Organized and trained in the Northeast United States by First Air Force. During training was part of the air defense of the northeast, being attached to the New York and Boston Fighter Wings.
Deployed to England aboard the RMS Queen Elizabeth and served in combat as part of VIII Fighter Command from October 1943 to May 1945, participating in operations that prepared for the invasion of the Continent, and supporting the landings in Normandy and the subsequent Allied drive across France and Germany. The squadron flew P-47 Thunderbolts until they were replaced by P-51 Mustangs in November 1944.
From October 1943 until January 1944, operated as escort for B-17 Flying Fortress/B-24 Liberator bombers that attacked such objectives as industrial areas, missile sites, airfields, and communications.
Fighters from the 461st engaged primarily in bombing and strafing missions after 3 January 1944, with its targets including U-boat installations, barges, shipyards, aerodromes, hangars, marshalling yards, locomotives, trucks, oil facilities, flak towers, and radar stations. Bombed and strafed in the Arnhem, Netherlands area on 17, 18, and 23 September 1944 to neutralize enemy gun emplacements providing support to Allied ground forces during Operation Market-Garden. In early 1945, the squadron's P-51 Mustangs clashed with German Me 262 jet aircraft. The squadron flew its last combat mission, escorting B-17's dropping propaganda leaflets, on 7 May 1945.
Remained in the United Kingdom during the balance of 1945, most personnel were demobilized and returned to the United States, with aircraft being sent to storage facilities in the UK. The squadron was administratively inactivated at Camp Kilmer New Jersey on 10 November 1945 without personnel or equipment.
The unit designation was transferred to the North Carolina Air National Guard in May 1946, being re-designated as the 156th Fighter Squadron. It was organized at Morris Field, near Charoltte, a former Third Air Force Army Airfield during World War II. Equipped with F-47D Thunderbolts, it was activated on 15 March 1948 by the NC Air National Guard, its gaining organization being Fourteenth Air Force, Continental Air Command.
The 156th performed normal peacetime training operations, was re-equipped with F-51 Mustangs in 1949. As a result of the Korean War, the squadron was federalized and placed on active duty, 10 Oct 1950. Assigned to Strategic Air Command, it was assigned to the Kentucky ANG 123d Fighter-Bomber Wing. After a training period at Godman AFB with F-84E Thunderjets, the wing was deployed to RAF Manston, England where it replaced the 12th Fighter-Escort Wing which had been returned to the United States. In England, the unit provided fighter escorts for SAC's rotational B-50 Superfortress bombardment wings which operated from several USAF-controlled bases in the UK. In July 1952 the squadron returned to the United States and was returned to state control, leaving its aircraft and equipment in England.
Upon return to Charlotte, the 156th returned to operating propeller-driven F-51 Mustangs, operating them until their retirement in 1955, being operationally gained by Tactical Air Command. Was transferred to Air Defense Command (ADC) in mid-1955, and re-equipped with F-86A Sabre day interceptors. The squadron was given an air defense mission over North and South Carolina as part of the ADC 35th Air Division, Dobbins AFB, Georgia. In July 1957, the squadron was expanded to a group-level, with the establishment of the 145th Fighter-Interceptor Group. The 156th was assigned as a subordinate unit to the new group. In 1959 was upgraded to the day/night/all-weather F-86L Sabre Interceptor.
In February 1961, was reassigned to the Military Air Transport Service Eastern Transport Air Force (EASTAF), at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. Was re-designated as the 156th Aeromedical Transport Squadron. Equipped with C-119 Flying Boxcars equipped for medical transport, the squadron performed evacuations of transport of critically ill military personnel (and dependents) to military medical facilities for treatment. Re-equipped with C-121 Constellations in 1964, performed passenger transport missions for MATS both domestically and to the Caribbean and Europe for EASTAF. Was transferred to the new Military Airlift Command 21st Air Force when MATS was reorganized in 1966.
Was transferred back to Tactical Air Command control in 1971, being equipped with early-model C-130B Hercules tactical airlifters, being given a theater airlift and troop carrier mission as part of Ninth Air Force. Celebrated 25 years of service in 1973, winning 1st place in worldwide airlift competition.
In January 1974, transferred to Military Airlift Command, Twenty-First Air Force, later that year assisted in rescue of 10 lives of the Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crash at Charlotte on 11 September. In 1985, the units mission was expanded by the addition of the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS) capability added to the C-130s for aerial firefighting. Other awards won were the 1986 Volant Rodeo competition as world's best airlift crew and plane and 1987 Spaatz Trophy for best flying unit in the Air National Guard.
During the 1991 Persian Gulf Conflict, the squadron's 56th Aeromedical Evacuation Flight was activated and deployed to Saudi Arabia, participating in Operation Desert Storm. The squadron also achieved 150,000 hours of safe flying.
Was reassigned to Air Mobility Command in 1992. and helped evacuate hospital patients in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew in late August. Upgraded to C-130H Hercules in 1993.
Celebrated 50th anniversary in 1998, received an Excellent" on Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), and achieved 176,879 accident free flying hours. After Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the squadron flew 33,000 cases of food rations in 3 C-130s to flood victims and erected a tent city for 80 people near Wilmington's airport. Additional hurricane relief took place in 2005 when the 196th was the first airlift squadron on site in response to Hurricane Katrina Relief support.
In July 2012, four members of the squadron died as their C-130 firefighting plane crashed during firefighting efforts in Colorado. They were: Lt. Col. Paul K. Mikeal, 42, and Maj. Joseph M. McCormick, 36, both pilots; Maj. Ryan S. David, 35, a navigator; and Senior Master Sgt. Robert S. Cannon, 50, a flight engineer.Constituted 360th Fighter Squadron on 8 Dec 1942
Activated on 12 Dec 1942
Inactivated on 11 Nov 1945
Re-designated: 156th Fighter Squadron and allocated to the North Carolina ANG on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 15 Mar 1948
Re-designated: 156th Fighter-Bomber Squadron
on 10 Oct 1950
Federalized and placed on active duty, 10 Oct 1950
Released from active duty and returned to North Carolina state control, 10 July 1952
Re-designated: 156th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
on 1 Jul 1955
Re-designated: 156th Aeromedical Transport Squadron
on 1 Feb 1961
Re-designated: 156th Air Transport Squadron
on 25 Jan 1964
Re-designated: 156th Military Airlift Squadron
on 1 Jan 1966
Re-designated: 156th Tactical Airlift Squadron
on 15 May 1971
Re-designated: 156th Airlift Squadron
on 15 Mar 1992
356th Fighter Group, 12 December 1942-11 November 1945
54th Fighter Wing, 15 March 1948
123d Fighter-Bomber Wing, 10 October 1950
116th Fighter-Interceptor Group, 10 July 1952
116th Fighter-Bomber Group, 1 December 1952
116th Fighter Group (Air Defense), 1 July 1955
145th Fighter-Interceptor Group, 1 July 1957
145th Aeromedical Transport Group, 1 February 1961
145th Air Transport Group (Heavy), 25 January 1964
145th Military Airlift Group, 1 January 1966
145th Tactical Airlift Group, 15 May 1971
145th Airlift Group, 15 March 1992
145th Operations Group, 1 October 1995 – Present