Activated on October 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator-equipped 489thdeployed to England in April 1944 for service with the Eighth Air Force. Constituent units included the 844th, 845th, 846thand 847thbombardment squadrons. The group entered combat on May 30, concentrating on targets in France to prepare for the Normandy invasion. During an attack against coastal defenses near Wimereaux on June 5, the group’s lead plane was severely damaged by enemy fire and its pilot killed. The deputy group commander, Lt. Col. Leon R. Vance who is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at Cambridge American Cemetery, was commanding the formation and severely wounded.
Although his right foot was practically severed, Vance took control of the plane, led the group through a successful bombing run, and flew the damaged aircraft to the coast of England. Here he ordered the crew to bail out. Believing a wounded man had been unable to escape, he ditched the plane in the English Channel and was rescued. Vance was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage and perseverance during this mission. The 489th supported the landings at Normandy on June 6, and then bombed coastal defenses, airfields, bridges, railroads, and V-weapon sites in the campaign for France. The group bombed strategic targets such as factories, oil refineries, storage plants, marshalling yards, and airfields in Ludwigshafen, Magdeburg, Brunswick, Saarbrucken, and other cities from July through November.
It participated in the saturation bombing of German lines just before the breakthrough at St. Lo in July, dropped food to French civilians and Allied forces during August and September, and carried food and ammunition into Holland in September. The 489threturned to the United States in November to redeploy to the Pacific Theater and was re-designated as the 489thBombardment Group (Very Heavy) in March 1945. It was equipped with B-29s. The group was alerted for movement overseas in the summer of 1945, but war with Japan ended before the group left the United States. The 489thBombardment Group was inactivated on October 17.
Campaigns: American Theater; Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland