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HISTORY OF THE 440TH AIRLIFT WING

Posted 4/15/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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C-47
1940's -- Douglas C-47 "Skytrains", 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Wing, loaded with paratroopers on their way for the invasion of southern France, 15 August 1944. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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The 440th Airlift Wing's origins go back to 1943 at Baer Field an Army Air Force facility near Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The 440th Troop Carrier Group had 52 C-47s Skytrain transports (affectionately nicknamed the "Gooney Bird") and a number of Waco CG-4A Hadrian gliders assigned to the 95th, 96th, 97th and 98th Troop Carrier Squadrons.
The unit's first operational training was done at Alliance Army Air Base, Alliance, Nebraska, and at Pope Field, Fort Bragg, N.C.  It was at Fort Bragg that the 440th first practiced with live paratroopers from the 82nd and 17th Airborne Divisions, and other elements of the 18th Airborne Corps; organizations with which the 440th would make history in 1944 and 1945.  The 440th left the U.S. for England on Feb. 21, 1944 following an 11,000 mile route that took them to South America and Africa before arriving at Bottesford, Nottinghamshire, England.  The pace of training increased as the 440th moved to Exeter, England, the base from which the 440th took off for the invasion of France.

The 440th's first operational airdrop mission was the airdropping of the 3rd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry and two platoons of Company C, 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division, from 45 C-47s at 0143 GMT  on D-Day, June 6, 1944, behind the Normandy, France landing beaches of Omaha and Utah. 
The men of the 440th delivered Companies G, H, I, and Headquarters Company of the 508th Parachute Infantry the 376th Parachute Field Artillery of the 82nd Airborne Division to a drop zone in Southeastern Holland as its part of Operation Market Garden, the operation that became known as the "Bridge Too Far Mission."  The 440th also took part in the invasion of  Southern France, and the aerial re-supply of the 101st Airborne Division while that unit was surrounded in Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge. Aircraft from the 440th also carried gasoline and supplies to General George S. Patton's Third Army as it fought its way across France into Germany in 1944 - 45.  The 440th was reunited with the 17th Airborne Division in March 1945 when both units took part in the airborne crossing of the Rhine River near Wesel, Germany.
World War II ended and the 440th Troop Carrier Group returned to the United States for deactivation. The wing was reactivated as a Reserve Flying Training Group in 1947 at Minneapolis, Minn. Two years later, the unit's mission changed and it was renamed the 440th Reserve Troop Carrier Wing. The wing remained in Minneapolis until November 1957 when it was transferred to the new Air Reserve Station in Milwaukee. 

General Mitchell International Airport - Air Reserve Station
The Milwaukee County Park Commission purchased the Milwaukee home of the 440th Airlift Wing in 1926, a 160-acre site known as Hamilton Field. The U.S. Army changed the name in 1942 to General Billy Mitchell Field. Milwaukee County officials changed the name again in 1986, to General Mitchell International Airport.
The 924th Reserve Training Wing was activated at Billy Mitchell Field in February 1952. It was re-designated as the 438th Fighter Bomber Wing on July 1, 1952. The Air Reserve changed the unit's mission again in 1953 when it became the 2473rd Air Force Reserve Training Center (AFRTC). During this time period, the Reservists flew the T-6 Texan, F-51 Mustang and the F-80 Shooting Star aircraft.
The 2473rd AFRTC began acquiring land in the southwest corner of the airport in 1954 and began construction of training facilities in 1955 with $2.8 million that the Air Force Reserve had provided. The first buildings were completed in 1956. One of the first buildings to be completed was the 69,428 sq. ft. aircraft maintenance hangar. The heating plant, base supply and petroleum oils and lubricants areas were also completed in 1956.
The 2473rd was deactivated in 1957, and at the same time the existing 440th was transferred from Minneapolis to the newly constructed Air Force Reserve installation. The Air Force assigned an airlift mission to the unit again. After the move to Milwaukee, the 440th Troop Carrier Group became the 440th Airlift Wing, and the Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar aircraft was assigned to the wing. 

The 440th in the 1960s
Construction continued at the reserve site. The Survival Equipment Shop, was finished in 1962.  The 440th Airlift Wing was called to active duty during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Volunteer aircrews also supported military operations in the Dominican Republic in May 1965. Tragedy struck the wing on June 5, 1965 when a C-119 (Flight Number 680) under the command of Maj. Louis Giuntoli was lost without a trace in the infamous Bermuda Triangle area. Nine other wing members were on the plane.
Milwaukee reservists flew emergency supplies to snowbound Indian reservations in the western U.S. in December 1967.  The 440th Troop Carrier Wing went through another name change in 1967 when it became a Reserve Tactical Airlift Wing. Wing personnel also flew equipment and supplies to Gulfport, Miss., in August 1969, after Hurricane Camille devastated the Gulf Coast.
Wisconsin reservists' efforts did not go unnoticed. The Air Force Association named the 440th as its Outstanding Reserve unit in 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1968. 

The 440th in the 1970s
The decade began with a new unit being assigned to the 440th, the Chicago based 928th Tactical Airlift Group in 1970. The relatively new name (Tactical Airlift Wing) and new unit (928th) were followed up with some more up-to-date equipment. The wing's C-119s were replaced with C-130A Hercules transport planes in 1971.
New facilities were also completed in 1970s. The Non-Destructive Inspection Shop, Aerospace Ground Equipment Shop, and a Fuel Cell Hangar were all completed in 1975. Three years later, the Propulsion (Engine) Shop was finished.
Weather emergencies along the eastern U.S. coastline brought the 440th into action in February 1978. The wing flew more than 145 tons of equipment and supplies into several areas after severe blizzards brought life on the coast to a standstill.
The Air Force Reserve took on a new mission in 1979. In January of that year the 440th started a regular rotation with other Reserve and National Guard units that took them to Panama to support the operations of the U.S. Southern Command. Rotations to that Central American country lasted 2-3 weeks at a time. 

The 440th in the 1980s
The low point of the 1980s occurred on Jan. 22, 1985 when C-130A (#56501) commanded by Maj. Mike Durante crashed in the sea off the northern coast of Honduras while trying to land at Trujillo, Honduras. The plane carried a seven-man crew and 14 passengers. There were no survivors.
The highlight of the 1980s was the arrival of factory fresh C-130H Hercules aircraft. The local Reserve Officers Association, the 440th Community Council and numerous civic leaders led the efforts to convince Washington authorities to equip the 440th with eight new C-130s. The appropriation was approved and the aircraft were delivered in 1989. The C-130As the wing had been flying were apparently not just old, but unique. One of the 440th's C-130s was flown to Washington, D.C. and is now part of the Smithsonian's aircraft collection. The first C-130H was dubbed "The Spirit of Wisconsin."
The wing's continuing record of outstanding performance was recognized in 1987 with the award of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. 

The 440th in the 1990s
The 95th TAS began the decade with honors when it was named the Best in the Air Force Reserve with the award of the Grover Loening Trophy in 1990. Elements of the 440th were part of Operations Desert Shield in 1990 and Desert Storm in 1991. Aircraft, flight crews, maintenance specialists and a variety of support specialists deployed to operating locations in several Persian Gulf States where they provided airlift support to U.S. and coalition military forces. The aircraft and personnel were drawn from the wing's units at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. (927th TAG), General Mitchell IAP-ARS (95th TAS) and O'Hare IAP, Chicago (928th TAG). The 927th performed the wing's first tactical re-supply mission as part of Operation Desert Storm. The 440th Medical Squadron was activated in January 1991 and was deployed to Germany in anticipation of large numbers of casualties, which thankfully never occurred.
The 440th Airlift Wing was one of many Reserve and Guard C-130 units that provided airlift support to NATO and U.S. operations in the Balkan region as part of Operation Provide Promise in 1993. The 440th swept almost all the C-130 honors at the 1993 Air Mobility Command rodeo. The wing was recognized as the Best of the Best in the competition.
The next two years were a busy operational period for the wing. The 440th took part in Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti) and Operation Safe Borders (support of U.S. Army forces in Honduras while preparing a defense of the unit before the congressionally mandated Base Realignment and Closure Commission).
Operation Joint Endeavor took elements of the unit back to the Balkans in 1995 and 1996. Wing aircrews flew people and supplies into and out of embattled Bosnia. The Aircraft Maintenance Shop was also finished in 1996.
Tragedy came to the wing again in 1997 when a 440th C-130H (#88-4408) crashed while attempting to land at Tegucigalpa Airport in Honduras. Three members of the wing were killed in the accident.
The post Vietnam War reorganization of the armed services brought more change to the 440th. Tactical Air Command came to an end and the 440th became an Air Mobility Command gained unit on April 1, 1997.
Tragedies and operational changes did not dull the unit's sharp operational edge. The 440th went through an operation readiness inspection at the Savannah Ga., Combat Readiness Training Center, and received the highest score of any Reserve unit in the previous two years.
The wing went on to show off its operational capabilities in the real during the next calendar year (1999) when the 440th provided 13 percent of the total Reserve and Air National Guard tactical airlift that flew relief supplies into Kosovo as part of Operation Shining Hope. The wing Balkan efforts were complimented by continued support of the Coronet Oak mission throughout 1999 - 2000. Flying operations had been moved from Panama to Puerto Rico but the mission continued. 

The 440th in the 2000s
The Sept. 11, 2001 assault on America hurt the 440th as much as it did the rest of the country. The 440th Security Forces Squadron recalled almost the entire unit and was the first wing unit to deploy members on anti-terror operations. Security Forces Ravens were the first to deploy, but other members of the unit helped conduct prisoner transports from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Naval Station Cuba after Taliban resistance collapsed in Afghanistan. Security specialists were also heavily involved in providing base and personal security measures and anti-terror measures in Afghanistan and Iraq.
On November 26, 2003, two days before Thanksgiving, the wing received a mobilization order for more than 300 aircrew members, aircraft maintenance specialists and general support specialists. By December 15, the wing had six aircraft and about 200 people in Kuwait with more than a dozen operation missions accomplished by that date. The 440th is  still on the job in the Central Command area providing airlift support, aircraft maintenance, security and administrative support from the Horn of Africa to the high desert of Afghanistan.
Since 2001, the 440th has deployed aircraft, crew and support personnel in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. 
The 440th Airlift Wing was one of the Air Force units singled out for drastic change by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).  The Commission recommended that General Mitchell Air Reserve Station be closed in 2008 and the 440th moved to Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina.  The Commission's recommendations were approved by Congress and the President.  The official transfer of the 440th unit flag to Pope was achieved on June 10, 2007.  The transfer of the unit's aircraft and real property was carried out throughout 2007.  The first unit training assembly at Pope AFB was conducted in October 2007.  General Mitchell ARS was officially closed on Feb. 2, 2008.
The BRAC law made the 440th Airlift Wing the first active associate unit in Air Force history.  The active duty 2nd Airlift Squadron and elements of the 43rd Airlift Wing's maintenance units, also based at Pope, are receiving operational direction from the 440th while flying and helping maintain 16 C-130H2 Air Force Reserve Hercules aircraft.


AWARDS AND COMMENDATIONS
· Won the Air Force Association's Outstanding Reserve Unit during 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1968
· 1968 -- Earned Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 14 Feb - 11 Mar for airlift operations to the Vietnam theater.
· 1987 -- 440th earns its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period Oct 1985 - 30 Sep 1987
· 1990 -- 95th TAS recognized as the Best in AFRES with the Grover Leoning Trophy
· 1993 -- 440th earns its second Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 2 Oct 1992 - 2 Oct 1993
· 1993 -- Recognized as the Best of the Best at the AMC Rodeo competition.
· 1998 -- 440th earns its third Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 1 Jun 1997 - 30 Sep 1998
· 1998 -- Receives the highest score for a Reserve Unit in two years. 









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