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462d Strategic Aerospace Wing
462d Strategic Wing.PNG
462d Strategic Aerospace Wing Emblem[1]
Active 1943–1946, 1963–1966, 2002-unknown
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Mobility Support
Part of Air Mobility Command
Nickname(s) Hellbirds
Motto(s) With Malice Toward Some (WW II)
Engagements Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
Decorations Distinguished Unit Citation

The 462d Air Expeditionary Group is a provisional unit of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to Air Mobility Command (AMC) to activate or inactivate as needed to meet operational requirements. Its last assignment was at Diego Garcia Naval Support Facility, British Indian Ocean Territory.

The unit began during World War II when the United States Army Air Forces activated the 462d Bombardment Group (462 BG) as one of the first Boeing B-29 Superfortress units in 1943. It served primarily in the Pacific Ocean theater and China Burma India Theater of World War II as part of Twentieth Air Force. The 462 BG engaged in strategic bombardment operations against Japan. After its reassignment to the Mariana Islands in 1945, its aircraft were identified by a "N" and a triangle painted on the tail. They were more commonly known as the "Hellbirds".

In 1962 the 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing was activated by Strategic Air Command to perpetuate the lineage of inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records. It conducted strategic bombardment training operations flying B-52D Stratofortresses and maintained ICBM readiness with LGM-25C Titan II missiles to meet SAC commitments. The wing served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global mission until inactivated in 1966 due to the closing of Larson AFB.

The group and wing were consolidated into a single unit in 1984, remaining in inactive status. In 2002, they were converted to provisional status as the 462d Air Expeditionary Group and assigned to AMC, which activated the group at Diego Garcia. Its inactivation date has not been determined.


World War II

B-29s of the 462d Bomb Group West Field Tinian Mariana Islands 1945 (U.S. Air Force photo)

World War II 462d Bombardment Group emblem

The 462d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy was constituted on 15 May 1943 as a Boeing B-29 Superfortress group and activated on 1 July at Smoky Hill Army Air Field near Salinas, Kansas. It was originally assigned the 768th,[2] 769th,[3] 770th,[3] and 771st Bombardment Squadrons.[4][5] On 28 July it moved to Walker Army Air Field in Kansas where the group engaged in training on the new aircraft and its new mission. The 462d was assigned to the first Superfortress wing, the 58th Bombardment Wing.[6]

In March 1944, the group left the United States and deployed via Africa to a former B-24 Liberator airfield at Piardoba India, arriving on 7 April In India, the group was assigned to the XX Bomber Command of the new Twentieth Air Force. During the week of 15–22 April, no fewer than five 58th Bomb Wing B-29s crashed near Karachi all from overheated engines. The entire wing had to be grounded en route until the cause was found. The cause was traced to the fact that the B-29's R-3350 engine had not been designed to operate at ground temperatures higher than 115 °F (46 °C), which were typically exceeded in India. Modifications had also to be made to the aircraft and after these modifications, B-29 flights to India were resumed.[citation needed]

From India, the 462d Bomb Group planned to fly missions against Japan from airfields in China. However, all the supplies of fuel, bombs, and spares needed to support the forward bases in China had to be flown in from India over The Hump (the name given by Allied pilots to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains), since Japanese control of the seas around the Chinese coast made seaborne supply of China impossible. Many of the supplies had to be delivered to China by the B-29s themselves.[5] For this role, they were stripped of nearly all combat equipment and used as flying tankers and each carried seven tons of fuel. The Hump route was so dangerous and difficult that each time a B-29 flew from India to China it was counted as a combat mission.[citation needed]

The first combat mission by the group took place on 5 June 1944 when squadrons of the 462d took off from India to attack the Makasan railroad yards at Bangkok, Thailand.[5] This involved a 2261-mile round trip, the longest bombing mission yet attempted during the war.

On 15 June the group participated in the first American Air Force attack on the Japanese Home Islands since the Doolittle raid in 1942 when it took part in the bombing of Yawata.[5] Operating from bases in India, and at times staging through fields in India and China, the group struck transportation centers, naval installations, iron works, aircraft plants, and other targets in Japan, Thailand, Burma, China, Formosa, and Indonesia.[5] From a staging base in Ceylon, the 462d mined the Moesi River on Sumatra in August 1944. The 462d received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for a nighttime attack on iron and steel works at Yawata, Japan, on 20 August 1944.[5] In October 1944, Twentieth Air Force reorganized its B-29 units. As a result, the 462d lost its 771st Bombardment Squadron[4] and its four Bombardment Maintenance Squadrons, absorbing their personnel into its remaining squadrons.

The group moved to Tinian, in the Marianas between February and April 1945, for further operations against Japan with the XXI Bomber Command. It participated in mining operations, bombardment of strategic targets, and incendiary raids on urban areas. It bombed industrial areas in Tokyo and Yokohama in May 1945, being awarded a DUC for the action. The group received a third DUC for a daylight attack on an aircraft plant at Takarazuka on 24 July 1945.[5]

The 462d BG returned to the United States, arriving at MacDill Field, Florida in November 1945. Demobilization, however, was in full swing and the group turned in its aircraft and was inactivated on 31 March 1946, never becoming an operational SAC unit.[5] Many of the wing's personnel and aircraft were reassigned to the 307th Bombardment Group, which was activated at MacDill on 4 August 1946 as part of the re-established Fifteenth Air Force.

Strategic Air Command

4039 Strategic Wing

The origins of the 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing began on 1 August 1958 when Strategic Air Command (SAC) established the 4170th Strategic Wing (SW) at Larson AFB, Washington as part of SAC's plan to disperse its B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The wing remained a headquarters only until 1 December 1959 when the 47th Aviation Depot Squadron and a combat defense squadron were activated to oversee and guard the wing's special weapons. In January 1960, in anticipation of the 62d Troop Carrier Wing of Military Air Transport Service's (MATS) impending move to McChord AFB from Larson, MATS transferred Larson to SAC and the 4170th acquired a full set of support units, including the 829th Medical Group. In June, it added its first operational squadron, when the 327th Bombardment Squadron (BS), consisting of 15 Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses moved to Larson from Fairchild AFB, where it had been one of the three squadrons of the 92d Bombardment Wing.[7] It became fully organized on 15 November 1960 when the 43d Air Refueling Squadron moved to Larson from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona and reequipped with Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. Half of the wing's aircraft were maintained on fifteen-minute alert, fully fueled, armed, and ready for combat. The 4170th (and later the 462d) continued to maintain an alert commitment until December 1991.[10] (or until the end of the Cold War). The final operational squadron, the 568th Strategic Missile Squadron with Titan I missiles was activated in April 1961. However, SAC Strategic Wings could not carry a permanent history or lineage and SAC looked for a way to make its Strategic Wings permanent.

462d Strategic Aerospace Wing

In 1962, in order to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its Major Command controlled (MAJCON) strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate Air Force controlled (AFCON) units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history.[8] As a result the 4170th SW was replaced by the newly constituted 462dth Strategic Aerospace Wing (SAW), which assumed its mission, personnel, and equipment on 1 February 1963.[9] In the same way the 768th Bombardment Squadron, one of the unit's World War II historical bomb squadrons, replaced the 327th BS. The 829th Medical Group, 47th Munitions Maintenance Squadron and the 43d Air Refueling Squadron were reassigned to the 462d. Component support units were replaced by units with numerical designation of the newly established wing. Under the Dual Deputate organization, all flying and maintenance squadrons were directly assigned to the wing, so no operational group element was activated. 4170th's support group and maintenance and security squadrons were replaced by ones with the 416th numerical designation of the newly established wing. Each of the new units assumed the personnel, equipment, and mission of its predecessor.

The 462d SAW conducted training in strategic bombardment and air refueling operations with the KC-135 Stratotanker and maintain ICBM readiness to meet SAC commitments. Its 568th Strategic Missile Squadron served as a deterrent force. The 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing was inactivated on 25 June 1966 with the closing of Larson AFB.[10]


462d Bombardment Group

  • Constituted as 462d Bombardment Group (Heavy) (B-29) on 19 May 1943
Activated on 1 July 1943
Redesignated 462d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy 20 November 1943
Inactivated on 31 March 1946.
Consolidated with 462d Strategic Wing on 31 January 1984 as 462d Strategic Wing

462d Wing

  • Constituted as 462d Strategic Aerospace Wing on 15 November 1962
Activated on on 15 November 1962. Scheduled to replace the 4170th Strategic Wing on 1 February 1963
Organized on 1 February 1963
Discontinued and inactivated on 25 June 1966
Consolidated with 462d Bombardment Group, Very Heavy on 31 January 1984
  • Converted to provisional status and redesginated 462d Air Expeditionary Group on 12 June 2002[6]
Activated ca 15 July 2002
Inactivated unknown



  • 462d Combat Support Group, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966
  • 829th Medical Group, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966

Operational Squadrons

  • 9th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, 2002
  • 43d Air Refueling Squadron, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966[6]
  • 345th Bombardment Squadron, 10 November 1945 – 31 March 1946[11]
  • 568th Strategic Missile Squadron (ICBM-Titan), 1 February 1963- 25 March 1965[6]
  • 768th Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1943 – 31 March 1946, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966[6]
  • 769th Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1943 – 31 March 1946
  • 770th Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1943 – 31 March 1946
  • 771st Bombardment Squadron 1 July 1943 – 12 October 1944

Support Squadrons

  • 9th Bombardment Maintenance Squadron, 20 November 1943 - 12 October 1944
  • 10th Bombardment Maintenance Squadron, 20 November 1943 - 12 October 1944
  • 11th Bombardment Maintenance Squadron, 20 November 1943 - 12 October 1944
  • 12th Bombardment Maintenance Squadron, 20 November 1943 - 12 October 1944
  • 47th Munitions Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966
  • 462d Armament & Electronics Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966
  • 462d Field Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966
  • 462d Organizational Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963- 2 April 1966

  • 13th Photographic Laboratory (Bombardment Group, Very Heavy), 20 November 1943 - unknown


  • West Field, Tinian, Mariana Islands 4 April 1945 – 5 November 1945
  • MacDill Field, Florida, November 1945 – 31 March 1946
  • Larson AFB, Washington, 1 February 1963 – 25 June 1966
  • Diego Garcia Naval Support Facility, British Indian Ocean Territory, 15 July 2002 - unknown

See also



  1. This emblem was originally approved for the 4170th Strategic Wing
  2. Maurer, Maurer, ed (1982) [1969]. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 745–746. ISBN 0-405-12194-6. LCCN 70605402. OCLC 72556. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 746
  4. 4.0 4.1 Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 746-747
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Maurer, Maurer, ed (1983) [1961]. Air Force Combat Units of World War II (reprint ed.). Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 337–338. ISBN 0-912799-02-1. LCCN 61060979. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Lineage and Honors History of the 462d Air Expeditionary Group (AMC) undated, prepared by Daniel L. Haulman. Retrieved Feb 25, 2013
  7. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 402-403
  8. MAJCON units could not carry a permanent history or lineage
  9. Although the 462d Wing was a new organization, it continued, through temporary bestowal, the history, and honors of the World War II 462d Bombardment Group. It was also entitled to retain the honors (but not the history or lineage) of the 4170th. This temporary bestowal ended in January 1984, when the wing and group were consolidated into a single unit.
  10. Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. p. 256. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. 
  11. Maurer, Combat Squadrons, pp. 428-429


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

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