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15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force
15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force emblem
Active October 30, 1943 – Present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Mobility Command
Garrison/HQ Travis Air Force Base, California
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
European Campaign (1943–1945)
Nathan Twining

James Doolittle

22d ARW Boeing KC-135R-BN Stratotanker 57-1486 taking off.
60th AMW KC-10 refueling a C-5 Galaxy
Boeing C-17A Globemaster III 06-6155 of the 21st Airlift Squadron, 60th AMW

The Fifteenth Expeditionary Mobility Task Force (15 EMTF) is one of two EMTFs assigned to the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC). It is headquartered at Travis Air Force Base, California.

15 EMTF provides strategic and theater airlift for all United States Department of Defense agencies as well as air refueling for the Air Force in both peace and wartime. Primary aircraft assigned to its units are the C-5 Galaxy, C-9 Nightingale, C-17 Globemaster III, C-21, C-130 Hercules, KC-10 Extender, and KC-135 Stratotanker.

15 EMTF was a redesignation of Fifteenth Air Force, effective October 1, 2003. Established on 1 November 1943, Fifteenth AF was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force deployed to the European Theater of World War II, engaging in strategic bombardment operations from bases in southern Italy and engaging in air to air fighter combat against enemy aircraft.

During the Cold War, Fifteenth AF was one of three Numbered Air Forces of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), commanding USAF strategic bombers and missiles on a global scale. Elements of 15th Air Force engaged in combat operations during the Korean War; Vietnam War, as well as Operation Desert Storm.

15 EMTF is commanded by Brig. Gen. Barbara J. Faulkenberry. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Craig A. Adams.



Fifteenth Air Force is one of the two numbered air forces assigned to the Air Mobility Command. Headquartered at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., its main area of operations is the region stretching west of the Mississippi River to the east coast of Africa, pole to pole, but is often tasked to support Air Mobility Command's global reach mission. Its primary mission is to provide strategic and theater airlift for all Department of Defense agencies as well as air refueling for the Air Force in both peace and wartime. This includes the aeromedical evacuation of sick and injured.

The task force 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.

With the assigned military work force of 28,912 personnel and an assigned civilian work force of 5,288 people, Fifteenth Air Force manages almost 300 aircraft and many support facilities in the United States and in the Pacific and Indian Oceans -- all the way to Diego Garcia.


Primary operating units of 15 EMTF are:

McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, Kansas
Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California
McChord Air Force Base, Pierce County, Washington.
Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington.
Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas.
Scott Air Force Base, Belleville, Illinois
Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
Travis Air Force Base, Fairfield, California

The 15 EMTF commander is also the Commander, Task Force 294 (TF 294), which provides aerial refueling to aircraft assigned to the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) in time of war. TF 294 includes 28 units from the 15 EMTF and 21 EMTF, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve Command. The 15 EMTS staff assures the operational readiness of its units by conducting readiness assessment visits and staff assistance visits. It acts as an advocate for its subordinate units and enforces higher headquarters policies and directives.




Since its establishment November 1, 1943, in Tunis, Tunisia, under the command of Major General James Doolittle, the 15 EMTF, previously designated Fifteenth Air Force (15th AF), has flown almost every type of aircraft in the Air Force inventory and has participated in every war and major contingency in which the United States has been involved.

Originating during World War II as an 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 October 1, 2003.


  • Constituted as Fifteenth Air Force on October 30, 1943.
Activated on November 1, 1943
Inactivated on September 15, 1945
  • Activated on March 31, 1946
Inactivated on October 1, 2003
Redesignated and activated as 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force, October 1, 2003


Eighteenth Air Force, October 1, 2003 – Pres.


World War II Wings

Postwar Air Divisions


Operational History

World War II

15th USAAF patch

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.

Operational Units
Transferred from: Twelfth Air Force
Headquartered: Foggia, Italy, December 13, 1943 – November 2, 1945
2d Bombardment Group "Circle-Y"
97th Bombardment Group "Triangle-Y"
99th Bombardment Group "Diamond-Y"
301st Bombardment Group "Square-Y" (Green)
463d Bombardment Group "Wedge-Y" (Yellow)
483d Bombardment Group "Y-Star" (Red)
Transferred from MacDill Field, Florida, March 2, 1944
Attached: 68th Tactical Reconnaissance Group:
November 1943 – April 1944

Airfields: Amendola Airfield (2d BW), Celone Airfield (463d BW), Cerignola Airfield (97th BW), Foggia (2d BW, 463d BW), Lucera Airfield (301st BW), Manduria, (68th RG), Maricianise (97th BW), Sterparone (483d BW), Torotella (99th BW, 483d BW)

Transferred from Ninth Air Force
Headquartered: Manduria, Italy, November 11, 1943 – May 1945
98th Bombardment Group Triangle (Yellow/Black Tail Stripe)
376th Bombardment Group "Triangle Circle 2"
449th Bombardment Group "Triangle Circle 3"
450th Bombardment Group "Triangle Circle 5"

Airfields: Brindisi (98th BG), Grottaglie (449th BG), Lecce (98th BG), Manduria (98th BG), San Pancrazio (376th BG, 450th BG)

Transferred from Greenville AAB, South Carolina April 6, 1944
Headquartered: Bari Airfield, Italy, April 6, 1944 – October 16, 1945
451st Bombardment Group "Red Tail Red Dot"
461st Bombardment Group "Red Tail Red Dash"
484th Bombardment Group "Red Tail Red Bow"

Airfields: Gina del Colle (451st BG), San Pancrazio (451st BG), Torretta (484th BG)

Transferred from: MacDill Field, Florida
Headquartered: Taranto, Italy, March 1944 – July 1945
460th Bombardment Wing "Yellow/Black Tail Square Dot"
464th Bombardment Wing "Yellow/Black Tail Square l"
465th Bombardment Wing "Yellow/Black Tail"
485th Bombardment Wing "Yellow/Black Tail Square X"

Airfields: Gioia (464th BG), Panatella (464th BG), Spinazzola Airfield (460th BG), Venosa Airfield (485th BG)

Activated in Italy
Headquartered: Cerignola Airfield, Italy, December 29, 1943 – September 1945
454th Bombardment Group "Black Diamond"
455th Bombardment Group "Black Diamond Yellow Tail"
456th Bombardment Group "Black Diamond Red Tail"
459th Bombardment Group
"Black Diamond Yellow/Black Check Tail"

Airfields: Giulia Airfield (455th BG), San Giovanni Airfield (454th BG, 455th BG, 456th BG)

Transferred from Twelfth Air Force, 1943
Foggia, December 29, 1943 – January 19, 1944
Spinazzola Airfield, January 19 – March 6, 1944
Bari Airfield, March 6 – December 1944
Torremaggiore, December 1944 – September 9, 1945
1st Fighter Group
27FS (HV Red), 71st (LM Black), 94th (UN Yellow)
14th Fighter Group
82d Fighter Group

Airfields: Gioia del Colle Airfield (1st FG), Leisna (14th FG 82d FG), Salosa (1st FG), Triolo Airfield (14th FG), Vincenzo Airfield (82d FG)

Activated in Italy
Bari Airfield, Italy, January 15–27, 1944
Foggia, Italy, January 27 – February 23, 1944
Lucera, Italy, February 23 – March 8, 1944
Torremaggiore, Italy, March 8 – September 3, 1944
Lesina Airfield, Italy, September 3, 1944 – March 5, 1945
Fano, Italy, March 5 – July 15, 1945
31st Fighter Group Red diagonal tail stripe
307FS (MX), 308FS (HL), 309FS (WZ)
325th Fighter Group
(P-47 Thunderbolt, B-26 Marauder, P-51 Mustang)
Black/Yellow chex Tails
317FS (10-39), 318FS (40-69), 319FS (70-99)
52d Fighter Group (Yellow Tails)
2FS (QP) 4FS (WD), 5FS (VF)
332d Fighter Group
'Tuskegee Airmen' / 'Red Tail Angels'
99FS (A00 - A39, Blue), 100FS (1-39, Black), 301FS (40-69, White), 302FS (70-99,01-09, Yellow)

Airfields: Capodichino (332d FG), Cattolica (332d FG), Madna Airfield (52d FG), Mondolfo (31st FG. 325th FG), Montecorvino (332d FG), Piagiolino (52d FG), Ramitelli (332d FG), Rimini (325th FG), Vincenzo Airfield (325th FG)

.* Sent to Aghione, Corsica from August 10–21, 1944 for Operation DRAGOON (Invasion of Southern France)

  • 15th Special Group (Provisional)
Reported directly to Fifteenth Air Force
Assigned to 15th Air Force in June 1944
Stationed at Brindisi
Re-designated 2641st Special Group (Provisional)
859th BS flew Carpetbagger operations out of England until September 1944 before being moved to MTO
885th BS was initially known as 122nd BS assigned to 68th Reconnaissance Group operating B-17s in the MTO. Assigned to the 15th Special Group in January 1945.

Activated in Italy, December 29, 1943, No units assigned until June 13, 1945
Headquarters: Torremaggiore, December 1944 – September 1945
1st Fighter Group
14th Fighter Group
31st Fighter Group
52d Fighter Group
82d Fighter Group
325th Fighter Group
332d Fighter Group

Initial Operations
Restored P-51D of the 31st Fighter Group, 308th Fighter Squadron, "Flying Dutchman", showing 12 aerial victories.
B-24 of the 464h Bomb Group
B-17F of the 97th Bomb Group over the Alps
B-24 of the 451st Bomb Group

The 15th Air Force began its operations on November 2, 1943, attacking the Messerschmitt factory at Wiener Neustadt, Austria. On December 1, 1943, the Headquarters was moved to Bari Airfield, Italy.

On January 4, 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 January 22, 1944. Strikes on German and fascist Italian targets were carried out and caused widespread damage to Axis forces.

Big Week

"Big Week" was the name of an intense Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces series of attacks on Germany in a series of co-ordinated raids on the German aircraft industry. The plan, code-named "Operation Argument", was to use both American strategic air forces in Europe, with support by the Royal Air Force with night bombing raids to destroy or seriously cripple the German ability to produce combat aircraft.

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 February 22, 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 February 25, 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.

Oil Industry Targets

In April, General Eisenhower ordered the USSTAF to attack German fuel production centers by striking both the oil refineries and the factories producing synthetic fuels. The 15th started the offensive on April 5 when it dispatched 235 B-17s and B-24s from Italy to transportation targets in the vicinity of the Ploesti oilfields in Romania. The refineries were attacked again on April 15 and 24, inflicting additional damage.

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, Komárom, Győr and Pétfürdő in Hungary, Belgrade and other cities in Yugoslavia and Trieste in north-eastern Italy.

Soviet Support

By June 1944, the 15th Air Force was bombing railway networks in south-east Europe in support of Soviet military operations in Romania. Throughout the summer of 1944, Austrian aircraft manufacturing centers at Wiener Neustadt were bombed and oil producing centers were attacked. On June 2, 15th Air Force flew its first "shuttle" mission when 130 B-17s and P-51 escorts landed in Russian controlled territory after a raid in Hungary. Two more shuttle missions followed.

Operation Anvil

In July, the 15th began attacking targets in Southern France in preparation for Operation Anvil, the invasion of Southern France. Marseilles, Lyon, Grenoble and Toulon were all attacked by B-24s and B-17s.

The end of the Third Reich

The largest 15th Air Force operation of all occurred on April 15, 1945 when 1,235 bombers were dispatched to Wowser near Bologna. The last major air battle took place on April 18 when 305 B-17s and 906 B-24s, plus more than 1,200 fighters were sent to attack Berlin. Jadeschwader 7 "Hindenburg" had managed to assemble forty Messerschmitt Me 262 jets and they tore into the heavy bomber formations. The Messerschmidts were far too fast for the American P-51, which stood little chance against them, and the Me-262s managed to shoot down two of them. The jets managed to shoot down twenty five bombers with their R4M rockets. However, in reality, the fact was that the German jets were too few and produced too late to stop the Allied aerial armadas from simply overwhelming the Luftwaffe and leveling their targets.

The end came on April 25 when 15th Air Force B-17s bombed the Škoda factory at Plzeň 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.

Postwar Era

On March 31, 1946, Fifteenth Air Force was reactivated at Colorado Springs AAB, Colorado and assigned to the ten day old Strategic Air Command. 15th AF assumed the assets and personnel of the former Continental Air Forces Second Air Force, which was inactivated on March 30.

The original bomb groups assigned to 15th Air Force were:

Activated at Grand Island AAF, Nebraska on August 4, 1946
Transferred to Eleventh Air Force, Elmendorf AAF, Alaska,
October 20, 1946
Reassigned to 15th AF at Rapid City AAF, South Dakota
May 3, 1947
Established as 28th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
July 28, 1947*
Activated at Ft Worth AAF, Texas, August 4, 1946
Reassigned to Smoky Hill AAF, Kansas, October 1946
Reassigned to Spokane AAF, Washington, June 1947
Established as 92d Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
November 17, 1947*
Activated at Castle Field, California, June 21, 1946
Established as 93d Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
July 28, 1947*
Activated at Smoky Hill AAF, Kansas, August 4, 1946
Established as 97th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
September 11, 1947*
Reassigned to Eighth Air Force, May 16, 1948
Activated at Clovis AAF, New Mexico on August 4, 1946
Inactivated July 16, 1947
Reactivated at Smoky Hill AAF, Kansas, July 16, 1947
Established as 301st Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
October 15, 1947*
Reassigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana , November 7, 1949
Activated at MacDill AAF, Florida on August 4, 1946
Established as 307th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy),
July 28, 1947*
Reassigned to MacDill AAF, Florida on April 17, 1946
Transferred to Fifteenth Air Force on May 1, 1946
Redesignated as 311th Air Division (Reconnaissance) on April 6, 1948

.*Group became subordinate element to wing.

B-29s stored at Pyote AAF about 1946.
Boeing B-29A-35-BN Superfortress 44-61527 in foreground.
SAC B-50A Superfortresses

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, its 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 September 16, 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, its first job was to discard the old and 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.

15th Air Force org chart, 1947

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 June 16, 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.).

Boeing B-50D of 15th Air Force displaying while on detachment to England in May 1953

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 November 7, 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.

Korean War

Over the course of the war, at least 16 B-29 bombers were shot down by communist aircraft.

On June 25, 1950, the armed forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded South Korea. On June 27 the United Nations Security Council voted to assist the South Koreans in resisting the invasion. President Harry S. 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 June 28. On June 29, 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 Twentieth Air Force 19th Bombardment Group and of the Fifteenth Air Force's 22nd and 92nd Bombardment Groups which had been transferred from SAC bases in the United States. Later in July, the Fifteenth Air Force 98th and 307th Bombardment Groups 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.

Cold War

B-52D Dropping bombs over Southeast Asia
KC-135 refueling F-15s and F-16s

With the end of fighting in Korea, President Dwight D. 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.

Post Vietnam

Between the Vietnam War and 1991, 15th AF units commanded reconnaissance aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Fifteenth Air Force became exclusively a tanker command on September 1, 1991. When Strategic Air Command was inactivated June 1, 1992, and its assets divided between the newly created Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command, Fifteenth Air Force became part of Air Mobility Command.

Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force moved from March Air Force Base to Travis Air Force Base on July 2, 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 September 11, 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.


I could see omens of the war’s end almost every day in the blue southern sky when, flying provocatively low, the bombers of the American Fifteenth Air Force crossed the Alps from their Italian bases to attack German Industrial targets.
Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments, Inside the Third Reich, Memoirs of Albert Speer



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.


  • Ambrose, Stephen. The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B24s over Germany, 1944–1945. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.
  • Currier, Lt. Col. Donald R. 50 Mission Crush. Burd Street Press, 1992. ISBN 0-94259-743-5.
  • Capps, Robert S. Flying Colt: Liberator Pilot in Italy. Manor House, 1997. ISBN 0-9640665-1-3.
  • Capps, Robert S. 456th Bomb Group (H): Steed's Flying Colts 1943–1945. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-56311-141-1.
  • Dorr, Robert F. B-24 Liberator Units of the Fifteenth Air Force. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-84176-081-1.
  • Harley, R. Bruce. A Brief History of the Fifteenth Air Force, "Aggressive in War, Alert in Peace". Silver Anniversary, 1 November 1943 – 31 October 1968. March Air Force Base, California: Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force, 1968.
  • McGuire, Melvin W. and Robert Hadley. Bloody Skies: A 15th AAF B-17 Combat Crew, How They Lived and Died. Yucca Tree Press, 1993. ISBN 1-881325-06-7.
  • Millet, Jeffrey R. The Fifteenth Air Force Story: A History 1943–1985. Fifteenth Air Force Association, 1986.
  • Rust, Kenn C. Fifteenth Air Force World War II. Temple City, California: Historical Aviation Album, 1976. ISBN 0-911852-79-4.
  • Scutts, Jerry. P-47 Thunderbolt Aces of the Ninth and Fifteenth Air Force. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-906-9.
  • Weatherill, David. Aces, Pilots & Aircraft of the 9th, 12th & 15th USAAF. Melbourne, Australia: Kookaburra Technical Publications Pty Ltd., 1978. ISBN 0-85880-032-2.

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