|455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Active||1943–1945; 1947–1949; 1956–1957; 1962–1968; 2002–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Combat & Combat Support|
|Part of||United States Air Forces Central Command|
|Garrison/HQ||Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan|
|Nickname(s)||Vulgar Vultures (World War II)|
|Engagements||Mediterranean Theater of Operations|
|Decorations||Distinguished Unit Citation|
Air Force Meritorious Unit Award
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
|Brig. Gen. Derek J. "Maestro" O'Malley|
|455th Air Expeditionary Wing emblem (approved 3 August 2017)|
|Patch with 455th Strategic Missile Wing emblem (approved c. October 1963)|
|Unofficial 455th Bombardment Group emblem[note 1]|
The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is a provisional United States Air Force unit formerly located at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. It is one of two expeditionary wings in Afghanistan. Most wing personnel are located at the Air Force Village known as Camp Cunningham.
The first predecessor of the wing was organized in 1943 as the 455th Bombardment Group. After training in the United States with Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers, the 455th deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, participating in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany. It earned two Distinguished Unit Citations for its combat operations. Following V-E Day, it remained in Italy without its flight echelon until inactivating in September 1945.
The group was activated in the reserve in 1947. Apparently, it was not fully manned or equipped before inactivating in June 1949 and transferring most of its resources to another unit. It was redesignated the 445th Fighter-Day Group and activated in 1956, but did not become operational before inactivating in July 1957.
The wing's second predecessor was established in 1953, but not organized until November 1962 as the 455th Strategic Missile Wing an LGM-30B Minuteman I wing. It was inactivated in June 1968 and transferred its assets to the 91st Strategic Missile Wing. The group and wing were consolidated in 1985. In 2001, the consolidated unit was converted to provisional status as the 455th Air Expeditionary Group. It was activated the following year.
The wing's primary mission is to support the Global War on Terrorism by providing aerial support for U.S. and Coalition forces on the ground. Activated in 2002, the 455th has members deployed throughout the country supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
The wing commander reports to the United States Air Forces Central Command commander in Southwest Asia. The commander is supported by a wing staff and oversees five Air Force groups located at Bagram and one at Kandahar Airfield. The five groups are the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group, the 455th Expeditionary Mission Support Group, 455th Expeditionary Medical Group, and the 455th Expeditionary Base Defense Group. It also oversees the 451st Air Expeditionary Group at Kandahar Airfield.
The wing consists of five groups:
The group was first activated at Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico on 1 June 1943 as the 445th Bombardment Group, with the 740th, 741st, 742d and 743d Bombardment Squadrons assigned. The initial cadre for the group was drawn from the 302d Bombardment Group. In July, a cadre was given advanced tactical training by the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base and Pinecastle Army Air Field, Florida. After organizing at Alamogordo, the group moved to Utah, where the ground echelon was stationed at Kearns Army Air Base, although flying operations were based at Salt Lake City Army Air Base. After completing training at Langley Field, Virginia, the group departed the United States for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in December 1943. The air echelon began staging through Mitchel Field, New York to ferry their Liberators via the southern ferry route. The ground echelon of group headquarters sailed on the SS William T. Barry.
The air echelon of the group was delayed in Tunisia and was not entirely lodged at the 455th's combat station of San Giovanni Airfield, Italy until 1 February 1944, and the group flew its first mission on 16 February. The group was engaged primarily in the strategic bombing campaign against Germany, attacking targets like airfields, factories, oil refineries, harbors, marshalling yards in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia.
On 2 April 1944, the group attacked a ball-bearing plant at Steyr, Austria for which it earned a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC). The primary target, the Daimler-Pusch aircraft engine factory was obscured by clouds, so the unit attacked the nearby ball bearing plant although attacks by an estimated 75 twin-engine fighters continued through the bomb run and heavy, accurate flak was encountered. The 740th claimed the destruction of seven of these fighters against the loss of one squadron Liberator. The 742d lost two Liberators in the attack but claimed the destruction of six enemy aircraft. Five crewmembers from one of the squadron's B-24s lost in the attack bailed out in territory controlled by Yugoslav Partisans and were able to evade German forces and returned to the squadron a month after the attack. The 743d Squadron claimed the destruction of nine fighters against the loss of two squadron Liberators.[note 2]
On 26 June 1944, the group, which was leading the 304th Bombardment Wing on the raid, encountered fighter opposition that was described as the strongest Fifteenth Air Force had encountered to date, and which destroyed several Liberators of the 455th Group. One 740th Liberator was lost on the raid, while the squadron claimed eleven enemy aircraft destroyed (two shared claims). Enemy fighters were able to separate the 741st Squadron from its fighter escort and intensified their attacks on the squadron. One 741st bomber was lost when a Luftwaffe fighter dove head-on into it. The Liberator continued on the bomb run and dropped its bombs on the target before crashing into the ground.[note 3] Other fighters continued their attacks to within 100 feet of the group's planes. On this mission, the 742d Squadron suffered its heaviest losses of the war, with six planes lost to enemy action. Only one of the squadron's Liberators that reached the target returned safely. The 743d Squadron put nine bombers over the target but was the only squadron of the group to bring all its planes home. The group pressed its attack on an oil refinery at Moosbierbaum, Austria, for which it received a second DUC.
The group provided air support to ground forces in Operation Shingle, the landings at Anzio and the Battle of Monte Cassino in the spring of 1944. It knocked out coastal defenses to clear the way for Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France in September. As Axis forces were withdrawing from the Balkan peninsula in the fall of 1944, the squadron bombed marshalling yards, troop concentrations and airfields to slow their retreat. It flew air interdiction missions to support Operation Grapeshot, the Spring 1945 offensive in Northern Italy.
The group flew its last combat mission on 25 April 1945 against rail yards at Linz, Austria. Following the surrender of German forces in Italy, it flew some supply missions and transported personnel to ports and airfields for shipment back to the United States. Most of the air echelon returned to the United States, ferrying their aircraft in June. The 740th Squadron's ground personnel moved to Bari Airfield in July 1945, where they serviced the aircraft assigned to headquarters, Fifteenth Air Force. Many of the group's remaining personnel were transferred to other units in the 304th Bombardment Wing for shipment back to the United States, while the group remained in Italy, serving as a replacement depot. The last of the air echelon departed Italy in July and the group was inactivated on 9 September 1945.
The group lost 118 aircraft. It suffered 147 killed in action, 268 Missing in action, 179 prisoners of war, and 169 wounded in action. On the other hand, the group claimed the destruction of 119 enemy aircraft.
The group was reactivated as a reserve unit under Air Defense Command (ADC) in March 1947 at Hensley Field, Texas, with the 740th Squadron, which was already active, assigned to it. At Hensley its training was supervised by ADC's 4122d AAF Base Unit (later the 2596th Air Force Reserve Training Center). The 741st and 742d Squadrons were activated to join the group in late June and early September 1947, respectively. In October, the group was rounded out with the activation of the 743d Squadron, which was not stationed with the group, but at Sheppard-Kell Municipal Airport. The 455th was nominally a very heavy bomber unit, but does not appear to have been fully manned or equipped while a reserve unit. In 1948 Continental Air Command (ConAC) assumed responsibility for managing reserve and Air National Guard units from ADC. President Truman's reduced 1949 defense budget required reductions in the number of units in the Air Force. ConAC also reorganized its reserve units under the wing base organization system in June 1949. As a result, the group was inactivated and its personnel and equipment at Hensley Field were transferred to elements of the 443d Troop Carrier Wing, which was activated simultaneously. The 743d Squadron was also inactivated and reserve flying operations at Sheppard came to an end.
The group was redesignated the 455th Fighter-Day Group and activated at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina in July 1956 as Tactical Air Command planned to organize a second North American F-100 Super Sabre wing there.[note 4] Some personnel were assigned to the group and its squadrons, but it never became operational with aircraft. It was inactivated in July 1957 and its few personnel were reassigned to elements of the 354th Fighter-Day Wing.
The wing's second predecessor was organized at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota in November 1962 as the 455th Strategic Missile Wing along with its 740th Squadron. The 741st and 742d Squadrons were organized in December 1962 and January 1963. The wing prepared for operational capability with LGM-30B Minuteman I missiles through March 1964. The wing's first Minuteman missile arrived on 6 September 1963, and was placed three days later. The 150th, and final, missile was placed on 26 February 1964, and by late March the wing became combat-ready.
On 25 June 1968, the 455th was inactivated and transferred its assets to the 91st Strategic Missile Wing, which moved to Minot on paper from Glasgow Air Force Base, Montana. The three missile squadrons, however, were reassigned to the 91st Wing.
On 31 January 1984, the 455th Fighter-Day Group and the 455th Strategic Missile Wing were consolidated into a single unit under the wing's designation.
The 455th was converted to provisional status in December 2001 and redesignated the 455th Air Expeditionary Group for the Global War on Terrorism. It was activated on 26 April 2002 at Bagram Air Base. In July 2002, the group was redesignated the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing with five assigned groups. Since then the wing has provided close air support, air mobility, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, combat search and rescue, electronic attack, aero medical evacuation, and combat support as the lead Air Force organization in Afghanistan. The wing currently consists of about 1,600 airmen, based throughout Afghanistan.
The 455 AEW was awarded the Meritorious Unit Award for all personnel assigned between 1 October 2006 and 30 September 2007, 1 October 2008 through 30 September 2009, and 1 October 2010 through 30 September 2011.
455th Air Expeditionary Wing
|Distinguished Unit Citation||2 April 1944||455th Bombardment Group, Steyr, Austria|
|Distinguished Unit Citation||26 June 1944||455th Bombardment Group, Austria|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device||16 April 2002–15 September 2002||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device||16 September 2002–15 September 2003||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device||16 September 2003–30 September 2004||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2004–30 September 2005||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2005–30 September 2006||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2006–30 September 2007||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2007–30 September 2008||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2008–30 September 2009||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2009–30 September 2010||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2010–30 September 2011||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2011–30 September 2012||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 July 2012–30 June 2013||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 July 2013–30 June 2014||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2014–30 September 2015||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Force Meritorious Unit Award||1 October 2015–31 March 2017||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Air Offensive, Europe||15 January 1944 – 5 June 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Air Combat, EAME Theater||15 January 1944 – 11 May 1945||455th Bombardment Group|
|Naples-Foggia||15 January 1944 – 21 January 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Anzio||22 January 1944 – 24 May 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Rome-Arno||22 January 1944 – 9 September 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Central Europe||22 March 1944 – 21 May 1945||455th Bombardment Group|
|Normandy||6 June 1944 – 24 July 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Northern France||25 July 1944 – 14 September 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|Southern France||15 August 1944 – 14 September 1944||455th Bombardment Group|
|North Apennines||10 September 1944 – 4 April 1945||455th Bombardment Group|
|Rhineland||15 September 1944 – 21 March 1945||455th Bombardment Group|
|Po Valley||3 April 1945 – 8 May 1945||455th Bombardment Group|
|Consolidation I||26 April 2002 – 30 September 2006||455th Air Expeditionary Group (later 455th Air Expeditionary Wing)|
|Consolidation II||1 November 2006 – 30 November 2006||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Consolidation III||1 December 2006 – 30 June 2011||455th Air Expeditionary Wing|
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