90th Bombardment Group

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The 90th Bombardment Group was a Liberator group that took part in the campaigns in the south-west Pacific and the Philippines

The group was constituted on 28 January 1942 as part of the post-Pearl Harbor increase in the size of the US military. It was activated in April and trained with the B-24 Liberator, the aircraft it would use throughout the Second World War.

In September 1943 the group moved to Hawaii, where it expected to say for some time, but in October MacArthur made an urgent plea for more support, and one of the units allocated to him was the 90th.

In November 1942 the group moved to Australia, where it joined the Fifth Air Force and immediately entered combat. The heavy bombers were used rather differently in the Pacific theatre - lacking the range to reach Japanese industry for most of the war the B-24s were instead used to attack Japanese troop concentrations, airfields, ground bases and shipping across large areas of the south-west Pacific theatre.

The group's B-24s were early models without a nose turret. During the winter of 1942-43 some of them were equipped with Consolidated tail turrets mounted in the nose. This work was carried out at Archerfield, Australia, and was considered to be a success. Thirty-five more turrets were requested in January 1943 and they arrived in March. More were requested in May. General Kenney, commander of the Fifth Air Force, also had the ball turret replaced with manually operated .50in machine guns.

The group began to make a major contribution to the fighting in January 1943. At this early stage its abilities were limited by aircraft serviceability, with on average fifteen of its sixty aircraft available at any one time.

The group officially moved to Port Moresby in February 1943 and it remained there for most of the year. This reduced the distances the aircraft were flying, and in turn improved availability.

While most of the group moved to Port Moresby the 319th Bombardment Squadron moved to Darwin, where it remained from February-July 1943. During this period it operated over the Dutch East Indies, attacking Amboina, Koepang, Makassar and Kendari. It was replaced in this role by the 380th Bombardment Group and joined the main part of the group at Port Moresby.

In March 1943 the group took part on the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on Japanese airfields on Wewak in September 1943.

On 12 October it took part in the Fifth Air Force's largest attack to date, an attack on the harbour at Rabaul. The group claimed to have sunk a destroyer and damaged two tenders and two large merchant ships. Japanese fighters attacked the formation and two B-24s were lost.

In November 1943 the group attacked Japanese targets around Arawe, in preparation for an allied landing which took place on 15 December. In December the group attacked targets at Cape Gloucester, again in preparation for an Allied invasion.

In December 1943 the group moved forward to Dobodura.

In February 1944 the group made its final move on New Guinea, to Nadzab. The same month saw the Fifth Air Force concentrate its efforts against Kavieng. The 90th took part in a large attack on 11 February, catching Japanese aircraft on the apron preparing to take off. The group returned on 13 February and the airfield was knocked out of service.

At the same time the group made a series of attacks on the Admiralty Islands, attacking Momote on 26 January and Madang on 6 February.

On 28 April 1944 the group took part in the first large scale raids on Biak. June saw the group attack airfields on Vogelkop, in an attempt to divert attention away from a planned invasion of Noemfoor, as well as attack Noemfoor directly.

In August 1944 the group moved onto a newly completed base at Biak. This had been a rather stretched out move - on 22 June part of the air echelon moved to Wakde, while some of the ground personnel were already onboard ships waiting to sail for Biak.

The focus of Fifth Air Force operations now moved towards the Philippines. On 1 September the group took part in an attack on Japanese airfields on the islands. Barracks at Likana were the target on 2 September and the Santa Ana docks on Mindanao were attacked on 6 September. Oil tanks at Davao were the target on 18 September.

In September and October 1944 the group carried out long range attacks on the vital oil refineries at Balikpapan on Borneo. The first attack was carried out on 30 September but the 90th arrived last, after cloud had obscured the target and only one of its squadrons was able to bomb the target. On 14 October the 90th led the attack, the most successful in this series of five attacks on the oil refineries.

In January 1945 the group moved onto Mindoro. It was used to support the troops fighting on Luzon, and also gained a more traditional strategic role, attacking Japanese industries on Formosa and railways, harbours and airfields on the Chinese mainland. During this period the group had a number of aircraft equipped with H2X navigational radar, which were used for night missions, especially over Formosa, and as pathfinders on day missions.

Saigon was attacked in April, with the naval yards and Japanese ships the main targets. Rail targets across Indo-China were attacked in May. In June 1945 the group made a series of attacks on Borneo, in preparation for the invasion of Brunei on 10 June 1945. Canton was the target twice during July.

In mid-August 1945 the group moved to Ie Shima, a small island off the coast of Okinawa.

After the end of the war the group flew reconnaissance missions over Japan. It was also used to transport liberated prisoners of war from Okinawa to Manila. The group moved back to the Philippines in December 1945 and was inactivated in the next month.


To Follow


1942-46: Consolidated B-24 Liberator


28 January 1942 Constituted as 90th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
15 April 1942 Activated
September 1942 To Hawaii and Seventh Air Force
November 1942 To Southwest Pacific and Fifth Air Force
27 January 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

1st Lt Newman W Enloe: 17 April 1942
Lt Col Eugene P Mussett: 17 May 1942
Col Roger M Ramey: 14 September 1942
Lt Col Eugene P Mussett: 16 Oct 1942
Col Arthur Mechan: 21 Oct 1942
Lt Col Arthur H Rogers: 16 Nov 1942
Col Ralph E Koon: 18 Nov 1942
Col Arthur H Rogers: 11 July 1943
Lt Col Harry J Bullis: c.20 December 1943
Col Carl A Brandt: 16 March 1944
Col Edward W Scott Jr: 10 June 1944
Lt Col Wilson H Banks: 8 Dec 1944
Col Ellis L Brown: 24 Feb 1945-unknow

Main Bases

Key Field, Miss: 15 April 1942
Barksdale Field, La: 17 May 1942
Greenville AAB, SC: 21 Jun 1942
Ypsilante, Mich: 9-c. 18 Aug 1942
Hickham Field, TH: 12 Sep 1942
Iron Range, Australian: Nov 1942
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 10 Feb 1943
Dobodura, New Guinea: Dec 1943
Nadzab, New Guinea: 23 Feb 1944
Biak: 10 Aug 1944
San Jose, Mindoro: 26 Jan 1935
Ie Shima: c. 10 Aug 1945
Ft William McKinley, Luzon: Dec 1945-27 Jan 1946

Component Units

319th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46; 1947-48; 1951-51
320th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46; 1947-48; 1951-51
321st Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46; 1947-48; 1951-51
400th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-46

Assigned To

1942: Seventh Air Force
1942-1945: V Bomber Command; Fifth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (27 March 2013), 90th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/90th_Bombardment_Group.html

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