98th Bombardment Group

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History

The 98th Bombardment Group was a Liberator group that served in the Mediterranean theatre from August 1942 until the end of the Second World War.

The group was activated in February 1942 and trained with the B-24 Liberator. It moved to the Mediterranean in July-August 1942, and was based in Palestine. The first aircraft, from the 344th Squadron, arrived at Ramat David on 25 July 1942 and the entire group had arrived by 7 August.

The group entered combat in August 1942 from its original base, and attacked shipping and harbours along the Axis coastline, from Libya and Tunisia to Greece and Italy. It also attacked airfields and railways on Sicily and the Italian mainland. One of its earliest successes came on 21 August 1942 when two merchant ships were claimed as possibly sunk during an attack on a convoy south-west of Crete.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its operations from August 1942 to August 1943.

In November 1942 the group became part of the Ninth Air Force, and in the same month it moved to Egypt. This was done in order to bring Tripoli into range, as it was expected that this would soon become main supply port for Rommel's armies. The 98th soon entered the campaign against Tunisia as well, attacking Tunis harbour on 1 January 1943.

After the fall of Tripoli the ports of Naples, Messina and Palermo became the group's main targets, in an attempt to cut off the remaining Axis forces in Tunisia.

In February 1943 the group moved west again, this time to Benina, close to Bengasi. The three Italian ports remained their main target. The group took part in a series of concentrated attack on Catania in April.

The group took part in the attack on the oil refineries at Ploesti on 1 August 1943, where it attacked through heavy flak and the smoke of an earlier attack.The group's targets were the Astra Romana and Unirea Orion refineries. The group was awarded a second DUC for its part in this attack and the group commander, Colonel John R Kane, was awarded the Medal of Honor. The group lost twenty-one aircraft during the attack itself and during the return journey.

The group joined the Twelfth Air Force in September 1943. Its main role for the rest of the war was as a long range strategic bomber formation, covering the areas that were easier to attack from Italy (where it moved in November 1943 and became part of the Fifteenth Air Force) than from the UK. It attacked targets across Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the Balkans.

On 24 October the group took part in an attack on the aircraft factory at Wiener Neustadt. Bad weather hid the target and 23 aircraft from the 98th were the only aircraft amongst the 111 that took part in the raid to bomb the target.

On 24 March 1944 the group took part in the Fifteenth Air Force's first thousand-ton raid, an attack on rail targets in northern Italy. On 17 May it took part in a heavy attack on the ports of Piombino, San Stefano and Porto Ferraio.

A second Medal of Honor was won during an attack on an oil refinery. 1st Lt Donald D Pucket, a pilot during a raid on 9 July 1944, stayed with his aircraft and three trapped crew members after it suffered heavy damage. He helped to save the rest of his crew and went down with his aircraft.

During 1944 the group was used to support ground troops fighting at Anzio and at Cassino. It also took part in the Allied invasion of the south of France and supported Russian armies as they advanced across the Balkans.

The group returned to the US in April-May 1945 and was inactivated in November.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942-1945: Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Timeline

28 January 1942 Constituted as 98th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
3 February 1942 Activated
July-August 1942 To Mediterranean
November 1942 To Ninth Air Force
September 1943 To Twelfth Air Force
November 1943 To Fifteenth Air Force
April-May 1945 To United States
10 November 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt. Col Frank H Robinson: c. Feb 1942
Col Hugo P Rush: 1942
Col John R Kane: c. 29 Dec 1942
Lt Col Julian M Bleyer: 1 Nov 1943
Col William E Karnes: 18 Nov 1943
Lt Col Marshall R Gray: 13 Jan 1944
Col Salvatore E Manzo: c. Jul 1944-unkn
Col John G Eriksen: 25 Tun-c. Sep 1945
unkn: Sep-Nov 1945

Main Bases

MacDill Field, Fla: 3 Feb 1942
Barksdale Field, La: Feb 1942
Ft Myers, Fla: 30 Mar 1942
Drane Field, Fla: c. 15 May-3 Jul 1942
Ramat David, Palestine: 25 Jul 1942
Fayid, Egypt: c. 11 Nov 1942
Benina, Libya: c. 9 Feb 1943
Hergla, Tunisia: c. 21 Sep 1943
Brindisi, Italy: c. 18 Nov 1943
Manduria, Italy: 19 Dec 1943
Lecce, Italy: 17 Jan 1944-19 Apr 1945
Fairmont AAFld, Neb: c. 6 May 1945
McCook AAFld, Neb: 25 Jun-ro Nov 1945

Component Units

343rd Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-52
344th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-52
345th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-52
415th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45

Assigned To

1942-1943: IX Bomber Command; Ninth Air Force
1943: 47th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force
1943: 5th Bombardment Wing; Fifteenth Air Force
November 1943-45: 47th Bombardment Wing; Fifteenth Air Force (Italy)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 March 2013), 98th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/98th_Bombardment_Group.html

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