Bomb Group

380th Bomb Group Association
World War II Veterans Group





The American Air Units that came out of the Philippines and Java Campaigns were woefully inadequate to defend Australia from the expected Japanese onslaught, let alone to try to recapture what was lost.  In addition, the 7th Bomb Group, also in the Philippines, had been sent to India, leaving only the 19th for the heavy bomber component at that time. They flew B-17s.

The 43rd Bomb Group, also with B-17s, arrived in Australia in March 1942.  The 90th with B-24s was sent to Hawaii in September 1942 and on to Australia in October.  The 19th return to the States in December 1942, leaving only the other two as the 5th Air Force's complement of heavy bombers then available.

American air units in Australia and New Guinea were not to be organized into a separate U.S. air force until September 1942, when General Kenney took command.  Because the Australians were in a position to furnish the communications and headquarters personnel the Americans lacked, an Allied command in Northern Territory of Australia incorporating both Australian and American units had seemed appropriate.  The American planes were assigned late in May 1942 to the operational control of the commanding general of the land forces of the Northern Territory and to the commander of the New Guinea Force on the understanding that these ground commanders would not interfere with the control exercised by air officers, except in the event of an imminent attack.  (See Appendix I)

Except for northeastern Australia, the RAAF assumed responsibility for the defense of the Australian continent and, in addition, full responsibility for reconnaissance and bomber operations flown from the Darwin area against Japanese bases in the Netherlands East Indies.  The 5th Air Force took over the full job in eastern Australia and in Papua on New Guinea.  The arrangement, of course, was not intended to be inflexible.  RAAF squadrons were attached to the 5th Air Force and repeatedly participated in its operations, while the 5th frequently furnished units to its ally on request.  (Appendix I)

Until January 1943, this had involved occasional visits by the 19th, 43rd, and 90th Groups for special reconnaissance missions.  In January, elements of its 400th Squadron of the 90th were at Fenton for reconnaissance. Elements of the 319th Squadron were to relieve them on 21 January but it was decided then that the whole 319th Squadron would move to Fenton semi-permanently.  They remained until relieved by the 380th.  They returned to Fort Moresby on 7 July 1943.

General Kenney's Plan for the Northwest Area Command (Quoted from Appendix I)

To oppose this Jap ring, which stretches from Timor to Rabaul, and leaving the Solomons to South Pacific forces, I can muster from the R.A.A.F. and the 5th Air Force combined about 700 combat aircraft (counting everything that can be used legitimately in a shooting war), which must be spread from Darwin to Horn Island, to Port Moresby, to Milne Bay and around to Dobodura.

With the increased Jap attention to the area between Timor and the west coast of New Guinea I have already found it necessary to station one squadron of B.24's in the Darwin area for reconnaissance and bombing of shipping and aerodromes.  I cannot overlook the possibility of Jap attempts to put in a string of aerodromes along the New Guinea west coast and even the seizure of Merauke, where a good dry season aerodrome already exists.  I believe such a move is contemplated by the Nips to forestall any attempt by us to work up the coast from Merauke, establish air bases and bomb his installations and shipping along the Tarakan-Wewak line, which are now out of range of a bomber with full load.  I'd like to do it if I had the bombers to spare.  Accordingly I have to constantly survey all likely spots from Merauke to the northwest and crack down on any construction that starts.  If the Jap occupied Merauke he would be a constant thorn in my side, as he would be right on the Torres Strait shipping lane and could easily raid every aerodrome from Horn Island to Cooktown and around to Port Moresby itself.  The place is weakly held by a volunteer Dutch company and the Australians do not seem to have any troops to spare to reinforce the garrison.

What is really needed is sufficient heavy bomber strength to keep pounding Jap bases and shipping in the Timor - Ambon - west coast of New Guinea area and at the same time hammer at the same targets in New Britain and New Ireland.  One force to keep the enemy from the Darwin area; the other to help us forward in the New Guinea theatre and help SOPAC in the Solomons.  A seizure of Darwin by the Nip would be bad news.  While it may not seem to be a vital point for the defence of Australia, its loss would deprive us of all our advanced bases for the eventual operations toward Timor as well as the area from which a lot of our essential reconnaissance flights are carried out.  From Darwin the Jap would dominate the whole north coast of Australia.  It would be the devil of a job to oust the Nips if they ever got a foothold there on account of the lack of communications to get at them.  I need to maintain a heavy group in the Darwin area all the time with facilities available to throw a second group into the picture at any time from the Moresby area where three groups would be stationed permanently.  As soon as we clean up the Lae/Madang/Cape Gloucester (New Britain) area, I want to develop Merauke as a bomber base.  Then we would be set to go forward. [See Appendix I]

General Kenney's First Trip to Washington

Major General George H. Kenney was given command of the Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area on 7 August 1942, and formed the 5th Air Force on 3 September 1942.  He was commander of both since the Allied Air Force was the 5th Air Force plus the RAAF.

He was called to Washington to report to General Arnold and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 4 March 1943, and arrived in Washington on 10 March.  In the meantime, the Battle of the Bismarck Sea had occurred on 2-4 March.  This success obviously had a great influence on the succeeding negotiations.

The conferees listened to Kenney's plan to move west and north along the East New Guinea coast, capture Lae, and then continue on, seizing both sides of the vital Vitiaz Straits.  When the South Pacific (SOPAC) forces had advanced north through the Solomon Islands and had gained control of Bougainville Island, both the South and South West Pacific forces would then be in a position to make a two-pronged attack to capture Rabaul.  (Reference 2)

This was before the strategy of bypassing Japanese strongholds was developed.  He stated in his biography:

"On March 17, I was invited to pay a visit to the White House.  I talked for some time with President Roosevelt, who wanted to hear the whole story of the war in our theater in detail as well as a blow-by-blow description of the Bismarck Sea Battle.  I found the President surprisingly familiar with the geography of the Pacific, which made it quite easy to talk with him about the war out there.  He wanted to know how I was making out on getting airplanes.  I told him that so far my chances didn't look very good.  When he asked why, I said that among other reasons given me was that he had made so many commitments elsewhere that there were no planes left to give me.  The President laughed and said he guessed he'd have to look into the matter and see if a few couldn't be found somewhere that might be sent me.  He said that if anybody was a winner, he should be given a chance to keep on winning."  (Reference 2)

"Arnold called me to his office on the 22nd and told me that he had gone over the whole picture and had squeezed everything dry to give me some help.  He said I was to get a new heavy-bombardment group, two and a half medium groups, and three more fighter groups.  One of these fighter groups would be equipped with P-47s, which no one else wanted.  I said I'd take them.  The other two fighter groups would have to be manned by me.  Hap said he would give me P-38s to equip it if I could furnish the pilots and the mechanics.  I said to give me the planes and I'd find the men if I had to dissolve my own headquarters staff to get the people to fly them.  He also promised me another troop-carrier group of fifty-two C-47s, some depot and service outfits, and other odds and ends to balance the organization.  Altogether it looked as though, by the end of 1943, I'd have about five hundred more aircraft than I had when I left Australia."  (Reference 2)

The 380th as the next B-24 outfit in line was the one noted.  He returned to Australia on 6 April 1943.

Appendix II is General Arnold's reply to General Kenney's letter and their meetings.

In the meantime the bureaucratic machine was turning out the necessary stream of memoranda and orders to send the 380th to England as noted in the Table A1 and accompanying extracts of memos and orders (Appendix III).  Note that Shipment 2618 is definitely for the United Kingdom and the European Theatre of Operations.



Mid January 1943

380th First Listed on Deployment Schedule for Shipment to United Kingdom


OPD 370.5 Gr Brit (3-15-43)

Notice of Movement of 380th to
United Kingdom


OPD 370.5 (3-24-43)

Movement Orders, Shipment No. 2618, 380th and Others to United Kingdom


The chronology of the necessary stream of memos and orders to reverse this situation are shown next in Table A2.  The actual orders are given in the several documents of Appendix II and the letter of Appendix IV.  It is interesting that the first action taken was to see that the aircraft being prepared for the 380th were properly modified.  Table A3 and Appendix III show that the War Department issued the first movement order for the 380th to Australia on 7 April 1943, superseding the one of 24 March 1943, to England.  Second Air Force issued their version on 10 April, with Lowery issuing final orders on 16 April.  The air element of the 380th had been officially notified under date of 14 April of this change.

It is to be assumed that there was a flurry of rumors before that with so important and unexpected a change.  The orders are Appendix V.  The order of 24 March 1943, to Second Air Force would have engendered a corresponding order by Second Air Force to Lowery Field and on to the 380th.  Copies of the latter orders are not available, but succeeding documents bear evidence of the existence and execution by the 380th.  The Air Detachment Orders are not reproduced here.

This assignment of the 380th to Australia happened so fast that those in Australia did not get their data right (318th instead of 380th) - Appendix VI.  Their arrival is announced by Appendix VII, which also corrects the assigned number of the Group to 380 from 318.  Movement Orders for the Ground Staff are reproduced in Appendix VIII.  The personal shipping orders for all personnel have been obtained, but are not included here because of the bulk involved.  Their further orders to Northern Territory, Australia, are listed in Table A4 and in Appendix IX.




(March 27, 1943)

Change in destination of 380th group and resultant change in modifications


OPD 370.5 Aus

Movement of Air Force Units to the Southwest Pacific Area


OPD 370.5 Gr Brit (3-15-43)
        Letter 3-30-43

Movement of Units to the UK (Deletion of 380th and 345th)


Memorandum, Mar. 29, 1943

Diversion of Bombardment Group (Note reference on second page to General Arnold)


OPD 370.5 (3-30-43) changing document of (3-05-43)

Movement of Units to the United Kingdom deleted
Please note handwritten responses at bottom of the page


OPD 370.5 Aus (3-30-43)

Diversion of Bombardment Group


Headquarters, Fifth Air Force

Announcement of Allocation of 318th Bomb Group (sic)




WD 370.5 (4-7-43)

Movement Orders, Shipment 2960, 380th to Australia


370.5 (E-3) April 10, 1943
Second Air Force

Movement Orders, Shipment 2960
Note statement concerning equipment already sent to New York on second page


Special Orders 102, Lowry Field, April 16, 1943

Shipment 2960, Air Element - First Official Document to Ground Element of 380th Directly


Telegram, Fifth Air Force,
April 23, 1943

Announcing Arrival of 380th Aircraft and Correcting Document 10


Fifth Air Force, Troop Movement, Directive 32

Transfer from Sydney to Darwin of Ground Element


General Arnold distribution of Letter from General Kenney

First notes of 380th in Dispatches



(Not included in this text because of bulk)


Letter of Instruction, Headquarters, Air Transport Command, Washington, D.C., March 2, 1943


PAC Special Order 101, Headquarters, Topeka Army Air Base, Topeka, KS, April 12, 1943


            Project 96054-R, Shipment 2960-P


            Project 96082-R, Shipment 2960-R


            Report CG, Hawaiian Department, Army Air Forces for further dispatch to destination


Operations Order 273, Headquarters, 11th Ferrying Group, Army Air Forces, Air Transport Command, Hamilton Field, CA, April 14, 1943


            TDN 31 P 432-01-02-03-07-08 A 0425-25




            Par 1, Opns Order 286, April 17, 1943, 11th Ferrying Group


            Par 1, Opns Order 293, April 21, 1943


            Par 1, Opns Order 305, April 24, 1943


            Par 2, Spec Ord 45, Hqs, 19 Ferrying Group, ATC, APO 953, April 26, 1943


An incomplete account of the 380th arrival in Northern Territory, Australia, in what is believed to be Col. Brissey's handwriting is included as Appendix X.

After the 380th arrived, the 43rd converted to B-24s in the summer (Northern Hemisphere) of 1943, going active in B-24s completely by September.  The 22nd, originally a B-26 outfit, converted to B-24s in the January 1944 period, thus giving the four B-24 groups we are all familiar with.

General Kenney's assessment of the 380th's early capabilities is given in the message to General Arnold, presented as Appendix XI.  Note the comparison with the early missions of the 90th Bomb Group.

The 319th Squadron of the 90th Bomb Group had been serving temporarily at Fenton since early January 1943 and was to be replaced by the 380th on permanent assignment to Northwest Area Command as soon as the 380th became combat ready.  This take-over occurred in early July 1943.  In the meantime, the 529th and 531st Squadrons of the 380th had been sent to New Guinea to reinforce the 43rd Bomb Group who was converting from B-17s to B-24s at that time (529th) and to supplement the depleted 90th Bomb Group (531st) which had one squadron on temporary duty at Fenton as noted above.

During the time at Fenton, all or part of the 380th was deployed to New Guinea to supplement the forces there whenever major offensives occurred there.  This involved three different periods of duty, October and December 1943 and March 1944 for periods of up to one month in length.

For the most part, however, the 380th operated out of the Fenton Area (July 1943 - August 1944) and Darwin (August 1944 - March 1945).  While at Fenton, the 380th also operated out of strips at Manbulloo (100 miles southeast) or later from Long Strip (10 miles northeast) for the 529th and 531st Squadrons.  The Manbulloo Service was July - December 1943, and Long Strip from December 1943 - August 1944.  All were together at Darwin.

The missions carried out during this Australian Service Period are covered in general in Part VIII of this history and in Part V, Books 1-4, for each individual aircraft.These operations continued until February - March 1945 when the 380th was sent to Murtha Strip, Mindoro Island, the Philippines, to take part in the operations there in completing the Philippines Campaign and initiating operations against Formosa.

The Group had been named for inclusion in planned Operations against the Philippines and the islands in between Australia and the Philippines, but many of these earlier planned campaigns were cancelled as noted in Part B, and the 380th remained in Australia at Darwin until February - March 1945 as noted above.



Letter to Lt. General H.H. Arnold from Lt. General G.C. Kenney, 23 January 1943


General H.H. Arnold's Letter to General Kenney, March 1943


Initial Order to send the 380th Bomb Group to England for duty with the 8th Air Force, 24 March 1943


Change Directive Letters Transferring 380th to the Southwest Pacific, 30 March 1943 - 31 March 1943


Orders Sending 380th to Southwest Pacific Area, 30 March 1943


Australian Headquarters Announcement of Assignment of Bomb Group, 9 April 1943


Arrival in Australia of Flight Crews, 23 April 1943


380th Movement Orders to Australia, Ground Staff, 10 April 1943


Arrival in Northern Territory, Australia, Flight Crews, Undated Letter


Orders to Northern Territory, Ground Staff, 20 May 1943


General Kenney's Early Assessment of the 380th Performance, 29 June 1943




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Last updated:  07/08/2012 09:05 PM