353d Special Operations Group
|353d Special Operations Group|
Emblem of the 353d Special Operations Group
|Active||1944–1946; 1967–1970; 1989–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Type||Special operations forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Kadena Air Base, Japan|
AFOUA w/V Device
RVGC w/ Palm
The group's origins date to 1944 as the 3d Air Commando Group. The unit was assigned to Fifth Air Force in the Philippines in 1944 for operations with P-51 Mustangs, C-47 Skytrains, and L-5 Sentinel aircraft. It attacked Japanese airfields and installations in the Philippines, supported ground forces on Luzon, and provided escort for missions to Formosa and the China coast. It also made raids on airfields and railways on Formosa, and furnished cover for convoys. In addition, the group transported personnel, dropped supplies to ground troops and guerrilla forces, evacuated casualties from front-line strips, adjusted artillery fire, and flew courier and mail routes.
The 353d Special Operations Group consists of the following squadrons:
- 1st Special Operations Squadron (MC-130H Combat Talon II)
- 17th Special Operations Squadron (MC-130J Commando II)
- 320th Special Tactics Squadron (Pararescue, Combat Controller, SOWT)
- 353d Special Operations Maintenance Squadron
- 353d Special Operations Support Squadron
World War II
When activated, the 3d Air Commando Group trained to establish and maintain an airstrip behind enemy lines, to provide for its own supply and air defense, to attack targets in the enemy's rear areas, and to furnish air support for ground operations. The group's headquarters, liaison, and airdrome squadrons, as well as its medical dispensary and the ground echelons of the 3d Fighter Squadron and 318th Troop Carrier Squadron sailed from the west coast in early November 1944, arriving on Leyte on 1 December 1944. The ground echelon of the 4th Fighter Squadron sailed a week later and arrived on Leyte in early January 1945. The flying personnel of the 3d and 4th Fighter Squadrons, as well as some enlisted members of their engineering sections, were air-transported to Nadzab, New Guinea, where they received the group's new P-51 aircraft.
The separated squadrons flew patrol missions in New Guinea until joining the group on Leyte in January 1945. Began combat in the Philippines by flying bombing and strafing missions against airdromes on Mindanao. Later, on Luzon, the fighters continued bombing and strafing missions. In addition, the group provided air support to ground forces, flew fighter sweeps to Formosa, and escorted heavy bombers on bombing missions to Formosa and the China coast. The air echelon of the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron flew their C-47s across the Pacific, arriving at Nadzab, New Guinea, in late October 1944. The squadron carried cargo and passengers and air-evacuated wounded soldiers to Australia until it moved to Leyte in mid-January 1945. While on Luzon, this squadron also para-dropped supplies to ground forces. The liaison squadrons received their L-5s in late January 1945, and thereafter evacuated wounded from advanced points, flew courier, search and rescue, and reconnaissance missions, spotted for signal aircraft warning battalions, and dropped supplies to allied and guerrilla forces.
In April 1945, the Group, less the liaison squadrons, moved from Mandaldan, on the Lingayen Gulf, to Laoag, in northwest Luzon, in recently captured territory 150 miles behind enemy lines. The group operated the base and the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron provided most of the resupply. The group set up air-ground support stations that directed aircraft to targets and tactical radio ground stations situated with U.S. and guerrilla ground forces. In June 1945 Laoag became the staging field for flights to Okinawa.
In August 1945, the group moved to Ie Shima, in the Ryukyus, from where the fighter squadrons flew surveillance missions over Japan. The 318 TCS participated in the evacuation of allied prisoners of war from Japan. By the end of October 1945, the group moved to Chitose AB, Japan. By February 1946 the squadrons were reduced to paper strength and the group inactivated the next month.
Beginning in February 1967, the 553d Reconnaissance Wing trained to support a special electronic reconnaissance program utilizing 30 Lockheed EC-121R "Batcat" aircraft, with a C-121G used for pilot and flight engineer training. Moved to Thailand in increments beginning mid-September 1967 and began day and night unarmed reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia on 25 November 1967. A wing detachment at Nakhon Phanom Airport, Thailand, performed combat evaluation of YQU-22A aircraft and associated equipment, December 1968 – August 1969. From July to early September 1970 the wing provided combat evaluation of the QU-22B aircraft and on 1 October 1970 the QU-22Bs were placed in full operation, reducing the need for EC-121s.
Strength of the wing was reduced in both personnel and equipment, and in mid-December 1970 the 553d Reconnaissance Wing inactivated. One reconnaissance squadron, the 553d Reconnaissance Squadron, was reassigned to the 388TFW and stayed at Korat RTAFB. The 554th Reconnaissance squadron was inactivated with that squadron number then assigned to what was Detachment 1 at Nakon Phanom RTAFB. The last 553d Reconnaissance EC-121R mission occurred on 6 December 1971.
The 353d Special Operations Wing activated in April 1989 in the Philippines to train for unconventional warfare and special operations activities in the Pacific area of operations. Maintained capabilities by participating in joint/combined and other theater exercises and training opportunities. Also maintained helicopter air refueling operations and supported humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as performed some search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation missions.
Following the destruction of Clark AB during the volcanic eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 the group temporarily operated from bases on Okinawa, then officially relocated there in February 1992, with one squadron moving forward to South Korea. Redesignated to group level in December 1992, but continued operations as before.
In February 1996 developed Taegu AB in South Korea as a special operations training base. Gained a weather flight in April 1996 and began providing weather support for U.S. Army Special Forces at Torii Station, Japan.
From December 1996 periodically deployed aircraft and personnel to Italy to support NATO operations in the Balkans and to Southwest Asia to support allied operations against Iraq.
Throughout its history, the unit has been extremely active in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In 2005, the unit supported Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE, the relief effort from the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In 2011, the unit supported Operation TOMODACHI, the relief effort from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. In 2013, the unit supported Operation DAMAYAN, the relief effort from Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Republic of the Philippines.
The group's lineage and honors can be traced not just through its own history, but through the history of two predecessor organizations, the 3d Air Commando Group and the 553d Reconnaissance Wing.
- Established as 3d Air Commando Group on 25 April 1944
- Activated on 1 May 1944
- Inactivated on 25 March 1946
- Disestablished on 8 October 1948
- Reestablished, and consolidated (31 July 1985) with the 553d Reconnaissance Wing, which was established, and activated, on 9 February 1967
- Organized on 25 February 1967
- Inactivated on 15 December 1970
- Re-designated: 353d Reconnaissance Wing on 31 July 1985 (Remained inactive)
- Re-designated: 353d Special Operations Wing on 21 March 1989
- Activated on 6 April 1989
- Re-designated 353d Special Operations Group on 1 December 1992.
- World War II
- 3d Fighter Squadron (Commando): 1 May 1944 – 25 March 1946 (air echelon detached 7 November 1944 – 7 January 1945).
- 4th Fighter Squadron (Commando): : 1 May 1944 – 25 March 1946 (ground echelon detached 7 November 1944 – 5 January 1945; air echelon detached 7 November 1944 – 16 January 1945).
- 157th Liaison Squadron: 1 May 1944 – 10 November 1945 (detached 1 May – c. 18 August 1944 and 3 May – 10 November 1945).
- 159th Liaison Squadron: 1 May 1944 – 15 December 1945 (detached 1 May – c. 18 August 1944 and 3 May – 15 December 1945).
- 160th Liaison Squadron: 1 May 1944 – 15 December 1945 (detached 1 May – c. 18 August 1944 and 3 May – 15 December 1945).
- 318th Troop Carrier Squadron: 1 May 1944 – 25 March 1946 (detached 1 May – 14 August 1944; ground echelon detached 12 September – 1 November 1944; air echelon detached 12 September 1944 – c. 18 February 1945).
- Vietnam War
- 553d Reconnaissance Squadron: 25 February 1967 – 15 December 1970.
- 554th Reconnaissance Squadron: 25 February 1967 – 15 December 1970.
- Modern era
- 1st Special Operations Squadron: 6 Apr 1989 – Present
- 17th Special Operations Squadron: 1 Aug 1989 – Present
- 31st Special Operations Squadron: 6 April 1989 – 31 August 2001.
|Philippine Presidential Unit Citation||World War II|
|Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm||1 Apr 1967 – 15 Dec 1970|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device||1 Apr 1967 – 31 May 1968|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device||1 Jul 1968 – 15 Apr 1969|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||6 Apr 1989 – 5 Apr 1991|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 Jun 1993 – 31 May 1995|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 Sep 1995 – 31 Aug 1997|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||16 Oct 1998 – 31 May 2000|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||13 Oct 2000 – 1 Sep 2002|
|Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation||31 Jan 2002 – 31 Jul 2002|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||2 Sep 2002 – 1 Sep 2004|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device||2 Sep 2004 – 1 Sep 2006|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award w/ "V" Device||1 Oct 2006 – 30 Sep 2008|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 Oct 2010 – 30 Sep 2012|||
- 353 SOG History
- 353 SOG Fact Sheet
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- 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.
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