The 435th Air Base Wing celebrates 60 years of service in the Air Force today.
The wing, holding many names since its time of origin, can trace its lineage back to Florida in 1949 when it was stationed at Miami International Airport as part of the Air Force Reserve.
“(Miami) is where we get our mascot, the flamingo,” said Jory Vanderburg, 435th ABW historian. “The flamingo is a long range bird and the 435th has a standing history of performing long-range missions.”
Although, the wing was initially linked to the Air Force Reserve, it has been called into active duty on several occasions in service of its country. In fact, the units that provided that airpower 65 years ago for the D-Day invasion at Normandy have a direct lineage to both wings at Ramstein. The 435th Troop Carrier Group and 37th Troop Carrier Squadron were responsible for the C-47 Skytrains that dropped thousands of U.S. paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions in Normandy.
“We have a tremendous history in this wing that we are all honored to be a part of,” said Col. Thomas Gould, 435th ABW commander. “When you look back through the history and heritage of the Air Force, the 435th was there and played a huge role in the success of our service and our nation. We look forward to carrying on this proud tradition here at Ramstein Air Base – the Gateway to Europe.”
Then called the 435th Troop Carrier Wing, the wing was activated from March 1951 to December 1952 as an active duty wing to train C-46 commando aircrews for assignment to the Far East for Korean War duty.
In July 1960, the wing started flying C-119 Flying Boxcars, then C-124 Globemaster IIs when it was relocated to Homestead Air Force Base, Fla., before being deactivated in December 1965. The 435th was called up to active duty once again in December 1968 at High Wycombe Air Station, England, under Military Airlift Command.
Re-designated as the 435th Military Airlift Support Wing, the wing provided deployed airlift control elements and aircraft maintenance at aerial ports in portions of Europe, the Middle East, Southwest Asia and Africa. Within a year, the 435th moved to Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany.
In July 1975, the wing was again re-designated as the 435th Tactical Airlift Wing, gaining a fleet of C-130 Hercules and C-9 Nightingales to conduct airlift and aeromedical evacuation missions in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. They acquired the C-141 Starlifter in their final year at Rhein-Main AB.
“As Rhein-Main Air Base’s host, the 435th TAW ran the busiest U.S. air terminal in Europe and participated in all manner of theater airlift, including relief for natural disasters, evacuation of civilians from hostile situations and aeromedical evacuation from combat areas,” Mr. Vanderburg said.
In April 1992, the 435th TAW was realigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe and was re-designated as the 435th Airlift Wing. From July 1992 through September 1994, the wing controlled the massive airlift effort during Operation Provide Promise. It provided air-land and airdrop humanitarian airlift to war-torn areas of the former Yugoslavia. In February 1994, the wing began returning portions of Rhein-Main AB to German control.
Effective Oct. 1, 1994, the airlift units of the 435th AW moved to Ramstein and were transferred to the 86th Airlift Wing. The 435th AW was deactivated in April 1995.
However, less than 10 years later, the 435th was once again called into active duty at Ramstein.
Re-designated as the 435th Air Base Wing, it took on the management of Ramstein, Einsiedlerhof Air Field Military Compound, Sembach Administrative Annex, Kapaun Air Station, sections of Vogelweh Military Complex and a host of geographically separated units in 10 countries, now serving more than 57,000 American military personnel, civilians, dependents and local nationals.
“Since the origination of the 435th, there has been a radical change in focus,” the historian said. “We went from a true aircraft operational wing and we’ve evolved into the largest and busiest air base wing in the Air Force.”