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ONSV1016

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Original U.S. WWII 20th Air Force Named Aerial Gunner Grouping with A-2 Jacket

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Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind grouping. Wonderful United States World War Two 20th Air Force Aerial Gunner uniform grouping named to A. S. Peary.

Included in this wonderful set are the following items:

- Wool 4-pocket class A uniform Service Jacket with original sterling silver Aerial Gunner wings. Featuring a CBI patch. Initials ASP in ink in the interior neck.

Approximate Measurements:
Collar to shoulder: 9"
Shoulder to sleeve: 24"
Shoulder to shoulder: 15"
Chest width: 17.5"
Waist width: 16"
Hip width: 20"
Front length: 31"

- A-2 flying jacket by Bronco Manufacturing Corporation of New York in size 41. Jacket is in very good condition, zipper is present but not functional, original sleeve cuffs and waistband as well as lining. Branded leather name tag that reads A.S. PEARY. Features a wonderful multi-piece leather 20th Air Force Patch to left shoulder.

Approximate Measurements:
Collar to shoulder: 10"
Shoulder to sleeve: 28"
Shoulder to shoulder: 17.5"
Chest width: 17"
Waist width: 19"
Hip width: 16.5"
Front length: 26.5"

-  This "crush" or "crusher" cap has the classic "bomber pilot" look of a USAAF pilot in Europe. This was the standard Army AAF dress cap, worn by pilots and non-pilots alike. Normally, this cap had stiffeners - a support piece behind the cap device and a wire around the inside top perimeter to maintain the cap's round shape. These kept the cap in its proper, regulation military shape and angle. However, since bomber crew wore headsets over their caps during flights, they would remove the wire stiffener to make headset more comfortable, causing the sides of the caps to become crushed. In size US 6 3/4.

- Army issue sweater vest and wool button down shirt.

Operation Matterhorn was the name for the B-29 Superfortress offensive against the Empire of Japan from airfields in China. On 10 April 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) informally approved Operation Matterhorn. The operational vehicle was to be the 58th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) of the XX Bomber Command.

The headquarters of the XX Bomber Command had been established at Kharagpur India on 28 March 1944. The commander was General Kenneth B. Wolfe. The first B-29 reached its base in India on 2 April 1944. In India, existing airfields at Kharagpur, Chakulia, Piardoba and Dudkhundi had been converted for B-29 use. All of these bases were located in southern Bengal and were not far from port facilities at Calcutta.

The first B-29 bombing raid from India took place on 5 June 1944. Ninety-eight B-29s took off from bases in eastern India to attack the Makasan railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand. Bombardment operations against Japan were planned to be carried out from bases in China. There were four sites in the Chengtu area of China that were assigned to the B-29 operation—at Kwanghan, Kuinglai, Hsinching, and Pengshan. The primary flaw in the Operation Matterhorn plan was the fact that all the supplies of fuel, bombs, and spares needed to support the forward bases in China had to be flown in from India over the Hump, since Japanese control of the seas around the Chinese coast made seaborne supply of China impossible.

By mid-June, enough supplies had been stockpiled at Chinese forward bases to permit the launching of a single attack against targets in Japan. It was a nighttime raid to be carried out on the night of 14/15 June 1944 against the Imperial Iron and Steel Works at Yawata on Kyūshū. Unfortunately, the Japanese had been warned of the approaching raid and the city of Yawata was blacked out and haze and/or smoke helped to obscure the target. Only 15 aircraft bombed visually while 32 bombed by radar. Only one bomb actually hit anywhere near the intended target, and the steel industry was essentially untouched. Although very little damage was actually done, the Yawata raid was hailed as a great victory in the American press, since it was the first time since the Doolittle raid of April 1942 that American aircraft had hit the Japanese home islands.

On the night 10–11 August, 56 B-29s staged through British air bases in Ceylon attacked the Plajdoe oil storage facilities at Palembang on Sumatra in Indonesia. This involved a 4030-mile, 19-hour mission from Ceylon to Sumatra, the longest American air raid of the war. Other B-29s laid mines in the Moesi River. At the same time, a third batch of B-29s attacked targets in Nagasaki. These raids all showed a lack of operational control and inadequate combat techniques, drifting from target to target without a central plan and were largely ineffective.

In Washington, it was decided that new leadership was needed for Twentieth Air Force. General Wolfe's replacement was Major General Curtis E. LeMay, who arrived in India on 29 August. Supply problems and aircraft accidents were still preventing a fully effective concentration of force and effort. In addition, Japanese defensive efforts were becoming more effective.

By late 1944, it was becoming apparent that B-29 operations against Japan staged out of bases in China and India were far too expensive in men and materials and would have to be stopped. In December 1944, the Joint Chiefs of Staff made the decision that Operation Matterhorn would be phased out, and the 58th Bombardment Wing's B-29s would be moved to newly captured bases in the Marianas in the central Pacific. The last raid out of China was flown on 15 January 1945, which was an attack on targets in Formosa (Taiwan). The 58th Bombardment Wing then redeployed to new bases in the Marianas in February.


The Marianas chain of islands, consisting primarily of Saipan, Tinian, and Guam, were considered as being ideal bases from which to launch B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan. The islands were about 1500 miles from Tokyo, a range which the B-29s could just about manage. Most important of all, they could be put on a direct supply line from the United States by ship. The XXI Bombardment Command had been assigned the overall responsibility of the B-29 operations out of the Marianas bases.

The first B-29 arrived on Saipan on 12 October 1944. It was piloted by General Hansell himself. By 22 November, over 100 B-29s were on Saipan. The XXI Bomber Command was assigned the task of destroying the aircraft industry of Japan in a series of high-altitude, daylight precision attacks.

The first raid against Japan took place on 24 November 1944. The target was the Nakajima Aircraft Company's Musashi engine plant just outside Tokyo. 111 B-29s took off, Seventeen of them had to abort due to the usual spate of engine failures. The remainder approached the target at altitudes of 27–32,000 feet. For the first time, the B-29 encountered the jet stream, which was a high-speed wind coming out of the west at speeds as high as 200 mph at precisely the altitudes at which the bombers were operating. This caused the bomber formations to be disrupted and made accurate bombing impossible.

Concerned about the relative failure of the B-29 offensive to deal any crippling blows to Japan, General LeMay issued a new directive on 19 February. General LeMay had analyzed the structure of the Japanese economy, which depended heavily on cottage industries housed in cities close to major industrial areas. By destroying these feeder industries, the flow of vital components to the central plants could be slowed, disorganizing production of weapons vital to Japan. He decided to do this by using incendiary bombs rather than purely high-explosive bombs, which would, it was hoped, cause general conflagrations in large cities like Tokyo or Nagoya, spreading to some of the priority targets.

The first raid to use these new techniques was on the night of 9–10 March against Tokyo. Another wing—the 314th Bombardment Wing (19th, 29th, 39th, and 330th BG) commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas S. Power—had arrived in the Marianas and was stationed at North Field on Guam. A total of 302 B-29s participated in the raid, with 279 arriving over the target. The raid was led by special pathfinder crews who marked central aiming points. It lasted for two hours. The raid was a success beyond General LeMay's wildest expectations. The individual fires caused by the bombs joined to create a general conflagration due to strong winds of some 17 to 28 mph (27 to 45 km/h) at ground level, that prevented a more specific firestorm event. When it was over, sixteen square miles (41 km2.) of the center of Tokyo had gone up in flames and nearly 84,000 people had been killed. Fourteen B-29s were lost. The B-29 was finally beginning to have an effect.

By mid-June, most of the larger Japanese cities had been gutted, and LeMay ordered new incendiary raids against 58 smaller Japanese cities. By now, the B-29 raids were essentially unopposed by Japanese fighters. In late June, B-29 crews felt sufficiently confident that they began to drop leaflets warning the population of forthcoming attacks, followed three days later by a raid in which the specified urban area was devastated. By the end of June, the civilian population began to show signs of panic, and the Imperial Cabinet first began to consider negotiating an end to the war. However, at that time, the Japanese military was adamant about continuing on to the bitter end.

In June 1945, the XX and XXI Bombardment Commands were grouped under the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in the Pacific (USASTAF), under the command of General Carl A. Spaatz. The history of XXI Bomber Command terminated on 16 July 1945. On that date the command was redesignated Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Twentieth Air Force. This redesignation brought to an end the XXI Bomber Command as a separate establishment, as it was absorbed into the internal organizati

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