Puneet Varma (Editor)

487th Air Expeditionary Wing

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Country  United States
487th Air Expeditionary Wing
Active  1943–1945; 1983–1991, 2003
Branch  United States Air Force

The 487th Air Expeditionary Wing (487 AEW) is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. As a provisional unit, it may be activated or inactivated at any time.


The unit's last known assignment was in 2003 at Cairo West Airfield, Egypt, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was commanded by Brig. Gen. Randal D. "Randy" Fullhart (March 2003 – May 2003).

During World War II, its predecessor unit, the 487th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was an Eighth Air Force heavy bombardment unit in England, stationed at RAF Lavenham. It flew 185 combat missions, the last being on 21 April 1945.

It led the largest Eighth Air Force mission of the war on 24 December 1944. The object of the attacks, in which 1,400 bombers took part, escorted by 726 fighters, was to bomb eleven German airfields east of the Rhine while another 634 heavy bombers attacked communication centers west of the Rhine.

Brigadier General Frederick Castle was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during that mission. A portrait of the general hangs to this day in the Swan Hotel at Lavenham, which was one of his wartime haunts and whose then-landlord was a personal friend. He was the highest-ranking officer in the Eighth to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

World War II

Activated 20 September 1943 at Bruning AAFd, Neb., and moved to Alamogordo AAFd, New Mexico, on 15 December 1944 to complete training. Ground unit left Alamogordo on 10 March 1944 for Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. and sailed on Duchess of Bedford on 23 March 1944, arriving in Gourock on 3 April 1944. The aircraft flew overseas on 23 March 1944, taking southern ferry route via Fortaleza Brazil to Dakar and on to RAF Valley, Wales. Then flying to Lavenham, East Anglia in early April 1944. The group was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 3rd. Air Division, and the group tail code was a "Square-P" or "Box"-P. The group was based at Station 137, Lavenham, England. The group participated in Air Offensive Europe.

The group flew both the B-24 Liberator and the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign and began combat in May 1944, bombing airfields in France in preparation for the invasion of Normandy, then targeted coastal defenses, road junctions, bridges and locomotives during the invasion. Aided Normandy ground forces on D-Day 6 June 1944. The unit's first commander was Lieutenant Colonel Beirne Lay, Jr., a prominent Hollywood screenwriter until he was shot down on 11 May 1944 in one of the group's earliest actions. He was shot down over enemy territory but evaded capture and was returned to duty. After the war, he wrote the screenplay for the 1949 film, Twelve O'Clock High.

The 487th Bomb Group(H) attacked German troops and artillery positions to assist British forces near Caen in July; struck gun emplacements to support the Allied effort at Brest in August and to cover the airborne attack on the Netherlands in September 1944. Flew a few missions against German industries, refineries, and communications during the period May–August 1944, but operated almost solely against strategic targets from August 1944, when conversion to B-17's was completed in March 1945.

The 487th also attacked oil refineries in Merseburg, Mannheim, and Dulmen; factories in Nuremberg, Hanover, and Berlin; and marshalling yards in Cologne, Münster, Hamm, and Neumünster. Aided ground forces during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 – January 1945, and turned again to support and interdictory operations in March 1945 as the Allies crossed the Rhine and made the final thrust into Germany.

Redeployed to the US July 1945. The aircraft left Lavenham in the first week of July 1945. The ground unit sailed on the Queen Elizabeth on 25 August 1945, and arriving in New York on 1 September 1945. The Group established at Drew Fd, Fla 3 September 1945, and inactivated there on 7 November 1945. Group nickname: "Gentlemen from Hell".

Cold War

Activated in 1983, the 487th Tactical Missile Wing was stationed at Comiso Air Station in Sicily. Equipped with BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM). Inactivated as a result of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1991.

21st century

Converted to provisional status and activated as an Air Expeditionary Wing during 2003 invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Inactivated after 90 days of duty due to Air-Force intensive active combat phase of Iraqi invasion having been completed.


  • Constituted as 487th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on 14 September 1943
  • Activated on 20 September 1943 Inactivated on 7 November 1945
  • Redesignated as 487th Tactical Missile Wing in June 1983 and activated
  • Inactivated in May 1991
  • Redesignated 487th Air Expeditionary Wing and converted to provisional status on 1 March 2003
  • Assignments

  • II Bomber Command, 20 September 1943
  • Second Air Force, 6 October 1943 – 13 March 1944
  • 92d Combat Bombardment Wing, 5 April 1944
  • 4th Bombardment Wing (Provisional), 22 November 1944
  • 4th Combat Bombardment Wing, 16 February–24 August 1945
  • Third Air Force, 3 September–7 November 1945
  • Sixteenth Air Force, June 1983 – May 1991
  • United States Air Forces in Europe to activate or inactivate any time after 1 March 2003.
  • Components

  • 302d Tactical Missile Squadron: 20 June 1983 – 27 May 1991 (112 missiles)
  • 487th Tactical Missile Maintenance Squadron: 20 June 1983 – 27 May 1991
  • 836th Bombardment Squadron (2G), 20 September 1943 – 7 November 1945
  • 837th Bombardment Squadron (4F), 20 September 1943 – 7 November 1945
  • 838th Bombardment Squadron (2C), 20 September 1943 – 7 November 1945
  • 839th Bombardment Squadron (R5), 20 September 1943 – 7 November 1945
  • Aircraft and missiles

  • B-24 Liberator, 1943–1944
  • B-17 Flying Fortress, 1944–1945
  • BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (1983–1991)
  • References

    487th Air Expeditionary Wing Wikipedia

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