308th Bombardment Group

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History

The 308th Bombardment Group was a heavy bomber unit that was based in China from March 1943 until June 1945, from where it supported the Chinese and attacked the Japanese Empire from the west.

The group was activated in April 1942, and initially trained with a mix of B-18 Bolos and B-24 Liberators. After the early Japanese successes most Allied bases within striking distance of the heart of the Japanese Empire had been lost, but long range bombers based in China would be able to reach targets that were otherwise out of reach.

The 308th was allocated to the Fourteenth Air Force, which was to operate out of India and China. While the aircraft flew to India via Africa the ground echelon sailed across the Pacific. The group's base was at Kunming in China, but its supply bases were in India, so the group spent much of its time operating as a transport unit, helping to transport its own equipment across the Hump. The aim was to make sure that the presence of the 308th didn't have any impact on the normal transport link over the Hump.

The group was soon in operation, supporting Chinese troops and attacking targets across Japanese occupied French Indochina, Burma and in the South China Sea. Amongst its many targets were the docks and Rangoon, industrial and military targets in French Indochina, Japanese shipping in the East China Sea, South China Sea, Gulf of Tonkin and the Formosa Strait.

The group flew its first mission from China on 4 May, providing eighteen aircraft for a raid on Sama Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin. One aircraft had to be abandoned on the return trip, and one crewman killed. Canton was the target for the next raid, on 8 May before the group had to return to the Hump to replenish its supplies. This need to resupply after each mission would greatly reduce the number of missions the group could carry out and would control the pace of operations.

The attacks on Rangoon were carried out as part of a wider campaign with the USAAF working alongside the RAF. The group's aircraft used bases in India to reach their targets, and returned to China with extra supplies. The raids took place in late November 1943 and lasted into December. The 308th flew on 25, 27 and 28 November and 1 December and the group lost twelve B-24s, a major part of its strength.

Consolidated B-24H or J Liberator from the right
Consolidated B-24H or J Liberator from the right

The group's heavy bombers were used in direct support of Chinese troops, normally during major Japanese offensives. In November 1943 the Japanese were advancing around Tung-ting Lake, and the group was used to attack Japanese airfields behind their advancing armies. In May 1944 the situation was different and they were used to support a Chinese offensive in the Salween area.

The group was awarded its first Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on the docks and warehouses at Hankow on 21 August 1943. A second DUC was awarded for the group's anti-shipping attacks in 1944-45.

Major Horace S. Carswell Jr was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions on 26 October 1944. His aircraft was very badly damaged during an attack on a convoy. Once he had reached land he ordered the crew to bail out, but one man was trapped as his parachute had been damaged. Carswell attempted to land the plane, but the damaged Liberator crashed into a mountain killing both men.

During 1944 the USAAF began to create a force of B-29s in China. The 308th used its aircraft to help build up a stockpile of supplies for their new even heavier colleagues,

In June 1945 the group moved to India, and operated as a transport unit flying fuel and supplies back into India. The nature of the air war had changed, and it was easier to supply heavy bombers based elsewhere in the Pacific, while lighter, less fuel-hungry aircraft, were just as effective at the tasks remaining in China.

The group departed for the United States in December 1945 and was inactivated in January 1946.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942: Douglas B-18 Bolo (training in US)
1942-45: Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Timeline

28 January 1942 Constituted as 308th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
15 April 1942 Activated
Early 1943 To China and Fourteenth Air Force
June 1945 To India
December 1945 To United States
6 January 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Capt Harris K McCauley: 11 May 1942
Col Fay R Upthegrove: 5 Jun 1942
Maj Leroy A Rainey: 15 Jul 1942
Col Eugene H Beebe: 16 Sep 1942
Col William P Fisher: c. 3 Nov 1943
Col John G Armstrong: 19 Oct 1944
Col William D Hopson: 1 Jul 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Gowen Field, Idaho: 15 Apr 1942
Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz: 20 Jun 1942
Wendover Field, Utah: 1 Oct-28 Nov 1942
Kunming, China: 20 Mar 1943
Hsinching, China: 10 Feb 1945
Rupsi, India: 27 Jun-15 Oct 1945

Component Units

373rd Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45
374th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46
375th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46
425th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46

Assigned To

Early 1943-1945: Fourteenth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 October 2013), 308th Bombardment Group , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/308th_Bombardment_Group.html

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