|487th Air Expeditionary Wing|
|Active||1943–1945; 1983–1991, 2003|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Nickname(s)||Gentlemen from Hell|
|Motto(s)||Strength and Precision|
|Engagements||European Theater of Operations|
|Decorations||Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
|Beirne Lay, Jr.|
|487th Tactical Missile Wing emblem (approved May 1983)|
|Patch with emblem used by 587th Tactical Missile Group[note 1]|
|Unofficial 487th Bombardment Group emblem[note 2]|
|Unofficial 487th Bombardment Group emblem[note 3]|
|Tail Code||Square P|
The 487th Air Expeditionary Wing is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. As a provisional unit, it may be activated or inactivated at any time. The unit's last known assignment was in 2003 at Cairo West Air Base, Egypt, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The first predecessor of the wing is the 487th Bombardment Group, a United States Army Air Forces unit. It was activated in September 1943. After training in the United States, it deployed to the European Theater of Operations , where it engaged in combat with Consolidated B-24 Liberators. In the summer of 1944, it was withdrawn from combat to convert to the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, than continued in combat until the spring of 1945. It led the largest Eighth Air Force mission of the war on 24 December 1944. It flew 185 combat missions, the last being on 21 April 1945. Following V-E Day, the unit returned to Drew Field, Florida, where it was inactivated on 7 November 1945.
The wing's second predecessor is the 587th Tactical Missile Wing, which operated TM-61 Matador tactical cruise missiles in German during the Cold War from 1958 until 1962, when it was inactivated and its operational squadron was assigned directly to its parent 38th Tactical Missile Wing.
The two groups were consolidated in January 1982 as the 487th Tactical Missile Wing. The wing operated BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missiles until it was inactivated in 1991 with the implementation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
The 487th Bombardment Group was activated at Bruning Army Air Field, Nebraska on 20 September 1943, with the 836th, 837th and 838th Bombardment Squadrons assigned as its original squadrons. The 8th Antisubmarine Squadron, which had helped form the group's cadre, joined the group on 14 October after being redesignated as the 839th Bombardment Squadron. The group trained with Consolidated B-24 Liberators until March 1944, when it departed for the European Theater of Operations. The ground echelon left Alamogordo Army Air Field, New Mexico on 10 March 1944 for the port of embarkation at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, sailing on the SS Duchess of Bedford and arrived in Great Britain on 3 April. The air echelon departed via the southern ferry route on 23 March.
The group arrived at RAF Lavenham, its base in England, on 4 April 1944, with the air echelon arriving between 13 and 17 April. The 487th entered combat on 7 May 1944, bombing airfields in Normandy in preparation for Operation Overlord, the invasion o Normandy. Four days later, its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Beirne Lay, Jr., was shot down, but evaded capture.[note 6] During the Normandy landings, the group struck coastal defenses, road junctions, bridges and rolling stock. It supported British troops near Caen by attacking German troops and artillery redoubts and made similar attacks to support troops assaulting Brest. It provided support for Operation Market Garden, the attempt to seize bridgeheads across the Rhine River near Arnhem and Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Because of its involvement with tactical operations, the group engaged in only limited strategic operations through August 1944. On 19 July 1944, the 487th was taken off combat operations, along with other units of the 92d Combat Bombardment Wing, to convert from the Liberator to the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, in a move that would transform the 3d Bombardment Division to an all Flying Fortress organization. After completing the transition to the B-17 on 1 August 1944, the unit began to focus on strategic targets until March 1945. It attacked oil refineries in Merseburg, Mannheim and Dulmen; factories in Nuremberg, Hanover and Berlin; and marshalling yards in Köln, Münster, Hamm and Neumunster.
On 24 December 1944, the group was the lead group on Eighth Air Force's largest mission of the war.[note 7] Brigadier General Frederick Castle, commander of the 4th Bombardment Wing commanded the raid and flew the 487th's lead aircraft. The group was attacked by Luftwaffe interceptors before escorting fighters could join the bomber formation. Three group planes were shot down, and an additional four were abandoned after making emergency landings in Belgium. Among the losses was General Castle's lead plane. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for taking control of the plane to permit other crew members to bail out and refusing to jettison the plane's bombload to avoid casualties to civilians or friendly troops below. From 1 January 1945 through the end of the war, the group's bombing accuracy was the highest in the 3d Air Division.
The group was diverted from the strategic bombing campaign to support ground troops during the Battle of the Bulge from December 1944 to January 1945. It also flew interdiction missions during the Allied crossings of the Rhine and final thrust across Germany. It flew its last combat mission on 21 April 1945. By the end of the war, the group had flown 185 missions[note 8] with the loss of 33 aircraft in combat, claiming 22 enemy aircraft destroyed.
The 487th remained in England after V-E Day. The air echelon began to fly their B-17s back to the United States in the last week of July, while the rest of the unit returned to the United States on the RMS Queen Elizabeth in August. It reassembled at Drew Field, Florida in September and was inactivated there on 7 November 1945.
From September 1956, the 587th Tactical Missile Group operated Air Force missiles. It was assigned to the 38th Tactical Missile Wing and stationed at Sembach Air Base, West Germany. It controlled Mace and Matador tactical cruise missiles at three dispersed locations 2.6 to 12.5 miles from Sembach. It was inactivated on 25 September 1962.
On 11 January 1982, the 487th Bombardment Group, and 587th Tactical Missile Group were consolidated (effectively merged on paper) and the merged unit became the 487th Tactical Missile Wing. This was a purely administrative, on-paper change.
Activated in 1983, the 487th Tactical Missile Wing was stationed at Comiso Air Station in Sicily. Equipped with BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile, which the 302nd Tactical Missile Squadron used. Inactivated as a result of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1991.
Converted to provisional status and activated as an Air Expeditionary Wing during 2003 invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Inactivated after 90 days of duty due to Air-Force intensive active combat phase of Iraqi invasion having been completed.
The following units were awarded Global War on Terrorism (Expeditionary) campaign participation credit:
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 April 1959-30 January 1961||587th Tactical Missile Group|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1985-30 June 1987||487th Tactical Missile Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1987-30 June 1988||487th Tactical Missile Wing|
|Air Force Outstanding Unit Award||1 July 1988-30 June 1990||487th Tactical Missile Wing|
|Air Offensive, Europe||4 April 1944 – 5 June 1944||487th Bombardment Group|
|Air Combat, EAME Theater||4 April 1944 – 11 May 1945||487th Bombardment Group|
|Normandy||6 June 1944 – 24 July 1944||487th Bombardment Group|
|Northern France||25 July 1944 – 14 September 1944||487th Bombardment Group|
|Rhineland||15 September 1944 – 21 March 1945||487th Bombardment Group|
|Ardennes-Alsace||16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945||487th Bombardment Group|
|Central Europe||22 March 1944 – 21 May 1945||487th Bombardment Group|
|Global War on Terror||c. Mar 2003-c. May 2003||487th Air Expeditionary Wing|