XIX Tactical Air Command
|XIX Tactical Air Command|
Emblem of the XIX Tactical Air Command
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Role||Fighter Command and Control|
The XIX Tactical Air Command (XIX TAC) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. The unit's last assignment was with the Ninth Air Force based at Biggs Field, Texas. It was inactivated on 31 March 1946.
During World War II, the mission of the XIX TAC was to support General Patton's United States Third Army with tactical air support throughout during the army's advance from formation in France on 1 August 1944 until VE-Day.
Formed in England in early 1944, XIX TAC was a command and control organization, designed to provide air support to Army ground forces, primarily with P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang aircraft. XIX TAC supported all of Third Army's operations and more. Its roles included a bewildering number of missions: close air support, battlefield air interdiction, deep interdiction, dive bombing, counterair, reconnaissance, and even leaflet dropping.
XIX TAC's close air support mission took its most concerted, extended, and spectacular form in supporting Patton's armored and motorized infantry columns as they sped across France. The Third Army's tank crews and their accompanying air support officers pointed out enemy concentrations, and divisional artillery at times gave further assistance by marking targets with smoke. In return, the P-47 and P-51 pilots of XIX TAC provided cover for the tanks in one-hour shifts with four aircraft per flight, and four more on ground alert could be called in if necessary. As little as three minutes after being contacted, they could strike the designated target, thereby freeing the armored forces to continue their advance.
Another of XIX TAC's missions, dive bombing, is normally thought of as a tactic, but XIX TAC considered it a separate mission. It resembled deep interdiction, for both types of missions made use of various aerial bombing techniques and normally attacked similar, prearranged targets. But while deep interdiction was designed to cut off enemy movements either in or out of the combat zone, dive-bombing missions were most often used for static warfare. They were employed, for example, during the unsuccessful September attempt to seize Metz, and their most extensive use was during the siege at Brest.
The results of Brest were not particularly impressive. It was soon obvious that the defenders––as part of Hitler's "hold on to the ports" strategy––had ample provisions and were determined to hold out. It also became evident that XIX TAC fighters and fighter-bombers assigned to the operation were insufficient to perform effectively all of the tasks they were expected to carry out, particularly in terms of dive bombing. XIX TAC's P-47s and P-51s simply did not have the bombing power to bring about the desired results. Thus the American commander called on other air formations to assist. Eighth Air Force responded between 11 August and 5 September with four missions in which 983 B-17s dropped 2520 tons of bombs. British Bomber Command made two raids with approximately 220 Lancasters taking part. U.S. IX Bomber Command's B-26s and new A-26s undertook six missions. IX TAC loaned some of its squadrons to XIX TAC––squadrons that flew 839 sorties between 5 and 11 September, when Brest's capture was accorded a high priority. By the time the last of Germany's beleaguered troops capitulated on the 19th, the Allies had flown more than 3500 Brest-related sorties. The city was in shambles. Its port facilities, for which the operation originally had been undertaken, were so badly damaged (by German demolitions along with Allied bombing and artillery shelling) that the Americans never used it as a major supply port. Obviously, air power had affected the outcome of the battle but not in the way that had been hoped for.
XIX TAC was also involved in counterair operations, although, because of the Luftwaffe's relative weakness, to a lesser extent than it might have been. Only in critical situations or when they had a numerical advantage did Jagdkorps II's Bf-109s and FW-190s venture out and pose a threat. During the early August Mortain counteroffensive, German fighters and some bombers did support the attack, but they were overwhelmed by the Allies' superior numbers, better aircraft, and experienced pilots. While IX TAC led the counterair response, the RAF and XIX TAC's 354th Fighter-Bomber Group of P-51s also lent a hand. At Falaise, the German Air Force again was active, and XIX TAC's fighters performed a variety of defensive and offensive counterair tasks––intercepts, sweeps, combat air patrols, and escorts, including bomber escorts––along with other support missions. Near Paris, U.S. pilots also encountered opposition; but at times several of Weyland's groups reported seeing no enemy aircraft for days at a time. Although the Allies remained aware that the situation might change, Allied aircraft now reigned supreme.
XIX TAC further undertook reconnaissance duties. Most of the sorties were confined to visual reconnaissance, but they included day and night photo missions as well, especially from 10th Photo Group, whose P-51s were stationed in the area. Overall, during the two months, aircraft under Weyland's command flew 2011 reconnaissance sorties, or slightly more than 9 percent of the 22,233 total sorties flown.
One final mission was that XIX TAC pilots performed several special air operations in the form of leaflet-dropping sorties. During August and September, XIX TAC was involved in seven different missions––close air support, battlefield and deep interdiction, dive bombing, counterair, aerial reconnaissance, and special operations.
- Constituted as XIX Air Support Command on 29 November 1943
- Activated on 4 January 1944
- Redesignated XIX Tactical Air Command in April 1944.
- Inactivated on 31 March 1946
- Disbanded on 8 October 1948
- Ninth Air Force, 4 January 1944 – 31 March 1946
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4
- Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.
- Wilt, Alan F. (Alan F. Wilt) (1985), Coming of Age: XIX Tac's Roles During The 1944 Dash Across France, Air University Review, March–April 1985