The 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) was activated on 1 December 1942, at Gowen Field, Idaho, as a unit of the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy). It was placed under the command of Captain Alfred C Nuttall and commenced training at Wendover, Utah, on 2 January 1943, continuing there until 1 April 1943. The unit then moved to Sioux City, Iowa, for final training.
The Group received orders in late April to move to their combat assignment in England. Squadron aircrews left Sioux City with their new B-17Fs for Kearney, Nebraska on 3 May 1943, and then continued to Prestwick, Scotland via Presque Isle, Maine, and Goose Bay, Labrador; one contingent was routed via Gander, Newfoundland instead of Goose Bay. While en route to England, the aircraft piloted by Kelmer J Hall experienced mechanical problems and was ditched in the Atlantic on the flight from Gander, Newfoundland, to England on 10 June 1943. The crew was rescued by a Canadian minesweeper, returned to Presque Isle, Maine, and completed the deployment to England on an ATC C-54, joining the Squadron later. The Squadron ground unit left for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 9 May 1943, sailing on the Queen Elizabeth on 27 May 1943, and arrived in Greenock, Scotland on 2 June 1943.
On arrival in England, the 544th established its home at Grafton Underwood Airfield, Station 106, Northamptonshire. Combat training continued through June, and the Squadron flew its first operational mission on 25 June 1943, with six Squadron aircraft taking part. Combat losses were a fact of life from the squadron's very first mission, with one Squadron aircraft and the John R Way Crew lost to enemy action. Of the ten-man crew, six became POW while the other four died in the event, two of which are MIA to this day.
Between 25 June 1943, and 25 April 1945, the 544th crews flew 2,280 sorties, against targets in Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Holland. The Squadron lost 61 B-17s and 428 men, of whom 118 were KIA, 31 were MIA, 207 were POW, 36 evaded, and 18 were interned in neutral countries: another 18 men were lost to other causes.
Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Alfred C Nuttall - 28 December 1942 to 28 August 1943
and 21 October 1943 to 13 September 1944
Captain (later Major) William F Gilmore - 29 August 1943 to 20 October 1943
Major Gerald B Sammons - 14 September 1944 to 6 November 1944
Major Maurice A Booska - 7 November 1944 through the Istres period