The 497th Bombardment Group was a B-29 group that was one of the first to operate from Saipan and spent most of the period between October 1944 and the end of the war bombing Japan.
The 497th was formed in November 1943 as part of the 73rd Bombardment Wing, the second B-29 combat wing to be formed. The group was originally meant to accompany the 58th Bombardment Wing to India, but that plan was abandoned in April 1944 and instead the wing was assigned to the Mariana Islands.
Saipan was captured after a battle that lasted from 15 June to 9 July 1944. Work on airfields for the B-29s began well before the Japanese had been defeated, and between 24 June and 6 August a 6,000ft long by 150ft wide runway had been completed at Isley Field. The first elements of the 73rd Bombardment Wing arrived on 24 August, and the four bombardment groups soon followed. The 497th was the last to officially take up residence, on 17 October 1944.
On 28 October the 497th and 498th Groups took part in the wing's first combat mission, sending eighteen B-29s to bomb Truk. Fourteen aircraft bombed the Dublon submarine pens, with the 497th getting half of its bombs in the right area. The 497th and 498th returned to Truk again on 30 October, although this time poor weather obscured the target. A third raid against Truk on 2 November was also unsuccessful.
The next target for the group was Iwo Jima, which was hit on 5 and 8 November.
On 24 November the wing carried out its first attack against Tokyo, aiming at the major aircraft engine factory at Musashi. This mission, code named San Antonio I, was very carefully planned, although bad weather on Saipan delayed it for a week from its original date of 17 November. All four of the wing's groups were involved and 111 B-29s took off from Saipan. The Japanese managed to put up around 125 fighters, but there was only one success, when one fighter appeared to ram a B-29 in the tail. Only 24 aircraft actually bombed Musashi, with another 64 hitting other parts of Tokyo. Overall the wing lost two aircraft destroyed and another 11 were damaged (three by friendly fire).
After this first raid the wing spent the next four months carrying out high level daylight precision raids against Japanese aircraft factories. These didn't have the expected result, and XXI Bomber Command began to experiment with low-level incendiary raids. The last of the high altitude attacks on the aircraft industry was another failed raid on Musashi on 4 March. After this General LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command, decided to shift to night incendiary bombing, beginning with a raid on Tokyo on the night of 9/10 March. The new tactic was a dramatic success - losses dropped as the Japanese fighter force struggled to deal with night fighting and Japan's cities burned. The group focuses on low level night bombing for the rest of the war.
The 497th was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came during the daytime precision raids and was for an an attack on the industrial area of Hamamatsu on 27 January 1945 carried out after bad weather shielded the primary target. The second was for a series of attacks on Japan in July and August 1945.
The B-29s were rarely used for tactical work, but in April 1945 they did attack Japanese airfields in an attempt to reduce the amount of help being sent to Okinawa.
The group returned to the United States in November 1945. It was assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946 but was inactivated ten days later, on 31 March.
Nov 1943-March 1946: Boeing B-29 Superfortress
|19 Nov 1943||Constituted as 497th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)|
|20 Nov 1943||Activated|
|Jul-Oct 1944||To Saipan and Twentieth Air Force|
|Oct 1944||Combat debut|
|Nov 1945||To US|
|21 March 1946||To Strategic Air Command|
|31 March 1946||Inactivated|
Lt Col John P Veerling:
10 Dec 1943
Col Karl Truesdell Jr: 6 Mar 1944
Col Stuart P Wright: 26 Apr 1944
Col Arnold T Johnson, 26 Feb 1945-31 Mar 1946
El Paso Mun Aprt, Tex: 20
Clovis AAFld, NM: 1 Dec 1943
Pratt AAFld, Kan: 13 Apr-18 Jul 1944
Isley Field, Saipan: 17 Oct 1944-1 Nov 1945
Camp Stoneman, Calif: 14 Nov 1945
March Field, Calif: 26 Nov 1945
MacDill Field, Fla: 5 Jan-31 Mar 1946.
513th Bombardment Squadron: 1945-1946.
869th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946.
870th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946.
871st Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946.
872d Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946.
November 1943-July 1944: XX Bomber Command; Second Air Force (US)
October 1944-July 1945: XXI Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (Saipan)
July 1945-1946: Twentieth Air Force (Saipan)