I Troop Carrier Command
|I Troop Carrier Command
Army Airborne troops and a jeep coming out of a CG-4A Waco glider after landing at Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, North Carolina during a training exercise, 1944
|Branch||United States Army Air Forces|
|Part of||United States Army Air Forces|
|Motto(s)||Vincit Qui Primum Gerit Latin He Conquers Who Gets There First|
|I Troop Carrier Command emblem (approved 21 October 1942)|
The command's mission was specialized training of combat crews for the air assault/air resupply mission tasked to the Army Air Forces. It was responsible directly to AAF Headquarters for the majority of the war, later coming under the umbrella of the Continental Air Forces in the spring of 1945. I TCC coordinated its activity with the Army Air Forces Training Command, from which it drew its crews, with the four continental air forces which carried the main responsibility for operational and replacement (OTU/RTU) training, and with Army Ground Forces agencies for which its training was conducted.
The troop carrier units and crews it produced served in all overseas combat theaters, where the troop carrier groups were under the direct control of a separate troop carrier command answering to the theater commander through his air commander.
Perhaps the most dramatic innovation in military tactics during World War II was the landing of airborne forces behind enemy lines. The American public was deeply impressed by the sight, in newsreels and photos, of skies filled with billowing parachutes as men fell earthward to encircle the enemy. The hardened paratrooper, with his peculiar gear, became a special kind of fighting hero, and his jumping cry, "Geronimo," became almost a byword.
While specially trained ground soldiers did the fighting after the landings, it was the responsibility of the Army Air Forces (AAF) to make the deliveries of men and supplies. To carry out this responsibility was the mission of AAF troop carrier units, serving under theater or task force commanders in cooperation with ground force elements. The training of these units, which had to be able to perform all phases of airborne operations, was the function of I Troop Carrier Command. Troop carrier headquarters was located throughout the war at Stout Field, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The task performed by I Troop Carrier Command, while quantitatively smaller than that of other domestic air forces, was nevertheless substantial. From December 1942 until August 1945 it produced more than 4,500 troop carrier crews; most of these were trained on the Douglas C-47 Skytrain although in the last year of war a considerable number flew the larger Curtiss C-46 Commando. In addition to the transport crews, which normally consisted of pilot, co-pilot, navigator, radio operator, and aerial engineer, some 5,000 Waco CG-4 glider pilots were prepared for their special function.
I Troop Carrier Command was formed on 30 April 1942 when the Air Service Command 50th Transport Wing was transferred into a new unit named the Air Transport Command. However, it was soon discovered that this designation was wanted as a new name for the older Air Corps Ferrying Command, whose functions had been expanded beyond the limits implied by its title. Accordingly, the recently created Air Transport Command was redesignated the I Troop Carrier Command (I TCC).
With its activation, I TCC was assigned directly to Army Air Forces Headquarters, and the AAF established the troop carrier mission as one of the four combat missions of the Army Air Forces – bombardment, pursuit or fighter, reconnaissance and troop carrier.
The Operational - Replacement Training Units (OTU-RTU) system of operational training, which was used in the fighter and bombardment training programs, was also adopted for troop carrier instruction. I TCC training drew from the graduates of AAF Training Command two-engine flight schools for the pilot and co-pilot, along with a newly graduated navigator, radio operator and an aerial engineer from AAF Training Command technical schools to complete a troop carrier aircrew for the C-47.
Individual crew members were expected to show proficiency in skills normally exercised by the corresponding specialists of bombardment crews, however proficiency in aerial gunnery was not required because the troop transports carried no armament. Members of troop carrier crews, on the other hand, had special duties not required in other types of combat units. The pilot, for example, had to be capable of glider towing and to be familiar with the flight characteristics of gliders, while the aerial engineer had to know how to attach glider tow ropes and operate and maintain glider pickup equipment.
A unique characteristic troop of carrier aircrews was the ability to make accurate drops of aerial delivery containers, both free and parachuted, into small clearings surrounded by natural obstacles. This mission, especially important in the Pacific and CBI theaters supported small units of soldiers and commando units behind enemy lines where aerial resupply was their only means of sustainment. This mission also required the crew to employ "kickers", men whose duty was literally to "kick" the resupply containers out of the door of the aircraft, which was usually flying at low level and vulnerable to enemy ground weapons fire.
Troop carrier squadrons and groups had to demonstrate skill in unit operations, including the transportation of paratroops, and the towing and releasing of loaded gliders in mass flights. Special curricula for the meeting of these standards were developed by I Troop Carrier Command.
Besides the combat element of their mission, troop carrier units had the mission of transportation of personnel, supplies and equipment within a theater of operations. Troop carrier squadrons frequently operated out of rough airfields (Advanced Landing Grounds) near the front lines, carrying everything from gasoline, small-arms munitions, artillery shells, food, medical supplies, tents and other necessities to support the front-line units in the field. The landing grounds might be manned by AAF units or unmanned. They were located in the deserts of North Africa, farmers' fields in Italy and France, or in a carved out strip of jungle in Burma, the Philippines or New Guinea. Specially-equipped medical evacuation C-47s would land near field hospitals to transport casualties to rear area hospitals for follow-on medical treatment.
Airborne Paratrooper Training
Following operational training, or during the final portion of it, troop carrier units engaged in combined exercises with elements of the Airborne Command (Army Ground Forces). It was not coincidental that several of I TCC's training schools were located on Army airfields on or near Army airborne division training camps. Pope Field was on Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and later 11th Airborne Division. Grenada Field, Mississippi was located near Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, home of the 101st Airborne Division; Laurinburg-Maxton Army Air Base, North Carolina, was frequently the location of joint exercises between troop carrier units and Army airborne units.
Realistic training maneuvers between the Army airborne and Air Force troop carrier units were frequent. These maneuvers, which lasted for about two months, were divided into three phases. The first consisted of small-scale operations in which a company of airborne soldiers was transported, then would parachute out of aircraft into designated drop zones. The scale of movement was increased in the second period, and during the final phase whole divisions were moved as units over distances up to 300 miles, with both parachutists and towed CG-4 gliders being landed, frequently on auxiliary training airfields. After the exercise was completed, training in glider retrieval by the troop carrier units was conduced.
In each stage of combined training the troop carrier groups placed emphasis upon single- and double-tow of gliders under combat conditions and upon night operations. Attention was given to all types of airborne assignments, including resupply and evacuation by air.
Glider Pilot Training
One of the most difficult problems, unique to the troop carrier program, was that of training glider pilots. The principal trouble occurred in the individual training phase, which was the responsibility of the AAF Training Command, but the consequences were naturally felt by I Troop Carrier Command.
In the AAF's original concept, glider pilots would be existing power pilots. However, the shortage of such personnel in 1942 called for a drastic revision of policy, especially after the requirement for glider pilots was increased from an initial 1,000 to 6,000 earlier that year. Offers were made to enlisted men with no flying experience at all, with the promise that they would graduate as staff sergeants. Those with rank above private would go through training in their grade and become sergeants at the end. Those with previous flying experience were also sought, and this policy brought in a lot of washouts from power pilot training.
Also, an early decision was made to have the future glider pilots trained under contract to civilian schools. The main operation got under way at Twenty Nine Palms Army Airfield, in the California desert, where thermal conditions were great for soaring flights. Sailplane thinking still prevailed. By being able to soar – gain altitude on rising air currents – and therefore stay up longer on a given flight, the student would conceivably receive more instruction per flight. It was not long, however, before the military woke up to the fact that troop gliders were not simply bigger sailplanes that made long straight glides into enemy territory. They were, rather, low-performance trailers that had to be towed to a point almost directly over the landing area, and once over the designated spot, the real piloting skills necessary to reach the ground quickly in one piece took over, if one wanted to survive. As a consequence, the sailplane trainers were abandoned as soon as sufficient quantities of the Waco CG-4A were available for advanced training. In the U.S. services the glider pilots, whether the view was unwarranted or not, were considered a notable cut below power pilots. They had a separate rating of Glider Pilot, with appropriate "G" wings, and were originally mostly sergeants.
Once they received their wings, I TCC assigned glider pilots to existing troop carrier squadrons that were training. A glider unit was attached to the troop carrier squadron as a flight, and trained along with the squadron. The glider unit was then deployed as part of the troop carrier unit after training was complete. The OTU-RTU curriculum for glider pilots in I Troop Carrier Command included a transition phase on the CG-4A for those pilots trained on sailplanes and an advanced phase requiring forty landings under full-load conditions. Pickup exercises were also required, as well as indoctrination in the important after-landing procedures.
Air Commando Training
In addition to the troop carrier groups, three specialized units, the 1st, 2d and 4th Combat Cargo Groups were trained by I Troop Carrier Command (the 3d Combat Cargo Group was formed in Burma by Tenth Air Force). These groups, destined for the China-Burma-India Theater and Southwest Pacific Theater, supported both front-line ground units as well as commando-type ground forces which operated behind enemy lines performing special operations missions.
The combat cargo groups carried out airborne resupply and evacuation missions of wounded, and gliders for assault missions. Commando units would parachute at low altitude behind enemy lines, perform their mission, then either walk out to friendly territory, or a small group of C-47s would clandestinely land at a rough airstrip to pick them up.
Additional training, particularly in locating small groups of men in camouflaged areas by the use of sunlit signal mirrors was especially important, as radio communications with commando units was not always possible. Signal mirrors and hand held airborne beacon light training in morse code was carried out for communications between the aircraft and men on the ground. "Kicker" training was also carried out so resupply drops would be made accurately into small clearings.
With Tactical Air Command
I Troop Carrier Command was disbanded on 4 November 1945 and its mission and personnel were transferred to IX Troop Carrier Command, which had returned from Europe to Stout Field on paper in September. However the mission remained and when the Army Air Force reorganized in 1946, Tactical Air Command (TAC) was established as one of its three major commands and the troop carrier mission was assigned to TAC. Within TAC, Troop Carrier Command was organized to control its troop carrier units. Third Air Force was assigned to TAC to control the troop carrier units formerly part of TCC, and established its headquarters at Donaldson Field, South Carolina. Third Air Force was inactivated on 1 November 1946 and TAC's troop carrier mission was reassigned to Ninth Air Force with its return from Europe and reassignment to Donaldson. In 1951, Eighteenth Air Force was formed for the Troop Carrier Mission, and in 1958 it was taken over by Twelfth Air Force.
Under TAC both combat-deplorable operational and training units were formed. Composite Air Strike Force (CASF) deployments of Troop Carrier units by Eighteenth AF were made to Taiwan, Lebanon, South Florida, and the Dominican Republic during Cold War crisis of the 1950s and 1960s. During the Vietnam War, TAC Troop Carrier units were deployed to South Vietnam for combat missions.
Troop Carrier personnel and unit training was established initially at Ardmore Air Force Base, Oklahoma. At Ardmore, new USAF Troop Carrier units were organized, trained, equipped then deployed to Europe and the Pacific during the Cold War buildup of military forces in the 1950s. In 1959, the mission was moved to Sewart Air Force Base, Tennessee, and in 1971 to Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, where it remains today under Air Education and Training Command (AETC).
In the Pacific, the FEAF Combat Cargo Command was organized to control Far East Air Forces Troop Carrier Groups operating primarily in Occupied Japan. During the Korean War it was re-designated as the 315th Air Division when the number of units was expanded to support the United Nations forces in Korea. In the subsequent Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s, Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) expanded its Troop Carrier units to include units in the Philippines, Okinawa and Taiwan. In the Vietnam War, troop carrier units were employed in the combat zones of South Vietnam providing tactical airlift to South Vietnamese and American ground forces.
It was found during the Vietnam War that there was a large duplication of facilities and mission objectives between USAFE, TAC and PACAF Troop Carrier Groups (re-designated Tactical Airlift Groups/Wings in 1966). A study group recommended the consolidation of the units as a cost-saving measure under Military Airlift Command (MAC), and in 1974 the theater combat troop carrier mission was consolidated under the MAC Twenty-Second Air Force.
Post Cold War
In the post-Cold War reorganization of the Air Force, Air Mobility Command (AMC) subsequently returned the C-130 Hercules tactical airlift mission (now designated as Airlift Wings) to Air Combat Command (ACC), PACAF and USAFE in 1993 where it remains today. The training school at Little Rock AFB was transferred to Air Education and Training Command (AETC). Army Airborne units use the C-130s of the combat commands as well as AMC's C-17 Globemaster III and C-5 Galaxy for their mission.
Lineage, assignments, components, and headquarters
- Established as the Air Transport Command on 30 April 1942
- Headquarters, United States Army Air Forces, 30 April 1942
- Continental Air Forces, 8 May 1945 – 4 November 1945
- 60th Troop Carrier Wing: 12 June 1943 – 8 October 1945
- 61st Troop Carrier Wing: 13 June 1943 – 4 October 1945
- 10th Troop Carrier Group, 13 February 1943 – 14 April 1944
- Prewar 10th Transport Group, was the Army Air Corps premier transport unit. Flew transport routes to Alaska until assigned to I TCC. Became C-47 OTU/RTU training unit for 61st TCW.
- 89th Troop Carrier Group, 30 April 1942 – 14 April 1944
Major Units Trained
- Maurer, Combat Units. pp. 438–439
- Goss, in Craven & Cate, Volume VI
- Greer, in Craven & Cate, Volume VI
- Maurer, Combat Units, pp. 448–449
- Hill & Campbell
- Anything, anywhere, anytime: an illustrated history of the Military Airlift Command, 1941–1991, Headquarters Military Airlift Command (1991)
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, AL: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- AFHRA 60th Troop Carrier Wing Document 00105998
- AFHRA 61st Troop Carrier Wing Document 00106015
- Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 37
- AFHRA Alliance AAF Document 00169183
- AFHRA Bowman AAF Document 00168243
- AFHRA Grenada AAF Document 001727861
- AFHRA Lawson AFB Document 00458711
- AFHRA Sedalia AAF Document 00177641
- Craven, Wesley F; Cate, James L, eds. (1955). The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. VI, Men & Planes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. LCCN 48003657. OCLC 704158.
- Goss, William A. (1955). "The Organization and its Responsibilities, Chapter 2 The AAF". In Craven, Wesley F; Cate, James L. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. VI, Men & Planes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. LCCN 48003657. OCLC 704158.
- Greer, Thomas H. (1955). "Recruitment and Training, Chapter 18 Combat Crew and Unit Training". In Craven, Wesley F; Cate, James L. The Army Air Forces in World War II. Vol. VI, Men & Planes. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. LCCN 48003657. OCLC 704158.
- Hill, Mike and Campbell, John, Tactical Air Command – An Illustrated History 1946–1992, 2001
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1983) . Air Force Combat Units of World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979.
- Maurer, Maurer, ed. (1982) . Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (PDF) (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556.
- Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6.
- Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947–1977 (PDF). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- Rogers, Brian. (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
- Steijger, Cees (1991), A History of USAFE, Voyager PRess, First Edition, ISBN 1853100757
- Y'Blood, William T. (2008), Air Commandos Against Japan: Allied Special Operations in World War II Burma, Naval Institute Press ISBN 1591149932