Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

June 15, 2017 at 11:23am

D-Day touches Rainier Wing

B-24 Liberators assigned to the 446th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force during a bombing raid over Germany in 1945. Photo credit: DoD

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In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, thousands of Allied troops crowded into ships and crossed the tumultuous waters of the English Channel to invade German-occupied France. Arriving on the shores of Normandy, troops fought a grueling battle for a tiny piece of beach in mainland Europe.

That day was D-Day.

The Allied force at the start of Operation Overlord included 1,200 planes, 5,000 ships and vessels, and nearly 160,000 troops. The invasion was arguably the largest armada the world had ever seen.

But it wasn't just the sea and ground forces that participated during D-Day.

The 446th Bombardment Group paved the way for those troops storming the beaches. The 446th was selected to lead the 8th Air Force in bombing German strongholds along the Normandy coast. This bombardment prepared the Allies in gaining a strategic position in mainland Europe and perhaps the single greatest event of World War II.

"Some folks have this belief that the 446th Airlift Wing has always been just about airlift," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Martinez, a wing historian assigned to the 446th AW. "We were a bombing unit during World War II and it's amazing to know that we played an integral part during D-Day. A lot of people can take pride in knowing that our unit took part in the invasion."

During WWII, the 446th BG flew B-24 Liberators.

From December 1943 to April 1945, the 446th BG took part in 273 combat missions, dropping a total of 33.6 million pounds of bombs on strategic targets across Northern Europe helping to bring WWII to an end.

Whether a glimpse into the future or merely by chance, two 446th BG missions stand out among the rest.

During Operation Market-Garden and Operation Varsity, the 446th BG traded in their bombs for supplies. Flying at tree-top level, some even bringing back branches and leaves, the 446th BG flew into enemy territory to airdrop critical supplies to Allied troops as they marched toward Berlin to bring an end to WWII.

After WWII, the 446th BG went through several transitions and moves until it settled here at McChord Field.

"Our lineage back to the 446th Bombardment Group is certainly a proud part of our history," said Col. Scott L. McLaughlin, 446th AW commander. "Historical anniversaries like this allow us to highlight that lineage and honor those who came before us."

Now designated as an airlift wing, the Rainier Wing carries on the same proud tradition as leaders in the Air Force Reserve. While the Rainier Wing doesn't drop bombs anymore, members of the 446th AW operate the C-17 Globemaster III to provide combat support and humanitarian assistance in some of the most austere places in the world, including the Antarctic. 

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