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43rd Airlift Wing [43rd AW]

The 43rd Airlift Wing was reactivated at Pope AFB, NC, April 1, 1997. The wing operates two squadrons of C-130 Hercules. It is part of 21st Air Force, McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, and Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base, IL. As Air Mobility Command's only active-duty C-130 wing, the unit is composed of two flying squadrons, an aerial port squadron, the only active Air Force aeromedical evacuation squadron, and an operations support squadron. Additionally, the group supports two tenant A-10 squadrons and transient employment airlift aircraft meeting either operational commitments or conducting combat air mobility/airdrop testing and joint force training.

For anyone who has ever been stationed at Pope AFB, teamwork is a familiar concept. But since 1999, it has become even more customary as the Air Force evolved toward an expeditionary warrior mindset. In 1999 Pope's 43rd Airlift Wing was designated as the lead mobility wing for operations such as humanitarian relief under the expeditionary aerospace force concept.

Pope Air Force Base helps provide the Rapid Global Mobility of the United States Air Force - one of the service's six core competencies outlined in "Global Engagement: A Vision for the Twenty-First-Century Air Force." It is capable of deploying a self-sustaining war fighting package anywhere in the world at a moment's notice, to form our nation's premiere forced entry capability with the United States Army. It can also provide theater airlift for other contingencies and humanitarian missions around the world such as Operation Joint Endeavour in Bosnia or Operation Southern Watch in Southwest Asia.

To carry out these missions, the wing has two operational squadrons assigned - the 2nd and 41st Airlift Squadrons -- flying C-130s. The C-130 is recognized as the workhorse of the Air Force airlift fleet, capable of delivering troops, supplies and equipment directly to the battlefield in all weather conditions.

The wing traces its roots back to the 43rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), which was constituted November 20, 1940, and activated January 15, 1941, at Langley Field, VA, a little more than a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The wing first began training and flying some antisubmarine patrols along the New England coast with B-17, B-18, A-29 and LB-30 aircraft. In February 1942, it moved to the southwest Pacific and was assigned to Fifth Air Force, where it would operate from August 1942 to November 1944. First equipped with B-17s and later converting to the B-24 in mid-1943, the 43rd operated from bases in Australia, New Guinea and Owi Island, making numerous attacks on Japanese shipping in the Netherlands East Indies and the Bismarck Archipelago.

The group also experimented with skip bombing during this time and used this method for some shipping strikes, including attacks on Japanese vessels during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea March 2-4, 1943, in which repeated air attacks destroyed a large enemy convoy carrying reinforcements to New Guinea.

Other operations in this period included support for ground forces on New Guinea; attacks on airfields and installations in New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, Celebes, Halmahera, Yap, Palau and the southern Philippines; and long-range raids against oil refineries on Ceram and Borneo. The group earned three Distinguished Unit Citations during these operations.

In addition to unit citations, Capt. Jay Zeamer Jr., pilot, and 2nd Lt. Joseph R. Sarnoski, bombadier, each won the Medal of Honor for action while on a photographic mapping mission over the Solomon Islands June 16, 1943. When the mission was nearly completed their aircraft was assaulted by about 20 interceptors. Although painfully wounded, Sarnoski remained at the nose guns and fired at the enemy until he died at his post. Sustaining severe injuries, Zeamer maneuvered the plane until the enemy had broken combat, then directed the flight to a base more than 500 miles away.

After moving to the Philippines in November 1944, the group attacked shipping along the Asiatic coast; struck industries, airfields and installations in China and Formosa; and supported ground forces on Luzon. For actions during this short period, the group earned the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. It then moved to Ie Shima in July 1945 and conducted missions against airfields and railways in Japan and against shipping in the Inland Sea and the Sea of Japan. The group returned to the Philippines in December 1945 and was inactivated April 29, 1946.

The unit was reactivated October 1, 1946, at Davis-Monthan Field, AZ., as the 43rd Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), where it would become one of Strategic Air Command's first-line strategic bombardment wings for the next 13 years, including aerial refueling as part of its mission for all but the first two years. The group was redesignated as a wing November 7, 1947. In addition, from November 1947 through December 1948, the unit served as a double-sized wing controlling the tactical and support components from another SAC wing. In July 1948, the unit was redesignated as the 43rd Bombardment Wing (Medium).

Equipped first with B-29s, then with B-50s, and later to B-47 bombers, and from B-29 to KB-29 to KC-97 to KC-135 tankers, the wing trained, conducted long-range test missions and set new flight records, including: flying two B-29s around the world in 1948 in 15 days; the first nonstop flight around the world in 94 hours and 40 seconds in 1949 in "Lucky Lady II," a B-50 commanded by Capt. James G. Gallagher, for which the group earned the Mackay Trophy; and establishing a jet endurance record in 1954 by keeping a B-47 airborne for 47 hours and 35 minutes.

In 1960 the wing converted to B-58 aircraft, then still in its evaluation stage. From March 1960 to July 1961, the wing participated in Category II and III evaluation of the new bomber, operating YRB-58, TB-58, B-58 and TF-102 aircraft, while at the same time operating a combat crew training school for SAC aircrews in the B-58 weapons system.

After July 1961, the wing continued further B-58 evaluations until June 1962. From then until the close of 1969 the wing served as one of two SAC B-58 wings with a strategic bombardment mission. Additionally, from August 1964 until its inactivation in January 1970, the wing controlled a KC-135 refueling squadron.

During the 1960s, the wing continued to set new records for flight. On Jan. 12, 1961, members of the wing flew a B-58 on a 2,000-kilometer course at an average speed of 1,061.68 mph and a 1,000-kilometer course at an average speed of 1,200.194 mph. Two days later another B-58 averaged 1,284.73 mph on a 1,000-kilometer course, and the crew was awarded the Thompson Trophy.

In May 1961 a wing B-58 flew a closed course of 669.438 miles at 1,302.048 mph, and its crew was awarded the Bleriot Trophy. That same month a B-58 flew from New York City to Paris in three hours, 14 minutes, and 44.53 seconds, establishing a new transatlantic speed record. The flight averaged 1,089.36 mph. The crew subsequently received both the Mackay and Harmon International Trophies.

During a race in 1962 a wing B-58 flew from Los Angeles to New York City at an average speed of 1,214.65 mph, from New York City to Los Angeles at an average speed of 1,081.8 mph, and from Los Angeles to New York and back in four hours, 41 minutes, and 14.91 seconds, at an average of 1,044.46 mph. The Bendix Trophy was awarded to the crew in 1962 and the Mackay Trophy in 1963.

The wing was inactive for approximately two months in 1970 as it moved to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and reactivated as the 43rd Strategic Wing in April, serving its first two months there as a base support organization. On July 1, 1970, the 43rd once again assumed a combat role, using attached aircrews and aircraft to participate in SAC's Arc Light mission in Southeast Asia until mid-August.

Thereafter, until February 1972, the wing used its attached resources to provide ground alert at Andersen Air Force Base for quick response, if and when needed. From February 1972 until August 1973, the wing again was engaged in the Southeast Asia conflict, and from July 1972 to November 1973, all of its base and support components were temporarily under control of other organizations, permitting the 43rd to concentrate on its combat mission. Combat operations ceased in Vietnam in January 1973, and in Cambodia in mid-August 1973.

By early 1974, the wing was back on a peacetime footing, providing routine training and ground alert with B-52 and KC-135 aircraft, the latter provided by other SAC organizations on loan. During 1975, the 43rd Wing provided logistical and medical support for many thousands of Vietnam refugees who were evacuated from their homeland and were temporarily at Guam awaiting resettlement.

Since 1974, the wing trained to remain proficient in strategic and conventional warfare capabilities. It also controlled temporarily assigned tankers and crews participating in the Pacific (formerly Andersen) Tanker Task Force that supported SAC operations in the western Pacific, tactical fighter ferry movements and air refueling, and other training requirements. In July 1986 the wing activated the 65th Strategic Squadron to control the temporary duty air refueling forces and the wing returned to a bombardment designation in November 1986.

In September 1990, the wing was once again inactivated. It then moved to Malmstrom Air Force Base, MT, where it was reactivated and redesignated as the 43rd Air Refueling Wing in June 1992. In July 1994, the wing was once again designated as a group, which became a tenant unit at Malmstrom under Air Mobility Command. In October 1996, the 43rd inactivated when its tanker aircraft were moved to MacDill Air Force Base, FL. Soon after, the 43rd was reactivated and redesignated as an airlift wing at Pope Air Force Base after the Air Force announced the realignment of stateside C-130s from Air Combat Command to Air Mobility Command.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommendedto realign Pope AFB, NC. It would distribute the 43d Airlift Wing's C-130E aircraft (25 aircraft) to the 314th Airlift Wing, Little Rock AFB, AR.

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