728th Airlift Squadron

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728th Airlift Squadron
Active 1943–1945; 1947–1952; 1952–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Airlift
Part of Air Force Reserve Command
Garrison/HQ McChord Air Force Base
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm[1]
728th Airlift Squadron emblem (Approved 12 December 1984)[1] 728 AS.jpg
728th Bombardment Squadron emblem (Approved 18 January 1944)[2] 728th Bombardment Squadron - Emblem.png

The 728th Airlift Squadron is a United States Air Force Reserve squadron, assigned to the 446th Operations Group, stationed at McChord Field, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. It is an associate unit of the active duty 8th Airlift Squadron, 62d Airlift Wing.


The mission of the 728th is to provide mission-ready aircrews for operational support for strategic and tactical airlift, combat airdrop and aeromedical evacuation in support of U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and gaining major command objectives.


World War II[edit]

452 Bomb Group Flying Fortress flying through flak

The squadron was first activated in June 1943 at Geiger Field, Washington, as one of the four original squadrons of the 452d Bombardment Group. Later that month, it moved to Rapid City Army Air Base, South Dakota and began to train with the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. It continued training with Second Air Force until December, when it began its movement to the European Theater of Operations.[1][3] The ground echelon staged through Camp Shanks and sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 2 January 1944. The air echelon deployed via the South Atlantic air ferry route[4]

The squadron established itself at RAF Deopham Green in January 1944, and began operations on 4 February 1944 with a strike on an aircraft assembly plant near Brunswick. Its strategic targets included railroad marshalling yards near Frankfurt, aircraft factories near Regensberg and Kassel. the ball bearing factory at Schweinfurt and an oil refinery near Bohlen.[3] In September 1944, the squadron participated in the third shuttle mission, striking Chemnitz before landing in bases in the Soviet Union.[5]

The 728th was occasionally diverted to support tactical operations. It hit airfields, V-weapon launching sites, bridges and other objectives in preparations for Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy. It bombed enemy positions to support Operation Cobra, the breakout at Saint Lo in July 1944 and the attacks on Brest, France in August. It supported Operation Market Garden, airborne attacks in the Netherlands in September and, during the Battle of the Bulge, struck German lines of communication. It struck an airfield to support Operation Varsity, the airborne assault across the Rhine.[3]

Shortly before the end of the war, on 7 April, the squadron struck the jet fighter base at Kaltenkirchen, pressing the attack despite strong fighter opposition, earning a Distinguished Unit Citation. It flew its last mission of the war on 21 April against marshalling yards at Ingolstadt.[3]

After V-E Day, in August 1945, the squadron returned to the United States (the ground echelon once again sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth)[4] and was inactivated at Sioux Falls Army Air Field, South Dakota.[1]

Reserve duty and Korean War call-up[edit]

B-26Bs of the 452d Bomb Wing in Korea

The squadron was reactivated in the reserve at Long Beach Army Air Field, California, in 1947 as a very heavy bomber squadron, but conducted proficiency flying with a variety of trainer airplanes under the supervision of the 416th AAF Base Unit (later the 2347th Air Force Reserve Training Center).[6][7] In a 1949 reorganization of the reserves, it became a light bomber squadron and began to equip and train with Douglas B-26 Invaders.[note 1] The squadron was manned at only 25% of its authorized strength.[8]

The squadron was mobilized for the Korean War in August 1950 in the first wave of reserve mobilizations. To help bring it up to strength, the squadron was augmented by reservists assigned to the 448th Bombardment Wing, which was also stationed at Long Beach, but remained in reserve status until the following year.[9] The 728th was a squadron of one of the first two reserve wings to be mobilized,[note 2] and administrative provisions for mobilization proved inadequate, and numerous reservists never received the telegrams calling them to active duty.[10]

The unit moved to George Air Force Base, California, for intensive training and to be brought up to full strength. In October, the squadron deployed to Itazuke Air Base, Japan to begin combat operations.[1] It entered combat two days later, depending on support from organizations already in theater and not waiting for support from the 452d Wing's ground echelon, which arrived by ship in November.[11] The squadron operated from Japan and later from the southern tip of Korea. The squadron flew armed reconnaissance, intruder and interdiction missions. It supported ground troops and attacked tactical targets.

On 23 March 1951, the squadron led troop carrier aircraft carrying the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment in an aerial assault on Munsan-ni, strafing the front lines of the Chinese Communist Forces and dropping bombs on enemy targets.[11] Prior to June 1951, the squadron had been conducting strikes primarily in the daytime. However, due to the extent of enemy night movements, after June, the 728th focused on night operations.[12] In May 1952, the squadron was inactivated and returned to the reserve. Its mission, personnel and aircraft were transferred to the 34th Bombardment Squadron, which was simultaneously activated at Pusan East (K-9) Air Base, South Korea.[1][13]

Reconnaissance and bombardment in the reserves[edit]

The squadron was redesignated the 728th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron and activated in June 1952 at Long Beach, where it absorbed some of the resources of the 921st Reserve Training Wing, which was inactivated. The reserve mobilization for the Korean War, however, had left the reserve without aircraft, and the unit did not receive aircraft until July 1952.[14] Despite its tactical reconnaissance name, it was first equipped with Curtiss C-46 Commando transports. The following year, it began to equip with a mix of aircraft, including The B-26 and North American F-51 Mustang. In 1954 it received its first jets, Lockheed F-80 Shooting Stars.[1][15]

In 1955, the squadron once again became the 728th Bombardment Squadron and trained with the Invader as a tactical bombardment unit.[15] However, at this time, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were pressuring the Air Force to provide more wartime airlift. At the same time, about 150 Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars became available from the active force. Consequently, in November 1956 the Air Force directed ConAC to convert units to the troop carrier mission by September 1957.[16] In July 1957, the squadron became the 728th Troop Carrier Squadrom.[1]

Activation of groups under the wing[edit]

Since 1955, the Air Force had been detaching Air Force Reserve squadrons from their parent wing locations to separate sites. The concept offered several advantages: communities were more likely to accept the smaller squadrons than the large wings and the location of separate squadrons in smaller population centers would facilitate recruiting and manning. In time, the detached squadron program proved successful in attracting additional participants.[17] Although the dispersal of flying units was not a problem when the entire wing was called to active service, mobilizing a single flying squadron and elements to support it proved difficult. This weakness was demonstrated in the partial mobilization of reserve units during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. To resolve this, at the start of 1962, ConAC determined to reorganize its reserve wings by establishing groups with support elements for each of its troop carrier squadrons. This reorganization would facilitate mobilization of elements of wings in various combinations when needed. However, as this plan was entering its implementation phase, another partial mobilization occurred for the Cuban Missile Crisis.[18] The formation of new troop carrier groups was delayed until January for wings that had not been mobilized.[18] The 942d Troop Carrier Group was formed at March on 17 January as the headquarters for the 728th and its supporting units.[15][1]

Reserve airlift[edit]

In August 1965, the squadron received its first C-124 Globemaster II aircraft and four months later was designated the 728th Military Airlift Squadron in January 1966. The 728th MAS flew regular missions in the Pacific and Far East theaters.

After seven years as a Douglas C-124 Globemaster II unit, the 728th moved to Norton Air Force Base, California, and became an associate Reserve squadron in the 445th Military Airlift Wing. In January 1972, the 728th began transition training to fly the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. The 728th participated in Operation Homecoming, bringing home the POWs from Southeast Asia, and Operation New Life which supported the evacuation of orphans and other refugees from Vietnam to the United States.

In 1989 the 728th flew many missions in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama and, as a Reserve squadron, voluntarily flew numerous airlift missions into Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991.

On 1 January 1992 the 728th MAS transferred from the 445th Military Airlift Wing at Norton to the 446th Military Airlift Wing at McChord Air Force Base, Washington. The relocation of the squadron was a result of the closure of Norton as part of the DOD's Base Realignment and Closure program. The 728th was renamed the 728th Airlift Squadron on 1 February 1992 following the reorganization of the 446th Airlift Wing and was joined its two sister squadrons, the 97th Airlift Squadron and 313th Airlift Squadron, within the newly formed 446th Operations Group.

Because of its service throughout its history, the 728th has earned numerous awards and decorations. The squadron received 13 campaign streamers and six decorations for its service during World War II and the Korean War. The Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm highlights the 728th's dedicated service. The 728th also received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its contributions from 1 September 1985 to 31 August 1987.

Since arriving at McChord in January 1992, the 728th has participated in numerous real world contingency, peacekeeping, and humanitarian relief missions.

In addition, the 728th provides active support for Phoenix Banner, Copper and Silver missions. The 728th's highest priority missions assist in the support of the president and vice president as well as secret service operations. These frequent missions are ongoing in nature. In January 1997, a 728th AS crew repatriated the remains of five U.S. service members form Beijing, China, members of the B-24J Liberator bomber crew that crashed near Liuchouw, China in August 1944 after returning from a bombing mission.

A new chapter began at the 728th with the squadron's selection as the first of three Associate Reserve squadrons to transition to the newest aircraft in the Air Mobility Command Fleet, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. The first C-17 was delivered McChord 30 July 1999. The squadron's first operational C-17 mission in November 1999 was a repatriation mission to Hanoi, Vietnam, where 11 American servicemen, from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, were repatriated at the same time—the first time remains from two separate wars were repatriated on the same mission.

On 14 February 2003, the 728th AS was activated to support Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. From February 2003 until 13 February 2005, 728th aircrews flew numerous combat airlift missions into Iraq and Afghanistan, performing engine running onloads/offloads of troops and equipment and flying aeromedical evacuation missions of critically wounded personnel. Members from the 728th also participated in the combat airdrop of the 173d Airborne Brigade over northern Iraq on 26 March 2003. The 728th AS received the Air Force Meritorious Unit Award for its support of OEF and OIF from February 2003 to February 2005.


  • Constituted as the 728th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 14 May 1943
Activated on 1 June 1943
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Heavy on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 28 August 1945
  • Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy on 11 March 1947
Activated in the Reserve on 19 April 1947
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Light on 27 June 1949
Ordered to active duty on 10 August 1950
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Light, Night Intruder on 25 June 1951
Relieved from active duty, and inactivated, on 10 May 1952
  • Redesignated 728th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 6 June 1952
Activated in the Reserve on 13 June 1952
Redesignated 728th Bombardment Squadron, Tactical on 22 May 1955
Redesignated 728th Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium on 1 July 1957
Redesignated 728th Air Transport Squadron, Heavy on 1 December 1965
Redesignated 728th Military Airlift Squadron on 1 January 1966
Redesignated 728th Military Airlift Squadron (Associate) on 1 January 1972
Redesignated 728th Airlift Squadron (Associate) on 1 February 1992
Redesignated 728th Airlift Squadron on 1 October 1994[1]


  • 452d Bombardment Group, 1 June 1943 – 28 August 1945
  • 452d Bombardment Group, 19 April 1947 – 10 May 1952
  • 452d Tactical Reconnaissance Group (later 452 Bombardment Group, 452 Troop Carrier Group), 13 June 1952
  • 452d Troop Carrier Wing, 14 April 1959
  • 942d Troop Carrier Group (later 942d Air Transport Group, 942d Military Airlift Group), 17 January 1963
  • 944th Military Airlift Group, 1 January 1972
  • 445th Military Airlift Wing, 1 July 1973
  • 446th Military Airlift Wing (later 446 Airlift Wing), 1 January 1992
  • 446th Operations Group, 1 August 1992 – present[1]





  1. ^ Robertson indicates the training began in 1949. Robertson, Factsheet 728 Airlift Squadron. Maurer, however, indicates that B-26 training did not begin until 1950. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 725
  2. ^ The other was the 437th Troop Carrier Wing.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Robertson, Patsy (December 7, 2012). "Factsheet 728 Airlift Squadron (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  2. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 723-724
  3. ^ a b c d Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 326-328
  4. ^ a b Freeman, p. 258
  5. ^ Freeman, p. 188
  6. ^ "Abstract, History 416 AAF Base Unit Jan-Mar 1945". Air Force History Index. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Abstract, History 2347 Air Force Reserve Training Center Jul-Sep 1950". Air Force History Index. Retrieved May 7, 2017. 
  8. ^ Cantwell, p. 74
  9. ^ Cantwell, p. 92, Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 522-523
  10. ^ Cantwell, p. 93
  11. ^ a b Endicott, pp. 69-70
  12. ^ Cantwell, p. 103
  13. ^ See Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 164 (simultaneous activation at Pusan)
  14. ^ Cantwell, p. 139
  15. ^ a b c Endicott, Judy G. (28 December 2007). "Factsheet 452 Air Mobility Wing (AFRC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved May 30, 2016. 
  16. ^ Cantwell, p. 168
  17. ^ Cantwell, p. 156
  18. ^ a b Cantwell, pp. 189-191
  19. ^ Station number in Anderson


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

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