4th Airlift Squadron

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4th Airlift Squadron
4th Airlift Squadron Boeing C-17A Lot X Globemaster III 98-0050.jpg
4th Airlift Squadron airmen pose in front of C-17A Globemaster III 98-0050 at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, after finishing out a recent 120-day deployment.
Active 1 March 1935 - Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Airlift
Part of 62d Operations Group
Garrison/HQ McChord Air Force Base, Washington
Nickname Fightin' Fourth

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer.jpg
European-African-Middle East Campaign World War II

  • Tunisia
  • Sicily
  • Naples-Foggia
  • Rome-Arno
  • Southern France
  • North Apennines
  • Po Valley
  • India-Burma with Arrowhead

Korean War Streamer.png
Korean War

  • Chinese Communist Forces Intervention
  • First UN Counteroffensive
  • CCF Spring Offensive
  • UN Summer-Fall Offensive.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer.jpg
Armed Forces Expeditionary

  • Operation Just Cause (Panama), 1989-90
Decorations Streamer PUC Army.PNG
Distinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award.jpg
Meritorious Unit Award
US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (13x)
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation Streamer.png
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
VGCP Streamer.jpg
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
4th Airlift Squadron Emblem 4th Airlift Squadron Emblem.jpg

The 4th Airlift Squadron (4 AS) is part of the 62d Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Washington. It operates C-17 Globemaster III aircraft supporting the United States Air Force global reach mission world wide.

Mission Statement[edit]

Provide services and support, which promote quality of life and project global power through combat-proven airlift and airdrop.[citation needed]


World War II[edit]

The squadron's origins begin on 1 October 1933 when it was constituted in the Regular Army Reserve, assigned to the 1st Transport Group in the V Corps Area. It was organized with reserve personnel by March 1934 at Bowman Field, Kentucky. It was authorized to be partially organized in the Army Air Corps as the 4th Provisional Transport Squadron on 1 March 1935 and assigned to the San Antonio Air Depot. Re-designated as the 4th Transport Squadron 25 June 1935. Fully activated, less Reserve personnel on 15 July 1935 at Rockwell Field, California[1] and assigned Bellanca C-27 transports. Its mission was the transport of supplies and equipment from the depot to field units at airfields in the Western United States. In 1938 when Rockwell Field was transferred to the United States Navy, the depot moved to Sacramento where it continued its transport mission.[2]

After the Pearl Harbor Attack, the squadron was transferred to the 62d Troop Carrier Group and re-equipped with C-47 Skytrain transports. Initially transferred to Selfridge Field, Michigan for training, the squadron trained for combat resupply and casualty evacuation mission at several airfields during the spring and summer of 1942. Was ordered deployed to England, assigned to Eighth Air Force in September 1942. Performed intro-theater transport flights of personnel, supply and equipment within England during summer and fall of 1942, reassigned to Twelfth Air Force after Operation Torch invasion of North Africa, initially stationed at Tafaraoui Airfield, Algeria.[3]

In combat, performed resupply and evacuation missions across Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia during North African Campaign. During June 1943, the unit began training with gliders in preparation for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. It towed gliders to Syracuse, Sicily and dropped paratroopers at Catania during the operation. After moving to Sicily, the squadron airdropped supplies to escaped prisoners of war in Northern Italy in October. Operated from Sicily until December until moving to Italian mainland in December.[3]

Supported the Italian Campaign during balance of 1944 supporting partisans in the Balkans. Its unarmed aircraft flew at night over uncharted territory, landing at small unprepared airfields to provide guns, ammunition, clothing, medical supplies, gasoline, and mail to the partisans. It even carried jeeps and mules as cargo. On return trips it evacuated wounded partisans, evadees and escaped prisoners. During the spring of 1944, the squadron was transferred to 10th Air Force in India where it carried combat cargo during the Siege of Myitkyina, Burma. Returning to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) in July 1944, it carried paratroopers during the Invasion of Southern France in August, 1944. The squadron then returned to operations over Italy and in the Balkans until end of combat in Europe, May, 1945. In all the 4th earned nine campaign ribbons during operations in both the European and China-Burma-India theaters in the Second World War.[3]

Korean War[edit]

The squadron returned to the United States in September 1946, being assigned to the troop carrier squadron training school at Bergstrom Field, Texas. When the school closed in July 1947, it was moved to McChord Field, Washington where its parent 62d Troop Carrier Group became the host unit at the airfield. It conducted routine peacetime transport operations, training with Army units at Fort Lewis with simulated combat parachute training drops flying C-46 Commandos and the new C-82 Packet combat cargo aircraft, designed to operate from forward, rugged airfields.[3]

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the squadron was deployed to Japan in December 1950 where it was attached to various Far East Air Forces units for the next year. The squadron was re-equipped with C-54 Skymaster 4-engine cargo aircraft where it flew combat resupply missions over the Korean peninsula, supporting United Nations ground forces with resupply and casualty evacuation flights from rough airfields to and from FEAF Japanese Air Bases. It also conducted trans-pacific aerial transportation from the United States. The squadron returned to McChord in November 1951.[3]

Cold War[edit]

With its return from Korea, the squadron was re-equipped with the new C-124 Globemaster II strategic airlifter. It moved to nearby Larson AFB when McChord was taken over by Air Defense Command in 1952. From Larson AFB, the squadron airlifted troops, blood plasma, aircraft parts, ammunition, medical supplies, and much more, primarily to Japan, in support of the Korean War until the armistice in June 1953. During the balance of the 1950s, the squadron supported the French forces in French Indochina, transporting a replacement French garrison to Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Operation Bali Hai saw the Globemasters fly around the world in a period of 8 to 10 days. The C-124s departed the desert of Moses Lake for Germany and France, where French troops were onloaded for a flight through Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Thailand, and, finally, Vietnam, where the French joined their comrades in Indochina.[3]

By 1955 the Cold War was well under way, and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) set out to build a chain of radar stations on the northernmost reaches of the continent. This chain of radars, known as the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, was to detect incoming Soviet missiles and bombers, and give our forces enough warning to launch a counterattack, and get the National Command Authorities to safety. Between 1955 and 1957, the squadron began to fly missions to the Alaskan arctic regions, carrying 13 million pounds of supplies and equipment to build the DEW Line. The resupply of the DEW Line stations kept the Wing occupied until 1969.[3]

In a re-alignment of assets, on 1 June 1960, the squadron's parent 62d Troop Carrier Wing moved back to McChord in June 1960. During the early 1960s, the squadron found itself back in Indochina by April 1962. At a time when overt American participation in the war in Vietnam was minimized, the squadron began carrying Army supplies and equipment from Dover AFB, Delaware, to Saigon, South Vietnam. The next month, the squadron participated in Operation Spare Bed, airlifting an Army field hospital to a classified location in Thailand. During the 1960s the aircraft of the squadron found themselves almost continually supporting United States military missions in South Vietnam as the growing American commitment required more troops, supplies and equipment. The squadron was upgraded to the C-141 Starlifter intercontinental jet transport in 1966 flying troops and supplies regularly to Ton Son Nhut, Cam Rahn Bay, Da Nang Air Bases in South Vietnam, as well as Clark Air Base in the Philippines and Don Mung Airport in Thailand, among others.

With the ending of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1970s, the squadron flew missions in support of Operation Homecoming in early 1973, the return of our prisoners of war from Vietnam. Missions were flown to Hanoi, North Vietnam to pick up the POWs and transport them to Clark Air Base, Philippines. Subsequently, they were flown back to the United States, to return these brave men to their waiting families. In March 1975, with the fall of South Vietnam imminent, the squadron returned to Saigon one last time during Operation Babylift, which carried hundreds of Vietnamese orphans to the United States, where adoptive parents awaited their arrival.[3]

During the 1970s, the squadron returned to a peacetime status, with routine flights around the world carrying personnel, equipment and supplies as needed. This was interrupted in 1978 following the mass murder-suicide of more than 900 people at the Jonestown religious compound in Guyana, South America. The squadron airlifted bodies to a morgue at Dover AFB, Delaware (most of the victims were U.S. Citizens). Crew members reported using their oxygen masks during the flight, in an effort to stifle the stench of decaying bodies in the cargo compartment.[3]

In 1980, the squadron began to exchange its C-141A Starlifters for newer, "stretched" C-141B models. This new version of the aircraft increased its cargo carrying capacity by inserting two fuselage plugs, one forward, one aft of the wings, totaling just over 23 feet in length. Also of note in the B series, an air refueling receptacle, lending yet longer range to the already proven C-141. Beginning in June 1983, the squadron took full advantage of the longer, air-refuelable C-141B to carry out the perilous mid-winter (June is the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere) airdrop over Antarctica. Air refueling made possible the trip from Christchurch, New Zealand, to the South Pole and back.[3]

Modern era[edit]

In August 1990, totalitarian Iraq invaded Kuwait, on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Within days the squadron began flying missions to the Middle Easr as part of Operation Desert Shield, the effort to deter further aggression from Iraq. The operations tempo was unprecedented. By January 1991, Desert Shield became Desert Storm, as allied air power was unleashed upon the invaders with irresistible force. The squadron joined the rest of the Military Airlift Command in providing round-the-clock airlift to the Middle East, keeping the air war supplied, and aiding the buildup of ground forces for the highly successful, though brief ground war in February. Before long, Kuwait was free, although the tremendous effort put forth by the squadron had accelerated the aging process of its C-141s. The increased payloads and almost incessant flying would have lasting negative effects on the fleet.[3]

In early 1992, squadron crews and aircraft began participating in Operation Provide Hope, helping to deliver hundreds of tons of food and medicine to the former Soviet Union. By August, Operation Provide Relief (later known as Restore Hope), rushing food supplies to the starving people of Somalia, the relief of victims of Hurricane Andrew in our own country, and relief efforts for the Guamanian victims of typhoon Omar kept our crews and aircraft on the move.[3]

In late 1995, President Bill Clinton ordered the deployment of 20,000 U.S. troops to the former Yugoslav Republic of Bosnia, as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. Squadron aircraft were deployed to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, by 18 December, ready to do their part. In spite of severe weather conditions, crews and aircraft were soon flying troops and equipment into Tazsar, Hungary, for Operation Joint Endeavor. In January 1996 the squadron, operating under a provisional wing located at Rhein-Main Air Base Germany, continued supporting airlift missions into Tuzla and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzogovina. and Taszar, Hungary in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. In April 1996, the squadron provided equipment and personnel transportation in support of an Air Power Expeditionary Force in the Middle Eastern Kingdom of Jordan as part of Operation Southern Watch.[3]

On the night of 15 May 1996, aircrews took part in Big Drop III, the largest airdrop since World War II. The squadron helped deploy members of the Army 82d Airborne Division, U.K. 5th Airborne Brigade personnel, and their heavy equipment onto three drop zones on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Al humanitarian mission included the deliverance of relief supplies from Kadena AB, Japan to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam after Typhoon Linda devastated the area in early November 1997. The typhoon unleashed torrential rains and winds that wiped out coastal villages, killed hundreds of people and left thousands homeless.[3]

In 2000, the squadron retired its C-141 Starlifters for the new C-17 Globemaster III airlifter. In a response to the terrorist attacks against America on September 11, 2001, President George Bush initiated war against terrorism named Operation Infinite Justice, later renamed Operation Enduring Freedom. The squadron supported these efforts by airlifting troops and supplies destined for Afghanistan. It also flew humanitarian airdrops that hundreds of thousands of the rations for starving Afghans. Flights in support of Coalition efforts in Afghanistan continue to the present-day.[4]

In January 2003 additional personnel and aircraft would deploy to locations all around the world in support airlift operations. By the end of January all aircraft supporting this effort would fly their missions from Charleston AFB, SC, the only East coast C-17 Base. Similar C-17 stage operations had been operating into Afghanistan from a base in Germany. After repeated noncompliance to UN demands Operation Iraqi Freedom begins. “On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein’s ability to wage war,” President Bush stated in an address to the nation. During the time of war squadron personnel would be in the thick of the fight. Under the cover of darkness at a forward operation location at Aviano, Italy on March 26, 2003, squadron aircraft flew into combat in to the hostile sky’s of Northern Iraq. The nine-hour mission, covering distance roughly the equivalent of Seattle to St. Louis, delivered members of the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigades "Sky Soldiers" into to an area north of Baghdad. This mission, the largest combat airdrop since the invasion of Panama in December 1989 in Operation Just Cause, was the first combat insertion of paratroopers using C-17's. Operations in support of Operation Iraqui Freedom continued until the United States withdraw from Iraq at the end of 2011.[4]

4th Airlift Squadron historical unit emblems
4th Transport Squadron emblem, 1940 
4th Troop Carrier Squadron emblem, 1960 
4th Military Airlift Squadron emblem, 1980 


  • Constituted 4th Provisional Transport Squadron on 1 Mar 1935
Re-designated 4th Transport Squadron on 25 Jun 1935
Activated on 8 Jul 1935
Re-designated 4th Troop Carrier Squadron on 4 Jul 1942
Inactivated on 13 Dec 1945
  • Activated on 7 Sep 1946
Re-designated 4th Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium, on 23 Jun 1948
Re-designated 4th Troop Carrier Squadron, Heavy, on 12 Oct 1949
Re-designated 4th Air Transport Squadron, Heavy, on 8 Jul 1962
Re-designated 4th Military Airlift Squadron on 8 Jan 1966
Re-designated 4th Airlift Squadron on 1 Dec 1991.[5]


Attached to 64th Troop Carrier Group, 3 Apr-19 Jun 1944
  • Unknown, 14 Nov-13 Dec 1945
  • 62d Troop Carrier Group, 7 Sep 1946
Attached to: 374th Troop Carrier Wing, 1-24 Dec 1950
Attached to: 6122d Air Base Group, 25 Dec 1950-25 Jan 1951
Attached to: 315th Air Division, 25 Jan 1951-1 Oct 1951
Attached to: Far East Air Forces, 1 Oct-7 Nov 1951




 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]