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438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF)
History - Books - Aircraft - Time Line - Commanders - Main Bases - Component Units - Assigned To
The 438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) took part in the D-Day landings, the invasion of the South of France, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine.
The 438th was one of twelve groups to join the Ninth Air Force direct from the United States in the first half of 1944, moving to Britain in February 1944.
On D-Day the group carried paratroops to Normandy, and then towed gliders carrying reinforcements to the battle later on D-Day and on D+1. The Group was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for its role in Normandy.
In July a detachment was sent to Italy to take part in Operation Dragoon. Once again it dropped paratroops as part of the initial assault, then towed supplies and reinforcements in gliders. After a brief period acting as a transport unit in Italy the detachment returned to Britain.
In September the group carried supplies to the advancing Third Army, and took part in Operation Market Garden.
In December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the group flew supplies into besieged Bastogne.
In February-March 1945 the group moved to France to take part in the crossing of the Rhine. In March it dropped paratroops during the large-scale set-piece crossing of the Rhine.
After the end of the fighting in Europe the group flew POWs out of Germany. It returned to the US in August-September 1945 and was inactivated on 15 November 1945.
1943-45: Douglas C-47 Skytrain
|14 May 1943||Constituted as 438th Troop Carrier Group|
|1 June 1943||Activated|
|Feb 1944||To England and Ninth Air Force|
|Aug-Sept 1945||To United States|
|15 Nov 1945||Inactivated|
Commanders (with date of appointment)
Baer Field, Ind: 1 Jun 1943
Sedalia AAFld, Mo: c. 11 Jun 1943
Laurinburg-Maxton AAB, NC: Oct 1943
BaerField, Ind: c. 15-c. 28 Jan 1944
Welfard,England: Feb 1944
Greenham Common,England: Mar 1944
Prosnes, France: Feb1945
Amiens/Glisy, France: May-c. 3 Aug1945
Baer Field, Ind: c. 16 Sep 1945
LawsonField, Ga: c. 1 Oct-15 Nov 1945
1943: 53rd Troop Carrier Wing; US based
1944-45: 53rd Troop Carrier Wing; IX Troop Carrier Command; Ninth Air Force
RAF Greenham Common - World War II - USAAF Use - 438th Troop Carrier Group
Literally as the 368th FG was moving out, the 438th Troop Carrier Group was flying into Greenham Common from RAF Langar. Flying Douglas C-47 Skytrains, they had the following Troop Carrier squadrons and fuselage codes:
- 87th Troop Carrier Squadron (3X)
- 88th Troop Carrier Squadron (M2)
- 89th Troop Carrier Squadron (4U)
- 90th Troop Carrier Squadron (Q7)
The 368th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 53rd Troop Carrier Wing of IX Troop Carrier Command. The squadrons had 18 aeroplanes apiece, mostly C-47s but also a few C-53s. In addition to the airfield, the heathland immediately to the east, Greenham Common, was earmarked as an assembly point for WACO CG-4A Assault Gliders which were received from the US in packing crates. When assembled, the gliders were towed to the airfield runways for dispersal to other airfields.
Glider assembly averaged about fifteen per day by early 1944, increasing to 50 per day by September 1944. As at all troop carrier bases where the use of gliders was envisioned, some 800 feet (240 m) of pierced steel planking runway strips was laid at each of the main runway ends to allow the marshalling of gliders.
At Greenham Common the 438th TCG trained for and participated in airborne operations, flew resupply and reinforcement missions to combat zones, evacuated casualties, and hauled freight.
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Perhaps the most dramatic innovation in military tactics during World War II was the landing of airborne forces behind enemy lines. The American public was deeply impressed by the sight, in newsreels and photos, of skies filled with billowing parachutes as men fell earthward to encircle the enemy. The hardened paratrooper, with his peculiar gear, became a special kind of fighting hero, and his jumping cry, "Geronimo," became almost a byword. 
While specially trained ground soldiers did the fighting after the landings, it was the responsibility of the Army Air Forces (AAF) to make the deliveries of men and supplies. To carry out this responsibility was the mission of AAF troop carrier units, serving under theater or task force commanders in cooperation with ground force elements. The training of these units, which had to be able to perform all phases of airborne operations, was the function of I Troop Carrier Command. Troop carrier headquarters was located throughout the war at Stout Field, Indianapolis, Indiana. 
The task performed by I Troop Carrier Command, while quantitatively smaller than that of other domestic air forces, was nevertheless substantial. From December 1942 until August 1945 it produced more than 4,500 troop carrier crews most of these were trained on the Douglas C-47 Skytrain although in the last year of war a considerable number flew the larger Curtiss C-46 Commando. In addition to the transport crews, which normally consisted of pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator, and aerial engineer, some 5,000 Waco CG-4 glider pilots were prepared for their special function. 
I Troop Carrier Command was formed on 30 April 1942 when the Air Service Command 50th Transport Wing was transferred into a new unit named the Air Transport Command. However, it was soon discovered that this designation was wanted as a new name for the older Air Corps Ferrying Command, whose functions had been expanded beyond the limits implied by its title. Accordingly, the recently created Air Transport Command was redesignated the I Troop Carrier Command (I TCC). 
With its activation, I TCC was assigned directly to Army Air Forces Headquarters, and the AAF established the troop carrier mission as one of the four combat missions of the Army Air Forces – bombardment, pursuit or fighter, reconnaissance and troop carrier. 
Crew Training Edit
The Operational - Replacement Training Units (OTU-RTU) system of operational training, which was used in the fighter and bombardment training programs, was also adopted for troop carrier instruction. I TCC training drew from the graduates of AAF Training Command two-engine flight schools for the pilot and co-pilot, along with a newly graduated navigator, radio operator and an aerial engineer from AAF Training Command technical schools to complete a troop carrier aircrew for the C-47. 
Individual crew members were expected to show proficiency in skills normally exercised by the corresponding specialists of bombardment crews, however proficiency in aerial gunnery was not required because the troop transports carried no armament. Members of troop carrier crews, on the other hand, had special duties not required in other types of combat units. The pilot, for example, had to be capable of glider towing and to be familiar with the flight characteristics of gliders, while the aerial engineer had to know how to attach glider tow ropes and operate and maintain glider pickup equipment. 
A unique characteristic troop of carrier aircrews was the ability to make accurate drops of aerial delivery containers, both free and parachuted, into small clearings surrounded by natural obstacles. This mission, especially important in the Pacific and CBI theaters supported small units of soldiers and commando units behind enemy lines where aerial resupply was their only means of sustainment. This mission also required the crew to employ "kickers", men whose duty was literally to "kick" the resupply containers out of the door of the aircraft, which was usually flying at low level and vulnerable to enemy ground weapons fire. 
Troop carrier squadrons and groups had to demonstrate skill in unit operations, including the transportation of paratroops, and the towing and releasing of loaded gliders in mass flights. Special curricula for the meeting of these standards were developed by I Troop Carrier Command. 
Besides the combat element of their mission, troop carrier units had the mission of transportation of personnel, supplies and equipment within a theater of operations. Troop carrier squadrons frequently operated out of rough airfields (Advanced Landing Grounds) near the front lines, carrying everything from gasoline, small-arms munitions, artillery shells, food, medical supplies, tents and other necessities to support the front-line units in the field. The landing grounds might be manned by AAF units or unmanned. They were located in the deserts of North Africa, farmers' fields in Italy and France, or in a carved out strip of jungle in Burma, the Philippines or New Guinea. Specially-equipped medical evacuation C-47s would land near field hospitals to transport casualties to rear area hospitals for follow-on medical treatment. 
Airborne Paratrooper Training Edit
Following operational training, or during the final portion of it, troop carrier units engaged in combined exercises with elements of the Airborne Command (Army Ground Forces). It was not coincidental that several of I TCC's training schools were located on Army airfields on or near Army airborne division training camps. Pope Field was on Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and later 11th Airborne Division. Grenada Field, Mississippi was located near Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, home of the 101st Airborne Division Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, North Carolina, was frequently the location of joint exercises between troop carrier units and Army airborne units. 
Realistic training maneuvers between the Army airborne and Air Force troop carrier units were frequent. These maneuvers, which lasted for about two months, were divided into three phases. The first consisted of small-scale operations in which a company of airborne soldiers was transported, then would parachute out of aircraft into designated drop zones. The scale of movement was increased in the second period, and during the final phase whole divisions were moved as units over distances up to 300 miles, with both parachutists and towed CG-4 gliders being landed, frequently on auxiliary training airfields. After the exercise was completed, training in glider retrieval by the troop carrier units was conducted. 
In each stage of combined training the troop carrier groups placed emphasis upon single- and double-tow of gliders under combat conditions and upon night operations. Attention was given to all types of airborne assignments, including resupply and evacuation by air. 
Glider Pilot Training Edit
One of the most difficult problems, unique to the troop carrier program, was that of training glider pilots. The principal trouble occurred in the individual training phase, which was the responsibility of the AAF Training Command, but the consequences were naturally felt by I Troop Carrier Command. 
In the AAF's original concept, glider pilots would be existing power pilots. However, the shortage of such personnel in 1942 called for a drastic revision of policy, especially after the requirement for glider pilots was increased from an initial 1,000 to 6,000 earlier that year. Offers were made to enlisted men with no flying experience at all, with the promise that they would graduate as staff sergeants. Those with rank above private would go through training in their grade and become sergeants at the end. Those with previous flying experience were also sought, and this policy brought in a lot of washouts from power pilot training. 
Also, an early decision was made to have the future glider pilots trained under contract to civilian schools. The main operation got under way at Twenty Nine Palms Army Airfield, in the California desert, where thermal conditions were great for soaring flights. Sailplane thinking still prevailed. By being able to soar – gain altitude on rising air currents – and therefore stay up longer on a given flight, the student would conceivably receive more instruction per flight. It was not long, however, before the military woke up to the fact that troop gliders were not simply bigger sailplanes that made long straight glides into enemy territory. They were, rather, low-performance trailers that had to be towed to a point almost directly over the landing area, and once over the designated spot, the real piloting skills necessary to reach the ground quickly in one piece took over, if one wanted to survive. As a consequence, the sailplane trainers were abandoned as soon as sufficient quantities of the Waco CG-4A were available for advanced training. In the U.S. services the glider pilots, whether the view was unwarranted or not, were considered a notable cut below power pilots. They had a separate rating of Glider Pilot, with appropriate "G" wings, and were originally mostly sergeants. 
Once they received their wings, I TCC assigned glider pilots to existing troop carrier squadrons that were training. A glider unit was attached to the troop carrier squadron as a flight, and trained along with the squadron. The glider unit was then deployed as part of the troop carrier unit after training was complete. The OTU-RTU curriculum for glider pilots in I Troop Carrier Command included a transition phase on the CG-4A for those pilots trained on sailplanes and an advanced phase requiring forty landings under full-load conditions. Pickup exercises were also required, as well as indoctrination in the important after-landing procedures. 
By the end of 1944 it was decided to restrict glider instruction to rated power pilots, because they were available in sufficient numbers and could serve a dual purpose in troop carrier units. 
Air Commando Training Edit
In addition to the troop carrier groups, three specialized units, the 1st, 2d and 4th Combat Cargo Groups were trained by I Troop Carrier Command (the 3d Combat Cargo Group was formed in Burma by Tenth Air Force). These groups, destined for the China-Burma-India Theater and Southwest Pacific Theater, supported both front-line ground units as well as commando-type ground forces which operated behind enemy lines performing special operations missions. 
The combat cargo groups carried out airborne resupply and evacuation missions of wounded, and gliders for assault missions. Commando units would parachute at low altitude behind enemy lines, perform their mission, then either walk out to friendly territory, or a small group of C-47s would clandestinely land at a rough airstrip to pick them up. 
Additional training, particularly in locating small groups of men in camouflaged areas by the use of sunlit signal mirrors was especially important, as radio communications with commando units was not always possible. Signal mirrors and hand held airborne beacon light training in morse code was carried out for communications between the aircraft and men on the ground. "Kicker" training was also carried out so resupply drops would be made accurately into small clearings. 
With Tactical Air Command Edit
I Troop Carrier Command was disbanded on 4 November 1945 and its mission and personnel were transferred to IX Troop Carrier Command, which had returned from Europe to Stout Field on paper in September.   However the mission remained and when the Army Air Force reorganized in 1946, Tactical Air Command (TAC) was established as one of its three major commands and the troop carrier mission was assigned to TAC. Within TAC, Troop Carrier Command was organized to control its troop carrier units. Third Air Force was assigned to TAC to control the troop carrier units formerly part of TCC, and established its headquarters at Donaldson Field, South Carolina. Third Air Force was inactivated on 1 November 1946 and TAC's troop carrier mission was reassigned to Ninth Air Force with its return from Europe and reassignment to Donaldson. In 1951, Eighteenth Air Force was formed for the Troop Carrier Mission, and in 1958 it was taken over by Twelfth Air Force. 
Under TAC both combat-deplorable operational and training units were formed. Composite Air Strike Force (CASF) deployments of Troop Carrier units by Eighteenth AF were made to Taiwan, Lebanon, South Florida, and the Dominican Republic during Cold War crisis of the 1950s and 1960s. During the Vietnam War, TAC Troop Carrier units were deployed to South Vietnam for combat missions. 
Troop Carrier personnel and unit training was established initially at Ardmore Air Force Base, Oklahoma. At Ardmore, new USAF Troop Carrier units were organized, trained, equipped then deployed to Europe and the Pacific during the Cold War buildup of military forces in the 1950s.  In 1959, the mission was moved to Sewart Air Force Base, Tennessee, and in 1971 to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, where it remains today under Air Education and Training Command (AETC).  
In the Pacific, the FEAF Combat Cargo Command was organized to control Far East Air Forces Troop Carrier Groups operating primarily in Occupied Japan. During the Korean War it was re-designated as the 315th Air Division when the number of units was expanded to support the United Nations forces in Korea. In the subsequent Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) expanded its Troop Carrier units to include units in the Philippines, Okinawa and Taiwan. In the Vietnam War, troop carrier units were employed in the combat zones of South Vietnam providing tactical airlift to South Vietnamese and American ground forces. 
It was found during the Vietnam War that there was a large duplication of facilities and mission objectives between USAFE, TAC and PACAF Troop Carrier Groups (re-designated Tactical Airlift Groups/Wings in 1966). A study group recommended the consolidation of the units as a cost-saving measure under Military Airlift Command (MAC), and in 1974 the theater combat troop carrier mission was consolidated under the MAC Twenty-Second Air Force.  
Post Cold War Edit
In the post-Cold War reorganization of the Air Force, Air Mobility Command (AMC) subsequently returned the C-130 Hercules tactical airlift mission (now designated as Airlift Wings) to Air Combat Command (ACC), PACAF and USAFE in 1993 where it remains today. The training school at Little Rock AFB was transferred to Air Education and Training Command (AETC).  Army Airborne units use the C-130s of the combat commands as well as AMC's C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy for their mission. 
438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) - History09/1942 to 11/1942, HQ Staff of 51st Troop Carrier Wing, moved to North Africa .
/> 11/1942 to 09/1943, Used by RAF training units of No.15 (P) AFU and No.1511 BAT Flight.
11/1943, 353rd, 355th, 356th Fighter Squadrons of the 354th Fighter Group with P-51B Mustangs here before moving to Boxted.
02/44 to 06/45, HQ of 53rd Troop Carrier Wing, controlling Aldermaston, Membury, Ramsbury and Welford. Waco glider assembly line based here with over 4,000 gliders assembled on Crookham Common and flown out from Greenham Common airfield.
01/44 to 03/44, 395th, 396th and 397th Fighter Squadrons of the 368th Fighter Group with P-47 Thunderbolts, moved to Chilbolton.
03/44 to 02/45, 87th, 88th, 89th and 90th Troop Carrier Squadrons of the 438th Troop Carrier Group with C-47 and C-53's for glider towing and paratroop drops. The 438th TCG lead the D-Day invasion carrying the US 101st Airborne Division paratroopers to Carentan. 07/44 to 08/44, 87th, 88th and 89th TCS moved to Italy for the invasion of Southern France. 438th TCG also involved in the Arnhem operations before moving to France.
07/44 to 08/44, 36th, 37th, 44th and 45th TCS of the 316th TCG.
/>06/45 to 06/46, Used by RAF Technical Training Command ground units.
1951 to 09/53, The original airfield was completely rebuilt as a USAFE Station. 03/54 to 07/64 , B-47 Stratojets of the 303rd Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command were the first of many USAF units based here until the airfield was returned to the RAF.
Disused between 08/64 and 01/67, airfield then reopened for storage and NATO excercises. Upgraded in the 1970's it was then rebuilt to house USAF Tomahawk cruise missiles and 11/83, 501st Tactical Missile Wing r eceived its first missiles which remained until closure in 1992.
- Constituted as 438th Troop Carrier Group on 14 May 1943
- Redesignated 438th Troop Carrier Group (Medium) and allocated to the Reserve on 1 Jun 1949
- Redesignated 438th Fighter-Bomber Group and allocated to the Reserve on 1 Jun 1952
- Redesignated 438th Operations Group and activated on 1 Nov 1991
- Redesignated 438th Air Expeditionary Group, and converted to provisional status on 4 Dec 2001
- , 1 Jun 1943 , Feb 1944
- U.S. Forces European Theater, 18 Jul 1945 , 16 Sep 1945 , 1 Oct-15 Nov 1945 , 27 Jun 1949–14 Mar 1951
- , 15 Jun 1952 5 Jan 1953-16 Nov 1957 , 1 Nov 1991–1 Oct 1994 to activate or inactivate any time after 4 Dec 2001
- , 1 Nov 1991–1 Oct 1994 , 1 Nov 1991–1 Oct 1993
- 87th Troop Carrier (later Fighter-Bomber) Squadron (3X), 1 Jun 1943-22 Sep 1945 27 Jun 1949-14 Mar 1951 15 Jun 1952-16 Nov 1957
- 88th Troop Carrier (later Fighter-Bomber) Squadron (M2), 1 Jun 1943-22 Sep 1945 27 Jun 1949-14 Mar 1951 15 Jun 1952-16 Nov 1957
- 89th Troop Carrier (later Fighter-Bomber) Squadron (4U), 1 Jun 1943-22 Sep 1945 27 Jun 1949-14 Mar 1951 15 Jun 1952-16 Nov 1957
- 90th Troop Carrier (later Fighter-Bomber) Squadron (Q7), 1 Jun 1943-22 Sep 1945 27 Jun 1949-14 Mar 1951 15 Jun 1952-16 Nov 1957
- , Indiana, 1 Jun 1943 , Missouri, c. 11 Jun 1943 , North Carolina, October 1943 , Indiana, c. 15-c. 28 Jan 1944 (AAF-490), England, Feb 1944 (AAF-486), England, Mar 1944 (A-79), France, Feb 1945 (B-48) France, May - c. 3 Aug 1945
- , Indiana, c. 16 Sep 1945 , Georgia c. October 1–15 Nov 1945 , Nebraska, 27 Jun 1949–14 Mar 1951 , Wisconsin, 15 Jun 1952 5 Jan 1953-16 Nov 1957 , New Jersey, 1 Nov 1991–1 Oct 1994
- Undisclosed Locations, 2001–TBD
- , 1943–1945, 1949–1951 , 1949–1951, 1952–1954 , 1949–1951 , 1949–1951, 1953 , 1953–1954
- , 1954–1957 , 1954–1957 , 1957 , Present
World War II
Constituted as 438th Troop Carrier Group on 14 May 1943. Activated on 1 June 1943. Trained with C-47's. Moved to RAF Langar, England in February 1944 and assigned to Ninth Air Force. At Langar, the group was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing, however after a month the group was moved south to a new station at RAF Greenham Common. The 438th had the following Troop Carrier squadrons and fuselage codes:
The squadrons had 18 airplanes apiece, mostly C-47s but also a few C-53s. At Greenham Common the 438th TCG trained for and participated in airborne operations, flew resupply and reinforcement missions to combat zones, evacuated casualties, and hauled freight.
For its superior flying skills exhibited in extensive daylight and night training, the 438th TCG was selected to lead the IX Troop Carrier Command force in the American airborne landings in Normandy. Prior to the launch, both General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lt Gen Lewis H. Brereton, Ninth Air Force Commanding General, visited Greenham Common to watch preparations and speak with the troops of the 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Eighty-one aircraft, divided into two serials of 36 and 45 aircraft and led by the 87th Troop Carrier Squadron (3X), took off from the main runway in 15 minutes, commencing at 23:48 hours on 5 June. Despite radio black-out, overloaded aircraft, low cloud cover and lack of marked drop zones, they carried 1,430 men of the US 101st Airborne Division's 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, who were dropped soon after midnight in the area northwest of Carentan. Glider-borne reinforcement missions followed, and for its determined and successful work the group received a Distinguished Unit Citation.
Losses amounted to one C-47 and a C-53, both lost to flak on 7 June.
On 20 July the air echelons of the 87th, 88th and 89th Troop Carrier Squadrons departed for Canino airbase in Italy in preparation for the August invasion of Southern France, Operation Dragoon. In the invasion, the squadrons dropped paratroops and towed gliders that carried reinforcements. The group also hauled freight in Italy.
The 90th TCS stayed in the UK and operated from RAF Welford until the rest of the groups aircraft returned from Italy on 24 August.
In September the 368th group helped to supply the Third Army in its push across France, and transported troops and supplies when the Allies launched the airborne operation in Holland.
As part of Operation Market Garden, 90 aircraft from the 438th dropped 101st Airborne paratroopers near Eindhoven without loss on 17 September. The next day, 80 aircraft towed gliders again without loss of aircraft, although two gliders aborted and 11 C-47s suffered flak damage. However, when 40 C-47s towing 40 CG-4A Horsa Gliders left Greenham Common on 19 September, things did not go so well in adverse weather. Only half of the gliders were released in the landing zone area, and one C-47 was shot down and several gliders were lost.
A further glider mission by a similar number of aircraft fared no better and another C-47 was lost. Re-supply missions were flown on 20 September and on the 21st to Overasselt and on the 21st to Son.
During the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 – January 1945), the group, again headed by the 87th Troop Carrier Squadron, flew air supply missions to battle areas, including the first two flights into beleaguered Bastogne. In February 1945 the groups of the 53d TCW were moved to France, the 438th going to A-79 Advanced Landing Ground at Pronses.
On the continent, the 438th TCG used the following Advanced Landing Grounds:
The group evacuated Allied prisoners of war after V-E Day. It returned to Baer AAF Indiana on 16 September 1945.
The 438th Troop Carrier Group (Medium) was established on 10 May 1949, at Offut AFB, Nebraska. It was activated in the USAF reserve on 27 June 1949. The group flew C-45, C-46 and C-47 aircraft. It was ordered to active service on 10 March 1951. It was inactivated on 14 March 1951.
The 438th Fighter-Bomber Group was activated at General Billy Mitchell Field, Wisconsin in the reserves flying F-80 Shooting Stars and later F-86 Sabres on 15 June 1952. It was inactivated 16 November 1957.
On 1 December 1991, the unit was activated as the 438th Operations Group as the operational component of 438th Airlift Wing as part of the objective wing implementation. .
On 1 October 1993, the 30th AS was moved w/o/p/e to the 374th Operations Group, Yokota AB, Japan, replacing the 20th AS as part of the Air Force illustrious units realignment. It was replaced by the 13th Airlift Squadron at McGuire which was transferred w/o/p/e from the 18th Operations Group, Kadena AB, Okinawa.
A KC-10 air refueling squadron, the 2d ARS, was assigned to the wing from the former 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana as part of a major Air Force realignment on 1 October 1994 to have KC-10 bases with two squadrons of 10 aircraft each.
On 1 October 1994, the 438th Airlift Wing was inactivated, being replaced at McGuire by the 305th Air Mobility Wing which was transferred from Grissom AFB, Indiana when Grissom was realigned to the Air Force Reserve.
Global War On Terrorism
The 438th Air Expeditionary Group was activated as part of the Global War On Terror in 2001.
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438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) - History
The controversy over TROOP CARRIER Visitors to this website may be unaware that WW2 survivors of the various Troop Carrier Groups are contemplating a lawsuit against preeminent WW2 author and historian Stephen Ambrose. It seems they are offended by what they perceive as Mis-truths in what he wrote about the performance of T.C. pilots in delivering paratroopers to Normandy. The books in question are Ambrose's "D-Day:June 6, 1944-The Climactic Battle of WW2", and "Band of Brothers", his company history of E/506th which was recently translated into a 120 million dollar miniseries for H.B.O.
The primary allegations of the Troop Carrier people are mainly that: 1) Ambrose flatly stated that the T.C. pilots participating in the Normandy drop were inadequately trained prior to that mission. 2) Ambrose broadly generalized by writing that all the pilots took evasive action to save themselves. 3) Ambrose broadly generalized that all paratroopers were mis-droppped because of pilot mis conduct, and 4) Ambrose insinuated that all of these pilots 'chickened-out', or performed in a cowardly manner on that drop.
In early 2000, Ambrose left a telephonic message with T.C. historian Lewis Johnston, apologizing for any slights against Troop Carrier veterans. Subsequently, Mike Ingrisano posted a transcript of that message over the Internet via e mails. But since that time, Ambrose has refused to engage in any dialogue with the T.C. veterans over these issues. As a result, the T.C. vets and their families are still not satisfied because: A) It is evident that Ambrose has no intention of ever revising what he wrote in the above-captioned books in future printings of same and: B) Ambrose has admitted that during his research for those books he did not interview a single Troop Carrier veteran. In his D-Day book, Ambrose quotes from four T.C. pilots whose statements are on file in the Eisenhower Center. This means he didn't interview them personally, but simply lifted some quotes from their transcripts.
In speaking to one of the proponents of a litigation on this matter, I've also heard the concern that: "Since Ambrose enjoys such an awesome reputation as an authority on WW2 facts, people accept everything he puts in his books as "carved in stone". Therefore, what will our great grandchildren and their offspring think many years from now, when they read this blanket condemnation of T.C. pilots in Ambrose's books?"
I would interject a personal observation at this point. From reading Professor Ambrose's books, I've concluded that much of his writing does contain broad, blanket statements which tend to lump things together, resulting in sometimes inaccurate over-simplifications. In this case, it brought him some grief and controversy. I would even venture to say however, that much of Ambrose's mass appeal is due to giving generalized, pat answers to complex issues. Evidently that is what the public at large wants: simple explanations, which can be easily digested, assimilated and on occasion, reiterated at cocktail party discussions. Also, a considerable amount of partisan, personal opinion creeps in, giving the public what they want to hear. He has become what one T.C. veteran calls a "Pop Historian".
Although not a big fan of Ambrose, I must state that he is not totally wrong on this particular Troop Carrier issue-far from it. I learned several decades ago that there are two vastly different perspectives on the Normandy Drop issue-that of the paratrooper and that of Troop Carrier. I see a danger here of going too far in the other direction. This is 'Revisionism' of another sort. Not the sort that casts the Nazis as the true good-guys of WW2, but the kind of feel-good non-offensive tripe that tells the equally false story that all Troop Carrier pilots performed up to par on the D-Day drops. We must not accept that equally false assertion. That might make some people feel good, but it is as false as saying that they ALL fouled-up. When taking a true, factual look at the drops, it becomes evident that there were near-perfect drops, mixed drops, and totally disastrous drops, some attributable to entire squadrons and others to individual pilot error.
Mike Ingrisano writes: "the most important issue TC has with Ambrose is that he refused to engage in a dialog with us to examine the entire D-Day drop." The TC people say that if their proposed litigation meets with financial success, the proceeds will be donated to the WW2 Memorial in Washington D.C.
I had originally intended to avoid this controversy altogether. But, in late 2000, certain proponents of the lawsuit idea contacted me to get my perspective. The wife of a Troop Carrier pilot, who is a former consumer advocate, spoke to me twice by phone. Her attitude on these issues is nothing less than fanatical, and after our conversations, I decided to present the 'Worst Case Scenario', which you will find on page two of this chapter. Her husband is a veteran of the 77th squadron, 435th TCG, and among other things, she told me her opinion that no pilot of the 435th Group mis dropped paratroopers in Normandy. I don't know where she got her information, but this is patently untrue.
Stick landing pattern map overlays, as well as survivor testimony confirm that at least eleven sticks of 3/501 PIR paratroopers were dropped in the area between Baupte and Pretot, France, many miles southwest of the intended landing area at Drop Zone 'C'.
When I tried to discuss that with this lady, she said "You're not old enough to have been there!", and slammed the phone down on me. If the T.C. forces are going to go up against Ambrose, I trust that the Troop Carrier factions have better ammunition than arguments based on a wishful pipe dream that contradicts the known facts, or the age of a researcher. Furthermore, this kind of blind antagonism, which ignores the evidence, can only serve to alienate any potential allies to the T.C. cause. Her attitude also made me fear that those factions behind the lawsuit would accept nothing less than the false rewriting of history, to state that no misdrops occurred. Having said that, my discussions with this lady made me decide to present a well-documented example of the worst drop by any single Troop Carrier Squadron on D-Day. The lady who hung up on me would also probably deny that those misdrops ever happened. I don't want history to be re written by fanatics like her, who would ignore well-documented facts.
T.C. veteran Mike Ingrisano is one of the main forces behind the proposed litigation against Ambrose. He writes:
"We know, and the record shows, that Troop Carrier's Performance on that day was mixed. There were perfect drops, near perfect drops, mixed drops, and bad drops. WE KNOW THAT. Hence, we want the entire, true story told. We are not afraid of the TRUTH."
In a lengthy e mail to me, he pointed out that this subject is so complicated that a study of the experience and performance of each and every pilot who participated in the D-Day night drop would be necessary to depict what actually went on. But how much could be learned from reading about a bunch of pilots who all dropped right on target? The many individual experiences of men from squadrons which uniformly dropped right on target would sound very much alike, and each successive account would add little to our knowledge of the more important questions. Who mis dropped? Why ? Where? Each individual pilot who misdropped affected the fate of anywhere from 9-20 paratroopers, simply by where he was, when he turned on the green light. T.C. historian Randy Hils sent me a communication which reads in part:"Official documents should be considered as your primary sources, as the info obtained was gathered within hours of missions, not fifty years after the fact.'
While it is probable that the memories of the dozen or so pilots I've interviewed lately have diminished regarding minor details, I believe that they can still recall basic larger truths. I must say that at least four pilots told me that they simply weren't sure where they were, when they turned on the green light. A simple truth like that would not be forgotten, even after fifty-six years. Back in England, they were required to guess at the locations where they had made their drops. Many pilots had to make their best guess, which I would suggest could've easily been much less accurate than the estimations made by the men they dropped. Most pilots tried to figure out where they were after emerging from the cloudbanks, by looking down at highways, railroad lines, lakes, or other landmarks. But most of them either turned on the green light after seeing a plane ahead of them turn theirs on, or when in sight of the east Cotentin coast. It is a fact that some were not where they thought they were (see next page). Also, the paras could know at least the name of the first town they entered after landing.
It is not and never was my intention to do a detailed study of Troop Carrier experiences-I mainly write about paratroopers. It seems that historian Randy Hils is already well on the way to being capable of producing a comprehensive T.C. history, and I hope he does. I only want to demonstrate that some disastrous misdrops DID occur, some attributable to certain pilots and some to entire squadrons. There is no purpose to do this, other than to protect that infomation from being lost or denied. This is also no reflection whatsoever on the hundreds of pilots who delivered their human cargoes precisely on target.
Before I present the 'Worst Case Scenario', I'd like to share some of the many factors that the Air Corps Crews and historians have told me, to give their perspective. As Randy Hils says "these well-trained pilots had too many factors against them that night, from planning on down, and they did the best they could."
When I attended the reunion of the 438th TCG in KY last October, I was given some of the basic facts which are excluded from most accounts of the night drop on Normandy. These have more recently been supplemented by info from Randy and from Mike Ingrisano, and include:
1) A shortage of Navigators-only about two planes in five participating in the D-Day night drop had a navigator aboard. This ratio of navigators was not a sigificant problem in training, when daylight drops were made under relatively ideal conditions. But a navigator on every plane might have been an asset after the formations broke up in the clouds on D-Day.
2) Radio Silence-When dense cloudbanks were encountered over the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula, the Pathfinders were not permitted to radio that information to the main serials of following planes. Also, when pilots of the main serials flew into the clouds, they could not talk from plane to plane to confer on alternate plans/altitudes/courses. It has been suggested in retrospect, that a Recon plane should have preceeded the main serials to troubleshoot such problems in advance. A coded message could then have been sent back to warn the following planes of what they were about to encounter. That this was not done comes under the heading of poor planning.
3) Uncontrollable external conditions-such as weather: there was a 20-30 knot wind blowing over the drop areas that night. Sudden areas of turbulence were encountered unexpectedly, and in some cases, flak buffeted the planes. (Most of the ground fire received however was M.G. and rifle fire.)
4) Gross weight overload for that mission. Randy Hils provided the following facts: The recommended safe maximum weight for a C-47 with cargo aboard is 27,900 lb.
Troop Carrier planes routinely flew ETO mission at 30,000lb.
On the D-Day night drop, the C-47s were hauling equipment and overloaded paratroopers, which brought their weight up to as much as 34,000lb.
How did this additional weight affect the flight characteristics of the planes? For one thing, the planes normally slowed to 90mph and lifted the tail when the paratroopers exited on the green light. Slowing to 90mph with a D-Day weight load would've stalled the planes in middair. Hence, the recommended speed at exit time for the Neptune drop was 20 mph faster than usual:110MPH. Many paratroopers have complained that their pilots flew too fast (didn't slow down) at the time they jumped, and viewed this as just one more type of evasive action. Of course the paras could only guesstimate the speed at which they were traveling, but could surely judge that they were going significantly faster than usual by the intensity of the 'opening shock' they received, and by how much equipment was torn loose as a result. Naturally, the paras were not looking at a speedometer at that moment, but then the pilots probably weren't either. Some paras allege that their plane was going closer to 150 MPH when they exited-we will never know for certain.
Each overloaded paratrooper made a significant contribution to the weight/balance characteristics of the planes that night. Pilots have told me that they could feel the plane move as each jumper exited the door on the Green Light.
5) Plane speed and altitude:The planes approached the peninsula at 1500 feet, later dropping down to about 600 feet for the drop. Formation speed to the DZs was about 140 mph. Total flying time over this 22 mile wide peninsula (going west to east) was 9-1/2 minutes. Once the pilots had emerged from the clouds they had less than four minutes to recognize where they actually were, and to make any necessary course corrections before the green light.
To all the above, Randy adds:"The records contain accounts of Troop Carrier bravery on D-Day too. Crewmen killed making multiple passes on DZs, pilots taking heavy fire on multiple runs to execute their orders that no troopers be returned to England. Consider also that pilots crisscrossed the peninsula and DZs, searching for the DZs with the full knowledge that successive waves of aircraft were incoming just minutes apart! 821 C-47s in the same airspace with no airtraffic control and marked with dim blue lights meant to be viewed from behind. It amazes me that there were no middair collisions!
GENERAL INFORMATION In the past several months, the webmaster has interviewed about a dozen WW2 C-47 pilots as well as a like number of crew members and several Glider pilots. I also attended the Oct. 2000 reunion of the 438th TCG. They told me that their group received extensive pre invasion training in instrument-only flying, in conditions of poor visibility. They claim they were the only group which received hours of this training, which was why they were chosen to fly the lead serials out of Greenham Common on D-Day. Their passengers on that night drop were of 2/502 and 3/502.
It is interesting to note that the 438th was able to remain in formation for 3-4 minutes in conditions of almost total fog, when they entered the unexpected cloudbanks at the west edge of the Cotentin that night. However, it is worth mentioning that although many of their passengers were dropped in the DZ 'A' area, that elements of the 438th dropped the entire 2nd battalion of the 502 PIR on the wrong DZ. Instead of landing near their objective at St Martin de Varreville, the 2/502 was dropped in a neat and concentrated area on Drop Zone 'C', between Hiesville-St Marie du Mont. The ill-effects of that misdrop proved minimal because:
a)The group landed within the consolidated Airborne bridgehead, making them less vulnerable to enemy reaction, and
b) Their assigned objective, the artillery battery near St Martin, had already been neutralized as a result of pre invasion bombing.
Former RAF Langar
The airfield was opened in September 1942 and during World War II it was used by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force Ninth Air Force. It was also known as USAAF Station 490, Station Code: LA.
Langar airfield was built during the early months of 1942 to Class A bomber airfield specifications. The three concrete runways were a main of 6,000ft at 01-19, and two secondaries of 4,200 ft at 07-25 and 4,200 ft at 13-31. The original 36 hardstandings were of the pan type but in the summer of 1943 14 loops were added to bring the total to 50. The original specification required the usual two T-2 hangars but an additional two were added when the airfield was required to hold 32 Horsa gliders in store. Accommodation was mainly Nissen type buildings which catered for 2.253 persons.
The frist flying unit arrived in September 1942 when No. 207 Squadron arrived with Lancaster bombers from RAF Bottesford. 207 Squadron was a major RAF Bomber Command unit and participated in major raids on occupied Europe.
Also, in September 1942, A.V. Roe Ltd prepared to use a large hangar complex on the west side of the Langgar/Harby road to carry out major repair and maintenance of Lancasters.
The RAF remained until October 1943 when it moved to RAF Spilsby.
In November 1943 Langar was transferred to the USAAF Ninth Air Force as a troop carrier group base. The airfield was used as a reception base for troop carrier groups flying in from the United States. The 10th Service Group and 27th Mobile Repair Maintenance Squadron was established to support these transitory groups before they moved onto their permanent airfields.
435th Troop Carrier Group
The 435th Troop Carrier Group arrived at Langar on 3 November 1943 from Baer AAF Indiana with four squadrons of 56 C-47s. Operational squadrons of the group were:
75th Troop Carrier Squadron (SH)
76th Troop Carrier Squadron (CW)
77th Troop Carrier Squadron (IB)
78th Troop Carrier Squadron (CM)
The 435th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing.
The group began operational training at the airfield, however it was moved on 25 January 1944 to RAF Welford to train alongside the 101st Airborne Division.
438th Troop Carrier Group
Langar remained vacant for about a month until the 438th Troop Carrier Wing arrived in early February 1944 from Baer AAF, Indiana. Operational squadrons of the group were:
87th Troop Carrier Squadron (3X)
88th Troop Carrier Squadron (M2)
89th Troop Carrier Squadron (4U)
90th Troop Carrier Squadron (Q7)
The 438th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. Like its predecessor, the group was moved south after a month to a new station at RAF Greenham Common.
441st Troop Carrier Group
The 441st Troop Carrier Group arrived at Langar on 17 March Baer AAF Indiana with four squadrons of 56 C-47s. Those being:
99th Troop Carrier Squadron (3J)
100th Troop Carrier Squadron (8C)
301st Troop Carrier Squadron (Z4)
302d Troop Carrier Squadron (2L)
The 441st was a group of Ninth Air Force's 50th Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command. It was scheduled to be assigned to Langar, however it only remained until 25 April until being moved to RAF Merryfield.
IX Troop Carrier Command depot
Although no further flying combat units were stationed at Langar, the airfield became a major maintenance and supply depot for the IX Troop Carrier Command. In addition, Langar became a center for assembly and modification of CG-4A Waco Gliders, primarily the fitting of reinforced noses for better crew protection in rough landings. During this time several hundred gliders were assembled there.
In August 1944 Langar was released to RAF control for operational use, however the need for forward operating bases in connection with Operation Market-Garden, the 441st Troop Carrier Group using the airfield as part of the operation.
On 17 September 45 C-47s of the 441st TCG dropped paratroops of the 82d Airborne near Nimegen Holland. Five aircraft were lost to Flak. On 18 September, 40 C-47s, all towing CG-4A gliders carried out a reinforcement mission without loss or casualties.
No further missions were flown until 23 September when 90 C-47s, all towing gliders to Holland encountered flak that brought down one C-47. This was the last operational mission by the USAAF from Langar, and ended the association of the Ninth Air Force with the airfield
In October 1944, RAF Bomber Command returned to Langar moving in with No. 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit with 32 Lanasters which used the station until March 1945. Although retained by the Ministry of Defence, the airfield was deserted until 1952 when the Royal Canadian Air Force took up residence.
Postwar NATO use
After the war, the field was used by the Royal Canadian Air Force as RCAF Langar as part of NATO, the only Canadian base in the UK. The 137th (Transport) Flight operated five Bristol Freighters and a Beech C-45. A major unit was the 312th Supply Depot handling spares for F-86 Sabres.
The base was closed in 1963 which ended RAF Langar's military use.
Today the airfield is the base for the British Parachute Schools, who use the original control tower for their headquarters. The former Avro industrial complex is used by private industry.
The airfield is relatively intact, with most of its wartime facilities still in use.
World War II Forum: Army/Airforce, 438th Troop Carrier Group, 89th Troop Carrier Squadron, European Theater
My Father, Mac O. Martin (07/07/20 to 08/09/79) was a T/Sgt. Aerial Engineer for a C-47. He was stationed in England and later Italy.
Battles/Campaigns: Ardennes, Central Europe, Rhineland, Normandy, Rome-Arno, No. & So. France.
Special Decorations and Citations: EAME Theater Medal, Unit Citation Air Medal with OLC
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438th Troop Carrier Group (USAAF) - History
Royal Air Force Station Langar or more simply RAF Langar is a former Royal Air Force station located near the village of Langar, Nottinghamshire, England. The airfield is located approximately east-southeast of Radcliffe on Trent and about north-northwest of London, England. Opened in 1942 during World War II, it was used by both the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces. During the war it was used primarily as troop carrier transport airfield. After the war it was provided to the Royal Canadian Air Force which used it as an operational base until 1963. Today the airfield is the location for the British Parachute Schools, who use the original control tower for their headquarters. The former Avro industrial complex is used by private industry.
The first flying unit arrived in September 1942 when No. 207 Squadron arrived with Lancaster bombers from RAF Bottesford. 207 Squadron was a major RAF Bomber Command unit and participated in major raids on occupied Europe. Also, in September 1942, A.V. Roe Ltd. prepared to use a large hangar complex on the west side of the Langar/Harby road to carry out major repair and maintenance of Lancasters. The squadron remained until October 1943 when it moved to RAF Spilsby.
In November 1943 Langar was transferred to the USAAF Ninth Air Force as a troop carrier group base. Langar was known as USAAF Station AAF-490 for security reasons by the USAAF during the war, and by which it was referred to instead of location. It's USAAF Station Code was "LA".
435th Troop Carrier Group
The 435th Troop Carrier Group arrived at Langar on 3 November 1943 from Baer AAF Indiana with four squadrons of 56 C-47s. Operational squadrons of the group were: * 75th Troop Carrier Squadron (SH, then CK) * 76th Troop Carrier Squadron (CW) * 77th Troop Carrier Squadron (IB) * 78th Troop Carrier Squadron (CM) The 435th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. The group began operational training at the airfield, however it was moved on 25 January 1944 to RAF Welford to train alongside the 101st Airborne Division.
438th Troop Carrier Group
Langar remained vacant for about a month until the 438th Troop Carrier Group arrived in early February 1944 from Baer AAF, Indiana. Operational squadrons of the group were: * 87th Troop Carrier Squadron (3X) * 88th Troop Carrier Squadron (M2) * 89th Troop Carrier Squadron (4U) * 90th Troop Carrier Squadron (Q7) The 438th TCW was assigned to the 53rd Troop Carrier Wing. Like its predecessor, the group was moved south after a month to a new station at RAF Greenham Common.
441st Troop Carrier Group
The 441st Troop Carrier Group arrived at Langar on 17 March Baer AAF Indiana with four squadrons of 56 C-47s. Those being: * 99th Troop Carrier Squadron (3J) * 100th Troop Carrier Squadron (8C) * 301st Troop Carrier Squadron (Z4) * 302d Troop Carrier Squadron (2L) The 441st was a group of Ninth Air Force's 50th Troop Carrier Wing, IX Troop Carrier Command. It was scheduled to be assigned to Langar, however it only remained until 25 April until being moved to RAF Merryfield. In August 1944 Langar was returned to RAF control for operational use.
In October 1944, RAF Bomber Command returned to Langar moving in with No. 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit with 32 Lancasters which used the station until March 1945. Although retained by the Ministry of Defence. The airfield was used after the war for a short time for prisoners of war and then for displaced persons. Early in 1952 it was taken over by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to become a supply station be for their NATO squadrons. The airfield was constructed on the old domestic and technical sites with completely new buildings, to a much higher standard than the Air Ministry was used to, by an English design team led by architect Peter Benton, under the direction of an RCAF officer. For 12 months nearly 1000 men worked constructing the station, which worked around two two acre warehouses. another was added later and is now in private ownership. The first RCAF personnel arrived autumn 1952. The airfield was used for eleven years (1952–1963) as 30 Air Materiel Base, RCAF Langar. Langar was the RCAF's primary supply station for No. 1 Air Division RCAF in Europe, a complex of four fighter bases set up in nearby RAF North Luffenham and in France and West Germany by Canada to help meet NATO's European air defence commitments during the Cold War. It was the only Canadian airfield in the UK. The RCAF established No. 30 Air Materiel Base (AMB), to handle the transportation of supplies, equipment, aircraft, personnel, and other support essential for the operation of the four NATO air bases and its headquarters. Several units were attached to 30 AMB No. 137 (Transport) Flight, which was attached to the Movements Unit of 30 AMB, operated several types of aircraft including six Bristol Freighters, one Beechcraft Expeditor, and two Dakotas. No. 312 Supply Depot handled medical supplies and spares for mechanical equipment, including aircraft (e.g. the F-86 Sabre) and vehicles. No. 314 Technical Services Unit was tasked with inspecting all supplies before they were forwarded to operational bases. This unit also assisted with repair contracts and provided technical advice.
With the facility released from military control in 1963, the airfield (now called Langar Airfield) is the base for the British Parachute Schools, who use the original control tower for their headquarters. The former Avro industrial complex is used by private industry. There is a go-kartingbr>track
The airfield is relatively intact, with most of its wartime facilities still in use. The main runway (01/19) and NE/SW secondary (07/25) are still active and in use. The original technical site is still in use, along with both wartime T-2 hangars. Additional postwar hangars and a secondary maintenance site built to the northwest, along with many of the loop dispersal hardstands around the wartime perimeter track still exist.