39th Bomb Group (VH)

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Otake Oil Refinery


arpuc.jpg [Army Presidental Unit Citation] Distinguished Unit Citation
Otake Oil Refinery and Storage area 10 May 1945

Mission Date:
10 May 1945

On 10 May the 39th Bomb Group ran what was probably the most successful of all its forty-eight strikes against Japan. The target was the Otake Oil Refinery and Storage Area on the main Japanese island of Honshu.

For some time it was evident that the Japanese were having trouble with their gasoline and fuel supply. The thorough job done by the XXI Bomber Command at Koriyama 12 April had seriously hampered Japanese production of aviation gasoline, and great efforts were being made to produce synthetic fuels and to bring in oil from outlying conquered districts for storage in the empire.

Aside from the fact that a big refining plant was located at Otake, the place was important as a storage area for products brought in from the south.

Otake Oil Refinery - Before
Otake Oil Refinery - Before

The 39th Bomb Group was chosen to lead the entire force of B-29s from the 314th Wing that went after the target. The organization sent thirty-three planes on the mission, and Major Leo Lewis (P-8) of the 60th Squadron was lead aircraft.

Opposition was fairly heavy. About forty attacks were made by enemy fighters on the bombers of the group, claimed were one destroyed, two probable and seven damaged. Flak was seen all the way from landfall into the target area, and after the turn off target, about fifty naval vessels of the enemy fleet were discovered anchored in the Inland Sea in the vicinity of the target. Anti-aircraft fire from these ships was heavy and from the whole force seven B-29s were damaged.

The bombing itself was spectacular. The 60th Squadron dropped its bombs right on the aiming point, which was wiped out. Great columns of smoke shot up into the air right after the bombs of this squadron hit. The bombardiers of the 61st and 62nd Squadrons chose aiming points to the right and left of the first aiming point and dropped in the target area. These second aiming points, chosen because the first was so well hit and obscured by smoke, were later allowed as aiming points for the two squadrons that used them and the bombing was of superior quality. An estimated ninety-six percent of the bombs fell within the target area, and about ninety percent of them hit within 1000 feet of the aiming points. The plant was probably, by official count, rendered completely inoperative for 47% of it was destroyed outright.

For their splendid work in carrying out this unusual job of bombing, the bombing teams of the lead crews of each squadron were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Otake Oil Refinery - After
Otake Oil Refinery
after the Superforts bombing

Read the Distinguished Unit Citation

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Text Source: "History of the 39th Bomb Group"
Phtoto Source: "Pictorial History of the Second World War" by Wm H. Wise & Co. 1946
Photos submitted by Marvin Demanzuk, Radar, P-2

This page was revised on 22 July 2001
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