Nicknamed the “Burma Bridge Busters,” the 490th US Army Air Corps Bomb Squadron flew innumerable missions in China, Burma and India – often referred to as the “forgotten theater” of WW2. Activated in Karachi, British India as a B-25 Mitchell bomber squadron, the Burma Bridge Busters flew more than 600 missions between February 1943 and August 1945.
During this period, the squadron dropped over 800,000 pounds of bombs and destroyed 192 bridges. Operating under the Tenth Air Force, the squadron also carried out tactical interdiction missions against Japanese communications lines and supported the British ground forces in Burma between 1943 and 1944.
In January 1944, Squadron Leader Major Robert A. Erdin accidentally discovered a bridge-destroying bomb technique. After perfecting this skip-bombing technique and using it regularly during missions, the squadron was nicknamed ‘Burma Bridge Busters’ by the general in command of the Tenth Air Force.
A year later, the squadron assumed another role – dropping propaganda flyers over Burma for the U.S Office of War Information.
In April 1945, the squadron was reassigned to the 14th Air Force in China. Until the end of the war, they continued to disrupt enemy communication lines and provided support to Chinese ground forces.
The primary objective of the squadron was to keep the Chinese in the war simply because this would tie down the nearly one million Japanese troops preventing them from operating elsewhere.
During its three years of service, the 490th squadron received more than a 1,000 individual citations, destroyed 192 bridges in China, Burma and India, and won two Distinguished Unit Citations. On the downside, 185 crew members were killed in action during this period.
After the war ended, the squadron was decommissioned in November 1945 and aircrew returned to the U.S.
The “skull and wings” is the insignia of the 490th squadron or Burma Bridge Busters.
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