source for lineage, assignments, stations, components, aircraft
Though the change was not immediate, plans were also made to discontinue the role of the United States Navy with MAC. Navy aircrews flew C-130s for MAC until 1968, when all MAC C-130s were transferred to Tactical Air Command, as part of the theater troop carrier mission with C-130 wings.
Established at the height of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War, MAC provided long-range strategic airlift from the United States to Military Airlift Support Squadrons (MASS) located on Pacific Air Forces bases in the Pacific AOR These were:
In addition, MAC operated MASS Squadrons on Non-CONUS bases in both Alaska and Hawaii:
By 1968 MAC military and contract transports were hauling 150,000 passengers and 45,000 tons of cargo monthly to and from Southeast Asia. At first MAC transports to Vietnam landed regularly only at Tan Son Nhut, necessitating considerable transshipment within Vietnam by the Common Service Airlift System. New airports opened at Da Nang and Cam Ranh in January 1966, and later at Pleiku AB, Bien Hoa AB, and Phu Cat AB, reducing the need for redistribution.
Major unit movements by MAC aircraft from the United States usually required further airlifts to operating areas by in- country transports. Introduction of the C-5 Galaxy transport in the summer of 1970 created new problems of in-country distribution, since C-5 deliveries were massive and initially the planes could land only at Cam Ranh Bay. Eventually, however, C-5s could unload at Tan Son Nhut and elsewhere. Primarily, MAC transports carried high value cargo such as aircraft and equipment parts, while MAC civilian contract flights transported passengers to and from the combat zone.
In the winter of 1965-66 MAC conducted Operation "Blue Light," the deployment of elements of the 25th Infantry Division from Hickam AFB, Hawaii to Pleiku, South Vietnam. During the 1968 Tet Offensive. MAC transports airlifted additional troops from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to South Vietnam, while at the same time supporting a buildup of forces in South Korea in response to the seizure of the United States Navy intelligence-gathering ship USS Pueblo (AGER-2) in January, 1968.
Undoubtedly the most important development of MAC during the Vietnam War was the use of the Lockheed C-141 Starlifter as an airborne ambulance evacuating casualties out of South Vietnam to hospitals in Japan, the Philippines and the United States. Generally, patients requiring hospitalization for thirty days or more were moved to offshore hospitals; others were sometimes evacuated to keep an empty bed reserve of fifty percent in Vietnam. Military Airlift Command transports carried the more serious cases from Clark to the United States and in 1966 began making patient pickups in Vietnam.
Most Americans welcomed the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that resulted in a cease-fire in Vietnam. Although the cease-fire was short of full victory, it seemed enough that the killing had ended and that several hundred Americans imprisoned in North Vietnam would soon be free. The Air Force airlifters generally shared these feelings and were proud of their roles in attaining what appeared to be peace with honor.
By the terms of the Paris Peace Accords, the cease-fire was to become effective in Vietnam the morning of 28 January 1973, Saigon time. American prisoners in North Vietnam were to be released and the last 23,700 American troops withdrawn from Vietnam within sixty days. Planning for Operation Homecoming, the return of the Americans held by the communists, was given to the Military Airlift Command. C-141s of the 63d Military Airlift Wing, stationed at Norton AFB, California were given the coveted responsibility for bringing out the men. On February 11, two C-130s of the TAC 374th Tactical Airlift Wing flew from Ching Chuan Kang Air Base(CC), Taiwan to Clark AB as primary and spare ships for the movement of the support team to Hanoi the next day. A second C-130 left Tan Son Nhut AB carrying members of the international commission to Hanoi oversee the repatriations. This C-130 arrived at Gia Lam Airport about one hour before the C-130 from CCK arrived.
On the ground at Gia Lam the C-130 crew met the airport manager, and went indoors for tea offered by the North Vietnamese. The first of three C-141s flown in from Clark landed soon after and repatriation began. As the first returnee moved from the release desk, one of the C-130 flight engineers quickly moved to clear the way, leading the former prisoner by the arm. Taking the cue, the other C-130 crewmen in the same way escorted each man to the waiting C-141. Over and over, returnees expressed their deepest appreciation at having been greeted by a 'brother-in-arms' and, in those first few moments of freedom, welcomed home by their own kind. A total of 116 Americans were released at Gia Lam that day and all were flown to Clark by the C-141s. Further releases of Americans in Hanoi followed the pattern of the first day. Releases took place on 18 February and on seven dates in March, ending with the final repatriation of the last sixty-seven men on 29 March 1973.
Most of the American and some Vietnamese refugees departed openly aboard military or contract jet transports, but a few individuals formerly associated with intelligence activities came out semi- covertly through the Air America terminal. On two days, 21 and 22 April, sixty-four hundred persons left Tan Son Nhut for Clark AB aboard thirty-three C-141s and forty-one C-130s. Operations were around-the-clock, the C-141s landing by day and the C-130s generally by night. Other C-141s and the contract carriers meanwhile moved those refugees already at Clark eastward to Guam and Wake Island. Nearly all aircrews reported tracer fire and airbursts with some bursts reaching to eighteen thousand feet. on 26 and 27 April, twelve thousand persons left Tan Son Nhut for the Philippines aboard forty-six C-130 and twenty-eight C-141 flights. The intensifying enemy fire forced a painful decision to stop C-141 landings at Saigon at nightfall on the twenty-seventh.
Inherited from MATS, MAC assumed the Special Air Mission (SAM) of providing global airlift, logistics, aerial port and communications for the President, Vice President, and senior government leaders as tasked by the White House and Chief of Staff of the Air Force. The 89th Military Airlift Wing, stationed at Andrews AFB, Maryland carried out this mission on a worldwide basis.
The airlift had been a key to the Israeli victory. It had not only brought about the timely resupply of the Israeli armed forces but also provided a series of deadly new weapons put to good use in the latter part of the war. These included the AGM-65 Maverick, the BGM-71 TOW anti-tank weapons and extensive new electronic countermeasures equipment that warded off successful attacks on Israeli fighters. Reflecting on the operation's vital contribution to the war effort, Reader's Digest would call it "The Airlift That Saved Israel.
The airlift taught the Air Force many lessons, large and small. With refueling denied for MAC airlift flights bound for Israel by France and West Germany, Lajes Field in the Azores was a godsend-one that the US best not take for granted in a future emergency. The Air Force established an immediate requirement for aerial refueling to become standard practice in MAC so that its airlifters could operate without forward bases, if necessary.
The C-5 Galaxy proved to be the finest military airlift aircraft in history, not the expensive military mistake as it had been portrayed in the media. Since its introduction in 1970, the C-5A had been plagued by problems. The Air Force claimed to have rectified the problems, but the C-5A was still viewed by the press as an expensive failure. During Nickel Grass, C-5s carried 48% of the total cargo in only 145 of the 567 total missions. The C-5A also carried "outsize" cargo such as M60 Patton tanks, M109 howitzers, ground radar systems, mobile tractor units, CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, and A-4 Skyhawk components; cargo that could not fit in smaller aircraft. This performance justified the C-5's existence, and allowed the Air Force to move forward with their proposed upgrade to the C-5B variant.
As a result, MAC became the controlling Major Command at Dyess, Little Rock and Pope AFB. The 433d TAW at Kelly AFB became a MAC tenant unit, and the 316th TAW at Langley AFB was inactivated in 1975 with the reassignment of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing from MacDill AFB. MAC also assumed command of Tactical Airlift Wings at Clark AB (374th TAW) in the Pacific and the 513th TAW at RAF Mildenhall and the 435th TAW at Rhein-Main AB in Europe. These MAC overseas wings became tenant units under PACAF and USAFE.
These modified aircraft were designated C-141B. Additional 'plug' sections were added before and after the wings, lengthening the fuselage by 23 ft 4 in (7.11 m) and allowing the carriage of 103 litters for wounded, 13 standard pallets, 205 troops, 168 paratroopers, or an equivalent increase in other loads. Also added at this time was a boom receptacle for inflight refueling which gave the C-141 truly intercontinental range. The conversion program took place between 1977 and 1982, with first delivery taking place in December 1979. It was estimated that this stretching program was the equivalent of buying 90 new aircraft, in terms of increased capacity.
During it's development phase, problems with the C-5 had been discovered, including structural problems that required the replacement of wing sections. During the early 1980s, the C-5A force was retrofitted with a new wing to strengthen the aircraft and allow it to carry addional cargo loads. Also, a shortage of airlift capability was addressed with the introduction of the C-5B, The first C-5B incorporating significant improvements such as strengthened wings and updated avionics was delivered to Altus Air Force Base in January 1986. C-5B production concluded with delivery of the last "B" model aircraft in April 1989.
A third C-5 variant, the C-5C was developed for transporting large cargo. Two C-5As (68-0213 and 68-0216) were modified to have a larger internal cargo capacity to accommodate large payloads, such as satellites for use by NASA.
After the Vietnam War ended, MAC returned to a training role, though it continued to operate the world-wide route structure to support United States interests around the world. With the tactical airlift mission now part of MAC, emphasis on tactical operations was increased. While C-130s were assigned an increased logistical role C-141 and C-5 crews were given training in tactical procedures as more emphasis was placed on deployment.
Annual Exercise REFORGER deployments of United States Army forces to West Germany was intended to ensure that NATO had the ability to quickly deploy forces to West Germany in the event of a conflict with the Soviet Union. MAC C-5 and C-141 aircraft transported entire units of Army infantry, artillery and mechanized personnel yearly after some forces were withdrawn back to the United States. Reforger was conducted annually until just after the end of the Cold War.
In addition, Operation Bright Star deployment airlifts to Egypt, beginning in 1981 were flown by MAC C-5 and C-141 aircraft. Bright Star was a series of biennial combined and joint training exercises by American and Egyptian forces. These deployments were designed to strengthen ties between the Egyptian and American militaries and demonstrate and enhance the ability of the Americans to reinforce their allies in the Middle East in the event of war.
Beginning in World War II, special operations utilizing transport aircraft were a part of the USAAF mission. Troop Carrier Command (TCC) C-47 squadrons worked with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Europe, Asia and other regions flying clandestine missions behind enemy lines.
In the 1950s, the MATS Air Resupply And Communications Service (ARCS) controlled special operations forces during the Korean War and thoughout the 1950s supporting both DoD as well as CIA activities. MATS worked closely with the USAF Special Air Warfare Center (later, USAF Special Operations Force) in the 1960s and early years of the Vietnam War. After 1964, Special Operations were assigned to Tactical Air Command's Ninth Air Force, and when the war in Vietnam ended, the special operations forces were cut back along with the rest of the military.
The ill-fated Operation Eagle Claw Iranian rescue mission in April 1980 led to a resurgence of emphasis on long-range special operations teams whose mission would be primarily to conduct operations such as the rescue of hostages. A new special operations force was created under the Ninth Air Force, and based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, but the mission soon transferred to the Military Airlift Command where it became the Twenty-Third Air Force on 10 February 1983.
Twenty-Third Air Force units both in Europe (Rhein-Main Air Base, RAF Mildenhall) and Japan (Yokota Air Base supported various clandestine missions throughout the 1980s, flying specially-equipped MC-130s. Finally, on 22 May 1990, Twenty-Third Air Force was redesignated Air Force Special Operations Command and elevated to the major command level.
MAC C-130s were deployed to Saudi Arabia to support the arriving ground forces as they arrived in-country by air and by ship. Fortunately, Iraq made no move against Saudi Arabia, and the United States and an international coalition was able to build up a massive military force that eventually drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
Air Force merges MAC-TAC-SAC into two commands. (Military Airlift Command, Tactical Air Command, Strategic Air Command)
Sep 18, 1991; Air Force Secretary Donald Rice yesterday announced a major command restructuring aimed at dealing with force structure cuts and...
SOF and MAC EW: more alike than you think. (special operations forces; Military Airlift Command; electronic warfare)
Nov 01, 1989; SOF and MAC EW: More Alike Than You Think At first, it might be difficult to imagine how Special Operations Forces (SOF) and...
Study may call for additional C-17 transports - MAC chief ... and says KC-17 not needed. . (Military Airlift Command head Hansford Johnson; tanker version of C-17 transport)
May 13, 1991; STUDY MAY CALL FOR ADDITIONAL C-17 TRANSPORTS--MAC CHIEF. The head of the Military Airlift Command, Gen. Hansford Johnson, said...