319th Bombardment Group

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History

The 319th Bombardment Group entered service as a B-26 unit that took part in Operation Torch and the campaign in of Italy, before at the start of 1944 it was withdraw to the US, converted to the A-26 and moved to Okinawa, where it entered combat against the Japanese in July 1945.

The group was activated on 26 June 1942 and trained with the B-26. It was part of the force allocated to Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa. The USAAF decided to try and move its longer range aircraft from the United States to Britain along a route that took them through Greenland and Iceland. Training would be completed in Britain and the units would then move directly to North Africa. The 310th Bombardment Group had made the trip successfully, but the 319th was delayed by slow delivery of its B-26 Marauders. The trip was thus made in increasingly poor weather and the group suffered a number of casualties and stranded aircraft (even after leaving Britain the route wasn't safe and the Group commander was shot down over Cherbourg during the trip to North Africa!). The northern route was soon closed and later groups traveled across the South Atlantic.

On its arrival in Europe the 319th was allocated to the Twelfth Air Force. It remained part of the Twelfth until January 1945, apart from a spell on detachment to the Fifteenth Air Force between 15 November 1943 and January 1944 (along with the 42nd Bombardment Wing).

Part of the group landed on Arzeu Beach on 8 November, the first day of Operation Torch. The group took part in the first Allied attempt to occupy Tunisia later in November. On 28 November the group bombed Sfax harbour, performing a mix of bombing from 1,000ft and low level strafing runs (soon to become too costly as German anti-aircraft defences improved). Gabes airfield was the target on 30 November, when on B-26 was shot down. The group remained in combat over Tunisia until February 1943, targeting airfields, harbours and rail links.

By February the 319th was on its third commander of the campaign - Lt Colonel Sam W Agee Jr took over on 27 November 1942, Major Joseph A Cunningham on 5 December and Lt Colonel Wilbur W Aring on 11 January 1943. Morale was unsurprisingly low and aircraft numbers lower - between them the 310th and 319th could muster a maximum strength of thirteen operational aircraft during November and December 1942.

The 319th carried out a successful low-level attack on Sousse harbour on 14 December when six aircraft swept across the harbour at low level. Further low level raids on 15 and 18 December proved that the German defences had improved and low-level bombing was abandoned. In January 1943 German shipping became a key target and the 319th joined the attack on the 15th. On 21 January the group claimed one medium sized freighter sunk and another damaged, a freighter was damaged on 22 January and three on 23 January. Three bombers were lost during these last two attacks. A big convoy was attacked on 29 January and two cargo liners were badly damaged at the cost of one bomber. The group also continued to attack land targets, including a raid on an airfield south of Tripoli on 9 January.

By February morale within the group and low aircraft numbers forced the USAAF to withdraw it from combat for a period of rest, reorganisation and training. Its remaining aircraft went to the 17th Bombardment Group.

The group returned to combat in June 1943, just in time to take part in the bombing campaign against the Italian island of Pantelleria. The Allies dropped 6,200 tons of bombs on the island, which surrendered without the need for an invasion.

The group then attacked targets on Sicily. After the fall of Sicily it began to attack bridges, airfields, marshalling yards, viaducts, gun sites and other defensive positions on the Italian mainland. In September the group helped support the landings at Salerno, operating from its bases in North Africa.

The group never moved to the mainland of Italy. In November 1943 it moved to Sardinia and in September 1944 to Corsica, before returning to the United States in January 1945.

From its bases off the Italian coast the group supported the fighting at Anzio and Cassino early in 1944. On 15 March the group took part in a massive bombing raid that destroyed the town of Cassino, but the following ground attack failed to break through the German lines.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on rail facilities in Rome on 3 March 1944 in which it attacked its targets without hitting historical monuments. A second DUC was awarded for a raid on marshalling yards at Florence on 11 May 1944 during the advance on Rome. The unit also received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for its role in the Allied offensive in Italy between April and June 1944.

From July until December 1944 the group focused on targets in the Po valley in northern Italy, and became an expert bridge busting unit. The group also helped support the invasion of southern France. The group also flew a small number of missions against targets in Yugoslavia. This period also saw the group convert to the B-25 Mitchell.

For the last months of its time in Europe the group was attached to the Fifteenth Air Force, but a more dramatic move was on the cards. As the front line in Italy became more static the USAAF decided to transfer one B-25 group to the Pacific. The 319th was chosen, and in January 1945 it moved back to the United States. Once back in the US the group converted to the new Douglas A-26 Invader and was redesignated as the 319th Bombardment Group (Light).

Between April and July 1945 the group moved from the USA to Okinawa, where in July it arrived at Kadena airfield. This would be a temporary home until Machinato airfield was taken off the Japanese and brought into use.

The group flew its first mission in the Pacific on 16 July. It attacked targets ain Japan and China, focusing on airfields, shipping, rail marshalling yards and general industrial targets.

After the end of the war the group returned to the US in November-December 1945, and was inactivated on 18 December 1945.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942-November 1944: Martin B-26 Marauder
November 1944-January 1945: North American B-25 Mitchell
January 1945-December 1945: Douglas A-26 Invader

Timeline

19 June 1942 Constituted as 319th Bombardment Group (Medium)
26 June 1942 Activated
Aug-Nov To mediterranean and Twelfth Air Force
Nov 1943-Jan 44 To Fifteenth Air Force
Jan 1944 To Twelfth Air Force
Jan 1945 To United States
Feb 1945 Redesignated 319th Bombardment Group (Light)
Apr-July 1945 To Okinawa and Seventh Air Force
Nov-Dec 1945 To United States
18 December 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col Alvord Rutherford: 26 Jun 1942
Lt Col-Sam W Agee Jr: 27 Nov 1942
Maj Joseph A Cunningham: 5 Dec 1942
Lt Col Wilbur W Aring: c. 11 Jan 1943
Col Gordon H Austin: 6 Jul 1943
Col Joseph R Holzapple: 13 Aug 1943-1945

Main Bases

Barksdale Field, La: 26 Jun 1942
Harding Field, La: 8-27 Aug 1942
Shipdham, England: 12 Sep 1942
Horsham St Faith, England: c. 4 Oct 1942
St- Leu, Algeria: c. 11 Nov 1942
Tafaraoui, Algeria: 18 Nov 1942
Maison Blanche, Algeria: 9 Nov 1942
Telergma, Algeria: c. 12 Dec 1942
Oujda, French Morocco: 3 Mar 1943
Rabat Sale, French Morocco: 25 Apr 1943
Sedrata, Algeria: 1 Jun 1943
Djedeida, Tunisia: 26 Jun 1943
Sardinia: c. 1 Nov 1943
Corsica: c. 21 Sep 1944-1 Jan 1945
Bradley Field, Conn: 25 Jan 1945
Columbia AAB, SC: c. 28 Feb-27 Apr 1945
Kadena, Okinawa: c. 2 Jul 1945
Machinato, Okinawa: 21 Jul-21 Nov 1945
Ft Lewis, Wash:, 17-18 Dec 1945.

Component Units

437th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45
438th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45
439th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45
440th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45

Assigned To

1943: 47th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force
1943-44: 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Command; Twelfth Air Force OR

August 1943: 42nd Bombardment Wing; Northwest African Strategic Air Force
September 1943-November 1943: 42nd Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force
1 November 1943-1 January 1944: 42nd Bombardment Wing; Fifteenth Air Force
1 January 1944-27 November 1944: 42nd Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force

1944: 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force
1944-45: 57th Bombardment Wing; Twelfth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 October 2013), 319th Bombardment Group , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/319th_Bombardment_Group.html

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