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USAAF Operational and Replacement Training Units (OTUs/RTUs) - Questions

Discussion in 'Ground Commands, Stations, & Bases' started by BobTou, Nov 27, 2016.

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  1. BobTou

    BobTou New Member

    I'm hoping that someone can answer some basic questions on USAAF OTUs/RTUs (and the follow-on AAF Base Units, AAFBUs):
    - Records like Maurer’s "Air Force Combat Units of WWII" suggest that, after being activated, every combat-coded Bombardment and Fighter Group trained at multiple stateside bases before being sent overseas for combat. Can I assume that each such newly-activated Group was deemed an OTU while in training CONUS?
    - Would every such OTU have been temporarily assigned aircraft from a 'pool' at each base at which it trained? What entity would have typically ‘owned’ the aircraft pool at a given base (e.g., the base’s Air Base Group?)?
    - When an OTU was in training stateside, was it assigned the actual aircraft that it would later take into combat? If so, when in the training cycle would an OTU have typically received its combat aircraft; i.e., early in the unit’s training process, or later (perhaps just before the unit was sent overseas)? Or were combat aircraft not assigned until the now fully-trained unit was in its assigned combat theatre?
    - Some RTUs and AAFBUs operated at a given base for a considerable length of time, often more than six months. Can I assume that, in general, RTUs and AAFBUs were assigned their own organic fleet of aircraft, as opposed to drawing from a pool at the base whatever hosted them?
    - Would the aircraft belonging to an RTU or AAFBU, or to an OTU while stateside, have had unit-specific markings? Or would the planes have been generically painted?
  2. billrunnels

    billrunnels Active Member

    In using the term "Unit" are you referring to a Crew, Squadron, Group, Wing or an Air Force?
  3. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Bob, welcome to the AAF forum.

    Interesting you posted your query in the Fighters forum (maybe your force preference), Ground Commands might have been better for this topic but this forum is currently not moderated so you are good where you are. Generally speaking this topic is discussed pretty well in The Army Air Forces in World War II, Vol. 6 Men and Planes http://www.afhso.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-101105-019.pdf
    search Ctrl+Shift+F OTU RTU together or independently where it seems to offer explanation of these force and training units. This was typical for fighter/pursuit and bombardment units of all types.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2016
  4. BobTou

    BobTou New Member

    Thanks very much, 25Kingman49. The document you referenced is excellent, and I'm familiar with it. I'll re-read it, but don't recall that it addressed the kinds of detail that I'm interested in (or perhaps I was too dense upon first reviewing it months ago). The passing of folks with contemporaneous knowledge of WW II makes getting certain info a little challenging, but I'm confident that the pieces are out there to be put together. In any case, thanks for the suggestion.
  5. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

    Bob, some interesting questions. I thought I would try and follow the 91st BG through training to see if any of the questions were answered, at least for it. Putting together the history from here:
    and here:

    I think once the bomb group was authorized and activated (for the 91st activation occurred 14 April 1942 ) it was always denoted as the 91st BG with its associated squadrons. I don't think it was referred to subsequently a OTU/RTU.

    As the bomb group worked up, it appears to me they while they may have used planes at the bases, they did have planes assigned, as they "turn them in" at Gowen Field in August, 1942, when they were authorized to go overseas. It is not clear to me how many planes they turned in. If the entire air echelon flew planes to Gowen, they may have turned in 35 or so planes. At Gowen, only six crews get new planes. They rest of the crews have to take a train to the East Coast and Dow Field, Maine.

    The group gets another 29 planes while they finished final training at Dow Field, Maine. They were at Dow until October, so the new planes came in slowly.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
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  6. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    I think you are correct in that this publication does not detail the allocation of aircraft across these ZI force units. I'll try to direct a better authority here who may have the detail you seek.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
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  7. mcoffee

    mcoffee Member

    The 449th BG began to receive the aircraft they would take into combat in mid-October 1943 and began overseas movement in early December of the same year.
    BobTou likes this.
  8. BobTou

    BobTou New Member

    Thanks, all...of potential use to me (and to anyone else interested in this topic) are four reports at http://www.afhra.af.mil/Information/Studies/, specifically 18, 53, 61 and 93. I've dowloaded the first three and inquired with AFHRA wrt the fourth, which has no functioning hyperlink. More to come...this'll take a while to slog through!
  9. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Hopefully reinforcements are on the way. In the meantime here is another publication titled "Training to Fly: Military Flight Training, 1907-1945" http://newpreview.afnews.af.mil/shared/media/document/AFD-101202-020.pdf covering a broad time frame so half the book can be overlooked, with the remainder still not answering the specific aircraft allocation and distribution for training vs combat use and the combination of the two in some instances.

    Overall it seems the answer to your query of USAAF (Training) OTUs/RTUs/AAFBUs does omit an additional evolution in training with the Combat Crew Training Units; however all are a moving target as to permanent aircraft in their cadre. Over the course of the war the training objectives had to evolve, which they did remarkably well in rapid order. Attached is a PDF regarding CCTU for ZI B-17 training from "B-17 Production..." (2015) by David Gansz, highly recommended reading available here https://www.amazon.com/Boeing-B-17-Production-February-1944/dp/069236546X which explains some of this evolution from getting the original combat groups into theater and then follow-on aircraft and crew replenishment, offering details of OTUs and RTUs having their own complement of planes for training. New aircraft were issued for transport overseas to satisfy crew and aircraft replenishment

    There seems little question that initially the focus was forming the groups and getting them overseas perhaps generally with the aircraft in-which they trained. The evolution was quick with establishment of the AAF School of Applied Tactics (AAFSAT) however OTUs and RTUs still played a part only changing their name in May 1944 with the establishment of the waist and redundancy reduction AAFBU system. As the war progressed it appears all these training entities had their own permanent allotment of aircraft for training purposes some with BIG identification numbers on their nose.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  10. BobTou

    BobTou New Member

    Thanks. I have the first book which, despite its size, doesn't get to the level of detail I'm looking for.

    In general, in the early stages of the war, lots of combat-coded Groups (with Squadrons) were formed. Each new Group went through the stateside OTU process as a reasonably complete fighting unit before shipping out. Later, when there was less of a need for new comabt groups, there was no longer an OTU process. The RTU process (which, like the OTU process, began at the beginning of America's involvement in the war) then predominated. RTUs were strictly non-combat-coded stateside Groups (with Squadrons) that trained individual pilots (or, in the case of bombers, entire crews) so that those guys could go overseas to an existing combat unit. RTUs were redesignated CCTSs and AAFBUs (and, later, ABUs).

    My questions try to get at the specifics of how this all worked. Logic does suggest certain answers...but war is rarely logical so I'm poking a bit deeper. :)
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  11. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    18 (U) Pilot Transition to Combat Aircraft, by Betty J. McNarney (1944). 260 pages http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Studies/1-50/AFD-090602-044.pdf
    53 (U) Organization of AAF Training Activities, 1939-1945, by Martha E. Layman (1946). 67 page http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Studies/51-100/AFD-090529-105.pdf
    61 (U) Combat Crew and Unit Training in the AAF, 1939-1945, by Jerry White (1949). 147 pages. http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Studies/51-100/AFD-090601-030.pdf
    93 (U) Development of AAF and USAF Training Concepts and Programs, 1941-1952, by Leslie F. Smith (1953). 465 pages. K1011A call No. http://airforcehistoryindex.org/data/001/004/508.xml
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  12. RSwank

    RSwank Well-Known Member

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  13. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

  14. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Lots of bit and pieces so going to do each one step at a time

    1) Each combat bomber group (in training) was considered a standard unit that was in training for assignment to overseas deployment. There were units that were designated as (strictly) Operational Training Groups (88th BG, 19th BG, 395th BG, 398th BG etc) - of all these group only 2 became regular units 19th BG (B-29) and 398th BG (B-17's).

    2) after the great reorganization in April 1944 all OTU's were disbanded and replaced with RTU (Replacement Training Units) -- the bomb group designations were retired (for the ZOI units) and replaced with AAFBU (Army Air Force Base Units) - no longer were the bomb groups separate outfits but everything on the base came under the commanding officers of that base - everything was consolidated.

    3) The Bomb Groups (in training) had a pool of aircraft assigned - generality around 5-10 ships and these worn out aircraft were replaced with new aircraft when the group received orders to proceed overseas. The aircraft were issued to the bomb group but transferred at the end of the training period

    4) The OTU (and later AAFBU) had there own fleet of aircraft. The OTU were just organized just like any other group. After the great reorganization, the heavier maintenance was done at depot level as opposed to base level. In April 1944, all the RTU's generally received brand new aircraft and were greatly expanded to larger units 75-80 aircraft per base (as opposed to around 30 aircraft for a OTU). this coincided with Boeing, Douglas and Vega (for the B-17) hitting full production and also allowed the Air Force to retire the obsolete aircraft (both in training units as well as combat units)

    5) Stateside marking were the norm -- attached is the B-17 markings for the Combat Crew Training Groups

    The attached Bomb Group Training paper is something I did about 3-years ago. A little out of date, but should answer all your questions

    ZOI Combat Crew Training B-17 Colors and Markings  1944-45.JPG

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
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  15. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

  16. bernies

    bernies New Member

    - Records like Maurer’s "Air Force Combat Units of WWII" suggest that, after being activated, every combat-coded Bombardment and Fighter Group trained at multiple stateside bases before being sent overseas for combat. Can I assume that each such newly-activated Group was deemed an OTU while in training CONUS? \

    I do not see how you can draw the conclusion that the units being shipped overseas were OTUs or RTUs. Kingman offerred up Vol. VI of Craven and Cate. Check out page xxxvi in the introduction. The units being trained for deployment overseas were not the OTUs or RTUs, the units doing the training were. during 1943, many units switched from being OTUs to RTUs becasuse enough combat units had been formed. Some units started training for overseas deployment after spending some time as OTUs or RTUs, so this may have confused you into thinking all units were OTUs and RTUs.

    Check Combat Crew and Unit Training in the AAF, 1939-1945, by Jerry White http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Studies/51-100/AFD-090601-030.pdf

    There's someone who's been on this forum that has been researching the markings used on planes at training bases, including crew training bases. As I recall the various bases used one or two letter codes to identify the base plus 4 digit numbers.
    25Kingman49 likes this.
  17. 25Kingman49

    25Kingman49 Well-Known Member

    Thank you Dave and Bernie for your rally point contributions. Have also requested this thread be moved to Ground Commands by the management.

    To save time looking: xxxvi attached.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 28, 2016
  18. mcoffee

    mcoffee Member

    For Terveurn - 449th BG training stations and dates to add to your Bomber Group Training paper if interested.

    Attached Files:

  19. Kevin Anderson

    Kevin Anderson New Member

    It has been probably ten years since I last I tried to research this with any zeal, but if I recall....

    I believe we will find that original posters questions will have answers that vary based on when in the war (1942 and 1943 being generally different that 1944 and even 1945) and on what type of plane the organization is slated for, and even by which Air Force trained them (e.g., 2AF for bombers and 3AF for small planes).

    In most (all?) cases, if an operational unit received planes to ferry overseas, that came late in the process, as the unit was transitioning for overseas movement (POM) and starting to move. That way you can get planes that haven't been broken yet and with the latest depot modifications, including most of the fighting equipment (guns, etc.). Earlier on I believe it was more likely that operational units got to bring their actual planes than later in the war. The early B-17 and B-24 groups going to England mostly got to bring their own planes, I believe, as did the 1944 B-29 groups coming out of Kansas for China and later the Pacific - in both cases, there weren't enough planes overseas yet to not do it another way. Later on, as a theater of operation matured and planes became more numerous and newer models came out, it is more likely an operational unit might be ferrying planes over, to be left at the depot (in England or Scotland, for instance) when they arrived, going on to their actual base by train. This in general also seems more prevalent for bomber units than for fighter units (with I believe many more fighter planes being shipped in crates rather than flown). If an operational unit is routed by way of an east or west coast depot, then you can know they are picking up a plane to take overseas, either their own or just a ferry job.

    Crews coming out of RTU schools would at best get to ferry equipment to the theater, and even then possibly with only part of the crew on the flight. (For instance, B-25 crews in early 1944 who finished their final training in South Carolina and going to the Pacific would get a plane to ferry from the Savannah Depot, fly it to Hamilton in California for debarkation, and head across the Pacific with just a pilot, navigator, and radio operator, with the flight engineer and tail gunner traveling by boat. When the plane arrived at the 13th or 5th AF, it was left at their depot.)

    As to who at a base actually "owned" the plane, unless someone can check numerous airplane cards to verify, my guess is the local training squadron or operations squadron in charge, and possibly later the AAFBU. As already pointed out, the stateside planes were in many cases "hacks", as even the ground crews in many cases were still in training, and these planes got plenty of flying time with less-than-ideal lower octane gas, etc., and were stripped of most of their operational fighting equipment One notable exception is the "Battle of Kansas", the early B-29s for the 58th BW - here we know it is the real planes, as these were the only planes available and the crews were having to finish the manufacturing and preparation of these planes alongside the Boeing and depot mechanics deployed to help.

    The variations in all this are probably too numerous to really effectively summarize or tabulate.

    Kevin Anderson
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2016
  20. terveurn

    terveurn Active Member

    Have to disagree with Kevin on a couple of points -- the stateside trainers (Heavy bombers) were not hacks but fully combat ready. When the B-17 hit full production in April 1944, all the old obsolete B-17's were retired / stored / scrapped. This included many of the early B-17F's with manual turbo superchargers and this is one of the reasons the 8th AF got rid of the B-17F models and when they were returned stateside, a majority of the ex-combat B-17F's were placed into storage. These ex-combat B-17F were obsolete and useless for training.

    There were a few later B-17G's in the ZOI RTU's that were stripped, but these were done for a specific purpose - noticeably turrets removed for pilot trainers etc...

    The Third Air Force was not small aircraft, but bombers. The 3rd became the B-17 training command when the 2nd AF went to RTU B-29.

    As mentioned above, it was the AAFBU (after April 1944) that owned the aircraft -- generally the maintenance squadron (Lettered D under the new organization scheme) then further broken down to numbered flights. For example Avon Park AAF B-17's would be owned by; 3rd AF, 325th AAFBU / Section (later Squadron) D with a flight number (ie D-1, D-2, D-3, D-4) with each flight having a corresponding cowling color.

    * * *

    There was several schools that flew B-17 (for example) - Pilot Training schools (Hobbs, Lochbourne, etc... for example), Gunner Schools (Kingman for example) - these were considered schools and came under individual training commands (AAF Eastern Flying Training Command etc)

    Then you the combat crew groups that brought all the individual crew members together and taught them how to work as a team - these came under the individual numbered Air Forces (Avon Park, MacDill, Dyersburg, Sioux City etc...). While these were considered training, they were also considered fully capable combat commands)
    25Kingman49 likes this.
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