Activated on March 1, 1942, the B-17 Flying Fortress-equipped 305th deployed to England in August for service with Eighth Air Force. Constituent units included the 364th, 365th, 366thand 422ndbombardment squadrons. The group began combat operations on November 17, and bombed submarine pens, docks, harbors, shipyards, motor works, and marshalling yards in France, Germany, and the Low Countries. The group bombed the navy yards at Wilhelmshaven on January 27, 1943, marking the first penetration into Germany by heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force.
The 305thearned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) on April 4, when it bombed an industrial facility in Paris with great precision despite intense enemy fighter attacks and heavy flak. The 305thstruck deeper into enemy territory to hit aluminum, magnesium, and nitrate works in Norway, industrial facilities in Berlin, oil plants in Merseburg, aircraft factories in Anklam, shipping in Gdynia, and ball-bearing works in Schweinfurt. The group received a second DUC for fighting through fierce opposition to bomb aircraft factories in central Germany on January 11, 1944. The 305th participated in the intensive “Big Week” campaign (February 20-25) against the German aircraft industry.
1stLts. William R. Lawley, Jr., and Edward S. Michael, both pilots, received the Medal of Honor for similar exploits on February 20 and April 11, 1944 respectively. In both cases their B-17 was severely damaged by fighters after bombing targets in Germany, crew members were wounded, and the pilot was critically injured. Recovering in time to pull their aircraft out of steep dives and realizing that wounded men would be unable to bail out, each pilot nursed his plane back to England and made a successful crash landing. Prior to the Normandy invasion the 305thflew interdiction and neutralized V-weapon sites, airfields, and repair shops, and on D-Day it bombed strongholds near the beaches.
The 305th supported the breakthrough at St. Lo in July 1944, and struck antiaircraft batteries to cover the airborne invasion of Holland in September. The group bombed enemy installations during the Battle of the Bulge, and supported airborne assaults across the Rhine thereafter. The 305thflew its last combat mission on April 25, 1945. The group remained in the theater as part of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe after V-E Day; and from stations in Belgium and Germany, engaged in photographic mapping missions over parts of Europe and North Africa. The 305thBombardment Group inactivated in Germany on December 25, 1946.
Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe