|12th Air Force Organization, August 20, 1942
Stations: England (August 1942), Algeria (November 1942)
Commander: Brig. Gen. James H. Doolittle
+Groups still training in the U.S. in late 1942.
The 12th Air Force was activated on August 20, 1942 with the organization shown above. General H. H. "Hap" Arnold and US Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall chose Brigadier General Jimmy Doolittle as head of the 12th Air Force and Doolittle formally assumed command in the UK on September 23, 1942. The B-25s of the 310th Bombardment Group were the first planes in the 12th AF to arrive in Europe during October, 1942. They flew over by way of Maine, Labrador, Greenland, Iceland and Prestwick, Scotland. The 310th BG B-25s were followed by A-20 Havocs from the 47th BG and B-26 Marauders of the 319th BG but winter weather interfered with this route and subsequent groups took the southern route via Florida; Boringuen Field, Puerto Rico; Waller Field, Trinidad; Atkinson Field, British New Guiana (Guyana); Belem and Natal, Brazil; Ascension Island; Dakar, Marrakech, Telergma, and some other North African destinations. The largest air force ever assembled at that time, the 12th AF was initially assigned some 70,000 men and 1400 planes for the invasion of Vichy French held North Africa (Operation Torch) on November 8, 1942. In November 1942, on order of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Carl Spaatz reorganized the Allied Air Forces in North Africa. Spaatz became commander of the allied Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) in February 1943. By March 1943 he took command of the Twelfth Air Force in North Africa as a temporary lieutenant general. Doolittle, who was promoted to Major General in November 1942, took over command of the Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF) in March, 1943. Air Vice Marshall Sir Arthur Coningham became commander of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF).
At the Casablanca Conference in January of 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and United States President Franklin Roosevelt reorganized the Mediterranean air forces naming Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W. Tedder as Air Commander-in-Chief of the new Mediterranean Air Command (Allied). Both British and American officers became part of the new command structure with the intent of forcing international cooperation. According to "Craven and Cate, Eds., The Army Air Forces in WWII, Vol. 2," this was the new organization as of February 17, 1943:
Mediterranean Air Command (Allied)
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder
RAF Middle East Command
Air Chief Marshal Sir Sholto Douglas
RAF Air Headquarters, Malta
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Keith Park
Northwest African Air Forces
Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz
The structure of the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF) was based on an air interdiction model pioneered and developed by Tedder and Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham during the successful RAF campaigns in Egypt and Libya. During this time, the RAF coordinated three main combat forces: 1) A long range bomber force (No. 205 Group); 2) A marine anti-shipping force (No. 201 Group); and 3) a close air support tactical force (Air Headquarters, Western Desert). Consequently, the three main combat commands of NAAF consisted of:
Northwest African Strategic Air Force (NASAF)
Major General James Doolittle
Northwest African Coastal Air Force (NACAF)
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Lloyd
Northwest African Tactical Air Force (NATAF)
Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham
Also assigned to Spaatz's Northwest African Air Forces were the following commands:
Northwest African Training Command (NATC)
Brigadier General John K. Cannon
Northwest African Air Service Command (NAASC)
Brigadier General Delmar H. Dunton
Northwest African Photographic Reconnaissance Wing (NAPRW)
Colonel Elliott Roosevelt (FDR's son)
Northwest African Troop Carrier Command (NATCC)
Brigadier General Paul L. Williams
A key feature of the reorganization was close cooperation between British RAF and American USAAF commanders. Each unit with a commander from one air force was assigned a deputy commander from the other air force. In keeping with this policy, Spaatz's Deputy Air Commander was Air Vice-Marshal James M. Robb who handled NAAF operations. Furthermore, the new Mediterranean Air Command organization and other implementations made by Churchill, Roosevelt, and their staffs at the Casablanca Conference, were intended to foster parity between the naval, air, and ground forces. Rapid and efficicient tactical support of ground operations was especially important. The MAC triforce model was practiced throughout WWII and today is still the classic model for interdictory operations in the USAF.
Here is an excellent historical link regarding this period:
The Army Air Force in Northwest Africa
Within the official Mediterranean Air Command organizational structure, the 12th Air Force did not legally exist from February 18 through most of 1943. This unusual state of affairs caused great concern among many USAAF officers including Spaatz and Doolittle. Upon inquiring with Eisenhower about the matter, Spaatz was informed that he would assume command of the 12th Air Force for administrative purposes only on March 1, 1943. At that time, Spaatz was already the commander of the Northwest African Air Forces (NAAF), the official Allied organization that had absorbed all of the 12th Air Force's groups and administrative personnel. The overall effect was that the 12th Air Force ceased to exist for most of 1943. In fact, the only mention of the 12th among the major commands of NAAF was the XII Air Support Command, a subordinate command of Coningham's NATAF. Because Spaatz was involved primarily with higher level organizational and political planning, the daily operations of NAAF were mainly the responsibility of his deputy, so it was Robb who handled operations of the 12th AF groups. Of course the 12th Air Force still existed in the USAAF and in 1943 it was still the largest air force ever assembled, despite its non-existence within the official Allied organization of the Mediterranean Air Command.
12th Air Force Organization, July, 1943
Stations: Algeria (November 1942), Tunisia (August, 1943)
Commander: Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz
*Groups from the 9th Air Force.
The organization of the 12th AF is shown above at the time of Operation Husky or the invasion of Sicily on July 10, 1943. One month prior to Operation Husky was the invasion of Pantelleria or Operation Corkscrew. For ten days 12th AF bombers pounded the island of Pantelleria using 1100 planes and 1571 tons of bombs during one four-day period causing the Italians to surrender immediately when British forces landed on June 11, 1943. This is believed to be the first time ground troops surrendered due to air power alone. The Italian garrisons on the islands of Linosa and Lampedusa surrendered soon after, clearing the way for the Sicilian (Operation Husky) and mainland Italy Campaigns.
Here is an excellent Air Force link describing the history of this period.
August 22, 1943
MEDITERRANEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN (Ninth Air Force):
All fighter and medium bomber groups of the Ninth Air Force are transferred to the Twelfth Air Force, i.e.:
12th Bombardment Group (Medium) and it's 81st, 82d, 83d and 434th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium) at Gerbini, Sicily with B-25's;
57th Fighter Group and it's 64th, 65th and 66th Fighter Squadrons on Sicily with P-40's;
79th Fighter Group and it's 85th, 86th and 87th Fighter Squadrons on Sicily with P-40's;
324th Fighter Group and it's 314th, 315th and 316th Fighter Squadrons at El Haouaria, Tunisia with P-40's; and
340th Bombardment Group (Medium) and it's 486th, 487th, 488th and 489th Bombardment Squadrons (Medium) at Comiso, Sicily with B-25's.
316th Troop Carrier Group with its C-47 Dakotas and CG4A Waco Gliders was operating with the Northwest African Troop Carrier Command.
Stations: Tunisia (August 1943), Italy (December 1943)
Commander: Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz
*Groups from 9th Air Force.
In November of 1943 the 15th Air Force was created. The four B-17 groups, the two B-24 groups, and the three B-26 groups of the 12th Air Force were transferred to the 15th Air Force along with the three P-38 groups, the 325th FG which had just converted to P-47s, and the 68th Recon Group. The three B-26 groups transferred back to the 12th Air Force in January 1944. In November of 1943, General Jimmie Doolittle was named Commander of the 15th Air Force which became the strategic air force in the MTO while the 12th Air Force became the tactical air force in the MTO. From January 1944 to September 1945 Doolittle commanded the 8th Air Force in Europe and the Pacific, until the end of the war. Doolittle was promoted to lieutenant general on March 13, 1944. By January 1944, Carl Spaatz commanded all of the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe including the Eighth Air Force under Doolittle in England, and the Fifteenth Air Force under General Nathan Twining in Italy. Below is shown the organization of the new 12th Tactical Air Force as of January 1, 1944. At that time, Major General John K. Cannon was named CO of the 12th Air Force and the Mediterranean Allied Tactical Air Force (MATAF).
The above 12th Air Force organizational information is taken from the USAAF Film
"The 12th Air Force Story."
Commanders of the 12th Air Force in WWII
Maj. Gen. James H. Doolittle, 23 Sep 1942.
Lt. Gen. Carl Spaatz, 1 Mar 1943.
Lt. Gen. John K. Cannon, 21 Dec 1943.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin W. Chidlaw, 2 Apr 1945.
Go on to see the 12th Air Force Organization in 1944
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