4th Bombardment Wing (Second World War)

History - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 4th Bombardment Wing was a B-17 wing within the Eighth Air Force, and controlled a third of the bomber force until the formation of Bombardment Divisions. It took part in the strategic bombing campaign and also performed tactical bombing missions in support of the D-Day landings and the campaign that followed.

Although the wing was activated in June 1942 and moved to England in August-September at this stage it only had a skeleton staff. It wasn't properly manned until January 1943 and didn't get its three B-17 groups until the spring 1943.

The three groups that formed the 4th Bombardment Wing had been based in Northamptonshire, but when the new unit was formed in May 1943 they moved to Suffolk and Essex. This would be a short-lived move and in June the groups moved slightly to the north, swapping with B-26 groups that were moving south to get better fighter cover.

The arrival of the 4th Bombardment Wing allowed Eaker to be more flexible with his bomber force. The wing's first mission came on 13 May and was an attack on the airfield at St Omer-Longuenesse. On 15 May 1943 the 1st BW was sent to attack Wilhelmshaven (although bad weather diverted it to alternative targets) while the 4th BW attacked Emden. On 17 May the gap between the two wings was much bigger, with the 1st BW attacking Kiel and the 4th attacking Lorient. 20 May saw the 1st BW attack Kiel while the 4th BW went to the U-boat pens at Flensburg in Denmark.

On 22 June 1943 the 4th Bombardment Wing took part in the first Eighth Air Force raid to go deep into Germany, an attack on the synthetic rubber plant at Huls on the edge of the Ruhr.

On 17 August 1943 the 4th Bombardment Wing took part in the attack on the aircraft factory at Regensburg. This was meant to take part at the same time as the 1st Bombardment Wing attacked the ball bearing plant at Schweinfurt, but the 1st BW was delayed, and the two attacks were carried out separately. This allowed the Luftwaffe to attack each wing in turn, and the 4th Bombardment Wing lost twenty four B-17s during the attack on Regensburg. After the raid the wing's aircraft flew on to North Africa. The wing was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its role in this attack.

On 13 September 1943 the large 4th Bombardment Wing officially became the 3rd Bombardment Division, which contained three Combat Bombardment Wings. The new 4th Combat Bombardment Wing inherited the 94th and 385th Bombardment Groups and gained the new 447th Bombardment Group, giving it the three groups it would operate for the rest of the war. The 3rd Bombardment Division inherited the old wing's base at Camp Blainey and Curtis E LeMay, its commander, while the new wing moved to Bury St Edmunds, where it spent the rest of the war.

One of the wing's commanders, Brigadier General Frederick W. Castle won a posthumous Medal of Honor. On 24 December 1944 while flying with the wing he took the controls of a burning B-17 and kept it in the air long enough for the other crewmen to escape safely.

Aircraft

1943-1945: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress

Timeline

19 October 1940 Constituted as 4th Bombardment Wing
18 December 1940 Activated
1 October 1941 Inactivated
7 June 1942 Activated
August-September 1942 To England and Eighth Air Force
May 1943 Entered combat
August 1943 Redesignated 4th Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy)
18 June 1945 Disbanded

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Brig Gen James H Doolittle: c. Jun 1942
Col Charles T Phillips: c. 1 Aug 1942-unkn
Lt Col Thomas L Dawson: c. 19 Jan 1943
Lt Col Charles C Bye Jr: c. 27 Jan 1943
Brig Gen Frederick L Anderson: 19 Apr 1943
Col Curtis E LeMay: 18 Jun 1943
Brig Gen Russell A Wilson: 14 Sep 1943
Brig Gen Frederick W Castle: c. 6 Mar 1944 (killed in action 24 Dec 1944)
Col Charles B Dougher: 25 Dec 1944
Col Robert W Burns: 29 Jan 1945- unkn.

Main Bases

Westover Field, Mass: 7 Jun 1942
Bolling Field, DC: c. 28 Jul-c. 28 Aug 1942
Camp Lynn, England (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire): 12 Sep 1942
Marks Hall, Essex, England: 18 Jan 1943
Camp Blainey, England (Elveden Hall, Suffolk): Jun 1943
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England: 13 Sep 1943-18 Jun 1945.

Component Units

4th Bombardment Wing, 1942-1945
Group Dates Aircraft Used 2 3 4 5
94th Bombardment Group 1943-1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
95th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
96th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
100th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
385th Bombardment Group 1943-45 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
388th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
390th Bombardment Group 1943 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
447th Bombardment Group 1943-45 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
486th Bombardment Group 1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        
487th Bombardment Group 1945 Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress        

Assigned To

1942-1943: VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
1943-February 1944: 3rd Air Division; VIII Bomber Command; Eighth Air Force
February 1944-1945: 3rd Air Division; Eighth Air Force; US Strategic Air Forces Europe

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]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (4 October 2012), 4th Bombardment Wing (Second World War), http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/4th_Bombardment_Wing.html

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