303rd Bombardment Group (Second World War)

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History

The 303rd Bombardment Group was a B-17 Flying Fortress group that took part in the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign from 1942 until the end of the war in Europe.

The ground was activated in the United States in February 1942 with no squadrons, gaining its four squadron in the following month. All four squadrons were equipped with the B-17 throughout the war.

The group moved to England in August-September 1942 and joined the 1st Bombardment Wing, 8th Air Force. It took part in the early operations against comparatively easy targets in France late in 1942. Its combat debut came during an attack on St Nazaire on 17 November 1942. Operations over Germany began in 1943 and the group took part in the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber raid against a target in Germany, the attack on the U-boat yard at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943. The group also took part in attacks on the ball-bearing plant at Schweinfurt (losing no aicraft during the first attack on 17 August 1943). Most of the group's efforts in 1943-45 were part of the daylight strategic bombing campaign. It was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in an attack on the German aircraft industry on 11 January 1944.

Boeing B-17s of 303rd Bombardment Group
Boeing B-17s of
303rd Bombardment Group

The group was also used to support the D-Day landings, attacking gun emplacements and bridges in the Pas de Calais as part of the deception plan. It was also used to attack German troops at St Lo in July 1944. During the Battle of the Bulge the group attacked German airfields and oil storage. It was also used to support the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

Two members of the group won the Medal of Honor during the war. The first was awarding postumously to 1st Lt Jack W. Mathis, the leading bombardier in his squadron. On 18 March 1943 he was mortally wounded during the run-in to an attack on Vegesack but returned to his post and released his bombs at the correct moment, allowing the entire squadron to attack.

On 27 August 1944 the group lost eleven aircraft to German fighters during an attack on Magdeburg.

The second was won on 20 December 1943 by T/Sgt Forrest L Vosler, a radio operator and gunner. After an attack on Bremen on 20 December 1943 his aircraft was badly damaged. Vosler was wounded but stayed at his post to provide covering fire. When the aircraft ditched he fixed the damaged radio, rescued the tail gunner and sent out an emergency signal that guided rescue craft to his aircraft. The entire crew was rescued.

The group contained the first Eighth Air Force aircraft to reach 50 and 75 combat sorties, in both cases the same aircraft - 'Knock-out-Dropper' of the 359th Bombardment Squadron. This aircraft flew its 50th sortie on 16 November and its 75th on 27 March 1944. It survived the war and was later scrapped in the United States. The group took part in the Eighth Air Force's last major combat mission of the war, an attack on the Skoda works at Pilsen on 25 April 1945. This was the group's 364th combat mission, the most flown by any Eighth Air Force group.

At the end of the war in Europe the group moved to Moroccoa and was inactivated at Casablanca in July 1945.

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]
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Aircraft

1942-1945: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Timeline

28 January 1942 Constituted as 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy)

3 February 1942

Activated
August-September 1942 To England and Eighth Air Force
25 July 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Ford J Lauer: Feb 1942
Col Warren H Higgins: c. 29 May 1942
Col James H Wallace: c. 14 Jul 1942
Col Charles E Marion: c. 12 Feb 1943
Col Kermit D Stevens: Jul 1943
Col William S Raper: Oct 1944
Lt Col William C Sipes: 19 Apr 1945
Capt Bernard Thompson: Jun-25 Jul 1945

Main Bases

Pendleton Field, Ore: 3 Feb 1942
Gowen Field, Idaho: 11 Feb 1942
Alamogordo, NM: 17 Jun 1942
Biggs Field, Tex, 7-23 Aug 1942
Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, England, 12 Sep 1942
Casablanca, French Morocco, c. 31 May-25 July 1945

Component Units

358th Bombardment Squadron: 3 Feb 1942-25 July 1945
359th Bombardment Squadron: 3 Feb 1942-25 July 1945
360th Bombardment Squadron: 3 Feb 1942-25 July 1945
427th Bombardment Squadron: 31 Mar 1942-25 July 1945

Assigned To

1942-43: 1st Bombardment Wing; Eighth Air Force
1943-1944: 41st Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1944-1945: 41st Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force; US Strategic Air Forces Europe

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 September 2012), 303rd Bombardment Group (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/303rd_Bombardment_Group.html

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