385th Air Expeditionary Group


385th Air Expeditionary Group
Airmen and Marines support Afghanistan retrograde 141006-F-FW757-086.jpg
Group airmen support retrograde airlift from Afghanistan
Active1943–1945, 1963–1964; 2002-Undetermined
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
RoleExpeditionary Unit
Nickname(s)Van's Valiants (World War II)
Motto(s)Ales Victoria [sic] "Winged Victory"
EngagementsEuropean theater of World War II
DecorationsDistinguished Unit Citation
385 Air Expeditionary Gp emblem385 Air Expeditionary Gp emblem.png
385th Bombardment Group emblem[1]385bg-emblem.jpg
World War II Tail Code[1]Square G

The 385th Air Expeditionary Group is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Mobility Command to activate or inactivate as needed.[2] It was last known to be stationed at Incirlik AB, Turkey. It is currently a tenant unit of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.

During World War II, it was active as the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy), an Eighth Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress unit, stationed at RAF Great Ashfield, England. The group led the famous attack on the Focke-Wulf Assembly Plant[3] at Marienburg in East Prussia on 9 October 1943.

During the Cold War, the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing was a Strategic Air Command (SAC) wing assigned to the 818th Strategic Aerospace Division at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. It conducted strategic air refueling operations and maintained ICBM readiness to meet SAC commitments. The wing served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global air refueling mission until inactivated in 1964 as part of the phaseout of the SM-65 Atlas ICBM from the USAF inventory. It was inactivated on 15 December 1964.


World War II

B-17s of the 385th Bomb Group on a parachute drop over France, October 1944. B-17G "Dozy Doats" visible in foreground.

The unit was constituted in late November 1942 as the 385th Bombardment Group and activated on 1 December 1943 at Davis–Monthan Field in Arizona.[4] Its initial squadrons were the 548th,[5] 549th,[6] 550th,[7] and 551st Bombardment Squadrons.[8]

The group was formed in February 1943 at Geiger Field, Washington. It trained for two months and then moved to Great Falls AAB, Montana in April 1943. The unit completed training at the end of May 1943 with the aircraft moving to Kearney AAF, Nebraska prior to moving to England by the northern ferry route. Two aircraft were lost en route. The ground echelon left Great Falls on 8 June 1943. The 548th BS sailed on the Queen Mary on 23 June 1943 and the other squadrons on the Queen Elizabeth on 1 July 1943.

Under Eighth Air Force based in England, the 385th BG operated primarily as a strategic bombardment organization until the war ended, striking such targets as industrial areas, air bases, oil refineries, and communications centers in Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.[4] The group received two Distinguished Unit Citations for bombing an aircraft factory at Regensburg on 17 August 1943 after a long hazardous flight over enemy territory. The group led the 4th Bombardment Wing a great distance through heavy and damaging opposition for the successful bombardment of an aircraft repair plant at Zwickau on 12 May 1944, being awarded another DUC for this performance.[4] Other strategic targets included aircraft factories in Oschersleben and Marienburg, battery works in Stuttgart, airfields in Beauvais and Chartres, oil refineries in Ludwigshafen and Merseburg, and marshalling yards in Munich and Oranienburg.[4]

The 385th sometimes supported ground forces and struck interdictory targets. It attacked coastal defenses in June 1944 in preparation for the Normandy invasion and hit marshalling yards and choke points during the landing on D-Day. The group bombed enemy positions in support of ground forces at Saint-Lô in July 1944. Attacked German communications and fortifications during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945. It bombed troop concentrations and communications centers in Germany and France, March–April 1945, to assist the final thrust into Germany.[4]

On 6 March 1944 raid to Berlin (the most costly mission the Eighth ever carried out) the 3rd Division commander, Brigadier General Russell Wilson, took off from Great Ashfield in a radar-equipped B-17 in a leading group of the 385th. All of the 385th aircraft returned safely ... all, that is, except the one carrying General Wilson. which was seen to take several hits from flak. setting one engine on fire. Although four of the crew managed to parachute to safety (including Medal of Honor hero First Lieutenant John C. Morgan), eight of the others were killed when the bomber exploded.

In May 1945 the group dropped food to the starving Dutch population in the Netherlands as part of Operation Chowhound. The 385th suffered the last enemy action in the European part of the war. On 2 May 1945, a B-17 of the 385th BG was struck by enemy ground fire while on Operation Chowhound but returned safely to base. This was the last credited combat mission of the war.

After V-E Day, the 385th Bomb Group hauled displaced French slave laborers from Austria to France. It redeployed to the United States in June and August 1945. The aircraft left between 19 June, and 29 June 1945. the ground unit left on 4 August 1945, and sailed on the Queen Elizabeth from Greenock on 5 August 1945. They arrived in New York on 11 August 1945. Group was then established at Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota and inactivated on 28 August 1945.[4]

Cold War

Emblem of the 4321st Strategic Wing

The origins of the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing began on 15 August 1959 when Strategic Air Command (SAC) activated the 566th Strategic Missile Squadron (SMS) at Offutt AFB and assigned it to Second Air Force.[9] The squadron was equipped with SM-65 Atlas-Ds. Six weeks later, on 1 October 1959, SAC established the 4321st Strategic Wing at Offutt[10] and assigned it to the 17th Air Division (later Strategic Aerospace Division) as an operational headquarters for the 566th and for the 34th Air Refueling Squadron, flying Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. The 34th had been stationed at Offutt since the fall of 1958, but was assigned to a wing located at Whiteman AFB, Missouri.

The wing's missiles were maintained on alert and ready for combat. The 4321st (and later the 385th) continued to maintain an alert commitment until inactivating. In August 1962, the 4321st was reassigned to the 818th Strategic Aerospace Division. However, SAC Strategic Wings could not carry a permanent history or lineage[11] and SAC looked for a way to make its Strategic Wings permanent.

In 1962, in order to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its Major Command controlled (MAJCON) strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate Air Force controlled (AFCON) units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history.[note 1]

As a result the 4321st SW was replaced by the newly constituted 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing (SAW),[12] which assumed its mission, personnel, and equipment on 1 January 1963.[note 2] In the same way the 549th Strategic Missile Squadron, one of the unit's World War II historical bomb squadrons, replaced the 566th SMS.[6][note 3] The 34th Air Refueling Squadron was reassigned to the 385th.[2] Because the new organization controlled a combination of aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles it added "Aerospace" to the 4321st's designation.

The 385th SAW continued to conduct strategic air refueling operations and maintain ICBM readiness to meet SAC commitments. The wing served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global air refueling mission. It was inactivated on 15 December 1964.[12]

In the 21st century, the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron was part of the group; the 816th EAS may also have been assigned at times.


385th Bombardment Group

  • Constituted as the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 25 November 1942
Activated on 1 December 1942.
Redesignated as the 385th Bombardment Group, Heavy on 11 August 1944
Inactivated on 28 August 1945[4]
  • Consolidated on 31 January 1984 with the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing as the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing (remained inactive)[2]

385th Strategic Wing

  • Constituted as the 385th Strategic Aerospace Wing on 15 November 1962 and activated (not organized)
Organized on 1 January 1963
Discontinued and inactivated on 15 December 1964[12]
  • Consolidated on 31 January 1985 with the 385th Bombardment Group (remained inactive)
  • Redesignated 385th Air Expeditionary Group and converted to provisional status, on 12 June 2002.[2]




  • 34th Air Refueling Squadron, 1 January – 15 December 1964 (detached 10–15 December 1964)
  • 548th Bombardment Squadron, 1 December 1942 – 19 June 1945
  • 549th Bombardment (later Strategic Missile) Squadron, 1 December 1942 – 19 June 1945; 1 January 1963 – 15 December 1964 (not operational, 1–15 December 1964)
  • 550th Bombardment Squadron, 1 December 1942 – 19 June 1945
  • 551st Bombardment Squadron, 1 December 1942 – 19 June 1945
  • 90th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 2002-Undetermined
Squadron assigned to: NSA Souda Bay, Crete, Greece


Aircraft and Missiles


  1. ^ MAJCON units could not carry a permanent history or lineage. Ravenstein, Guide to Air Force Lineage and Honors, p. 12
  2. ^ Although the 385th Wing was a new organization, it continued, through temporary bestowal, the history, and honors of the World War II 385th Bombardment Group. It was also entitled to retain the honors (but not the history or lineage) of the 4321st. This temporary bestowal ended in January 1984, when the wing and group were consolidated into a single unit.
  3. ^ This was a paper swap of unit designations. The 549th SMS was active at Francis E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. It moved to Offutt and assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 566th SMS, which moved to Warren and took over that of the 549th
  1. ^ a b Watson, pp. 70–71
  2. ^ a b c d e Haulman, Daniel L. "Lineage and Honors History of the 385 Air Expeditionary Group (AMC)" (PDF). Air Force Historical Research Agency. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Representative Missions: Marienburg". National Museum of the United States Air Force. 29 December 2008. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 272–273
  5. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 651–652
  6. ^ a b Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 652–653
  7. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 654–655
  8. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 655
  9. ^ Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 664
  10. ^ Mueller, p. 458
  11. ^ Ravenstein, Guide to Air Force Lineage and Honors, p. 12
  12. ^ a b c Ravenstein, Air Force Combat Wings, p. 208
  13. ^ "Manas C-17 Crews Drop Vital Cargo in Afghanistan". Aero News Network. 30 September 2006. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  14. ^ Jimenez, A1C Jacob (15 August 2014). "All four of the 62nd Airlift Wing's squadrons are home". NorthwestMilitary.com. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  15. ^ Station number from Anderson


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

  • Anderson, Capt. Barry (1985). Army Air Forces Stations: A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II (PDF). Maxwell AFB, AL: Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
  • Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) [1969]. 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.
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6.
  • 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.
  • Watkins, Robert (2008). Battle Colors: Insignia and Markings of the Eighth Air Force in World War II. Vol I (VIII) Bomber Command. Atglen, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7643-1987-7. |volume= has extra text (help)

Further reading

  • Leonard, Lt Col. Marston S. History of the 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and its affiliated units 424th Air Service Group, 877th Chemical Company (AO), Detachment 155, 18th Weather Squadron, 1 February 1943 – 14 August 1945. San Angelo, Texas: Newsfoto Publishing Company, 1974.
  • Varnedoe, W.W. (Ed.). A New History of the 385th Bomb Group (H). St. Petersburg, Florida: Southern Heritage Press/385th Bombardment Group Memorial Association, 1995. ISBN 0-941072-17-7.
  • Varnedoe, W. W. The Story of Van's Valiants, A History of the 385th Bomb Group Colonial Graphics, 2005, 6th Edition 2009.

External links

  • Friends of the 385th Bomb Group
  • Replica WWII 385th BG Briefing Room at U.S. Veterans Memorial Museum