Inspiration From Our History

  • Published
  • By Col. Kurt Wendt, 501st Combat Support Wing Commander

Pathfinders—Happy New Year!  As we transition into 2021, I am sure many of us are more than ready to turn the page on 2020.  I’m with you—I cannot wait to finally conquer Coronavirus and get back to something closer to “normal” life.  I am eager to spend time with friends and family, and explore our host nations once again.

That said, one silver lining of lockdown for me was the opportunity to delve a little deeper into our wing’s distinguished history.  I’ve found that if I’m looking for inspiration during difficult times, I don’t need to look any further than the storied past of our own 501st Combat Support Wing bases.

  • Did you know that RAF Alconbury was home to the first American Pathfinder bombers in World War II?  Following the Royal Air Force’s example, the US Army Air Corps outfitted B-17 bombers at RAF Alconbury with specialized radars and elite crews to “Light the Way” for allied bomber formations to accurately strike targets across occupied Europe.
  • Did you know that RAF Molesworth was home to the first American bomber crew to successfully complete 25 combat missions in World War II?  Although Memphis Belle was dramatized by Hollywood as the first to 25, the reality is Hell’s Angels flying out of RAF Molesworth with the 303rd Bomb Group actually achieved that remarkable milestone one week earlier.
  • Did you know that RAF Barford St. John was used for test flights of the first allied jet aircraft during World War II?  Today, this effort is commemorated with a plaque at the site.  (Bonus:  Did you know that RAF Barford St. John is a 501st Combat Support Wing base which plays a crucial role in our command and control mission?)
  • Did you know that RAF Welford was used to train 101st Airborne Division paratroopers prior to D-Day?  Prime Minister Winston Churchill and General Dwight D. Eisenhower reviewed the troops at RAF Welford before this historic invasion.

These are just a few of the many examples of our proud Pathfinder history.  As we tackle new challenges in 2021, I am confident our past will serve as reminder of the incredible things we can accomplish together in the future.

Thank you for what you do, and keep up the great work. Pathfinders - Light the Way!