15 EMTF provides rapid and flexible Global Reach for America from six major Air Force bases in the United States and 47 locations throughout the Pacific. More than 71,000 people, including active duty and gained Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard personnel, operate and support airlift, tanker and aeromedical aircraft as part of the 15 EMTF.
Originating during World War II as a overseas Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces, it became part of Strategic Air Command in 1946. In 1991, it became part of Air Mobility Command, and is currently engaged in operations as part of the Global War on Terrorism. The command was inactivated at the Numbered Air Force echelon and activated at the Task Force echelon, being assigned to Eighteenth Air Force on 1 October 2003.
Postwar Air Divisions
Fifteenth Air Force (15th AF) was established on November 1, 1943 in Tunis, Tunisia as part of the United States Army Air Forces in the World War II Mediterranean Theater of Operations as a strategic air force and commenced combat operations the day after it was formed. The first commander was General Jimmy Doolittle.
15th AF resulted from a reorganization of Doolittle's Twelfth Air Force into the 15th with Doolittle in command, and the Ninth Air Force (9th AF) with Lewis H. Brereton in command. The new air force was activated with a strength of ninety B-24 Liberators and 210 B-17 Flying Fortresses, inherited from the Twelfth Air Force and Ninth Air Force. In December, new groups, most of which were equipped with B-24s soon started arriving from the United States. Thirteen new groups were added.
It was hoped that the 15th AF stationed in the Mediterranean would be able to operate when the Eighth Air Force (8th AF) in England was socked in by bad English weather. The 9th AF would later move to England to serve as a tactical unit to take part in the invasion of Europe. Once bases around Foggia in Italy became available, the 15th was able to reach targets in southern France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans, some of which were difficult to reach from England.
On 4 January 1944, Fifteenth, along with Twelfth Air Force were organized into the Mediterranean Allied Air Forces (MAAF), along with the Royal Air Force 205 Group. MAAF was the southern component of U.S. Strategic Air Forces, Europe (USSTAF), the overall USAAF command and control organization in Europe.
The first major operation carried out by Fifteenth Air Force was bombing missions in support of the Anzio Landings in Italy, Operation Shingle beginning on 22 January 1944. Strikes on German and fascist Italian targets were carried out and caused widespread damage to Axis forces.
The Americans were facing strong Luftwaffe fighter opposition to their daylight bombing raids over Nazi-occupied Europe, and it was planned to initiate Operation Argument at the earliest possible date.
On 22 February 1944, Fifteenth Air Force made its first attack on Germany, with an attack on Regensburg. The Fifteenth dispatched a force of 183 bombers to the Oberstraubing Messerschmidt assembly plant. Some 118 bombed with good results but fourteen were shot down. The next day the 15th sent 102 bombers to the Steyr ball-bearing works in Austria where they destroyed twenty percent of the plant. On the 24th, over 180 Liberators inflicted considerable damage to the Messerschmitt Bf 110 assembly plant at Gotha, losing 28 aircraft. On 25 February, 114 B-17s and B-24s were dispatched to Steyr again, but the force became separated and the Liberators bombed the Fiume oil refinery instead. Seventeen bombers were lost.
Despite these losses, it was believed that the USSTAF had dealt the German aircraft industry a severe blow.
Attacks on oil targets had assumed top priority by October and vast fleets of heavy bombers, escorted by P-38 Lightning and P-51 Mustang fighters escorted missions to attack refineries in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania. The P-51 escorts were able to establish an environment of air superiority, enabling the bombers to roam widely across southern and eastern Europe, attacking targets at Brux in Czechoslovakia, Budapest, Komorom, Gyor and Pertfurdo in Hungry, Belgrade and other cities in Yugoslavia and Trieste in north-eastern Italy.
The end came on 25 April when 15th Air Force B-17s bombed the Skoda factory at Pilzen in Czechoslovakia, while B-24s prevented German troops from escaping north into Germany by bombing roads in Austria and rail lines in the Brenner Pass.
With the German surrender in Italy, 15th Air Force aircraft began dropping parachutes of supplies and evacuating Allied Prisoners of War.
A total of around 2,110 bombers were lost on operations by its fifteen B-24 and six B-17 bombardment groups, while its seven fighter groups claimed a total of 1,836 enemy aircraft destroyed. The Fifteenth was de-activated in Italy September 15, 1945.
The original bomb groups assigned to 15th Air Force were:
.*Group became subordinate element to wing.
However, demobilization was in full swing and few of these groups were fully equipped or manned. All of these groups were equipped with B-29 Superfortresses, most or all of which were aircraft which returned from Twentieth Air Force groups which returned from the Pacific War. When SAC was established in 1946, it's primary bomber aircraft was the B-29. Although there were many in storage they were war-weary. The plane was greatly improved and soon new models, designated the B-50 Superfortress, began joining the inventory replacing the older aircraft.
On 16 September 1947, the Army Air Forces became the United States Air Force as a separate and equal element of the United States armed forces. The fledging Air Force quickly established its own identity. Army Air Fields were renamed Air Force Bases and personnel were soon being issued new uniforms with new rank insignia. Once the new Air Force was free of army domination, it's first job was to discard the old and dreadfully inadequate ground army organizational structure. This was the "Base Plan" where the combat group commander reported to the base commander, who was often regular army, with no flying experience.
General Carl A. Spaatz established a new policy, "No tactical commander should be subordinate to the station commander." This resulted in a search for a better arrangement. The commander of the 15th Air Force, Major General Charles Born, proposed the Provisional Wing Plan, which basically reversed the situation and put the wing commander over the base commander. The USAF basic organizational unit became the Base-Wing.
Under this plan, the base support functions - supply, base operations, transportation, security, and medical were assigned to squadrons, usually commanded by a Major or Lt. Colonel. All of these squadrons were assigned to a Combat Support Group, commanded by a Base Commander, usually a Colonel. Combat fighter or bomber squadrons were assigned to the Combat Group, a retention of the USAAF Group. All of these groups, both combat and combat support, were in turn assigned to the Wing, commanded by a Wing Commander. This way the Wing Commander commanded both the combat operational elements on the base as well as the non-operational The Wing Commander was an experienced air combat leader, usually a Colonel or Brigadier General. All of the hierarchical organizations carried the same numerical designation. In this manner, for example, the 28th became the designation for the Wing and all the subordinate groups and squadrons beneath it. As a result, the base and the wing became one and the same unit. On 16 June 1952, the legacy combat groups were inactivated and the operational Combat Squadrons were assigned directly to the Wing. The World War II history, lineage and honors of the combat group were bestowed on the Wing upon its inactivation
The USAAF Wing then was redesignated as an Air Division, which was commanded Brigadier General or higher, who commanded two or more wings usually, but not always, on a single base. Numbered Air Forces (NAF) commanded both Air Divisions or Wings directly, and the NAF was under the Major Command (SAC, TAC, ADC, etc.).
The 15th AF returned to a combat-ready role as a result of the 1948 Berlin Crisis, A squadron from the 301st Bombardment Group was deployed with its B-29s at Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base, Germany. SAC immediately ordered the group's other two squadrons to Goose Bay Air Base, Labrador to prepare for immediate deployment to Germany. The 307th and 28th Bombardment Groups were placed on alert and ordered to be ready to deploy within three and twelve hours respectively. Within a few weeks, the other 301st Bomb Groups squadrons had joined the first. Later in July the 28th Bombardment Group left Rapid City AFB, South Dakota for RAF Scampton, England. The 307th Bombardment Group left MacDill AFB, Florida for RAF Marham and RAF Waddington England.
On 7 November 1949, Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force was relocated to March AFB, California. As part of this realignment, Most SAC bomber forces west of the Mississippi River were reassigned to 15th AF. Those east of the Mississippi were assigned to SAC's other strategic air force, Eighth Air Force, was reassigned to Westover AFB, Massachusetts, where it commanded all SAC bases in the eastern United States.
On 25 June 1950, the armed forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded South Korea. On 27 June the United Nations Security Council voted to assist the South Koreans in resisting the invasion. President Harry Truman authorized General Douglas MacArthur (commander of the US occupying forces in Japan) to commit units to the battle. MacArthur ordered General George E. Stratemeyer, CIC of the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) to attack attacking North Korean forces between the front lines and the 38th parallel.
At that time, the 22 B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force 19th Bomb Group stationed at Andersen Field on Guam were the only aircraft capable of hitting the Korean peninsula, and this unit was ordered to move to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa and begin attacks on North Korea. These raids began on 28 June. On 29 June, clearance was given for B-29 attacks on airfields in North Korea.
On July 8, a special FEAF Bomber Command was set up under the command of Major General Emmett O'Donnell. Although President Truman wasn't willing to risk extensive use of the U.S. bomber force in the United States, which was being used as a deterrent for possible Soviet aggression in Europe, a few groups of B-29 bombers — that were not part of the nuclear strike force — were released. On July 13, the FEAF Bomber Command took over command of the 19th Bombardment Group and of the 22nd (8th AF) and 92nd Bombardment Group (15th AF) which had been transferred from SAC bases in the United States. Later in July, the 98th (8th AF) and 307th Bombardment Group (15th AF) were sent to Japan to join the FEAF. The 92nd and 98th BGs and the 31st SRG operated from bases in Japan, whereas the 19th, 22nd, and 307th BGs were based in Okinawa.
When the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, the B-29s had flown over 21,000 sorties, nearly 167,000 tons of bombs had been dropped, and 34 B-29s had been lost in combat (16 to fighters, four to flak, and fourteen to other causes). B-29 gunners had accounted for 34 Communist fighters (16 of these being MiG-15s) probably destroyed another 17 (all MiG-15s) and damaged 11 (all MiG-15s). Losses were less than 1 per 1000 sorties.
With the end of fighting in Korea, President Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a "new look" at national defense. The result: a greater reliance on nuclear weapons and air power to deter war. His administration chose to invest in the Air Force, especially Strategic Air Command. The nuclear arms race shifted into high gear. The Air Force retired nearly all of its propeller-driven B-29/B-50s and they were replaced by new Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft. By 1955 the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress would be entering the inventory in substantial numbers, as prop B-36s were phased out of heavy bombardment units rapidly.
Also after the deployment of forces to Far East Air Force to engage in combat over Korea, the history of Fifteenth Air Force becomes indistinguishable from that of Strategic Air Command. During the Cold War, Fifteenth Air Force aircraft stood nuclear alert, providing a deterrence against an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union. During the Vietnam War, squadrons of 15th Air Force B-52 Stratofortesses (B-52Ds mostly, some B-52Gs) were deployed to bases on Guam, Okinawa and Thailand conducting Arc Light strikes on communist forces.
Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force moved from March Air Force Base to Travis Air Force Base on 2 July 1993 with the closure of March, and merged its tankers with the airlift aircraft of the Twenty-Second Air Force. The Twenty-Second Air Force's flag moved to the Air Force Reserves at Dobbins Air Force Base, Georgia.
As a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, Fifteenth Air Force was redesignated the Fifteenth Expeditionary Mobility Task Force, and is currently engaged in operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
It is my clear understanding that the 14th FG was comprised of the 37th FS, the 48th FS and the 49th FS, not the 47th FS. See John Stanaway's "P-38 Lightning Aces of the ETO/MTO" ISBN 1-85532-698-1.
DELEGATION, TASK FORCE 21 MEET WITH AIR FORCE TO PLOT FUTURE FOR MINOT AIR BASE NEW START AND SUPPORT OF NEW BOMBER SQUADRON INDICATIVE OF BASE'S BRIGHT FUTURE.
Mar 17, 2011; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad: With significant base construction...