44th Bombardment Group

Constituted as 44th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 20 Nov 1940. Activated on 15 Jan 1941. Trained with B-24's. Became an operational training unit in Feb 1942. Also served on antisubmarine duty. In Jul 1942 began intensive preparations for combat. Moved to England, Aug-Oct 1942, for service with Eighth AF. Operations consisted primarily of assaults against strategic targets in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy Rumania, Austria, Poland, and Sicily. Pounded submarine installations, industrial establishments, airfields, harbors, shipyards, and other objectives in France and Germany, Nov 1942-Jun 1943. Received a DUC for an extremely hazardous mission against naval installations at Kiel on 14 May 1943: with its B-24's carrying incendiaries to be dropped after three B-17 groups had released high explosive bombs, the 44th flew in the wake of the main formation; thus the B-24's were particularly vulnerable because they had no protection from fire power of the main force, and this vulnerability increased when the group had to open its own formation for the attack; but the 44th blanketed the target with incendiaries in spite of the concentrated flak and continuous interceptor attacks it encountered. Late in Jun 1943 a large detachment moved to North Africa to help facilitate the invasion of Sicily by bombing airfields and marshalling yards in Italy. The detachment also participated in the famous low-level raid on the Ploesti oil fields on 1 Aug 1943. The group was awarded a DUC for its part in this raid and its commander, Col Leon Johnson, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his daring and initiative in leading his men into smoke, flame, and alerted fighter and antiaircraft opposition over the target, which already had been bombed in error by another group. Before returning to England at the end of Aug, the detachment bombed an aircraft factory in Austria and supported ground forces in Sicily. In Sep the group struck airfields in Holland and France and convoys in the North Sea. Also in Sep, a detachment was sent to North Africa to support the Salerno operations. The detachment returned to England in Oct and from Nov 1943 to Apr 1945, the entire group carried out operations against targets in western Europe, concentrating on airfields, oil installations, and marshalling yards. Took part in the intensive campaign of heavy bombers against the German aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944. Sometimes flew support and interdictory missions. Struck airfields, railroads, and V-weapon sites in preparation for the Normandy invasion; supported the invasion in Jun 1944 by attacking strong points in the beachhead area and transportation targets behind the front lines. Aided the Caen offensive and the St Lo breakthrough in Jul. Dropped food, ammunition, and other supplies to troops engaged in the airborne attack on Holland in Sep. Helped to check the enemy offensive during the Battle of the Bulge, Dec 1944-Jan 1945, by striking bridges, tunnels, choke points, rail and road junctions, and communications in the battle area. Attacked airfields and transportation in support of the advance into Germany, and flew a resupply mission during the airborne assault across the Rhine in Mar 1945. Flew last combat mission on 25 Apr 1945. Returned to the US in Jun 1945. Redesignated 44th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in Aug 1945. Trained with B-29's. Assigned to Strategic Air Command on 21 Mar 1946. Inactivated on 12 Jul 1946.

Activated on 1 Jul 1947. Assigned to Strategic Air Command. Not manned during 1947 and 1948. Inactivated on 6 Sep 1948.

Redesignated 44th Bombardment Group (Medium). Activated on 2 Jan 1951. Assigned to Strategic Air Command and equipped with B-29's. Inactivated on 16 Jun 1952.

Squadrons. 66th: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952. 67th: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952. 68th: 1941-1946; 1947-1948; 1951-1952. 404th: 1942. 506th: 1943-1946.

Stations. MacDill Field, Fla, 15 Jan 1941; Barksdale Field, La, Feb 1942; Will Rogers Field, Okla, Jul-c. 28 Aug 1942; Shipham, England, Oct 1942-c. 15 Jun 1945; Sioux Falls AAFld, SD, c. 27 Jun 1945; Great Bend AAFld, Kan, 25 Jul 1945; Smoky Hill AAFld, Kan, 14 Dec 1945-12 Jul 1946. Andrews Field, Md, 1 Jul 1947-6 Sep 1948. March AFB, Calif, 2 Jan 1951; Lake Charles AFB, La, c. 1 Aug 1951-16 Jun 1952.

Commanders. Lt Col Melvin B Asp, c. 15 Jan 1941; Lt Col Hugo P Rush, May 1941; Col F H Robinson, c. 1 Apr 1942; Col Leon W Johnson, c. 15 Jan 1943; Lt Col James T Posey, c. 3 Sep 1943; Col Frederick R Dent, Dec 1943; Col John H Gibson, c. 1 Apr 1944; Col Eugene H Snavely, Aug 1944; Col Vernon C Smith, Apr 1945-unkn; Lt Col Henry C Coles, c. 6 Aug 1945; Col William Cain Jr, c. 30 Aug 1945; Lt Col James F Starkey, c. 8 Jan 1946-unkn. Unkn, 1947-1948. Col Howell M Estes Jr, Feb 1951; Col Carlos Cochrane, 7 Mar 1951-16 Jun 1952.

Campaigns. Antisubmarine, American Theater; Air Combat, EAME Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe.

Decorations. Distinguished Unit Citations: Kiel, Germany, 14 May 1943; Ploesti, Rumania, 1 Aug 1943.

Insigne. Shield: Azure, a bomb, point downward, between eight stars, four and four, or, all bendwise. Motto: Aggressor Beware. (Approved 15 May 1951.)

Data from Air Force Combat Units of World War II By Maurer, Maurer, Published 1986

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