On D-Day, Pathfinders Light the Way

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Chase Sousa
  • 501st Combat Support Wing Public Affairs

In light of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this feature is part of a brief historical series highlighting the 501st Combat Support Wing’s storied legacy supporting D-Day operations in World War II.

Since becoming active in 1944 the 501st Combat Support Wing, then known as the 482nd Bomb Group, has conducted combat operations throughout its complex history, including Operation Overlord June 6, 1944, commonly known as D-Day.

Activated on May 25, 1944, at Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas, the wing started training with the B-29B Superfortress for precision high-altitude all-weather bombing. Their core mission was to take out Japanese oil refining, distribution and storage facilities during WWll.

After the war, the wing then changed to the 701st Tactical Missile Wing at Hahn Air Base, Germany Aug. 3, 1956. The wing’s mission was short lived as it was inactivated June 18, 1958 and replaced by the 38th Tactical Missile Wing.

The wing was then revived as the 501st Tactical Missile Wing Jan. 11, 1982, at RAF Greenham Common, England. After the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty resulted in the decommissioning of the BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile, it was inactivated on May 31, 1991.

The wing was once again reactivated, this time as the new 501st Combat Support Wing, March 22, 2005. Originally based out of RAF Mildenhall it was moved to RAF Alconbury May 1, 2007.

RAF Alconbury was first used by the Royal Air Force in 1938 as a dispersal airfield, designed to reduce the impact of enemy attack by dispersing aircraft. In 1940 it saw its first permanent squadron stationed here as well as a permanent concrete runway.

In 1942, RAF Alconbury became part of the U.S. Army Air Forces’s 8th Air Force.

As a new part of the 8th Air Force, the 482nd Bomb Group was established as a permanent unit and was the only U.S. Army Air Force Bomb Group formed outside of the United States during WWll.

The 482nd BG took the name of “Pathfinders” because the group was formed to develop, train and deploy top secret radar platforms during the strategic bombing campaign against Nazi Germany. The 482nd BG primarily utilized two distinct operational radars code named H2S and H2X.

After 75 years the 501st CSW now supports 7 geographically separated units at RAF Alconbury, RAF Molesworth, RAF Croughton, RAF Fairford, RAF Welford, RAF Menwith Hill and Stavanger Air Base, Norway.

The modern mission of the 501st is to enable command & control, intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance, and strike operations in support of U.S. and NATO objectives.

Pathfinders “Light the way!”