Military Wiki
459th Air Refueling Wing
459th Air Refueling Wing - Boeing KC-135R-BN Stratotanker 62-3556.jpg
459th Air Refueling Wing - Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker 62-3556
Active 1 July 1943 (459 OG)
26 January 1955 — present (459 ARW)
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Air Refueling
Part of AFR Shield.svg  Air Force Reserve Command
Garrison/HQ Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
Tail Code Black/Yellow check tail stripe "Andrews" in yellow
Decorations Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
Colonel James M. "Mike" Allman
459th Air Refueling Wing emblem 459th Air Refueling Wing.png
Aircraft flown
Tanker KC-135 Stratotanker

The 459th Air Refueling Wing (459 ARW) is an Air Reserve Component (ARC) of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the Fourth Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. If mobilized, the Wing is gained by the Air Mobility Command.


The mission of the 459th Air Refueling Wing is to recruit, train and equip its Citizen Airmen to fly and maintain the KC-135 Stratotanker to help the Air Force protect its interests in air and space power.

The wing, over the years, is a six-time recipient of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. There are about 1,200 traditional Reservists stationed at the wing. A full-time civilian and Air Reserve Technician staff of about 230 people provide day-to-day administration and management of the 459th.


The 459th Air Refueling Wing consists of the following major units:

  • 459th Operations Group
756th Air Refueling Squadron
459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
  • 459th Maintenance Group
  • 459th Force Support Group


World War II

The World War II predecessor to the 459th Air Refueling Wing was the 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy). Activated as a B-24 Liberator heavy bombardment unit in July 1943; assigned to II Bomber Command for training. Primarily trained in Utah and Arizona received deployment orders for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) in September 1943. Moved to Massachusetts where the group flew long-range convoy escort missions over the Newfoundland Banks to Long Island Sound, November–December 1943 while station in Italy was being constructed.

B-24L-10-FO Liberator 44-49750, 756th Bombardment Squadron, Bombing near Padua, Italy, 1945

Deployed to Southern Italy in January 1944; entered combat in February, being assigned to Fifteenth Air Force. Engaged in very long range strategic bombing missions to enemy military, industrial and transportation targets in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, bombing railroad marshalling yards, oil refineries, airdrome installations, heavy industry, and other strategic objectives. Also carried out some support and interdiction operations. Struck bridges, harbors, and troop concentrations in August 1944 to aid the invasion of Southern France. Hit communications lines and other targets during March and April 1945 to support the advance of British Eighth Army and American Fifth Army in northern Italy.

Returned to the United States in August 1945, being programmed for deployment to the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) as a B-29 Superfortress Very Heavy Bombardment Squadron. Many combat veterans of MTO demobilized upon arrival in the United States, and a small cadre of personnel reformed at Sioux Falls Army Airfield, South Dakota at the end of August. Japanese Capitulation in August led to inactivation of unit and assigned personnel being reassigned to other group squadrons or demobilized.

Reactivated in the Air Force Reserve in 1947 with B-29s. Trained at Long Beach Army Air Field, California then moving in 1949 to Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana shortly afterward. Activated in 1951 by Second Air Force due to the Korean War, aircraft and personnel being reassigned to Strategic Air Command combat groups deployed to Far East Air Forces; inactivated shortly afterward.

Air Force Reserve

The Reserve flying mission began at Andrews AFB in the summer of 1954, when the 756th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated and equipped with the C-46 aircraft. Nearly 8 months later, the unit had grown enough to activate its parent organization, the 459th Troop Carrier Group (formerly 459th Bombardment Group) and its parent the 459th Troop Carrier Wing. Later that year, another squadron, the 757th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated at Byrd Field, Richmond, Virginia and assigned to the Group. A third flying unit, the 758th Troop Carrier Squadron, was added in 1957 and equipped with the C-119 "Flying Boxcar" at Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Pennsylvania. In November 1957, the 757th relocated from Byrd Field to Youngstown Municipal Airport, Ohio.

On 1 July 1966, the 459th was redesignated 459th Military Airlift Wing and converted to a strategic, long-range mission with the C-124 "Globemaster" aircraft.

In June 1971, the 459th converted to the C-130 "Hercules" and was redesignated as the 459th Tactical Airlift Wing. In December 1974, with the consolidation of all Air Force strategic and tactical airlift resources under a single manager, the 459th's active duty gaining command switched from Tactical Air Command to Military Airlift Command.

In July 1986, the Wing converted to the Lockheed C-141B "Starlifter" aircraft. The conversion resulted in an increase of Wing personnel at Andrews from 900 to a level of almost 1,600.

Modern era

459th ARW KC-135Rs at Andrews AFB in 2004.

In 1989 a 459th C-141 was the first aircraft to fly troops and supplies into Howard Air Base, Panama during Operation Just Cause; the following year the wing was named the Air Force Reserve Outstanding Unit of the Year by the Air Force Association. In August, 1990 wing aircrews were some of the first reservists activated in Support of Operation Desert Shield and many additional members were called to active service at the start of Operation Desert Storm with many deployed through the summer of 1991.

In 1993, the 459th continued to support Operation Restore Hope and mobilized members in support of the operations in Somalia. The wing provided humanitarian airlift relief in Rwanda and in support of the Cuban refugees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, 459th personnel supported Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti as well as various other significant missions around the globe.

The 459th has been engaged in the Global War on Terrorism since September 2001. As a result of these operations, the Wing has participated in places around the globe to include: Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey and Guam. Re-designated in 2003 as an air refueling wing; equipped with KC-135Rs.


  • Established as 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 19 May 1943
Activated on 1 July 1943
Re-designated 459th Bombardment Group, Heavy, on 20 August 1943
Inactivated on 28 August 1945
  • Re-designated 459th Bombardment Group, Very Heavy, on 11 March 1947
Activated in the Reserve on 19 April 1947
Re-designated 459th Bombardment Group, Medium, on 27 June 1949.
Ordered to active service on 1 May 1951
Inactivated on 16 June 1951
  • Established as 459th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 30 December 1954
Group element re-designated as 459th Troop Carrier Group, Medium, on 30 December 1954 (Remained inactive)
Activated in the Reserve on 26 January 1955
459th Troop Carrier Group, Medium re-activated in the Reserve and assigned as subordinate unit
Group element inactivated 14 April 1959
Re-designated: 459th Military Airlift Wing on 1 July 1966
Re-designated: 459th Tactical Airlift Wing on 29 June 1971
Group element re-designated 459th Tactical Airlift Group on 31 July 1985 (Remained inactive)
Re-designated: 459th Military Airlift Wing on 1 July 1986
Re-designated: 459th Airlift Wing on 1 February 1992
Group element re-designated 459th Operations Group and re-activated in the Reserve on 1 August 1992
Re-designated: 459th Air Refueling Wing on 1 October 2003


304 Bombardment Wing, 25 January 1944
Second Air Force, 13–28 August 1945
304 Bombardment Wing (later, 304th Air Division), 19 April 1947
Eighth Air Force, 27 June 1949
Fifteenth Air Force, 1 April 1950 – 16 June 1951
First Air Force, 26 January 1955
Fourteenth Air Force, 25 March 1958
Second Air Force Reserve Region, 15 August 1960
First Air Force Reserve Region, 24 June 1966
Eastern Air Force Reserve Region, 31 December 1969
Fourteenth Air Force, 8 October 1976
Twenty-Second Air Force, 1 July 1993
Fourth Air Force, 1 April 2003 –Present




  • Giulia Airfield, Italy, c. 12 February 1944 – c July 1945
  • Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota, c. 16–28 August 1945
  • Long Beach AAF, California, 19 April 1947
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, 27 June 1949 – 16 June 1951
  • Andrews AFB, Maryland, 26 January 1955 – Present



 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).