World Aviation in 1944

1 January
United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe is activated.

6 January
Lieutenant General Carl Spaatz assumes command of the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe and Major Generaa James H. Doolittle takes command of the 8th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) in the United Kingdom.

18 January
United States Navy (USN) Consolidated Catalinas, equipped with Magnetic Anomaly Detection (MAD) equipment, begin to patrol the Straits of Gibraltar. This action is intended to prevent German submarines from entering the Mediterranean.

22 January
During Ango-American landings at Anzio, 50,000 troops are put ashore with massive air support and without opposition.

4 February
The Japanese launch a new offensive in Burma, with a plan to capture the port of Chittagong and then the Allied bases of Imphal and Dimapur in Assam, and then to invade India.

15 February
222 allied bombers attack the monastery of Monte Cassino in Italy. The Germans had not occupied the monastery buildings but immediately after the raid they turn the ruins into a bastion. Successive attempts to take the monastery fail and it is not until 18 May that Polish forces succeed in occupying the heights.

17 February
Twelve radar equipped United States Navy (USN) Grumman TBF1C Avengers, from the USS Enterprise, attack Truk by night. This is the first night bombing attack launched by an American aircraft carrier.

29 February
5th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) aircraft support landings in the Admiralty Islands.

5 March
Brigadier General Orde Wingate’s special force lands at ‘Broadway’ in North Burma, in a night glider (sailplane) operation.

6 March
During the first United States Army Air Force (USAAF) attack on Berlin, 69 of the 660 heavy bombers deployed are lost and 11 escort fighters are shot down.

25 March
The 15th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) makes the first operational use of the VB1 Azon bomb, a general purpose bomb with a pair of radio controlled rudders in the tail.

15 April
Prior to the Allied Invasion of Northern France, a programme of air attacks on all forms of enemy transport is given priority.

1 May
A major allied offensive against the rail transportation system in Europe begins.

10 May
A major engineering task to construct bomber and fighter airfields in China, the Chengtu Project, is completed. The project used over 400,000 Chinese coolies, often using the most primitive of equipment, to finish the task.

1 June
A United States Navy (USN) airship crosses from South Weymouth in Massachusetts to Port Lyautey in Morocco via the Azores, to complete the first Atlantic crossing by a non-rigid airship. .

3 June
A Luftwaffe Junkers Ju290A transport lands in Greenland to evacuate 26 men of the Bassgeiger weather station who have been based there for 10 months.

6 June
The Allied invasion of Normandy begins. The amphibious landings, which are the largest in history, are preceded by airdrops. The whole operation is supported by massive air operations, with the allied air forces flying 14,674 sorties in the 24 hours up to midnight on the 6 June.

7 June
The first allied airstrip in Normandy at Asnelles north east of Bayeux, is completed and becomes operational.

10 June
Allied aircraft begin to operate from airstrips in the Normandy beachhead.

11 June
United States Navy (USN) Task Force 58, comprising seven heavy and eight light carriers, is assembled and begins the opening phase of the Mariana Island campaign.

13 June
The first German V1 to be launched against British targets falls at Swanscombe near Gravesend and a few minutes later, another drops at Cuckfield in Essex.

15 June
With massive air support from Task Force 58 carrier aircraft, United States forces begin landings on Saipan in the Mariana Islands.

15-16 June
Boeing B29 Superfortress aircraft of the 20th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) carry out their first raid against Japan from airfields near Chengtu in China. The raid is a night attack on the iron and steel mills at Yawata, Kyushu.

24-25 June
The Luftwaffe uses the Mistel composite aircraft for the first time. This initial night operation sees five composite aircraft, combining the Messerschmitt Bf109F and Junkers Ju-88A deployed against Allied shipping in the Seine Bay.

25 June
2,400 Allied bombers make a saturation raid on German positions at St Lo in France. The operation occurs in front of the American positions, in an attempt to ‘soften up’ the enemy prior to an allied breakout.

17 July
United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Lockheed P38 Lightnings use napalm for the first time, during attacks on a fuel depot at Coutances, south-west of St Lo in France.

25 July
The first jet aircraft combat takes place, when a German Messerschmitt Me262 from the experimental unit Ek262 intercepts a Royal Air Force (RAF) Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft from No.544 Squadron over Munich. The British plane managed to survive the encounter.

29 July
A battle damaged Boeing B29 Superfortress of the 20th United States Army Air Force (USAAF) lands at Vladivostok and is immediately seized by the Soviets, followed by another three, seized later in the year. The aircraft are carefully dismantled, examined and serve as pattern aircraft for the construction of the Tupolev Tu4 ‘Bull’ aircraft.

2 August
The 1st Allied Airborne Army is formed under the command of Lieutenant General Lewis H. Brereton.

4 August
The first ‘Aphrodite’ mission is undertaken by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). Radio-controlled Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses, packed with 9,072 kilos (20,000 pounds) of TNT, are launched against German V2 sites under constructionin the Par de Calais in France.

7 August
United States Carrier Division 11 is commissioned. This is the first division intended for night operations and consists of the carriers USS Ranger and USS Saratoga.

8-9 August
Mediterranean Air Forces begin dropping arms and supplies to the Polish Home Army in Warsaw.

14-15 August
Mediterranean Air Forces, with 2,000 aircraft based in Corsica, begin the invasion of southern France This is the start of over 4,000 operational sorties and the transport of more than 9,000 airborne troops. 400 gliders (sailplanes) are used in the landings.

16 August
Messerschmitt Me163 rocket interceptor fighters are used operationally for the first time, to make attacks on Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) .

28 August
The 78th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) claims the destruction of the first Messerschmitt Me262 to be shot down in combat.

1 September
Germany begins the launch of V1 rockets against targets in Europe.

5-6 September
An unsuccessful German attempt to assassinate Stalin, Operation Zeppelin, begins. A task force flies from near Riga in Latvia to a point near Moscow where the Arado Ar232B transport aircraft they were using crash lands. The assassins drive off by motorcycle but are soon caught by Soviet security authorities.

8 September
Two German V2 ballistic rockets land in Paris and, later in the day, the first V2 launched against England lands at Chiswick in West London. Two people are killed and several injured.

17-26 September
In an attempt to secure bridges over the Maas, Waal and Lek, Allied paratroopers land at Arnhem, Eindhoven and Nijmegen. The operation is only a partial success as the British 1st Airborne Division is defeated at Arnhem. 2,200 survivors are evacuated but 7,000 are left dead or prisoners.

10 October
A Messerschmitt Me262 is shot down by the 32nd Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF).

23 October
The Battle of Leyte Gulf begins and the Japanese introduce Kamikaze suicide attacks, which sink the light carrier USS St Lo.

25 October
The Battle of Leyte Gulf ends, marking the end of the Japanese fleet as an effective fighting force. Japan lost 3 battleships, 4 aircraft carriers, 10 cruisers and 11 destroyers during the battle and the Americans lost 3 aircraft carriers, 3 destroyers and a submarine.

27 October
The 9th Fighter Squadron of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) operates from Tacloban airstrip, in first American air operations from the Philippines since 1942.

1 November
A United States Army Air Force (USAAF) F13 reconnaissance variant of the Boeing B29 Superfortress aircraft becomes the first American aircraft to fly over Tokyo since the Doolittle raid of 1942.

3 November
The Japanese ‘Fu-Go Weapon’ (balloon bomb) offensive against the USA begins.

24 November
88 Boeing B29 Superfortresses of the 21st United States Army Air Force (USAAF) Bomber Command make the first major bombing attack on Tokyo from the Mariana Islands.

The first Soviet turbo-jet TR1 (VDR3) completes its official bench running tests.

7 December
USS Chourre is commissioned as the first United States Navy (USN) aviation repair ship.

7 December
The Convention on International Civil Aviation is signed in Chicago.

17 December
The 509th Composite Group of the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) is formed in Utah, to carry out United States atom bomb operations.

17 December
Major Richard Ira Bong, the United States Army Air Force’s most successful fighter pilot of the Second World War, scores his 40th and final victory.

18 December
The first vertical launch of the German Bachem Ba349 Natter takes place. The aircraft is intended for operational use as a manned, vertically-launched rocket-powered interceptor, but this first flight is un-manned.

21 December
General Henry H. Arnold becomes General of the Army. He was the first American air officer to hold this five star rank, which had only been created by legislation signed on 15 December by the United States President Roosevelt.