A Tale of “spies, Supplies and Moonlit Skies”

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Updated: Apr 29, 2022
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Spies, Supplies, and Moonlit Skies by Thomas L. Ensminger chronicles the covert special operations of the 801st/492nd Bomb Group at Harrington Air Base, England, during WWII from 1943 to 1945. The majority of these missions functioned as clandestine supply airdrops to prepare for the D-Day invasion of Normandy under the codename Operation CARPETBAGGER. Ensminger is a Historical Recovery Specialist who completed 36 years of federal service and won the 2001 OSS Alexander MacDonald Intelligence Research Award for his effort detailing this memoir in honor of his father, a Carpetbagger badly wounded during a mission of 1944 (Archive Grid).

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He provides a comprehensive work spanning two volumes that captures the secrecy and complexity of Operation CARPETBAGGER through careful analysis of official records and rolls of forgotten microfilm hidden deep in United States archives. Volume I of Ensminger’s collection details the inception and the groundbreaking combat missions of this elite bomber group. The Special Operations Executive (SOE) came to fruition in a cabinet memorandum of 1940 after Winston Churchill called for an organizational structure similar to that of the British Secret Intelligence Service that would participate in sabotage, subversive propaganda, civil resistance, insurrection, and air strikes in order to frustrate German Armies—“set Europe ablaze”. After failed penetration attempts by the SOE in 1943, the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency, decided to assist the European sector. The OSS provided B-24 Liberators suited for low-level operations to Alconbury, a desolate airfield in England, where the bombers would undergo modifications to enable pilots to deliver more supplies and more men during moonlit operations. Volume II begins in April 1944 when the 801st/492nd Bomb Group operated out of its own base in the United Kingdom at full manning and aircraft capacity. From an isolated base in Harrington, England, glossy black B-24s took off about fifteen nights per month to deliver supplies and parachutists to French resistance forces behind enemy lines of Occupied Europe. Later in the war, the Carpetbaggers transitioned their line of sight to drop-zones over Denmark and Belgium in A-26 Invaders.

During their short period of operation, the Carpetbaggers flew 783 missions and pioneered a historical model for modern US Special Operations. Ensminger encompasses the daily life of the average soldier through newspaper bulletins, photographs, and daily orders. He offers a comprehensive view of the inner workings of Operation CARPETBAGGER through the provision of graphs, moon illumination charts, monthly summaries, drop-zone illustrations, and personnel lists. The strengths of this work lie in the fact that the author brings to life a story of sacrifice made by thousands of young men and women through painstaking and unprecedented research. It memorializes one of the best-kept secrets of WWII through a readable and incredibly organized account. The layout of Spies, Supplies, and Moonlit Skies is remarkably designed so that the expert WWII historian, as well as the average reader, benefits from the experience, offering as little or as much detail as the reader desires. Hundreds of pages of appendixes allow for a more in-depth review, while the written story weaves a narrative of valor. When first published, this work stood alone as the premier and most complete description of the 801st/492nd Bomb Group actions during 1943 to1945. It has since paved the way for numerous other authors to write on the subject. I recommend Ensminger’s volumes to Air Commando Journal readers as a monumental work on the beginnings of US Special Operations and as a worthwhile read for those interested in recounting the courage of young Americans who lived and died by moonlight. 

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A tale of "spies, supplies and moonlit skies". (2022, Apr 29). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-tale-of-spies-supplies-and-moonlit-skies/