376th Bombardment Group, USAAF

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History

The 376th Bombardment Group was a heavy bomber unit that was formed in the Mediterranean theatre and remained there until the spring of 1945, fighting in North Africa, Italy and raiding across the southern part of the Nazi Empire.

The group was constituted on 19 October 1942 and activated in Palestine on 31 October, using B-24 Liberator aircraft that were already in the theatre. The 376th emerged from a plan to operate an Anglo-American Air Force in the Caucasus to aid the Russians. When this was abandoned the preparations were used instead to create the 376th. The new group joined the Ninth Air Force, which was operating from the Middle East in support of the British army in Egypt and the Western Desert.

The group started with attacks on harbours and shipping in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, as part of the efforts to isolate the Axis troops in Tunisia.

On 21 November the group took part in the first major raid on Tripoli, where it attacked the main mole in the harbour.

On 15 December the group made the Ninth Air Force's first attack on the ports in Tunisia that were now the main source of supplies for the Axis forces in North Africa, destroying the roundhouse at Sfax.

After the fall of Tripoli the Ninth Air Force's heavy bombers concentrated most of their efforts against Naples, Messina and Palermo in an attempt to cut the supply routes to Tunisia. At first the 376th started each raid from Egypt and used Gambut as a staging post, but in January 1943 the group moved to LG 139 near Gambut, cutting 600 miles off each raid. This would be a short-lived base, and in February the group moved to Soluch, south of Bengasi. This airfield had an unsurfaced landing strip, and so in April the group moved again, this time to Berka No.2, where British engineers had built a hard runway.

A week after this move the group began a series of raids on Catania harbour, responding to a fresh outbreak of German activity.

Consolidated B-24 Liberators for Yugoslav Airmen
Consolidated B-24 Liberators
for Yugoslav Airmen

The group took part in Operation Tidelwave, the attack on the oil facilities at Ploesti on 1 August 1943. It was the lead group and was to attack the Romana Americana refinery. The plan was for the 376th to fly to Floresti and then turn right, head south-east to hit Ploesti from the north-west then turn south-west to return home. Unfortunately the group leader turned at Targoviste, a town west of Floresti. The 376th was followed by the 93rd but not by the 44th or 98th. The 376th and 93rd flew on until they reached Bucharest. Only then did they realise that they had gone wrong, and turned north. At the outskirts of Ploesti the 376th was deflected by heavy AA fire, turned east and then north to try and get around the defences. Eventually General Ent, commanding the raid in the air, ordered the group to attack targets of opportunity. Six of the group's aircraft did hit the Concordia Vega facility and the rest were in the right general area.

On 13 August the group took part in a raid on Wiener Neustadt, a blow against the German aircraft industry.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its actions in the Middle East, North Africa and Sicily between November 1942 and August 1943 and a second DUC for the Ploesti raid.

In August-September 1943 the Ninth Air Force was shut down in the Mediterranean and the HQ was returned to Britain, where it became the core of a virtually new force that would be the American contribution to the tactical air forces at D-Day. The 376th, along with many other existing Ninth Air Force units, remained in the Mediterranean and joined the Twelfth Air Force. This force would be responsible for US tactical air power during the campaign in Italy.

In November 1943 the 376th moved to the Fifteenth Air Force, which controlled the strategic bombing campaign from the Mediterranean. It now concentrated on longer range raids against transport and industrial targets in Italy, France, German, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans, allowing the Allies to hit targets out of range of the Eighth Air Force in Britain.

On 6-7 February 1944 the Luftwaffe made a rare appearance in strength. In response the 376th took part in a major attack against Viterbo, Tarquinia and Orvieto airfields.

In February-March 1944 the group operated in support of the troops at Anzio and Cassino.

On 28 March the group took part in the Fifteenth's first 1,000 ton raid, one of seven large raids on transport targets in northern Italy to be carried out in late March as part of wider Allied efforts to isolate the German front line in Italy.

On 17 May the group took part in another large scale attack on transport, this time an attack on three important Italian harbours (Piombion, San Stefano and Elba/ Porto Ferraio).

The group received a third DUC for a raid on the oil facilities at Bratislava on 16 June 1944.

In August the group supported Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France.

In the autumn of 1944 it operated in support of Soviet forces as they invaded Balkans.

In April 1945 the group supported Allied troops fighting in northern Italy.

In the same month the group was withdraw to the United States, where it was redesignated as the 376th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), presumably as part of a plan to move it to the Pacific theatre, but the war ended before this happened and the group was inactivated in the United States on 10 November 1945.

Books

To Follow

Aircraft

1942-1945: Consolidated B-24 Liberator

Timeline

19 October 1942 Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
31 October 1942 Activated in Palestine with Ninth Air Force
September 1943 To Twelfth Air Force
November 1943 To Italy and Fifteenth Air Force
April 1945 To United States
May 1945 Redesignated 376th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
10 November 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Col George F McGuire: 1 Nov 1942
Col Keith K Compton: 20 Feb 1943
Col Theodore Q Graff: c. 9 Jan 1944
Lt Col Richard W Fellows: 10 Jul 1944
Col Theodore Q Graff: 29 Sep 1944
Col Robert H Warren: 22 Feb 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Lydda, Palestine: 31 Oct 1942
Abu Sueir, Egypt: 8 Nov 1942
Gambut, Libya: c. Jan 1943
Soluch, Libya: 22 Feb 1943
Bengasi, Libya: c. 6 Apr 1943
Enfidaville, Tunisia: 26 Sep 1943
San Pancrazio, Italy: c. 17 Nov 1943-19 Apr 1945
Harvard AAFld, Neb: 8 May 1945
Grand Island AAFld, Neb: 25 Jun-Io Nov 1945

Component Units

512th: 1942-1945; 1947; 1951-1952
513th: 1942-1945; 1947; 1951- 1952
514th: 1342-1945; 1951-1952
515th: 1942-1945.

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 1943-1945; 47th Bombardment Wing; Fifteenth Air Force (Italy)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 October 2013), 376th Bombardment Group: 1942-43, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/376th_Bombardment_Group.html

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