344th Air Refueling Squadron
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|344th Air Refueling Squadron
|Active||1942–1946; 1947–1966; 1986–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Mobility Command|
|Garrison/HQ||McConnell Air Force Base|
|Motto(s)||Anytime-Anywhere (1994–present) Capable – Reliable – Versatile (1987–1994) Hell from the Heavens (1956–1966)|
|Decorations||Distinguished Unit Citation |
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
|344th Air Refueling Squadron emblem (approved 17 October 1994)|
|344th Air Refueling Squadron emblem (approved 23 September 1987)|
|Patch with 344th Bombardment Squadron emblem (approved 17 August 1956)|
The 344th Air Refueling Squadron is a unit of the US Air Force, part of the 22d Air Refueling Wing Air Mobility Command at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. It operates the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aircraft conducting aerial refueling missions.
World War II
Training in the United States
The squadron was first activated at MacDill Field, Florida as one of the original three squadrons assigned to the 98th Bombardment Group. The 344th soon moved to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, where it began to train as a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber squadron under Third Air Force.
The squadron's training was short and it deployed to Egypt in July 1942 over the South Atlantic Ferrying Route transiting from Morrison Field, Florida though the Caribbean Sea to Brazil. It made the Atlantic crossing from Brazil to Liberia, then transited east across central Africa to Sudan. The air echelon of the group reformed with the ground echelon which traveled by the SS Pasteur around the Cape of Good Hope, joining with the air echelon of the squadron, the 343d Bombardment Squadron and group headquarters at St Jean d'Acre Airfield, in Palestine.
Combat in the Middle East
Upon arrival in the Near East, the squadron became part of United States Army Middle East Air Force, which was replaced by Ninth Air Force in November. It entered combat in August, attacking shipping and harbor installations to cut Axis supply lines to North Africa. It also bombed airfields and rail transit lines in Sicily and mainland Italy. The squadron moved forward with Ninth Air Force to airfields in Egypt; Libya and Tunisia supporting the British Eighth Army in the Western Desert Campaign. Its support of this campaign earned the squadron the Distinguished Unit Citation.
On 1 August 1943, the squadron participated in Operation Tidal Wave, the low-level raid on oil refineries near Ploiești, Romania. Alerted to the vulnerability of the Ploiești refineries by a June 1942 raid by the HALPRO project, the area around Ploesti had become one of the most heavily defended targets in Europe. The squadron pressed its attack on the Asta Romana Refinery through smoke and fire from bombing by another group's earlier attack and heavy flak defenses. The squadron's actions in this engagement earned it a second Distinguished Unit Citation.
When the forces driving East from Egypt and Libya met up with those moving westward from Algeria and Morocco in Tunisia in September 1943, Ninth Air Force was transferred to England to become the tactical air force for the invasion of the European Continent. The squadron, along with all Army Air Forces units in North Africa became part of Twelfth Air Force. In November 1943, the squadron moved to Brindisi Airport, Italy, where it became part of Fifteenth Air Force, which assumed control of strategic operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, while Twelfth became a tactical air force.
Strategic operations in Italy
The squadron continued strategic bombardment raids on targets in Occupied France, southern Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and targets in the Balkans. These included industrial sites, airfields, harbors and lines of communication. Although focusing on strategic bombing, the squadron was sometimes diverted to tactical operations, supporting Operation Shingle, the landings at Anzio and the Battle of Monte Cassino. In the summer of 1944, the squadron supported Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. The unit also assisted the Soviet advance into the Balkans, and supported Yugoslav Partisans and guerillas in neighboring countries.
Return to the United States
Return to the United States
The squadron returned to the United States in May 1945. Upon arrival it was redesignated as a very heavy Boeing B-29 Superfortress squadron and began training for deployment to the Pacific to conduct strategic bombardment raids on Japan. In November 1945, the 98th Group was inactivated and the squadron moved to Merced Army Air Field, California, where it was assigned to the 444th Bombardment Group, where it replaced the 678th Bombardment Squadron, which was converted into a reconnaissance unit. The squadron was inactivated at what was now Castle Field in March 1946.
Strategic Air Command
The squadron was reactivated in 1947 as a Strategic Air Command (SAC) Superfortress unit at Spokane Army Air Field, Washington. The squadron performed strategic bombardment training missions until the outbreak of the Korean War.
In the summer of 1950, when the Korean War began, the 19th Bombardment Wing was the only medium bomber unit available for combat in the Pacific. In August, SAC dispatched the squadron and other elements of the 98th Bombardment Group to Yokota Air Base, Japan to augment FEAF Bomber Command, Provisional. The group flew its first combat mission on 7 August against marshalling yards near Pyongyang, capital of North Korea. The squadron's missions focused on interdiction of enemy lines of communications, attacking rail lines, bridges and roads. The squadron also flew missions that supported United Nations ground forces.
SAC’s mobilization for the Korean War highlighted that SAC wing commanders were not sufficiently focused on combat operations. Under a plan implemented for most wings in February 1951 and finalized in June 1952, the wing commander focused primarily on the combat units and the maintenance necessary to support combat aircraft by having the combat and maintenance squadrons report directly to the wing and eliminating the intermediate group structures. This reorganization was implemented in April 1951 for the 98th Wing, when wing headquarters moved on paper to Japan, taking over the personnel and functions of the 98th Group, which became a paper organization, and the squadron began operating under wing control.
Starting in January 1952, the threat posed by enemy interceptors forced the squadron to fly only night missions. The unit flew its last mission, a propaganda leaflet drop, on the last day before the armistice was signed. The squadron remained in combat ready status in Japan until July 1954 when it moved to Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Conversion to jet bombers
The squadron disposed of its B-29s to storage at Davis–Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. At Lincoln, the squadron was equipped with new Boeing B-47E Stratojets. it engaged in strategic bombardment training with the B-47 throughout the rest of the 1950s, into the early 1960s. From November 1955 through January 1966, the squadron deployed to RAF Lakenheath as part of Operation Reflex, standing alert at the forward deployment site.
From 1958, the 344th began to assume an alert posture at its home base, reducing the amount of time spent on alert at overseas bases to meet General Thomas S. Power's initial goal of maintaining one third of SAC’s planes on fifteen minute ground alert, fully fueled and ready for combat to reduce vulnerability to a Soviet missile strike. The alert commitment was increased to half the squadron's aircraft in 1962.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Soon after detection of Soviet missiles in Cuba, on 22 October 1962 the squadron's B-47s dispersed. On 24 October the 343d went to DEFCON 2, placing all its aircraft on alert. Most dispersal bases were civilian airfields with AF Reserve or Air National Guard units. The unit's B-47s were configured for execution of the Emergency War Order as soon as possible after dispersing. On 15 November 1/6 of the squadron's dispersed B-47s were recalled to Lincoln. The remaining B-47s and their supporting tankers were recalled on 24 November. On 27 November SAC returned its bomber units to normal alert posture.
The squadron was inactivated in June 1966 with the phaseout of the B-47 and closure of Lincoln.
The squadron was redesignated the 344th Air Refueling Squadron and reactivated in May 1986 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. The squadron was assigned to SAC's 68th Air Refueling Wing until the implementation of the objective wing organization, which called for one wing to control all units an each base. The 68th Wing was inactivated and the squadron transferred to the 4th Operations Group as the 4th Wing added the air refueling mission to its fighters. After the formation of Air Mobility Command (AMC) in 1992, the squadron moved to McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas and became part of AMC's 22d Operations Group.
On 25 January 2019, McConnell received the first two (15-46009 and 17-46031) of a planned 36 KC-46 Pegasus aircraft that will eventually replace the KC-135 as the primary Air Force tanker aircraft. June 4, 2019 the 334th performed the first KC-46 Pegasus IOT&E (initial operations testing and evaluation) flight, refueling two F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft four times with around 29,000lb of fuel.
- Constituted as the 344th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 28 January 1942
- Activated on 3 February 1942
- Redesignated 344th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 1 July 1943
- Redesignated 344th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 23 May 1945
- Inactivated on 27 March 1946
- Activated on 1 July 1947
- Redesignated 344th Bombardment Squadron, Medium on 28 May 1948
- Discontinued and inactivated, on 25 June 1966
- Redesignated 344th Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy on 7 May 1986
- Activated on 1 October 1986
- Redesignated 344th Air Refueling Squadron on 1 July 1992
- 98th Bombardment Group, 3 February 1942
- 444th Bombardment Group, 10 November 1945 – 27 March 1946
- 98th Bombardment Group, 1 July 1947
- 98th Bombardment Wing, 16 June 1952
- 98th Strategic Aerospace Wing, 1 February 1964 – 25 June 1966
- 68th Air Refueling Wing, 1 October 1986
- 4th Operations Group, 22 April 1991
- 22d Operations Group, 29 April 1994 – Present
- MacDill Field, Florida, 3 February 1942
- Barksdale Field, Louisiana, c. 9 February 1942
- Page Field, Florida, 30 March 1942
- Drane Field, Florida, 17 May 1942 – 3 July 1942
- RAF Ramat David, British Palestine, 25 July 1942
- St Jean d'Acre Airfield, Palestine, 21 August 1942
- RAF Kabrit, Egypt, 11 November 1942
- Lete Airfield, Libya, 4 March 1943
- Hergla Airfield, Tunisia, 24 September 1943
- Brindisi Airport, Italy, 18 November 1943
- Manduria Airfield, Italy, 19 December 1943
- Lecce Airfield, Italy, 18 January 1944 – 19 April 1945
- Fairmont Army Air Field, Nebraska, 8 May 1945
- McCook Army Airfield, Nebraska, 25 June 1945
- Merced Army Air Field (later Castle Field), California, 10 November 1945 – 27 March 1946
- Andrews Field, Maryland, 1 July 1947
- Spokane Army Air Field (later, Spokane Air Force Base; Fairchild Air Force Base), Washington, 24 September 1947 (deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, 22 August–7 December 1948; RAF Sculthorpe, England, 25 May – 29 August 1949)
- Yokota Air Base, Japan, c. 5 August 1950 – 22 July 1954 (deployed until 14 August 1953, then permanently stationed)
- Lincoln Air Force Base, Nebraska, 24 July 1954 – 25 June 1966 (deployed to RAF Lakenheath, England, 12 November 1955 – 28 January 1956)
- Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, 1 October 1986
- McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, 29 April 1994 – present
- Robertson, Patsy (29 January 2008). "Factsheet 344 Air Refueling Squadron (AMC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 22 May 2017.
- Endicott, Active Air Force Wings, p. 752
- Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 246–247
- Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 169–170
- Rogers, pp. 77–78
- Schultz, pp.64–65
- Maurer, Combat Units, p. 464
- Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 467, 470
- Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 704
- Endicott, The USAF in Koreap. 74
- Deaile, pp. 175–176
- Ravenstein, pp. 138–141
- Endicott, The USAF in Korea, p. 75
- Schake, p. 220 (note 43)
- "Abstract (Unclassified), History of the Strategic Bomber since 1945 (Top Secret, downgraded to Secret)". Air Force History Index. 1 April 1975. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- Kipp, et al., pp. 34–35. 49
- Kipp, et al., p. 53
- Kipp, et al., p. 61
- Insinna, Valerie; Martin, Jeff (25 January 2019). "US Air Force receives new KC-46 aircraft, an event decades in the making". Defense News. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
- "First KC-46 IOT&E flight successful". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
- Hardin, Senior Airman, Colby (1 June 2017). "KC-46 aircrew training nearing completion". McConnell Air Force Base. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
The squadron wasn’t officially converted to a KC-46 squadron until April 1
- Deaile, Melvin G. (2007). The SAC Mentality: The Origins of Organizational Culture in Strategic Air Command 1946–1962. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Endicott, Judy G. (1998). Active Air Force Wings as of 1 October 1995 and USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995 (PDF). Air Force History and Museums Program. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ASIN B000113MB2. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
- Endicott, Judy G., ed. (2001). The USAF in Korea, Campaigns, Units and Stations 1950–1953 (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Air Force Historical Research Agency. ISBN 0-16-050901-7. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
- Kipp, Robert; Peake, Lynn; Wolk, Herman, Strategic Air Command Operations in the Cuban Crisis of 1962, SAC Historical Study No. 90 (Top Secret NOFORN, FRD, redacted and declassified), Strategic Air Command
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) . Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947–1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
- Rogers, Edith (June 1945). "The AAF in the Middle East: A Study of the Origins of the Ninth Air Force, USAF Historical Study No. 108" (PDF). Assistant Chief of Air Staff Intelligence, Historical Division. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
- Schake, Col Kurt W. (1998). Strategic Frontier: American Bomber Bases Overseas, 1950–1960 (PDF). Trondheim, Norway: Norwegian University of Science and Technology. ISBN 978-8277650241. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Schultz, Duane (2008). Into the Fire: Ploesti, the Most Fateful Battle of World War II. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing. ISBN 978-1594160776.