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XXIth Bomber Command

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Organized as a field operational headquarters for the strategic bombing of Japan from the Mariana Islands, XXIth Bomber Command was headed by Gen. Curtis LeMay. It was under the control of Twentieth Air Force ,created on 12 April 1944, as a strategic bomber force in the Pacific, under the direct authority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with JCS member General Henry Arnold as its commander. As a practical matter, the JCS wanted direct control so that the bomber force was not caught up in the jurisdictional fights between the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. They did not see the strategic bombing campaign as subordinate either to the Southwest Pacific Area under Douglas MacArthur or the Pacific Command under Chester W. Nimitz.

Twentieth Air Force was initially organized into the XXth Bomber Command operating from China, and the XXIth Bomber Command operating from the Marianas. Operations from China proved to be extremely difficult, and the XXth was absorbed into the XXIth. Gen. Curtis LeMay was the operational commander of the XXIth.

Using B-29 bombers, the XXIth actually conducted the conventional and nuclear bombing of Japan, under policy control of the 20th. [1] It was organized from a number of bomber wings. [2]

Unit Base Special competence
58th Bomb Wing China-Burma-India Theater Missions from China; logistics
73rd Bomb Wing Isley Field, Saipan Incendiary bombing
313th Bomb Wing North Field, Tinian Naval mining
314th Bomb Wing Guam Incendiary and conventional bombing
315th Bomb Wing North Field, Tinian Petroleum targets
509th Bomb Wing (also 509th Composite Group) North Field, Tinian Nuclear delivery


  1. John Ray Skates (1994), The Invasion of Japan: Alternative to the Bomb, University of South Carolina Press, pp. 47-48
  2. Boeing B-29/50 Superfortress Gallery - Profiles, Strategic Air