15th AF The Fifteenth Air Force 15th AF

885th Bomb Squadron

History

Engaged in special operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, December 1944 - May 1945.  The 885th Bomb Squadron operated primarily in Italy.  The 859th Bomb Squadron operated primarily in the Balkans.  When weather conditions made it advisable to operate in one area or the other, both squadrons were employed in the same area.

The squadrons of the Special Group operated specially modified B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators painted all black with very limited identification markings.  The 885th operated both types of aircraft while the 859th operated only Liberators.  The aircrews were trained in low-altitude night operations in which the pilot, navigator, and bombardier worked together to guide the aircraft to the drop zone (DZ).  This often necessitated traversing mountainous terrain followed by descent into deep valleys, in darkness, guided in the final approach by the eyes of the bombardier and the hands of the pilot.  Final approach to the DZ was at an altitude of a few hundred feet at near stall speeds.

Several Distinguished Unit Citations and numerous commendations were awarded to the two squadrons and to the 2641st Special Group (Prov) as a result of their efforts. The 859th received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for support of the French Resistance during Operation Carpetbagger in the summer of 1944. At the time the 859th was based at RAF Harrington, England with the 801st/492d Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force.