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376th Bombardment Group

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376th Bombardment Group

376th Air Expeditionary Wing

376th Air Expeditionary Wing emblem
Active 1942–1945
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Air Refueling
Role Combat Support
Part of Air Combat Command/United States Air Forces Central
Garrison/HQ Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan
  • World War II
European Campaign (1942–1945)
  • Vietnam Service (1970–1973)
  • Global War on Terrorism
Afghanistan Service ( since 2001)
Col. Corey Martin
Richard W. Fellows

The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing (376 AEW) is a provisional United States Air Force Air Combat Command unit. It is currently stationed at the Transit Center at Manas International Airport, Kyrgyz Republic. Col. Corey Martin assumed command of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing from Col. James Jacobson in June 2012.[1]

A World War II predecessor unit, the 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was the first B-24 Liberator group to be based on European Continent. It engaged in combat with the Ninth, Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the Egypt-Libya and Italian Campaigns. the 376th was awarded Distinguished Unit Citations: for operations over North Africa and Sicily, November 1942-17 August 1943; Ploesti, Romania, 1 August 1943 and Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, 16 June 1944. The B-24 "Lady Be Good" was from the 514th Bomb Squadron.

During the Vietnam War, the 376th Strategic Wing was a Strategic Air Command unit activated to perpetuate the lineage of inactive World War II bombardment units with illustrious records. It performed strategic bombing and air refueling missions over Southeast Asia with deployed elements from wings in the United States. From 1973 until the end of the Cold War it performed air refueling of Pacific Air Forces tactical and Military Airlift Command transport aircraft in the Theater as well as performing strategic reconnaissance operations. It was inactivated as part of the drawdown of USAF strategic forces in 1991.


The 376th Expeditionary Wing is responsible for providing air combat power projection throughout the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility, including tactical airlift and air refueling, principally in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. C-17 and KC-135 aircraft are involved in this effort. Additionally, the wing serves as a hub for strategic airlift operations and as an intermediate staging base for transiting personnel and equipment in support of operations in Afghanistan. The wing hosts transient forces from coalition nations, as well as transient forces of the United States Army, Marine Corps and Navy.[2]


  • 376th Expeditionary Operations Group
The 376 EOG is the lead KC-135 aerial refueling unit for Afghanistan operations. Other USAF aircraft supporting the mission include KC-135s and C-17s.
  • 376th Expeditionary Maintenance Group
  • 376th Medical Group
  • 376th Expeditionary Mission Support Group


The 376th Air Expeditionary Wing is authorized to display the honors earned by the 376 Expeditionary Operations Group before 1 June 1951, however the lineage and history of the units are separate prior to that date.

World War II

The 376th Bombardment Group has its origins in the British mandate of Palestine, as a result of the buildup of American air power in the Middle East in January 1942.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the Army Air Forces to mount retaliatory raids on the Japanese Home Islands. A task force, commanded by Colonel Harry E. Halverson and composed of 231 officers and enlisted men and 23 B-24D Liberator bombers, was assembled at Fort Myers Army Airfield, Florida. The unit was given the code name "HALPRO" for Halverson Project. This organization, destined to be the parent unit of the 376th Bombardment Group, departed the United States on 20 May 1942 over the southern Air Transport Command route though the Caribbean and Natal, Brazil and across Central Africa and arrived at RAF Lydda in British Palestine. However, before the group could depart for India and begin attacks on Japanese targets from a base located in China, the unit learned that its proposed base in China had been captured by Japanese forces.

To make matters worse, the German Afrika Korps under General Erwin Rommel was poised to attack Allied forces in Egypt. HALPRO was quickly diverted from its original mission to a new one: interdictory raids from airfields in Egypt against shipping and North African ports supporting Axis operations as part of United States Middle East Air Forces (USMEAF) on 20 June 1942, a quickly assembled organization based in Cairo. The Halverson Project was dissolved and the organization was renamed the 1st Provisional Bombardment Group.

As early as 7 September, Ninth Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton sought to have the 1st Provisional Bomb Group assigned a tactical designation and number, and a formal TO&E to make it a permanent organization. At the same time, the U.S. and British had reached an understanding with the Soviets about establishing an Anglo-American air force in the Transcaucasus to protect its flank in the Middle East. The American contribution was to be one troop carrier group and one "highly mobile" heavy bomber group. Gen. George C. Marshall on 11 October ordered Brereton to create the 376th Bombardment Group, composed of a Headquarters Squadron and four tactical squadrons designated 512 to 515 inclusively, intended for the Transcaucasus assignment. The group was constituted on 19 October and activated at midnight 31 October from personnel and equipment of the 1st Provisional Group. The first commander was Col. George F. McGuire, who taken charge of the provisional group when Halverson returned to the United States in August 1942. After several weeks, the Soviets declared that they wanted only the aircraft and not British or American crews. None could be spared and the Anglo-American air force proposal was cancelled.

Members of the 376th adopted the nickname "Liberandos". Initially, the 376th was formed with the 23 B-24Ds which had flown from Florida, along with a detachment of B-17Ds from the 7th Bombardment Group (Heavy) and other personnel. Some of the B-17s were Pearl Harbor attack and Philippines campaign survivors, which had been assigned to the China Burma India Theater. After the Japanese capture of Burma, the Burma Road was cut so the detachment could not be logistically supported in China. By the end of 1942, all of the squadrons were equipped with B-24 Liberators as the older model B-17s were reassigned to non-combat roles.

Operating from bases in Palestine, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, the 376th attacked shipping in the Mediterranean and harbor installations in Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy to cut enemy supply lines to North Africa. It struck airdromes, marshalling yards, and other objectives in Sicily and Italy after the fall of Tunisia in May 1943. It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for action against the enemy in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sicily, November 1942 – August 1943. Participated in the famed low-level assault on oil refineries at Ploesti and received another DUC: nearing Ploesti on 1 August 1943 and realizing that it was off course, the group attempted to reach its assigned objective from another direction; by that time, however, enemy defenses were thoroughly alerted and intense opposition forced the 376th to divert to targets of opportunity in the general target area.

On 9 November 1958, British geologists flying over the Libyan Desert spotted an aircraft resting on the sand dunes approximately 400 statute miles (640 km) south of Benghazi, Libya. A ground party reached the site in March 1959 and discovered the plane to be the Lady Be Good, a B-24D Liberator of the 514th Bomb Squadron, 376th Bombardment Group. The bomber had disappeared after a 4 April 1943 attack against Naples, Italy. In 1960, the remains of eight airmen were found; the body of the ninth crewman was never found.

With the transfer of Ninth Air Force to England in 1943, the 322d was reassigned to Fifteenth Air Force and moved to Manduria, Italy under the 47th Bomb Wing. From Italian bases, the unit engaged primarily in long-range missions to targets in Italy, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans to bomb factories, marshalling yards, oil refineries, oil storage facilities, airdromes, bridges, harbors, and other objectives.

It received a Distinguished Unit Citation for attacking the oil industry at Bratislava on 16 June 1944. Also flew support and interdictory missions, assisting Allied forces at Anzio and Cassino during February–March 1944, supporting the Invasion of Southern France in August 1944, aiding the Russian sweep into the Balkans during the fall of 1944, and assisting Allied troops in northern Italy during April 1945.

Flying from North Africa and Italy, the Group flew 451 missions, was awarded three Distinguished Unit Citations and earned 15 campaign awards. The Liberandos destroyed 220 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and suffered casualties totaling 1479 officers and enlisted personnel and 169 aircraft.

With the end of the war in Europe, the 322d Bomb Group was reassigned to Harvard AAFld, Nebraska, on 8 May 1945 and redesignated 322d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) and began B-29 Superfortress transition training in preparation for a move to the Pacific Theater of Operations. However, with the end of the war in August, the training ended and the unit was inactivated at Grand Island AAF, Nebraska on 10 November 1945.

Cold War

The unit was redesignated the 376th Reconnaissance Wing and activated at Gravelly Point, Virginia on 23 May 1947. The wartime 512th and 513th squadrons were assigned to the wing and equipped with B/WB-29s. The unit operated as a weather reconnaissance group until its inactivation on 20 September 1948.

The 376th Bombardment Wing, Medium, was established on 25 May 1951, and activated at Forbes AFB, Kansas on 1 June 1951. The wing was initially equipped with B-29s and trained in strategic bombardment operations. Replaced the propeller-driven B-29s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in 1954, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. The wing gained the 376th AREFS, equipped with KC-97 Stratotankers, on 18 August 1953.

Moved to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio in 1957, and continued to fly numerous training missions and participated in various SAC exercises and deployments with the Stratojet. Beginning in September 1961, the wing began engaging in Electronic countermeasures operations, which became the wing's primary mission. Included EB-47L Stratojet post attack command and control operations, December 1962 – February 1965.

In the early 1960s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC's strategic arsenal. Began to send the wing's aircraft to Davis-Monthan AFB in 1964. The unit was inactivated at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio, on 15 March 1965 as part of the phaseout of the B-47 from the USAF inventory.

376th Strategic Wing

The origins of the wing's period as the 376th Strategic Wing came when SAC established the 4252d Strategic Wing (SW) at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa on 12 January 1965 and assigned it to the 3d Air Division. The 4252d SW was a SAC Major Command controlled (MAJCON) unit with the mission to support SAC's B-52D Stratofortresses and KC-135 Stratotankers from SAC Continental United States bases engaged in combat operations over Southeast Asia from Kadena on a daily basis during the Vietnam War. It was initially assigned a single maintenance squadron, but before the end of the year had three squadrons assigned.

The 4252d equipment consisted of about 70 KC-135 Tankers that refueled tactical fighters over the South China Sea and Gulf of Tonkin that were carrying out attacks on North Vietnam. In addition the aircraft would evacuate personnel to other Pacific bases when typhoons threatened Okinawa while flying scheduled air refueling missions.

In early 1968, the wing mission expanded to included reconnaissance, when the 82d Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS) was assigned to the wing. On 21 August 1968, the 4252d Munitions Maintenance Squadron was activated to oversee the wing's munitions in anticipation of the addition of B-52s to the wing's aircraft. The B-52s conducted Arc Light strategic bombardment missions over North Viet Nam, refueling from the tankers on their return trip to Kadena.

In 1970, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue the 4252d SW, which was equipped with combat aircraft, and to activate an Air Force controlled (AFCON) unit which could carry a lineage and history.[3] On 1 April 1970, the 4252d was replaced by the 376th, which had been redesignated the 376th Strategic Wing. The 82d SRS was transferred to the 376th, while the 4252d's maintenance squadrons were replaced by ones with the 376th numerical designation of the new wing. Each of the new units assumed the personnel, equipment, and mission of its predecessor.[4]

The rotational B-52 elements were shifted to the 307th Strategic Wing at U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand soon afterward. Using aircraft and crews deployed from CONUS-based SAC wings, the 376th SW controlled the 909th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A/Q/R) and supported rotational reconnaissance aircraft (TR-1, SR-71). It conducted airborne radio relay operations, April–November 1970; February–June 1971 and March 1972 – August 1973. The Wing was inactivated at Kadena on 30 October 1991 with the drawdown of strategic forces after the end of the Cold War. Its mission was absorbed by the host 18th Wing.

Global War On Terrorism

Manas air base operations began 16 December 2001 and included the 86th Contingency Response Group from Ramstein Air Base, Germany as well as contractors and French engineers. Since then it has hosted forces from Australia, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain and the Netherlands. Coalition aircraft previously based here have included tankers (KC-135s), tactical airlift (C-130s), fighters (F-18, F-16, Mirage 2000) and helicopters (Super Puma).


376th Expeditionary Operations Group
  • Constituted as 376th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 October 1942
Activated on 31 October 1942
Redesignated: 376th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) in May 1945
Inactivated on 10 November 1945.
  • Redesignated: 376th Reconnaissance Group
Activated on 23 May 1947.
Inactivated on 20 September 1948
  • Redesignated: 376th Bombardment Group and activated on 1 June 1951
Inactivated on 16 June 1952 (never made operational)
  • Redesignated 376th Expeditionary Operations Group, and converted to provisional status, on 4 December 2001
376th Air Expeditionary Wing
  • Established as 376th Bombardment Wing (Medium) on 25 May 1951
Activated on 1 June 1951.
Discontinued, and inactivated on 15 March 1965.
  • Redesignated: 376th Strategic Wing on 23 January 1970
Scheduled to replace the 4252nd Strategic Wing on 1 April 1970
Activated on 1 April 1970 assuming the resources (Manpower, Aircraft, Equipment, Weapons, & Facilities) of the 4252nd Strategic Wing
Inactivated 30 October 1991
  • Redesignated 376 Air Expeditionary Wing, and converted to provisional status, on 4 December 2001



376th Expeditionary Operations Group
376th Air Expeditionary Wing


  • 376th Bombardment Group: 1 June 195 1–16 June 1952 (not operational)




See also



  • 376th AEW Pamphlet


  • Byers, Richard G. Attack: Death in the Skies Over the Middle East. Winona, Minnesota: Apollo Books, 1984.
  • McClendon, Dennis E. The Lady Be Good: Mystery Bomber of World War II. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1962 (2nd edition 1982).
  • Rogers, B. United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. 2006. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings: Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977 Washington, DC: USGPO, 1984.
  • Uncredited. 200th Mission, Liberator-Athens-Tatos A/D 14 December 1943. APO 681, Italy: 376th Bomb Grp.,1943.
  • Uncredited. A Short History of the 376th Bombardment Group, 20 May 1942 – 22 February 1945. N.p. 1945.
  • "US Air Force Air Power Directory" World Airpower Journal. London: Aerospace Publishing, 1992. ISBN 1-880588-01-3.
  • Walker, James W. The Liberandos: A World War II History of the 376th Bomb Group (H) and Its Founding Units. Waco, Texas: 376th Heavy Bombardment Group Association, 1994.
  • Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

External links

  • 376th Heavy Bombardment Group, Inc. Veterans Association
  • 376th Mission History
  • Joe's USAF Blue Book
  • 376th Heavy Bombardment Group Oral Histories, a digital collection of audio and video oral histories with veterans serving in the 376th Heavy Bombardment Group during World War II

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