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380th Air Expeditionary Wing History

The 380th Bomb Group (heavy) was activated at Davis-Monthan Field, Ariz., on Nov. 3, 1942, during the fire and flame of World War II. The group quickly moved to Biggs Field, Texas, in December, where it underwent intensive B-24 "Liberator" combat training. During March-April 1943, the unit received additional combat training at Lowry Field, Colo., in preparation for their deployment to the Southwest Pacific area.

The 380th received deployment orders on April 14, 1943. The first group of 38 aircraft left the following day enroute to Amberley Airfield, west of Brisbane, Australia. In May 1943, the air echelon arrived in Australia, followed by the ground echelon in June. The group headquarters and two squadrons operated from Fenton Field while the other two squadrons were located 100 miles away at Long Strip, both in northern Australia. Assigned to the Fifth Air Force and attached to the Royal Australian Air Force, the 380th assisted in securing Australia's Darwin area in the Northern Territory against the threatened Japanese invasion, by flying armed reconnaissance patrols, which began in May 1943.

In August 1943, the group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for a series of long-range attacks on oil refineries, and shipping and dock facilities in Balikpapan, Borneo. Group bombers repeatedly bombed enemy airfields in Western New Guinea during April and May 1944, in support of the American landing in the Hollandia area, for which it received its second Distinguished Unit Citation. In August 1944, the wing moved back to Darwin and then to Mindoro, Philippines, in February - March 1945, where it launched air strikes against ground forces in Luzon; industries in Formosa; oil refineries in Borneo; railways and shipping in French Indochina; and ground installations on the China coast.

The 380th remained under control of an ally longer than any other Air Force unit.

Following cessation of hostilities, the group moved to Yontan Airfield, Okinawa, Japan, in August 1945 and flew armed reconnaissance patrols over Japanese islands and ferried former prisoners of war from Japan to Manila. The group was reassigned to the Seventh Air Force in October 1945 and participated in the Sunset Project, the return of B-24s and their crews to the United States. The group was then reduced to a paper unit in November 1945, moved to Manila and placed under the Far East Air Force until its inactivation on Feb. 20, 1946. In June 1947, the group was activated in the Reserve at MacDill Field, Fla., where it remained until it was briefly ordered to active duty on May 1, 1951, then was inactivated again on May 16, 1951.

The 380th Bombardment Group became the 380th Bombardment Wing on March 23, 1953. The wing did not, however, activate until July 11, 1955 at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, N.Y. At the same time, three squadrons, the 528th, 529th and 530th Bombardment Squadrons, a.k.a. 'The Flying Circus', so named due to the cartoon nature of their official squadron emblems, were activated and assigned to the new 380th Bombardment Wing.

Personnel arrived at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y. in July and August of 1955. In December 1955, the first B-47 "Stratojet" was assigned to the wing. Aircrew members, however, trained in strategic bombardment and conducted combat training through a wing detachment at Pinecastle AFB, Fla. from January through June 1956, while facilities at Plattsburgh AFB underwent construction for the B-47 aircraft. The first permanently assigned B-47E arrived at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y. on March 21, 1956, and was christened the "City of Plattsburgh." The group received KC-97 "Stratofreighter" aircraft in September 1956, the first aerial refueling mission for the 380th, and conducted worldwide air refueling missions from September 1956 through April 1961 and again following receipt of the KC-135 "Stratotanker" in September 1964.

The group was re-designated the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing on Sept. 15, 1964 and briefly controlled Atlas Intercontinental Ballistic Missile operations from December 1962 through April 1965. The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, formerly assigned to Dow AFB, Maine, was  assigned to the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing, transferred to Plattsburgh AFB on Oct. 1, 1961, and became operational Dec. 20, 1962. Also, twelve Atlas F missile sites were constructed within a fifty-mile radius of Plattsburgh AFB. This was the last Atlas squadron to be accepted and the only ICBM base east of the Mississippi River.

The wing began global strategic bombardment training with the B-52 "Stratofortress" in June 1966. The First B-52 to arrive at Plattsburgh AFB was christened "Champlain Lady" on June. 19, 1966.

The Vietnam conflict involved the members of the 380th in a variety of temporary duty assignments in the Pacific theater. The B-52s were destined to be short lived in the history of the 380th with the introduction of the Air Force's newest strategic aircraft, the FB-111A "Aardvark" in October 1970.

During 1971, the wing converted to FB-111 medium bombers, serving as Strategic Air Command's single FB-111 combat crew training organization. The wing was designated as the 380th Bombardment Wing, Medium, on July. 1, 1972.

The wing deployed KC-135A/Q aircraft and personnel to provide tanker and airlift support during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from August 1990 through March 1991. On July 1, 1991, the wing was designated as the 380th Air Refueling Wing. The wing was inactivated on Sept. 30, 1995, as Plattsburgh AFB closed.

During America's war on terrorism, following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon, the Air Force re-activated the wing on Jan. 25, 2002, as the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia.

The 380 AEW has performed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and aerial refueling in support of Operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. Now the mission is to provide decisive airpower for Operations Resolute Support and Inherent Resolve.

Currently, the wing is comprised of 10 squadrons. Its mission partners include an Army air defense battalion and coalition partners.

(Current as of June 2022)