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911th Air Refueling Squadron
911th Air Refueling Squadron - KC-135.jpg
The 911th Air Refueling Squadron
Active May 15, 1917 - April 14, 1919
May 24, 1923 - October 1, 1933
March 1, 1935 - April 15, 1946
December 1, 1958 - June 8, 2007
April 12, 2008 - Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Aerial refueling
Part of Air Mobility Command
18th Air Force
6th Air Mobility Wing
6th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg DUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA
911th Air Refueling Squadron emblem 911th Air Refueling Squadron.jpg

The 911th Air Refueling Squadron (911 ARS) is part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron is geographically separated from the 6th AMW and operates as the active duty associate to the 916th Air Refueling Wing from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

The squadron is one of the oldest in the United States Air Force, its origins dating to 15 May 1917, being organized at Kelly Field, Texas. It served in France as part of the 3d Air Instructional Center, American Expeditionary Forces, as a pilot training Squadron during World War I. The squadron saw combat during World War II, and became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) during the Cold War.


The 911th Air Refueling Squadron is presently the 5th-oldest active squadron in the United States Air Force, being formed on 15 May 1917, less than a month after the United States' entry into World War I. Members of the squadron participated in World War I, World War II, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Today, the squadron operates the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft conducting aerial refueling missions worldwide.


World War I

The 911th Air Refueling Squadron traces its origins to early May 1917 when newly arrived recruits arrived at Kelly Field, Texas and were formed into 1st Company "B", 1st Regiment, Kelly Field. On 15 May it was re-designated as the 16th Aero Squadron, however on 13 June it was again re-designated as the 21st Aero Squadron.[1]

When the first soldiers arrived, there were not any tents or cots for them so they slept on the ground. When the first tents arrived, they were assigned locations for them and they were pitched. The men received their indoctrination into the Army as soldiers, standing guard duty and other rudimentary duties. The lack of sanitary facilities and also uniforms meant most men worked in the civilian clothing they arrived in and slept in them without bathing until latrines and washing facilities were constructed. The men dug ditches for water mains, erected wooden buildings for barracks. On 4 August, the squadron was ordered to proceed to Scott Field, in Belleville, Illinois, arriving on the 11th. There, the squadron worked with the 11th Aero Squadron, preparing the field for training. Training was received in various aircraft engines, the men being classified as mechanics.[1]

In November the squadron received orders for overseas duty, however an epidemic of sickness put the 21st into a quarantine status. It remained quarantined until 21 December when it was cleared by the medical department to move to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island, arriving on the 23d. It was not long until the squadron was ordered to proceed to the Port of Entry, Hoboken, New Jersey where the squadron sailed for France on 4 January, arriving at St. Nazaire on the 17th. After a few days at a Rest Camp, it traveled by train to the Air Service Replacement Concentration Center, St. Maixent Replacement Barracks, arriving on 23 January. The 21st was classified as a School Squadron, and was ordered to proceed to the 3d Air Instructional Center (3d AIC), Issoudun Aerodrome. It arrived at Issoudun on 21 February.[1]

3d Air Instructional Center

3d Air Instructional Center, Field #3, Issoudun Aerodrome, France, 1918

The 3d AIC was established by the Training Section, AEF to train pursuit (Fighter) pilots prior to their assignment to combat on the front. The 21st Aero Squadron (School), was assigned to Field #7, where Nieuport 28 aircraft were flown in Used for formation flying training. On 18 March, it was moved to the main camp, where Fields #1, #2 and #3 were used for the initial training in Nieuport 15s and 18s and 21s. When additional squadrons of mechanics arrived, the 21st concentrated on Field #3 and maintaining the school's Nieuport 21s. The field grew in proportion until nearly 100 airplanes were in use, with Solo Flying, Cross Country, basic aerobatics being taught. The squadron handled all of this. The 21st efficiency was commented on by the Post Commander when a record was established with 69 launches on one day, with several hundred of hours flying recorded. Training was given to many members of the Pursuit squadrons of the First Army Air Service as they arrived in France; and beginning in August 1918, new pilots for the planned Second Army Air Service began to arrive for training.[1]

By the time of the Armistice on 11 November, the men of the 21st Aero Squadron remained on duty completing the training of the pilots assigned to Field #3. Although they did not enter combat, the men trained the men who went to the front and gave them the best of training so they might accomplish their work.[1]


The AEF was notoriously slow in returning men to the United States after the end of hostilities, and men who served on the front had priority over those who served in the rear areas. The 21st, therefore, remained at Issoudun until January, 1919 when orders were received to proceed to the 1st Air Depot, Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, France, for demobilization. From Colombey, the squadron was moved to a staging camp under the Services of Supply at Bordeaux, waiting for a date to board a troop ship for transportation home. On 18 March, the squadron boarded a troop ship, arriving in New York on 5 April. From there, the 21st moved to Hazelhurst Field, New York where the men were demobilized and returned to civilian life.[1][2] The 21st Aero Squadron itself was demobilized on 14 April.[3]

Inter-war years

Squadron members and a B-18 Bolo of the 21st Reconnaissance Squadron at Miami Municipal Airport, Florida, 1941

On 24 March 1923, the World War I 21st Aero Squadron was reconstituted into the permanent United States Army Air Service as the 21st Observation Squadron. The Army activated the unit in the reserves, and assigned it to the 9th Observation Group in the VI Corps Area. The 21st was designated as an Active Associate Unit for the 15th Observation Squadron, Chanute Field, Illinois. In 1927 it was withdrawn from the VI Corps Area and re-assigned to the IV Corps Area in Florida, it being re-assigned to support training at Carlstrom Field, Florida. In 1928, it was moved to the VIII Corps Area at Dodd Field, Texas, but it was never fully organized in the Regular Army Inactive (RAI). It was demobilized in the Reserve on 1 October 1933.[3] The 21st was returned to active status on 1 March 1935 at Bolling Field, District of Columbia as the 21st Observation Squadron (Long Range Amphibian). It was assigned to the GHQ 2d Wing at Bolling. The 21st Observation Squadron flew light reconnaissance aircraft in support of Army maneuvers primarily in Northern Virginia. The squadron operated light land-based aircraft as well as amphibian seaplanes using the Potomac River for landings/takeoffs. In 1936 moved to Langley Field, Virginia and expanded to using heavier attack aircraft as well as medium bombers flying neutrality, sea search, and weather reconnaissance missions.[3][4] It was re-designated a Long Range reconnaissance squadron and received early-model B-17C/D Flying Fortresses and B-18 Bolos in 1939 and moved to several locations along the Atlantic Coast, flying coastal patrol missions. On 3 September 1941 it was assigned to the 29th Bombardment Group, MacDill Field, Florida, flying antisubmarine patrols out of various locations in South Florida over the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits along the Atlantic Coast.[3][4]

World War II

Heavy Bomber training

After the Pearl Harbor Attack, the squadron remained in South Florida flying continuous antisubmarine patrols against any German U-Boats approaching the United States coast.[4]

411th Bombardment Squadron B-17E Flying Fortresses on the line at Gowen Field, Idaho, 1943

411th Bombardment Squadron B-24E Liberator, taxiing, Gowen Field, Idaho, 1944.

On 1 February 1942, the 21st was attached to the 29th Bombardment Group. In June 1942, I Bomber Command took over the antisubmarine mission and the 21st was re-assigned to II Bomber Command as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber training squadron. It was re-designated as the 411th Bombardment Squadron and was moved to Gowen Field, Idaho. At Gowen Field, the squadron was classified as an Operational Training Unit (OTU), training newly formed B-17 squadrons prior to their deployment overseas. In 1943, training was switched to the B-24 Liberator, and the squadron became a Replacement Training Unit (RTU); training individual crew members prior to their deployment to combat units overseas as replacement personnel. In a re-organization of training units on 1 April 1944, the 411th was re-designated as "Squadron D, 40th Army Air Forces Base Unit", and was inactivated.[4]

B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan

The 411th Bombardment Squadron was re-activated on 1 June 1944 as part of the new 502d Bombardment Group (Very Heavy), and began training as a B-29 Superfortress squadron at Pratt Army Airfield, Kansas. After a month of flying B-17 Flying Fortresses (no training B-29s were yet available), it moved to Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona where the unit was equipped with some early-model B-29s and joined the rest of the 502d, which was in Arizona training. It moved with the group to Dalhart Army Air Field, Texas, where it trained on some early-model B-29s before moving to Grand Island Army Airfield, Nebraska where it was equipped with newly produced B-29B Superfortresses. The B-29B was limited production aircraft, optimized for low-level night bombing missions. B-29Bs were standard production aircraft stripped of most defensive guns to increase speed and bomb load, The tail gun was aimed and fired automatically by the new AN/APG-15B radar fire control system that detected the approaching enemy plane and made all the necessary calculations.

411th Bombardment Squadron, Armament Section, Northwest Field, Guam, 1945.

After completion of training deployed to Central Pacific Area (CPA), assigned to XXI Bomber Command, Northwest Field (Guam) for operational missions. Mission of the squadron was the strategic bombardment of the Japanese Home Islands. Entered combat on 16 June 1945 with a bombing raid against an airfield on Moen. Flew first mission against the Japanese home islands on 26 June 1945 and afterwards operated principally against the enemy's petroleum industry. Flew primarily low-level, fast attacks at night using a mixture of high-explosive and incendary bombs to attack targets.

Flew last combat mission on 15 August 1945, later flew in "Show of Force" mission on 2 September 1945 over Tokyo Bay during formal Japanese Surrender. Inactivated on Guam 15 April 1946, personnel returned to the United States and aircraft sent to storage in Southwest United States.

Strategic Air Command

911 Air Refueling Squadron Boeing KC-135A Stratotanker 58-0029, 1975

The 911 Air Refueling Squadron (Heavy) was organized on 1 December 1958 by Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina. The squadron was equipped with first-generation KC-135A Stratotankers as part of the 4241st Strategic Wing, a SAC Cold War dispersal wing formed to spread 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 was equipped with the B-52G. The 911th was activated on 1 December 1959. The squadron flew worldwide training missions with the KC-135s until 15 April 1963 when the 4241st was inactivated, and the 911th was transferred to the 68th Air Refueling Group, although it remained at Seymour Johnson AFB.[4]

Beginning on 1 May 1972, the 911th deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam and was attached to Strategic Wing, Provisional,72. Its mission was to support B-52 long-range air strikes over Southeast Asia with air refueling. It remained at Andersen AFB supporting the mission until withdrawn in July 1973, returning to Seymour Johnson AFB.[4] On 19 September 1985, the 911th was consolidated with the 411th Bombardment Squadron, giving the SAC squadron a lineage and history dating to May, 1917. Also in 1985, the squadron traded in its KC-135As and received KC-10 Extenders. Peacetime training missions continued until October 1989 when it supported tactical air operations as part of Operation Just Cause, the United States invasion of Panama. During the 1991 Gulf War, aircraft and crews from the squadron were attached to the 1710th Air Refueling Wing (Provisional), at King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It operated from 31 December 1990-March 1991 from its forward deployed base in Saudi Arabia, returning to Seymour Johnson AFB.[4]

Modern era

McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender AF Serial No. 85-0033 of the 68th Air Refueling Group.

On 22 April 1991, the squadron was transferred to the Tactical Air Command (TAC) 4th Operations Group at Seymour Johnson, becoming part of the composite 4th Wing when SAC pulled out of Seymour Johnson AFB. With the inactivation of SAC and TAC in June 1992, Air Combat Command (ACC) began a reorganization of its air refueling assets and moved the refueling component out of the 4th Wing. The 911th was re-assigned to the 319th Operations Group, Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota as part of the 319th Air Refueling Wing, Air Mobility Command (AMC). With the move to the 319th, the 911th converted from the KC-10 to the KC-135R Stratotanker.[4]

With the 319th the 911th AREFS supported operations in the Balkans during the 1990s and deployed frequently to Saudi Arabia and Turkey in support of Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch over Iraq.[4]

After the 11 September 2001 attacks, the 911th contributed personnel and aircraft to the 319th Air Expeditionary Group (319th AEG). It was deployed to a makeshift tent city somewhere in the arid desert of Southwest Asia. From the start of air operations over Afghanistan 7 October, by 2 November 2001 the 319th AEG had flown over 150 sorties and more than 1050 hours; pumping over 1.4 million US gallons (5,300 m3) of gas into more than 450 planes. It remained in a partially deployed state, supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom throughout the 2000s. Due to budgetary reductions, the 911th was inactivated on 30 June 2007.[4][5]

The 911th Air Refueling Squadron was re-activated on 12 April 2008 at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, as a Geographically Separated (GSU) second KC-135 squadron as part of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, MacDill AFB, Florida. With its return to its long-time base at Seymour Johnson, the squadron became an Active Associate unit with the Air Force Reserve 77th Air Refueling Squadron, 916th Air Refueling Wing. Today, the 77th shares its KC-135R/T aircraft with the 911th Air Refueling Squadron and personnel operating between the two squadrons.[4][6]

Operations and Decorations

  • Combat Operations: Antisubmarine patrols, Dec 1941-Jan 1942 Combat in Western Pacific, 23 Jun-14 Aug 1945.


Emblem of the 21st Observation Squadron, and later World War II 411th Bombardment Squadron

  • Organized as 1st Company "B", 1st Regiment, Kelly Field in early May 1917
Re-designated: 16th Aero Squadron on 15 May 1917
Re-designated: 21st Aero Squadron on 13 June 1917
Demobilized on 14 April 1919
  • Reconstituted, and re-designated 21st Observation Squadron, on 24 March 1923
Activated in the reserve as associate to: 15th Observation Squadron
Demobilized on 1 October 1933
  • Constituted as the 21st Observation Squadron (Long Range Amphibian), on 1 Mach 1935
Re-organized as 21st Reconnaissance Squadron on 1 September 1936
Consolidated with the 21st Observation Squadron on 2 December 1936
Re-designated: 21st Reconnaissance Squadron (Long Range) on 6 Dec 1939
Re-designated: 21st Reconnaissance Squadron (Heavy) on 20 Nov 1940
Re-designated: 411th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) on 22 Apr 1942
Re-designated: 411th Bombardment Squadron, Very Heavy, on 28 Mar 1944
Inactivated on 1 Apr 1944
  • Activated on 1 Apr 1944
Inactivated on 10 May 1944
  • Activated on 1 Jun 1944
Inactivated on 15 Apr 1946
  • Consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with 911th Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, which was constituted on 28 May 1958
Activated on 1 Dec 1958
Re-designated 911th Air Refueling Squadron on 1 Jul 1992
Inactivated on 30 Jun 2007
  • Activated on 12 Apr 2008[4]


  • Post Headquarters, Kelly Field, March 1917
  • Post Headquarters, Scott Field, 11 August 1917
  • Aviation Concentration Center, 23 December 1917
  • Air Service Replacement Concentration Center, 23 January 1918
  • 3d Air Instructional Center, 21 February 1918
  • 1st Air Depot, January 1919
  • Commanding General, Services of Supply. January–March 1919
  • Eastern Department, 5–14 April 1919[1]
  • 9th Observation Group, 24 March 1923 (Reserves)
  • 8th Division, 15 August 1927 (Reserves)
  • VIII Corps Area, 15 February 1929 – 1 October 1933 (Reserves)[3]
  • 2d (later, 2d Bombardment) Wing, 1 March 1935
Attached to 2d Bombardment Group from 1 Sep 1936
Attached to 7th Naval District for operations, Sep 1939-Aug 1940
Attached to Newfoundland Base Command for operations, May-Aug 1941

Associated with: 1st Photographic Group, 10 Jun 1941-22 Apr 1942 (training)
Attached to 6th Bombardment Group, Sep 1944-Jan 1945



See also


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

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Series "E", Volume 4, History of the 16th-21st Aero Squadrons. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. Series "D", Weekly Statistical Reports of Air Service Activities, October 1918-May 1919. Gorrell's History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917–1919, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Clay, Steven E. (2011). US Army Order of Battle 1919–1941. 3 The Services: Air Service, Engineers, and Special Troops 1919–1941. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-98419-014-0. LCCN 2010022326. OCLC 637712205
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 AFHRA 911th Air Refueling Squadron
  5. 911th Air Refueling Squadron deactivation at Grand Forks AFB
  6. 911th Air Refueling Squadron activation at Seymour Johnson AFB

External links

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