353d Special Operations Group: Wikis


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353d Special Operations Group
353d Special Operations Group.png
Emblem of the 353d Special Operations Group
Active 1944-1946; 1967-1970; 1989-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
A Lockheed MC-130H Combat Talon II (88-0195) from the 1st Special Operations Squadron flies a training mission

The 353d Special Operations Group (353 SOG) is an operational unit of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command. It is stationed at Kadena Air Base, Japan.

The 353 SOG is the United States Air Force special forces contribution to the U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC) a subcommand of the United States Pacific Command.

The group's origins date to 1944 as the 3d Air Commando Group. The unit was assigned to Fifth Air Force in the Philippines in 1944 for operations with P-51 Mustangs, C-47 Skytrains, and L-5 Sentinel aircraft. It attacked Japanese airfields and installations in the Philippines, supported ground forces on Luzon, and provided escort for missions to Formosa and the China coast. It also made raids on airfields and railways on Formosa, and furnished cover for convoys. In addition, the group transported personnel, dropped supplies to ground troops and guerrilla forces, evacuated casualties from front-line strips, adjusted artillery fire, and flew courier and mail routes.



The 353d Special Operations Group consists of the following squadrons:


The group's lineage and honors can be traced not just through its own history, but through the history of two predecessor organizations, the 3 Air Commando Group and the 553 Reconnaissance Wing.



  • Established as 3 Air Commando Group on 25 Apr 1944
Activated on 1 May 1944
Inactivated on 25 Mar 1946
Disestablished on 8 Oct 1948
  • Reestablished, and consolidated (31 Jul 1985) with the 553 Reconnaissance Wing, which was established, and activated, on 9 Feb 1967
Organized on 25 Feb 1967
Inactivated on 15 Dec 1970
  • Redesignated: 353 Reconnaissance Wing on 31 Jul 1985 (Remained inactive)
  • Redesignated: 353 Special Operations Wing on 21 Mar 1989
Activated on 6 Apr 1989
Redesignated 353 Special Operations Group on 1 Dec 1992.


Under operational control of 308 Bombardment Wing, 26 Jan 1945-
Remained under operational control of 308 Bombardment Wing through 28 May 1945
Under operational control of 309 Bombardment Wing, 29 May-c. 8 Aug 1945 and c. 27 Oct 1945-25 Mar 1946
Attached to Thirteenth Air Force, 19-30 Oct 1967
Under operational control of Seventh Air Force entire period


  • 3d Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron* (later, 3d Fighter, Commando): May 1, 1944 – March 25, 1946 (air echelon detached November 7, 1944 – January 7, 1945).
  • 4th Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron* (later, 4th Fighter, Commando): May 1, 1944 – March 25, 1946 (ground echelon detached November 7, 1944 – January 5, 1945; air echelon detached November 7, 1944 – January 16, 1945).
  • 31st Special Operations Squadron: April 6, 1989 – August 31, 2001.
  • 157th Liaison Squadron: May 1, 1944 – November 10, 1945 (detached May 1 – c. August 18, 1944 and May 3 – November 10, 1945).
  • 159th Liaison Squadron: May 1, 1944 – December 15, 1945 (detached May 1 – c. August 18, 1944 and May 3 – December 15, 1945).
  • 160th Liaison Squadron: May 1, 1944 – December 15, 1945 (detached May 1 – c. August 18, 1944 and May 3 – December 15, 1945).
  • 318th Troop Carrier Squadron: May 1, 1944 – March 25, 1946 (detached May 1 – August 14, 1944; ground echelon detached September 12 – November 1, 1944; air echelon detached September 12, 1944 – c. February 18, 1945).
  • 553d Reconnaissance Squadron: February 25, 1967 – December 15, 1970.
  • 554th Reconnaissance Squadron: February 25, 1967 – December 15, 1970.

*Note: 3d and 4th Fighter (Commando) Squadrons have no relationship to the 3d Pursuit or 4th Fighter Squadrons.


Squadrons operated from Atsugi Airfield, Japan, 20 Sep-7 Oct 1945
Operated from U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield, Thailand, 30 Jan-28 Feb 1969
Operated from Okinawa, Jul 1991-4 Feb 1992


  • P-40, 1944
  • F-6, 1944
  • C-47, 1944–1945
  • CG-4, 1944
  • P-51, 1944, 1945–1946
  • L-5, 1944, 1945
  • UC-64, 1944, 1945
  • EC-121, 1967–1970
  • YQU-22, 1968–1969
  • QU-22, 1970
  • MC-130E/H, 1989–Present
  • HC/MC-130P/N, 1989–Present
  • C-130E, 1989–Present
  • CH/HH-53, 1989–1990
  • MH-53, 1990–2001


World War II

When activated, the 3d Air Commando Group trained to establish and maintain an airstrip behind enemy lines, to provide for its own supply and air defense, to attack targets in the enemy's rear areas, and to furnish air support for ground operations. The group's headquarters, liaison, and airdrome squadrons, as well as its medical dispensary and the ground echelons of the 3d Fighter Squadron and 318th Troop Carrier Squadron sailed from the west coast in early November 1944, arriving on Leyte on December 1, 1944. The ground echelon of the 4th Fighter Squadron sailed a week later and arrived on Leyte in early January 1945. The flying personnel of the 3d and 4th Fighter Squadrons, as well as some enlisted members of their engineering sections, were air-transported to Nadzab, New Guinea, where they received the group's new P-51 aircraft.

The separated squadrons flew patrol missions in New Guinea until joining the group on Leyte in January 1945. Began combat in the Philippines by flying bombing and strafing missions against airdromes on Mindanao. Later, on Luzon, the fighters continued bombing and strafing missions. In addition, the group provided air support to ground forces, flew fighter sweeps to Formosa, and escorted heavy bombers on bombing missions to Formosa and the China coast. The air echelon of the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron flew their C-47s across the Pacific, arriving at Nadzab, New Guinea, in late October 1944. The squadron carried cargo and passengers and air-evacuated wounded soldiers to Australia until it moved to Leyte in mid-January 1945. While on Luzon, this squadron also para-dropped supplies to ground forces. The liaison squadrons received their L-5s in late January 1945, and thereafter evacuated wounded from advanced points, flew courier, search and rescue, and reconnaissance missions, spotted for signal aircraft warning battalions, and dropped supplies to allied and guerrilla forces.

In April 1945, the Group, less the liaison squadrons, moved from Mandaldan, on the Lingayen Gulf, to Laoag, in northwest Luzon, in recently captured territory 150 miles behind enemy lines. The group operated the base and the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron provided most of the resupply. The group set up air-ground support stations that directed aircraft to targets and tactical radio ground stations situated with U.S. and guerrilla ground forces. In June 1945 Laoag became the staging field for flights to Okinawa.

In August 1945, the group moved to Ie Shima, in the Ryukyus, from where the fighter squadrons flew surveillance missions over Japan. The 318 TCS participated in the evacuation of allied prisoners of war from Japan. By the end of October 1945, the group moved to Chitose AB, Japan. By February 1946 the squadrons were reduced to paper strength and the group inactivated the next month.

Cold War

Beginning in February 1967, the 553d Reconnaissance Wing trained to support a special electronic reconnaissance program utilizing EC-121G and EC-121R aircraft. Moved to Thailand in increments beginning mid-September 1967 and began day and night unarmed reconnaissance missions over Southeast Asia on November 25, 1967. A wing detachment at Nakhon Phanom Airport, Thailand, performed combat evaluation of YQU-22A aircraft and associated equipment, December 1968-August 1969. From July to early September 1970 the wing provided combat evaluation of the QU-22B aircraft and on October 1, 1970 the QU-22Bs were placed in full operation, reducing the need for EC-121s.

Strength of the wing was reduced in both personnel and equipment, and in mid-December 1970 the wing inactivated, leaving its two reconnaissance squadrons active under other USAF wings.

Modern era

The 353d Special Operations Wing activated in April 1989 in the Philippines to train for unconventional warfare and special operations activities in the Pacific area of operations. Maintained capabilities by participating in joint/combined and other theater exercises and training opportunities. Also maintained helicopter air refueling operations and supported humanitarian and disaster relief operations, as well as performed some search and rescue and aeromedical evacuation missions.

Following the destruction of Clark AB during the volcanic eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 the group temporarily operated from bases on Okinawa, then officially relocated there in February 1992, with one squadron moving forward to South Korea. Redesignated to group level in December 1992, but continued operations as before.

In February 1996 developed Taegu AB in South Korea as a special operations training base. Gained a weather flight in April 1996 and began providing weather support for U.S. Army Special Forces at Torii Station, Japan.

rom December 1996 periodically deployed aircraft and personnel to Italy to support NATO operations in the Balkans and to Southwest Asia to support allied operations against Iraq.


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

  • 353 SOG History
  • 353 SOG Fact Sheet
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

External links


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