7th Bomb Group continued.
Here they started another new phase for the use of armed B-24's when they were assigned the task of hauling high octane gasoline over Japanese territory, infested with Jap planes, to the forward bases of the hard-pressed 14th Air Force in China, then, as now, in dire need of supplies. This practice continued until October 1944, during which time the Group suffered a number of losses due to take-off crashes, bad weather and other reasons. During the period from June to October, the Group hauled a total of 2,124,228 gallons of gasoline to the 14th Air Force.
In October, the Group moved to their old home, Pandaveswar, where for the first part of their stay they concentrated in the training of pilots and bombardiers, readying them for the job of again making their air strength felt by the enemy. On Nov. 1, 1944, the campaign for destroying the Japanese lines of communications in Burma was begun, one crew from each squadron joined in flight to knock out the Dan Dara bridge on the strategically important Bangkok-Chi-engmai railroad line. This was but the first in a string of many bridges that would fall due to the excellent bombing of the 7th. The target at that time was termed by Strategic Air Force as the most important enemy target in Burma.
During the remainder of the month, the Group continued to hit bridges, assisted in a search for members of a B-29 down in the Bay of Bengal, hit railroad sheds at Mokpalin, Burma, and on November 23d, they hit the important and vital Moulmein jetties, repeating the attack the following week, though enemy opposition was met and three aircraft failed to return.
During December, the Group continued to hit Japanese positions and vital supply dumps. At the start of the year, 1945, the Group began in earnest to knock out bridges. During the remainder of January, bridges kept tumbling down with all four squadrons hitting the enemy line of communications time and time again. Their total up to January 1, 1945, had been five bridges, with the new method of bombing - Azon bombing, developed to a high degree by the Group, making it of use to the whole U.S. Air Force. This method of using radio controlled bombing had been tried in other theaters and declared unsatisfactory, but men of the 493d Bomb Squadron found it to be just the thing for knocking out bridges.
While the 7th carried out its primary assignment of destroying the enemy lines of communication and prevented the movement of supplies in Burma and Thailand, it was called upon to support the 14th Air Force in China. Operating from Luliang, China, with Lt. Col. James F. Williford as commanding officer, heavy bombers of the 7th supplied high octane gasoline once again to the forward bases of the 14th Air Force. From its home base in India, supplies, personnel and gasoline were ferried into China, enabling the 14th Air Force and 20th Bomber Command to continue its operation against the enemy.
In February, 1945, the Group was operational 20 out of 28 days, setting a new record in the number of bombs dropped. The 9th, 436th, and 492nd Bomb Squadrons hit Japanese troop concentrations day after day, while the 493d continued to destroy and damage the enemy's bridges on the Burma-Siam railroad now carrying the brunt of supplies to Jap troops in Burma. The pin point precision bombing by the squadrons hitting the troop concentrations resulted in the retake of Mandalay and other Central Burma towns by the British 14th Army. Beginning in March, 1945, the Group once again returned to their old haunt, Rangoon, hitting the Japanese Army's headquarters and inflicting considerable damage to the enemy port. During the month, the 7th set records anew when they flew the longest formation attack mission by heavy bombers deep into the Kra Isthmas, knocking out two bridges and damaging three others. The crews participating on this mission flew an average combat time of 17 hours and 30 minutes, quite a contrast to the 14 hours flown in 1943 when the Group hit Bangkok. Yet again in the latter part of March, the Group once more flew the 2900 mile trip, knocking out still more bridges.