The 380th Bombardment Group (H) flew B-24 Liberator bombers in the South West and Western Pacific areas in WWII. We were part of the 5th Air Force. We were known as the FLYING CIRCUS and as the KING OF THE HEAVIES (note the lion in the insignia).
The 380th went overseas in April 1943 to become the second B-24 unit in the Fifth Air Force at that time after the 90th Bomb Group. The other Heavy Bomber unit (the 43rd) flew B-17s.
The 380th was placed under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and assigned to the Australian North West Area Command operating out of Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. We were thus the only heavy bomber unit available to cover the whole of the Dutch East Indies (1,000,000 square miles) from July 1943 until late in 1944. At that time the successes in the New Guinea campaign had brought the other Fifth Air Force units close enough to the East Indies to join us in that task.
The 380th made the longest bombing missions of WWII, to the oil refineries at Balikpapan, Borneo (200 miles further than the Ploesti mission in Europe) and to those at Surabaja, Java (as long as Ploesti). We did both of these missions several times during our stay in Australia.
In addition to our attacks on the Japanese oil supply, we were heavily engaged in crippling their shipping fleet to reduce the Japanese capability of supplying their far-flung forces. We also heavily bombed the numerous Japanese airfields in the East Indies to reduce the Japanese threat to Australia and our New Guinea forces.
In its service with the Australians, the 380th served longer under the operational control of an Allied country than any other Air Force unit (from June 1943 until February 1945).
As part of its duties in Australia, the 380th carried out the operational training of 52 Australian crews and their associated ground staffs so that the Australians could take over the East Indian campaign activities of the 380th when they were assigned to The Philippines in February 1945. Many of the Australians so trained have become part of the 380th Bomb Group Association, our veterans group here today, strong evidence of the strong ties of friendship, which developed between us in our long service together.
The 380th was composed of four Squadrons: the 528th, 529th, 530, and 531st.