312th Bombardment Group, USAAF

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History

The 312th Bombardment Group fought in the South West Pacific, starting as a light bomber group equipped with P-40 fighter-bombers. It soon converted to the A-20 and used these aircraft in New Guinea and the Philippines. Late in the war the group began to convert to the Consolidated B-32 Dominator, but only a handful of these heavy bombers saw combat before the end of the fighting.

The group was activated on 15 March 1942 and trained with a mix of A-24s, A-31s, A-36s and P-40s. At one point it was a dive bomber unit, but by the time it entered combat in the South West Pacific it had returned to being a light bomber unit. In December 1942 and January 1943, while still training, the group flew a number of anti-submarine patrols with its Vultee A-31 Vengeance dive bombers (the group actually had V-72 Vultees taken from British orders).

The group moved to the South West Pacific in October-December 1943, It joined the Fifth Air Force and used its Curtiss P-40 Warhawks on escort and patrol missions over New Guinea.

In February 1944 the group converted to the Douglas A-20 Havoc. By the summer of 1944 the 312th was one of only three light bombardment groups in the Fifth Air Force. It was heavily engaged on New Guinea, attacking airfields, troops, gun positions and bridges on the north and west coasts as well as supporting amphibious landings around the coast. It was also used to support the invasion of Palau.

In July 1944 the group experimented with fitting rockets, but this involved fitting heavy tubes which took 15mph off the aircraft's cruising speed and reduced its range. The rocket tubes were removed.

In November 1944 the group moved to the Philippines, where it was used for ground support and to attack Japanese transport and airfields.

On 7 January 1945 the group took part in the largest light and medium bomber raid yet seen in the south-west Pacific, contributed eighty aircraft to a large attack on Clark Field. Twenty would take part in an initial low-level strafing and bombing run, followed by a second wave of sixty aircraft.

In the following month the group moved onto Luzon, replacing a medium bomber group (the 345th) on the crowded airfield at Mangaldan. The group then took part in the battle for Manila.

The 312th received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a series of eight raids of Butanol plants on Formosa between 25 March and 4 April 1945. The first of these, on 25 March, saw eighteen aircraft attack an alcohol plant Kyoshito.

In the summer of 1945 General Kenney, commander of the Fifth Air Force, wanted to convert his A-20 units to other aircraft. Most went to the A-26, but the 312th was used for a more daring experiment. The Consolidated B-32 Dominator was a rival to the B-29 Superfortress. A small number were built, but there was little interest in using them in combat. Kenney saw his chance to get a new long range heavy bomber and offered to test the B-32 against the Japanese.

The 312th was chosen as the unit to be converted. Three aircraft were tested between mid-May and 17 June. The B-32 was found to have a number of problems, but plans were put in place to convert the 312th into a four-squadron B-32 group. The conversion process was slow - only the 386th Squadron was converted before the end of the fighting, but fifteen B-32s were used in combat. As part of this process the group became the 312th Bombardment Group (Heavy) in July 1945 and moved to Okinawa in August 1945.

The group returned to the US in December 1945 and was inactivated on 6 January 1946.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942-43: Douglas A-24 Banshee, Vultee A-31 Vengeance, North American A-36 Apache, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
1943-February 1944: Curtiss P-40 Warhawk
February 1944-June 1945: Douglas A-20 Havoc
June 1945-Jan 1946: Convair B-32 Dominator

Timeline

28 January 1942 Constititued as 312th Bombardment Group (Light)
15 March 1942 Activated
July 1942 Redesignated 312th Bombardment Group (Dive)
Oct-Dec 1943 To Southwest Pacific and Fifth Air Force
December 1943 Redesignated 312th Bombardment Group (Light)
July 1945 Redesignated 312th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
December 1945 To United States
January 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Robert H Strauss: 1 Sep 1942
Lt Col Selmon W Wells: 10 Mar 1945
Col Frank R Cook: c. 25 Aug 1945- unkn.

Main Bases

B owman Field, Ky: 15 Mar 1942
Will Rogers Field, Okla: Jun 1942
Hunter Field, Ga: Aug 194
DeRidder AAB, La: 20 Feb 1943
Rice AAFld, Calif: 13 Apr 1943
Salinas AAB, Calif: 15 Aug- 24 Oct 1943
Gusap, New Guinea: c. 1 Jan 1944
Hollandia, New Guinea: Jun 1944
Tanauan, Leyte: 19 Nov 1944
Mangaldan, Luzon: 10 Feb 1945
Floridablanca, Luzon: 19 Apr 1945
Okinawa: 13 Aug-13 Dec 1945
Vancouver, Wash: 3-6 Jan 1946

Component Units

386th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49; 1954-
387th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49; 1954-
388th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49; 1954-
389th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1947-49

Assigned To

1943-1944: V Fighter Command; Fifth Air Force
1944-1945: V Bomber Command; Fifth Air Force
1945: VII Bomber Command; Seventh Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 October 2013), 312th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/312th_Bombardment_Group.html

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