444th Bombardment Group, USAAF

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History

The 444th Bombardment Group was a B-29 group that operated against Japan, first using bases in India and staging posts in China and then from Tinian.

The group was activated as the 444th Bombardment Group (Heavy) in March 1943 and trained with a mix of B-17s, B-25s and B-26s. In November 1943 it became the 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) and began to train with the B-29 Superfortress.

Between March and April 1944 the group moved from the US to India via Africa, and on 29 June 1944 was allocated to the Twentieth Air Force. The group's first task was to fly supplies over the 'Hump' into China, so that it could operate against Japanese targets.

XX Bomber Command carried out its first B-29 combat mission on 5 June 1944, an attack on Bangkok that was partly designed to discover if the groups were ready for action. Each aircraft had a gross take-off weight of 134,000 pounds, too heavy for the 444th's temporary base at Charra, so the group's aircraft had to take off with a lighter load at their home base then stage through the other three airfields in use by the command where they were topped up to full weight. The raid was almost unopposed, which was fortunate as the bomber formation had collapsed well before the target was reached. Five aircraft were lost across the entire force. Accuracy wasn't impressive, but for a first mission with a new aircraft it was judged to have been fairly successful.

On 15 June 1944 the group took part in the first AAF attack on the Japanese Home Islands since the Doolittle raid, carried out in a great hurry in an attempt to lift some pressure on the Chinese. The 444th staged through Kwanghan. Once again opposition was limited, and only six B-29s were damaged over the target, none of them seriously (from the entire force, not just the 444th). The attack was carried out at night, and only one hit was scored on the main target, a massive steel plant, but the real significance of the mission was that Japan was now vulnerable.

After that it operated against industrial, transport and naval targets across Burma, China, Thailand, Formosa and Japan. In August 1944 the group carried out a daylight raid on an iron and steel works at Yawata, Japan, and was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for the mission.

In January 1945 the group was forced to evacuate the staging fields in China, reducing its effective range. It operated from India for a short period, attacking targets in Thailand and dropping mines around Singapore. The first mine laying mission involved the 444th, 462nd and 468th Bombardment Groups and took place on the night of 25-26 January. Six mine fields were laid around Singapore, and this was where the 444th operated.

In March-April 1945 the group moved from India, to West Field, Tinian. This brought it back into the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, and it spent most of the rest of the war in a mix of targets on specific industrial targets and incendiary raids on urban areas. It was awarded two more DUCs for its actions. One was awarded for raids on oil storage at Oshima, an aircraft factory at Kobe and an incendiary raid on Nagoya, all in May 1945. The second was for an attack on the light metal industry at Osaka in July 1945.

The group returned to the US towards the end of 1945. On 21 March 1946 it became part of Strategic Air Command, but was inactivated on 1 October 1946.

Books

 

Aircraft

March 1943-1944: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Martin B-26 Marauder
1944 onwards: Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Timeline

15 Feb 1943 Constituted as 444th Bombardment Group (Heavy)
1 March 1943 Activated
November 1943 Redesignated 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
Mar-April 1944 To India via Africa
29 June 1944 Assigned to Twentieth Air Force
15 June 1944 First raid on Japanese Home Islands
April 1945 To Tinian
September 1945 To US
21 March 1946 Assigned to Strategic Air Command
1 Oct 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Maj Arthur T(?) Snell: 28 Mar 1943
Maj Walter W Cross: 17 Apr 1943
Col Aha L Harvey: 5 Aug 1943
Col Henry R Sullivan: 22 Apr 1945
Col James C Selser Jr: 3 Jun 1945-1 Oct 1946.

Main Bases

Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz: 1 Mar 1943
Great Bend AAFld, Kan: 29 Jul 1943-12 Mar 1944
Charra, India: 11 Apr 1944
Dudhkundi, India: 1 Jul 1944-1 Mar 1945
West Field, Tinian: 7 Apr-28 Sep 1945
Merced AAFld, Calif: 15 Nov 1945
Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz: 6 May-1 Oct 1946

Component Units

344th Bombardment Squadron: 1945-1946
409th Bombardment Squadron: 1946.
676th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946.
677th Bombardment Squadron: 1943- 1946.
678th (later 10th) Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946'
679th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1944.
825th Bombardment Squadron: 1945.

Assigned To

1943-1944: 58th Bombardment Wing; XX Bomber Command, Second Air Force (Training in US)
June 1944-March 1945 : 58th Bombardment Wing; XX Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (India)
April-September 1945: 58th Bombardment Wing; XXI Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (Tinian)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 February 2014), 444th Bombardment Group, USAAF , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/444th_Bombardment_Group.html

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