The 306th Bombardment Group was an early B-17 group within the Eighth Air Force and took part in the daylight strategic bombing offensive from its early stages in 1942 until the end of the war in Europe.
The 306th moved to England in August-September 1942 to join the Eighth Air Force. The Group's entry into combat late in 1942 was adversely affected by the efforts needed to create the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa. The new organisation absorbed thousands of trained men and a large amount of equipment and reducing the pace of Eighth Air Force operations. Despite these problems the group was able to enter combat in October 1942 and took part in the early raids that established a pattern for Eighth Air Force operations. Its first combat mission was an attack on railway works at Lille on 9 October.
The Group took part in a raid on the Luftwaffe base at Romilly-sur-Seine on 20 December 1942 that saw the first major clash between unescorted bombers of the Eighth Air Force and large numbers of German fighters. The 306th lost one aircraft in the run-in to the attack and two near Paris during the return trip. This mission saw an early example of over claiming by US bomber pilots. Between them the crews claimed to have destroyed 53 German aircraft. The Air Force reduced this to a probably thirty and by 5 January the figure was down to twenty one destroyed. The Germans only recorded losing two fighters in combat with the bomber formation and three in related actions.
After a number of the more experienced B-17 units moved to North Africa the 306th became the most experienced bomber unit in the Eighth Air Force, and led a number of raids late in 1942. The group suffered heavy losses during this period, and morale began to suffer. General Eaker decided to replace the group's commander, Colonel Overacker, with Colonel Frank A Armstrong, his A-3 staff officer in charge of Operations and Training. Overacker was a popular commander, but may have become too close to his men. Armstrong spent a month in command of the group, where he focused on restoring discipline both on the ground and in the air.
The group took part in the Eighth Air Force's first attack on a target in Germany, the raid on the naval base at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943. It went on to take part in the daylight strategic bombing campaign, taking part in attacks on the ball bearing plant at Schweinfurt. The group lost no aircraft during the first raid of 17 August 1943, but 10 aircraft during a second raid on 14 October 1943.
In the build-up to D-Day the group carried out attacks on German transport targets across France. It attacked railway bridges and coastal guns on D-Day, and supported the American troops attacking at St Lo in July. It also supported the airborne assault at Arnhem in September 1944, attacked airfields and railway marshalling yards during the Battle of the Bulge and supported the crossing of the Rhine.
The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its part in an attack on aircraft factories in Germany on 11 January 1944 and a second DUC for its role in the Big Week attack on the German aircraft industry (20-25 February 1944).
On 1 May 1943 Sgt Maynard H Smith won the Medal of Honor for his actions when his aircraft was damaged by German fighters. The German attack started fires in the radio compartment and the waist section. Smith threw burning ammo out of the aircraft, put out the fire and helped the injured tail gunner before returning to his gun to fight off the German fighters.
After the end of the fighting the group carried out photographic surveys of western Europe. In December 1945 it moved to Germany. February-August 1946 were spent in France, before the group returned to Germany where it was inactivated on 25 December 1946.
1942-1946: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
|28 January 1942
|Constituted as 306th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
|1 March 1942
|To England and Eighth Air Force
|25 December 1946
Col Charles B Overacker
Jr: c. 16 Mar 1942
Col Frank A Armstrong Jr: 3 Jan 1943
Col Claude E Putnam: 17 Feb 1943
Col George L Robinson: c. 20 Jun 1943
Col James S Sutton: Sep 1944
Col Hudson H Upham: c. 16 Apr 1945
Col Robert F Harris: May 1946
Lt Col Earl W Kesling, June 1946
Gowen Field, Idaho: 1 Mar
Wendover Field, Utah: c. 6 Apr- 1 Aug 1942
Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, England: Sep 1942
Giebelstadt, Germany: Dec 1945
Istres, France: Feb 1946
Furstenfeldbruck, Germany: 16 Aug 1946
Lechfeld, Germany: 13 Sep-25 Dec 1946
367th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-25 December 1946
368th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-25 December 1946
369th Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-29 June 1946
423rd Bombardment Squadron: 1 March 1942-25 December 1946
1942-43: 1st Bombardment Wing; Eighth Air Force
1943-1945: 40th Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force
1945: 98th Bombardment Wing; 9th Bombardment Division (Medium); Ninth Air Force