39th Bombardment Group

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The 39th Bombardment Group began the Second World War as a training unit before becoming a B-29 Superfortress unit and taking part in the strategic bombing campaign against Japan.

The group was formed in January 1941 and was equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress. It joined the Second Air Force and flew patrols off the north-west coast of the US after the attack on Pearl Harbor. During 1942 the group converted to the B-24 Liberator, and became an Operational Training Unit. It later became a replacement training unit, but on 1 April 1944 the group was inactivated and reformed as a Very Heavy Bombardment group, equipped with the B-29.

The 39th moved to Guam early in 1945 to join the Twentieth Air Force. Its first mission was an attack on Maug in early April and its first attack on the Japanese Home Islands was an attack on the Hodagaya Chemical Plant at Koriyuama. In April-May 1945 the group focused on attacks on airfields in an attempt to stop the kamikaze attacks on the fleet off Okinawa. From mid-May until the end of the war the group flew a mix of attacks on industrial and military targets and low level incendiary attacks on urban areas.

The group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for an attack on the Otake oil refinery and storage facilities on Honshu in May 1945, and a second one for attacks on the Yokohama industrial and dock areas and industrial areas at Tokyo from 23-29 May.

After the end of the war the group was used to fly food to prisoners of war and to make show-of-force flights over Japan. It returned to the United States late in 1945 and was inactivated on 27 December 1945.


To Follow


1941-42: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
1942-44: Consolidated B-24 Liberator
1944-45: Boeing B-29 Superfortress


20 November 1940 Constituted as 39th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
15 January 1941 Activated and assigned to Second Air Force
1 April 1944 Inactivated
1 April 1944 Redesignated 39th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
Early 1945 To Guam and Twentieth Air Force
April 1945 Combat Debut
December 1945 To United States
27 December 1945 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Maj Newton Longfellow: 15 Jan 1941
Capt Maurice A Preston: 1 Feb 1941
Lt Col Elmer E Adler: 17 Mar 1941
Capt George W Hansen: 13 May 1941
Maj Charles B Overacker Jr: 12 Nov 1941
Lt Col George W Hansen: 25 Jan 1942
Col James H Wallace: 16 Feb 1942
Col Fay R Upthegrove, 12 Jul 1942
Lt Col Samuel C Mitchell, 13 Sep 1942:
Maj Marden M Munn: 17 Dec 1942
Lt Col Horace D Aynesworth: 1 Mar 1943
Lt Col Charles A Watt: 1 Jul 1943
Lt Col Frank R Pancake: 25 Nov 1943
Col Clyde K Rich: 1 Dec 1943-1 Apr 1944
Capt Claude J Hilton: 28 Apr 1944
Maj Gordon R Willis: 6 May 1944
Maj Campbell Weir: 11 May 1944
Lt Col Robert W Strong Jr: 10 Jun 1944
Col Potter B Paige: 15 Jun 1944
Col John G Fowler: 22 Feb 1945
Col George W Mundy: 16 Mar 1945
Col James E Roberts: 16 Aug 1945
Lt Col James C Thompson: 9 Oct 1945
Col Robert J Mason: 13 Oct 1945-unkn

Main Bases

Ft Douglas, Utah: 15 Jan 1941
Geiger Field, Wash: 2 Jul 1941
Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz: 5 Feb 1942-1 Apr 1944
Smoky Hill AAFld, Kan: 1 Apr 1944-8 Jan 1945
North Field, Guam: 18 Feb-17 Nov 1945
Camp Anza, Calif: 15-27 Dec 1945

Component Units

60th Bombardment Squadron: 1941-44; 1944-45
61st Bombardment Squadron: 1941-44; 1944-45
62nd Bombardment Squadron: 1941-44; 1944-45
402nd Bombardment Squadron: 1942-44; 1944

Assigned To

1941: 5th Bombardment Wing; Second Air Force
April-December 1944: 314th Bombardment Wing; XXI Bomber Command; Second Air Force (Training in US)
December 1944-1946: 314th Bombardment Wing; XXI Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (20 March 2013), 39th Bombardment Group, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/39th_Bombardment_Group.html

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