|Country United States|
Part of 403d Operations Group
|Active 14 September 1943 – 25 September 1945
1 January 1953 – 15 December 1969
25 April 1973 – Present|
Branch United States Air Force
Garrison/HQ Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi
The 815th Airlift Squadron is a flying unit of the United States Air Force assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command and part of the 403d Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. It operates C-130J Hercules aircraft providing global airlfit.
During World War II as the 815th Bombardment Squadron, it was one of the last B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber squadrons deployed to Southern Italy as part of the Fifteenth Air Force 483d Bombardment Group in March 1944.
Support the theater commander with the capability to resupply the forces, provide for their airlift requirements and employment operations within the combat zone or forward areas, and when requested, to provide aeromedical/refugee evacuation and augment strategic airlift forces. The unit can perform precision air drop of supplies and paratroopers in all weather conditions either day or night, as well as perform day and night assault zone loadings.
World War II
Established in late 1943 as a B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombardment squadron, trained under Third Air Force in Florida. Was deployed to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), being assigned to Fifteenth Air Force in Southern Italy. Engaged in long-range strategic bombardment of enemy military, industrial and transport targets, including oil refineries and production oilfields in Italy, France, southern Germany, Austria and the Balkans. Continued strategic bombardment until German capitulation in May 1945.
After V-E Day, was assigned to Air Transport Command (ATC) Green Project which was the movement of troops from Pisa Airfield staging area in Morocco. B-17s were dearmed with flooring and seats for 25 passengers installed. Crew consisted of Pilot, Co-Pilot, Navigator and Flight Engineer. Carried passengers from Pisa to Port Lyautey Airfield, French Morocco where ATC transports moved them across the Atlantic or to Dakar for movement via South Atlantic Transport Route. Inactivated in Italy in September 1945.
Reactivated by Far East Air Forces in 1952 in Japan as a C-119 Troop Carrier squadron. Engaged in combat operations in South Korea transporting personnel and supplies to front-line units, under hazardous conditions. Also evacuated wounded personnel to hospital facilities in South Korea and Japan. Remained in Japan after the 1953 Armistice, providing intra-theater transport within Japan, South Korea and Okinawa, in 1958 was re-equipped with C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Continued intra-theater transport operations, also flying to locations in the Philippines, Thailand and Indochina, supporting United States civilian and military personnel assigned to the region. As the United States increased its combat presence in Indochina in the early 1960s, made frequent flights to airfields in South Vietnam and to locations within the country. As in South Korea, the flights within South Vietnam were extremely hazardous as the squadron operated within combat areas and frequently were under fire from communist forces during takeoff, landing and ground operations. Inactivated in December 1969 as part of the drawdown of US forces in Southeast Asia, and reactivated in April 1973 at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, as a unit of the Air Force Reserve.
Air Force Reserve
It performed weather reconnaissance from 1983–1987, including flying into hurricanes to collect atmospheric data and retained weather reconnaissance capability until 1992. It had tactical airlift responsibilities from 1973–1975 and since 1987. It also took part in Operation Just Cause in Panama, December 1989-January 1990.
The 815th AS was selected in May 1999 as the first unit in the U.S. Air Force to take delivery of the C-130J variant and participated heavily in writing the book for "J" model operations. Along with a sister Air Mobility Command unit, the 41st Airlift Squadron, the 815th AS deployed the C-130J into combat, and bested all previous C-130 squadrons that were previously employed by setting numerous records in the theater for best aircraft availability, missions flown, as well as passengers and cargo carried.
On 6 August 2010 the Air Force activated the 345th Airlift Squadron, an associate squadron composed of active duty personnel, at Keesler and integrated its members in operations of the 815th AS. On 21 March 2013, the 403rd Wing announced that its C-130J aircraft would be redeploying to Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, beginning in October 2013 in preparation for inactivation of the 815th AS. The transfer was delayed in early 2014 because of pending plans to shut down the airlift wing at Pope and the inactivation of the 815th AS itself delayed on 28 July.