492nd Special Operations Wing


The 492d Special Operations Wing is a United States Air Forces unit stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It was activated in May 2017 to replace the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center.

492d Special Operations Wing
Air Force Special Operations Command.png
PZL C-145A flown by the 6th Special Operations Squadron
Active1943-1945; 2017–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleSpecial Operations
EngagementsEuropean Theater of Operations[1]
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
French Croix de Guerre with Palm[1]
492d Special Operations Wing emblem (approved 13 July 2017)[2]492 Special Operations Wg emblem.png

During World War II the unit entered combat in May 1944, and sustained the heaviest losses of any other Consolidated B-24 Liberator group for a three-month period. The group was withdrawn from combat with its personnel and equipment being reassigned to other units. The 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) was replaced by the 492d Bombardment Group, and the group performed special operations missions throughout the remainder of the war in Europe. It was inactivated on 17 October 1945.

In June 2017 official USAF descriptions said that the wing organized, trained and equipped forces to conduct special operations missions. It led Major Command irregular warfare activities and executes special operations test and evaluation programs. It also developed doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for United States Air Force special operations forces.[3]


World War IIEdit

Bombardment trainingEdit

858th Squadron B-24D Liberator used during training[note 1]

The group was established in October 1943 at Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico[note 2] as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber unit, drawing its cadre from the 859th Bombardment Squadron, a former antisubmarine squadron located at Blythe Army Air Base, California.[4] Its other original squadrons were the 856th, 857th and 858th Bombardment Squadrons.[1][5][6][7] In December, the 859th moved from Blythe to join group headquarters and the other three squadrons.[4] The 492d was one of seven heavy bombardment groups[note 3] activated in the autumn of 1943. These were to be the last Army Air Forces heavy bomb groups established.[citation needed]

The group air echelon trained for combat at Alamogordo until April 1944, although the ground echelons of its four squadrons were withdrawn to form other bomber units. New ground elements were organized from other groups of the 2d Bombardment Division already in theater.[8][1] The group's air echelon departed for England on 1 April, flying the South Atlantic ferrying route through South America and Africa. Only about 120 members of the group's ground echelon shipped overseas, however, leaving New Mexico on 11 April and sailing on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 20 April.[8]

Bombardment operationsEdit

Group B-24 on a mission over Nazi Occupied Europe.

The group was the first in VIII Bomber Command group to arrive with aircraft in natural metal finish on all their aircraft.[citation needed] On 14 April, the ground echelon that had been formed in England arrived at RAF North Pickenham[note 4] The air echelon began arriving on 18 April.[8]

The 492d entered combat on 11 May 1944, operating primarily against industrial targets in central Germany. During the first week in June, the group was diverted from strategic targets to support Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by attacking airfields and V-weapon launching sites in France. On D-Day it bombed coastal defenses in Normandy and attacked bridges, railroads, and other interdiction targets in France until the middle of the month. The group resumed bombardment of strategic targets in Germany and, except for support of the infantry during Operation Cobra the Saint-Lô breakthrough on 25 July 1944, and continued these operations until August 1944.[1] However, during its three months of strategic operations the 492d Group suffered the heaviest losses of any Eighth Air Force group. The group's heavy losses had begun with one of the group's earliest missions, an attack on Braunschweig, in which it lost eight Liberators to enemy interceptors.[9] When the 492d Group returned to strategic operation, on 20 June Luftwaffe fighters, primarily Messerschmitt Bf 110s, using air to air rockets shot down fourteen of the 492d Group's B-24s, the equivalent of losing an entire squadron on one raid.[10] Heavy losses, this time to fighters from Jagdgeschwader 3, were again suffered on 29 June.[11][note 5] After only 89 days of combat, the 492d had lost 52 aircraft to enemy action, with 588 men killed or missing. In the words of one veteran, "the whole group was wiped out".[citation needed] On 5 August, the decision was made to withdraw the 492d Group from combat.[8] Rather than try to rebuild the shattered group, the group was stood down and the surviving members were reassigned to other units in theater.[citation needed]

Special operations (Operation Carpetbagger)Edit

Jedburghs in front of a B-24 before takeoff from Harrington.)

Subsequently, the 492d was transferred without personnel or equipment, to RAF Harrington on 5 August 1944 and assumed the personnel, equipment, and the Carpetbagger special operations mission of the 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) that was discontinued. With black-painted aircraft configured with engine flame dampeners and optimized for night operations, the group operated chiefly over southern France with B-24's and C-47's, transporting agents, supplies, and propaganda leaflets to patriots. The occupation of most of France and Belgium brought an effective end to these missions on 16 September 1944.<ref.Warren, p. 63</ref> The group's aircraft were used to transport fuel and other supplies to the US Third Army in France, whose advance had outpaced its supply base. This operation resulted in the aircraft carrying 80 octane fuel in their wing fuel tanks, and having it pumped out to waiting storage tanks and tanker trucks at the advanced airfields in France. Unfortunately, the 80 octane fuel resulted in the wing tanks being chemically degraded so that they could no longer carry aviation fuel. This drastically decreased the range of the aircraft. It being too expensive to change out the wing tanks, the aircraft were flown to a depot area and the entire group was issued new B-24 aircraft.[citation needed] In December 1944, the 859th Squadron was detached to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, where it supported guerilla operations.[4]

Throughout 1944 the group's missions intermittently included attacks on airfields, oil refineries, seaports, and other targets in France, the Low Countries, and Germany. These operations continued until February 1945. In addition, in October 1944 the group began training for night bombardment operations. These operations concentrated on marshaling yards and goods depots in Germany, which the group undertook from February through March 1945. In September 1944 until mid winter 1945 a small Detachment of men from the group, mainly from the 856th bombardment squadron, was sent on a personnel recovery mission in Southeast France near the Swiss border to recover USAAF crews who had been interned in Switzerland that had started coming across the border into France during the Invasion of Southern France to the American Lines.

Two of the Squadrons continued night bombardment missions into 1945. The main OSS/Carpetbagger operations over Germany and German-occupied territory had been handed over to the 856th Bombardment Squadron from the 25th Bombardment Group, which used B-24, A-26, and British Mosquito aircraft for "Red Stocking" missions to drop leaflets, demolition equipment, and agents. The 856th Squadron received a Distinguished Unit Citation for operations during March and April 1945, performed at night despite adverse weather and vigorous opposition from enemy ground forces. It was also cited by the French government for similar operations over France in 1944. It flew its last Carpetbagger mission in April 1945 and then ferried personnel and equipment to and from the Continent until July.

The group left England in July 1945 and was stationed at Kirtland Field, New Mexico in August. The group became a very heavy bomb group on arrival at Kirtland.[1] The 492d was programmed for Boeing B-29 Superfortress operations in the Pacific, but apparently was not equipped when Japan surrendered. It was inactivated on 17 October 1945.[1]

Expeditionary unitEdit

In June 2002, the group was converted to provisional status as the 492d Air Expeditionary Group and assigned to Air Mobility Command (AMC) to activate or inactivate as needed for contingency operations. AMC activated the unit once, at Lajes Field in the Azores from March through May 2003 during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[3]

Return to special operationsEdit

In May 2017, the group was withdrawn from provisional status and returned to its old designation for one day. It became the 492d Special Operations Wing and was activated on 17 May at Hurlburt Field, Florida, where it replaced the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center.[3]

In addition to its assigned units, the wing is responsible for the training of two Air National Guard squadrons, the 209th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron and the 280th Combat Communications Squadron.[3]


  • Constituted as the 492d Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 14 September 1943
Activated on 1 October 1943
  • Redesignated 492d Bombardment Group, Heavy on 20 August 1944
Redesignated 492d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy on 17 August 1945
Inactivated on 17 October 1945
  • Redesignated 492d Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status on 12 June 2002
Activated on 1 March 2003
Inactivated on 27 May 2003
  • Withdrawn from provisional status and redesignated 492d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy on 3 May 2017
  • Redesignated 492d Special Operations Wing on 4 May 2017
Activated on 10 May 2017[2]


Attached to Twenty-First Air Force, 1 March–27 May 2003



  • 492d Special Operations Group, 17 May 2017 – present
  • 492d Special Operations Training Group, 17 May 2017 – present



  • Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico, 1 October 1943 – April 1944
  • RAF North Pickenham (AAF-143),[15] England, 18 April 1944 (air echelon), 28 April 1944 (ground echelon)
  • RAF Harrington (AAF-179),[15] England, c. 10 August 1944 – July 1945
  • Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota, 14 August 1945
  • Kirtland Field, New Mexico, 17 August-17 October 1945.
  • Lajes Field, Azores, 1 March–27 May 2003
  • Hurlburt Field, Florida, 10 May 2017 – present[2]




Explanatory Notes
  1. ^ Aircraft is Consolidated B-24D-65-CO Liberator serial 42-40509, nicknamed "Cookie." This airplane was lost in an accident on 7 October 1943.
  2. ^ Freeman says the group was organized at Clovis Army Air Field, New Mexico and did not move to Alamogordo until November. Freeman, p. 262. Maurer and Haulman both give Alamogordo as the organization station.
  3. ^ The others were the 488th, 489th, 491st, 493d and 494th Bombardment Groups
  4. ^ Although North Pickenham had been the squadrons' nominal station since 1 January, it was actually being assembled at other 2d Bombardment Division stations. Freeman, p. 262.
  5. ^ Superstitious persons speculated that the hard luck group reputation had passed from the 44th Bombardment Group to the 392d Bombardment Group and it was now resting on the 492d Group. Freeman, p. 160. Others speculated that the Luftwaffe was concentrating on the 492d Group because it was the first Liberator group to arrive in the theater with uncamouflaged B-24s. However, other groups were receiving uncamouflaged planes to replace their losses. Postwar review of Luftwaffe records does not support the theory that the Luftwaffe singled out any unit for particular attention. However, Luftwaffe fighter controllers, naturally, directed fighters to what they perceived as the most vulnerable portions of the American bomber formations, a position that the 492d Group seems to have occupied a disproportionate number of times. Freeman, p. 172.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 361-362
  2. ^ a b c d e Haulman, Daniel L. (17 May 2017). "Factsheet 492 Special Operations Wing (AFSOC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Staff writer, no byline. "Units: 492nd Special Operations Wing". Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 785
  5. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 783-784
  6. ^ a b Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 784
  7. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 784-785
  8. ^ a b c d Freeman, p. 262
  9. ^ Freeman, p. 142
  10. ^ Freeman, p. 156
  11. ^ Freeman, p. 160
  12. ^ a b "Air Force Special Operations Command Units: 492nd Special Operations Wing". Air Force Special Operations Command Public Affairs. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  13. ^ Assignments in Bailey, except as noted.
  14. ^ Information on component squadrons in Haulman, Factsheet, 492 Special Operations Wing except as noted.
  15. ^ a b Station number in Anderson.


  This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  • Anderson, Capt. Barry (1985). Army Air Forces Stations: A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  • Fish, Col Robert W. (1990). Memories of the 801st/492nd Bombardment Group Carpetbaggers (PDF). 801st/492nd Bombardment Group Association. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  • Freeman, Roger A. (1970). The Mighty Eighth: Units, Men and Machines (A History of the US 8th Army Air Force). London, England, UK: Macdonald and Company. ISBN 978-0-87938-638-2.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  • Warren, Maj Harris G. (June 1947). "Special Operations: AAF Aid to European Resistance Movements, USAF Historical Study No. 121" (PDF). Air Historical Office, Army Air forces. Retrieved 12 December 2018.

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to 492d Bombardment Group (United States Army Air Forces) at Wikimedia Commons
  • The Carpetbaggers, Air Force Special Operations in World War II
  • 492nd Bomb Group, online museum providing mission and crew data.