58 435th ABW celebrates birthday, history

Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Smith
435th Air Base Wing historian

***image3***The 435th Air Base Wing is a long way from home and its humble beginnings as it celebrates its 58th birthday this year.

The Air Force special order first established the 435th Troop Carrier Wing May 10, 1949, in Miami. It was the result of a chain of events after World War II when the military was in full-scale demobilization: between August 1945 and May 1947 the Army Air Forces drew-down from 2,253,000 to 304,000. With no perceived threat and a booming job market, there was little justification for slowing the exodus. It wasn’t long, however, before conflict with Russia began to emerge.

The blockade of West Berlin in 1948 followed by airpower’s response, highlighted the need for the new U.S. Air Force to boost its brawn. With funding limitations, one early step toward increasing that capability was the 1948 establishment of the Air Force Reserves and the Continental Air Command to train and administer air reserve forces.

Less than a year later, the 435th Troop Carrier Wing was established and activated as a wing in the Air Force Reserves at the Miami International Air Depot – located on the west side of the Miami International Airport. 

Basic Airman Burt Bolton was an aircraft radio operator with the 435th then, training at night in the wing headquarters building. He recalled that the wing consisted of only about 100 members who initially did not receive pay, though wing leadership confirmed they would eventually receive pay for their service.  For Airman Bolton, he finally began receiving about $85 a month, plus a small flight and housing premium in 1951 – the year the wing was called to active duty.

The 435th activated in 1951 to train aircrews on C-46 Commandos for duty in Korea, though the wing itself was not tasked to deploy for the conflict there. Basic Airman Walter Livingstone, also an aircraft radio operator, remembered standing in formation in March 1951 as 435th commander Col. Maurice Casey explained that the wing would likely stay in Florida throughout the conflict. 

After activation, the wing made many significant changes.  Airman Bolton remembers how an active duty Air Force Specialty Group set up at Miami in order to help the 435th reorganize from its Army structure into a new Air Force structure.  He also remembers the 1951 arrival of the “silver gleaming beauties,” the C-119 Packets – a name also assumed by the wing’s newspaper and football team. (The C-119s later became known as Flying Boxcars.)

In 1960, the wing moved to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida and flew airlift missions to the Caribbean and Central America.  Over the many years of serving in Fla., the 435th Troop Carrier Wing came to be known as the Flamingo Wing – a name still used today by the 435th’s veterans association. 

From its 1949 founding as a troop carrier wing through today’s Air Base Wing – for 58 years the 435th has stood for “swift and sure” mission success, wherever it was located in the world.

• Celebrate the tradition of honoring the 435th’s heritage: Carl Gulbrandsen, Flamingo Wing Association founder, invites all 435th Air Base Wing members to join the Flamingo Wing Association.