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68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF)

68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF)


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68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To

History

The 68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) was originally formed as an Observation Group in the United States in the summer of 1941, before serving in the Mediterranean Theatre as a reconnaissance, ground attack and electronic countermeasures group.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor the group was used to fly patrols along the Mexican border and over the Gulf of mexico.

In February 1942 the group began to prepare for a move overseas, originally as part of the 8th Air Force, based in Britain. The move didn't come until October-November 1942, and instead of Britain the group moved to the Mediterranean and the Twelfth Air Force. The move was difficult, with many of the group's P-39s forced to land in Portugal. The A-20s, which came across the South Atlantic, also had a tricky journey, at least in part because of the inexperience of their crews at this date. Thirty-six A-20s left Florida in early November. Twenty-three reached Oran by 28 November, another ten in December and three were lost.

The group took part in the difficult battles that came soon after Operation Torch, as the Allies struggled to advance east into Tunisia.

The group was soon split into its individual squadrons and scattered across North Africa. During this period it carried out a wide range of duties. It was used to patrol the Mediterranean and for reconnaissance missions over Tunisia, Sicily and Italy. It was also used to control artillery fire.

The group was also used for a surprising number of non-reconnaissance missions in North Africa, including ground attack missions in support of the fighting in Tunisia and as a fighter training unit.

In November 1943 the group moved to Italy where it joined the Fifteenth Air Force. Its main duties now were more traditional, and including visual and photographic reconnaissance and weather flights, ranging across Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Balkans.

The group also took part in electronic countermeasures, including ferret missions along the Italian and French coasts (designed to locate enemy radar and other electronic installations), testing captured enemy equipment. It also provided aircraft to escort bomber formations and detect incoming enemy fighters.

The group returned to North Africa in April 1944 and was disbanded there in June 1944, but its squadrons remained in action and were allocated to other groups (and sometimes in new roles - the 122th Liaison Squadron became the 122th Bombardment Squadron).

Books

Aircraft

Douglas A-20 Havoc, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Supermarine Spitfire, Lockheed P-38/ F-4 Lightning, Cessna C-78 Bobcat (AT-17), Beechcraft C-45, North American P-51/ F-6 Mustang, North American A-36 Mustang, O-38, O-47, O-49, O-52, O-59, YO-50, O-57, O-58

Timeline

21 August 1941Constituted as 68th Observation Group
1 September 1941Activated
Oct-Nov 1942To Mediterranean and Twelfth Air Force
May 1943Redesignated 68th Reconnaissance Group
November 1943Redesignated 68th Tactical Reconnaissance Group
November 1943To Italy and Fifteenth Air Force
April 1944To North Africa
15 June 1944Disbanded

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Unkn: Sep-Dec 1941
LtCol Guy L McNeil: 15 December 1941
Major John R Fordyce: 30 June 1942
Lt Col Eugene C Woltz: 13 Mar 1943
Col CharlesD Jones: 8 Aug 1943-c. 15 Jan 1944
CaptHarper L McGrady: unkn
Col [ ?] Smith:unkn
Col Monro MacCloskey: Mar-c.May 1944.

Main Bases

Brownwood, Tex: 1 Sep 1941
New Orleans AB, La: 17 Dec 1941
DanielField, Ga: 8 Feb 1942
Smith ReynoldsAprt, NC: 9 Jul 1942
Morris Field, NC:c. 17 Aug-18 Oct 1942
Casablanca, FrenchMorocco: Nov 1942
Oujda, French Morocco:c. Nov 1942
Berrechid Airfield,French Morocco: 24 Mar 1943
Berteaux,Algeria: 5 Sep 1943
Massicault, Tunisia:Oct 1943
Manduria, Italy: Nov 1943
Blida, Algeria, c. Apr-15 Jun 1944.

Component Units

16th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1942-44
111th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1942-44
122nd Liaison Squadron: 1941-44
125th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1941-42
127th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1941-42
154th Reconnaissance Squadron: 1941-44

Assigned To

November 1942-November 1943: 5th Bombardment Wing; XII Bomber Command; Twelfth Air Force
November 1943-: Fifteenth Air Force


THE A-36, F-6 AND P-51 MUSTANGS IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR

&lsquoYesterday, December 7, 1941 &ndash a date which will live in infamy &ndash the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan . As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense . With confidence in our armed forces &ndash with the unbounded determination of our people &ndash we will gain the inevitable triumph &ndash so help us God.&rsquo

President F. D. Roosevelt, 8 December 1941

Without doubt the most significant time in the life of the Mustang was its era within the Second World War. All three versions of the Mustang &ndash the A-36, F-6 and P-51 &ndash helped the Allied forces defeat Germany, Italy, Japan and their Axis powers cohorts. During its Second World War tenure, no fewer than thirteen versions of the Mustang were used in combat by the US Army Air Forces. These included the A-36A, P-51, F-6A, P-51A, F-6B, P-51B, P-51C, F-6C, P-51D, TP-51D, F-6D, P-51K and F-6K.

Besides fighting enemy aircraft in the air, this cadre of Mustang aircraft were used for ground attack (strafing enemy troops and equipment with gunfire and rockets), bombardment (bombing enemy positions and strategic targets with general purpose high explosive 250 lb, 300 lb and 500 lb bombs) and all-important tactical reconnaissance and mapping duties. Moreover, Mustangs were responsible for the creation of more USAAF fighter aces than any other USAAF pursuit airplane. In aerial combat, the Mustang proved to be a deadly foe with its agility, manoeuvrability and speed, not to mention its astounding range capability. It truly became a legend in its own time.

Mustangs did not reach USAAF combat units until March 1943 when very small numbers of special camera-equipped and armed P-51-2-NAs began to arrive in the MTO. These Mustangs had been diverted to USAAF units from a 150-plane order placed by the RAF for Mustang Mk.IA airplanes.

The P-51 Mustangs, like all other USAAF single-engine fighter aircraft such as the P-39, P-40 and P-47, were assigned to combat groups that had three combat squadrons (four on rare occasions) made up of 111 to 126 airplanes (including spares). To operate these aircraft, a combat group had 108 to 126 combat crews (including spares) of 994 personnel: 183 officers and 811 enlisted men. Amongst the 183 officers in each combat group were the group commander, the pilots that manned the airplanes and three or four combat squadron commanders.

During the Second World War, the Inglewood factory manufactured 9,949 P-51s (138 delivered in 1941, 634 in 1942, 1,533 in 1943, 4,368 in 1944, and 3,276 in 1945) the Dallas factory built 4,552 P-51s (177 delivered in 1943, 2,540 in 1944, and 1,835 in 1945). This totals 14,501 P-51s built and these totals do include the single NA-73X, 322 NA-73s (Mustang Mk.I), 300 NA-83s (Mustang Mk.I), 500 A-36As or 299 F-6 airplanes.

The production of the 500 A-36A airplanes built in Inglewood was as follows: 142 delivered in 1942 and 358 in 1943. The factory-built F-6 airplanes were delivered by Dallas as follows: 74 in 1944 and 225 in 1945 for a total of 299 F-6 airplanes.

Thus for the war effort, NAA produced a staggering total of 14,787 Mustangs for use by the USAAF alone.

The China-Burma-India Theatre of Operations was first to employ Mustang light attack, reconnaissance and fighter airplanes beginning in late 1942 and early 1943 with 10th and 14th Air Force A-36As, F-6As, P-51s and P-51As.

The 14th Air Force was established on 10 March 1943, just nine days before the China Air Task Force (CATF) was discontinued on 19 March 1943. It was a big user of the Mustang, especially the 23rd Fighter Group and its three fighter squadrons: the 74th, 75th and 76th FS. The 23rd FG, nicknamed &lsquoFlying Tigers&rsquo, was initially equipped with P-40E Warhawks, but soon acquired P-51B Mustangs. The territory covered by 14AF stretched from the bend of the Yellow River and Tsinan in the north to Indochina in the south, from Chengtu and the Salween River in the west to the China Sea and the island of Formosa in the east. The 14th AF was commanded by Major General Claire L. Chennault and was appropriately nicknamed &lsquoFlying Tigers&rsquo since he had also commanded the CATF previously and the famed Flying Tigers of the American Volunteer Group (AVG). The &lsquoFlying Tigers&rsquo became part of the USAAF on 30 December 1941 but was dissolved by 30 April 1942. Chennault took command of the 10th Air Force in the CBI in August 1942.

An unidentified A-36A is prepared for another ground attack mission while it served in the CBI. For self defence and strafing purposes, all A-36As were armed with four .50 cal. machine guns, two in either wing. (USAF)

The Chinese-American Composite Wing (Provisional) or CACW (P) of the 14AF was activated on 1 October 1943 and disbanded on 18 August 1945. It was a joint USAAF and Republic of China Air Force operation commanded by both American and Chinese officers. It was partially equipped with Mustangs in 1944 and 1945. The 5th Fighter Group (Provisional) of the CACW (P) was equipped with P-51C, P-51D and P-51K Mustangs. The 5th FG (P) was comprised of the 5th, 17th, 26th, 27th and 29th Fighter Squadrons. The 3rd Fighter Group (Provisional) of the CACW was likewise equipped with these same models of the Mustang and had the 7th, 8th, 28th and 32nd FS.

The Mediterranean Theatre of Operations began to receive its Mustangs in mid-spring 1943 and in June, the 27th Fighter-Bomber Group (522nd, 523rd and 524th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons) began combat operations. The 86th FBG (525th, 526th and 527th FBSs) first entered combat during the following month. Both of these groups were exclusively outfitted with A-36A Mustangs. One squadron of the 68th Reconnaissance Group, the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, was initially outfitted with early camera-equipped P-51-2-NAs at this time.

April 1943: The USAAF Mustangs did not earn their spurs until 9 April 1943 when the first combat mission was flown. This mission was performed by the 154th Observation Squadron of the 68th Observation Group, 12th Air Force, based at Sbeitla Landing Ground in Tunisia, North Africa. Some two months later on 6 June 1943, the 27th FBG flew the first A-36A mission from Ras el Ma airfield, French Morocco, in North Africa.

June 1944: On 2 June 1944, thirty Italy-based 15th Air Force B-17s and seventy P-51s headed northeast to attack marshalling yards at Debrecen, Hungary, after the aircraft went further north to land at airfields in Russia. From these airfields on 6 June, these same aircraft hit an airfield at Galatz, Romania. On their return to Italy on 10 June, they attacked an airfield at Focsani, Romania. Just two B-17s and two P-51s were lost during these missions. This was the beginning of Operation Frantic, designed to destroy German-held strategic targets in eastern and southern Europe and to help oust the Germans from their strongholds throughout these war torn areas.

The three airfields in Russia used during Operation Frantic were located near Kiev in western Russia (now Ukraine), and even though US engineers had improved upon them, they were not fully adequate. Of the three airfields used during this operation, only the ones at Poltava and Mirgorod could accommodate the heavy bombers: Poltava was the better of the two. The P-51s used the airfield at Piryatin.

The European Theatre of Operations (ETO) was by far the largest user of Mustang aircraft. In the ETO, operating with the 8th and 9th Air Forces, the USAAF employed the P-51B, P-51C, P-51D, P-51K, F-6A, F-6B, F-6C, F-6D and F-6K.

In April 1944, the 4th Fighter Group and its three fighter squadrons &ndash the 334th, 335th and 336th &ndash began to receive P-51 Mustangs which eventually replaced its P-47 Thunderbolts. During April and May 1944, the 52nd FG converted from P-40 Warhawks to P-51 Mustangs. Its three fighter squadrons were the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Fighter Squadrons. The 20th Fighter Group converted from P-38 Lightnings to P-51 Mustangs in early July 1944. It also had three fighter squadrons: the 55th, 77th, and 79th. Flying P-51Ds on a bomber escort mission to Kassel, Germany, on 27 September 1944, the 376th Fighter Squadron of the 361st Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, set an ETO record with claims of eighteen enemy aircraft destroyed in the air, plus seven damaged, and three destroyed on the ground, plus one damaged. First Lt. William R. Beyer became an &lsquoAce in a Day&rsquo when he bagged five Fw 190s and 1/Lt. Victor E. Bocquin destroyed three Fw 190s.

The Pacific Theatre of Operations (PTO) included the Pacific Ocean Areas (POA) and the South West Pacific Area (SWPA). It was in the PTO that 20th Air Force Mustangs helped to close the Second World War while flying VLR B-29 bomber escort missions to Japan.

The South West Pacific Area (SWPA) was the name given to the Allied supreme military command in the South West Pacific Theatre of the Second World War. It was one of four major Allied commands in the Pacific theatres during 1942-1945. THE SWPA included the Philippines, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies (excluding Sumatra), Australia, the Territory of New Guinea including the Bismarck Archipelago, the western part of the Solomon Islands and some neighbouring territories. The supreme commander, General Douglas MacArthur, was in charge of primarily US and Australian forces. Dutch, Filipino, British and other Allied forces also served in the SWPA.

Mustang variants employed by the USAAF in the Second World War

A-36A-1-NA F-6A F-6B F-6C F-6D F-6K P-51-1-NA P-51-2-NA P-51A P-51B P-51C P-51D P-51K TP-51D

A-36, F-6 and P-51 Mustang Units in the Second World War

FIFTH AIR FORCE (5th Air Force of 5AF) &ndash SWPA 35th Fighter Group 39th Fighter Squadron SEVENTH AIR FORCE (7th Air Force or 7AF) &ndash PTO 15FG 45FS 47FS 78FS 21FG 46FS 72FS 531FS EIGHTH AIR FORCE (8th Air Force or 8AF) &ndash ETO 4th Fighter Group (&lsquoThe Eagles&rsquo) 334FS 335FS 336FS 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron (Air Sea Rescue Squadron) 7PRG 13PS 14PS 22PS 27PS 20FG (&lsquoThe Loco Busters&rsquo) 55FS 77FS 79FS 55FG 38FS 338FS 343FS 56FG (&lsquoZemke&rsquos Wolfpack&rsquo) 61FS 62FS 63FS 78FG (&lsquoThe Duxford Eagles&rsquo) 82FS 83FS 84FS 339FG 503FS 504FS 505FS 352FG (&lsquoThe Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney&rsquo) 328FS 486FS 487FS 353FG (&lsquoThe Slybird Group&rsquo aka &lsquoBill&rsquos Buzz Boys&rsquo) 350FS 351FS 352FS 355FG (&lsquoThe Steeple Morden Strafers&rsquo) 354FS 357FS 358FS 356FG 359FS 360FS 361FS 357FG (&lsquoThe Yoxford Boys&rsquo) 362FS 363FG 364FS 359FG 368FS 369FS 370FS 361FG (&lsquoThe Yellow Jackets&rsquo) 374FS 375FS 376FS 364FG 383FS 384FS 385FS 479FG (&lsquoRiddle&rsquos Raiders&rsquo) 434FS 435FS 436FS 495th Fighter Training Group (TRG) 551st Fighter Training Squadron (FTS) 552FTS 496FTG 554FTS 555FTS Scouting Force SFX 1SF 2SF 3SF NINTH AIR FORCE (9th Air Force or 9AF) &ndash ETO 363TRG 161TRS TENTH AIR FORCE (10th Air Force or 10AF) &ndash CBI 1st Air Commando Group (ACG) 2ACG 1st Fighter Squadron TWELFTH AIR FORCE (12th Air Force or 12AF) &ndash MTO XII Air Support Command 15th Bombardment Squadron (Light) &ndash BS (L) 27th Bombardment Group (L) &ndash BG (L) 16th Reconnaissance Squadron (Light) &ndash RS (L) 17RS (L) 91RS (L) 27th Fighter-Bomber Group (F-BG) 522nd Fighter-Bomber Squadron (F-BS) 523F-BS 524F-BS 68th Observation Group (OG) 154th Observation Squadron (OS) 68th Reconnaissance Group (RG) 111th Reconnaissance Squadron (Fighter) &ndash RS (F) 86th Bombardment Group (Dive) &ndash BG (D) 309th Bombardment Squadron (Dive) &ndash BS (D) 310BS (D) 311BS (D) 312BS (D) 86F-BG 525F-BS 311BG (D) 382BS (D) 383BS (D) 384BS (D) 385BS (D) 311F-BG 383BS (D) 385BS (D) 311F-BG 528F-BS 529F-BS 530F-BS FOURTEENTH AIR FORCE (14th Air Force or 14AF) &ndash CBI Chinese-American Composite Wing 3FG 7FS 8FS 28FS 32FS 68th Composite Wing (CW) 23rd Fighter Group 69CW 51FG 16FS 311FG 528FS 530FS FIFTEENTH AIR FORCE (15th Air Force or 15AF) &ndash MTO 31FG 307FS 308FS 309FS 52FG 2FS 4FS 5FS 325FG (&lsquoThe Checkertail Clan&rsquo) 317FS 318FS 319FS 332FG (&lsquoThe Tuskegee Airmen&rsquo aka &lsquoRed Tails&rsquo aka &lsquoRed-Tail Angels&rsquo) 99FS 100FS 301FS 302F TWENTIETH AIR FORCE (20th Air Force or 20AF) &ndash PTO VII Fighter Command (&lsquoThe Sunsetters&rsquo) 15FG 45FS 47FS 21FG 46FS 506FG 457FS

The end of the Second World War came on 2 September 1945, and during that significant time in world history, the P-51 Mustang was serving in every theatre of operations. Whether it was in the CBI, ETO, MTO, SPO or PTO, this warhorse had come to fly and fight, and fly and fight it did. While it had been beaten into combat by its two main USAAF contemporaries, the P-38 Lightning and the P-47 Thunderbolt, it quickly equalled and surpassed them in some areas, especially its outstanding range.

The Mustang also served as a dedicated fighter-bomber. Shown here is Ferocious Frankie dropping two 500-lb general-purpose high-explosive bombs. (National Museum of the USAF)


THE F-6 AND RF-51 TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE MUSTANGS

Photographic reconnaissance and mapping aircraft are critical assets to successful military combat operations. In the Second World War, there were fifteen aircraft specifically created for photographic reconnaissance and mapping duties. Some were armed, some were unarmed. But all were of the utmost importance to the war effort.

To meet this challenge, the US Army Air Forces procured a relatively large number of photographic reconnaissance aircraft that were designated with the prefix F for Photo (graphic). These photo-recce aircraft (as they were called) were created from attack, bomber and pursuit airplanes. Since the Mustang was a fast, well-armed pursuit airplane, the USAAF opted to procure a total of 481 tactical reconnaissance Mustangs up until VJ Day. For the most part, these Mustangs were manufactured on the Inglewood and Dallas production lines with special fuselage openings, behind which were specially built bays to house the cameras they carried. They were then sent to various modification centres (mod centres) for their respective camera installation processes. Since the Mustang was the sixth in the series of photo-recce aircraft, the first variant was designated F-6A followed by the F-6B, F-6C, F-6D and F-6K. All of the photo-recce aircraft were also known as &lsquoFoto Joes&rsquo. These various photo-recce aircraft included the Fairchild F-1, Beech F-2, Douglas F-3, Lockheed F-4, Lockheed F-5, North American F-6, Consolidated F-7, De Havilland F-8, Boeing F-9, North American F-10, Hughes F-11, Republic F-12, Boeing F-13, Lockheed F-14 and Northrop F-15. Of these, however, it was only the F-4, F-5, F-6, F-7, F-9 and F-13 that were most widely used.

It was a tactical reconnaissance Mustang that became just the second USAAF Mustang variant to be used in a combat situation. On 9 April 1943, a lone P-51-2-NA (41-37328) flown by Lt. Alfred C. Schwab Jr. of the 154th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron flew an armed reconnaissance mission from its base in Tunisa, North Africa, whereby he successfully photographed the enemy-held Kairouan Aerodrome and returned without incident. This also marked the first time that a USAAF P-51 was used in combat. This P-51-2-NA and seventy-three others were re-designated F-6A-1-NA in late 1943. The first six P-51-2-NA Mustangs to arrive came to the 154TRS seven days earlier on 2 April 1943. On the next day during training manoeuvres near the base, one of the 154TRS P-51s crashed killing its pilot Lt. Howard Kenner. These P-51s, said to closely resemble Bf 109s by some, had yellow stripes painted on their outer wings to help identify them as USAAF Mustangs. (Although the first USAAF P-51 Mustangs to see operational service were with the 154th TRS, after only a few weeks, the aircraft were transferred to the 68th Observation Group, 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.)

The USAAF employed five versions of the F-6 tactical reconnaissance Mustang and these are now discussed:

F-6A-1-NA and F-6A-2-NA Mustang

Original Date: 7 July 1941

The F-6A-1-NA airplanes began life as modified P-51 (Mustang MK.IA) airplanes originally designated P-51-1-NA and P-51-2-NA of which seventy-five airframes were reworked into photographic types as follows: two K-24 cameras installed SCR-274N, SCR-535 and RC-32 filter radio equipment installed auto signal discharger and control removed AN-3089 signal lamp installed provisions made for storage of signal pistol and cartridges carburettor air filter installed the British-type oxygen system modified to US standards and long-range oxygen system installed. Various other details were arranged for long-range ferrying flights and/or for crating to be shipped. And the standard P-51 armament of four 20-mm cannons was retained.

All of the F-6A airplanes except for the first one, were created at a modification centre where they were reworked into photo-recce aircraft. The first was modified in Inglewood and served as the pattern airplane. The F-6A airplanes were modified with the installation of two K-24 cameras &ndash one behind the pilot&rsquos seat pointed to the left rear of the airplane and one mounted in the tail section to be pointed by the pilot straight down or straight aft.

The production F-6A-1-NA aircraft included 41-37320 (1 P-51-1-NA), 41-37321 to 41-37339 (19 P-51-2-NA), 41-37353 to 41-37371 (19 P-51-2-NA), 41-37412 to 41-37420 (9 P-51-2-NA), 41-37422 to 41-37425 (5 P-51-2-NA), and 41-37427 to 41-37329 (3 P-51-2-NA).

The Dallas plant built 1,000 NA-124 P-51D Mustangs. This is the final P-51D built by NAA, P-51D-30-NT (45-11742), and the &lsquo000&rsquo on the vertical stabiliser denotes this milestone. An additional ten were completed as NA-124 TP-51D-25-NT airplanes. The USAAF ordered 1,000 NA-124 P-51M Mustangs to be built in Dallas, Texas, following the Dallas-built P-51D production run. The contract for these was approved by the US War Department on 21 September 1944. Why the P-51M carried the same NAA Charge Number (NA-124) remains a mystery. Supposedly, one example of this airplane was built as the unique P-51M-1-NT (45-11743), but no photograph or proof of its manufacture has surfaced. The remainder of the P-51M production run consisting of 999 airplanes (45-11744 to 45-12742) was cancelled. The P-51M was to be very similar to the P-51D-30-NT but was to be powered by a Packard-built V-1650-9A Merlin engine without water injection that decreased its WEP or War Emergency Horsepower rating from 2,280 hp to approximately 1,720 hp. (Rockwell International via Chris Wamsley)

Original Date: 23 June 1942

Originally designated P-51A-11-NA, 35 F-6B-1-NA airplanes were created from P-51A-10-NA airplanes. The F-6B was similar to the P-51A except for the installation of two K-24 cameras and its engine. Equipped with two K-24 cameras, the F-6Bs served primarily with the 107th and 109th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group of the 8th Air Force based at RAF Middle Wallop in Great Britain. This group was later deployed to France with the 9th Air Force at Le Molay in July of 1944.

F-6C-1-NA and F-6C-1-NT Mustang

NAA Charge Numbers NA-102 and NA-103

Original Dates: 26 August 1942 and 8 October 1942

The F-6C photo-recce Mustangs were all created from modified P-51B-10-NA and P-51C-10-NT airplanes, ninety-one in all, from seventy-one P-51Bs and twenty P-51Cs. These were similar to the P-51Bs and P-51Cs except for their two K-24 cameras and provisions for two K-17 or two K-22 cameras. These were also the first photo-recce Mustangs to be powered by the Packard-built V-1650 Merlin engines.

R F-51D of 82TRS at Johnson Air Base, Japan, named &lsquoAngel Face&rsquo. (National Museum of the USAF)

F-6D-25-NT and F-6D-30-NT Mustang

Original Date: 14 April 1944

Under the NA-124 P-51D production programme, USAAF contract number AC 2400, Dallas manufactured seventy F-6D-25-NT and thirty-five F-6D-30-NT airplanes in the order as follows:


68th Reconnaissance Group (USAAF) - History

Background
Assigned to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF), 13th Air Force (13th AF), 347th Fighter Group (347th FG) in the South Pacific (SOPA). The squadron operated P-39 Airacobras, P-40 Warhawks and finally P-38 Lightings.

Wartime History
At the start of the Pacific War, the 68th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) operated P-40 Warhawks and was assigned to the 58th Fighter Group (58th FG) in the 7th Air Force (7th AF). The squadron departed overseas across the Pacific bound for Australia. On March 16, 1942 the squadron arrived at Amberly Field near Brisbane with P-40 Warhawks and P-39 Airacobras.

Redesignated the 68th Fighter Squadron (68th FS). On May 16, 1942 the squadron moves to Tongatabu Airfield (Tonga Tabu) on Tonga operating P-40 Warhawks and P-39 Airacobras. On October 2, 1942 the 68th Fighter Squadron is transferred to the 347th Fighter Group (347th FG) in the South Pacific (SOPAC). The squadron is based at Tongatabu Airfield (Tonga Tabu) on Tonga.

On October 28, 1942 the squadron departs Tonga for New Caledonia arriving November 2, 1942 then moves to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. On November 12, 1942 the squadron flies their first combat mission at the start of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.

During the Battle of Guadalcanal, the squadron pilots and aircraft were assigned to the 44th Fighter Squadron "Vampire Squadron" Detachment (44th FS Detachment) operating from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal and flew scramble and interception mission from Guadalcanal with P-40F Warhawks.

On January 27, 1943 68th Fighter Squadron P-40Fs took off to intercept an air raid by Japanese Army Air Force (JAAF) Ki-48 Lilys from 45th Sentai escorted by Ki-43-I Oscars from 1st Sentai and 11th Sentai over Guadalcanal. This was the only air raid by the JAAF against Guadalcanal.

On February 4, 1943 lost is P-40F Warhawk pilot 1st Lt. Michael J. Carter (MIA) on a mission to escort SBD Dauntless dive bombers attacking Japanese destroyers north of New Georgia.

On February 13, 1943 seven P-40F Warhawks from the 68th Fighter Squadron took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal on a mission to escort six B-24 Liberators on a bombing mission against Japanese shipping in the Shortland-Kahilli-Buin area. Inbound, 3 P-40s and 2 P-38s aborted the mission due to engine trouble, leaving the B-24s with an escort of 2 P-38s and 4 P-40s. Over the target, the formation was intercepted by 39 enemy fighters including A6M Zeros and A6M2-N Rufe floatplanes. Lost is P-40F 41-14102 pilot Captain Albert L. Johnson (MIA) and P-40F Warhawk 41-14110 pilot 1st Lt. Raymond A. Morrissey (MIA).

On February 27, 1943 P-40Fs from the 68th Fighter Squadron took off on a mission over Vella Lavalla and engaged enemy aircraft. Lost is P-40F Warhawk pilot 1st Lt. Jackson B. Lewis (MIA) seen to crash into the sea.

On April 12, 1943 the squadron began to withdraw from Guadalcanal to Nadi Airfield in Fiji but the flight echelon continues to fly combat missions from Guadalcanal until December 1943. By late 1943, the squadron began operating late model P-39N Airacobras and P-39Q Airacobras as replacement aircraft.

On September 6, 1943 P-39 Airacobras from the 68th Fighter Squadron took off from Fighter 2 (Kukum) on Guadalcanal on a mission to escort U.S. Navy (USN) bombers attacking a suspected radar site ob Magusaiai (Morgusaia) in the Shortlands. The formation included other USN fighters including F4U Corsairs and F6F Hellcats (their first combat mission in the South Pacific). Over the target, the P-39s claim five shot down. Lost are P-39N Airacobra 42-19022 pilot 1st Lt. Andrew Capa and P-39N Airacobra 42-18798 pilot F/O Buell F. Payne (MIA). Returning, the rest of the squadron lands at Segi Airfield on New Georgia.

By December 1943 the rest of the squadron withdrew to Nadi Airfield in Fiji. During late January 1944 returned to the Solomon Islands operating P-38 Lightnings. On January 27, 1944 squadron arrived at Ondonga Airfield on New Georgia. On February 4, 1944 the squadron moved from Nadi Airfield in Fiji to Torokina Airfield on Bougainville.

On February 22, 1944 lost on a test flight hop was P-39Q Airacobra 42-20107 pilot Captain Herschel A. Brown (MIA)

On June 15, 1944 became part of the Far East Air Force (FEAF) when the 5th Air Force (5th AF) and 13th Air Force (13th AF) were combined until the end of the Pacific War.

On March 6, 1945 the squadron moves from San Jose Airfield (McGuire) to Puerto Princesa Airfield on Palawan and remained at this location until the end of the Pacific War.

On June 26, 1945 P-38s took off on a mission over Balikpapan. Lost is P-38 Lighting pilot 2nd Lt. William K. Hootman (MIA).

References
347th Fighter Group Advanced Echelon APO 709 "Preliminary Intelligence Summary of Operations of Army Fighter Planes at Cactus - December 1, 1942 to February 17, 1943" February 21, 1943 pages 1-3


14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron

Spitfire PR XIT USAAF 7th Photo Recon Group,14th Recon Squadron PA944 Mount Farm, Oxfordshire 1944.

1LT Waldo C. Bruns Photo Recon Pilot 7th PRG - 13th PRS KIA - 14 August 1944

Supermarine Spitfire PL767 PR Mk XI, assigned to 14PRS 7PRG 8AF USAAF airborne form Mount farm.

Supermarine Spitfire PL767 PR Mk XI, assigned to 14PRS 7PRG 8AF USAAF.

Krauss-Maffei Locomotive Plant in Allach August 11, 1944. The factory is still in use and is owned by the Man Company. Two of the buildings have unique camouflage. I am not an expert in such matters but would suspect that the sub camp or out camp Allach must be in this photo. It was part of Dachau. Photo taken by Lt. John S Blyth pilot from 14th Squadron of the 7th Photo Group USAAF based at Mount Farm, UK. He was flying Spitfire Mk XI PL866 and altitude was approximately 5 miles.

Laupheim Airfield Germany August 11, 1944: Luftwaffe airfield August 11, 1944. Bomb damage assessment. Sortie 2833 of the 7th Photo Group. Lt John S Blyth was the pilot. He was flying Spitfire MK XI PL866 and the altitude was approximately 30,000sf.

General Robert J Dixon. Served in 3 wars: WW II, Korean and Vietnam. His last position in service was as Commander of Tactical Air Command.

A Mk XI Spitfire of the 14th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, PA944 assigned to Mount Farm, England, circa 1944. The Mark XI was a Mark IX Spitfire that had been modified for speed and loiter time. The Mark XI had its guns and armor removed and replaced with a more powerful engine and larger fuel tank. Pilots of the Mark XI took to the skies of war-torn Europe without weapons in order to take strategic photographs of German targets. These photographs allowed allied bombers to strike the most valuable enemy assets.

A Mk XI Spitfire named "My Darling Dorothy" of the 14th Photographic Squadron, 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group at Mount Farm.

V-Weapons Site France August 4, 1944: Sortie 2669 of the 14th Squadron, 7th Photo Group, Mount Farm, UK. Targets were V-Weapons sites at Watten, Marquise/Mimoyecques, Wizernes (Aphrodite Targets). Pilot was Lt John S Blyth flying Spitfire MK XI PA842. Altitude was approximately 15,000ft.


Lineage

  • Established as 68 Observation Group on 21 Aug 1941
  • Reestablished, and redesignated 68 Reconnaissance Group, on 10 Mar 1947
  • Redesignated 68 Strategic Reconnaissance Group, Medium on 4 Oct 1951
  • Consolidated (1 Oct 1982) with the 68 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium, which was established on 4 Oct 1951
  • Activated on 30 Sep 1982
  • Redesignated 68 Electronic Combat Group on 9 Apr 1993
  • Consolidated (25 Jul 2000) with the 53 Electronic Warfare Group, which was established on 1 Nov 1998.

Assignments

  • 3 Air Support Command, 1 Sep 1941 , 17 Mar 1942
  • III Ground Air Support Command, 19 May 1942
  • VIII Ground Air Support Command, 23 Jun 1942
  • III Ground Air Support Command, c. 4 Jun 1942 , 21 Aug 1942
  • III Ground Air Support Command, 24 Aug 1942
  • XII Air Support Command, c. 18 Oct 1942
  • Northwest African Tactical Air Force, c. 18 Jun 1943
  • XII Training Command, c. Mar 1943
    , 18 Oct 1943
    , 1 Nov 1943-15 Jun 1944
    , 10 Mar 1947-27 Jun 1949 , 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952
    , 10 Oct 1951
    , 28 May 1952 , 16 Jun 1952
    , 15 Jun 1960
    , 15 Apr 1963 , 1 Jul 1964 , 1 Jul 1965 , 2 Sep 1966 , 2 Jul 1969 , 30 Jun 1971-30 Sep 1982

Consolidated Organization

Components

  • 16 Observation (later, 16 Reconnaissance): attached Feb-Mar 1942, assigned 29 Mar 1942-26 May 1944 (detached 25 Sep 1943-26 May 1944)
  • 24 Reconnaissance, Photographic (later, 24 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic): 12 Jul 1947-27 Jun 1949 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952 (detached 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952)
  • 51 Reconnaissance, Weather (later, 51 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic): 1 Aug 1947-27 Jun 1949 10 Aug 1951-16 Jun 1952 (detached 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952)
  • 52 Reconnaissance, Weather Scouting (later, 52 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic): 12 Jul 1947-27 Jun 1949 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952 (detached 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952)
  • 68 Air Refueling: 8 Apr-28 May 1952
  • 111 Observation (later, 111 Reconnaissance, Fighter 111 Tactical Reconnaissance): attached Feb-Mar 1942, assigned 29 Mar 1942-26 May 1944 (detached 12 Mar 1943-26 May 1944)
  • 122 Observation (later, 122 Liaison 885 Bombardment): 1 Oct 1941-15 Jun 1944
  • 125 Observation: 15 Sep 1941-12 Mar 1942
  • 127 Observation: 6 Oct 1941-12 Mar 1942
  • 154 Observation (later, 154 Reconnaissance 154 Tactical Reconnaissance 154 Weather Reconnaissance): 1 Sep 1941-15 Jun 1944 (detached 12 Mar 1943-15 Jun 1944)
  • 68 Strategic Reconnaissance Group: 10 Oct 1951-16 Jun 1952
  • 24 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic (later, 24 Bombardment): attached 10 Oct 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952-16 Jan 1953
  • 51 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic (later, 51 Bombardment): attached 10 Oct 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952-30 Sep 1982
  • 52 Strategic Reconnaissance, Photographic (later, 52 Bombardment): attached 10 Oct 1951-15 Jun 1952, assigned 16 Jun 1952-15 Apr 1963
  • 68 Air Refueling: attached 8 Apr-28 May 1952 assigned 25 Nov 1953-3 Sep 1957
  • 656 Bombardment: 16 Jan 1953-15 Apr 1963
  • 657 Bombardment: 1 Dec 1958-1 Jan 1962
  • 911 Air Refueling: 15 Apr 1963-30 Sep 1982

Consolidated organization

  • 16 Test (later, 16 Electronic Warfare): 15 Apr 1993-20 Nov 1998 20 Nov 1998-Present
  • 36 Engineering and Test (later, 36 Electronic Warfare): 15 Apr 1993-20 Nov 1998 20 Nov 1998-Present
  • 51 Bombardment: 30 Sep-1 Oct 1982
  • 68 Test Support (later, 68 Electronic Warfare): 15 Apr 1993-20 Nov 1998 20 Nov 1998-Present
  • 87 Electronic Warfare Aggressor: 15 Apr 1993-1 Jul 1997
  • 344 Air Refueling: 1 Oct 1986-22 Apr 1991
  • 911 Air Refueling: 30 Sep 1982-22 Apr 1991.

Stations

    , Texas, 1 Sep 1941 , Louisiana, 17 Dec 1941 , Georgia, 8 Feb 1942 , North Carolina, 9 Jul 1942 , North Carolina. c. 17 Aug-18 Oct 1942 , French Morocco Nov 1942 , French Morocco c. Nov 1942 , French Morocco 24 Mar 1943 , Algeria 5 Sep 1943
    , Tunisia Oct 1943 , Italy Nov 1943 , Algeria, Nov 1943-15 Jun 1944 , California, 9 Apr 1947-27 Jun 1949 , Louisiana, 10 Oct 1951 , North Carolina, 15 Apr 1963-30 Sep 1982 30 Sep 1982-22 Apr 1991 , Florida, 15 Apr 1993-20 Nov 1998 20 Nov 1998-Present

Aircraft

1941-1952: O-38, 1941-1942 O-46, 1941-1942 O-47, 1941-1942 O-49, 1941-1942 YO-50, 1941-1942 O-52, 1941-1942 O-57, 1941-1942 O-58, 1941-1942 O-59, 1941-1942 A-20, 1942-1943 DB-7, 1942 L-4, 1942 O-43, 1942 P-39, 1942-1943 P-40, 1942-1943 P-43, 1942 A-36, 1943 B-17, 1943-1944 P-38, 1943 P-38/F-4, 1943 P-51, 1943 P-51/F-6, 1943 Spitfire, 1943. A-6, 1947-1949 A-7, 1947-1949 A-11, 1947-1949.

1951-1982: B-29, 1952-1953 B-47, 1953-1963 KC-97, 1953-1957 B-52, 1963-1972, 1973-1982 KC-135, 1963-1972 1973-1985.

Consolidated organization: KC-10, 1982-1991 KC-135, 1982-1991. None, 1993-1998

Operations

World War II

Established as the 68th Observation Group in 1941 at Brownwood, Texas, on September 1, 1941. Its primary mission was observation aircraft training and antisubmarine patrols. The group moved to several different U.S. locations in preparation for overseas deployment in 1942.

Moved to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, October–November 1942, and assigned to Twelfth Air Force. Shortly after the group began operations most of its squadrons were detached for separate duty in order to carry out diverse activities over a wide area. Operating from bases in North Africa until November 1943, the group, or elements of the group, engaged in patrolling the Mediterranean strafing trucks, tanks, gun positions, and supply dumps to support ground troops in Tunisia training fighter pilots and replacement crews and flying photographic and visual reconnaissance missions in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy to provide information needed to adjust artillery fire.

Moved to Italy and assigned to Fifteenth Air Force, in November 1943. Continued visual and photographic reconnaissance and began flying weather reconnaissance missions in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans. Also engaged in electronic-countermeasure activities, investigating radar equipment captured from the enemy, flying ferret missions along the coasts of Italy and southern France, and accompanying bomber formations to detect approaching enemy fighters. Inactivated in 1944,

Cold War

The unit trained in the Reserve as the 68th Reconnaissance Group at Hamilton Field, California between, 1947-1949, when it was inactivated as a result of budget reductions.

The 68 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was established by Strategic Air Command on 4 Oct 1951 with an initial cadre of 16 people from 44th Bombardment Wing. The the group was assigned as a subordinate unit to the new wing at Lake Charles AFB, Louisiana. Assigned to Second Air Force, the organization was a paper unit, with token personnel assigned on additional duty to keep it active and with its flying squadrons controlled by the wing. It wasn't until May 1952 that the unit received RB-29 Superfortress aircraft. It added a KC-97 refueling mission in Nov 1953, being in a second-line status with this equipment until 1953 when the wing was brought up to full personnel strength and received new B-47 Stratojet bombers. Becoming operationally ready with the B-47 in May 1954, the wing conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling to meet SAC's global commitments. Performed REFLEX deployments to Fairford RAF Station, England, June 14 – August 7, 1954 and at Brize Norton AB, England, September 27, 1957 – January 8, 1958. The B-47s were reassigned in late 1962 from Chennault AFB when it was decided close the base, and the 68th Bomb Wing was inactivated.

With the closing of Chennault, the unit was reassigned without personnel or equipment to Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina on 15 April where it replaced the 4241st Strategic Wing. The 4241st was established on 1 October 1958 as a B-52G Stratofortress uni talso equipped with KC-135 Stratotankers. Strategic Wings wings were established by SAC to disburse it's B-52 bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. A 4-Digit MAJCOM wing, it was considered a temporary, provisional unit.

In 1962, in order to retain the lineage of its MAJCOM 4-digit combat units and to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its MAJCOM strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate AFCON units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history.

The 4241st SW was redesignated as the 68th Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 15 April 1963 and assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 822d Air Division. The wing continued to conduct strategic bombardment training amd global refueling operations to meet SAC commitments. Wing aircraft, most aircrews and maintenance personnel, and other support personnel were loaned to other SAC units for combat operations in Southeast Asia, 27 May 1972-15 Jul 1973.

In 1982 the B-52G's of the wing were retired and the 68th became an Air Refueling Group. Elevated back to wing status in 1986, the 68th ARW participated in combat operations in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury), Oct 1983, Libya (Operation Eldorado Canyon), Apr 1986, Panama (Operation Just Cause), Dec 1989. Deployed to Spain to provide airlift and air refueling during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Aug 1990-Mar 1991.

The 68th Air Refueling Wing was inactivated on 22 Apr 1991 as part of the post Cold War drawdown of USAF strategic forces.

Modern era

Activated on 15 Apr 1993 as an Electronic Combat Group. Provided operational and technical electronic combat expertise for US combat air forces, 1993-1998. Performed electronic warfare (EW) technology assessments tested, developed, managed, and maintained EW systems hardware and software to meet Combat Air Force (CAF) mission requirements, 1998-Present


68th Bomb Squadron

Insignia of Bomb Squadrons of 44th Bomb Group based at Shipdham, Norfolk.

"Crew members of the Liberator "Patsy Ann II" discuss the blow at the beaches where the allied troops have landed. Left to right: S/SGT. Tyrus J. Stanley, tail gunner of 505 Cass Ave, St Paul, Minn., S/SGT. Chauncey H. Steele, waist gunner, of 3223 Bergnan St., Pittsburg, PA." - AIR FORCE PHOTO AND TEXT. 6 June 1944

2LT James Liburn King Co-Pilot - Bell Crew KIA 24 February 1944

Consolidated Liberator B-24M 44-50536 'One Weakness' 68BS, 44BG, 8AF. Pictured on its return to the Zone of the Interior 1945.

Consolidated Liberator B-24M 44-50536 'One Weakness' 68BS, 44BG, 8AF.

Consolidated Liberator B-24M 44-50536 'One Weakness' 68BS, 44BG, 8AF.

B-24H-1-FO #42-7507 "Heaven Can Wait" 392nd BG - 576th BS - Code: H 44th BG - 68th BS - Code: X

Extract from Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF) for Lieutenant Maxwell W Sullivan of the 44th Bomb Group researched by historian Bill Beigel. The file contains copies of primary documents that discuss the return of personal effects, circumstances and causes of death, and memorialisation of the fallen airman. If you require access to the full, unedited file please contact Bill Beigel via his website, www.ww2research.com, or the AAM Team at [email protected]

Turnip Termite, B24H 41-29418: Original noseart by Clayton Hutsell 486th BG 835th SQ 8thAAF. The aircraft was transferred from the 486th to the 44th on 17 April 1944. and renamed Pappy's Chillun. It crashed in the 21st of April, with the loss of all crew except the pilot and co-pilot.

Memorial at Taverham Mill Fisheries. Remains of the aircraft are still in the lake.


History

Origins

In June 1941, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury leased the Lake Charles Municipal Airport to the federal government to build the Lake Charles Army Flying School, an advanced flying school for single-engine fighter pilots. It had two axillary fields for emergency and overflow landings and takeoffs. The airfield was assigned to the Army Air Corps Training Command, Gulf Coast Training Center.

The 481st School Squadron was reassigned to Lake Charles AAF on 10 February 1942, being redesignated as the 481st Single Engine Flying Training Squadron (Advanced) on 28 October, used the North American AT-6 Texan. The 482d and 483d squadrons were assigned shortly afterwords being part of the 60th and 61st Single Engine Flying Training Groups (Advanced)>

Advanced single-engine flight training was performed at Lake Charles until 13 January 1943 when it was reassigned to the newly established Aloe Army Airfield, Texas. AAF Flying Training Command was replaced by Third Air Force, which established a tactical bomber group training school at the airfield, being redesignated as Lake Charles Army Airfield.

Known units assigned were:

    (Medium), February–May 1943 (B-26 Marauder) (Light), June–November 1943 (A-20 Havoc)
  • In May 1943, the 336th Bombardment Group (Medium) was activated as a B-26 Marauder Replacement Training Unit. The 418th Bomb Group (Light) was also established in August as an A-20 RTU, but it never was manned or equipped.

At the end of the war, Lake Charles AAF was designated as a permanent installation, and the 47th Bombardment Group (Light) was reassigned from the closing Seymour-Johnson Field, in North Carolina. The 47th flew the A-26 Invader light bomber.

Budget cuts in 1946 forced the inactivation of the 47th Bomb Group, and the airfield was inactivated on 31 December. The airfield was reassigned to Air Technical Service Command for disposition. It subsequently was turned over to the City of Lake Charles on 28 February 1947.

Strategic Air Command

44th Bombardment Wing

When the Korean War began in 1950 a cadre was formed to reactivate the 44th Bombardment Wing at March Air Force Base, California. The Wing's activation at March followed by a reassignement to the recently reactivated Lake Charles AFB in July 1951, where the wing became operational and was assigned to Fifteenth Air Force, 12th Air Division.

Lake Charles AFB was reactivated in February, and a crash project was undertaken to bring the World War II facility up to SAC standards for B-29 Superfortress operations. The first B-29 arrived on 1 September, and until August 1952, the 44th Bomb Wing served as operational training unit for B-29 aircrews and maintenance personnel for Far East Air Forces. From 10 October 1951 to 15 May 1952, the 44th trained all elements of the 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.

Operational squadrons of the 44th Bombardment Group were the 44th, 66th, 67th and 68th Bombardment squadrons. Re-equipped with operational B-29s, the wing became a first-line strategic bombardment wing in August 1952. In April 1953, the addition of the Boeing KC-97 Stratofreighter equipped 44th Air Refueling Squadron added an air-refueling mission to the wing.

In 1953, the wing traded in its propeller-driven bombers and received the B-47E Stratojet. Participating in SAC Reflex deployments with the B-47, the 44th deployed at Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, 19 January-22 February. 1953 and 19 April.-17 June. 1954. A fourth B-47 squadron, the 506th was added on 1 December 1958.

On 15 June 1960, the 44th was taken off operational status and was discontinued. Its squadrons were inactivated. The wing was transferred without personnel or equipment to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota on 24 November 1961, being redesignated the 44th Strategic Missile Wing.

68th Bombardment Wing

The 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium was established on 4 October 1951 and activated on 10 October at Lake Charles AFB . It received its initial cadre of 16 personnel from the 44th Bombardment Wing and began training as a Reconnaissance Wing using borrowed B-29s configured as RB-29s, assigning them to the 24th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron.

It received its own B-29s in May 1952, then began training as a bombardment wing. Operational squadrons of the 68th Bombardment Group were the 51st and 52d Bombardment Squadrons. On June 16, 1952, the wing was redesignated the 68th Bombardment Wing, Medium.

On 16 January 1953 the B-29 Superfortress was replaced with the new all-jet B-47 Stratojet. The wing also received KC-97 Stratofreighters and added a refueling mission. The 656th Bomb Squadron became the third B-47 squadron, with the tankers assigned to the 68th Air Refueling Squadron.

It conducted strategic bombardment training from May 1954 to June 1963 and air refueling operations from May 1954 to September 1957. It was deployed at RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom from June 14 to August 7, 1954 and at RAF Brize Norton, England from September 27, 1957 to January 8, 1958. A fourth B-47 squadron, the 657th, was added on 1 December 1958.

Local military and civilian leaders wanted to rename the Lake Charles Air Force Base for Lt Gen Claire Chennault prior to his death on July 27, 1958, but the Air Force refused to name a base after a living person. The Air Force granted the request after Chennault’s death. At the dedication ceremony on November 14, 1958, Anna Chennault unveiled a large oil painting of her late husband. He had been commander of the famed Flying Tigers American volunteer airmen fighting in China during the Second World War.

Closure

In the 1960s, the Air Force began modernizing its fleet with the B-52 Stratofortress replacing the B-47 Stratojet and the KC-135 Stratotanker replacing the KC-97 Stratofreighter. In addition, Titan II and Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs also permitted the replacement of some bomber wings with missile wings. The 68th Bombardment Wing moved to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina on 15 April 1963, where it replaced the 4241st Strategic Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, and was equipped with the B-52 and KC-135.

The move effectively closed Chennault Air Force Base, which officially inactivated on 30 June 1963.

It is now operated as Chennault International Airport, a fully operational facility dedicated to business, general aviation, and aviation maintenance.


This Forgotten Fighter Drew First Blood in Korean Skies

North American F-82Gs from the 68th Fighter Interceptor Squadron take off from a rough airstrip in Korea.

In a brief but eventful combat career, the F-82 Twin Mustang proved its worth over Korea.

By early 1945 it seemed obvious to the Allies that Japan would never surrender and the only way to achieve total victory in the Pacific War was by invasion. This grim prospect—and the need to win air superiority over Japan—led to the U.S. military’s request for a long-range fighter to escort Boeing B-29s to the Home Islands. Allied planners anticipated that the Japanese would send up hundreds of suicide planes to take out the B-29s, so the bombers had to have ample fighter protection.

The only aircraft capable of meeting that demand as of February 1945 was the North American P-51D Mustang. Carrying external fuel tanks, it could take off from newly captured airfields on Iwo Jima and make the nearly 1,500-mile round trip (see “Sun Setters Over Japan”). But the Mustang didn’t have the legs to spend much time over Japan with the bombers, and pilot fatigue during the 7½-hour missions was also a factor. What the U.S. Army Air Forces really needed was a long-range fighter that carried two pilots, able to stay with the B-29s throughout the mission and preferably launch from the same base as the bombers (Guam).

Two designs fit the bill: Northrop’s P-61E two-place fighter and the North American P-82 Twin Mustang, the last piston-engine fighter ordered into production by the USAAF. Although developed from the P-51 and to outward appearances two Mustangs joined by a center wing and horizontal stabilizer, the Twin Mustang was in fact an entirely new design. Its longer fuselages accommodated additional fuel tanks, which along with external tanks gave the P-82 a range in excess of 2,000 miles. Six .50-caliber machine guns were mounted in the center wing section for concentrated firepower, and its strengthened outer wings had hardpoints for carrying drop tanks or ordnance. In spite of its double fuselage configuration, the Twin Mustang was fast and surprisingly maneuverable.

When the atomic bomb brought the war to an abrupt end, the P-82E was still in production and had yet to reach the Pacific theater. While many contracts for prop fighters were canceled in September 1945, the Twin Mustang wasn’t among them. It continued in production and was converted into an all-weather fighter that would replace the P-61 Black Widow. Strategic Air Command used the Twin Mustang as a long-range escort for the Convair B-36, as it was the only prop fighter that could keep up with the giant bomber.

Air bases in Japan and Okinawa were among the first to receive the P-82. By 1948, the war-weary F-61 Black Widows, as the newly formed U.S. Air Force had redesignated them, were experiencing heavy maintenance problems due to a lack of spare parts and were about ready for the scrapheap. But they had to hang on until the new all-weather Twin Mustangs arrived. The 4th Fighter Squadron (All Weather) on Okinawa and the two all-weather fighter squadrons in Japan (the 68th and 339th) would receive their F-82Gs in mid-1949.

Some drastic modifications had been made to the radar-equipped all-weather models. The right cockpit now housed a radar operator with his scope rather than a second pilot. A huge radar pod, projecting in front of the propellers to prevent signal interference, was mounted under the wing between the two fuselages.

When the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950, starting the Korean War, the three F-82G squadrons in the Far East were fully equipped and ready for action. However, at the time the Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star jet, which had replaced the F-51D Mustang, was the fighter of choice for the Far East Air Force.

The rapid advance of the North Korean People’s Army created a critical situation in Seoul. There were many American civilians in the South Korean capital who had to be evacuated immediately. What few airfields South Korea possessed were left over from the Japanese occupation, and there had seemed no reason to improve them. This meant the F-80s had to launch and recover from bases in Japan, which gave them very little loiter time over Seoul. The only available aircraft with long-range capabilities was the F-82G.

Accurate intelligence on the North Korean air force was skimpy, but it was known that the Soviets had given them a large number of World War II–vintage Yak and Lavochkin fighters, as well as some Ilyushin Il-10 ground attack planes. If these aircraft ventured south of the 38th parallel, they could threaten the evacuation of civilians, so it was crucial to have air cover for the Douglas C-54 transports sent in from Japan for that purpose.

The 68th Squadron was stationed near Fukuoka, Japan, at Itazuke Air Base, the closest base to the Korean Peninsula. Its complement of Twin Mustangs was not enough to handle the job, so a significant number of F-82s from the 339th out of Johnson Air Base at Iruma, Japan, and the 4th out of Naha Air Base on Okinawa were brought in to fly combat missions during the war’s early days. At the time the inventory of F-82s in theater totaled 35, and 27 answered the call. The remainder had to stay behind to stand alert at their assigned bases.

On the night of June 25, F-82G pilot Lieutenant George Deans and his radar observer (R/O), Lieutenant Marvin Olsen, flew the Korean War’s first accredited armed combat mission. With the war only hours old, the 68th Squadron had a couple of its aircraft sitting ready on the alert pad. “We had been moved quickly from our detachment’s base at Ashiya over to Itazuke,” Lieutenant Deans remembered. “The weather over South Korea and the Sea of Japan was bad, and one of our radar sites picked up an ‘unknown’ coming in from South Korea headed straight for Kyushu. We were alerted and scrambled to intercept. Fortunately, it was not hostile, but we were armed just in case. The unknown was an SB-17 from the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron out of Ashiya Air Base. Early the following morning, we paired up with Lieutenant William ‘Skeeter’ Hudson and his R/O for the first combat air patrol over the Inchon area. It was still overcast with ceiling slightly below 3,000 feet. Our main objective was to patrol the main evacuation road between Seoul and Inchon.”

On the 26th, Twin Mustangs swept the sky over Seoul in a wide circle in case of trouble. A few North Korean aircraft showed up, evidently figuring the airport would be unprotected by fighters, but they didn’t try to penetrate the cover. A Yak fired on and missed one of the 68th Squadron’s F-82s, but the Twin Mustang made no effort to pursue the fleeing enemy fighter for fear of leaving a gap in the coverage.

The Il-10s—escorted by Yak-9s, Yak-11s and La-7s—were out in force on June 27 and 29, attempting to bomb the airfield at Kimpo and Seoul City Airport. F-80s and F-82s patrolling the area dominated the big aerial battles that ensued. USAF pilots scored seven confirmed victories on the 27th and five on the 29th, with no American losses on either day. Twin Mustangs made the first three kills of the war: a Yak-11 and a pair of La-7s.

Things were relatively quiet well into the Twin Mustangs’ patrol on the 27th. But at noon five North Korean fighters attacked the trailing F-82 in a flight of four. The pilot, Lieutenant Charlie Moran, spotted his attackers just as one was firing, and he took violent evasive action, though not in time to avoid a hail of lead that ripped into one of his vertical stabilizers. All four Twin Mustangs dropped their external fuel tanks to reduce drag.


The damage to the tail of Lt. Charlie Moran's F-82 Twin Mustang is visible in this photo. The attacking Yak-11 fighter never had the chance to finish the job as it was shot off Moran's tail by squadron mate Lt. William “Skeeter” Hudson. (U.S. Air Force)

Over the next few minutes, the F-82Gs made their mark in the record book. Skeeter Hudson and his R/O, Lieutenant Carl Fraser, banked in a high-G turn to get behind the attacking Yak-11. “Our mission was to protect the evacuation at Kimpo Air Base,” said Fraser. “There was fighting on the ground just north of the city, but our job was to stop any air interference against the C-47s and C-54s that were busy landing and taking off below us. We saw that Lieutenant Moran was being fired on and pulled in right behind the attacker. Those five hostiles were trying to attack the transports as they were taking off.

“Before the Yak pilot could react, we were locked on his tail, so he pulled nose up into the clouds. But it was too late because we were so close to him. We kept a visual on him while climbing through the soup. We fired a good burst with all six guns, and they found their mark as pieces of the Yak’s stabilizer and fuselage were blown off and we avoided them as they flew past us. At that time, the pilot racked his fighter over into a steep turn to the right, with us staying clamped onto his tail. Lieutenant Hudson fired another burst that impacted all over the Yak’s right wing, which set one of his gas tanks on fire. Two seconds later, its right flap and aileron flew off and they barely missed us, and we were so close both of our aircraft almost collided.

“I could clearly see the pilot turn around and say something to his rear seat observer,” continued Fraser. “He then pushed his canopy back, stepped out on the wing and again said something to his backseater. It was my impression that he [the backseater] was severely wounded or dead at that time because he never made an effort to exit the stricken fighter. The pilot pulled his ripcord and the chute opened, dragging him off the wing when it opened. Most of the encounter had been below 1,000 feet. We did a quick 180 to see where the pilot had landed. His chute was in the middle of a large group of South Korean soldiers. I figured the pilot had surrendered, but I later found out from a South Korean major that the pilot had started shooting at his men and they returned fire, killing him. At the time we were circling the downed pilot, Lieutenant Moran was shooting down an La-7 over Kimpo airfield.”


Hudson’s victory was captured with a malfunctioning camera by his radar operator, Lt. Carl Fraser. The Yak-11's North Korean insignia and the observer in the rear cockpit are just visible. (U.S. Air Force)

Both victories were scored within sight of Kimpo, thus having instant confirmation without the need to rely on gun camera film. Within minutes of Moran’s kill Major James Little, the 339th Squadron CO, locked onto another La-7 and fired a long burst, sending it earthward. All of these encounters were at low altitude, leaving very little room for error. Little made his kill north of Kimpo, and it was not witnessed from the ground, so his confirmation came later.

In action farther north, two more F-82s from the 339th encountered North Korean fighters. Captain David Trexler and his wingman, Lieutenant Walter Hayhurst, had their hands full for a few minutes with several Yaks. “My wingman and I attacked the closest Yak, who immediately broke hard to the left, which put him directly in front of me,” Trexler recalled. “As I closed to about 3,000 feet, I fired a short burst, causing the pilot to initiate a sudden right turn with his nose pointed down. At that point I continued to track him perfectly while firing a second burst. He reversed his turn again while I pumped a third burst of .50-caliber into his aircraft. Now the distance was down to less than 1,000 feet. Both of our aircraft were at full throttle and pointed down, which put us at an IAS [indicated airspeed] of 425 mph.

“My rounds were now causing some trouble for the Yak as its pilot rolled left into an inverted position and dropped down into the cloud layer below. I immediately pulled up because there were some mountains jutting through the clouds. Since we never saw him hit the ground or bail out, we were credited with a probable. When the day was over, our F-82s were credited with three confirmed kills, but many of our pilots claimed they scored numerous hits….Chances are, there were several more kills made by us, but with the heavy cloud layer we were never able to follow them down and see them crash.”

The three F-82 squadrons were responsible for covering a large area, and thus were well represented during the June 27 aerial battles. The F-80s flying out of Itazuke, which were credited with four victories that day, had to work their shifts in relays because the Shooting Stars’ thirsty jet engines did not allow much time over Kimpo.

It didn’t take long for North Korean fighters to back off because of the numbers of F-82s and F-80s they faced. But the Twin Mustangs’ days of dogfighting glory were numbered in what would soon become a jet-versus-jet air war. Tasked with close air support and armed recon missions far to the north, they would prove to be the ultimate stopgap fighter-bombers during the August-September period that led to the successful defense of, and breakout from, the Pusan Perimeter.

Although the 4th Squadron’s tenure in the war was short-lived, its aircrews saw plenty of action during that brief time. Lieutenant Colonel John Sharp, the 4th’s CO, also headed up the temporary composite group that combined all three F-82 squadrons. He took part in a night mission on July 4, 1950, that sadly involved the first loss of a USAF aircrew. Sharp recalled: “Since June 25, the North Koreans were rolling southward practically unopposed, and the low cloud cover had kept us guessing as to how many and how far they had advanced. On this night, I sent out two of our F-82s to watch for any breaks in the clouds so we could get down and report enemy ground activity.


The two Twin Mustang crews surround a shirtless intel officer, recounting the day's action. From left: pilot Moran, 1st Lt. Fred Larkins, unidentified, pilot Hudson and Fraser. (U.S. Air Force)

“Captains Warren Foley and Ernest Fiebelkorn remained on station for several hours without a break. As a last resort, Captain Fiebelkorn told Foley that he was going to try and get below the clouds. Minutes later, radio contact was lost with his F-82. As Captain Foley’s fuel reached ‘bingo,’ he returned to Itazuke and he stated that he thought his wingman had gone in, and we later found out that it was exactly as he had figured. As a first lieutenant, Fiebelkorn was one of the top-scoring aces with the 20th Fighter Group in World War II [9.5 kills]. Captain Foley stated that they believed the clouds were beginning to break up, and with this information I called armament and told them to load one of our aircraft with eight 5-inch rockets.”

Lieutenant Colonel Sharp took off at midnight. Sure enough, the clouds were breaking up over South Korea, so he could see the roads were jammed with vehicles—presumably enemy trucks—that were 20 miles south of the bomb line, indicating the North Koreans had advanced much farther than anticipated. He and his R/O, Sergeant George Umbarger, agreed that hitting the trucks that far from the front lines was asking for trouble because they might be friendlies. Sharp and Umbarger decided instead to head north with their ordnance.

“We finally got into an area that I knew had to be held by the enemy,” Sharp continued. “The first target we hit caused a secondary explosion that lit up half of Korea. A little farther north, I noticed a speeding vehicle with its lights on high beam moving south. It had to be a staff car trying to catch up to the war! I deliberately took aim on the rocket ladder [a gunsight aiming device], cranked in a little ‘Kentucky windage’ to lead him, snapped my eyes closed and cut loose with two of my 5-inch rockets. Seconds later…BLAM! Both rockets impacted right at the base of the vehicle and its lights went dark. It was the best rocket shot I ever made!”

July was a dismal month for UN ground forces. August would see no improvement except for the huge buildup of aircraft that eventually contributed to the collapse of the North Korean People’s Army. By then the 68th was the only F-82 squadron left in the war, and it was spread thin carrying out multiple assignments. On the morning of August 7, tragedy struck again when Lieutenant Charlie Moran, the pilot who had scored the second kill of the war, took off with R/O Lieu tenant Francis Meyer at 0300 hours on a routine interdiction mission and disappeared without a trace or any radio transmission.

Thanks to the successful amphibious landing at Inchon in mid-September, UN ground forces broke out of the Pusan Perimeter. As they advanced north, friendly troops found the wreckage of Moran’s Twin Mustang in a valley near a severed cable that had been strung from ridge to ridge. Moran had evidently spotted movement on the valley road and come down to attack when his plane hit the cable. This hazard would plague several F-51 Mustangs in the coming months during flights at first or last light, when the cables were hard to see.

During the F-82’s glory days in Korea (July 1950 through 1951), aerial refueling was not an option for the numerous fighter-bomber types that were flying missions over North Korea, limiting their range. The big Twin Mustang, in contrast, could take off from Itazuke with a full load of ordnance and range all the way to the Yalu River in search of targets. If an F-82 happened to lose an engine, it could still hit its target and return safely to base.

The final weeks of 1950 saw the F-82 tasked with long-range weather reconnaissance over the North. One of the 68th Squadron pilots, Lieutenant R.K. Bobo, gave an example of the Twin Mustang’s stamina during those lengthy missions: “The weather reconnaissance sorties we flew were, in most cases, an exercise in boredom. Sometimes we were ordered to look at a specific target area. But most of the time we were tasked with evaluating weather conditions over a wide area that the fighter-bombers were going to hit later in the day. On these missions, we carried a full load of .50-caliber ammunition and drop tanks to give us extended range. On one memorable mission, we took off to cover an area all along the Yalu River up in the northwest corner. From there, we would fly due east, staying just south of the river. All of North Korea was under heavy cloud cover and the river was frozen over, which made our radar almost useless since we depended on it to show the difference between open water and land. Also, we were fighting high winds. My R/O estimated the time it would take to hit the east coast and the Sea of Japan.

“We flew for a very long time without hitting the coastline. When we finally made it, we made a quick turn and headed south and began trying to contact the DF station at Wonsan asking for a fix. With our fuel running low from our long flight, we had to recover at Kimpo Air Base. Once on the ground, we started computing our time in the air and the distance we had flown to the east. Our figures showed we must have been right over Vladivostok before turning south! The Russians had to be tracking us on radar and figured we were no threat. If they had, we would have been in serious trouble.”

By the end of 1951, only eight F-82s were operational with the 68th, as the demand for their services had greatly diminished. March 1952 was the final month of operations for the big long-range prop plane, which had bridged the gap between the retirement of the old P-61 Black Widows and the arrival of the new all-weather jet fighters. In the process, it had made a significant contribution to the Cold War’s first major conflict, and earned a lasting place in the annals of air combat.

Warren Thompson specializes in military aviation from 1937 to the present. He recommends for further reading Double Menace, by David R. McLaren, and The Korean Air War, which he co-authored with Robert F. Dorr.

Originally published in the September 2009 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe Today!

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