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Northern Bombing Group

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Northern Bombing Group consisted of United States Navy and United States Marine Corps squadrons
conducting strategic bombing of German U-boat bases along the Belgian coast during World War I. The first
United States military unit sent to Europe was the First Aeronautic Detachment of seven naval officers and 122
enlisted men who arrived in France on 5 June 1917. These men became the nucleus of the United States Naval
Forces in Europe. They formulated a strategic bombing plan approved by the Secretary of the Navy on 30 April
1918, but chronic difficulties in obtaining aircraft prevented establishment of an effective bombing campaign
before the war ended six months later.[1]

Contents
1 Background
2 Concept
3 Implementation
4 References

Of an originally planned force of 108


Background DH.4-day bombers, about a dozen
became operational before the end of
hostilities.
The Imperial German Navy established Flanders U-boat flotillas in
March 1915. Type UB and UC submarines were based in Ostend and
Zeebrugge with repair yards at Bruges. These coastal submarines operated in the English Channel, along the
English coast of the North Sea and in the Western Approaches. U-boats were sinking over 150 ships per month
by late 1916; and the resultant loss of both cargoes and import capacity threatened the ability of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to continue the war.[2]

Concept
One of the Allied efforts to reduce shipping losses was a day and night bombing campaign against the bases
from which the U-boats operated. United States naval aviators were to establish a Northern Bombing Group
headquarters near Ardres for a sustained bombing effort against the U-boat bases. The group was to consist of a
day wing and a night wing operating from six aerodromes with a separate repair and supply base, all in the area
of Calais and Dunkirk. Each of the six Navy night wing squadrons was to have ten Caproni Ca.5 bombers
operating in two flights of five; and each of the six Marine Corps day wing squadrons was to have eighteen
Airco DH.4 bombers operating in three flights of six.[1]

Implementation
Difficulty in obtaining aircraft caused reduction of planned strength to four-day squadrons and four night
squadrons on 31 May 1918: Night squadrons 1 and 2 were assigned to Saint-Inglevert Airfield (aerodrome A).
Night squadrons 3 and 4 were assigned to aerodrome B in Campagne. Aerodrome C in Sangatte was to be built
as a dummy but was cancelled after objections by local residents. Day squadrons 7 and 8 were assigned to
aerodrome D at Oye-Plage. Day squadrons 9 and 10 were assigned to aerodrome E at Le Frene. Aerodrome F at
Alembon served as a bomb dump and was available as a reserve field. By June, the military situation in France
raised doubts about the safety of bases; so on 20 July a British site in Eastleigh was designated the repair and
supply base where newly delivered aircraft would be assembled and tested.[1]
Caproni had projected delivery of thirty bombers in June and July, and eighty more in August. Only eighteen
had been delivered by the end of August, and their Fiat engines were unsatisfactory. Arrangements were made
to equip future Caproni deliveries with Isotta Fraschini V.6 engines; but the improved aircraft were not
available prior to the First Armistice at Compigne. Substitution of Handley Page Type O bombers was
similarly unsuccessful until after the armistice. The only Northern Bombing Group night raid was made on 15
August 1918 by a single Ca.5 bomber over Ostend; but seven United States Navy pilots and about 40 enlisted
men participated in several raids flying two No. 214 Squadron RAF Handley Page bombers. Of an originally
projected strength of sixty night bombers, the war ended with six Ca.5s at the night wing aerodromes; and only
two of these were operational.[1]

Headquarters company and squadrons A, B and C of the First Marine


Aviation Force arrived in Brest, France aboard USS DeKalb on 30 July
1918. The squadrons were redesignated as 7, 8 and 9 upon arrival. Prior
to the delivery of Northern Bombing Group aircraft, Marine Corps
pilots began flying bombing missions in No. 218 Squadron RAF
bombers on 9 August 1918, and in No. 217 Squadron RAF bombers on
21 August. The first DH.4-day bomber was delivered on 7 September
1918. As the American DH.4s and substituted Airco DH.9s became
operational, they accompanied No. 217 and 218 squadron raids. The USS DeKalb transported United States
first daytime mission undertaken entirely by Northern Bombing Group Marine Corps pilots of the day wing to
aircraft was a 14 October raid by day wing squadron 9 dropping France.
seventeen bombs with a total weight of 2,218 pounds (1,006 kg) on the
Tielt railway yard. Seven more raids were made by day wing squadrons
8 and 9 before operations were cancelled on 27 October. Two day wing bombers were lost in action; and the
war ended with an operational strength of twelve DH.4s and seventeen DH.9s of the originally projected force
of 108-day bombers.[1]

References
1. Van Wyen, Adrian O. (1969). Naval Aviation in World War I. Washington, D.C.: Chief of Naval
Operations. pp. 9, 64, 8081 & 8487.
2. Potter, E.B.; Nimitz, Chester W. (1960). Sea Power. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
pp. 457463.

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This page was last edited on 18 April 2017, at 09:51.


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