71st Reconnaissance Group (USAAF)

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The 71st Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) operated in the Pacific theatre from the end of 1943 until the end of the Second World War, focusing on reconnaissance but flying a wide range of other missions at the same time.

The group was formed in the US in October 1941 and was equipped with a mix of P-38, P-39 and P-40 fighters and the B-25 Mitchell bomber. Two months later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and from then until January 1943 the group was used to fly anti-submarine patrols off the US Pacific coast.

In November 1943 the group moved to the South-west Pacific and joined the Fifth Air Force. The group was based on New Guinea from November 1943 until August-September 1944.

While based on New Guinea the group operated over New Guinea, New Britain and the Admiralty Islands. It was used on standard reconnaissance missions, scouting out targets for air attacks and assessing damage after raids. The group also flew a range of other missions - it provided courier aircraft to connect the scattered bases in the Pacific, used some of its aircraft to carry passengers and cargos and helped with rescue operations.

The group also flew a number of more aggressive missions, bombing and strafing Japanese airfields and shipping and supporting the troops fighting on New Guinea and around Biak.

The squadron moved to Biak in the Dutch East Indies in September 1944, completing the move by 15 September. It didn't stay on Biak for long and moved to Luzon in November 1944.

During its time on Luzon the group flew reconnaissance missions over the island, searching for Japanese positions. The group also provided direct support for units fighting on the ground. Further afield it both scouted and attacked Japanese airfields on Formosa and China and Japanese shipping off the Chinese coast.

During this period Major William A Shomo won the Medal of Honor. On 11 January 1945 he was leading a flight of two fighter types when he encountered a formation thirteen Japanese aircraft. Shomo led his formation in an attack on the Japanese, claiming seven victories.

In August 1945 the group moved to Ie Shima. During the last few days of the war it attacked transport targets on Kyushu. After the Japanese surrender the group ranged across southern Japan searching for Prisoner of War camps and watching the Japanese military. The group moved to Japan in October 1945 and was inactivated there on 1 February 1946.




Trained with: North American B-25 Mitchell, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
Operational with: North American B-25 Mitchell, Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Piper L-4 Grasshopper, Stinson L-5 Sentinel, Interstate L-6 Grasshopper


21 August 1941 Constituted as 71st Observation Group
1 October 1941 Activated
April 1943 Redesignated 71st Reconnaissance Group
Sept-Nov 1943 To Southwest Pacific and Fifth Air Force
May 1944 Redesignated 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group
Nov 1944 To Philippines
May 1945 Redesignated 71st Reconnaissance Group
Oct 1945 To Japan
1 Feb 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Unknown: to Feb 1942
Col William C Sams: Feb 1942
Col Henry C Thompson: Oct 1944
Maj Jowell C Wise: 12 Oct 1945
1st Lt Wilburn H Ohle: 21 Oct 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Birmingham, Ala: 1 Oct 1941
Salinas AAB, Calif: 21 Dec 1941
Rice, Calif: 18 Aug 1942
Salinas AAB, Calif: 19 Oct 1942
Esler Field, La: 24 Jan 1943
Laurel AAFld, Miss: 31 Mar-24 Sep 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 7 Nov 1943
Nadzab, New Guinea: 20 Jan 1944
Biak: 8 Aug 1944
Leyte: 5 Nov 1944
Binmaley, Luzon: 2 Feb 1945
Ie Shima: Aug 1945
Chofu, Japan: 6 Oct 1945
Tachikawa, Japan: 23 Oct 1945
Irumagawa, Japan: c. 15 Jan-1 Feb 1946

Component Units

17th: 1942-46
25th Liaison: 1942-45
82nd: 1942-46
102nd: 1941-42
110th: 1941-46
128th: 1941-42

Assigned To

1943: V Bomber Command; Fifth Air Force
1944-45: 91st Reconnaissance Wing; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 February 2015), 71st Reconnaissance Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/71st_Reconnaissance_Group.html

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