Within the many World War II combat units of the USAAF, within the 14th Air Force the 122nd Observation Squadron was activated and assigned to the Louisiana National Guard on 30 July 1940. The squadron came to active service only on 1 October 1941; it was later re-designated as the 122nd Liaison Squadron on 31 May 1943 and was transferred to Europe on 25 December 1943, when it arrived to the Manduria airbase near Taranto, Italy.
Transformed on 18 March 1944 into the 122nd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), the unit was attached to the 15th Air Force for administration, supply and maintenance, and was subsequently transferred to Blida, Algeria, arriving there on 12 April 1944 .
On May, 12 the unit was re-designated again as the 885th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) (Special) or, briefly, 885th BS (H) (Sp) and was devoted to secret special operations (Special Duty). It would have been the only USAAF heavy bomber squadron in the Mediterranean Theatre which, despite its name and the fulfillment of almost 3,000 sorties, during its entire existence would never have dropped a single bomb .
In fact, the operating conditions of these Special Duty flights were often much more uncertain and risky than normal bombing missions. Some of the men of the 885th were volunteers who had requested to be transferred from other squadrons because they felt uncomfortable at the idea of taking part in the bombing of European cities where, they knew, many unarmed civilians would have died. The commander of the 885th BS, Colonel Monro MacCloskey, remembers:
«As a commander of a special group of pilots and air crews, I had one of the strangest units in the old Army Air Forces. Some of my men were volunteers, but others were rejects from the heavy bomb squadrons. We didn’t know as much about the physical problems of high altitude flying then as we do now. Some of these men had even been tagged yellow by they comrades who were flying their dangerous combat missions despite flak and enemy fighters. In time, they were transferred out of their units and a number of them ended up in my outfit.
These ‘cowards’, who were simply unable to tolerate the high altitudes required for conventional bombing, more than proved their mettle along with the others at our more hazardous, but low altitude, night flying. They turned out to be pilots, copilots, navigators, and bombardiers who were just as brave, if not more so, than many of the men in the bomb squadrons they had left. In fact, it took a very special kind of courage to fly secret missions in all types of weather in the dark of night and under conditions which most bomber crews couldn’t stomach» .
The men of the 885th were well aware of the high risks they were taking and of the fact that many of them would never have come back from their missions. Nevertheless, according to General Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Mediterranean Allied Air Force (MAAF), the men of the squadron were enthusiastic about their work  and the morale was high .
Map of Italy showing some of the main routes followed by secret missions of the 885th BS departing from Brindisi .
The 885th BS was not framed into a Bombardment Wing and it was not assigned to any Bombardment Group, reporting directly to the staff of the 15th Air Force.
The unit was initially equipped with eight new Consolidated B-24 Liberators, complete with their crews, assisted by three Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses . Later, more aircraft were added, which often came directly from the United States and passed through the USAAF depot of El Aouina, near Tunis, to undergo the modifications required in order to fly special missions .
At the beginning, the targets of the unit were exclusively French locations. When the liberation of southern France began on 15 August 1944 with operation ANVIL, the 885th BS became available for other assignments. The French Resistance (called Maquis) in fact no longer needed supplies coming by air from the Mediterranean. The squadron was then moved from Blida to Maison Blanche, just outside Algiers, on 25 August 1944 and flew its first mission to North Italy during the night between 9 and 10 September 1944 .
Between 23 September and 2 October 1944 the squadron was transferred to Brindisi to approach the new targets of the missions, which were now set in North Italy and in the Balkans. The 334 Wing RAF, already stationed in Brindisi and skilled in Special Duties, assumed the command of all the operations of the Anglo-American special air units, which from then onwards operated in close coordination.
Brindisi, Italy, 15 February 1945. Navigators of the 885th BS trace the routes for their next mission .
The very bad weather conditions that characterized the entire month of October 1944 heavily reduced the success of special missions and deliveries in northern Italy, which at the time were carried out almost exclusively at night. Unfortunately for Italian partisans, this period of bad weather coincided with the most intense efforts by the Germans to crush the guerrilla activity, especially in the Udine area, in the northeast, and in the Ossola Valley in the northwest. The 885th BS tried however eighty-five sorties in the only seven nights of October in which operations were possible, but only thirty-three of them were successful, and two B-24 Liberators with their crews were lost .
One of them, carrying a ten men crew and three Italian OSS agents, crashed on 4 October on the slopes of Menna Peak, in the Brembana Valley, within the Bergamo area . The second one, which numbered nine airmen on board, crashed on the Mount Canin massif, in the Udine area, in the night between 16 and 17 October . It is to these men that this website is dedicated.
In mid-December of 1944 the 859th Bomb Squadron, belonging to the 492nd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, moved to Brindisi from operation ‘Carpetbagger’ to join special operations already entrusted to the 885th.
The 15th Air Force had then two special squadrons of bombers operating from Italy. In order to unify their command, the 885th BS and the 859th BS on 15 January 1945 were joined into the 15th Special Group (Provisional). The base for their missions was moved northwards from Brindisi to Rosignano Marittimo, in the province of Leghorn, and on 17 March 1945 the unit was re-designated as the 2641st Special Group (Provisional) and was put under the command of the 12th Air Force. Transfer to Rosignano, where it stationed until the end of the war, was completed on 20 March 1945. The unit was finally inactivated on 4 Oct 1945 .
From September 1944 to April 1945 the 885th BS flew 1,268 missions in Italy, dropping 4,000,000 lb (1,814 metric tons) of materials and weapons, 246 men and a very high number of propaganda leaflets (or ‘nickels’).
Losses of men and aircrafts were heavy. The crews had to complete 50 operating missions, lasting at least four hours each, in order to be relieved and to be exempted from combat operations, returning to the Zone of Interior, that is, to the United States mainland . After the completion of the first 25 missions, a break was provided; to this rule, however, there were frequent exceptions, dictated by the tactic needs of the 15th Air Force .
 MacCloskey (1945), Unit History, April 1944; Maurer [ed.] (1982), p. 797.
 MacCloskey (1966), p. 29; Peterson (1963), p. 1.
 MacCloskey (1966), p. 38.
 Warren (1947), p. 24.
 Ivi, p. 41.
 MacCloskey (1945).
 MacCloskey (1945), War Diary, April 1944.
 MacCloskey (1966), p. 29.
 MacCloskey (1945), Unit History, August 1944.
 NARA, RG 18, E 342 FH, B 99, image #3A-24097.
 McCloskey (1945), Losses Report, October 1944.
 Feilner (1944), USAAF Missing Air Crew Report No. 9444.
 Hanson (1944), USAAF Missing Air Crew Report No. 9679; MacCloskey (1966), p. 111; Merrick (1989), p. 220.
 Maurer [ed.] (1982), p. 797.
 Simpson (1968), p. 21; Collier (2003).
 Collier (2003).