THE HERITAGE OF THE 455TH AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING
Published June 25, 2009
The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing traces its heritage back to the "Vulgar Vultures" of the 455th Bombardment Group (Heavy). Activated June 1, 1943 at Alamogordo, New Mexico, different elements of the group trained at bases in New Mexico, Florida and Utah before joining up at Langley Field, Virginia in October 1943 to prepare for deployment to Italy.
The group's maintenance and support personnel left for Italy aboard three Liberty ships in December, arriving at Cerignola Airfield the second week of January. In late December, the group's aircrews flew their new B-24Hs to Italy by way of Florida, Trinidad, British Guiana, Brazil, Morocco and Tunisia, arriving the first week of February 1944.
The group flew the first of 253 combat missions on February 16, 1944, earning two Distinguished Unit Citations and 12 campaign streamers. The group lost 118 aircraft and casualties included 147 killed in action, 268 missing and 179 prisoners of war.
Future U.S. Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern flew with the Vulgar Vultures and the historian Stephen Ambrose wrote of McGovern's and the Group's exploits in his best selling book Wild Blue: The Men Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-1945. With the war over, the 455th was inactivated in September 1945.
The 455th served as a Reserve training unit from March 1947 to June 1949, then was activated as a fighter group in July 1956, but was only in the process of manning when inactivated on July 1, 1957. On November 1, 1962, the 455th Bombardment Group became the 455th Strategic Missile Wing at Minot AFB, N.D.
As a missile wing, the 455th prepared for operational capability with intercontinental ballistic missiles, November 1962 until March 1964 when the wing was certified by SAC as combat ready. The wing maintained nuclear alert with 150 Minuteman I missiles until replaced by the 91st Strategic Missile Wing in June 1968.
On April 26, 2002, Air Combat Command headquarters activated the 455th Air Expeditionary Group at Bagram, then designated is as the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing three months later as the Air Force presence and mission to free Afghanistan from the Taliban grew.
Since its activation, the wing has supported ground troops with close air support and the airlift of supplies and people. Today, the wing consists of about 1,600 Airmen, based throughout Afghanistan carrying on in the tradition of the 455th BG by combating enemies of freedom and helping build a better future for Afghans.