The 21st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was one of a small number of USAAF units to take part in the fighting on the Aleutian Islands, becoming one of the first squadrons to make a land-based attack on the Japanese home islands.
The squadron had been activated at the start of 1941 as part of the pre-war expansion of the Army Air Force. By the end of the year it was equipped with the Lockheed A-29 Hudson, and in the days immediately after Pearl Harbour it flew its first anti-submarine warfare patrols over the waters off Savannah. Regular patrols with the Hudson began on 9 January 1942, from Muroc, California, and the squadron continued to fly ASW patrols until June 1942, at one point operating from five bases on the west coast at the same time.
The squadron came back together at March Field, California, on 7 June 1942, in preparation for a move to the Aleutian Islands. The squadron would remain officially part of the 30th Bombardment Group for some time, while operating under the command of the 28th Composite Group on the Aleutians. The first aircraft began operating from Umnak Island, at the eastern end of the Aleutian chain, on 11 June 1942, and the entire squadron was in place by 3 September. During this period a new advanced airfield had been under construction on Adak island, and on 14 September six B-24s from the 21st Bombardment Squadron took part in the first major raid to be launched from this airbase. This saw twelve B-24s from the 21st and 404th Bombardment Squadrons attack the Japanese base on Kiska, sinking two mine sweepers and damaging the camp and submarine area. This attack would be followed by a long series of attacks on the Japanese positions on Kiska and Amchitka.
By February 1943 Amchitka Island was back in American hands, and the 21st moved to that island on 18 February 1943, operating from that advanced base until July. On 18 July 1943 the 21st, 36th and 404th Bombardment Squadrons each contributed some of the six B-24s that became the first Liberators (and the first Air Force bombers since the Doolittle raid) to attack the Japanese home islands. This raid, against Shimushu and Paramushiru in the Kuril Islands, caused little or no damage, but was only the first of a long series of attacks on Japan from the north.
On 26 August 1943, after the liberation of Kiska Island, the 21st Bombardment Squadron became one of a number of units of the Eleventh Air Force that were ordered to prepare for a move back to the Zone of the Interior. That move finally began on 19 September 1943, and the squadron was inactivated on 1 November 1943, after having spent a year and a half operating under some of the most trying conditions in any theatre of the war.
Douglas B-18 Bolo: 1941
Boeing YB-17 Flying Fortress: 1941
Lockheed A-29 Hudson: 1941-1942
Consolidated LB-30 Liberator: 1942
Consolidated B-24 Liberator: 1942-1943
|20 November 1940||Constituted as 21st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)|
|15 January 1941||Activated|
|1 November 1943||Disbanded|
Antisubmarine alert at Savannah: 8-14 December 1941
Antisubmarine patrols off west coast: c.9 January-c.7 June 1942
Combat in Northern Pacific: 11 June 1942-13 August 143
Antisubmarine, American Theater
Air Offensive, Japan
March Field, California: 15 January 1941
New Orleans: 22 May 1941
Detachment operating from Savannah, Georgia: 8-14 December 1941
Muroc, California: 25 December 1941
March Field, California: 11 February-20 August 1942
Detachment operating from San Diego: 10 May 1942-16 June 1942
Detachment operating from Los Angeles: 28 May-7 June 1942
Detachment operating from McChord Field, Washington: 28 May-7 June 1942
Detachment operating from Hamilton Field, California: 28 May-7 June 1942
Umnak: 11 June 1942 to 19 September 1943 (ground echelon arrived 3 September 1942)
Operating from Adak: 21 September-15 November 142
Operating from Adak: 16 December 1942-?
Operating from Adak and Amchitka: 18 February-July 1943
Operating from Adak: July-13 August 1943
Shemya: c.27 July-c.19 September 1943
Smoky Hill, Kansas: 11 October-1 November 1943
30th Bombardment Group: 15 January 1941
28th Composite Group (late Bombardment Group): 9 January 1942-September 1943 (still officially part of 30th BG)
Second Air Force: 18 October-1 November 1943