The 859th Bombardment Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with the United States Strategic Air Forces, based at Bari Airfield, Italy. It was inactivated on 4 October 1945.
The 859th Bombardment Squadron can trace its origins to 1920 when the Flying Club of Baltimore was organized for Army reserve officers of that city, most of whom were former Aero Service pilots that were in World War I. This club eventually became part of the Maryland National Guard as the 104th Observation Squadron.
At the outset of World War II the 104th became part of the Anti-submarine Patrol used along the East Coast, operating out of the Atlantic City Municipal Airport. On 17 October 1942, the unit's planes and personnel were transferred to the newly formed 517th Bombardment Squadron, which a month later became the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command 12th Antisubmarine Squadron. Flew aerial antisubmarine missions over the New Jersey/New York/Delaware coast. This squadron did not have assigned crews but made up its crews on a daily basis. A side benefit of this practice allowed the men within the squadron to know each other better. Reassigned to Langley Field, Virginia in January 1943 and flew antisubmarine patrols over the mid-Atlantic coast. Operated until 18 September 1943 when the antisubmarine mission was taken over by the United States Navy.
On 12 September AS was sent to Blythe Army Air Base, California, for B-24 Combat Training and was reassigned as a component of the 492d Bombardment Group. Reassigned to II Bomber Command at Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico and received new B-24s from Consolidated and trained for deployment to England.
Was deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), being assigned to VIII Bomber Command, being stationed at RAF North Pickenham. Entered combat on 11 May 1944, and throughout the month operated primarily against industrial targets in central Germany. Attacked airfields and V-weapon launching sites in France during the first week in June. Bombed coastal defenses in Normandy on 6 June 1944 and attacked bridges, railroads, and other interdiction targets in France until the middle of the month. Resumed bombardment of strategic targets in Germany and, except for support of the infantry during the St Lo breakthrough on 25 July 1944, continued such operations until August 1944 when after only 89 days of combat, the squadron was withdrawn from combat due to heavy personnel and equipment losses. Remaining personnel and equipment were reassigned to other units in theater.
The squadron was transferred without personnel or equipment, to RAF Harrington on 1 August 1944 and assumed personnel, equipment, and the CARPETBAGGER mission of the 788th Bombardment Squadron. Operated chiefly over southern France with B-24's and C-47's, engaging in special operations, transporting agents, supplies, and propaganda leaflets to patriots. Ceased these missions on 16 September 1944 to haul gasoline to advancing mechanized forces in France and Belgium. Intermittently attacked airfields, oil refineries, seaports, and other targets in France, the Low Countries, and Germany until December 1944
On 11 December 1944, the 859th was detached from the Eighth Air Force and sent to the Fifteenth Air Force in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) arriving at Brindisi Airfield, Italy on 17 December. This move came as the need for special operations in western Europe declined in the wake of Normandy invasion and breakout. With this, additional attention and resources were redirected toward supporting the resistance in Italy and the Balkans.
The 859th's first sortie out of Brindisi was flown on 29 December 1944. A total of six successful sorties were flown that day into Yugoslavia followed the next day by six sortie attempts to targets in Italy. Weather, a mechanical failure, and a reception failure caused all but two of these to fail.
It was at Brindisi that the 859th joined with the 885th on 20 January 1945 to form the 15th Special Group (Provisional). As noted, both squadrons had been operating at Brindisi prior to organization of the Special Group and these operations continued unabated even as the Special Group was being organized.
On 20 May 1945, thirteen days after V-E Day, the 859th was reassigned to Gioia del Colle Airfield and from there to Bari Airfield Italy in July 1945 where it remained until October 1945 when it was inactivated.Constituted 517th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 13 October 1943
Redesignated: 12th Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy)
on 29 November 1942
Redesignated: 859th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)
on 24 September 1943
Consolidated with: 788th Bombardment Squadron (Provisional)
on 1 August 1944
Inactivated on 4 October 1945.
377th Bombardment Group, 18 October 1942
25th Antisubmarine Wing, c. 9 December 1942
492d Bombardment Group, 1 October 1943 – 14 August 1945
Detached on 17 December 1944 and sent to Mediterranean Theater of Operations, where the squadron operated with the 15th Special Group (Provisional) (Redesignated: 2641st Special Group (Provisional)) until 20 May 1945
United States Strategic Air Forces, 14 August-4 October 1945
Atlantic City Airport, New Jersey, 18 October 1942
Langley Field, Virginia, 12 January-18 September 1943
Blythe AAF, California, 24 September 1943
Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico, 9 December 1943 – 1 January 1944
RAF North Pickenham (AAF-143), England, 1 January 1944
RAF Harrington (AAF-179), England, 1 August-17 December 1944
Brindisi Airfield, Italy, 20 December 1944
Rosignano Airfield, Italy, 24 March 1945
Gioia del Colle Airfield, Italy, 20 May 1945
Bari Airfield, Italy, 20 July-4 October 1945.
Stinson Vigilant, 1942–1943
Douglas O-46, 1942–1943
North American O-47, 1942–1943
B-18 Bolo, 1943
B-25 Mitchell, 1943
B-24 Liberator, 1943–1945
C-47 Skytrain, 1944–1945