Per Paragraph 2, General Order 304, Headquarters Fifth Air Force dated 24 May 1952, the 17th Bomb Group (Light) was activated effective 10 May 1952. Paragraph 1 of the same orders inactivated the 452nd Bomb Group (L). Squadrons assigned to the 17th Wing were the 34th Bomb Squadron (L/NI), the 37th Bomb Squadron (L/NI) and the 95th Bomb Squadron (L/NI).
The mission of the 17th Bomb Wing (continuing the mission of the 452nd Bomb Wing (L):
- "Night interdiction and reconnaissance of enemy supply and communications lines, seeking out and destroying enemy troops, vehicles, supplies and installations and close air support of troops"
The 17th continued the Railroad destruction campaign initiated by the 452nd in March until directed by higher headquarters to engage in a campaign of destruction against any target of value to the NK in an effort to cause the NK to hasten the cease fire process.
Beginning with vigor, the 17th flew 684 sorties for the remainder of May and 960 sorties in June. On the night of 29/30 June, the 17th set a new record of 93 sorties in one night. Averaging 102 hours per A/C per month, the 17th set a new record for B-26 type aircraft. A new record of 203 hours in one month by a single aircraft was established by A/C 44-34693. In October the 17th set yet another new record of 1000 sorties in the month.
During June, 19 replacement crews were received, short of the desired 25 required to maintain the 24 authorized combat ready crews needed to satisfy the average 30 per day sortie rate. Typhoon "Karen" arrived on 17 August, causing the evacuation of all A/C to other K sites. By September the wing was up to 3800 hours a month but flying hours and the sortie rate were curtailed by the arrival of winter and its accompanying bad weather. During this period, General Barcus, concerned with the attrition rate of B-26's and crews, established the 37th Bomb Squadron (along with the 13th Squadron of the 3rd Bomb Wing) as the selected Night Intruder Squadron of the 17th Bomb Wing .
During the October to December time frame, the 17th moved from K-9 to K-1 (Pusan West) to allow for the resurfacing of the K-9 runway from PSP to asphalt. The Wing returned to K-9 on 20 December having flown uninterrupted through both moves. Weather was the primary cause of lost missions. The new runway, while superior to the PSP, lasted about thirty days and underwent continual repair through the cessation of hostilities.
During January the emphasis switched from railroad recces to destruction of North Korean assets, and resources in accordance with USAF doctrine. The rail campaign was having positive results but the results were not equal to the price as it was judged that the Wing was trading B-26's with trained crews for obsolete locomotives and semi skilled drivers. The campaign had proved effective but new techniques were desired that would yield higher more positive results with fewer losses. On the East Coast of Korea, there were many tunnels into which the trains would duck when the B-26's came. During early February the 17th developed a new technique that would be more effective and reduce the effectiveness of the aircraft warning system. A B-26C (glassnose) would depart, with the objective of making a rail cut; thereby stopping the train. After a ten-minute interval, A B-26B (hardnose) would follow and under the guidance of the original A/C would attack the train until it was destroyed or all ordnance was expended. These tactics resulted in definite kills. Quite frequently the train would disappear into a tunnel until the B-26C departed the area, then would reappear at just the right time for the B-26B to attack it. It was determined that a pair of B-26C's was more effective, because the B-26B lacked a bombsight and had limited forward visibility; therefore, the attack would of necessity be a glide bomb or a dive-bomb attack in mountainous territory at night. This technique did not have the opportunity to develop fully, because early on the majority of the B-26's were diverted to close air support (CAS) of UN ground forces via TADPOLE.
In March, operation "Spring Thaw" was initiated. Taking advantage of the poor condition of the secondary roads caused by the spring thaw, which drove traffic to the main roads, a roadblock would be established along the main route; then aircraft would attack the stranded vehicles. Spring Thaw moved North with the weather.
Following "Spring Thaw" operation "Bottle Neck" was initiated. It was noted that traffic usually originated at Yangdok and traveled a single road until it fanned out to the south. Roadblock efforts were concentrated on this section of the road by dropping 4/6/8/12-hour delayed-action 500 GP Bombs along the road. Again the effectiveness of this was interrupted by the necessity of providing CAS to UN ground forces but it was effective when enforced.
In March "Little Switch" (the exchange of sick and wounded POWs) saw the re-assignment of road and rail recce assignments. To preclude any possibility of an accidental bombing around Kaesong, the 'Holy Land" (the cease fire negotiation area) the areas of responsibility for the 3rd Bomb Wing and the 17th Bomb Wing were changed. The 3rd took over responsibilities for the Red and Green routes in Eastern Korea, and the 17th moved it area of operation to the Purple and Black routes, which lay further north, up the eastern coast of Korea. Bomber stream, SHORAN, road and rail recce missions continued at a frenzied pace.
In early April the Fifth Air Force consolidated all the B-26 SHORAN efforts into the 17th Bomb Wing mission, and the 17th was directed to prepare for max effort in May. The 17th traded 13 non-SHORAN-equipped aircraft to the 3rd Bomb Wing in exchange for 13 Shoran equipped aircraft. In addition the 17th initiated a very vigorous SHORAN training effort to increase the proficiency of the SHORAN qualified Navigator-Bombardiers. The accuracy of the SHORAN drops allowed attacks to be made near POW camps without the danger of hitting them. Further it gave the 17th the opportunity to tour other exotic and scenic areas of North Korea such as Pyongyang, Anju, Sinanju, Siniuju, Singosan, Sandokchang-ni, etc. From a 0.5% of the 17th missions in February and a 0% in March, the 17th SHORAN effort moved to 9% of total missions in April and 12% in May. Even during the last major CCF offensive, which started on 9 June, SHORAN accounted for 9% of the Wing missions. The destruction of all airbases in North Korea and keeping them untenable until after the cease-fire became a prime USAF objective. The CCF had more than 1480 aircraft in Manchuria (including 100 IL-28 light jet bombers); therefore the objective was to keep the airfields out of action until after the cease-fire. One of the terms of the cease-fire was that no new A/C could be introduced "in country". One of the more noteworthy strikes, in support of the effort by FEAF and 5th AF to destroy and keep out of action N K airbases, was against the Sandokchong-ni air base on the night of 22/23 April.
The destruction of the N K assets and resources was causing them to be more amenable to a "cease fire". March and April saw an influx of a large number of new crews. Bad weather and an increase of operations tempo caused their training to be curtailed: therefore the burden of missions continued to fall on the experienced crews. The training flying hours dropped from an average of 371 in Mar/Apr to 140 in May and an all time low of only 67 hours in June.
The June CCF offensive increased op temp to the point that the Wing on several occasions exceeded 50 sorties per day with aircraft utilization averaging 62 hours per aircraft per month. This increased temp continued through the 27 of July when the cease-fire became effective. . An illustration of the intensity of the air activity during this period is a quote from the Official History of the 17th Maintenance Group at REMCO, to wit “During the month of June a large number of aircraft were received from K-Sites for extensive metal work due to FLAK. During that period, night crews were set up to expedite the return of B-26 Aircraft to K-Sites” The road/rail recces dropped from an average of 64% to a low of 27% in June while the CAS (close air support) increased to 60% vise the previous periods 30%. SHORAN continued to be at the 10.5% level The weather continued to be bad causing the complete loss of five flying days in June and five days on which fewer than 20 sorties were flown. The B-26s provided CAS when the fighter-bombers were grounded due to weather. One of the more notable CAS missions occurred on 15 June when a daylight formation of 24 aircraft attacked a heavy enemy troop concentration in the Iron Triangle area, This resulted in a commendation from the Commanding General of the Eighth Army (Gen. Taylor) and the Commanding General of the Fifth AF (General Anderson). During the June maximum effort , the Wing experienced only two aborts.
During the first 27 days of July, the Wing continued its maximum effort consisting of night road/rail recces, SHORAN, bomber stream and CAS missions coupled with some daylight formations through the cease-fire. During the month of July the Wing executed 775 combat missions against a planned 1419. The remaining missions were canceled due to weather and the cessation of hostilities. On 27 July a B-26 from the 17th completed a SHORAN Drop and returned to K-9 just minutes before the 2200 effective time of the cease-fire.
Description of 17th Bomb Group/Wing Insignia
This Insignia was approved for:
"OR, seven crosses pattee in pale sable:Crest:on a wreath of colors (OR ad Sable) a griffin rampant of the first,beaked,fore-legged and winged of the second, langued, gules"
The Motto is: 'Toujours au Danger' (Ever into Danger)
This is a description of the meaning of the heraldic description of the crest. The numbers are indicated.