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Operation Carpetbagger

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Date: 1943 to 1945
Location: European Theater of Operations WW IImap
Profile manager: LJ Russell private message [send private message]
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16 April 2019

  • At this time, the information presented below will be as much data as I can find at this time to help me with this Page. The data will be condensed into a more specific and visually attractive format as data is added and sorted out. As this was a Secret Operation some data, even today, is not readily available and I must rely on a great deal of different sources to form a more detailed timeline, those groups involved and a brief history of this great unknown Operation of World War II. So I beg your indulgence on its appearance until completion. Thanks in advance. LJ


Preliminary Synopsis: Operation Carpetbagger created by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and carried out by components of the US Eighth Air Force in cooperation with the British RAF. [citation needed] Though originally an all British undertaking starting after the fall of Europe[citation needed] with the coming of the American Air Force, its mission operations were gradually absorbed for the most part into an OSS activity. This was a Top Secret series of flight operations to drop weapons and material, personnel, leaflets, etc. to Resistance Groups in the German Occupied Countries of World War II to aid them in their fight against Nazi tyranny. This story has been mostly untold and deserves recognition.

National Museum of the US Air Force Carpetbaggers Display, Dayton, Ohio

From Wikipedia: Operation Carpetbagger To be condensed.


In late 1943, the 22d Antisubmarine Squadron of the Eighth Air Force was disbanded at RAF Alconbury and its aircraft used to form the 36th and 406th Bombardment Squadrons under the 482nd bomb group. After some shuffling of commands, these two squadrons were placed under the provisional 801st Bomb Group at RAF Harrington at the beginning of 1944 and the first "Carpetbagger" missions were carried out by this unit under the control of General "Wild Bill" Donovan's Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

In April 1944, the group moved to RAF Harrington (Station 179), a more secluded and thus more secure airbase. A month later, in advance of the expected invasion of Europe, it was expanded to four squadrons to increase its capabilities and to pick up workload from RAF Bomber Command; the two new squadrons were the 788th and 850th Bombardment Squadrons.

The Group had already adopted the nickname of "Carpetbaggers" from its original operational codename. In August 1944, the group dropped the "Provisional" status and absorbed the names of the 492d Bombardment Group from RAF North Pickenham, which had stood down after severe losses in its initial operations but stayed at Harrington; its squadrons became the 856th, 857th, 858th and 859th Bomb Squadrons. From January 1944 to the end of the war, the Group, in liaison with the British Special Operations Executive and later the Special Forces Headquarters (SFHQ) in London, dropped spies and supplies to the resistance forces of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway.

During a hiatus in operations from mid-September 1944 to the end of 1944, the Group ferried gasoline to depots on the Continent for two weeks to supply advancing Allied armies, then three squadrons went into training for night bombing operations, whilst the 856th participated in the return of Allied airmen on the Continent who had either evaded capture or had walked out of Switzerland after that country relaxed its internment practices. This exercise was carried out mostly in Douglas C-47 Skytrains assigned to the group originally for insertion operations during the previous summer.

In December 1944, the 859th was sent on Detached Service with the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations with the 2641st Special Group (Provisional) at Brindisi, Italy. The 856th Bomb Squadron, after completing the personnel recovery mission, resumed Carpetbagger operations on a limited basis during the bad weather of the winter of 1945, while the remaining two squadrons (the 857th and 858th) participated in medium altitude bombing from late December 1944 through March 1945.

In the spring of 1945, Carpetbagger operations resumed but not to the extent of the previous year. The 857th was detached and sent to RAF Bassingbourn (91st Bomb Group) at the end of March 1945, while the 856th and 858th dropped small numbers of agents and sabotage teams into the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Germany. Operations came to an end at Harrington at the end of April 1945, though a few special OSS missions, such as returning dignitaries to formerly occupied countries, carried on until the Group disbanded and returned to the United States in early July 1945. Operations

The B-24 Liberator bombers used for the flights were modified by removing the belly turret, nose guns and any equipment unnecessary for the mission, such as oxygen equipment, in order to lighten them and provide more cargo space and speed. The rear guns were kept as protection from night fighters. Agents and crated supplies were dropped by parachute through the opening left by removal of the belly turret. In addition, supplies were loaded into containers designed to fit inside the bomb-bay and released from there by the existing equipment. Targets were given by exact longitudes and latitudes, thus making precise navigation imperative.

All flights were made on moonlit nights so that visual navigation could be made by using rivers, lakes, railroad tracks, and towns as check points. The pilot, copilot, and bombardier all had maps to aid them in keeping track of their location, whilst the navigator kept position by dead reckoning, with all four of these officers staying in close interphone contact.

All flights were individual, each navigator choosing his route in consultation with the pilot. On flights to French targets the aircraft crossed the coast at around six thousand feet to avoid light anti-aircraft fire, dropping to five hundred feet or so to avoid night fighters once inland and to make it possible to verify location, assuring that checkpoints on the ground corresponded exactly to the area being looked at in the cockpit and nose of the aircraft. Limited visibility at higher altitude would make this more difficult if not impossible. Since drops were made at 400–500 feet (120–150 m) at the pilot's discretion, being already at such a height made the drops more efficient.

When only a few miles from the target area all available eyes began searching for the drop area, which would usually be identified by three high powered flashlights placed in a row, with a fourth at a 90 degree angle to indicate the direction of the drop. Coming towards the target, the aircraft slowed to between 120–125 miles per hour (193–201 km/h) and dropped to an altitude of 400 feet (120 m), higher in hilly country: agents were dropped first, with supplies on a second drop. Often, pilots had to fly several miles farther into enemy territory after completing their drops to disguise the actual drop location should any enemy observers recognize the aircraft's turning point as the drop location. In some cases multiple drops in isolated areas were made at different intervals and bonfires would be used as drop indicators instead of flashlights. In rare cases air to ground oral radio contact would be made, these being of great importance. After the war The group has been generally recognized as the ancestor of today's Air Force Special Operations.

From National Museum of the US Air Force Dayton,Ohio. To be condensed.

Night Flights Over Occupied Europe

In 1943 the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) -- the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency -- called upon the U.S. Army Air Forces to conduct special operations from the United Kingdom. Aircrews started flying leaflet-dropping missions in October 1943, but plans called for them to fly dangerous, clandestine missions deep into the heart of occupied Europe. The majority of these missions secretly airdropped supplies by night to partisan fighters, under the codename Operation CARPETBAGGER.

As directed by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in September 1943, the 8th Air Force formed the 801st Bombardment Group (Heavy) (Provisional) at Harrington Field, England, from elements of the inactivated AAF Antisubmarine Command. Redesignated the 492nd Bombardment Group in August 1944, this special unit became best known as the Carpetbaggers. Their B-24 Liberators received a directional air-ground device, named "Rebecca," that directed the navigator to a ground operator using a sending device called "Eureka."

Once in range, the aircrew contacted the partisans on the ground with an "S-Phone," a special two-way radio, to receive final drop instructions and to verify that the ground parties really were partisans and not Germans.

A cargo hatch, called the "Joe Hole," replaced the B-24's ball-turret, and parachutists, called "Joes," dropped through it. Special blisters for the pilot and copilot's windows allowed greater visibility, and blackout curtains replaced the waist guns.

With their B-24s painted glossy black -- the best color for evading searchlights -- the CARPETBAGGERS flew their first mission to France from Harrington, England, the night of Jan. 4-5, 1944. Often operating in weather considered impossible for flying, the CARPETBAGGERS flew most of their missions to supply French partisan groups north of the Loire River in support of the upcoming D-Day invasion. Their busiest month occurred in July 1944 when they dropped at least 4,680 containers, 2,909 packages, 1,378 bundles of leaflets (to disguise what they were really doing), and 62 Joes. As the Allied forces broke out of the Normandy beachheads and raced across France, the number of missions flown grew smaller. By September, most of France and Belgium had been liberated, and the full-scale CARPETBAGGER missions over France ended the night of Sept. 16-17, 1944.

Nevertheless, the men of the 492nd Bombardment Group stayed busy delivering arms, ammunition, passengers and gasoline desperately needed by the advancing Allied armies. However, they soon returned to the dangerous work -- nighttime delivery of supplies and Joes. Ranging much further into Nazi-occupied territory than before, the Carpetbaggers made deliveries to Norway, Denmark and Germany. Over heavily defended Germany, where no partisans waited to guide them, the CARPETBAGGERS used faster A-26s.

In addition to the dangers from German night fighters and flak, the CARPETBAGGERS always ran the risk of crashing into hillsides as they made low-level parachute deliveries to the resistance forces waiting below. From January 1944 to May 1945, they complete 1,860 sorties and delivered 20,495 containers and 11,174 packages of vital supplies to the resistance forces in western and northwestern Europe. More than 1,000 parachutists dropped through the B-24 Joe Holes into enemy territory.

Twenty-five B-24s were lost and eight more were so badly damaged by enemy action and other causes that they were no longer fit for combat. Personnel losses initially totaled 208 missing and killed and one slightly wounded. Fortunately, many of those listed as missing had parachuted to safety and returned to Harrington with the help of the same resistance forces they had been sent to resupply.

Aerial Delivery Canister Packed at Holmewood, England, the aerial delivery canister on display contained supplies parachuted to Norwegian resistance fighters during World War II. The parachute attached to one end of the canister, and the other end had a shock-absorbing cap to protect the contents. Once on the ground, resistance forces quickly gathered the canisters before German forces could arrive.

Preliminary list of Units Involved

Details of the Officers and Men who served with the USAAF at Station 179,

Harrington, from 25th March 1944 to 7th July 1945.
36th Bomb Squadron, 801st(Prov) Bombardment Group
406th Bomb Squadron, 801st(Prov) Bombardment Group.
788th Bomb Squadron, 801st (Prov) Bombardment Group
850th Bomb Squadron, 801st (Prov) Bombardment Group
Headquarters, 801st (Prov) Bombardment Group
856th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group
857th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group
858th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group
859th Bomb Squadron, 492nd Bombardment Group
Headquarters, 492nd Bombardment Group
406th Night Leaflet Squadron
5th Mol R & R Squadron
35th Station Complement Squadron
HQ and HQ Squadron, 39th Service Group
352nd Service Squadron, 39th Service Group

89th Dep Rep Squadron

HQ and HQ Squadrons, 328th Service Group
556th Service Squadron
1077th Signal Company
1094th Quartermaster Company (Avn)
1139th MP Company (Avn)
1220th Quartermaster Company (Avn)
1561st Ordnance S & M Company (Avn)
1645th Ordnance S & M Company (Avn)
1787th Ordnance S & M Company
2132nd Engineer FF Platoon (Avn)
Harrington Aero Club

Preliminary list of Sources

[https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/195994/operation-carpetbagger/ National Museum of the US Air Force
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/482nd_Operations_Group 482nd bomb
http://www.americanairmuseum.com/unit/963 36th bomb
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/36th_Electronic_Warfare_Squadron#Assignments 36th bomb
https://media.defense.gov/2010/Dec/02/2001329899/-1/-1/0/AFD-101202-002.pdf Mauer Combat Squadrons p 171 P 783??? 36th bomb
https://media.defense.gov/2010/Sep/21/2001330256/-1/-1/0/AFD-100921-044.pdf Mauer Combat Units 482nd bomb p 352 492nd bomb p 361
https://www.google.com/search?q=US+36th+Bomber+Group&client=firefox-b-1-d&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=03qF2NrNokwvIM%253A%252C1eWa5Udtw87KoM%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kT6ZWHdD_Cs5QWzDO850UyaZMuJvg&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiy_Ibhjr_hAhVLwVkKHaOeBWQQ9QEwDHoECAkQBg#imgrc=NMgOk0xjL61YlM:&vet=1 photos

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