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USAAF North American B-25 Mitchells Flew Missions All Over the War

The “Earthquakers” Helped Turn The Tide Against Rommel’s Afrika Korps

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 12th Bomb Group (BG) was also known as the “Earthquakers.” A part of the USAAF 9th Air Force, the Group stood up in January 1941 and initially flew the Douglas B-18 Bolo and B-23 Dragon twin-engine bombers out of McChord Field in Washington. When World War II started they flew antisubmarine patrols off the northern Pacific coast. The Group moved to Louisiana in early 1942 and began flying North American B-25D Mitchell bombers, picking up the designation 12th Bombardment Group (Medium) at that time. After completion of their training in the B-25Ds the Group made their way to North Africa, arriving in August of 1942.

The Group flew missions around the clock beginning in late October of 1942 in support of Allied forces fighting German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps troops and tanks at El Alamein. The Allies initially got the worst of it but eventually turned things around, at least in part to the Earthquakers and their support of Allied forces at the pivotal Battle of Kasserine Pass in Tunisia during February of 1943. Split up and re-tasked but seldom out of the fight during the back and forth battles across North Africa, the Group was reunited after the fall of Tunis in May 1943. The Group earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their support of Allied ground troops during the North African  campaign.

The Earthquakers went on to participate in the Italian campaign, taking part in battles in Sicily and Italy. When the Ninth Air Force moved to England the 12th Group became part of the 12th Air Force. This didn’t change the nature of their missions though. The 12th flew their missions from Foggia in Italy for six months, working over the usual medium bomber targets- enemy ports and docks, bridges, railroad marshaling yards, and aerodromes as far away as Yugoslavia and Albania as well as in Italy itself. By the time February of 1944 rolled around the Earthquakers were due for a new assignment. And they got one- halfway around the war.

Newly assigned as part of the Tenth Air Force in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater, the Group re-equipped with the latest B-25H and B-25J Mitchells and got right to work, flying desperately needed supplies to British troops under siege trying to hold back the flood of Japanese troops pouring into India from Burma. And as usual, the Earthquakers got the job done. The 12th began flying the new Douglas A-26 Invader just before the war ended. Transferred first to Frankfurt in Germany and then home to the States, the 12th Bombardment Group (Medium) was deactivated in 1846. But that wasn’t quite the end of the Earthquakers.

The Group was reactivated and deactivated a couple of times during the late 1940s and early 1950s as Cold War resource thinking evolved. First a part of Tactical Air Command (TAC) and then a part of Strategic Air Command (SAC) the 12th didn’t even own aircraft for more than a few months at a time. But when the 12th Operations Group was formed in December of 1991, they took on the mission of training future Air Force pilots and navigators as the 12th Flying Training Wing while still holding on to and honoring their roots.

Since their mission focus changed to training in the 12th OG has flown the Cessna T-37 Tweet, the Northrop T-38 Talon, the North American T-39 Sabreliner, the Cessna T-41 Mescalero, the Boeing T-43 Bobcat, the Learjet C-21 Cougar, the Northrop AT-38 Talon, the Cessna T-1 Jayhawk, the Slingsby T-3A Firefly, and the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II. Enjoy this video chronicling the Earthquakers and their role in the North African campaign during World War II.

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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