History of the 434th Air Refueling Wing

The 434th 434th Air Refueling Wing has a 70-year history dating to World War II. The 434th was officially activated on Oct. 1, 1942 as the 434th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York.

In preparation for the invasion of Europe at Normandy, France, the unit was moved to Alliance Army Air Field, Neb., and was designated as the 434th Troop Carrier Group on Feb. 9, 1943. The 434th TCG consisted of the 71st, 72nd, 73rd and 74th Troop Carrier Squadrons, which all flew C-47 Skytrains throughout their WWII career.

The 434th TCG and its flying units received the Distinguished Unit Citation and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for transporting airborne troops, supplies and equipment during the invasion. The French Croix de Guerre was again awarded for numerous evacuation and resupply missions flown over northern France during the fall of 1944.

The 434th TCG also helped supply Patton's Third Army and resupply the encircled city of Bastogne during the "Battle of the Bulge."

After World War II, the 434th TCG was reorganized as an Air Force Reserve unit at Stout Field, Indianapolis. The 434th made the transition from C-47s to C-46 Commando aircraft, and on July 1, 1949 moved to Atterbury AFB, near Columbus, Ind., where the unit was redesignated as the 434th Troop Carrier Wing.

During the Korean War, the 434th was called to active duty at Lawson Field, Fort Benning, Ga., and provided support for U.S. Army airborne training from January 1952 to January 1953. Four years later the 434th traded its aging C-46 aircraft for new C-119G Flying Boxcars.

In October 1962, the 434th was mobilized in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and remained on active duty until November. That year, the 434th TCW was also redesignated as a Tactical Airlift Wing due to Air Force mission changes.

The unit was again recalled to active duty in 1968 and adopted a new mission as a special operations group for service in Vietnam. The wing and its new AC-119 Shadow gunship aircraft flew 1,586 combat missions. The 434th returned home in May 1969 and later that year was deactivated.

On January 15, 1971, the 434th was reactivated at Grissom Air Force Base, Ind., as a special operations wing, flying A-37 aircraft. Two years later the wing was redesignated as the 434th Tactical Fighter Wing with a new tactical air operation mission. In April 1981, the 434th received the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

The wing maintained its A-10 fighter mission until July 1987 when the unit was redesignated as the 434th Air Refueling Wing.

The 434th was recalled to active duty for the Gulf War in 1990 and helped form one of the world's largest tanker task forces. Operating out of western Saudi Arabia, the 434th and its partners flew more than 7,000 refueling missions, offloading fuel to more than 25,000 receiver aircraft.

During the Gulf War, 434th ARW members earned three bronze stars and 29 Air Medals in addition to numerous commendation medals.

In June 1992, the 434th Air Refueling Wing and the 930th Tactical Fighter Group, another Air Force Reserve unit at Grissom, merged to form the first ever reserve composite wing. This new unit, the 434th Wing, consisted of KC-135 Stratotanker and A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft and was responsible for aerial refueling and close air support missions.

Changes in the Air Force mission led to the unit being reorganized once again. In 1994, the unit's A-10 squadron was deactivated and the unit reverted to the 434th ARW, where it participated in exercises and front-line operations in countries such as Panama, Iceland, England, France, Italy, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Venezuela.

From December 1993 to February 1997, the wing staged four separate deployments to Europe to support Operation Decisive Endeavor, the United Nation's enforcement of the no-fly zone over war-torn Bosnia. Deployment sites included Istres, France; Aviano, Italy, and Pisa, Italy. During one such 30-day deployment, the unit flew 178 aerial refueling missions and offloaded 8,975,000 pounds of fuel to 1,237 receiver aircraft.

In May 1999, the 434th ARW was called upon to provide aerial refueling support to Operation Allied Force. More than 200 personnel and eight aircraft were deployed to various European locations.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 2001 changed the world, the 434th ARW has been mobilized in support of Operations Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn and Odyssey Dawn.

(Current as of June 2013)