Monday, May 1, 2023

History of the 128th Observation Squadron

By Maj. William Carraway, Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


Major George Finch (left) commander of the 128th Observation Squadron stands with his staff beside a North American BC-1A in 1941.
Georgia National Guard Archives.

Georgia’s First Air National Guard Unit

On July 31, 1940, the War Department authorized the organization of the 128th Observation Squadron, the first air unit of the Georgia National Guard.[1] Major George Finch was appointed to command the unit which was initially based at Atlanta’s Candler Field.[2] The 128th was comprised of 31 officers and 116th enlisted soldiers.[3]

The 128th Observation Squadron, Atlanta, Sept. 8, 1941. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The 128th Observation Squadron in World War II

The 128th Observation Squadron was federally recognized May 1, 1941. Inducted into the U.S. Army September 15, 1941, the squadron relocated to Fort Benning’s Lawson Field where it fielded a range of observation aircraft beginning with one BC-1A, one Douglas O-46A and one Douglas OZ-38E bi-plane.[4] In December the squadron received an additional O-46A, Two Stinson D-49s (redesignated the L-1), two A-18s and 36 Piper L-4s. Transferred to Meridian, Miss in April 1942 and to New Orleans two months later, the squadron was upgraded with O-47As and began participating in antisubmarine patrol missions over the Gulf of Mexico. 

Members of the 128th Observation Squadron in New Orleans with one of the squadron’s O-47s. Left to right: Simpson, Harvey Orr,
Daddysman, Jack White, Unknown and Edward Ludwig. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The Squadron was redesignated the 21st Antisubmarine Squadron in March 1943, and upon transferring to Gulfport, Miss. in May, began flying patrols in B-25 Mitchells.[5]

North American B-25 Mitchells of the 26th Antisubmarine Squadron flown out of Gulfport in 1943. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Transferred initially to Washington’s Ephrata Airfield in September, original members of the 128th OS formed a cadre in Headquarters, 483rd Bombardment Group with members assigned to all four squadrons: The 815th, 816th, 817th and 818th. Arriving at MacDill Field in November, the group was equipped with B-17 bombers and the 818th was redesignated the 840th Bombardment Squadron.[6] Arriving in Italy in April 1944, the group began combat operations April 12. The squadrons of the 483rd were awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for actions over Memmingen Germany July 18, 1944 and again March 25, 1945 for actions over Berlin.[7] The squadron remained in Europe after the end of the war and was inactivated September 25, 1945.[8]


Members of the 840th Bombardment Squadron, formerly the Georgia National Guard’s 128th Observation Squadron can be seen wearing the
Distinguished Unit Citation the squadron received for actions on July18, 1944 during a strike on Memmingen, Germany. Georgia National Guard Archives.

[5] William Ridley. Georgia Air National Guard History 1941-2000 (Charlotte: Fine Books Publishing, 2000) 11.

[7] Maurer, ed. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force World War II (Washington, D.C.,USAF Historical Division Department of the Air Force, 1982) 777.


[8] William Ridley. Georgia Air National Guard History 1941-2000 (Charlotte: Fine Books Publishing, 2000) 12.

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