The 451st Air Expeditionary Group was a provisional United States Air Force USAFCENT unit. It was assigned to Kandahar Airfield and is also the host unit at Kandahar. It reported to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Air Base.
|451st Air Expeditionary Group|
|Active||1943–1945; 1961–1965; 2002–c.2021|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Command of Air Expeditionary forces|
|Part of||9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force|
|Garrison/HQ||Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan|
|Engagements||World War II European Campaign (1943–1945)|
War in Afghanistan (2001-2021)
|451st Air Expeditionary Wing emblem|
|451st Strategic Missile Wing emblem (Approved 29 June 1962)|
|Unofficial 451st Bombardment Group emblem|
The group provided intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, remotely piloted aircraft operations, and airborne data link capabilities.
During the Cold War, the Strategic Air Command 451st Strategic Missile Wing was the first fully operational HGM-25A Titan I ICBM wing in 1962. During World War II, the wing's predecessor unit, the 451st Bombardment Group was a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombardment organization, assigned to Fifteenth Air Force in Italy.
The first predecessor of the group was activated on 1 May 1943 as the 451st Bombardment Group at Davis–Monthan Field, Arizona, with the 724th, 725th, 726th and 727th Bombardment Squadrons assigned as its original elements. Although original plans were for the group to be an Operational Training Unit at Davis–Monthan, instead a cadre of the group moved to Dyersburg Army Air Base, Tennessee, where it was filled out by personnel drawn from the 346th Bombardment Group. Key group staff, plus the commanders and a model crew from each squadron received advanced tactical training with the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida. This cadre joined the remainder of the group at Wendover Field, Utah for training with the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. The group continued its training at Fairmont Army Air Field, Nebraska, starting in September. On 18 November, the air echelon of the group departed Fairmont for staging at Lincoln Army Air Field, Nebraska to ferry their aircraft via the Southern Ferrying Route to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. The ground echelon left on 26 November for the port of embarkation at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia, for transportation by ship.
The group arrived at Gioia del Colle Airfield, Italy at the beginning of January 1944, although the air echelon remained at Telergma Airfield, Algeria until 20 January to conduct additional training. The group functioned primarily as a strategic bombing unit, attacking targets like oil refineries, marshalling yards, aircraft factories and airfields in Italy, Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Greece and Albania. It earned a Distinguished Unit Citation during Big Week for an attack on a Messerschmitt aircraft factory at Regensburg, Germany on 25 February 1944. It added oak leaf clusters to this award for an attack on oil refineries and marshalling yards at Ploesti, Romania on 5 April 1944 and on Markersdorf-Haindorf Airfield near Vienna, Austria on 23 August 1944. On each of these missions the 451st was opposed by large numbers of enemy interceptor aircraft and heavy flak, but fought its way through to inflict serious damage on the targets and destroy many enemy aircraft.
When returning from the Regensburg attack, runway conditions at Gioia del Colle were so poor that the aircraft of the 451st Group were unable to land there, but spread out among a number of bases in Italy. These poor conditions continued and on 8 March group headquarters and the 724th and 726th Squadrons moved to San Pancrazio Airfield, Italy, while the 725th and 727th Squadrons moved to Manduria Airfield.
On 6 April, the group assembled at Castelluccio Airfield. From its new base, the group also flew air support and interdiction missions. It helped prepare the way for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The following month its bombers transported supplies to forces operating in Italy, It also supported Operation Grapeshot, the final advance of Allied armies in northern Italy. The group's last mission was flown on 26 April 1945 against marshalling yards at Sachsenburg, Austria.
The group left Italy in June 1945, with the air echelon ferrying their planes, while most of the ground echelon sailed on the USS General M. C. Meigs to Newport News, Virginia. The group assembled later in the month at Dow Field, Maine, where it was inactivated on 26 September 1945. Personnel that were not discharged from the service on return to the United States were transferred to Air Transport Command units at Dow.
The second predecessor of the group was organized at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado as the 451st Strategic Missile Wing (ICBM-Titan) on 1 July 1961. The wing assumed the missiles, personnel and equipment of the inactivating 703d Strategic Missile Wing. The 703d Wing had never achieved full operational status, so 451st became the first fully operational HGM-25A Titan I missile wing. Construction on all 18 silos at the six launch complexes was completed by 4 August 1961. On 18 April 1962, Headquarters SAC declared wing's the 724th Squadron operational, and two days later the first Titan Is went on alert status. A month later, the sister 725th Strategic Missile Squadron, which had replaced the 849th Strategic Missile Squadron, declared it had placed all nine of its Titan Is on alert status, which marked a first in Strategic Air Command.
On 19 November 1964, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced the phase-out of remaining first-generation SM-65 Atlas and Titan I missiles by the end of June 1965. This objective was met. All wing missiles went off alert status on 26 March 1965 and the wing phased down for inactivation. On 25 June 1965, the wing and the 724th and 725th Squadrons were inactivated. SAC removed the last missile from Lowry on 14 April 1965.
The 451st Air Expeditionary Group was activated in 2002, conducting operations from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The group was responsible for air control of the southern region of Afghanistan, launch and recovery operations for the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper aircraft, the employment of combat search and rescue forces throughout the entire country and ground security and defense of the airfield. Included in the group are safety, logistics, communications, civil engineer.
Due to the growth in size and requirements of the USAF mission at Kandahar, the 451 AEG was enlarged into the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing (451 AEW) and activated as such on 2 July 2009.
The wing was downsized to a group in January 2014 as part of the Afghanistan drawdown.
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.