63d Airlift Wing: Wikis


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63d Airlift Wing
Emblem of 63d Airlift Wing
Active 1940–1994
Country United States
Branch Air Force
Type Heavy Airlift
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg
  • World War II
American Campaign (1941–1944)
  • Vietnam Service (1967–1973)
  • Southwest Asia Service (1990–1991)

The 63d Airlift Wing (63d AW) is an inactive unit of the United States Air Force. Its last assignment was with Air Mobility Command, being stationed at Norton Air Force Base, California. It was inactivated on April 1, 1994.





  • Constituted as 63d Transport Group on November 20, 1940
Activated on December 1, 1940
Redesignated 63d Troop Carrier Group in July 1942
Disbanded on April 14, 1944
  • Established as 63d Troop Carrier Wing, Medium, on May 10, 1949
63d Troop Carrier Group assigned as subordinate unit to wing May 10, 1949
Allocated to the reserve May 10, 1949
Activated in the Reserve on June 27, 1949
Ordered to active service on May 1, 1951
Inactivated on May 9, 1951
  • Redesignated 63d Troop Carrier Wing, Heavy, on December 18, 1952
Activated on January 8, 1953
Redesignated 63d Military Airlift Wing on January 8, 1966
Redesignated 63d Airlift Wing on January 1, 1992
Inactivated April 1, 1994


First Air Force, June 27, 1949 – May 9, 1951
Eighteenth Air Force, January 8, 1953
Continental Division
(later, Western Transport Air Force), July 1, 1957
Eastern Transport Air Force
(later, Twenty-First Air Force), October 1, 1958
Twenty-Second Air Force, April 1, 1967 – June 1, 1992


Aircraft Assigned




Attached August 25, 1954 – June 30, 1957
Assigned July 1, 1957 – October 8, 1959 (detached July 23 – c. September 15, 1958)


  • 3d Transport (later Troop Carrier): 1940–1944; 1949–1951 1953–1957.
  • 6th Transport: 1940–1942.
  • 7th Air Transport: July 1, 1964 – January 8, 1966.
  • 9th Transport (later Troop Carrier): 1940–1943; 1949–1951 ; 1953–1957.
  • 14th Troop Carrier (later Military Airlift; later Airlift): January 18, 1963 – 1994.
  • 15th Troop Carrier (later Military Airlift; later Airlift): August 25, 1954 – 1994 (not operational, c. February – August 14, 1967).
  • 21st Helicopter: attached July 9, 1956 – June 30, 1957.
  • 52d Transport (later Troop Carrier; Later Military Airlift; Later Airlift): 1942–1944; 1949–1957; January 18, 1963 – January 8, 1967; June 1, 1988 - September 30, 1992.
  • 53d Troop Carrier (later Military Airlift; later Airlift): January 18, 1963 – July 8, 1966; January 8, 1972 – 1994.
  • 54th Troop Carrier: July 1, 1957 – October 8, 1959; January 18, 1963 – June 25, 1965.
  • 58th Troop Carrier: January 8 – July 1, 1966.
  • 309th Troop Carrier: attached October 8, 1954 – July 9, 1956.
  • 600th Transport (later Troop Carrier): 1942–1944; 1949–1951.

Operational History

63d TCW C-124 at Hamilton AFB, California being prepared to load a Lockheed F-104 Starfighter being transported to Formosa, 1958
Brand new 63d MAW C-141As on the ramp at Norton AFB, 1967. Serial 66-0177 is in foreground. This aircraft will become the famous "Hanoi Taxi" which flew Bob Hope to USO shows in South Vietnam and in 1973, during the final days of the Vietnam War, repatriated American POWs from North Vietnam. Arizona Senator John McCain was one of the POWs who flew home on the Hanoi Taxi. 66-0177 was the last C-141 to be withdrawn from Air Force service after a career of almost 40 years, as the last of the fleet was retired in 2006. 66-0177 today is on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force
Recently released United States POWs from North Vietnamese prison camps being flown on-board the 63d MAW "Hanoi Taxi" (C-141A 66-0177) from Hanoi, North Vietnam to Clark Air Base, Philippines, March 1973.

The 63d Transport Group was activated on December 1, 1940 at Wright Field, Ohio as part of Air Service Command. Initially training with some Douglas C-33 (DC-2) transports, the group flew C-47 and C-53 twin-engine transports between the United States and airfields in the Caribbean in the year before the United States' entry into World War II, transporting supplies, materiel, and personnel. In April 1942, the group was reassigned to Air Transport Command (later I Troop Carrier Command) at Camp Williams AAF, Wisconsin. In 1943, the group was taken out of operational service and became an operational training unit (OTU) for Army Air Force Training Command first at Lawson AAF, Georgia then at Grenada AAF, Mississippi where it preparing cadres for troop carrier groups, later training replacement crews in July 1943. The group was disbanded on April 14, 1944.

On May 10, 1949 the group was reconstituted as a Air Force Reserve group as part of Tactical Air Command It was equipped with C-54 Skymasters and assigned to Floyd Bennett Field, New York. It was activated to Federal Service on May 1, 1951, and its personnel and equipment were sent to Japan to be used in the Korean War with the 61st Troop Carrier Group. With its personnel and equipment deployed, the group was inactivated on May 9, 1951.

After the Korean War, the unit was redesignated as the 63d Troop Carrier Wing, Heavy and activated at Altus AFB, Oklahoma on June 20, 1953, being assigned to Tactical Air Command. It trained on C-124 Globemaster IIs and transported personnel and supplies, and participated in exercises and maneuvers with Army airborne troops. On October 15, 1953 the 63d Troop Carrier Wing was transferred to its permanent home base, Donaldson AFB, South Carolina.

At Donaldson, the unit participated in maneuvers, exercises and the airlift of personnel and cargo to many points throughout the world. Large hangars and expansive ramps were constructed to support these large aircraft, and the base was known as the “Troop Carrier Capitol of the World”. In 1955 the wing transported construction equipment from bases in Canada to points north of the Arctic Circle for use in setting up the Distant Early Warning Line network in the Canadian Arctic; for this operation, accomplished in severe weather and without adequate navigational equipment, the group received an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

In 1957 a reorganization of troop carrier forces included the transfer of TAC's heavy-lift C-124 wings to the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) where they retained their troop carrier identity and were remained dedicated to support TAC on troop deployments. Under MATS, the 63d performed global airlift missions, including occasional humanitarian or mercy missions, using C-124s as its primary aircraft in the 1958 Lebanon crisis; the 1958 Taiwan Strait Crisis; where the 63d assisted in a complete operational Air Force squadron being airlifted in a single-package operation; the Congo Crisis of 1962 and to Southeast Asia where wing C-124s transported Thai and United States Marines to locations near the Mekong River in Thailand to deter communist aggression in 1962.

With the closing of Donaldson, the wing was reassigned to Hunter Air Force Base, Georgia in January 1963, At Huner the wing coordinated with Army infantry and airborne units at Fort Stewart, and flew many thousands of troops to air bases in South Vietnam in the mid-1960s.

When Hunter AFB was closed and turned over to the Army in April 1967, the wing was again transferred to Norton AFB, California and entered the jet age, being equipped with the new C-141 Starlifter. From Norton, the wing's notable operations were airlifts and airdrops to floating ice islands in support of scientific stations in the Arctic Ocean, airlift and airdrop support in the Antarctic in support of the Navy's Operation Deep Freeze and airlifting of a complete army units on rotation to Europe in support of Reforger Exercises.

During the Vietnam War, 63d MAW C-141s were common sights throughout Japan, the Philippines and Southeast Asia, flying airlift missions to Asia during the Vietnam War. 63d MAW C-141 66-0177 flew Bob Hope to USO shows in South Vietnam and in March 1973, was used in the final days of the Vietnam War to repatriate American POWs from North Vietnam. Arizona Senator John McCain was one of the POWs who flew home on the aircraft, known as the "Hanoi Taxi". The Hanoi Taxi's name comes from the writing on the flight engineer's panel by the POWs aboard the plane for the freedom flight.

In 1975, C-141s from Norton took part in the airlift of Vietnam refugees from their homeland to the United States (Operation New Life). Beginning in 1977, the 63d's C-141s were modified to the C-141B configuration by adding sections before and after the wings. This lengthened the fuselage and allowed 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. The conversion program was completed by 1982. It was estimated that this stretching program was the equivalent of buying 90 new aircraft, in terms of increased capacity.

A 63rd MAW C-141B over Norton AFB in 1988.

During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, C-141s from the 63d MAW flew American Army and Air Force units and equipment into Saudi Arabia, transporting more than 41,400 passengers and 139,600 tons (125,690 metric tons) of cargo. Shortly after the end of hostilities in Iraq, the wing was redesignated as the 63d Airlift Wing.

With the end of the Cold War and the general drawdown of American military forces, Norton AFB was selected for closure due to environmental wastes, inadequate facilities, and air traffic congestion (due to air traffic from Ontario International Airport, twenty miles (32 km) west, and Los Angeles International Airport, 60 miles (97 km) west) .

The 63d Airlift Wing was inactivated on April 1, 1994 along with Norton AFB.


PD-icon.svg 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.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links


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