73d Air Division
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|73d Air Division|
73d Air Division emblem
|Active||17 February 1943 – 15 October 1943;
20 November 1943 – 31 May 1946;
12 June 1947 – 27 June 1949;
1 July 1957 – 1 April 1966
|Equipment||see "Aerospace vehicles" section below|
The 73d Air Division (73d AD) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Air Defense Command, based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. It was inactivated on 1 April 1966.
The 73d Bombardment Wing was activated as part of Second Air Force on 17 February 1943. Its original mission was a control organization for Replacement Training Units (RTU), with command and control over B-17/B-24 training units based in the midwest. It was inactivated on 15 October 1943 with the phasedown of heavy bomber training.
The wing was reactivated and redesignated as the 73d Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) on 20 November 1943 at Smoky Hill Army Airfield, Kansas. The new B-29 Superfortress wing was assigned four newly organized groups, (497th, 498th, 499th and 500th Bombardment Groups) which were training in New Mexico and Arizona on B-17 and B-24s, due to a lack of B-29 aircraft. In April 1944, the groups were brought to several airfields in Kansas (Great Bend AAF, Smokey Hill AAF and Walker AAF) where they were equipped with new B-29s manufactured by Boeing at their Wichita, Kansas plant.
By August the wing's groups completed their training and their aircraft were readied for deployment. Originally assigned to Twentieth Air Force's XX Bomber Command in India, the wing was instead assigned to the new XXI Bomber Command in the Pacific Theater. The 73d Wing deployed to newly-constructed airfields on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. The 73d Bomb Wing was the first B-29 wing to be assigned to the Marianas, and the first B-29 of the 497th Bomb Group arrived at Isley Field, Saipan on 12 October 1944. The 498th arrived shortly after, with the 499th and 500th Bomb Groups arriving in early November. By November 22, over 100 B-29s were on Saipan. The XXI Bomber Command was assigned the task of destroying the aircraft industry of Japan in a series of high-altitude, daylight precision attacks
In late October and early November 1944, a series of tactical raids were carried out as training exercises for the crews. From Saipan, the groups of the 73d Bomb Wing flew several bombing missions against Truk to gain combat experience. Aware that there was now a new threat, Japanese aircraft based on Iwo Jima staged a low-level raid on Isley Field on November 2, damaging several B-29s on the ground. Retaliatory strikes were ordered on Iwo Jima on November 5 and 11.
In November 1944, the groups of the 73rd began bombing Japan, with only moderate success. Poor weather, the lack of precision radar bombing equipment, and tremendous winds encountered at high altitudes over Japan made accuracy difficult. The initial raids against Japan had taken place at high altitudes in order to stay above anti-aircraft fire and the effective altitude of defending fighters. Tactics were changed and high-altitude, daylight attacks be phased out and replaced by low-altitude, high-intensity incendiary raids at nighttime. The aircraft would attack individually, which meant that no assembly over the base at the start of the mission or along the way would be needed.
Consequently, it turned to devastating low altitude incendiary attacks. The Division continued attacking urban areas until the end of the war in August 1945, its subordinate units conducted raids against strategic objectives, bombing aircraft factories, chemical plants, oil refineries, and other targets in Japan. The wing flew its last combat missions on 14 August when hostilities ended. Afterwards, the wing's B 29s carried relief supplies to Allied prisoner of war camps in Japan and Manchuria.
Being the first deployed wing of XXI Bomber Command, the 73d and its subordinate units demobilized rapidly after V-J Day, and the wing's four bomb groups were all returned to the United States, with their B-29s either being flown to Clark Air Base for scrapping, or were flown to storage facilities in Texas or Arizona. The 73d Bomb Wing was reassigned to the United States in December 1945, being assigned first to Continental Air Force's Fourth Air Force, then to the new Strategic Air Command on 21 March 1946. However demobilization was in full swing and few SAC units were actually equipped and manned. The 73d Bomb Wing was inactivated on 31 March and the unit was allocated on paper to the Air Force Reserve.
In 1947, the 73d Bomb Wing was reactivated with the 338th and 351st Bomb Groups being assigned to it, both reserve B-29 Superfortress organizations. A third group, the 381st was added in 1948. However SAC was having enough difficulties keeping its front-line active duty B-29 bomb units in the air to maintain even minimal pilot proficiency in the late 1940s. The wing and its bomb groups were all inactivated in 1949.
The organization was reactivated as part of Air Defense Command (ADC) in 1957 as the 73d Air Division. As part of ADC, it evaluated, upgraded, and determined the proficiency of the Air Defense Command fighter-interceptor and missile squadrons, 1 July 1957 – 1 April 1966. The division developed and tested Air Defense Command tactics, equipment, aircraft, guided missiles, and related equipment and armaments. It also maintained active contact with Army, Navy, and other Air Force commands to assure coordinated military effort in the use of rocket and missile ranges, defense plans, air sea land rescue, and airspace and airways directly concerned with the operations of the Air Defense Command Weapons Center.
With the diminishing need for an active-duty air defense mission in the United States, the 73d Air Division was inactivated on 1 April 1966.
- Constituted as 5th Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters on 9 February 1943.
- Activated on 17 February 1943
- Redesignated 73d Bombardment Operational Training Wing (Heavy) on 12 August 1943.
- Inactivated on 15 October 1943
- Redesignated 73d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy on 19 November 1943
- Activated on 20 November 1943
- Redesignated: 73d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, Special on 13 January 1944
- Redesignated; 73d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy on 24 June 1944.
- Inactivated on 31 May 1946.
- Activated in the Air Force Reserve on 12 June 1947.
- Redesignated 73d Air Division, Bombardment on 16 April 1948.
- Inactivated on 27 June 1949.
- Redesignated 73d Air Division (Weapons) on 1 April 1957.
- Activated on 1 July 1957.
- Redesignated 73d Air Division on 1 March 1963.
- Discontinued, and inactivated, on 1 April 1966..
- Second Air Force, 12 Aug-15 Oct 1943
- XX Bomber Command, 20 Nov 1943
- Second Air Force, 2 Jun-30 Jul 1944
- Twentieth Air Force, c. 6 Aug 1944
- XXI Bomber Command, 9 Nov 1944-16 Jul 1945
- Twentieth Air Force, 16 Jul 1945;
- Fourth Air Force, 7 December 1945 – 5 January 1946
- Third Air Force, 5 January 1946 – 21 March 1946
- Strategic Air Command, 21–31 March 1946
- Fifteenth Air Force, 31 March – 31 May 1946
- Tenth Air Force, 1 July 1948 – 27 June 1949
- Air Defense Command, 1 July 1957 – 1 April 1966
- 338th Bombardment Group: 17 October 1947 – 27 June 1949
- 351st Bombardment Group: 17 October 1947 – 4 June 1948
- 381st Bombardment Group: 4 June 1948 – 27 June 1949
- Gunter AFB, Alabama, 1 October 1964 – 1 April 1966
- Tyndall AFB, Florida, 1 July 1960 – 1 September 1962
- List of USAF Aerospace Defense Command General Surveillance Radar Stations
- Aerospace Defense Command Fighter Squadrons
- List of United States Air Force air divisions
- Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946–1980. Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center.
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) . Air Force Combat Units of World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 978-0-912799-02-5.
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6.
- Rogers, Brian. (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
- Winkler, David F.; Webster, Julie L (1997). Searching the skies: The legacy of the United States Cold War Defense Radar Program. Champaign, IL: US Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratories. LCCN 9720912.