498th Bombardment Group

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History

The 498th Bombardment Group was a B-29 group that was based on Saipan and operated against Japan from late in 1944 until the end of the Second World War.

The 498th was formed in November 1943 as part of the 73rd Bombardment Wing, the second B-29 combat wing to be formed. The group was originally meant to accompany the 58th Bombardment Wing to India, but that plan was abandoned in April 1944 and instead the wing was assigned to the Mariana Islands.

Saipan was captured after a battle that lasted from 15 June to 9 July 1944. Work on airfields for the B-29s began well before the Japanese had been defeated, and between 24 June and 6 August a 6,000ft long by 150ft wide runway had been completed at Isley Field. The first elements of the 73rd Bombardment Wing arrived on 24 August, and the four bombardment groups soon followed. The 498th was the first group to arrive, officially taking up residence on 6 September.

On 28 October the 497th and 498th Groups took part in the wing's first combat mission, sending eighteen B-29s to bomb Truk. Fourteen aircraft bombed the Dublon submarine pens, with the 498th getting a quarter of its bombs in the right area. The 497th and 498th returned to Truk again on 30 October, although this time poor weather obscured the target. A third raid against Truk on 2 November was also unsuccessful.

The next target for the group was Iwo Jima, which was hit on 5 and 8 November.

On 24 November the wing carried out its first attack against Tokyo, aiming at the major aircraft engine factory at Musashi. This mission, code named San Antonio I, was very carefully planned, although bad weather on Saipan delayed it for a week from its original date of 17 November. All four of the wing's groups were involved and 111 B-29s took off from Saipan. The Japanese managed to put up around 125 fighters, but there was only one success, when one fighter appeared to ram a B-29 in the tail. Only 24 aircraft actually bombed Musashi, with another 64 hitting other parts of Tokyo. Overall the wing lost two aircraft destroyed and another 11 were damaged (three by friendly fire).

After this first raid the wing spent the next four months carrying out high level daylight precision raids against Japanese aircraft factories. These didn't have the expected result, and XXI Bomber Command began to experiment with low-level incendiary raids. The last of the high altitude attacks on the aircraft industry was another failed raid on Musashi on 4 March. After this General LeMay, commander of XXI Bomber Command, decided to shift to night incendiary bombing, beginning with a raid on Tokyo on the night of 9/10 March. The new tactic was a dramatic success - losses dropped as the Japanese fighter force struggled to deal with night fighting and Japan's cities burned. The group focuses on low level night bombing for the rest of the war.

The group was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations. The first came during the daytime period and was for a raid on an aircraft engine factory at Nagoya on 13 December 1944. The second was for nighttime raids against Kobe and Osaka in June 1945.

The group returned to the United States in November 1945. It was assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946, but was inactivated on 4 August.

Books

 

Aircraft

Nov 1943-: Boeing B-29 Superfortress

Timeline

19 Nov 1943 Constituted as 498th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy)
20 Nov 1943 Activated
Jul-Nov 1944 To Saipan and Twentieth Air Force
Nov 1945 To US
21 March 1946 To Strategic Air Command
4 August 1946 Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Lt. Col Joseph H West: 11 Dec 1943
Maj Crocker Snow: 20 Jan 1944
Col Wiley D Ganey: 14 Mar 1944
Col Donald W Saunders: 10 Aug 1945- unkn
Col Richard T King Jr: unkn-4 Aug 1946

Main Bases

Clovis AAFld, NM: 20 Nov 1943
Great Bend AAFld, Kan: 13 Apr- 13 Jul 1944
Isley Field, Saipan: 6 Sep 1944-2 Nov 1945
March Field, Calif: Dec 1945
MacDill Field, Fla: 5 Jan-4 Aug 1946

Component Units

514th Bombardment Squadron : 1945-1946
873d Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946
874th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946
875th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1946
876th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1944

Assigned To

November 1943-July 1944: XX Bomber Command; Second Air Force (US)
November 1944-July 1945: XXI Bomber Command; Twentieth Air Force (Saipan)
July 1945-1946: Twentieth Air Force (Saipan)

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 April 2014), 498th Bombardment Group , http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/USAAF/498th_Bombardment_Group.html

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