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386th hand selected for largest amphibious invasion

D-day was the largest amphibious invasion in history, with more than 4,000 ships, 11,000 warplanes and 156,000 Allied troops. More than 4,400 Allied troops died that day.

The Martin B-26 Marauder can be identified as a B-26B-15-MA by the serial number 131606 painted on the tail, and as an aircraft of the 553rd Bombardment Squadron, 386th Bombardment Group by the two letter squadron code AN. Here it is seen dropping its bombs over a German airfield in France. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Just as the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing has a significant role in today’s mission, their storied history began during World War II. On Tuesday, June 6, 1944, Allied forces landed on the beaches in Nazi-occupied Normandy, France in one of World War II’s most ambitious operations, nearly 73 years ago.

D-day was the largest amphibious invasion in history, with more than 4,000 ships, 11,000 warplanes and 156,000 Allied troops. More than 4,400 Allied troops died that day.

The 386th medium Bombardment Group and their Martin B-26 Marauder warplanes took part in the invasion from June 6, 1944, through July 24, 1944.

Gen. Omar Bradley, First Army commander, selected this group for an interesting and intricate task. Most Marauder groups were assigned to bombing enemy defensive concentrations on the beaches. This group was selected to be the last formation of bombers to bomb before the first assault troops swathed the beach that day.

The 386th was hand selected for this job by Bradley, who had studied bombing patterns and bombing accuracy for several months prior to the invasion. The concentrated patterns and high record of accuracy maintained by the group over months of bombing earned them this high honor and great responsibility.

In the 48 days of this campaign, the group mounted 44 missions, averaging almost one mission a day. Their efforts contributed to providing Gen. George Patton, Third Army commander, and his tanks a canvas to successfully sweep across France breaking the Nazi’s strong hold.

D-Day, which had the codename Operation Overlord, reversed the course of World War II, and set the stage for the liberation of Europe and Germany from the Nazis.

The confidence of higher headquarters was well placed, although the bombing was inevitably done at altitudes as low as 2,000 feet due to poor weather prevailing, the group’s bombs were right on their targets.
Throughout the Normandy campaign, the group attacked 43 targets, 1,376 aircraft, and dropped 2,375 tons of bombs. The cost to the group was five aircraft lost and 195 of its planes battle damaged.

The D-Day landings of June 6, 1944, were one of the most significant moments of World War II, and marked the point when the combined military force of the Western allies finally went head to head with Germany.

The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s history of excellence during war is a great example of their dedication and what they bring to the fight.

The 386th was instrumental in the success of six major campaigns during World War II including Normandy and all members of the group assigned for duty were awarded the Bronze Battle Star to the Eastern Theater Offensive ribbon.