The 53d Airlift Squadron (53 AS) is part of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. It operates C-130 Hercules aircraft for airlift and airdrop operations.
Activated in June 1942 as a I Troop Carrier Command C-47 Skytrain troop carrier squadron, trained in the United States. Assigned to Twelfth Air Force and deployed North Africa during May 1943. The squadron's aircraft flew supplies to front-line units in Algeria and Tunisia during the North African Campaign as soon as suitable landing strips were available and evacuated casualties back to rear area field hospitals.
Squadron engaged in combat operations, dropping airborne units into Sicily during the Operation Husky invasion and later into areas around Anzio, Italy as part of Operation Shingle, the invasion of mainland Italy and the initiation of the Italian Campaign, January 1944. Moved north though Italy, in 1943 in support of Allied ground forces, evacuated wounded personnel and flew missions behind enemy lines in Italy and the Balkans to haul guns, ammunition, food, clothing, medical supplies, and other materials to the partisans and to drop propaganda leaflets.
Was moved to England in February 1944, assigned to IX Troop Carrier Command, Ninth Air Force. Prepared for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. In June 1944, subordinate units dropped paratroops in Normandy, subsequently flying numerous missions to bring in reinforcements and needed supplies. During the airborne attack on The Netherlands (Operation Market Garden, September 1944), the squadron dropped paratroops, towed gliders, and flew resupply missions. Several of its subordinate units also participated in the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The 50th supported the 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge by towing gliders full of supplies near Bastogne on 27 December 1944.
When the Allies made the air assault across the Rhine River in March 1945, each aircraft towed two gliders with troops of the 17th Airborne Division and released them near Wesel. The squadron also hauled food, clothing, medicine, gasoline, ordnance equipment, and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated patients to rear zone hospitals.
In late May 1945, after V-E Day, the squadron was moved to Waller Field, Trinidad and attached to Air Transport Command. From Trinidad, the squadron ferried returning military personnel to Morrision Field, Florida, where they were sent on to other bases or prepared for separation after the war.
The squadron participated in the Berlin Airlift, 1948 1949, and conducted aerial transportation from the U.S. to Japan from August December 1950, and between Japan and Korea from 13 December 1950-November 1952. It conducted worldwide airlift operations form 1953-1966, including resupply to Antarctica from 1957 1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The 53d again conducted worldwide airlift from 1972-1993 flying missions into Grenada, 23 October 1983 – 9 November 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 December 1989, and to Southwest Asia, August 1990-June 1991. The squadron was deactivated in 2008 and detached from AETC. It was reactivated in October 2008 as a part of the 19th Airlift Wing, 18th Air Force, AMC.
Operations and Decorations
- Combat Operations. World War II: Included airborne assaults on Sicily, Normandy, Holland, and Germany; aerial transportation in Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) and European Theater of Operations (ETO). Berlin Airlift, 1948-1949. Korean War: Aerial transportation from US to Japan, Aug-Dec 1950, and between Japan and Korea, 13 Dec 1950-Nov 1952. Airlift, 1953-1966, including resupply to the Antarctic, (Project Deep Freeze), 1957-1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the conflict in Vietnam. Worldwide airlift, 1972-1993, into Grenada, 23 Oct-9 Nov 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 Dec 1989, and to Southwest Asia, Aug 1990-Jun 1991. Conducted C-130 aircrew training for active duty USAF, Air Force Reserve (USAFR), Air National Guard (ANG), US Navy, US Marine Corps and selected allied nations, 1993-2008.
- Campaigns. World War II: Sicily; Naples-Foggia; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Central Europe. Korea: CCF Intervention; First UN Counteroffensive; CCF Spring Offensive; UN Summer-Fall Offensive; Second Korean Winter; Korea Summer-Fall, 1952.
- Decorations. Distinguished Unit Citations: Sicily, 11 Jul 1943; France, [6-7] Jun 1944; Korea, 13 Dec 1950-21 Apr 1951. Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards: 1 Jul 1957-10 Dec 1962; 1 Jul 1968-30 Jun 1969; 1 Jul 1970-30 Jun 1971; 1 Jun 1978-31 May 1980; 1 Jan-31 Dec 1983; 1 Jan-31 Dec 1987; 1 Jan 1990-30 Apr 1991. Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation: 1 Jul 1951-[18 Nov 1952]. Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm: 1 Apr 1966-8 Jan 1973.
- Constituted as 53d Transport Squadron on 30 May 1942
- Activated on 1 Jun 1942
- Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron on 4 Jul 1942
- Inactivated on 31 Jul 1945
- Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron, Medium, on 1 Jul 1948
- Re-designated: 53d Troop Carrier Squadron, Heavy, on 15 Aug 1948
- Re-designated: 53d Military Airlift Squadron on 8 Jan 1966
- Discontinued, and inactivated, on 8 Jul 1966
- Re-designated: 53d Airlift Squadron on 1 Jan 1992
- Inactivated on 30 Apr 1993
- Inactivated on 11 Jan 2008
- Activated on 15 May 2008.
- 61st Transport (later, 61st Troop Carrier) Group, 1 Jun 1942-31 Jul 1945
- 61st Troop Carrier Group, 30 Sep 1946
- Attached to the Airlift Task Force, Provisional, Aug 1958-Feb 1959, Feb-Jul 1960, and 5 Jan 1961-Apr 1962
- 63d Troop Carrier Group, 8 Oct 1959
- 63d Troop Carrier (later, 63d Military Airlift) Wing, 18 Jan 1963-8 Jul 1966
- 63d Military Airlift Wing, 8 Jan 1972
- 63d Military Airlift Group, 1 Oct 1978
- 63d Military Airlift Wing, 1 Jul 1980
- 63d Operations Group, 1 Jan 1992-30 Apr 1993
- 314th Operations Group, 1 Oct 1993-11 Jan 2008
- 463d Airlift Group, 15 May 2008 Present
- Sedalia Army Air Field, Missouri, 23 Oct 1942
- Lubbock Army Airfield, Texsd, 15 Nov 1942
- Pope Field, North Carolina, 26 Feb-30 Apr 1943
- Lourmel Airfield, Algeria, 15 May 1943
- Kairouan Airfield, Tunisia, 21 Jun 1943
- Licata Airfield, Sicily, 3 Sep 1943
- Sciacca Airfield, Sicily, 6 Oct 1943-12 Feb 1944
- RAF Barkston Heath (AAF-483), England, 18 Feb 1944
- Abbeville/Drucat Airfield (B-92), France, 13 Mar-19 May 1945
- Waller Field, Trinidad, 29 May-31 Jul 1945
- Orly Airfield, France, 30 Sep 1946
- AAF Station Eschborn, Germany, 14 Dec 1946
- AAF Station Frankfurt, Germany, 8 Aug 1947
- Templehof AB, Germany, 20 Jan 1948
- Rhein-Main AB, Germany (later West Germany), 22 Apr 1948-21 Jul 1950
McChord AFB, Washington, 26 Jul-12 Dec 1950
- Ashiya AB, Japan, 13 Dec 1950
- Johnson AB, Japan, 13 Sep-18 Nov 1952
Larson AFB, Washington, 21 Nov 1952
Donaldson AFB, South Carolina, 21 Aug 1954
- Deployed at Rhein-Main AB, West Germany, Aug 1958-Feb 1959, Feb-Jul 1960, and 5 Jan 1961-Apr 1962
Hunter AFB, Georgia, 1 Apr 1963-8 Jul 1966
Norton AFB, California, 8 Jan 1972-30 Apr 1993
- Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, 1 Oct 1993-11 Jan 2008; 15 May 2008 Present
- C-47 Skytrain (1942 1945)
- C-46 Commando (1946 1948)
- C-54 Skymaster (1948 1952)
- C-124 Globemaster II (1952 1966)
C-141 Starlifter (1972 1993)
- C-130 Hercules (1993 Present)