Harman Patil (Editor)

73d Special Operations Squadron

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Active  1918–present
Type  Squadron
Country  United States
Garrison/HQ  Cannon Air Force Base
73d Special Operations Squadron
Branch  United States Air Force
Part of  27th Special Operations Group

The 73d Special Operations Squadron (73 SOS) is a unit of the United States Air Force, assigned to the 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. The squadron operates AC-130W Stinger II ground-attack aircraft in support of Air Force Special Operations Command.


The 73d SOS is one of the oldest in the Air Force, its origins dating to the formation of the 73d Aero Squadron in February 1918. It served on the Western Front in France during World War I, and took part in the Aleutian Campaign during World War II. It was part of Strategic Air Command during the Cold War.

World War I

The 73d SOS dates to the formation of the 73d Aero Squadron at Rich Field, Waco, Texas on 22 February 1918. The first personnel were 150 privates under the command of 1st Lieutenant Loren W. De Motte, which arrived at the Aviation Camp. Once organized into a unit, the 73d was transferred to Call Field, Wichita Falls, Texas, where it underwent basic indoctrination training. The men were also trained in aviation mechanic work.

On 8 July, orders were received for the unit to proceed to the Aviation Concentration Center, Garden City, Long Island, for preparation to serve overseas. An observation balloon detachment of 30 men was assigned to the squadron at Garden City, and the unit moved to the Port of Embarkation at Hoboken, New Jersey on 29 July where it boarded a ship bound for France. After an uneventful crossing of the Atlantic, it arrived at the port of Brest, France on 26 August. At Brest, the balloon detachment was detached from the squadron, and the squadron was ordered to proceed to the St. Maixent Replacement Barracks for assignment. Initially assigned as a support unit to the 1st Day Bombardment Group at Delouze Aerodrome on 12 September, the squadron maintained Dayton-Wright DH-4s of the group. On 4 October, it was ordered to Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, where it was reassigned to the Second Army. At Colombey, the squadron operated the 6th Air Park; a maintenance and supply organization as part of the 1st Air Depot.

It remained in France after the Armistice in November, returning to the United States in June 1919 where it was demobilized at Hazelhurst Field, New York on 4 July.

Inter-war period

A new unit, the 73d Headquarters Squadron was constituted in the Regular Army Reserve on 18 October 1927 at San Antonio, Texas. Army reserve officers assigned to the unit participated in summer training at Kelly Field, Texas, 1928–30 with the 3d Attack Group. On 8 May 1929, it was re-designated as the 73d Pursuit Squadron, and became an associate unit of the 18th Pursuit Group at Dodd Field, Texas.

The unit was activated on 15 July 1931 by the Army Air Corps as an active-duty squadron. It was assigned without reserve personnel to the 17th Pursuit Group at March Field, California and equipped with Boeing P-12 fighters. In 1934 it received new Boeing P-26s but retained the P-12s. It was reorganized and re-designated as the 73d Attack Squadron on 1 March 1935 and assigned to the 17th Attack Group. The squadron was awarded the Frank Luke Trophy for 1935, having the highest gunnery score in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

On 5 June 1936 the squadron was consolidated with its World War I predecessor unit, the 73d Aero Squadron. It was re-designated as the 73d Attack Squadron and received Northrop A-17 attack aircraft, replacing the Boeing pursuit fighters. The squadron flew reconnaissance flights in support of flood relief in southern California from 2 March to 5 March 1938. Reorganized and re-designated as the 73d Bombardment Squadron (Medium) on 17 October 1939, being re-equipped with Boeing B-18 Bolos and assigned to the 17th Bombardment Group.

It was reassigned to McChord Field, Washington, 26 June 1940. Relieved from assignment to the 17th Bombardment Group on 3 May 1941 and assigned to the 28th Composite Group.

World War II

The squadron moved to the new Elmendorf Field, near Anchorage, Alaska in early 1941. It was one of the first Air Corps units assigned to the Alaska Territory. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the squadron flew anti-submarine patrols over the Gulf of Alaska.

When the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands in June 1942 the squadron was reassigned to Fort Glenn Army Air Base on Adak Island. It and began flying combat missions over the captured islands of Kiska and Attu Islands. The squadron flew combat missions with Martin B-26 Marauders and later with North American B-25 Mitchell medium bombers during the Aleutian Campaign and returned to the United States in August 1943.

The squadron was disbanded at Pyote Army Air Field in November 1943. Its personnel retrained as replacement crews for Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and its aircraft redeployed as replacement aircraft to overseas combat units.

Strategic Air Command

In its early years, along with its own fighter wings for escorting its bombers, Strategic Air Command (SAC) formed a limited air transport capability to supplement that of the Military Air Transport Service, which provided SAC with the majority of its airlift support. The 3d Strategic Support Squadron was activated on 16 Nov 1950 at Hunter AFB, Georgia and assigned to the SAC Second Air Force.

During the 1950s the squadron carried much classified equipment and personnel to various locations around the world. 0n 5 January 1953, it was transferred to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and reassigned to the 4238th Strategic Wing on 1 July 1959. The squadron was inactivated on 1 June 1961 when SAC got out of the transport bushiness.

Modern era

The 73d Bombardment Squadron and the 3d Strategic Support Squadron were consolidated as the 73d Special Operations Squadron in 1985, but were not activated.

It was activated in 2006 to operate the new MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft. The 73d was the first flying special operations squadron to move to Cannon Air Force Base after the fighter squadrons left.

As of April 2012 the MC-130W was redesignated as the AC-130W Stinger II due to the change on missions with the Dragon Spear conversion program.


  • Organized as 73d Aero Squadron on 26 Feb 1918
  • Demobilized on 4 Jul 1919
  • Reconstituted and consolidated (16 Oct 1936) with 73d Headquarters Squadron
  • Reconstituted and consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with the 3d Strategic Support Squadron
  • Re-designated 73d Special Operations Squadron on 19 Sep 1985
  • Activated on 1 Oct 2006


    73d Aero Squadron
    Post Headquarters, Rich Field, 26 Feb 1918 Post Headquarters, Call Field, 1 Mar 1918 2d Day Bombardment Group, Nov 1918–1919 Eastern Department, 1919-4 Jul 1919
    73d Bombardment Squadron (Medium)
    17th Pursuit (later 17th Attack; 17th Bombardment) Group, 15 Jul 1931 28th Composite Group, 3 May 1941 Second Air Force, 6 Oct-1 Nov 1943
    3d Strategic Support Squadron
    Second Air Force, 15 Nov 1950 4238th Strategic Wing, 1 Jul 1959 – 15 Jun 1961
    73d Special Operations Squadron
    16th Operations Group, 1 Oct 2006-Present


    73d Aero Squadron
    73d Bombardment Squadron (Medium)
    3d Strategic Support Squadron
  • Hunter AFB, Georgia, 16 Nov 1950
  • Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, 5 Jan 1953 – 15 Jun 1961
  • 73d Special Operations Squadron
  • Cannon AFB, New Mexico, 1 Oct 2006–Present
  • Aircraft

    73d Bombardment Squadron (Medium)
    3d Strategic Support Squadron
  • C-124 Globemaster II, 1950–1961
  • 73d Special Operations Squadron
  • MC-130W Combat Spear/Dragon Spear 2006–2012
  • AC-130W Stinger II 2012–Present
  • References

    73d Special Operations Squadron Wikipedia

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