345th Bombardment Group

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History

The 345th Bombardment Group, USAAF, was a B-25 unit that was heavily engaged in the fighting in New Guinea, the south-west Pacific and the Philippines.

The group was formed in September 1942 and equipped with the B-25 Mitchell. It moved to Australia in the spring of 1943 and from there to Port Moresby, on New Guinea, where it joined the Fifth Air Force.

1943

The group began combat operations in July 1943, supporting the troops fighting on New Guinea from its base at Port Moresby.

On 12 October 1943 the group took part in the largest US air strike in the Pacific to date - an attack on the Japanese base at Rabaul. The 345th attacked Vunakanau with a mix of gun fire and parafrag bombs. The group attacked the Rabaul area again on 18 October, this time hitting Rapopo where they claimed to have destroyed 25 aircraft on the ground and shot down ten to twelve in the air. During the same raid the 501st Squadron was allocated an anti-shipping role, sinking a freighter and a corvette for the loss of one aircraft. Vunakanau was the target on 23 October when the group claimed twenty-seven aircraft destroyed on the ground. Two B-25s were lost in a long battle with Japanese fighters in which eight victories were claimed.

On 2 November the group had the task of taking on the Japanese anti-aircraft batteries during another raid on Rabaul. Three B-25s were lost during this dangerous mission and the group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its efforts.

The last major Fifth Air Force attacks on Rabaul came in mid-November 1943 and the job was then passed to the South Pacific air forces.

The Fifth now moved on to support the planned invasion of western New Britain. The 345th attacked the Arawe Islands on 6 December (after weather forced them to abandon a target in the Cape Gloucester area). This was part of a massive pre-invasion aerial bombardment that greatly helped the attacking troops. The group also supported the landings in the Arawe area, hitting Ring Ring plantation on 13 December and the same area was hit on the following day. The group played a direct role in the landings at Cape Gloucester. A practice run on 24 December was a success, and on the day of the invasion the group carried out pre-invasion attacks on the beaches. On 29-30 December the group took part in an attack on the Japanese airfields at Gloucester, which fell to the Allies on 30 December.

1944

In January 1944 the group carried out a number of operations to support the invasion of the Admiralty Islands. The first came on 22 January and was followed by a thirty-eight aircraft raid on 24 January and took part in a larger raid on 25 January.

On 15 February 1944, to support the US landings on Nissan Island, the 345th took part in an attack on Kavieng town. A final attack was made on 21 February when the 500th and 501st Squadrons were the only ones from a larger force that were able to reach Kavieng. In the following month Kavieng was moved into the South Pacific area of operations, but the Japanese had already partially evacuated the area. The group then supported the landings on the Islands, providing constant patrols over the invasion beach where they could respond to orders from the command ship. The critical period of the invasion came on 1 March, and the 345th was still on call, helping to secure the beachhead.

On 19 March the group took part in an attack on a Japanese convoy attempting to return from a supply mission to Wewak. The group made a low-level attack on the undefended convoy, helping to inflict severe damage and convincing the Japanese to stop using Wewak as a port.

In the spring of 1944 the Fifth Air Force began a series of attacks on Hollandia, designed to neutralize that Japanese base. Between them the 38th and 345th Bombardment Groups had 131 operational B-25s out of 154 aircraft on 1 April, ready to take part in this campaign. On 3 April the group took part in the Fifth Air Force's largest raid to date, an attack on Wewak that involved several waves of attacks. The 38th and 345th took part in the third wave, a low-level sweep across the Japanese airfield at noon.

The group took part in the first large-scale daylight attacks on the Wakde and Biak area on 28 April 1944, carrying out a low-level attack on Sawar airfield. The Fifth Air Force had wanted to move the group forward to Hollandia before the invasions of Wakde and Biak, but this effort failed. The group eventually moved directly onto Biak after its capture, although from 14 June it did use Hollandia as a staging base for long range attacks against Japanese airfields on the Vogelkop peninsula. The move to Biak wasn't without its own problems, and for part of July the group spent most of its time acting as a cargo group, moving its own equipment forward. From Biak the group took part in a long range attack on Galela airfield, a Japanese base in Malmahera islands.

In the summer of 1944 the Fifth Air Force became to raid the southern Philippines. One of the 345th's earliest contributions was a raid on the Talaud Islands on 20 August, carried out to distract the Japanese while low-level photography was going on elsewhere.

By June 1944 the group was suffering heavily from combat fatigue. After nearly a year of operations only twenty-four of its seventy-six crews were considered to be ready to fly.

On 24 August 1944 the group took part in the first large-scale air attack on the Celebes, mainly focusing on Japanese shipping near the island.

On the night of 2/3 September 1944 six volunteer crews from the group attempted to carry out a long range attack on Davao harbour, but only one aircraft managed to reach the target to bomb without effect.

In November 1944 the group moved to Leyte to take part in the liberation of the Philippines. During the journey the group became the victim of kamikaze attacks. On the morning of 4 November two transport ships carrying the men of the group were hit. Ninety two members of the group were killed and 156 wounded, with 15 of the wounded dying before reaching hospital.

The group got some revenge on 9 November when four of its aircraft carried out an attack on a Japanese troop convoy heading for Leyte, damaging the cargo ships and preventing the reinforcements from the Japanese 26th Division from unloading most of their heavier equipment. On their return journey two of the three Japanese merchant ships were sunk by B-25s from the 38th Bombardment Group.

The aircraft followed the ground crew onto Leyte on 27 December and the group became operational that night, before making their first attack on Clark Field on 28 December and Tuguegarao airfield on 30 December.

1945

On 4 January 1945 the group attacked the airfields at Porac and Floridablanca (Philippines).

On 9 January 1945 the Americans landed at Lingayen, on the western coast of Luzon. At 9.30am (H-Hour) aircraft from the 345th were over the landing grounds, but after 45 minutes it was clear that they wouldn't be needed and they were sent to attack Japanese communications in the area.

In February 1945 the group took part in an attempt to stop a force consisting of two battleships, a cruiser and three destroyers that was attempting to reach Japan from Singapore. A first attack on 13 February was foiled by bad weather, as was the second and final attack on the following day.

On 15 February the group became operational at San Marcelino, in western Luzon, moving in much earlier than expected after the old US airfield was restored to use.

On 2 March 1945 the group attacked Toyohara airfield on Formosa.

On 15 March the group took part in a sweep of the seas around Hong Kong, helping damage a 4,500 ton merchant ship. A convoy was attacked off the Indo-China coast on 29 March, and sank two frigates and a 956 ton merchant ship.

On 4 April 1945 twelve aircraft from the group attacked Mako harbour on Formosa, claiming to have sunk or damaged six merchant ships. On 6 April a Japanese destroyer and two frigates were sunk, the destroyer having earlier shot down one aircraft from the 345th during a sweep over Yulin on 30 March. Formosa was the target again on 15 April when the group attacked Nanseiho and Osono airfields in the north of the island, and again on 10 May when a sugar refinery at Kari was destroyed.

The group was operational on Ie Shima by the end of July 1945. It flew a number of missions over the Sea of Japan and Kyushu before the fighting ended.

The group returned to the United States in December 1945 and was inactivated on 29 December.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942- North American B-25 Mitchell

Timeline

3 September 1942 Constituted as 345th Bombardment Group (Medium)
8 September 1942 Activated
April-June 1943 To New Guinea and Fifth Air Force
30 June 1943 Combat debut
December 1945 To United States
29 December 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col Jarred V Crabb: 11 Nov 1942
Col Clinton U True: 19 Sep 1943
Col Chester A Coltharp: 9 Jun 1944
Col Glenn A Doolittle: 28 Jun 1945- unkn.

Main Bases

Columbia AAB, SC: 8 Sep 1942
Walterboro AAFld, SC: 6 Mar-16 Apr 1943
Port Moresby, New Guinea: 5 Jun 1943
Dobodura, New Guinea: 18 Jan 1944
Nadzab, New Guinea: c. 16 Feb 1944
Biak: Jul 1944
Leyte: 12 Nov 1944
Dulag, Leyte: Dec 1944
Tacloban, Leyte: c. 1 Jan 1945
San Marcelino, Luzon: 13 Feb 1945
Clark Field, Luzon: 12 May 1945
Ie Shima: 25 Jul-10 Dec 1945
Camp Stoneman, Calif: 27-29 Dec 1945

Component Units

498th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1954-
499th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1954-
500th Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1954-
501st Bombardment Squadron: 1942-45; 1954-

Assigned To

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 October 2013), 345th Bombardment Group, USAAF , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/345th_Bombardment_Group.html

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