The 98th trained for bombardment missions with B-24 Liberators during the first half of 1942.
The group was alerted and departed for the Middle East on 15 July 1942, arriving in Palestine in late July 1942. The 98th was initially assigned to the USMEAF (United States Middle East Air Force). However, the USMEAF was dissolved on 12 November 1942. At that time, the 98th came under the 9th Air Force. It flew its first mission to Mersa Matruh, Libya on 1 August 1942, with the aircraft being serviced by Royal Air Force personnel until 98th maintenance personnel arrived in mid-August 1942.
It supported the British Eighth Army in its westward advance from Egypt into Libya and Tunisia. It bombed land targets, air fields, railroad lines, shipping, and harbor installations in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Crete, and Greece to cut enemy supply lines to Africa and to prepare for the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy. The 98th earned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for action against the enemy in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sicily from August 1942 to August 1943. It received a second DUC for participation in a low-level bombing raid on enemy-held oil refineries at Ploesti, Romania, on 1 August 1943. On this raid, of 47 B-24s launched, only 21 returned safely. One, the ‘Kickapoo’, crashed on takeoff with the loss of all crew members except two. Six planes aborted before reaching the target. Seventeen went down in enemy territory. Two went down at sea. The Group Commander, Col. John R. (Killer) Kane was awarded the Medal of Honor for his leadership. Kane’s copilot, Lt. John S. Young, was awarded the Silver Star for his part in the mission.