482nd Bombardment Group

482nd Bombardment Group

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482nd Bombardment Group

History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To


The 482nd Bombardment Group provided a pathfinder force for the heavy bombers of the Eighth Air Force. It was unusual in that it was activated in England on 20 August 1943, not serving in the United States until the end of the war in Europe.

The group was equipped with a mix of B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators, all equipped with radar and designed to lead the main bomber formations to targets that were obscured by bad weather. Its first mission came on 27 September 1943, when it lead aircraft from the 1st and 3rd Bombardment Divisions to attack the port of Emden. It was the first group to use the H2S navigational radar set, as used by RAF Bomber Command. The success of their early tests meant that the equipment was adopted more widely by the Eighth Air Force.

Although the group was officially based at Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, for the entire duration of its time in Great Britain, from September 1943 until 1944 the unit normally operated in detachments, with the B-17s and B-24s based with the squadrons they were leading.

While operating in this way the 482nd lead attacks on targets at Gotha, Brunswick and Schweinfurt during Big Week (20-25 February 1944), the attack on the German aircraft industry. The group won a distinguished unit citation for its role in an attack on central Germany on 11 January 1944. Poor weather made the fighter escort ineffective, but the group pushed on and bombed its target while fighting a running battle with German aircraft.

In March 1944 the group was removed from the front line (its last pathfinder mission was an attack on Berlin on 22 March) and became a pathfinder school.The aim was to train one squadron in each Bombardment Group to act as a pathfinders, dramatically increasing the poor-weather capability of the Eighth Air Force.

This change did not end the combat career of the unit. It carried out a number of experimental and mapping flights over occupied Europe and Germany, often carrying out bombing missions at the same time. On D-Day (6 June 1944) the group operated as a pathfinder unit targeting German coastal defences in Normandy, and also attacked German transport targets behind the beachhead.



August 1943-June 1945: Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator


10 August 1943Constituted as 482nd Bombardment Group (Pathfinder)
20 August 1943Activated in England with Eighth Air Force
27 September 1943First combat mission, an attack on the port at Emden
September 1943-March 1944Operates as a pathfinder unit
March 1944-May 1944Operates as a pathfinder school
November 1944Redesignated 482nd Bombardment Group (Heavy)
May-June 1945Inactivated

Commanders (with date of appointment)

Colonel Baskin R. Lawrence Jr: 20 August 1943
Colonel Howard Moore: 1 December 1943
Lt. Colonel Clement W. Bird: 15 December 1944-1945

Main Bases

Alconbury, England: 20 August 1943-21 May 1945
Victorville, California: 5 July-1 September 1945

Component Units

812nd Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945
813rd Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945
814th Bombardment Squadron: 1943-1945

Assigned To

Eighth Air Force: 1943-1945
1943: 1st Bombardment Wing; 1st Air Division; Eighth Air Force

482nd Attack Squadron

The 482d Attack Squadron is a United States Air Force unit, stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, where it is an operational squadron of the 25th Attack Group, operating the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.

The first predecessor of the squadron was organized in 1917 as the 70th Aero Squadron. After being redesignated as the 482d Aero Squadron, it deployed to France as a construction unit, returning to the United States in 1919, where it was demobilized.

The second predecessor of the squadron was the 482d Bombardment Squadron, which was constituted in the Organized Reserve in 1924. The two units were consolidated in 1936 and, along with other reserve units disbanded in May 1942, shortly after the United States entered World War II.

In 1944, the 482d Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy was activated and assigned to the 505th Bombardment Group. Shortly after it was activated, the two 482d Bombardment Squadrons were consolidated. After serving as a strategic bombing unit in the Pacific with Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, it was inactivated at Clark Field, Philippines in June 1946.



Louis Dentoni

Military | Captain | Group Bombardier | 385th Bomb Group
August 17, 1943 - Hospitalized in Africa. #42-30187 'Lulu Belle' B-17 piloted by Preston Piper was hit by flak and shot. Dentoni and navigator Lt. Paul Schultz manned waist guns as tail gunner had been injured. .

Alfred Rabo

Military | Lieutenant Colonel | Squadron Commander, Pilot | 305th Bomb Group Can Do
Rabo is best known for nicknaming H2X radar 'Mickey Mouse' .

Russell Wilson

Military | Brigadier General | Command Pilot, Combat Observer, Aircraft Observer
In April 1943, Wilson was appointed Wing Executive Officer of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing was commanding officer of the 4th Combat Bomb Wing, based at Elveden Hall. In this capacity by July 1943 he had completed 5 combat missions over occupied Europe. .

Units served with

482nd Bomb Group

The 482nd Bomb Group was a Pathfinder Group, which using radar-equipped aircraft to support bombing missions until March 1944. Aircraft from this Group went ahead of other Bombers and sent information back about the best routes to take and the extent.

92nd Bomb Group Fame's Favoured Few

The 92nd Group sometime after arrivial in the UK converted to the role of in-theater combat crew indocrination and training. For this role, the Group traded its B-17F complement and obtained the B-17E, mostly from the 97th BG which was departing for.

26 July 1943

Flight Officer John Cary Morgan, United States Army Air Corps, is awarded the Medal of Honor by Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, commanding 8th Air Force, 18 December 1943. (U.S. Air Force)


MORGAN, JOHN C. (Air Mission)

Rank and organization: Second Lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps, 326th Bomber Squadron, 92d Bomber Group.

Place and date: Over Europe, 28 July 1943.¹

Entered service at: London, England. Born: 24 August 1914, Vernon, Texas.

G.O. No.: 85, 17 December 1943.

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, while participating on a bombing mission over enemy-occupied continental Europe, 28 July 1943.¹ Prior to reaching the German coast on the way to the target, the B17 airplane in which 2d Lt. Morgan was serving as copilot was attacked by a large force of enemy fighters, during which the oxygen system to the tail, waist, and radio gun positions was knocked out. A frontal attack placed a cannon shell through the windshield, totally shattering it, and the pilot’s skull was split open by a .303 caliber shell, leaving him in a crazed condition. The pilot fell over the steering wheel, tightly clamping his arms around it. 2d Lt. Morgan at once grasped the controls from his side and, by sheer strength, pulled the airplane back into formation despite the frantic struggles of the semiconscious pilot. The interphone had been destroyed, rendering it impossible to call for help. At this time the top turret gunner fell to the floor and down through the hatch with his arm shot off at the shoulder and a gaping wound in his side. The waist, tail, and radio gunners had lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and, hearing no fire from their guns, the copilot believed they had bailed out. The wounded pilot still offered desperate resistance in his crazed attempts to fly the airplane. There remained the prospect of flying to and over the target and back to a friendly base wholly unassisted. In the face of this desperate situation, 2d Lt. Officer Morgan made his decision to continue the flight and protect any members of the crew who might still be in the ship and for 2 hours he flew in formation with one hand at the controls and the other holding off the struggling pilot before the navigator entered the steering compartment and relieved the situation. The miraculous and heroic performance of 2d Lt. Morgan on this occasion resulted in the successful completion of a vital bombing mission and the safe return of his airplane and crew.”

Lieutenant John Cary (“Red”) Morgan, 482nd Bombardment Group, with a B-17 Flying Fortress. (Imperial War Museum)

John Cary Morgan was born 24 August 1914 at Vernon, Texas, the first of four children of Samuel Asa Leland Morgan, an attorney, and Verna Johnson Morgan. He was educated at the New Mexico Military Institute, and also attended Amarillo College, West Texas Teacher’s College and the University of Texas at Austin.

“Red” Morgan traveled to the South Pacific in 1934, working on a pineapple plantation in the Fiji Islands. He returned to the United States in 1937, arriving at the Port of Los Angeles from Suva, Fiji, aboard the Matson passenger liner S.S. Monterey, on 6 September, after a 12-day voyage.

One of Matson Lines’ “white ships,” S.S. Monterey, arrived at Sydney Harbor, 14 June 1937. (Royal Australian Historical Society)

Morgan married 20-year-old Miss Margaret Wilma Maples at the First Methodist Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 3 December 1939. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Lewis N. Stuckey. They were divorced, 1 May 1941.

Morgan registered for Selective Service at Oklahoma City, 16 October 1940. He was described as being 6 feet, 2 inches (1.88 meters) tall, weighing 180 pounds (81.7 kilograms), with red hair and blue eyes. Morgan had broken his neck in an oil field accident before the United States entered World War II, and had been classified 4-F by the draft board: “not qualified for military service.”

Morgan went to Canada and on 4 August 1941, enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. After flight training, he was sent to England and assigned to RAF Bomber Command. Flight Sergeant Morgan flew twelve combat missions with the RAF. He was then transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps with the warrant rank of Flight Officer. On 23 March 1943, Red Morgan was assigned to the 326th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), 92nd Bombardment Group (Heavy), at RAF Alconbury (Army Air Force Station 102), at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England.

The original “Ruthie,” Lockheed Vega B-17F-35-VE Flying Fortress, 42-5910, 326th Bombardment Squadron, landing at RAF Chelveston (AAF Station 105), Northamptonshire, England. (Imperial War Museum UPL 19152)

The incident for which Morgan was awarded the Medal of Honor occurred during his fifth combat mission with the 326th Bombardment Squadron. He was the co-pilot of a Boeing B-17F-70-BO Flying Fortress, serial number 42-29802, named Ruthie II.

2nd Lieutenant John Cary (“Red”) Morgan being interviewed by Lieutenant Joe Graham, ETO Radio Department. (Imperial War Museum)

Promoted from flight officer to 2nd lieutenant, John C. Morgan continued to fly combat missions, now with the 482nd Bombardment Group (Pathfinder). On 6 March 1944, the H2X radar-equipped B-17 on which he was co-pilot, Douglas-Long Beach-built B-17F-70-DL 42-3491, was hit by an 88-millimeter anti-aircraft artillery shell and shot down. The aircraft commander, Major Fred A. Rabo, Lieutenant Morgan, and two others escaped as the airplane exploded. Six airmen were killed, including Brigadier General Russell A. Wilson.

Douglas-built B-17F-70-DL Flying Fortress 42-3491, call sign “Chopstick G. George,” was shot down near Berlin, Germany, 6 March 1944. The bomber exploded immediately after this photograph was taken. (U.S. Air Force)

The survivors were captured. Lieutenant Morgan spent the rest of the war as a prisoner at Stalag Luft I. He is the only Medal of Honor recipient to have been held as a Prisoner of War after being awarded the Medal.

Lieutenant Morgan was separated from active duty 29 January 1946, but remained in the Air Force Reserve. In the civilian sector, Morgan worked for the Texaco oil company.

Red Morgan married Chris Ziegler of Chicago, Illinois, who was a secretary for Texaco, in 1947. They had one son. According to an obituary in the New York Times, Morgan had a third wife, Gladys, at the time of his death.

Morgan was promoted to the rank of major in July 1950. Recalled to active duty during the Korean War (from June 1951 to August 1953), he was assigned to the Technical Training Command. Morgan was promoted to lieutenant colonel in August 1957.

Lieutenant Colonel John Cary Morgan, United States Air Force, died at Midlands Hospital, Papillon, Nebraska, 17 January 1991, at the age of 76 years. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Second Lieutenant John C. “Red” Morgan, USAAF, at Stalag Luft I, 1944. 󈫼 O’Clock High”

Authors Beirne Lay, Jr., and Sy Bartlett used Morgan as the model for the character of “Lieutenant Jesse Bishop” in their novel, Twelve O’Clock High, and the Academy Award-winning 1949 motion picture adaptation that followed. The Jesse Bishop character was played by actor Robert Patten, a USAAF navigator during World War II.

¹ “Although both the original fact sheet and the official Medal of Honor citation give the date as 28 July 1943, official records of the 92d Bombardment Group pinpoint it as 26 July. See Memo, Lt. Col. Andre R. Brosseau, Operations Officer, Headquarters, 92d Bombardment Group to Commanding Officer, 92d Bombardment Group, subj: Report on Planning and Execution of Operations for Mission 26 July 1943, Hannover, Germany, 27 July 1943, Air Force Historical Support Division, Reference Branch documents. The memo does not detail Flight Officer Morgan’s actions but does pinpoint the mission to Hannover on 26 July 1943.” —Air Force Historical Support Division

1940-1941 Reconnaissance and photo-mapping of Bering Sea and Alaska using B-18 Bolos.

December 1941 - August 1943 Combat in the Northern Pacific Edit

Assigned to Alaska where served to defend the territory after Japan attacked the United States at the end of 1941. The unit helped force the withdrawal of Japanese ships that attacked Dutch Harbor in June 1942, flew missions against occupied Kiska until the Japanese evacuated that island in August 1943,

December 1943— August 1944 Carpetbagger Operations Edit

In November 1943, a unit was formed to clandestinely deliver agents and supplies into Nazi-occupied Europe for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.). To address this mission, the 36th Bombardment Squadron with specially modified B-24 Liberators were formed and activated at RAF Alconbury, England. It was attached to the 482nd Bombardment Group. This was the beginning of Operation Carpetbagger.

The purpose of the Carpetbagger project was to fly special operations missions which entailed delivering supplies to resistance groups in enemy occupied countries.

Owing to lack of sufficient facilities at Alconbury, in mid-December the squadron was reassigned to the Eighth Air Force Composite Command (Special Operations Group), (remaining attached to the 482d Bomb Group) and moved to RAF Watton (Station 376), near Thetford in Norfolk. The move to RAF Watton did not prove to be fortuitous. The heavy B-24s were incompatible with the grass runways and muddy hard standings there and were forced to move back to Alconbury in January 1944.

A new airfield under construction in the depths of rural Northamptonshire, RAF Harrington (Station 179) proved ideal for Carpetbagger operations. The advanced echelon of the squadrons moved into Harrington on 25 March 1944. On 1 April the squadron was assigned to the 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional).

In August 1944, the 801st Bombardment Group was absorbed by the 492d Bombardment Group (Heavy). The 492d was a "hard luck" B-24 group which had lost 52 aircraft to enemy action in only 89 days, suffering 588 men killed or missing. Rather than try to rebuild the shattered group, the group was stood down and the surviving members were reassigned to other units in theater. The operational squadrons of the 801st were stood down and redesignated as the squadrons assigned to the 492d. The 36th Squadron's personnel and equipment were reassigned to the 856th Bombardment Squadron, [1] and the 36th was reassigned to VIII Fighter Command as an unattached unit without equipment or personnel.

August 1944— April 1945 Electronic—countermeasures operations Edit

The redesignation of the Carpetbagger squadrons made the designation of "36th Bomb Squadron" available again and it was assigned to the 803d Bomb Squadron, a provisional squadron then located at RAF Cheddington.

The 36th Bomb Squadron was the Eighth Air Force's only electronic warfare squadron using specially equipped B-24s to jam German VHF communications during large Eighth Air Force daylight raids. In addition, the 36th BS flew night missions with the Royal Air Force Bomber Command's 100 Group which controlled the British electronic warfare and countermeasures squadrons .

The radar countermeasure effort came under RAF Bomber Command where they performed a variety of special operations activities. The missions included Window (Chaff), Jostle, Carpet, Mandrel, and other ramifications. Many of the jamming systems were developed and tested by Allied scientists associated with the Telecommunications Research Establishment, namely the American-British Laboratory Division 15 (ABL-15) located at Great Malvern. RCM operations were designed to deny the Germans effective utilization of radar and radio equipment.

The 36th BS's missions involved trickery, ingenious deception, spoofs, and tank communications jamming. The squadron flew on bad weather days during the Battle of the Bulge as well, when the rest of the Eighth Air Force stood down.

Along with these electronic warfare missions, the 36th BS also flew regular sorties which set out to discover the frequencies being used by the enemy for their radio and radar devices. For this they operated a number of Lockheed P-38 Lightning twin boomed fighters from Alconbury as well as their B-24s.

All operations ceased by 30 April 1945.

Test activities Edit

The squadron was redesignated the 36th Engineering and Test Squadron and activated as a test organization at Eglin Air Force Base in 1993. Redesignated the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron in 1999, it has continued to test electronic equipment since then.

812th Bomb Squadron

A B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 42-3483) of the 482nd Bomb Group takes off. B-17G-1-DL 42-3483 MI-A was the first in a batch of twelve B-17s modified in the USA with pre-production AN/APS-15 H2X "Mickey" PFF radar sets under the supervision of the 812th Bombardment Squadron's commanding officer, Captain Fred A Rabo. This batch had the scanner radome installed under a fairing behind the chin turret (seen partially censored out in the photograph) rather than in the ball turret position as on later H2X-equipped aircraft. After her combat service the radar equipment was removed and refitted in a deHavilland Mosquito, being smaller than the production version. In April 1944 she was transferred to the 401st Bombardment Group to serve as a VHF radio relay ship, a function she continued to serve following her transfer to VIII Fighter Command in July 1944.

Glenn Eugene Kofoed Co-Pilot Paul Bensel Crew - 388th BG Warren Bock Crew - 482nd BG

Second Lieutenant John Cary Morgan, United States Army Air Corps, is awarded the Medal of Honor by Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, commanding 8th Air Force, 18 December 1943.. (U.S. Air Force)

42-3491 B-17F-70-DL One of the last 86 Douglas F models, these aircraft were built with chin turrets. This plane is one of the original twelve H2X radar equipped pathfinders. Distinguished from later versions by the radome mounted behind the chin turret. Hit by flack near Berlin on 3-6-44, broke up and crashed, 4 POW, 6 KIA.

A B-17 Flying Fortress (MI-O, serial number 42-39880) of the 812th Bomb Squadron, 482nd Bomb Group during a visit to Fowlmere. Handwritten caption on reverse: 'How about this then! 482nd B.G. B-17 with codes!! MI-O 42-38880? at Fowlmere by the tower.'

A B-17 Flying Fortress (MI-A, serial number 42-3483) of the 812th Bomb Squadron, 482nd Bomb Group in spring 1944 before taking off from Alconbury airfield.

A B-17 Flying Fortress (MI-A, serial number 42-3483) of the 812th Bomb Squadron, 482nd Bomb Group in spring 1944 before taking off from Alconbury airfield. Handwritten caption on reverse: '182. Larry Redmond, First H2-X, Spring 44 - has 25+ ops.'

Nose art of B-17G 42-3492 "Paper Doll", one of the 12 482BG aircraft fitted with pre-production H2X radar by MIT in a unique fairing behind the chin turret.

The insignia of the 812th Bomb Squadron, 482nd Bomb Group.

B-17F-70-DL #42-3500 482nd BG - 812th BS - 8th AF Pathfinder aircraft shot down by flak on 4 February 1944

The 801st / 492nd Bomb Group

Lt Col Clifford Heflin and the aircrews of 22nd Anti-Submarine Squadron had just arrived at the Devonshire Airfield at Dunkeswell. It was August 1943 and they, together with 4th AS Squadron were to work up to operational standard in England after months of training at Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia in the United States, and occasional patrols over the Western Atlantic. They were looking forward to tackling the much vaunted German U Boats which were wreaking havoc on Allied shipping in the Atlantic. After another period of training in ocean search and low level attacks, they were sent on operational patrols over the Bay of Biscay, where several crews, including those of Major Robert Fish and Major Rodman St Clair, were lucky to survive attacks by German fighters.

After a few weeks all crews were summoned to a meeting in the Briefing Room. Everyone expected that they were to be given a pep talk by the Station Commanding Officer, instead they were told that a top level decision had been made to hand over all US maritime operations to Navy fliers. Their indubitable skills, they were told, were urgently needed in East Anglia, where their B-24s would join the day bombardment groups.

The next day, October 24th 1943, Heflin and his second in command, Major Bob Fish, together with three more 22 Squadron officers were detailed to attend a mysterious meeting at the US base at Bovingdon, Hertfordshire. After what seemed like over zealous security checks, they were shown into a room where a number of high ranking officers were already seated. They were told that the aircraft and crews of 22 Squadron had been chosen to form a special unit to fly agents and supplies to Resistance groups in Occupied Europe. The project was to be known as Operation Carpetbagger and they would be working in close liaison with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) organisation which, up until then, had been solely responsible for such operations.

The Combined Chiefs of Staff had decided that with the invasion of Europe getting closer, the range and frequency of covert supply sorties would have to be greatly increased. This was, in fact, not the only reason for the project, the American Military Intelligence Department, known as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was keen to get involved in the European sector.

William Wild Bill Donovan, the department head, could see the political implications, however, his organisation was not as experienced as the British, who had undertaken the training of many OSS operatives. Lt Gen Jacob Devers, Commanding General US Army, European Theatre of Operations, suggested that one or more squadrons of B-24s should begin supply missions into Europe, and although there was to be close co-operation with the British organisation, the actual operations and target planning would be basically the responsibility of the OSS.

Among the officers present at the meeting were Colonels Williamson and Kirk of the 8th Bomber Command, Major Brooks of the OSS and Group Captain Edward Fielden of the RAF Special Unit (Tempsford). Col Heflin and his men were given a description of their future duties, which would be a radical departure from anything that they had envisaged. The project was top secret for obvious reasons, any security leak could jeopardise the operation.

In a few days a group of 22 Squadron officers and enlisted men were ordered to attend Tempsford. They were to observe and receive training in covert supply operations. Each pilot was to fly two missions as co-pilot with RAF crews on their nocturnal flights. On November 3rd, Captain James A. Estes, who was co-pilot in a Halifax DT 726, became the first American to be missing in action when the aircraft crashed into a mountain at Marcols-Les-Eaux (Ardeche), about 4 miles SE of Entraygues, after striking high ground fog on Operation JOHN 13 to the TEMPLE DZ, at Livron-sur-Drome, South of Valence, France. All of the crew except the rear gunner died in the crash.

In November the 22nd and 4th Anti-Submarine Squadrons were deactivated and two new squadrons were formed. Col. Heflin assumed command of the 406th and Major Fish took over the 36th Squadron. These units were ordered to move to the then quite large and desolate airfield of Alconbury, quite close to Tempsford. The 482nd Bombardment (Pathfinder) Group were already in residence when the B-24s moved in. Heflin and Fish handed over control of the two squadrons on December 4th, when they were transferred to 482nd Headquarters to finalise plans for the Carpetbagger special project. Captains St Clair and Boone assumed command of the squadrons, and took charge of the working up of the air and ground echelons in preparation for the first supply missions.

On January 2nd 1944, Colonel Heflin and Captain Edward Tresemer, the Group Navigation Officer, were told to report to Tempsford for “Temporary duty of approximately 30 days”, with them went chosen crews of the 406th and 36th Squadrons. The first US Carpetbagger missions were to be flown from Tempsford, owing to lack of facilities at Alconbury. The British and American units developed a great deal of comradeship and mutual respect.

On January 4th, two days after arriving at Tempsford, Lt Stapel flew co-pilot to Col Heflin on the first Carpetbagger mission from Tempsford: during the “moon period” of January, six missions were flown by 36th Squadron and nine by 406th Squadron.

Whilst the Americans were acquiring know-how from British airmen, RAF experts gave advice on the modifications necessary to the B-24 Liberators to be used. The B-24 was ideal for supply operations, the capacious fuselage and long range made it the envy of the RAF fliers. Nevertheless, many modifications were needed for its new task.

The ball turret was removed, and the resulting hole was lined with a smooth metal, providing the exit for agents and supplies not in containers. Plywood flooring was fitted, and a handrail fixed to the right side of the hole. The hole was 44 inches in diameter and was covered when not in use by a circular plywood door, divided and hinged in the middle. Two strong points for parachute static lines were fitted flush with the door aft of the hole, each could accommodate eight straps. In addition one static line fixing was fixed in the rear of each bomb bay. The bomb shackles were replaced by British pattern release units, this was necessary as the cylindrical parachute containers were designed for RAF type bomb shackles.

Exit of agents and supplies through the hole was controlled by the “dispatcher” – this crew member was usually an ex waist or ball gunner. He was provided with a moving roller clip for his safety belt, enabling him to move safely the full length of the fuselage without removing his belt.

One important lesson taught by the SOE staff was the need to memorise the route to the drop zone.

RAF pilots learned to literally map read their way by moonlight, memorising landmarks – the most successful pilot sometimes spent hours studying the route. However the B-24s were fitted with the best possible flying and navigational instruments. The most important flying instrument was a radio altimeter giving an accurate height readout on the low level flights. A Mark V drift sight was fitted in the navigators compartment which was moved into the forward section near to the nose.

The route to the drop zone was achieved by a team effort, the bombardier sat in the glazed nose on a swivel seat reading off landmarks to the navigator sitting at his table behind the blackout curtains. The pilot was provided with large blister windows giving a good downward view of the ground.

First radio navigation aid to be used on a mission was the Gee set, this recorded directional signals which were marked on a special chart – accurate within a quarter of a mile over England, but prone to jamming over enemy territory. The Rebecca / Eureka directional system consisted of a ground beacon (Eureka) set up on the drop zone, this was triggered by a signal from Rebecca set in the aircraft. Eureka then automatically sent out signals which were picked up by a calibrated receiver, this indicated the aircraft’s position in relation to the drop zone.

When the aircraft reached a position a few miles from the drop zone, the ‘S’ Phone was used. This two way radio was invented by the SOE radio section and proved to be remarkably efficient – it gave a signal in the form of an upward cone and was virtually immune to enemy interception. The aircraft used by the Carpetbaggers at first were B-24Ds which had a glazed nose section, later B-24H and J models were used, these were fitted with glazed nose sections in place of the Emerson front gun turrets, this modification, together with other changes, being carried out at Burtonwood. In mid February the two squadrons were reassigned to the Eighth Air Force Composite Command, independent of the 482nd Group, and moved to Watton, Norfolk. This move proved to be disastrous, the heavy B-24s were incompatible with the grass runways and muddy hardstandings. Col. Heflin was forced to move back to Alconbury – however the base was becoming overcrowded and Tempsford could not be used indefinitely an airfield would have to be found in the area which was fairly remote and capable of coping with the planned increase in their operations.

An ideal airfield in the depths of rural Northamptonshire, Harrington, had been built by US Army Engineers for a B17 Fortress Bomb Group, but this unit had been diverted to North Africa to support Operation Torch. The nearby RAF 84 Operational Training Unit at Desborough took over the field as a satellite for training crews of Bomber Command.

Harrington proved ideal for Carpetbagger operations, it was near enough to Tempsford for liaison, and not too far from the main supply bases at Cheddington and Holme. The advanced echelons of 36 and 406 Squadrons moved into Harrington on March 25th 1944. When the RAF moved out of Harrington the Author, Ron Clarke, witnessed one of the most hair raising displays of airmanship (or reckless flying). The instructors in Wellingtons and Masters were given a chance to let themselves go: it was more of an air attack than a flying display, finishing with hundreds of toilet rolls being jettisoned over the CO’s quarters.

Col Heflin and his staff moved into the operations block and, with the help of his second in command Major Bob Fish, an operational schedule was worked out which was to remain largely unaltered through the short but very active life of the Carpetbaggers.

Secure communications were established with OSS HQ in London, and the Group OSS Liaison Officer, S2 Lt. Sullivan, set up his office in the operations block – covert operations were about to commence from Station 179, Harrington. The two Squadrons were to form a new Bomb Group to be known as the 801st Provisional Bomb Group (H).

Twenty four of the fat B-24s arrived and were soon squatting on the hardstandings round the perimeter. They were by no means all converted aircraft, some were still in green camouflage, but most had been painted gloss black and modified for their task.

On May 1st the Station was officially handed over to Lt Col Heflin by Sqdn Ldr E.D. King, RAF. The Americans were not at first very impressed with their new home: it seemed to rain continually and clogging mud made the dispersed Nissen hutted living sites into quagmires. However they soon discovered that the surrounding towns and villages were anything but hostile, local school children found the Yanks very generous – especially if you had a sister!

The first trucks loaded with parachute containers from Holme arrived, and were directed to the various hardstandings, where armourers supervised loading into the Liberators detailed for the first missions. Later in the month, two more Squadrons were attatched to the 801st Group, these were the 788th from Rackenheath, and the 850th from Eye.

On the night of May 11th, Major Jack M. Dickerson, CO of the 850th BS, flew as second pilot on a mission to France, and the rest of the newcomers soon became familiar with their new role.

Each mission took place in a 36 hour cycle, which began at 17.00 hours, when the OSS in London gave Lt. Sullivan a list of approved targets for the following night. At 0900 hours the CO selected the night’s targets according to priority of requests from the Resistance groups, reception record of the group, and availability of crews and aircraft. The lists were then given to OSS, who informed the reception teams on times and recognition codes.

Squadron Commanders and crew navigators were briefed at 1800 hours on all details, and weather to be expected en route to the drop zones. The S2 officer had meanwhile given the supply depot at Holme details of the arms or equipment to be loaded into containers. These were then loaded into sealed containers and driven to Harrington in trucks of the British Army Ordnance Corps.

Personnel to be dropped into enemy territory usually arrived in large American cars with curtained windows. The strictest security was observed during this period. They were taken to “dressing huts”, where they were searched for any tell tale objects. They were then helped into large padded jump suits and rubber helmets. During this time no one except the OSS dressers were allowed to talk to them.

The rear gunners job was to note the accuracy of the drop, and once the last parachute snapped open, the pilot headed for England. When they were 30 miles from the DZ, several bundles of leaflets were dropped, the rear gunner saw the fluttering cloud of paper as the Liberator flew into the night. The mission could have lasted up to eight hours, and in that time the seat of a Martin gun turret could get very uncomfortable. When the engines were finally cut and the ears sang with relief, the crew just sat and waited for the crew wagon to take them off to debriefing by the S2 section under Lt Sullivan.

As the invasion plans neared D-Day, the Group were instructed to transport small commando units into France. The first was the Jedburgh consisting of three men, usually a French, American and Briton. The group was a self contained unit equipped with a radio and trained in covert warfare.

After the first Allied landings, operations worked up to a crescendo: some nights 50 B-24s would be on operations. The base strength rode to over 3,000 men and a large tented site was erected on the Harrington to Kelmarsh road. This notorious establishment became known as Tent City and was not renowned for comfort.

Just before take off the agents, or Joes as they were known, were driven to the Liberator, which was waiting with engines ticking over. The aircraft made its slow progress to the runway and, on receiving a green from the tower, took off into the night sky.

The radio operator was soon busy with his signals, and once the enemy coast was reached the bombardier and navigator started their double act. The pilot usually flew at a height of 1,500 – 2,000 feet, giving known airfields and flak areas a wide berth night fighters were always a hazard, but by flying at low altitudes, this threat was minimised. Missions mostly took place during moonlit periods and alert small calibre anti-aircraft batteries proved the biggest threat. The two turret gunners kept a constant lookout for predators, their guns were fitted with large anti flash discs to lessen the loss of night vision if they were fired.

As they neared the drop zone (DZ) the reception party heard the throb of engines and established contact by ‘S’ Phone. The recognition torches were placed in the prearranged pattern and the light codes were exchanged. The aircraft was most vulnerable over the DZ and the pilot wasted no time lining up the twinkling markers. He selected half flaps and made the run in at 135 mph – not much above stalling speed. He was guided by the bombardier, who released the containers over the DZ. Speed was all important on the ground – the man sized containers were quickly taken away into cover.

Meanwhile the aircraft circled low and lined up on the lights again. The agents had been prepared for their drop and awaited the green light. The first to go sat on the rim of the open Joe Hole and slipped away, his place being quickly taken by the next who followed him.

The second type of team would be altogether a stronger force of 20 to 30 men, this was the Operational Group. These units were to be flown from Harrington in troop carrying C-47 Dakotas, which would land in occupied territory where they would reinforce direct action by the Resistance groups. The Dakotas bought back shot down aircrew and wounded Resistance people for consultation in London.

The Jedburghs began to arrive at Harrington in April 1944, they were dropped into Europe together with their new equipment in containers. Sometimes during bad weather, Jedburghs would be given practice drops over the airfield.

Three Dakotas arrived a few days after D-Day, and Col Heflin flew the first of many Operational Groups into France. During this intense activity many Carpetbagger aircraft and crews were lost, some to enemy flak and fighters, others as a result of striking trees and high ground.

Although most of the Carpetbagger sorties took place from Harrington, the Group also carried out supply and agent dropping missions from other airfields. In April 1944 a detachment was dispatched to Leuchars in Scotland from where a totally different undercover operation took place.

This was Operation Sonnie, which was to fly back to the UK several thousand Norwegian aircrew trainees and American internees from Sweden. These trips were very hazardous and were usually undertaken when cloud cover was available. The B-24s used were ostensibly civilian aircraft with civilian markings, the crew wearing airline clothes. Sonnie B-24s flew to Bromma airport, Stockholm, and were serviced by American engineers living as civilians in Stockholm.

These personnel were under constant surveillance in Stockholm by German agents, who did their best to discover the route taken by the American aircraft. It was found that although some were daytime flights, they suffered no more interception than normal night supply missions.

The Group operated a supply and agent dropping operation from Leuchars – this was code named Operation Ball . Six B-24s flew these missions from July 1944. These trips were more hazardous than the European operations, several squadrons of Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters were always on hand to hammer the unwary. There were many more abortive sorties over the mountains and fjords of Norway. Out of 65 attempted drops only 37 were successful.

On August 13th the Carpetbaggers at Harrington were redesignated to the 492nd Bomb Group (H) and the four squadrons became the 856th, 857th, 858th and 859th Bomb Squadrons under Col. Heflin.

The Commanding Officer, Col Heflin, returned to America on August 26th 1944 handing over command to Lt Col Robert Fish. The change in command coincided with the Group being called on to prevent General Patton’s armoured units grinding to a standstill. Patton had pushed round to the south and east thrusting towards Germany, but the speed of his progress had outstripped his fuel supply.

The situation was critical, and it was agreed that Carpetbagger Liberators should be used to fly gasoline directly to forward airfields. Harrington personnel worked non stop to convert the B-24s into flying fuel bowsers. Two 400 gallon tanks were fitted into the bomb bays and the auxiliary wing tank feed pipes were sealed off enabling them to be used (having first painted the filler caps white). Six P-51 Mustang belly tanks, each holding 100 gallons were installed in the fuselage, with three more fixed over the Joe Hole, all the tanks being vented outside.

On September 21st, 25 aircraft, each carrying 2,000 gallons of fuel staggered off the main runway at Harrington and headed for an airfield just re-captured from the enemy. Each trip lasted five hours and in the following days 60 aircraft were airlifting fuel. When the operation was ended on September 30th, 822,791 gallons of 80 octane gasoline had been flown out to three separate airfields in France and Belgium.

As the Allied armies advanced towards Germany, Carpetbagger supply missions switched to Denmark, Belgium and beyond. In late September 8th Air Force High Command decided that as supply missions would inevitably gradually run down, the 492nd Group would prepare three squadrons for the night bombing role, leaving only one squadron, the 856th, to carry out supply missions.

492 nd BG Squadron Commanders

The transition proved difficult, all oxygen equipment had been removed, bombsights and other essential bombing equipment had to be fitted and, for some reason, US bomb release shackles were in very short supply. The ground staff needed guidance in bombardment procedures and maintenance, but despite the many problems, the B-24s were gradually made ready for night bombing operations.

In late December convoys of trucks carrying 500 lb bombs were guided to the bomb dump area, where armourers stacked the bombs in neat rows ready for the first operation. Each squadron was to operate 18 B-24Hs and 24 combat crews. Waist guns were refitted, but the sub zero night temperatures made their use impossible after the first mission the side hatches were closed.

The plan was to approach the target at 8,000 ft and clear of flak areas, when the target was reached they would climb to 10 – 12,000 ft and use large emergency oxygen bottles. Whatever other problems occurred, the expert Carpetbagger navigators could guarantee that no target would escape, even though it was planned to operate only in the dark periods of the moon.

On the night of Christmas Eve at 2300 hours, the first B-24s took off from Harrington to bomb coastal batteries at Coubrie Point in France. Due to various malfunctions, only 11 aircraft bombed the target, dropping 83 of the 500lb RDX filled bombs.

On December 17th, Col Hudson H. Upham had assumed command of the Group, and in the new year night bombing and supply dropping operations continued. One squadron, the 859th, was sent on detachment to Brindisi airbase in Italy, from where supply dropping operations commenced to patriot Resistance fighters in the Balkans, reinforcing the RAF operations in this area.

As the German army was pushed back, agents and Resistance groups found difficulty in communicating with London owing to enemy jamming and the longer distance involved. To overcome this difficulty, British De Havilland Mosquitoes were fitted with wire recording machines. A number of these aircraft were regularly operated by 492nd Group crews from Harrington to record radio messages from agents in Germany and Austria. These missions, code named Red Stocking, were flown at over 30,000 ft and proved to be the only reliable contact with agents in this area.

World War II [ edit | edit source ]

Background [ edit | edit source ]

VIII Bomber Command's early operations in 1942 and 1943 had shown it that weather conditions in the European Theater of Operations were such that visual bombing using the Norden bombsight was possible only during limited times. It became apparent that to conduct a successful bombing campaign, the command would need to have the capability of bombing through overcast. It determined to train crews to bomb using radars developed by the Royal Air Force (RAF), including H2s "Stinky" and AN/APS-15 "Mickey" radars. Ώ] In addition, the 329th Bombardment Squadron conducted trials with the Gee navigation system. Following the RAF's example, Eighth Air Force determined to form a group with specially selected aircrews that would act as "Pathfinders", using radar-equipped bombers to lead each wing's bomber formation. ΐ]

Pathfinder operations [ edit | edit source ]

482d Bombardment Group crew at RAF Alconbury in 1944

The 482d Bombardment Group was formed at RAF Alconbury on 20 August 1943, with the 812th, 813th and 814th Bombardment Squadrons assigned. The 812th and 813th Squadrons flew Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, while the 814th was equipped with Consolidated B-24 Liberators. Α] Β] Γ] Δ] Its aircrews were specially selected from all VIII Bomber Command groups, particularly men who had been involved with the 329th Bombardment Squadron's test operations and the other units of the 92d Bombardment Group. Ground crews were drawn primarily from the 479th Antisubmarine Group, which had been disbanded. ΐ] The group's first commander was Lt Col Baskin R. Lawrence, Α] who had been training its cadre since 1 May. Ε] The 482d Group was one of two Eighth Air Force bomber groups activated overseas. [note 3] In addition to its combat mission of acting as Pathfinders, the group's mission was to continue the development of tactics and techniques for the use of radar navigation and bombing systems and training crews of other bomber units as Pathfinders. ΐ]

The group flew its first mission on 27 September 1943 against port facilities at Emden, although it did not fly as a unit. Rather, its crews and airplanes dispersed to bases of other VIII Bomber Command units to provide lead aircraft for their formations. Although the 482d was assigned to the 1st Bombardment Division, it provided pathfinder services for units of 2d and 3d Bombardment Divisions as well. The group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for an 11 January 1944 mission leading bombers to targets such as aircraft factories in central Germany. Although weather prevented effective fighter protection against enemy aircraft, the group bombed assigned targets and destroyed many enemy airplanes. During Big Week attacks it led raids on aircraft factories at Gotha, Braunschweig and Schweinfurt. Ζ] On 4 March 1944, a crew from the 813th Squadron was leading Eighth Air Force's first B-17 raid on Berlin. Because they were in the lead, the 482d lays claim to being the first B-17 group to bomb Berlin. Η]

Training and special operations [ edit | edit source ]

In addition to flying pathfinder missions, the group continued to train crews from other groups, with a goal of having a pathfinder qualified squadron in each bombardment group of VIII Bomber Command. In November 1943, the 36th and 406th Bombardment Squadrons, which had served in combat in Alaska early in the war, were formed at Alconbury. Like the 482d Group, these squadrons drew their cadre from the 479th Antisubmarine Group. In December, they were attached to the 482d and began training for and (starting in January 1944) performing Carpetbagger missions. ⎖]

In February, the group was transferred to VIII Air Force Composite Command, which was responsible for Eighth Air Force training and special operations missions. The two Carpetbagger squadrons were spun off into a separate group. In early March, the group's mission shifted to concentrate on its training and development mission. Although the group was formally withdrawn from combat, it continued to fly occasional missions to test tactics and equipment, most notably on D-Day, when 18 of the group's crews performed missions leading other bombardment groups. ΐ] In addition to training, it continued to undertake special operations. The group performed radar photographic mapping of parts of France, the Low Countries, and Germany for training and briefing combat crews. Ζ] From August 1944 to April 1945, the 482d conducted 202 radar scope and "nickling" (propaganda leaflet) sorties over hostile territory without losing a single plane. ΐ] It changed the "Pathfinder" in its name to "Heavy" in November 1944. Ζ]

The group left England for the United States in May 1945. The aircraft departed between 27 and 30 May 1945. The ground echelon sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth from Gourock, Scotland on 24 June 1945. ΐ] The group regrouped at Victorville Army Air Field, California on 5 July 1945, but was inactivated on 1 September 1945. Ζ]

Early reserve operations [ edit | edit source ]

The group was redesignated the 482d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy and activated in the reserve at New Orleans Municipal Airport on 26 June 1947, although no operational squadrons were assigned until 9 September, when the 812th and 814th Bombardment Squadrons were activated at New Orleans. Β] Δ] Later that month, the group added two squadrons when the 813th Bombardment Squadron was activated at Harding Field, Louisiana and the 6th Bombardment Squadron at Barksdale Field was transferred to group control. Α] Γ] ⎗]

Although nominally a bomber unit, it is not clear whether the group had any operational aircraft assigned, or if it was fully manned. The 482d was inactivated when Continental Air Command, which was responsible for training reserve and Air National Guard units, reorganized its reserve units under the wing base organization system in June 1949. Α] President Truman’s 1949 defense budget also required reductions in the number of groups in the Air Force, ⎘] and the 482d was inactivated and not replaced as reserve flying operations at New Orleans Municipal Airport ceased.

F-84Cs as flown by the group

All reserve combat organizations had been mobilized for the Korean War, ⎙] and it was not until the summer of 1952 that reserve units again began receiving aircraft. ⎚] The group was redesignated the 482th Troop Carrier Group and activated at Miami International Airport, Florida on 14 June 1952, when the 482d Troop Carrier Wing replaced the 906th Reserve Training Wing, which had supervised reserve operations there since 1951. The group trained with Curtiss C-46 Commandos under the supervision of the 2585th Air Force Reserve Training Center. ⎛] In December 1953, the 435th Troop Carrier Wing at Miami was released from active duty and assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 482d Wing. In this reorganization, the 435th Troop Carrier Group took over the mission, personnel and aircraft of the 482d, which was inactivated. ⎜] [note 4]

In the early 1950s, there were six reserve pilot training wings with no mobilization mission. On 18 May 1955, they were discontinued and replaced by operational wings. ⎝] In this reorganization, the 94th Tactical Reconnaissance Group at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia moved on paper to Scott Air Force Base to replace the 8711th Pilot Training Group. ⎞] ⎟] The 482d, now designated the 482d Fighter-Bomber Group, took over the 94th's personnel and equipment at Dobbins as a new reserve fighter unit. ⎛]

The group initially flew Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star fighters, and trainers that it inherited from the 94th Wing. ⎞] Later that year, it began to equip with the Republic F-84 Thunderjet. ⎛] Despite its fighter bomber designation, its squadrons were designed to augment active duty interceptor squadrons capable of performing air defense missions. ⎠] In 1957, the group began to replace its Thunderjets with North American F-86 Sabres. However, The Joint Chiefs of Staff were pressuring the Air Force to provide more wartime airlift. At the same time, about 150 Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars became available from the active force. Consequently, in November 1956 the Air Force directed Continental Air Command to convert three reserve fighter bomber wings to troop carrier units in 1957. ⎡] Sabre training ended, and instead Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars arrived in October 1957. In November the wing was inactivated and its troop carrier assets were transferred to the 445th Troop Carrier Wing. ⎢] ⎣]

Fighter operations resume [ edit | edit source ]

From August 1992 controlled the 482d Fighter Wing's flying and aerial port operations. When Hurricane Andrew devastated Homestead later that month, flying operations moved to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio from September to December 1992 and to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida from February 1993 until March 1994, before returning to Homestead. Α]

Aircraft Groups

Flew its first mission on 27 Sep 1943, leading bombers of 1st and 3rd Bombardment Divisions to attack the port at Emden. Operated chiefly as a pathfinder organization until Mar 1944, detaching its B-17 and B-24 aircraft, with crews, to other stations in England to lead Eighth AF elements on specific missions to the Continent. Led attacks on factories at Gotha, Brunswick, Schweinfurt, and other industrial centers during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944. Also served as the pathfinder force for bombers attacking airfields, submarine installations, cities, marshalling yards, and other targets, primarily in Germany.

Received a DUC for a mission on 11 Jan 1944 when it led organizations of Eighth AF into central Germany to attack aircraft industries although weather conditions prevented effective fighter protection against severe attack by enemy aircraft, the group not only bombed the assigned targets, but also destroyed a number of enemy planes.

Removed from combat status in Mar 1944 and after that operated a school for pathfinder crews with the objective of training a pathfinder squadron for each Eighth AF bombardment group made radarscope photographs of France, the Low Countries, and Germany for use in training and briefing combat crews and tested radar and other navigational equipment. Often bombed such targets as bridges, fuel depots, power plants, and railroad stations while on experimental flights flew a pathfinder mission to assist the bombardment of coastal defenses in Normandy on 6 Jun 1944 and later that day led attacks on traffic centers behind the beachhead sometimes dropped propaganda leaflets.

Redesignated 482nd Bombardment Group (Heavy) in Nov 1944. Continued its training and experimental work until V-E Day. Moved to the US, May-Jun 1945. Inactivated on 1 Sep 1945.


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