By Mark Wilderman, 60th Air Mobility Wing Historian
/ Published March 29, 2012
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- On April 3 the 22nd Airlift Squadron will observe its 70th anniversary. On this day in 1942, US Army Air Forces in Australia activated the 22nd Air Transport Squadron. At the time of its activation, Japanese forces were attempting to cut Australia off from the Allies by capturing the town of Port Moresby, New Guinea, close to Australia's northern coast. The imminent threat of a Japanese attack on mainland Australia did not subside until early May, when Allied forces defeated the Japanese Imperial Navy at the Battle of the Coral Sea. After their defeat at Coral Sea, the Japanese shelved their plans to invade the Australian continent.
World War II Service
The 22nd ATS was activated at Essendon Airdrome near Melbourne, Australia, assigned to the U.S. Army Air Forces in Australia. The 22nd ATS initially flew a large variety of twin-engine transport aircraft, including the Douglas DC-2, Douglas DC-3/C-47 Skytrain and derivatives as well as the Lockheed C-56 and C-60 Lodestar. During its early years, the 22nd ATS occasionally flew cargo missions in the four-engine Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, as well as the twin-engine Douglas B-18 Bolo. On July 5, 1942, the 22nd ATS was redesignated the22nd Troop Carrier Squadron and participated in the paratroop drops at Nadzab, New Guinea, in September 1942. On October 11, 1942, the 22nd TCS relocated closer to the fighting front to Garbutt Field, in northern Queensland, not far from Japanese-occupied New Guinea. On January 24, 1943, the squadron relocated from the Australian mainland to Port Moresby, New Guinea, and later to Finschafen, New Guinea, to support the Allied effort to push Japanese forces off the island. The fierce fighting in tropical and mountainous New Guinea continued until 1945. It proved to be one of the most important and difficult campaigns in the Pacific War. The 11,000 to 13,000 foot, jungle-clad Owen Stanley Mountain Range of New Guinea, known as "the Hump," was commemorated on the 22nd TCS emblem, approved on June 17, 1944, and is still in use to this day.
In the final month of the Pacific War, the 22nd TCS relocated to Nielson Field, Luzon, in the recently-liberated Philippines, adding the larger Curtiss C-46 Commando transport plane to its veteran fleet of C-47s.
For its service in World War II, the 22nd TCS earned campaign streamers for Air Offensive, Japan, Papua, New Guinea, Northern Solomons, Bismarck Archipelago, Western Pacific, Leyte, Luzon and Southern Philippines. The squadron was awarded Distinguished Citations for Papua (July 23, 1942 to Jan. 23, 1943), Papua (Nov. 12 to Dec. 22, 1942), and Wau, New Guinea (Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 1943), as well as a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
Immediate Post-World War II Service
The 22nd TCS remained at Nielson Field until the end of January 1946, when the squadron was inactivated. The squadron was reactivated on Oct. 15, 1946 at Nichols Field, Luzon, operating the C-46 Commando while assigned to the 374th Troop Carrier Group. On April 23, 1946, the 22nd TCS, now equipped with the C-46 and the C-54 Skymaster relocated to Clark Field, Luzon. In response to the Soviet blockade of Berlin (June 24, 1948 to May 12, 1949) the 22nd TCS deployed its C-54s to Wiesbaden Air Base, West Germany, from Sept. 18 to Nov. 16, 1948, to participate in the Berlin Airlift. Upon return from the Berlin Airlift, the 22nd TCS was relocated from the Philippines to Tachikawa Air Base, Japan, on Nov. 16, 1948, redesignated by the newly created U.S. Air Force as the 22nd TCS, Heavy.
The Korean War (1950-53)
When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the squadron flew thousands of missions across the Sea of Japan in direct support of U.N. troops fighting the Communist-backed invasion of South Korea. In 1952, the 22nd TCS (H) traded its venerable C-46 and C-54 aircraft for the larger, more capable Douglas C-124 Globemaster II.
For its service in the Korean War, the 22nd TCS earned 10 campaign streamers, a distinguished unit citation (June 27 to Sept. 15, 1950), and a Republic of Korea presidential unit citation (July 1, 1951 to June 27, 1953).
Southeast Asia Service
After the Korean War ended in August 1953, the 22nd TCS continued its mission of providing C-124 airlift throughout the Far East from Tachikawa. The unit was not operational between June 1957 and February 1959. From Aug. 4, 1964 to April 2, 1969, the 22nd TCS (H) conducted C-124 airlift missions in support of the escalating conflict in Vietnam as part of the 1503rd Air Transport Group and the 65th Military Airlift Group. On Jan. 8, 1966, the 22nd TCS (H) was redesignated the22nd Military Airlift Squadron. The 22nd MAS continued to support operations in Southeast Asia until the squadron was deactivated on June 8, 1969.
For its service during the Vietnam War era, the squadron was awarded five distinguished unit citations and the Republic of Vietnam gallantry cross with palm.