351st Bombardment Group (Second World War)

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History

The 351st Bombardment Group was part of the second wave of B-17 groups to join the Eighth Air Force, and took part in the daylight strategic bombing campaign over Germany.

The 351st became operational in May 1943, one of five new B-17 groups to become operational in that month (a sixth group, the 92nd, resumed operations after a spell as a training unit). The group's first mission over Germany came on 14 May. This second wave of heavy bombardment groups allowed the Eighth Air Force to increase its pace of operations. On 13 May the number of available bombers rose from 100 to 215 in a single step.

The group arrived after the early probing attacks around occupied Europe and took part in the developing daylight bombing campaign over Germany (including attacks on the notorious ball-bearing plant at Schweinfurt - the group only lost one aircraft during the first attack of 17 August 1943). The unit received two Distinguished Unit Citations for attacks on aircraft factories in Germany, one on 9 October 1943 and one on 11 January 1944. The group lost nine aircraft during an attack on the oil plant at Ludwigshafen on 30 December 1943.

The group also took part in the campaign to support the D-Day landings, including the pre-invasion attacks on transport links around France and direct attacks on German positions on D-Day and during the breakout from St Lo. The group also supported the attack at Arnhem in September 1944, the battle of the Bulge of December 1944-January 1945 and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

Two postumous Medals of Honor were won by 2nd Lt Walter E Truemper and Sgt Archibald Mathies, the navigator and engineer in a B-17 that was badly damaged on the first day of 'Big Week', 20 February 1945. The pilot was wounded and the co-pilot killed. Truemper and Mathies took over and flew the aircraft, allowing the rest of the crew to bail out. They then attempted to land the aircraft in an attempt to save the pilot but the aircraft crashed during their third attempt and all three were killed. Three Medals of Honor were won on 20 February, the only occasion on which the Eighth Air Force won more than one of the medals on the same day.

The group returned to the US soon after the end of the war in Europe and was inactivated on 27 June 1949.

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] cover cover cover

 

Aircraft

1942-1945: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Timeline

25 September 1942 Constituted as 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy)
1 October 1942 Activated
April-May 1943 To England and Eighth Air Force
July 1945 To United States
28 August 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col William A Hatcher Jr: Nov 1942
Col Eugene A Romig: c. 1 Jan 1944
Col Robert W Burns: Oct 1944
Col Merlin I Carter: 30 Mar 1945

Main Bases

Salt Lake City AAB, Utah: 1 Oct 1942
Geiger Field, Wash: Nov 1942
Siggs Field, Tex: Dec 1942
Pueblo AAB, Colo: c.1 Mar-c. 12 Apr 1943
Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England: c. 1 May 1943-June 1945
Sioux Falls AA Fld, SD, Jul-28 Aug 1945

Component Units

508th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Oct 1942-28 Aug 1945
509th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Oct 1942-28 Aug 1945
510th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Oct 1942-28 Aug 1945
511th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Oct 1942-28 Aug 1945

Assigned To

1943: 1st Bombardment Wing; Eighth Air Force
1943: 92nd Bombardment Wing; 3rd Air Division; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1943: 92nd Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1943-1945: 94th Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (24 September 2012), 351st Bombardment Group (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/351st_Bombardment_Group.html

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