380TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (H)
"THE FLYING CIRCUS"
"THE KING OF THE HEAVIES"

5TH AIR FORCE, USAAC
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2

visits since 13 July 2000

 

  • 528th Bomb Squadron

  • 529th Bomb Squadron

  • 530th Bomb Squadron

  • 531st Bomb Squadron

The 380th Bombardment Group of the 2nd Air Force, United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was established on 21 November 1942. Initial personnel were drawn from the 39th Bomb Group stationed at Davis-Monthan Field, Tucson, Arizona. 

Major William A. Miller was the first Commanding Officer of the 380th Bomb Group who arrived at their new base at Biggs Field, El Paso, Texas on 1 December 1942. His Headquarters staff comprised:-

Group Adjutant  Capt. Howard R. Williams
Group Materials Officer 1st Lt. Samuel N. Harmatuk
Group Statistical Officer 1st Lt. Samuel S. Poor
Group Communications Officer 1st Lt. Levon H. Philobosian

Squadron commanders were as follows:-

528th Squadron 1st Lt. Linnon R. Blackman
529th Squadron 1st Lt. Robert W. Horn
530th Squadron 1st Lt. Zed S. Smith (acting)
531st Squadron 1st Lt. James Dienelt

They started 5 months of extensive training prior to moving to the South West Pacific area. They started to acquire B-24 Liberators and personnel to form the Bomb Group. During this time they had two fatal crashes. A B-24 flown by Lt. Willeg of the 528th Squadron crashed with only one person surviving. On 19 February 1943 the aircraft flown by Lt. Oscar Cantrell of the 530th Squadron had a cockpit fire. Eight of his crew were able to bail out. Unfortunately Cantrell and his navigator Lt. John N. Gessenger were both killed when the B-24 crashed about 20 miles north of Biggs Field.

On 1 March 1943, the air echelon of the 380th Bomb Group relocated to Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado. Here they engaged in long cross country flights. While at Lowry Field Capt. Zed S. Smith took over as CO of 528th Bomb Squadron and Capt. Fred Miller became CO of the 530th Bomb Squadron.

The air echelon of the 380th Bomb Group relocated to Topeka, Kansas on 4th and 5th April 1943 where they picked up their aircraft to take to Australia. The ground echelon moved to Camp Stoneman, California.

On 14 April 1943, Operations Order #273 issued through the 11th Ferrying Group, ATC, at Hamilton Field, California approved the immediate deployment of the 380th Bombardment Group to V Bomber Command in the 5th Air Force. The first of thirty eight B-24 Liberators left for Australia the following day. They arrived at Amberley airfield west of Brisbane between 22 and 30 April 1943.

B-24 Liberator #519 flown by Lt. Clarence Corpening was lost somewhere between Hawaii and Christmas Island. The B-24 had been plagued with fuel leak problems and was originally repaired at Hamilton field.

Lt. Col. Miller reported to General George C. Kenney at the Fifth Air Force's Headquarters in Brisbane to receive his orders. The 380th Bomb Group was placed under Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) command and assigned  to Fenton airfield in the Northern Territory in the RAAF's North West Area of operation. They were temporarily diverted to Charters Towers airfield in north Queensland where they received in-theater modifications. The 528th Squadron were the first to leave Amberley airfield on 28 April 1943.

While at Fenton airfield the 380th made some of the longest bombing missions of World War 2 such as their raids on the oil refineries at Balikapapan in Java. They bombed airfields in the East Indies and Japanese shipping.

 

Crash of a Liberator "Shady Lady"
near Drysdale Mission, WA  on 14 August 1943

 

Crash of a B-24 Liberator, #42-40504 "Gus's Bus"
at Fenton airfield on 25 October 1943

 

Crash of a B-24D Liberator
at Fenton airfield on 11 November 1943

 

Fifty two Australians crews  and ground personnel were trained by the 380th Bomb Group.

The following photographs were supplied by Jack McNally (RAAF) via his daughter Wendy Coultas.
Jack McNally was one of the 52 Australians trained by the 380th Bomb Group

jackmcnally20.jpg (158338 bytes) Flight Lieutenant Terry Duigan's crew of 530 Bomb Squadron, 380th Bomb Group, USAAF
jackmcnally21.jpg (8647 bytes) B-24 Liberator, "Northern Terror", Jack McNally during training on the Liberator while attached to the 380th Bomb Group.
jackmcnally22.jpg (9740 bytes) Training on the B-24 Liberator while attached to the 380th Bomb Group.
jackmcnally05.jpg (10197 bytes) B-24 Liberator Darwin 1943
jackmcnally06.jpg (11567 bytes) B-24 Liberator Darwin 1943
jackmcnally07.jpg (8643 bytes) "Bail-out Belle", B-24 Liberator, Darwin, 1943
jackmcnally08.jpg (9273 bytes) "Lucky Don", B-24 Liberator Darwin 1943
jackmcnally09.jpg (8233 bytes) B-24 Liberator Darwin 1943

The 380th Bomb Group remained in the Northern Territory until February 1945. They then relocated to Murtha Field, San Jose on Midoro Island in the Philippines. They later moved to Yonton airfield, on Okinawa.

 

Collision between Spitfire and B-24 Liberator #42-40935,
1 mile east of Cape Van Diemen, Melville Island,
Northern Territory on 18 September 1944

 

Crash of B-24-D-135-CO Liberator "Gus's Bus II"
at Darwin Airfield on 11 October 1944

 

Crash of a USAAF B-24J Liberator
#42-73134 "Milady"

of the 531st Bomb Squadron of the 380th Bomb Group
on 17 Jan 1945 on Cox Peninsula

 

Crash of USAAF B-24D-53-CO Liberator,
#42-40387, "Beautiful Betsy",
of the 528th Bomb Squadron of the 380th Bomb Group
on 26 February 1945
near Biloela in Queensland

 

Technical Sergeant Alden D. Lake
of the 380th Bomb Group
E-mails from his son, Hal Lake

E-mails from Gareth Scott
a friend of the son of Mr. Mollicone
an ex 380th BG member

E-mails from Craig M. Hutchison
son of a 380 BG member

E-mails from Fran Skibbe
sister-in-law of a cousin of Elmer T. Hallam of the 380th Bomb Group

E-mails from Lt. Vernon "Bud" Katen
of the 528 Squadron, 380 BG

E-mails from Norwood H. Keeney Jr.
of the 380th Bomb Group

 

OTHER HOME PAGES ON THE INTERNET

Tribute page by Hal Lake to his father Don Alden Lake
with some photos of group aircraft
and squadron headquarters' signs

 

380th Bomb Group Association

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"King of the Heavies - 380th Bomb Group 1942-1945"
by Glenn R. Horton, Jr. and Gary L. Horton

"The Flying Circus - 380th Bomb Group"
by James E. Fain, Jr., Howard L. Bergman, Grant C. Cannon and Julian A. Riser, Intelligence Officers of the 380th Bomb Group

"The Best In The Southwest - The 380th Bomb Group In World War II"
by Glenn R. Horton, Jr.

 

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 Peter Dunn 2005

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This page first produced 28 December 1999

This page last updated 20 May 2009