restricted access Appendix III: Air Organization
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APPENDIX III AIR ORGANIZATION The relative significance of Allied air units during World War II for aircrew could vary according to nation and service. For readers unfamiliar with the relevant structural models adopted, a brief outline in relation to the USAAF, USN, and USMC, the RAF plus the air forces of the dominions, and the Fleet Air Arm of the RN may be helpful. The fighting portion of the USAAF was organized into a growing list of numbered air forces, most of them based abroad like the Eighth Air Force in England, the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, the Thirteenth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific, and the Twentieth Air Force in the Marianas. Each air force was divided into numerically identified functional commands, divisions, and wings, with aircraft organized into individual squadrons. However, the primary USAAF air unit for both combat and administrative purposes was the three-squadron group. A bombardment group, identified by number and bombload—“(VH)” for very heavy, “(H)” for heavy, “(M)” for medium, and “(L)” for light—could range in size from well under fifty to upward of a hundred multiengine planes, with a larger number of aircrews to take account of illness, injury, losses, and the need for rest. An army air force fighter or fighter-bomber group—“(F)”—might incorporate seventy-five or more single- or twin-engine planes, the number of assigned pilots again exceeding the number of designated ships. It was the individual group that tended to form the locus of aircrew identity, except in the Pacific, where the component squadrons were often spread out rather than concentrated on a single airfield. Aviators of the USN and USMC, meanwhile, while organized into air groups and wings flying a range of different aircraft types, tended to owe their allegiance both afloat and ashore to their individual squadrons. These were composed of anywhere from a half-dozen to three dozen single- or multiengine aircraft of the same type. Each squadron was 112 : appendix iii numbered, with preceding code letters to identify function: “V” meant heavier-than-air, to distinguish aircraft from airships; “F” meant fighter, “B” meant bomber, “BF” meant fighter-bomber, “T” meant torpedo, “P” meant patrol, and “C” meant composite. “M” was added to the mix in the case of the Marines. The fighting units of the RAF, in combination with those of the dominion air forces, were mostly organized according to role—Fighter Command, Bomber Command, and Coastal Command—while operating from Great Britain, with Army Co-operation Command eventually becoming a Tactical Air Force in its own right. Overseas there were a succession of mixed-use regional air forces mostly divided, like the home commands, into numbered groups and wings. The primary RAF fighting unit, however, and the one with which aircrew readily identified, was the numbered squadron. Depending on the period of the war and aircraft type, RAF squadrons were normally made up of between a dozen and about two dozen aircraft plus reserves, with extra pilots and crews attached . Though air wings and subsequently carrier air groups were eventually organized in the wartime Royal Navy, the standard FAA naval air unit operating off the deck or from land bases during World War II was also the squadron. In the RN this typically meant roughly twelve British or American planes, usually of the same type. As in other forces, the aircrew complement in a numbered FAA naval air squadron in theory if not always in practice would be in excess of aircraft strength. ...