320th Bombardment Group, USAAF

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History

The 320th Bombardment Group, USAAF, was a B-26 Marauder unit that fought in North Africa, Sicily and Italy before moving to the western Front to take part in the fighting in France and Germany.

The group received the B-26 Marauder early in that aircraft's career, when it was still seen as a dangerous plane to fly. When a chance came to ask for transfers every single eligible pilot in the group apart from the CO and his executive officer asked for a transfer to safer aircraft! Once the aircraft had been mastered the dangers receded and it went on to perform very well.

The group was allocated to the force being assembled for Operation Torch. It was to move in two parts. The ground crews moved to Britain in August-December 1942 and from there to Africa. The aircrews were to cross the South Atlantic with 57 B-26s, with the hope that they would arrive in North Africa on D+22 for Torch.

The aircraft reached Africa fairly easily, but the B-26 didn't have the range to get from Kano to Oran, so they were flown up the west African coast to Bathurst. They were then delayed for two weeks and could only move on after Governor Boisson surrendered Dakar and French West Africa to the Allies. The group was then able to fly on to Marrakech and from there to the battle front.

The group finally entered combat with the Twelfth Air Force in April 1943. From then until July it focused on attacks on Axis shipping, in an attempt to cut the supply route between Sicily and Tunisia. The group then took part in the campaign to destroy the defences of the island of Pantelleria, before supporting the invasion of Sicily.

During the invasion of Italy the group attacked a wide range of targets, in particular transport links. It was used to support the Salerno landings and the occupation of Naples.

On 15 March 1944 the group took part in the massive aerial bombardment that largely destroyed Casinno town, but the German defenders were just able to prevent a breakthrough on the ground. The group then took part in the advance on Rome and received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for its par tin the fighting in Italy in April-June 1944. It also received an American Distinguished Unit Citation for its attack on German troops near Fondi on 12 May 1944.

On 9 August the group took part in a major attack on the Luftwaffe base at Bergamo-Seriate, along with aircraft from the 17th and 319th groups. This was carried out to support Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France, and was designed to suppress any Luftwaffe intervention.

From June until November 1944 the group's main efforts were against communication targets and German strong points in northern Italy.

In November 1944 the 320th was moved from the Italian Front to the Western Front. Once again communications links were a key target as were German barracks, gun positions and ammo dumps. The group operated across France and Germany. It was awarded a second DUC for an attack on fortifications of the Siegfried Line on 15 March 1945.

In June 1945 the group moved into Germany, where it helped dismantle the Luftwaffe. The group returned to the US in November-December 1945 and was inactivated on 4 December.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942-45: Martin B-26 Marauder

Timeline

19 June 1942 Constituted as 320th Bombardment Group (Medium)
23 June 1942 Activated
Aug-Dec 1942 Ground echelon to North Africa
Dec 1942-Jan 1943 Aircraft to North Africa
April 1943 Begins operations with Twelfth Air Force
Nov-Dec 1945 To United States
4 December 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Maj John F Batjer: 1 Jul 1942
Col John A Hilger: c. 5 Aug 1942
Col Flint Garrison Jr: 25 Oct 1942
Lt Col John Fordyce: 15 Feb 1943
Col Karl E Baumeister: 25 May 1943
Lt Col Stanford Gregory: 25 Sep 1943
Col Eugene B Fletcher: 25 Oct 1943
Col Ashley E Woolridge: 2 Nov 1944
Lt Col Blaine B Campbell, 28 May 1945-unkn

Main Bases

MacDill Field, Fla: 23 Jun 1942
Drane Field, Fla: 8-28 Aug 1942
Hethel, England: 12 Sep 1942
La Senia, Algeria: c. 2 Dec 1942
Tafaraoui, Algeria: 28 Jan 1943
Montesquieu, Algeria: 9 Apr 1943
Massicault, Tunisia: 29 Jun 1943
El Bathan, Tunisia: 28 Jul 1943
Sardinia: c.1 Nov 1943
Corsica: c. 18 Sep 1944
Dijon/Longvic, France: 11 Nov 1944
Dole/Tavaux, France: 1 Apr 1945
Herzogenaurach, Germany: 18 Jun 1945
Clastres, France: c. Oct-Nov 1945
Camp Myles Standish, Mass: 3-4 Dec 1945

Component Units

441st Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49
442nd Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49
443rd Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49
444th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49

Assigned To

1943: 47th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force (North Africa)
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
27 November 1944-6 January 1945: 42nd Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Air Command
6 January 1945- May 1945: 42nd Bombardment Wing; First Tactical Air Force (Provisional)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 October 2013), 320th Bombardment Group, USAAF , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/320th_Bombardment_Group.html

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