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The 468th Bombardment Group was constituted as the 468th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on May 19, 1943; activated on August 1, 1943 and organized at Smokey Hill Army Airfield in September 1943 as one of the 58th Bombardment Wing’s four Boeing B-29 Superfortress groups (the others being the 40th, 444th and 462d).
In late 1943, the 468th trained 60 air and ground crews with the available equipment at Smokey Hill (eight Martin B-26s, 12 Boeing B-17s and four Boeing B-29s). In January 1944, its advance ground echelon departed while combat crews and crew chiefs received 40 new B-29s and prepared them for combat. In March/April 1944 as each airplane was made combat-ready, its flight crew and crew chief departed for overseas. They only knew where they would stop next.
The route taken was first to Presque Isle, Maine, Gander Newfoundland, Marrakech Morocco; Cairo, Egypt; Karachi, Pakistan and Kharagpur, India, their destination. In India, the 58th Wing was designated XXth Bomber Command, the only 20th Air Force operational command.
With bombardment airplanes, the 468th hauled bombs, fuel, ammunition and spare parts 1,200 miles to its advanced base at Field A-7, Pengshan, Szechwan Provience, China. Six round trips were necessary to deliver enough fuel for one airplane to mount a combat mission from China – an impractical logistics concept for an aerial campaign, particularly with an airplane plagued with an unreliable engine.
On June 5, 1944, the 468th flew its first operational mission from Kharagpur against railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand. Ten days later, flying from field A-7, the 468th bombed the Imperial Iron & Steel Works, Yawata, Japan – the opening of the B-29 phase of the Air Offensive against Japan.
By late 1944, it established the best operational record of the four B-29 groups then in combat, for which Hq. XXth Bomber Command awarded it General Billy Mitchell’s personal sailing burgee and authorized it to adopt the name “The General Billy Mitchell Group,” a name requiring outstanding performance of duty. Within a year, it participated in eight campaigns and earned three Distinguished Unit Citations.
From June 1944 until May 1945, operating at maximum range, the 468th conducted aerial reconnaissance and bombardment operations from India and China against Japanese targets in Japan, Manchuria, China, Taiwan, Burma, the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Sumatra. Sixteen-hour combat missions were common; the longest 21. Weather, terrain and the enemy were equally unforgiving. The B-29 was still being “invented” and its operational tactics had to be proved while the airplane was being de-bugged in the face of the enemy.
In July 1944, U. S. Marines invaded the Mariana Islands and as soon as West Field, Tinian, was readied in May 1945, the India-based B-29s were again designated the 58th Bombardment Wing and flew to West Field and continued the Air Offensive against Japan.
The 468th flew its last combat mission from Tinian on August 15, 1945. It had played a vital role in the sudden, almost overnight development of 20th Air Force strength and had fought from beginning to end in the Air Offensive. On September 2, 1945, Major General Curtis LeMay had the 468th lead the 20th Air Forces show of force over the USS Missouri during the Japanese surrender ceremonies. As part of the 20th Air Force, it has participated in the first use of air power to end a major conflict without having to fight one’s way into the enemy homeland.
The group returned to Roswell AAF in November 1945 and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command. After a short period, it was inactivated on March 31, 1946.