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A bombardment group or bomb group was a group of bomber aircraft the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. It was the equivalent of an infantry regiment in the Army Ground Forces, or a bomber wing in the British Commonwealth air forces. A bombardment group was the key tactical control and administrative organization for bombers in all theaters of operation, and was commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel.
U.S. bomb groups were numbered and classified into four types: Very Heavy (VH), Heavy (H), Medium (M), and Light (L). Groups which combined bombers of differing categories into a single administrative organization were designated "Composite" groups. Bomber aircraft were assigned to groups by category:
(The USAAF also operated two fighter-bombers during the period, the A-24 and the A-36. Groups with these two types were first classified as Light Bombers, then Dive Bombers, before being re-classified as Fighters.)
The tables of organization and equipment (TO&E) for all bombardment groups were roughly the same. In 1942, existing bomb groups were expanded from three to four numbered bombardment squadrons; and most bomb groups created during the war retained this structure - B-29 groups were the exception, having only three squadrons. In addition to the flying squadrons issued Aircrew Badges, each group contained a group headquarters, a service squadron, and detachments for support of aircraft, equipment, and personnel from quartermaster, aviation ordnance, military police, chemical, signal, and maintenance companies, and from a weather squadron. These support personnel were then pooled and re-distributed among an unofficial service group and detailed for various duties as needed.
The service group provided support and technical sections for the group requirements as a whole: Flying control, Ordnance, airfield security, firefighting, Post Exchange (PX), Special Services, Mail, Transportation ("motor pool"), Communications, Radar, Gunnery instruction, Personal Equipment, and Weather (Meteorology). The service group also had its own mess section. The service group had approximately 30 officers and 300 to 400 enlisted men.
The group headquarters contained sections organized in the traditional U.S. Army structure: Personnel (S-1), Intelligence (S-2), Operations (S-3), and Supply (S-4). Including inspectors, headquarters organizations in practice totalled approximately 20 officers, some of whom were also pilots, and 60 to 80 enlisted men.
Each bomb squadron, in addition to its assigned flight crews, had a squadron headquarters structured similarly to the group's, and six technical support and maintenance sections supporting its aircraft, equipment, and personnel: Mess, Armament, Ordnance, Communications, Medical, and Engineering (aircraft maintenance). The ground support members of a bomb squadron numbered 15-20 officers and 250 to 300 enlisted men.
Functionally, bomb groups were divided into an air echelon (the collective aircrews), and a ground echelon (all supporting ground personnel within the group, including those in attached Sub Depots). Groups commonly had two deputy commanders, termed the air executive officer and the ground executive officer, to coordinate these echelons.
In 1943, a heavy bomb group had a total complement of 294 officers and 1,487 enlisted men to fly and support 48 heavy bombers; and a medium bomb group had 294 officers and 1,297 enlisted men for 64 medium bombers.
By February 1945, the size of the 125 standardized bomb group establishments had grown to:
|Type of unit||Type of aircraft||Number of aircraft||Number of crews||Men per crew||Total personnel||Officers||Enlisted|
|Very heavy bombardment group||B-29||45||60||11||2,078||462||1,816|
|Heavy bombardment group||B-17, B-24||72||96||9 - 11||2,261||465||1,796|
|Medium bombardment group||B-25, B-26||96||96||5 - 6||1,759||393||1,386|
|Light bombardment group||A-20, A-26||96||96||3 - 4||1,304||211||1,093|
The Army Air Forces also employed two composite groups with their own TO&Es: the 28th Bomb Group (15 B-24 and 30 B-25), and the 509th Composite Group (15 B-29 and 5 C-54). 19 heavy groups and one light bomb group were to be converted to very heavy groups for duty against Japan, but the war ended before the plan was carried out.
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