1943, a pair of maximum effort attacks that were meant to cripple parts of German industry but instead made it clear that even the heavily armed B-17 Flying Fortress couldn't operate without fighter escort. [read full review] cover cover cover
How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 September 2012), 1st Bombardment Wing (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/1st_Bombardment_Wing.html

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