8 th airforce, 390 th Bomber group 568 th Bomb Squadron
Training in the United States
The unit was first activated on 26 January 1943 at Geiger Field Washington as the 390th Bombardment Group, with the 568th, 569th, 570th and571th Bombartdment sqaudrons assigned as its original squadrons.The group did not begin to fill its ranks until early the following month.
The group trained at Geiger until June 1943 when it moved to Great Falls Army Air Base, Montana.Senior officers of the group were the first from bombardment groups to be assigned to Eighth Air Force to attend the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida, where comprehensive training, based on the Army Air Forces' combat experience, was conducted. The 390th'sBoeing B-17 Flying Fortresses began their flights overseas on 4 July, taking the northern ferry route from Iceland to Prestwick Airport, Scotland, where the first aircraft arrived on 13 July 1943. The ground echelon left for Camp Shanks, New York the same day and sailed on the SS James Parker on 17 July 1943, and arrived at Liverpool on 27 July.The group was reunited at its permanent station, RAF Framlingham, a few days later.
390th Bombardment Group over Germany
The group was the last of the "second wind" heavy bombardment groups that reinforced VIII Bomber Command in the summer of 1943 to arrive in England. It operated chiefly against strategic objectives.The 390th began combat on 12 August 1943. Only five days later, on 17 August, the group attacked the Messerschmitt aircraft complex at Regensburg, achieving the highest accuracy of any of the groups sent against the target. Near the target area, the group was attacked by twin engine German fighters and suffered the heaviest losses of the three groups in the lead wing. This was a shuttle mission, with the bombers recovering at Twelfth Air Force bases in North Africa, although a group aircraft was one of the first two American planes to make emergency landings in neutral Switzerland. The group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for the mission.
The 390th was awarded a second Distinguished Unit Citation for a mission on 14 October 1943 when the it braved assaults by enemy fighters to bomb the ball bearing plants at Schweinfurt.Once again, the group had the most accurate bombing results of the units attacking the target. Allied intelligence estimated that following the attack German ball bearing production was reduced by 50% and that it was six months before production was restored to its level before the attack. The group participated in the intensive Allied attacks on the German aircraft industry during Big Week, from 20 to 25 February 1944, when it bombed aircraft factories, instrument plants and aircraft depots. Other strategic missions included attacks on marshalling yards at Frankfurt, bridges at Cologne, petroleum facilities at Zeitz, factories at Mannheim, naval installations at Bremen and synthetic oil refineries at Merseburg.
The group was sometimes diverted from the strategic mission to fly interdiction and ground support missions. On 25 May 1944, a detachment of the group was directed to bomb coastal defenses in France using radar, despite weather conditions that were ideal for visual bombing. Although crewmembers were not advised why radar bombing was directed, this mission was a test to determine if pathfinder operations would succeed if the weather over Normandy was foul when the invasion took place.Thereafter, the group would frequently use pathfinder techniques when clouds obscured its assigned targets. The group bombed the coast near Caen fifteen minutes before the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. It attacked enemy artillery in support of ground forces during Operation Cobra, the breakout at Saint-Lô in late July 1944.
In August 1944, the group attacked a Focke-Wulf aircraft factory at Rumia (Rahmel), Poland, landing at Mirgorod in the Ukraine. After flying a mission against a synthetic oil production facility at Trzebinia, Poland, (returning to Mirgorod), the group attacked airfields in Romania, landing in Italy. On its return to Feltwell, the group attacked a French airfield, suffering no losses to the three legged mission. The 390th cut German supply lines during the Battle of the Bulge between December 1944 and January 1945.On 14 January 1945, during an attack on targets near Berlin, a low squadron of the group's aircraft were separated from the main attacking formation because of supercharger problems with the lead aircraft, making them easy targets for German fighters, which shot down all eight Flying Fortresses in the formation. This was the highest loss the 390th suffered on a single mission during the war.
The group attacked airfields of the Luftwaffe to support Operation Varsity, the airborne assault across the Rhine, in March 1945. On 5 April 1945, Master Sergeant Hewitt Dunn became the only person to fly 100 combat missions with Eighth Air Force.The 390th Bombardment Group flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945. In over 300 missions, they dropped more than 19,000 tons of bombs. They lost 176 aircraft and 714 airmen were killed in action. The unit claimed the destruction of 342 enemy aircraft.The group dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the week prior to V-E Day.
The 390th redeployed to the States between June and August 1945. The unit's aircraft left from Framlingham on 25 and 26 June 1945. the ground echelon sailed from Greenock on theRMS Queen Elizabeth on 5 August 1945 and arrived in New York on 11 August, and its members were granted leave.The group moved at minimum strength to Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota on 12 August and was inactivated there on 28 August 1945.