The 491st Bombardment Group is an inactive United States Army Air Forces unit. It was last assigned to the II Bomber Command, stationed at McChord Field, Washington. It was inactivated on 8 September 1945.
During World War II the group was an Eighth Air Force B-24 Liberator unit stationed in England. Assigned to RAF North Pickenham in early 1944. The group flew 187 combat missions, being awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for a raid over Misburg on 26 November 1944. The unit flew its last mission on 25 April 1945.
Activated 1 October 1943 at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb group; assigned to II Bomber Command for training. The 491st was one of seven Heavy Bombardment Groups – 488th through 494th – activated in the autumn of 1943. These were to be the last Army Air Forces heavy bomb groups established. Reassigned to Biggs Field near El Paso, Texas on 11 November 1943 and trained there until January 1944 when, during training, most of ground unit was transferred to Pratt Army Airfield, Kansas, to augment a new B-29 Superfortress group being trained by Second Air Force. Throughout November and December, personnel strength was further reduced by transfer to other B-24 groups of personnel and aircraft until only four full aircrews and a few extra crew members remained, in addition to the Group Staff.
On 7 January 1944, orders came through for the 491st to move to Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado to complete training. Upon arrival at Pueblo, the 491st personnel were assigned to the 471st Combat Crew Training School for additional instruction. Additional crews arrived almost at once, bringing the Group total to 24. These new crews were part of a sizable detachment that had left Davis-Monthan field together after completing Phase I training. However, when their train reached Alamogordo Army Airfield, New Mexico, late at night, many of the crews got off to become the air echelon of the 492d Bombardment Group, while the crews assigned to the 491st continued on. The 471st was redesignated a Heavy Bomb Group and moved out on 24 January, leaving the 491st in sole possession of the buildings, equipment and aircraft at Pueblo AAB. New B-24s were assigned to the group from Consolidated and training was completed by April.
After training was completed the air echelon was then deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). Began movement overseas on 21 April 1944 via South Atlantic Route via Morrison Field, Florida, via Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar and Marrakesh, French Morocco, then to the United Kingdom.
The group was apparently planned for 14th Combat Bombardment Wing and to be stationed at RAF North Pickenham; however the 492d BG was assigned to North Pickenham and the 491st instead went to RAF Metfield. Four established groups in 2d Bombardment Division were ordered to raise and train an additional squadron ground unit each one of the five ground echelons in each group then selected and assigned to the 491st BG as a ground echelon. These units were transferred to Metfield on 25 April 1944.
Once in England, the group engaged in long-range strategic bombardment attacks against Germany. Targets included Berlin, Hamburg, Kassel and Cologne, as well as the German General Staff HQ at Zossen. In July 1944 it supported the breakout at St. Lo and assaulted V-weapon sites and communications lines in France during the summer of 1944. With the withdrawal of the 492d Bomb Group from operational missions in August the group was transferred back to RAF North Pickenham.
Upon its return, the 491st concentrated its attacks on strategic objectives in Germany, striking communications centers, oil refineries, storage depots, industrial areas, shipyards, and other targets in such places as Berlin, Hamburg, Kassel, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Bielefeld, Hanover, and Magdeburg; on one occasion attacked the headquarters of the German General Staff at Zossen, Germany.
While on a mission to bomb an oil refinery at Misburg on 26 November 1944, the group was attacked by large numbers of enemy fighters; although about one-half of its planes were destroyed, the remainder fought off the interceptors, successfully bombed the target, and won for the group a Distinguished Unit Citation. The group dropped supplies to paratroops on 18 September 1944 during the airborne attack in the Netherlands; bombed German supply lines and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945; supported Allied forces in the airborne drop across the Rhine in March 1945; and interdicted enemy communications during the Allied drive across Germany in April 1945.
Remained in the United Kingdom until 1 June 1945 when the 491st was alerted for Pacific redeployment. After reaching the United States, personnel were to be given 30 days leave after which the Group would reassemble, go through transition to B-29 Superfortresses, and join in the war against Japan. On the 17, 18 and 19 June, 81 Liberators bid final farewells to RAF North Pickenham as they departed en route to the United States. Ground unit sailed on Queen Mary on 6 July 1945 arriving in New York 11 July 1945. Many personnel were demobilized upon arrival. A small cadre of personnel formed at McChord Field, Washington; most of the group's personnel having been demobilized upon return to the United States. However the Japanese Capitulation led to the units inactivation at McChord on 8 September 1945, never being re-manned or equipped.Constituted as 491st Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 14 September 1943
Activated on 1 October 1943
Inactivated on 8 September 1945
II Bomber Command, 1 October 1943 – February 1944
95th Combat Bombardment Wing, 5 May 1944
14th Combat Bombardment Wing, 14 August 1944 – 17 July 1945
Second Air Force, 17 July-8 September 1945
852d Bombardment Squadron (3Q) 1 October 1943 – 8 September 1945
853d Bombardment Squadron (T8) 1 October 1943 – 8 September 1945
854th Bombardment Squadron (6X) 1 October 1943 – 8 September 1945
855th Bombardment Squadron (V2) 1 October 1943 – 8 September 1945
Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, 1 October 1943
Biggs Field, Texas 11 November 1943
Pueblo Army Air Base, Colorado. 7 January 1944 (Air Echelon)
RAF Metfield (AAF-366), England, 25 April 1944
RAF North Pickenham (AAF-143), England, 10 August 1944
McChord Field, Washington, 17 July – 8 September 1945
Consolidated B-24 Liberator