5th Air Division (United States)

5th Air Division (United States)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 5th Air Division

caption= 5th Air Division emblem
dates= 19 October 1940-5 September 1941
10 July 1942-2 November 1945
10 January 1951-15 January 1958
country= United States
branch= United States Air Force
equipment= see "Aircraft / Missiles / Space Vehicles" section below

* World War II: European Campaign (1942-1945)
The 5th Air Division (5th AD) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It's last assignment was with Strategic Air Command, based at Sidi Slimane Air Base, Morocco. It was inactivated on 15 July 1958.


The unit's origins begin with its predecessor, the World War II 5th Bombardment Wing (5th BW) was part of Fifteenth Air Force. The 5th BW engaged in heavy bombardment B-17 Flying Fortress operations against Germany.


* Established as 5th Bombardment Wing on 19 Oct 1940: Activated on 18 Dec 1940: Inactivated on 5 Sep 1941
* Activated on 10 Jul 1942: Redesignated 5th Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 1 Jan 1945: Inactivated on 2 Nov 1945
* Redesignated 5th Air Division on 10 Jan 1951: Activated on 14 Jan 1951: Inactivated on 25 Jan 1952: Organized on 25 Jan 1952: Inactivated on 15 Jan 1958


* GHQ Air Force, 18 Dec 1940 - 5 Sep 1941
* Second Air Force, 5 Sep 1941 - 10 Jul 1942
* Eighth Air Force, 10 Jul 1942 - Unknown: Attached First Air Force, 10 Jul 1942 - Unknown
* Twelfth Air Force: XII Air Support Command, 13 Oct 1942 - 1 Nov 1943
* Fifteenth Air Force, 1 Nov 1943 - 15 Sep 1945: Unknown 16 Sep - 2 Nov 1945
* Strategic Air Command, 14 Jan 1951 - 25 Jan 1952: Sixteenth Air Force, 1 Jul 1957 - 15 Jan 1958


* McChord Field, Washington, 18 Dec 1940 - 9 Jan 1941
* Fort George Wright, Washington. 9 Jan - 5 Sep 1941
* Bolling Field, District of Columbia, 10 - 31 Jul 1942
* Westover Field, Massachusetts, c. 31 Jul - Oct 1942
* Casablanca, French Morocco, Nov 1942
* Oujda, French Morocco, Dec 1942
* Biskra, Algeria, c. Jan 1943
* Chateaudun, Algeria, c. Mar 1943
* Depienne, Tunisia, Aug 1943
* Foggia, Italy, Dec 1943 - 2 Nov 1945
* Offutt AFB, Nebraska , 14 Jan - 25 May 1951
* Rabat/Sale Airfield, French Morocco, 25 May 1951 - 25 Jan 1952
* Sidi Slimane, French Morocco (later, Morocco), 29 May 1954 - 15 Jan 1958



* 17th Bombardment Group: 18 Dec 1940 - 25 May 1941
* 12th Bombardment Group: 15 Jan - Dec 1941
* 39th Bombardment Group: 15 Jan - 5 Sep 1941

* 47th Bombardment Group:: Oct - Dec 1942, 22d Jan-18 Feb 1943
* 68th Reconnaissance Group: Nov 1943 - Apr 1944
* 97th Bombardment Group: Jan 1943 - 29 Oct 1945
* 301st Bombardment Group: Jan 1943 - 10 Jul 1945
* 14th Fighter Group: May - 10 Jul 1943, 14 - 25 Jul 1943, Sep - Nov 1943

* lst Fighter Group:: May 1943, Jan-27 Mar 1944
* 325th Fighter Group: 22 Oct 1943 - 26 Mar 1944

* 2d Bombardment Group: 1 Nov 1943-15 Dec 1945
* 98th Bombardment Group: 1 - 17 Nov 1943
* 99th Bombardment Group: 1 Nov 1943 - Nov 1945
* 376th Bombardment Group: 1 - 17 Nov 1943
* 82d Fighter Group: 13 Jan - 27 Mar 1944
* 463d Bombardment Group: 9 Mar 1944 - 25 Sep 1945
* 483d Bombardment Group: 17 Mar 1944-25 Sep 1945


* (Numerous Strategic Air Command Wings attached to the Division while deployed from the United States to Morocco for rotating REFLEX deploymens, 1951 - 1958)

Operational History

World War II

The 5th Air Division (5th AD) originated on 19 October 1940 at McChord Field, Washington. Its initial mission was air defense of the northwest United States wtih three bombardment groups (12th, 17th and 39th) flying early B-17 Flying Fortresses (B-17C/D), as well as the B-18 Bolo and its B-23 Dragon variant.

With the United States' entry into World War II, the mission of the 5th Bomb Wing was changed to that of a strategic heavy bomber wing, in July 1942 being initially assigned to the new Eighth Air Force. However, the 5th Bomb Wing was reassigned to the Twelfth Air Force in October 1942, to support the Western Task Force being assembled for the Operation Torch landings, planned for November.

The 5th moved to North Africa in November, and its subordinate units began flying missions from French Morocco in late 1942. The 97th and 301st Bomb groups, both being transferred from Eighth Air Force, were the pioneer heavy bomb groups in North Africa.

Three weeks prior to the invasion saw a number of secret missions flown by the 97th BG. The first of these occurred on 18 October 1942 when General Mark Clark, commander of ground forces in the Western Task Force, flew to Gibraltar, along with a box containing $100,000 in gold 20 Franc coins, which were going to be paid to corrupt Vichy France officials in North Africa in order to secure their cooperation during the coming invasion. However after Clark landed in Gibraltar, the coins were lost overboard when they were on the final leg of their journey.

Also, on 5 November General Dwight Eisenhower and British General Kenneth Anderson was flown on a 97th BG B-17 were flown from Britain to Gibraltar. The following day, General James Doolittle, the newly-named commander of Twelfth Air Force was flown to Gibraltar. Doolittle's B-17 was intercepted by four Ju-88s over the Bay of Biscay, forcing the pilot to to dive sharply and make a run for it just above the ocean's surface. The co-pilot of the aircraft was injured by a strafing run of one of the German aircraft, and Doolittle reached for the first aid kit and attended to the wounded man. Afterwords, Doolittle sat in the co-pilot's seat and helped fly the aircraft to Gibraltar.

Shortly after the invasion, the 97th and 301st moved from their bases in England to an airfield at Tafraoui, Algeria. The conditions in Algeira were sparse compared to that in England, but by 24 November the two groups attacked the docks at Bizerte, Tunisia.

As the American forces moved eastward, the 5th's units flew from Algeria beginning in January 1943, attacking coastal targets in Tunisia, and also concentrations of Rommel's Afrika Corps. The 5th BW moved to Tunisia in August. Targets included airdromes, marshalling yards, bridges, and troop concentrations. In February 1943, the 5th, in direct support of ground operations, bombed enemy troop concentrations in the Kasserine Pass. From its airfields in Tunisia, its subordinate units bombed Pantelleria, Sicily, and marshaling yards and airdromes on the Italian mainland. By October, the 5th Bomb Wing consisted of the two B-17 groups as well as two P-38 equipped fighter groups (1st, 325th FG).

On 1 November 1943, Fifteenth Air Force was established as a second American strategic air force in the European Theater. It was hoped that the 15th AF stationed in the Mediterranean would be able to operate when the Eighth Air Force in England was socked in by bad English weather. Twelfth Air Force would continue to operate, however it would be realigned as a tactical air force. The 97th and 301st were joined with three additional B-17 groups (2d, 98th 99th BG) with its reassignment to Fifteenth Air Force.

Missions were flown from Tunisia in November against a Messerschmidt assembly plant in Austria, and against some Italian targets, however the wing and its groups were in the process of moving to new airfields captured around Foggia in Italy in late September. Advanced echelons moved initially, working with engineering units to prepare the airfields and extend runways to accommodate the B-17. The 2d Bomb Group moved to Amendola airfield, while the 97th moved to the Foggia airfield, as its base at San Giovanni was stil not ready. The 301st flew into Cerignola and the 99th into Tortorella.

Once settled into their new bases bases around Foggia the the 5th began a series of raids, attacking enemy targets in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Bulgaria. In June 1944, its groups began "shuttle bombing" and landing on airfields behind the Russian front. On these missions, American aircraft took off from airdromes in Italy, made a bombing attack, and landed on airdromes in the Soviet Union. Then they reversed the process. In August 1944, the 5th wing supported the invasion of Southern France.

The 5th Bomb Wing continued strategic bombing missions until the Germans surrendered in May 1945. It was inactivated in Italy on 2 November 1945.

Cold War

The 5th was reactivated and redesignated as the United States Air Force 5th Air Division on 14 January 1951, being assigned to Strategic Air Command. The USAF inherited several bases in Morocco after World War II, and the 5th Air Division absorbed the resources and responsibilities of the USAF Mission to Morocco as part of Sixteenth Air Force. Early in the 1950s, SAC developed a series of bases, known as "Reflex bases" by which B-47 Stratojet wings would deploy overseas for extended duty as part of a dispersal program. Another reason for establishing Reflex bases was the relatively short range of the B-47, unlike the intercontinental range of the Convair B-36 Peacemaker and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress which could remain based permanently in the United States. Also, in this way SAC could spread out its potential as a Soviet target by placing its aircraft, weapons, and personnel on many more bases, with each bombardment wing having two additional installations to which it could disperse.

From its headquarters at Sidi Slimane Air Base, the 5th supported, manned, trained, and equipped assigned units and prepared installations at Ben Guerir, Boulhaut and Nouasseur in support of Reflex operations until the end of 1957 when the USAF withdrew from Morocco at the request of the Moroccan government. The unit was inactivated on 15 January 1958.


* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.

External links

* [http://afhra.maxwell.af.mil/rso/airdivision_pages/0005ad.asp USAF Historic Research Agency: 5th Air Division]

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