The 448th Bomb Group (H): Liberators over Germany in World War II

Title – The 448th Bomb Group (H) : Liberators over Germany in World War II

Author – Jeffrey E. Brett

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This extremely detailed and gripping history of the 448th Bomb Group (Heavy) which covers the turbulent 1.5years of combat operations in Europe during WW2, will enable many readers to understand the challenges that USAAF bomber crews faced in taking the war to Germany.

Jeffery Brett has divided the history of the 448th into month by month sections and has introduced riveting and graphic personal detail which have been provided from recollections from the aircrew. Their insights covering the mission details, flying operations and utter horrors of the war in the air will hopefully show the true nature of the heavy bomber air war over Europe.Jeffery also explains the life and duties that ground crews faced in order to keep the air war operating.

The 448th Bomb Group was established at Gowen Field, Idaho in mid 1943. 4 squadrons were authorised being the 712th Bomb Squadron (CT) , 713th Bomb Squadron (IG) 714th Bomb Squadron (EI) and 715st Bomb Squadron (IO).  (Later on in the 1950s another squadron the 711th was added).The unit then moved to Wendover Field, Utah and finally Sioux City AAB, Iowa by early November 1943. Aircrew once completed their training were order to fly the bombers to England via the USAAF Southern ferry route which included stops at Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Belém, Dakar, and Marrakesh. During these ferry missions, 3 B-24s were lost. Meanwhile the ground elements sailed on the famous ocean liner, the  Queen Elizabeth and arrived in England by 29 November 1943.

The unit was then moved toStation  146, otherwise known as RAF Seething in November–December 1943. Now located in England, the 448th was assigned to the USAAF’s 8th Air Force as part of the growing number of bombing groups which were needed to attack the German military targets across Europe.  Using the group identification marking of a “Circle-I”, the 448th formed an important component of the 20th Combat  Bombardment Wing, whose role was to take the strategic bombing campaign to Europe. The adjustment to the English weather and formation training in early December 1943 was to be the forerunner to the beginning of 1.5 years of hard, savage and bloody combat operations.

Commencing bombing operations on 22 December 1943 the 448th soon learnt of the horror of war in the air. Accurate German flak, Luftwaffe fighters and the environment took a grim toll on the men in the air and equally affected those back at Seething. The targets the 448th were assigned to ranged from strategic to tactical in nature over the 1.5years of operations covering chemical factories, U boat facilities, ball bearing factories, oil refineries, V-1 bomb factory and aircraft industry sites. Locations like Rostock, Gotha, Fallersleben, Hanau and Berlin were places that came to be hit frequently by the determined aircrews. All the aircrew knew that as the air war progressed it was becoming harder and harder to meet the number of missions required to finish their tours. By the end of the war, the required count was up to 35. Men of the 448th were able to sustain and ensure their unit was able to take the fight to the German military each day as required.

Many many times ground crews prepared the “flying coffin” as the B-24 Liberator had become called in some quarters, for daily missions by spending hours in cold and snowy climate to prepare the bombers for their next missions. Aircrew were woken at early hours for briefings and then taken when all was ready take to the air, only to have missions scrubbed due to weather causing problems over Europe or the targets. It became common for the personnel of the unit that fighting the weather was just as bad experience as taking the fight to the enemy.Many examples of just trying to land back at home base proved that the weather was as challenging as the mission.

Through mid 1944 onwards the B-24 Liberators begun to lose their green colour and became silver overall, which helped to reduce some of the weight and slightly increase speed and range. The mission the men of the 448th 4 squadrons became more frequent and focused as they took part support missions for D-Day on 6th June 1944. On D-Day the Group Liberators were assigned to attack German coastal defences and choke points around Normandy, France.

In a slight deviation from their usual bombing, in September 1944 the 448th dropped supplies to airborne troops near Nijmegen, Netherland. During the Battle of Bulge in December 1944, the 448th provided support for the US troops on the ground by bombing nearby German military transport and communication areas.

As the air war dragged into 1945 unwelcomed surprises still abound – which were sadly not what the aircrew wanted. With many experienced aircrew lost in action or rotated out of the unit, the aircrew aboard B-24s in early 1945 had not experienced the grim and savage air to air combat at the hands of the Luftwaffe.  Their surprise was due to the fact that by late 1944 the Allies had been able to finally achieve reasonable air superiority over Europe. No one had foreseen and certainly didn’t expect the Luftwaffe to have much more air power reserves remaining. With the expanding Allied foothold in Europe seeing ground forces move east towards Germany along with new fighters like the P-51 Mustang providing much needed persistent air cover, the Allies were comfortable they had the air war under control. Little did they know that in early 1945 the Luftwaffe still had some strength and many brave German pilots struck hard at the thousands of bombers now flying over western Europe. Across the skies of France and Germany in early 1945 the Luftwaffe returned en masse and managed to unleash large numbers of Fw-190s, BF-109s along with more new generation jet and rocket powered ME-262s and ME-163s onto the bomber streams.

With the expanding Allied foothold in Europe seeing ground forces move east towards Germany along with new fighters like the P-51 Mustang providing much needed persistent air cover, the Allies were comfortable they had the air war under control. Little did they know that in early 1945 the Luftwaffe still had some strength and many brave German pilots struck hard at the thousands of bombers now flying over western Europe. Across the skies of France and Germany in early 1945 the Luftwaffe returned en masse and managed to unleash large numbers of Fw-190s, BF-109s along with more new generation jet and rocket powered ME-262s and ME-163s onto the bomber streams.

These fighters ripped through the bomber formations and took a heavy toll on both men and machines,  knocking down large numbers of USAAF bombers and killing many aircrew.These harrowing air combats saw the bombers hit hard with the B-24 suffering tremendous damage. In some cases despite what should have been certain death for some aircrew, the pilots struggled against many odds and managed to keep their badly damaged aircraft airborne to make it back to friendly lines or to bases in the UK. The reemergence of the Luftwaffe also seriously traumatised all the unit’s B-24 aircrews. Jeffery details in the recollection from the aircrew, how the horrors of the air war in such quick attacks forced the tail and waist gunners of the 448th B-24s to be ever so vigilant to any fighters they saw near them. Sometimes this meant that USAAF fighters were accidentally struck by very scared waist and tail gunners.

By the end of March 1945 and into April 1945, the 448th kept on pounding the German factories, cities and military installations to bring the German high command to its knees. This part of the strategic bombing campaign had results and it was not always easily seen by aircrew who up high at 15-25,000+ ft. At the end of the war some 448th aircrew flew Trolley mission  to show ground elements back in England, the damage they air war had inflicted on Germany.These missions for the first time brought home to many of the aircrew the total destruction that strategic bombing had inflicted on Europe. The 448th final combat mission of WW2 was attacking a marshalling yard at Salzburg, Austria on 25 April 1945.

Early May 1945 saw the 448th surviving members war weary but very happy to celebrate the end of the war in Europe with much fanfare along with paying respect to their fellow unit members who had died in action. With the winding down of the war underway the unit was quickly redeployed back to the USA across June/ July 1945. After their long and hard earned victory in Europe, the 448th was moved to South Dakota, USA and reassigned to the Second Air Force. They were to be trained to become qualified on the B-29 Superfortress which were in mid to late 1945 be then transferred to the Pacific to fight the Japanese. The end of the Pacific War by September 2945 ended that mission training.

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Jeffery has compiled in the appendices an extensive listing, covering an honour roll, names of aircrews who flew in combat, select colour profiles of some of the 448th B-24 Liberators, basic details of missions and targets attacked, list of Commanders of the Group and a statistical summary of the 448th efforts during its 1.5years of operations over Europe.

POSTWAR HISTORY OF THE 448th BOMB GROUP

Post war the 448th trained on the B-29 SSuperfortressand like some heavy bomber units, the 448th survived the post war downsizing and was redesignated as the 448th Bombardment Group. It was one of only 10 WW2 era USAAF bombardment groups assigned to the newly created Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946. The 448th was inactivated on 4 August 1946, only months after transferring to SAC. The unit was again reactivated in April 1947 as a reserve Tactical Air Command light bomber group unit at Long Beach Airport, California using the B-26 Invader. Personnel were called to duty again in 1951 during the Korean War and posted to other Invader units. In the same year the mission of the 448th changed again and they were now a jet fighter unit flying the F-80 and the F-86 fighter bomber. The group remained active at Dallas NAS (Hensley Field)  flying these jets until 1957.  Within a decade and a bit of becoming operational, the 448th had gone from dropping bombs and fighting off fighters over Europe to a

The unit was again reactivated in April 1947 as a reserve Tactical Air Command light bomber group unit at Long Beach Airport, California using the B-26 Invader. Personnel were called to duty again in 1951 during the Korean War and posted to other Invader units. In the same year the mission of the 448th changed again and they were now a jet fighter unit flying the F-80 and the F-86 fighter bomber. The group remained active at Dallas NAS (Hensley Field)  flying these jets until 1957.  Within a decade and a bit of becoming operational, the 448th had gone from dropping bombs and fighting off fighters over Europe to a high tech tactical jet unit.

The remains of Seething airfield still stand if tho somewhat reduced. The airfield is mostly now a farming area, with a small section of the airfield still retained for civil flying operations. Civil aviation was attracted to the former airfield in the 1960s and from this grew the basis for a small but highly active flying club. Popular airshows attracting military and civil aircraft are also held at times. The base’s WW2 era control tower was restored during the mid 1980s back to how it was in the 1940s. This building has since then grown into a small wartime museum to honour the brave 448th men who worked and flew from Seething. You can see some of the museum at this link http://www.seethingtower.org/

 

Book detail

ISBN13: 9780764314643

Size: 8 1/2″ x 11″ | over 400 b/w and color photos, color aircraft profiles

Pages: 312 pp

Binding: hard cover

Available direct from Schifferbooks at http://www.schifferbooks.com/the-448th-bomb-group-h-liberators-over-germany-in-world-war-ii-2679.html for $49.95 US plus postage.

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