21st Bombardment Squadron
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|21st Bombardment Squadron|
Emblem of the 21st Bombardment Squadron (1941-1943)
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
The 21st Bombardment Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the 501st Bombardment Group, based at Northwest Field, Guam in the Mariana Islands. It was inactivated on 10 June 1946.
The 21st Bombardment Squadron was one of the first squadrons to make a land-based attack on the Japanese home islands on 18 July 1943, flying B-24 Liberators. This raid, against Shimushu and Paramushiru in the Kuril Islands, caused little or no damage, but was only the first of a long series of attacks on Japan from the north.
Inactivated in 1943; the 21st later was reorganized as a B-29 Superfortress Bomb Squadron and engaged in combat over Japan in 1945.
Established as a Fourth Air Force bombardment squadron in November 1940 as part of the USAAC's buildup of forces after the outbreak of World War II in Europe; equipped with B-18 Bolos and early YB-17 Flying Fortress prototypes.
Deployed to Third Air Force after the Attack on Pearl Harbor, engaged in antisubmarine patrols with Lockheed A-29 Hudsons over the southeast Atlantic coastline. Flew its first anti-submarine warfare patrols over the waters off Savannah, Georgia. Returned to California and flew regular patrols with the Hudson began on 9 January 1942, from Muroc Army Airfield, and the squadron continued to fly ASW patrols until June 1942, at one point operating from five bases on the west coast at the same time.
Deployed to Alaska as part of Eleventh Air Force, became part of forces engaged in combat against Japanese forces in the Aleutian Campaign, 11 June 1942 – 14 August 1943 flying B-24 Liberators. The squadron would remain officially part of the 30th Bombardment Group, however it operated under the command of the 28th Composite Group in the Aleutians.
The first aircraft began operating from Fort Glenn Army Airfield, Umnak Island, at the eastern end of the Aleutian chain, on 11 June 1942, and the entire squadron was in place by 3 September. During this period Adak Army Airfield had been under construction on Adak Island, and on 14 September six B-24s from the 21st Bombardment Squadron took part in the first major raid to be launched from this airbase. This saw twelve B-24s from the 21st and 404th Bombardment Squadrons attack the Japanese base on Kiska, sinking two mine sweepers and damaging the camp and submarine area. This attack would be followed by a long series of attacks on the Japanese positions on Kiska and Amchitka.
By February 1943 Amchitka Island was back in American hands, and the 21st moved to that island on 18 February 1943, operating from Amchitka Army Airfield until July. On 18 July 1943 the 21st, 36th and 404th Bombardment Squadrons each contributed some of the six B-24s that became the first Liberators (and the first Air Force bombers since the Doolittle Raid) to attack the Japanese home islands.
On 26 August 1943, after the liberation of Kiska Island, the 21st Bombardment Squadron became one of a number of units of the Eleventh Air Force that were ordered to prepare for a move back to the Continental United States. That move finally began on 19 September 1943, and the squadron was inactivated on 1 November 1943.
Reactivated in June 1944 at Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas as part of the 501st Bombardment Group. Trained in B-29 operations, although training was delayed for an extended time due to shortages of B-29 aircraft. Equipped with B-29B aircraft, built for fast, low-level attacks. It had all but the tail defensive armament removed, since experience had shown that by 1944 the only significant Japanese fighter attacks were coming from the rear.
Deployed to Northwest Field, Guam. As the crews arrived they commenced ground school and shakedown missions over Rota, Pajoros and Truk. Entered combat on 19 June 1945 when its B-29’s bombed Japanese fortifications in the Truk Islands. Flew its first mission against Japan on 27 June 1945, and afterward operated principally against the enemy’s petroleum industry on Honshu. Flew 15 combat missions before the war ended, then flew numerous missions airdropping food and supplies for Allied prisoners in POW camps across Japan, Korea, Manchuria and China.
In September 1945, several flights were made to Chitose Airfield in Hokkaido near Sapporo with gasoline for the first nonstop flight from Japan to the United States by Generals Giles and LeMay. Personnel returned to United States during early 1946. Inactivated on Guam June 1946, aircraft flown to storage in western United States.
Operations and Decorations
- Combat Operations: Anti-submarine alert at Savannah, 8-14 Dec 1941; antisubmarine patrols off west coast, c. g Jan-c. 7 Jun 1942; combat in Northern Pacific, 11 Jun 1942-14 Aug 1943. Combat in Western Pacific, 16 Jun-14 Aug 1945
- Campaigns: Anti-submarine, American Theater; Air Offensive, Japan; Aleutian Islands. Air Offensive; Japan; Eastern Mandates; Western Pacific.
- Decorations: Distinguished Unit Citation, Japan 6-13 Jul 1945
- Constituted 21st Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 20 November 1940
- Activated on 15 January 1941
- Disbanded on 1 November 1943
- Constituted 21st Bombardment Squadron (Very Heavy) on 28 March 1944
- Activated on 1 April 1944
- Inactivated on 10 May 1944
- Activated on 1 June 1944
- Inactivated on 10 June 1946.
- 30th Bombardment Group, 15 January 1941
- Operated under control of 28th Composite Group, 9 January 1942-September 1943
- Second Air Force, 18 October-1 November 1943
- 16th Bombardment Group, 1 April-10 May 1944
- 501st Bombardment Group, 1 June 1944 – 10 June 1946.
- Maurer, Maurer (1983) , Combat Squadrons of the Air Force in World War II: History and Insignia, Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Zenger Publishing & Air Force Historical Studies Office, ISBN 978-0-89201-097-4