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491st Bombardment Group (Heavy)

Activated on October 1, 1943, the B-24 Liberator-equipped 491stdeployed to England in January 1944 for service with the Eighth Air Force. Constituent units included the 852nd, 853rd, 854thand 855thbombardment squadrons. The group began operations in June, attacking airfields, bridges, and coastal defenses prior to and during the invasion of Normandy. The group then bombed communications centers, oil refineries, storage depots, industrial areas, shipyards, and other targets in Berlin, Hamburg, Kassel, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, Bielefeld, Hannover, and Magdeburg. Its targets included the headquarters of the German General Staff at Zossen, Germany. While on a mission to bomb an oil refinery at Misburg on November 26, 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 earned the Distinguished Unit Citation. 

Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the 491st Bombardment Group en route to bomb enemy targets at Bielsfeld, Germany on December 6, 1944.
Crew of the 491st Bombardment Group is briefed at its base in North Pickenham, England after returning from their first mission on June 2, 1944.

The 491stsupported ground forces at St. Lo during July 1944, and bombed V-weapon sites and communications lines in France throughout that summer. It dropped supplies to paratroopers during the airborne assault into Holland, and bombed German supply lines and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 through January 1945. The 491st supported Allied forces in the airborne assault across the Rhine in March and interdicted enemy communications during the final drive across Germany in April. The 491stBombardment Group inactivated on September 8.

Men standing on the catwalk of the Control Tower watch for planes of the 491st Bombardment Group returning to base on May 30, 1944.
Pilot Foy Shoemate and his crew of the 491st Bombardment Group, c. 1943-1945.

Campaigns: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe