The 1st Search Attack Group was an experimental anti-submarine warfare unit that was created in the summer of 1942 at a time when the US military was struggling to cope with the threat of the U-boats. On 30 May 1943 General Hap Arnold ordered the formation of the Sea-Search Attack Development Unit, an experimental unit that was to develop new tactics and anti-submarine weapons. It was to be based at Langley Field and answered almost directly to Arnold, largely ignoring the normal chain of command.
On 8 June 1942 the new unit was officially activated. On the same day the 1st Sea-Search Attack Group and the 2nd Sea-Search Attack Squadron were both constituted, and on 17 June they were activated and assigned to the Sea-Search Attack Development Unit. At first the group was equipped with ASV-equipped B-18s, but more types of aircraft arrived over time.
The new group spent most of its time carrying out experimental equipment and testing new tactics. The 2nd Sea-Search Attack Squadron also flew a limited number of anti-submarine patrols, starting in July 1942.
In December 1942 the 3rd Sea-Search Attack Squadron was activated in order to operate some newly acquired B-24s. The group was also loaned an experienced RAF crew which operated two radar-equipped Liberators. The 3rd Squadron was used for the same mix of experiments and patrols as the 2nd, with the anti-submarine patrols starting in January 1943.
The two squadrons tended to achieve good results during their anti-submarine patrols, at least in part because of their superior equipment. They also carried out many valuable experiments and tests that helped improve the general performance of Allied anti-submarine aircraft.
During 1942 the Navy and Army Air Force were engaged in a long argument over the control of long range shore-based bombers and anti-submarine aircraft. Eventually the USAAF retained control of long range bombers (especially important as the B-29 Superfortress began to take shape) while the US Navy took over long-range anti-submarine patrols. The change-over was made in the autumn of 1943 and in the medium term it would see the group disbanded, but in the short term it resulted in it gaining a third squadron.
The 362nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) had been activated in July 1942, but had become the 18th Anti-Submarine Squadron (Heavy) on 28 November on 28 November 1942 and had joined the 25th Anti-Submarine Wing on 30 December 1942. It was used as an Operational Training Unit and was based at Langley Field. On 23 October 1943 the 18th was assigned to the 1st Sea-Search Attack Group, and on the same day the group was redesignated as the 4th Sea-Search Attack Squadron. The newly transferred squadron was used to train crews in radar-guided searches and attacks.
After the change of duties the group was used for radar training, but with its anti-submarine focus gone there was no longer a clear need for it, and the Group and all three of its squadrons were disbanded on 10 April 1944.
Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
Consolidated B-24 Liberator
|8 June 1942||Constituted as 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Medium)|
|17 June 1942||Activated|
|June 1943||Redesignated 1st Sea-Search Attack Group (Heavy)|
|September 1943||Redesignated 1st Sea-Search Attack Unit|
|November 1943||Redesignated 1st Search Attack Group|
|10 April 1944||Disbanded|
Col William C Dolan: 17 June 1942-10 April 1944
Langley Field, Va: 17 June 1942-10 April 1944
2nd Sea Search Squadron: 1942-1944
3rd Sea Search Squadron: 1942-1944
4th Sea Search Squadron (previously 18th Antisubmarine Squadron): 1943-1944
June 1942-November 1943: Direct to AAF
November 1943 onwards: First Air Force