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344th Bomb Squadron

Squadron

The 344th Bombing Squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber squadron under Third Air Force.

The squadron's training was short and it deployed to Egypt in July 1942 over the South Atlantic Ferrying Route transiting from Morrison Field, Florida though the Caribbean Sea to Brazil. It made the Atlantic crossing from Brazil to Liberia, then transited east across central Africa to Sudan. The air echelon of the group reformed with the ground echelon which traveled by the SS Pasteur around the Cape of Good Hope, joining with the air echelon of the squadron, the 343d Bombardment Squadron and group headquarters at St Jean d'Acre Airfield, in Palestine.

Combat in the Middle East
Upon arrival in the Near East, the squadron became part of United States Army Middle East Air Force, which was replaced by Ninth Air Force in November. It entered combat in August, attacking shipping and harbor installations to cut Axis supply lines to North Africa. It also bombed airfields and rail transit lines in Sicily and mainland Italy. The squadron moved forward with Ninth Air Force to airfields in Egypt; Libya and Tunisia supporting the British Eighth Army in the Western Desert Campaign. Its support of this campaign earned the squadron the Distinguished Unit Citation.

98th Bomb Group Liberators attacking Ploesti
On 1 August 1943, the squadron participated in Operation Tidal Wave, the low-level raid on oil refineries near Ploesti, Romania. Alerted to the vulnerability of the Ploesti refineries by a June 1942 raid by the HALPRO project, the area around Ploesti had become one of the most heavily defended targets in Europe. Upon takeoff to Ploesti the B-24, 'Kickapoo' lost an engine shortly after takeoff and crashed with it's two pilots, Lt. Robert Nespor, Lt. John Riley, and all but two of it's crew KIA, the first casualties of Operation Tidal Wave. The 344th Squadron pressed its attack on the Astra Romana Refinery through smoke and fire from bombing by the 93rd's Bombardment Group's earlier attack and heavy flak defenses. The squadron's actions in this engagement earned it a second Distinguished Unit Citation.

When the forces driving East from Egypt and Libya met up with those moving westward from Algeria and Morocco, the 344th, established as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb squadron and trained by Third Air Force. Deployed to Egypt in June 1942 over South Atlantic Transport Route transiting from Morrison Field, Florida though the Caribbean to Brazil; performed trans-Atlantic crossing from Brazil to Liberia, then transited east across central Africa to Sudan. Lastly the group reformed with the ground echelon which traveled by ship around the Cape of Good Hope, joining with air echelon in British Palestine.

Assigned to the newly formed IX Bomber Command, the squadron operated from airfields in Egypt; Libya and Tunisia supporting the British Eighth Army in the Western Desert Campaign. Also staged long-range strategic bombardment of enemy maritime shipping targets in the Mediterranean Sea and Italian ports, also military and industrial targets in Sicily, Italy, and the Southern Balkans, including attacking the Nazi-controlled oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania.

Reassigned to Fifteenth Air Force in southern Italy; continuing strategic bombardment raids on Occupied France; Southern Germany; Austria and targets in the Balkans. In the summer of 1944, the squadron participated in the invasion of southern France, assisted in the Soviet advance into the Balkans, and supported the partisans and guerrillas in Yugoslavia and neighboring countries.

The squadron returned to the United States in May 1945 where it was redesignated as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress very heavy bombardment squadron and began training for deployment to the Central Pacific Area. Training continued until November when the unit was transferred to Merced Army Air Field, California and reassigned to the 444th Bombardment Group,[3] where it replaced the 678th Bombardment Squadron, which was converted into a reconnaissance unit. The squadron was inactivated at what was now Castle Field in March 1946.

Commanding officers
  • John Kane

    Military | Colonel | Commanding Officer, Command Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    John Riley Kane (January 5, 1907 – May 29, 1996) was a colonel in the United States Army Air Corps and later the United States Air Force. He received the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II, for his...

Structure

Part of
  • 98th Bomb Group

    98th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942. ...

Encompassing
Not yet known
Previously was
Not yet known
Became
Not yet known

Connections

People

  • Herbert Arens

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Pilot B-24 Liberator 41-11803 'Rosie Wrecked Em', 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid on the wing of Col. Kane, having to abort before the target because of mechanical problems.

  • Robert Austin

    Military | First Lieutenant | Bombardier | 98th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 344BS, 98BG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) Ploesti in B-24 41-24198; Killed in Action (KIA). MACR 166 Awards: PH.

  • Luther Bailey

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Turret Gunner | 100th Bomb Group
    Obituary for Luther Bailey ...

  • William Banks

    Military | First Lieutenant | Pilot | 98th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 344BS, 98BG, 9AF USAAF. Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid in B-24 42-40208 'Sad Sack'. 50 x combat missions. ETD Awards: SS, DFC, AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Neville Benson

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Waist Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    SSgt. Neville C. Bensen took part in Operation Tidal Wave, the raid on Ploesti on 1 August 1943. He was a waist gunner in the Element Lead B-24D Liberator, # 41-11825, 'Hail Columbia', piloted by Col. John R. "Killer" Kane and Lt. John S. Young. He...

  • Wilson Cain

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 344BS, 98BG, 9AF USAAF. Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid in B-24 42-40208 'Sad Sack' with William Banks crew. ETD Awards: AM, WWII Victory, EAME.

  • Duward or Durward Carberry

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Right waist gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid in B-24 42-40208 'Sad Sack'.

  • Alfred Cason

    Military | Staff Sergeant (3rd Grade) | Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Gunner Sgt. Alfred D. Cason DFC MIA/KIA ...

  • Jerome Casper

    Military | Captain | 98th Bomb Group

  • Donald Duchene

    Military | Staff Sergeant | Tail Gunner | 98th Bomb Group
    Assigned to 344BS, 98BG, 9AF USAAF. Failed to Return (FTR) Ploesti in B-24 41-24198; Killed in Action (KIA). MACR 166 Awards: DFC (OLC), AM (7OLC), PH.

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Aircraft

  • 41-24198 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' - 'Hell From Heaven' - 'Shoot You're Faded'

    B-24 Liberator
    - Not to be confused with #42-40608, 'THE VULGAR VIRGIN' of the 8th Air Force - 93rd Bomb Group - 328th Bomb Squadron - It also flew on the Ploesti mission, piloted by Lt. Claude Turner - Interned Turkey Aug 1, 1943 - Lt. Turner escaped from the...

  • 41-24311 'Hadley's Harem'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, named 'Hadley's Harem' was Lt. Gilbert Hadley's personal airplane and the one he flew on the mission to destroy Hitler's oil refineries at Ploesti Romania in 1943. ...

  • 41-11819 'Raunchy'

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24D-CO Liberator - 'Raunchy' ...

  • 41-11825 'Hail Columbia' 'Grumpy' 'Little Chief Big Dog'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D, 'Hail Columbia', # 41-11825, originally served in the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron. It was, first, the 344th Squadron's CO, Col. John R. Kane's, personal aircraft until Kane became the 98th Bomb Group's...

  • 41-24026 'Baby'

    B-24 Liberator
    Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid piloted by Francis E Weisler, aborting before the target. ...

  • 41-11768 'KICKAPOO'

    B-24 Liberator
    The B-24D Liberator 41-11768, 'KICKAPOO', was piloted by Lt. John S. Young from Dallas, Texas as part of the 9th Air Force, the 98th Bomb Group, and the 344th Bombing Squadron, which arrived in North Africa in early 1943. This airplane and was Lt...

  • 41-11803 'Rosie Wrecked Em'

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24 Liberator #41-11803 'Rosie Wrecked Em', 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid on the wing of Col. Kane, having to abort before the target because of mechanical problems.

  • 41-23656 Rowdy Ann

    B-24 Liberator
    B-24 Liberator #41-23656 'Rowdy Ann' 344th BS, 98th BG, 9th AF. Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid, aborting before the target, pilot Allen B Gaston. A/C Renamed from 'Rowdy II' - Transferred to 376th BG / 512th BS. Returned to the States on...

  • 41-23795 'Miss Julie' 'Sneezy'

    B-24 Liberator
    Equipped with radar and was used in a sea search role early in its career and may have been operated by other than the 343rd BS. ...

  • 42-40208 'The Sad Sack'

    B-24 Liberator
    Flew on 1st Aug 43 Ploesti oil refinery raid piloted by William D Banks, safely diverting to Cypress. ...

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Citations

Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
03 November 2020 08:29:01 Kickapoo Changes to description
Sources

Black Sunday ---- Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
16 October 2020 08:38:50 Kickapoo Changes to category and citations
Sources

Wikipedia - The 344th Bomb Squadron

Date Contributor Update
16 October 2020 08:34:11 Kickapoo Changes to person associations
Sources

Wikipedia - The 344th Bomb Squadron

Date Contributor Update
16 October 2020 08:26:02 Kickapoo Changes to description
Sources

Wikipedia - The 344th Bomb Squadron

Date Contributor Update
28 February 2019 23:54:34 Kickapoo Changes to person associations and commanding officers associations
Sources

Black Sunday ~ Michael Hill

Date Contributor Update
09 August 2018 11:18:49 Kickapoo Changes to person associations
Sources

Black Sunday - Michael hill

Date Contributor Update
12 March 2018 11:29:13 Kickapoo Changes to description
Sources

Burning Hitler's Black Gold by Robert Sternfels

Date Contributor Update
12 March 2018 11:25:20 Kickapoo Changes to description and aircraft associations
Sources

Burning Hitler's Black Gold by Robert Sternfels

Date Contributor Update
10 March 2018 08:32:21 Kickapoo Changes to nicknames
Sources

Burning Hitler's Black Gold by Robt. Sternfels

Date Contributor Update
01 November 2016 02:46:47 466thHistorian Created entry with type, name, motto, description, air forces, aircraft types, unit encompassing associations and media associations
Sources

12th & 15th Air Forces - Gerard Paloque
page 94

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