|Country United States||Type Airlift Airdrop|
|Active 30 May 1942 - 31 July 1945
30 September 1946 - 8 July 1966
8 January 1972 - 30 April 1993
1 October 1993 - Present|
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Mobility Command 18th Air Force 19th Airlift Wing 19th Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Little Rock Air Force Base
The 53d Airlift Squadron (53 AS) is part of the 19th Airlift Wing at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. It operates C-130 Hercules aircraft for airlift and airdrop operations.
Activated in June 1942 as a I Troop Carrier Command C-47 Skytrain troop carrier squadron, trained in the United States. Assigned to Twelfth Air Force and deployed North Africa during May 1943. The squadron's aircraft flew supplies to front-line units in Algeria and Tunisia during the North African Campaign as soon as suitable landing strips were available and evacuated casualties back to rear area field hospitals.
Squadron engaged in combat operations, dropping airborne units into Sicily during the Operation Husky invasion and later into areas around Anzio, Italy as part of Operation Shingle, the invasion of mainland Italy and the initiation of the Italian Campaign, January 1944. Moved north though Italy, in 1943 in support of Allied ground forces, evacuated wounded personnel and flew missions behind enemy lines in Italy and the Balkans to haul guns, ammunition, food, clothing, medical supplies, and other materials to the partisans and to drop propaganda leaflets.
Was moved to England in February 1944, assigned to IX Troop Carrier Command, Ninth Air Force. Prepared for the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. In June 1944, subordinate units dropped paratroops in Normandy, subsequently flying numerous missions to bring in reinforcements and needed supplies. During the airborne attack on The Netherlands (Operation Market Garden, September 1944), the squadron dropped paratroops, towed gliders, and flew resupply missions. Several of its subordinate units also participated in the invasion of southern France in August 1944. The 50th supported the 101st Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge by towing gliders full of supplies near Bastogne on 27 December 1944.
When the Allies made the air assault across the Rhine River in March 1945, each aircraft towed two gliders with troops of the 17th Airborne Division and released them near Wesel. The squadron also hauled food, clothing, medicine, gasoline, ordnance equipment, and other supplies to the front lines and evacuated patients to rear zone hospitals.
In late May 1945, after V-E Day, the squadron was moved to Waller Field, Trinidad and attached to Air Transport Command. From Trinidad, the squadron ferried returning military personnel to Morrison Field, Florida, where they were sent on to other bases or prepared for separation after the war.
The squadron participated in the Berlin Airlift, 1948–1949, and conducted aerial transportation from the U.S. to Japan from August–December 1950, and between Japan and Korea from 13 December 1950-November 1952. It conducted worldwide airlift operations from 1953-1966, including resupply to Antarctica from 1957–1958, and missions to Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The 53d again conducted worldwide airlift from 1972-1993 flying missions into Grenada, 23 October 1983 – 9 November 1983, during the invasion of Panama, 20 December 1989, and to Southwest Asia, August 1990-June 1991. The squadron was inactivated in 2008 and detached from AETC. It was reactivated in October 2008 as a part of the 19th Airlift Wing, 18th Air Force, AMC.