During World War II the unit entered combat in May 1944, and sustained the heaviest losses of any other Consolidated B-24 Liberator group for a three-month period. The group was withdrawn from combat with its personnel and equipment being reassigned to other units. The 801st Bombardment Group (Provisional) was replaced by the 492d Bombardment Group, and the group performed special operations missions throughout the remainder of the war in Europe. It was inactivated on 17 October 1945.
In June 2017 official USAF descriptions said that the wing organized, trained and equipped forces to conduct special operations missions. It led Major Command irregular warfare activities and executes special operations test and evaluation programs. It also developed doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures for United States Air Force special operations forces.
The group was established in October 1943 at Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico[note 2] as a Consolidated B-24 Liberatorheavy bomber unit, drawing its cadre from the 859th Bombardment Squadron, a former antisubmarine squadron located at Blythe Army Air Base, California. Its other original squadrons were the 856th, 857th and 858th Bombardment Squadrons. In December, the 859th moved from Blythe to join group headquarters and the other three squadrons. The 492d was one of seven heavy bombardment groups[note 3] activated in the autumn of 1943. These were to be the last Army Air Forces heavy bomb groups established.
The group air echelon trained for combat at Alamogordo until April 1944, although the ground echelons of its four squadrons were withdrawn to form other bomber units. New ground elements were organized from other groups of the 2d Bombardment Division already in theater. The group’s air echelon departed for England on 1 April, flying the South Atlantic ferrying route through South America and Africa. Only about 120 members of the group’s ground echelon shipped overseas, however, leaving New Mexico on 11 April and sailing on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 20 April.