40th Bombardment Group

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The 40th Bombardment Group was a B-29 bomber group that took part in the early Superfortress campaign from India and China before moving to Tinian early in 1945 to join the main bomber offensive against Japan.

The group was activated on Puerto Rico on 1 April 1941 and used a mix of B-17s and B-26s for training and to fly patrols over the Caribbean. It moved from Puerto Rico to Panama, and then in June 1943 back to the United States, where it became a B-29 unit.

At this stage in the war the nearest Allied territory to Japan was in China, and the USAAF planned to create a series of heavy bomber bases in China, supported from India. A great deal of effort went into this plan, but most supplies had to be flown over the 'Hump' route from India to China, making it very difficult to operate the fuel and munitions hungary B-29s.

The 40th moved from the US to India via Africa between March and June 1944 and in June joined XX Bomber Command, 20th Air Force. It spend much of its early time in India flying supplies into China, but it also arrived in time to take part in XX Bomber Command's first combat mission, an attack on railroad ships at Bangkok on 5 June. The mission used staging posts in China and was seen as a practice run for the first attacks on Japan. Five B-29s were lost, along with fifteen crewmen.

The first attack on Japan came only ten days later, rather sooner than XX Bomber Command would have liked. It was launched in an attempt to reduce the pressure on the Chinese, and was the first AAF attack on Japan since the Doolittle raid. The target was the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata and its associated coking plants. At this stage the B-29 still had some teething problems. Sixty-eight of the seventy-five available aircraft made it into the air, one crashed on takeoff (with no casualties) and four had to turn back. This left sixty-three aircraft, of which forty-seven reached Yawata.

During the rest of 1944 the group attacked transport centres, naval installations, iron works and aircraft factories spread across Burma, Thailand, China, Japan, Indonesia and Formosa (Taiwan). It was based in India but often attacked through staging posts in China. In August 1944 the group also used staging posts on Ceylon on a mission to drop mines in the waters off Palembang on Sumatra.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on the iron and steel works at Yawata, Japan, on 20 August 1944.

On 14 December the group suffered heavy losses after an accident during a raid on Rangoon. Two bombs with instant fuses collided while dropping and exploded, taking four B-29s with them. A fifth had to be written off after making an emergency landing.

On 18 December 1944 the group took part in the first large scale incendiary attack, on the city of Hankow. The group didn't get a message moving takeoff forward by 45 minutes, but the raid was considered to have been a major success and played a part in the later switch to night incendiary raids over Japan in March 1945.

In February-April 1945 the group moved to Tinian, to join the main strategic campaign against Japan. At first it carried out high altitude daylight attacks on strategic targets, but from March low level incendiary raids became more important. The group was awarded another DUC for attacks on naval aircraft factories at Kure, oil storage facilities at Oshima and the industrial area of Nagoya, all carried out in May 1945. Another DUC was awarded for a raid on the light metal industries at Osaka in July 1945.

After the end of the war the group dropped food to prisoners of war and made a number of show-of-force flights across Japan. It returned to the United States in November 1945 and early in 1946 joined Strategic Air Command, but the group was inactivated in the same year.


To Follow


1942-43: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Martin B-26 Marauder
1943-1946: Boeing B-29 Superfortress


22 November 1940 Constituted as 40th Bombardment Group (Medium)
1 April 1941 Activated in Puerto Rico
May 1942 Redesignated 40th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
June 1943 To United States
November 1943 Redesignated 40th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
June 1944 To India and Twentieth Air Force
Feb-April 1945 To Tinian
November 1945 To United States
21 March 1946 Assigned to Strategic Air Command
1 October 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt Col William B Sousa: 1 Apr 1941
Maj George W McGregor: 29 Apr 1941
Col Ivan M Palmer: 26 Nov 1941
Col Vernon C Smith: 19 Jan 1943
Col Henry K Mooney: 16 May 1943
Col Lewis R Parker: 1 Jul 1943
Lt Col Louis E Coira: 24 Feb 1944
Col Leonard F Harman: 10 Apr 1944
Col William H Blanchard: 4 Aug 1944
Col Henry R Sullivan: 16 Feb 1945
Col William K Skaer: 27 Feb 1945
Lt Col Oscar R Schaaf: 21 Mar 1946
Col Alva L Harvey: 4 May 1946
Lt Col Oscar R Schaaf: 21 Aug 1946
1st Lt William F Seith: 21 Sep-1 Oct 1946

Main Bases

Borinquen Field, PR: 1 Apr 1941
Howard Field, CZ: 16 Jun 1942
Albrook Field, CZ: 16 Sep 1942
Howard Field, CZ: 3-15 Jun 1943
Pratt AAFld. Kan: 1 Jul 1943-12 Mar 1944
Chakulia, India: 2 Apr 1944-25 Feb 1945
West Field, Tinian: 4 Apr-7 Nov 1945
March Field, Calif: 27 Nov 1945
Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz: 8 May-1 Oct 1946.

Component Units

25th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946
29th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-1943
44th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-1946
45th Bombardment Squadron: 1941- 1946
74th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-1943
395th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-1946

Assigned To

1940-1943: Caribbean
1941-1943: VI Bomber Command; Sixth Air Force (Caribbean)
1943-1944: 58th Bombardment Wing; XX Bomber Command; Second Air Force (training in US)
April 1944-February 1945: 58th Bombardment Wing; XX Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (India)
April-November 1945: 58th Bombardment Wing; XXI Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (Tinian)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (21 March 2013), 40th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/40th_Bombardment_Group.html

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