340th Bombardment Squadron
341st Bombardment Squadron - Heavy
342nd Bombardment Squadron -Heavy
414th Bombardment Squadron – Heavy ( incl. W.L. Ross )
VIII BC 20 May 1942
VIII BC, 1 BW Aug 1942
POLEBROOK 13 Jun 1942 to 25
GRAFTON UNDERWOOD 6 Jun 1942 to 8 Sep 1942
Col. Cornelius W. Cousland
3 Feb 1942 to 29 Jul 1942
Col. Frank A. Armstrong 31 Jul 1942 to 27 Sep 1942
Col. Joseph H. Atkinson 27 Sep 1942 to 5 Jan 1943
First Mission: 17 Aug 1942
Last Mission: 21 Oct 1942
Total Sorties: 247
Total Bomb Tonnage: 395 Tons
Aircraft MIA: 14
Flew 8th AFs first heavy bomber mission from
Activated 3 February 1942
at MacDill Field Fl. formed and trained there until end of March 1942 when the
unit moved to Sarosota AAB, Fl for training. Went overseas on the 15th of May
1942, with the aircraft of the 340th, and 341st BSs flying to Dow Field in,
The first USAAF Flying Fortress (B-17E
serial number 41-9085) arrived at Prestwick in
Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress, “Yankee Doodle,” 414th Squadron, 97th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force
On August 19, twenty four Fortresses took part in an attack on the German airfield at Abbeville in support of the disastrous raid at Dieppe. All planes returned safely to base, but the landing force at Dieppe was decimated.
The next ten raids went fairly well, with only two planes being lost.
Deteriorating weather and the needs of the
North African front caused a change in plans, and most of the Eighth Air Force
B-17s had to be diverted to the fight against Rommel. The two most experienced
bomber groups, the 97th and 301st were committed to *Operation Torch* as the
nucleus of the newly-formed Twelfth Air Force. On September 20, 1942, General James (Jimmy)
Doolittle formed the nucleus of the 12th Air Force in
Brigadier General Jimmy Doolittle with WWI Ace Eddie Rickenbacker and Ernest Hemingway
Major General Jimmy Doolittle (right) Commanding General of the Twelfth Air Force in
Assigned the 12th AF, XII
BC, 14 September 1942, but continued to operate under VIII BC. The main part of
the aircraft left Polebrook on the 18th of November 1942 for Hurn, prior to
flying directly to North Africa. The ground unit sailed in convoy late in
November 1942. Operations in the Mediterranean theater with the 12th Air Force
for a year, then the group established in Italy as part of the 15th Air Force.
The unit flew the first shuttle mission to Russia from Italy. Attacking targets
chiefly in southern
The unit was established as a B-29 group in the states in 1946, and served as a Strategic Air Command wing for over 20 years.
* Bombers Over North Africa (1942 Black & White 22:00) This is a rare look at early war US Air Operations in North Africa. B-25 and B-17 bombers of the 321st and 97th Bomb Group help cut off Rommel's retreat from Tunisia. Part of the "North West African Strategic Air Force," these groups were initially tasked with preventing men and material from reaching the Afrika Korps, and later with preventing them from escaping. The missions for the day of this film were to strike from bases in Algeria at the junction at Manouba, near Tunis, and the air field at Sidi Ahmed, near Bizerte, where a large number of extremely valuable JU 52 transports were based, a key element in German evacuation plans. (Ironically, the 321st would soon occupy Sidi Ahmed as their new base for the Sicilian campaign.) The film features an introduction by the theater commander, then 4 star General, Dwight Eisenhower and an afterword by Air Operations Commanding General "Jimmy" Doolittle. Perhaps most memorably, this film is notable for it's extended "up close and personal" look at the men of the 97th & 321st BGs. You'll see real pre mission and after action debriefing sessions with the men who flew them, including a B-17 crew's account of an FW 190 shoot down and the water ditching of a heavily damaged B-25.
At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and United States President Franklin Roosevelt reorganized the Mediterranean air forces naming RAF Air Chief Marshall Arthur W. Tedder as Air Commander in Chief of the new Mediterranean Air Command (Allied). Both British and American officers became part of the new command structure with the intent of forcing international cooperation. According to "Vol. II, AAF in WWII," this is the new organization as of 17 Feb 1943:
Churchill in N. Africa bomb mission briefing from W.L. Ross
Mediterranean Air Command (Allied)
Air Chief Marshal Lord Arthur Tedder
Northwest African Air Forces
Lt Gen Carl Spaatz
Northwest African Tactical Air Forces
Air Vice Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham
Northwest African Strategic Air Force
Maj Gen James Doolittle (famed for B-25 raid on Tokyo after Pearl Harbor)
Northwest African Coastal Air Force
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Lloyd
Northwest African Training Command
Maj Gen John K. Cannon
Northwest African Air Service Command
Maj Gen Delmar H. Dunton
Northwest African Photographic Reconnaissance Wing
Lt. Col. Elliot Roosevelt
Later was added:
Northwest African Troop Carrier Command
Brig Gen Paul L. Williams
Here is an excellent historical link regarding this period:
The Army Air Force in Northwest Africa
Strategic Attacks on Airfields, April 1943
Attacks on enemy airfields by the Strategic Air Force opened with a 4 April assault on Capodichino by 27 B-17's. Next day, strikes were delivered against Bo Rizzo, Bocca di Falco, and Milo. Others followed on Castelvetrano, Decimomannu, Monserrato, Elmas, and Villacidro. The damage was widespread, particularly on parked aircraft. Later in the month repeat attacks were made, and Grosseto and Alghero were added. the Ninth Air Force made one attack on Bari airdrome, covered the field with craters, and set fire to the buildings. The total bombs dropped in April, including those of the Tactical Air Force, were 3,675 tons; previous to April the total tonnage dropped by Northwest African Air Forces was only 2,253 tons.
On 4 April
Complete statistics of Axis vessels sunk or damaged are hard to arrive at, as accounts differ widely without giving the bases of decisions. RAF Middle East Review (no. 3, p.24) states that in April 20 ships were sunk, 16 severely damaged, and 32 damaged; this figure apparently refers to the results of attacks on Axis harbors and at sea, and must apply only to sizeable ships.
General Patton's advance on
Gafsa began before General Montgomery's push toward the Mareth Line, but the
two movements soon merged into one. On 17 March the
The XII Air Support Command was active in breaking the way, and for the first time light and medium bombers in 18-aircraft formations rendezvoused with fighters and blasted targets. On the 19th a full-dress air attack was commenced by Tactical Bomber Force on Tebaga and Gabes landing grounds, and during the next two days Strategic also delivered maximum-weight strikes. Spitfires covered the returning bombers and spread havoc among pursuing Messerschmitts. Fragmentation bombs were employed, and experiments were conducted to determine the best bombing patterns to use in order to destroy aircraft on the ground. The object of interdicting the use of the Axis air forces against the Eighth Army was almost perfectly attained; in these days only five enemy aircraft appeared over the Eighth Army in offensive roles.
The bombing of German-held southern Tunisian airfields was almost continuous; those well were covered every 15 minutes on the 22d while the Desert Air Force was attacking the Ksar-Rhilane position. By 7 April the enemy had abandoned the forward airdromes, and combined assaults by Tactical and Desert Air Forces soon forced his aircraft out Sfax.
General Montgomery launched
his frontal attack on the Mareth Line on the night of 20-21 March, well preceded
by night bombers. It took two days to make good the crossing of the Oued
Zigzaou, the natural tank obstacle on Rommel's front.
The key to General
Montgomery's strategy was a "left hook" to Rommel's right near El
Hamma, which was delivered by the
Tactical Cooperation 8-13 May 1943
The ground situation was
changing too rapidly during the drive on
The important sector,
however, was to the east, where large forces might reach the
by 10 May, with the enemy surrounded, no appreciable armed forces had reached the peninsula. From that day until the final surrender on 13 May, our air power was active against ground targets, but only to keep the pressure on until the end. Isolated pockets were attacked upon Army request. The last operation in the North African campaign was an attack by Western Desert Air Force bombers on the remaining enemy pocket north of Enfidaville.
The Tactical Bomber Force
1. That fighter-bombers were better suited than mediums for close cooperation, and that they could better utilize forward airfield space.
2. That medium bombers were better adapted to close-in strategic bombing, which is uneconomical for heavies and beyond the range of fighter-bombers.
3. That formation leaders should make reconnaissance flights to areas scheduled for attack.
During the campaign from 18 February to 11 May, less than three months, Tactical Air Force units completed 59,000 sorties, destroying 572 enemy aircraft, more than 500 motor vehicles, and 33 miscellaneous ships. These same units supplied the greatest weight of air attack ever undertaken in cooperation with ground forces up to that time.
In May one of the air
forces' chief tasks was to interdict escape of the beaten Axis forces from
On the 6th, Strategic sank
six Siebel ferries and four other small boats, and damaged five; all were
Map from 12th Air Force advance from
For the remainder of the
campaign numerous Sicilian and Sardinian ports were bombed, chief among them
On the 13th
With Axis aircraft now