A Brief History of the 493rd Heavy Bombardment Group
The Group was activated on November 1, 1943 at McCook Army Air Field, Nebraska. The 13th Anti-Submarine Squadron, then retraining as a heavy bombardment unit in B-24s in Pueblo, Colorado, became identified as the 493rd Bombardment Group and moved to Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, near Tucson, Arizona for additional practice. The Arizona crews joined other personnel already assembled in McCook in mid-January 1944. Additional officers and men, chiefly from the 34th Group training at Blythe, California, were assigned to the Group in February and March. Intensive training of all airmen and support specialists began in January and was only occasionally interrupted by Nebraska’s late winter and early spring storms. Air exercises in several models of B-24s included day and night flights, cross-country navigation, simulated bombing, aerial-gunnery practice, and squadron and group formation flying.
The Group transferred without men or equipment to the U.K. on January 1, 1944. A ground echelon, staffed with personnel from groups of the Third Bomber Division in the U.K., moved to Station 152, Debach, Suffolk County, England in April 1944. A ground contingent with some aircrew left McCook by train on May 2 for Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts, sailed from Boston on the USS Brazil on May 12, landed at Liverpool on May 26, and arrived at Debach the following day. Aircrews left McCook in early May and flew the northern route to the U.K. — New Hampshire, Labrador, thence to Debach by way of Iceland and Wales, or by way of Northern Ireland.
The 493rd was assigned to the Third Air Division, 93rd Wing of the Eighth Air Force on January 1, 1944. Command assignments made in April were to the Third Bomb Division, 93rd Combat Bomb Wing. The Group was composed of the 860th, 861st, 862nd, and 863rd Heavy Bombardment Squadrons. (The 862nd Squadron was established as Third Scouting Force on February 1, 1945. Ground personnel transferred, but aircraft and crews were assigned to the other squadrons. The 862nd rejoined the Group in May.)
The Group was quartered at Debach except for a temporary move of the air echelon in March 1945 to Station 165, Little Walden, Essex County while runways at Debach were repaired. Combat aircraft included B-24Hs and B-24Js from June 6 to August 24, 1944, and B-17Gs from September 8, 1944 to April 20, 1945. The Group commanding officers were Col. Elbert Helton, from November 1, 1943 to February 15, 1945; Col. Robert B. Landry, from February 16 to May 1945, and Lt. Col. Shepler W. Fitzgerald, from June 5 to August 1945.
The 493rd Bomb Group was the last group to become operational in the 8th Air Force. Its first mission was on June 6, 1944 [D-Day!] to Liseux, France; its last mission was on April 20, 1945 to Nauen, Germany. Combat missions totaled about 160. (See appended list for numbering.) The first 50 missions were in B-24s; the final 110 were in B-17s. Wartime sorties credited were 4,781, during which about 11,730 tons of bombs were dropped. Aircraft lost included 41 missing in action and 31 other operational losses. Gunners of the 493rd gunners shot down 11 enemy aircraft including several jets, probably destroyed 6 other fighters, and damaged at least three. In addition to combat sorties, five crews from the Group flew B-24 tankers in September 1944 and delivered about 4 tons of gasoline to armies in France. In May 1945 the 493rd in B-17s flew six relief missions to the Netherlands, dropping 450 tons of food for civilians.
The Group redeployed to the U.S.A. in July and August 1945. Aircraft and crews began taking off for the last time from Debach on June 30. The ground echelon sailed home on the Queen Elizabeth on August 6 and debarked in New York on August 11. All personnel were granted a 30-day leave. The Group was established at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota on August 12 and de-activated there on August 28, 1945.
This history of the 493rd Bomb Group is based on the outline in R.A. Freeman’s (1970) history of the Eighth Air Force, The Mighty Eighth (p. 262).
Other material is from the 493rd Bomb Group Memorial Association’s Briefing Notes and E.M. Woodward’s (1997) Flying School: Combat Hell.