323rd Air Expeditionary Wing

323rd Air Expeditionary Wing

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 323d Air Expeditionary Wing

caption= 323d Air Expeditionary Wing Insignia
dates= 1942 - 1993
country= United States
branch= United States Air Force
role= Training
command_structure= Air Training Command
The 323d Air Expeditionary Wing is an USAF wing which was last inactivated in 2008, after serving briefly as the USAF headquarters for a NATO summit. During its history, the 323d was previously known as the 323d Bombardment Group, 323d Bombardment Wing, and 323d Fighter Bomber Wing, and 323d Flying Training Wing with various missions. Its last station was Mather AFB, California. The unit had fought during World War II as part of Ninth Air Force.


Operational Units

* 449th Flying Training Squadron
* 450th Flying Training Squadron
* 451st Flying Training Squadron
* 452d Flying Training Squadron
* 453d Flying Training Squadron
* 454th Flying Training Squadron
* 455th Flying Training Squadron

Aircraft Flown

* Martin B-26 Marauder (1942-1945)
* Douglas B-26 Invader (1949-1951)
* North American F-86 Sabre (1955-1957)
* North American F-100 Super Sabre (1956-1957)
* Boeing T-43 (1973-1993)
* Cessna T-37 Tweet (1973-1993)

Stations assigned

United States Army Air Forces
* Columbia AAB, SC 4 Aug 1942
* MacDill Field, FL 21 Aug 1942
* Myrtle Beach Bombing Range, SC 2 Nov 1942-25 Apr 1943
* RAF Horham, England 1 May 1943 (Station 119)
* RAF Earls Colne, England 14 Jun 1943 (Station 358)
* RAF Beaulieu, England 21 Jul 1944 (Station 408)
* Lessay, France 26 Aug 1944 (ALG A-20)
* Chartres, France 21 Sep 1944 (ALG A-40)
* Laon/Athies, France 13 Oct 1944 (ALG A-69)
* Denain/Prouvy, France Feb 1945 (ALG A-83)
* Gablingen, Germany 15 May 1945 (ALG R-77)
* Landsberg, Germany 16 Jul 1945
* Clastres, France Oct-Dec 1945 United States Air Force
* Tinker AFB, OK 27 June 1949 - 28 Mar 1951
* Bunker Hill AFB, IN 8 Aug 1955-1 Sep 1957
* Mather AFB, CA 1 Apr 1973 - 30 Sep 1993Note: ALG = "Advanced Landing Ground" designation of temporary airfields constructed or used by the Allies in Europe following the D-Day landings in 1944.

Operational history

World War II

Constituted as 323d Bombardment Group (Medium) on 19 Jun 1942. Activated on 4 Aug 1942. Trained with B-26's. Moved to England, Apr-Jun 1943. Arrived at RAF Horham in Suffolk on 12 May 1943 from Myrtle Beach AAF South Carolina. The group was assigned to the Eighth Air Force 3d Bomb Wing and flew Martin B-26B/C Marauders with a Horizontal white tail band for its group marking. Operational squadrons of the 323d were:

* 453d Bomb Squadron (VT)
* 454th Bomb Squadron (RJ)
* 455th Bomb Squadron (YU)
* 456th Bomb Squadron (WT)

Relocated to RAF Earls Colne and replaced the 94th Bomb Wing on 14 June 1943 and inaugurated medium-altitude bombing missions on 16 July 1943 and during that summer its principal targets were marshalling yards, airfields, industrial plants, military installations, and other targets in France, Belgium, and Holland.

In common with other Marauder units of the 3d Bomb Wing, the 323d was transferred to Ninth Air Force on 16 October 1943. Tactical missions were flown against V-weapon sites along the coast of France and attacked airfields at Leeuwarden and Venlo in conjunction with the Allied campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20-25 Feb 1944.

The 323d helped to prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing coastal defenses, marshalling yards, and airfields in France and struck roads and coastal batteries on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

On 21 July the group was moved south to RAF Beaulieu in Hampshire, a move designed to extend their range over western France.

Within a few days. over 60 B-26s were in residence and operations were well under way. During the following five weeks. 28 missions were flown from Beaulieu without loss, although one B-26 crash-landed near the airfield after running out of fuel.

Between August 16 and 26, the 323d moved to Lessay airfield in France (A-20), the main movement of aircraft taking place on the 26th. By VE-Day, the group was based near Gablingen, Germany (R-77) and participated in the disarmament program. It returned to the United States in December and was inactivated on 12 December 1945.

323d Bomber Group (Air Force Reserve)

In accordance with Tenth Air Force General Order (10 AF GO) #41, June 26, 1947. The 323d Bombardment Group (Light) was alloted to the Air Force Reserve, then activated on 9 Sep 1947. Ordered to active duty on 10 Mar 1951 at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. Operational squadrons were the 453d, 454th, 455th and 456th Bombardment Squadrons.

Even before the bomb wing’s activation, it was decided that it should be equipped with the respected Douglas A-26 Invader light bombardment aircraft. The bomb wing’s reservists were indeed fortunate to receive several of these light bombers by mid-1948, with the promise of more.

By April 1948 the 323d Bombardment Group became the 323d Bombardment Wing (Light) on the same date, with Lieutenant Colonel R. Ahern commanding. From that point, the 323d Bombardment Wing became the focal point for Air Force Reserve activities in Oklahoma.

The wing was inactivated on 17 Mar 1951.

323d Fighter-Bomber Wing

Reactivated at Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana 8 Aug 1955 and assigned to Tactical Air Command's Ninth Air Force. Initially training with North American F-86Fs, these were quickly upgraded to the North American F-86H Sabre and then to the North American F-100A/D in 1956 to become proficient in tactical air operations. Operational squadrons were:

* 323d Fighter-Bomber Group
** 453d Fighter-Bomber Squadron
(Aug 1955 - March 1956, F-86H) (F-100A, March 1956, May 1957)
** 454th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
(Aug 1955 - March 1956, F-86H) (F-100A, March 1956, May 1957)
** 455th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
(Aug 1955 - March 1956, F-86H) (F-100A, March 1956, May 1957)

* 386th Fighter-Bomber Group
** 552d Fighter-Bomber Squadron (December 1956 - August 1957, F-100D)
** 553d Fighter-Bomber Squadron (December 1956 - August 1957, F-100D)
** 554th Fighter-Bomber Squadron (December 1956 - August 1957, F-100D)

The wing's aircraft wore a band on the tail, and around the nose edged with small black checkers.

In 1955, Strategic Air Command (SAC) began stationing units at the base, and the Eighth Air Force claimed jurisdiction of Bunker Hill AFB in September 1957. With the turnover of the base to SAC, the 323d was phased down and replaced by the SAC 401st Air Base Group on 1 September 1957.

323d Flying Training Wing

Reactivated as Air Training Command navigator training wing at Mather AFB, California on 1 April 1973, replacing the 3535th Navigator Training Wing which had existed at Mather since 1946. The 323 FTW also conducted advanced training for winged navigators as navigator-bombardiers and electronic warfare officers. The following operational squadrons were redesignated as a result of the reactivation:

* 449th Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3535 NTS)
* 450th Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3536 NTS)
* 451st Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3537 NTS)
* 452d Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3538 NTS)
* 453d Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3539 NTS)
* 454th Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3540 NTS) (T-43A)
* 455th Flying Training Squadron (Formerly 3541 NTS) (T-37B)

Note: T-43A and T-37B aircraft were flown by all squadrons, although the aircraft were directly controlled by the 454 FTS and 455 FTS.

The 323 FTW also operated Mather AFB as the "host" wing for the installation (Strategic Air Command's 320th Bombardment Wing and the Air Force Reserve's 940th Air Refueling Group, now 940th Air Refueling Wing were "tenant" wings) and published "Navigator" magazine. The 323 FTW also conducted operational test and evaluation of the T-43A aircraft, 1 August 1973 – 31 October 1973 and began conversion from the T-29 to the T-43 shortly afterwards. As the only USAF school teaching air navigation, the wing served not only the USAF, but also the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and friendly foreign nations.

With the decommissioning of the U.S. Navy's Training Squadron TWENTY-NINE (VT-29) at NAS Corpus Christi, TX in 1975, the 323 FTW also began training U.S. Navy student Naval Flight Officers, NATO/Allied student naval flight officers under U.S. Navy responsibility and U.S. Coast Guard enlisted navigators in July 1976. Instructor Naval Flight Officers, mostly from the Navy's P-3 community, were also assigned to the 323 FTW, teaching USAF, USN and NATO/Allied students.

Support of the Marine Aerial Navigation School (MANS) for U.S. Marine Corps enlisted KC-130 navigators also began in July 1976 when MANS moved from NAS Corpus Christi to Mather AFB. However, MANS conducted its own navigation training independently. In view of this influx of naval personnel, Naval Air Training Unit Mather (NAVAIRTU Mather) was established in 1976. In order to place the Navy on par with the 323 FTW commander, a USN Captain or Captain-selectee naval flight officer who had already had command of an opertional combat P-3 squadron was placed as the commanding officer of NAVAIRTU, with administrative claimancy over all naval personnel (students, instructors and support staff) assigned to the 323 FTW.

The 323 FTW began training female USAF navigators in March 1977 and female USN naval flight officers in 1981. Female USAF instructor navigators followed in the 1983–84 time frame. In 1986, LT Kathryn P. Hire, USN a former navigator and aircraft mission commander in the RP-3D oceanographic research aircraft, became the first female USN NFO Instructor in the 323 FTW. Of note is that in 1993, then-LCDR Hire would become the first female assigned to the combat version of the P-3C Orion, and as a CDR and CAPT, would become a NASA astronaut, flying the STS-90 mission in 1998.

On 15 December 1991, the 323d implemented the objective wing concept and the 449th, 450th, 451st, 452d and 432d FTSs were inactivated and the wing was reorganized to a single squadron of aircraft type. All T-43As were assigned to the 445 FTS and T-37Bs to the 455 FTS. On 1 July 1993, following the disestablishment of the Air Training Command, the wing was assigned to the new Air Education and Training Command. The T-43 and T-47 aircraft assigned to the 454th and 455th FTSs were assigned tail codes of "NT", but due to the BRAC closure of Mather AFB on 30 September 1993, the 323 FTW was inactivated, with the wing's mission and T-43 aircraft being reassigned to the 12th Flying Training Wing (12 FTW) and the 558th Flying Training Squadron (558 FTS) at Randolph AFB, Texas. Because of the pre-existing presence of T-37B aircraft at Randolph AFB for T-37 flight instructor training, the Mather T-37s were sent to long-term storage at AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

See also

* Eighth Air Force
* Ninth Air Force
* Tactical Air Command
* Air Training Command


* Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now 1994. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
* Freeman, Roger A. (1996) The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle ISBN 1854092723
* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
* Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
* Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links

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