444th Air Expeditionary Wing
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (November 2012)|
|444th Air Expeditionary Wing|
444th Bombardment Group Insignia
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Part of||Twentieth Air Force|
|Garrison/HQ||Pacific Ocean Theater of World War II|
|Motto||Per Victoriam Ad Libertatem:
LIBERTY THROUGH VICTORY
China Burma India, Asiatic-Pacific,
The 444th Air Expeditionary Wing was a United States Air Force provisional unit possibly allocated to Air Materiel Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF). The composition and stationing of the unit was never officially disclosed, and it was inactivated after the invasion of Iraq was completed.
During World War II, the 444th Bombardment Group was a United States Army Air Forces combat organization. It was inactivated on 1 October 1946. During World War II the group was the first B-29 Superfortress Group formed for the elite 58th Bombardment Wing, and served primarily in the Pacific Ocean theater and China Burma India Theater of World War II as part of the Twentieth Air Force. The group's aircraft engaged in very heavy bombardment operations against Japan. After its reassignment to the Mariana Islands in 1945, its aircraft were identified by a "N" and a triangle painted on the tail.
In the early postwar era, the 444th Bombardment Group was one of the original ten USAAF bombardment groups assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) on 21 March 1946. The unit was inactivated on 1 October 1946 at Davis-Monthan AAF, Arizona; its B-29 aircraft and personnel being reassigned to the senior 43d Bombardment Group which was reactivated due to the Air Force's policy of retaining only low-numbered groups on active duty after the war.
1943 and 1944
The 444th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy was constituted on 15 February 1943 as a B-29 Superfortress group and activated on 1 March 1943 at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona. It was assigned the 676th, 677th, 678th and 679th Bomb Squadrons. After a period of organization the group was reassigned to the training base at Great Bend, AAF, Kansas; initially flying B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators. After receiving its B-29s, the aircraft were ferried off to modification centers to correct design flaws. The 444th, under the command of Colonel Alva Harvey, was assigned to the first B-29 Superfortress wing, the 58th Bombardment Wing. After the planes were returned, the group engaged in training on the new aircraft and its mission... long range precision bombing.
In early April 1944, the group left the United States and deployed to a former B-24 Liberator airfield at Charra India, arriving on 12 April. In India, the group was assigned to the XX Bombardment Command of the new Twentieth Air Force. During the week of 15–22 April, no less than five 58th Bomb Wing B-29s crashed near Karachi, all from overheated engines. The cause was traced to the design of the engine cowl flaps which controlled air flow over the cylinders. There were also problems with exhaust valves and valve guides on the engine. The B-29 was an advanced aeronautical design years ahead of engine development and was underpowered as well.
From India, the 444th Bomb Group planned to fly missions against Japan from advanced airfields in China. However, all the supplies of fuel, bombs and spare parts needed to support operations from the forward bases in China had to be flown in from India over "The Hump" (the name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains), since Japanese control of eastern China and the Chinese coast made seaborne supply of China impossible. Also, the forward bases were located in Szechaun Province in south central China far from the coast with no roads or railroads into the area from allied controlled territory. Supplies had to be delivered to China by the B-29s themselves or by the C-47s and C-46s of Air Transport Command. For this role, one aircraft from each squadron was stripped of combat equipment and used as a flying tanker. Each aircraft carried seven tons of fuel. The Hump route was so dangerous and difficult that each time a B-29 flew from India to China it was counted as a mission. The 677th Bomb Squadron described a typical ‘Hump” mission, telling of the "thousands of Chinese coolies on the runway, their friendliness and curiosity, the rather exciting way they have of running across the runway in front of the landing planes (thinking they are evil spirits which are right behind them), and the good living at the advanced base".
The first combat mission by the group took place on 5 June 1944 when squadrons of the 40th took off from India to attack the Makasan railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand. This involved a 2261-mile round trip, the longest bombing mission yet attempted during the war.
Operating from bases in India and at times staging through fields in China, the group struck transportation centers, naval installations, aircraft plants and other targets in Burma, China, Thailand, Japan and Formosa. The 444th Bomb Group carried out the longest bombing mission of World War II. Staging out of their Indian bases they struck the Japanese naval base at Singapore blowing the door off the King George V floating drydock from 30,000 feet. A singular feat of bombing accuracy putting the lie to the reports of inaccuracy of B-29 bombing. The mission was a more than 4,100 miles roundtrip.
On 12 October 1944 the 679th Bombardment Squadron was inactivated by special order of XX Bomber Command with personnel and equipment merged into other group squadrons.
The group was reassigned to Tinian, in the Marianas between February and April 1945, for further operations against Japan with the XXI Bomber Command. It participated in the bombing of strategic objectives, strategic mining of the Inland Sea and in incendiary raids on urban areas for the duration of the war. 444th aircraft took part in Curtis LeMay's fire-bomb campaign in the spring and summer of 1945 which led directly to the ultimate surrender of Japan without the need for an invasion of the home islands. It received a DUC for attacking oil storage facilities at Oshima[disambiguation needed], bombing an aircraft plant near Kobe, and dropping incendiaries on Nagoya, in May 1945. The wing struck light metal industries at Osaka in July 1945, receiving another DUC for this action.
The 444th Bomb Group returned to the United States, being assigned to Merced AAF, California in November 1945. It was assigned to the Fourth Air Force of the Continental Air Forces. Continental Air Forces would later evolve into the Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946. The 444th was one of the ten existing bombardment groups assigned to SAC when it was first formed. The group was relocated to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona and was still equipped with B-29s. Demobilization was in full swing and the group turned in its aircraft and was inactivated on 1 October 1946. Many of the wing's personnel and aircraft were reassigned to the 43d Bombardment Wing, which was reactivated at Davis-Monthan on 1 October 1946 as part of the re-established Eighth Air Force.
Demobilization meant that the group turned in its aircraft and was inactivated on 31 March 1946, never becoming an operational SAC unit. Many of the wing's personnel and aircraft were reassigned to the 307th Bombardment Wing, which was reactivated at MacDill on 4 August 1946 as part of the re-established Fifteenth Air Force.
- Constituted as the 444th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 15 February 1943
- Activated on 1 March 1943
- Redesignated as the 444th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in November 1943
- Inactivated on 4 August 1946, aircraft/personnel/equipment redesignated 43d Bombardment Group
- Redesignated as the 444th Air Expeditionary Wing and converted to provisional status in March 2003. (also reported as 444th Air Expeditionary Group)
- Activated March 2003
- Inactivated April 2003
- Second Air Force, 1 March 1943
- 58th Bombardment Wing, 1 August 1943 – 12 October 1944
- XX Bomber Command, 13 October 1944 – 7 February 1945
- 58th Bombardment Wing, 8 February-18 September 1945
- Continental Air Forces, 15 November 1945 – 21 March 1946
- Strategic Air Command, 21 March – 1 October 1946
- Possibly allocated to Air Mobility Command, March–April 2003
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- 444th Bomb Group Website
- Operation ‘I Do’: Moody AFB Attorneys Help Couple Tie Knot
- Jocks-To-GIs, AFMC Photo Gallery photograph and caption