Source:  Mr. Ray Fincham

490th Bombing Squadron (M)
"Burma Bridge Busters"

341st Bomb Group, 10th & 14th Air Forces
Sep 1942 - Oct 1945

This distinctive insignia was designed by Eugene Clay an artist, engineer and friend of Col. James A. Philpott, first commander of the 490th.  This "winged skull" adorned the nose of the Lockheed Hudson that Col. Philpott ferried to China after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  When the initial cadre organized the 490th they need an insignia and the design seemed the natural choice.  The emblem was approved for use by the 341st Bomb Group commander in late 1942 and adorned the forward fuselage of the Mitchells belonging to the Squadron during the time it saw action against the Japanese in India, Burma and China.  It was never officially approved by the USAAF, however, the emblem adorns a "Morale Badge" of the current 490th Missile Squadron, the descendant of the 490th Bomb Squadron, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

The 490th Bombardment Squadron (M) was constituted and authorized to be made active, pursuant to War Department letter dated 14 Aug 42.  On 16 Sep 42, General Order No. 42, Headquarters, Tenth American Air Force, New Delhi, India activated the Squadron at Karachi, India.  The 490th was assigned to the 341st Bombardment Group, along with the 11th, 22nd and 491st Squadrons.  Prior to this point, the WW II history of the 490th is the history of the 11th Bombardment Squadron which was split in half to form the new squadron.  The unit received personnel and equipment and trained with B-25Cs/Ds during Sep-Dec 1942.

Moving to Camp Moire; Ondal, India, 5 Jan 43, the squadron entered combat on 18 Feb 1943, striking targets in central Burma to delay the movement of supplies from southern Burma to the Japanese troops fighting in northern Burma.  As well as Camp Moire, the Squadron operated from Chakulia (20-25 May 43) and moved to Kurmitola, India, 25 May 43.  During this time they struck at bridges, locomotives, railroad yards, trackage and rolling stock in central Burma, in the Monywa-Mandalay-Goktteik region, and ranged as far north as Myitkyina and as far south as Thazi.

In Jan 1944 the 341st Group moved to China, leaving the 490th remaining under control of the Tenth Air Force.  The Squadron's success in effectively 'glip' bombing bridges earned them the nickname of "Bridge Busters".

Between 20 May and 30 Jun 44, the Squadron carried supplies and ammunition from Chittagong, India to Allied units at Imphal, during the Japanese offensive into India.  During the 1944 Allied summer offensive against the Japanese in Burma, the 490th assisted the ground troops by providing low-level air support.  They strafed and bombed enemy troop concentrations; in particular striking at the bridges leading into Myitkyina which was being besieged by the Allies.  The squadron moved and began operating from Dergaon, India, 26 Aug 44; from Moran, India, on 20 Oct 44; and from Warazup, Burma, on 29 Nov 44.

Beginning in Jan 1945, they dropped leaflets (nicknamed the "Burma Mail") for the U.S. Office of War Information.  The 490th moved to Hanchung, China, 13 Apr 45 coming under the control of the 312th Fighter Wing, 14th Air Force.  With detached operations from Hsian, China, 16 Apr - 4 Aug 45, they continued attacks against bridges and rail yards, while also continuing to drop propaganda leaflets on occupied portions of China until war's end.

With the 341st Group, the squadron returned to the U.S., Sep-Oct 1945 and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, NJ, 1 - 2 Nov 45.

The 490th has been reactivated, and redesignated the "490th Missile Squadron", at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, assigned to the 341st Missile Wing, formerly the 341st Bomb Group.

Source:  US Air Force Patches, Mr. Ray Fincham (490th Missile Squadron)



The 490th has a proud and distinguished history dating back to its beginning in India on 15 September 1942, when the 490th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) was activated.  The first combat mission was flown on 18 February 1943 in B-25 Mitchell bombers bearing the now famous "Skull and Wings" insignia, an adaptation of the personal insignia of the commanding officer at that time, Major James A. Philpott.  The squadron's aircraft bombed bridges, locomotives, railroad yards, and other targets to delay the movement of supplies to the Japanese troops fighting in northern Burma.  Many bridge-bombing missions were initially unsuccessful.  High-level, low-level, dive bombing, and skip-bombing all proved ineffective against these difficult targets.

The 490th changed all that on New Years Day, 1944, when Major Robert A. Erdin, squadron leader for the day, accidentally discovered a very effective method for destroying bridges.  Once perfected, his hop-bombing technique became so successful that the 490th earned the nickname "Burma Bridge Busters" from the commanding general of the Tenth Air Force.  In the words of one war correspondent, the 490th became "one of the most specialized bombardment squadrons in the world." After the war ended, the squadron came home to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where it was deactivated on 2 November 1945.  During its three years of activities, the fighting 490th destroyed 191 major bridges in Burma, Thailand, and southwest China; received 1280 individual citations; and was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations.  These achievements cost the squadron 185 crew members killed in action.

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