Activated on March 1, 1942, the B-17 Flying Fortress-equipped 306thdeployed to England in August for service with the Eighth Air Force. Constituent units included the 367th, 368th, 369th, and 423rdbombardment squadrons. The group bombed such strategic targets as the locomotive factory at Lille, railroad yards at Rouen, submarine pens at Bordeaux, shipyards at Vegesack, ball bearing works at Schweinfurt, oil plants at Merseburg, marshalling yards at Stuttgart, a foundry at Hannover, a chemical plant at Ludwigshafen, and aircraft factories in Leipzig. The 306thflew in the first penetration into Germany by heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force on January 27, 1943, attacking submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven. Sgt. Maynard H. Smith earned the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 1, when the aircraft on which he was a gunner was hit and fires ignited in the radio compartment and waist sections.
Smith threw exploding ammunition overboard, manned a gun until the German fighters were driven off, administered first aid to the wounded tail gunner, and extinguished the fire. Without fighter escort in the face of powerful opposition, the 306thforced home an assault against central German aircraft factories on January 11, 1944, and earned the Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for this mission. The group received another DUC for its actions during “Big Week”, the intensive campaign (Feburary 20-25) against the German aircraft industry. The 306thprepared for the invasion of Normandy by striking airfields and marshalling yards in France, Belgium, and Germany, and on D-Day attacked railroad bridges and coastal guns.
It assisted ground forces during the St. Lo breakthrough in July 1944, supported the airborne invasion of Holland in September, and attacked airfields and marshalling yards during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 through January 1945. The 306thsupported airborne assaults across the Rhine in March 1945, and flew its last missions in April. The group remained in the theater after V-E Day as part of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, and engaged in special photographic mapping duty in western Europe and North Africa. The 306th Bombardment Group inactivated in Germany on December 25, 1946.
Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe