305th Bombardment Group (Second World War)

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History

The 305th Bombardment Group was a B-17 Flying Fortress group of the Eighth Air Force and took part in the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Europe.

The 305th was activated in the United States in March 1942 and moved to England in August-October. It became operational on 7 November 1942 (along with the 44th, 91st and 303rd Bombardment Groups) and was one of the groups that remained with the Eighth Air Force rather than go to Africa to support Operation Torch.

The 305th was one of the first groups to use the automatic flight-control equipment (AFCE) auto pilot, designed to control the last few moments of the bomb run and keep the aircraft as steady as possible. During a raid on Vegasack on 18 March the group droped 76% of its bombs within 1,000ft of its aiming point while using this equipment, one of the first times that the AFCE lived up to its promise (in early raids without the equipment 20% within 1,000ft was considered good).

The group took part in the early daylight raids against targets in France and the Low Countries. It took part in the first Eighth Air Force raid into Germany, an attack on the naval base at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943 and went on to participate in the strategic bombing campaign over Germany as well as attacking targets in Norway and Poland. The group lost two aircraft during the first Schweinfurt raid of 17 August 1943 and 16 aircraft during a second raid on 14 October 1943. The group also took part in the 'Big Week' attack on the German aircraft industry of 20-25 February 1944.

During the spring and summer of 1944 the group took part in the campaign to prepare for the D-Day landings, attacking German transport targets in France. It was also used to attack V-weapon sites. On D-Day the group attacked German strongpoints near the beaches. It was also used to support the American troops during the break-out at St Lo in July 1944, the attack on Arnhem in September 1944, the battle of the Bulge in December 1944-January 1945 and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

In March 1944 the 305th replaced the 482nd Bombardment Group as the pathfinder group for the 1st Bombardment Division.

The group won two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came on 4 April 1943 when the group carried out a precision attack on a heavily defended target in Paris. The second was won during an attack on aircraft factories in Germany on 11 January 1944 (in which most of the 1st Bombardment Wing won the same award).

The group's personnel won two Medals of Honor, one being awarded to 1st Lt William R Lawley Jr for his actions on 20 February 1944 and the other to 1st Lt Edward S Michael for his actions on 11 April 1944. Both medals were awarded for the same reasons - both men were pilots of B-17s that were badly damaged over Germany. Both men were badly wounded but were able to keep their aircraft in the air. They then both flew their damaged aircraft safely back to England, saving both of their crews. Lawley was one of three men to win the Medal of Honor on 20 February, and the only one to survive to collect the medal in person.

The 422nd Bombardment Squadron had a somewhat more varied time. It took part in the daylight bombing campaign until September 1943. In September and October 1943 it operated alongside the RAF on night bombing missions. From October 1943 until 24 June 1944 it flew night-time leaflet dropping missions, while at the same time providing pathfinders for the day bombers from March until May 1944. After July 1944 it returned to the daylight bombing role. It operated the B-17 for this entire period. The leaflet dropping role was taken over by the 858th Bombardment Squadron in June 1944.

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

1942-1946: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Timeline

28 January 1942 Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
1 March 1942 Activated
August-September 1942 To England and Eighth Air Force
25 December 1946 Inactivated in Germany

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Capt John H deRussy: c. 15 Mar 1942
Lt Col Ernest H Lawson: c. I Apr 1942
Lt Col Fay R Upthegrove: c. 27 May 1942
Col Curtis E LeMay: c. 2 Jun 1942
Lt Col Donald K Fargo: 18 May 1g43
Col Ernest H Lawson: Nov 1943
Col Anthony Q Mustoe: Jun 1944
Col Henry G MacDonald: Oct 1944
Col Paul L Barton: 22 Apr 1946
COl G M Palmer: Sep 1946

Main Bases

Salt Lake City, Utah: 1 March 1942
Geiger Field, Wash: c. 10 Jun 1942
Muroc, Calif: c. 31 Jun-Aug 1942
Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England: Sep 1942
Chelveston, Northamptonshire, England: Dec 1942
St Trond, Belgium: Jul 1945
Lechfeld, Germany: Dec 1945-25 Dec 1946.

Component Units

364th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-29 June 1946
365th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-November 1946
366th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-25 December 1946
422nd Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-25 December 1946

Assigned To

1942-43: 1st Bombardment Wing; Eighth Air Force
1943-45: 40th Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force
1945: 98th Bombardment Wing; 9th Bombardment Division (Medium); Ninth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 September 2012), 305th Bombardment Group (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/305th_Bombardment_Group.html

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