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Boxted Airfield

The History of a Legendary Airfield

The planning and construction of Boxted Airfield, near the historic town of Colchester, Essex, England, began in 1941. Utilized by the United States Army Air Force (USAAF), Boxted Airfield became operational for Britain's war ally in May 1943.

The 386th Bomb Group (BG) was the first U.S.-based bomber group to be stationed at Boxted Airfield, arriving in June 1943. Nicknamed The Crusaders, the 386th BG was originally assigned to the U.S. Army's 8th Tactical Air Force and flew the Martin B26 Marauder, a medium-range bomber. Flying missions to Holland, Belgium, and France, the 386th BG targeted Axis-held airfields, gun positions, power plants, marshalling yards, ammunition caches, and other strategic military sites. The 4-squadron bomber group was stationed at Boxted Airfield for nearly four months before being transferred to nearby Great Dunmow in September 1943.

Flying new P51b Mustangs, the 354th Fighter Group (FG) arrived at Boxted Airfield in November 1943. The group's primary role was to escort the Allied bombers on their missions over the continent and eventually all the way to Germany. The 354th FG proved the Mustang was a viable aircraft in combat, and the group laid the tactical foundation for other Mustang groups. The 354th FG left Boxted Airfield in April 1944 and moved to an advanced landing ground at Lashenden in Kent in preparation for D-Day, June 6, 1944.

The 56th Fighter Group (FG) arrived at Boxted Airfield in April 1944. Recognized as the top scoring U.S. fighter group of World War Two, the 56th FG took part in all major air battles during their stay at Boxted Airfield, including D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge. Stationed at Boxted Airfield until the end of the war in Europe, the 56th FG returned to the United States in October 1945.

Taking the lead from Great Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) Program, the United States Army's 8th Air Force created its own Emergency Rescue Squadron (ERS) to search for downed fighter and bomber crews in the English Channel. Established in May 1944, Detachment B of the 65th Fighter Wing, later renamed the 5th ERS, utilized P-47 Thunderbolts to coordinate rescue efforts with other Allied aircraft and shipping vessels. After stranded airmen were located, the 5th ERS alerted boats and seaplanes from various bases along the English coast to pick them up. In January 1945, the 5th ERS moved its operating base to Halesworth in Suffolk. This distinguished Emergency Rescue Squadron coordinated the successful rescue of 938 Allied airmen during WWII.

For a detailed history of these Boxted Airfield Aviation Groups and Squadrons, visit

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