53d Airlift Squadron

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53d Airlift Squadron
53 AS.jpg
53d Airlift Squadron emblem
Active 30 May 1942 – 31 July 1945
30 September 1946 – 8 July 1966
8 January 1972 – 30 April 1993
1 October 1993 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Airlift Airdrop
Part of Air Mobility Command
18th Air Force
19th Airlift Wing
19th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Little Rock Air Force Base
Nickname(s) Blackjacks
Motto(s) Primus Cum Plurimi (First with the Most)
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm

The 53d Airlift Squadron (53 AS) is part of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. It operates C-130 Hercules aircraft for airlift and airdrop operations.


Activated in June 1942 as a I Troop Carrier Command C-47 Skytrain troop carrier squadron, trained in the United States. Assigned to Twelfth Air Force and deployed North Africa during May 1943. The squadron's aircraft flew supplies to front-line units in Algeria and Tunisia during the North African Campaign as soon as suitable landing strips were available and evacuated casualties back to rear area field hospitals.

Squadron engaged in combat operations, dropping airborne units into Sicily during the Operation Husky invasion and later into areas around Anzio, Italy as part of Operation Shingle, the invasion of mainland Italy and the initiation of the Italian Campaign, January 1944. Moved north though Italy, in 1943 in support of Allied ground forces, evacuated wounded personnel and flew missions behind enemy lines in Italy and the Balkans to haul guns, ammunition, food, clothing, medical supplies, and other materials to the partisans and to drop propaganda leaflets.

Was moved to England in February 1944, assigned to IX Troop Carrier Command, Ninth Air Force. Prepared for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. In June 1944, subordinate units dropped paratroops in Normandy, subsequently flying numerous missions to bring in reinforcements and needed supplies. During the airborne attack on The Netherlands (Operation Market Garden, September 1944), the squadron dropped paratroops, towed gliders, and flew resupply missions. Several of its subordinate units also participated in the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The 50th supported the 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge by towing gliders full of supplies near Bastogne on 27 December 1944.

When the Allies made the air assault across the Rhine River in March 1945, each aircraft towed two gliders with troops of the 17th Airborne Division and released them near Wesel. The squadron also hauled food, clothing, medicine, gasoline, ordnance equipment, and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated patients to rear zone hospitals.

In late May 1945, after V-E Day, the squadron was moved to Waller Field, Trinidad and attached to Air Transport Command. From Trinidad, the squadron ferried returning military personnel to Morrison Field, Florida, where they were sent on to other bases or prepared for separation after the war.

The squadron participated in the Berlin Airlift, 1948–1949, and conducted aerial transportation from the U.S. to Japan from August–December 1950, and between Japan and Korea from 13 December 1950 – November 1952. It conducted worldwide airlift operations from 1953 to 1966, including resupply to Antarctica from 1957 to 1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The 53d again conducted worldwide airlift from 1972 to 1993 flying missions into Grenada, 23 October 1983 – 9 November 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 December 1989, and to Southwest Asia, August 1990 – June 1991. The squadron was inactivated in 2008 and detached from AETC. It was reactivated in October 2008 as a part of the 19th Airlift Wing, 18th Air Force, AMC.

Operations and Decorations[edit]

  • Combat Operations. World War II: Included airborne assaults on Sicily, Normandy, the Netherlands, and Germany; aerial transportation in Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and European Theater of Operations (ETO). Berlin Airlift, 1948–1949. Korean War: Aerial transportation from US to Japan, Aug–Dec 1950, and between Japan and Korea, 13 Dec 1950 – Nov 1952. Airlift, 1953–1966, including resupply to the Antarctic, (Project Deep Freeze), 1957–1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the conflict in Vietnam. Worldwide airlift, 1972–1993, into Grenada, 23 Oct-9 Nov 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 December 1989, and to Southwest Asia, Aug 1990 – Jun 1991. Conducted C-130 aircrew training for active duty USAF, Air Force Reserve (USAFR), Air National Guard (ANG), US Navy, US Marine Corps and selected allied nations, 1993–2008.
  • Campaigns. World War II: Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Central Europe. Korea: CCF Intervention; First UN Counteroffensive; CCF Spring Offensive; UN Summer-Fall Offensive; Second Korean Winter; Korea Summer-Fall, 1952.
  • Decorations. Distinguished Unit Citations: Sicily, 11 July 1943; France, [6–7] Jun 1944; Korea, 13 Dec 1950 – 21 Apr 1951. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards: 1 Jul 1957 – 10 Dec 1962; 1 Jul 1968 – 30 Jun 1969; 1 Jul 1970 – 30 Jun 1971; 1 Jun 1978 – 31 May 1980; 1 Jan-31 Dec 1983; 1 Jan-31 Dec 1987; 1 Jan 1990 – 30 Apr 1991. Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation: 1 Jul 1951–[18 Nov 1952]. Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 1 Apr 1966 – 8 Jan 1973.


  • Constituted as 53d Transport Squadron on 30 May 1942
Activated on 1 June 1942
Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron on 4 July 1942
Inactivated on 31 July 1945
  • Activated on 30 September 1946
Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium, on 1 July 1948
Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron, Heavy, on 15 August 1948
Re-designated: 53d Military Airlift Squadron on 8 January 1966
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 8 July 1966
  • Activated on 8 January 1972
Re-designated: 53d Airlift Squadron on 1 January 1992
Inactivated on 30 April 1993
  • Activated on 1 October 1993
Inactivated on 11 January 2008
  • Activated on 15 May 2008.


Attached to the Airlift Task Force, Provisional, Aug 1958 – Feb 1959, Feb–Jul 1960, and 5 Jan 1961 – Apr 1962




 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links[edit]