15th Bombardment Squadron
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|15th Bombardment Squadron|
Emblem of the 15th Bombardment Squadron
|Branch||United States Army Air Force|
The 15th Bombardment Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the Twelfth Air Force, based at Nouvion Airfield, Algeria. It was inactivated on 1 October 1943.
On 4 July 1942, crews and aircraft of the 15th Bombardment Squadron were first USAAF unit to bomb targets in Occupied Europe.
The squadron was initially activated as part of the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) at Barksdale Field, Louisiana in 1940. It was reassigned to V Air Support Command in late 1941 and stationed at Fort Dix Army Airfield, New Jersey. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the unit as assigned to flying antisubmarine patrols over the New York and New Jersey coasts.
Reassigned to Lawson Field, Georgia and manned in May 1942 by personnel of its original unit, (inactivated 27th Bombardment Group (Light)) who had fought in the Philippines Campaign (1941–42) and Dutch East Indies and New Guinea Campaigns. The squadron was reassigned to Eighth Air Force, arriving at RAF Grafton Underwood on 12 May, then to RAF Molesworth on 9 June. Under Eighth Air Force, the airmen were organized as the 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light) and equipped with the British Boston III light bomber, receiving their aircraft from No. 226 Squadron RAF.
After a few weeks of familiarization training with the new aircraft, on July 4, 1942, six American crews from the 15th Bomb Squadron joined with six RAF crews from RAF Swanton Morley for a low-level attack on Luftwaffe airfields in the Netherlands, becoming the first USAAF unit to bomb targets in Europe. The 4th of July raid had been specifically ordered by General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold and approved by President Roosevelt. Arnold believed that the 4th of July would be an ideal day for the USAAF to open its strategic bombing campaign against the Nazis, but General Carl Spaatz did not have any of his heavy Eighth Air Force bomb groups ready for operational missions. Two of the 15th's planes did not return from the mission, along with one RAF aircraft. The squadron commander, Capt. Charles Kegelman, plane was shot up badly and almost did not return.
Spaatz considered the mission a "stunt" triggered by pressure in the American press who believed the people of both the United States and Great Britain needed a psychological boost. However, Kegleman was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and its British equivalent for his valor on that Fourth of July mission—the first Eighth Air Force airman to receive the nation's second highest combat decoration.
The 15th flew most of its missions from Molesworth in its British Bostons, and did not receive USAAF Douglas A-20 Havoc aircraft until 5 September. The squadron was transferred to RAF Podington on 15 September where it flew a few missions before being transferred to Twelfth Air Force for support of Allied landings in North Africa on 15 October.
In North Africa, the squadron was assigned to the Northwest African Training Command where its combat veterans provided advanced training in ground air support with A-20s and later North American A-36 Apaches at several airfields throughout 1943. It was inactivated at Médiouna Airfield, Algeria on 1 October 1943 and its crews and aircraft were absorbed into the 47th Bombardment Group.
During its period of existence, the 15th Bombardment Squadron had earned a unique but sometimes forgotten place in Air Force history.
- Constituted 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 22 December 1939
- Activated on 1 February 1940
- Redesignated: 1st Pursuit Squadron (Night Fighter) on 1 April 1942
- Redesignated: 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on 7 May 1942
- Disbanded on 1 October 1943.
- 27th Bombardment Group, 1 February 1940
- V Air Support Command, 14 October 1941–unknown
- VIII Bomber Command, 14 May 1942
- Twelfth Air Force, 14 September 1942-1 October 1943
- Atttached to Northwest African Training Command, 18 February 1943
- Curtiss A-18 Shrike, 1940
- Douglas A-20 Havoc, 1941–1943
- Douglas DB-7 Boston, 1942
- North American A-36 Apache, 1943.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.