435th AGOW celebrates 70th anniversary Monday

by Daniel Phoenix
435th Air Ground Operations Wing historian
Courtesy photo A historical photo depicts members of the 435th Troop Carrier Wing posing with a C-46 Commando. The 435th TCW eventually became the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary Monday.
Courtesy photo
A historical photo depicts members of the 435th Troop Carrier Wing posing with a C-46 Commando. The 435th TCW eventually became the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary Monday.

The 435th Air Ground Operations Wing celebrates the 70th anniversary of the 435th Troop Carrier Group Monday. The 435th was created as part of the Army Air Force’s new tactical airlift force, one of many groups flying a vast armada of unarmed C-47 Skytrains and gliders.

The 435th entered World War II on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The group commander, Col. Frank J. MacNees, personally piloted Maj. Gen. Maxwell Taylor onto his drop zone in Normandy, France, to lead the airborne assault on Fortress Europe. From D-Day onward, the 435th was involved in every major troop carrier mission in the European theater: operations Dragoon, over Southern France; Market, over the Netherlands; and Varsity, the final Allied crossing of the Rhine River. The 435th also led the aerial resupply of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war’s end, the 435th cased its colors on Nov. 15, 1945.

The 435th returned to service in 1947, flying C-46 Commandos from Palm Beach, Fla., for the Air Force Reserve. Two years later, the group moved to Miami International Airport, assigned under the newly created 435th Troop Carrier Wing. With the Korean War raging, the 435th was called to active service from March 1951 until November 1952, training Pacific-bound crews in the twin-tailed C-119 Flying Boxcar. When the wing relocated to Homestead Air Force Base in 1960, the 435th adopted its first nickname, the Flamingo Wing. From 1961 until 1963, the wing operated two squadrons of C-124 Globemaster II cargo planes. On Dec. 1, 1965, the 435th Troop Carrier Wing inactivated. The 435th returned to active service in 1968. As a military air support wing, it provided airlift control elements and aircraft maintenance at aerial ports for Military Airlift Command. Initially stationed in England, the wing moved to Europe’s busiest air terminal, Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany, in 1969.

In 1975, the redesignated 435th Tactical Airlift Wing began flying airlift and aeromedical evacuation missions in the C-130 Hercules and the C-9 Nightingale. The wing also took over as the host unit for, and really became synonymous with, Rhein-Main AB. In April 1980, the wing recovered injured personnel from Operation Eagle Claw, a disastrous attempt to rescue hostages held in Iran. Nine months later, the 435th repatriated the hostages themselves from Algeria to Germany. In 1983, the wing evacuated casualties from the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, including the bodies of 241 personnel who were killed. During operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, elements of the wing deployed to the United Arab Emirates while much of the wing remained at Rhein-Main to manage the flow of 240,000 allied personnel to the war zone.

On April 1, 1992, the 435th relinquished control over Rhein-Main’s air terminal and theater airlift support duties and was redesignated the 435th Airlift Wing. Within three months, the wing took up a huge new mission, Operation Provide Promise. In its three-year run, the operation airlifted 176,000 tons of supplies to Bosnia. For two years, the 435th AW controlled the entire airlift and airdrop effort.
Even before Provide Promise ended, the 435th began the drawdown of Rhein-Main AB. By October 1994, the 435th’s flying squadrons had been transferred to other organizations. The 435th AW inactivated on April 1, 1995.

In 2004, the 435th returned to active service in Germany as an air base wing, with host duties for Ramstein AB and the KMC. In 2005, formal command of the base returned to the 86th Airlift Wing commander, and the 435th became a tenant unit at Ramstein.

In 2009, the wing’s many base support functions were returned to the 86th AW, unifying flying operations and base support under a single commander. In their stead, the 435th received a unique mix of battlefield and theater support Airmen. With its new mission, the wing adopted a new nickname, the Thunderbolts.

Today, the mission of the 435th AGOW touches on many of the wing’s historic support missions: training, theater and tactical communications, and responsive civil engineering. Most especially, bringing 70 years of history full circle, the 435th works in close cooperation with airborne and ground forces in a true joint environment. Although the 435th doesn’t fly planes anymore, it opens airfields that bring airpower to bear, it directs joint fires that deliver air support to ground troops in contact with the enemy, it provides the communication nets that make airpower flexible, and it forecasts the weather to protect American Airmen and endanger America’s enemies. Without a doubt, the 435th continues to live up to its motto coined in 1952: Citus et Certus; swift and sure!