Douglas C-124A-DL Globemaster II 51-144, photo taken when the aircraft was delivered, before MATS livery was applied. The 15th Air Transport Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last was assigned to the 1607th Air Transport Wing, Military Air Transport Service, stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. It was inactivated on 1 January 1965.
The 15th Air Transport Squadron s lineage can be traced back to 18 February 1942 when the unit was constituted as the 15th Aircraft Ferrying Squadron. It was activated on 7 March 1942 and assigned to the Army Air Force Ferrying Command s 23rd Army Air Force Ferrying Wing, 8th Ferrying Group, stationed at Presque Isle, Maine.(1)
Presque Isle had been planned originally to serve as a transfer point at which Ferrying Command crews would turn over aircraft to the British for transoceanic delivery. Construction of the base s facilities was authorized in August 1941, and the work proceeded through the fall under the supervision of Ferrying Command control officers. The base was ready for limited operations by mid October. It became the main port of embarkation for American aircraft flying the Atlantic. It was at Presque Isle that, in January 1942, the headquarters of the newly activated North Atlantic Sector of the Ferrying Command was established.(2)
On 1 July 1942, the Air Corps Ferrying Command became the Air Transport Command. It consisted of two main divisions, the Ferrying Division and the Air Transport Division.(3) From 25 July 1942 through 19 October 1942 the 23rd Ferrying Wing s, Ferrying Groups and Ferrying Squadrons were re-designated as Transport Groups and Transport Squadrons. The 23rd itself, was re-designated the North Atlantic Wing as to be more descriptive of its geographical location. The 15th Ferrying Squadron was re-designated a Transport Squadron on 25 July 1942. On 1 September 1943 the 15th Transport Squadron was disbanded.(4)
On 19 May 1948, orders were issued by Headquarters Air Transport Command, that the 15th would be re-designated the 15th Air Transport Squadron effective 1 June 1948 and be assigned to the 520th Air Transport Wing, 520th Air Transport Group, Westover Air Force Base, Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts.(5) Then on 15 September 1948, orders issued by Headquarters Military Air Transport Service (MATS), directed that effective 1 October 1948, the 15th Air Transport Squadron be re-designated the 1253rd Air Transport Squadron and the 520th Air Transport Wing and Group be re-designated as the 1600th Air Transport Wing and the 1600th Air Transport Group.(6) These orders did not direct a reconstitution of the unit nor a change in station. They did, however, maintain an administrative function, if necessary, for the temporary assignment of personnel procured from sources within the Military Air Transport Service. It is also noted that the 1253rd Air Transport Squadron was specifically a major command controlled organization and as such does play a part in the official lineage of the 15th Air Transport Squadron. It was not until 20 July 1952 that the 1253rd Air Transport Squadron was discontinued and the unit was re-designated and reconstituted as the 15th Air Transport Squadron (Heavy) and assigned to the 1600th Air Transport Wing, 1600th Air Base Group, Westover Air Force Base, Massachuetts.(7) The squadron s aircraft was the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.
On 8 March 1955, Headquarters, Military Air Transport Service (MATS), United States Air Force, Washington, D.C., directed that the Commanders of the Atlantic Division, MATS, the 1600th Air Transport Group (Heavy) and the 15th Air Transport Squadron (Heavy); all of Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, take the necessary action to move the 15th Air Transport Squadron (H) from Westover Air Force Base to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. On 9 March 1955, movement orders were issued affecting the transfer. The unit would move at its current strength and its transfer would begin on the earliest possible date after 15 April 1955 and would be completed no later than 15 May 1955. The unit would remain assigned to the Atlantic Division of MATS. When the unit move is completed, the 15th Air Transport Squadron (H) would be relieved of assignment to the 1600th Air Transport Group and would be assigned to the 1607th Air Transport Group (Heavy), Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.(8) Unit authorized strength was 68 officers and 342 enlisted personnel with twelve C-124 Globemasters assigned. The squadron commander was Major Wayne S. Crawford Jr.
It wasn t long after the 15th Air Transport Squadron s arrival at Dover Air Force Base, that the squadron and its crews were initiated into a tradition that would last for the next ten years. During three weeks in May 1955 a crew from the 15th, in addition to crews from the 40th Air Transport Squadron and the 45th Air Transport Squadron, operated five aircraft in support of Project ICECUBE, the construction of the DEWLINE network in northern Canada. Operating out of Dover Air Force Base, these five aircraft and crews made a total of 28 hazardous ice landings at Mount Joli, Quebec, carrying over one million pounds of cargo.
A reorganization of the 1607th Air Transport Wing took place during the latter half of 1955. The mission and command responsibilities would not change; however, a new mission directive was published by Atlantic Division, MATS that increased the command s responsibilities to the extent that the wing was required to accomplish all cross-service agreements with other agencies of the Department of Defense, maintaining a liaison with the Corps of Engineers, Department of the Army, and informing the Atlantic Division of the base facilities developments in relation to mission requirements. The most noticeable change affecting the 15th s airlift operations was the activation of both the 1607th Air Base Group and the 1607th Maintenance Group placing them under the wing. Major George E. Hedge, formerly of the 15th ATS, would assume command of the Maintenance Group s Periodic Maintenance Squadron. Also, the Air Force s tradition of individual squadron maintenance would be abolished on 1 January 1957, when the maintenance function would be placed with the 1607th Maintenance Group.
The mission responsibilities of the 15th Air Transport Squadron s airlift operation would expand considerably. In the years following, the 1607th Air Transport Wing assumed the additional responsibility for logistical airlift operations including entire unit deployments, airdrop supply, airlanded supply, scheduled and nonscheduled airlift, joint airborne operations and training to include the capability for airdrop of personnel and cargo.
With its new mission directive, the 15th Air Transport Squadron would assume its share of responsibilities in major joint mobility exercises and global operations conducted during the Cold War . Examples include: Big Slam/Puerto Pine, March 1960, was an exercise that deployed 22,000 combat Army troops and 12,000 tons of gear from stateside bases to Ramey AFB and Roosevelt Roads Naval Air Station, Puerto Rico; Check Mate II, September 1961, involved the deployment of the 301st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to bases in Europe; Southern Express, October 1962, a NATO exercise which involved airlifting troops from central Europe to northern Greece; Big Lift, October 1963, the deployment of a full Army division from Texas to Germany; The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962. In support of President John F. Kennedy s decision to blockade Cuba, the 1607th Air Transport Wing was called upon to support the buildup of forces in the southeastern United States. The wing and its aircrews worked at peak capacity airlifting troops and supplies from bases throughout the country to Florida and Guantanamo Bay. History shows that we were within 36 hours of a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union; Operation Good Hope, September 1957, the airlift of arms support to Jordan. Forty vehicles equipped with 109mm weapons were carried on five C-124s from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to Amman Jordan; The Congo Airlift, also known as Operation New Tape was, at the time, history s longest lasting operational airlift, lasting 3 1/2 years, from 1960 to 1964. A crew from the 15th Air Transport Squadron was the first Dover Air Force Base unit deployed in support of this operation and LtCol Harvey E. Beedy, Commander of the 15th ATS, was selected as the initial Provisional Squadron Commander headquartered at Chateauroux, France.
During its tenure at Dover Air Force Base, what seemed impossible to many was considered day- to-day routine operations to the aircrews of the 15th Air Transport Squadron. On February 7, 1960, a 15th ATS aircrew flew a record breaking non-stop flight from Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Dover AFB in eighteen hours and forty minutes; the AMIGO Airlift, mercy missions to Santiago, Chile in May 1960, when an earthquake literally re-made parts of that country. The 15th ATS flew 623 hours in support of this operation; in 1962, the 15th flew the last leg of the four month round-the-world tour of John Glenn s space capsule Friendship VII; in July 1963, the 15th ATS flew the first leg of the presidential support mission for John F. Kennedy from Andrews AFB to Dublin, Ireland. It was on this trip, at the Berlin Wall, that President Kennedy spoke the famous words Ich Bin Ein Berliner ; in February 1964, the 15th delivered a telepectograph to Ascension Island in support of the space Project FIRE. It was the first time such an instrument was airlifted as a complete unit. The 15th airlifted supplies and emergency equipment to Alaska after an earthquake struck that state in March 1964; and many re-supply missions from Thule Air Base, Greenland to the northern most weather outposts at Nord and Alert. Both stations are within some 500 miles of the North Pole. These are but a few of the approximate 60 significant events added to the normal day to day global operations, of which the 15th Air Transport Squadron was involved while assigned to the 1607th Air Transport Wing. During the 15th s ten- year history at Dover Air Force Base, the wing accumulated in excess of one million transport flying hours of which the 15th Air Transport Squadron shares a great part thereof.
In November 1964, the Secretary of Defense announced that eighty Department of Defense activities within the United States would be reduced or discontinued and that a troop carrier squadron would be transferred to Dover Air Force Base. Thus, by MATS Special Order No. G-180, dated November 30, 1964, the 15th Air Transport Squadron would deactivate along with the organization and reactivation of the 9th Troop Carrier Squadron. Some of the 15th ATS personnel were reassigned directly to the 9th TCS and others would be transferred to McChord Air Force Base, Washington and others to Southeast Asia. With this directive, the lineage of the 15th Air Transport Squadron (Heavy) was permanently terminated with the squadron s deactivation at Dover Air Force Base.
Constituted as the 15th Aircraft Ferrying Squadron on 18 February 1942 and activated on 7 March 1942.
Re-designated the 15th Transport Squadron on 25 July 1942 and disbanded on 1 September 1943.
Reconstituted and re-designated the 15th Air Transport Squadron on 1 June 1948.
Re-designated the 1253rd Air Transport Squadron on 1 October 1948.
Re-designated the 15th Air Transport Squadron (Heavy) on 20 July 1952 and disbanded on 1 January 1965.
Air Corps Ferrying Command, 7 March 1942.
23rd Army Air Force Ferrying Wing, 8th Ferrying Group (later North Atlantic Wing, Air Transport Command) 25 July 1942 to 1 September 1943.
520th Air Transport Group, 1 June 1948.
1600th Air Transport Group, 1 October 1948 (As 1253rd ATS).
1600th Air Transport Group, 20 July 1952.
1607th Air Transport Group (Heavy), 20 April 1955.
1607th Air Transport Wing (Heavy), 18 January 1963 to 1 January 1965.
Presque Isle Air Field, Maine, 7 March 1942.
Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 1 June 1948.
Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 1 October 1948.
Westover Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 20 July 1952.
Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, 20 April 1955.
- C-54 Skymaster, 1947 1952
- C-124 Globemaster II, 1952 1965
Major Wayne S. Crawford Jr. unknown - 9 January 1957
Major Benjamin F. Armstrong 10 January 1957 - 15 June 1958
LtCol Harvey E. Beedy 16 June 1958 - 1 July 1962
LtCol Louis O. Williamson 2 July 1962 - 24 February 1963
LtCol Henry G. Bierbaum 25 February 1963 - 4 July 1963
LtCol William C. McCamy 5 July 1963 - 12 December 1963
LtCol John G. Weir 13 December 1963 - 1 January 1965
(1). Ltr. TSgt D. S. Byrd, AF Historical Research Agency, to LtCol (Ret.) H. E. Heist, Air Mobility Command Museum. Dtd. 22 October 1997.
(2). AAF in WWII Reference. Vol. I, Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942. Pg. .344.
(3). AAF in WWII Reference. Vol. I, Plans and Early Operations, January 1939 to August 1942. Pg. 362.
(4). Working papers, Dtd. Unknown and Ltr. of TSgt. Byrd, Dtd. 22 October 1997.
(5). Hqs. Air Transport Command, General Orders #29, Dtd. 19 May 1948, Subject: Designation and Organization of Table of Distribution Units, ATS, ATC.
(6). Hqs. Military Air Transport Service, General Orders #25, Dtd. 15 September 1948, Subject: Re-designation of Military Air Transport Service Units.
(7). Hqs. Military Air Transport Service, General Orders #99, Dtd. 11 July 1952, Subject: Activation and Assignment of Table of Organization Air Transport Squadrons, Military Air Transport Service.
(8). Hqs. Military Air Transport Service, SUPDOCU #2, Dtd. 8 March 1955, Subject: Movement Orders, 15th Air Transport Squadron, (Heavy).
- Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989