47th Bombardment Group

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The 47th Bombardment Group was a medium bomber unit that served in North Africa, Italy and the south of France, acting as a night intruder mission from June 1944.

The group was activated in January 1941 and was equipped with the Douglas A-20. After the American into the Second World War the group spent December 1941 and January 1942 flying anti-submarine patrols off the US West Coast.

After that brief spell of operations the group spent most of the rest of 1942 preparing to move oversea. It trained in low level operations, a decision that failed to take into account the dangers of German flak. In October-November 1942 it made the move, and was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force. The group flew its aircraft across the Atlantic to Britain, suffering some casualties on the way. Later light and medium bombers used the southern route to reach Africa from Brazil, avoiding the harsh north Atlantic weather.

The group landed in Morocco in November 1942, and its squadrons entered combat over the next few weeks. The group remained in combat in the Mediterranean for the rest of the war. It performed a mix of close ground support and longer range interdiction missions, attacking Axis armour, troops concentrations, supplies, transport lines, airfields and convoys.

The first detachment reached Youks by 13 December, and another twenty aircraft reached Morocco by the end of December.

Between December 1942 and May 1943 the group concentrated on low level attacks on German and Italian troops in Algeria and Tunisia. The group was awarded its first Distinguished Unit Citation after flying eleven missions on 22 February, during the battle of the Kasserine Pass, attacking the advancing German tanks. This was despite having to operate from a very crowded airfield at Youks, and a belief amongst the high command of the Twelfth Air Force that the group wasn't fully trained. Despite this high level of activity the group only lost a single aircraft on the 22nd.

During the winter and spring of 1943 the group prepared to switch from low level to medium level operations, which were less costly. This involving retraining the crews and added bombsights to their aircraft. At first the group fought and trained at the same time, but after the end of the fighting at Kasserine it withdrew to Canrobert to complete the training. The group soon returned to the front, and took part in the final assault on the Axis positions in North Africa. On 6 May the group took part in the air attacks that accompanied the start of the offensive, flying a record number of A-20s sorties before 9.30am.

The group took part in the destructive aerial attacks on the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa in June 1943, which forced the surrender of the islands. In July 1943 it supported the invasion of Sicily and in August 1943 it attacked the German evacuation beaches at Messina in a generally unsuccessful attempt to stop the Germans retreating to the Italian mainland.

In September 1943 the group supported the British landings on the Italian mainland, coming under the command of the Desert Air Force. It then supported the Allied advance on Rome, which ended in success in June 1944.

In February 1944 the group supported the troops fighting at Anzio, sometimes operating on days when the weather grounded other aircraft (on 7 February only the A-20s and A-36s were able to fly).

In April and May 1944 the group concentrated on attacks on German supply dumps, carrying out more than half of the sixty-two attacks in April and seventy in May. The group was available for this mission because it didn't play much part in Operation Strangle, the attack on German transport links.

In June 1944 the group began to fly night intruder missions in addition to its other duties. The night intruder missions soon became a key part of its activities.

In August-September 1944 the group supported the Allied invasion of southern France, operating from Corsica until early September. On 14 August (D-1) the group attacked German airfields in southern France and it helped support the first week of fighting. By the last week of August the allies had advanced too far north, and the group attacked targets in Italy instead. It then briefly moved onto French soil before moving back to Italy in the middle of the month.

In November 1944 the Luftwaffe made a brief reappearance in Italy. The 47th directed its night intruder missions against German airfields from 11-23 November, until the Luftwaffe was eliminated again.

From then until April 1945 the group concentrated on attacks on German communications and transport links. Its efforts were focused in the area south of the Po until the end of November 1944, and north of the Po from 1 December. It won a second DUC for its operations on 21-24 April 1945 when it flew for sixty consecutive hours, attacking German transport in the Po Valley as part of operations designed to prevent an orderly retreat.

In January 1945 the group began to receive the excellent Douglas A-26 Invader, although it never entirely re-equipped with the type.

The group returned to the United States in July 1945. It survived for longer than many wartime units, and wasn't inactivated until October 1949.


The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945, Bryn Evans. . Looks at the activities of the RAF's tactical air force in the North Africa and Italian Theatres, where it developed many of the close support techniques used with greater fame by 2nd Tactical Air Force in Normandy. This is a valuable account of the services of a key, but often overlooked, part of the wartime RAF. [read full review]
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1942-1945: Douglas A-20 Havoc
1945: Douglas A-20 Havoc and Douglas A-26 Invader


20 November 1940 Constituted as 47th Bombardment Group (Light)
15 January 1941 Activated
Oct-Nov 1942 To North Africa and Twelfth Air Force
July 1945 To United States
2 October 1949 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Maj William A Schulgen: 15 Jan 1941
Lt Col Hilbert M Wittkop: unkn
Col Frederick R Terrell: Jan 1942
Col Malcolm Green Jr: 17 May 1943
Lt Col Kenneth S Wade: 1 Apr 1945
Col Marvin S Zipp: 28 Aug 1945
Col Robert J Hughey: 23 Nov 1945
Lt Col Broadus B Taylor: 27 Aug 1946
Col Gerald E Williams: 30 Aug 1946
Lt Col Stebbins W Griffith: 5 Jun 1947
Lt Col Frederick E Price: Aug 1947
Col Willis F Chapman: 10 Oct 1947-2 Oct 1949.

Main Bases

McChord Field, Wash: 15 Jan 1941
Fresno, Calif: 14 Aug 1941
Will Rogers Field, Okla: c. 16 Feb 1942
Greensboro, NC: c. 16 Jul-18 Oct 1942
Mediouna, French Morocco: 18 Nov 1942
Youks-les- Bains, Algeria: 7 Jan 1943
Canrobert, Algeria: 6 Mar 1943
Thelepte, Tunisia: 30 Mar 1943
Souk-el-Arba, Tunisia: 13 Apr 1943
Soliman, Tunisia: c. 1 Jul 1943
Malta, 21 Jul 1943
Torrente Comunelli, Sicily: 9 Aug 1943
Gerbini, Sicily, 20 Aug 1943
Grottaglie, Italy: 24 Sep 1943
Vincenzo Airfield,. Italy: 15 Oct 1943
Vesuvius Airfield, Italy: c. 10 Jan 1944
Capodichino, Italy: 22 Mar 1944
Vesuvius Airfield, Italy: 25 Apr 1944
Ponte Galeria, Italy: c. 10 Jun 1944
Ombrone Airfield, Italy: 27 Jun 1944
Corsica: 11 Jul 1944
Salon, France: 7 Sep 1944
Follonica, Italy: 18 Sep 1944
Rosignano Airfield, Italy: Oct 1944
Grosseto, Italy: 11 Dec 1944
Pisa, Italy: Jun-24 Jun 1945
Seymour Johnson Field, NC: 11 Jul 1945
Lake Charles AAFld, La: Sep 1945
Biggs Field, Tex: 20 Oct 1946
Barksdale AFB, La: 19 Nov 1948-2 Oct 1949.

Component Units

84th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-49
85th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-49
86th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-49
97th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-49

Assigned To

1941: 15th Bombardment Wing (US)
Nov 1942-1943: 5th Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Air Command; Twelfth Air Force
Oct-Dec 1944: detached from 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Command; Twelfth Air Force
1943-1944: 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Tactical Air Command; Twelfth Air Force
1944: 57th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 March 2013), 47th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/47th_Bombardment_Group.html

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