The 445th's Story - 445BG

Go to content

Main menu:

The 445th's Story

History


The story of the 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) begins almost sixteen months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war against the United States.  America at first reeled against the string of Japanese victories in the Pacific and the rapid conquest of mainland Europe by Germany.  The British were able to stave off the invasion of England through the valiant efforts of the Royal Air Force and other allied flyers.  Now was the time to bring the full force of the United State's production facilities and begin forming the "Arsenal of Democracy".

War planning for the European Front called for a systematic destruction of Germany's manufacturing and production capabilities.  The only way the Allies could accomplish this was by aerial bombardment of Germany industrial centers.  As the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) had the latest in fighter interceptor aircraft with the Messerschmidt Bf-109 and Curt Tank's Focke Wulf Fw-190 and combat proven pilots, this was going to be a costly operation. "The Luftwaffe gained significant combat experience in the Spanish Civil War, where it was used to provide close air support for infantry units. The success of the Luftwaffe's Ju-87 Stuka dive bombers in the blitzkriegs that shattered Poland in 1939 and France in 1940, gave Berlin inordinate confidence in its air force. Military professionals could not ignore the effectiveness of the Stuka, but also observed that France and Poland had minimal effective air defense. Outside Britain, the idea of an integrated air defense system had not emerged; most militaries had a conflict between the advocates of anti-aircraft artillery and fighter aircraft for defense, not recognizing that they could be complementary, when under a common system of command and control; a system that had a common operational picture of the battle in progress."

The U. S. Army Air Forces entered the European war with the firm view that specific industries and services were the most promising targets in the enemy economy, and they believed that if these targets were to be hit accurately, the attacks had to be made in daylight. A word needs to be said on the problem of accuracy in attack. Before the war, the U. S. Army Air Forces had advanced bombing techniques to their highest level of development and had trained a limited number of crews to a high degree of precision in bombing under target range conditions, thus leading to the expressions "pin point" and "pickle barrel" bombing. However, it was not possible to approach such standards of accuracy under battle conditions imposed over Europe. Many limiting factors intervened; target obscuration by clouds, fog, smoke screens and industrial haze; enemy fighter opposition which necessitated defensive bombing formations, thus restricting freedom of maneuver; antiaircraft artillery defenses, demanding minimum time exposure of the attacking force in order to keep losses down; and finally, time limitations imposed on combat crew training after the war began.

It was considered that enemy opposition made formation flying and formation attack a necessary tactical and technical procedure. Bombing patterns resulted -- only a portion of which could fall on small precision targets. The rest spilled over on adjacent plants, or built-up areas, or in open fields. Accuracy ranged from poor to excellent. When visual conditions were favorable and flak defenses were not intense, bombing results were at their best. Unfortunately, the major portion of bombing operations over Germany had to be conducted under weather and battle conditions that restricted bombing technique, and accuracy suffered accordingly. Conventionally the air forces designated as "the target area" a circle having a radius of 1000 feet around the aiming point of attack. While accuracy improved during the war, Survey studies show that, in the over-all, only about 20% of the bombs aimed at precision targets fell within this target area. A peak accuracy of 70% was reached for the month of February 1945. These are important facts for the reader to keep in mind, especially when considering the tonnages of bombs delivered by the air forces. Of necessity a far larger tonnage was carried than hit German installations.

Although the Eighth Air Force began operations using Boeing's B-17 "Flying Fortress" on August 17, 1942, with the bombing of marshalling yards at Rouen and Sotteville in northern France, no operations during 1942 or the first half of 1943 had significant effect. The force was small and its range limited. Much time in this period was devoted to training and testing the force under combat conditions.

In November and December of 1942, the U-boat attack on Allied merchant shipping was in its most successful phase and submarine bases and pens and later construction yards became the chief target and remained so until June 1943. These attacks accomplished little. The submarine pens were protected and bombs did not penetrate the 12-foot concrete roofs. The attack on the construction yards and slipways was not heavy enough to be more than troublesome.

In January 1943, at Casablanca, the objective of the strategic air forces was established as the "destruction and dislocation of the Germany military, industrial, and economic system and the undermining of the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened." Specific target systems were named.

In the spring of 1943, Allied naval and air power scored a definite victory over German submarines. Surface craft teamed with long-range patrol bombers equipped with radar raised German submarine losses to catastrophic levels in the spring of 1943. Interrogation of members of the High Command of the German Navy, including Admiral Doenitz, has confirmed the scope of this victory. When the Combined Bomber Offensive Plan was issued in June of 1943 to implement the Casablanca directive, submarines were dropped from first priority and the German aircraft industry was substituted. The German ball-bearing industry, the supplier of an important component, was selected as a complementary target. The German anti-friction bearing industry was heavily concentrated. When the attack began, approximately half the output came from plants in the vicinity of Schweinfurt. An adequate supply of bearings was correctly assumed to be indispensable for German war production.

It was in the spring of 1943 that many new bomb groups were formed, including the 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) which was to fly the Consolidated Aircraft's B-24 "Liberator".  The 445th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated per War Department Letter AG-320.2 dated 20 March 1943. The Group actually activated at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho per Special Order 115, Paragraph 1, dated 25 April 1943.  The following officers made up the Headquarters Staff:  Lt. Col. Robert H. Terrill, Commanding Officer; Maj. Malcolm D. Seashore, Executive Officer; Capt. Howard E. Frasher, Adjutant; Capt. William W. Jones, Operations Officer; and Capt. Chester A. Peterson, Group Bombardier.  It was now time for the men of the 445th Bomb Group to go to work.


Back to content | Back to main menu