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320th Troop Carrier Squadron

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Country  United States
Part of  509th Composite Group
Role  Transport
320th Troop Carrier Squadron
Branch  United States Army Air Forces
Garrison/HQ  Wendover Army Airfield, Utah North Field, Tinian Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico
Engagements  World War II Asiatic-Pacific Streamer

The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron (320th TCS) is a former United States Air Force (USAF) unit designation. It was constituted on 17 December 1944, and later inactivated on 19 August 1946 at Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico. The squadron was later consolidated with the 302d Transport Squadron and 302d Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron by the Air Force Historical Research Agency. It was last inactivated in on 20 June 1959 at Laon-Couvron Air Base, France.


The 320th TCS is notable as a support squadron for the 509th Composite Group during World War II. It was formed as the transport unit for the 509th, and due to the highly secret nature of the group, carried all supplies and equipment for Project Silverplate Atomic Bomb activities. It also functioned as a special air transport squadron for high-ranking officers, nuclear scientists and for the group's commander, Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets to meetings concerning Silverplate. The squadron later served as a transport squadron for atomic tests in the Marshall Islands in 1946.


The squadron was organized at Wendover Field, Utah on 9 December 1944, and activated on the 17th under the temporary command of Major Hubert J. Konopacki. However, before it's official organization, its parent 509th Composite Group had operated a transport flight of C-47 Skytrains, carrying freight and other personnel in connection with the Silverplate Atomic Bomb project.

On 6 January 1945, Major Charles W. Sweeney was placed in command of the squadron. Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets, Commander of the 509th CG arranged using his Silverplate priority to supplement the C-47s with larger, 4-engine C-54 Skymasters normally assigned to Air Transport Command. Over the next several months, frequent flights were made in support of the 509th and its training at Wendover. This included flying to bases in the United States and the Caribbean. Batista Field, Cuba was a training area for the 509th to practice long-distance cross-country flying and the 320th would fly there carrying personnel and specialized equipment as part of the squadron training.

Operations on Tinian

In early 1945, the massive American base being constructed at North Field, Tinian, was selected to be the operational base for the 509th. Subsequently many of the group's pilots flew to Tinian on ATC planes to familiarize themselves with the routes to be flown by the units B-29s and C-54s. The short-legged C-47s would remain at Wendover.

All through April 1945, the group's Ground Echelon was processed for overseas deployment. It got off to a smooth start on 26 April when a troop train departed with 40 enlisted men and 2 officers, arriving at the Seattle, Washington Port of Debarkation on the 28th. The Ground Echelon gathered in Seattle and deployed on 6 May abourd the SS Cape Victory. At Wendover, Major Sweeney was transferred to be the commander of the 393d Bombardment Squadron and he was replaced by Captain John J. Casey, Jr.

In May 1945 the squadron moved to North Field, Tinian, transporting men and materiel of the 509th group as the group moved to its operational base. For the reason that freight took priority over passengers, the Rear Air Element of the 320th remained at Wendover, and flew the squadron's C-47s to ferry necessary equipment to the base, which would be transshipped to Tinian on the C-54s. Meanwhile on Tinian, the flying crews of the 320th were making continual round-trip flights to and from the States, as well as flights to Okinawa and Iwo Jima, carrying civilian technicians and their equipment. Five C-54s made the deployment to Tinian, and the planes were indispensable in the perpetration of the 509th for its combat missions.

After the 393d Bomb Squadron two Atomic Bomb combat missions to Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in early August, the 320th on Tinian was engaged in carrying military and civilian experts to Japan after its subsequent surrender.

Operation Crossroads

Finally in November with the mission on Tinian completed, the squadron moved to Roswell Army Air Field, New Mexico in the fall of 1945. Although it remained active, demobilization resulted in the loss of almost all squadron personnel. The unit was, however, manned and equipped to enable it to participate in atomic testing.

During Operation Crossroads the squadron operated as Air Transport Unit 1.54 (Provisional). Prior to the weapons drop, it transported personnel and material (including radiological test samples) to support the testing. When special observation aircraft failed to arrive in the Kwajalein Atoll test area seven days before the test, the squadron substituted for them. On the first and second day after testing, the 320th flew scientists and high-ranking personnel on low-level observation flights over the test area.


The 320th Troop Carrier Squadron was inactivated on 19 August 1946 at Roswell AAF. The mission, however remained and its equipment and personnel were re-designated as the 1st Air Transport Unit. which was organized on 10 July at Roswell. Assigned to the SAC Fifteenth Air Force, the 1st ATU continued the mission of the inactivated 320th TCS.


  • Constituted 320th Troop Carrier Squadron on 9 December 1944
  • Activated on 17 December 1944 Inactivated on 19 August 1946


  • 509th Composite Group, 17 December 1944-19 August 1946
  • Stations

  • Wendover Field, Utah, 17 December 1944-26 April 1945
  • North Field, Tinian, 30 May-17 October 1945
  • Roswell Army Airfield, New Mexico, 6 November 1945-19 August 1946
  • Aircraft

  • C-47 Skytrain, 1944-1946
  • C-54 Skymaster, 1945-1946
  • References

    320th Troop Carrier Squadron Wikipedia