Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Special Operations

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The CIA and the A-26 Invader / On Mark Marksman aircraft


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Operation Shed light


OSS Code Name: Carpetbagger

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Hi Martin
We have once been briefly in touch in regard of Biafran Invaders.
I am doing research on various strange and covert operations involving Polish airmen, and those include a little known group flying secret missions for the CIA through 1950s. Few of the men took part in operation Haik, flying the first B-26 mission. It is practically unknown, the men were flying RB-26Cs, possibly few aircraft, albeit only one at a time, out of Athens, Greece, for missions behind the Iron Curtain.
If you like, I can put few lines about it, but it would not be anything longer, because only few facts are known. Literally, just few lines. Frankly, I hope this shall cause some reaction, because as yet, I was unable to make any major breakthrough in my research.
Best wishes
Franek Grabowski
Franek continues:
Covert Cold War operations in Europe are still shredded with mystery and such a little known episode is Project Ostiary, a covert unit composed of exile European airmen, mostly Poles, and which flew secret missions for the OPC, and then the CIA, between 1949 and 1959.
The Project dates back to late 1940s, when the National Security Council drafted the so called Rollback operation, actually a series of operations targeting countries in the Soviet zone of influence, as well as newly merged republics of the Soviet Union.
Aerial branch was needed to deliver agents and supplies deep behind the Iron Curtain. As those operations had to be fully denied, use of service personnel was excluded. The only viable option was to use exile airmen. The first recruited men, were Hungarians, who hi-jacked a commercial plane out of their country.
In September 1949 they flew the very first mission, to Ukraine. They were soon joined by some Czechoslovak airmen, who escaped their country in a similar manner, nonetheless it was obvious for the US planners, that they could not rely on operations using so few evaders
A British intelligence officer, Peter Kemp, draw their attention to 11,000 stateless Polish airmen, who remained exile after Yalta agreements. Many of them were highly skilled and decorated veterans, and some actually flew agent & supply drops, the task they were needed for.
Now, having difficulties in finding any employment, and quite willing to work on operations in hampering to the Soviet Union, they were obvious candidates for the job.
In 1950 the first group of Polish airmen arrived to Athens.
Apart from a complete C-47 aircrew, it also consisted some groundcrew. They were to fly agents and supply drops to Albania.
The following year, Polish aircrew arrived to Wiesbaden, to man the unit established there in 1949.
Operations went smoothly, and the Polish crew got a very high reputation.
Soon, it was decided to expand the fleet of flown types. One of the aircraft considered was B-26, a workhorse both in Korea and in other theaters, a reliable, all weather multipurpose aircraft. Popular with other air forces, so no link could have been made with the US operations in case the aircraft was lost.
It is not clear, when the B-26's made for Greece, but as the first recorded flight was a 23 July 1953 mission to Bulgaria, flown by a crew of five, it is believed it was some months prior to that date.
According to various accounts, it was one or two aircraft at a time, based at Eleusis (other spelling Elevsis or Elefsina) Hellenic Air Force airbase, North West from Athens. It is not known if Ellinikon, another Athen's airbase, where CIA was active, was used by the aircraft. The aircraft were likely provided and serviced by 7499th Support Group from Wiesbaden, Germany.
As far as it is known, B-26s were used solely for psy-ops purposes - during each mission, B-26 could carry about half a million leaflets.
There is no confirmation, they were ever used for reconnaissance. On the other hand, it is possible that those were actually 'deep ferret' missions, to reconnoitre air defences, and measure radar system parameters, this by other aircraft flying along the borders of Warsaw Pact.
For following few years, an unspecified number of missions to Albania, Bulgaria, and Hungary was flown.
There are no details on them, but that the unit suffered no losses apart from a wing tip, left on some sort of a pole behind the Iron Curtain.
The last recorded flight was a training mission on 8 January 1957. Soon, the men were then moved to Wiesbaden, where they had to man newly established outfit, to fly Lockheed RB-69A Neptunes. It was the unit, the aircrew were borrowed for operation HAIK.
Unfortunately, during the take off to a combat mission early morning 13 April 1958, one of two B-26Bs crashed, killing the crew. On board were Józef 'Joe' Jeka, and Jan Piotr Iżycki. Jeka, a fighter ace, who took part in the Polish Campaign, and the Battle of Britain, and following Channel clashes, and who was shot down twice behind enemy lines, and evaded, was one of the most respected Polish airmen. Iżycki, observer, long time Polish Air Force career officer, was a special operations veteran, shot down during a mission to France, and ended up in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
The crash at Paniki, occurred almost exactly (within few hours) 15 years after the shot down of Iżycki over France. This was the only loss of the Ostiary in their history.

Franek Grabowski