137th Air Refueling Wing

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137th Air Refueling Wing
465th Air Refueling Squadron Boeing KC-135A-BN Stratotanker 58-0121.jpg
465th Air Refueling Squadron Boeing KC-135R-BN Stratotanker 58-0121
Active 1943–Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  Oklahoma
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role Air Refueling
Part of Oklahoma Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Motto Igne Ferroque Hostem Armatum Contere - "With Fire and Steel Crush the Armored Foe"[1] (WW II), Thunder from the Sky
Tail Code Blue tail stripe "Tinker" in yellow
Engagements World War II, Korea, Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan
Stanley F.H. Newman
137th Air Refueling Wing emblem 137th Airlift Wing.png
Aircraft flown
Fighter P/F-51, F-80, F-84, F-86
Transport C-97, C-124, C-130
Tanker KC-135

The 137th Air Refueling Wing (137 ARW) is a unit of the Oklahoma Air National Guard with facilities at both Tinker Air Force Base and Will Rogers Air National Guard Base, both installations being located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If activated to federal service, the wing is mobilized under the United States Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC). During World War II, as the 404th Bombardment Group flying P-47s, they provided close air support to troops following the Normandy landing until the close of the war. During the Korean War, they were activated and deployed to France to replace units sent to Korea. The unit later engaged in strategic and tactical airlift before being redesignated as an air refueling wing.


The 137th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135 Stratotanker mission is to provide the core aerial refueling capability for the U.S. Air Force and the Air Guard. This unique aircraft enhances the Air Force's capability to accomplish its primary missions of Global Reach and Global Power. It also provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and allied nation aircraft. The KC-135 is capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations.

The wing is associated with the Air Force Reserve Command's (AFRC) 507th Air Refueling Wing (507 ARW). Under this Air Force Reserve Command - Air National Guard Guard associate organization, the 507 ARW is the host wing with all 12 KC-135 aircraft owned by AFRC. The Oklahoma Air National Guard maintains separate administrative and operational control, but is associated with the 507 ARW, working together to fly and maintain all aircraft. For deployable tasking, both the 507 ARW and 137 AW will function with six primary aircraft assigned.


The 137th Air Refueling Wing consists of the following units:

  • 137th Operations Group
  • 185th Air Refueling Squadron
  • 137th Maintenance Group
  • 137th Mission Support Group
  • 137th Medical Group
  • 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron


World War II[edit]

506th Fighter Squadron - P-47 Thunderbolts Photo likely taken at Kelz Airfield (Y-54) or Fritzlar Airfield (Y-86), Germany, spring 1945

During World War II the unit was assigned to Ninth Air Force in England, flying its first combat mission on 1 May 1944. The group was one of the most decorated units of IX Fighter Command, being awarded both a Distinguished Unit Citation and the French Croix de guerre with Palm. It flew its last combat mission in May 1945.

The group was activated in early 1943 as the 404th Bombardment Group (Dive), drawing its cadre from the 48th Fighter Group.[1] The group trained with P-39, P-47, and other aircraft. It moved to England, March—April 1944, and was assigned to Ninth Air Force's 84th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command. It flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt on its first operational mission on 1 May 1944.[1]

On the continent, the group began operations by bombing and strafing targets in France. The squadrons provided top cover for landings in Normandy on 6 and 7 June 1944. On 6 July the 404th moved across the Channel to its Advanced Landing Ground at Chippelle (ALG A-5), France. The group also flew interdictory and escort missions, strafing and bombing such targets as troop concentrations, railroads, highways, bridges, ammunition and fuel dumps, armored vehicles, docks, and tunnels, and covering the operations of B-17s, B-24s, and B-26s that bombed factories, airdromes, marshaling yards, and other targets.

The 404th provided close air support to ground troops, supporting the Allied breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July 1944 and the drive through Holland in September 1944. From 21 – 25 January 1945, it attacked German armor and transportation withdrawing from the Battle of the Bulge, and claimed to have destroyed or damaged over 1000 enemy vehicles.[1]

507th Fighter Squadron P-47D Thunderbolt 42-27234 parked at Fritzlar Airfield (Y-86), Germany, April 1945

During February 1945, it assisted with the reduction of German forces west of the Rhine and the widening of the Remagen bridgehead east of the Rhine during March 1945. On September 28, 2/Lt John W. Wainwright was credited with destroying six enemy aircraft on a single mission, three of which were knocked down in a midair collision during a dogfight.[1]

When the war in Europe ended, the unit was reassigned to the Third Air Force in the United States and prepared for deployment to Okinawa to take part in planned Invasion of Japan. When the Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place and the Pacific War suddenly ended, these plans were canceled. Most personnel either separated from the military or were reassigned to other units, while a skeleton staff arrived at Drew Field, Florida on 1 September. The unit was inactivated on 9 November 1945.

Oklahoma Air National Guard[edit]

The wartime 404th Fighter-Bomber Group was re-designated as the 137th Fighter Group, and was allotted to the Oklahoma Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at the University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport, Norman, Oklahoma and was extended federal recognition on 9 June 1947 by the National Guard Bureau. The 137th Fighter Group was bestowed the history, honors, and colors of the 404th Fighter-Bomber Group and all predecessor units. It was assigned to the Tenth Air Force, Continental Air Command.

The 137th Fighter Group was assigned the 185th Fighter Squadron at Norman, and the 125th Fighter Squadron at Tulsa as its operational units, both being equipped with F-51D Mustang fighters. The Group's mission was the air defense of Oklahoma, with the 125th flying air defense training missions over Northern Oklahoma and the panhandle; the 188th training over Southern Oklahoma to the Texas border.

In April 1949, a tornado struck the Airport at Norman. The damage was considered too extensive for economical repair and the decision was made to move the 137th Fighter Group and its 185th Fighter Squadron to Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City. The move was accomplished on 6 September 1949.

Korean War federalization[edit]

The 137th was federalized on 10 October 1950 due to the Korean War. The group was assigned to Tactical Air Command, which established the 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing, with the 137th being re-designated as a Fighter-Bomber Group and being assigned to the new wing as its operations group. The group was assigned the 125th Fighter Squadron from Tulsa and the 128th Fighter Squadron from the Georgia ANG, both equipped with F-80B Thunderjets, and the 127th Fighter Squadron from the Kansas ANG, equipped with F-51D Mustangs. Support units also established were the 137th Headquarters Group, 137th Maintenance and Supply Group, 137th Combat Support Group, and 137th Medical Group. The 137th was programmed to reinforce USAFE and be moved to Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France, one of the new air bases in France that was then under construction.

By 27 November, the wing assembled at Alexandria Municipal Airport, Louisiana, for conversion training in the newer F-84Gs. Deployment of the wing was delayed, however, by the need to transfer pilots to Korea from training and delays in receiving engines for the F-84Gs, as well as the ongoing construction at Chaumont AB. Training and delays continued throughout 1951. Due to the delays, many of the activated National Guard airmen were released from active duty and never deployed to France.

With mostly regular Air Force personnel and all the delays behind them, the remaining Guardsmen departed Louisiana on 5 May 1952 for Europe; however, the 128th inherited a base that was little more than acres of mud where wheat fields used to be. The only hardened facilities at Chaumont were a concrete runway and a handful of tar-paper shacks. The 127th was stationed by USAFE at Neubiberg Air Base, West Germany until the facilities in France were suitable for military use. The aircraft arrived at Chaumont on 25 June, being the first USAF tactical air fighters to be based permanently in France, albeit working mostly in tents and temporary wooden buildings on their new base.

The Guardsmen of the 127th ended their active-duty tour in France and returned to the United States in late June, leaving their F-84 Thunderjets in Europe.

Fighter-Interceptor mission[edit]

Reforming after their active duty service, the Group was reformed with both the 125th and 185th squadrons being released from Federal Service and being reassigned by 1 January 1953. The 137th was assigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC), and the squadrons were equipped with F-51D Mustangs again, due to the shortage of jet aircraft in the United States (almost all were in Korea). In the spring of 1953 they received reworked F-80A Shooting Star aircraft, brought up to F-80C standards.

In 1957 the Oklahoma Air National Guard was given a fighter-interceptor mission in Air Defense Command (ADC), and on 1 August, the 125th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Tulsa was authorized to expand to a group level. The 138th Fighter-Interceptor Group was authorized and extended federal recognition by the National Guard Bureau. The 125th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron becoming the group's flying unit.

The 185th was designated a Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, and equipped with F-86D Sabre Interceptors. Their F-80s were transferred to the civilian Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for various experimental testing activities. With the Fighter-Interceptor mission assignment, the 185th also assumed ADC runway alert program on full 24-hour basis - with armed jet fighters ready to "scramble" at a moment's notice. This event brought the 137th into the daily combat operational program of the USAF, placing us on "the end of the runway" alongside regular USAF-Air Defense Fighter Squadrons. In June 1959 the squadron traded their F-86Ds for the upgraded F-86L Sabre Interceptor with uprated afterburning engines and new electronics.

Strategic airlift[edit]

In April 1961, the 137th FIG was reassigned to Military Air Transport Service (MATS), trading in its Sabre interceptors for 4-engined C-97 Stratofreighter transports. With air transportation recognized as a critical wartime need, the unit was re-designated the 137th Air Transport Wing (Heavy) with the 185th Air Transport Squadron. The 185th ATS augmented MATS airlift capability world-wide in support of the Air Force’s needs. Throughout the 1960s, the 125th flew long-distance transport missions in support of Air Force requirements, frequently sending aircraft to the Caribbean, Europe, Australia, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, and during the Vietnam War, to both South Vietnam, Okinawa and Thailand.

Part of the 137th Air Transport Group mission was a specially equipped C-97E, 51-0224, the "Miss Oklahoma City" also known as the "Talking Bird". From 1961 though 1963 the aircraft was used as an airborne command post to maintain constant secure communications between the nation's capital and President John F. Kennedy during his visits to foreign countries.

The C-97s were retired in 1968 and the unit was transferred to Military Airlift Command (MAC), being re-equipped with C-124C Globemaster II heavy transports. The Group continued to fly long-distance intercontinental airlift flights until the Globemasters were retired in 1975.

Tactical airlift[edit]

185th Airlift Squadron Lockheed C-130H, AF Ser. No. 78-0806, in 2000, wearing the new tactical grey paint scheme used by the unit

In 1975 the 137th Military Airlift Wing became the 137th Tactical Airlift Wing when the 185th MAS was re-equipped with the C-130A Hercules tactical airlifter. In June 1979 the 185th Tactical Airlift Squadron was the first Air National Guard unit to receive C-130H aircraft, receiving new aircraft direct from Lockheed.

In subsequent years the 137th Tactical Airlift Wing served in humanitarian missions worldwide. During the 1990s the 185th provided Counter-drug support coordinated through the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. As of mid-2001, numerous drug enforcement operations have resulted in the destruction of 7.2 million marijuana plants, estimated 4.1 billion dollars in destroyed drugs, 814 arrests, 165 seized weapons, and 1.1 million dollars in currency and assets seized.

Following the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, Air Guardsmen provided site security and medical, rescue, and recovery personnel, assisting in every aspect of the disaster rescue and recovery effort.

The 137th Airlift Wing provided operational support during the 1991 Gulf War, and contributed logistical assistance in Bosnia in the late 1990s.

Personnel from the 137th Airlift Wing aided New Mexico ranchers faced with livestock devastation after severe winter storms covered the grasslands with snow. 137th aircrew delivered much needed hay to starving livestock, averting near disaster to New Mexico's livestock industry.

Current status[edit]

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign the then-Will Rogers AGS by relocating the 137th Airlift Wing (ANG) to Tinker AFB and associate with the 507th Air Refueling Wing (AFRC) and redesignated as the 137th Air Refueling Wing (ANG). The 137th's C-130H aircraft would be distributed to the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing at NAS JRB Fort Worth, TX (4 aircraft), and the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing at Rosecrans Memorial Airport/Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, MO (4 aircraft). The other elements of the 137th's Expeditionary Combat Support Group would remain in place at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base.

Since October 2008, the 185th Air Refueling Squadron aircrews jointly operate the KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft at Tinker AFB with the aircrews of the Air Force Reserve 465th Air Refueling Squadron.

As of 2015, the 137th Air Refueling Wing is slated to transition from Air Mobility Command claimancy as a KC-135R unit at Tinker AFB, to Air Force Special Operations Command claimancy as an MC-12W unit, returning flight operations to Will Rogers Air National Guard Base at Will Rogers World Airport and with the wing being renamed as the 137th Special Operations Wing (137 SOW).[2][3]


World War II 404th Fighter-Bomber Group emblem
Legacy 137th Air Transport Wing emblem
  • 25 January 1943: Constituted as 404th Bombardment Group (Dive)
  • 4 February 1943: Activated
  • August 1943: Re-designated 404th Fighter-Bomber Group
  • 9 November 1945: Inactivated
  • 24 May 1946: Re-designated 137th Fighter Group, and allotted to Oklahoma ANG
  • 18 December 1947: Extended federal recognition
  • 26 October 1950: Federalized and ordered to active service
  • 26 October 1950: Established as: 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing, extended federal recognition and activated, with 137th Fighter-Bomber Group assigned as subordinate unit
  • 10 July 1952: Released from active duty and returned to Oklahoma state control
  • 1 May 1958: Re-designated: 137th Fighter-Interceptor Wing
  • 1 April 1961: Re-designated: 137th Air Transport Wing
  • 8 January 1966: Re-designated: 137th Military Airlift Wing
  • 30 June 1974: Inactivated
  • 1 July 1975: Re-designated: 137th Tactical Airlift Wing
  • 16 May 1992: Re-designated: 137th Airlift Wing, also re-activated and re-designated 137th Operations Group
  • 1 October 2008: Re-designated: 137th Air Refueling Wing


Attached to: IX Tactical Air Command, 1 August 1944
Gained by: Central Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command
Gained by: Oklahoma City Air Defense Sector, Air Defense Command, 1 January 1960
Gained by: Western Transport Air Force, (WESTAF), Military Air Transport Service, 1 April 1961
Gained by: Twenty-Second Air Force, Military Airlift Command, 8 January 1966
Gained by: Air Mobility Command, 1 June 1992
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 October 1993
Gained by: Air Mobility Command, 1 April 1997-Present


World War II[edit]

Note* Third Air Force Operational Training Units (OTU) which were attached to the group in the United States; did not deploy to overseas combat area.

Air National Guard[edit]



Citations and Decorations[edit]

  • Streamer PUC Army.PNG
  • The 404th Fighter Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for three armed reconnaissance missions flown on 10 September 1944 when, despite bad weather and antiaircraft fire, the group attacked enemy factories, rolling stock, and communications centers to aid the advance of ground forces.
  • The 404th Fighter Group received a French Croix de guerre with Palm for assisting the US First Army at Saint-Lô on 29, 30, and 31 July 1944 when the group, although suffering severe losses from flak, continuously provided cover for four armored divisions. The group was also cited by the Belgian government for operations contributing to the liberation of its people.

See also[edit]


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


External links[edit]