Skip to main content
Edit entry 

5th Bomb Wing

Wing

The 5th Air Division (5th AD) originated on 19 October 1940 at McChord Field, Washington. Its initial mission was air defense of the northwest United States with three bombardment groups (12th, 17th and 39th) flying early B-17 Flying Fortresses (B-17C/D), as well as the B-18 Bolo and its B-23 Dragon variant.

With the United States' entry into World War II, the mission of the 5th Bomb Wing was changed to that of a strategic heavy bomber wing, in July 1942 being initially assigned to the new Eighth Air Force. However, the 5th Bomb Wing was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force in October 1942, to support the Western Task Force being assembled for the Operation Torch landings, planned for November.

The 5th moved to North Africa in November, and its subordinate units began flying missions from French Morocco in late 1942. The 97th and 301st Bomb groups, both being transferred from Eighth Air Force, were the pioneer heavy bomb groups in North Africa.

Three weeks prior to the invasion saw a number of secret missions flown by the 97th BG. The first of these occurred on 18 October 1942 when General Mark Clark, commander of ground forces in the Western Task Force, flew to Gibraltar, along with a box containing $100,000 in gold 20 Franc coins, which were going to be paid to corrupt Vichy France officials in North Africa in order to secure their cooperation during the coming invasion. However after Clark landed in Gibraltar, the coins were lost overboard when they were on the final leg of their journey.

Also, on 5 November General Dwight Eisenhower and British General Kenneth Anderson was flown on a 97th BG B-17 were flown from Britainto Gibraltar. The following day, General James Doolittle, the newly named commander of Twelfth Air Force was flown to Gibraltar. Doolittle's B-17 was intercepted by four Ju-88s over the Bay of Biscay, forcing the pilot to dive sharply and make a run for it just above the ocean's surface. The co-pilot of the aircraft was injured by a strafing run of one of the German aircraft, and Doolittle reached for the first aid kit and attended to the wounded man. Afterward, Doolittle sat in the co-pilot's seat and helped fly the aircraft to Gibraltar.

Shortly after the invasion, the 97th and 301st moved from their bases in England to an airfield at Tafraoui, Algeria. The conditions in Algeria were sparse compared to that in England, but by 24 November the two groups attacked the docks at Bizerte, Tunisia.

As the American forces moved eastward, the 5th's units flew from Algeria beginning in January 1943, attacking coastal targets in Tunisia, and also concentrations of Rommel's Afrika Corps. The 5th BW moved to Tunisia in August. Targets included airdromes, marshalling yards, bridges, and troop concentrations. In February 1943, the 5th, in direct support of ground operations, bombed enemy troop concentrations in the Kasserine Pass. From its airfields in Tunisia, its subordinate units bombed Pantelleria, Sicily, and marshaling yards and airdromes on the Italian mainland. By October, the 5th Bomb Wing consisted of the two B-17 groups as well as two P-38 equipped fighter groups (1st, 325th FG).

On 1 November 1943, Fifteenth Air Force was established as a second American strategic air force in the European Theater. It was hoped that the 15th AF stationed in the Mediterranean would be able to operate when the Eighth Air Force in England was socked in by bad English weather. Twelfth Air Force would continue to operate, however it would be realigned as a tactical air force. The 97th and 301st were joined with three additional B-17 groups (2d, 98th 99th BG) with its reassignment to Fifteenth Air Force.

Missions were flown from Tunisia in November against a Messerschmidt assembly plant in Austria, and against some Italian targets, however the wing and its groups were in the process of moving to new airfields captured around Foggia in Italy in late September. Advanced echelons moved initially, working with engineering units to prepare the airfields and extend runways to accommodate the B-17. The 2d Bomb Group moved to Amendola airfield, while the 97th moved to the Foggia airfield, as its base at San Giovanni was still not ready. The 301st flew into Cerignola and the 99th into Tortorella.

Once settled into their new bases around Foggia the 5th began a series of raids, attacking enemy targets in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria. In June 1944, its groups began "shuttle bombing" and landing on airfields behind the Russian front. On these missions, American aircraft took off from airdromes in Italy, made a bombing attack, and landed on airdromes in the Soviet Union. Then they reversed the process. In August 1944, the 5th Wing supported Operation Dragoon, the invasion of Southern France.

The 5th Bomb Wing continued strategic bombing missions until the Germans surrendered in May 1945. It was inactivated in Italy on 2 November 1945.

US Air Force Combat Units of World War II Description

Constituted as 5th Bombardment Wing on 19 October 1940. Activated on 18 December 1940. Assigned to Second Air Force. Inactivated on 5 September 1941. Activated on 10 July 1942. Moved to North Africa, October-December 1942, and began operations with Twelfth Air Force. Assigned to Fifteenth Air Force in November 1943. Redesignated 5th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) in Jan 1945. Served in combat until May 1945. Inactivated in Italy on 2 November 1945.

Structure

Part of
Encompassing
  • 14th Fighter Group

    14th Fighter Group

    Group
    The 14th Fighter Group (USAAF) was a P-38 Lightning Group that fought in Tunisia and the Italian campaign, as well as providing bomber escorts for attacks across southern Europe. ...

  • 1st Fighter Group

    1st Fighter Group

    Group
    The 1st Fighter Group were initially deployed to Britain in the summer of 1942 as part of Operation Bolero. After shuttling through a number of different bases in the UK, the Group was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force in September 1942 and supported...

  • 2nd Bomb Group

    2nd Bomb Group

    Group
    Served on antisubmarine duty for several months after the U.S. entered World War II. In October 1942 was re-designated as 2d Bombardment Group (Heavy) and earmarked for combat. The group was transferred on paper to Geiger Field, Washington, where it...

  • 301st Bomb Group

    301st Bomb Group

    Group
    Activated 3-February-1942 at Geiger Field, Washington and equipped with B-17s. On 27-May-1942 the ground unit moved to Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico, and the aircraft went to Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base), California for...

  • 376th Bomb Group

    376th Bomb Group

    Group
    Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 Oct 1942 and activated in Palestine on 31 Oct. Began combat immediately, using B-24 aircraft. Operated with Ninth AF from bases in the Middle East, Nov 1942-Sep 1943, and with Twelfth AF from Tunisia...

  • 47th Bomb Group
  • 82nd Fighter Group

    82nd Fighter Group

    Group
    The 82nd Fighter Group flew training missions from bases in Northern Ireland between October and December 1942. They then joined the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa, supporting the ground invasion of Tunisia, Sicily and Italy. Between October 1943...

  • 97th Bomb Group

    97th Bomb Group

    Group
    The 97th Bomb Group flew the Eighth Air Force's first heavy bomber mission from the UK when they bombed a marshalling yard at Rouen on 17 August 1942. Just a month later though the Group were reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force and left England for the...

  • 483rd Bomb Group

    483rd Bomb Group

    Group
    'As part of the 15th Air Force in WWII, the 483rd Bombardment Group (H) played a significant role in the eventual defeat of Germany's forces. Its four combat squadrons, the 815th, 816th, 817th and 840th flew a total of 5,623 sorties from 12 April 1944...

  • 17th Bomb Group
Show more
Previously was
Not yet known
Became
Not yet known

Stations

Station Location Date
Based

Connections

People

  • Gordon Beese

    Military | Sergeant | B-17 Waist Gunner | 99th Bomb Group

  • William Hunnewell

    Military | First Lieutenant | B-17 Pilot | 99th Bomb Group

  • James Walsh

    Military | Major General | Deputy Commanding Officer, 8th Air Force | 97th Bomb Group
    Graduated from West Point in 1935 and joined the AAC. In 1942, he commanded the 97th Bomb Group in England, operations deputy of the 12th Bomb Command, and operations officer of the 47th Bomb Wing (1943). Served as Deputy Commander of the 8th AF....

Aircraft

  • 42-102855 Weary Willie

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Cheyenne 10/4/44; Hunter 27/4/44; Dow Fd 10/5/44; Assigned 346BS/99BG Tortorella 19/5/44; in base taxi accident with Dick Schildmeyer 24/2/45; 97m Salvaged 26/4/45; WEARY WILLIE.

  • 42-29775 Wongo

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 18/2/43; Gt Falls 20/2/43; Salinas 18/3/43; Morrison 29/3/43; Assigned 341BS/97BG Chateau-du-Rhumel 16/4/43; Pont-du-Fahs 1/8/43; Depienne 15/8/43; transferred 346BS/99BG Oudna 14/11/43; Tortorella 11/12/43; 483BG Tortorella 31/3/44;...

  • 42-5338 Ye Old Battle Axe

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Tulsa 10/11/42; West Palm Beach 11/12/42; Assigned 340BS/97BG Biskra 31/12/42; Chateau-du-Rhumel 8/2/43; Pont-du-Fahs 1/8/43; Depienne 15/8/43; transferred 346BS/99BG Oudna 14/11/43; Tortorella 11/12/43; 22m/99 483BG Tortorella 31/3/44;...

  • 42-5418 Chief Wahoo

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Tulsa 3/12/42; West Palm Beach 9/1/43; Assigned 97BG Biskra 20/1/43; Chateau-du-Rhumel 8/2/43; Pont-du-Fahs 1/8/43; Depienne 15/8/43; transferred 346BG/99BG Oudna 14/11/43; 27m/99 815BS/483BG Tortorella 31/3/44; Missing in Action Milan 30/4...

  • 42-97436 Silver Meteor

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered Denver 15/11/43; Kearney 1/12/43; Assigned 346BS/99BG Tortorella 1/44; 79m Salvaged 9/2/45. SILVER METEOR.

Citations

None

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
03 June 2021 14:23:54 Emily Changes to type, name, us air force combat units of world war ii description, aircraft types, unit part of associations, unit encompassing associations and stations
Sources

Date Contributor Update
18 November 2016 01:35:59 466thHistorian Changes to description, aircraft types, unit part of associations and unit encompassing associations
Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5th_Air_Division

Date Contributor Update
27 September 2014 18:42:44 AAM AAM ingest
Sources

Paul Andrews, Project Bits and Pieces, 8th Air Force Roll of Honor database

Share