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97th Bombardment Group

The 97th Bombardment Group was part of the 8th Air Force in England from June until November of 1942. They transferred to the newly created 12th AF in North Africa in November of 1942. They then became the 15th AF based in Italy.

Constituted as 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 28 Jan 1942. Activated on 3 Feb 1942. Trained with B-17's; also flew some antisubmarine patrols. Moved to England, May-Jul 1942, for duty with Eighth AF. Entered combat on 17 Aug 1942 by bombing a marshalling yard at Rouen, the first mission flown by AAF's heavy bombers based in England. After that, attacked airfields, marshalling yards, industries, naval installations, and other targets in France and the Low Countries.

The 97th moved to the Mediterranean theater in Nov 1942, being assigned first to Twelfth and later (Nov 1943) to Fifteenth AF.

97th Bombardment Group DVD
DVD Video with Combat Film footage of 97th BG in WW2.

The 97th BG struck shipping in the Mediterranean and airfields, clocks, harbors, and marshalling yards in North Africa, southern France, Sardinia, Sicily, and southern Italy, Nov 1942-May 1943, in the campaign to cut supply lines to German forces in North Africa. Helped to force the capitulation of Pantelleria in Jun 1943. Bombed in preparation for and in support of the invasions of Sicily and southern Italy in the summer and fall of 1943. From Nov 1943 to Apr 1945, engaged chiefly in long-range missions to targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece, attacking oil refineries, aircraft factories, marshalling yards, and other strategic objectives. Received a DUC for leading a strike against an aircraft factory at Steyr on 24 Feb 1944 during Big Week, the intensive air campaign against the German aircraft industry. 2nd Lt David R Kingsley, bombardier, was awarded the Medal of Honor for saving the life of a wounded gunner on 23 Jun 1944: during a mission to Ploesti, Kingsley's B-17 was seriously crippled and the tail gunner was injured; when the crew was ordered to bail out, Kingsley gave his parachute to the gunner, whose own had been damaged, and assisted him in bailing out; Kingsley died a few moments later when his bomber crashed and burned. The group received its second DUC for a devastating raid against one of the Ploesti refineries on 18 Aug 1944. Other operations of the 97th included pounding enemy communications, transportation, and airfields in support of Allied forces at Anzio and Cassino; bombing coastal defenses in preparation for the invasion of Southern France; and assisting US Fifth and British Eighth Army in their advance through the Po Valley. Inactivated in Italy on 29 Oct 1945.

Redesignated 97th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy). Activated in the US on 4 Aug 1946. Assigned to Strategic Air Command. Equipped with B-29's. Redesignated 97th Bombardment Group (Medium) in May 1948. Converted to B-50's in 1950. Inactivated on 16 Jun 1952.

Squadrons. 340th: 1942-1945; 1946-1952. 341st: 1942-1945; 1946-1952. 342d: 1942-1945; 1946-1952. 414th: 1942-1945.

Stations. MacDill Field, Fla, 3 Feb 1942; Sarasota, Fla, 29 Mar-c. 16 May 1942; Polebrook, England, c. 13 June-9 Nov 1942; Maison Blanche, Algeria, c. 13 Nov 1942; Tafaraoui, Algeria, c. 22 Nov 1942; Biskra, Algeria, c. 25 Dec 1942; Chateaudun-du-Rhumel, Algeria, c. 8 Feb 1943; Pont-du-Fahs, Tunisia, c. 1 Aug 1943; Depienne, Tunisia, c. 15 Aug 1943; Cerignola, Italy, c. 20 Dec 1943; Amendola, Italy, 16 Jan 1944; Marcianise, Italy, c. 1-29 Oct 1945. Smoky Hill AAFld, Kan, Aug 1946; Biggs AFB, Tex, 17 May 1948-16 Jun 1952.

Commanders. Col Cornelius W Cousland, Feb 1942; Col James H Walsh, c. Jul 1942; Col Frank A Armstrong Jr, c. 2 Aug 1942; Brig Gen Joseph H Atkinson, c. 27 Sep 1942; Col Stanley Donovan, 5 Jan 1943; Col Leroy A Rainey, 29 Jun 1943; Col Frank Allen, Nov 1943; Col Jacob E Smart, 7 Apr 1944; Col Frank Allen, 11 May 1944; Col Elmer Rogers Jr, Jun 1944; Col Nils O Ohman, 22 Aug 1944; Col William K Kincaid, May 1945-unkn. Col Walter S Lee, c. 4 Aug 1946; Lt Col William D Bacon, c. 27 Aug 1946; Col William E McDonald, 9 Oct 1946; Col George L Robinson, 10 Sep 1946-unkn; Col George L Robinson, 30 Sep 1948; Col Dalene E Bailey, 20 Apr 1949; Col Harvey C Dorney, Feb 1951; Col John D Ryan, 16 Jul 1951-16 Jun 1952.

Campaigns. Antisubmarine, American Theater; Air Combat, EAME Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Tunisia; Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Anzio; Rome-Arno; Normandy; Northern France; Southern France; North Apennines; Rhineland; Central Europe; Po Valley.

Decorations. Distinguished Unit Citations: Steyr, Austria, 24 Feb 1944; Ploesti, Rumania, 18 Aug 1944.

Insigne. Shield: Azure, a spear in pale or, point to base flammant and embrued proper. Motto: Venit Hora - The Hour Has Come. (Approved 5 Mar 1943.)

Data from Air Force Combat Units of World War II By Maurer, Maurer, Published 1986


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